CASUAL FRIDAYS #107: Psychically Yours

Often, the most perfect metagame deck for your group is based around the most questionable of cards.

I do need to start by apologizing to Gaea’s Blessing, for implying it was an instant instead of a sorcery. The Blessing was a late addition to last week’s Wayward Angel deck (and article); and as a result, I didn’t make some text changes that I should have. The more I think about it, the more I would be happier with just one Blessing, just one Miraculous Recovery, and four Repopulates. That’s really where the deck should be focused.

I thought it might be a nice break from all the Odyssey chat on the web to talk about a new deck in our group with absolutely no Odyssey cards in it. Unfortunately, most of the decks I’m developing have Odyssey cards in them. Even worse, the one most article-ready deck in our group comes from Theo, who generally creates distasteful swathes of plastic and cardboard.

This deck is no exception. Its origins lie in our group’s current taste for powerful targeted spells and effects (over global sweepers, which have been taking a rest lately, with the exception of my Pernicious Deed). Theo wanted to”lock out” all targeted spells and effects, and to do it, he wanted to use a card that came out a year ago in Invasion: Psychic Battle.

When the Battle first came out, I threw it up on the Multiplayer Card Hall of Fame for blue. In the most recent version of the Hall, I let it fall off the list, since there were more energetic entries. Perhaps I did that too quickly. Let’s take a look at what Theo built:


4x Psychic Battle


3x Scroll Rack

4x Brainstorm

2x Vampiric Tutor


2x Avatar of Woe

1x Marjhan

1x Plague Wind

1x Denying Wind

1x Colossus of Sardia

1x Polar Kraken

1x Subversion

1x Avatar of Will


4x Fog Bank

3x Wall of Souls

3x Syphon Soul

2x Arcane Denial

The deck has room for twenty-six lands, which works fine since you have high casting cost cards and Scroll Racks.

There’s some real beauty there, especially with the Avatars. They’re”eight” when you want them to be, and”two” just about any other time. There could be four of each (and less diversity in the win conditions); but Theo was feeling experimental. Finally, sucking life through Syphon Souls and Subversion is a viable second path to victory, as well as an important way to keep your head above water.

Rules research on Psychic Battle confirms that after a targeting spell (such as Terror) is announced, and targets are chosen, the Psychic Battle’s effect triggers, and there is indeed time for you to respond with a Brainstorm (or whatever) before it resolves. This allows you to manipulate your deck during those times when you care about the targeting spell, and to let it go when you don’t. (You still have to go through the Psychic Battle’s effect, of course; you’re just skipping the manipulation of your deck.)

The first time Theo played this deck, it wreaked absolute havoc in our group. Ghitu Fire came sailing back around to the caster (“Why are you hittin’ yourself? Why are you hittin’ yourself?”). Squee’s Embrace went to secure Wall of Souls. And worst of all, even spells like Disenchant wouldn’t work, since there were other enchantments and artifacts on the board.

Fortunately, someone played Tranquility or some such, and a concentrated effort took Theo out of the game before a second Psychic Battle could terrorize the board.

Since then, Theo has settled into the deck as a hunt deck, where there is not so much opportunity to focus attention on him. He’s still searching for the first win – but in the meantime, we get great situations like this:

BEN: I’ll announce my attack phase.

PETE: In response, I will tap your flyer with my Benalish Trapper.

THEO: Um, Pete…

ANTHONY (with deep resentment and cynicism, and in best wrestling match announcer voice): Hold on tight, everyone! It’s time for yet another…Psychic-ic-ic-ick..Battle-attle-attle!

THEO: You’re just jealous that you didn’t make this deck yourself. Everyone flip the top card of your deck! Oh, look, it appears that my Polar Kraken has managed yet again to remain at the top of my deck. How could this be? Well, we’ll analyze later. Pete, tap your own flyer instead.

BEN: So anyway, as I was saying, I’ll attack… You, Pete!

Since Theo is still winless with this deck, he recently sought my thoughts on a blue-green deck. (The logic here is that green would do better than black at generating creatures capable of blocking, as the inevitable ganging up occurs.) In all honestly, I believe that losing black cards like the Avatars and Wall of Souls may hurt the deck more than it helps, but here’s how I rebuilt the deck with green…

First, Wall of Roots is a decent replacement for Wall of Souls. It doesn’t provide a disincentive like the damage-reflecting black card, but it does provide mana acceleration, which can hardly hurt in a deck with extraordinarily expensive green spells.

But I still like what Wall of Souls did, so I found a creature that should provide a nasty signal: Cockatrice. This 2/4 flyer that kills the creatures it meets is typically overlooked, largely because it’s an automatic target for the first good removal spell that someone has… And green usually doesn’t have a way to back it up, as a threat. But in conjunction with Psychic Battle, you can be a little more certain that the Cockatrice will stick around to dominate the mid-game.

The real path to victory, though, will be Rhox. With your Psychic Battle out, and 2G open, the Rhox should be nearly invincible – no one can target it, it will regenerate from global effects like Pernicious Deed and Earthquake (that’s why I didn’t pick Thorn Elemental), and it should take at least one blocker with it every time it attacks, at no cost to you. Only universal, non-regenerable removal (read: Wrath of God) will remove it.

A single Verdant Force is non-negotiable. We all can figure out why.

I also pushed for Silverglade Elementals (an unflashy but very castable ground-holder that thins the lands away from the top of your library); but Theo had a better idea in Spike Weavers, which are cheaper, still expensive enough to work with Psychic Battle, and have a far more useful presence on the board.

While we’re running out of open slots (and in fact, I’ll be pushing some blue out of the deck), I made room for two more creatures. First, Citanul Heirophants (and I don’t blame you for forgetting what this does…it’s an overcosted Urza’s Saga rare druid that gives all of your creatures mana-generation capability) will get you from mid-game to the late game, in terms of casting some of the heavies we’ve seen; and second, Penumbra Wurms, which believe it or not are a finesse card here. They are meant to discourage the universal effects (like Jokulhaups) that lessen your deck’s effectiveness, and also to serve as durable beef that can handle the occasional Psychic Battle misfire.

Everyone agrees Mystic Snakes are in, right? Good, thanks.

Moving on to non-creature slots, I would replace two of the three Scroll Racks with Sylvan Libraries (which Theo felt were non-negotiable), and all four Brainstorms with three Worldly Tutors and a Reclaim. The Reclaim should be just dead-on hilarious, since you’ll get to pull back your dead Verdant Force to the top of the deck as you redirect an Agonizing Demise away from your Rhox and at, say, your opponent’s Rith.

Finally, I suggest two Creeping Molds to take care of those permanents like as Maze of Ith or Ensnaring Bridge, which deflected removal won’t hit easily.

So the deck would look like this now:


4x Psychic Battle

2x Syvlan Library

1x Scroll Rack

3x Worldly Tutor

1x Reclaim


4x Fog Bank

4x Wall of Roots

2x Creeping Mold


3x Mystic Snake

2x Cockatrice

2x Rhox

1x Verdant Force

2x Penumbra Wurm

1x Citanul Heirophant

2x Spike Feeder

1x Avatar of Will

You’ll absolutely still want twenty-six lands in this build. You are now depending on more expensive creatures to hold the ground for you; your Fog Banks and Walls of Roots can only go so far. With eighteen creatures, we should have enough moxie to stop the creature rush problems the blue-black build had… But the big question will be, can we get the darn things on the board?

It would not be completely insane to replace one of the above cards – say, the Heirophant – with a Show and Tell or Eureka. Seriously, what’s going to hit the board that’s worse than your Verdant Force? You might also squeak an earlier Psychic Battle out this way.

There’s another blue-green deck using Psychic Battle that I might recommend. I’ll just do up the base:

4x Psychic Battle

4x Deranged Hermit

2x Nut Collector

2x Squirrel Wrangler

2x Overrun

2x Opposition

2x Bubble Matrix

Squirrel decks are in vogue; so smart red mages will have Earthquakes and Tremors. Be ready to up the Bubble Matrix from two to four.

A Metagame Note On Binding Interdiction

One of the e-laughs that Theo and I shared in reviewing these blue-green Psychic Battle decks is that they could both run either Bind or Interdict – and we were only half-joking.

While I’ve alluded to these cards in a past article, I’m now actually going to take the step of pulling them off my “Are You Crazy?!?!?” List for multiplayer. (You didn’t know I had a list like that, did you? Well, I do. It’s just a very shy list, and doesn’t like people poking at it and mocking it, as if all it’s good for is tracking laundry or grocery items.)

The reason that Bind and Interdict are getting better and better (and it’s fair to ask how they could have possibly gotten worse and worse) is twofold: First, the more cards Wizards prints, the more quality creatures and other permanents there are that have activated abilities. Often, the best ones are those that sacrifice to activate, or those that have regeneration capability. Pick a game in your group and silently count up how many permanents across these two categories there are. You should reach five, fairly easily. (A list of possibilities is frightfully easy to generate: Pernicious Deed, Bottle Gnomes, Goblin Legionnaire, Fog of Gnats, Seal of Doom, Rhox, Bloodfire Kavu, Masticore, Morphling, and on and on… And we haven’t even considered to the wider list that often puts a permanent in harm’s way, like the Kor Haven that makes the white mage so sure her blocker will survive, or the Llanowar Elf that the green mage is counting on for that last green mana for a combat trick, or the Attrition that the black mage is using to control the board.)

If you Bind the ability of a permanent that’s been sacrificed to kill one of your creatures (say, Mogg Fanatic), you have”killed” one of your opponent’s creatures, saved one of yours, and drawn yourself a new card. That’s three-for-one advantage. Ancestral Recall, baby! (No, of course not. But allow me this heady moment of pseudo-analysis.)

So pay attention to what kind of permanents are washing across your group, consider these cards in your next blue and/or green casual deck. (I cannot stress that word enough: Casual.) They’re good for laughs, good for foiling a well-laid out plan…and maybe, just plain good.

They will not, however, stop the incessant march of the Graceful Antelope! You have one more week to get in your Break this Card entry. We’ve got a respectable, but not knock-out, number. The prize could be yours…but you can’t lose embarrasingly if you don’t enter!


Anthony Alongi

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