The Continuing Saga of Bad Rare Decks

Once again, Abe delves into his box of crappy rares, picking five crappy cards to build five crazy decks! Any normal columnist would just build an Atog deck when confronted with an Atogatog… But Abe? He has different plans for Atogatog, and Onulet, and even Barl’s Cage!

Hello, and welcome to another installment of Bad Rare Decks — the articles where I pull out a random bad rare from a box of “low-value” rares and then proceed to build a deck around it.

I don’t know when this article will be published. See, I have a few canned articles that I write and then sit on. When life gets busy, I submit an article like this one so that I can continue to be read. It might be August or January when you read this, since those are the busy times of the year for my job, when I’m putting in sixty or eighty hours in a week. At the time of this writing, I have planned a vacation in London. Maybe this article will come out that week. On the other hand, maybe I’m just sick. I might even have a bit of writer’s block — who knows? I can’t be dead, because I haven’t submitted this article to That Ferrett Boy, I am still holding on to it in a file marked “Canned Articles.” I had to have submitted this, so it can’t be posthumous.

Anyway, for those of you who haven’t read one of these articles, the idea is simple: I update a box of low-value rares that I keep beside my work computer. (Actually, it was under the desk because I had to clear off some space last week, but you get the idea.)

I have to hope for some really good cards. The last time I did this trick in article form, I grabbed crap like Icatian Town. Without further ado, allow me to present the meat of the article:

Bad Rare Challenge #1: Barl’s Cage
Barl’s Cage was printed as a rare in Fifth Edition, and that’s the version I pulled out of my box. Barl’s Cage is, um…. Really not that good. It consumes mana like daybreak consumes dreamers. I need to find a way of making a lot of mana regularly. There are several options, but I decided to go with a particularly dark version…

I decided to use Cabal Coffers as my mana production land of choice. With a Coffers and several swamps in play, you can easily keep a pair of creatures permanently locked down with the Cage.

One I had the Coffers/Cage engine down, I needed to flesh out my deck. From there, it was a simple matter of playing other Black control elements. I knew that I wanted my Coffers to tap for as much mana as possible, so I chose to go with a mono-black build. I could have splashed Green for Bayou and Overgrown Tomb, but I decided to stick with something simple.

I tossed in a full set of Drain Lifes and Consume Spirits. With a trio of Tutors, I felt comfortable dropping my Cage count to three. I can always Tutor for one if I have significant need — but I can also tutor up Aladdin’s Ring, Myr Matrix, or removal.

I also tossed in a nice suite of Black control creatures in the form of Consumptive Goo, the Wumpus, Kokusho the Broken Star, and a full set of Nantuko Shades. Although the creature count is light, you have enough removal and lockdown from the Cage that you should be able to get in some hits. Even if you can’t, you can burn opposing players out.

Myr Matrix will give the deck some added staying power and slowly build up an army. Aladdin’s Ring can kill off creatures or players with aplomb. Rend Flesh rounds out the deck as emergency removal, and Mind Sludge to give you a tool to hurt opposing control decks.

There are a lot of ways that this deck could have been built. I also considered a Nether-Go style deck, using Nether Spirit as its only creature card. Another option could have been to use the old Ashen Ghoul/Nether Shadow trick and run the Cage to slow down opposing creatures.

Outside of mono-Black, the aforementioned Green splash could have added several mana-generating cards while also increasing our removal options. Even a simple Naturalize would make our deck much stronger. Creeping Mold might be a nice touch as well. Defensive creatures like Silklash Spider or Wall of Blossoms could help in the early game, while Winter Blast could tap a bunch of creatures, enabling the Barl’s Cage to work better. (Yes, I know that Word of Binding would do the same in Black, but Winter Blast might actually kill creatures instead of merely tapping them.)

Bad Rare Challenge #2: Onulet
Onulet is one of a category of rares that isn’t so much bad as it is “not good.” It’s not really bad, and it’d make a fine common creature in an artifact-heavy set; it’s just nothing to write home about. For an investment of Pearled Unicorn– and Grey Ogre-sized proportions, you get the same return — namely, a 2/2 creature that’s more fragile due to its artifact nature. In return, when it dies, you gain a pair of life.

It’s like the Venerable Monk of ungood rares. Now I have to find a way to harness its, um… Power.

It’s not easy to find an Onulet combo. Its power is too large to use with Shirei, Shizo’s Caretaker. It doesn’t work as well as Venerable Monk with Angelic Chorus and other “comes into play” cards, and it’s just the same as the Monk in decks that have “leaves play” or other sacrificial effects. Goblin Bombardment will work just as well with Onulet as it will with Venerable Monk. I need something that takes advantage of its artifact nature, where the lifegain might be helpful.

I immediately light upon AEther Storm — and my lightbulb goes on.

See, back in the days of pre-Sixth edition rules, AEther Storm did not affect artifact creatures, which you could cast without a care. I wondered whether they had changed it to all creatures or kept it functionally the same by adding the non-artifact creature line. Alas, I looked it up and saw that they had indeed changed what the card did once Sixth came out. Blasted Oracle!

That leaves me down an idea. Racking my brain for a bit, I realize that I don’t have to compete with Venerable Monk; I can supplement it.

This deck tries to use Lifeline tricks to establish a dominant board position. With a Blasting Station out, this deck can sacrifice creatures to deal damage before bringing them back with Lifeline.

Venerable Monk and Onulet serve as medium-sized creatures that can act as speed bumps before dying to the cause with Lifeline. I wanted to have duplicated effects centered around several key cards. The Onulets and Monks serve that purpose.

A Worthy Cause backs up the Blasting Station. If you can’t find a Station (or can’t keep one on the table), Worthy Cause can sacrifice creatures for life so that they can come back. There’s just one Cause, but it’s a backup effect.

A trio of Enlightened Tutors serve as, well, Tutors for key components of the Lifeline engine. If you get one half of the Land Tax/Scroll Rack combo, you can tutor for the other half. You have card advantage through other means, so this combo is merely a backup… But you almost have to include it in a deck that has so many tutors.

Your card advantage engine surrounds the normally-bad Carrier Pigeons. On your turn, with a Lifeline and Blasting Station out, sacrifice Carrier Pigeons. At the end of the turn, they come back and the Station untaps. On your opponent’s upkeep, you draw a card. Sacrifice the Pigeons and get them back so that on your turn, you’ll get another card during your upkeep. Since this combo requires no mana, you can do it on every player’s turn — which rocks at a multiplayer table. If there are five players, then you draw five cards and deal five damage.

There are a few other creatures that can be similarly abused with the Lifeline out. Icatian Javelineers can tap to deal a point of damage to a creature or player, but they can only do it once. Once they’re used up, though, sacrifice them to reload. They allow a slow way to burn a player out with a Worthy Cause after a Blasting Station gets offed. Another option is Cloudchaser Eagle, which can pop enchantments. You only have one enchantment — Land Tax. Usually the Eagle will only pop opposing enchantments. Occasionally, you’ll be fine taking out your Land Tax in order to get a 2/2 flyer — one of your few evasive creatures.

Lastly, Defender en-Vec seriously clogs up the ground while preventing damage from burn or evasive creatures. It dies easily thanks to its fading — but it also comes back easily.

The deck that you see has a variety of tools available. It was hard to find a deck idea at first, but after I came up with the initial pairing, the rest of the deck built itself.

Bad Rare Challenge #3: Hisoka, Minamo Sensei
In order to maximize the usefulness of Hisoka, I’ll need a deck with a variety of casting costs — preferably small ones. Luckily for me, there has been a recent mechanic printed that looks at casting cost. This is an easy build.

This is a typical mono-Blue control deck with some special tricks tossed in. It’s better to look at this deck as if it were several smaller decklists rather than one big decklist.

The one-mana decklist includes Dizzy Spell, Sensei’s Divining Top, Unsummon, and Opt. The Dizzy Spells can transmute into a Top, card drawing, or an Unsummon for emergencies. Each of these has various uses in addition to being fed to Hisoka.

The two-mana slot includes a pair of Muddle the Mixtures, Impulse, and good ol’ Counterspell. If the Muddles aren’t playable as normal countermagic, you can transmute them into an actual Counterspell, or just grab an Impulse.

The last card that I cut from the deck was a Merchant Scroll. You could transmute it and then use it to cross into other casting costs for whatever you needed. Alas, I didn’t have the space for it.

The three-drop spot is quite busy, but I have double the number of cards with transmute here than I do at other casting costs: A full slate of Drifts along with a Man-o’-War, a Forbid, and a Fade Away. The Drifts are good defensive creatures, and I expect that they will typically see play. You can also get a Forbid to keep control of the board, grab a bounce effect, or transmute out the highly valuable Fade Away. One is good to surprise kill a few creatures. After that, opponents expect to see it and play around it, so there’s no use packing any more.

Rounding out the deck are the Hisokas, a pair of Fact or Fictions, and a trio of Djinns to swing for the game. Lastly, I wanted some form of creature control outside of the solitary Fade Away — so in went four Quicksands.

As I mentioned before, this deck is your normal mono-Blue control deck. Although it only has seven hard counters, between Hisoka, card drawing, and transmuting into more as needed, I expect it to play as if it has more.

The deck includes quite a few ways of getting more cards, from Opt to Fact or Fiction to Impulse. Each of my card-drawing spells removes multiple cards from the top of the library in order to have synergy with the Divining Top. (Brainstorm wouldn’t work here, for obvious reasons.)

There are several defensive creatures to hold the fort, until you can get out a Djinn and begin swinging. If an opposing flyer or Silklash Spider gets in the way, you can bounce the offender, then counter it when it gets cast again.

I thought about a lot of other options to play in this deck. I considered cards ranging from Exclude to Merchant Scroll to Treasure Trove and more. Ultimately, I trimmed the deck down to its current sleek form – but feel free to modify it as you see fit.

This deck could also splash a second color, and the obvious splash color is Black. With the new transmute effects, the deck could look significantly different while still looking the same, if that makes sense.

Bad Rare Challenge #4: Atogatog
Sometimes you flip a card that presents a really easy to use deckbuilding idea. Given that I’m under a time crunch here, I should just want to build an Atog deck and then move on. It would be such an easy build, too. Instead, I’m going to try to buck the system.

This deck tries to play a creature with all five colors and get out several lands before playing a game-winning Coalition Victory. It’s a pretty simple formula that I hope will work well.

I began with the five legendary creatures. I wanted to play one of each, which included Karona. After all, these are legendary creatures, and I wanted to make sure that I played different ones so that the legend rule would adversely affect the deck. However, Karona helps opponents — and as such, I decided to double the number of Atogatogs. It’s the theme of the deck and the least likely legend of the group to see play, so it’s relatively safe to play more of.

I have two ways of getting one of these creatures into the play: The first revolves around getting the right mana into play and actually playing one. The other way involves Animal Magnetism. Between the Top, Sylvan, Brainstorms, Scroll Rack, and Worldly Tutor, you should be able to pop an Animal Magnetism at just the right time in order to get one of your creatures into play. This can give you a blocker until you get more mana. All of these creatures are big enough to win the game on their own against surprised opponents.

Lay of the Land and Kodama’s Reach help get you the mana you need to cast a creature (or a Coalition Victory), all while getting you to Humility mana as well. You’ll need a pair of White mana for the Humility, so be prepared to get that when necessary.

As mentioned above, this deck runs a full quartet of Humilities. Humility will make your opponent’s creatures become little tiny gnats. Who cares about little tiny gnats? These can slow your opponent down. Against decks packing enchantment and artifact removal, the Humility will draw the fire, leaving your resources free so you can finish setting up.

A pair of Recollects finish off the deck. There could be several things you would want to recur, whether it’s a vital Humility that got Disenchanted, or a Coalition Victory that was countered, or a simple Lay of the Land for another land to put you over the top. Recollect should prove quite useful here, although you can feel free to play Regrowth if you want that old-school feel.

The land base here is very sketchy, and readers are warned not to take it seriously. This is a fill-in article — and given that I was getting ready for London, I really did not want to break down the lands for this deck because it would need a highly convoluted mixture of dual lands, the new “Shock you” duals to replace those you don’t have in your collection, Fetch Lands, and regular basics to work.

Bad Rare Challenge #5: Flowstone Slide
Today has been mono-colored day here at the Bad Rare Challenge, with mono-Blue and mono-Black control decks. We even had a mono-White combo deck! The Atogatog deck was all five colors, but it really focused on Green… So it’s quite appropriate that the last card in the article should be Red.

The Slide was recently added to the basic set, and thus was drawn once again to my attention. It’s my favorite Wrath of God effect in Type Four. I love that you can sometimes clear the board of opposing creatures while pumping your own to attack for even more damage. When my Child of Gaea and Grozoth hit for their normal sixteen, plus an extra six each from the Slide, you know death is a-comin’. Let’s see what I can do with the Slide in a conventional environment.

Must…Not…Build…More…Red/White…Control…Decks…Despite…Good…Synergy…With…Flowstone Slide.

Flowstone Slide best plays with creatures that have a high toughness. White creatures have a high toughness. A set was recently released with fun Red/White cards to toss in. As much as I don’t want to continue to build Red/White decks control or combo decks (seems like every fourth deck I build these days is Red/White control), I have to go where the cards take me. How can I say no?

In order to play the Slide, I need lots of mana… And that’s where the Signets and Dynamos come in. Since I have to play a lot of mana anyways, I figured that I should take advantage of the opportunity run some other X spells, including the ubiquitous Fireball and the newly-printed Brightflame.

“Doesn’t Brightflame suck?” you ask.

It probably does, but I want to find out for sure. This is a perfect time to experiment with a card that could be quite powerful or could be utter chaff. It’s a deck with both colors in large amounts and a significant amount of artifact mana to boot. There is no better time, so try out your Brightflames today!

In the attackers’ corner, we have Wildfire Emissary — and the new Emissary in the form of Sunhome Enforcer. Keep your eye on Enforcer, because I’ve started putting him in a lot of my decklists. Each of these creatures features a nice wide butt to survive small Floods, while also having pumpable front ends as well.

In the defenders’ corner, we have Tormented Angel and Kami of Old Stone. Both are cheap and have high defenses. The Angel gives us a nice aerial defense, like a SAM Battery. After casting a Slide, both become significant threats for the turn and can swing for a nice bit of damage.

I have my ever-standard Scroll Rack to give the deck a way of sifting through cards. Lastly, I tossed in a full set of Lightning Helixes in order to give us some cheap removal options for the early game.

Ironically, now that I’m done, I suddenly lit upon a nice mono-Red way of using the Slide with high defense creatures. Take a look at Ydwen Efreet — that’d be great in a deck like this! It’s a strong possibility for future builds of a mono-Red nature.

Well, that wraps up this article. It took me a day to write. Who knows when you’ll read it? Maybe next week, maybe next year… Maybe never. I squeezed another article out of my brainstem, though, and that’s always a good thing.

Until later — probably,
Abe Sargent