The Kitchen Table #191 — Abe’s Precons

Read Abe Sargent every Thursday... at StarCityGames.com!
I’ve always liked Champions. It was a well designed set. Unfortunately, the remainder of the block had a very “been there” feel to me, and I was let down, but to this day, I’m still rather fond of Champions. It was fun from both a flavor and a card perspective. As I was looking through my excess cards, I came across Dampen Thoughts, then Oni Possession. It struck me that I have never built that Oni deck I wanted, nor have I ever built that Thoughts deck, not even in draft.

Hello all, and welcome back to another edition of the column that investigates all things casual. Well, at least many things casual. Two weeks ago I told you that I was beginning to pack my things. Since then, I’ve poured hours into my Magic collection in an attempt to cut it down to the bare essentials.

In my bathroom there is a very large box of uncommons. These uncommons had neither the value nor the desirability to be pulled into the boxes of cards that I am selling. These are merely bulk uncommons. On this past Friday evening, after everyone had left, I was in my bathroom and looking at these uncommons as a distraction, just before I went to bed. The stack of uncommons I was looking at was from Champions.

I’ve always liked Champions. It was a well designed set. Unfortunately, the remainder of the block had a very “been there” feel to me, and I was let down, but to this day, I’m still rather fond of Champions. It was fun from both a flavor and a card perspective.

As I was looking through the cards, I came across Dampen Thoughts, then Oni Possession. It struck me that I have never built that Oni deck I wanted, nor have I ever built that Thoughts deck, not even in draft. Now my cards for these hypothetical decks were in these bulk boxes of commons, uncommons, and rares. I was divesting myself of most of my Magic cards, and things that I had never used, like Dampen Thoughts, was scheduled for departure.

Saddened by these thoughts, I decided to search through the rest of the Champions uncommons, and then pull out all of the cards that would fit these two decks. After doing that, it was bedtime, so I retired.

On Saturday morning, I arose and headed to the store to run my weekly HeroClix tournaments. As a judge, I only play in those tournaments where there are an odd number of players. That way, I prevent any byes. This Saturday, however, we had an even number, so I couldn’t play.

I started to sift through the store’s rares, uncommons, and commons. Let’s build decks! I donated some HeroClix figures to the store in order to generate enough store credit to take some of these low value cards. Then I began to sift through the cards and built decks. Because the store didn’t have some of the classics, like Incinerate or Counterspell, the decks have a weakened look about them.

I call these decks my precons. They have been built from my cards or the store’s cards, and I decided to try and make them all the same approximate power level. All of them have at least two rares, and most have more when appropriate.

The goal with these decks is to use them in multiplayer or casual duals in lieu of precons. Because I am moving soon, I am looking at selling all of my precons over the years. I have a collection reaching all the way back to Tempest. It’s fun to play with precons, but sometimes you get screwed. Sometimes you randomly roll the crappy precon while your opponent gets a really good one. With them possibly getting sold, I have decided to pack them up and not use them anymore.

Now I need some precons to replace the old ones. However, I can try to make them better. Like previous precons, these decks have room for growth. They can be made better. However, I tried to put them all at the same power level, although frankly I’m not sure what the power level of the Dampen Thoughts deck is, because I am writing this article on Sunday. I haven’t had a chance to try it out against anyone yet, so it’s been a few goldfish and nothing more.

Obviously, there are good matchups and bad matchups for each precon. The Bird deck will have some problems with the Moo Cow deck, but with a lot flyers and some chump blocking, it can prevail.

Also, like the previous precons, mine are for sale for $10 each to anyone in my playgroup. It’s yet another way to divest myself of cards.

I anticipate us playing around with these on our next casual night, and using them to have a lot of fun. Let’s take a look at the decks.

Abe Precon #1 — The Moo Cow Deck

3 Magma Burst
4 Carbonize
2 Cinder Cloud
2 Ancient Grudge
1 Assault/Battery
4 Endangered Armodon
4 Acridian
4 Simian Grunts
1 Nature’s Resurgence
1 Molder Slug
1 Arc-Slogger
1 Goblin Goon
4 Streetbreaker Wurm
4 Gruul Signet
12 Mountain
12 Forest

This deck is based on one of my old favorites, the Endangered Armodon. Gone are the days of Stronghold drafts where I could get seven or eight Endangered Armodons and then kick everyone’s decks out of the water. I called this my Moo Cow strategy, because nothing beats beef.

I haven’t played a Moo Cow in a long time, so in the spirit of these decks, I thought that I’d build around one. I was surprised that the store didn’t have any Cinder Giants or Aether Flash. Both would be interesting choices for this deck.

Everything is the deck has to have a large bottom, in order to keep your Moo Cows in play. With the Signets, I hope that this deck can accelerate quickly.

The deck features four rares, including beefy creatures like Arc-Slogger, Molder Slug, and Goblin Goon. The one trick in the deck that is neither burn nor beef is the solitary Nature’s Resurgence.

I wanted burn, but the store didn’t have a lot to choose from. The single Assault/Battery is supplemented with Carbonize and Magma Burst. I also tossed in Cinder Cloud as creature removal, which is a really solid card in multiplayer. Ancient Grudge can take out a pair of artifacts when necessary.

Like all precons, this deck has plenty of room for modification. I would find space for Aether Burst. I also like Mogg Flunkies, and would try to find a spot for them. There are tons of good creatures to choose from in Red/Green that have at least a three defense, so you can always find something interesting for the deck. You can even run flyers like Giant Dustwasp or Dragon Whelp.

I came up with this idea for one of the six original precons when I saw a set of Moo Cows all in a row in the Stronghold common box at the store.

Abe’s Precon #2 — The Morph Control Deck

3 Complicate
3 Willbender
1 Mystical Teachings
1 Nebuchadnezzar
1 Spite/Malice
1 Deflection
1 Aerial Caravan
2 Aphetto Exterminator
1 Mahamoti Djinn
2 Silent Specter
3 Riptide Survivor
3 Smother
2 Krovikan Rot
1 Mind Games
2 Dream Cache
2 Oppressive Will
3 Spell Blast
3 Snuff Out
1 Syphon Soul
9 Swamps
9 Islands
3 Lonely Sandbar
3 Barren Moor

This is the precon with the most rares, clocking in at five (two Specters, Djinn, Deflection, and Caravan). I pulled out a couple of traditional Black/Blue control cards, like Spite/Malice and Mystical Teachings, and then built this deck from that core.

Without hard and cheap counters like Hinder or Cancel or Counterspell, I had to rely on more difficult cards. Complicate, the single Spite/Malice, Oppressive Will, and Spell Blast are the counters of choice for this deck.

This is an area that is easy to upgrade. Add hard and cheap counters, from Undermine to Dissipate, in order to make the deck better immediately. Remember that these decks are often going to be played in multiplayer, so countermagic isn’t as useful there as it is here. Still, this deck will want to counter as appropriate.

The deck uses various morph creatures to draw, kill, or play havoc with opponents. The Exterminator will kill creatures, and note that its ability is particularly good against Moo Cows, who don’t like it when their friends wither up.

Willbender is an obvious choice, and the store had three so I put them in. Since we can’t have great countermagic, I thought the next best thing was to play some misdirection. Note that the presence of the Deflection as a rare was for this very reason.

The Silent Specters are the single largest non-Djinn, non-Bird flyers in the environment. They can be morphed as a surprise or merely played as a big beater in the skies. Either way, they have some serious value.

Without classic ways of drawing cards, like Fact or Fiction, Brainstorm, Concentrate, or Deep Analysis, I had to be tricky. You’ll find Riptide Survivor to be a handy way of drawing some cards after discarding chaff.

To further assist with the lack of powered card drawing, I made sure to toss in the cycle lands plus the pair of Dream Cache. I had to use what I could find, after all. That’s why Aerial Caravan is in the deck. In addition to being a flyer of some size, it can also give you some card advantage over time with its ability.

Mind Games is a singleton, but it can be very powerful, locking out annoying creatures with ease. Another one of is Syphon Soul, which has some value in multiplayer, but little in duels, so I ran just the one.

This is a more creature-oriented control deck, so you have cards like Nebuchadnezzar.

Finally, I loaded up with removal, from Smother to Snuff Out and several other removal options in between. I couldn’t run the best removal, as that was all gone. I could run the next tier, however.

This deck could use more consistency. Better flyers, cheaper removal, and the aforementioned better and cheaper counters.

Abe’s Precon #3 — Oni Beats

2 Yukora, the Prisoner
2 Scourge of Numai
4 Painwracker Oni
4 Gutwrencher Oni
4 Blood Speaker
4 Bloodthirsty Ogre
4 Ogre Marauder
4 Takenuma Bleeder
4 Mark of the Oni
4 Befoul
24 Swamps

I have a fear that this might be a little too powerful. It’s certainly very consistent in sending out the beats. Moo Cow should stand up to it, with all of its removal and the ability to have just as large beaters.

I didn’t tech this deck out with the tricks that decks in block used, such as O-Naginata. I felt the deck was powerful enough as it is.

Note that this deck has scant removal, and no disruption. There are no discard cards, little in the way of tempo cards, and little removal. All removal is based around the sorcery Befoul. That keeps the deck in Block, at least.

This deck can be disrupted by killing all in-play demons or all in-play ogres. As such, it’s a risky deck. From Cinder Cloud to Smother to Slice and Dice (in the next deck), there are numerous cards in the environment that will help to keep this deck in check, but I have to wonder at how certain decks will handle it. What does the Bird deck do against such a foe?

Mark of the Oni is the only stealing effect in the environment, which is ironic because it is in Black. It can be great removal, or it can get blasted by taking out your demon(s).

I love Ogre Marauder. I think he is one of the best cards from Kamigawa Block, and you should be playing more of him in your decks. He’s awesome!

This deck serves up beats quickly, and the feared 5/4 body of the Painwracker Oni is a quick clock. It may be a bit too efficient, so I may have to tone this deck down a bit. We’ll see after playtesting.

Abe’s Precons #4 — Stereotypical Counterburn

4 Izzet Chronarch
4 Steamcore Weird
4 Ghitu Slinger
2 Icy Manipulator
2 Mahamoti Djinn
1 Granite Gargoyle
1 Hammer of Bogardan
2 Slice and Dice
2 Cinder Elemental
2 Repeal
4 Magma Jet
4 Miscalculation
4 Power Sink
3 Lonely Sandbar
9 Islands
12 Mountains

This deck has two problems that it poses. Both must be solved in order to defeat it.

First, this deck has some serious flying beats. Mahamoti Djinn is the largest flyer in the environment, and this deck is packing two. It is also the largest creature, period, outclassing Yukora at 5/5. It can kill any creature that it can block.

After that, the deck has a Granite Gargoyle and Hammer of Bogardan to round out its rares.

The second problem is that this deck has a ton of burn and countermagic, problems for several decks in the field. Between Ghitu Slinger, Steamcore Weirds, Magma Jets, Cinder Elementals, the Hammer, and the pair of Slice and Dice, the deck packs a lot of damage. However, the weakness is that most of it deals just two damage.

This deck has to counter the better creatures of the Moo Cow and Oni Beats decks. However, you’ll note that this deck is lacking even one true counter, instead relying on Miscalculation and Power Sink to go the distance.

Mahamoti Djinn is the biggest problem in the format, no question. Slice and Dice is the biggest answer to most things. For the most part, I’ve steered clear of sweeping removal, but this card fits well in the deck. The card store has a pair, so I nabbed them. Note that they do not answer all problems. The opposing Mahamoti Djinn and Moo Cows will survive. It also kills every non-Djinn creature in this deck, and this is a very creature-heavy deck.

Like the Morph Control deck, I wanted this deck to have a lot of creatures. With the Moo Cow, Birds and Oni decks running around, I felt that most of these control decks could really use some extra creatures. You can feel free to chump with Ghitu Slinger or Steamcore Weird or even an Izzet Chronarch. They already had an effect on the game by coming into play.

The Hammer fits perfectly into this deck.

Repeal and Icy Manipulator are this deck’s answers to problems it cannot handle. It can tap down or bounce the truly serious cards, like Painwracker Oni.

Another weakness of this deck is its lack of card drawing. It can cycle a lot, featuring Lonely Sandbar, Slice and Dice, and Miscalculation, combined with the scry on Magma Jet. As such, it can sift about a bit, but this deck is stuck drawing whatever it draws, with no tutors and no raw card drawing.

To make this deck better, you’d probably put it better counters, better burn, and some serious card drawing, like Tidings or Deep Analysis.

Abe’s Precon #5 — Aerial Attack

4 Airborne Aid
2 Freewind Falcon
2 Cloudchaser Eagle
2 Primoc Escapee
1 Aven Fateshaper
2 Celestial Gatekeeper
2 Keeper of the Nine Gales
4 Raven Guild Initiate
2 Coast Watcher
2 Duskrider Falcon
4 Aven Liberator
2 Aven Farseer
2 Suntail Hawk
3 Battle Screech
4 Shoreline Ranger
12 Island
12 Plains

This deck is the little deck that could. It doesn’t have any real powerful cards, like Soulcatcher’s Aerie or Kangee, Aerie Keeper. There’s not even a Soraya the Falconer or a Serra Aviary, or even a Sprite Noble or Aven Brigadier.

Instead, the deck has a lot of tricks.

First of all, note that this deck has the single best card drawing spell in the format in Airborne Aid. If you are wondering why you should even play this deck, that is one thing it has going for it. This deck may not have the best bird cards ever, but it does have the best card drawing spell in the format.

I decided to build this deck when I came across three Battle Screeches in the store’s uncommon section. They also had the Gatekeepers and Keepers in their bulk rare section for $0.50 each.

This deck likes its flyers. It can play them early or late, and they come in all sorts of sizes. The deck has its tricks as well.

Raven Guild Initiate may not fly, but they can morph up to save one of your birds from a removal spell. Most of your birds are cheap enough to drop again, and the truly big ones you do not want to lose. As a 1/4 on the ground, it can really mug things up, and block some of the early beats that decks can throw at you.

If saving your creatures is important to you, then make sure you take a look at Keeper of the Nine Gales. This is essentially a three-mana Tradewind Rider, which can save your creatures from burn, from dying in combat, or to bounce opposing cards that you find problematic, like Painwracker Oni, for example.

Three cheap birds in the deck have protection from a color. Only Blue and White themselves are not protected against. That gives you great plays again Oni Beats, Morph Control, Stereotypical Counterburn, and Moo Cow. The only deck that this is not a valid strategy against is the Dampen Thoughts deck.

In addition to creatures with innate protection, you have four Aven Liberators. These are great creatures to morph up and protect one of your birds from lethal damage or save it from a removal spell. Between these, the Initiates and the Keepers, you can save and protect your birds well. Just because an opponent has a lot of removal does not mean this deck will automatically roll over.

If some of your key birds do die, make sure to throw a Celestial Gatekeeper into the breach. When it dies, it will bring any two dead birds back to life and in play. This is a nifty combo with Primoc Escapee or Shoreline Ranger. Just cycle them into your yard and then reanimate them with a Gatekeeper. Note that if a Gatekeeper is out with several other creatures when they all die to a Slice and Dice, you can use the Gatekeeper to bring back two. It’s very strong is this environment.

This deck is lacking any form of control, because it is an aggro deck. It runs early and late flyers with the intention of flying over opponent while blocking with Raven Guild Initiate, a protected flyer, or the occasional chump block.

You’ll note that this deck has the second biggest flyer in the format with Aven Fateshaper. It can survive battle with every flyer in the format outside of Mahamoti Djinns. It’s also unkillable with a Slice and Dice.

The Primoc Escapees give you more 4/4 flyers, tied with the Silent Specters for third biggest flyer. That gives this deck the second and third largest flyers. Shoreline Rangers are also tough, or they can get you an Island when you have need.

Finally, I should mention that Battle Screech is a house. You already knew that, of course.

I’d make this deck better with some of the aforementioned cards that could pump birds, plus some multiplayer-friendly birds like Commander Eesha and Lieutenant Kirtar. Kirtar likes the Celestial Gatekeeper.

Abe’s Precon #6 — Dampen Your Thoughts

4 Dampen Thought
4 Ethereal Haze
4 Eye of Nowhere
4 Consuming Vortex
4 Peer Through Depths
4 Spiritual Visit
4 Terashi’s Verdict
4 Teller of Tales
2 Baku Altar
2 Petals of Insight
12 Plains
12 Island

I do not know how this deck will stand up to the other five, and it may be too weak or too powerful… who knows? It needs some playtesting in the environment just to find out. I’ve never built a Dampen Thought deck before, so I have less experience that I might otherwise have wished for.

There are not many rares that could fit this deck, but I was lucky to find a pair of Baku Altars.

This deck needs consistency, and it has it, but whether or not that will be enough to win is yet undetermined. The lack of great, cheap counters in this format could help the deck win.

I almost kept out the Teller of Tales. As the only creature in the deck, it will be the target of some significant removal. However, I felt it was necessary to enable the deck to win.

In duels, this should be a passable deck; in multiplayer, I fear it will need some walls. Again, we’ll see, but that’s my suspicion.

This deck wants to play an arcane spell to delay the opponent, then splice a Dampen Thought onto it. It can splice another card as well, like Spiritual Visit. Ethereal Haze, for example, just requires 1UWW to play with both a Dampen Thought and a Spiritual Visit on it. Now you have a chump blocker for a future attack, as well as a counter on any Baku Altars you have in play. You get to do that as early as turn 4.

Terashi’s Verdict is actual removal, and therefore is vital to the deck. Blasting an attacker while also milling your opponent of four cards is a great way to delay your death while speeding your opponent’s.

I am not normally a fan of Fog effects. However, in this deck, Ethereal Haze speeds your opponent’s death by five turns (the four with the Dampen splice and the one drawn naturally). Cheap arcane spells are engines for this deck.

With eight bounce effects, the deck tries to continue the delay strategy. Consuming Vortex is great because it is instant bounce and can be played on your opponent’s turn. Bouncing one creature, tapping another with the Teller before attackers are declared, and putting a Dampen on the Vortex is great fun. Unfortunately, the Eye of Nowhere is a sorcery bounce, but you can target other things besides creatures with it. Feel free to bounce a critical land, for example, giving yourself occasional tempo while also giving yourself a splice target.

Peer Through Depths can be used to find a crucial card, like Dampen Thought. It is also another chance to splice something onto it. Later in the game, when you start splicing Consuming Vortex, you’ll be in a really good position. Cards like Peer Through Depths can find the right splice target or get you a great card.

Petals of Insight is your long game card. It is an arcane spell that you can return to your hand. You can play it over and over, each time splicing onto it a Dampen or other effect. It takes a lot of mana, so there are only two in the deck. Don’t be afraid to use it as a pure card drawing spell when necessary.

Remember to get hits in with your Teller of Tales when you can. Attack, then play your sorcery to untap it after combat. You can also leave it tapped, then if your opponent attacks into it, untap it with your instant arcane spell and use it to block and kill and opposing creature. Even if you do not have an instant arcane spell in hand you want to use, once you have pulled off this trick against an opponent, you can attack with your Teller again, and he won’t attack with smaller creatures, having once been bitten by an untapped Teller.

I don’t know what I would add to this deck, because I haven’t played around with it too much. Still, it seems to be on the same level of power as many of the other decks.

I encourage you to build some precons of your own and try them out over your multiplayer table. The project is fun alone, so I can only imagine what it will be like when we shuffle and play with these guys tomorrow (Friday). Good luck!

Until later,

Abe Sargent