How To Hate Psychatog

Traditional black removal can’t kill an Atog. Traditional black removal can’t kill an Enforcer. What can?

March Standard is probably in the fore of most of your minds – and if not, it should be if you’re thinking of playing in Regionals.

Going into the format, Psychatog is evidently king, followed by other strong decks such as G/R beats, G/U Upheaval, and U/W/g threshold – as advocated by Brian Kibler recently on the Sideboard. Now I’ve never seen an actual decklist of the U/G Upheaval deck, but I guess what it would look like and what it would do if left to its own devices.

(Thinking kilt on…)

4 Nimble Mongoose

4 Werebear

1 Krosan Beast

4 Peek

3 Opt

4 Counterspell

4 Memory Lapse

3 Syncopate

4 Repulse

3 Upheaval

4 Fact or Fiction

4 Yavimaya Coast

11 Island

7 Forest

(The Beast is just because I like a good giggle now and again.)

Counter some stuff, draw some cards, return all permanents to owners’ hands, and play a 4/4. Then play an 3/3 untargetable critter. Proceed to win. At least that would be the plan. I assume a deck like this evolved from the original Upheaval decks from around the time of the State Champs. I remember finally giving up on U/B Upheaval when while looking for the answer to six zombie tokens for the bargain price of one mana – you know, just to make sure I would win when I pulled El Combo.

Back-to-back Nimble Mongeese certainly did the trick all right. Well, not entirely; actually, it did involve following the gabble of geese, so to speak, with a Deed to dezombify the immediate area. But I can see the logical progression that developed.

Well, I could be imagining that, actually.

(Smiley face. Right here, right now.)

Some people say G/R beats shouldn’t leave home without 8 x Birds/Elves. It’s all about the acceleration baby eck-tech. But others will tell you they are wasted space. Why would you play a beatdown deck that was thirty cards and thirty mana?

Which one of those people am I? I’m the tallish, skinnyish guy with brown hair standing over there next to the thing with the… Thing.


Either way, as a deck it’s always good. It just beats you when you’re not looking.


Yeah, I did that playtesting too. I smashed G/R, and I still gave it slots in the board. But sometimes those three lands in your opening hand never get a chance to hang whit da uva cool lands in your deck. Then you can hear it. You can hear G/R laughing at you.

“That’s right buddy. You smash me in playtesting. Hur, hur, hur. Ribbit! Hur…”

Kibler’s threshold/Enforcer deck is one I have tested extensively. And by extensively, I mean a fair bit in my spare time. I’ve even made a modification or two, because it’s only natural to try. I do like the deck though, even if it is the best cards in the format/splash dragon. But in the end, I think three colors is not nearly as good as two.

Ah, the Atog deck. Say it to a kid, and they smile with recognition.

“Hee hee- eating stuff and smashing for a thousand!”

Say it to a tourny-pounder, and they cringe with recognition.

“Dude, I mean, half of the Masters decks? Like, what the hell? And what do you put in your side for the mirror? Seriously dude, what do you put in the side for the mirror??!!?

Out of those decks, the last two are the best – pretty much because of the cards Fact or Fiction and Counterspell. These two decks are just too good at neutralising threats and gaining silly card quality/advantage. It seems the only consistent way to beat them is to get an obscene start with G/R and hope they don’t get Fact or Fiction and Wrath/Tog. A healthy dose of Force Spikes and/or Absorbs isn’t overly helpful either.

Even though Wizards R&D have, for some reason or another, tried to make black a strong force in both Standard and Limited, in Standard it has to go up against two very solid control decks, both with hard-to-kill victory conditions.

Traditional black removal can’t kill an Atog, because”non-black creature” does not unfortunately include that weird little grinning thing.

(Oh wait, it’s not so small.)

(Oh, now that’s just ridiculous.)

(3cc creatures shouldn’t be able to deal lethal damage in one go, should they?)


Traditional black removal can’t kill an Enforcer because, well, last time I checked, protection from black was quite good at, ah, protecting from black. And this one is a dragon.

(Well not officially.)

(It doesn’t say it on the card, at least.)

(But it certainly feels like one…)



If only they had reprinted Diabolic Edict

(Pause for ironic silence type stuff.)

Well, I guess it wouldn’t mater. They could always counter it or bounce their monster before the Edict could even get off the stack. Maybe if you could play eight of them. That might make it a fair fight.

(Almost an embarrassed silence this time…)

Ah, if that were possible, you’d probably have to play them as sorceries or something, and half of them would probably cost seven.

Maybe if you could play twelve.

(Oh, shut up – I’m not listening any more.)

(Yes, yes. Of course it’s obvious where I’m heading with this.)

(Just play along, hokey dokey?)

I figure twelve Edicts would make it a very fair fight. And by fair, I mean a solid shot at a good punch-up with a Tier 1 deck. Blammo!

(Ahemo blammo.)

Then, yeah – twelve Edicts.

(Actual factual info.)

4 Innocent Blood, 4 Chainer’s Edict and 4 flashbacked Edicts.

That might actually give Psychatog and Mystic Enforcer decks a few fits. In order to make the fight unfair, a black deck could get all kinds of unorthodox and run Duress to help force through the Edicts.

(Did I say unorthodox? I actually meant the most important part of a black deck, more important than swamps, kind of thing…)

So, 12/8 Edicts and four Duresses. That sounds like a deck designed specifically to beat Kibler and/or Tog. The only problem with running a full compliment of Edicts is that four of them ask you to put a mook up for culling too. You can get around this by having many disposable creatures at your beck and/or call – or very few, so that you need only play them when you’re ready to win. The only problem with the later option is that sometimes your opponent may attempt a comeback.

(A comeback? Who woulda thunk it?)

And at that point, you may be required to knock said comeback on the head, taking your victory condition with it. Which is of course, particularly dangerous if you’re not running very many of those victory condition cards

The way around this is to use Nether Spirit as your only creature. But make sure you have a Terminate, or a Swords to Plowshares handy for any judge that may try to call you on such unscrupulous deck construction skills, because there’s no point in getting DQed for such frivolous things as”deck problem – illegal main deck” now, is there?

Right, so Nether Spirit is out of the question. The only decent recurrable creature available in standard right now, is Pyre Zombie. Some argument could perhaps be made for Reborn Hero, but my stomach tells me that the mana requirement for its resurrection is just a touch too hard to make work.

My stomach also tells me such helpful things as,

“Have another , it can’t be that bad for you.”

“Mushrooms are really just fungus.”

And, concerning vegetables,

“If it’s green, it’s gone off.”

Another great addition to the deck would be Yawgmoth’s Will. This would allow the Innocent Bloods and Duresses to be recast quite happily, bringing the number of Edicts up to sixteen, and really pushing home that hand disruption. The real problem here, though, is you will have used up all of your decent removal on the first judge who was trying to bust you for Nether Spirit shenanigans, and they’ll give you six-to-twelve for misuse of non-legal Magical cards. However, if you’re using red for Pyre Zombies, you could always throw in Recoup to really stick it up your opponent in a”sacrifice another creature?” kind of way.

While you’re adding red, you may be tempted to try and bring the Blazing Spectre beats.


That’s clearly not a good play, young grasshopper.

But Void is a good idea. Blue decks may be tempted to try and save the small number of win conditions they have with something along the lines of a timely repulse or Æther Burst. Void will have none of that, stripping the ground and the hand of the deadly menaces. Even more helpful is the fact that when playing against Enforcer, you may also hit a stray Fact or Wrath, and versus le Tog, you could snatch a Repulse or an Undermine too.

Oh, and you can Recoup Void.

(Casting three or four Voids in one game must be criminal…)

The final piece of the puzzle, is one of my favorite new Torment cards, Overmaster. Which I probably like because it’s a powerful red card.

(I… like… red… cards…)

(Have I told you how many Goblin Swine Riders I have now?)

(Answer at the end, Nate style, aight?)

Heh. Of course, you can Recoup Overmaster, too.

So far, the sorcery section of the deck seems very solid; let’s have a nosey at it, shall we?

4 Duress

4 Overmaster

4 Innocent Blood

4 Chainer’s Edict

4 Recoup

4 Void

Now, if you want to get to seven mana – and I dare say if you want to flashback an Edict or Recoup a Void, you’d certainly like to – you’d probably need around 25 land. Because this deck has basically no card-drawing utility, 24 is just simply too few. But 26 would be excessive with no decent way to sink the mana well.

And no, Pyre Zombie isn’t good enough to warrant it.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not using the little fella, but he comes next. So 24 sorceries plus 25 land means there’s eleven spaces left in the deck, which I think are probably reasonably fluid. You could use a combination of Diabolic Tutors and other effective sorceries and creatures, or you could just max out the power cards that you’d think would fill out the deck nicely. My current configuration, which is showing promising results on Magic Online, is as follows,

(Well, I find if your opponent’s life total is eventually reduced to zero, or they select the”concede” option, then it’s a very promising result.)

4 Duress

4 Overmaster

4 Innocent Blood

4 Chainer’s Edict

4 Recoup

4 Void

4 Volcanic Hammer

3 Haunting Echoes

4 Pyre Zombie

4 Sulfurous Springs

3 Shadowblood Ridge

9 Swamp

9 Mountain

I’m undecided as to whether or not I should use Urborg Volcano over some of the basic lands. You’d think sixteen sources of each color would plenty, but some games have come a little to close for comfort because the only source of a color has be a Sulfurous Springs or two.

Sooo, you noticed the Haunting Echoes in there, right? I first tried it as a one-off, so I could tutor for it if need be – but it turns out it’s so absolutely gas, it’s a fire hazard of hazardous proportions. Go figure. I always considered it a scrub card. But apparently not; it breaks the midgame wide open, leaving your opponent with little to few threats/answers left in their decks. And you can Recoup it. Heh.

And you’ll be wondering – why Volcanic Hammer over Urza’s Rage? I’ve found that the fast G/R decks of today are just too quick for Rage, and I seldom reach twelve mana versus control decks.

(Seldom reach twelve mana versus control decks?)

Yup; it seems that without decent card drawing or mana acceleration, twelve mana is quite a stretch for a deck with twenty-five land. But that’s okay too. It’s not like this deck is in the habit of beating you down to within single Rage range anyway; and if you are, the Pyre Zombies are working it anyway. And did I mention its interaction with Recoup?

Er, before I go on to sound like some random with an unhealthy fixation with Recoup, understand that if Rage were better in this deck, I would run it in a second. But with G/R beats speeding up to the point it has, I need the removal to cost only one or two… And Firebolt isn’t overly good at killing Elephants, Mongrels or Rootwallas.

(What if they discard two cards to save their Mongrel?…)

Yeah, well. There’s only so many times they can get away with that before they find themselves short on anything, and me pulling silly Void/Echoes tricks.

As far as practical experience is concerned, as I said, I’ve been throwing this around a bit an Magic Online. The deck seems to be very capable of beating every random deck that steps up to the plate, and there seems to be no lack of them. The Pyre Zombies have proved their worth versus U/W control decks; no amount of countermagic and lifegain seems to be able to stop the endless stream of 2/1s. Haunting Echoes is a serious beating for slower decks, I find the information gleaned from looking through their decks invaluable. Well, it is easier to see everything, because Magic Online has the deck all sorted out for you. In real life, the head judge will most likely be called over before you even finish sorting their deck so you can memorize its contents.

On the downside, I’ve found any deck with fast beats and Skizziks to be problematic. So I guess that Reckless Charge, a much more popular card these days, will also cause me a hiccup or too as well. Because of this, I’m entertaining the notion of replacing my beloved Volcanic Hammers with Fire/Ices in an attempt to squish any midgets who think that having +3/+0 and haste is the hot new fashion of this coming summer. Hopefully, having around two million Voids and Edicts will help kill the multitude of three-toughness critters that expect will come flying in my direction.

(When I say flying, I mean the”travelling quickly” variety, as opposed to the”cannot be blocked except by other creatures” with flying sort.)

So perhaps this isn’t the be-all and end-all of smashing your Regionals opponents to the left and maybe a bit to the right on your meandering way to the top 8. But it’s certainly a good choice if you expect a field of control decks geared towards thumping all the G/R decks; I mean, it’s not terrible against G/R decks, and maybe you have a cunning plan that would aid you there, so it’s definitely a good choice in my opinion.

And lets face it, my opinion is all that matters.

Just um, look out for Compost.

(Hint; I’m not talking about decomposing vegetable matter.)

(Although, my articles are often compared to decomposing vegetable matter.)

(Usually only by Alice, actually.)


Anyway, good luck to you all.

Peace out.

(Because that’s what all the cool kids say.)


(Nate-style answer; 465.)