Some of us play to win. Some of us play for fun. But there are a few of us who love this game in a very hateful way. Pack your deck with hate this weekend at #SCGORL!

“So they cast Brainstorm…”

“Wait…why did you let them cast Brainstorm?”

“Well, Brainstorm is the best card in the format, so…”

“That’s exactly why you shouldn’t allow them to cast it.”

I am such a loving person.

No, really.

I, like many, have some anxiety amidst larger crowds or in oppressively loud social situations. I shake my head for humanity whenever sour news reaches me, but at the end of the day, that disappointment and that shame for my species is rooted in love. A want that we all deserve happiness and something better.

You reading this. I love you.

Unless we’re playing Magic.

Then things change.

It isn’t quite a transformation and my enjoyment of it isn’t wholeheartedly paradoxical, because while it’s going on, I still enjoy engaging with the strategy of Magic and my opponent across the table. You know. My opponent. The poor dope who can’t untap their Islands for the rest of the game. The kid who drove eight hours to be here and spent Round 1 with no lands on the battlefield.

I’m not sure how to diagnose this. Let’s ask Enzo Amore about it.

I am such a loving person.

No, really.

But I am a hateful, hateful Magic player.

The Land Before Battlefields

Adrian Sullivan recently wrote a great study on the merits and history of the Prison strategy. If you want the short of it, Prison decks were old Magic-speak for locking your opponent out of the game entirely. Whereas combo decks were all about putting together a combination of cards to end the game on the spot, Prison decks very often assembled working pieces to end the game in principle but without the formal courtesy of a player being officially dead.

Combo and aggro decks make players dead.

Prison decks make players dead to rights.

Control has a special place in this mentality as well, but it’s a lot less sadistic. Casting Sphinx’s Revelation for the third time will probably find Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. Then you, the cat, will finally eat the mouse because you’re tired of watching it run and squirm and struggle.

Prison decks are much more mean-spirited. It’s like the cat kidnapping the mouse’s family, using them to bait the mouse into a trap, and then making them all watch helplessly while you play the board game Mouse Trap. And the mice are all terrified of irony!

That’s the best paragraph ever written about anything.

Oh Prison, Oh Prison, Where Art Thou?

As Sullivan correctly noted, Magic games where one player laughs and points while the other cries and…uh…doesn’t point aren’t very fun or engaging. They aren’t good for Magic as a brand. That’s why you never see Stone Rain in Standard anymore.

I take the tips and tricks card over this in Draft.

If you want to be hateful and play a deck where your opponent only loses not because you technically beat them but because continuing to pretend to play is just too psychologically painful, you need to look to older formats.

Often, if you’re going to go all in on the joyous jubilation that comes with nuking certain opponents’ spirits and their will to live, you’re going to be soft to a bunch of other players. Decks like this aren’t just about winning; they’re about getting your time and money’s worth. A bunch of players put Miracles in the Top 8 of #GPCOL and #GPPrague over the weekend. But who had more fun? Them? Or somebody who played something like this madness?

Probably the Miracles players. But only because of money. If you played Miracles or something and didn’t win money? Or better yet, if you didn’t win money because you got destroyed by some evil rogue Stax deck? Oh man!

Hate from Yesteryear

Hate cards used to be weird. Here are some.

This card hates on red decks, but it costs four mana. What could go wrong?

This isn’t a hate card in the normal sense, so much as it was a card created by someone in design who obviously hated their job so much they didn’t want it anymore.

Play this in Commander. All of you.


This is a card for people who hate judges. And themselves.

This card is basically Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. Which makes it incredible.

Weird card, I know. There were so many games of kitchen table Magic back when we were kids where someone would play this and it would confuse us so hard! Sometimes one player would be totally locked out of doing anything. Other times, it created lots of rules confusion involving landwalk and what constitutes a nonbasic land, and gosh. Can you imagine if something like this was legal in a popular format today? Gee whiz!

I refuse to read these cards. Nobody tell me what they do.

This is a combo that has happened somewhere at some point in time. Probably.

I get sick of people telling me that blue was overpowered in early Magic. Acid Rain saw only one printing. Tsunami was printed more than that. Maybe. Probably. I don’t know. Who cares.

The Hate of Today

Enough about stuff you can’t do in Magic anymore. Let’s talk about what you can do! Or, more importantly, what you can do to make sure there are lots of things your opponents can’t do. Playing Magic is like riding a bike: It’s much better when it only involves one person.

I feel sorry for players who think decks that aren’t white are playable.

I cast Green Sun’s Zenith and got this creature against an Elves player who was confused at my obvious lack of deck synergy, X spells and Gaddock Teeg and so forth. Then when he made a weird face during his draw step and I knew it had to be Natural Order, I called my mom to tell her she did good.

That was the happiest day of my life.

Pair with land destruction. I know the synergy isn’t readily apparent, but just trust me on this.

Strip Mine is legal in Modern. You just have to work for it. Sure you won’t always have it, but when you do, you win the game. Bonus points if your opponent rightfully keeps a one-land six-carder, plays Goblin Guide, and it gets you another Ghost Quarter.

Magic is great.

Can we drop the shtick for a minute and talk straight? This is the best card in Magic: The Gathering. This is legal in Legacy, this is legal in Modern, and Merfolk is a deck people play in those formats sometimes. The fair nonsense decks I play have absolutely no business winning against Miracles, but sometimes, because of this card, it happens.

And when it does, it is beautiful. There is no greater feeling in Magic than this card resolving against someone who should by all accounts have a good matchup against you. This card steals games, it steals matches, and it steals happiness from others and puts it directly into your heart.

But Daniel, How Do I Learn to Hate Like You?

It’s simple, little Timothy. You just have to look at the latest big Modern or Legacy tournament result and engineer your deck to beat the 75 that a bunch of previous-level dunderheads will copy and play for the next two weeks!

For instance, this was the Top 4 of the most recent Modern Classic at #SCGATL:

So let’s look for some common ground. Hey, look! Found some!

All of these decks are either playing cards heavily reliant on blue mana, or they’re searching their library a lot for certain stuff in order to put pieces together and win. Let’s work with that, shall we?

Tie up their mana with Leonin Arbiter, Ghost Quarter, and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. Choke them out after sideboard. Wham-bam-boozle. Good luck searching with Scapeshift, bozo. Bonus points if you can get Choke on the battlefield while they have Prismatic Omen and no Islands.

But wait! There’s more!

What if this doesn’t represent your local Modern metagame? What if it’s all Burn and Zoo and aggro business and whatnot?

Try harder! You’re better than this!

Now, I don’t know if this deck actually beats the aggro decks I just mentioned with that much reliability, but I do know that there will be many draws and/or game states that take place that will put your confused opponent on tilt every single time you gain six or eight life in a given turn while having blockers for days.

A note about a few of the cards I’ve included here:

You won’t live this dream often, but when you do, good job.

Yes, cascading into this is junk. But it isn’t much worse than hitting blanks off Collected Company, and that card is still ridiculous. Just accept that it’s going to happen, laugh about the fact that you insisted on building a wise guy Danny West deck and move on with your life (pun).


The first time you cascade into the missing piece, do a lap around the room with one hand in the air.

This is too cute and you shouldn’t do it. I’m going to do it because my school system failed me growing up. But you shouldn’t.

Note that, to play this deck optimally, you’re going to need to memorize your cascade misses that go to the bottom, adjust your sideboarding so you can pinpoint your cascade math for the hate cards you bring in, and consider more timing involving your fetchland activations that you’d ever have to otherwise in order to shuffle stuff on the bottom back into the rest of the deck. Nobody said hating was easy. This is the cost of such a lifestyle.

It’s also possible this deck would like some of the following:

With Brushlands and Wooded Bastions, this is completely feasible. It blocks, it generates more value when it dies, it is going to be mostly free off of cascades. A worthy candidate, though I don’t know if I want it.

There are enough Kitchen Finks and Eternal Witness cards here to warrant a look at the blinkery. In this deck, you’re tapping out a lot more, so I don’t know if having Eldrazi Displacer around means much, since you’re already grinding in other ways.

If you didn’t want to be cute, you wouldn’t be playing this deck to begin with. Without more Eldrazi demands, this seems like a meh way to win, though I know for a fact there will be times where I hit two or three Noble Hierarch off cascades and will be kicking myself that I don’t have access to this. Having Knight of the Reliquary only adds to this, but we’ll see. Elspeth Tirel’s token creation certainly creates a lot of worlds where this card is a lot more reasonable than it would be otherwise.

This is not a legal Modern card, which is why I have to resort to nonsense like this. Just let this card back in. Please.

Everyone should buy a hundred of this card, because I’m pretty sure at some point it’s going to be unbeatable.

Go Forth and Hate

So there you have it. I hope that, if you’re a hateful player, this has given you some new ideas on how to ruin someone’s day through Magic cards. And if you aren’t a hateful player, I hope that this has given you insight into some of the thoughts that go through the minds of players like me.

As a parting final note, I want to go back to talking about a Prison deck. This deck is one of the forgotten masterpieces of Magic’s early days, and I’m putting it here for today’s youth to remember twenty years later. Yes. This was a legal Magic deck in actual Magic tournaments.