Down And Dirty – Project Austin #3: Puca-Free Plans Primer

Make plans to join us at SCG 5K Dallas!
Wednesday, August 19th – Last week, Kyle brought us an excellent rogue creation revolving around one of the unloved Lorwyn rares: Colfenor’s Plans. This week, after a semifinal PTQ performance with his deck, he revisits the strategy and updates it for the unfolding metagame. If you’re looking for something fresh, funky, and fantastic, Kyle has the deck for you!

Last week I muscled up to my fifth PTQ Top 8 frim my last seven attempts, eventually leaving me with the stereotypical manascrew exit in the semifinals. The deck I played, Puca’s Plans, was well tuned, designed, and a serious rogue metagame contender that completely overwhelmed every opponent… or at least every opponent against which I drew four mana. Whether or not that was due to surprise factor is yet to be determined, but from what I’ve heard it has been tearing it up around the globe. I won FNM with it on Friday; it placed 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, in a Magic Day Championship in Europe; and it even claimed a Top 8 spot in a GenCon side event. Needless to say, we’ve got a real beast up in these sheets.

I picked up the deck a couple of days before the PTQ, so naturally my views on it have come quite a long way in the passing week. My decklist has changed marginally, but I haven’t been focusing on maximizing my slots as much as figuring out just how fluid and consistent the deck can be. The core of the deck is based around the best instants available in Standard, backed up with the best card draw with Colfenor’s Plans and Jace Beleren.

The Meat (27)

4 Cryptic Command
4 Esper Charm
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Path to Exile
3 Vendilion Clique
4 Colfenor’s Plans
3 Jace Beleren
1 Obelisk of Alara

This package takes care of most of the problems you’ll be seeing in Standard. The Bolts and Paths get you past all those wannabe aggro midrange clunkers, but most important is how versatile this instant suite is. With four mana up you’re representing Cryptic Command, but you might come out with a Vendilion Clique plus removal spell to completely throw off their game plan. I had Jace in my early version, but chose to omit him from the PTQ version because I wanted to play Ajani Vengeant instead. Ajani was good, but Jace makes it so much easier to win games and enables me to get to the precious four mana threshold.

Esper Charm is one of the crucial ingredients, since it’s so easy to put the opponent “all-in” with this lethal combination of one-for-ones backed up by serious card draw. You end up drawing three Esper Charms per game, usually, so most of the time the discard ability will be able to take their hand away fairly easily. Obelisk of Alara is another core part of the deck, despite being a huge clunky artifact. There are a handful of decks, like Elves and burn centric strategies, which have no answer for Obelisk whatsoever. It helps pull you out of many of the close games, while also being able to operate under the Colfenor’s Plans restriction.

The Condiments (8)

2 Ajani Vengeant
1 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Identity Crisis
1 Thought Hemorrhage
2 Hallowed Burial
1 Austere Command
1 Puca’s Mischief

I was hanging out with Billy last night, at his going away party, and he brought up the good point that Puca’s Mischief really isn’t needed in this deck. You win by overwhelming them, and the Mischief is just a cute inefficient end game. Billz landed a job at Upper Deck, and is currently in his car crossing the desert en route to San Diego. He started out in Texas brewing with his buddies, and then went pro and moved to New York to work with BDM, Flores, and Matt Wang. He then found his way back home to Texas to reunite with his long lost friends, igniting a spark in my competitive drive again. And now he’s off to California to hang with one of the deepest collection of good Magic players in the country. I’m sad to see Billy go from Texas, but I’m pretty excited to see the Patrick Sullivan/Billy Moreno Red decks that will be coming out in the near future.

So, we have eight slots to play with. These are the ones that you can get real techy with, since you have such a thick juicy meat patty. That said, this condiment section is pretty tight. I want 2-4 Wrath effects in this deck to back up my spot removal, and Hallowed Burial is the best we’ve got. I split the slot with an Austere Command to give me a self destruct button for negative Plans. Maelstrom Pulse performs a similar role, and can be classified as Wrath #4 that deals with troublesome Planeswalkers, along with crippling those Anathemancer-avoiding idiots playing Borderposts.

The singleton Thought Hemorrhage and Identity Crisis have been spectacular as combo/control stoppers that come out of nowhere to destroy them. I’m really good at naming cards with Thought Hemorrhage; it kind of scares me sometimes, but I don’t think I’ve ever missed a card in hand while naming. Vendilion Clique helps there, and it’s important to note that they’ll stockpile cards like Path to Exile and Lightning Bolt in their hand throughout the game, so yielding a high damage Hemorrhage isn’t difficult at all. Identity Crisis is the spell you want to resolve against Five-Color Control, Jund with Mancers, and Elves (primarily); however, casting it against any deck will usually win the game. Setting both of these up with Clique is very important, especially post board where you’ll have help from Glen Elendra Archmage and Thoughtseize to resolve them.

Ajani Vengeant is probably going to end up being cut in my future versions, for something like a Broodmate Dragon and/or some other techy cards. Ajani is very easy to protect, and is an excellent four-mana removal spell, but I’m the type of guy who is always looking for new crew members, and AjaniV is my shipmate on the fence right now. I’d also like to have a random one-of instant that has a dramatic effect on the game to give me 20 instants in the deck, but I haven’t come up with anything worthwhile yet outside of a Volcanic Fallout, Memory Plunder, or Plumeveil.

The Bread (25)

4 Reflecting Pool
1 Exotic Orchard
3 Vivid Creek
2 Vivid Marsh
2 Vivid Meadow
2 Arcane Sanctum
2 Crumbling Necropolis
2 Mystic Gate
2 Sunken Ruins
1 Fetid Heath
1 Swamp
1 Mountain
1 Island
1 Gargoyle Castle

I’m pretty happy with this manabase. I went up to 12 “Comes Into The Battlefield Tapped” lands, and cleaned up the Filter land package. To be honest I can’t wait until these Vivid POS’s are gone and we can start playing some actual Magic. Vivid Creek is the most influential card printed in the last two years, which is saying something given the power creep everyone keeps going bonkers over.

To-Go Box (15)

2 Baneslayer Angel
3 Glen Elendra Archmage
3 Thoughtseize
1 Thought Hemorrhage
1 Identity Crisis
2 Volcanic Fallout/Plumeveil
3 Runed Halo

A good sideboard should always be flexible and ever-changing to compensate for the constant ripples in the metagame pool. I want to play the Glen Elendra game against Five-Color Control, Time Sieve, and whatever spell-heavy monstrosities I get paired against. I’ve really been considering whether or not 4 Blightning would work in the sideboard to throw Five-Color Control and Faeries off guard with a huge hand disruption suite. We have a lush and abundant card pool to utilize in Standard right now, and there are so many avenues unexplored and stones unturned. This is a rogue brew format if I’ve ever seen one. All the decks that are winning are the same across the board. There hasn’t been any new deck that completely rips the metagame open because Five-Color Control and Faeries keep each other in check, for the most part.

Runed Halo needs to be there for Anathemancer. However, I’m thinking about running Halo over Ajani in the maindeck. This would give me a great Mistbind Clique answer as well, along with Ultimatum protection, a savvy answer for main deck Anathemancer, and a way to stop those annoying Hellspark Elementals (a huge problem for this deck). The more I think about it, the more Plumeveil makes sense over Ajani Vengeant, and now I’m really starting to look like traditional Five-Color Control with my Dragon and stupid walls.

Five-Color Control

This matchup has actually been very easy for me. With Vendilion Clique main deck it’s even easier to maneuver around their extremely predictable permission. Resolving Identity Crisis is the easiest way to win, and to get there you need to get the Colfenor’s Plans chain going. Esper Charm is the best card in their deck against me because it’s the only real answer they have to Plans, but they will commonly use them in the first few turns to smooth out their draw and get past the numerous dead cards they have, like Fallout, Burial, Essence Scatter, and Plumeveil. Their card draw sucks a lot when they can’t use their Charms to draw and need Mulldrifter to carry the load. Ultimatum is somewhat threatening, but usually a nonfactor if Plans is out already since the life isn’t important and I’ll have plenty of cards underneath my Plans. Some versions have a single Maelstrom Pulse maindeck, which is cause for mild alarm, so keeping back a Plans when you have two out already is a big play. Their only saving grace is their countermagic, but otherwise all my cards are just better.

+1 Identity Crisis, +1 Thought Hemorrhage, +3 Glen Elendra Archmage, +3 Thoughtseize, +2 Baneslayer Angel
-4 Lightning Bolt, -4 Path to Exile, -2 Hallowed Burial

Postboard they might have Anathemancer coming in, but it’s usually a nonfactor since they can’t realistically deal all twenty before I resolve a Thought Hemorrhage. If they board into Great Sable Stag, they have far too many bad cards to have any type of cohesive game plan, and are leaving themselves vulnerable to Baneslayer Angel. They also won’t have many answers to Glen Elendra Archmage, who will dominate the game once she’s in play. Again, all my cards are better than theirs, so I just need to draw lands and I’m shibby.

Five-Color Blood

This is another extremely easy matchup. If they have Mancer game 1 it’s a little closer, but I’m very well positioned against them with my never-ending supply of one-for-ones, while giving them a handful of inefficient cards like Jund Charm, Bituminous Blast, Volcanic Fallout, and Lightning Bolt. Their threats are also very easy to handle, given my removal suite, so they don’t have much going for them outside of Maelstrom Pulse and possible Anathemancers.

+2 Runed Halo, +1 Thought Hemorrhage, +2 Baneslayer Angel
-1 Identity Crisis, -1 Austere Command, -1 Obelisk of Alara, -1 Jace Beleren, -1 Maelstrom Pulse

They will definitely have Anathemancer coming in, along with the possibility of more Maelstrom Pulse, Blightning, and Thought Hemorrhage. I’ve never needed to board in all three Runed Halos, but if they’re playing a more aggressive version with more burn, playing one over a Lightning Bolt is fine. They become a whole lot more streamlined and focused game 2, so I have to do the same. Crisis and Obelisk are too expensive; Jace isn’t as good anymore because they have fewer dead cards and Anathemancers to kill big Planeswalkers; and Maelstrom Pulse just isn’t lean enough to be worth it. Paying three to kill their Leech sets me back. However, the opportunity for two-for-ones is much more likely against them because they Cascade into doubles of the same creature all the time.


A very easy matchup. You just one-for-one them and draw a bunch of cards to keep up the steady stream of creature disruption. If this doesn’t happen, I will lose very quickly. This is also one of the few matches where Jace comes into play with only two counters for me, since them drawing cards is fueling their extremely potent combo.

+2 Volcanic Fallout, +3 Thoughtseize, +1 Thought Hemorrhage
-1 Identity Crisis, -1 Austere Command, -2 Ajani Vengeant, -1 Maelstrom Pulse, -1 Obelisk of Alara

Again, just like against Jund, you’ve gotta be sleek and lean against them to combat their efficient combo. They also don’t have much in the way to combat my line of attack against them in their sideboard. They might have that stupid White Enchantment that prevents noncombat damage to their creatures, but I’ve got plenty of ways to get around it. [That’ll be Mark of Asylum — Craig.]


This is the tough monkey. They have a plethora of counters, a surprisingly quick clock, and now have Anathemancer to completely destroy me. Vendilion Clique and Jace in the main deck is a big step in the right direction to curving this matchup, thankfully. Just like Five-Color Control, Faeries’s card drawing is super weak, and if you can catch them off guard with a couple of discarding Esper Charms they become a very awkward midrange Blue deck playing off the top of their library. From there I can overwhelm them quite easily with Colfenor’s Plans, but getting them there is the tough part. Their universal Blue disruption is a package what dreams are made of… or, in my case, nightmares. After adding the 1UU spells I don’t feel like a big dog anymore, unless they land a turn 2 Bitterblossom and have all the pieces to ride it to a win.

+3 Thoughtseize, +2 Baneslayer Angel, +2 Volcanic Fallout, +1 Thought Hemorrhage
-2 Ajani Vengeant, -1 Austere Command, -2 Hallowed Burial, -1 Identity Crisis, -1 Lightning Bolt, -1 Obelisk of Alara

After board they don’t get much help outside of possible Jace, Negate, or Vendilion Clique. I’ve got Thoughtseize and Clique to give me ample hand disruption to nail them correctly on Thought Hemorrhage, which usually nabs Mistbind or Cryptic Command. Faeries can’t function without either of them, so that usually ends the game shortly. I can’t imagine they have any way to deal with Baneslayer other than countermagic, but if they leave their Sowers in you just gotta run that gambit. Faeries is much less consistent these days. Without any good card draw to support it (like Ancestral Vision did before), it’s really just a Blue midrange deck that gets clunky awkward draws like everyone else.


This is one deck that will sadly always be popular at any tournament. It’s the default Red deck in the format, so all those pink-sleeved pansies will show up sporting Demigods, Mancers, and Flame Javelins. This one is pretty scary between threats like Blightning, Figure of Destiny, and Boggart Ram-Gang. Game 1 is pretty close; my removal deals with their creatures handily, so it’s just a matter of whether or not they can burn me out before I find an Ajani Vengeant or Obelisk. Either one buys me a pretty sizable amount of time. Ajani will gain me three and force them to use a burn spell, essentially gaining me six or so, which takes them another two spells to catch up. Obelisk will outright win the game once it resolves. They don’t have Maelstrom Pulse like their Jund comrades, so that’s my immediate game plan.

+3 Runed Halo, +1 Thought Hemorrhage, +2 Baneslayer Angel
-1 Identity Crisis, -1 Austere Command, -1 Maelstrom Pulse, -2 Hallowed Burial, -1 Jace Beleren

The usual board in/board outs. I’m tempted to leave Maelstrom Pulse in for any Manabarbs/Everlasting Torment, but you just have to be greedy with the Esper Charms. A turn 2 Runed Halo should usually name Blightning, since there are still two Halos and a couple of Hemorrhages to take down Anathemancers, and their most potent draws involve the double Blighting route. They don’t have much of an answer for Baneslayer aside from double burning it the turn it comes in, which is usually avoidable thanks to Clique and Esper Charm.

Those are the major matchups. Overall, I don’t feel like I’m a dog to any of them. However, I’m at a slight tactical disadvantage opposite Faeries and Five-Color Control due to their permission. I make up for the fact with abundant card draw and Vendilion Clique. Reveillark, however, is this deck’s worst matchup. Not only can they keep up with me on card drawing, they have counters, moderate sized dudes that keep coming back, and Glen Elendra to make matters worse.

There are also a variety of ways you can build a Colfenor’s Plans deck. Taking the core, I’ve grafted it on to several different frames, some cutting Red, some cutting White to pursue different angles. One promising list I’ve been testing has taken Paths out in exchange for Lash Out/Doom Blade along with Flame Javelin, Blighting, and Puncture Blast to have the same one-for-one setup opposite aggro decks, while having a proactive burn route opposite the control decks. Colfenor’s Plans fits perfectly here, as a way to draw into enough burn to kill the opponent.

Look for me on the free side next week, with my StarCityGames.com $5000 Dallas Standard Open preview article! I’m going to personally make sure that Dallas is going to be the best of the $5K stops this year! I’d like to throw some kind of party on Saturday night, but I’m still looking at the logistics on the whole operation. It’d be a little easier if this was like a GP and everyone was in the same hotel, but I’m not sure what the $5K to PTQ turnover is going to be like. It’ll probably just end up as late night drink n’ draft at the convention center, but I’m also not sure if it will be open. Nor am I sure if I’m even staying in a local hotel or crashing with someone in the area. One thing’s for sure: I’ll have some Plans come the $5K in Dallas, and you probably should too.

Thanks for reading…


* Was this an epic fail across the board? I haven’t heard of a Game Day Championship from anywhere in the World that had more than 20 players yet!