The Kitchen Table #131: Building Decks with Dissension

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Abe takes inspiration from the new Dissension cards, and spills forth a number of new decks. Looking for the edge in your casual game? Abe has the answer.

It seems like every time there’s a new set there’s also a new article by yours truly that outlines several new decks. After all, what better to prime the pump of deck building-ness than the release of new cards?

When life hands you new cards, make decks! Or something like that. I like perusing the new set for inspiration. I just look and look until something jumps out and says, “Build me!” And then I do, like a loyal puppy.

Honestly, I’m in a weird mood as I write this article. This week I have to write my uber Annual Report, an accounting of all of my activities, as well as the activities of those who work for me, in a giant report that takes a long time to write. I’m taking a break from all of this technical writing to do more… um… writing.

Before I became a weekly writer, I’d blow off this week’s article and just concentrate on the Annual Report. I can’t do that any more, and although I do have a Kitchen Table article in the can, ready to be used if writer’s block or an emergency hit, I don’t want to use it unless that aforementioned crisis occurs. Merely being tired of writing is not a sufficient reason to squander my canned article.

Besides, this is a deck article. These are my bread and butter articles. Any time I can’t write a deck article is just, well, sad. So, without further mention of my Annual Report, let’s head into the Dissension card-list and see what the first card is that strikes my fancy.

By the way, today I am in a basic land mood, so all of my decks will use nothing but basic lands. Just as a change of pace. Obviously, if you decide to build one of these decks, change the manabase to suit your needs.

Make a Drake a.k.a. Drakes ‘N Stuff a.k.a. Drakes R Us

Let’s begin with flavor, shall we? All of the best entrees have great flavor, and so do decks. Lots of people enjoy the flavor of Dovescape, which I’m not all that enthralled with. When I think flavor, I think Leafdrake Roost.

All I am doing with this deck is building a Blue/Green control deck around Drakes N Stuff, which would be the alternate name for Make a Drake (Another alternate name is Drakes R Us). Outside of a few drakes at varying casting costs, I also include a nice miscellany.

Naturalize is your new ubiquitous Disenchant for all decks Green. It slices and dices its way through all things magical and artificial. Mana Leak joins the Spiketail Drakes as countermagic, although it’s not serious countermagic.

I’m trying out Flash Foliage and seeing how it works. It seems like a decent Fog for a creature and a card. It will also kill small creatures, and I like that for Green. Note that Flash Foliage will block any creature, including those normally unblockable, by having fear or landwalk or sheer unblockability.

I wanted a way to pump my flyers. I started with Rancor, but I decided to slide into Bonesplitter because this deck was ending up as Blue intensive, rather than Green intensive. A 3/1 flying attacking Spiketail Hatchling on the third turn is no slouch.

I rounded out the deck with a pair of surprise Might of Oaks. I find that I rarely want four. One you play Might of Oaks, people expect you to always have Might of Oaks and play around it. However, two should be sufficient to get them often enough. Since the entire deck’s creature base is flying, there’s a pretty good chance that creatures are getting through.

Another way to build the Drakes deck is to splash Red. In Red there are a variety of effects that deal damage to all non-flyers, and therefore, all of your creatures would be safe. You could also run a Red drake or two.

Leafdrake Roost is a great backup in this deck. Not only is it thematic, but it also makes a 2/2 flyer every turn. Soon your opponent will be swarmed with 2/2 flyers. One interesting sidenote about the Leafdrake Roost – it costs five mana to play, but only two to activate. You can activate it and always have mana left over to do other things. You’ll rarely play something that won’t let you also Make a Drake.

Cryptic Loaming

I was browsing the Black card file when I came across Crypt Champion. This is essentially a Red/Black creature that allows everybody to return to play a creature with a casting cost of three or less. I almost kept scanning the cards, but something caused me to linger. What was it?

Ah yes, it was another Dissension card. Loaming Shaman is a three casting cost creature (so, it can be returned if available) with a nice 3/2 body and the ability to force a player to shuffle back cards from their graveyard into their deck. This allows you shuffle back any dead small creatures and then be the only one to get an advantage off the Crypt Champion.

After that, it was a small matter to round out the deck:

This deck is a very classic Abe design with a Dissension spin. There are lots of creatures, and many of them are cheap; they have effects on the game; there’s a Goblin Bombardment; and the graveyard is an added resource.

Yep, that’s an Abe deck alright.

We have a lot of stuff here, so let’s get cracking. Smoothing our mana are Birds of Paradise and Civic Wayfinders. Both are nice creatures and add to our ability to play a deck with three colors of mana.

Next up is my removal pack. This includes Ghitu Slinger, Keldon Vandals, and Bone Shredder. Each can take out an opposing permanent, while also creating a decent body. The Bone Shredder makes a fine flying speed bump, while the Vandals can really hit for some damage.

I tossed in a pair of Ravenous Rats as a way of keeping opposing hands down. If you can get your opponent to play their cards quickly, then you’ll gain card advantage with your creatures and recursion. By playing their permanents as quickly as they get them, they leave themselves open to your own removal. When you play, say, a Keldon Vandals and pop an artifact, then they now have to deal with a 4/1 creature. Your one card kills and artifact and causes them to kill it with a blocker or removal spell. Either way, the cumulative effect of these trades is fortuitous for you. Ravenous Rats “encourages” an opponent to play into this situation.

I also have a quartet of Wall of Blossoms. These are your card drawing engine of doom and flowers. These make great blockers, early and can be recurred later for more cards.

Another fun and classic Abe card is the Spike Feeder. You can hop the counters to another creature, then recur it. You can also sacrifice it for four life, and then recur it. It turns Bone Shredders and Birds of Paradise into fine flying beaters with the counters.

After that, I decided to include two each of Exhume and Unearth. Unearth will bring back all of your creatures except the Crypt Champion himself, who costs too much. This will only run you a bill of one Black mana. Exhume will allow everyone to return a creature of any size. I wanted some recursion method for the Champion, and with the Loaming Shaman cleaning out graveyards for you, this is usually a low priced Zombify.

Lastly, I wanted a way of killing your own creatures so that the Champion can recur it. Many creatures “self-die,” like the Spike Feeder and echo creatures. Other creatures need another outlet for death, so I threw in the Goblin Bombardment.

You’ll note that I steered clear of classics like Volrath’s Stronghold and Erratic Portal. Those would be good here, too.

Eldritch Shapeshifter

I’m not sure what my feelings are on Protean Hulk. On one hand, it’s an interesting creature. On the other, it’s as bad a flavored card as any Unhinged card. Don’t believe me?

Dictionary.com defines protean as, “any of various insoluble primary protein derivatives that result from a slight modification of the protein molecule especially by the action of water, very dilute acids, or enzymes.” In other words, it’s a Protein Hulk.

And then you have the stupid quote. I find the quote in bad form, and it ruins my suspension of disbelief. Instead of a neat creature, we have a creature with a barely veiled reference to science and jokes. It just doesn’t fit Magic well, in my opinion, and the card doesn’t feel right.

However, it is an interesting card. So, I’m renaming it for all of my articles. I’m also giving it a new flavor text. Here’s my new concept for the card:

Eldritch Shapeshifter
Creature – Shapeshifter
“As it dies, its body remembers the form of every creature it once mimicked.”

This gives you an obvious reason why, upon death, new creatures appear. In this version, it’s a shapeshifter and the process of death causes it to retake some of the forms it once assumed. That’s a perfectly acceptable concept. So, from now on, every time I want to use Protean Hulk, I’m calling it Eldritch Shapeshifter. [Heh. Can’t do that for the database decklists, I’m afraid… – Craig.]

Now, without further ado, let’s take a look at one of these guys in a deck.

This is a deck that might be able to clean house at a multiplayer table. With a Pandemonium out, casting an Eldritch Shapeshifter deals six damage to someone. Sacrifice it to a Goblin Bombardment to deal another damage to someone. Then deal two damage six times as you get Savannah Lions and Isamaru and Jackal Pups. That’s nineteen damage right there, all in one turn. In a duel, that’s usually enough to kill someone in one blow. In multiplayer, it’s repeatable. It’s also one of the few combos that leaves you in a good board position, with all of your newly minted two-power creatures.

In multiplayer, you might want to be prepared for people to either attack you or Pandemonium you. As such, a creature like Conclave Phalanx might be a nice choice to bring into play in order to get your life back up.

This deck will play like a weenie deck for a while. After all, it has thirteen one-drops. You should be able to drop creatures quickly. Even if you don’t start with a Mountain or a Plains for the Pups, Lions, and Hound, you should get a Signet or a Skyshroud Elf allowing you to drop these guys eventually.

I decided to run a few creature tutor effects. Playing a Tooth and Nail and getting two Eldritch Shapeshifters will deal twelve damage, and then sacking to Goblin Bombardment deals another two, then massive damage results after you sack them. I also have a pair of Pattern of Rebirth to transform one of your cheap creatures into a Shapeshifter.

Because the deck ideally needs a Goblin Bombardment and a Pandemonium in play, I find that we should reliably get a chance to grab one. Therefore, I tossed in an Enlightened Tutor. I suspect that, in most games, you’ll naturally draw either a GBB or a Pandemonium. Therefore, you can tutor for the other. Alternatively, you can try to fit in an Academy Rector, which you can use your creature tutors to fetch.

Another option I thought of was to try and fit in Glorious Anthems. The only thing that will kill more quickly than brining into play six two-power one-mana creatures under a Pandemonium is bringing into play three- or even four-power creatures instead! Nothing says to a multiplayer table, “I win” faster than dealing six batches of four damage each after just dealing six and one. And then, after all of that, you have those six creatures all in play.

I really like how this deck worked out. Enjoy!


Peter Jahn said that there were only three uses for Nightcreep in his Dissension review article: Swampwalking, combo land kill, and to keep countermagic and other responses that require colored mana from working for a turn.

There’s quite a few more uses than that. Play Nightcreep, then attack with all of your Protection from Black creatures. It will also turn off special lands for a turn, like Maze of Ith and whatnot, allowing you to get a hit in. Let’s build a nice Nightcreep multiplayer deck, with several new tricks included.

Abe Sargent
Test deck on 05-14-2006

Now, this is actually a simple deck here, in order to prove a point. The single best card to use with Nightcreep is Crusading Knight. As a protection from Black creature, the Crusading Knight can hit anybody with a cast Nightcreep. It will also have a huge power and toughness, making it a player killer. Another player killer is the trampling Angry Mob. Four players at the table turn Angry Mob into a 20+/20+ trampling machine.

You can play Nightcreep in order to give you more Swamps. Then drop a Dross Golem for very cheap or get more damage and life from a Corrupt.

Mind Sludge will hit more cards as you have more Swamps. Likewise, Nightmare gets bigger when you turn your Plains into Swamps.

Promised Kannushi and White Knight will have Pro Black when you play Nightcreep, giving you a turn with virtually invulnerable defenders or virtually unblockable attackers.

Other Nightcreep ideas include: payment or upkeep for things like Infernal Denizen. Karma or Stern Judge. There are other cards like Nightmare Lash, Spreading Algae, Roots of Life, Infernal Harvest, or Sink into Takenuma.

Now, if you want to focus on one aspect of Nightcreep, you can have a more reliable deck:

This deck uses several of the Nightcreep tricks, drops a few like the White Knight, adds in a few more like the swampwalkers, and hopefully is a bit more consistent. I hope you like it!

Well, that brings us to the close of another article. Who knows what next week will bring?

Until Later,
Abe Sargent