The Kitchen Table #128: Decks from the Casual Room

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Abe ventures into the Magic Online Casual Room, and comes out smelling of roses. Three new decks, all examined with his critical Casual eye… Want some fresh ideas? Look no further.

A day after the publication of The Kitchen Table #126: Revisiting Equinaut, I decided to actually build the deck online. After having completed my task, I took the deck to the casual room and began playing with some of the other players there.

Most of the decks I played against were basic. Some were regular Standard archetypes like Zoo, others were basic archetypes – a White Weenie deck here, a burn deck there, and so forth.

Some opponents weren’t alive for long enough for me to figure out what sort of deck they were playing.

However, there were a few decks that I really liked. I talked with the owners (mostly; as you’ll see, one just left and couldn’t be located). I asked a few questions about their decks and what sorts of cards they used. Whenever I thought a deck had an interesting gimmick or a neat theme, I decided to jot down every card I saw, then afterwards make a note of talking to the owner to get more detail.

No matter how clever or prolific a deck builder can be, we all have various deckbuilding principles that we almost always use. I look at cards from a certain vantage point, and that is made manifest in my decks. The beauty of highlighting other decks is that I am not the author (sorta). Instead, I am merely an observer (again, sorta).

In practice, however, I’ll have to flesh out a few of these decks. I never got a decklist, so I’ll need to figure out manabases, maybe add a few cards, and so forth. Likewise, I can choose to include more of certain cards in these decklists. Some owners did not have enough of a card to run four of, so this decklist can, in ways, be viewed as pure.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at some decks.

Somebody’s Neo-Sneak Attack Deck

This guy left within seconds of conceding the game, and I closed my Magic: the Electronic shortly thereafter in favor of getting dinner. As a result, of all of the people who’s decks I am listing here, this one I know the least about.

If this is your deck, speak up in the forums!

The deck worked under a very simple principle. Play a Mass Hysteria, giving haste to all creatures (including mine). Then play very cheap big creatures and attack for damage. The deck was a Black/Red concoction, and relied on creatures like Cosmic Larva and Desecration Elemental.

I call this deck a neo-Sneak Attack deck because it seemed to play a bit like one. On your turn, drop a cheap, fat creature with haste, and that creature likely won’t be around when you draw your card in the next turn because it died or you didn’t pay the upkeep.

I only saw five cards during this match-up: The Hysteria, the Larva, the Desecration Elemental, Twisted Abomination, and a Blistering Firecat. What else could he be playing? I decide to do a search for Black or Red creatures that are online Legal, costs five or less mana, and have a power of five or greater. I want to find similarly cheap, big creatures. Hunted Horror isn’t that great, because you don’t want to hand an opponent blockers. That’s really the only other cheap choice.

Let’s say that I add the mountaincycling Chartooth Cougar in addition to the Abomination. I also want a bit of Black/Red normal cards. Terminate will off an annoying blocker cheaply. Char will burn out players or blockers.

Now what? I decide to head for Skizzik territory. Skizzik is hasted even without the Mass Hysteria, thereby giving a hasted condition like the Firecat just in case you lose or can’t find a Hysteria.

After that, I decide that a Laquatus’s Champion would be a nice fit as a finisher. I am about to finish the deck when I realize that relying on just four Mass Hysteria is not going to get the job done. In fact, there is a better card than the Hysteria available for this purpose.

Lightning Greaves.

With Lightning Greaves, any creature played gets haste, and it also gets untargetability. That will help naturally hasted creatures like the Firecat while also lending an assist to Cosmic Larva and its ilk.

In fact, since I don’t know the proportion of cards in this player’s deck, I have no way of knowing just how many Mass Hysteria he is playing. However, I suspect that he might be playing just a couple and instead relying on a more useful Lightning Greaves.

I decide to pull out the Laquatus’s Champions, because they weren’t that great; they were just nice finishers. Now I have six ways of making my creatures go all hasty. Let’s take a look at the finished product.

Since this deck is a little more Red than Black, I decided to emphasize Mountains in the land base over Swamps. Remember, we also have land cyclers to help out the mana base.

Other options, besides the Champions, might include looking at reanimation. Zombify, for example, might fit in here nicely. The deck might also have more burn that just four slots, or it might run a few Blazes as a finisher (this deck was being played in Extended, so it couldn’t have been running Torches).

That deck is interesting, because I could have built it if I had thought about Mass Hysteria acting like a pseudo-Sneak Attack. However, the next deck is simply outside the real of my normal deck building experience.

Ted_OBedlam The Round Table

Ted played this clever version of a new Sleight Knight deck type, substituting Distorting Lens for the Sleight of Mind. What is Sleight Knight?

(In my best Once-Upon-a-Time voice) Back in 1996, tournaments were dominated by Necropotence. Necro was everywhere. No format has been dominated by one deck as much as Necro dominated during its heyday. U/G Madness, Fires, Affinity – none were as dominant as Necro. Several deck types emerged from this dark hour to try and combat Necro. Erhnam-Geddon used Armageddon to slow down Necro, and supplemented it with big creature Erhnam Djinn. Stasis decks emerged as a way to shut down Necro and win from a dominant position.

Both of these decks relied on tempo, either through Stasis or Armageddon to slow down the Necro player. A third deck also emerged from this era: Sleight Knight. While the previous two decks tried to slow down Necro, Sleight Knight tried to outspeed it. In the 1996 World Championships, Tom Chanpheng piloted a White Weenie deck with a twist to the finals. What was the twist? He ran Sleight of Mind to change the color of protection that some of his creatures had.

You see, Sleight Knight ran four White Knight, four Order of Leitbur and four Order of the White Shield. This gave it twelve maindeck Protection from Black creatures, all cheap, as an effective counter to Necro. Throw in Savannah Lions, a great three drop in Phyrexian War Beast, and Mishra’s Factories, and you see the core of a fine aggro deck.

As an interesting side-note, let’s see if my memory holds up. If I remember the articles of the day correctly, Tom accidentally forgot to register his Blue lands and wrote them all down as Plains. (I think they were supposed to be Adarkar Wastes) so he couldn’t use his maindeck Sleight of Mind.

Anyway, so that’s Sleight Knight. Yes, I know this is a casual article, but it’s important to understand Magic’s history. What’s my favorite Worlds Champion deck of all time? Five Color Black, but that’s a story for another article. (Look it up, I’m sure you can find a decklist somewhere. It was the year after this Sleight Knight deck won it all)

Ted is playing a variant of Sleight Knight that allows him to ignore Blue in favor of adding Black. Black gives many more options for color changing fun, and the Distorting Lens works really well. Against him, I saw a lot of cards, and afterwards, I spoke with him about his deck, which he calls The Round Table. Here are the cards that I know he is running:

Distorting Lens
Silver Knight
Western Paladin
White Knight
Lightning Greaves
Dakmor Lancer
Eastern Paladin
Rend Flesh

That’s a lot of cards. As you can see, he uses a lot of different color hosers and then adds the Distorting Lens. Against me, for example, he used the Distorting Lens to turn my newly played Thornscape Battlemage Red so that his Silver Knight would not die to the damage it dealt.

If there is one issue I see here, it’s that there aren’t many White cards. Ted admitted that he didn’t have any of the White paladins to add, but we have no limitations here, so let’s start there.

A nice breakdown gives me 32 cards, so I don’t have that much room for other options.

It seems to me that this deck is essentially an aggro deck with a twist. As such, I want to find some nice, cheap one-drops. I want to keep the deck popping and playing cards regularly.

If this deck used actual Sleight of Mind to work, then it could not run cards like Empty-Shrine Kannushi. The text does not mention a specific color, so Sleight of Mind could not change it. However, with Distorting Lens, you are just changing the color of an opposing creature or other permanent so it works. As such, I throw in a full set of Kannushis.

Here we have a modified version of Ted_OBedlam deck. It should play like an aggro deck with Lightning Greaves to accelerate your attacks and protect your creatures, while you are more likely to get hits in with the aggro creatures due to protection and the Distorting Lens.

StevieB’s Fat Deck

Our third deck for today is StevieB’s fat deck. This is a G/W deck that plays more like a Gruul deck with ever increasing threats, supplemented by a healthy dose of equipment and backed by some removal. This was an interesting concept to me because I know that Selesnya Guild has oriented Green/White more towards 1/1 Saprolings and cheap elves and whatnot, and this deck is more akin to Zoo than Selesnya.

I spoke with StevieB and he mentioned several additional cards for his deck. He didn’t have a name for the deck, so in lieu of a name, I’ll just call it his Fat Deck. Here are the cards I either saw or he mentioned he was playing:

Birds of Paradise
Troll Ascetic
Eternal Witness
Savannah Lion
Umezawa’s Jitte
Sword of Fire and Ice
Forgotten Ancient

Let’s say that we have a basic setup for these cards. You know, four of the cheap and good stuff, two of the less good or cheap stuff. That puts me at 30 cards, so I figure have I have space for six more cards.

Let me take a quick look over the deck thus far.

This deck needs a pair of Tolsimir Wolfblood to pump the creatures. And?

Now, if I were being Abe, I’d add a quartet of Fleetfoot Panthers to the deck, but that would start to look a bit like last week’s deck. How about a full set of Selesnya Guildmages? They are cheap, have a body with heft, and can either pump your team or increase the size of your team as needed.

This deck has a lot of speed. From one drops on up, you can expect this deck to begin the pressure and keep it on for a while.


This is the time in the article where I look back and consider. I have two very aggressive decks in here. Even the Neo-Sneak Attack deck can have an aggressive feel. That means every deck is aggressive in feel or fact. This is not my standard sort of deck building, that’s for sure.

Now, I may have built the first deck – it’s not too far off my beaten path, but the other two really aren’t my style at all, which makes them great choices to highlight and flesh out here in my column.

Previously I mentioned that I don’t like doing aggro decks much, because I find them to be a bit boring to create. These are a bit more fun however, especially the middle deck (The modern twist on the old Sleight Knight deck)

Thanks go out to StevieB, Ted_Obedlam, and the unknown author of the first deck.

I hope you enjoyed this excursion into the casual room!

Until Later,
Abe Sargent