Food for Thought – Kobiyashi Maru: Get Your Top Back On! Turbo-Confinement in Extended

Once in a while it’s fun to play a rogue deck that wins. It’s also fun to take an old classic deck you’ve worked on in the past and dust it off, add a bit of new polish and shine, and see how it does. This is an article about an old favorite deck of mine called Turbo-Confinement that I’ve chosen to update for both online and real life Extended. If you are interested in something besides the usual Tog/Rock/Beatdown of the Extended metagame, have I got a treat for you!

(Editor’s Note: Frequently we will get submissions that try to tell us how good a”bad deck” is. Sometimes they are right, and sometimes they are completely off-base. With that in mind, I’m starting a new article tag called”Food For Thought.” These articles will still be published as strategy, but when you read them you should recognize that they are testing wild, rogue ideas that work according to the author, or the decks that are discussed provide interesting builds that may not be rigorously tested, but perhaps exhibit a decent foundation for future decks.

(Doing this allows us to continue publishing crazy decks like the one below while acknowledging that they may not be ready for primetime. After all, you never know when the next Trix deck will be discovered, or when Dream’s Grip and Twiddle will become the catalysts for the latest rendition of Mind’s Desire decks.)

Once in a while it’s fun to play a rogue deck that wins. It’s also fun to take an old classic deck you’ve worked on in the past and dust it off, add a bit of new polish and shine, and see how it does. This is one of those decks that does both.

Back in the day of Invasion/Odyssey Standard, there were a bunch of aggro decks flying around. Fires (of Yavimaya) was the initial culprit, but so were U/G Madness decks. One small techy creation kept winning thirty- and forty-player Standard tournaments where these decks were rampant, however. Chris Corrente played a bizarre deck that used Plagiarize to keep his Solitary Confinement alive while keeping the board clear with Counterspells and Wrath of God to win by decking. I loved the concept of the deck and refined it further, coming up with this.

Turbo-Theory (almost Turbo-Confinement, but it’s all about the engine)

version 1.2

4 Wrath of God

4 Solitary Confinement

4 Unifying Theory (WAIT! WAIT! DON’T RUN AWAY!)

4 Howling Mine

2 Compulsion

3 Words of Wisdom

1 Peek

2 Oblation

2 Circular Logic

4 Absorb

4 Counterspell

4 Adarkar Wastes

1 Skycloud Expanse

2 Coastal Tower

11 Island

7 Plains

The deck was actually quite excellent against the aggressive decks, and it had enough control pieces to have game against”real” control decks. Ten”real” counters, decently costed, stop the pain from coming while you bring out the Unifying Theory and Howling Mines. You’re planning to deck the other guy while sitting behind your untouchable shield. You need to know which spells are appropriate counter targets. You need to know when to drop the Wrath and sweep the board clean of attackers. It’s not like you’re ever going to block, after all.

The deck appears to be a mundane, everyday Wrath-Go deck with a weird drawing engine. However, your side of the table evolves slowly over time from a weird collection of innocuous enchantments and artifacts into a savage engine that brings you the win.

Essential aspects of deck construction

Good, hard, firm, cheap counters. [That sounds like Flores’s singles ad back before he was happily married. – Knut] This format had those in quantity. They’re the ones that you can play and use Theory to replenish your hand with. As such, none cost more than three mana. Yes, Circular Logic isn’t a true”hard” counter, but it is close enough for government work.

Solitary Confinement. Let’s quickly review what Confinement does for you. Ivory Mask, meaning you can’t be targeted? Check. Reduces all damage dealt to you to zero. Check. Earthquake has nothing on you. However, like death and taxes, we have an upkeep cost. And oy gevalt, is this an upkeep cost. You have to discard a card every turn to keep it around. And you must also skip your draw step. How does a brother get around this sort of quandary?

Unifying Theory. Yes, I am not kidding you, Unifying Theory is great in this deck! For one thing, this deck relies on running your opponent out of cards. You need more cards in your hand to keep your Confinement going, and your opponent seems to have the bad habit of thinking that drawing more cards is good for him. Show him otherwise.

No one reads Unifying Theory and stops it from hitting the table. Show your opponent why everything he knows is wrong.

Howling Mine. This is the card that will give you the other parts of the combo and provide the kill mechanism. Howling Mine also lets you recoup from the occasional moments when your Confinement elapses.

How to Throw Yourself In Jail And Eat The Key

Step 1: Get the shields up.

Do not play Solitary Confinement until you have either a few counters and a Wrath of God in hand (so you cover your rear for a bit until you get the board nice and clear), or Unifying Theory on the table. Unifying Theory is the key engine to maintain your Confinement. You can draw a card for two mana after playing any spell. Play Howling Mine and your card draw to get your engine in place while doing the big ugly threats in with counters. Avoid missing land drops at all costs. You want to have at least six mana on the table when you put your shield up.

Step 2: Once the shield’s up…

Keep your hand full and dumping land. Using your massive amount of card draw and selection, manage to keep your deck’s resources increasing by playing Words of Wisdom (draw three or more!) or Peek (draw two and irritate your opponent!). Keep parity by playing more Mines and Theories, and making sure the other guy doesn’t play a Pernicious Deed or some other board sweeper that can hit artifacts or enchantments. (Or, for that matter, a Mindslicer. Not that anyone would play Mindslicer in any format, ever, but you know… anything is possible.)

Step 3: Lower the shield once in a while.

This might be done by letting the Confinement go to the graveyard, or possibly by using Oblation (the best Standard-legal utility removal) to shuffle it back to your library on your upkeep. Hopefully you’ll draw another Confinement (or play one you’ve stockpiled in hand) and end the turn with more resources and cards in hand than when you started.


Adarkar Wastes stop hurting you once you’ve achieved your Confinement. Cool, ain’t it?

Decks that run counterspells hate being Peeked at. It’s like you guessed the combination to their luggage out of the blue, without them asking you. (“Let’s see … 1-2-3-4-5?””Son of a bitch!”) [1-2-3-4-5? Wait a second… that’s my combination! – Knut, whose Schwarz is bigger than yours]

Decks that killed this deck: My Black Bridge deck (Ensnaring Bridge, Grafted Skullclamp) that ran Guiltfeeder. Yeah, Guiltfeeder slaughtered this deck in one swing. Hoo-hah! For some reason, Battle of Wits is also a confoundingly difficult deck for Turbo-Theory to defeat.

I won’t bother you with the sideboard, since the deck is mostly obsolete as it stands. However, the deck has a nice curve and can get countering or starting the business on turn 2 and 3, so it has enough tempo to at least consider.

What’s New, Pussycat? (Wooah, wooah woooah…)

Eon Hub merely reduces your upkeep costs, allowing your hand to remain static. You don’t get any draws from it, though. At five mana, this is pretty darned expensive and awkward to use.

Mind’s Eye, although not very new, allows you to pay one during your opponent’s draws to get the same benefit he does. This will pay for your Confinement and allow you to benefit even more from your opponent using his own card draw, your Theories, and so forth.

Sensei’s Divining Top. Ah, now we are finally getting somewhere. This card can find few better homes than in Turbo-Theory. It costs one and is easily removed from the table in case someone tries to destroy it. You can stack the first three cards in your deck, and can dig deeper to get what you want. And it’s so cheap that as long as you have a Theory on the table, you can get all sorts of goodies constantly, even in the face of paying the nasty Confinement deck. The Beyblade gave me the motivation to drag out this old deck and throw it back together for what I hope to be a hell of a ride.

Any deck that will benefit from artifact coming into play triggers will enjoy throwing the Top around. Though there aren’t too many guys out there that I can think of that like to see artifacts come into play other than Leonin Elder.

The Divining Top, by the way, is a reference to the Japanese children’s pasttime of dueling tops. Two children put their tops in a bowl and start spinning them, moving the bowl so that their tops smash together and knock the other top out of the bowl. Takara (a toy company) recently took this old children’s pursuit and updated it by selling big plastic tops with special launchers, animal attachments and moving bits, and a massive media blitz including an anime. This show was dubbed and broadcast in North America as”Beyblade”. No, I’ve never watched it.

Here Comes A New Challenger! Sharpen Your Fangs, It’s Not The End!

For those of you who play Magic Online Extended, here’s my build for you, legal once ChK rotates in.

Turbo-Theory Classic, Online Extended Version

4 Wrath of God

4 Solitary Confinement

4 Unifying Theory

4 Howling Mine

2 Compulsion

2 Words of Wisdom

3 Sensei’s Divining Top

2 Boomerang

4 Counterspell

4 Absorb

2 Circular Logic

4 Adarkar Wastes

2 Coastal Tower

2 Flooded Strand

11 Island

6 Plains


2 Circle of Protection: Red

4 Disenchant (for paper, go with Seal of Cleansing, it’s easier to trigger the Theory with)

3 Sacred Ground

2 Bribery (1 in paper Extended)

4 Gainsay (2 in paper Extended)

(Paper extended: 3 Serenity, to hose down Affinity)

Yeah, the sideboard could use work. But I like the way it looks, and I enjoy the way the deck plays. This is one of the decks I will be testing along with my Japanese teammates, and I have been getting good feedback from them. (They said it looked very Japanese to them. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of that comment.)

If the Extended format has a lot of early beatdown decks like U/G Control or Affinity taking the forefront, consider this as a potential avenue to be explored. If nothing else, people will be remarking how bizarre it is that you’re playing Unifying Theory.

Eli Kaplan

[email protected]

Thanks go out to: Chris Corrente and everyone at The Unknown back home in Scranton, PA. I’ll be visiting back home in a few months, look out for me!