When a new set comes out – before it even comes out, just seeing the preview cards and the spoiler – I become a Frenzied Deckbuilding Goblin. There are many types of Magic players. I’m a deckbuilder. I wish I were a better player, but I know that if I spent half the time playing that I waste fooling around with my Filemaker Pro deck database, designing, dreaming, and tuning, I’d have made it on the Pro Tour years ago.
When I grinded into Nationals in 2004, and then placed in the Top 64 on the strength of a 5-1-1 run in Constructed and a dismal record in draft (you can find my Nationals story in three parts: Grinder, Nationals pt.1, and Nationals pt. 2), it wasn’t because I’m a great player. It was because I’m a good deckbuilder and a solid player.
So today I’m going to throw around a few deck ideas based on some of the new Dissension cards. Throwing these lists out is impulsive and perhaps foolish as well, but I can’t resist.
I really like two of the new U/W spells. Let’s start with the spell that could just as well be named Azorius Ambush:
Reveal the top four cards of your library. You may put a creature card from among them into play with “At the end of your turn, return this creature to its owners hand.” Then put the rest of the cards revealed this way at the bottom of the library in any order.
There are lots of options here, but two cards in particular scream at me… one because of its practicality, and one because of its synergy and explosiveness. I’m talking about Loxodon Hierarch and Godo, Bandit Warlord. Here are two scenarios I think may have promise:
In scenario two, Godo appears during your opponent’s end step, joined by Tatsumasa, the Dragon’s Fang, then attacks for 16 points on your turn.
Good stuff, eh?
Why not build a deck that can make both of those scenarios become reality? Here’s my first attempt:
- 4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
- 4 Wood Elves
- 3 Kami of Ancient Law
- 3 Godo, Bandit Warlord
- 4 Loxodon Hierarch
- 4 Watchwolf
The basic idea here is to play the strongest combination of cards that let you abuse Godo plus Aethermage’s Touch. Thus, a card-by-card analysis is unnecessary. I will highlight a few cards in particular, though.
Godo and the Hierarch may be the stars of this deck, but Wood Elves easily captures 3rd place and may even be vying for second in command. These Elves have been very strong since the days of Elf and Nail and Beacon Green, but with the full cycle of tap-duals finally released, the Elves are reaching their zenith, able to Rampant Growth for two colors of mana, shuffle away bad cards that your Top has revealed, and still leave a warm body behind that can pick up Equipment. As if that’s not enough, these woodland beings work well with Aethermage’s Touch, ensuring that your mana ramps up to that magical number six.
There are lots of interesting alternatives for this slot, like Selesnya Guildmage (amazing in the late-game), Vinelasher Kudzu (huge if it hits on turn 2), and even Silhana Ledgewalker (an ideal target for Equipment, and better than Dryad Sophisticate because it can’t be hit with targeted removal). In the end, though, I want a guy that keeps the early beats at bay and also sets a fast clock against combo or control. With an established metagame, this slot could easily become more specialized, but for right now vanilla is my flavor of choice.
Koala isn’t very flash or cool, but it gets the job done. Casting it is significantly easier than the Wolf. It complicates life for Heartbeat players, answers Ghost Dad’s Pillory of the Sleepless, and stops Godo’s worst fear: Glare of Subdual. When Koala isn’t doing all those things, it simply plays the role of the bear and beats for two, an elegant strength that Ben Goodman has already recognized.
This may be overkill. Jitte and Tatsumasa already represent large threats. However, I like the ability to tutor up life and direct damage at will.
Another way to go is adding Aethermage’s Touch to decks with Greater Good, but that’s not very original, now is it? Anyone can do that! So instead of merely rehashing an old deck like Ghazi Good with a few tweaks, I’ll throw out something that’s a little off the beaten path.
- 2 Kokusho, the Evening Star
- 4 Ravenous Rats
- 1 Yosei, the Morning Star
- 4 Nantuko Husk
- 3 Angel of Despair
- 3 Ghost Council of Orzhova
- 3 Orzhov Pontiff
- 2 Plagued Rusalka
This is sort of a B/W Control meets Ghost Husk amalgamation. Originally, there were things like Wrath of God and Mortify in here, but I had to get enough creatures into the deck to make Aethermage’s Touch reliable. A more aggressive creature suite and Orzhov Pontiff took the place of the removal spells. This deck is really all about synergy. Let me count the ways:
Rusalka/Husk + Promise of Bunrei (+ Orzhov Pontiff)
This is an easy one, imported directly from Ghost Husk. What this offers is lots of chump blockers against aggro and alpha strikes that come out of nowhere. Alone, Promise gives provides insurance against your opponent’s creature sweepers.
Here you have a little engine can cause a two-point life swing every turn and ensure that Ghost-Council has plenty of food so that it can blink whenever you feel like it.
Promise of Bunrei + Rusalka
According to Wikipedia, “The Gatling gun was the first highly successful rapid-repeating firearm. It was the first firearm to combine reliability, high firing rate and ease of loading into a single device. It was designed by the American inventor Richard J. Gatling, in 1861 and patented on May 9, 1862.” That about covers it.
Touch + Ghost Council of Orzhova
At its most basic level this combo is a lot like Touch + Loxodon Hierarch, something that wrecks little attackers and also gives you a welcome swing in life totals. With an extra mana, though, and a creature to spare you can slide Ghost Council away so that it stays in play at the end of the turn.
Touch + Angel of Despair
Instant speed Vindicate followed by another Vindicate and a 5/5 flier is good times. Not only are we talking about incredible flexibility in answering an opponent’s threats, this is also card advantage and a four-turn clock.
Rusalka/Husk/Miren + Touch + Dragon
Get the Dragon into play at the end of your opponent’s turn, swing with it on your next turn, and then sacrifice it to leave your opponent in even deeper trouble. Seems like a pretty unfair turn of events considering that it starts with a mere four-mana investment.
What makes Aethermage’s Touch so strong is that it has aggressive and controlling applications, just like the next spell I’m about to throw into some decks:
Pride of the Clouds
Creature – Elemental Cat
Pride of the Clouds gets +1/+1 for each other creature in play with flying.
Forecast — 2WU, Reveal Pride of the Clouds from your hand: Put a 1/1 white and blue Bird creature token with flying into play. (Play this ability only during your upkeep and only once each turn.)
We’ll start with an aggressive version of White Weenie:
- 4 Ninja of the Deep Hours
- 1 Kira, Great Glass-Spinner
- 4 Isamaru, Hound of Konda
- 4 Lantern Kami
- 4 Suntail Hawk
- 4 Leonin Skyhunter
- 4 Hand of Honor
- 4 Azorius Guildmage
- 4 Pride of the Clouds
This archetype is notoriously uni-dimensional. What sets this one apart?
You Don’t Run Out of Gas
With twelve one-drops and Ninja of the Deep Hours, there’s a good chance that your card drawing engine will be online as early as turn 2. Even if your Ninja doesn’t flip out in the early game, drawing Pride of the Clouds means that you will be dropping uncounterable 1/1s for the rest of the game. These little guys may look dorky, but don’t forget that they fly and Glorious Anthem makes them get out of hand really fast.
Lots of Evasion
With seventeen fliers, a Kird Ape or Hand of Cruelty on the ground is not going to hold up your offense. Almost every game, you’ll start hitting your opponent for damage on turn 2. Keep in mind, too, that Pride of the Clouds can get very big very quickly when you have a large airborne army at your disposal.
Land Glut Doesn’t Mean Game Over
Very many aggressive builds roll over and die when you draw more lands than spells. Thanks to extra card drawing (Ninja of Deep Hours), great activated abilities (Azorius Guildmage), and a place to invest infinite mana for infinite 1/1s (Pride of the Clouds), you have numerous ways to turn extra mana into an advantage.
Removal and Countermagic
Alright, I’m cheating a little bit on this one. You don’t really have true removal or true counters. What you do have is Azorius Guildmage. No longer can opponents stabilize with a fat blocker like Carven Caryatid or Loxodon Hierarch, because the Guildmage can blaze a path right past them. Similarly, the Guildmage is also an awesome way to contain an opposing Umezawa’s Jitte.
As if that’s not enough, the Guildmage also stifles everything from Sakura-Tribe Elder to Equip effects to Greater Good. That’s a very busy bear. To add icing on the cake, it’s ultra easy on colored mana requirements.
As I mentioned earlier, you can also take Pride of the Clouds in a totally different, controlling direction. Let’s take a look at that for our final deck.
This deck has all the elements of the classic control archetype, even if some of them are subtler than others.
Robust Mana Base
Playing 25 lands seems pretty solid. The number is deceiving, though. You actually have even more mana, thanks to the Karoo lands. At the same time, though, you don’t have an overly high land count in reality, thanks to dual use lands like Quicksand and Miren, the Moaning Well.
Duh, you’ve got 15 counters. Eight of them cover the early game, while the seven others are hard counters for later on.
Card Drawing/Card Advantage
You don’t have any blatant spells that fall into this category. What you do have, though, is eight cantrips that smooth out your draws, Wrath of God that often goes two-for-one or better, and eight finishers that are rarely just a threat unto themselves. Taken as a whole, there is substantial advantage to be gained in both card quality and card advantage.
Condemn is a quick and elegant answer to dreaded early threats like Kird Ape. Wrath of God wipes out the creature hordes. While Repeal is never very efficient, it does bounce any non-land permanent, so there’s something to be said for its flexibility.
Hard to Remove Finishers
We haven’t attained the power of Eternal Dragon and Decree of Justice, as seen in the Onslaught era, but this collection of creatures is surprisingly resilient and powerful. All of them hit the table in the mid-game without a ridiculous man investment, and all of them are resilient to targeted removal or leave a little present behind (Pride stays safe in your hand, Meloku spawns Illusion tokens, and Keiga steals something).
There you have it. Chances are there will be other Dissension cards that can improve the decks I’ve outlined above. Nevertheless, these deck sketches provide a solid starting point for deck builders and tinkerers alike.
Take it easy,