Chrome Mox And Other Silver Wonders

Like anyone else I’ve been testing and making new decks. Of course by new decks, I mean I’m putting old cards backwards in cases and then scribbling (in my terrible hand writing) words like”extraplanar” and”chrome” on small pieces of paper and then slipping them in. This, combined with a testing partner, results in testing out new decklists… Which I will now give to you, my readers. Then I will talk about the decklists. Which were tested and observed, under fire from other decks. Deck that might also be terrible. I think this is the real fun of new format testing: All of your decks are garbage, but you don’t know that yet.

The Standard rotation remains the most unique of all rotations in Magic. It is a seasonal thing, something that occurs at the end of every autumn. The leaves turn gold, people put on sweaters, students have already remembered how mind-numbingly boring school is – and the old block is thrown into Extended like an old, stale bag of chips. A new, fresh set is introduced, which we players set into like a pack of blood-frenzied sharks, resulting in new decks, a new format, and chase rares which are already selling for $20 a pop before you can even receive your orders. Ah yes, it is a glorious time for Magic players.

…That is, assuming you aren’t selling yourself on the streets for cards. Then it’s time for your knees to hurt a lot, but I’m sure those hard-earned Chrome Moxes and Oblivion Stones will feel extra good when you’re using them, since you’re selling a tiny piece of your soul each time you purchase …

Uh, never mind. I’m still the Starcity Deck Database Editor, and I get paid in cards for my work.

By the way, you may have noticed if you’ve sent me mail that I didn’t reply to your mail. Ten out of eleven times, this is because you’re sending me a random decklist that wasn’t in a major tournament. While it warms my heart to receive your decklists, especially the really bad ones, if people didn’t care about the decklists from Grand Prix: Genova, I assure you that I can’t do anything with your decks – even if you did clean house in your basement against your friends the night before.

Returning to the heart of the matter, like anyone else I’ve been testing and making new decks. Of course by new decks, I mean I’m putting old cards backwards in cases and then scribbling (in my terrible hand writing) words like”extraplanar” and”chrome” on small pieces of paper and then slipping them in. This, combined with a testing partner, results in testing out new decklists… Which I will now give to you, my readers.

Then I will talk about the decklists. Which were tested and observed, under fire from other decks. Deck that might also be terrible. I think this is the real fun of new format testing: All of your decks are garbage, but you don’t know that yet.

Mono Black Control

Oh, those are big scary letters. I don’t think Ferrett is going to let me use a bigger font – but if I could, I’d put Mono black Control at least a twenty-point font – maybe thirty-six. Do me a favor, and turn up your text size, then roll Mono Black Control off the tip of your tongue. Just like that. Is there ever a more monolithic sounding name for a control deck? Mono Black Control brings up giant images of massive stone blocks, crashing down on creatures and crushing the life out of them.

Mono Black Control: Ceiling collapses, everyone dies.

I’m sure most people are familiar with this deck – but if you’re not, MBC is a slow control deck that rotates around making trades to kill your opponent’s threats while gaining card advantage over time by using spells that draw multiples (or nullify multiple threats) at once. MBC is in no way”my” deck, it was thought up by… Well, we’re guessing Wizards R&D sometime in the year Two-thousand. Whenever Torment was in development. Years ago. It’s really becoming more and more a mainstay archetype, though it has yet to penetrate the Extended environment.

MBC is the big winner of the Mirrodin Olympics. While other colors get”stuff,” MBC gets exactly what it needs. Need a new Mutilate? Barter in blood. Need a Corrupt? Oh, and there’s Consume Spirit. Need a new Cabal Coffers? Extraplanar Lens. Need an answer to Karma and other enchantments? Wait, we never even had that before.

Oh well – we got Oblivion Stone, anyway. Oh yeah, and Terror. I’m not even sure we asked for Terror. But we got Terror, too. We got Terror, too! Yeesh!

Here’s the decklist a fair amount of testing churned out:

Ceiling Collapses, Everyone Dies

2 Visara the Dreadful

2 Undead Gladiator

3 Promise of Power

4 Barter in Blood

4 Consume Spirit

3 Oblivion Stone

2 Decree of Pain

3 Mind Sludge

2 Scrabbling Claws

3 Terror

3 Smother

2 Diabolic Tutor

3 Extraplanar Lens

2 Barren Moor

22 Swamp

This was the first serious build I tested with. We were in fact quite pleased overall with the matchup versus the version of Chrome Mox-wielding Goblins we used. MBC punishes card disadvantage tempo boosters like Chrome Mox quite nicely. It’s difficult to really benefit from the speed boost of Chrome Mox (or, I suppose, Seething Song – though that card is so ridiculously bad that I doubt anyone serious is going to play it in Goblins) when the MBC deck can spot remove your early drops so consistently. What’s amusing is that Goblin Piledriver is actually often very weak against MBC when played early; he usually spends most of time swinging for no more than one or three, which is actually not as impressive as I had hoped.

However, after some discussion and testing against control decks I ended up with this:

4 Solemn Simulacrum

4 Terror

4 Consume Spirit

4 Barter in Blood

3 Oblivion Stone

3 Mind Sludge

3 Phyrexian Arena

2 Extraplanar Lens

2 Diabolic Tutor

2 Smother

2 Decree of Pain

1 Promise of Power

1 Visara the Dreadful

1 Scrabbling Claws

22 Swamp

2 Barren Moor

Yes, it remains at twenty-four land. I’ve considered adding one more but usually find I can dig into the deck to get more lands. If you feel you’re running a risk going to twenty-four land, cut the Scrabbling Claws. The Claws are usually cantripped in a good half your matches to dig for land, although they are extremely relevant against most white decks, and the odd zombie decks.

You can also happily change the Barren Moors to Stalking Stones; I have yet to test that, but the deck is fine with having one or two non-swamp lands.

Much of the deck is self-evident. Your goal is to continually remove your opponent’s threats while laying land. Once you reach a certain amount of mana, you simply Consume Spirit your opponent out or make a giant demon and kill him with that. That’s not really the hard part; the hard part is surviving.

The deck has formidable weapons in the Aggro matchups it faces. The two Smothers may look redundant, but it is important to note that the Terror and Smother are interchangeable in the role you need them to play: That is, popping a turn 2 Goblin Piledriver or turn 3 Goblin Warchief off before it becomes a problem. Barter in Blood was chosen over Infest due to Infest being worsened when facing down non-aggro decks as well as when the aggro decks get their hands on Goblin Sledder or Glorious Anthem. I don’t like running removal that’s basically”turn 3 or bust” from time to time. Infest is, of course, better than Barter in Blood against Siege-Gang Commander – but that’s what Decree of Pain and Oblivion Stone are for.

Solemn Simulacrum is a nod to the control matchups out there. While Grid Monitor would be better against Aggro decks much of the time, the card does not really lend itself to beating white control decks, which are somewhat problematic. Simulacrum is no greater a threat, but he usually manages to swing for a couple points or at worst replaces himself. I would advise players to generally not judge the Simulacrum’s worth by first glance; it’s one of those cards that requires actually playing to get a feel for. I should note – just to be sure – that Monitor is definitely better in every aggro matchup until they board in artifact removal.

A note on Extraplanar Lens: This card should never be dropped early unless you’re certain your opponent can not (or will not) remove it. Usually it’s best to play around turn 6 or 7, where it can actually bring up the amount of damage dealt by a Consume Spirit that turn. If your opponent is likely to remove it, bear in mind that it can still be used something like a bad Bubbling Muck. The mana doubling effect can allow for much larger Consume Spirits than otherwise, even if it only lasts a turn. If you want to look at it something like Seething Song, go ahead; often in testing, it has acted just like that.

I am not yet solid on the sideboard of this deck (or any other) since I haven’t really borne witness to enough of the format to get a solid idea on how much I should board in. I would suggest however that your board contain the following cards:

Culling Scales is very helpful against White weenie and Zombies, Infest can be great against Goblins (isn’t always though), you want more Terrors and/or Smothers in aggro match ups. Persecute and Mind Sludge are both quite nice against other MBC or control decks – and lastly, it’s important to board in the extra Stones against white decks to help remove Karma.

I have considered Coercion in the sideboard as well. While you wouldn’t need the full four, access to two or three would help dramatically in control matchups and also give you an additional, albeit flimsier, way to deal with Karma. I suppose an example board would look like this:

3 Culling Scales

3 Stabilizer

2 Persecute

2 Coercion

2 Infest

2 Smother

1 Oblivion Stone

There’s still lots of wiggle room, though. Depends heavily on the format – Scales is unnecessary if there isn’t much White Weenie, Zombies, or Astral Slide in your area, and Stabilizer is obviously not so hot if no one is cycling. You could happily replace Infest with Grid Monitor as well – though personally, I’m not yet a fan of the Monitor. There never really was a rock-solid MBC build in the seasons where MBC was big, many people played many decks.

As a footnote, Riptide Replicator fails to make the cut simply because it’s useless against Aggro unless you draw it really late – at which point you’re probably winning anyway – and because it tends to get removed by most control decks. The problem it got around was Circle of Protection: Black, which you can remove nowadays.


I’m not going to offer extensive advice on Goblins – only to discuss for the moment Chrome Mox and a few match up notes. We tossed this card in a normal Goblins decks after slight modifications to drop the Skirk Prospector count and up the number of Goons. The results were both encouraging and dismissive.

Here’s one of the primary lists we worked on:

17 Mountain

2 Goblin Burrows

4 Siege-Gang Commander

2 Goblin Sharpshooter

4 Clickslither

4 Goblin Warchief

2 Goblin Goon

3 Sparksmith

4 Goblin Piledriver

4 Volcanic Hammer

4 Shock

4 Chrome Mox

2 Skirk Prospector

4 Goblin Sledder

Goblins as a whole needs to evolve as an archetype – personally, we tried normal goblins, we tried this, and we weren’t all too amazed with it. This variant was able to pound MWC into the ground if they didn’t get Story Circle.

(Note that I’m not going to talk about MWC, as test results have continued to prove … lacking.)

As a list, I would say this one is poor. It’s needlessly top-heavy, which is bad. It also has much poorer draws than it need be – primarily because Chrome Mox is highly overrated. The Mox is one of those cards which is either ridiculous or awful – and that’s in the same game. A turn 1 Mox is golden, but it’s awful off the top any later than turn 3 and it’s horrible in multiples. I really can’t decide if I want to run the card; I have been thinking that Goblins should run a ton more haste cards and less slow-ass stuff like Goon – or, dare I say it, Siege-Gang Commander. It’s true that Warchief is a wonderful source of haste; the thing is, he seemed to die. A lot. The existence of so much spot removal in MBC makes the effects of both Piledriver and Warchief a lot worse than I had expected.

Sparksmith should not, in all honesty, be maindecked. This is a huge mistake. Gempalm Incinerator isn’t necessarily better per se – he’s just not as bad as often. Sparksmith’s one power is all the difference in the world. Granted, Incinerator isn’t insane with Warchief… But Warchief dies a lot.

Pyrite Spellbomb, as well, is one of those cards that it seems everyone doesn’t get. Yes, Silver Knight sucks. A ton. You also do not have an effective answer in Spellbomb; you are just making your other matchups worse for no really good reason. Spellbomb doesn’t work with Mox, and it doesn’t kill Knight if they get an Anthem or Damping Matrix down. Also, envision a simple situation: You have Spellbomb in hand on turn 3. On his turn 2, your opponent played a White Knight.

You know, the 2/2 first striker. If you do not have a Sledder, you need to remove the White Knight just as much as you need to remove the Silver Knight. He still kills Piledrivers quite happily. Now you can wait and save the Spellbomb on the premise your opponent won’t drop an Anthem. If you wait, White Knight is acting just like a Silver Knight.

Now I’m not saying this situation will come up every single time – because, really, it won’t – but my point is that putting a card in your deck to negate Silver Knight on the promise that it removes other stuff is shoddy once your opponent knows to play the Knight on turn 4 instead of turn 2. You still need to negate White’s one- and two-drops without Sledder, as they still quite effectively screw you up.

The other point is that Terror, by itself, changes the way you look at fighting black decks. Chrome Mox is quite nice against White’s Wing Shards, since the difference in a turn can be so dramatic. If you’re on the play, going Piledriver, Warchief, Clickslither against MWC is simply ridiculous – but U/W control and MBC aren’t so lenient on allowing those early turns to go by, and in the end, I’m just not happy with the Mox overall.

The altered list should probably look something like this:

20 Mountains

3 Goblin Burrows

3 Skirk Prospector

4 Goblin Sledder

4 Goblin Piledriver

4 Goblin Warchief

2 Goblin Sharpshooter

4 Clickslither

2 Blistering Firecat

3 Siege Gang Commander

4 Volcanic Hammer

4 Shock

3 Gempalm Incinerator

…Which is pretty much a generic Goblins deck with the minor addition of some extra haste creatures. Haste is an extremely important resource versus both white and black decks. I’ve come to the conclusion that Viashino Sandstalker might end up very playable, as much of the removal in MBC decks seems to end up as sorcery speed.

(I should note right after writing this my MBC deck got it’s butt kicked by a haste-happy deck built and played by Brian Kibler. Yowch. It’s nice to be right, but it’s not so nice to have it demonstrated so violently.)

White Weenie

Everyone knows that this deck is going to show up in gauntlets. Like red decks based around cheap burn and cheap dudes, White Weenie is a mainstay concept – even if it’s failed to be a truly competitive deck in Standard for quite some time. That’s not saying it hasn’t been competitive in Extended, of course; it qualified people in several events.

So did White get what it needed to win overall? On one hand, White has been slowly gaining access to better and better creatures. In Onslaught, it received the game-winning Exalted Angel. In Legions, White Knight returned. In Scourge, Silver Knight showed up to do exactly what his flavor text says. 8th restored Suntail Hawk and Savannah Lions to Standard play. Mirrodin grants us a wealth of playable cards.

Guess what? None of these cards does what White needs to do.

You still have no effective way to disrupt a control deck. With 8th Edition removing Disenchant for no good reason and taking the pain lands with it, it’s actually a lot harder to splash Blue than I’d like to admit. That means access to Mana Leak and other disruptive countermagic comes at too high a price to remain true Aggro. You have no solid way to deal with Grid Monitor besides evasion; I’m not even going to mention how piss-poor White’s options are against Exalted Angel.

Anyway, here’s a decklist:

23 Plains

1 Whipcorder

4 Leonin Skyhunter

4 Exalted Angel

4 Glorious Anthem

4 Raise the Alarm

4 Silver Knight

4 White Knight

4 Bonesplitter

4 Savannah Lions

4 Suntail Hawk

This was actually a list designed around the idea that it would sideboard heavily in the MBC and Goblins matchups – and that explains the lack of activated abilities. Damping Matrix is extremely solid in many situations against both MBC and red decks, though in MBC’s case it is primarily because that plus Karma is quite a hard situation for a MBC deck to fight it’s way out of. While that doesn’t necessarily come up often, it is a relatively effective way to sideboard in a weaker matchup.

This list is generally very fast and very capable of finding and playing the necessary threats out that it needs. Evasion is not provided in absolute spades, but you do possess a happy twelve fliers in the deck. That’s usually enough to get through ground stalls – though in the current format, I haven’t seen much in the way of ground stalls. Or creature battles, mind you, which is why I shy away from Wrath of God.

I have a lot of fun playing White Weenie, but the deck’s overall power actually comes out of the sideboard. I’ve considered replacing the lone Whipcorder with a Second Sunrise, which dampens much of the power mass removal-toting decks have against you. In addition to Sunrise, we have access to Karma and Stabilizer, both of which are formidable answers to their respective control archetypes. One thing to note is that an Akroma’s Vengeance can be met with a Sunrise; it will return the Stabilizer to play along with whatever else the Vengeance removed. It does not, however, help you out when facing down Altar’s Light. Damping Matrix, as previously mentioned, offers some interesting respites against Goblins and MBC, as well as any other deck which relies on artifacts or activated abilities – like Sparksmith, Pyrite Spellbomb, and Clickslither. It also turns off Oblivion Stone, Visara, and various other cards worth noting, though the MBC matchup is defined by keeping your Karma in play long enough.

The deck, so far, has been about as impressive as a pure beatdown deck can manage to be. You may comment that White Weenie needs tricks to win; the misfortune is that those same tricks make you much weaker when facing down opposing aggro decks or, indeed, when you’re trying to beat down and your mana chokes. That’s why I’m not running blue – there’s too much demand for WW on turn 2, given that your only two-drop that doesn’t ask for WW is Raise the Alarm, which is more of a mid-game card or a combat trick.

But as testing passes and more cards make themselves evident in knowledge as to match ups, the deck will likely evolve past its current form. Discussions of WW/r have been tossed about; the problem is that WW/r seems no better than simple Red decks.

Leonin Sun Standard is one of those cards that is hurt by the format overall. While it’s a rock-solid card, you need at least two creatures for it to be highly useful, and a double-activation to beat Glorious Anthem. If you Raise the Alarm at the end of a control deck’s turn and then Sun Standard three times, it’s a very threatening card. The problem is that getting that kind of numerical advantage is rare, and beyond, the lack of a persistent bonus is a weakness against burn toting decks. Unlike Anthem, which makes your bears much more resilient in the face of Lightning Rift at all times. The Standard is bar none amazing past turn 6 or 7 when it starts cracking out +3/+3 on two or more dudes – but generally at this point you’re in bad shape anyway.

That’s all for the moment. Next week, I’ll come back with several additional decks – Zombies, Beasts, Slide, U/W and B/W Control plus a hopeful version of a deck I titled”Regal” in testing – and a stronger version of MBC that was inspired by discussions with Nathan Kovner and various other players. I’ll also get more heavily into the matchup information and working from a better foundation of testing, begin explaining sideboards.

Iain Telfer

Taeme on IRC and elsewhere, preaching the ways of the JoshR barnage