DNA: Mind’s Desire for the Masses

After months of tuning, I’ve created a Mind’s Desire deck that works consistently, doesn’t fold to artifact hate, holds its own against creatures, and authors some awe-inspiring synergy that’s left more than a few onlookers mesmerized. It’s also the most fun deck I’ve ever played and uses a bunch of cards that have been deemed useless, too slow, or unplayable for the format. Oh and lest I forget – it’s competitive with most of the top decks in Standard.

Shall I continue?

I’m usually all about the flowery introduction, but today I will be blunt like a Philly: After months of tuning, I’ve created a Mind’s Desire deck that works consistently, doesn’t fold to artifact hate, holds its own against creatures, and authors some awe-inspiring synergy that’s left more than a few onlookers mesmerized. It’s also the most fun deck I’ve ever played and uses a bunch of cards that have been deemed useless, too slow, or unplayable for the format. Oh and lest I forget – it’s competitive with most of the top decks in Standard.

Shall I continue?

When the Mirrodin spoiler first dropped, one of the cards that immediately caught my attention was Spellweaver Helix. It seemed interesting enough to center a deck around, but even I was not fool enough to deny that the card was, to use the classical definition,”bad”. I mean, really – Spellweaver Helix does nothing at all unless a player has already cast two sorceries and it costs three mana to even bring the dumb thing online. My initial thinking was that there weren’t enough one- or two-mana cost sorceries in the environment and probably just two of them were Constructed worthy. I filed my Helix ideas away under”C” for awful and set to work on a bombtastic Affinity build for States.

A couple of months later, I started fooling around with the standard Mind’s Desire builds, which used the Affinity manabase and the Gilded Lotus / Twiddle mania to generate the mana and spell count necessary to storm up a huge Tendrils of Agony. I found the Affinity Desire decks to work as advertised, but they were terribly inconsistent, vulnerable to artifact hate, and just didn’t feel… combo… enough. There wasn’t enough card drawing, the decks were ridiculously dependant on Gilded Lotus staying in play, the mana was atrocious and didn’t come out fast enough even with eight Talismans, and a single Akroma’s Vengeance ended the game outright. I thought to myself,”Self, there’s got to be a Mind’s Desire deck that doesn’t involve all this heinous Seething, Gripping, and Twiddling – sounds too much like an evening at Ted Knutson Backalley Brothel. There’s got to be a better way.” {cues song of same name} [Yes folks, I have a day job. – Knut]

A few days later, I flipped through my rare binder looking for ideas. I saw Spellweaver Helix nestled snugly among the”junk” Mirrodin artifacts, neighboring Scythe of the Wretched and Sculpting Steel. I flipped the gooey plastic page. I saw Mind’s Desire (winking at me slightly). I gasped and flipped the page back. Oh. My. God.

Amidst a hazy swirl of nucleotides, the deck known as”DNA” was born.

8 Forest

7 Island

2 Plains

4 Birds of Paradise

4 Rampant Growth

4 Explosive Vegetation

4 Concentrate

4 Thirst for Knowledge

4 Mind’s Desire

4 Spellweaver Helix

4 Chrome Mox

4 Solemn Simulacrum

3 Temporal Fissure

2 Chain of Vapor

2 Tendrils of Agony


4 Naturalize

4 Akroma’s Vengeance

3 Stifle

3 Circle of Protection: Red

1 Chain of Vapor

Before I get into the nuts and bolts of how the deck operates, I just want to state that I think that I’m most proud of this deck over any other I’ve developed. Time will tell if it will carry me to many glorious tournament victories the way Ralphie did, but as far as originality of concept, I think it’s far and away my best work. My only regret is that DNA is becoming public just before an environment change, but I had to make sure that the deck could stand on two legs before outing it. I think the deck is potentially good enough to have been kept under wraps until Regionals, but with that date so far away and with Darksteel on the horizon, there’s too much that can change from now until then to keep it like a secret.

As with any other deck in its vein, DNA wins by chaining together multiple copies of Mind’s Desire which eventually culminate in a massive Tendrils of Agony aimed at the opponent’s dome. The key differentiator is the deck’s namesake – Spellweaver Helix. If Spellweaver Helix and another duplicate sorcery are present in the pile of”removed from game” cards from an initial casting of Mind’s Desire then simply continue playing cards for free until you feel like winning. Other Mind’s Desire decks essentially hope that their initial spell count before tapping 4UU will be enough to reveal another copy.

With DNA, you get many more chances to chain multiple Desires together as well as put less pressure on the first Mind’s Desire to be large. Sometimes even when it doesn’t”go off”, the deck will somehow achieve dominance in one of the following areas:

a) mana dominance (Explosive Vegetation, Rampant Growth, Solemn Simulacrum)

b) card dominance (Concentrate, Thirst for Knowledge)

c) tempo dominance (Temporal Fissure)

You don’t need to read theoretical treatises by Tait or Tan to understand that a sudden and significant gain in any of these areas will usually win the game.

It’s critical to understand how each of DNA’s individual cards and synergies contribute to victory. When these concepts are misunderstood, wins will not come often. DNA is not a forgiving deck to play, and even I still screw up the end game at times. If there’s one thing that playing it will teach, it’s to think about doing everything possible on the current turn to facilitate a more explosive turn down the line. Let’s break it down, hmm?


4 Chrome Mox

4 Birds of Paradise

4 Rampant Growth

4 Explosive Vegetation

4 Solemn Simulacrum

Magic’s conventional wisdom has always held that combo decks must be as fast and single minded as possible in order to succeed. That is, the quicker the deck is, the more it is able to avoid disruption altogether. Standard lacks the blazing speed that Type I currently has and Extended once had, so a lot DNA’s card slots are devoted to the cause of the mana symbol. Exploding out of the gates is so important that I’ve given almost half of the deck over to ramping up as quickly as possible.

Chrome Mox

Not only is Chrome Mox zero casting cost mana acceleration, it’s free fuel for any of the storm spells in the deck. Drawing moxen late in other decks usually ratchets up a player’s blood pressure a few notches, but DNA loves to see these little buggers late, as they are often chiefly responsible for a huge Mind’s Desire or Temporal Fissure. Imprinting is also worry-free, since DNA easily recovers from the initial card disadvantage with Concentrate and Thirst for Knowledge.

Birds of Paradise

They’re cute, cuddly, they block fliers and they make mana of any color. What’s not to love? For added effect, do what I do: make a peeping sound whenever you drop one. Then giggle like a little girl.

Rampant Growth / Explosive Vegetation

These are the two most important sorceries in the deck. Rampant Growth serves as the vital second turn mana accelerant, but it is also the ideal target for Spellweaver Helix antics. Explosive Vegetation is arguably the better spell to resolve, as the two land boost often grants a significant mana edge as well as dramatically improve subsequent draws.

Solemn Simulacrum

Jens has been a relatively late addition to DNA, and may eventually be booted from the team, but for now he’s proved himself worthy. I wanted a way to add mana acceleration, card drawing, and a modicum of creature defense to the deck – and sad robot does all three of these things. I might go down to three copies and add an extra land eventually, but four is the number for now.


4 Concentrate

4 Thirst for Knowledge


Concentrate is the best pure card drawing spell in Standard right now, but only a couple of decks can support the UU mana cost. A few scant variants of U/W Control run the card, but those decks are scared to tap out because they’d rather leave mana open for bad counterspells. Hey, fine by me. DNA likes to keep the cards flowing from the library to the hand, and there’s nothing better than Concentrate to serve that end.

Thirst for Knowledge

Resolving Thirst for Knowledge correctly is the single biggest challenge that DNA poses its pilot. For Affinity, U/W, and other decks that use the card, this decision is a no-brainer – just pitch an artifact land or the least valuable brown spell in hand and proceed. It’s not so simple here; you’ll often want to take advantage of the spell’s”drawback” and actually discard two cards to have later targets for Spellweaver Helix. At times this is the better play, instead of taking the plus one net card gained from a typical Thirst resolution.

A lot depends on the turn the spell is cast; Thirst for Knowledge on turn 2 is usually just after pure card advantage, but Thirst for Knowledge on turn 6 is looking to set up a game-ending play. Care must also be taken to use Thirst to discard Tendrils of Agony if it is drawn. DNA has very little chance of getting two Black mana, nor does it need to (because of Spellweaver Helix, any sorcery will eventually grant you Tendrils of Agony if the card itself is not revealed in a Mind’s Desire pile).


4 Mind’s Desire

4 Spellweaver Helix

2 Tendrils of Agony

Mind’s Desire

Hey kids, this one lets you play your deck for free! Don’t let those Psychogenic Probes catch you slippin’, though. DNA is a Mind’s Desire deck. It requires that four copies of Mind’s Desire be played. More on this, I can not say.

Spellweaver Helix

Now this, this I can say a lot about. Spellweaver Helix is the glue that holds DNA together and enables its most ridiculous plays. Imprinting Mind’s Desire and another sorcery on Helix is the best way to go, but there’s plenty of other sick things that go together like Peaches and Herb.

Explosive Vegetation + Concentrate = Five for one total card advantage and two extra mana for next turn is nuts.

Rampant Growth + Temporal Fissure = Bounce with me, bounce with me…

Mind’s Desire + Temporal Fissure = It’s all right to cry. Here, here’s a tissue.

As I said earlier, Spellweaver Helix and another sorcery are revealed off the top of the deck from a freshly cast Mind’s Desire, the deck goes off like John Coltrane in”Giant Steps.” I needn’t mention that being a lucksac and simply revealing another Mind’s Desire is obviously as good as the former. What’s more, DNA’s land thinning spells dramatically reduce their chances of showing up, improving the overall quality of the combo and leaving only the creamy nougat inside. Who doesn’t love nougat?

Sometimes Spellweaver Helix shows up a little bit too early in multiples, in which case it is easily pitched to Thirst for Knowledge. There’s no doubt in my mind that the deck wants four copies. Another added benefit of the little junkrare that could is that it makes DNA resistant to discard (not that anyone is playing Black right now). I’ve had MBC decks crush all of the colored spells from my hand with Persecute, but yet I still held a Helix. A few turns later, I always pluck a sorcery, imprint that sorcery and Mind’s Desire or Concentrate, and get right back in the game.

Artifact removal is also not very effective vs. Spellweaver Helix because the opponent has to decide whether or not to destroy it before the imprint trigger finishes resolving. If the opponent opts to allow imprint to resolve, you immediately get priority and can cast a sorcery of choice. If the opponent opts to destroy the precious artifact, simply decline to resolve imprint after choosing the two target sorceries in your graveyard, leaving them intact for future Helix-ing.

Rulings of note:

Spellweaver Helix only triggers on spells that are played from your hand or from Mind’s Desire. The sorcery that is”spun off” of one Spellweaver Helix will not trigger the activation of another Helix (unless they each have imprinted the same exact sorceries, in which case both do trigger). For example, say there’s a Helix in play imprinting Rampant Growth and Mind’s Desire and one in play imprinting Mind’s Desire and Concentrate. If I cast Rampant Growth, I get Mind’s Desire only. The Mind’s Desire copied from the first Helix does not trigger Concentrate on the other Helix. Capiche?

Tendrils of Agony

Pain does not exist in this dojo… does it? No, sensei! This is DNA’s chief win condition, unless one prefers sad robot beatdown. It doesn’t make you any less of a man, I assure you… but please just Tendrils for thirty to win games; I’ll feel a lot better.


3 Temporal Fissure

2 Chain of Vapor

Temporal Fissure

DNA does not defend effectively against a rush of small creatures. The deck used to run three to four Aether Spellbombs, but I’ve opted for Solemn Simulacrum in this build instead to help with mana development. Thankfully, the present environment has largely shifted away from decks with a lot of creatures. The one deck that did, Goblins, has almost fallen off the map on Magic Online thanks to the dominance of Affinity and other control decks. DNA is more suited to fight the unwanted advances of a few creatures, and Temporal Fissure has proven more than adequate in that regard. Yet, its true purpose is to provide another”win” condition for the Mind’s Desire chain. Even if DNA doesn’t kill the opponent, it might put all of their permanents back in their hand – which wins the game anyway. I’ve yet to find an opponent that went on to win after I’ve cast a one-sided Upheaval. Just call me Jimmy Fairplay.

Chain of Vapor

I really want to have three of these straight up, but I’m undecided about the necessity of a third copy. In most games, I usually see at least one Chain of Vapor – and resolving one usually does the job. And what is the job of such a seemingly random card?

Let’s say there are five land, two Chrome Mox, and a Bird of Paradise in play. Mind’s Desire and Chain of Vapor are in hand.

Tap everything for mana to get eight total

Cast Chain of Vapor, returning Birds of Paradise (spell 1)

Sacrifice a land, return Chrome Mox

Sacrifice a land, return Chrome Mox

Sacrifice a land, bounce opponent’s creature/artifact/enchantment

Play Birds of Paradise (2)

Play Chrome Mox (3)

Play Chrome Mox (4)

Play Mind’s Desire for five

This is just one example of how Chain of Vapor powers up Mind’s Desire. With a deck that has eight permanents that cost one mana or less, there are always things hanging around to bounce back and re-play. Chain of Vapor was a wee bit better when DNA ran Aether Spellbomb, and Mind’s Desire was a tinge more impressive, but things seem fine presently.

As far as the mana base, I’ve arrived at seventeen lands as the magic number. It’s high enough that one mulligan won’t sting too much, and low enough that Mind’s Desire won’t flip over land all the damned time. In the more hardcore days of DNA, it ran fourteen lands – when the deck worked, it hummed like a porn star… but that wasn’t often, and I grew frustrated with going down to five cards every other game. Seventeen is the number. She’s only seventeeeeen… {reaching for the curling iron}

The concluding part of this article will contain advice on playing the deck, information about the matchups, and sideboarding strategy against the current Standard gauntlet. The sideboard certainly does require some explanation. But for now, just practice to get the hang of things. Learning to play DNA correctly is far more important than knowing how to play it against a particular matchup – par for the course with combo, methinks. Things that are not readily apparent will become so with repetition, and you’ll be breaking opponents in a swath of mighty storm spells soon enough.

Enjoy life.

Jim Ferraiolo

[email protected]

Dobbs on MTGO and IRC

Oh, PS:

New England Patriots 2004 Super Bowl Champions.

Mark it down.