Restless: Darksteel in Constructed – Playing in the Cemetery Part 1

So I got to thinking, maybe Chittering Rats would be really good in an Oversold Cemetery deck. I saw a copy of one that made top eight in an E-league tournament (Yeah, I know the site is down, but often times after a Master tournament, there will be a link on IRC to the top eight decks in the event. You can download them, and see what the people played.) So, like any good scammer for other people’s work, I took it, played it some, and started to make some changes.

Okay, everyone has been talking about Darksteel, trying to figure out what the best cards are going to be, testing to see what is going to be viable for Regionals, Nationals, or whatever Type Two events are going to be held. Man, Skullclamp sure looks good right? Almost tailor made for the return of White Weenie, am I right? Maybe, but you know, I don’t want to talk about how Skullclamp gives the goods to every deck that runs creatures. Sure people will make decks that run this efficient card drawing equipment, in the aforementioned White Weenie (chances are, it’ll still suck.) Goblins (chances are, it will not be good enough) Elves (wouldn’t Slate of Ancestry work just as well? Wait, are Elves even viable?) or Affinity (this actually looks to be the strongest of the decks it can go into.)

Okay, enough of that Skullclamp talk. I think there are several cards that will have the chance to shine in the new Type Two. Over the course of this article and the one that will follow it, I will talk about the two cards that have caught my eye the most in the new set. Here is the first card that has caught my attention.

Chittering Rats

You know, if the good Black creatures in the format had any type of evasion, you would think this new rat would be a perfect fit in a Suicide Black deck. Sadly, the good Black creatures lack flying, and fear is less then strong now in the artifact-heavy environment. So Suicide Black seems to be an unsuitable option for this diamond in the set.

So I got to thinking, maybe this guy would be really good in an Oversold Cemetery deck. I saw a copy of one that made top eight in an E-league tournament (Yeah, I know the site is down, but often times after a Master tournament, there will be a link on IRC to the top eight decks in the event. You can download them, and see what the people played.) So, like any good scammer for other people’s work, I took it, played it some, and started to make some changes. The first change I made was adding Plow Under, because you know, it seems like the best non-creature Green card in the format. It breaks up the Urza Lands, makes Cloudpost less strong, and can reset the counters on Mirrodin’s Core.

Oh yeah, I’m supposed to be talking about Chittering Rats, not Plow Under. I made some room for the guys, and they seemed to be working out just fine, but the deck still needed a bit of work. This is when a friend of mine, Dustin MacFarland stepped up with the idea of adding Phyrexian Plaguelord. So he worked up a list for me, played it some, and this is what we have come up with

Black Green Cemetery

(Original Decklist played by J_Myers)

11 Forest

9 Swamp

3 City of Brass

3 Chittering Rats

4 Wirewood Herald

1 Viridian Zealot

1 Caller of the Claw

4 Troll Ascetic

3 Vine Trellis

4 Ravenous Baloth

4 Birds of Paradise

3 Nekrataal

2 Phyrexian Plaguelord

3 Oversold Cemetery

3 Plow Under

2 Persecute


4 Oxidize

3 Stabilizer

3 Dark Banishing

1 Persecute

1 Plow Under

1 Oversold Cemetery

2 Viridian Zealot

This is definitely more of a traditional Black/Green list, similar to the ones that made a huge splash last year. It has the traditional Wirewood Herald Elf”Toolbox,” in Caller of the Claw and Viridian Zealot. It lacks mass removal, but I feel that this deck plays like a beatdown deck, relying on Oversold Cemetery as a way to dodge the removal that other decks pack. Stalling out the game long enough to make sure you have the advantage during the most important part of the game. You know the one part where your opponent shuffles up for game two.

I know that there are several different versions of Green/Black on the internet, floating around like a Democrat looking for your vote. Some offer you mass removal. Others make promises of extreme card advantage. My deck is no different, and I believe it is among the best that you can play in the upcoming format. Let’s see if I can explain why my deck is just as good as the others.

City of Brass

In this build of the deck, City was actually an afterthought. I tried a number of lands here, ranging from Mirrodin’s Core, (too slow to keep in the deck) Stalking Stones (not really a good fit in the deck and has the drawback of producing colorless instead of a color), and Blinkmoth Nexus (I cut this land for the same reason.) I even tried the Cycling lands, just for the card drawing. City was just the best fit, regardless of the lowly point of damage you take to cast the first turn Bird of Paradise. I did not want to play with a land that either slowed the deck down a turn, or did not generate colored mana.

I hope that made sense.

The creatures in the deck are defined not by power, but by what they do. Do they do anything besides attack? Do they help you accelerate to playing bigger spells? All of these guys serve a purpose, and just about all of them can be abused with Oversold Cemetery. Need life? Return the Ravenous Baloth. Need a way to deal with a creature? Recur the Nekrataal or Phyrexian Plaguelord. Every creature in the deck is a team player of sorts.

Birds of Paradise / Vine Trellis

Have you ever been able to cast a Plow Under on the third turn? Ever started to apply pressure with a second turn Troll Ascetic, or a third turn Ravenous Baloth? If so, then you can recognize and appreciate the power that these two accelerants can bring to the table. How are they broken with the Cemetery you might ask? Well, in case there are no good creatures in the graveyard, you can always bring either of these guys back to at least block.

Chittering Rats

Say hello to the little rat that made me want to work on Cemetery. Guess what? He says hello back. How cute!

Sorry. This guy provides a much needed boost in tempo with his come into play ability. Denying your opponent a fresh draw step slows them down a turn. He comes with a nice body, and with Phyrexian Plaguelord and Oversold Cemetery, he turns into a soft lock. Every turn your opponent draws the same card over and over again. Want to see a game that has no interaction at all? Sit down and apply this lock.

Ravenous Baloth

This is a four of in the deck that should be unquestionable. Gaining four life a turn against Goblins, and providing a decent sized body to boot. There may be better Green creatures in Type Two right now, but you will not find one that is so tailor made for this deck.

Troll Ascetic

I’m not sure if there is a better creature in all of Green for Type Two play right now, though he’s sadly outclassed by angels and dragons for the title of best creature in the format. However, the guy that can not be bounced, burned, or banished comes in with regeneration and hits for three points a turn. I’ve said a lot about this guy in past articles, and I stand by my statements of how good he is.

Wirewood Herald

In traditional Cemetery decks, I feel that this guy’s best inclusion is not for the toolbox that he can bring into the deck, but for the cheap returnable blocker that he really is. Sure the ability to go search for the Caller or Zealot is clutch in some situations, but more often then not, this guy is just gonna go search for another copy of itself, and then come back down as blocker. He is underused, and may end up getting replaced by Skullclamp in the near future, but for right now the ability to tutor for the elf answer is just too good to replace.

Caller of The Claw/Viridian Zealot

Here is the elf toolbox in the deck. You have a guy that helps you recover from Wrath of God, or other forms of mass removal, and you have a reusable killing machine against Affinity with the Zealot. Sadly there is not enough room for any other elves. Elf Replica might be good in here, as might the Viridian Shaman.


Hmm, a 2/1 first striker that kills a non artifact non Black creature when it comes into play. This reprint from Visions can block a Frogmite and still live to block something else during the next turn. More importantly he is a four mana Terror, and a creature to boot, which means you can recur him.

Phyrexian Plaguelord

This is one of those guys that I was cracking a smile about when I first saw he was back in 8th Edition. He is not exactly overpowered, but he is a solid, playable creature for a color that lacks good creatures.

Yeah, I miss Nantuko Shade as well.

Regardless, this guy helps out with the Goblin matchup, turning soon-to-be-dead blockers into removal. He also helps stock your graveyard with guys, so the Oversold Cemetery that you have on board is going to be active and returning men at all times. He is also key to getting the Chittering Rats soft lock, making it nearly impossible for your opponent to get a new draw step.


Oversold Cemetery

When this card was first previewed by The Sideboard, many players were sent scurrying trying to break this enchantment. There was some measure of success, but with Wake, Tog and the other great control decks ruling the format, Cemetery was forced to take a back seat. I believe now is the time that Cemetery can shine. Wrath of God is important for many decks in the top tier, and often times they are supported with other mass removal spells. Starstorm, Oblivion Stone, and Akroma’s Vengeance are much easier to recover from with this card in play. (Yeah, I know that Stone and Vengeance get rid of the enchantment as well, but having another one after the removal spell is clutch.)

Plow Under

The tempo swing from casting this card is hard for some decks to overcome (see how much game Goblins has after two of these guys coming down for you), and can slow your opponent down tremendously. Use this to make your opponent replay two of the three Urza lands. Make Cloudpost tap for a few colorless less. No matter what two lands you put back on your opponent’s deck, the devastating sorcery will have made it’s point perfectly clear. You’re opponent will be set back two turns, and hopefully you can take full advantage of that.


Here’s one of the great tools that you can use for the control matchup. Wipe away all of their Wrath of Gods in hand and force them to draw better than you. Remind your opponent that with your Cemetery in play, drawing better than you is going to be highly unlikely.



I think that this is going to end up being better then Naturalize is currently. For half the mana you get access to the most important part of spell from Onslaught. Currently, enchantments are not seeing much play, so why pay an additional colorless for something that is going to kill off a Seat of the Synod anyway?


With no mass removal in site, this is your best tool against massive Decrees of Justice. This also improves the matchup with Slide.

Dark Banishing

This makes it in over Terror because sometimes you need to kill artifact creatures. Everything else should easily be handled by Nekrataal and Phyrexian Plaguelord.

Viridian Zealot

Two more elves to add to the toolbox for the Affinity game.

Oversold Cemetery/Plow Under/Persecute

Just additional copies of cards that I really want more of in the main deck. These three may end up becoming Decree of Pain if the Decree of Justice matches start to prove themselves too hard.

You’ll notice the distinct lack of mass removal in the deck. There’s no Decree of Pain, and there was no room for Echoing Decay. If Decree of Justice is huge in your area, you’re gonna need to make some changes, to make sure that you can have a bigger advantage against these decks.



Blue White Control

Land Destruction

Goblin Bidding


That is the typical Kentucky Metagame. I know that it lacks excitement, and that there really is not much new stuff to explore from the set. This deck has been showing some good results against all of these decks. I would like to do a quick overview on each of the five matches, and hopefully bring the key sideboarding strategies to the table.

Vs. Affinity

Your elf toolbox with Zealot will play an important role in this match. Being able to kill Myr Enforcers and Frogmites for only two mana will give you the time you need to position your board in a favorable matchup. A quick Oversold Cemetery will allow you to get the Zealots back into play as quickly as possible. Plaguelord is pretty much a dead card in this matchup, and the Chittering Rats soft lock is not nearly as important in this match as it is in any other. When sideboarding this matchup, you want to have Oxidize, Viridian Zealot, and Dark Banishing come in out of the board. Replace Chittering Rats, Persecute, Phyrexian Plaguelord, and one Nekrataal with those cards.

Vs. U/W Control

This is already a pretty favorable match with your land and hand disruption. The Rat soft lock can really shine here, preventing then from casting Akroma’s Vengeance if left unchecked. You have to be ready for the Decree of Justice, in either the hardcast or cycled form. Without the mass removal of the Decree of Pain or Oblivion Stones, you may be hard pressed to recover from an angel maker for more then four. Of course what deck would not be hard pressed to overcome that?

You want to bring in the additional Plow Under, Persecute, and Oversold Cemetery. In addition to those three cards, you really want to have Stabilizer. This will prevent them from possibly cycling out of the soft lock with Eternal Dragon. Take out the Nekrataal, Viridian Zealot, and two one-ofs. During testing, I have been removing a Bird of Paradise and a Ravenous Baloth with no real drawbacks.

Vs. Land Destruction

This may end up being the hardest matchup when all is said and done. Mono-Red land destruction, the most popular version of the mana denial deck in the Kentucky area, is blisteringly fast, combining huge creatures with spells that knock your lands out of play. It is not unwinnable, but now your mana creatures play a huge role. You want to side in Dark Banishings, and the third Persecute. Take out Plow Under and the Zealot. Plow Under is too slow for the matchup, and well, Zealot is a GG blocker – he hardly serves a real purpose in the matchup.

Vs. Goblin Bidding

Welcome to your bye. Although the Goblin deck is very fast, you have two great creatures against it in Troll Ascetic and Ravenous Baloth. Regenerators and life gainers are pretty good from what I understand. Sadly there is not much you can do with Bidding. Beasts (more often than not) will be the creature type that you call out. Side out Viridian Zealot and Nekrataal for Dark Banishing and the additional Persecute.

Vs. Slide

Aside from the Mono Red Land Destruction matchup, this matchup is pretty difficult as well. This deck has the best of the best in mass removal, targeted removal, and can kill with a card that this deck already has a small problem with: Decree of Justice. However, the Slide deck is often scared of an active Cemetery, and will have to Vengeance away their own Rifts and Slides to stop you from gaining four life a turn, or from removing their draw step with Chittering Rats.

Caller of the Claw is one of the most important cards you can get with the Herald and this will help you recover a bit from the massive removal. Sideboarding for this deck goes like this: you take out Plow Under, Phyrexian Plaguelord, and bring in Stabilizer, Persecute, and Oversold Cemetery. You may also want to see how bringing in the extra Zealots works. If you chose to bring in these two guys, (and you should bring in these guys, since they are really good against Slide), take out Vine Trellis. With the removal of all of the five mana spells, this accelerant is not needed as much.

So, um, yeah… Chittering Rats. A dork that needed a home, and hopefully found one. This may end up being one of those cards that was underlooked, because it is not as good as I wanted it to be. However, the card is one of the best Black commons that I have seen in a long time. I know that Darksteel seems to be really weak in the area of Constructed magic, but play with it a little bit, you can find cards that surprise everyone.

Part two is going to cover the Indestructible mechanic, and show off a deck that I think will be fun and competitive for Regionals.

Joshua Claytor.

[email protected]