Onslaught Of Wits!

“Hi, my name is Dave, and I’m a Wits-aholic….”
“Hi, Dave.”
“But back when Battle of Wits occasionally won tournaments, Toby and Brock ran the same number of counterspells: Thirty-six. Are there even nine counters in Standard today that are worth playing? And does that mean that Wits is dead?”

“Hi, my name is Dave, and I’m a Wits-aholic.”

“Hi, Dave.”

“I personally blame Toby Wachter. If he hadn’t played it, no one else would have, and it would have gone quietly to the back of everyone’s trade binders and sat there, looking for all intents and purposes just like an Alabaster Leech. But lo! On that fateful December Sunday, he came in, whupped a veritable variety of behind, and brought the world a new understanding of 240-plus-card decks. And now, I’m addicted.”

Yeah, I blame the good Reverend, and I really am hooked. I started playing it locally almost right after I heard about the deck and found the listing. I took to Brock Parker’s Masters version because it had less White in it, and I just didn’t have the White rares that Toby’s version called for. (I mean, come on, who has four Wraths and four Routs?) I adjusted it once Torment came out and Insidious Dreams offered another way to search out the Battle of Wits. I contemplated tweaking it once Judgment came out, but kept playing it the way it was locally.

So now, Onslaught has come, and it’s going to take away all my fun.

Or is it?

That, dear readers, is the question. Not”To be, or not to be,” but”To battle, or not to battle.”

I think that it’s still doable. This article will be a work-in-progress (as most of my deckbuilding articles are) to see if it’s manageable. It also should give you some insight as to the thought process that goes on when players attempt to convert any deck from one format to the next.

Let’s see what’s been gained and lost first, to see what kind of footing we’re on.

CON: Wild Research Is No More.

As one of the original searchers used in the deck, Wild Research served dual purposes – not only did it pull out the Battle of Wits when you were ready for it, but it also helped find card-drawing, creature-removal, whatever was necessary for the board position at hand. The random discard very rarely hurt since the deck was very good at keeping your hand full. Onslaught has nothing to replace this tutor.

PRO: There are still two tutors left to us.

The deck started with only two tutors (the aforementioned Wild Research, plus Diabolic Tutor), and we can fill the gap with Insidious Dreams. But we’re really going to have to look at the card-drawing to make sure that we can keep a full hand when we need it.

PRO: We have the Wishes.

To make up for the loss of Wild Research being able to get exactly what we need, we can include the Wishes. The only problem here is, once you get more than one Wish running, your sideboard is going to end up suffering for it. Cunning Wish best replicates the”search for an instant” ability of Wild Research, but we can also consider putting in four Golden Wishes to act as a third tutor, with one Battle of Wits in the sideboard to Wish for.

CON: We lose the lands from Invasion Block.

The deck runs four colors and needs access to double-blue (for Battle of Wits) and usually double-black (for Diabolic Tutor). The Invasion comes-into-play-tapped lands and the Apocalypse painlands helped provide those, while giving you access to the colors you needed on the side. The Onslaught search-and-destroy lands are helpful in getting the right color, but not in getting you access to all the colors all the time – which is what this deck really needs if it’s going to stay four colors.

CON: Man, do we lose counters.

There were five hard counters in Toby’s version of the deck from Invasion: Absorb, Undermine, Dromar’s Charm, Spite/Malice, and Exclude. Those are going to be hard to replace, and we need them to maintain some semblance of control. We’ve gained Circular Logic and Complicate, but those aren’t hard counters – and Discombobulate isn’t bad, but its four-casting-cost looks ominous. We may end up resorting to stuff like Grip of Amnesia or Liquefy.

PRO: The New Type II is undefined.

This is really only for tournaments – say, you were thinking about playing this at States in a week or so. Due to the random nature of the undefined metagame, having a deck with all the answers inside helps pad the random nature of pairings.

Okay, when I reach”pairings” as an argument for the deck, I think I can stop. Also glaring is the absence of instant-speed card drawing, which Wizards has made an effort to curtail for Blue. Gone are the Fact or Fictions and the Opts. Welcome, Trade Secrets.


A quick breakdown from Toby and Brock’s decks:

Card drawing: Toby 32, Brock 24 (includes Shadowmage Infiltrator and Thieving Magpie for Toby, and Tainted Pact)

Counters: Toby 36, Brock 36 (includes Meddling Mage for Toby)

Hand Disruption: Toby 12, Brock 20 (includes Recoil for both)

Creature Removal: Toby 44, Brock 48

Mana Sources: Toby 101, Brock 108

Total Cards: Toby 243, Brock 244

That gives us a pretty good blueprint from which to work, and then we can look at both decklistings and see what we can still include.

For reference, Toby’s deck is here, and Brock’s deck is here.

The no-brainers:

4x Battle of Wits

4x Insidious Dreams

4x Diabolic Tutor

I’m assuming going in that the deck will end up four colors again; blue and black are necessary simply by virtue of the cards listed above, and the red and white are supplemental in the areas of creature removal and possibly Golden Wish. Torment and Judgment weren’t around when these decks were originally created, so powerful cards like Vengeful Dreams or Breaking Point aren’t included. (They’re kinda mana intensive anyway, and may not make the cut.)

Could we cut the deck back to three colors? The white ended up in Toby’s deck by virtue of powering the Wild Research; he used the necessary white to justify adding Rout, Wrath, and Teferi’s Moat. Brock, on the other hand, went completely away from White, having only Hobble as his White portion. Cutting out the White altogether means that we are forced to rely on only two tutors (or possibly Death Wish), but we could also opt to use Burning Wish to scare up a Tutor from the sideboard, leaving all four Battles in the maindeck. It also may help the mana since we’d only be worrying about three colors.

Plus, with powerful mass removal available in Black (Mutilate) and Red (Breaking Point), it’s possible that we may avoid the need for White altogether.

Deciding to run Burning Wish as our sideboard Wish means we can put big reset buttons like Upheaval, Pyroclasm, or Slice And Dice into the sideboard, as well as potential game-breakers like Reminisce (which I’ll talk about again later). Yeah, we’ll miss Void and Obliterate – but we can make this work for us as well.

No-brainers now look like:

4x Battle of Wits

4x Insidious Dreams

3x Diabolic Tutor

4x Burning Wish

I moved a Diabolic Tutor to the sideboard, simply on the pretense that Diabolic Tutor was the one that I preferred to”have seven of” in my deck. The Insidious Dreams may be a better choice for mana reasons and would allow me more of a chance to cast Burning Wish third turn, and my tutor on fourth turn, but I’d prefer to not give up card advantage if I can help it.


Both Toby and Brock ran the same number: Thirty-six. Are there even nine counters in Standard today that are worth playing?

Counterspell, Memory Lapse?, Force Spike?, Divert?, Syncopate, Liquefy, Circular Logic, Envelop, Grip of Amnesia?, Spelljack?, Complicate, Discombobulate

Let’s assume Counterspell, Syncopate, and Circular Logic make it in no matter what. Envelop has been seeing maindeck use in Odyssey Block Constructed, as there are lots of Sorceries to counter… But it doesn’t help us protect our Battle of Wits from enchantment removal like Liquefy does. Discombobulate is 4cc but helps our draws, replacing the Prophetic Bolt from the old build. And I like Complicate, as you can use it either as a Disrupt or a Mana Leak in the right circumstances. That’s seven, so let’s grab Divert (since Toby used it) and Memory Lapse (since Brock used it) to round out our counter needs.

4x Counterspell

4x Syncopate

4x Circular Logic

4x Envelop

4x Liquefy

4x Complicate

4x Discombobulate

4x Divert

4x Memory Lapse

Total cards: 51


Toby relied a lot more heavily on card drawing in his deck, going so far as playing creatures that allowed him to draw extra cards. In this version of the deck, we’re going to aim for as creatureless as possible, since non-targeted removal is still in vogue.

The deck relies on the little 1- and 2cc cantrips to help smooth out the initial turns, and to help dig for the tutors or the Battle of Wits. Peek, Obsessive Search, Sleight of Hand, and Spy Network can fill out the 1cc portion (with Spy Network or Obsessive Search taking over for Opt), and we still have access to Tainted Pact and Standstill as well. For the mid- to late-game card-drawing, we still have Opportunity and Concentrate. While we lose Fact or Fiction, we now have access to Deep Analysis and Browbeat, which our predecessors didn’t have… As well as Trade Secrets if we want it.

4x Peek

4x Obsessive Search

4x Sleight of Hand

4x Tainted Pact

4x Standstill

4x Opportunity

4x Deep Analysis

Total cards: 79

I went with the instant-speed Opportunity over the sorcery speed Concentrate since I think Deep Analysis is better than Concentrate as well. If I have room at the end, I’d like to fit in the Browbeats.

Hand disruption:

I was counting Recoil in this category, as well as things like Void and Lobotomy. Most of that is lost to us now, with the exception of Duress. Cabal Therapy seems like a lost cause since we won’t be able to pay its Flashback cost, but Blackmail certainly would fit all right. I don’t want to play Chain of Smog, since I don’t want to get into a top-decking war; this deck is all about having a hand full of answers until it needs the Battle of Wits. Skullscorch isn’t a bad entry, since the discard is random, it might (might) avoid the madness cards that are bound to see play. Skull Fracture puts too much control in the hands of your opponent.

4x Duress

4x Blackmail

4x Skullscorch

Total cards: 91

That’s cutting way back on the hand disruption. Brock’s deck got up to twenty by using Addle as well, but we just don’t have the stellar discard that Invasion block had. I’d like to see one Persecute in the sideboard maybe, to Wish for, but we might be able to fit Persecutes in the main deck. Another possibility is Mind Sludge, depending on how many Swamps we end up running.

Creature removal:

Where in the heck are we going to find eleven or twelve different creature removal spells? Chainer’s Edict and Innocent Blood are no-brainers… But losing the good stuff from Invasion like Prophetic Bolt, Terminate, and Vindicate really hurts.

Firebolt starts filling in the gap, and we have the reprinted Shock as well. Aether Burst might make a good stopgap, especially considering all the token creatures running around today’s environment. I also want to include some global removal like Mutilate, Breaking Point, Starstorm, or Slice and Dice. A heavier red base will allow us to run Fiery Temper and Violent Eruption.

4x Chainer’s Edict

4x Innocent Blood

4x Firebolt

4x Shock

4x Aether Burst

4x Slice and Dice

4x Starstorm

4x Fiery Temper

4x Violent Eruption

4x Breaking Point

4x Mutilate

Total cards: 135

I think I’m okay using Mutilate here, since a lot of our land base is going to end up being basic lands. I’m going to be forced to use some of the fetchlands to smooth my mana base, which again will up my Swamp count.

I’m happy with trying out 108 lands here… And the only thing I’m immediately concerned with is an inability to deal with enchantments. It’s possible to run Upheavals in this deck; I’d put three maindeck and one in the sideboard to Wish for.

3x Upheaval

Total cards: 138

That would bring our total card count (with 108 lands) to 246. I’m going to cut two lands to come down to 244, which is about where both the old decks were, using this breakdown:

4x Terminal Moraine

4x Polluted Delta

4x Bloodstained Mire

4x Sulfurous Springs

4x Underground River

4x Darkwater Catacombs

4x Shadowblood Ridge

4x Barbarian Ring

4x Forgotten Cave

4x Barren Moor

4x Lonely Sandbar

20x Swamp

21x Island

21x Mountain

…with the exact mix of Swamps, Islands, and Mountains still in flux.

I’m going to take this deck to GP Philadelphia next weekend and playtest a little, so next week, expect some more insight into how this deck is performing in the new Type II.

Until then,


Super – Guy

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