The Kitchen Table #126: Revisiting Equinaut

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For today’s article from the Kitchen Table, Abe revisits one of his most popular deck creations – the oingy boingy special, Equinaut. Modified with new cards, does it still rock the casual scene? Only Abe can tell us…

Ha, ha, ha, ha? Well, I hope that you enjoyed last week’s April 1st version of the Underused Hall of Fame nominees. I believe that I am the only StarCityGames.com Featured Writer to have a humor piece in each of the last four April Fool’s Day events here, which is ironic since I’m not that funny. It just gives me an opportunity to stretch my writing muscles.

I am working on the next entry, but that article always takes more time than other articles, especially if I pour the effort into it that I want to. Last week I had to write a series of daily articles, write my normal article, and turn in my monthly article for Scrye Magazine. That’s a lot of writing, so there wasn’t much opportunity to work on the Underused article, but I hope to work at it some more soon.

I love deck articles. A deck article is one where I present 3-6 different decks and talk about them, either briefly or in more detail. Deck articles are my bread-and-butter, or my potatoes. When I don’t have another idea, I write a deck article. Last week, for my dailies, I selected, at random, cards from most expansion sets (not Portal and Unglued and such) and then tried to build a deck from that card. I love these sorts of random challenges because I get an opportunity to build a deck I wouldn’t normally consider.

The classic example from last week’s selection was my Wednesday article, where I rolled Keldon Battlewagon and then tried to really pump him up. Sometimes these random ideas really work, and I love it when they do. It’s magical. However, sometimes they are lackluster. Not every deck can be a winner, and when you roll a random card, you can get stuck with some poor results (Amulet of Quoz, I’m talking to you).

If you read one of my deck articles, I want you to be encouraged to change it to your own desire. Maybe you don’t have the cardpool to build the deck my way, or maybe you don’t like a certain decision I made and want to remove a certain card. Perhaps you want to try something new, or go in a different direction. I consider it a high compliment that you might want to try to play with one of my decks.

Of all of the daily decks that I have done, none have been mentioned more in forums than Equinaut. Since this has arguably been my most famous daily deck, or at least the longest lasting, I think that’s its only fitting that it receives some additional inspection. Today I want to look at a few different ways that we could build Equinaut, using different cardpools or different ways of looking at the deck.

What is Equinaut? During Invasion Block, I built a block deck using Invasion, Planeshift, Apocalypse and the base set to create a pretty decent Standard deck. It couldn’t stand with the tip of the top of that era, but as Rogue decks go, it was pretty good. I definitely did some damage to people with cards that they thought were no good. When opponents don’t know how to play it, they don’t know that the key card is Fleetfoot Panther. They’ll counter and destroy other cards, often allowing you to run the table with your Fleetfoot Panthers. I still have a full set of foil Fleetfoot Panthers from this deck (in fact, I have a modern version of this deck still constructed).

Fleetfoot Panthers?” you may be asking. Oh yes, Fleetfoot Panthers. Hopefully I’ve teased you enough. Here is my tournament caliber Equinaut, sans sideboard (because this is a casual article).


As you can see, this is a deck built around Equilibrium. Equilibrium is a great card, and could warrant a spot in my next Silly Card Tricks article, if I ever decide to revisit that theme. There are a lot of ways to play around with Equilibrium.

First of all, you need to understand that Equilibrium is triggered when you play a creature spell. That means the Equilibrium trigger is placed on the stack on top of your creature, and will resolve prior to the creature being in play. One very important consequence of this is that you cannot return a creature that you play with Equilibrium. That means you can’t slap down a Nekrataal, pay the Equilibrium cost, have it come into play, kill off a creature and then bounce. You have to bounce something else. (Now, you could bounce another Nekrataal back to your hand and bring this one into play).

In this deck, for example, you cannot play Mystic Snake as a buyback Counterspell that costs 2GUU. Instead, it’s a Counterspell, a 2/2 creature, and Unsummon for 2GUU. Something else will have to bounce the Snake back for you in order to reuse it.

This is one of the places where Fleetfoot Panther is so good. Because of the way the gating mechanic is worded, you always have the option of bouncing the gated creature back to your hand when it comes into play. If you play a Shivan Wurm, you can return the Shivan Wurm itself, if you so desire (and you may even want to if there is, say, a Pandemonium in play).

Therefore, the interaction between Equilibrium and a gating creature is particularly sweet. You can play a gating creature, trigger and pay for the Equilibrium, bounce a creature, then bring your gating creature back to your hand after it comes into play. It essentially becomes a buyback Unsummon.

However, the interaction with Fleetfoot Panther is even better, because Fleetfoot Panther can be played as an instant. With no creatures out, you can pay 2RW when you are attacked to bounce a creature back to your opponent’s hand with a Fleetfoot Panther and an Equilibrium. It essentially reads:

2GW, Instant, Return target creature to its owner’s hand. This spell returns itself to your hand after resolution.

If you are attacked on the fourth turn and all you have out is a Birds of Paradise and an Equilibrium, your opponent has to be afraid. You’ll play the Fleetfoot Panther, bouncing an opposing creature with the Equilibrium and the Birds with the gating ability. Then your newly minted 3/4 can block and kill another of their creatures. On the following turn you get to play the Birds, activate Equilibrium and continue the chain.

Fleetfoot Panther and Equilibrium make a beautiful pair, and they really are the cornerstones of the deck. And these tricks so far are just Equilibrium tricks.

Fleetfoot Panther on its own is a house. It allows you to replay and reuse any Green or White creature. This makes creatures with “comes into play” abilities very sweet. If you play, for example, a Viridian Shaman to pop an artifact, then a Fleetfoot Panther will allow you to reuse that creature again to take out another.

Fleetfoot Panther is also a counterspell, which you may not have known. It reads:

1GW, Instant, Counter target spell that targets a Green or White creature you control. Return that creature to your hand and put a 3/4 Death Cat token into play under your control.

That’s right, the Panther can be played at any time to gate a Green or White creature back to your hand in order to save it from a Swords to Plowshares, Lightning Bolt, Rend Flesh, Mortify, or whatever. It also makes your creatures essentially unstealable through conventional means.

You can also use it return a creature after damage has gone on the stack. Feel free to use your Birds of Paradise to block mean ol’ Serra Angel then use the Panther to return it to your hand.

The best is when you can combine these various uses of the Fleetfoot Panther. Imagine an opponent with a trio of 2/2’s against your one 2/2 Meddling Mage, naming Shock. Your opponent plays a Volcanic Hammer targeting your Mage, then will likely attack. Now you play the Panther and activate the Equilibrium. Your opponent’s Volcanic Hammer is countered because the Mage is safely tucked away in your hand. An opposing 2/2 has been bounced as well. And, a 3/4 beefy blocker stands where a killable 2/2 was previously. Now, your opponent probably won’t even bother to attack and lose a creature. All of the sudden your Fleetfoot Panther has gained you the upper hand tempo-wise.

Enough with the Equilibrium and Panther. What other tricks does this deck have? Meddling Magi were amazing in tournaments when you had some reasonable idea of what your opponent was playing. Now you can play a cheap 2/2 bear and just guess. If you guess wrong, bounce your Mage and play it again, naming something different. Also, having a two mana 2/2 is great because it becomes a Man-o’-War with an Equilibrium in play. A Man-o’-War that stops a spell your opponent may have and is White (a key point, as it would be unplayable if it were not Green or White).

As mentioned briefly above, this deck also packs Mystic Snake. You can play a Snake, and then bounce it at your leisure to continue the counterspell ways. Opponents will often go after your Snake more than your Panthers because they fear the recursive countermagic. This plays into your long-term strategy (protect Equilibrium and Fleetfoot Panther) and your secondary strategy (use Panthers to gain card advantage by bouncing then targets of removal).

As an advocate of Battlemagi and other similar creatures, it is important to note that I included a single copy each of the White and Green versions. With Cities of Brass and Birds of Paradise, your Thornscape Battlemagi will often be able to use their Red kicker, plus the White kicker pops artifacts. You can bounce Battlemagi in order to reuse. The Sunscape Battlemage draws you a pair of cards or offs the occasional offensive flyer.

With Eladamri’s Calls in the deck, you can regularly grab vital creatures from a Battlemage to a Meddling Mage to a Panther or a Snake. This allows you some increased reliability from the creature side of your deck.

Four Counterspells and four Absorbs give us a healthy dose of countermagic without amping up the volume too much (remember, this amount is supplemented by the Mystic Snake). There’s also a quartet of Dismantling Blow and Fact or Fiction. Each serves as card drawing and helps to get important cards or land, since this deck doesn’t mind having land.

As you can see, there is a lot going on here in this deck. It’s important to note that all creatures can be bounced by the Panther, and any future incarnations really should keep that restriction in place because the Panther is so powerful here.

Future Equinaut v 1.0

The problem with adding nice Ravnica block deck cards is that two of the three color combinations here (U/G and U/W) haven’t seen print yet. With this version, I de-emphasized the amount of Blue in the deck. There are now only six cards with double-Blue in the casting cost.

I kept many of the same cards of the previous incarnations of the deck – Eladamri’s Call, Panther, Equilibrium, Snake, Battlemagi, Dismantling Blow, and Birds. However, many other cards appear, modifying the deck significantly.

Out come the Meddling Magi. Sure, they can shut down cards, but they are less reliable outside of tournament play. In go the efficient Watchwolves. 1GW to play a 3/3 and bounce a creature? That’s golden, and their size will keep early creatures at bay.

The deck adds a pair of tutors at the cost of a pair of Fact or Fictions. I found the Facts were often competing with countermagic and Panthers for extra unused mana, so I wanted cheaper tutors to get the Equilibrium. I have a Sterling Grove to protect one while it is in play, or to tutor for one, plus the nice and cheap Enlightened Tutor.

I also tossed in Loxodon Hierarch. It adds some nice lifegain, has synergy with the Panthers and Equilibrium, and can help the team survive against some forms of mass removal.

A single Tolsimir Wolfblood is featured as a way to pump your creatures. Remember, every creature in this deck is either White or Green. In fact, a majority of the creatures in this deck are both, thus making Tolsimir a winning condition of his own as Watchwolves become 5/5, Panthers become 5/6, and Hierarchs become 6/6. You can also bounce his wolf token with the Panther when you don’t want to return any creatures to your hand and just need a kitty instead of a doggy.

I added Mana Leaks in the place of previous Counterspells because they are easier to play and just as effective in the early game.

Future Equinaut v 2.0

Another way to analyze the deck is to understand the key interactions but to substitute new cards for old. Take a look at the below deck:

This deck runs on a Blue/White engine instead of a Green/White one. Sawtooth Loon replaces Fleetfoot Panther. If you are going to replace the Panther with any other gating creature, I believe that only the Loon offers enough synergy to work, and that is partly because it becomes a two-color deck. (Sparkcaster would be my third choice).

Because the Sawtooth Loon is a card drawing engine itself, I can cut cards like Fact or Fiction altogether and use the Loon.

I tossed in a pair of Shrieking Drakes to supplement the main strategy. I initially was using Artic Merfolk and Silver Drakes, and then I swapped them for Shrieking Drakes. If there were a more reliable way of having Equilibrium in play, then I’d up the number to four. I love the Shrieking Drake here, because you could play it then activate the Equilibrium all for 1U. 1U, bounce that creature, 1U bounce this creature, 1U bounce that critter over there that you are trying to hide under your land.

Man-o’-War joins the uber-bounce fest, as does my favorite piece of tech – Aven Fogbringer. Play a Fogbringer. Play Shrieking Drake. With Equilibrium, you can bounce one or two creatures and keep your opponent down ad nauseam. With a touch more mana (and this version of the deck does run two more lands), you can get a mad Fogbringer lock, and you know that you’ve won the game at that point as you bounce all of your opponent’s land.

Also joining us is Gilded Drake. Play it and steal a creature (and maybe bounce a threat). Then bounce the Drake using one of your gazillion methods. Your opponent will cringe as you steal, bounce, or counter all of their threatening permanents.

Temple Acolyte is a great early game speed bump. Between the life gain and the cheap blocker, it can really help you get to the point where you can use your Equilibrium. It also works magnificently with Equilibrium and the Loon and the Shrieking Drake.

This deck retains Counterspell, Absorb, and Dismantling Blow from the first iteration. This should give you enough control to keep away the terrible cards. In this deck, I believe you’ll want to protect Equilibriums first, Loons second, everything else a distant third. In the previous versions of the deck, the Panther was important enough to be on the same level as the Equilibrium, but this deck emphasizes the Equilibrium over any gating creature.

There are many other ways to build this deck. I could run Erratic Portal in the Green/White version of the deck and cut off Blue entirely, and maybe fit Glare of Subdual in. The Sparkcaster R/G/U Equilibrium deck would be interesting to try, and you’d probably want to think about Pandemonium in that deck. Even a U/B deck with the uber-cheap Cavern Harpy might work since your gating creature costs so little mana and has a built in bounce ability.

Since Equilibrium is arguably the most enduring decks of my daily decks, it’s neat to take a closer look and then try to change it around. I hope that you enjoy this deck!

Until Later,
Abe Sargent