The Kitchen Table #134: Build a Deck Like Abe

Read Abe Sargent... every Thursday at

Today, Abe issues the First Abe Deck Challenge. Prove you can build a deck like Abe, and you’ll have your deck featured in a future column.

Well, what are you waiting for? Get cracking!

(Abe’s Note — The First Abe Deck Challenge is at the end of this article. Prove you can build a deck like Abe, and you’ll have your deck featured in a future column. Good Luck, and read more about the challenge below.)

It all started with Goblin Bombardment.

I realized a few weeks ago, as I was writing an article, that I use Goblin Bombardment too much. At least, this is what I thought at the time. I made a conscious decision to try other cards besides the good ol’ GBB.

Everybody has tendencies. Some people like Green or Blue, as it’s their favorite color. Some players love having countermagic in their decks. Some player love aggressive decks. Some players enjoy crazy wacky nine card combos. Simply put, everybody has various desires in Magic, and that means each player leans towards certain decks.

As a writer, am I guilty of the same? I didn’t know, so I wanted to put myself to the test. I took a couple of hours out of my day and I investigated every single deck I had ever written for SCG. That’s a lot of decks. I wanted to see if I had any biases. Here are my opening premises, based on what I think I’ll find prior to looking at the data.

Premise #1 — The Tempo has Arrived — I really like tempo cards, from Winter Orb to Undo. Tangle Wire and land destruction and Pendrell Mists all find their way to my decks. My first belief was that I might include a large amount of cards geared solely around gaining a tempo advantage over my opponents.

Now, to be fair, lots of decks have a tempo card or two. In a B/W control deck, Vindicate can be used to pop a land and gain you a turn. Still, that’s hardly enough to make a deck have a strong tempo element. How can I gauge proper tempo?

To begin with, any deck that has dedicated land destruction was included. If a deck had Stone Rain and Earth Rift, it was a tempo deck. If a deck had a card that could be used for tempo, like Creeping Mold, and nothing else, I didn’t count that. It needed dedicated land destruction.

Secondly, a deck would qualify if it had a very strong Tempo card in it. If I’m running Rising Waters, that’s a tempo deck. If I’m using Static Orb, that’s a tempo deck. It doesn’t matter if the only tempo cards in a deck are Rising Waters; it’s enough to make the deck qualify. A classic example of this is my Equinaut deck, with Equilibrium. The concept of the deck is the use and reuse Equilibrium over and over again, and that makes it count as having a strong tempo element.

Lastly, I figured a deck as having a strong tempo element if it included multiples of at least adequately powerful tempo cards. Fallow Earth and Plow Under make a Green tempo deck. Undo and Wash Out make a tempo deck. Agonizing Memories and Painful Memories make a tempo deck. Mind Whip and Slow Motion make a tempo deck.

Premise #2 — And Lo, They did Sacrifice Their Children — My second premise was rooted in the belief that I use sacrificial effects for my creatures a lot. I used two main categories here, as I was mainly interested in whether the deck sacrificed a creature for damage, not for other effects.

The first category was simple. Did a deck run Goblin Bombardment? If so, then it was marked down, and I immediately moved on to the next premise. I did not worry about the second category here, because it already qualified.

The other category was also relatively simple. Did it have any sacrificial effect that resulted in dealing damage? If so, it was marked down. There are several ways this can happen, from Blasting Station to Bloodshot Cyclops. I didn’t care if a creature only sacrificed itself, like Flame Elemental or Ghitu Fire-Eater. I also didn’t care if a creature sacrificed itself and killed someone through Binding Agony, like Pygmy Giant.

Premise #3 — Your Young Men Shall See Visions… – Under this premise, I believed that I played a lot of 187 creatures. To define this, we need to look at what a 187 creature means to me. It is no surprise that this is something I really like, since I’ve often said in my articles that Visions is my favorite set of all time.

The term 187 creature was created to refer to Nekrataal, Man-o’-War, and Uktabi Orangutan from Visions. Each of these creatures has a comes-into-play effect that was really strong. Some people thought it meant a creature that kills something when it comes into play (Nek and the Monkey do that) but they forget that MOW was also a 187 creatures and it doesn’t kill anything.

Over time, a lot of creatures were created that had come into play abilities. In my mind, not all of these are 187-able. I figured that a 187 creature needed to generate card advantage or have the potential to do so. Otherwise, it needed to have a serious impact on the game.

Here are some examples: Gravedigger is a 187 creature, because you get a card when you play him (as is something like Wall of Blossoms or Auramancer). Hunting Moa is not a 187 creature, because all it does is give a +1/+1 counter. Ravenous Rats in a 187 creatures, because it forces the discard of a card by your opponent. Ghitu Slinger is a 187 creature because it has the potential to pop a creature. Note that I also consider creatures with a kicker (like Thornscape Battlemage) that has a 187 effect, or the new Ravnica stuff, like Ogre Savant to be 187 creatures too.

Now that we’ve established what a 187 creature is, it’s important to point out that the mere presence of a 187 creature in a deck did not qualify it for this category. A land destruction Tempo deck that uses Avalanche Riders is not a 187 deck. A deck that runs Wall of Blossoms for defense is not a 187 deck. A deck needed six or more 187 cards to count. I figured that if I am dedicated one sixth of my non-land space to 187 creatures, it should count in this category.

Premise #4 – …Your Old Men Shall Dream Dreams — This final premise is that I run a lot of recursion. I really like using the graveyard as a resource, and I’m not above playing Replenish or Living Death a lot. Even recently I ran a Planar Birth deck, which uses recursion.

In order to count, a deck must have one of two things going for it. Firstly, a deck must have a significant commitment to recursion, no matter how many cards there are. A Replenish deck with just three Replenishes, that uses Oath of Druids to Oath into an Eternal Witness, which brings back a Replenish and then casts the ‘Plenish for the win, still counts as a Recursion oriented deck, despite the one Witness and the three Replenishes only.

The other thing a deck can use to count here is consistency. A spirit deck with 12 creatures that have soulshift is a recursion heavy deck. A 187 creature deck that runs Volrath’s Stronghold, Gravediggers, and Witnesses counts.

On Type – Another potential premise entered my mind. Would my decks be biased towards a certain type? I broke down my list into three sections: aggro, combo, and control. Every deck as assigned a type.

I have played Aggro in tournaments. I did very well with Sligh in Extended a while ago. I am very comfortable with Aggro decks. I do not, however, like to build them. They are boring. Aggro decks are not fun to write about, either.

I was afraid that I’d lean too much into combo and control, and leave aggro behind. We’ll look at the data in a bit, to see if my fears were warranted.

On Color —Another fear I had was that I use certain color combinations too much. I wrote down every possible color combination and ticked every deck in each category. Would there be a bias here? We’ll find out shortly. Very shortly.

The Results

This is interesting, because I get a chance to see if I really know myself. For the record, I have had 168 decks published by StarCityGames. Let’s start with the easy evaluation, by type:

Aggro — 57

Combo — 51

Control — 60

Well, that was unexpected. What brought aggro up was that a lot of fun decks could only be classified as aggro decks. Take, for example, my Fleet deck, which is a fun uber-casual deck made up for ships. It is an aggro deck, but it’s really just a fun deck.

I honestly expected combo to chart higher. What is interesting is the near even distribution. Out of 168 decks, getting 51, 57, ad 60 as my dataset is very impressively egalitarian.

Next up is an analysis of my varied premises. I’ll save color until the end, because it is the most complex. The first premise is Tempo:

Tempo — 33 (20%)

One out of five of my decks has a noticeable tempo element to it. At first, I thought that was out of whack, and that I must love tempo, but then I realized that this is just over half the number of decks in each of the aggro/combo/control triumvirate that rules Magicdom. In other words, I use tempo half as much as I use control. That’s not too bad, actually. It might be a little higher than normal, but not by much.

The next premise is the Goblin Bombardment premise. Let’s take a look:

Goblin Bombardment — 10
Other — 9

Well, that doesn’t seem bad at all. Ten of my decks, out of 168, used GBB. Nine more decks, out of 168, used another form of sacrificing creatures to deal damage. Combined, that means 11% of my decks use a way to sacrifice a creature for damage as a part of the deck’s design. Again, that may be a bit high, but it’s not glaring.

The third premise was that I use 187 creatures a lot in my deck building:

187 Creatures — 37 (22%)

I use it about the same amount as tempo, which is a solid amount. Just over one in five of my decks has a serious 187 component. Interesting. Next up is my final premise regarding recursion.

Recursion — 32 (19%)

Just around the same amount as the 187 creature and tempo. In other words, my decks do have a tendency to do these things, but not a massive amount.

Next up is an analysis of color. This should prove most interesting. Let’s begin with the monochromatic decks:

Blue — 13
Black — 12
White — 8
Red — 8
Green — 12

Red and White appear to get the shaft. By the way, 32% of my decks are mono-colored, in case it’s important.

Next up are the two color combinations. Here is where things really get interesting:

BG — 5
UB — 8
UW — 7
UR — 14
UG — 8
BW — 6
BR — 10
RG — 10
WR — 9
WG — 5

This is very illuminating to me. The color combination I use most is UR, followed by BR and RG, and then WR. The common factor in those combinations is Red. Although Red was tied for White as my least used mono-color, Red is by far my most common color in two-color pairs, as all of the Red pairs are at the top. This is astonishing to me, because I had no idea, and it displays an obvious bias in my deckbuilding.

By order, here is my dual color list: UR, BR, RG, WR, UG, UB, UW, BW, WG, BG. Want to know what else is interesting here? Look at how far back White is. Of for the four Red pairs, it is in the rear at number 4. Then it is at positions 7, 8, and 9/10. White was also the last used color in mono-color decks. That can only mean that I don’t like White as much as other colors. In other words, White appears to be my least favorite color, at least right now.

You’ll also note, in another surprise for me, that Green does not rank that highly. 2/3, 5/6, 9/10 and 9/1010. That’s not a high pairing at all. In fact, Green has the bottom two combinations. However, Green was used at the top in mono-colored situations. Maybe I don’t like Green in dual color combinations. However, I think Green might increase in the next pairing.

Black and Blue are right where you’d expect them to be. Blue is at the top, 5/6, 5/6 and 7. Black is 2/3, 5/6, 8 and 9/10. It looks, from the dual combinations, like my favorite colors to combine with one other are Red, Red, Red, Red, Blue, Black, Green, White (or White, Green).

By the way, dual color combinations account for 49% of my decks. I like the two color combinations.

Tri-color combinations are next. How will they break down?

UBW — 1
UWR — 2
UWG — 6
BWR — 3
BWG — 2
BRG — 2
WRG — 4

The first thing to point out here is that there are three combinations that I have never built a deck around. I just don’t build many tri-color decks. Only 12% of my decks are tri-color.

The obvious winner here is the Blue/White/Green combo. This is due in part to Equinaut, where I built three different UWG versions in articles over time.

The second most popular pairing is White/Red/Green, and I honestly don’t know why. Who knows what’s going on there.

Black/White/Red is my huge multiplayer deck, and I know that two of these are the two versions I built in articles, which the third version is a Black/Red reanimation deck with a smattering of White to cast the big White creatures in case I need to hard cast them, but it’s really straight up B/R.

The only Blue/Black/White deck, by the way, was in the most recent version of the Bad Rares Article series two weeks ago when I built the Circle of Solace deck around Conspiracy and Donate.

It looks like Blue is hosed here, because the three color combinations that I didn’t use all have Blue in them. Two have Black, two have Green, two have Red. None have White. In fact, White is used in every single tri-color combination. The winner in this class is White, the absolute loser before. I don’t think this is enough to compensate, because this is only 12% of my deck usage, but still, it’s an important point to make.

Next we have the quad-color combinations. If you don’t think I use tri-colors much, take a look at this:

All but Black — 1
All but Blue — 1
All but Red — 1
All but White
All but Green

That’s right, only three of my decks ever have had a four-color combination. This isn’t a large enough sample size to make observations.

Last up are decks that either have all five colors, or are straight Mono-Brown with no color at all.

Five Colors — 11
Mono-Brown — 1

And there we have it. What have I learned about myself? Well, I favor different colors than I thought I would. That’s very interesting to me, and I need to ponder it for a while.

Now I want to do an experiment. I want to create the Abeishist deck ever. It needs to be tempo, have a sacrifice effect for damage, 187 creatures, recursion, and controlling. I’ll also use one of the tri-color pairs I haven’t use yet, just to mix things up. Let’s take a look:

If four Man-o’-war and four Ogre Savants is not tempo enough for your taste, I also added a pair of Erratic Portals to either bounce your 187 creatures, or force an opponent to keep two mana open to keep his creature in play. Both of those are tempo oriented.

Man-o’-War, Ogre Savant, Eternal Witness, FTK, Stomphowler — this is some serious 187 action.

This deck is definitely on the control side with all of its tricks and bouncing.

Recursion is more difficult to do, because there is no Black or White for creature recursion. Blue and Red typically recur artifacts, instants, and sorceries, which is not that good here. Therefore, I am relying on Green as my recursion color of choice. The Witnesses fit right in. I figured that the addition of two Genesis would creature a strong recursion element to the deck. Just in case you don’t think that’s enough, there’s a pair of Hammers to recur again and again. I could have used Moldervine Cloaks as well.

Goblin Bombardment — there’s a pair in here.

Blue-Green-Red — It was a color that hadn’t been used by me before, and now it has.

There we are! A perfectly Abeish deck is every way. Does it look like fun to play? If you say, “Yes,” then you are on your way to building decks the Abe way. We’ll just assume that you don’t say, “No,” and leave it at that.

This was an interesting experiment. I hope you liked it!

Now it’s your turn. Every other writer has challenges at times, so I’m tossing my hat into the ring. You’ve seen the premises of an Abe deck. You’ve read the principles. Now, you get to build a deck. You have to build a deck using one of the two remaining tri-color combinations that I haven’t used yet (UBR or UBG) and build a deck. I left you the two easier tri-color combinations to build around.

I will rate decks on their ability to maximize all of the facets of a deck. E-mail me your deck submissions at [email protected]. Originality counts for a lot in creating the deck. I’ll choose the top decks that I like, and feature them here in my column in two weeks. If you want your name and deck creation in lights, or at least in HTML, make sure to send it in. You’ll have one week, until June 8th, to get in your deck lists.

No sideboard please, this is casual Magic. Unless you run Wishes, or something.

Don’t spend a lot of time building a deck. Just write it and go. Good luck with your endeavors, and get them decklists in!

Until Later,
Abe Sargent