So You Think You Can Brew #3

Will the current champ’s reign of terror continue or be overthrown by the challenger? Find out in this episode of Jim Davis’ So You Think You Can Brew!

Good evening everyone! Welcome back to another episode of . . .


(Tremendous applause!)

The show where we take a couple of everyday Magic players and see if they have what it takes to brew up a deck that can take down their local FNM . . . or maybe even ascend to greatness on the StarCityGames.com Open Series and beyond!

(More tremendous applause!)

Last episode we saw what could be the beginning of a dynasty. After taking down the first episode of So You Think You Can Brewwith a Bant Delver of Secrets deck, Gary Fingers took his BUG Tempo deck and successfully defended his title in a landslide victory against challenger Danny Jessup’s Maze’s End deck.

Now he is back and looking for a three-peat.

Hailing from Farmingdale, New York, your two-time defending So You Think You Can Brew champion . . . Gary Fingers come on down!


Everyone give a big hand to the champ!

(Crowd chants “Gar-y! Gar-y! Gar-y!”)

Even though we’ve already gotten to know him pretty well over the last couple episodes, let’s take a look at Gary’s bio:

Gary's Bio

Now let’s introduce our challenger. You’ve probably lost to him at least once before on Magic Online, and now he’s ready to take his Magic chops to the So You Think You Can Brew stage. Give it up for Rob Caporino!


Let’s take a look at Rob’s bio:

Rob's Bio

Alright, we have met our contestants; now for a quick rundown of the rules. Each contestant will present us with a brewed up deck for the Standard format. We will then discuss the deck, looking at a number of factors, and provide some analysis and feedback to you, the audience! When all is said and done, every one of you will have a chance to cast your vote, and one of the decks will be crowned the winner! The contestant who brewed up the deck that wins the vote will move on to the next round! The loser? The loser must deal with the mockery and shaming of the rabble!

(Ooooos and ahhhhhs from the crowd.)

Sooooooo . . . DO YOU THINK YOU CAN BREW!!!

(Tremendous applause!)

As the defending champ, Gary has decided to play first, and it looks like he has unearthed quite the junky deck for us!

Gary’s Brew

Who needs Thragtusk and Unburial Rites? Not Gary Fingers, that’s who!

Gary has dug deep to bring us a new Standard Reanimator deck. Much like the Junk Reanimator deck of the previous Standard format, he is looking to use cards like Grisly Salvage along with the new Commune with the Gods to fill up his graveyard and then use cards like Rescue from the Underworld and Whip of Erebos to bring them back. Why go through all of these hoops? Because if you wanna ride dirty with Ashen Rider, it’s a lot simpler than trying to pay that hefty mana cost.

Let’s take a look at our new reanimation tools courtesy of Theros:

Acting like a strange hybrid between two old and powerful spells, Victimize and Makeshift Mannequin, Rescue from the Underworld will be our number one way to get our Ashen Rider into play.

Also, let’s give it up to Wizards of the Coast R&D for designing such a fun and flavorful card. You send one of your creatures on a mission to the underworld, and they come back with a friend—that’s awesome!

(Crowd golf claps in appreciation for Wizards of the Coast’s creative department.)

Fantastic, fantastic . . . Now back to the deck! One of the key differences with this card is that the creatures do not come back until your next turn. This has a few ramifications. Unlike Makeshift Mannequin, you can’t use this card to put a surprise blocker into play and mess up your opponent’s attack step. Also, the creatures come back on your upkeep, which means they will not be able to attack the first turn they are out. Regardless, if we are sacrificing a Voice of Resurgence to bring back an Ashen Rider—or maybe Ashen Rider to get back another Ashen Rider (the crowd gasps and giggles)—I don’t think we are going to mind too much.

The Whip is a very interesting one, as it does a number of things. Granting all of your creatures lifelink is a nice bonus that can swing games in your favor and can also ensure that you will have time to keep on Whipping it good. More importantly though is how the Whip acts like a Sneak Attack from your graveyard, letting you bring back creatures for one last lifelinked attack.

That’s all well and good, but there are a few important synergies that need to be talked about. First off, attacking with creatures is great, but getting their comes-into-play effects is even better; Ashen Rider comes in and blows up an permanent, while Angel of Serenity can remove a number of your opponents creatures, recur some of your own, or both!

Lastly is the synergy it has with Obzedat, Ghost Council. How does this work? Very well for you indeed. When you Whip in an Obzedat, you get to attack with it and all is good, and when the end step happens, two separate triggers will go on the stack—the Whip of Erebos trigger that wants to exile it for good and the Obzedat trigger that wants to exile it so it can set up a delayed trigger to return it the following turn. If you choose to have the Obzedat trigger happen first, it will go to exile it, and because this is not something that Whip of Erebos has a problem with (it only gets mad if the creature tries to go to the graveyard), it gets exiled and will return next turn! This means if you have a Whip of Erebos, your Obzedat can never be dead for long!

The deck is rounded out with the solid junky core we’ve all come to love over the last year or so, and it uses it well too. While Loxodon Smiter is just the same beefy creature it always was, Voice of Resurgence and Lotleth Troll both serve unique roles in the deck. Voice of Resurgence is the best possible card to send on a Rescue from the Underworld, as it will leave behind a token in its wake. Lotleth Troll provides a resilient attacker that can help you get some of your larger creatures into the graveyard with a bonus.

All in all, Gary has brewed up another interesting deck for us to digest.

Gary Two Thumbs Up

Why Are We Building This Deck?

Now, the biggest question you need ask yourself when you are building new brew is—yep, you guessed it—”why?” Why are we making this deck? What is our goal? Are we trying to make a new busted combo deck? Are we trying to make the fastest aggressive deck possible? Are we trying to utilize a certain powerful card? Are we trying to exploit a hole in the metagame?

When it comes to deckbuilding, context is EVERYTHING.

You may build a fast aggressive deck full of creatures and burn, but does it have advantages over Mono-Red Aggro or G/W Aggro?

You may build a grindy RUG Control deck, but can it compete with the control decks that have access to Sphinx’s Revelation?

And of course there is the context of the format itself as well. A deck can be very good in the abstract, but it may not be able to survive if the format is unusually hostile towards it. For example, when Affinity was the major deck in Standard, almost every non-Affinity deck was playing maindeck Oxidizes and loads of other artifact removal in their sideboards. Even though the Krark-Clan Ironworks combo decks were a completely different strategy than Affinity and might have even been overpowered in other formats, they were not as good as Affinity and could not complete with Affinity’s success.

Back to Gary’s brew.

What are the advantages that a deck like this has? Well, the biggest advantage that the old Junk Reanimator deck had was how well it went over the top of other decks, and this deck seems to have the same benefits. Putting an Ashen Rider into play on turn 4 is a pretty good way to go over the top of anybody!

(The crowd shudders at the thought!)

There’s also just the fact that any time we are in a new format it’s always an excellent idea to just try to jam the most powerful thing you possibly can and let them figure it out. Aside from having a really powerful plan A, the plan B of just beating down with Voice of Resurgence and Loxodon Smiter is certainly a very real one as well.

But let’s look at what we are up against.

(The crowd gasps as if they’ve just seen something dreadful, and a woman in the back row literally drops her extra large Coca-Cola on the floor in an explosion of ice and cola.)

Uh oh . . .

Gary Frown

Yes, unfortunately for anyone trying to do anything fun with the graveyard, the ugly Scavenging Ooze is here to ruin your day. Scavenging Ooze is one of the better creatures in the format and is a very maindeckable card that provides backbreaking sideboard power against us. This is a problem, and we need to make sure we have answers for it.

It looks like Gary has chosen to answer this problem in two ways. The direct route is just trying to kill it with Putrefy, which Gary has two of. However, it also seems like Gary has tried to make the deck not super graveyard reliant by only including two Rescue from the Underworlds and two Whip of Ereboses. But the problem with this is that you are making your main plan so much weaker against non-Scavenging Ooze decks.

Regardless, a deck like this is going to have to see how the format shapes up. If Scavenging Ooze is a key player in a few of the popular decks, we might be in trouble; if not, we might be in good shape.

Aside from the Ooze problem, the frontrunners making waves in the new format so far are mono-red aggressive decks, G/W-based aggressive creature decks, and U/W-based control decks—let’s see how we fare!

Against G/W creature decks I think you are in very good shape, as they are not quick enough to clock us and we can go over the top of them very well. The mono-red decks, on the other, hand might just have the speed and the finishing power to give us some trouble. And as for the control decks? We are presenting a lot of powerful threats, but we might also be giving them enough time to set up some huge Sphinx’s Revelations and get back in the game.

Gary One Thumb Up

Competitive or Fun?

The final question we need to ask about this deck is “what are we making it for?” Are we having fun at FNM? Or are we trying to take this deck to the next level and take down a PTQ or SCG Open with it? FNM is supposed to be fun, and I’ve played some really wacky decks myself at various FNMs in years past (one was a Heartbeat of Spring / Myojin of the Seeing Winds combo deck that took infinite turns with Beacon of Tomorrows).

From initial analysis at least, this seems like an awesome FNM deck. While it might have some serious problems with Scavenging Ooze, it looks like a ton of fun to play; it does powerful things, it has powerful cards, and it might be a serious contender if the cards fall the right way. A solid entry from the champ!

Gary Two Thumbs Up

(Rowdy applause!)

We are going to take a quick commercial break; stay tuned for our challenger Rob Caporino’s brew coming up right after these messages from our sponsor!

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Alright, we are back, and through the darkness comes our next brew courtesy of Magic Online ringer Rob Caporino!

Rob’s Brew

Like Gary’s deck, Rob is also trying to summon a dead spirit from the underworld! Mono-Black Control is a deck that last saw success waaaaay back when it was powered up by “The Black Set” Torment and has not been able to replicate it since despite many efforts by many aficionados working diligently at it.

Let’s take a look at it!

If you have played any amount of Theros Limited, you have most likely died at the hands of Gray Merchant of Asphodel, and Rob is looking to take the life-draining power of this devotion common into Constructed! Also playing the devotion game is Erebos, God of the Dead, which can give us a huge unstoppable creature and some cards, and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, which can give us a huge mana boost.

Rounding out the creature base are some more heavy hitters. Desecration Demon has really come into favor since rotation, as with the departure of Lingering Souls and the other Aristocrats cards like Doomed Traveler it can be the huge cheap finisher it was always meant to be. Nightveil Spector is great for devotion and can draw cards off of your opponent’s deck for you to play, which can be sweet too.

On the spell side we see a lot of new powerful Theros spells, including full sets of Thoughtseize and Hero’s Downfall, card draw in the form of Read the Bones and Underworld Connections, some removal spells, and a few big finishers in Corrupt and Whip of Erebos.

This deck is looking to control the game and then drain the life directly out of your opponent—a worthy entry into the annals of Mono-Black Control by Rob!

Rob Two Thumbs Up

Why Are We Building This Deck?

Again, it seems clear that this deck is trying to maximize its devotion to the potential of a single card:

This leaves us with two questions:

1. How good can we make it?
2. Is that good enough?

Let’s look at the first question. Being mono-black of course means that pretty much every permanent card we play is going to help our devotion, and we have a number of them that are both creatures and noncreatures. Once a card like Underworld Connections or Whip of Erebos hits the battlefield, it is likely not going to be going anywhere and will be a permanent addition to our devotion. Our creatures are a little less resilient, but they all have either double or triple mana symbols in their costs. They also are evasive threats that are going to do a good job at softening our opponent up so the Merchant can finish them off. And of course the Merchant will count its own symbols as well.

So how good will Gray Merchant of Asphodel be? It’s hard to say exactly, but if I had to guess, I would say it would be good for a devotion of about five on average.

Is that good enough? Would we play this card?

Gray Merchant of Averages



When Gray Merchant of Averages comes into play, target opponent loses 5 life, and you gain 5 life.


Our mock card reminds me a little bit of Kokusho, the Evening Star.

While it is fine by itself, it starts to get really out of control when you start playing a few of them consecutively or are able to continually use the same one over and over. The constant drain provides you time to continue to set up and a victory condition when you are able to chain enough of them together.

While I think it is just good enough, I would be happy if we could make it better. It’s hard to tell if there are enough black permanents available to increase our early devotion, but we should definitely be keeping an eye out both now and in future sets.

One of the important parts of brewing is knowing that sometimes you are going to stumble across a deck that’s not quite there yet. R/G Valakut of the Molten Pinnacle Ramp was actually a fringe deck before Primeval Titan was printed, as were aggressive Affinity decks before Arcbound Ravager was printed. Just because a brew doesn’t pan out exactly as you would like doesn’t mean it lacks future potential, so always keep your eyes open!

Rob Shrug

Let’s take a look at how the deck matches up against some of the bigger decks in the format.

I’m not gonna lie; it looks like mono-red aggressive decks would eat this deck alive.

Rob Hiding Head

(The crowd lets out a disappointed sigh.)

This deck does so much damage to itself through Thoughtseize; Read the Bones; Underworld Connections; and Erebos, God of the Dead and has so many expensive removal spells like Hero’s Downfall that it doesn’t seem like it would be able to weather the storm to actually survive long enough to start chaining Gray Merchant of Asphodels. This is somewhat answered by having four total Pharika’s Cures between the maindeck and sideboard, but it is a definite issue.

I think it would do fairly well against midrange green decks, where it will have more time to set up. As for U/W-based control decks, it is hard to say. Hero’s Downfall is very potent weapon right now with how planeswalker dependent many decks are, and when the life gain is irrelevant, cards like Thoughtseize and Read the Bones are very powerful.

Overall, the deck feels like it has a lot of potential. Gray Merchant of Asphodel seems like an interesting card, and devotion is a powerful mechanic that we have had very little time to figure out how to use properly.

There’s only one major question I have left—does this deck really need to be mono-black?

Rob Shrug

Mono-black decks of old were filled to the brim with Mind Sludges and Mutilates, and the mana fixing was often not there. We have access to dual lands, Temples, and Guildgates, which would make a splash very easy and could help shore up our weaknesses. Corrupt is the only card that actually cares about having Swamps, and considering we already have a few non-Swamps in our deck, I wonder if it is even better than Gray Merchant of Asphodel or even worth running at all.

Competitive or Fun?

While this deck does have a few issues that need to be addressed, it looks like a ton of fun to play. You get to drain the life out of your opponent, cast awesome spells, and give your life to the dark side! This is another deck that needs to watch how the format develops and make sure that it adapts accordingly. Regardless, it looks like a great time and a great choice for FNM!

Rob Two Thumbs Up

(Enthusiastic applause!)

The Moment of Truth

Gary vs Rob

Well folks, we are down to it; the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the moment you decide the winner of this episode of So You Think You Can Brew!

(Crowd goes wild with applause!)

Will current champ Gary Fingers’ reign of terror continue?

(Some of the crowd chants “Gary! Gary! Gary!”)

Or will newcomer Rob Caporino overthrow the champ?

(Crowd chants “Rob-bie! Rob-bie!”)

Here’s how the voting works. Take your time and pick the brewer and deck that you like the most! Remember, this is subjective—you can think the deck is more competitive, more fun, is more something you’d like to play, or just plain like it better for any reason you can think of!

In the comments of the article, I will post one comment that says “Gary Fingers” and one that says “Rob Caporino.” Simply “like” the one you want to vote for! It’s that simple! And don’t bashful; let us know why you like the deck you picked!


The winner will be back to defend his title in the next episode. The loser? The loser will be laughed into obscurity by the rabble, never to brew on the public stage again!


So cast your votes, and we will see you next time on the show where we ask everyday Magic players . . .


(Applause and theme music!)

Executive Producer: Jim Davis

So You Think You Can Brew is a StarCityGames.com Production.