Building that Five deck you’ve been thinking about can appear to be daunting at first, but it’s not nearly so bad when you break it down into smaller chunks. In the past two articles we looked at the theory behind building decks of this size and then constructed a basic skeleton. We are also building three decks as sample decks to assist in giving some insight into the process. Deck theory can be a little obtuse at times, so we want to enlighten a bit with the sample decks.
Before I begin, however, I want to touch upon a quick pair of topics. The past couple of months have seen the official Five Color Voting Committee voting on several topics and card restrictions and bannings. I have written an article each month about my votes while sitting on that committee. This month’s ballot is very short, so instead of a whole article, I thought I’d drop a few comments here. It also helps your deckbuilding to know that a voting committee votes on the restriction status of a few cards each month – you need to keep abreast of the changes.
There is one card on the ballot: Divining Witch, unrestricted two months prior by a 4-3 vote, is now up for a vote again for restriction. Quite a few people have e-mailed the Five Color e-mail list to voice their opinion that the Witch should be restricted again. Previously, I voted to unrestrict the Witch. Without a large cry to keep the Witch unrestricted, I am going to go ahead and vote for its restriction again. If it has become a problem, I am not above changing my mind.
Which is one of the good things about Five Color. We do not wait a year and then act on a card. Instead we change its status if we think it should be done. Then, if it turns out to be too powerful, we simply change it back. Quick and painless.
The other vote this month is to change the mulligan rules in Five Color. Let me explain the mulligans below, all of which are in effect:
No Land: Any player may take this and reveal his or her hand. An opponent may take a free mulligan if their opponent takes a No Land mulligan. May be used only once per player.
One Land: Exactly like a No Land mulligan, only one land is also cause to take a mulligan. Again, an opponent may take a free mulligan if their opponent takes a One Land mulligan. May be used only once per player.
All Land (unofficial): Precisely the same as the previous mulligans, except with all land.
Paris: Players may take a Paris mulligan by shuffling their hand into their library and taking a new hand of one less card. The Paris mulligan is a trump mulligan – once taken, you cannot take any other mulligan, nor can your opponent use a Paris for a free mulligan.
One, several, or all of these mulligans may be used, and all are simultaneously legal. So, for example you and I may be playing. I may take a One Land, and you take a free mulligan. On your new hand you have no land, so you take a No Land mulligan. I take your free mulligan and now I have no land. I take my No Land mulligan,, and you keep. Then I get a lousy hand and decide to Paris. Even though I Paris and get one land, I cannot take any further mulligans, because I Paris’d. Other than more Paris’s of course. You could keep mulliganing, but choose not to.
We’re very generous with the mulligans when you have a 250 card deck.
The vote is about a land. Currently, the mulligan rules read”Mana Producing Land.” Therefore, if I open a hand of Bazaar of Baghdad, Maze of Ith, Thawing Glaciers, Swamp, and three spells, I could still take a One Land mulligan. The question before the committee is whether or not to change the rules to just land, as opposed to mana producing land, and to add the All Land Ante officially.
…And my vote is to change it. We already have plenty of room for mulliganining, and having a land/non-mana producing land distinction is unwieldy. People need latitude when playing – that’s why we have 150 mulligans and their kin running around. The new rules do that by adding a mulligan. I like a more liberal and yet cleaned-out mulligan policy, and that is where my vote will go.
Skeleton to Body
Back to our regularly scheduled article, already in progress
I was trying to come up with various ways of presenting this topic. The basic problems is this – until you know the Five Color game by building several decks and playing around with them, it’s downright impossible to figure out how to flesh out a deck. You have the skeleton, but what next?
My basic advice is simple: Take your deck’s foundation, then add the details you might add in a regular deck. For now, ignore mana and cards to round out your deck – we are still working on the raw side of things. We want to take that skeleton and mold into a solid, well-rounded list of cards.
Our skeleton needs fleshing out.
Recall your skeleton. Did you have a quick beatdown deck? A long, drawn out-control deck that ends in some unforeseen combo? A Coalition Victory deck? And you also should have reviewed the cards in your collection – especially the ones gathering dust in the boxes or folders. You know, the ones that rotated out of Extended that no one wants anymore, or the chaff rares that were always good but never seemed to fit into a deck, and so forth.
I’m going to warn you: In previous articles, I’ve dropped a lot of card names. In this article and the next, I’m going to do a lot more. Remember that it is the purpose of this article to help inspire you. So I am going to suggest alternatives, other routes, and so forth. Luckily, StarCity has this new link thing going on, or else I’d never had tried this series of article. Check out cards you are unfamiliar with – they may be really good.
Feel encouraged to experiment with your deck.
Anyways, the goal now is to take your core and start adding to it. You might want to simply start pawing through your collection and pull out cards which may fit your deck. That’s what I often do. Then look through those cards and see if the deck is gelling in your head. Start putting those cards in piles -“Definitely,””Maybe,” and,”What Was I Thinking?” That gives you a base of cards to consider for your deck.
There are several steps to fleshing out a deck. They are listed below for your convenience, then followed three times in the sample decks.
1). What creatures fit the deck? We’ll actually see some creatures added for the control deck, Sliver deck, and Living Death deck. This will, of course, be bounded by what cards you own, what your deck looks like, and so forth.
2). What removal should I add? You’ll want loads of creature removal. Artifact and enchantment removal should be included – but the form and amount vary depending on the deck. Some decks have land removal, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea for every deck to have one emergency card that can be tutored for that takes care of lands. You never know when a Kjeldoran Outpost or Tolarian Academy can kill. Hand destruction and graveyard destruction are certainly options for some decks as well.
3). What support does my deck need? Some decks need countermagic; others need more proactive protection. Some need smaller or larger creatures, maybe it needs more ways to win – whatever.
4). What search and card drawing should go in? Parts of this question won’t be answered until next week… But for now, it’s important to note that you’ll need several ways of drawing cards, digging into your library, and otherwise getting what you need.
5). Are there any holes in the deck? Could be. Remember, we are ignoring mana concerns for this week. But if there are holes out there, we need to stop them up.
Utilizing these steps, let’s look at one of our decks from last week, and see if we can’t flesh it out.
We have 62 cards already. When we are done today, I want around 100-120.
1). What creatures fit the deck? You might think that because this is a Sliver-based deck that we should just toss in all of the Slivers and move on. That would be a mistake. An obvious difficulty is the relatively low power and toughness of our creatures individually. Post-Wrath or versus a player with a lot of creature removal, we’ll need something else I’d like to use a few bigger bodies. We could go on the defensive with creatures like Wall of Blossoms, Spike Feeder, or Bottle Gnomes, or we might go with a more aggressive outlook.
We probably want to go with a more aggressive approach, at least predominately, since this in as aggressive deck. As an aside, remembering it’s aggresive nature, I’m going to go ahead and toss in a full compliment of Heart Slivers as well.
Due to the strengths of our deck, we want to head towards black and blue…. But, really, we’ll want to look at creatures in black. Blue doesn’t really offer aggressive creatures. Black, however, offers us creatures like Phyrexian Scuta and Hypnotic Specter. As fun as it would be to play with Specters, until we commit to more black, we cannot throw them in. Derelor is not bad – and if it’s your style, toss him in. I like Thrashing Wumpus, but that requires even more of a commitment to black. Sengir Vampire is pretty good, and so is Trench Wurm. The Vampire requires two black, but by that time, you may very well have it. The Trench Wurm has only one black in its cost, and it can also hose players with non-basics. In this environment, that’s a lot of players.
Also, with all of these colored requirements, it might be nice to have a few creatures in the deck that do not require any color of mana. We could go with Chimeric Idol, Phyrexian War Beast, and others, but I like a full set of Ticking Gnome and Bottle Gnomes. Both serve as defense, and Ticking Gnomes can be decent removal or an early threat.
We need a little red or green to help those colors out, and I’d like to recommend a full set of Flametongue Kavus. They are aggressive creature kill, and a big ol’ body combined in one package. Another off-color creature I really like is Nettletooth or Erhnam Djinn – whichever you prefer. I like a 4/4 body minimum for four mana with only one color in the cost. These two have the most manageable weaknesses, in my opinion, of the options.
2). What removal should I add? Well, we need removal. Since this deck is more aggressive in nature, we need to make our removal more so as well. As such, let’s play Orim’s Thunder. It fits in a removal section, and can also clear out a troublesome blockers. Other possibilities include Aura Mutation and Artifact Mutation – both options which will take out a card and make some friends.
That’s hardly enough, because we need scads more creature removal. The old standby in 250 is Expunge – it really does not get better, because you can cycle it against black creatures or if you do not have the mana. Colorless cycling costs are really great. I also like Spite/Malice, another classic Five Color card. It takes out a creature, and can be an emergency counter. It may very well be our only counter, and I like having a backup plan to tutor for in case your opponent is about to cast Replenish for the game next turn or something.
I also like a little burn in an aggressive deck like this. While we have Lightning Bolts and Incinerates at our disposal, I really like Arc Lightnings. These can take out several creatures, and help to round out our red requirement.
3). What support does my deck need? There are a few extra cards I like. Firstly, may I also recommend a Recurring Nightmare to get the Sliver Queen in play if we don’t have the mana? It’s restricted, but we’ll play with the one copy.
We can also play this deck as a Sliverish-toolbox style deck, and as such, we’ll want to add one each of the other Slivers. Never know when having trample or first strike may come in handy. So we have added both a few creatures and the toolbox idea.
4). What search and card drawing should go in? For that Sliveresque toolbox idea, we’ll need tutors. I like Eladamri’s Call. It’s unrestricted, an instant, and helps you get the appropriate Sliver from your deck. Citanul Flute is restricted but could also help.
We also need a little more in the way of card drawing – practically every 250 deck wants to find certain cards. For this deck, we’ll go with Impulse and Fact or Fiction to start off with; we’ll end up putting in a few more cards later.
Four Contract from Beloware also a must, so we toss them in as well
5). Are there any holes in the deck? Well, you might want to play with cards like Coat of Arms, Belbe’s Portal, Caller of the Hunt, Brass Herald, and so forth. Personally, I’d recommend against them all, but that’s probably just me
So, where do we stand? We have added:
4 Orim’s Thunder
1 Talon Sliver
1 Armor Sliver
4 Fact or Fiction
1 Horned Sliver
4 Erhnam Djinn
4 Heart Sliver
1 Barbed Sliver
4 Flametongue Kavu
4 Arc Lightning
1 Recurring Nightmare
2 Sengir Vampire
4 Trench Wurm
4 Contract from Below
4 Ticking Gnomes
4 Bottle Gnomes
1 Citanul Flute
4 Eladamri’s Call
2 Artifact Mutation
2 Aura Mutation
That’s sixty-eight more cards, bringing our total to one hundred and thirty. We now have a fleshed-out Sliver deck; one that still needs some more work, but which is almost there.
Now I hope you have an idea of how to flesh out and explore a 250 theme. The basic map is the same – removal, card drawing, etc. Let’s move on to another deck:
35 Cards. One of the interesting things about this deck is that it is already quite black. We will want some cards in other colors to round out the mix.
1). What creatures fit the deck? To begin, we need some more creatures as reanimation targets. There are lots of choices here from Reya, Dawnbringer to Hypnox to Spirit of the Night. I personally like Silvos. He’s big, mean, trampley, regenerating for cheap, and can be conceivably cast if you draw him. I recognize the power of Reya and stuff; I just prefer Silvos. I also like Tolarian Serpent. Here is a creature that will just mill your deck forever, thus garnering you additional cards.
Creatures for support often come from green. Green is the creature color, and with more needs for creatures, green will provide. Lots of green cards provide synergies with a recursion based strategy. I like Spike Feeder, Wall of Blossom, and Spike Weaver for that classic touch. Also, Phyrexian Plaguelord fits perfectly. You’ve seen the decklists out there.
Lots of creatures have been used in recursion decks – Yavimaya Elder, Wall of Roots, Cinder Elemental, and so forth. I really want to bring in a full compliment of 187 toolbox creatures. I’ll be using Avalanche Riders, Ghitu Slinger, Flametongue Kavu, Bone Shredder, Radiant’s Dragoons, Monk Realist, and Uktabi Orangutan. Other options include Keldon Vandals, Nekrataal, Ravenous Rats, Man-o-War, Raven Familiar, and Ancestor’s Chosen, for example.
One great toolbox creature which fits in perfectly is Thornscape Battlemage. Here is a creature that can do anything, and you’re rarely sorry to have drawn it. We’ll play a full compliment of them, and only one Orangutan to play with graveyard animation tricks. We’ll also toss in a couple of Thunderscapes as well.
We’re going to use a lot of these creatures, like the Slinger and Thornscape, as our removal. There are a few other creatures I’d recommend based on my previous playings of Living Death 250; Ancient Hydra can be an absolute house. And Mindless Automaton is a great card that can work out very well; I’d play two of each.
Let’s also put in that single copy of Anarchist to get the Living Death back. I also really like Krosan Tusker for this deck – it looks like it was handmade for B/G recursion. A pair of Onslaught creatures really perk my attention: Gigapede and Undead Gladiator both look to be quite useful. Let’s play two of each.
2). What removal should I add? Many of above creatures cross over to step number two, but for this deck, it’s quite appropriate.
3). What support does my deck need? I want the ability to counter the occasional card. We want to splash blue, so we can go with Arcane Denial or Spite/Malice. I think that in a deck like this you won’t fear creatures much, so we should go with Spite/Malice. Regrowth and Restock, both restricted, look like a nice fit.
We probably also want a few things to do with creatures once they are in play: Goblin Bombardment looks nice, but there are loads of other ideas. From Claws of Gix to Attrition to Mind Slash, lots of possibilities are around. We already have Phyrexian Plaguelord in the deck, so for now, I’m going to stick with just the Bombardment.
4). What search and card drawing should go in? We definitely need to start with more ways of filling a graveyard. We have Entomb, Bazaars, and Buried Alive, but with all of these creatures having abilities in the graveyard, it’s essential that we get more cards there quickly. Looking to blue, we find several drawing mechanisms that help us out. Careful Study is like a one time Bazaar, so let’s toss it in. Fact or Fiction fits in nicely and puts the cards in our graveyard.
Now we need a few more ways to abuse the toolbox. Again, I like Eladamri’s Call for a toolbox structure like this one. They can help count as our white cards as well, because it looks like we could use the help getting up to eighteen white cards. Plus, the Citanul Flute can go in here as well.
We want a full set of Contracts from Below, plus Wheel of Fortune and Windfall. All of those options put cards in the ‘yard in addition to drawing some as well. Recoup, while restricted, can also bring one back.
I really adore Sylvan Libraries; they can round out our card sifting. And since we are playing the Sylvans, might as well toss in a single copy of Abundance as well. We can always tutor for the Abundance if we get a Sylvan out. As such, we’ll also play an Academy Rector. It can get the Abundance and Goblin Bombardment – which is almost enough. We’ll probably have a few other enchantments before it is all said and done.
5). Are there any holes in the deck? I don’t see any right now, except for some details that we’ll add later like more tutors, metagame calls, and so forth.
So now we have:
4 Careful Study
4 Fact or Fiction
1 Tolarian Serpent
4 Krosan Tusker
4 Sylvan Library
4 Spike Feeder
4 Wall of Blossom
3 Spike Weaver
1 Uktabi Orangutan
2 Phyrexian Plaguelord
3 Bone Shredder
2 Undead Gladiator
4 Ghitu Slinger
4 Flametongue Kavu
1 Avalanche Riders
2 Thunderscape Battlemage
1 Goblin Bombardment
2 Ancient Hydra
1 Radiant’s Dragoons
1 Monk Realist
1 Academy Rector
2 Mindless Automaton
1 Citanul Flute
4 Eladamri’s Call
That’s 75 more cards, which brings us up to 110 cards. We’ll look at finishing up the deck later, but that’s our fleshed out deck for now.
This is a deck that still needs an awful lot to work. We only have 38 cards here, and we need to up that count tremendously. And remember that this control is being built on the cheap!
1). What creatures fit the deck? Paths to victory are necessary. Since it hasn’t seen much play in a while, this may be the time for your Rainbow Efreets to phase back in. They are strong control, and are cheap to find. Other options include defensive creatures like Fog Bank, Wall of Blossoms, and Jungle Barrier. Even protective creatures like Blinking Spirit, Morphling, Quicksilver Dragon, and Silver Wyvern could see play. I like Teferi’s Honor Guard, myself; it’s cheap, has a decently useful ability on offense, and can phase out which does wonders with combat.
Thornscape Battlemage was mentioned above as being one of the best cards in 250. It’s so strong, and it fills out our green, so we’ll throw a set in. Another great tempo creature is Man-o-War. When I started playing, I was surprised by how many bear-on-bear battles emerged in 250, so this creature is really valuable. Nekrataal rounds out our control oriented creatures.
2). What removal should I add? There is a large need for removal here, and Dismantling Blow fits in perfectly with this type of deck. I also feel that Spite/Malice and Fire/Ice should be played. Each is highly versatile. If you have Starstorms then toss ’em in, but if not, again, it’s no loss. This isn’t an expensive or well-tuned deck. I also really like Desolation Giant, and I may come back to it later. It has never really done much in Constructed play, so I can’t imagine them costing that much.
For bounce, I really like a couple of Aether Mutations. They knock something back, and make a few critters. More immediate bounce, however, can utilize Capsize’s power. A full set of one of the most broken commons ever makes the cut.
3). What support does my deck need? More countermagic would be nice: Mystic Snake and Suffocating Blast are both interesting choices. I really like the Blast, and they’re not that expensive, so let’s toss in two. I also really enjoy Dromar’s Charm; it gets played a little later, but it can really help to sustain or swing momentum. Plus, it’s in our three major colors. A couple of Misdirections, if not too expensive, could also really help, otherwise ignore this.
4). What search and card drawing should go in? I like a full set of Impulses and a one casting cost blue search card of your choice (I prefer Portent). If you have them, throw in Prophetic Bolts. If not, don’t worry too much; there are other options. We’ll also play the full set of Sylvans again. With that, we’ll play a Rector and Abundance as well. And since we have a Rector, we might as well play a Confiscate in order to handle most permanents.
5). Are there any holes in the deck? Again, I don’t see many currently, except for those pesky details that we’ll add later.
Now we have:
4 Teferi’s Honor Guard
1 Academy Rector
4 Rainbow Efreet
4 Control Magic
4 Thornscape Battlemage
4 Sylvan Library
2 Aether Mutation
2 Suffocating Blast
4 Jungle Barrier
3 Dromar’s Charm
We now have added a whopping 64 cards to bring our total to 104 cards. We have the fleshed out control deck.
And, the short of it is that we are finished fleshing out some decks. Using five simple steps we have worked and slaved our way to the happy beginning of a deck list. This week go over your cards, pull out the ones you like. Afterwards separate them into those three piles -“Yep,””Maybe,” and”Was I smoking crack?” Then go through your deck and answer each of those five questions. Fill out your decklist.
Have fun. And we’ll meet again next week.