The fog creeps in on little cat feet.
The world feels gray.
I’ve been immersed in a cocoon of deckbuilding for the last month; Binary21 has spent hour upon hour decoding the IBC environment and witnessing the evolution of decks that were neither predicted nor expected. Jay "Creeping" Mold-enhauer-Salazar joining the team en route gave us fresh breath when we needed it.
Around forty decks later, we had our conclusions drawn. We had six or seven extremely viable decks; we had our own Rock-Scissors-Paper metagame, we had accurately used the Metagame Clock to study matchups and the anticipated metagame that’s been discussed hither and yon on the Net. We played IBC to the exclusion of every other format until we felt we were lightyears ahead of everyone else, until I could point to Traffic, Aguilera, and Kitchen Sink and say, "Those three decks win, and no one’s expecting them." Booya.
As I emerged from this cocoon and looked around, I had a great feeling of accomplishment and pride in the team putting our heads together for the first time with a completely new card set and DOING something with it, of being on the leading edge instead of the receding one, of discovering the usefulness of cards others rejected out of hand. Things like:
– In an environment where blue is perhaps the strongest "centering color" for multi-colored decks, opening with Blurred Mongoose and Yavimaya Barbarian is fast, and strong, and the various red/blue/black builds you see are solid, but not environment-defining.
– The 187 critters (particularly Battlemages) are incredibly diverse and useful, and that in particular the ability of Sunscape Battlemage to draw cards and kill Dragon Legends is the most underrated in the set, since it’s the most efficient non-Terminate way to kill 6/6 flyers or above.
– Much to my pleasure, lifegain has shown increasing usefulness in the set, from Angel of Mercy to Reviving Vapors to Armadillo Cloak, and that there aren’t enough consistent threats to offset it being used to great advantage.
– "Protection from [color]" is remarkably easy to get around if you have the right Battlemages in your build. Pro-blue? I bounce you with Nightscape. Pro-red? I kill you with Thornscape. Pro-black? Stormscape, please pick up the courtesy phone and explain to the nice gentleman that green has burn and blue has creature kill and black has bounce.
We have decks that are tested, tried, and true – and yet the question still has to be asked:
We’re not going to Tokyo or participating in a rash of online IBC tourneys. We’re slowly making a name for ourselves, but we’re not "pro." The IBC format isn’t going to be used for any of the upcoming PTQ qualifiers. Therefore, the information garnered probably means diddly-freakin’-squat until Apocalypse comes in.
There’s a gray area right now in Magic; Planeshift enters C.E. Standard on March 1st, and Seventh Edition rumors and spoilers are burning across the net like miniature supernovas, inspiring commentary and hypothesis. On May 1st, a scant two months later, 7th edition will make its appearance. The spoilers have cards listed that could drastically change the environment. Case in point: Duress. I take every spoiler with four grains of salt, but the thought of one of the four or five most powerful cards in Extended being reintroduced to Standard is something I find hard to imagine and slightly disgruntling. Whatever we create now to take advantage of Planeshift has a very short lifespan – particularly if we have to look forward to cards like Duress and Worship returning.
That’s why the world seems gray – because at this point, not very much seems to really MATTER as far as deckbuilding goes. Right now the Magic community seems to be hiding in bunkers, waiting for the bombs to drop. What’s strong? What’s weak? What interactions were previously unthought of? "I don’t know yet," these people say, "But you’re sure not going to find out from me. We have ‘tech’ here, and we’re not going to share too much of it because someone might be LISTENING."
God forbid someone share.
It happens all the time – we’ve all seen it. The doctors in lab coats are brewing something in the basement, but you’re not going to know what it is until it explodes in everyone’s faces and we spend the next seven months trying to find ways to deal with it. This is OUR tech, not yours, we’ll share THIS, but not tell you we’ve also built eight decks that beat it handily.
Perhaps my internal grayness comes from the fact that, suddenly, I understand those thoughts.
There are few things I deplore more than hypocrisy – in myself as well as others – but I’m also wise enough to recognize that It Happens, because throughout my life I’m going to have viewpoints change and grow and branch out into tangential philosophies that I wouldn’t have predicted. I used to rail internally about how everything on the Net was so obvious, that it was silly that pros were so secretive and seemingly oblivious to the vast desire of the Community, and that Life Would Be So Much Better if these great decks were shown to everyone sooner rather than later.
Tech wants to be free.
However, I then found my deck. It was something different than my other creations, something that required an intuitive leap beyond my normal skills. I prodded it as it lay upon the table, waiting for it to disintegrate under the rigors of viability testing. Yet it endured, and to my surprise grew stronger with a few carefully controlled mutations and the frantic urgings of my own creative passion.
I did not relax until I saw it stand upon its own, and in a moment of revelatory joy I went to the shutters, prepared to throw them open and bathe the darkness with ecstatic light.
It was at this point that my hand froze upon the latch and I heard the seductive voice of secrecy tap, tap, tapping on my spine.
"If you tell them, it’s not yours."
"You don’t want people to be prepared for this."
"Why let anyone in? It’s nice here in the dark."
"You’re talking to yourself again."
Somewhere during this Field of Dreams moment, the world went from black and white to gray.
I saw someone mention something about Dromar’s Charm, and a part of me seized up and said, "Uh oh. Maybe they’ll think of it," as if parallel development was a previously unheard of concept and the fact it was an unconditional counterspell had slipped by a few people. "Man! If they think of Dromar’s Charm, then next they’ll think of Reviving Vapors, and then they’ll be halfway there!"
Mason, put down the crack pipe.
No, I said put it DOWN.
(But you don’t understand. This is mine. I don’t want anyone to know. They might figure it out. They might be able to beat me. I want to be the guy that plays the weird-ass deck that places first and no one’s seen before. I want to win; I want people to think there’s no answer to their decks when in actuality mine is the answer. It’s mine. Mine, mine, mine.)
You realize, of course, that you’re behaving like a three-year-old.
(No I’m not. I’m behaving like a pro. THEY don’t share their "tech"….)
Are you a pro? No. So stop pretending to act like one.
(Yeah, but one day I’d like to be.)
Then act like the type of pro you’d LIKE to be. You remember what that is, don’t you?
(Yes. To share original ideas and concepts. To be proactive, not reactive. To break through the redundancy and staidness of the Netdecks. To show people answers and how to know and play the metagame.)
It’s more than just wanting it to be yours. You want to win, don’t you?
Don’t pros want to win? Aren’t they banking a lot on their ability to succeed on the Tour? Expenses aren’t easy, you know. If someone said that you could make $20,000 more than the person sitting next to you, and all you had to do was NOT tell them that you found a better way to do the work that you both share, what would you decide?
(I don’t think I want to answer that.)
Exactly. Don’t judge them.
I am Mason’s moral quandary.
And, everyone should know by now that I take life philosophy more seriously than most – and as a result, I spent a solid day pondering it.
Walk a mile in their shoes, and you will understand. So sayeth the shepherd, so sayeth the flock. Pros don’t want you to talk about their decks; they want the public’s perceptions and misperceptions to be fruitful and multiply. Their own judgments are to be kept in the background. Most teams are relatively equal. Why should they put a halt to the misperceptions of prevailing belief, when the continuance of it only contributes to their own chances of success? These are highly-skilled professional players, and they don’t want a word of what THEY are working on leaking out to other highly-skilled players who might improve upon it, develop a counterstrategy, and thus beat them in an event that can win them an armload of cash. These aren’t local Type II tournaments that net you a pack or three of Planeshift cards; these are high-profile, televised, written-and-discussed-for-months-on-the-Net events that turn people into household names.
Well, Magic-playing households, at least.
Why would they want to disadvantage themselves in the slightest?
Keep it under wraps, share, or playtest with some people you can trust, and hope that you’ve stumbled across something that no one else has, that you’ll define the environment instead of just being part of it, and you’re on your way to dominance – and the emulation that is sure to follow. It won’t matter who copies, however, because you’ve played your deck so long you know how to beat it, and while everyone else evolves it forward, you’re still a step ahead of them and still, to some degree, controlling the metagame.
Control issues? Perhaps. I say that the schism between pros and non-pros can be colored in broad strokes on the canvas of the Internet, and it comes down to one maxim: Tech needs to be free.
Though the pros are a frequent target of the Internet community, understand their motivation (why do I suddenly feel like I’m in acting class?) Complain all you want about WHY they don’t write about their killer tech, why we’re rehashing the same theories, why those of us who are above average sometimes think that the people reputed to be pros are posting things that don’t work on purpose.
It’s a hammer/nail schism that exists, and exists for understandable reasons. Accept it. C’est la vie.
I don’t blame them. I can disagree with it because my motivations are different, however, and seek to avoid falling into that same dichotomy. I can attempt to play like them, while still deciding not to BE a paranoid, angry hermit.
My goal as a writer has been to share, open some eyes, illuminate various concepts, enhance the understanding of the game and its players, and to use my own path towards growth to assist in this endeavor. Come and meet the Letter People, A-B-C-D, follow me.
I’m not going to sacrifice that now that I’m a better player, or hip to more crazy vibes, or so into IBC that I feel completely comfortable and on top of the environment. I’m not going to backseat my professed goals for the mere sake of clinging to my decklists like a man filled with visceral terror that someone, anyone, might find out what I’m playing and beat me over the head with a deck full of answers.
I’m serious, but not to the point where I need to be secretive. If other people want me to keep their secrets, fine; they’re not mine to give. But what’s mine IS mine to give, and I’m going to give it.
I won’t contribute to an atmosphere of exclusion. I’ll bring the bourgeoisie to the proletariat and work towards being a part of both. I’ll take my top IBC decks and play them at tournaments while killing time and show people what makes them work. Maybe they’ll decide the deck sucks; maybe it’ll inspire them to build it themselves or improve upon it. I’ll write about ’em, talk about ’em, and if nothing else, my readers will know that I’ve/we’ve spent a month working on this damn format, and there are good players out there willing to disperse with misperceptions. I’m not going to huddle protectively over the table so that no one sees what I’m doing, or become closemouthed when someone I don’t know walks by during deck discussion.
Screw that. It’s not for me.
But I understand where it comes from, the seriousness that certain players possess, and the value of secrecy from a purely self- or team-centered viewpoint. That understanding begets acceptance. I understand that the majority of players want their fifteen minutes or more, and that the people who are on top want to stay on top. Equality is beautiful in philosophy, but not something that people with vested competitive interest are truly fans of. When the game begins, you want an edge over your opponent, and if that means you’ve spent a month testing IBC and have a super-secret deck that they aren’t prepared for, you’re ready to begin reaping the rewards of your benefits.
Please sacrifice a land and gain two life.
Arbitrary number time: A level playing field benefits the lower 80%, not the upper 20%. And, you can further argue that, since the majority of that 80% lacks that vested competitive interest, that sharing things with them really benefits nobody, because they’re not going to be able to use it advantageously anyway. What’s the point? Who cares if the 80% knows IBC tech if there’s nowhere for them to use it?
Strangely, I do.
So while half of me whispers to keep my decks to myself and not tell a soul about them, the other half says that sharing knowledge is the only way to bring the gap between pros and non-pros a little bit closer. And if 1% of the people can find a way to cross over, then I’ll know I did my part.
Damn, I hope I’m part of that 1%.
Pros are venerated for their "tech," and you’ll see decklists invented by your friends or teammates that are about four or five cards different from these mind-shattering tournament decks. Another reason for secrecy, perhaps? Those who trust in their card selections and devote themselves to it weed themselves out from those who come up with a deck and then decided to play something else. If Blistering Squirrels is a dominant deck and wins a tournament, a number of people will have seen that car pass by them on the freeway, but decided to go back into Denny’s instead of chasing after it.
You can do this, Senor Nonpro, and while they may see things you do not, you’re also going to see some things that THEY won’t, and instead of waiting for tech to appear you can create your own.
I got yer blue/red/black right here, baby.
The first deck I created for IBC was one called Aguilera.dec; it was based on the concept that people are going to imagine the environment to be much slower than it actually is, and that being able to generate quick, economical creatures and back it up with removal and utility would create a semblance of a clock that IBC generally lacks due to the parity in the environment. The primary creatures I chose? Blurred Mongoose, Yavimaya Barbarian, Llanowar Knight. It utilized Eladamri’s Call, which caused me to dub the deck "Aguilera" after the song "What A Girl Wants."
Remember, I’m abnormal.
She’s the first deck I made; she eats blue/black/red. Burns their creatures out of the sky, scoots by their blockers and bounce, puts ’em on a quick clock with disposable critters, and wins.
Two weeks later, blue/black/red becomes the rage. Decklists and predictions appear everywhere. We test Aguilera further; it evolves. Blurred Mongoose is mentioned to certain people at various times, and it’s universally panned and disregarded. A challenge is given to provide a decklist if it’s so good.
Whatever. Hey, if you can’t figure it out by looking at the card yourself and examining the environment, why should the deck be shared with you? Blurred Mongoose. Ta-duh. One card, immune to Repulse, Exclude, Undermine, Scorching Lava, Urza’s Rage, Rushing River, Recoil, Prohibit.
::holding up hand:: Stop for a second, Mason. Talk to the wrist.
THAT is exactly the attitude that leads to exclusion. Can’t figure it out? Deal with it. Tough love, baby. I’m not going to do the work for you, and I look forward to seeing your eyebrow rise when I play it and your head nod in slow understanding when you realize evasion is a good thing. I’ll gladly trade it with some Sinister Strength’d guy (or just block it with a Knight) and cast another.
I can’t do it.
I’m not a writer to keep knowledge to myself. I’m a writer to share it, to put myself out there and risk humiliation every time I proclaim something.
I want to be the guy who says, "Blurred Mongoose is some good."
Goodbye for now, hypocrisy. Shore leave’s over.
Confession: Right now, I’m in love with Urza’s Guilt. Yes, THAT card. For some reason, this card grabs me by the ears, stares me fixedly in the eyes, and says, "Abuse me." It reaches in and touches the part of me that has an affinity for game-breaking combos that aren’t game-winning combos.
I wonder – is THAT hypocrisy? I feel that combos on the order of 21’s Pandemonium/Saproling Burst are Simply Wrong because they generate an auto-win scenario that you have a very limited ability to respond to. The same with Trix’s ability to Donate and force you to pay the second or third turn of cumulative upkeep on Illusions. I even hate playtesting these decks against my teammates, and always have the urge to apologize for winning with them. I am bothered by decks which enjoy infinite damage combos or play solitaire or whose losses stem more from their deck or player failing than from their opponent having any effect upon the outcome of the game.
Yet at the same time, despite my grumbling that "21 is immoral," I’m an avid advocate of Ankh-Tide (alliteration intended) – a combination that I feel is underplayed, for there are so many directions you can go with it – which packs the potential of killing you in a hurry. A huge hurry. Why do I profess to hate broken combos and then play Ankh-Tide? Why does savage glee course through my veins every time I phase out three or four lands and then drop an Ankh? Why is "Second turn Hoodwink" one of my favorite plays of all-time?
Ah, the mysteries of prejudice. Of course, I’m not your average bear, so this stuff actually nags at me and provokes the cognitive dissonance that causes me to seek answers.
Perhaps it’s because Ankh-Tide can be disrupted or worked around, and doesn’t have that "auto-win" feature. When I play it, I feel like I have to work at the combo – and that even if it resolves, I better have done something prior to that. That it’s a miniature combo that can be worked into a wide variety of decks and colors; my u/b version, Will’s u/w version, Bob Maher’s version, and Mary Van Tyne’s version. There’s plenty of diversity.
Conversely, when Replenish decks were the rage, sure, there was some differing, but the basic builds were the same; the same with Trix, the same with 21/42/63/ow, quit it.
Ankh-Tide has been the only true combo deck in the environment for a while, but I have the dark suspicion that is going to change. Please take two damage and move to the right.
Thus, my prejudice toward combo is explainable, but I’m not going to lie and say that I’m not looking for those same broken card interactions.
Urza’s Guilt. Huh. Let’s look at it:
Each player draws two cards, then discards three cards from his or her hand, then loses 4 life.
I’m enamored with THAT card?
Yep. When I first saw the card, I thought "how silly." At one point in time I would have set it aside and ignored it, declaring it nonviable and moving on to cards that were obviously better. I’m not unique in this; these are the same thought processes people engage in during any Magic discussion, where cards like "Blurred Mongoose" and "Glittering Lynx" are chuckled at until people realize those cards are beating up on them. We find a reason to dislike something, to prejudice ourselves against it, and to let that affect our deckbuilding in a number of ways.
Do you ever look at someone and say, "Why didn’t I think of that?" I’m that way with Fires. Scott was the teammate who first synergistically developed Fires, in his "How To Make a Blastoderm Do 20" deck. It escaped me; went right over my head until I saw it, and at that point it became a glaringly obvious deck archetype. Everyone perceives different synergies between cards; the Star City list is a veritable cornucopia of ideas and interactions that constantly amaze me.
Thus, when Planeshift came out, I cast a keen eye upon it and said, "I’m not going to disregard anything."
Urza’s Guilt found a way into my heart, because it was life loss. Life loss is special to me, because it’s not preventable. It’s not damage, and can only be stopped by countering or lifegain. At four life a pop, I’m on my way to killing you – and at the same time, disrupting you.
How can I make this work for me? How can I abuse a card that looks unplayable? Sure, it hurts, but I’m determined, dammit, to make this work.
I am Mason’s sense of glorified masochism.
The first thing I realized was that relying on Guilt wouldn’t kill someone. Thus, I needed to find a way to incorporate two concepts. One, more damage to the opponent. Two, a way to make sure that the effects of Urza’s Guilt weren’t disadvantageous to me. Netting a card loss and four less life isn’t something that’s going to win you many games by itself.
I focused first on negating the effects of Guilt. I needed two things: Lifegain, to offset its effects, and a way of replenishing the cards in my hand.
Lifegain? That means white.
That’s when everything began to click. I remembered the prerelease, when Dromar’s Charm was repeatedly a source of heartache to my opponents.
And I built Traffic.
DECK ONE — TRAFFIC
// mexico (rodriguez)
4x Bog Down
4x Phyrexian Scuta
1x Yawgmoth’s Agenda
// d.c. (wakefield)
4x Reviving Vapors
4x Stormscape Apprentice
// san diego (ayala)
4x Dromar’s Charm
4x Urza’s Guilt
3x Fact or Fiction
3x Coastal Tower
2x Dromar’s Cavern
3x Salt Marsh
I’m not going to give you a Godesque description of the cards this time around, except to explain that the card names inspired me to dub the deck "Traffic," after the movie by the same name. All it takes is a view somewhat left of center and a sense of humor, and you’ll figure it out.
This is board control. Stormscape Apprentice, seemingly innocuous, is much more dangerous than it appears, because it has two very synergetic abilities. I stop you from attacking, or I drain you slowly of life. That provides an early life advantage, either by draining my opponent or stalling their creature development. They’re utterly disposable. Phyrexian Scuta is there to provide a threat and a quick clock. Getting him through just once or twice almost guarantees a victory. These, too, are disposable.
Chances are, you’re going to win via the potential twenty-eight points of life your opponent will lose from Guilt and Undermine.
The library manipulation is clearly strong. Between Guilt, Fiction, and Vapors, you should plow through your cards in no time. Vapors, which is perhaps my most favorite gold card, nets you plenty of life. It will typically gain you four or five life, offsetting the effects of Guilt nicely.
Bog Down is a great early card AND a great late card against counter decks, when kicking it isn’t a drawback. This deck also shines against counter decks because it possesses eight, count ’em, eight blanket counterspells. Against blue/white control – or heck, any deck with potential counters – lead with the Dromar’s Charm. Undermine their attempted Absorb, or counter. Get that life loss in there.
Oh, and did I mention that Dromar’s Charm also acts as emergency creature removal – and most of all, as a quick way to gain five life?
Typically, this deck gains 15-20 life a game, and maintains board control with Routs and two solid creatures as defense. If you face someone whose deck is geared to get him up to 60 life, you’d be in danger no matter what you played, but Scuta make up for it in a hurry if you protect them from removal with your counters.
The sideboard is obvious. Gainsay preserves the advantage against counter decks who face you and sideboard it in themselves, and Bog Down wins a lot of wars against counter decks on its own. Dismantling Blow is the standard "disenchant effect in sideboard" that is necessary against decks that pack Elfhame Sanctuary and try and draw you out or stall. Spiritual Focus is a very efficient response to bounce and discard, and maintains the advantage you need. Planar Overlay is in there for the Harrow decks that are bound to appear to try and take advantage of the domain spells or accelerate their mana to pump out swarms of critters. Overlay is the weak link, and might be replaced with something else, but at this point, I’m quite satisfied.
There, was that so bad?
The deck’s been tested all over the spectrum, with very solid and occasionally dominant results, and at this point, I’m the only one I know of to have built it. While I’m not na?ve enough to pretend I’m the only one, period, it’s nice to get it out there. It wins a lot more than it loses – what more can I ask for?
I don’t have enough time to answer THAT question, actually.
DECK 2 — AGUILERA
// what a girl wants
4x Blurred Mongoose
4x Llanowar Knight
4x Yavimaya Barbarian
4x Urza’s Rage
2x Magma Burst
2x Voice of All
2x Thornscape Battlemage
2x Sunscape Battlemage
// what a girl needs
2x Elfhame Palace
4x Rith’s Grove
2x Shivan Oasis
// whatever makes me happy
4x Eladamri’s Call
Do I have issues, or what?
This deck has undergone a series of permutations, but the core of 2cc creatures hasn’t changed an iota. This deck looks like, as Will Rieffer often says, a pile. I understand skepticism – especially when people change their minds afterwards. Aguilera evolved to this point, and often becomes the deck that decks can’t beat after they plow through the other thirty-plus decks we’ve created.
Why does it win?
Blurred Mongoose and Yavimaya Barbarian are there for reasons I’ve discussed earlier. They neutralize a lot of spells in the environment. Llanowar Knight frequently is part of this Unholy Trinity of critters, but all are equally effective against decks packing their own weenie rush capability. Trade my Mongoose for your Shivan Zombie. Rush my Knights past your Nightscape Familiar, thanks.
They’re quick, and they’re virtually guaranteed to drop, and the only counterspell to fear is Prohibit. Then, drop another. Opponents can let your creatures drop, or counter them and then realize when Skizzik hammers ’em for five that they should have just waited.
The deck backs itself up with burn; if you count Thornscape Battlemage as a burn spell (though it doubles as Draco removal, just as Sunscape does), there are eight burn spells in the deck, all of which either clear the way for blockers or finish off an opponent. Magma Burst is an excellent spell in Limited, just as Bog Down and Rushing River are. Land sac kicker effects are all that, though I suspect only River’s going to make its way regularly to Standard decks (one land good, two land bad, in Standard.) If you punch through attacks for a few turns, you can afford to sit and wait or use Eladamri’s Call to grab whatever you need.
Wax/Wane gives you added utility; though it’s most frequently used to destroy enchantments (like the dreaded Teferi’s Moat), all in all you find that the creature selection’s very well rounded. I previously had Fleetfoot Panthers in here to re-use the Battlemage effects, but opted to include more burn and thus took them out. The possibility still exists, however, for them to return. Where would they fit? Who knows?
The land distribution works very effectively, and although some eyebrows may be raised at including four Lairs, it’s a necessary component. The majority of the deck is 2-3cc. You don’t NEED a lot of land, because you shouldn’t be missing creature drops each turn. You don’t feel the effects in loss of tempo advantage in the way that a deck with more expensive spells would feel.
Despite the fact it was built to combat red/blue/black, remember one potentially dangerous spell in particular – Void. That’s perhaps the deck’s most glaring weakness, due to the preponderance of 2 cc critters AND sideboard cards with the same casting cost. I haven’t found a suitable solution to that yet, and upon occasion have responded to a Void by Calling out for a Skizzik. Be warned.
The sideboard is obvious: Remove the creatures that don’t match up well, replace ’em with mass destruction of your choice. Acolyte/Breath can potentially be game-swinging – and if they’re playing Breath of Darigaaz or Flametongue Kavu, either main or sideboard, you’re already prepared. "Hmmm… Guess your Kavu’ll have to target itself." Canopy Surge, of course, kills Voice of All and Angel of Mercy.
I’m still figuring out just HOW a Sunscape Battlemage takes down Crosis, but I’m not complaining. Must be one big freakin’ axe.
Ok, one last deck to throw out there.
DECK 3 – KITCHEN SINK
//NAME: Kitchen Sink
4x Angel of Mercy
4x Urza’s Rage
4x Orim’s Chant
4x Breath of Darigaaz
2x Ghitu Fire
4x Reviving Vapors
2x Fact or Fiction
4x Coastal Tower
3x Crosis’s Catacombs
The name can be interpreted two ways – one, it throws everything at you but the kitchen sink, or it cleanses away the grime. Regardless, there’s a steady drip of blue throughout the deck.
One more thing – don’t examine the correlation between Reviving Vapors and Drano at home, kids.
This deck’s a Midgame deck through and through, prepared to kill anything dropped early and to release its own fury after a few turns. Once again, we see the crucial generation of card advantage that Fiction and Vapors provide, in addition to lifegain. This deck stalls creature decks very efficiently, and the two creatures it packs both are excellent limited choices.
There’s removal in spades. Urza’s Rage is, of course, a given. Rout, easily accessible through the advantage engine, clears the board. Ghitu Fire and Breath of Darigaaz are both, in different ways, very effective finishers. Throughout this, you’re stalling your opponent with Orim’s Chant and surprising them with the occasional Absorb.
I used to have Magma Burst instead of Fire, and I may change back; by adding Ghitu Fire, I reduce the effectiveness of Reviving Vapors’ lifegain effect in some ways. However, Fire seemed to have greater synergy for large critters that Burst couldn’t touch.
Orim’s Chant frequently gives an advantage over non-Prohibit carrying counterspell decks, as well. A lot of people undersell Prohibit, but as an early game card it’s very valuable. It’s the late-game where it’s dead, obviously, and that you wish it were different, but Prohibiting a Chant often leaves my opponent with enough mana to counter something else with a "real" counterspell. Be aware, but not afraid – if they want to counter that instead of something that’s going to staple them to the boards, no problem.
And that’s it.
A month’s worth of testing, and I’ve picked three decks that are unlike those being posted anywhere, all of which have successfully run the gauntlet and emerged stronger than before. They’re evolved. Q.E.D. No, they’re not unbeatable. I don’t think there’s anything that IS unbeatable in IBC. But hopefully, these three very solid decks will result in a new approach to the format and stimulate the creativity of those to whom it matters. Hopefully, you’ll procure some valuable insight out of it that differs from everything else you’ve seen.
I have little to gain or lose from sharing them, but I know that it felt good to share them. Not for self-glorification, but just to say, look, there are lots of options out there, and they may not be along the paths you believe – or have been led to believe.
Now, I’m going to work on Standard for a while, and see if there’s a way to get the jump on 7th Edition. There are a lot of hypothetical cards to work with, and I need to find some sort of replacement for Ankh of Mishra as my favorite annoying card for opponents to deal with. Since Ankh looks to be gone, I need to play SOMETHING that can do massive damage in one fell swoop.
Searing Wind doesn’t count.
It might just be Megrim. I’m positively giddy with the possibilities.
"Urza’s Guilt. I lose four, you take ten."
That’s what makes this game so damn fun.
-m / 00010101