Welcome back to the series of articles where I explore all of the various types of decks in the Casual Deck Framework. Before I begin today, I want to publicly thank Talen Lee for writing my weekly article last week. It was a hectic week of massive training, move ins, and more, but by the time you read this, it will all be finished.
However, if you believe in prayer, please say one for me today. I am heading to get a root canal on one of my front teeth. No one can tell me how it died, but it has become calcified, and the dentist had to send me to a specialist because he said they may have to dig around in my tooth a bit before they find the canal. That does not sound like a fun time in my mouth. All I can do is hope that they’ll be able to knock me out and then awaken me when it is all done. I doubt that they’ll do that, though.
(Getting back to the article)
Today we are going to explore the Resource Denial Archetype. This Archetype is concerned with winning by denial of a resource. Sometimes this denial can result in a loss of the game right there (i.e. library elimination), but usually some winning condition needs to be played to win. Like the Controlling the Board Archetype, Resource Denial can often technically win through any winning condition, but it really wins by removing a resource.
Remember that all competitive decks will find a home on the Framework, but most casual decks will as well. The Framework for casual decks is much larger than any competitive Framework would be, but the two are intertwined in various areas.
My plan of attack is to discuss each of the six Subtypes in detail, and then provide you with a quick decklist as an example followed by a short bit about how to play that deck.
Some players are really drawn to a Resource Denial strategy, and you’ll find them regularly playing decks like discard or land destruction. There’s just a body of players that enjoy this particular line of exploration.
Without further ado, here is Resource Denial Archetype with all of its Subtypes:
Archetype #3 – Resource Denial – Tries to deny a valuable resource, keeping opponents unable to answer or play threats.
Land Destruction Deck – Destroys lands as a way to cut off mana.
Discard – Destroys hand as a way to cut off options
Taxing Deck – Destroys opportunities to use mana as a way to cut off flexibility.
Strip and Ship Deck – Destroys library as a way to cut off quality
Prison Deck – Destroys usefulness of permanents as a way to cut off virtually every choice
NOTE – After due consideration, I have moved the Temporal Subtype out of Resource Denial and into the Hybrid Archetype. As I mentioned once before, I view the Framework as malleable and organic, and changes are made as we continue this Magic Taxonomy.
With this section of the Framework up, let’s head into the actual detailing.
The Land Destruction Deck (Cut Off Mana)
Many players have fallen prey to the Land Destruction Subtype. LD decks ruled the early tournament scene so much that Dingus Egg was restricted. I doubt there are many players who have not built, read about, or observed an LD deck in action at some point in time.
When I mention an LD deck, a lot of people automatically think of a deck packed with Stone Rains, Strip Mine(s), Pillages and so forth. The one-for-one trade is certainly a motif of LD decks and everybody may be familiar with them. These decks can feature Sinkholes, Ice Storms, or other cards that trade for land.
Another example of an LD deck is the classic Armageddon deck. This deck seeks to sweep multiple lands in one go. There are several ways to develop Armageddon, and one common way doesn’t really fit the Resource Denial Archetype, instead finding a home in the Hybrid Archetype. RD ways of using Armageddon would play artifact and creature sources of mana so that the Armageddon hits the opponent worse then it does you. Another way would be to use the Armageddon as a Wrath of God, resetting when your opponent has a ton of land in play and you have several in hand waiting for the ‘Geddon to go off.
As mentioned briefly above, the LD strategy works well in the Hybrid Archetype, and other LD deck types, like Wildfire, really fit there instead of here. There are not as many true LD Subtypes as one might think at first glance.
Let’s take a look at a classic LD decktype:
This deck is a basic version of the one-for-one trade version of this Subtype. As you can see, the majority of the deck involves destroying lands.
Stone Rain is the ubiquitous land destruction spell, so I have to play four of them. It’s one of the most reprinted cards of all time. It used to be at the top of that list, but I don’t know if that is still the case.
Following behind are Pillage and Icefall. Both can take out artifacts if needed, so you can pop artifact mana if the opponent plays any. In a mono-Red deck like this, Pillage is just as good as Stone Rain in terms of mana cost, but it can also take out an artifact. Icefall has the ability to be recovered when one of your creatures die. Your Avalanche Riders will die a lot, as will your Orcish Settlers, so you should be able to recover the Icefall occasionally.
Avalanche Riders double as both a Stone Rain and as a creature useful to exchange with other bears or to swing for two. Then you can choose whether or not to pay their Echo cost. They will die to your Pyroclasms, but they’ve already done their duty just by coming into play.
I tossed in a pair of Aftershock as generic emergency removal. You can use these as backup land destruction, artifact destruction or creature destruction as you have need.
Orcish Settlers are just a humble 1/1 creature but you can pop them to take out one or more lands. Other than a recovered Icefall, this is really the only way to take out multiple lands with one card. Feel free to chump block then sac for a land or two with the Settlers. Throw them into the breach.
LD decks typically have problems with early creatures that get played before the LD comes online. You have Pyroclasm available to sweep the little buggers right off the board. Should they come a little bigger, you can use Lightning Bolt instead. Your Monstrous Hound should be the biggest creature on the board so you can smash face. The Hound is a 4/4 beater that you can swing with for serious damage with a cheap cost of just four mana. That’s a cheap price outside of Green. The Hound will usually finish off opponents.
With 26 lands, this deck has four Wastelands. These can be used for mana or to pop offending non-basic lands. With the Wastelands, the deck has 26 ways of popping land, which should equal or excel the number of lands an opponent has. Therefore, you should regularly find yourself staring down a table with no land staring back. That’s the ideal situation.
The Discard Deck (Cut Off Options)
The Discard Subtype tries to eliminate the opponent’s hand as quickly as possible in order to cut off any options the opponent would have had with a full grip of cards. When an opponent has no cards in hand, then you know that they won’t have an answer to any threat you play. They also don’t have any threat to play on their own. By forcing your opponent into topdeck mode within a few turns, you turn their gameplay from strategy into virtually pure luck, while you still have options and choices. A discard strategy is all about eliminating most options from the opponent, leaving them with just a few choices.
There are several ways you can use this strategy. The first is through quick spells like Hymn to Tourach, Mind Rot, Stupor and possibly even the hated Mind Twist. The player slaps down a pair of Swamps and then plays Hymn to Tourach. Alternatively, the player could through down a Dark Ritual and use that mana for an early attack of the hand.
Another way to attack the hand is to select the cards to go for, with abilities like Persecute, Duress, and Distress. You selectively take out the cards that matter by going after the cards that you most fear.
(A quick aside: Encroach was, for the most part, loathed and laughed at compared to Duress and Ostracize, but in today’s Standard, it would be amazing. Funny how, when a card sucks, it gets printed… but when it would rule the land, it’s nowhere to be found).
Yet another way to attack the hand is through permanents like Bottomless Pit. This deck will try to play the permanent as quickly as possible (through Rituals for example) and then ride the permanent discard removal through the game. This version of the Subtype will usually prevent the opponent from getting cards back by continuing to attack the hand throughout the game. Normally, if all the Discard deck is doing is playing Hymns and whatnot, eventually the opponent can get a hand again, especially if they topdeck something like Tidings. However, with this version, that’s normally not an option.
Let’s take a look at a discard deck.
Guiltfeeder works really well here since the cards discarded fill up the graveyard and allow it to hit for major damage (well, life loss actually). This is the big creature of the deck, so you want to be careful with them.
Rend Flesh is a much better version of Black removal than previous iterations. It will take out just about anything that doesn’t regenerate, is targetable, and isn’t a spirit. Take a look around the board sometime, and you’ll see that’s just about everything. This is great emergency removal.
Chainer’s Edict is able to be reused once while also taking out an important or early creature. There’s just two to round out the deck, but feel free to use them as you need, because you can always build up to or Ritual out a flashback if you need it again.
In addition to the typical Hypnotic Specter, I also included Abyssal Specters. Despite the lower grade they receive from fans, Abby is a pretty solid creature in its own right. They are certainly better than other Mono-Black options like Hollow Specters. You could run Chilling Apparitions, but those are easily blocked.
Duress serves as a nice first turn play and can be easily played later and still contribute to the game. A lot cheap discard is poor late or poor early. Duress is neither, which makes it so playable. It often plays like a One Mana Black Counterspell.
Night’s Whisper is in the deck as a cheap adjunct to the strategy. In addition to making the opponent discard, drawing a handful of cards is also a nice touch. For just two mana, you can draw a pair of cards. The cheapness helps your hand while also being nice on the mana. You could even Ritual out a Duress and a Whisper and have five cards in hand after playing discard, a land, and a Ritual. Feel free to use it if you don’t have other cards like Hymns or whatnot.
Overall, this is a classic discard deck with a classic discard strategy, but it uses a few modern cards to flesh it out and help support the theme. Cards like Hymn, Ritual, Specter, Mind Twist, and Duress will always be hallmarks of discard, but you can also use Edicts, Rend Flesh, Night’s Whisper, Abbies, Guiltfeeders, and more to help support them.
The Taxing Deck (Cut Off Flexibility)
This Resource Denial Subtype tries to increase the cost for things by opponents to such a high degree that the opponents cannot do what they want to do. This may include increasing the casting cost of spells, adding upkeeps for permanents, or tapping mana in order to use or attack with permanents.
This deck uses these various taxing methods to cut off any flexibility the opponent would otherwise have. If the opponent has to spend five mana every upkeep paying to upkeep five creatures with a Pendrell Mists out, then the opponent has lost flexibility. In this way the Taxing deck tries to keep opponents from doing what they want to do because they spend their time and mana doing what they have to do.
One example of a Taxing deck uses cards like the aforementioned Pendrell Mists, Mind Whip, Fade Away, or the original Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale in order to require payments for creatures. This Taxing deck usually compensates by having few to no creatures to pay the costs. This deck tries to shut down creatures or mana, and oftentimes both after it develops.
Another version of this Subtype is to use permanents that tax game choices. Propaganda requires an opponent to pay two mana in order to attack. Heat Wave requires non-Blue creatures’ controllers to pay a life each in order to block (Blue creature can’t block at all). There are other Taxing effects for other game choices, like drawing a card during the draw step or discarding at the end of the turn. This deck tries to win by Taxing out an entire strategy. For example, with two Ghostly Prisons out, each attacking creature has to have four mana spent on its behalf. That reduces traffic considerably.
My favorite Taxing deck is one that taxes the playing of spells. This could be just your opponent’s spells, like Grand Arbiter Augustin IV, or everybody’s spells through cards like Nether Void or Sphere of Resistance. This deck tries to slow down opposing players while usually playing fast mana or cheap spells to get around the hindrance.
A fourth version of this Subtype is the Taxing strategy that is not truly Taxing. When you tax someone, you are requiring them to pay something, like mana, or else have an effect nullified. As an example, see Nether Void, where the three extra mana must be played or the spell is countered. A pseudo-tax is where a payment must be paid, or you, the player of the tax, get a benefit. Therefore it behooves your opponent to pay the mana or else. Examples of this include Mystic Remora, Rhystic Study, and so forth. The idea behind these pseudo-taxes is to force your opponent to either spend more mana or help you. Combine these cards with previous Taxing strategies and you create a powerful deck.
As you can see, the Taxing Subtype is all about eliminating flexibility on the part of the opponent. Let’s take a look at such a deck:
This deck uses various Taxing cards to create a difficult position for the opponent. The combination of Pendrell Mists and Propaganda on the table can lead to some nasty situations for the opponent. Add in a Slow Motion on a flyer and it will quickly die, allowing you to fly over with your six creature-lands.
When your opponent has tapped out to Pendrell Mists, Propaganda, Slow Motion, and even Soul Barrier, use this opportunity to play a powerful Fade Away and watch as the opponent’s board is devastated. Fade Away is a powerful board cleaner, and will often kill a lot of creatures or lands. A well-timed Fade Away can be as devastating as a Wrath of God.
The deck has a little bounce for those creatures that get played too early. Undo will bounce two creatures for one card, which will give you one or two turns to get more mana and set up. Capsize can also be used early as an emergency bounce. Later in the game, Capsize will evolve into a powerful tool. Imagine all of that Taxing along with bouncing a creature once a turn.
I tossed in ten cards that will counter a spell. The classic Counterspell is joined by Dissipate and Forbid. I prefer four Dissipate over four Forbid because you don’t need (nor do you want) to buyback, but stopping some annoying card that can come back and back is very important (like Ashen Ghoul).
Finally, the deck has six creatures that all fly. They are immune to the Taxing effects you play because they are lands. Use them carefully and cautiously. I’d only start attacking once you have and obvious state of power over your opponent. Remember that your man-lands fly, so you only need to clear out flyers with your Capsizes and Slow Motions.
This deck can be really annoying under the right circumstances, and you can try to provide that any time with the Taxing strategy.
The Strip and Ship Deck (Cut Off Quality)
This Subtype focuses on denying a person their library. By cutting off a player from their library, you deny them any ability to find answers or solutions to your threats. You can also prevent them from getting any threats of their own. This can be a potent resource denial strategy.
There are several ways this strategy can work in decks. The obvious ways is to mill the deck quickly and efficiently with the idea of exhausting a person’s deck as quickly as possible. This strategy will use cards like Raven Guild Master, Traumatize, and Ambassador Laquatus in order to quickly mill an opponent. This deck differs from a Controlling the Board deck that uses a Millstone as its actually winning condition. This deck seeks to win by milling. A CTB deck with a Millstone seeks to win by controlling the board. After it has done that, it doesn’t matter what the technical winning condition may be. This deck, however, wins by milling. Any control elements it may have are designed to delay until it can get a mill death.
Another way to build a Strip and Ship deck is to focus on cards that allow you to selectively look through your opponent’s deck and choose what to remove. Using cards like Extract, Denying Wind and Jester’s Cap, this deck seeks to remove all threats from the opposing deck, and then maybe all answers the opposing deck has. Once it has completed this task, it can win at its leisure. This version of the Strip and Ship Subtype and the CTB Archetype are similar in that they win after they do something, but this Subtype seeks to deny the library.
A third way to build this Subtype is to regularly set your opponent’s library allowing you to choose what your opponent draws. The only reusable permanent capable of completing this task is Elemental Augury. Other cards like Sealed Fate and Portent give you a temporary ability to set the top of an opponent’s deck, but the Augury can do it again and again. You’ll nee the ability to shuffle your opponent’s library when three good cards come up and you can choose among them (Soldier of Fortune is in color). This form of the Strip and Ship Subtype is rarely played, but it can be a lot of fun.
Without further ado, let’s see a Strip and Ship deck:
This deck is obviously a version of the rare final aspect of the Strip and Ship Subtype, where you actually try to control what your opponent draws. Normally I go for the most common version of Subtype when I do my example deck, so I figured that I would do the opposite this time.
This deck wants to use Elemental Augury to control what the opponent draws. Once it has out an Augury, it can manipulate the top of the opponent’s library.
The Top will help to cheaply manipulate your own library. There are cards like Sindbad and the Callous Deceiver that love to know exactly what is on top of your library. Sindbad plus a Top equals mad land drawing.
The Soldier of Fortune can shuffle anybody’s library. Use it on your own when you need three new cards for your Top or the Deceiver/Sindbad. Use it on your opponent when you want to see three new cards for the Augury.
You can also use Portent on either yourself or your opponent. Use it in the early game to set up and later to get new cards for either yourself or your opponent.
Predict can mill a powerful card off your opponent’s library once you’ve got an Augury running. It will also draw you two cards when used this way. You can also use it to mill the least powerful card off the top of your library out of three using a Top, and then you’d draw the other two. In addition to working with Tops and Auguries, the Predict works with the Deceiver and Portents as well as working after a blind Sindbad use shows something other than a land.
The deck has a few emergency spells. For emergency kill, it sports four Terminates. For emergency countering, it has four Counterspells. These cards should keep the major stuff off the table during the first few turns while you set up.
The Callous Deceiver is a key card in the deck. As a 1/3, it can block and survive early creatures. With a Top out, a played Portent, or an Augury that targets you, your opponent always has to consider it a 2/3 flyer, which makes it a valuable blocker plus a decent attacker in lieu of the two big guns. It can also use its ability just to see what’s on top, allowing you to run with Sindbad or Predict.
This is an odd deck, but I have to admit that it looks like a blast to play!
The Prison Deck (Cuts Off Everything)
This Subtype tries to win by cutting the opponent off from numerous resources simultaneously in order to completely shutdown the opponent. This can be the most devastating Resource Denial Subtype of them all, and it can really annoy opponents who may not like playing against this deck numerous times. (Of course, some opponents enjoy the occasional challenge of trying to match a good Prison deck, so don’t assume this rule applies to all players.)
The classic and best example of a Prison deck is a Stasis deck. There were a variety of successful Stasis decks that won over time. There were the earliest Stasis decks that won with Serra Angel or an Instill Energy on a Birds of Paradise. Later Stasis decks would expand for things like Turbo Stasis and Chrono-Stasis. After Masques was released, cards like Gush and Thwart became Stasis staples. Stasis decks have done well in all types of tournaments from Standard to Vintage to Legacy and Extended.
Another version of the Prison Subtype is the old Prison decks themselves. These decks ran a variety of cards that hurt various strategies and locked out resources, from land to creatures to cards using Mind Twist, Icy Manipulator, Relic Barrier, Armageddon, Winter Orb, even Stasis for a few turns before it died. These decks often won by playing Titania’s Song and attacking with all of the artifacts. There was a Prison rebirth when Mirrodin included several powerful Prison cards including reprints of both the Icy Manipulator and the Relic Barrier.
Other versions of the Subtype occasionally were built, like the Static Orb decks. Static Orb decks usually tapped the StOrb so they could untap everything, then tapped whatever two permanents the opponent untapped while also having creatures to attack with and so forth.
Let’s take a look at a Prison Deck:
This deck uses the Static Orb to fall under the Prison Subtype. It uses the Static Orb to completely lockdown an opponent. Playing a Static Orb causes the opponent to only untap two permanents a turn. The StOrb player can tap the StOrb using the Manipulator or the Barrier.
You can attack with a Serra Angel even through a StOrb, so if your Icies and Barriers are taken out, you can still win under a StOrb. However, ideally you’ll try to win with the StOrb and tapping abilities.
Icies can tap whatever is untapped which should give you a little breathing room. Nomad Decoys can tap down creatures if they are untapped. Relic Barrier can tap an artifact, although you’ll usually save a Barrier for your StOrb.
In an emergency, you can pop a Seal or Aura to destroy your StOrb if you get desperate. Meanwhile, the Aura makes it virtually impossible for your opponent to play artifacts or enchantments under a StOrb while the Seals are nice removal.
Swords to Plowshares is also removal, and it adds to the deck nicely. Its single casting cost is a nice adjunct to the StOrb in case you are locked as well.
Scroll Rack can dig into your deck and try to find you the right card you need to establish or continue the lockdown. There’s also an Enlightened Tutor that can get you one card that you may need. Remember that the Tutor and the Tithe will shuffle your deck and get you some new cards to see via the Scroll Rack.
As you can see, this is a deck that shuts down the opposition very quickly. In fact, with a Relic Barrier on the second turn and a StOrb on the third, you could be in a dominating position by turn 3.
There you go: another edition of The Casual Metagame IV complete! There’s an important aspect of the Framework that I wrote earlier that I want to highlight. In a way, this series is sort of a Magic Taxonomy. We are classifying various decks according to Archetype then Subtype, as opposed to Family and Genus. This is a changing process, and I’d love your input. Have I missed a Subtype? Do you think something should be classified elsewhere? Let me know in the forum!