From Right Field: You Knocked My Block Off!

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Chris takes a break from the cutthroat world of Standard Magic, and tickles the soft white underbelly of Ravnica Block Constructed. He picks a playset of a pet card, and sees just how far it can take him…

{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 Dark Confidant, Sacred Foundry, 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.}

“Oh, my goodness gracious! Will you look at the time! I simply must hurry! It’s already July! That means that it’s Block Constructed season! And me with not a thing to wear! Oh, bother!” — Some freaky white rabbit I saw while taking double doses of medicine to try to knock out this nasty Summer cold that I just can not shake

Ah, Block Constructed season. It’s one of my favorite times of year along with Christmas, The World Series, and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue release.

By the way, can we all promise to call this Block by its proper name. It’s the Ravnica Block, and the tournaments are Ravnica Block Constructed. It’s not RGD Block. For some reason, this sort of thing bugs me to no end. I don’t know why. It’s one of my (many) personality flaws. Last Summer, I nearly bitch-slapped a guy for calling it Champions Block Constructed. It was Kamigawa Block Constructed. I promise. Look it up.

That’s not the point, though. The point is that RBC is upon us, and I have yet to suggest a deck for you budget-minded folks. I might as well start with my favorite type of deck: Mono-White Something or Other.

As you’ve probably figured out by now, I am the worst kind of deckbuilder. I’m not just talking about being bad at doing it. I’m talking about how I go about doing it, too. I like to find a card and build a deck around it. I at least try to exploit it. The third possibility is that I just really, really want to play with it. So, I just make sure that there’s room in the deck for it, regardless of what the rest of the deck does. See, e.g., pretty much anything I do.

Today’s card is Hunted Lammasu. I picked up four copies of this guy as soon as I could. Of all the “Hunted” gang, this one is the strongest on its own because of the fact that it alone can deal with all of the tokens it spawns right away. I italicized that phrase “on its own” because the Hunted Phantasm, for example, is awesome in the Singularity deck, which kills all of the tokens, while the Hunted Troll works nicely in a R/G deck with Pyroclasm. However, those guys need help to deal with the tokens they donate (Leyline of Singularity and Pyroclasm, for example). The Lammasu doesn’t need any help. It’s a 5/5. It spawns a single 4/4 token. So, while the Centaur tokens that the Hunted Horror leaves behind are swinging across right away for six pretty-much-unblockable damage, that Lammasu-spawned token is just sitting there waiting for Darkblast to show up.

So, there you have it. Four Hunted Lammasu and fifty-six other cards, many of which will produce mana.

As usual, you’ve been a great audience. Have fun during RBC season, but don’t spend all of your time in dark, dank basements and gaming stores. Some women will be walking around outside in bikinis!

Chris Romeo

P.S. Turns out that Craig does have some sort of tolerance for short articles. It just doesn’t extend down this far. Something about “a complete decklist,” “at least rudimentary testing,” and “we know where you live.” I’m soooooooo scared, Scouseboy. Whatcha gonna do? Send some soccer hooligans to my house?

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Uh-oh.

Um, actually…

Hey, look! It’s some other great White cards from Ravnica, Guildpact, and Dissension!

If you’re playing White today, one of the first cards you have to consider is Faith’s Fetters. If you’re playing RBC, you had better consider it very much. It’s an answer to so many…

You know what? You don’t need that. It’s Faith’s Fetters. You know what it does. Creatures can’t attack or block or use any abilities. Neither can other permanents. Put it on Glare of Subdual, and watch its controller dig frantically for an answer. It’s White. Use it.

I also can’t imagine playing White in RBC without using Condemn. It’s Swords to Plowshares ratcheted down for the 21st century. It’s the best we got right now. Well, maybe not the best. Devouring Light does the job that StP did as long as the creature’s attacking or blocking. Use ‘em both.

Speaking of non-permanent-producing spells, Bathe in Light is going in and will stay in until and unless testing proves to be no good. I expect it to be great, but I won’t try to nudge it in that direction if it’s not.

As for creatures, I have to use the Mistral Charger. It’s a two-power flier for two mana. I also like utility creatures. In comes Absolver Thrull. There may be some Enchantments to kill in this Block. Faith’s Fetters and Glare of Subdual come to mind, mostly since I just typed those names a couple of minutes ago. This Block’s Master Decoy is Minister of Impediments. I’m definitely going to start off using him/it, but it may not stay. We’ll have to see.

I call this:

Can I be honest with you? Not that I haven’t always been honest before, but I want to come across as sincere here. I was quite hesitant about adding Order of the Stars. It was the last creature I added. It’s just… so… defensive. Heck, right on the card it says “Defender.” As I was coming up with this original list, though, I noticed how little early (i.e. Watchwolf) defense this deck had. Condemn was it. I could use the Charger, but I don’t want to just lose a creature. Order of the Stars is a fantastic “wall,” a creature type that no longer exists except in the memories of those of us who have been playing Magic for more than a year.

I felt uneasy about adding such a defensive creature. That’s when I noticed how defensive the deck was. Minister of Impediments? Defense. Faith’s Fetters? Defense. Condemn? Gee, that’s a tough call right there. Lemme think on that.

I played ten games with this and came away with a boring 5-5 record. There were games in which I was quite happy with the deck. For example, against a B/W Orzhov deck, I was able to pull a victory out when I was at one and he was at fourteen thanks to Minister of Impediments and a Lammasu. Other times, it was quite disappointing. Like the game in which it just completely behaved like a control deck. I could not get a Lammasu or Charger to save my game. Even one could potentially have gone the whole way. Instead, I was left tapping stuff down, removing it from the game, and Fettering it.

I had run into the problem that I often run into with my decks: lack of foc…

Ooooo, the new Victoria’s Secret swimsuit catalogue!

Yes, I had picked some mighty fine White cards. Unfortunately, I had picked some to be aggressive (Lammasu, Charger) and more to be defensive (Condemn, Order, Minister, D-Light). I had a decision to make. Go more aggressive, or be more controlling?

How about one deck from each column?

One hurdle to cross regarding the aggressive version is the need to still have some control elements. You want to protect your guys (e.g. Bathe in Light). It’s quite demoralizing to give an opponent a 4/4 Horror token only to see your Lammasu “blowed up good.” Thanks for the beef. You’re a swell guy. You also want to get your guys through to the player on the other side. Faith’s Fetters is sweetness on that front.

The creatures need to be more aggressive, though. No more Order of the Stars or Minister of Impediments. That’s for Version: Control. Give me more weenies like the Courier Hawk and Nightguard Patrol. That led me to this:

Something became quickly apparent when I was looking for cards for this version (and when I was testing it): there aren’t a lot of good, mono-White weenies in this block. That’s not much of a shocker since, of course, Ravnica Block is essentially Invasion Block II. I was just kinda hoping against hope, I guess. White really wants to team up with Red, Black, Blue, or Green. For example, cast the Lammasu, cast Repeal for one measly Blue mana on the token, draw a card. Voila! A 5/5 flier for five mana and one card (since Repeal replaces itself) with no drawback. That’s not a mono-White deck, though. That play will have to wait.

A completely different version used Celestial Ancient along with a bevy of Enchantments. When you can cast Faith’s Fetters, Shadow Lance, Suppression Field, and Guardian’s Magemark, those buggers — whoops! Sorry, Craig — on your side of the board get very big quite quickly. They have to survive until turn 6, though.


I know that neither of those lists was optimal, but I wasn’t going to spend any more time trying to get them to work. They were so far from getting the job done as they were that it would have taken more time and brains than I would ever have. I wasn’t in the mood to work any harder on them. ‘Twas time to look at MWC in RBC.

By choosing the control route (did someone say Rout?), we can use both Hour of Reckoning and (maybe) Debtors’ Knell.

“How could Debtors’ Knell just get a ‘maybe’ from Romeo?!?”

You see, the Knell only works with critters in the ‘yards. Much of the good White removal — Condemn, Devouring Light – simply removes creatures from the game. Normally, that’s just super, thanks for asking. When a creature is removed from the game, it’s really gone. The only other way that White has to get creatures into the graveyard would be to beat them up in combat.

White winning in combat? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Hour of Reckoning does put asses in the hole, and it works well with Faith’s Fetters. The other guy keeps dropping creatures into play because you’ve neutralized what’s on board, and then you blow all of the creatures to kingdom come.

Well, except for the token creatures. They get to stay in play. Scratch Hunted Lammasu from this list, then.

How, then, might a mono-White RBC Control deck look? Pretty bad, actually, but looks can be deceiving. Because I am left completely nomenclaturally uninspired by this deck, I’m calling it:

Okay, so we can make some Black mana. Big deal. That doesn’t mean it’s not mono-White. Does it? Of course, Debtors’ Knell is both Black and White, but it can be cast for only White mana. So, get off my back.

The one thing that this main deck doesn’t have that I wanted was Enchantment destruction. That will have to be something that’s handled out of the sideboard.

Playing this deck was tricky for me, but I finally got the hang of it. You actually want to neutralize the early threats. For example, don’t hesitate to Condemn a Stinkweed Imp. Your opponent should feel that he has to drop the next creature in his hand. Save Hour of Reckoning for when there’s some tasty Black Angus-style beef on board. Blow it up. Bring it back with the Knell.

As for that little bit of Black mana, the Signets were originally added solely for the purpose of mana acceleration. (See? You don’t have to hit me over the head with 0-3.) I really could have used any of the four Signets that produced White mana, and, for a while, I did use the Boros Signet. I even had the Boros Garrison in at one point, thinking they might throw off my opponents just a bit. “Does he have Lightning Helix?” When I started looking harder at the color combinations, it wasn’t long before I used Black and added the Church. Unlike the other uncommon lands, the Church sometimes just wins games. Other times, it keeps you in the game. (The second and possibly better reason for the Orzhov splash was simply Debtors’ Knell. With the Orzhov Signet, there’s never an issue of whether or not the Knell can be cast. With the Boros Signet, there was.)

This deck is nerve-wracking to play. There are only four Wrath effects. Most of the other control leaves the offending, opposing creature on the board. That’s bothersome because they can be so easily taken care of. Minister of Impediments dies quite easily to Char or Viashino Fangtail. (Laugh all you want, but when he starts ruining your day by killing all of your City-Tree tokens this Summer, remember who told ya so.) Droning Bureaucrats is a great target for Putrefy. And Mortify cleans up Faith’s Fetters.

Save Order of the Stars until you know what color is most likely to mess it up. For example, against a Dimir deck, call Black. Blue can do silly things to it, but it can’t kill it. Against a Selesnya deck, call White since Green can’t do anything to the Order while White has Faith’s Fetters. Also, a Pro-White Order stops Watchwolf and Hierarch.

The “Surprise hit of the Summer!” in this deck is Droning Bureaucrats. A lot of decks have attackers of any import at only one or two converted mana costs. When many of those are tokens, you simply tap the Bureaucrats because X will be zero.

How slow and nerve-wracking is this deck? So far, I’ve only gotten to play three all-the-way-to-the-end games with it. Why has it been so nerve-wracking? Other than the fact that I’m trying to control the board with easily-removed utility creatures and Faith’s Fetters (*shudder*), I have not been getting Hour of Reckoning on a timely basis. Even though there are four in here, the average number of cards that I have gone through before hitting the first HoR is twenty-four (twenty-five in the first game, twenty-one in the second, and twenty-six in the third). I won all three games, but, man, is that just scary. The board fills up on each side. Minister of Impediments, Order of the Stars, and Faith’s Fetters keep the biggest baddies at bay while the Droning Bureaucrat holds off the bulk of the offense. He keeps playing out more threats. I keep praying for Hour of Reckoning. After an hour (heh), I blow up the world and cast Debtors’ Knell.

And I hope that they don’t have Enchantment removal.

So far, they haven’t. I mean, they have, but they’ve been using it on Faith’s Fetters. After seven or eight turns, I probably would, too. “I want to swing with something, anything!”

Would I, then, suggest this for an RBC tourney? Again, probably not. If you’re comfortable winning all of your matches 1-0-time, maybe. I’m not that kind of guy.

So, here I sit, all brokenhearted. Came to sh**, but only farted.

Excuse me.

I just don’t think this Block will support a mono-White deck. As I think that I may have said before — sorry, but I don’t feel like looking back for it — that doesn’t surprise me. This is a multi-colored Block. Maybe, then, I should go with my original, gut instinct and look at White with a splash of Blue.

There is an age-old question — “age-old” because it goes all the way back to Ice Age — that asks: is a deck a control deck simply because it runs some counterspells and bounce spells?

“Nay,” I say, in a very forceful way!

When a deck has eight two-mana, two-power fliers, four three-mana unblockable dudes, and four 5/5 fliers for four mana, those other spells are just there to support the beats.

The trouble was that it didn’t work. At least it didn’t work well or often. I had visions of the Lammasu hitting on turn 5, for four mana, while I Repealed the Horror token for U. Talk about card-not-disadvantage! Sadly, it almost never worked out like that. Even when it did, the opponent always had an answer for the Lammasu. Whether it was Faith’s Fetters, Peel from Reality, Putrefy, or about a dozen other spells, I was left with nothing while they had a 4/4 Horror. One person even beat me to death with nothing but Horror tokens. It was truly demoralizing.

That was when someone suggested Stratozeppelid. For that fifth mana, I got a 4/4 flier with a tiny drawback: it can only block fliers. Big deal. I don’t want him blocking at all. I want him swinging. That version was better, but not by much. At least I never lost to Horror tokens.

(As an aside, I tried both the Azorius Guildmage and the Minister of Impediments in the slot that ended up being the Minister. Both had fantastic upsides, depending on the match. In the end, the Minister was the most versatile since tapping a creature without spending mana is almost always a handy thing to have. However, when the Guildmage’s ability to counter abilities was useful, it was very, very useful. If you decide to try some X/U deck in RBC — or even in Standard — the Azorius Guildmage should at least be in the sideboard. It just does too much too well.)

Along came inspiration in the form of a Simic-Graft deck with Mark of Eviction. Do you know how st00pid Graft is with MoE? Silly st00pid. I started thinking, what if I used both the MoE and Repeal? Each deals with a Horror token for U, but MoE allows me to do silly tricks like play Faith’s Fetters and the Mark on a creature. That gives me back the Fetters, allowing me to gain more life.

This was my favorite of the decks that I worked on for this week’s column, but it still wasn’t great. (Note that I didn’t say “the best” deck. The Mono-White Control one seems to win more. It just takes soooooooo loooooooooong to do it.) It won more than it lost, even during a five-game stretch (some of which was witnessed by Talen Lee himself) in which I had to mulligan to five in each game just to get two lands.

The “best” version of a bad idea, though, is still not good. It would be like saying Roseanne is the best-looking of the Barr sisters. That doesn’t mean that she’s attractive; she’s just more attractive than her sisters. In the end, I’ve decided that I’m scrapping any attempts at a U/W RBC deck. There is probably a more controllish version out there. I haven’t had time to find it, and I must move on.

What I’m left with, then, is two conclusions. First, the very slow, Mono-White Control deck (i.e. MWRBCC) is actually the best one of the bunch. Ugh. Second, Ghost Quarter is going to be huge in this format. I actually played against two decks that had zero basic lands. That means that Ghost Quarter ended up hurting them very, very badly. When deck’s only source of Black mana is a Godless Shrine or Orzhov Basilica, and it gets blown up in an uncounterable manner, that really blows for you. Ghost Quarter is also quite powerful for simply ridding you of annoying lands like Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree, or anything Enchanted by Leafdrake Roost.

I wish I had better news regarding Mono-White, White Weenie, White-Blue Weenie in RBC (at least as far as budget deckbuilding goes), but I don’t. It looks like White’s banner will have to be carried along with Black, Green, or especially Red.

Well, Craig doesn’t like articles that are too far over 3,500 words. He says that people just look for deck lists and cheesecake when that happens. So, TTFN.

Come back next week, when we’ll hear Grampa Jones say “Damn it, woman! How many times have I told you, shaken and not stirred?!?”

Chris Romeo