Force of Will: The Evolution Of Guitars

Holistic Wisdom allows you to recycle your instants and sorceries for as long as you like, completely breaks Fact or Fiction, and kills counters. But breaking it was tougher than I thought.

If you take Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine to last November when Odyssey was first released, I put forth that what I really wanted to play was a deck that tried to do most everything either in reaction (countering) or at the end of turn. Those requirements called for a deck full of instants and as such I dubbed the listing”Instant Guitars,” the name coming from a 60’s surf rock instrumental album by the fabulous Ventures. The deck was basically blue and green, although I dabbled in white for Rout and toyed with black for Pernicious Deed. I was generally happy with the early testing, even though we were still testing in a small group and without any”target” decks to get at and play against. There was promise, but it seemed the deck was missing something.

Here’s the article. You may wanna also take a look at the Urg Wedge deck listing…

Instant Guitars

4 Force Spike

4 Counterspell

4 Memory Lapse

4 Syncopate

4 Repulse

2 Rout

4 Mystic Snake

3 Beast Attack

1 Iridescent Angel

2 Temporal Adept

4 Peek

4 Opt

6 Island

4 Adarkar Wastes

4 Yavimaya Coast

4 Forest

2 Plains

Sometime thereafter, I built the usual net deck gauntlet: Carl Jarrell Hot Garbage in blue sleeves. Standard version Star Spangled Slaughter in gold. B/W Desolation Angel deck in blue, I think. Then I slipped the Rice Snack/LETC deck into white ones.

It soon became my favorite. Running”The One Big Turn” was a neato exercise, and the interesting card to find was Holistic Wisdom. The Wisdom let you swap a now useless Harrow for a game-breaking Early Harvest, or swap a Rampant Growth for the recently-used (or possibly Duressed) Ghitu Fire or Death Grasp. This was most certainly some”mighty fine a-pickin and a-singin” type brokenness, and the idea of what this card could do rolled around in my noggin for a bit.

You know, then it hit like a diamond bullet.

“It fits in Instant Guitars!”

And so it does…However, even after the”Eureka!” hit of inspiration, I didn’t move on the deck right away. Carl works a lot. Mike is leveling up his EQ character to near-godling status. In general, the Magic circle was a little cool and we weren’t doing the old thing of hammering on each other nightly…

As a concept with this deck idea, I am not alone. Several have detailed such ideas or played them in public – The Phantom of Crazy-Tech Manor has done it here on Star City, and I know Adrian Sullivan and others have been throwing around the concept with Instant.dec in Extended. I got my interest refueled with some talk on the Meridian list with several people trying to re-invent Donais 5-color Green. To them, I first offered the Urg Wedge deck, and did some theorizing on the possibilities of Holistic Wisdom. I’ll reiterate what we found:

THE interaction

Beyond combining the idea of all instants with the recursive power of Holistic Wisdom the first interaction that jumps to the fore is the enchantment’s interaction with Fact or Fiction. Fact or Fiction has been a better-than-good card since its appearance, but its interaction with Holistic Wisdom is downright back-breaking for opponents. With Wisdom on the table and a Fact or Fiction in circulation, there is almost no way you can lose the card advantage battle. A now almost-useless Force Spike or Harrow can be converted for two mana into Fact or Fiction, returned from the dead pool to your hot little hand. As if that weren’t enough, the Fact or Fiction splits now take on a totally mind-numbing quality for opponents. With Wisdom down and a deck almost totally lined with instants, you basically have access to every bizness card the split reveals. Often, there might be only one really good card in the split that you want, and even though your opponent knows that and sets it off alone, you just pick up the two”junk” instants and get the good one back twice.

So we have a blue and green-base deck. What I (and others) pondered at this point was where to go from here. Looking at the pile of blue instants wasn’t really the biggest problem, inasmuch as it was branching off into the splash colors and spells. There is, however, a slight looming problem in the counter-magic department with the fact that you almost have a need to use either Undermine or Absorb to fill out your roster. Like I had originally, the first inclination was to go toward white. The focal card for this, other than Absorb, was Wrath of God as a clearing spell for those creatures that would get in under the umbrella of counter-magic. What stuck with me was that old hangup of Wrath needing WW to fuel its effect. I made a swing here to use of Pernicious Deed as the global reset of choice, as I felt its GB casting cost would be make its casting more reliable.

So where are we?


Fact or Fiction

Holistic Wisdom

Pernicious Deed

Obviously, we are lacking a kill mech…

THE Hitmen

First off, I wanted to stay as near as I could to a creature-less deck as possible. Many decks and their pilots these days are using a run of creature-specific bounce cards, either with Repulse or Aether Burst, and I wanted to try and create opposing dead cards. That limits the kill options to almost singularly using burn.

A turn to red.

Like many, I was initially very drawn to Prophetic Bolt. It is an instant, it does damage to either creature or opponent, and then lets you replace it with one of four cards from the top of your deck. Yow. It is certainly some kind of powerful and the effects to cost ratio at five total mana was very good. I definitely like the fact that with this and Fact or Fiction, you are going to get to see a whole lot of your deck in any prolonged game – creating a very high level of card quality in hand. Of course, that is what this deck is all about! I was already heavily into blue, which left just a single red in the casting cost to come up with, and then I would only need that some time later in the mid-game when I would be using a 5 cc spell.

The problem with trying to use Prophetic Bolt as a strict kill method was the fact that it was limited, like any other card to the four-of rules – and four times four works out to sixteen. That’s not enough damage, and the card fits right into an age-old problem with the”CounterBurn” deck idea, which was that despite the seeming power of combining the two ideas, CounterBurn decks seem to wind up as less than the sum of their parts. Inevitably, some critter would get through the CounterBurn players’ furious attempts to either counter it or burn it out of existence. CounterBurn is a true open state control idea… And too often the player is forced to work much too hard in maintaining that state. The problem here is in the old idea that permanents, and more importantly creatures, are more efficient. I had recursive possibilities with Holistic Wisdom in the deck… But for that cards placement or permanence, we couldn’t be certain. Maybe we do need a creature, eh?

Re-Enter the Beast (Attack)

I’ve long liked this Ody uncommon and it was this card that actually started my foray into the all end of turn deck. If you can deal with his GGG casting cost requirements, I feel he’s superior to Call of the Herd. Superior may be the wrong word – but more that, he trumps the elephant token and as such is out of most burn range as well. True, he gives bounce a nice target… But then, you can’t win on every front.

The Starting Lineup

Instant Guitars

4 Yavimaya Coast

7 Island

6 Forest

3 Urborg Volcano

1 Swamp

1 Mountain

4 Harrow

4 Opt

4 Counterspell

4 Syncopate

2 Undermine

4 Repulse

4 Fact or Fiction

3 Prophetic Bolt

2 Beast Attack

4 Pernicious Deed

3 Holistic Wisdom

As you can see, I chose to use Harrow to try and both smooth my mana and also ramp it up. The other effect of Harrow, pulling land out of an already land-light deck, is not to be taken lightly either. After a successful Harrow or two, the deck is then thick with bizness spells for when you cast Fact or Fiction or send out a Prophetic Bolt. Harrow, however, wouldn’t even be an option if one didn’t think that you could make something useful of it later when Wisdom hits the table. Opt fits the same sort of bill. Good early digging, and a swap card late. This theme runs up and down the decklist. Repulse is a good early card against most creature rush themes, but against other more”open” state control decks it can be a waste… Till, of course, you trade it off for a Fact or Fiction or Prophetic Bolt. Often, the same can be true of Syncopate as well. Very good in the opening game, its power wanes as the game progresses. Swapping that for the always-good Counterspell should become an option – a very good option.

So how does this deck play?

I like it, and I’ll try and give you some tips. I generally ran this as my number one dueling deck on MOL.

First, the high point is that in any control on control matchup you can usually use an opponent’s end-of-turn step to force the issue and get the game-winning Wisdom down on your following main phase. From there you just should not lose to any type of control deck. The way it works is that at a point you will cast an end-of turn Fact or Fiction, Prophetic Bolt, or Beast Attack… And your opponent will counter. That’s fine. What you will do then is return in your main phase and cast Wisdom with counter backup, which is nigh-impossible to stop. From there, the game devolves to you doing end-of-turn swaps with repeated castings of Fact or Fiction and then Prophetic Bolt. Your opponent cannot keep up.

Facing creature decks, the important card to find is, of course, Pernicious Deed. With countermagic and bounce, plus all of the searching that usually gets done, this strategy is generally sound…However, that isn’t always the case.

How The Deck Loses

I think this is probably the most important part of discussing any deck. How it loses. Most folks will proudly tell you how their deck is capable of the third-turn kill and how but the difference in the good player and the great player is that the great ones will know the weaknesses better than the strengths – not only of their deck but of their opponents as well. I have played the deck somewhat extensively, making the finals of several online tournaments with it, along with a variety of dueling sessions. This deck, and others like it, have also been chronicled in both public and to me privately. The results have been universally positive, and I’d put the success rate at least at a point where the deck deserves consideration.

Wisdom makes Fact or Fiction better. That alone deserves consideration.

Sometimes this deck will just falter in its mana. It is, of course, four colors. It happens. I haven’t had a lot of this problem, but it occurs. The base deck uses mostly basic lands and Harrow; however, there is another approach, which would be to use a lot more painlands. I most closely worked with Claude Mona, who I always find inspirational, and he took this approach, along with choosing to use a Mahamoti and Spiritmonger to help ensure the kill. Of course, it only takes one fattie to kill ya.

Sometimes you just get run over. This happens. Often, it is tied up with the mana problem – but suffice to say beatdown remains with us for good reason. It just wins, and more than, sometimes. Generally, I haven’t had any more than normal problems when facing beatdown… Until I saw maindecked blue hate in the form of Spellbane Centaur. The problem here was that I couldn’t either find the Deed, and I couldn’t touch him with Prophetic Bolt. This sort of thing is why I would offer that your sideboard should hold a full complement of Tangles, which when recurred can be quite the torment to beatdown. They will often not only cause them to slow down dramatically, but also make them overextend for when you do find the Deed.

The deck is highly malleable, in my opinion, and it can be tweaked to fit into almost any metagame. More burn is one solution to troublesome pro: blue creatures… But I will get back to that idea.

I lost one game where I had both a Wisdom and a Beast Attack in circulation. I think if I had just kept churning out 4/4 Tokens every turn that I would have won this game, but I think I wound up taking a shot and launching a Prophetic Bolt to my opponent’s dome to try and race… And I lost. Don’t underestimate the Beast.

I had a lot of trouble with counter burn, specifically that the games stalled out with them having just enough counter-magic to stave me off till I got a pair of kicked Rages to the head. These games usually take a long time, and whoever wins the first game usually takes the match. It’s not a problem that can’t be solved if you know its coming. Maindecking a couple of Diverts or Deflections is possible, especially considering that they are instants you can hope to swap off if they aren’t needed… Or you can run your own Rages as well.

Right now, I’m actually fooling with taking the whole deck on a shift towards more red. I dropped the Harrows and am then running Opt plus Fire/Ice for early digging. Fire, of course, gives me some more early removal, options, and Ice-ing a land or early creature and then drawing works as well. Recurring a Rage every turn is just too rude a strategy as well, and I’ve gotten the drop on CounterRage decks like this of late. This build of course uses a different selection of painlands but the results have been good here too. I’m wavering between two or three maindecked Rages, and which cards I cut to move them in. The cuts generally come from Fire/Ice, Opt, and Repulse. Twenty-two lands, Opt, plus Fire/Ice is not a real strong number of lands and cycling for a deck that’s a tad mana hungry. I’m still testing this balance.

The only other sideboard card I’d offer with certainty here is Kavu Chameleon. It’s a nice surprise often as it can’t be countered, is hard to burn, and because you often don’t show a creature in game one to opposing blue players, many will remove their bounce. The Kavu plus Rage plus the end-of-turn tricks can actually get you back into a match after a long game one loss.

Holistic Wisdom is such a cool card. I’ve used it to build a fun (for me) multiplayer deck using a Domain base and all sorceries. I’ve theorized that it might be worth the exploration of adding it to a sort of SnakeTongue build where you could later swap rather useless Birds of Paradise and Llanowar Elves for boneyard Flametongue Kavus and Mystic Snakes while running enough other instants to get your Fact or Fiction or Rage recycle going. I know there are folks championing white versions with Wrath and Lifeburst (which really stops the Rage problem), and I think that that is a very legitimate tack to take with the deck.

Holistic Wisdom. Try it out.



Section 443-Row WW- Seat 15 God Bless Kurt