A lot of older songs, especially ones from the 50s and 60s, seem a bit formulaic to me. They are, for lack of a better word, boring. Simplistic. But there is the occasional song that is just magic to music. Good old fashioned great songs. True treasure.
I feel the same way about Magic decks. Some old decks should be retired quickly – they are boring and stale. But not all decks in the graveyard of Magic are so inclined. With a few recent sets of crazy cards, maybe it’s time to revisit a few of these oldies. Can we make them better? Can we make them even more fun to play?
Everybody has different criteria for what is fun. Turbo-Stasis, for example, is a lot of fun to play, but not much fun to play against. Ideally, each of these decks should be fun, but there is often some element that simply doesn’t appeal to everybody. Therefore, when I call these decks old classics, you may disagree. Nevertheless, it’s still interesting to see how these decks can be modernized.
Each of these decks will be modernized in various ways. We are going to assume that these are assembled under Type Kitchen Table – namely that, so long as the deck is legal in any format, that it would be a legal build for your purposes. Whether you are looking for a multiplayer deck, a casual deck, or some neat little number to play between matches at a tournament, hopefully these decks will inspire. The common theme is Winter Orb. So many decks used Winter Orb over its history. So, without further ado, let’s head into deck number one.
Ah the old Frozen Fish decks. A fun theme deck, and one of the earliest tribal success stories. Frozen Fish came about after the Exodus block added a few key merfolk to the body of cards in Magic. With some cheap countermagic and cheaper creatures, a Frozen Fish deck would use a Winter Orb to slow down the opponent while swinging for damage. Some decks included Curiosity to draw cards with.
The key merfolk were Manta Riders and Merfolk Looters. Combined with Coral Merfolk (which was always a mistake to include), Merfolk Traders, and the ever present Lord of Atlantis, the creature base was just strong enough to knock somebody out.
Later, when Invasion block gave us more merfolk, you saw Vodalian Merchants and either Galina’s Knights or Vodalian Zombies as a 2/2 body. So merfolk sort of enjoyed a last gasp before being phased out of the Magic lexicon the past few years.
That means that any deck of our is going to have older merfolk. The essentials are:
I’ve always been amused by the straight Blue casual merfolk decks that run Coral Merfolk over River Merfolk. Doesn’t make sense, and when River Merfolk are this cheap, you owe it to your Frozen Fish deck to use the mountainwalking merfolk.
Now, we’ll want more than a single set of one-drops, so what other merfolk should we play? Here different deck builds differ. You could run, for example, Rootwater Diver, the 1/1 that sacs to return an artifact to your hand. Not only would it protect your Winter Orbs, but it could also retrieve cards like Lotus Petal that you could use to accelerate your mana base.
However, I think that Tidal Warrior is essential to a merfolk deck. Tidal Warrior turns a land into an island, which clears a path for your islandwalking horde. No matter what color of deck your opponent is playing, give them an island and walk over there for the victory. Additionally, Tidal Warrior can take out unsightly Mazes of Ith or Kor Havens.
With Tidal Warriors, you’ll want the requisite four Winter Orbs. What else you play is up to you. Run Rootwater Thief against decks with only a few options, run Coral Merfolk if you feel the need for more power, run Merfolk Traders for a tiny bit more card drawing, run the Divers for artifact recursion, and so forth. Personally, I like the Divers the most, since you can then run Lotus Petals or discard Winter Orbs to Looters.
And now we need a bit more card drawing and a bit more countermagic. The Masques block really helps us out here. Free counterspells like Daze, Thwart and Foil all have useful abilities. Taking a look at what each offers, I think that Daze and Foil are the best, so let’s add them.
Total cards thus far: Forty. I have room for eighteen islands and two other cards. This is where our little Mirrodin trick comes in: Quicksilver Fountain. It will assist the Winter Orb in slowing down your opponent, will allow another path for islandwalking, and it has that cool feel to it – the feel of a card rarely played. To recap, here is our revamped Frozen Fish deck.
One of the first successful tournament decks, Prison was an unusual deck design because it ran a variety of artifacts designed to shut down your opponent. It would increasingly bury your opponent under artifacts until you dropped a Titania’s Song and swung with your artifact horde for the win.
Mirrodin adds several toys to the original Prison arsenal, so let’s try and reawaken the sleeping giant of old.
The old Prison deck took advantage for an obscure rule that stated that artifacts that were tapped were turned off. As such, the deck ran Icy Manipulator and Relic Barrier to turn off various key artifacts, so that you received a benefit that your opponent did not.
Howling Mine and Winter Orb together combined to be a very deadly tandem. You could draw a lot of cards while slowing down’s your opponent’s ability to use the cards that they drew. Tap the Howling Mine after you draw, and your opponent can’t use the effect. Tap the Winter Orb before your turn and you get to untap everything.
Relic Barrier taps an artifact for no mana at all, but Ring of Gix can lock down a creature or land similarly to an Icy Manipulator. Under a Winter Orb, however, one doesn’t always have the mana for echo effects. So it’s sort of a toss up. Let’s stay with the classic Relic Barrier.
The old deck splashed Green for Titania’s Song, but we no longer need to do that with Mirrodin. March of the Machines will do just fine, thank you. Unlike the oddball Titania’s Song, artifacts keep their abilities, but they also cease being creatures as soon as March leaves play, they don’t hang around for a while.
The original deck also used goodies like Armageddon and Millstone, but I find those to be a little unfocused, especially in today’s environment. I remain unconvinced that we will even need White. Only Seal of Cleasing or creature kill like Swords to Plowshares seems necessary.
I do want an old Weatherlight trick – Pendrell Mists. This enchantment requires that creatures have an upkeep of one colorless. Combined with Winter Orb, this should destroy your opponent’s creatures, although one may survive for a while. Another idea is Propaganda. Propaganda and Winter Orb essentially shuts down your opponent’s creatures.
Should we play creatures? The beauty of the first decks were that there were no creatures in the deck until it was too late, and the Titania’s Song came down. It made all of your opponent’s creature kill spells dead in the water. However, Mirrodin gives us a few choice creatures to consider:
Lodestone Myr has three purposes. Firstly, he can swing for a significant amount of damage. Secondly, he can play defense early enough. And thirdly, he can tap unruly Winter Orbs and Howling Mines for free.
Since we are currently playing with White, here is our current decklist:
That puts us at thirty-five cards already, prior to mana. We need space so I may pull out some countermagic. I definitely decide to pull out the Swords altogether and replace with Propaganda as mentioned earlier.
With only Seal of Cleansing in the deck, is White even necessary anymore?
I removed the Seals and put in a pair of Capsizes for emergencies. We can bounce any unruly permanents, including enchantments like Energy Flux. It also gives us another way to lock down our opponents.
That leaves me with just enough room for some Lodestone Myr. If I try it out and they don’t work, it’s an easy card to pull out, but I like them for now. When fleshing out my deck and considering some cards, I know that I want to run the artifact land Seat of the Synod. It will help us with cards like Thirst for Knowledge and Lodestone Myr. But not March of the Machines. The closer this deck gets to complete, the worse March becomes. I pull it out as well for another Myr.
There are a few lands worthy of consideration. The first is Blinkmoth Well. Having another way to tap artifacts seems like a good idea. Another possibility seems to be Rishadan Port. Tapping a land also seems to be a good thing. Of the two, I’d rather slow down my opponent than speed up my ability to lock him down, so Rishadan Ports it is.
With four Ports, four Seats, we have sixteen lands left. Since so little of our deck uses Blue, I am very comfortable with another set of non-basics. Wasteland and Blinkmoth Well come to mind. I decide to go with a couple of Wells and leave in a little extra Blue mana, just in case. The final decklist is:
4 Winter Orb
4 Howling Mine
4 Relic Barrier
4 Icy Manipulator
3 Mana Leak
4 Thirst for Knowledge
3 Lodestone Myr
4 Rishadan Port
4 Seat of the Synod
2 Blinkmoth Well
Except in Type One, does Stompy live anywhere anymore? [Yep, the current Extended metagame has suddenly become rife with it. -Knut] Originally, Senor Stompy was an attempt to create a Green aggressive deck that used Winter Orb as a way to slow your opponent down long enough for you to run over him.
Honestly, Stompy and Fires decks are very similar in design. Both try to get a little extra speed over the opponent. Fires of Yavimaya speeds up your own deck and Stompy slows down your opponent’s deck.
The original Stompy decks used cheap Green creatures around the time of MirVLight. Quickly, it was modified by adding Cursed Scrolls and deleting Winter Orb to become Cursed Stompy, and the deck would continue to morph again and again with new versions.
Firstly, we want one-drops. I like Rogue Elephant, Llanowar Elves, and either Fyndhorn Elves or Quirion Ranger. With a Winter Orb out, having an extra mana from a mana producing creature seems rather nice. Other possibilities might include Ghazban Ogre or Mtenda Lion.
I also want a powerful four drop, and that is probably Blastoderm.
We have three different decks above. Each of these decks uses Winter Orb, and each uses it with a completely different feel. From Prison’s combo-esque feel to Frozen Fish’s Aggro-Control to Stompy’s tempo, each deck has its own style, its own flair.
Man is Winter Orb a versatile card! It wasn’t even intended to be a theme, I wrote the Frozen Fish deck, and then realized that two of the decks on my list of possible candidates were also Winter Orb decks.
Another thing I didn’t notice until later was that each deck uses Mirrodin cards. The Prison deck is significantly altered by them, but the other two decks would probably do just as fine without them. Still, it demonstrates that Mirrodin was a good set, and I continually find myself adding Mirrodin cards to decks, despite the fact that it looks ugly.
Hopefully one of the above decks will either sound like a fun casual deck or will spark some ideas. Revamping old decks is always a lot of fun.