From Right Field – Spiraling Out of Control with Staples

Read Chris Romeo every Thursday... at StarCityGames.com!
I may not use Chimeric Staff in every tourney I play in while it’s Standard legal. In fact, I’m sure that I won’t. However, if I want to build a deck with that card in it, I know that I have it. I only chase those cards that I think I’ll use, though. As I’ve stated many times before, if it’s not a card you think you’ll use – whether it’s because of the card’s color, the card’s type, or the kind of deck in which it would have to be used – then it’s not a staple for you.

{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. The author tries to limit the number of non-land rares as a way to limit the cost of the decks. 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 Sulfurous Springs, Birds of Paradise, or Wrath of God. 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.}

In case you missed last week’s episode, I was updating what I considered to be staple rares, the kinds that players should be trying to get a set of four, depending on what kinds of decks they like to play and the colors they focus on. More than one person sent an e-mail similar to the following:

Dear Mr. Romeo,

You have an awful lot of rares on your list of “staples.” Too many, in fact. The only cards that everybody should have are Wrath of God, Birds of Paradise, and all of the Tenth Edition pain lands. That list is just too big.

Your Biggest Fan

People like YBF and me just have to agree to disagree. You see, I look at the staple rares kind of the way you should look at stocking your pantry. Now, some folks, the only things that they always make sure that they have in the fridge and pantry are eggs, milk, and bread. Aren’t those always the things that run out first at the grocery store when a freak snowstorm is suddenly upon us? (And why is that? What do people do with all of that bread, milk, and eggs? Do they eat nothing but French toast until they can dig themselves out again? What about cereal, juice, meat, veggies, and fruit? But I digress…)

I stock my kitchen differently. I like to cook. In addition, I always want to make sure that I can whip up something decent in case visitors drop by unexpectedly. (My family and friends know that I’m no fan of the pop-in, but it still happens.) So I make sure that I have sugar, salt, eighteen different spices, flour, pastas of all sorts, cans of beans, peas, and diced tomatoes, potatoes, frozen broccoli, olive oil, salsa, cheeses of all sorts, and, of course, milk, eggs, and bread. I may not use all of that stuff every week. So I make sure that it keeps… thus, the frozen broccoli that the purists are gagging at. Then I’m always prepared to make something. It might even be good. If Luanne and I want to plan on making a fancier meal than those staples will allow, having all of those staples means that we don’t have much that we need to pick up, usually just the meat or the veggies and fruit that won’t keep.

I feel the same way about Magic cards. I may not use Chimeric Staff in every tourney I play in while it’s Standard legal. In fact, I’m sure that I won’t. However, if I want to build a deck with that card in it, I know that I have it. I only chase those cards that I think I’ll use, though. As I’ve stated many times before, if it’s not a card you think you’ll use – whether it’s because of the card’s color, the card’s type, or the kind of deck in which it would have to be used – then it’s not a staple for you.

Now let’s get on with Time Spiral Block’s staple rares, shall we?


Angel of Salvation – I may have pooh-poohed this card a bit in my set review, but it’s still a fine trick. Now that Seething Song’s loss from Tenth Edition means that this Angel won’t be competing against Dragonstormed out Bogardan Hellkites as often as before, she’s much better. Even without facing Hellkites, that Flash ability with Convoke makes her a casual and budget player’s friend.

Benalish Commander – Losing Urza’s Power Grid (a.k.a. Urzatron) from the Core set means that this guy can’t pump out Soldiers like we would have wanted. Mobilization makes him better, though, and I’ll take that trade since, well, I have no choice.

Crovax, Ascendant HeroCrovax the White is much better than he’s been given credit for. He can wipe out opposing armies of Goblins and Saprolings, and only Split Second spells really stop him.

Dust Elemental – This card should speak for itself. You may never run four in one deck, but you should have at least three in your collection.

Evangelize – This hasn’t gotten much love, and that’s sad because it really deserves to. Part of the reason is that it doesn’t fit into the White Weenie archetype, and I can understand that. White likes control, too, though. Think about Wrath of God, Faith’s Fetters, and Humble. I honestly believe that another part is the weird wording. You don’t actually target the creature. Your opponent does. Unlike many cards that you point at an opponent, it’s not just “of an opponent’s choice” but “target creature of an opponent’s choice.” Which doesn’t change much. Unless all they have is Akroma, Angel of Fury, or Voice of All set to White on board, you can take all of their stuff if you have enough mana.

Imperial Mask – With Ivory Mask out of Tenth Edition, this is what White players have for personal defense. Take it.

Magus of the Disk – Happiness is blowin‘ up the world.

Magus of the Tabernacle – Weenie hordes just hate this guy. In other words, another one for those who love White/X control decks.

Mangara of Corondor – I know that this guy hasn’t seen much high-level play outside of some decks that run him with Momentary Blink, and that bothers me. Even without such a trick, this is one great creature. (If you don’t understand the Blink trick, mention it in the forum. Someone will tell you about it.)

Opal Guardian – So, it’s a little color intensive. Big deal. For three mana, you get a 3/4 flier with Protection from Red if your opponent simply casts a creature spell. Yummy.

Oriss, Samite Guardian – I still say that someone’s gonna find a way to break this wide open. You’ll want to be able to say “I got mine when a full set was still only ten bucks.”

Pentarch Paladin – Another great White control card that comes with a body. Sure, you can do Cloudchaser Kestrel tricks with Pentarch Paladin (i.e. call “White” for the Paladin and then turn stuff White with the Kestrel), but you don’t need to rely on that. Just drop the Paladin, call whatever color your opponent has that most annoys you, and use him.

Porphyry Nodes – A lot of folks think of this only as a sideboard card. I think it could and should be a maindeck choice (although I am guilty of passing over this card as much as the next guy). When is it not good? If your opponent is playing with a weenie horde like yours, you pick off his guy. If he’s playing control and only has one or two guys, that probably means that you will be without creatures thanks to Wrath or Damnation at some point. Then, the Nodes takes his smallest guy. If he only has one, that’s the one that goes.

Restore Balance – White seems to have gotten a lot of good control cards in Time Spiral Block, dontcha think?

Scout’s Warning – At worst, the very worst, this card cycles for W. Why isn’t anyone as happy about that as I am?

Seht’s Tiger – Hobbes here was hyped like crazy during the Future Sight previews, and then… where’d he go? He’s still as good as he was hyped to be. If you like White, you should already have four of these.

Serra Avenger – Like Seht’s Tiger, Serra Avenger was pre-hyped, and you should have four of her. Unlike the Tiger, she’s never really been far from the White players’ collective consciousness.

Tivadar of Thorn – Essentially, this is Paladin en-Vec with the Protection from Black traded in for offing a Goblin when it comes into play. That ability didn’t seem relevant before Tenth Edition was released. Whadya think about it now that Siege-Gang Commander is back?

Voidstone Gargoyle – No, this is not Pithing Needle. However, if you like to play White and can’t afford the Needle, this isn’t a bad substitute since you get a 3/3 flying body with it. If you can afford the Needle and you like White, why not have this too?


Aeon Chronicler – Like some other cards I’ve called staples, you don’t need me to tell you why you should have four of these.

Ancestral Visions – See Aeon Chronicler, above.

Body Double – I like this guy if only for the fact that you’re limited to running only four Dread Returns in your deck. Besides, Body Double leaves the Big Phat Fatty in the graveyard so that Dread Return can still pick it. That’s even better than being Dread Returns five through eight.

Chronozoa – At first, I just thought this guy was cute and that I could maybe make a fun/interesting deck with him. Then, I started using him, and I noticed how my opponents would bend over backwards to kill him off before he could make two of himself. If nothing else, he drew fire away from other guys. Plus, he’s a 3/3 flier for four mana.

Draining Whelk – If you have issues with your parents because they didn’t give you everything you ever wanted, and so you like to play Blue decks that max out on “No, I won’t allow you to do that” spells, you’ll want at least three of these guys. And if you just like playing good mono-Blue permission decks, you’ll want at least three of these guys.

Magus of the Bazaar – If you like to play around with combos or reanimating stuff from your graveyard, get four of these. If neither of those are your cup o’ tea (Hi, Craig!), you don’t need this guy.

Magus of the Future – More options are good. This guy gives you more options.

Pact of Negation – There is almost no time when this is bad. One of the best tricks in the Blue players’ Big Bag o’ Tricks is the ability to lull an opponent into a false sense of security by tapping out. “He has no mana available. He can’t counter my {Insert Nasty Spell Name Here}.” Yes, he can. The upkeep cost on Pact of Negation is the same cost as Tidings. Think about that.

Psionic Sliver – While I consider this a staple Sliver, I’d only get two or three since, as a 2/2 for five mana, it’s not very useful unless it comes at a time when it can end the game.

Serendib Sorcerer – Team with Red (e.g. Shock, Sudden Shock, Incinerate) to kill pretty much anything.

Spellweaver Volute – Like Oriss, someone will break this, and you want yours now. If not, you have a nice cheap set of four Volutes that you can build a funky kitchen-table deck around.

Sprite Noble – She’s another sadly overlooked creature. In essence, she’s a Glorious Anthem for your fliers.

Take Possession – When you can’t afford the very best, take the very best from the other guy.

Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir – As much as I hate the fact that Wizards gave Blue a card that completely and utterly hosed the focus mechanic of the entire Time Spiral Block, I know how awesome he is. Own at least three at all times.

Trickbind – This has been typically limited to sideboard status, although I think it warrants a couple of maindeck slots, depending on your metagame. Either way, you should have a set.

Venser, Shaper Savant – Teams with Teferi to make the Super Friends’ Wonder Twins look downright silly. Can I rephrase that?

Vesuvan Shapeshifter – What can I say about this that hasn’t been said? Um, howsabout “I love the use of color in the art.”


Bitter OrdealNantuko Husk is back in Tenth Edition, and they gave us Midnight Ritual, too. Add in Grave Pact, and you have a card in Bitter Ordeal that can wreck a deck worse than Cranial Extraction did.

Curse of the Cabal – I went back and forth on this one about seventeen times and ultimately decided to add for that very reason. You see, what I was going through in regards to calling this a staple rare is the same kind of thing your opponent will go through when deciding what to do about a Suspended Curse of the Cabal. Hesitation. Uncertainty. Right there, those are good for you. If he sacrifices something to it every couple of turns, you’ve got yourself a free Stone Rain or Terror. So what if it’s not good against Sprout Swarm? Otherwise, it’s awesome.

Damnation – If you like playing Black or Control decks, budget your way to four of these. If I already have two of them (I do), you should, too. By the end of this year, all of us budget players should have our third and fourth ones.

Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder – Even though I have yet to make a deck with this, there are too many fun things you can do with this guy even in a kitchen-table deck. Own at least three.

Extirpate – This is another card that hasn’t been featured all that much after its initial hyping. It’s still awesome, though, especially if you can get an opponent’s key card into their graveyard. If they don’t have a single “key” card because they’re playing a beat down deck, for example, taking away three more of their best threats is always A Good Thing.

Gibbering Descent – The way that this combos with itself makes it too fun not to have around “just in case.”

Imp’s Mischief – At first, I was worried about the life loss with this card. As I’ve fooled around with it, though, I’ve noticed that I’m often only losing two (e.g. Temporal Isolation) or three (e.g. Rift Bolt) life with this. Obviously, I’d only use it on a spell with a big converted mana cost if I was completely desperate. Get these. We’ll find a way to use them well.

Korlash, Heir to Blackblade – Thanks to the timing of my anniversary, I already have four of these. I love my wife. You should, too. Have four Korlashes, I mean. Not love my wife.

Lim-Dul the Necromancer – Again, more tricks from a Black Legend. You’ll want to have this for when you see the potential, too.

Living End – Even though I haven’t been able to break this yet, I still say that someone will, even with Dredge leaving Standard in a couple of months. Uber-reanimation is a game-ending trick in some cases.

Magus of the Abyss – If it gets just one creature, it’s made an even trade. Make sure the one it gets, though, is worth it.

Magus of the Coffers – I still think that this needs to be in your collection if only because of Consume Spirit.

Nether Traitor – If you haven’t played this guy, then you’ve probably faced him. Either way, you know how good he is. People who like Black Weenie beatdown decks should have four Nether Traitors.

Plague Sliver – This should be a must-have four-of in any Black beatdown decks. It’s shown up a lot as a sideboard card in Time Spiral Block decks, but why shouldn’t it be maindeck? If your opponent happens to be playing Slivers, well, you’re pre-sidedboarded. If not, you have a 5/5 for four mana.

Sengir NosferatuSudden Death and not much else stops this guy. Well, okay, Wrath of God and Damnation. Still, he’s efficient and tough to deal with.

Shimian Specter – I’ve read a lot of writers saying what this guy isn‘t. From that, they‘ve decided that he stinks. I don’t think they’ve been hit by him. If they had, they’d want four of their own.

Slaughter Pact – Aggressive Black decks don’t need to hold back mana for Dark Banishing anymore. They can pay for it on credit!

Stronghold Overseer – This is what we call a finisher. Mix with hand and creature destruction, add Phyrexian Totem, win.

Sudden Spoiling – Even though this didn’t help me at States two years ago, I still see it as a strong sideboard option if not maindeck. All of a sudden (heh), that swarm of weenies is painless, or Akroma the White can be killed by a Black spell or creature.

Tombstalker – How quickly can you cast this guy? Depends on how quickly you can fill your graveyard and get two Black mana.


Akroma, Angel of Fury – Big, fat, Protection from two colors, blah blah blah. Get four.

Bogardan Hellkite – You should have four of these. Period. Yes, even if you never want to play a Dragonstorm deck.

Detritivore – Some people are sounding the death knell for this guy, what with the Ravnica Block dual lands and common Guild lands going away soon. I disagree. People will continue to play a lot of nonbasic lands. Red and Green decks, for example, will run four Karplusan Forests and four Grove of the Burnwillows at a minimum. That’s at least a third of their lands. Of course, they’ll probably also run some other nonbasics, too, pushing their percentage up to or past fifty. Not quite Ravnica-era numbers where some PT Top 8 decks were running as few as one or two basic lands but still a huge percentage.

Fortune Thief – Okay, so this is strictly sideboard against decks that don’t pack actual off-of-the-board-you-go creature removal. There may not be many of those, but you should have this in your arsenal.

Greater Gargadon – He’s not just for combo decks anymore.

Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician – “If you love Goblins like I love Goblins…”

Jaya Ballard, Task Mage – I was pimpin’ her when she first came out, and I was dissed. How ya like me now?

Magus of the Moon – We lost Bad Moon out of the Core set. So, you should have these.

Magus of the Scroll – See Jaya Ballard, above.

Molten Disaster – Who likes Earthquake? Who likes an uncounterable Earthquake?

Pact of the Titan – I hate that this is best used with Angel’s Grace to make a 4/4 that can swing on turn 2. Or do I…?

Reiterate – I can’t say enough times (now that’s humor!) how badly you need four of these. Just make sure to use it in a deck with enough mana sources that you can pay the Buyback at some point.

Scourge of Kher RidgesPyroclasm on a flying stick? Nice.

Sedge Sliver – Even if you don’t like Sliver decks, you should still like this Sliver.

Shivan Wumpus – Why isn’t this making it into decks? Sure, you don’t want it late in the game if your opponent has a lot of lands. But I was thinking – and it might just be that I’m still not right in the head – that you might use him with land destruction maybe. Of course, that’s just to stave off the late-game problems. With mana acceleration, this guy hits on turn three. Stone Rain every turn? Yeah, that’s good.

Tarox Bladewing – He’s not Korlash. Big deal. He flies, and he can be huge. End of story.

Thunderblade Charge – Reusable damage is awesome.

Word of SeizingThreaten is great. Threaten with Split Second is awesome.


Baru, Fist of Krosa – Like Tarox, I know that he’s not Korlash. However, this guy can hold off Korlash quite well. Add to that the fact that you can make all of your guys bigger and give them Trample just by putting a Forest into play, and I call that a winner.

Gaea’s AnthemDuh.

Groundbreaker – If Ball Lightning was great, so is this.

Heartwood Storyteller – Free card drawing for Green? There ya go.

Jedit Ojanen of Efrava – Even if this guy were just a 5/5 Forestwalker for six mana, he’d be good. The ability to make free tokens makes him a staple.

Quagnoth – Like Jaya Ballard, this card was hyped, and then the hype died. It shouldn’t have. A big Green creature that can’t be countered and can’t be targeted once it hits is huge.

Spectral Force – This guy goes into the category of ultra-staple. Everyone who plays Magic, regardless of what style of deck he plays, should have this in his arsenal.

Squall LineHurricane came back in Tenth Edition because more people voted for it than Earthquake. So, Hurricane with Instant timing should be even more popular. Instant timing.

Stonewood Invocation – A lot of people look at this as a pump spell that makes your creature untargetable. Sometimes, it’s better to look at this the other way around. It can counter anything that targets your guy (other Split Second spells excluded, of course) while making it bigger at the same time.

Tarmogoyf – Did you follow Evan Erwin’s advice and get four of this guy before the price skyrocketed? I sure hope so.

Thelon of Havenwood – Some look at this guy and see an overcosted Grizzly Bear. I see the potential to make an army of fungi nearly invincible.

Thelonite Hermit – I will admit that I’ve conceded when I’ve seen this guy flipped rather than playing the game out. Life’s too short to waste time on lost causes. Get me to my sideboard and my Pyroclasms.

Timbermare – This was another high-hype card that the Pros seem to have given up on. The casual guys, though, still have big love for her. I think the Pros are on the wrong side on this one. Even if you don’t pay her Echo, you are almost assured of getting five damage for four mana. Efficiency like that can’t be ignored.

Wild Pair – The problem that I have with some combo decks or even decks with such great synergy that they almost appear to be combo decks is that they often make people forget that the pieces are good outside of the combo. As with the T-Goyf, Evan told us all about the U/G/w Sliver-Wild Pair deck. Sadly, it seems that people don’t realize how good Wild Pair is even when it’s not teamed with Slivers.

Wurmcalling – I’m a fan of almost any card with X in its casting cost. One that continues to bring the pain, in this case via Buyback, is one that makes me a fanatic.


Glittering Wish – Tourney or casual, all players should invest in four of these.

Intet, the Dreamer; Numot, the Devastator; Oros, the Avenger; Teneb, the Harvester – Of the tri-colored Dragon Legends, I only left Vorosh, the Hunter off of the list. That was simply because he was the only one of the five that doesn’t truly provide any card advantage. Of the other four, I’d say that Teneb should be the first one you try to get, but get the other three too.

Jhoira of the Ghitu – What impresses me about her is that she doesn’t need to be in play for her ability to work. Let me elaborate. Some permanents grant an ability, but it’s something not defined in the rules. So if that permanent isn’t in play, what it did while it was in play no longer works. Jhoira gives cards Suspend. Since Suspend is defined in the rules, if she is destroyed, the cards she Suspended will still go off. She’d be very good without that being true. The fact that it is true is why she’s so hot.

Kaervek the Merciless – I like creatures that hurt aggro, control, hybrid, and combo decks equally.

Mishra, Artificer Prodigy – I know that he’s only good in a specific type of deck, but that deck type isn’t as narrow as some folks might think. You just want several good artifacts to go find. Serrated Arrows is definitely one of them.

Radha, Heir to Keld – I just wrote about her a couple of weeks ago. So I think you already know why I like her. If not, check my archives.

Saffi Eriksdotter – What surprises me most about this card is how little respect it gets even after all of the success it’s had.

Sliver Legion – “Ewww, I’d have to play this in a Sliver deck. Yuck.” Or you could just have a 7/7 creature for five mana. Sounds good to me. Of course, if you’re able to cast this, you’re playing five colors. There has to be room for at least one Sliver in there, at least Gemhide Sliver. Two Gemhides and this guy in play means that the Gemhides are 3/3s while this would be a 9/9.


Candles of Leng – Card drawing is good. And sometimes you build your deck to use your graveyard. This can do both.

Cloud Key – I still say that this does something too good to be ignored.

Coalition Relic – Mana is good. More mana is better.

Epochrasite – This guy is incredibly hard for an opponent to deal with. Unless he has Teferi. Regardless, the fact that Epochrasite can keep coming back again and again makes him a must-have.

Gauntlet of Power – This does two st00p!d good things at once. If you like playing decks with color and especially if you like playing mono-colored decks, you should have this.

Stuffy Doll – So what if Black has some spells (Festering Goblin, Sudden Death, Ichor Slick, Skirk Ridge Exhumer) that can off this thing? It is incredibly hard to completely neutralize. You should have four.

Triskelavus – Normally, I wouldn’t recommend a creature whose base stats (seven mana for what is essentially a 4/4 flier) are so weak. That activated ability, though, more than makes up for what this card lacks up front. Sure, it was better when the Urza’s lands were in Standard. What expensive spell wasn’t, though?


Academy Ruins – If you like running a lot of artifacts, you should absolutely have two or three of these.

Flagstones of Trokair – If you like playing White, especially mono-White, you should have four of these.

Graven Cairns; Grove of the Burnwillows; Horizon Canopy; Nimbus Maze; River of Tears – As with all of the Ninth – and now Tenth – Edition pain lands, I can not stress hard enough how important lands like these are. When lands make two colors, they make your multi-colored decks easier to run. It’s just that simple. So, whatever friendly color combinations you like to play, get the corresponding Future Sight dual lands.

Kher Keep – I like lands that can make tokens. Even when they’re 0/1 tokens, they can still block ground pounders.

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth – If you like playing Black decks with other colors but want play some spells that rely very heavily on Swamps and/or Black mana, you have to have at least two or three of these. With Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, you can run Tendrils of Corruption or Consume Spirit in a two- or three-colored deck and get the same impact from them as if your deck was mono-Black.

Vesuva – This is the Clone of lands. In other words, you can run this and make copies of lands you wished you had. It’s especially useful for copying – and, thus, destroying – Legendary lands like Urborg.

What About Timeshifted?

This thing is long enough as it is. I’m going to post a P.S. to this in the forum concerning what I think about the Timeshifted (a.k.a. Purple) cards.

As usual, you’ve been a great audience. Next week, the final Time Spiral Block Constructed deck to come From Right Field.

Chris Romeo