I’ve had a Magic Online account for some time now, but until recently it has never gotten much use. One rainy day about six weeks ago, I decided to jump on Magic Online for a quick Pauper Daily. Pauper was the only real format I played online, and even then I still didn’t play often. As many of you may know from one of my previous video articles, I played Storm in Pauper. When Delver of Secrets came out, Mono-Blue Control decks got a new tool to keep a consistent, fast clock, and with it my deck became even worse. I became bored of the format and considered getting into Standard. Todd Anderson had recently placed at an SCG Open with his newfound Illusions deck, which seemed relatively cheap at the time outside of the Snapcaster Mages. For the time being, I decided to leave that idea on hold before I could save up some more money and buy it all at once.
Fast-forward to Worlds 2011 in San Francisco. Gerry Thompson had just 3-0’ed with a draft archetype known as self-mill. The interview with Brian David-Marshall about the deck canbefoundhere. Towards the end of the interview, Brian asks Gerry if he thinks that this deck can transfer into Block Constructed or Standard. Gerry says that it might make a pretty cool Block Constructed deck, and it seemed pretty cheap too.
This got the gears grinding, and I instantly started brewing a list. After getting a few cards, I opened all the recent Block Constructed Dailies to see if anyone had done well with a self-mill list. To my surprise it was already an established archetype with multiple players placing. One of the main points that really caught my eye was the fact that it was five colors. I decided that in lieu of a lack of cash, I decided to cut the red splash since it was only for Blasphemous Act. It would save me a decent amount of tickets without the Sulfur Falls, and I jumped right in for about 20 tickets. I entered the first Daily that I could find and went 3-1. I told my friend about how cool the deck was, and he decided to check out my replays from the Daily Event. He immediately became hooked as well, and we became testing partners.
After a bunch of testing and Daily Event successes/failures, we came to this final list:
- 4 Boneyard Wurm
- 4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 4 Deranged Assistant
- 4 Kessig Cagebreakers
- 4 Splinterfright
- 4 Armored Skaab
I’d like to begin with a few notes about the deck:
- Gnaw to the Bone is the best card in the deck—easily. It is followed by Kessig Cagebreakers but is easily better. Gnaw to the Bone gives you infinite inevitability against the aggro decks and the Burning Vengeance decks. Kessig Cagebreakers kills people in one or two hits and should not be underestimated. The mirror match is usually determined by Kessig Cagebreakers.
- The mana base looks inconsistent but is actually solid for a 5-color mana base. Sometimes double black for Sever the Bloodline can be awkward, and you don’t always have white, but that is the least necessary color.
- The Blasphemous Acts may not seem necessary, but they clean up the aggro matchups significantly.
- Depending on the amount of aggro decks running around, you sometimes put the third Unburial Rites back in the sideboard and add the fourth Gnaw to the Bone back into the main.
- I have tested the versions with Ambush Viper and Forbidden Alchemy, but I haven’t liked either as much as I like the current list. Of course the deck has a lot of room to innovate, so feel free to do so to your liking.
- The whole deck can be bought for no more than 35 tickets on Magic Online.
This deck has a lot of inherent power and can take over a game very easily. Deciding on mulligans is very weird with this deck. I will typically keep an all-enabler hand (Armored Skaab, Dream Twist, etc.) but not an all-powerhouse hand (Splinterfright, Boneyard Wurm, etc.) unless they are Kessig Cagebreakers and the hand looks good enough to survive until Kessig Cagebreakers can take over (which he usually does very effectively).
The key to beating the GW and WR aggro matchups game one lies in two crucial points—mana efficiency and Fiend Hunter. As far as mana efficiency is concerned, make sure that you are tapping your lands correctly and using your mana to best benefit you later in the game. This means that you sometimes need to cast Gnaw to the Bone for 20 life, even if you think that you may be able to get 26 in a turn or so. If you don’t do this, you’ll find yourself trying to cast too many spells in one turn, and you will easily fall behind. For Fiend Hunter, just make sure to bait it out. I find that if you always respect that they could have it, it becomes less annoying to deal with. Bait it out with a Boneyard Wurm instead of running the game-ending Kessig Cagebreakers out there. Especially in GW Tokens matchups, you want your Splinterfrights because of the trample. Boneyard Wurm is easily chump blocked, which is why I often sideboard it out in this matchup.
When sideboarding, you have to be careful not to side out too many creatures, as this will cause your game plan to fall apart. I’m not going to explain specific sideboard plans, as everyone is playing a different decklist in Block, but I will go over the basics.
As I stated earlier, this matchup is oftentimes determined by who has more Kessig Cagebreakers. Depending on their build, you may also want a Blasphemous Act or two as a safety switch. The games are very dependent on hitting your land drops early, so don’t keep “iffy” hands that might get there. Obviously Undead Alchemist is for this matchup. This, plus wanting more Kessig Cagebreakers, makes Unburial Rites really good, and you also need Sever the Bloodline for opposing Alchemists and creatures. Be careful not to exile your own creatures in the process though.
This matchup is pretty much based around Gnaw to the Bone. Try to maximize your value out of them, and get yourself out of reach. Don’t try to durdle around too long though, as Devil’s Play is still a real threat. Unburial Rites is decent in this matchup to give you more threats than they can kill. I also prefer to leave in one Sever the Bloodline in case they are playing Undead Alchemist, which some are. Play around Memory’s Journey by waiting until your creatures can survive it. Don’t set yourself up to get blown out by a Memory’s Journey with flashback. This may sound contradictory to my “don’t durdle around” statement, but the key to this matchup is finding the perfect mix based on your hand.
GW Tokens and RW Humans:
Staying alive is important, and this can be done easily with a large blocker or a Gnaw to the Bone. As stated earlier, use your mana as efficiently as you can, and try to play around Fiend Hunter. Board in the sweepers, removal, and Spider Spawnings to make infinite blockers. Side out Unburial Rites and some combination of Deranged Assistants and Boneyard Wurms depending on their build. Even though Deranged Assistant ramps you up, it is still a “slower” card, which you don’t want for the matchups. I like the full three Sever the Bloodline in the tokens matchup, but against RW I only like the one or maybe an extra one post-board.
BUG, RUG, and Jund Control:
These matches are interesting and pretty much come down to how good your hands are. They all play Garruk Relentless, which in the control decks can be annoying. Try to play around Liliana by playing a mana dork or Armored Skaab before a big guy. Post-board you want more Unburial Rites and Sever the Bloodlines. I keep trying to tell myself that I want Gnaw to the Bone in these matchups, since it then makes them take forever to kill you. Whenever I try this out, I discover that I just lose to eventually hitting zero cards in my library. With that in mind, Gnaw to the Bone is probably the card to side out. Against non-black control decks like RUG, Spider Spawning also comes in, and it can come out against the black decks, since they almost always have the Sever the Bloodline.
Overall, this deck is a real powerhouse and a ton of fun to play. In the future I might have a video set of me playing the deck in a Block Constructed Daily Event. This deck is really cheap, and I recommend giving it a try. Not only have I been doing pretty well with it, but I have also gotten much better at quick combat math. Kessig Cagebreakers and the fact that creatures get bigger when other creatures go to the graveyard make planning out combat in both present and future turns difficult.
Thanks for joining me this week and thanks for reading. As always, I encourage constructive criticism and ideas for future ideas in the comments.
And ask yourself, “Who doesn’t love attacking with 13 2/2s, 13 1/ 2s with reach, and a 13/13 trampler all at once?”