Double or Nothing: Who You Calling Cheap?

1800 Or Bust, nothing – Jim’s on a quest to bash the Bath Invitational this time, and his mission is to break the Peasant Magic metagame wide open. Can you help him in his quest as he goes after it with the same zeal that he hits Standard with?

We’re coming up to the end of another Magical year. Extended has changed again, and Standard has a new bogey deck for everyone to worry about. Pro Tours have come and gone – and Kai, once again, has shown us who the real Daddy is. The year is not yet over though and, for those of us that live around Bath, England there’s one, last big event:

The Bath Magic Invitational 2002.

This year’s Bath Invitational will be the third. We created the event to encourage local players to come to more monthly tournaments, as each one they enter gives them points towards the Invitational standings. At the end of the year, the top fifteen players and the previous year’s Champion are invited to play off against each other for the title.

In the first year, we ran four rounds of Standard followed by a top-four knockout. Last year, I was lucky enough to qualify when a few of the invitees didn’t show. We played three rounds of Standard followed by a Rotisserie draft – and after a 3-0 in Standard, only managed 1-1-1 in the draft to come third.

A lot of people liked the idea of different formats and the real Invitational tends to play with odd formats too, and so the organisers decided to try and follow the Invitational’s lead by choosing some wacky formats for this year’s invitees. They wanted formats that would be fun to watch, and fun to play. They only format that must be included is Standard, as that’s the format that everyone plays to qualify.

The formats this year will be Standard, Peasant Magic, and a top-four Five Color knockout. You heard it: Peasant Magic and Five Color.

For those who don’t already know, Peasant Magic is a format invented by Rob Baranowski to let him use all the cards that kept rotating out of Standard. To try and keep the power level down, though, no rare cards are allowed and in your main deck and sideboard you’re only allowed up to five uncommons. Rob’s website with all the rules and some decks on can be found here.

Five Color is a more famous format, having been used in the Invitational last year. Created by Kurt Hahn, the format allows you to play with almost any cards with one, small drawback: Decks must contain at least 250 cards and must have at least 18 cards of each colour. Five Color has its own website, too, as well as its own tech center devoted to it on StarCity.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be building up Standard and Peasant decks to play in the main event and I’ll try and put together a Five Color deck, just in case I play well enough to make the top four, and I figured I’d write it all down for you to read. This week, I’ll be looking at Peasant Magic.

I first heard about Peasant Magic when I was writing for Deckmaster magazine – a small UK collectable card mag that was killed (even with rising subscriptions, rising ad revenue, and rising sales) after only four issues. I was asked to take a look at Peasant Magic and write a few pages about it, then come up with a few decks. I contacted Rob Baranowski and conducted an email interview, and spent a few weeks playing with all sorts of Peasant Magic decks.

The first thing to note is that Peasant Magic is fun and you get to play with all your old favourites. Rancor, Lightning Bolt, Impulse, Demonic Tutor… All are playable in Peasant. The second thing I noticed was, at the time, fast beatdown decks were the norm, as control decks were hampered with a lack of a board sweeper. Think about it for a minute: Wrath of God, Rout, Mutilate, Nevinyrral’s Disk, and Powder Keg, are all rare – and we can’t use rares!

As you’d expect Stompy, Sligh, White Weenie, and Suicide Black were all present and doing well but things have changed. Beatdown doesn’t appeal to everyone – and at this year’s Master of Peasant Magic event (a yearly tournament to determine the Peasant World Champion), a host of new control decks – and even a combo deck – appeared!

The winner was a mono-Blue combo deck, constructed by Erik Weissman:

Creatures (4):

4x Cloud of Faeries

Other Spells (36):

4x Disrupt

4x Impulse

4x Snap

4x Opt

4x Brainstorm

4x High Tide

4x Prosperity (Uncommon)

4x Frantic Search

1x Mystical Tutor (Uncommon)

1x Feldon’s Cane

2x Merchant Scroll

Lands (20):

20x Island

Sideboard (15):

4x Miscalculation

4x Force Spike

4x Repulse

3x Capsize

Hang on a minute there! Only five uncommons? What about Disrupt and Feldon’s Cane? In Peasant Magic, a card’s rarity is the lowest rarity it has even been printed with – so Disrupt counts as a common, as it was a common in Weatherlight, and Feldon’s Cane was printed as a common in Antiquities and Chronicles.

As you can see, the deck abuses the comes-into-play effect of Cloud of Faeries, Snap and Frantic Search after High Tide has been cast to generate a whole bunch of mana and, hopefully, cast Prosperity for the win using Feldon’s Cane to make sure we don’t deck ourselves.

I’ve been picking up, playing, and tweaking net decks for a while – but this is supposed to be a fun tourney, and so I’d like to build and play something of my own, especially given what has been created an achieved so far. To help me, I’ll need a test gauntlet – and so I’ve picked out three more decks.

Burn by Evan Damiano.

Spells (40):

4x Lightning Bolt

4x Chain Lightning

4x Seal of Fire

4x Firebolt

4x Fireblast

2x Thunderbolt

4x Volcanic Hammer

4x Flame Rift

3x Browbeat (Uncommon)

4x Incinerate

2x Flaring Pain

1x Anarchy (Uncommon)

Land (20):

4x Strip Mine

16x Mountain

Sideboard (15):

3x Lightning Blast

1x Fireball

1x Anarchy (Uncommon)

2x Flaring Pain

2x Chaos Confetti

2x Bloodfire Dwarf

4x Mogg Fanatic

Strip Mine? Strip Mine was printed four times in Antiquities, and one of them (with no Horizon) is a Common! As you can see, this deck is very simple, and will show me just how quick my deck is against a creatureless killer. The deck has a little White hate in the main deck because, let’s face it – if you hit a white deck without it you’re dead!

Browbeat works much better in this build than anything I’ve seen it in before. When your opponent knows you can easily deal ten damage in their end step, they don’t want to take an extra five. If they don’t, though, the average damage that a card in the deck deals is just fewer than two – so they might just be better off taking five! (I’ve assumed they’d take five from the Browbeats in that calculation).

Stompy by Jonny Lai

Creatures (34):

4 Elvish Spirit Guide (Uncommon)

4 Fyndhorn Elves

4 Llanowar Elves

4 Quirion Ranger

2 Elvish Lyrist

4 M’tenda Lion

4 Pouncing Jaguar

4 Wild Dogs

4 Rogue Elephant

Spells (16):

4 Land Grant

4 Giant Growth

4 Rancor

3 Briar Shield

1 Bounty of the Hunt (Uncommon)

Land (10):

10 Forest

Stompy is a favourite of mine, but also fits nicely into the gauntlet I’m making. If I can deal with this creature-heavy rush deck, I should be able to deal with White Weeny, creature-heavy Sligh decks and hopefully Suicide Black too. Each deck will have it’s own little tricks but I’ve always found Stompy a good standard to measure them by.

The listing I have for Jonny’s deck didn’t include a sideboard, so I’ve put one together to help me out against the rest of the gauntlet:

Sideboard (15):

2x Moment’s Peace (mirror match)

3x Strip Mine (kills Cabal Coffers and any Library of Alexandria)

3x Serrated Arrows (kills any Pro-Green guys we might see)

3x Chatter of the Squirrel (helps out against mono black’s Innocent Bloods and Chainer’s Edict)

2x Rejuvenate (we don’t want to lose to just burn now do we)

2x Blastoderm (Helps in the mirror, vs. Sligh, WW, etc. a bit random)

Finally we need a control deck to play against. With no real board sweeper available we have to rely on the next best thing: Spot removal. Who’s best at that? Black of course…

Mono-Black Control by Derek Bruneau.

Creatures (4):

4x Order of The Ebon Hand

Other Spells (32):

4x Duress

4x Innocent Blood

4x Hymn to Tourach

4x Diabolic Edict

3x Demonic Tutor (Uncommon)

4x Drain Life

2x Sinkhole

3x Spinning Darkness

2x Corrupt

1x Skeletal Scrying (Uncommon)

1x Brush With Death

Land (24):

22x Swamps

1x Cabal Coffers (Uncommon)

1x Mishra’s Factory

Sideboard (15)

4x Skittering Skirge

3x Fog of Gnats

3x Vicious Hunger

2x Strip Mine

1x Coffin Purge

1x Brush With Death

1x Spinning Darkness

So that’s my gauntlet. It’s missing a few of the other popular deck types – Land Destruction being one – but it should do for starters. I sat down and played a few games with the decks to familiarize myself with how they matched up against each other and, in the High Tide deck’s case, to work out how to play them!

I started off playing out the MBC deck. As you’d expect, it doesn’t cope well with the Burn deck very well game one; it can win, but only about one in every four games. After sideboarding MBC can take out a bunch of creature removal for critters that the Burn deck may well have to use Burn on, keeping you alive long enough to cast big Drain Life and Corrupts. Even so, Burn is the worst match up for MBC, as you’d expect.

MBC versus Stompy is a much happier affair. In game one, Stompy can make enough creatures to make the Edicts and Innocent Bloods only catch the worst creatures – but they will kill creatures, and if you survive long enough a few big Corrupts can mop up the rest and fill up the old life tank. After sideboarding, Stompy has a very bad time of things as you bring in Vicious Hungers and another Spinning Darkness to give you even more creature kill!

Lastly I played MBC vs. High Tide. I was expecting the Duress and Hymn to Tourach to give High Tide a difficult time of things – but after playing and playing I couldn’t get the High Tide deck to beat MBC. I know that it can; I just couldn’t. Obviously, much more testing is required before I even consider a sideboarding plan.

Next, I moved on to play with Stompy against the Burn deck and I was surprised by the result. Naturally, with all the small creatures, I assumed that Burn would just kill them all: However, if Burn is using its burn spells to kill critters, it’s not killing you. Burn also has a lot more land than Stompy, and Stompy has eight one-mana Elves too to help them out. Often I’d get Stompy quite low on life before I was killed by a Rancor-enchanted Elephant, protected by a Briar Shield or a Giant Growth. After sideboarding, I found that taking out the main White Hate and the Flame Rifts gave Burn space for Mogg Fanatics and Bloodfire Dwarves. The Dwarves were amazing – and in a field with more Stompy players, they’re a must. Stompy brings in the Rejuvenates, Chatter of the Squirrels and Blastoderms, taking out Wild Dogs and a Ranger or two. Burn still has problems but wins more matches. It really needs a repeatable damage source to have a better chance – a creature, maybe…?

After familiarizing myself with the decks a little I sat down to think about what I would like to build. I’d just been building up decks for testing Extended, and so they were still in my mind. One in particular, Robert Dougherty’s Benzo deck, sprung out at me. The second thought I had was that Dark Ritual is legal in Peasant Magic. Could Dark Ritual make Benzo fast enough without the rare cards? What Rare and Uncommon cards does it need?

As I looked harder the task of building Benzo in Peasant Magic didn’t look easy. I broke down the main deck into commons, uncommons and rares:

Common (33):

19x Swamp

4x Exhume

4x Last Rites

4x Duress

2x Faceless Butcher

Uncommon (9):

1x Stronghold Taskmaster

4x Cabal Therapy

4x Reanimate

Rare (18):

1x Symbiotic Wurm

4x Entomb

4x Vampiric Tutor

1x Phantom Nishoba

1x Verdant Force

4x City of Traitors

1x Petradon

1x Visara the Dreadful

1x Nether Spirit

Ouch! We still have some cards that can put creatures in the graveyard, and a few that can get them back out. We can choose to play with either disruption (in the form of Cabal Therapy) or more cards to get things out of the graveyard, but not both. Meanwhile we’ve lost all of our tutors, our mana acceleration and all of our ‘toolbox’ creatures. We’re in trouble.

Looking for replacements it becomes obvious that the idea isn’t going anywhere if we want to retain a deck that looks anything like Rob’s. All of the searching we could use, and all of the reanimation cards are uncommon and we already have too many.

Looking around for other ideas I had to rule out a Peasant U/G Deep Dog because, although it doesn’t play many rare cards, it plays far too many uncommons and would be far too slow against the combo decks and Stompy and Burn.


I dug around a little and found a copy of the Deckmaster issue where I’d written about Peasant Magic and re-read the article. I’d written about two decks: Stompy and Counter Burn. I already had a Stompy deck in the gauntlet so I decided to throw Counter Burn together and see what happened. Here’s the deck I started off with:

Peasant Counter-Burn.

Creatures (4):

3x Steel Golem (Uncommon)

1x Air Elemental (Uncommon)

Other Spells (32):

4x Lightning Bolt

4x Incinerate

2x Arc Lightning

1x Fireball

4x Counterspell

4x Force Spike

4x Arcane Denial

3x Boomerang

2x Capsize

4x Accumulated Knowledge

Land (24):

14x Island

9x Mountain

1x Stalking Stones

With no sideboard as yet, I figured I’d better find out if the main deck was any good at all and so I kicked off against Stompy. I found that the mix of burn spells and counters, coupled with the Steel Golems, worked very well. The Golems were effectively reusable creature removal, and the Arc Lightning mopped up 1/1 critters like no one’s business.

It wasn’t all roses, though: Arcane Denial seemed to be very bad. Although it gave me a hard counter that only needed one Blue mana, with the low number of land Stompy plays they often picked up two more critters to my one draw – and mine was often land. The second thing was that, given that I needed a lot of land, I’d put a lot in. Late game, that meant I often ran into a mana flood.

I moved on to the Burn deck. If you don’t see Blue mana against Burn, you die – it’s that simple. They have more burn than you, but if you Spike and Miscalculate a few spells, it soon becomes a race you can win, especially if you can drop a Steel Golem – something they have to kill. But if they know what they’re doing and keep their Strip Mines for your Islands you’re in trouble. Arcane Denial still wasn’t very good. As I’ve mentioned before, the average damage of a card in the Burn deck is just under two, and so countering anything less than a four damage spell with them just isn’t worth it! If you get going, the deck isn’t half bad at all though, but I can certainly cherry pick the best of the burn for myself.

Next up I played against High Tide – and because of my inexperience with the deck, I just couldn’t fail to beat it. Game after Game, I dropped Steel Golem and, while they could delay me with Snap, they couldn’t deal with it. I really need to practice with High Tide.

Finally, I played a few games against MBC. I expected to have many of the problems that High Tide would have, with the drawback that I just don’t have the burn spells of a true Burn deck and, with only four creatures, they aren’t going to stay around long enough to really hurt them. After testing my suspicions were confirmed. MBC could deal with all of the Counter Burn threats easily and, although I could easily kill the Order of the Ebon Hand, the relentless life drain was well out of my burn range. I really needed some other way to kill them, preferable an enchantment or artifact.

Before moving on to the sideboard then, a few main deck changes:

Peasant Counter-Burn (version 2).

Creatures (4):

3x Steel Golem (Uncommon)

1x Air Elemental (Uncommon)

Other Spells (32):

4x Lightning Bolt

3x Chain Lightning

3x Arc Lightning

1x Fireball

4x Counterspell

4x Force Spike

4x Miscalculate

3x Boomerang

2x Capsize

4x Accumulated Knowledge

Land (24):

10x Island

4x Lonely Sandbar

9x Mountain

1x Stalking Stones

I’m not seeing many, if any, regenerators at the moment, so the extra cost of Incinerate doesn’t seem worth it in general. I’ll have to be careful playing against the Burn decks, but I’m happy that Chain Lightning is a better main deck pick.

I’ve also dropped Arcane Denial; instead, I’m playing with Miscalculate. It helps me early on, and can be cycled later on to find something more helpful. The drawback is that I’m down to just my four hard counters. Although this means I’ll be worse off against other control decks, I should be better off against Stompy and Burn with their low land counts.

Finally I’ve upped the number of Arc Lightnings to three, as they’re so good against weenie decks, and dropped four Islands for four Lonely Sandbars. I can get away with playing a few lands that come into play tapped, and I can Cycle them later on.

Last we have to build ourselves a sideboard. We know that we need to fix the following problems:

  • Black decks eat at our hand and our kill mechanisms just aren’t good enough against them.

  • Stompy can bring in bigger creatures, and can overwhelm us if we’re not careful, although removing the Arcane Denials and adding the Arc Lightning will probably help.

  • We don’t know about High Tide yet, but we probably need something to help against this, either some way of shuffling our library back in (Feldon’s Cane) or extra counter spells.

  • Finally Burn. We need to find a good way of either gaining some life or deflecting some of their burn back at them. A Pro-Red creature or two might be able to help.

The biggest problem we’ll have, at the moment, is that we’re stuck using common cards as we have five Uncommons in our main deck. Black seems to be the biggest problem as it keeps beating us, so I’ll try to devote more time to that.

Browsing through Magic Suitcase, looking at only commons in Blue and Red gives us one or two interesting options. Firstly – and most obviously, given the recent OBC season – is Envelop. We could bring in four and take out the four Force Spikes. That will certainly help – but what about our kill mechanism? Well, back in Exodus a 3/2 flier was printed that could put itself back on top of the library for U. Wayward Soul isn’t the greatest creature card, precisely because it dives on top of your library and not to your hand – but it does give us a creature that can bounce out of the way of Innocent Blood, Corrupt, and Drain Life. We’ll effectively draw a creature every time our opponent ‘kills’ ours! Sounds pretty good. Finally, I’m going to add a pair of Deep Analysis. MBC can empty our hand if it gets lucky, and adding two of these will help keep it full – as well as helping against other control decks.

Against the Burn deck we can bring in Blue Elemental Blast or Hydroblast, or even both. I’d also like to have a couple of creatures that they can’t kill easily. The Golems and Air Elemental need two spells to kill them most of the time, but they are vulnerable. Two common creatures I’d consider have protection from Red: Weatherseed Faeries and Oraxid. Oraxid is a little expensive for a 2/3 guy, but the Faeries are only 2U for a 2/1 flier!

Against Green, our greatest ally is the low number of lands they play. Force Spike remains useful throughout most of the game, as does Miscalculate… But it would be nice to be able to kill a host of guys easier than we can at the moment. Bloodfire Dwarf is already in the Burn deck’s arsenal against Stompy, and there’s nothing stopping us from playing it… But what about Fade Away?

Hello? I dumped three of these into the deck, dropping the Fireball and two Boomerangs to see what would happen. I was impressed with how well it worked but you need to cast them as early as you can, and if you have one in your hand you want to concentrate your burn on the mana producers to make it as devastating as possible.

That leaves us with only the High Tide deck to think about. I know that I can’t get it working as yet – I just haven’t had time to learn it – but Peasant Magic pundits really rate it and so we probably need to spend at least some of our sideboard on it. The most obvious choice is Pyroblast. We can bring some of those in to stop anything we don’t like. The Envelops will also help against Prosperity and a few spells too.

We’ve probably already got more than 15 cards to think about – but what about other decks? Envelop will help against land destruction, as will Hydroblast. Suicide Black is already at a disadvantage give the amount of burn we play with, but Fade Away may just hurt them as much as it hurts Stompy; we’ll have to test to find out, I guess. White Weenie is quite vulnerable to our burn spells but they’re often well set up against Red, as Sligh and Burn decks are very popular. Our counterspells and bounce should help us out, and the fact we have some artifact creatures and a big Blue flier.

I’m hoping that our main deck counters will help against anything random.

Cutting the sideboard down to 15 cards gives us the final deck:

Peasant Counter-Burn (version 2).

Creatures (4):

3x Steel Golem (Uncommon)

1x Air Elemental (Uncommon)

Other Spells (32):

4x Lightning Bolt

3x Chain Lightning

3x Arc Lightning

1x Fireball

4x Counterspell

4x Force Spike

4x Miscalculate

3x Boomerang

2x Capsize

4x Accumulated Knowledge

Land (24):

10x Island

4x Lonely Sandbar

9x Mountain

Sideboard (15):

4x Envelop

2x Wayward Soul

1x Deep Analysis

4x Hydroblast

2x Fade Away

2x Pyroblast

I’ve had to drop a proposed Deep Analysis and the Faeries because there just wasn’t space. Four Hydroblasts are a must, given how vulnerable we are to Red, but Pyroblast is backed up by Envelop and so we should be safer against High Tide.

Sideboarding so far looks like this:

Vs. MBC:

+4 Envelop, +1 Deep Analysis, +2 Wayward Soul.

-4 Force Spike, -3 Arc Lightning.

vs. Stompy:

+2 Fade Away.

-2 Boomerang.

vs. Burn:

+4 Hydroblast.

-3 Boomerang, -1 Capsize.

vs. High Tide:

+2 Pyroblast, +4 Envelop.

-4 Force Spike, -2 Arc Lightning.

Against other decks, I’ll have to work it out, but some should be obvious: For example, Hydroblast and Envelop come in against Land Destruction.

This deck has been tested against all the other decks in this article and, so far, it seems up to the task. I’ll try to play it against a few other Peasant decks over the next two weeks as I prepare for the Bath Invitational and I’ll report back as I do but next week I’ll be concentrating on another format: Five Color.

Cheers, Jim.

Team PhatBeats.