From Right Field: Just a Glint in His Daddy’s Eye

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Chris returns in fine form with an intriguing multicolored deck that revolves around… Glint-Eye Nephilim. A Nephilim? In Constructed? That’s playable? Surely some mistake! If you’re a player that loves drawing cards, then this deck is definitely worth a look…

{From Right Field is a column for Magic players on a budget, or players who don’t want to play netdecks. The decks are designed to let the budget-conscious player be competitive in local, Saturday tournaments. They are not decks that will qualify a player for The Pro Tour. As such, the decks written about in this column are, almost by necessity, rogue decks. They contain, at most, eight to twelve rares. When they do contain rares, those cards will either be cheap rares or staples of which new players should be trying to collect a set of four, such as Wildfire, Llanowar Wastes, or Birds of Paradise. The decks are also tested by the author, who isn’t very good at playing Magic. He will never claim that a deck has an 85% winning percentage against the entire field. He will also let you know when the decks are just plain lousy. Readers should never consider these decks "set in stone" or "done." If you think you can change some cards to make them better, well, you probably can, and the author encourages you to do so.}

Working on new decks for this column while helping a friend tweak a deck for Regionals, while also helping two other friends test their decks for Regionals, while also trying to figure out what the flock I’m going to play at Regionals, while also welcoming my brother back to civilian life by helping him unpack an entire household shipped overseas from Iceland, while also stripping really ugly but very high-quality, hard-to-strip wallpaper from a 200-square-foot room pretty much puts a damper on anything else… like, for example, working on new decks for this column.

That’s my way of both trying to explain why there was no column on May 23rd, and trying artistically to convey the sense of hecticity (hecticness?) that we felt the week before Regionals, a tizzy that created said lack of a column. I normally turn my columns in to Craig the Thursday or Friday before they hit the site, so that he can edit them. Editing my stuff routinely means: (a) shortening it; (b) trying to decide if I have purposely misspelled a word to show my creativity, or accidentally misspelled it because I am indeed a jenius; (c) checking the links (if any) to make sure that they aren’t (i) broken and (ii) too racy (e.g. showing nipples); and (d) making it good. I had nothing for Craig.

I had tried to start things, but nothing got finished because nothing got tested. The weekend before Regionals was both Mother’s Day and my second anniversary. (Yes, she hasn’t left me yet, though, I still can’t figure out why she said “yes” in the first place.) No way in hell that any Magic playing was going on that weekend. Monday was our first vacation day together. Also, no way in hell that any Magic playing was going to be done. Tuesday was waiting to find out when the Navy was actually getting my brother into Knoxville, meeting him, eating dinner with him, and staying out too late with him. Wednesday and Thursday were the house thangs. Friday was getting ready for and leaving for Regionals. (We splurged on a hotel room so that we could be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the tourney. Instead, I stayed up too late to watch the first half of Team America.)

Never fear, though. I’m back. And I have a deck that I’ve wanted to make for months.

Unnecessary Background and/or Exposition

I like drawing cards. I really do. I know that most of you who regularly read my column don’t believe it. My decks rarely have card drawing, tending to simply play off the top of the deck. I feel now is as good a time as any to explain myself.

Card drawing is almost always Blue. I know that there are some non-Blue cards, like Carven Caryatid and Curtain of Light, which draw cards. We all know, though, that the bulk of card drawing is Blue.

From my personal deckbuilding perspective (i.e. make the deck cheap for this column), getting card drawing into a deck isn’t that easy. I figure I have three decent options. First, make the deck mono-Blue. Seen any good, cheap mono-Blue decks recently? Me neither. All of the mono-Blue decks I’ve seen lately start “4 Meloku the Clouded Mirror” and end with “4 Keiga, the Tide Star.” Option two is to diversify the manabase. You know… people make a Blue-White deck that starts “4 Adarkar Wastes” and ends “4 Hallowed Fountain.” Just a tad pricey. Option three is to make the deck Green and Blue, or Green and Blue and That Third Color I Really Want for the Card That I Want to Play. For a budget builder, that’s probably the best way to go. Green smoothes the mana. Blue draws cards. Black kills the opponent. Unfortunately, those decks start to look mighty similar because so much of the 36 nonland cards are mana-smoothers and card drawing. For example, let’s start our Blue (with Green for mana smoothing) deck with:

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
4 Kodama’s Reach
4 Compulsive Research
4 Telling Time

We have only five slots for spells that can actually win the game. If we need more mana acceleration and add four Llanowar Elves or Birds of Paradise (or Utopia Trees, if we’re feelin’ froggy), we’d only have four slots left.

This isn’t a bad way to start a deck, really. It’s just boring. Every deck starts to feel the same when you only have four or five slots to work with. That’s why I tend not to do it. Much.

When He Was Just a Glint in My Eye . . .

You wanna draw a ton of cards every turn? I mean:


Then play Hondens.

Or you can play another five-color deck, one that I call Glint Eastwood.

My inspiration for this deck was quite simple. Of the Krewe of Nephilim, Glint-Eye was my second favorite. Yore-Tiller was easily numero uno for his/its ability to reanimate stuff. I figured that many other folks would be working on YTN decks, though. So, I focused on the GEN.

I know that you’re giggling, scoffing, or even getting ready to fire off a heavy-handed rant (depending on how highly you think of yourself). Come on. This guy draws cards when he hits the Bad Guy. It’s not “one card a turn,” like that pussy Thieving Magpie, either. It’s one for each point of damage he inflicts on your opponent. And – wait for this very stretched comparison guaranteed to light up the forums – like Psychatog, he combos with himself. Pay some mana, ditch some cards, he gets bigger, he inflicts more damage, and you draw more cards.

What’s not to like about the Glint-Eye Nephilim?

Other than the fact that he’s four colors.

Other than the fact that he’s a 2/2/ for four mana.

Other than the fact that he dies to just about every kill spell in the format, like Putrefy, Mortify, Condemn, Devouring Light, Last Gasp (if you don’t have two mana and two cards to feed him), and Seal of Fire (one and one). Heck, he dies to Steamcore Weird, if your opponent used Red mana to cast it and you don’t have an extra card to drop and an extra mana to spend. Whose kill condition dies to Steamcore Freakin’ Weird?!?


Oh, hey, by the way, Nekrataal can’t kill Glint-Eye Nephilim. Take that, Rizzo!

As you can see, I made this into a five-color deck even though the Glint-Eye needs only four. I figured, using a British saying for Our Esteemed Editor Craig Stevenson, in for a penny, in for a pound. If I could generate four colors of mana, the fifth wasn’t going to be much harder to get. Besides, that fifth one was White, giving me access to two of the best cards in Standard: Faith’s Fetters and Mortify. I refuse to explain why these cards are so good.

Of course, the deck revolves around Glint-Eye as, I believe, the entire world should. Sadly, he really is pretty fragile. I figured that out all by myself, too! This is why I leaned on Death Denied. Not only can I bring back Glint-Eye, but I can also get back the Clone or anybody else I have in the ‘yard, instantly.

Interesting Clone Note That You Probably Already Knew but That was Just Recently Driven Home to Me: Clone’s ability doesn’t target. So, I can Clone a Kodama of the North Tree, thus making Clone a kill spell for a creature that can’t be targeted. It can also get you your own Simic Sky Swallower for much cheaper than the original. I just though that was really cool.

Death Denied Versus Threaten: As you’d probably expect, the deck started out with four Death Denied. That’s usually what you do when you start building a deck. Good cards are slotted in at four copies each. The problem – maybe that word should be in quotation marks – with four copies of Death Denied was I often held it when there were no creatures in the graveyard, or very few. Could be just me, but I don’t want to cast Death Denied for a Sakura-Tribe Elder and a Master of Impediments. Yuck. I want to get back a fistful of creatures. I tested several games with four copies of DD, thinking, “heck, I can just chuck it to the Glint-Eye.” I didn’t like that. What if I could cast something else? That’s when Threaten came up again.

For some reason, as good as Threaten is, I still feel the need to extol its virtues. I feel the same when I point out that Barry Bonds has yet to be found with any sort of performance-enhancing drugs in his system, or even his possession. (“But he’s gotten bigger as he’s gotten older. That just doesn’t happen naturally.” Yes, it does. I can personally attest to the fact that you will get bigger as you get older. Just wait.) A single Threaten can swing an entire game.

Last weekend, for example, I was testing this deck online (with Master Decoy in place of the Minister of Impediments). My opponent was beating me mercilessly or, at least, trying. I had met every threat with a blocker, a Faith’s Fetters, a Mortify, or a Putrefy. He had tons Ravnica and Guildpact Shock lands. He had a tapped Ink-Eyes, to whom Sakura-Tribe Elder had been sacrificed. A Loxodon Hierarch had hit me for four damage when I chose not to block with Glint-Eye. I had already dispatched Kokusho and Yosei with Putrefy and/or Mortify. “Sh**!” I cursed, disturbing Luanne’s reading. “What is it now?” she asked. I explained that this guy was wearing me down. “Maybe you’ll get the card you need.” I did. It was Threaten. When I Threatened the Inky-Eyes (hoping to yank Kokusho from the ‘yard), he conceded.

Luanne had been looking over my shoulder. “What does it mean when it says ‘P00ppyhead6969 has conceded’?”

“It means that he quit before I could beat him.”

“I thought you said you couldn’t win this one.”

“I guess I got the one card that he was afraid of.”

Sometimes Threaten completely swings the game. Had he let me take Ink-Eyes, I could have reanimated Kokusho while also drawing cards with the Glint-Eye. Clearly, he didn’t want to see how that would turn out.

What’s Up with Those Ravnica Dual Lands?

Now that Ravnica’s been out for about six months or so, I think I can feel safe including at least some of the Ravnica (if not Guildpact and Dissension) dual lands in deck lists. I had actually been testing the deck with only basic lands. At that point, Wood Elves were Kodama’s Reach. The deck never seemed to flow at that point. There were some gaudy and impressive wins, but often I was short the color I needed most: Green. I added Wood Elves alone, but, of course, they need Green mana to start the ball rolling. A few times with the Wood Elves, I had too much Green mana because they just kept grabbing Forests. Mostly, though, I was frustrated that Kodama’s Reach couldn’t block. I tried, but no one fell for it.

So Wood Elves stayed in, along with four Ravnica dual lands that they could fetch. That’s when the deck perked up. The Glint-Eye missed having Kodama’s Reach, what with that extra land in hand to feed it and a deck thinned of two lands from which to draw extra cards. He got over it, though, when he noticed that he was being aided in a more timely fashion by the likes of Putrefy, Faith’s Fetters, and Mortify.

Road Tested in the Australian Outback

Once I got the deck to this point, it was tearing up the Casual Decks room. There was an occasional hiccup, of course. Mostly, it was Boros decks and flying weenie decks. Between their fast starts and Lightning Helix, the games were often over before they started. That’s why I put Pyroclasm in the sideboard. For the slower, more deliberate control-ish decks, I added Nightmare Void. Wear Away was the obvious inclusion for decks too heavy in artifacts and/or enchantments to be handled by Mortify or Putrefy. Finally, Threaten came in for the slower aggro-control decks. They really, really, really don’t like having their Dragon Legends stolen. Really, they don’t.

As you might expect, though, a deck revolving around a Nephilim wasn’t very strong in the Tournament Practice room. It was a tad slow for Heartbeat, winning only one game in three entire matches. Wildfire was actually a much, much better matchup than most of the other decks that I’d played in the past few weeks. With all of the land thinning, Wildfire itself just wasn’t that bad. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that it was enjoyable. It just wasn’t as devastating as it was against other decks. Against one opponent, for example, I was the only one of us two who still has lands on board after he cast the Wildfire. Why he did it, I don’t know. Desperation, maybe.

Aggro decks (other than Boros and decks with lots of weenie fliers) are an excellent matchup for Glint Eastwood. Even the B/W Weenie decks like Hand in Hand aren’t too bad. By that I mean that Glint Eastwood has won more B/W matches than it’s lost (4-2). The two keys are maindeck artifact hate and non-Black creatures. Plus, Hand of Honor hates being tapped down by the Minister. Just hates it.

B/W Control with Debtors’ Knell also isn’t too bad, running 50-50. Killing Debtors’ Knell really hurts them. You can compete one-on-one spell-wise, because Glint Eastwood can kill whatever Dragon they throw out. It’s not great to lose five life or a turn, but it’s better than losing the game. Persecute hurts in games two and three, but they hit fewer Black spells when the other three Threatens come in.

Everybody Play the Game

Luanne loves Queen or, more specifically, Freddy Mercury and his voice. I just found her birthday present in a catalog last night. A talking and singing, seventeen-inch Freddy Mercury doll. I’m just saying.

It took me a while to figure out how to play this. Have you ever had that happen with a deck that you yourself designed and created? You know that it should work better than it does, but you can’t figure out what to do? Turns out I was being too aggressive. If you can attack unfettered, do it. If not, you should be glad to lose your guys in trades on defense. Remember, you have Death Denied. The games started swinging my way when I started allowing two-for-one trades. For example, Wood Elves and Civic Wayfinder team up to kill a Watchwolf. That’s fine. It may leave you facing down a Hierarch, but you can kill it with one of eight spells. Or cast Faith’s Fetters on it. Typically, against aggro decks, you can clear the board one way or another and empty their hand. Glint-Eye Nephilim on an empty board usually means game over, man. Sometimes, the board doesn’t even have to be empty, thanks to Faith’s Fetters and the Minister of Impediments.

Of course, the best part of playing this deck is simply casting a Glint-Eye. Against one opponent, he told me, “Dude, it doesn’t matter what the final score is. You win just because you played a Nephilim.” That’s exactly how I felt.

As usual, you’ve been a great audience. I wonder what Craig has for me next week…

Chris Romeo