Last week, I said that I’d mention some new Torment decks – and by new I didn’t mean that I’d show you how Peek could be replaced with Obsessive Search or that you could fit Basking Rootwalla into a R/G deck if you really want. It’s understandable that the first wave of new decks will be old decks with new cards in; hell, I’ve done it myself.
But once the panic is over, we have to look to try and find new decks to play with, but we shouldn’t avoid the lessons of the past – old archetypes are always popping back into Type II. Opposition and Burning Bridge are two such types, bought back (if only briefly) by their main components rotating into Seventh.
So what cards stood out? What cards made me want to build new decks? The first is a less powerful version of the Pump Knights: Nantuko Shade.
When you first look, he’s missing Protection from White and can’t gain First Strike, but he has an important upgrade: He gets +1/+1 for each B. Order of the Ebon Hand and Knight of Stromgald only got +1/+0 for each B you spent, making Nantuko Shade much more resilient.
Three things struck me when I saw the Shade: If Torment is The Black set and Judgement a White set, maybe we’ll see a Nantuko Monk or Nantuko Knight in Judgement to balance him out? He also looks perfect for Eighth Edition. The Pump Knights of old had Protection – an ability not allowed in the Basic Set – but the Shade could fit in nicely. Finally, I thought of Suicide Black. Can we build it yet, or is it still too slow with bad creatures?
I broached the subject with a few friends and we threw a couple of deck listings around, but it was going nowhere. On its own, black just can’t take down Psychatog and R/G Beats. We could build a deck that can take one down, but not both.
No luck with mono-black, then.
What about other colours? There are four others to think of, after all, and Psychatog has black spells in it, doesn’t it? Psychatog is a control deck; creatures like Nantuko Shade don’t fit well, as they are easy to kill, even with the Shade’s pumping ability. We need to work on an aggressive black deck splashing another colour, really, as we want to have as many black sources available to pump the Shade as possible.
B/R would probably work, and give us access to Terminate, Urza’s Rage, and any number of other damage spells, but B/R can’t deal with enchantments at all – a real weakness in a new environment. B/U might work, but has been done to death and B/G seems to be full of Spiritmongers and Pernicious Deeds – the Deeds, in particular, won’t work well with the Shade.
How about B/W? White still has some good spells, especially if we look at the gold spells from Apocalypse. We put a couple of decks together and ended up with this main deck listing:
The deck, as you can see, is very simple and very focussed. White doesn’t bring too much in the way of creatures, as only the Lynx raises its head, but it does bring us Vindicate and Death’s Grasp – allowing us to get rid of pesky creatures, top up our life, and capitalise if an opponent is manascrewed.
Duress and Addle give us eight main deck ways to make sure a Wrath doesn’t hit, as well as taking cards that could slow us down. They also allow us to control decks with few blockers – like Psychatog – and keep their card drawing in check. Four Rats help in this theme, too.
Mindslicer is a must-counter for many decks, unless they have a pile of bounce spells in hand. Its drawback doesn’t affect us much, because we often run out of cards quite quickly – perhaps Skeletal Scrying could make an appearance?
Foul Imp and Phyrexian Rager give us a little more attack. The Imp flies over ‘Togs and Mongeese; it’s only a real drawback against decks packing lots of bounce. (And those aren’t common, are they? – The Ferrett) Phyrexian Rager replaces itself – giving you another 2/2 guy in play without emptying your hand.
Finally, Desolation Angel. I’m playing two here – as the deck is still in a rough form – but with only twenty-two land, I’ve often won before I can cast her! Another big finisher might be the key – but every now and again she seals a win.
The land reflects our need for black mana, and with twelve Swamps we should find the Tainted Fields, giving us white and black most of the time. I’ve stuck to two Fields, as too many of them will increase the number of times we have to mulligan when they’re our only land.
I’ve play tested this deck against R/G and Psychatog, and it is doing much better than its mono-black cousin did. Against Psychatog, the discard is king, removing their ways of stopping your ever-increasing army. Watching them eat their graveyard to kill a Shade is a happy experience. Against R/G, you have a much tougher match; their burn proves very effective. I’d suggest dropping the Duresses after sideboarding to bring in Slay, and finding space for some bigger creatures or some way to keep them alive, like Crimson Acolyte.
The second card that caught my eye I’d like to talk about was Alter Reality:
Change the text of target permanent or spell by replacing all instances of one color word with another. (This effect doesn’t end at end of turn.)
Flashback 1U (You may play this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then remove it from the game.)
Straight away I rushed onto the net and started digging up old Sleight Knight decks. The best I could find was Tom Chanpheng’s 1996 World Championships deck:
Tom Chanpheng’s 1996 World Championships Deck (Winner).
Tom mis-recorded the Adarkar Wastes in his deck as Plains, leaving him with no blue sources in his deck at all! So much for this version of Sleight Knight. Even so, can we use this as a basis for a modern Sleight Knight deck?
I started by looking at white and blue cards that were available to me. There are a hell of a lot of small creatures for a start – Galina’s Knight, Meddling Mage, and Spectral Lynx, to name a few. Tom’s deck plays twelve creatures with Protection, so I’m going to try to head down that route, sticking to twenty creatures, sixteen other spells, and twenty-four land to start with.
Galina’s Knight and Spectral Lynx give us eight of our Protection creatures, and I figure that Mystic Crusader may just give us the rest of the creatures we’re looking for: With Protection from Black and Red, we can Alter the Red to Blue to give Psychatog decks a really hard time. Hell, changing the Black to Green makes them invulnerable against R/G Beats too – even with Terminate!
Looking for another four creatures to top us up to twenty, I really want to try the old favourite Longbow Archer. 2/2 First Strikers seem to be out of favour for now, but who cares.
Our sixteen spells are more difficult: Tom only played one main deck Sleight, but I’m going to start with two Altered Realities – they did inspire the deck, after all. We’re really missing Armageddon in such a control-heavy environment. Balancing Act is no where near as good as Balance would have been in this deck, either. We do have Reprisal if we want to play it, but we’re also missing the awesome power of Swords to Plowshares.
Things don’t look too good for us right now.
If you can’t copy the past, I guess we have to innovate. We’re already playing more blue cards than Tom did, and we have no one-drops as yet, so there is no reason not to play four Coastal Towers in the deck, ensuring at least one blue. Why not play a few Syncopates? They might just stop a Wrath or an Upheaval. We might play a few Memory Lapses, too, but in this deck I’m not sure they’re worth it. Repulse might be a good choice, what with all the token creatures of there – especially how big they are.
Finally, with no Swords we need some removal and – much as I dislike suggesting it – Hobble isn’t the worst choice, it’s a cantrip and we change the”Can’t block if it’s black” with our Altered Reality if we want to.
So a rough deck for you:
Slight Knight 2002 (and it even has Knights in it).
The Wrath of God is a reset, if everything is going badly, hit the Big Red Button and start dropping 2/2 guys again. Caves of Koilos give you the option to regenerate the Lynxes every now and again. I hesitate to add a third, but it may prove necessary – especially if you want to win against R/G Beats again and again.
Theory is nice – how about a little playtesting?
I started off against Psychatog – wouldn’t you? It didn’t go as badly as I thought it would. Without an early Force Spike or a counter straight away, you can start to nip in for two a turn; they really need to drop an early Tog to slow you down and kill a few of your creatures. If you can deal with it (Bounce, Hobble, Counter) you could be lucky. They’ll probably have to bring in Demises or Innocent Bloods to work against you, and you can bring in Gainsay to help against them. Tog seems to be geared up to work well against burn and decks with tokens – bouncing a real creature just slows you down. Try to save your counters for anything major – like a Fact or Fiction or one of their few Togs, and try to keep the Lapses for counter wars – you’ll probably lose, but they’ll lose cards. It might even be worth looking at bringing in Fact or Fictions against them, too – more testing will tell.
Against Tings, you have a few good cards in your few counters and Mages. The Mages should name Obliterate first and probably Balancing Act second. Try to keep your counters for the Acts, and try to keep a few land in hand. The sideboard is killer against them: Four Sacred Grounds, and you can drop them nice and early. The Hobbles will slow a big Terravore (if only you can stay alive long enough) and your Lynxes can block until the cows come home… Trample is a bit bad for you, though.
Red/Green is another off matchup. With no counters of their own you can play out a lot of blockers early on and a First Striker and a couple of Knights or Lynxes should help you though. Meddling Mage will get burnt very quickly, but I always try to name Urza’s Rage, as the game is often going to be a very long one. Sideboarding gives you many good options, including Hibernation, more Wrath of Gods, and more bounce spells. I’d try to bring in a Moti as a nice big, flying finisher or something.
Two new spells and two new decks. Neither deck is perfect and both certainly have their problems with the current metagame, but both can certainly beat all three of the top decks – I know, I’ve played them. What needs work is beating them more often.
If you play these decks, have any ideas for them or would just like to swap thoughts on the card choices, possible sideboard cards or anything else please, contact me.
On a final note I’d like to mention the CCG Prime Writer War. I should be in a poll this week, and I’d really like you to vote for Dan Paskins instead of me. Dan’s excellent writing makes me laugh like no other, and his style is very good – much better than mine in my opinion. His funniest article to date in my view is his”Red Decks History in Extended.”
Anyway, I hope you all have a great week and look forward to any emails.
Next Week: PTQ Nice in Southampton, England.