I like to buck trends. You know, go against the flow, think outside the box, dance to the beat of my own drum? This was a conscious choice I’ve always made
when it came to games. I didn’t like using the AK-47 or the AWP in Counter Strike [noob.–Ed.], I’d choose Peach and Ness over Meta Knight in
Super Smash Brothers Brawl tournaments, and I played the Chiefs in every Madden game, regardless of their often terrible roster. This kind of insular
opinion has kept me at arm’s length with one group of players and buddy-buddy with another. However, it often creates a prejudice that blinds me to the
power, fun, and creativity of a whole aspect of the game just because it tends to be popular.
A card from January slipped past me, and now it’s time to fix it.
This isn’t a sparkly new Dragons of Tarkir card; it’s been sitting in cases, binders, and deckboxes for the last three months, and as long as it
wasn’t in my binders and deckboxes, that was fine with me and I’d be none the wiser. I could live my life in an ignorant bliss, unaware of the
exceptional fun and power present in this little white enchantment.
Last week, I was watching a Versus Series video from March
featuring Brian Braun-Duin playing a fun, Mono-White Devotion brew
. The idea was simple: get lots of white permanents, make a bunch of creatures, then flip them up, gain life, and enjoy a never-ending stream of creatures
from the top of your deck. In the games he played against Chris VanMeter, Mastery of the Unseen was a critical component, and when he’d grab a card, play
it face-down, and untap, it just looked like so much fun. CVM ended up getting the match 4-1, but I like where BBD’s heart was.
In my mind, the white deck lacked reach, power, and flexibility, and one important card might not only synergize with the idea of making a bunch of
creatures, but it would also bridge the gap between white and another color.
Seemed okay; make a bunch of vanilla 2/2s, untap, unload a couple Harsh Sustenances and crash in for the rest? Adding this little instant gave removal and
reach for an otherwise non-interactive deck, and adding more black could help overcome strong creature lines, control, and even aggressive strategies.
Thus, Vanilla and Chocolate was born.
Arguably the best face-down creatures for this deck come from opposite ends of the block. Master of Pearls is the finisher, but even as a Glory Seeker,
Master does a fine job at stopping any red X/2 from pulling one over on you. If you unmorph it, I’m pretty sure you’re winning the game on the spot, and if
you flip it face-up with manifest, you’ll even have mana up to cast another spell. Hidden Dragonslayer, on the other hand, has a singular focus: smash a
big creature so the little ones can cruise through. Hidden Dragonslayer has such an elegant design; as a white Child of Night, you’ve got a great blocker
for the earlygame. Later on, you have a six-mana removal spell that leaves a 3/2 lifelink behind. At any point in-between, you’ve got a mysterious vanilla
2/2 that can suddenly become a removal spell. Pretty good deal!
Grim Haruspex was built for a manifest deck. Manifested creatures are the closest you can get to a token without being a token, but Grim Haruspex still
triggers off a manifest creature dying, making Mastery of the Unseen a potential draw engine along with being a pressure engine. It also flips
inexpensively, making it easy to turn face-up and trigger the enchantment’s life gaining trigger. Finally, Monastery Mentor, while not a morph card, combos
with Mastery of the Unseen when it hits the stack. It also pairs well with Harsh Sustenance, generating an extra creature before the spell resolves.
Instants and Sorceries
Raise the Alarm doesn’t seem to belong in a manifest deck, but with Monastery Mentor and Master of Pearls playing large roles in closing out a game, Raise
the Alarm might be one of the best spells you draw. Also, having a reliable two-drop in a deck where the creatures and spells are live at three mana is an
important, practical consideration. Murderous Cut leverages the potential for turning dead manifest creatures and instants into fuel to cast an efficient
removal spell. In Brian Braun-Duin’s match, I feel like having access to such a simple, non-invasive removal spell would help shore up those tough
boardstates. Also, I’m not blind to this deck’s potential to have no actual way to interact with Stormbreath Dragon.
Harsh Sustenance is the definition of a conditional spell. When it was legal, Dogpile was never a Constructed staple, and newer versions, like the Dragons of Tarkir black aggro bleeder Foul-Tongue Shriek, depends on a significant number of factors to be in place. Harsh Sustenance, while not
always strong, tends to make up for it for the ability to go to a player or planeswalker for a great rate, especially in those slow, grindy games.
Triplicate Spirits, while filling another token producer slot for the anthem effects in the deck, also plays a specific role that’s tied to another card
we’ll discuss in a second. Read the Bones, another effect I believe the mono-colored version was sorely missing, allows exceptional card choice and
advantage at the low cost of two life.
Myth Realized is an honest-to-goodness creature that combos with copies of itself. While looking over the deck, it became clear that there were no
one-drops. With 23 maindeck ways to trigger it, Myth Realized seemed like a nice, harmless enchantment to add in as filler. Bonus points: You can cast and
activate it with zero counters on it with Grim Haruspex out to cycle it!
Four Mastery of the Unseen is right. Even if it was too much for the deck to play properly, I knew I had to draw this card every game. Do you remember
Azure Mage and how fun it was to always have something to do off your lategame two-drop? Well, imagine that the card is a creature that can personally kill
your opponent or block their attacker. That’s how I envisioned Mastery of the Unseen, and I hoped I was right.
Spear of Heliod seemed ideal, too. With the collection of tokens, low-cost creatures, and wide angle of attack, this deck was parked somewhere between
white weenie and grindy control. Spear of Heliod grants two devotion, too, and even if you draw the extra, you can cast it and destroy one, adding to the
Murderous Cut delve pile. Citadel Siege was one of BBD’s most dynamic cards, and it seemed to pair well with this strategy. While providing two devotion
like Spear of Heliod, Citadel Siege had the potential to bestow one of the deck’s best targets, Hidden Dragonslayer, with more life-gaining power. On the
Dragons side, you can keep that heroic creature or deathtoucher at bay long enough to seal the deal. Finally, a single Spirit Bonds seemed like a cute way
to interact with and sustain the long-term gameplan against grindy decks. Whenever you manifest a creature, you can pay W, which can in turn protect the
creature that created it, and it also provided an evasive flyer. So, for the same cost as five manifested creatures with Mastery of the Unseen alone, you
can get four face-down brawlers and four evasive Spirits.
This deck was still primarily a white deck. With lots of double white spells, I opted to keep the black source count as low as possible, using only dual
sources to support the plan. Moreover, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is a fan favorite for Abzan, Mardu, and any deck that uses Mana Confluence and black mana.
Thus, the problem of accessing black might be solved for me. Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx can churn out enough mana to make lots of manifest creatures a turn,
and with the cost being as steep as it is, the ability to ever do it and something else (or it twice) were promising upsides to not having an independently
While this deck looked like fun and games, it has a serious front-runner in the sideboard. Thoughtseize is the best answer going today for control decks,
handling their best card while still leaving you time to outmaneuver them with another spell or creature. You want a lot of them, and you’re not worried
about your life total, both because of the lack of pressure and Mastery of the Unseen filling in. The deck did seem weak to hyper-aggressive decks, which
tend to be black or red, so trying out Surge of Righteousness seemed like a great tool to thwart off a Goblin Rabblemaster or Siege Rhino alike. Spirit of
the Labyrinth was a bizarre consideration, but let me ask you this: what’s more fun than countering your opponent’s Treasure Cruise? Countering it by
turning up a direct answer as a manifest creature! It’s also a Spirit, meaning it can be sacrificed to protect a more critical target with Spirit Bonds.
Glare of Heresy has become white’s go-to answer for itself, and despite its narrowness, it’s the best spell mana can buy for Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, Siege
Rhino, Brimaz, King of Oreskos, or even an opposing Mastery of the Unseen. Silumgar Assassin, while theoretically congruent with the maindeck, can come in
for a number of matchups. It can kill Fleecemane Lion, Courser of Kruphix, and Dragonlord Silumgar with just three black mana. It might often be better
played face-up, as the extra counter from megamorphing it makes its evasion less effective. Crux of Fate, while ostensibly another answer for Stormbreath
Dragon, also kills Dragonlord Ojutai, Silumgar, the Drifting Death, and any number of creature-based decks. With cards like Myth Realized and Mastery of
the Unseen, destroying your own creatures isn’t even that big a deal. Finally, a single copy of Brutal Hordechief came in as a test; with enough tokens,
the trigger could be massive.
White has never been my color, so except for the two Monastery Mentors I was fortunate to already possess, most of the other pieces had to be acquired.
Once I had it, though, I jammed as many games as I could at a casual Wednesday night tournament.
Round 1 – Cody (G/W Manifest)
Cody, my first opponent, was actually on a similar plan, choosing green for Deathmist Raptor and Trail of Mystery over Thoughtseize and removal. We played
one game, and I managed to get on the other side of him thanks to a Master of Pearls trigger, destroying the majority of his creatures in combat and
leaving him open for a final blow. Game 2, however, was much more interesting. He pulled the same stunt on me, obliterating my defenses with a Master of
Pearls trigger, and he got to his Mastery of the Unseen first. After falling behind, a Crux of Fate leveled the playing field, and I began filling up the
board with my own Mastery of the Unseen’s colorless spawn. Eventually, he lost the ability to attack profitability, and his own life total kept climbing
and climbing. The clock wound down, and time was called with me sitting at 13 and him at 81. With dealing lethal combat damage out of range for a win, I
decided to hunker down and block for the game’s last five turns. Thankfully, I got to take turn 1, and I spent my time building up my defenses. He smashed
into me, and I was careful to not take any damage. Turn 3, I was spamming creatures again. On his turn 4, he brought the team in sideways, and I blocked
down to three life. I untapped and passed the turn back with no action, clinching the match with my single game win.
Dromoka’s Charm, especially the enchantment sacrifice, was a huge player for him. Furthermore, I regret not including the Erases I’d considered for the
sideboard, as him gaining copious amounts of life completely changed his line of play.
Round 2 – Ben (Mardu)
Ben, sporting an artsy Guernica playmat I’d positively commented on before,
shuffled up a Mardu list today. Sorin, Solemn Visitor came down quick after we traded off two-drops, and after a mulligan to five, I couldn’t find a way to
beat the Sorin down through a hail of removal. Game 2 didn’t go much better; an early Outpost Siege had me kicking myself for bumping Erase from the
sideboard. Eventually, another copy came down, and I couldn’t deal the final blow to his Elspeth to keep her off the table. I folded up.
Round 3 – Jacob (Mono-Red)
Jacob was an aggressive player, choosing one-drop red creatures and lots of Goblin tokens as his angle of attack. In game 1, however, he flooded out with
me at single digits, and Raise the Alarm saved the day by for two-for-one’ing his one-drops. Game 2 let my sideboard do some work, but Mastery of the
Unseen’s trigger did the heavy lifting to keep me alive.
Overall, I enjoyed the deck, but it felt a little scattered. Cards like Myth Realized and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx were underwhelming at best, and Citadel
Siege was rarely the card I wanted, either. The deck needed a bit of a makeover despite a solid performance.
Maybe vanilla and chocolate needed some strawberry?
- 2 Ashcloud Phoenix
- 4 Master of Pearls
- 2 Grim Haruspex
- 2 Monastery Mentor
- 4 Hidden Dragonslayer
- 2 Silumgar Assassin
Mastery of the Unseen is a super-fun Magic card. I only wish there were more morph cards out there to try in Standard. Maybe there’s some Modern play in
this or other morph cards? Have you found a fun color combination for morph, manifest, and megamorph that works for you and your playstyle?