I hate Standard. I am not alone in this opinion.
I love Magic. I am not alone in this opinion.
What’s a boy to do?
In chatting with the lovable John Pershon, the subject of goofy formats emerged. I mentioned that each fall before the rotation of a block, I try to
play some nostalgic block-based deck during the last FNM before the cards rotate out. The conversation eventually landed on the subject of bad rares,
and an idea was born.
The idea was to pick a terrible rare that is Standard legal and to build a deck around it with it as the centerpiece. I quickly shotgunned Chandra
Ablaze, as I have never used the ultimate ability of the terrible Chandra. John and I quickly spread word of our project, and many others showed
interest. It would appear that normal Standard is quite unpopular. I built the following list, ready to go.
- 4 Lightning Bolt
- 2 Burst Lightning
- 2 Lavaball Trap
- 4 Everflowing Chalice
- 4 Roiling Terrain
- 2 Crystal Ball
- 3 Destructive Force
- 3 Tumble Magnet
- 2 Arc Trail
- 4 Volt Charge
I feel that Magic is fun when you find yourself looking through Gatherer on a regular basis, looking for cards for your deck. I used Gatherer far more
for this project than all other standard applications combined. My Gatherer efforts for the Chandra Ablaze deck revealed some amount of disappointment,
but I was able to find a gem in the roughâ€”Roiling Terrain. In short, the only reasonable red spells that cost a million mana destroy lands. With
Roiling Terrain, I could both enforce a land destruction theme and deal a ton of damage on a Chandra ultimate. The rest of the deck lends itself to a
Big Red shell.
Fast forward to Friday afternoon of the scheduled FNM, and I am on my way home from the grocery store, and the brakes on my car give out. Fortunately,
I am not far from home, and I manage to pump the brakes enough to get my wounded car back into its parking spot. Unfortunately, I live about 30 miles
from the intended FNM destination, and a few phone calls come up unsuccessful. I am unable to make it to the first Junk Rare FNM, although about a half
dozen people showed up with some very interesting decks. One of them, a Chandra’s Spitfire deck with no rares, ended up splitting the finals, beating
some “real” decks along the way.
From all reports, everyone involved had a blast, and the true fun was when two junk rare decks would battle it out. The Mana Dump in Tempe decided that
it would host a second Junk Rare FNM, where everyone was strongly encouraged to stay true to the spirit of Junk Rare FNM.
By the time the second Junk Rare FNM tournament rolled around, I had become interested in some other junk rares. Chandra Ablaze was super fun to play,
but I wanted to try something else. The innovative Trevor Carr was hard at work, replacing Junk with Yunk at every opportunity and brewing up some
sweet decks. I was immediately drawn to a decklist based around Myr Welder, achieving infinite mana by imprinting both Khalni Gem and Soliton, vastly
increasing the count of terrible cards that would be in my deck. Trevor’s deck initially had Hedron Crab, but ever since I lost my PT stamped set of Hedron Crabs, I refuse to play the card. Instead I came up with
the following list.
- 2 Sphinx of Lost Truths
- 4 Enclave Cryptologist
- 4 Fauna Shaman
- 1 Sylvan Ranger
- 2 Molten-Tail Masticore
- 1 Myr Battlesphere
- 2 Golem Artisan
- 3 Soliton
- 1 Viridian Corrupter
- 4 Myr Welder
- 2 Spellskite
No, the Moxes weren’t real. They were fakes.
I gave the Chandra Ablaze deck to the incomparable Jon F. Kornacki, as he was my ride (still no car at this point, although I’ve now fixed that
problem) and wanted to play with some terrible rares.
More than a few people intended on coming but ended up deciding to test for the following week’s PTQ. In my opinion, Junk Rare FNM is a million times
more fun than real FNM. The reason people play Magic is for fun. Have some fun, people! Sixteen people decided to have fun, and we decided on four
rounds and a Top 8.
In Round 1, I played against the courteous Phil Renaud, armed with Lullmage Mentor. Or LOLmage Mentor. Regardless, I was locked in game one without
much to show for myself. And by locked, I mean my opponent had seven Merfolk, one of which was the Mentor itself. Because Merfolk are terrible in
Standard, Phil did not have the luxury of all of his Merfolk being lords. He would have easily killed me if that were the case. Instead, none of his
guys were lords, and my 1/4 Myr Servitor and 2/2 Fauna Shaman amply dissuaded Phil from attacking, preferring to keep his lock going. To combat this
plan, I simply discarded my Khalni Gem with eight cards, then tutored up and discarded Soliton and Golem Artisan, then attacked with an inf/inf+3 Myr
Welder with trample. Game two wasn’t nearly as interesting, as an unopposed Enclave Cryptologist quickly allowed me to assemble a nice hand, which
included landing a Myr Reservoir for endless Myr Welders. For reference, this is Phil’s awesome deck.
- 4 Merfolk Sovereign
- 4 Cosi's Trickster
- 4 Lullmage Mentor
- 4 Coralhelm Commander
- 3 Enclave Cryptologist
- 1 Skywatcher Adept
- 3 Scroll Thief
- 18 Island
- 4 Tectonic Edge
Honestly, I typed up that round report simply because I wanted to paste that list.
As the tournament went on, I started learning actual things about the deck. It was really cool figuring out how much mana I would need to start a loop
from a variety of starting points. I would find that casting Khalni Gem was actually fairly strong at many points and that it was often easier to use
Viridian Corrupter to destroy my own Khalni Gem when I was ready to imprint it. I was happy to find that many of my cards had high toughnessâ€”Myr
Welder, Sphinx of Lost Truths, and Spellskiteâ€”which allowed me to play a reasonable amount of defense while setting up. Despite having a
four-card combo composed of all unplayables, the deck played fairly smoothly once I figured some things out.
The greatest part of the tournament involved my Top 8 match. My opponent’s Junk Rare was either Stoneforge Mystic or Jace, the Mind Sculptor; I
couldn’t tell which.
Caw-Blade at Junk Rare FNM…. awkward.
As this gentleman’s story goes, he was completely unaware of Junk Rare FNM and didn’t have another store to go to. Sure thing, buddy. I’m sure you just
wanted to crush all of our terrible decks. However, I thought about how things could play out and figured that I actually had a shot, considering my
opponent’s deck had little removal. Beating Jace would be tough but not impossible.
Everything that needed to happen for me did. Turn 2 Fauna Shaman. No Day of Judgment. Phyrexian Revoker for Jace. It was actually quite amazing to
execute. This junky four-card combo deck taking down the menace of the Standard format. While I certainly wouldn’t win most of the time, I was able to
win this one time. After all, Chris Moneymaker has only won a single World Series of Poker. Unfortunately, defeating Caw-Blade with Myr Welders does
not earn me $2.5 million. Oh well.
I ended up losing in the top four to an Ally deck without finding out what his bad rare was, but thems the breaks. I didn’t come to win.
Of course, what’s the use of writing about a weird format without some decklists? I was truly impressed by what people were able to come up with. Here
are two of my favorites
- 4 Contagion Clasp
- 3 Mox Opal
- 3 Throne of Geth
- 3 Culling Dais
- 4 Furnace Celebration
- 4 Ichor Wellspring
- 3 Shrine of Burning Rage
I always like seeing Throne of Geth decks, and I really wish Standard was fair enough for Furnace Celebration to be playable. I remember when Lightning
Rift was a good card. My favorite part about this deck is ramping up the red Shrines to enormous amounts, despite not having much in the way of actual
red spells. I take that back. My favorite part about this deck is the name.
I am jealous that I didn’t think of this idea myself. It is so cool! The idea is to get a Semblance Anvil in play and hopefully a Riddlesmith. Then,
you cycle through cantripping artifacts until you get many of them in play. In general, you’ll pass the turn, then next turn play a Tezzeret, use
Throne of Geth to proliferate, then ultimate Tezzeret for twenty damage on the spot.
Thus ends our lesson for today. If you find yourself in a rut, do something different. Changing your priorities gives you a new perspective on what you
do and why you do it. This probably applies to Magic as well.
So go ahead, and do something crazy. Just don’t make an all-gold cube. That would be weird.