The Kitchen Table #152: The Casual Metagame #7

Hello and welcome back to the series that investigates most decks in a Framework of Magic that spans a ton of deck types. I am using five Archetypes to classify decks, with a variety of Subtypes underneath each. In this series, I have been closely analyzing the various Subtypes and then including a deck for each to illustrate the idea.

Hello and welcome back to the series that investigates most decks in a Framework of Magic that spans a ton of deck types. I am using five Archetypes to classify decks, with a variety of Subtypes underneath each. In this series, I have been closely analyzing the various Subtypes and then including a deck for each to illustrate the idea.

In the previous Casual Metagame article, I highlighted the Hybrid Archetype, which is a combination of other Archetypes and Subtypes. As a result, there are a lot of Hybrid Subtypes, likely more than I’ve identified. Still, in the Framework, I currently have eleven Subtypes under the Hybrid Archetype. In that previous article, I was able to get to the first six Subtypes, and in this one, I’ll hit the remaining five Subtypes.

This is the last entry in this series that will explain the Framework. Future articles will use the Framework in various ways, but they will not need to further explore the various Subtypes and their nuances.

The other four Archetypes that Hybrid combines are Crazy Combo Man (CCM), No-Holds-Barred Aggro (NHBAggro), Resource Denial (RD) and Controlling the Board (CTB). I’ll refer to these Archetypes and their strategies during various discussions with the Hybrid Subtypes.

Here is the Hybrid section of the Framework. Remember that we will be looking only at the last five today:

Archetype #5 — Hybrid — Combines two or more Archetypes to create one decktype.

Aggro-Control Deck — Uses quick creatures and then removes threats until they win.
Temporal Deck — Uses time to cut off options

One Hit Wonder Deck — Uses a creature that can win in one hit and then tries to get its hit in.
Bleeder Deck — Uses control methods as both a way to slow down opponents and also to win.
Permanent Refusal Deck — Uses permanents as an adjunct to a Resource Denial Strategy to win.
Creatures as Removal Deck — Uses creatures to both remove threats and be threats of their own.
Slow Blow Deck — Uses creatures to attack and win while also slowing down the opponent’s ability to respond.
Extreme Theme Deck — This deck is designed to be merely an uber-fun deck with little chance of winning.
Card Advantage Deck — Uses card advantage to the max in order to bury opponent in cards.
Sweep but Keep Deck — Uses creatures and sweeping kill cards that do not kill your own creatures.
Matrix Deck — Uses a variety of synergies to create a matrix of interweaving abilities.

Without further ado, let’s head straight into the Subtype Analysis:

The Slow Blow Deck (Combines NHBAggro and Resource Denial)

This Subtype combines elements from the NHBAggro Archetype by playing quick creatures and the RD Archetype by using various tempo elements that destroy one or more resources until the creatures do their job.

This is not the first Subtype in the Hybrid category to play cheap creatures and then follow them up with something. Aggro-Control eliminates the defense and allows the quick creatures to get in hits. Cards like Lightning Bolt and Swords to Plowshares fit in here. A Temporal deck seeks to drop a few creatures then establish a soft or hard lock while swinging away with those creatures for the win. Cards like Tangle Wire and Winter Orb fit well.

The Slow Blow deck uses various Resource Denial strategies to delay the opposition long enough to get in those critical hits and then wins the game.

One of my favorite decks of all time is my Equinaut deck. This deck uses a variety of effects, including bounce, to play a few small creatures and then clear a path by bouncing opposition until a few small creatures get through for the win. This deck is a Slow Blow deck by using the nature of time/tempo to use Resource Denial to keep the creatures away while swinging for the win. A more controlling strategy would kill opposing creatures, a more Temporal Subtype deck would use Rising Waters to lock out opposing mana, but this deck just uses basic, temporary bounce.

Another way to build a Slow Blow deck is to twink at lands while you swing with your small beaters. The Temporal deck wants to lock out an opponent’s lands, but you like the idea of just slowing them down a bit. For you, Fallow Earth is better than Stone Rain. Stone Rain slows them a turn; Fallow Earth slows them a turn and also wastes a draw.

Using that idea, you like cards like Plow Under, Painful Memories, Agonizing Memories, Reinforcements, Misinformation, Temporal Spring, and Stunted Growth effects to slow down the opponent long enough to get attacks in. Other options include use of Exhaustion or similar effects. Recent tournament decks have used bounce spells like Eye of Nowhere just to bounce lands.

These types of effects are Slow Blow effects, and the use of these as the primary functions of the deck after playing and swinging with creatures will make a deck a Slow Blow deck. Remember, he deck can contain cards that might work better in other Subtypes or Archetypes, yet the deck retains its original type. This deck could include four or eight counters; as long as it does not become a Counterspell deck, it would still remain a Slow Blow deck.

Let’s take a look at my most recent version of Equinaut in order to show off a Slow Blow deck:

This is the most recent version of my deck. As you can see, it has cards from four different guilds in Ravnica block that really trick the deck out: Azorius (Azorius Aethermage), Simic (Momir Vig), Dimir (Drift of Phantasms) and Selesnya (Hierarch, Tolsimir, Watchwolf)

Several familiar elements from my previous decks are not presents, such as Meddling Magi and Absorb. The deck has modified slightly. This version is my more multiplayer friendly version, with new answers for new problems and a more broken engine.

This deck is too complex to give you the complete 411 here. Suffice it to say that it uses Fleetfoot Panther and Equilibrium to create very powerful game states from which few decks can emerge, while small creatures like Mystic Snake and Civic Wayfinder serve for damage. If you would like to find out more about how Equinaut plays, generally, check out this article. For the rest of this article, I’ll simply outline changes and modifications.

I have included my first mono-Blue creature ever, Drift of Phantasms. Early it’s a nice wall, and you can bounce it later (with Equilibrium) to transmute it. Then it can get you Loaming Shaman, Civic Wayfinder, Equilibrium, Fleetfoot Panther, Dismantling Blow, or an Aethermage. That means it can retrieve three separate tempo elements plus removal.

Loaming Shaman is included because the deck has no real recursion, so to prevent yourself from being decked in long games where you abused an Aethermage, you’ll need the Loaming Shaman. It can also be used against recursion decks and as an anti-Living Death card. You can tutor for it with Draft of Phantasms, so I only run one.

Momir Vig is a new addition that adds a level of brokenness to the deck. Every creature in the deck, save the two Drifts is Green. That means Momir Vig is a creature tutor machine. He replaces earlier cards like Eladamri’s Call.

Azorius Aethermagi are in the deck to draw cards while returning things. Imagine a card that reads “3GW, Draw a card, bounce target creature, put a 3/4 beater into play and then bring back a creature that was about to die or that you want to reuse to your hand.” That’s pretty powerful, wouldn’t you agree? If Momir Vig is out, it’s an even more powerful play.

The Aethermage turns Fleetfoot Panther and Equilibrium into a house. I felt I needed a house in multiplayer games, and this is one of the changes that makes the deck more explosive. You’ll find it often is a feast or famine card, getting you scads of cards or very few to none. That’s why there is only two in the deck, but they can be retrieved by a Drift when you are set up for them.

I hope that you can understand the deck and how it functions as a Slow Blow deck. Let’s take a look at the next Subtype:

The Extreme Theme Deck (Could Combine Any of the Archetypes)

This is a very easy Subtype to talk about and a very difficult one to flesh out. This Subtype doesn’t even always seek to win. Instead, these decks are built around some theme that is taken to its logical conclusion. Maybe you’ll build a deck where every card is a Pink Floyd song and then you’ll sing each song when you play the appropriate card. Maybe you’ll build a peasant theme complete with farmers, plowshares and so forth. Maybe you’ll build a Skyship Weatherlight with the ship, legacy artifacts, and all of the people who were on it.

This is the realm of the uber-casual player who just wants to have fun through their deck. There is no deep analysis, nor any intricate description that one can do about this Subtype. As a result, doing a sample deck will be rather easy. I’ve done decks like this before (Revelations of a Magic Writer includes an Extreme Theme decklist, and a few of my dailies have had castle, town and fleet themed decks, plus an Avengers deck)

This is the ABE deck, filled with cards with my name in them (ABEyance) or with close to my name in them (ABBEy Matron) or with something close (GABriel Angelfire, CandelABRA (for Abraham, my full name) of Tawnos). Other than that, there’s nothing but basic land in the deck.

There are only a few creatures in the deck, but hey, it could conceivably win a few games. That’s obviously not its role, however. It is designed around a theme, not designed to win, and that is what distinguishes it from virtually every other deck.

The Card Advantage Deck (Combines CTB and Resource Denial)

This deck plays a little discard to keep the opponent’s hand down while drawing a ton of cards on its own, and is ultimately designed to bury the opponent in an avalanche of card advantage. While other decks may use the concept of card advantage, this deck is built around that one concept, often to the exclusion of other ideas.

When this deck wants to do something other than discard or draw, it will find card neutral or advantage ways to do that. Want to bounce something? Look at Recoil or Repulse. Want to destroy something? Look at Ashes to Ashes or Annihilate or Nevinyrral’s Disk. Want to play a creature? Look at something like Avatar of Woe or Dark Hatchling. (Or something untargetable like Morphling or Zephid.)

What thou doest, do with card advantage. That’s the key focus of this Subtype. As a result, this deck usually builds in the Blue/Black mold although you could certainly build other color combinations if challenged (Green/Black strikes me as the most doable dual color combination after U/B).

With just one real color combination and an obvious strategy, there are not a lot of additional ways to build this deck to explore. Some might consider some older Vintage decks in this Subtype (Maybe some builds of OSE, for example).

Let’s take a quick look at decklist:

This deck probably at first looks like a light Vintage deck, and you’d be right. As you can see from looking at it, there are a lot of cards that are designed to get card advantage (Hymn, Mind Twist, Ancestral Vision, Fact or Fiction, Masticore initially, Nevinyrral’s Disk, Powder Keg, Chainer’s Edict, Stroke of Genius). The sheer weight of all of these cards demonstrates how this deck tries to bury the opponent in an avalanche of card advantage.

The Disks and Kegs are your tools of death. Use them to destroy multiple opposing permanents and keep your opponent’s board clear of unsightly clutter. It’s like you are doing opponents a favor! Each of these has a different use, with the Keg being good in the early game or against highly tuned decks where the Disk is better later in the game.

There are a few counters in here, including the ubiquitous Counterspell and Force of Will. These are both solid counters and make for a powerful counter suite of cards.

The discard aspect of the deck is very dangerous to opponents so make sure you use it early and often. There’s usually not a reason to save your discard, except for maybe keeping a Duress back against control. Use your discard as soon as you can in most situations to peck at your opponent’s hand until he has no cards left, or you run out of discard spells in yours.

I chose Morphling and Masticore for the creatures for two obvious reasons. Masticore is not expected to go the distance, and usually only gets played to off some creatures while providing a 4/4 meat shield for a couple of turns. You usually do not want the disadvantage of keeping Masticore in play for too long. Play it and use it to off several creatures, getting card advantage, but don’t worry about keeping it around too long unless you need to.

Morphling is obviously a great creature, and its built-in protection can turn opposing creature kill into useless cards, netting even more essential card advantage. It’s your usually card of death, so use it wisely.

The Factories can be used as an adjunct for your normal creature strategy. A nice Mishra’s Factory can be used as a 3/3 blocker or a 2/2 attacker and is not subject to countermagic. It’s not unusual to go the distance with one or more Factories.

Rounding out the deck is some tutor action and card drawing. From Stroke of Genius to Fact or Fiction through Ancestral Vision, this deck has a lot of card drawing options available to it. When you add in the power of three tutors, you take away some of the luck element from the game and are able to select what card you need for the situation.

As you can see, this deck is loaded with card advantage and uses it to great effect. I hope you enjoyed this particular deck!

The Sweep but Keep Deck (Combines No-Holds-Barred Aggro and Controlling the Board)

This Subtype is designed around playing some creatures, and then playing large removal spells that take out most or all opposing creatures while leaving your army largely intact. I’ve actually built several of these decks in previous articles.

One of my decks included playing a Red/White deck with both Retribution of the Meek and something like Time Spiral’s Sulfurous Blast. As long as all of your creatures have a three or lower attack with a four or higher defense, then they are immune to the sweeping kill whereas virtually all opposing creatures are vulnerable to one or the other.

This is a pretty simple concept. You want to Wrath opposing creatures while keeping your own. There are several ways you can build such a deck. The first, mentioned above, uses sweeping removal that does not touch your creatures. By combining two sweeping removal spells that only affect certain creatures, you can play the small subset of creatures that would otherwise be fine. Another example of this sort of deck would be all flyers in an Earthquake deck.

If you are looking for a different way to build the deck, try to find creatures that are immune to your sweeping. For example, you could play all pro-Black creatures in a Pestilence style deck. Or you could build a deck of Indestructible creatures. However you do it, your sweeping kill mechanism won’t touch your creatures because of some built in immunity. Your immunity can also come from outside the creature, by playing something like Light of Sanction.

A third way to build this deck, but hard to pull off, is to not have your creatures in play when you use your sweeping cards. For example, if you have a Teferi’s Veil in play and attack with all of your creatures, after combat, you can play Wrath of God and sweep up all opposing creatures while yours are phased out. Another way to do this is by playing cards that are not creatures, like man-lands, or artifacts that turn into creatures such as Jade Idol. This is a harder trick to pull off, but it really works when you can.

The last way you can pull this off is to play sweepers that specifically don’t hurt your creatures, like Decree of Pain or Plague Wind. These cards are designed around the Sweep but Keep strategy and they’ll off your opponents’ creatures while keeping yours completely safe.

With these various Sweep but Keep methods, you can see that this Subtype might be more detailed that you first imagined. It certainly was for me until I began to think of all of the ways I could play a board sweeper and keep my creatures. Let’s take a look at a sample deck:

This is a very simple deck. You play some artifact creatures, Tinker or Transmute out a Forge[/author]“]Darksteel [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author], then play all of the Wraths and Routs your heart desires, because your artifact creatures are now indestructible.

The deck begins with a creature base. Cheap Steel Walls make nice early blockers while Avians are your flyers and can block or attack as needed. Juggernauts drop down on the fourth turn and scare opponents, while also serving notice that either opposing life totals or the Juggernaut itself shall be lowered quickly. Clockwork Beasts are great late game creatures because of their high power. Chimeric Idols are great three-drops, as well as creatures that dodge Wrath effects. Other than a surprise Rout, there’s nothing you’d want to do on an opposing turn, so the activation cost is minor. Lastly, a pair of Abunases (Abuni?) are included to protect your artifacts although they’ll die to Wrath effects.

You can Wrath early if you need to. Barring a Steel Wall, there’s no creature that comes down prior to turn 4 (Chimeric Idol are not creatures initially). As a result, you can Wrath freely on turn 4, clean the board up, and if you’ve played an Idol, you can activate it and swing for three damage. That’s a pretty powerful turn.

I tossed in the new Academy Ruins in order to reuse dead artifact creatures when needed. Bringing back a Juggernaut every time one dies will eventually get you through most defenses. You can reuse other critters as well, plus you can bring back something sacrificed to a tutor effect.

As you can see, this sort of deck can really stop opposing creature-oriented decks from having much success by continually sweeping the board while not slowing down.

The Matrix Deck (Combines Crazy Combo Man with other Archetypes)

The last Subtype that I have currently identified in the Hybrid Archetype is the Matrix Subtype. This was not included in the original list, but was added after some discussion with others and some pondering on my part.

The Matrix decks are a combination of Crazy Combo Man and any other Archetype (NHBAggro, CTB or Resource Denial). A Matrix deck harnesses a network of interweaving synergies to create a deck that performs a given function (where that function is the combined Archetype, so a NHBAggro-oriented Matrix deck would have as its function the playing and attacking of creatures early and often).

A classic, recent example of a Matrix deck is Affinity. No single card in this deck caused it to win, and the deck included numerous synergetic elements that combined to create a powerful winning condition.

Remember, Crazy Combo Man is distinguished by playing a combination of cards that wins the game. Affinity does not do that. Arcbound Ravager plus Disciple of the Vault does not win you the game automatically like Saproling Burst and Pandemonium does. A Crazy Combo Man deck needs its combo elements in order to win. A Matrix deck can win with any synergetic elements, and not just one or two cards.

Affinity could win with a Cranial Plating, without ever drawing a Disciple or Ravager. It could win without ever drawing a Plating, Disciple, or Ravager, arguably the three best cards in the deck, simply by playing some cheap Affinity creatures, attacking, and backing that up with cheap card drawing and powerful burn.

That’s why Affinity was so powerful. It was not a combo deck, but a deck built around exploiting the synergy of cards like Ornithopter, Frogmite, Ravager, Disciple, Thoughtcast, Plating, Myr Enforcer, Shrapnel Blast, Artifact Lands, and other cards like Somber Hoverguard, Night’s Whisper, Atog, Bonesplitter, and more.

This deck shows the power of synergies, and how they are used instead of combos. Affinity was not a combo deck but a synergy deck. Lot’s of decks use synergies to build around, but the Matrix deck differentiates itself from peer decks by focusing on it. It should come as no surprise to the reader by now that some decks focus on an element that many decks use, and that focus distinguishes the deck. That principle holds true for synergies.

One of the important things to remember about a Matrix deck is that the cards have to interact with each other. Suppose I were building a deck around Scornful Egotist. I could play Rush of Knowledge, Torrent of Flame, Homarid Spawning Bed and Dispersal Shield in that deck. All of these cards have synergy with an Egotist. However, they do not have synergy with each other. Such a deck would never be a Matrix deck.

Now, look at an Affinity deck. Let’s take one aspect — the artifact lands. They can be sacked to Shrapnel Blast or Ravager. That sacrifice can trigger a Disciple. They can Affinity out Frogmite, Enforcer, or Thoughtcast. They make Cranial Plating bigger and better. Most of these cards work with each other. The Hat makes Disciple, Enforcer, Ravager or Frogmite deadly. Ravager can sacrifice Frogmite, the Hat, Enforcer or itself and a Disciple will ting an opponent when it does. If a Ravager dies, it can send its counters to an Enforcer or Frogmite.

The cards that work with artifact lands also work with each other, whereas that is not true of the cards I mentioned regarding the Scornful Egotist. The Matrix Subtype works well together, not just with some cards.

Remember that this Subtype deck doesn’t have to be NHBAggro oriented like Affinity. There could easily be Matrix decks that are CTB or Resource Denial as well. It’s also possible that you could have a Matrix Crazy Combo Man deck as well, I suppose.

Let’s take a look at a sample Matrix deck:

This is a cute little deck that uses creatures to perform various controlling functions until it is ready to win. Because of the high element of creatures in the deck and the potential to win through damage using methods like Timberwatch Elves, this may be a Matrix of NHBAggro and CTB and CCM all at once.

The deck looks confusing, and it can be. Here is what you need to know: Kyren Negotiations and Hair-Strung Koto both use tapping abilities of creatures and each can win the game on its own if left alone and activated enough. There are a lot of creatures in the deck that can tap for these cards, as well as the creatures made from Squirrel Nest.

There are several effects that can untap creatures, namely Puppet Strings, Seeker of Skybreak, and Magewright’s Stone. These can reload a creature while the Stone and Puppet Strings can untap a creature to use Negotiations or a Kyoto again.

Many creatures have tap abilities. Some are mana producers, Elves and Birds. Some deal damage, like the Goblin Sharpshooter and Vulshok Sorcerer. Some pump creatures, like Timberwatch Elves and Nantuko Disciple. Each of these is useful, and untapping them with the above methods can really hurt an opponent. Tapping a Sorcerer and then reusing it twice to off any medium size creatures is very useful. Toss in double or triple pumping a small creature and turning it into a threat and you can see the damage this deck can do.

Between the tap abilities of the creatures and the tap effects of the Koto and Negotiations, this deck will need a lot of creatures and effects. That’s why the deck is chock full of creatures and effects. Even those effects that may appear beneficial, like Puppet Strings, can also be used to tap down attackers and keep the opponent from running over you while you set up.

Almost all of these cards work together, creating an interweaving network of synergies. That makes this suitable sample perfect Matrix deck.

That concludes our romp through the Hybrid Archetypes, and the detailed exploration of the Framework. In the next Casual Metagame article, we’ll look at how you can use the Framework.

Until later,
Abe Sargent