The Deck: Overrated And Overridden

If Keeper is really the best deck Type One has to offer, then we need to explore its weaknesses. We need to find ways of defeating it. Even the toughest nut can be cracked, and I will show you how to crack this nut in five easy steps.

We are going to play a bit with word association. I say a Magic concept, and I want you to think of a writer or player. Whatever the first one is that pops into your head. Ready?

Extended? Jon Finkel

Innovative deck construction? Zvi Mowshowitz

Sligh? Dave Price

Five-Color? Kurtis Hahn

StarCity? The Ferrett (Well, not any more – The Ferrett)

Type One?

Type One?

Ah, yes – Oscar Tan. Other entrants are Brian Weismann, Darren Di Battista, or Raphael Caron. But, really? Oscar Tan. Now, let’s continue the word association game, but with decks.

Masques Block? Rebels

Invasion-Era Type Two? Fires

Extended? Illusions-Donate

Combo? ProsBloom

New Extended? ….ha ha. Just kidding.

Five Color? 3-2-1 Contract

Type One?

Type One?

The ubiquitous”Deck,” of course. Often known today as Keeper. And who, pray tell, is the most vocal adherent of Keeper? Oscar Tan. And hence, our hypothetical conversation has come full circle. If Keeper is really the best deck Type One has to offer, then we need to explore its weaknesses. We need to find ways of defeating it.

Even the toughest nut can be cracked.

Let us begin with a sample version of”The” Deck, straight from Oscar himself:

Sun Wukong, Oscar Tan, January 2003

Blue (21)

1 Ancestral Recall

1 Time Walk

1 Mystical Tutor

1 Merchant Scroll

2 Cunning Wish

1 Brainstorm

4 Mana Drain

4 Force of Will

1 Misdirection

1 Fact or Fiction

1 Braingeyser

1 Stroke of Genius

2 Morphling

Black (6)

1 Yawgmoth’s Will

1 Mind Twist

1 Vampiric Tutor

1 Demonic Tutor

1 Chainer’s Edict

1 The Abyss

White (2)

1 Balance

1 Swords to Plowshares

Red (2)

1 Gorilla Shaman

1 Fire / Ice

Gold (1)

1 Dromar’s Charm

Mana (28)

1 Black Lotus

1 Mox Sapphire

1 Mox Jet

1 Mox Pearl

1 Mox Ruby

1 Sol Ring

1 Strip Mine

4 Wasteland

1 Library of Alexandria

1 City of Brass

1 Undiscovered Paradise

2 Polluted Delta

2 Flooded Strand

4 Underground Sea

3 Tundra

3 Volcanic Island

Sideboard (15)

3 Red Elemental Blast

1 Scrying Glass

1 Skeletal Scrying

1 Aura Fracture

2 Swords to Plowshares

1 Blue Elemental Blast

1 Circle of Protection: Red

1 Pyroclasm

1 Powder Keg

1 Shattering Pulse

1 Allay

1 Ebony Charm

Phase One: Collect Underpants

In order to defeat a deck, we will need to analyze how it wins. How then, does this deck win? Well, it can swing with a Shaman twenty times, but I doubt that is anywhere near Plans A (or even Plan B, or Plan W) for winning. Those Morphling critters are probably a path to victory. Stroke and Geyser can deck a player. So what? Five cards? And that’s including a little baby Shaman.

Therefore, if we neutralize the creatures, we could take out the Morphlings, which are the only threats we care about. What kills Morphlings?


So we need Edicts, and lots of them. If we play with both Diabolic and Chainer’s Edicts, then that means the control player must counter twelve Edicts! But, the above deck only has nine counters, so simple math dictates that we should emerge victorious, and we have De-Morphling-Tized our control player. Therefore, our deck will have to begin with:

4 Diabolic Edict

4 Chainer’s Edict

Now,”The” Deck is a control deck, so we would like to be able to force some spells through. Plus, this deck’s nasty spells are all sorceries, instants, and enchantments. If we are already committed to eight black spells, I say,”Why not up the count?” We need super power:

4 Duress

Duress is almost a Type One required card. We need them like David Price needs a red card for the Invitational – which is to say, badly. Now we have twelve cards, eight of which kill Morphlings, and four of which take out Strokes and stuff. Since the Edicts also kill the Shaman, we are all set. Phase One is complete.

Phase Two

Now that we have countered the control player’s way of winning, we need our own path to victory. What could there possibly be that would cause us to win? An alternate victory condition, like poison counters, could be cool. Mad, major props to the player who manages to defeat”The Deck” with poison counters. Test of Endurance seems like a good idea, especially since Public Enemy #1 now only has a single Fire / Ice to knock our life down with. Yeah, these”alternate” win conditions are a bit too alternate for us. Alternate win conditions should be Tormod’s Crypt and Timetwister, or Traumatize, not some reject enchantment that belongs in my rare binder between Alfiya Grove and Yare (look them up, then gag to the left).

So, we’ll probably want to play creatures.

How can”This Deck” kill creatures?

With only one copy of each creature removal card, what we want to do is focus on overrunning the creature kill. The problem with this is simple – The Abyss and Balance each punish a deck for overextending. So, while we want creatures, and several of them, we do not want to over commit. I submit that we need to avoid The Abyss, since it is the only recursionary creature kill element in”Mentioned Deck.”

What dodges The Abyss, you ask? Well, the Abyss targets non-artifact creatures. So, artifact creatures. Also creature which cannot be the target of effects. And creature with protection from black.

But, if we play artifact creatures, then”Said Deck” gets to harness Dismantling Blow as kill, so for now, let’s avoid that route.

Before we go all crazy playing untargetables and pro black creatures, we need to look at the sideboard, to see what a typical control player will have access too. As we can see,”Those Decks” often have:

The obvious issue is that we do not want to walk out of a fire into lava (Or however that saying goes.) Why avoid The Abyss but waltz into Moat-dom? Exactly. So our creatures must:

  • Not be blue, unless they are untargetable (to avoid the blasts) (Like Zephid)

  • Not be red at all (to avoid blast and CoPs) (Like…um…non-red creatures)

  • Must Fly (To go over Moat) (Like Whippoorwill…er…sorry…like Frozen Shade, oh yeah….um…like…Tainted Specter. I think)

  • Must have lower powers, or we must pack artifact kill (To swing over Bridges) (like Teroh’s Faithful)

  • Must be of differing mana costs (To avoid a Keg = a Wrath) (Like a Flying Man and a Diabolic Machine)

  • Must not have most creatures with a toughness of two or less, unless it will survive a Pyroclasm (to avoid, say, a Pyroclasm or something) (Like a Mystic Crusader, Paladin en-Vec, or Yavimaya Ancients)

What creatures have most or all of those qualities? Flying is probably a must, by the by. What we need is artifact flyers of differing casting costs, low power, and average or better toughnesses. No problem.

Number of Type One legal artifact creatures with flying: 22

Let’s start with our criteria:

For low power, high toughness – may I suggest Dancing Scimitar? Is there any creature that fits all of our issues better? Didn’t think so.

For low power, Bridge decks often use zero-power creatures that they can pump. And we can, too – Roterothopter, which is a simple one-drop as well. While it is Pyroclasmable, you can’t get much better for one mana (well, there is Brass Man, but he doesn’t fly, so I nixed him)

At the three drop, I really like Aesthir Glider. This will be the other Pyroclasm-critter. The Glider has a two power for only three mana, and he will be our beatdown.

We need Thopter Squadron as well. Here is a creature with the ability to go from Pyroclasm-NO! creature to Bridge-NO!, all in one single step. Plus a different casting cost than the other creatures. We only want a couple though, because of the high casting cost.

Mantis Engine: I just want to mention it here. Ever realize how first strike damage really screws up a Morphling? Seriously. 3/3 first striker is, say, blocked by Morphling. So, the damage goes on the stack, Morphling flows to 2/4. Then, um, the Morphling cannot flows back to 3/3 in order to kill the 3/3 First striking beast, because to do so would kill the Morphling as a state-basis effect. Ergo, a 3/3 First Striker/Flyer would be great Morphling Tech. Mantis Engine is that – but we already have our Morphling kill, so let’s move on.

Ah, it’s like”War of the Worlds” all over again. Big nasty Martians, done in by little tiny bacteria. Big nasty Morphling, done in by a little used ability from the original set.

Another idea Junk Diver. It would be very killable, but it would also get any artifact back, and since we have several, it would be a good way to recur stuff. Maybe, if we have space, it will fit in later.

Let’s take a look at our creature core, so far:

4 Roterothopter

4 Dancing Scimitar

4 Aesthir Glider

2 Thopter Squadron

We need a few more creatures to really take us over the top. How about versatility? Yes, I am sure we were thinking of the same thing – Primal Clay! The Clay can be a 2/2 flyer – which is Pyroclasm-proof. But, with all of these flyers, your opponent subbing in the Moat is highly unlikely, so play it as a 3/3 in the first matchup and probably subsequent matchups as well. And, play it as a Wall versus, say, beatdown. It’s your beatdown tech, too! I recommend a full slate of Clay, even though it is Kegged with the Scimitars, because the Clay is so good, and your opponent would have to know to stop on four counters ahead of time – otherwise he has build up, during which time you smack him around for playing”The Above Deck.”

So now we have eighteen creatures and twelve spells. Phase Two is complete.

Phase Three: Profit

We have these thirty cards, now what? In Type One, the next thing to do is round out your deck. Currently, our deck has a bunch of artifacts, and some black spells. The next question is where we want to go with our deck next.

Yawgmoth’s Will and Demonic Tutor are virtually automatic inclusions. That leaves us with twenty-eight slots for mana and other spells. Mana is later, though. Since all of our black cards are splashable, we may benefit from playing a second color. With all of these artifacts, blue with Tinker would be an excellent possibility.

With blue added, we will want to add the power as well. Tinker and Ancestral Recall are very important. Time Walk will allow us to swing again, so we want to include it as well. That is it for our blue splash.

Sure, we could add, say, Timetwister or Fact or Fiction. Each has important benefits. But, if we have space later, we can always come back to this issue. Here ends Phase Three.

Phase Four: Oh My God, They Killed Kenny

For Phase Four, we need to look at our mana and select a mana base. We definitely want one of each Blue/Black Mox and Sol Ring. Lotus is good too. Looking at the high quantities of colorless mana on our cards, the other moxen are also quite useful. We’ll want all four Underground Seas, and maybe two Underground Rivers as well. With low colorless requirements, may I suggest a diet of Strip Mine with a full compliment of Wastelands? Tolarian Academy might find a home. Toss in, say, two Mishra’s Factories. Rounding out our deck is four swamps, in order to help enable a first-turn Duress.

Our decklist:

Anti-“What Deck”?

Blue (3):

Ancestral Recall

Time Walk


Black (14):

4 Duress

4 Chainer’s Edict

4 Diabolic Edict

Yawgmoth’s Will

Demonic Tutor

Artifact (18):

4 Roterothopter

4 Dancing Scimitar

4 Aesthir Glider

4 Primal Clay

2 Thopter Squadron

Mana (25):

4 Swamp

4 Underground Sea

2 Underground River

7 SoLoMoxen

4 Wasteland

Strip Mine

2 Mishra’s Factory

Tolarian Academy

Now, we have a deck. Are we done yet? Nope; we’re just done with Phase Four.

Phase Five

While we have that decklist, we need a sideboard. The obvious sideboard includes a couple of Dystopias. Maybe a couple of Masticores for the non-“Deck” matchup. I also want to unveil super-secret tech – Nether Void. We’ll need a couple of the Voids in our sideboard. It can hold down”His Deck” as well as others. I also like Fact or Fiction, Stroke of Genius, and Skeletal Scrying for card drawing in the board. For the last bit, you need some sideboard versus fast decks. Living Wall fits nicely here, so we will include a full compliment. The last couple of slots are dedicated to the defense of Brass Man, who can stop the fast creatures, as well as start swinging early and often. Here, then, is our sideboard:

2 Dystopia

2 Masticore

2 Nether Void

Fact or Fiction

Stroke of Genius

Skeletal Scrying

4 Living Wall

2 Brass Man

And Phase Five is complete! A deck that should absolutely level”[ADJECTIVE] Deck” with ease!

Wasn’t such a chore now, was it?

Oh yes, by the way. I thought I’d throw out a little bit of tech for all of those”{Insert Your Own Word Here} Deck” lovers out there. There is a silver bullet, which will stop this new and broken deck. Since our opposing deck uses a lot of flying artifact creatures, there is a card out there for them. I would recommend that every Deck player have this silver bullet in their board for just this occasion. What is this super-secret-funky-tech?


Think about it.


Until later,

Abe Sargent