The Decks of Steve

One day, an idea occurred to me. Why don’t I write about the decks my friend Steve ends up playing? They are almost uniformly rogue or less-played ideas that many of StarCityGames’ readers, in my mind, would probably love to comment on. This is a feedback welcome article, and any part of this series that follows will also be open to feedback. Good reader ideas will go into Steve’s decks and then I’ll report back to you on how he does with them.

I have a lot of cards.

I envy casual players sometimes. You know why? Because I’m sure they’re not stupid like me. I have a problem, in that I have many cards I have never used. I don’t mean the commons from after a draft, but actual valuable rares and uncommons that sit in my binder untouched for months on end. Some of these cards were mailed to me, mint, out of the pack from StarCityGames.com. From that point, they were sorted and placed into a binder.

Where they sit. Untouched, unremembered, unused. I sometimes try to write to these poor, lost cards to eke out some other use for them. The dialogues have never been all that cheerful.

Dear Salt Marsh,

I notice you have been sitting in my binder for some time. It must be getting awfully dusty in there. How are you doing? Do you and Urborg Volcano ever play games? Have you wooed the heart of the unused Chronicles City of Brass with the dent in it?

Your owner,

Iain Telfer

Dear Iain Telfer,

I’m a Salt Marsh.

Salt Marsh

Well, okay. I’ve never actually written to cards. And eventually I did figure out a use for my extra cards. That extra use is named Steve. You see a long time ago, back when people played Pokemon and drank Crystal Pepsi, a friend of mine named Steve played Magic. Steve was a fine spell-slinger and was once number one in the world… at Pokemon. A fact we never cease to remind him of whenever he gets uppity. Then one day, Steve sold all of his Pokemon cards and played Magic with renewed zeal.

Until someone stole all his cards.

Then Steve, in disgust, quit Magic and was never seen again. Legend has it he really liked Tradewind Rider.

The End.

Until one day, I messaged him on MSN and asked if he ever wanted to play Magic again. The conversation went something like this:

Me (Cool snazzy quote at the end of my MSN name that makes me feel trendy and fresh, would go here): Steve, have you ever wanted to play Magic again?

Him: No. You’re a dork.

Me: Number one in the World at Pokemon, eh?

Him: Alright, alright, maybe. But I don’t want to pay for cards again. I have better things to spend money on.

Me: I have a lot of extra cards.

So, I got someone back into Magic and he plays with my cards. For a while, Steve would test on apprentice and talk to people on IRC, but eventually he grew wary of actually building his own decks and just got used to me tossing him a deck every Sunday. For a long time, Steve played R/G beats. You know, the deck with el Mongrel. Steve really loved Wild Mongrel.

Steve used to be pretty good at Magic, with a rating over 2000, but these days he doesn’t playtest, and often has very little idea what a deck is supposed to do. He plays totally for fun, and as such, requests somewhat specific deck ideas, which I then get to throw together for him. After playing, he gives me feedback and then the deck is either modified or ends up dissolving to make way for another idea.

One day, an idea occurred to me. Why don’t I write about the decks Steve ends up playing? They are almost uniformly rogue or less-played ideas that many of StarCityGames’ readers, in my mind, would probably love to comment on. This is a feedback welcome article, and any part of this series that follows will also be open to feedback. Good ideas will go into Steve’s decks and then we’ll see how he does with them.

This might be fun.

The Decks of Steve, Week 1 : Aggro-Clerics

I call them Clerics because the deck is primarily about Clerical interactions. [They push paper a lot, eh? – Knut] Skullclamp is a great card, isn’t it? Of course it is. We all love to talk about Skullclamp. Skullclamp Skullclamp Skullclamp.

How best to abuse Skullclamp? Probably by either A) Building Aggro-Combo. This sounds silly but, the newer versions of Goblin Bidding look more and more like a Combo deck that attacks to me. B) Having creatures that die when Clamped, or die by their own doing, with some additional benefit to you. One of the best creatures for that is Rotlung Reanimator.

Kill a cleric, have two cards and a zombie token. No loss of board position plus lovely extra cards drawn. I also wanted to put Oversold Cemetery into the deck, since it had lots of creatures and Steve’s a big fan of playing more creatures. Phyrexian Arena is fun, but Steve hates stuff that kills him. I would never be able to sneak Necropotence into his deck. But Skullclamp is close enough, even if he won’t kill Headhunters with it when his opponent has zero cards in hand.

Oops, Karma

4 Dross Golem

1 Scion of Darkness

3 Oversold Cemetery

3 Grave Pact

2 Graveborn Muse

4 Skullclamp

4 Rotlung Reanimator

4 Withered Wretch

4 Carrion Feeder

4 Disciple of the Vault

3 Dark Supplicant

24 Swamp

There’s a lot of odd, fun cards in this deck. There’s the magical Scion of Darkness/Dark Supplicant combo, which Steve reported”Never, ever worked. Ever. At all. I wasn’t even sure Scion was in the deck by the end of the tournament.”

Okay, so that was a bad idea.

Also, we have Dross Golem. Ah, Dross Golem. You look at him and you probably don’t see much synergy with the rest of the deck, but you’d be surprised at how good Dross Golem actually is. Dross Golem is, in this deck, a 3/2 fear creature that comes out consistently on turn 3 for two mana. That’s a rather solid, aggressive card, since with Wild Mongrel out of the picture, Dross Golem is nigh unblockable.

Except when you’re playing against Affinity. At which point, he might trade with a Frogmite, setting off Disciple of the Vault’s ability and Grave Pact, or he might pick up a Skullclamp and trade with a Myr Enforcer. Now, let’s keep in mind this guy costs us an average of two mana to put down, and often comes down for free after turn five. This isn’t so bad, especially since Graveborn Muse likes to draw us lots of cards.

Speaking of Grave Pact, that’s one of the most maligned cards in the deck. I can just see dedicated Constructed players gnashing their teeth at its appearance. Oh, it’s four mana. Oh, it doesn’t do anything. Oh, that’s for multiplayer. Steve loves the card, and so do I. Basically, it makes any combat trade, any chump block, any Skullclamping of a 1/1 or double clamping of a */2, any Sharpshooting of a guy into an edict. No fuss, no muss, just lots of edict loving. What’s not to like?

Well, okay, it should be in the sideboard. It’s a really good card if people want to play Exalted Angels or at least some creatures, but otherwise it’s pretty terrible. Since locally people are still in love with casting Mindslaver and the what not, Steve was sad. Steve loves Grave Pact and Grace Pact loves Steve.

For week, one Steve only went 2-2. He told me he wanted burn in the zombie deck next week.”Iain,” he said,”I want to burn people. In the face. Repeatedly.” Then he got out the zippo lighter and waved it around menacingly, but thankfully a passing bong distracted his attention long enough for me to escape.

The Decks of Steve, Week 2 : Setting the clergy on fire

Committed to adding burn in the deck, I went through my stack of Red cards. I could have added Cabal Archon and/or Consume Spirit, but Steve said he wasn’t interested in that. He cried out for Red cards. Red! The color of burninating! He didn’t actually say burninate. I don’t even know why I wrote that. That was so passé.

It’s quite likely used in a sentence fragment somewhere in the last couple paragraphs. Did you know sentence fragments are the number one cause of premature baldness in M:tG editors? Every time you see a sentence fragment, Ted Knutson just lost some more hair off his head.

Anyway, back to the Burn spells. There’s several good burn spells in Standard right now. Sure we have nothing along the lines of the flexible Firebolt or the all-mighty Violent Eruption, but we do have the super damage-to-mana ratio power of Shrapnel Blast! And if you look at the deck, there’s already four Skullclamps and four Dross Golems in there, and Disciple of the Vault, who just loves when Shrapnel Blast gets used. You can just see that little cleric, rubbing his greasy mitts together. Yes, yes he cries! Gives me the blast! I’ll get a buddy out here and we’ll do lots of sweet, sweet damage to your opponent.

If I was going to be a creature, I think I’d be a Disciple of the Vault. Isn’t he just the greatest? He’s one Black mana for an extremely strong effect, and he doesn’t even need to swing. He just sits there, lazy as can be, setting off damage one poke at a time until your opponent dies of Cycled-spellbomb-syndrome. What a fine man.

Steve wants me to take Disciple out of the deck. Frown.

Anyway, the other-burn-spell-toss-up was between Volcanic Hammer, Pyrite Spellbomb, and Shock. Shock is quick and dirty, but it’s not too powerful. The spellbomb has synergy with the rest of the deck, but unfortunately Steve just wanted Volcanic Hammer and I didn’t feel like arguing.

What can I say? I truly am as lazy as the Disciple of the Vault.

So this is how the deck ended up :

Flaming men of the cloth, Non-choir boy edition

4 Dross Golem

3 Oversold Cemetery

2 Graveborn Muse

4 Skullclamp

4 Rotlung Reanimator

4 Withered Wretch

4 Carrion Feeder

4 Disciple of the Vault

4 Volcanic Hammer

3 Shrapnel Blast

3 Vault of Whispers

3 Great Furnace

4 Bloodstained Mire

1 Mountain

13 Swamp


2 Flashfires

3 Persecute

4 Headhunter

3 Gravepact

3 Echoing Decay

This sideboard could probably use some work. The worst thing you can do with a sideboard is stuff too many cards for one match up in it. I think Geordie Tait wrote an article about that, which Ted Knutson will probably miraculously link to. By himself. I don’t even have to tell him to do these things. If I mentioned hot women, he’d be linking to those too. That’s the kind of dedication Ted Knutson has to this site. When there’s a call for cheesecake, why he goes ahead and brings it.

Anyway yeah, it’s got Flashfires, Persecute, and Headhunter for the control matchups and Gravepact alongside Echoing Decay for the aggro matchups. Echoing Decay is very good by the way. I can’t say enough good things about this card. It tells those swarms of soldiers or insects tokens”Where be the milk up in this piece son?” [Nope, I don’t know what it means, either. – Knut, clearly unhip]

All being said, I’m not really all too pleased with this deck. It doesn’t hit very hard and while it does have lots of delightful ways to win the game, it’s pretty slow and doesn’t deal with the dreaded Story Circle very well. You’d also think that I would remember to put artifact removal in the sideboard, wouldn’t you? It took me three weeks to remember to put artifact removal in my Goblin Bidding deck’s sideboard. I’m behind the times.

So what do you think? Should work continue on this deck? Should there be changes made to it to make it a hard-hitting, leaner and meaner type of Aggro-Clerical deck? Or should I just give Steve a different deck next week? I’ve got lots of options. I could give him … Elf-clamp, Soldier-clamp, Zombie-clamp, Bird-clamp, Dragon-clamp, One time at Band-Clamp …



There’s a large range of decks that can be built within the foundation of a tier 2 or tier 3 set up. What would you like to see built and played? Mono-Green beatdown with eight manlands? The midrange aggro styling of a good old-fashioned Beasts deck? Mono-Red burn or Ponza? Some sort of crazy TwelvePost deck in Standard? Things involving Goblin Charbelcher? White-Black Slide? More decks JMF came up with?

I’ll be pleased to make whatever you guys desire, and we’ll send Steve off to play with it. Hopefully he won’t punch me in the face for giving him Dragon-clamp. If this series is vaguely successful, I will stubbornly plug away at it every other week, until Steve kills me for writing about his deck playing exploits.

Iain Telfer

Insert pictures of hot Danish women here please. [Sorry, don’t know any and no time to look em up. How about a picture of a hot Danish instead? – Knut]