So Many Insane Plays – The Parfait Ambush!

Read Stephen Menendian every week... at StarCityGames.com!
Monday, October 6th – White is Magic’s perennial whipping boy… and Vintage is the format that wields the biggest whip. In metagames past, Vintage players were conditioned to skim the White sweetmeats in their rush to get to the Blue cards. Can Meandeck’s Parfait Ambush deck convince players that White is Right? Read on to find out!

White is the sad, misbegotten black sheep of the color wheel. It’s tormented, ridiculed, despised. It’s ignored, left to its lonely status as fourth tier backup, or shoe-horned to support some superior gold spell.

In the past, I have attributed the long-decline in White’s fortunes to two facts: a re-orientation of White’s role in the color wheel, and the fact that its color wheel attributes have become less important over time.

Back in the day, White was a powerhouse. Cards like Balance, Disenchant, and Swords to Plowshares were staples across archetype. Moat was as format-defining a card as you could print. And Serra Angel was the best finisher in the game.

Black was the color of weenie hordes: cards like Hypnotic Specter and Juzam Djinn were powered out by Dark Rituals, and supported with 2/1 guys like Order of the Ebon Hand. Nantuko Shade is the inheritor of that proud legacy.

But somewhere along the way, those roles flipped. White became the color of the weenie, it seemed, first with Rebels and later with cards like Jotun Grunt, Whipcorder, Isamaru, and so much more. Sure, it always had Savannah Lions, but that was the aberration in Alpha, not the rule. White was the anti-creature color. It had Wrath of God, Balance, Swords, and Moat.

At the same time that White became the color of weenie hordes, Black became the color of creature removal. It didn’t happen all at once. First came cards like Mutilate and Death Cloud, and finally, it was given the ultimate symbol of White’s power: Damnation. Sure, Black always had Terror, but that was the aberration, not the rule.

The color wheel was as much as matter of how the colors were used in the early days as it was what actually saw print. If you look hard enough, you can find precedent for almost anything in the early sets.

In Vintage, White has been in a long recession. While I won’t claim that its fortunes have now miraculously changed, I believe a new vista has opened up for white in the Vintage metagame.

I am very proud to present:

If your first reaction is incredulity, don’t worry, that would be my reaction too. Vintage players are conditioned to look at White cards and dismiss them. But look closer. Reject your conditioning. This deck is actually very good. I am going to walk you through the major choices and then share some game states I experienced in testing.

This is a White control deck, and a powerful one at that. It attacks the metagame from a unique angle, and is very difficult to combat. Let me walk you through the deck’s major components:

Aura of Silence

This card is incredible. But it is a card that is not nearly as powerful on paper as it is in reality. And it’s pretty amazing on paper. The first and most important thing it does is act like a Super Sphere of Resistance. In that role, it slows down your opponents enormously. Moxen are slower to hit the table, and cards like Thirst are slower to be deployed. This card also directly attacks Yawgmoth’s Will, since you can’t recur Black Lotus without expending two more mana, and all of the Moxen you draw can’t be played without exorbitant cost. When we think about Vintage games in the abstract, I think we underestimate the role that Moxen acceleration play in mana development. Think about this: in most Mana Drain decks, about 40 percent of their mana is artifact acceleration. You get this thing on the table and you’ve dramatically slowed about 40% of their development. It’s also cumulative. So the first one will buy you time to find another.

And that doesn’t even take into account the fact that it’s also removal. Worried about Time Vault? Just get this into play. Painter? This makes Painter cost five, and destroys it. Workshops? This is a silver bullet through the head of a Workshop pilot. It not only acts as a one-sided Super Sphere against their entire deck, it takes out their best spell.

Trinisphere, Wasteland, Strip Mine

This deck is a control deck that uses powerful denial elements to attack the opponent. Mana denial is one of the biggest components of that, although all of the denial elements work together. Trinisphere is a massive bomb in here. You’ll notice that this deck has 4 Mox Diamonds. Trinisphere is an early and incredible play. If countered, just recur it with Argivian Find. Wasteland and Strip Mine gain power with Mox Diamond, since you don’t need a Plains on the table to play spells, so you can just play Wastelands instead.

Aven Mindcensor

Until they printed Mindlock Orb, there was no card like this in Magic. It’s still incredible. It hampers everything from Fetchlands to Tezzeret’s tutor ability. It is an instant speed threat that will put your opponent on a clock.

Like Aura of Silence, this card also synergizes with Wasteland. With Aura, your opponents will try to play lands to get their Moxen on the table. You can then use Wasteland to keep them in the hole. Similarly, when this card comes down, suddenly all of those Fetchlands lose most of their value. Even if there is an Island in the top four cards of their library, it’s likely to be a dual land. Which makes Wasteland even stronger.

Ethersworn Canonist

Rule of Law on legs. Frankly, this guy is amazing. This card synergizes very well with Aura of Silence. Aura of Silence will make it hard for opponents to play their few cards that aren’t affected by this. Vintage decks, especially since the Gush era, are used to playing a ton of spells a turn. I wish this card had seen print a year ago, as it is one of the best natural solutions to those Grow decks. Even still, Vintage decks are used to being able to play lots of spells a turn. This card will act mostly a completely one sided rule of law. Why? Because most of the cards you will play in a turn after he has hit play are artifacts, or lands, or instants that can be played on your opponent’s turn. Most amusingly, this guy is an artifact himself, so he doesn’t count as a spell for the turn, affect future Canonists, and he is recurrable with Argivian Find.

Tormod’s Crypt

I won’t spend much time on why this is included. It attacks the most powerful strategy in the format, Yawgmoth’s Will, and is useful against many other decks.

Land Tax and Scroll Rack

This is the major draw engine of the deck. Land Tax is powerful, and is given a very nice boost with the long-overdue unrestriction of Mox Diamond. In fact, Land Tax might be one of the Top 5 White spells of all time. It is, after all, banned in Legacy (although for bad reasons). In my testing with this deck, I was consistently impressed with how powerful this spell was in modern Vintage.

There have been two fundamental problems with Land Tax. The first is that multi-color decks are better than mono-color decks because that the cost for playing more than one color is too low to avoid taking advantage. The second problem is that it requires a very high amount of White cards. This is because if you are playing Land Tax, you will be wanting to play it on turn 1. That means you need access to White mana immediately, and play a deck with a large amount of basics. There are almost no decks in Vintage that can do that. This deck can. I’m not 100% convinced that it should be mono White (although that’s a topic for later), but it will always have a lot of White and a ton of basics. Land Tax is incredible here.

I have been very surprised by the number of opponents I’ve tested against who decide not to make land drops, sitting on a single land, in order to deny me the ability to Land Tax. It seems to me that that is self-defeating, but they don’t want me to get three free cards in hand. With the 4 Mox Diamonds and other artifact acceleration, I can usually play any card in my deck with just a few mana. With 4 Mox Diamonds, it is that much more likely that I won’t even have to play a land on turn 1 to play Land Tax.

For those of you aren’t aware of how Land Tax and Scroll Rack interact, let me tell you! When you Land Tax up a bunch of lands, you can put those on top of your deck with Scroll Rack, drawing a bunch of new cards. Then you can Land Tax again, shuffling your deck and getting those lands back into your hand to fuel your Scroll Rack. It’s an incredible draw engine, and if the game goes long enough because your other tools have kept your opponent from winning, this will come online and seal the deal.

I think what has impressed me the most about both cards is how good they are even without each other. I have always been somewhat dismissive of Scroll Rack. Its power in here may make me rethink that stance. Even without Scroll Rack, Land Tax finding me those lands has helped and given me a critical edge, as you might expect from the concept of card advantage.

Land Tax is almost an auto-win resolution against Workshop decks. It’s incredibly easy to play under a Sphere, since it is so cheap, and it trumps Spheres, because it finds you as much land as you need.

However, I do tend to make mistakes with it. Sometimes, after Taxing once or twice, I’ll play a second land when I don’t need it, and then cut myself off from being able to tax. That’s usually a bad choice. You want to thin your deck as much as possible, with the exception of maybe keeping a Plains or two in there for later.

Both cards are recurrable with Argivian Find. And in fact, that’s a major reason why Find is even in this deck. I love it when my opponent counters my turn 1 Land Tax and then I can just Argivian Find it on the same turn and play it again on turn 2.

In previous iterations of this deck, I even went to 2 Zuran Orbs to help control when I can Tax. If you want to pick up this deck, it is an option you shouldn’t forget.

2 Orim’s Chant/2 Abeyance

When I first started testing this deck, my instinct was to run four of each card. After a bunch of testing, it seems that, surprisingly, Orim’s Chant is the superior card. A big reason for that is its scope, not the kicker ability. Orim’s Chant stops enchantments and creatures, etc. from being played, while Abeyance does not. On the other hand, I have found Abeyance’s ability to turn off activated abilities important, buying me a critical turn against Time Vault and Painter decks. In the end, I settled on a mix of two and two, and testing has suggested that this configuration works well. The other four are in the sideboard.

The proper use of these cards are very important to success. For example, I like to play Chant after my opponent breaks Memory Jar (I’ve done this many times), and if your opponent plays Dark Ritual. It’s incredible in both instances. It’s also very nice if your opponent has just tutored or played Gifts.

Both cards are also very powerful with Canonist. With the Canonist in play, your opponent has the choice of either countering your spell, “spelling them out” for the turn, or letting it resolve, de facto “spelling them out” for the turn.

3 Swords to Plowshares, 1 Balance

My early testing lists of this deck ran 1 Moat, 1 Humility, 3 Plowshares, 1 Balance, and 2 Sacred Mesa. For some reason, I ran into a bunch of Aggro and Aggro-Control decks on Magic Workstation, and I tore them apart. I’ve cut most of the powerful silver bullets, although if you are concerned, I would consider putting a Moat or two back into the deck for Tormod’s Crypt and Zuran Orb. Also, Zuran Orb plus Land Tax does buy a lot of time against Aggro.

The presence of Enlightened Tutor is self-evident. As is Balance.


The mana is not totally perfect, but it works. A bunch of testing proves it. It is possible that the deck wants one more land (Mistveil Plains?). It also may want the fifth regular Mox.

So, what did I not include, or what did I cut?

Jester’s Cap

Jester’s Cap is very powerful, especially with 3-4 Argivian Find. However, it’s very, very slow. I almost never got to the four mana I needed to play this efficiently.

Crucible of Worlds

Like Cap, I had this in the deck in one iteration or another. If I were to splash Black, I would play this card again. It synergizes with Zorb and with the mana denial aspects of the deck.


Because I included Canonist and Mindcensor over Mobilization, these cards got cut.

Runed Halo

This card is cute, but probably too narrow.

Ivory Mask

This card was always awful, every time I drew it.

Oblivion Ring

This card is actually potentially good. It is one of the few cards that can get rid of a Tezzeret. I just don’t think it’s needed, given how much spot removal I already have.


The sideboard cleans up a lot of matchups.

First of all, Ichorid. You bring in:

2 Pithing Needle
2 Moat
1 Swords to Plowshares
3 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Wheel of Sun and Moon

Sideboard out garbage like Orim’s Chant and Abeyance. Sideboard out Aura of Silence, which is almost useless in this match.


Bring in both Chants and Abeyance, and sideboard in two more Rule of Law. Sideboard out 3 Find, 1 Plowshares, 1 Zuran Orb, and something else.

The sideboard probably needs work. I have given you a useful start, though.


I ambushed a bunch of MWS players with this deck. Many were disgusted and quit after losing.

Here are some amusing screen shots. [Editor’s Note — These images were too large to post in the central gutter of the article, too detailed to shrink to a passable size, and too important to cut completely — Craig.]

This is one of those games where I had turn 1 Land Tax. My opponent was on the play and played turn 1 Snow-Covered Island and Mox. I played Land Tax and he decided not to play another land until I did. I obliged. I played Plains, Sol Ring and passed.

He went to play Polluted Delta, and I responded with Aven Mindcensor. My opponent didn’t play close attention and tried to dig out as Sea, but put it back in his deck. He had a failed search and I went on to wrap up the match. My Wasteland, Canonist, and Aura of Silence in hand kept him down in a hole until my men killed him.

You can see that game state here:

I played countless matches, but this one against TPS is probably among the most amusing:

T1Guy versus Forlock

[T1Guy] T1Guy shuffles library
[Forlock] Yo
[T1Guy] hi

[T1Guy] T1Guy rolled a 12, using a 20 sided die

[Forlock] Forlock rolled a 17, using a 20 sided die
[T1Guy] play or draw?
[T1Guy] T1Guy shuffles library
[T1Guy] T1Guy shuffles library

[Forlock] play
[Forlock] good luck
[Forlock] Forlock draws 7 cards
[Forlock] keep

[T1Guy] k

My opening hand is:

Ethersworn Canonist
Aura of Silence
Orim’s Chant

[T1Guy] go ahead

[Forlock] Forlock plays Island from Hand
[Forlock] Forlock taps Island
[Forlock] Forlock plays Sol Ring from Hand
[T1Guy] Okay
[Forlock] Forlock plays Black Lotus from Hand
[Forlock] Okay?
[T1Guy] okay
[Forlock] Forlock taps Sol Ring
[Forlock] Forlock puts Black Lotus to Graveyard from Play
[Forlock] Forlock plays Tinker from Hand
[T1Guy] Okay

Wow, so his turn 1 is:

Black Lotus, Sol Ring, Island, Tinker? Seems pretty dire for me…

At this point, I’m thinking he’s gonna get DSC and I’m gonna have buy some time to find a Swords.

Instead, he finds Memory Jar and I am much relieved.

[Forlock] Forlock puts Sol Ring to Graveyard from Play
[Forlock] Forlock is looking its Library…
[Forlock] Forlock puts Memory Jar into play from Library
[Forlock] Forlock shuffles library
[Forlock] Forlock stops looking its Library…
[T1Guy] Okay

But what’s next? A little unusual, but he is playing with Mystic Remoras:

[Forlock] Forlock plays Mystic Remora from Hand
[T1Guy] okay

My plan is to Chant him when he goes to break Jar.

[Forlock] Forlock’s life total is now 19 (-1)
[Forlock] End my turn

I untap and draw Scroll Rack.

[T1Guy] T1Guy plays Plains from Hand

I play Plains and pass the turn.

Here is the game state:

My opponent pays for his Remora and draws a card. He plays Polluted Delta and finds a Swamp. I am sad!

[Forlock] Forlock draws a card
[Forlock] Forlock plays Polluted Delta from Hand
[Forlock] Forlock taps Polluted Delta
[Forlock] Forlock puts Polluted Delta to Graveyard from Play
[Forlock] Forlock is looking its Library…
[Forlock] Forlock puts Swamp into play from Library
[Forlock] Forlock shuffles library
[Forlock] Forlock stops looking its Library…
[Forlock] Forlock’s life total is now 18 (-1)
[Forlock] End my turn

[T1Guy] T1Guy untaps his/her permanents
[T1Guy] T1Guy draws a card

I untap and draw Mox Diamond. I decide to play it.

[T1Guy] T1Guy plays Mox Diamond from Hand

[Forlock] draw?
[T1Guy] okay
[Forlock] Forlock draws a card

He draws a card off Mystic Remora.

[T1Guy] T1Guy puts Plains to Graveyard from Hand
[Forlock] Okay
[T1Guy] T1Guy plays Wasteland from Hand
[T1Guy] End my turn

I’m holding up both Orim’s Chant and Abeyance. I have him over the barrel. He just doesn’t know it.

At this point, he decides not to pay for Mystic Remora anymore.

[Forlock] It is now the Beginning Phase, Untap Step
[Forlock] Forlock untaps his/her permanents
[Forlock] It is now the Beginning Phase, Upkeep Step
[Forlock] Forlock puts Mystic Remora to Graveyard from Play
[Forlock] Forlock draws a card
[Forlock] Forlock plays Lotus Petal from Hand
[Forlock] Forlock taps Island
[Forlock] Forlock plays Mana Vault from Hand
[Forlock] Forlock taps Memory Jar
[Forlock] Forlock puts Memory Jar to Graveyard from Play

So, he goes to sacrifice Memory Jar.

[T1Guy] in response
[T1Guy] T1Guy taps Plains
[T1Guy] T1Guy plays Orim’s Chant from Hand


[T1Guy] okay?
[Forlock] yeah

In retrospect, I think I should have played Abeyance instead. I was afraid of him drawing an enchantment and other relevant cards that he could play.

We both drew up our cards and he passed the turn.

Take a look at what I discarded:

[T1Guy] T1Guy puts Aven Mindcensor to Graveyard from Hand
[T1Guy] T1Guy puts Aven Mindcensor to Graveyard from Hand
[T1Guy] T1Guy puts Aven Mindcensor to Graveyard from Hand
[T1Guy] T1Guy puts Argivian Find to Graveyard from Hand
[T1Guy] T1Guy puts Plains to Graveyard from Hand
[T1Guy] T1Guy puts Wasteland to Graveyard from Hand
[T1Guy] T1Guy puts Mox Jet to Graveyard from Hand

Here’s what he lost:

[Forlock] Forlock puts Windfall to Graveyard from Hand
[Forlock] Forlock puts Necropotence to Graveyard from Hand
[Forlock] Forlock puts Dark Ritual to Graveyard from Hand
[Forlock] Forlock puts Timetwister to Graveyard from Hand
[Forlock] Forlock puts Force of Will to Graveyard from Hand
[Forlock] Forlock puts Ponder to Graveyard from Hand
[Forlock] Forlock puts Hurkyl’s Recall to Graveyard from Hand

When I picked up my hand again, here’s what the board looked like:

[Forlock] End my turn

[T1Guy] T1Guy untaps his/her permanents
[T1Guy] T1Guy draws a card

[T1Guy] T1Guy taps Wasteland
[T1Guy] T1Guy taps Mox Diamond
[T1Guy] T1Guy plays Ethersworn Canonist from Hand


[Forlock] Forlock draws a card
[Forlock] Forlock taps Island
[Forlock] Forlock plays Brainstorm from Hand

[Forlock] End my turn

[T1Guy] T1Guy untaps his/her permanents
[T1Guy] T1Guy draws a card
[T1Guy] T1Guy taps Ethersworn Canonist
[T1Guy] attack
[Forlock] Forlock’s life total is now 16 (-2)

[T1Guy] T1Guy taps Mox Diamond
[T1Guy] T1Guy taps Plains
[T1Guy] T1Guy taps Wasteland
[T1Guy] T1Guy plays Aura of Silence from Hand
[T1Guy] End my turn

[Forlock] It is now the Beginning Phase, Untap Step
[Forlock] Forlock untaps his/her permanents

[Forlock] Forlock draws a card
[Forlock] Forlock puts Polluted Delta to Graveyard from Play
[Forlock] Forlock is looking its Library…
[Forlock] Forlock puts Underground Sea into play from Library
[Forlock] Forlock shuffles library

[Forlock] Forlock taps Underground Sea
[Forlock] Forlock taps Swamp
[Forlock] Forlock taps Island
[Forlock] Forlock taps Mana Vault
[Forlock] Forlock plays Yawgmoth’s Bargain from Hand
[T1Guy] costs 8

My opponent forgot that Aura of Silence made Bargain cost two more. Instead, he plays Mystic Remora.

[Forlock] Forlock taps Underground Sea
[Forlock] Forlock plays Mystic Remora from Hand
[Forlock] Forlock taps Swamp
[Forlock] Forlock taps Island

[T1Guy] T1Guy untaps his/her permanents
[T1Guy] T1Guy draws a card
[T1Guy] T1Guy taps Ethersworn Canonist
[T1Guy] attack
[Forlock] Forlock’s life total is now 14 (-2)

However, I have to stop him from playing Bargain. I am going to Wasteland his Sea and use the Strip Mine I just drew.

[T1Guy] T1Guy taps Wasteland
[T1Guy] T1Guy puts Wasteland to Graveyard from Play
[T1Guy] Sea
[Forlock] Forlock puts Underground Sea to Graveyard from Play
[T1Guy] T1Guy plays Strip Mine from Hand
[T1Guy] T1Guy taps Strip Mine
[Forlock] gg

Here is the final shot of this game:

Pretty tough for him to win through all of that! I even had an Abeyance in hand as insurance!

So, there it is! The Parfait Ambush!

Until next time…

Stephen Menendian