Casual Play: It’s A Conspiracy!

We all know about the big conspiracies, but have you heard the latest: Wizards will not include basic lands in 7th Edition?

I think I’m getting paranoid. I’m seeing conspiracies everywhere.

It started with my dogs. I run them every morning. They began waking me a minute or two before the alarm clock sounded, and we would head outside. Then a couple minutes. One morning I found myself outside throwing tennis balls at 3 a.m. in the snow. Hey, it’s just as dark at three as at six in mid-winter, and I was too groggy to bother with my watch.

Ingrid thought it was hilarious. Of course, she was still in bed.

We all know about the big conspiracies, like somebody stealing an election and Wizards hating green, but have you heard the latest: Wizards will not include basic lands in 7th Edition?

Seriously. I checked out several spoilers and NOT ONE lists basic lands.* The Swamps will be drained and paved. The Mountains will crumble. The Islands will sink into the waves. The Plains will… will… what can you do to Plains, anyway? (Housing development — The Ferrett) The Plains will be plainer. The Forests will fall. (That’s okay, ’cause everyone knows that R&D always dumps on green anyway.) I have it on good authority that Wizards won’t put basic lands in Apocalypse, either. It’s part of a plot to force everyone to buy lots of uncommon and rare lands just to play. Basic lands are too cheap. It’s all about money, I tell you.

Another conspiracy – the DCI banned Survival just to stop me from qualifying. I do pretty well in a couple PTQs, missed qualifying with my G/B Survival deck because of one mistake** in the finals, and the DCI bans the key card. I know you have heard lots of rants about this, but I just wanted you to know that the DCI didn’t ban Survival of the Fittest because it was broken; they did it just to stop me.

I have seen some conspiracies at the local level, too. I built a green black theme deck recently – Beasts with random terror clones like Sever Soul – and everyone I played it against was playing either black or pro-black creatures. Do you know how sad it is to chump with a depleted Wall of Roots, then Annihilate your own wall just to get the card out of your hand? There is no way that everyone just randomly grabbed black decks. I know someone was spying on me and coordinated the whole thing. (Come to think of it, the dogs have been pretty miffed that I won’t get up at 3 a.m. any more…)

I read where the Ferrett qualified at a PTQ with only thirty-five people competing. THIRTY-FIVE! Last weekend, we had forty-four people show up for a GP Trial in Madison, where the only prize was some byes for GP Detroit. PTQ’s around here typically get well over a hundred people, and often go eight or nine rounds of Swiss. The Ferrett played five rounds of Swiss. After five rounds around here, things are just starting to get interesting.***

The Ferrett also mentioned that three of the best players in his area were not attending, and that they all had ratings in the high 1700’s. That’s decent competition, but not amazing, mainly because a secret cabal has moved all the best players to the American Midwest. That cabal conspires to keep the competition as strong as possible, just to make sure I don’t win. Do you doubt it? – my DCI composite rating is 1786, as I write this, which doesn’t even put me in the top 200 players in the Midwest.

I dug up the statistics to prove all this and wrote a few paragraphs on the topic, but then I came to my senses and deleted it. Who wants to read that stuff? (If you do, email me or go to www.GetYourHeadExamined.now.)

So why the long rant about Conspiracies? It’s a lead-in to a Conspiracy deck. Wait, wait, don’t exit! Conspiracy.dec really works – it’s a poor man’s Survival. Here’s the card:

Conspiracy: enchantment, 3BB, As ~this~ comes into play, choose a creature type. ; Creatures you control and creature cards in your graveyard, hand, and library are of the chosen type.

By itself, Conspiracy is nothing much. However, Conspiracy and a searcher can find any creature in your library and put that creature into play. For example, with a Conspiracy naming”Goblins” in play, Mogg Catcher can search out Verdant Force. The result is something very like a Survival of the Fittest deck, but with the advantage that the creatures come directly into play. This means the deck is not as vulnerable to graveyard destruction and has some really cool combat tricks in hand. (On the flip side, Conspiracy is much more expensive than Survival, and the double black in the casting cost is a problem.)

The first concern of any Conspiracy deck is getting Conspiracy into play (and protecting it.) The second is getting the mana consistent. Once that’s done, you can move on to adding creatures.

Conspiracy is an enchantment. You need to find it while you are getting enough mana producers in play to cast it. Since you will be playing black, you can use Vampiric and Demonic Tutors. You can also use Enlightened Tutor and Academy Rector if you are running white, or Sterling Grove if you are running green. Scroll Rack can also help. I generally find four to six Tutors are necessary – especially since the Conspiracy decks I play casually run about 75 cards. My T2 Conspiracy deck, which I played before Nemesis appeared, ran 60 cards and included four Vampiric Tutors.

The next issue is mana consistency. If you own dual lands, it really helps. For Rebels, I use four Tithes to find the lands, plus some Cities of Brass and Mirage fetch lands. In elves decks, I run Birds, Quirion or Skyshroud Elves, Wall of Roots, and Wood Elves and Mirage fetch lands to find the dual lands. If you don’t own duals, the Dragon Lairs and Invasion taplands could substitute, but will slow you down a little. If you have to run a lot of basics, try Yavimaya Grangers, Fertile Ground, Star Compass and Harrow. In any case, run plenty of land: Ideally, you want to search as often as possible. I have also had good luck with Thran Dynamo to power the searchers.

The next step is to choose a searcher. Rebels have the most versatile searcher in Lin Sivvi; Lin Sivvi can also recover dead cards from the graveyard. However, Lin Sivvi is a legend, so you need some other Rebel searchers. (With Conspiracy in play, Lin Sivvi is not a Legend, since Conspiracy overwrites Legend, but having Conspiracy disenchanted is bad enough without losing a Lin Sivvi as well.) Conspiracy is a control deck, and once you take control, you will want to be searching twice a turn or more, so multiple searchers help. Rebel Informer can put all your cards back into your library, allowing them to be searched out again. This is especially effective with creatures with comes-into-play effects.

The other Nemesis searchers (Mogg Catcher, Seahunter and Skyshroud Poacher) are also good options if you want to play big creatures. These searchers can get creatures of any casting cost for three mana. If you wanted to search out Crosis, the Purger, for example, it would cost six mana with Lin Sivvi, but only three with these guys. Of these three options, Skyshroud Poacher is clearly the best. The Poacher requires green mana, which you need for Birds of Paradise, Harrow, Wood Elves, etc. anyway. Mogg Catcher, Seahunter, and Rebels require you to commit heavily to a third color. Moreover, Goblins get only the Goblin King as a pumper, and Merfolk get Lord of Atlantis – but elves get Eladamri, Lord of Leaves and Elvish Champion, both of which are much better than their counterparts.
Incidentally, Mercenaries make rotten searchers. Rebels and the other Nemesis searchers can get things with higher casting costs. Mercenaries cannot. That makes them useless in this type of deck.

Another option is to use both Rebels and Elves. Skyshroud Poacher is a Rebel, after all. So run two Ramosian Captains, two Defiant Falcons, two Lin Sivvis and one Skyshroud Poacher. **** With this you should be able to find nearly anything. The Falcons can get the Captains and Lin Sivvi, and they can get the Poacher. A word of warning, however: Conspiracy does not change the text of a searcher, so if you have Conspiracy set to Elves, Lin Sivvi cannot search for anything. Leave it set to Rebels, and use lower casting cost creatures where possible. I find using Lin Sivvi and a total of seven or eight searchers to be reasonably sufficient for casual games and decks of eighty cards or less, but add more searchers and Worldly Tutor or Eladamri’s Call if your deck is any bigger.*****

Okay, now let’s talk about the utility creatures and the fun stuff. Then I’ll add a decklist The core is going to be the Conspiracy and tutors, lands and mana, mana creatures and searchers. Beyond that, we will need the utility creature to deal with any problems the opponent calls forth, through appropriate comes-into-play effects. We also need something to kill the opponent with.

The basic utility creatures are Uktabi Orangutan (kill artifacts), Monk Idealist or Cloudchaser Eagle (kill enchantments), Bone Shredder or Nekrataal (kill creatures), Avalanche Riders (kill lands), Radiant’s Dragoons (life gain), Carrion Ants or Eater of the Dead (empty graveyards), Ghitu Slinger or Flametongue Kavu (direct damage), Highway Robber (drain life), Royal Assassin or Silent Assassin (kill creatures), Ravenous Rats or Cackling Fiend (hand destruction), Spike Feeder or Hunting Moa (pump creatures), Spike Weaver or Peacekeeper (slowing attackers). Deranged Hermit is a great kill card. Eladamri makes all your creatures untargettable. Tradewind Rider bounces nearly everything – and it steals creatures if you combine it with a Gilded Drake. (but then you need to splash in some islands or U/x duals.) Fountain Watch can protect your enchantments and artifacts. Rooting Kavu or Barishi can shuffle all the creatures in your graveyard back into your library. Masticore is, of course, Masticore.

The kill cards are pretty much your choice. My favorites are generally Verdant Force, Spirit of the Night, Rhox or Multani in multiplayer. In the tournament deck last year, I ran Ramosian Captains as the searchers, and four-casting-cost control creatures, like Avalanche Riders and Highway Robbers. The kill was Bone Shredder beatdown or Highway Robbers recursion. Both options work. Remember, if you have Conspiracy in play and the right searcher out, the casting cost does not matter. You could play something massive like Devouring Strossus or Draco. It’s your choice, really.

Core: (11)
4x Conspiracy
3x Tutors (my group plays Type 1 rules, so Demonic, Vampiric and Enlightened Tutor are all restricted.)
1x Sterling Grove
2x Academy Rector
1x Regrowth or Restock

Lands: (26)
4x Savannah
4x Bayou
4x Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author]
1x Taiga
1x Badlands
4x Cities of Brass
4x Grasslands
2x Volrath’s Stronghold
1x Phyrexian Tower
1x Gaea’s Cradle

Artifacts: (4)
2x Thran Dynamo (Star Compass if you don’t have duals – lots of stuff in the deck has double colors in the casting cost)
2x Scroll Rack

Mana Creatures (12)
4x Wood Elves (Two Wood Elves and two Quirion Explorers work in larger games.)
4x Birds of Paradise
4x Wall of Roots

Searchers: (8)
2x Defiant Falcons or Ramosian Lieutenants
2x Ramosian Captains
2x Lin Sivvi
1x Skyshroud Poacher
1x Rebel Informer

Utility creatures and kill cards (14)
1x Wall of Blossoms
1x Radiant Dragoons
1x Uktabi Orangutan
1x Cloudchaser Eagle
1x Bone Shredder
1x Dark Hatchling
1x Avalanche Riders
1x Flametongue Kavu
1x Spike Weaver
1x Deranged Hermit
1x Blinding Angel
1x Multani
1x Anarchist
1x Spirit of the Night

It’s 75 cards. That’s about right for the casual multiplayer games I typically play. If the competition is more cut-throat, I would cut it some. (see below)

I’ll give a few hints on playing the deck: First, this is not a beatdown deck; it is a control deck. You build gradually, typically searching out the Wood Elves and Rebel Informer early on, and building up your mana supply until you can search at will. Next, eliminate any problem lands, enchantments or artifacts, then remove problem creatures. Finally, beat the opponent dead. Spirit of the Night is an excellent beatdown creature, since it flies and has first strike – but I prefer to be a bit more subtle, especially in multiplayer games.

Rebel Informer is important since it can put rebels back in your library. In most cases, that sure beats paying echo. It is even better with creatures that affect everyone, since you can move the creature into and out of play at will. For example, Peacekeeper can prevent all creatures from attacking. At the end of your last opponent’s turn, you can put it back in your library; then fetch it at the end of your turn. Having the only attack phase in a multiplayer game can be a good thing, even if it does put a huge target on your forehead. After all, what can your opponents do? (Okay, what besides”Stroke you for 100,””Drain you for 20,””Bolt the Peacekeeper,” “Wrath of God,” and stuff like that?)

Remember that searchers act at instant speed. You can counter removal spells by searching out Eladamri (if you have Conspiracy elves in play), or stop a Disenchant by searching out a Fountain Watch. The combat tricks are even better. The attack phase has several opportunities to play instants: on announcement of the opponent’s attack phase, then in response to declaration of attackers. That’s typically when you search for a blocker: it surprises the hell out of opponents when Morphling is blocked by a Draco appearing out of a clear, blue sky. You can also use the ability to lull someone into attacking: Lumbering Satyr gives everyone Forestwalk, until you put it back into your library after they declare attackers. You can also search for a gating creature once damage goes on the stack and use the gating ability to bounce your about-to-die creature back to your hand. This is a classic Fleetwood Panther trick, but with Conspiracy and a searcher, you can bring in Doomsday Specter or Shivan Wurm to bounce your creatures.

Creature removal is important, and the options are so numerous that choosing can be difficult. Bone Shredder is cheap, in color, and reasonably effective. Dark Hatchling is more expensive, but – unlike Shredder – it kills Masticore. Lightbringer and Lawbringer are quite effective against the right colors, and Lin Sivvi can retrieve them as necessary, even without Conspiracy in play. Phyrexian Bloodstock can appear, block, then be put back in the library to kill a white creature. Nekrataal also works well. Use what you have.

The deck can have trouble with creatures in the graveyard, but Lin Sivvi can return those to your deck. Volrath’s Stronghold or Haunted Crossroads do the same thing. If you don’t own those cards, Gravedigger can also meet that need. Rooting Kavu will reshuffle all your dead creatures into your library – just once, but that’s usually enough.

The other potential problem is actually drawing your big, out-of-color kill card, since you cannot search for something that’s in your hand. That’s where Scroll Rack comes in. Scroll Rack can take anything you don’t need and put it back in your library. Drawing the extra cards is almost a bonus. Early in the game, it can also really help you search for lands, mana creatures and Conspiracy.

Global destruction cards like Wrath of God and Armageddon really hurt this deck. It needs a fair amount of mana to operate and it runs on creatures. The deck doesn’t have a lot of answers to those, although Daring Apprentice might be worth a try. Beyond that, the only defense is to use Thrull Surgeon as a repeating Coercion, and to get the bad cards before they get cast.

That’s about it. Playtest the deck for a while before you try it against opponents – the deck’s synergies are not immediately obvious. But, once you get a handle on it, it can be very powerful. It’s not quite RecSur, but it is pretty darn close. In some ways, it is even better.

If the group you play with is less casual, and plays more tuned, aggressive decks, you should streamline this. Spirit of the Night, Multani and Deranged Hermit are all expensive kill cards – only one is needed. The deck also has too many searchers and options. Cut to 60 cards, using two Sergeants, two Falcons, two Lin Sivvis and a Rebel Informer as searchers. Cut the Dark Hatchling unless you expect to see Masticore. Wall of Blossoms can go, since you have Walls of Roots as an early blocker and mana source. Pull the Skyshroud Poacher, since it only gets the Wood Elves and Deranged Hermit, and use a kill card with a low casting cost but high power, like Masticore. Consider adding Worship and Daring Apprentice. In these games, always use Conspiracy set to Rebels.

As always, comments and questions are welcome. You can reach me at [email protected] or at [email protected].


* – Think I’m kidding?****** Look at the spoiler at http://www.magicplayer.de/7th.htm. The only lands listed are the pain lands, like Adarkar Wastes and City of Brass.

** – One is enough. Usually, one is all you get.

*** – All kidding aside, qualified is qualified. They don’t hand out top 8 pins and qualifications anywhere unless you play really solidly and well. Congrats Ferrett, both for qualifying and writing a report worth reading. Check it out. http://www.starcitygames.com/php/news/

**** – I don’t include Sergeants because I don’t need to search starting on turn 1, and having a full Rebel chain doesn’t leave room for anything else. Early game, I want to be establishing my mana, with Walls of Roots (of Vine Trellis), etc. I will not start searching in earnest until after Conspiracy is in play.

***** – This is a good place to point out that, if you are searching your 150 card deck for single creatures every turn, you will bore your opponents to death. Searching in a sixty-card Survival deck is slow enough – and the bigger your deck gets, the less fun it is to play against. Who wants to watch someone searching their deck all night? It’s almost as bad as searching in a 5-Color deck, but in 5-Color, you generally have friends and onlookers to help search.

****** – Absolutely not. No parody here – I’m dead serious. Tinder Farm is a first pick. Draco.dec is going to rule T2 at Regionals. Carnival of Souls is the best card ever printed.