Flo Rubus Idaeus

Join Matt as he celebrates April Fool’s Day with a fun article about a couple of Standard brews for you to try at your next Friday Night Magic!

My esteemed readers,

Some people think that the April Fool’s holiday is a joke.

Others, like me, take it very seriously.

Regardless of what camp you fall into, whether you’re the butt of a bluff or the deliverer of discord, you’ll be sobered by the grave solemnity with which I, the author, bring you the following decks.

It has come to the author’s attention over the course of the most recent season of Standard that a certain card has been grievously omitted from the registered decklists of professional Magic players. This card, which needs no introduction, has the potential to devastate the metagame with which the plebeian masses have become complacent. For the low cost of one mana, this spell can unearth your deck’s most fearsome combatants and most crippling permanents. May ye tremble and despair!

I . . . excuse me? Oh, you do need an introduction? As you wish.

The Pyxis (which those of a more vulgar persuasion refer to as a "box") embodies the very essence of the mythological story of Pandora, who opened what happened to actually be a jar, not a box, that unleashed all the evils contained within it unto the mortal world. Quite a fool, wasn’t she?

Lucky for you, the Pyxis of Pandemonium can only mean good things. Spend each round adding another secret permanent to your jar, and then when the time is right, unleash it upon your foe! A ripping good time, if I might editorialize.

Where then shall we explore the grand power of Pandora’s "jar?" What shall we commit to its clandestine care?

Kindly turn your attention to the following exempli gratia:

Quite a monster, is he not? Regale yourself with this previous iteration of a deck based on the mythic wyrm, and then return here for the next step in the saga. I’ll wait.

(The author takes a loud, flourishing sip of claret from a crystal glass.)

Outstanding! Oh, the wine, not you.

Now without another moment of idle discourse, allons y!

The goal of the deck should be clear—resolve as many artifacts as possible and destroy the opponent with the artifacts directly or win actively by resolving and "sticking" your Hellkite Tyrant, who at your upkeep will frequently deliver victory directly to you from its charred maw. The Pyxis is at the center of this expedition; every turn you add a permanent (most likely an artifact) that once you’re ready to open the box, or jar if you will, will add plenty of artifacts to the board, creating a critical mass for your Tyrant.

From the outset, you can see that fully 35 spells within this deck are artifacts, with only two nonpermanents among the remaining cards. In the current age, artifacts have fallen from grace, most likely because only a select few provide the necessary "devotion" for the elevated decks of the game’s elite. As such, they are frequently not worth including, lest they disrupt the fragile synergies of these oft-chosen decks.

If one abandons the notion of using any devotion, we can keep in motion an ocean of concepts, like this one here. What treasures lie within?

Guardians of Meletis is a superb blocker; at six toughness, only the most unruly of pugilists will break your line. It is powerfully efficient, but it does sit at a busy intersection on the curve. Volatile Rig, an acquisition from the aforementioned iteration, threatens the entire board while it stands. Despite the fact that there is only a 25 percent chance that the Rig will "explode," a conservative player may not be willing to risk committing too many weak creatures to the board that will be destroyed when its fuse blows. Guardians of Meletis can even survive the tumultuous death offered by the Rig, leaving it to spar another day.

Colossus of Akros is a towering sight, and given enough time it can smite your foe in a single engagement. The deck produces sufficient mana to make the Colossus "monstrous," thereby granting it the potential to decimate any would-be blockers. Finally, a single copy of the Hellkite Tyrant remains. You should only ever need one; protect it with your life.

The smorgasbord of noncreature artifacts abounds in the remainder of the list. Prophetic Prism is a permanent-based cycling card, and it allows you to filter mana into whatever color you need. Ratchet Bomb is a deadly colorless answer to any permanent given enough time. Following these two playsets, one finds six different three-mana "rocks" and a Springleaf Drum designed to provide a one-turn boost in mana production, keeping the deck one step ahead. Although different, each artifact in this group serves a similar purpose.

One each of the legendary artifacts of red, black, and green can be found too. Each is strong enough to warrant inclusion, and all three provide unique effects that can sustain the theme and goals of the deck. Hammer of Purphoros is one of the few spells that can make artifacts effectively ex nihilo, adding to the one-score count needed to activate the Tyrant. Bow of Nylea provides time in the form of life and graveyard shuffling as well as a potentially deadly attacking force. Colossus of Akros is much better when it can assign just one damage to each blocker, as is Volatile Rig. Whip of Erebos allows the recovery of essential creatures from the graveyard. Although unlikely, imagine reanimating a Colossus with ten mana left over to make it monstrous. Bully for you!

Trading Post is one of the author’s favorite cards in recent history, and it would be criminal to refuse its entry here. Haunted Plate Mail, which can take advantage of both Bow of Nylea and Whip of Erebos, can act as a win condition by itself when active or can significantly modify the power of any creature on your side. Darksteel Forge seems ostentatious, but one might find that there are enough situations where resolving the Forge will invalidate any and all removal the opponent possesses.

Finally, one can see a pair of Rakdos’s Return at the conclusion of the spell list. As the only nonpermanents in the deck, these spells needed to be meritorious enough to break the theme. When it is time to unleash hell, Rakdos’s Return will rid your opponent of any answer they may possess, leaving the pilot free and clear to break open the Pyxis.

The land base is fairly lenient on color; an artifact deck has little use for colored lands, so it serves its purposes more efficiently to destroy an opposing land when needed. Thanks to the mana-producing artifacts present, land is less important to this deck than it might be to most. Destroying a Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx or Mutavault might buy the pilot the time they need to assemble a sufficient cache of artifacts.

The sideboard comprises of artifacts tuned to different situations. Pithing Needle, a classic sideboard card, appears here to deal with certain noncreature permanents efficiently. A tidy and powerful 3/3 for three mana, Pillar of War acts as an additional blocker in fast decks without sacrificing the contribution to the deck’s artifact count. On the other hand, Anger of the Gods does affect the count. Perhaps remove the Rakdos’s Return and one Pyxis to minimize the impact on your deck.

Slaughter Games also does not count as an artifact, but chances are you’re bound to face some hooligan who packs Merciless Eviction in their designed to deal with you handily. Thwart their attempts or remove the win conditions or problem cards from an opponent’s deck without fear of countering. A third Colossus of Akros comes in because, believe it or not, there are a lot of decks that cannot get past a 10/10 or consequently stop a 20/20. Finally, a single copy of Burning Earth harasses the greediness present in some control mana bases these days. Confound their plans while relying on your own mana-producing artifacts and Mountains.

Lugubriously powerful, isn’t it?

Now let us turn our attention to another list. While some like a straightforward game, I prefer to, shall we say, execute a ruse on the opponent? After being defeated once, each creature in this deck can return for another fight. Might I remind you that this deck as well as all others mentioned within the confines of this column are serious expositions on the fallacy of current Standard. They act as alternatives to the vastly inferior fancies of the modern professional. After all, what’s more serious than resurrection?

With that gentle recapitulation, we proceed:

Whereas the last deck focused heavily on artifacts, this foray ventures into the world of powerful creatures instead. Using powerful creatures and simple spells, this deck will decimate aggressive strategies and controlling strategies alike. Even after your creatures are felled, Whip of Erebos can continuously resurrect one creature per turn to mercilessly throttle your opponents. Although I am a fan of B/W/R decks, this seems to solve a critical problem present in other versions of this color combination: a decidedly powerful and effective board presence.

Pack Rat, as filthy as it is in more than one sense, provides an essential piece to the ploy. One discards a seemingly large and unwieldy card, only to resurrect it later. While growing more powerful with every activation, the Rat can itself be reanimated, and you can garner a permanent Rat out of the action provided you discard another card. Boros Reckoner, who is as they say a "house," can effectively attack and block into nearly every fray, at which point it will surely destroy one or two things. Gray Merchant of Asphodel is a seemingly out of place devotion creature that is still powerful enough when resurrected to deserve a place. This season’s Thragtusk, Gray Merchant of Asphodel can drain four life and grant you the difference when returned with the Whip.

Archangel of Thune is designed as a way to leverage life gain into powerful creatures and board presence. Obzedat, Ghost Council is no stranger to Whip of Erebos. With an activation of Whip of Erebos, Obzedat, can return to play, drain life, swing, and then phase away, only to return next turn permanently. Thanks to the wording of both, the Whip only cares that the Advisors are exiled, not from what trigger. Mogis, God of Slaughter, is a powerful God that is easily activated through the devotion of Boros Reckoner, Gray Merchant of Asphodel, or the Whip. Given that he is a powerful reanimation option as well. The remainder of the creatures are high-powered one-ofs that are effective when both entering and leaving the battlefield.

There are only twelve spells in the maindeck, and three copies of Whip of Erebos make up a quarter of it. This spell is important to the longevity and power of the deck, and it is essential that you have one as quickly as possible. Anger of the Gods is a powerful removal spell that can destroy early pressure from a more aggressive deck.

Boros Charm, although present for traditional reasons of protection and immense one-turn power, provides an additional combo-oriented purpose. If you have a Boros Reckoner and a Whip of Erebos in play, you can cast Boros Charm using the indestructibility mode. Whenever Boros Reckoner is dealt damage, point its trigger at itself. It will take damage, you’ll gain that life, and then you can repeat ad infinitum!  Infinite life will be a hard pill to swallow for most. Thoughtseize provides critical first-turn protection for the deck’s plan, and the life gain makes the two-life expenditure inconsequential. Obzedat’s Aid is perfect for recovering a creature from the graveyard permanently, or if your Whip of Erebos has met an early fate, you can recover it.

From there the lands are straightforward enough, with an emphasis on black basics for Thoughtseize and Pack Rat. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to balance mana for these decks correctly. A deck that wants to be able to cast Whip of Erebos the turn after it produces Boros Reckoner is a fortitudinous endeavor. The author is optimistic however and believes that critical land timing and scry effects will lead to timely casting.

(The author reaches for and knocks over his fourth glass of claret.)

The sideboard contains a suite of creatures designed to answer particular problems.  Lifebane Zombie has the potential to deprive a green mage’s hand of their best option while providing an evasive powerful body. It is easily resurrected for an additional punch and discard effect. Keening Apparition, which might seem outclassed in such a world-class deck, is still a 2/2 for two mana, and if an enchantment appears that might cause you ill, you can answer it immediately and without additional commitment of mana. Moreover, you can resurrect it and sacrifice it to destroy a second enchantment.  

Like Lifebane Zombie, Sin Collector can pluck a critical spell from the opponent’s hand, and recovering it from the loam of death will grant you a second activation. Doom Blade breaks the creature cycle, but it is still one of the most efficient sideboard choices for decks that do not play black creatures extensively. Finally, Batterhorn answers a major problem for Whip of Erebos: Pithing Needle. This blundering Beast is an efficient fighter, and it can be resurrected to destroy your opponent’s Whip too.

Midrange decks are about producing value for their pilots, and it is the author’s belief that this deck is unparalleled in quality and composition. May you have much success in your endeavors with it or with the deck above it.

Prithee share your input regarding these lists. Perhaps we will all learn something from your comments.


Signed yours,

Rutherford Devonspeak Waltham (R.D.W.) III
Resident Professor of Progressive Deck Construction
Institute of the Games of Star City, City of Roanoke, Colony State of Virginia, United States