Mirrodin, Mirrodin, On The Wall, What’s The Best Deck Of Them All?

I think the common perception going into this month is that Welder Mud, Keeper, and Dragon are the only viable decks. The picture as I now see it is far more complex. It may be presumptuous to say it this early, but I don’t think any more testing is going to get me much further, or lead me to a radically different answer: We have one of the most balanced, complex, and interesting metagames I have ever seen in Type One. With that said, let me show you two updated builds of Keeper and a new, Chalice-proofed Sligh!

Part One

So I’ve received quite a few emails in the last few weeks all with the same question: what should I play now? What’s the best deck? Or, have you tested long.dec with Spoils of the Vault?

Type One players are either going to be frustrated or proud. Because from Sept 12th (one week before the prerelease), when I took four commons and my sharpie and wrote: XX in the corner and”Chalice of the Void” on the card face, to October 25th, I have recorded, play-by-play, ninety-eight games of Mirrodin Type One, and probably played double that number in total. And the only conclusion I have come to so far is that the whole metagame is a mess.

I think the common perception going into this month is that Welder Mud, Keeper, and Dragon are the only viable decks. The picture as I now see it is far more complex. It may be presumptuous to say it this early, but I don’t think any more testing is going to get me much further, or lead me to a radically different answer: We have one of the most balanced, complex, and interesting metagames I have ever seen in Type One.

But more than that, I honestly believe that there are more decks available at the uppermost level then we have seen since before Gro-A-Tog. Ironically, although Mirrodin has really knocked a lot of the best aggro decks from contention, Mirrodin has provided the tools for advancing a few more powerful archetypes, pushing them into contention with the best decks. And the effect of Chalice has worked to reshape the playing field by weakening some decks, and making a few other decks far stronger simply by the fact that they are not vulnerable to chalice. Another key is that decks that are good going into Mirrodin may be bad after a few months and vice versa, depending on metagame shifts.

We are going to travel the world over with this series taking a look at the impact of Mirrodin where you might not expect it. So we might as well start with Type One’s standard bearer – a deck with newfound vigor post-Mirrodin: Keeper (hence the name).

It didn’t take but a few moments of consideration of the impact of Chalice of the Void, which I have already discussed at length, for it to dawn on us that this is not only one of the most amazing cards ever printed, but that it is amazing in blue-based control for three reasons:

1) It’s relatively immune to its effects due to having a diverse mana base.

2) Blue-based control is very well-positioned to use Chalice as a hoser.

3) Blue-based control prefers to slow the game down – something Chalice does very efficiently.

Well, it didn’t take long before some teammates and myself were rapidly integrating Chalices into Keeper. With my first stab at the deck, I started with four. It only took a few games before it was apparent that three was the right number – something that time has reinforced.

Here was my first stab at it:

3 Chalice of the Void

2 Swords to Plowshares

2 Gorilla Shaman

4 Force of Will

4 Mana Drain

4 Accumulated Knowledge

2 Intuition

1 Ancestral Recall

1 Time Walk

1 Mystical Tutor

1 Demonic Tutor

1 Vampiric Tutor

1 Balance

1 Mind Twist

1 Yawgmoth’s Will

2 Cunning Wish

1 Goblin Trenches

1 Decree of Justice

1 Library of Alexandria

4 Wasteland

1 Strip Mine

1 City of Brass

2 Tundra

2 Underground Sea

3 Volcanic Island

5 Fetchlands

1 Island

5 Moxen

1 Sol Ring

1 Black Lotus

4 Flooded Strand

3 Volcanic Island

3 Tundra

3 Underground Sea

4 Wasteland

1 Tolarian Academy

1 Strip Mine

1 Library of Alexandria

In my all my test games, I found Intuition/AK to be an excellent engine. I also enjoyed using the second Intuition for broken game-enders. However, I was an island of thought alone on this one. No one else seemed to agree, so I caved in and picked up Steve O'Connell build:

3 Chalice of the Void

1 Sol Ring

1 Black Lotus

1 Mox Jet

1 Mox Sapphire

1 Mox Ruby

1 Mox Pearl

4 Force of Will

4 Mana Drain

4 Brainstorm

2 Cunning Wish

2 Impulse

1 Time Walk

1 Ancestral Recall

1 Fact or Fiction

1 Mystical Tutor

(1 Vampiric Tutor)

1 Demonic Tutor

1 Yawgmoth’s Will

1 Skeletal Scrying

(1 Mind Twist)

2 Swords to Plowshares

1 Balance

1 Decree of Justice

1 Goblin Trenches

1 Gorilla Shaman

(I added the cards in parentheses.)

The first thing I have to say is that this deck is once again the center of the metagame. It has suddenly sloughed off all of its old weaknesses (Sligh, Stompy, and the rest) and has come back with furious anger and its competition. It is about to unleash a wave of blue-based terror on the unsuspecting Type One Metagame (if it hasn’t already by the time this article is published).

The one thing I have to get out of the way immediately is a comment to those people who hate losing to Combo or Workshop Prison. People have been lulled into a daze playing against Workshop, Combo, and Combo Hybrid (Tog, MaskNaught) decks last few months. When they wake up, they are going to see one of the most violent, terrible, vicious, ugly blue-based control killing machines that you will ever play against. Instead of there being more player interaction as some hope, these games are sealed up by and large in the first couple of turns, and winning is usually a formality. Chalice makes sure your spells don’t resolve before you even cast them. Swords to Plowshares, Cunning Wish, and Counterspells will answer any threat, and then the inevitable Cycling of Decree will happen for a massive amount of tokens and suddenly the game slows down as it takes a few turns to finish the job. The benefit of combo is that at least the game ends immediately, since combo just seals the deal. The benefit of Workshop is that you can still play instants. All told, I really admire those who’ve been working on Keeper – keeping it ready for this moment.

While this concept is certainly no Psychatog deck – it doesn’t take the slightest window to seal the deal with Berserk + Tog, it has many of the virtues of the Tog deck – it uses Mana Drain as a tempo boost rather than as a pure control mechanism. One thing that is striking about this Keeper maindeck as compared to one from a few years ago is how this deck has evolved from a silver bullet-based defensively reactive control strategy to a offensively-reactive control strategy based upon flexible consistency. The Chalices actively prevent your spell before you have even gotten a chance to cast them. Furthermore, the deck is loaded up with much greater redundancy and through that, flexibility: Impulse, Brainstorm, Chalice, Cunning Wish, and the like.

In testing, I almost always wanted Decree over Goblin Trenches, but I think the Trenches has stuck in there because of its strength against the Workshop decks. Additionally, both Trenches and Decree make excellent answers to cheap aggro decks at minimal cost.

Perhaps the inclusion of both cards without a single Morphling making a showing is the final sign of Morphling’s fall from grace. So much for the ultimate creature, huh?

One true sign of a truly reactive control deck such as Keeper is the deck’s unwillingness to stick with Duress. Duress is best used in decks that attempt to seize a small (or large) window of control, within which they dominate the game. Keeper is a deck that takes the long view. It plans on winning only after it’s completely stopped you. In many respects, that is the flaw in blue based control – if it fails to answer you – or if there is an uneasy stalemate on the board, then topdecking proactive threats often seems superior to topdecking proactive answers, because one threat without an answer could spell death. Fortunately for these blue based control decks, twenty life is a resource that can be milled quite easily to suck up early damage, and the answers these decks have are not the symmetrical and unwieldy cards like Wrath of God, but finely tuned targeted removal like Swords to Plowshares, Rack and Ruin in the sideboard, or the overpowered and undercosted Balance.

The use of Cunning Wish essentially makes part of the sideboard a functional part of the maindeck. This makes the deck even more powerful when you realize that Keeper is only going to have a better game after sideboarding. The very nature of being a multicolor control deck means having answers from almost any color pool in the game. Fetchlands have made living in a four-color world so much easier, and answers have never been easier to use.

Against both Dragon and Workshop decks, Keeper’s primary potency comes from its ability to negate mana sources and Bazaars through Wastelands to slow the game down and pick off threats through Tormod’s Crypt or Swords to Plowshares before it establishes total and final control of the game.

If you haven’t tried Chalice before, you’re probably wondering, just how good is Chalice? Well, I’ve already described the benefits of Chalice – take a look at how Chalice affects opening hands in this sample game from September 16th:

Here was my opening hand:

Mox Pearl

Mox Jet

Polluted Delta

Chalice of the Void

Force of Will

Cunning Wish

Decree of Justice

Luckily, I am playing first.

Turn 1

I play Polluted Delta and both Moxen.

Since Decree is one of this deck’s primary win conditions, having a multi-Mox opening hand is surely a good start to facilitate the effectiveness of that card. At this point, I have both the mana to Cunning Wish or drop a Chalice at either one or two. My opponent is playing Welder Mud. Two of the biggest threats of Welder Mud are Smokestack and Goblin Welder… But the biggest threat of Welder Mud is shutting down the game before I get a chance to react. The two ways in which it does that involve speed mana, such as Mishra’s Workshop and Metalworker. Dropping Chalice for one isn’t bad as an attempt to cut off Goblin Welder’s, but it also cuts me off from a possible Cunning Wish into Swords to Plowshares as an answer to Metalworker. Since I have access to both Black and White mana from the Moxen, there is no huge risk at popping the Delta for a Volcanic Island, but there is a risk that he could open with a Wasteland – since that is my only blue source for the time being, I need to keep it Wasteland-proof as long as possible.

When you play first, and if you have Chalice, there is always a risk to the other player that, in Type One, a turn 1 Chalice for zero is going to stunt development so seriously it could lead to a win. And when you calculate that part of Welder Mud’s effectiveness is based upon its speed, playing the Chalice for zero seems a solid play.

And so I drop Chalice for zero and pass the turn.

Let’s take a look at my opponent’s hand – which was only revealed after the game:

Mishra’s Workshop

Black Lotus



Karn, Silver Golem

Grafted Skullcap

This hand is quite broken. A Metalworker that survives to a second turn is going to unload this entire hand.

The Chalice has prevented the Black Lotus from doing its duty – although the Metalworker on turn one seems to be the stronger play anyway. Recognize that Mud prefers the slower play on turn 1 – the Metalworker is the opposite of the play that Stax would prefer, which is probably to dump either Karn or Smokestack into play immediately. In that case, the Skullcap probably would have been Meditate, and you could probably Meditate off the Lotus into some more mana to play the Smokestack off the Workshop – or draw into another threat like Tangle Wire – which would be an excellent play. Unfortunately for my opponent, those aren’t options.

Correctly, my opponent plays Mishra’s Workshop, Metalworker and passes the turn. On his end step, I break the Delta for Volcanic Island and Cunning Wish for Swords to Plowshares.

Turn 2

I draw Mana Drain from my library. Immediately I cast Swords to Plowshares on his Metalworker.

My opponent plays a Mountain (which he has obviously drawn) and casts Smokestack. Luckily, since I drew the Mana Drain instead of a land, I can actually respond with my Force of Will – which I obviously do.

Turn 3:

I topdeck one of my four Wastelands and Waste his Mishra’s Workshop, leaving my opponent with a Mountain and a handful of expensive spells and a Lotus which he cannot play.

However, my opponent isn’t giving up yet. He topdecks a Goblin Welder and casts it off the Mountain. This demonstrates another point of how effective Chalice is: Playing the Chalice cuts off many good Goblin Welder targets to weld in graveyard goodies. Since he can’t resolve a Mox, he actually needs a costlier artifact in play to make Goblin Welder go active. Arguably, an artifact land in the place of a Mountain might help the effectiveness of Goblin Welder, but it’s also Wasteland prone – not to mention vulnerable to Powder Keg and other artifact hate.

Turn 4:

I topdeck an Underground Sea and play it. My board is now Chalice of the Void with zero counters, Volcanic Island, Mox Pearl, Mox Jet, and Underground Sea. My hand is the lone Decree of Justice. I’m getting close to actually being able to use it… But my opponent still has a full grip.

My opponent draws, looks a little frustrated, and lamely swings in with the Welder for one point of damage.

Turn 5:

I topdeck a Time Walk. Obviously, waiting to play the Time Walk would increase damage that I might deal with Soldier Tokens – but this game is defined by speed. I need to find answers before my opponent finds a way to cast his threats. So I cast the Time Walk.

I untap and take my next turn. I draw another Wasteland and I play it. I then pass the turn.

My opponent attacks with his Goblin Welder – in response, I cycle my Decree of Justice for two men. I draw a Mana Drain and block his Welder. My opponent passes the turn.

Turn 6:

I draw Ancestral Recall. Both the Time Walk and cycled Decree of Justice helped thin my deck. I want to keep two blue mana open, so I decide to wait to play the Ancestral Recall rather than Ancestral and risk not drawing another blue mana source. So I attack with the lone Soldier token and pass the turn.

My opponent draws and is unable to do anything but discard his Karn. On his end step, I Ancestral into another Mana Drain and more goodies. With the Wasteland in play, Chalice cutting off his Lotus, and double Mana Drain in hand with more answers in store, my opponent decides to scoop.

If I had been forced to draw this game, this game might have turned out completely differently. I probably would have had to Force of Will for the turn 1 Metalworker, and then my Chalice would have come down too late. Although I probably would have played Chalice for one – which would have stopped his Goblin Welder. I also wouldn’t have drawn the Wasteland until my second turn. I also drew a good mix of cards: Underground Sea, Wastelands, Mana Drains, and card drawing.

One of the key elements to Keeper’s game plan is to Wasteland the Workshops and pick off the early Workers and Welders with targeted Removal either from Swords to Plowshares, Fire / Ice, or one of those fetched via Cunning Wish. From there on out, Mana Drain usually becomes a huge threat that the Keeper player is able to milk into a victory. But there is another way that Keeper can come back from near death.

Here is a sample Game of Chalice Keeper versus Stax. The Stax player is playing first.

I mulliganed into:



Polluted Delta

City of Brass

Chalice of the Void

Mana Drain

This kind of hand is certainly risky – but it’s probably a lot better than any hand of five.

My opponent is playing first. His opening hand was:

Volcanic Island

Mox Emerald

Ancient Tomb

Polluted Delta

Mana Vault

Chalice of the Void.

Turn 1:

My opponent dropped Mox Emerald, Volcanic Island, and tapped both for Mana Vault, tapping that, using four mana to fuel a Chalice for two. Ouch. Already my Mana Drain is worthless. It also prevents me from playing a Chalice for one because it costs two mana.

I draw a Force of Will and then Wasteland his Volcanic Island. It’s pointless to play my Chalice for zero, as it’s not going to stop anything but topdecks on either player’s part – and I can’t play it for one until I somehow deal with his chalice. So I pass the turn.

Turn 2:

My opponent drops a Delta and passes the turn.

I draw Time Walk, which I’ll be unable to play as long as Chalice for two is in play. He wisely keeps the Delta in play, making my Wasteland impotent. I play my own Delta and pass the turn. On my end step he breaks his Delta and finds Volcanic Island.

Turn 3:

My opponent drops an Ancient Tomb and passes the turn. At this point, it’s clear he doesn’t have Smokestack; otherwise, he would have played it. However, since I can’t cast Mana Drain, any threat Stax drops at this point extremely dangerous.

I draw Cunning Wish. I drop Wasteland and Waste the Volcanic Island. For the most part, Stax only wants quantity of mana – and the Ancient Tomb facilitates both artifact mana and the many three casting cost spells that are so prevalent in that deck. Nailing the Volcanic Island in an attempt to cut my opponent off of his colors is made stronger by the fact that he drew a Workshop – although I don’t know it at the time. However…

Turn 4:

My opponent plays another Volcanic Island.

I draw and play an Underground Sea and pass the turn.

Turn 5:

My opponent is now at fourteen life. He draws and plays Tolarian Academy! His board is Ancient Tomb, Volcanic Island, Mox Emerald, Chalice of the Void with two counters on it, and Tolarian Academy. He also has Mishra’s Workshop in hand. He plays another Chalice of the Void for three, tapping out; I Force of Will, pitching my Time Walk.

I drop my City of Brass and pass the turn.

Turn 6:

My opponent plays Mishra’s Workshop and Goblin Welder. Ouch. Well, it’s now or never. On his end step, I play my Cunning Wish fetching Rack and Ruin (MVP) from my Sideboard.

I untap and draw Impulse – another dead draw with Chalice – and cast Rack and Ruin on his Chalice at two and his Mox Emerald while his Welder still has summoning sickness. Now my Mana Drain goes active.

Turn 7:

Unfortunately, my opponent isn’t giving up yet. He taps his Workshop and casts Timetwister. Just when victory was within reach…

My opponent drops Mox Jet and plays Tangle Wire off the Workshop and Smokestack off the Academy. He drops a Delta and finds Volcanic Island. He casts another Goblin Welder, which I promptly Force of Will.

I untap and play Cunning Wish on my upkeep for Rack and Ruin. I also drop another fetchland for Volcanic Island and cast Swords to Plowshares on his Goblin Welder.

Turn 8:

My opponent taps down Stax, Wire, and Ancient Tomb to Tangle Wire. He adds a soot counter to the Smokestack. He taps the Tolarian and casts Meditate off the Tolarian, then drops a Goblin Welder, Sol Ring, Tangle Wire, and Chalice for Two. He also drops a Wasteland and Wastes my Volcanic Island.

I untap and with both Wire and Stax on the stack, I Rack and Ruin away the Stax and the Chalice. I still have to sac down to one land. I drop another land and take another turn. I tap down again.

Turn 9:

My opponent now has an active Welder and plenty of threats. He had too many mana sources on the board and the Chalice for two effectively slowed me down just enough that I couldn’t get ahead. Nevertheless, Rack and Ruin solves a lot of problems. If I had one Mox to accelerate my game, I probably would have won by casting Cunning Wish and Rack and Ruin a turn earlier.

I would be remiss to talk about Keeper without talking about Isochron Scepter. The reviews of this card in Keeper have ranged from stunning to dreadful. I only played a few games with it, and of the two games it turned up it was either terrible or spectacular. Testing will show how strong the card is.

Before we leave for this week, I’d like to throw out for you something I haven’t tested at all – Mirrodin Sligh. I’m hesitant to even mention this because I haven’t tested it, can’t really comment on how ideal the build is, and might lose a few readers by even mentioning it. But the only reason I bring this up is to demonstrate how profusely Mirrodin has impacted Type One.

Steven Peterson was talking to me online about a new variant of Sligh – an attempt to survive in the wake of Chalice. He started rattling off a list of non-standard cards, and my first reaction was the standard skepticism. Most of us have a mental filter by which we evaluate cards, which may make it difficult for us to explore all the unrealized potential. I admit I was impressed by some kooky, but effective, Japanese technology in Extended Constructed on the archetype. In the course of the discussion, Steven mentioned using Shrapnel Blast – a card that has already seen use in Type One Stacker and was being used in other formats as well. Immediately I asked if he had tested Chrome Mox, and told him to throw in some Great Furnace. I also noticed that he was impressed, so far, with Isochron Scepter, a card that probably got the most attention after the first spoiler reading, and a card that I was thoroughly skeptical of at first glance relative to the proclamations made at the time – a view which I pretty much hold today.

Here is Steven Peterson’s build:



4 Great Furnace

4 Wasteland

3 Bloodstained Mire

2 Mountain

1 Volcanic Island

1 Strip Mine

1 Mana Crypt

1 Sol Ring

1 Black Lotus

1 Mox Ruby

4 Chrome Mox


4 Incinerate

4 Lightning Bolt

4 Price of Progress

4 Shrapnel Blast

4 Fire / Ice

Card Advantage

3 Isochron Scepter

1 Wheel of Fortune


4 Slith Firewalker

4 Gorilla Shaman

3 Grim Lavamancer

2 Ball Lightning


4 Scald

4 Pyrostatic Pillar

4 Rack and Ruin

3 Tormod’s Crypt

The reason he isn’t using Chain Lightning is because it isn’t an instant and thus imprintable on Scepter (although I’d find room for it).

Now that you have something to munch on, next week I have a completely new deck that you all need to see.

Stephen Menendian

[email protected]