Levelling Up – Portuguese Deck Tech: Wizards in Time Spiral Block Constructed

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Kai Budde, it seems, is a shoo-in for the coming Hall of Fame Class of 2007. If that’s not all, his signature card — Voidmage Prodigy — is ripe for Time Spiral Block Constructred play! From the Portuguese PTQ trenches, Tiago Chan brings us an exciting Blue Wizards deck that has a fine matchup against a number of the block’s top decks. Teferi’s a Wizard, Venser’s a Wizard, Shadowmage is a Wizard… and Kai’s card binds these powerhouses together! Intrigued? Then read on…

What’s the common connection between the Hall of Fame, the Magic Invitational and the deck I’m bringing you this week from the trenches of my own country?

The answer is… Kai Budde.

I could write an entire article about Kai. Like many others, I was a big fan of Kai, and every time I finished my match I would watch him playing in the feature match area. My first appearances on the Pro Tour were around the time Kai started his dominance. When I played my first Pro Tour, Kai had one Pro Tour win. Two PTs later, when I played my second, Kai already had a second win. After two more PTs I was playing on my fourth, and Kai was winning his third. Six months later I qualified for my fifth Pro Tour. Meanwhile, Kai had won his fourth… and he won the same PT I attended, making it five Pro Tour wins. That’s how impressive Kai was to me.

Kai is the only consensual name in this year’s class of the Hall of Fame, chosen from a very strong pool. I haven’t submitted my votes, as I’m still trying to decide in who should I vote for. So far I have Kai, Zvi, Nico, and Tsuyoshi Fujita. I’m leaning towards Ben Rubin or Alex Shvartsman, although many other names would still be valid choices. I’ll listen to any suggestions!

The voting for the Magic Invitational has been going on these past few weeks, but the newfound category of Magic Storyteller has given a wider visibility to the process. Some years ago, Kai Budde – at the full height of his powers – won the Magic Invitational, and had the honor of submitting a card. Initially, it was too strong.

Players play with their hands revealed.
U, sac: Draw a card.
UU, sac: Counter target spell.

This was later adjusted for power, and became Voidmage Prodigy. That card wasn’t exactly played on the tournament scene when Onslaught was around, to say the least.

Sometimes there are amazing cards that are unfortunately overlooked because metagames are not favorable for them, or there’s simply no deck to support them. See Spiritmonger, Mystic Enforcer, Pernicious Deed, and Morphling, who at some point were MVPs of specific decks… while at other times, they were unplayable.

Voidmage Prodigy is clearly weaker than any of these cards. On the plus side, he offers a reasonable Aatack power for two mana, an uncounterable counter effect… and it’s reusable. A single Voidmage Prodigy can counter multiple spells, as long as you have the mana and the bodies as fuel. But from a strategic point of view, the card is pretty incoherent. The countermagic effect is embodied in a creature whose casting cost and attack/toughness status seem to suggest a more aggressive or aggro/controlish deck. The mana cost also seems to limit our options, as triple Blue (that’s one to unmoprh and two to use), or even double Blue, makes it a tough to make an Extended Wizards theme deck featuring Meddling Mage, Shadowmage Infiltrator, and Voidmage Prodigy. So far, we’re stuck with an aggro/tempo based deck, predominantly Blue, with a decent amount of creatures, and hopefully some other Wizards.

No wonder the card didn’t see play during Onslaught Constructed.

However, the card was given a new time to shine, as it was included in the special Timeshifted edition, and is legal for all formats where Time Spiral is legal, including Time Spiral Block Constructed (as I’m sure you’re all aware). This time, I think we have just what Voidmage Prodigy needs in order to be finally played.

A deck predominantly Blue? Check.
Aggro/Tempo based? Check.
With a decent amount of creatures? Check.
Fits in the metagame? Check
Playing with some other Wizards? Check

Not only other Wizards, but also great cards by themselves that happen to be Wizards. We’re talking about three of the most powerful cards in the Block. With Blue/Black Control threatning to be regarded as the most dominant deck of this block by future onlookers, it seems just right to have a deck with all these elements… a deck that can fully utilize Voidmage Prodigy’s ability to counter the control deck’s key spells.

Before presenting you the decklist, I’d like to give credits to its creator. Mauro Peleira came out of nowhere to win Portugal’s National Championship in 2004. In a short period of time, he went from being the “unknown National Champion” to one of the top and most respected players my country has to offer. He won a PTQ for the very next Pro Tour. He’s made Top 8 at countless more, and he made Top 8 at Nationals again the very next year. This is just statistics… the respect he obtained from the Portuguese community came from his dedication and attitude. HE remains at the top of his game while holding down a full time job. As our lives have taken different paths, we usually don’t playtest the same formats, but I’m sure to listen to his ideas and opinions about Time Spiral Block (him for PTQs, me for the Grand Prix scene), and for Nationals.

Summing it up, Mauro Peleira may be an unknown Portuguese player to you, but like many others who will go uncredited in history, he’s made important contributions to the success I’ve achieved.

The deck achieved positive results when tried on Magic Online in the ever-shifting Online metagame, winning some eight-man queues. It also had decent results in paper Magic, with Mauro being its lone pilot across a number of tournaments. In the only PTQ Mauro has been able to attend thus far, he needed a 5-1-1 result for Top 8. He fell to his second loss in round 6, although he admits he was playing badly due to being pretty rusty. He also reached the elimination rounds in two Grand Prix Trials for Firenze, losing in the Top 4 both times.

As this is an aggro/tempo deck, most of the card choices fit the overall game plan.

Voidmage Prodigy – If you’ve read this far, you’ll probably understand. It has the advantage of being a morph in matchups where it’s not that good, and people will assume it’s a Vesuvan Shapeshifter.

Shadowmage Infiltrator / Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir / Venser, Shaper Savant – Some of the best cards this block has to offer. While not all of them find a home in different versions of Blue/Black control, they’re all suited for a Blue/Black tempo deck, and they share the added bonus of being Wizards.

Looter il-Kor / Riftwing Cloudskate – Both cards were included for tempo and mana curve reasons. You really need to hit your turn 2 drop, and relying on four Voidmage Prodigies isn’t enough to ensure that. Riftwing Cloudskate also fits very well, and Looter il-Kor is excellent at getting rid of extra lands, or sometime-useless cards like Pacts. The deck is kind of fragile when the board is controlled and both players are playing off the top of their deck, so Looter helps win the topdeck wars.

Delay – U/G Goyf has the little trick of Delay plus Riftsweeper, but this deck can combo the Delay with Teferi. Again, the main goal is to play some early creatures, hopefully one of them a Looter or Shadowmage, and protect that board position until we obtain a great card advantage or selection while slowly hitting the life total. Then, we can hopefully manage to soft lock the opponent with Voidmage Prodigy. Delay is a great help to achieve that. One of the perfect homes for the card.

Psionic Blast – Just like in the Blue/Green tempo deck, Psionic Blast can act as removal. The U/G deck has no other tools at all, and this deck can’t kill Black creatures without it (such as opposing Shadowmages, for example). It can also be the final card for the win, hitting one fifth of the player’s life total.

Snapback / Slaughter Pact – Without these cards, the matchup against control was quite good, while the creature matchup was trickier. The inclusion of these helps balance the matchups, making it slightly worse against control but better against aggro. They’re great at keeping up the tempo, since this deck will probably tap out on turns 2 through 4 or 5 to play creatures, and will still be able to kill a creature if needed.

The lone Mystical Teachings – It may seem too random, but I wouldn’t dare to touch it. The Teachings engine is too slow for this deck, therefore it doesn’t contain silver bullets to tutor for. The Teachings acts like an extra Teferi, Venser, Slaughter Pact, Snapback, or Psionic Blast for the win.

Sideboarding is very intuitive and easy with this deck.

Usually you’ll be doing the following:

Versus Blue/Black control decks, you’ll side out the 4 Slaughter Pacts and 2 Snapbacks for 2 Cancel and Spiketail Drakeling. Spiketail Drakelings are an unusual but nifty solution against mass removal decks. They allow you to stretch your board position without fearing Damnation. Even if they Pact the Drake and play Damnation, it’s only a two-for-three trade, or even two-for-two. Don’t forget that the Drake flies, so it’s also good against decks with Molten Disaster.

Versus Mono Blue, take out 4 Looter il-Kor and 2 Snapbacks for 2 Cancel and 4 Spell Burst. The only reason you want to take out the Looter is because they have Desert and Serrated Arrows. If Serrated Arrows nullifies the Shadowmage Infiltrator, it’s very annoying. If they take out the Looter and Shadowmage, it’s completely horrendous for you. Against decks like Blue/White Pickles with no Desert, I would keep Looters in.

Versus most of the aggro decks, take out 4 Voidmage Prodigy and one land for 4 Damnation and Urborg.

Some tips when playing with the deck:

Voidmage Prodigy not only provides an uncounterable way to counter opposing spells, but you can also use his ability to counter a spell even when there’s an opposing Teferi in play.

Looter il-Kor is the best turn 2 play in the deck. Not only is a hand with Looter and Shadowmage on the play almost game against certain decks, but the main goal of the deck is to have a Looter or Shadowmage hitting.

– I would advise aggressively mulliganing hands without either Looter il-Kor or Shadowmage, unless you know what you’re playing against and you have a good hand for that matchup. Looter can get rid of useless Pacts, for example, and Shadowmage can overcome the card disadvantage of losing a card.

– The deck usually has advantages in Shadowmage wars, since other decks running Shadowmage have limited ways to stop it other than blocking it, and a suspended or hard cast Cloudskate (or one of the other bounce spells) should clear the way.

I didn’t keep track of the records I achieved with this deck, and even if I did it would have been a very small sample of results to analyze. This could lead us to error, so instead I’ll present the overall impression I got when playing both with and against this deck.


– It’s a very consistent deck with smooth draws, thanks to the card drawing power of Looter il-Kor and Shadowmage Infiltrator.
– On the play, turn 2 Looter followed by turn 3 Shadowmage is almost game.
– It plays with some of the most powerful cards available in the block.
– It’s a rogue deck, and the surprise/unknown element makes it harder for pure control decks to play against it.


– In the late game, the deck doesn’t topdeck anything. All the cards in the deck serve to control the tempo and the board. Once you’ve lost this tempo or board advantage, it’s difficult to regain it.
– The deck has a bad matchup against Mono Red, or decks with large amounts of burn.
– Against good players, or when you don’t have the surprise element, the matchup against control is less favorable, but it’s still good.

In the remaining Portuguese PTQ left, I know there will be some (but not many) Voidmage Prodigies at a number of tables. Kai’s card still can’t compare with others from the Invitationalists, but I think this deck provides the correct approach and strategy for the German Juggernaut’s signature spell.

Thank you for reading,

Tiago Chan