The Kitchen Table #192 — The Finale of the Bad Rare Decks

Read Abe Sargent every Thursday... at StarCityGames.com!
I normally keep a box of bad rares… er…. “low value” rares by my computer. I already took them out of the box so I could use it for something else. Now I have this stack of rares ready to be sent off to be sold or given away. Since I am about to take this stack down and divide up the pieces, I thought I should get one last chance to pull out a few rares and give them a little sunlight. Today may be my very last bad rare article.

Hello all, and welcome back to the column of all things casual. As of today, I have been accepted as a grad student at Middlesex University, in good old London. Assuming that I can ever get my payment of a thousand pounds to make my offer unconditional, I’ll apply for a student visa, and then move to London in about seven weeks or so.

In my article two weeks ago, I talked about the issues related to moving and questions about what to take and what to leave behind. As such, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks desleeving old decks, selling some of my cards, and getting ready for the big move.

I normally keep a box of bad rares… er…. “low value” rares by my computer. I already took them out of the box so I could use it for something else. Now I have this stack of rares ready to be sent off to be sold or given away.

During one of my daily articles a long time ago, I decided to use one of these random bad rares to build a deck. Since that day, I have used this technique to build a lot of interesting decks, often around some pretty chump rares.

Since I am about to take this stack down and divide up the pieces, I thought I should get one last chance to pull out a few rares and give them a little sunlight. Today may be my very last bad rare article. Even if it is not, it will be my last bad rare article with this stack.

Before I begin, I want to give a little rant.

I am beginning to slowly detest modern technology.

This is my little Ferrett-esque rant designed to get more hits and more people to post in the forums. If you are a more serious Magic reader who’d rather read about decks than rants, then skip ahead to the section entitled “Begin the Article.”

Like I said, I am beginning to really have a strong dislike for many aspects of modern technology. I need to pay a thousand pounds to Middlesex to secure my spot, and when I call them up to use a credit card, it won’t work. The Middlesex person is barely containing his contempt, but whether it was for me or just in general I can’t tell. I call up my bank and then they tell me that Middlesex needs to enter my three-digit security code on the back of my card when submitting the information. I call Middlesex and then they tell me that they cannot enter it with the other information. I keep calling my bank and my school. I feel like a ping-pong ball. What I’d like to do is get these two people to talk to each other. That makes too much sense. People communicating in today’s day and age?

I ended five auctions on eBay as a seller, and then Paypal and eBay broke and my buyers could not pay me. Paypal works fine, in that I can accept money sent to me through the normal Paypal system. It’s just there is a disconnection between them.

When I called Paypal, I got the worst computer ever. It required me to speak to it, and when I did, it always misheard me, no matter how clearly I spoke. Incidentally, I have virtually no accent, only an occasional Appalachian lilt.

When I did speak to a customer service representative at Paypal, they made me repeat all of the information that I had already given the computer, making me give out five pieces of information twice. I thought that was silly.

I tried to access my bank online, LaSalle. I go to their website, and then try to set up an online account. When I am close to completing their form, on the final page of their application, after filling out all of this information, I hit submit, but the button on the browser doesn’t work. It does not accept my click. Everything else is working fine, including the button right beside it that reads “cancel.” The “submit” button just won’t work. I try again with another browser and fill out the forms a second time, and still, it won’t accept my submit clicking on the final page.

Online forms that don’t work, deaf phone computers, daft customer service workers, and two institutions that are having a major hissy fight and what me to referee. All in one weekend, which is supposed to be a relaxing time of the week.

I hate cell phones and what they have done to our modern times. The same is true of MP3 players. Now people won’t even have half a conversation with others. I’ve witnessed people placing an order with someone while still listening to their iPod by making gestures. iPod should have a brand change to iIgnoreU.

In my first judicial meeting where a student actually took a phone call from his mother and then wanted me to speak with her, I knew that we had arrived at a new low. Civility and respect seem to matter a little less each year.

As such, I am beginning to feel a little resentful of technology. We use it without understanding its consequences. A classic example is the baby monitor.

Yes, that’s right, the baby monitor.

Imagine being a baby and having been born before the introduction of the baby monitor in 1983. Babies cry all of the time for a variety of reasons. Now, imagine that there was a time, probably more than once, when you cried, and your parents did not hear you. Maybe they were dead asleep, or showering, or whatever. Surely you can imagine a time when your parents did not come to you when you cried.

Imagine the lesson that teaches you. You learn, intuitively, that you cannot always rely on your parents. Self-sufficiency is learned early on.

Now, imagine that you are born in 1987, and your parents use a baby monitor. Every single cry you make is amplified and distributed around the house. Your parents come running whenever you make so much as a peep of crying. You make crying sounds that are not anywhere near reaching their ears in real life, and they are there at your side.

Imagine the lessen this teaches you instead. You believe that your parents will always be there for you, no matter what, and that no matter how petty your need is, they will fulfill it.

I’m not sure that the various generational gaps aren’t because of technology and its misapplications. No study could ever be done about the long-term effects of a baby monitor on child psychological development. Yet, I see students everyday that are tethered to their parents, and they are glad. It sounds like the baby monitor is still on in their lives.

Baby monitors, cell phones, MP3 players. We adapt all of this stuff with the intention of making our lives better in the short time, more convenient. Everything in life has a cost, but not all costs come with dollar signs.

That my rant. Now, let’s…

Begin the Article

If you have read any articles in this series, then you may recall the format. I randomly select a card from my stack of rares. Then I must build a deck around it, no matter how crappy. I cannot toss the card back on account of rain, and I even once accepted and built an Amulet of Quoz deck.

I will often go on to discuss other deck ideas I had with the card in question. It’s a lot of fun, so let’s go ahead and begin!

That’s Okk-septional

That’s right, I flipped an Okk. This is one of the classically bad rares of all time. People can make fun of just how bad this rare is with ease. Let’s take a look at it in more detail.

As a two-mana 4/4, the best way to use it would be to play it on the second turn, and then swing on turn 3. That’s the ideal. If we can get that, then I’m happy.

Okk cannot attack or block unless a creature with a greater power does so as well. That means I need a creature with a power greater than 4 that can attack on turn 3. Well, I have at least one idea.

Combining Okk with Ball Lightning is easy. There are a handful of other Red creatures that have a power greater than four for three mana, but they do not have haste. Three of those creatures are included here, with Mijae Djinn, Avatar of Discord, and Cosmic Larva each having some serious size.

I then tossed in two cards that will grant haste on the first or second turn of the game. Ideally, here is how you want the deck to play:

First Turn, drop Need for Speed
Second Turn, drop Okk
Third Turn, drop Cosmic Larva. Swing with Cosmic Larva and Okk. Deal a bunch of damage.
Fourth turn, upkeep Larva, drop Okk, swing with two Okk and Larva. Or, sac Larva, play another beater, swing with new beater and Okk.

That’s the ideal. There are other options, obviously, but you want to swing quickly with all creatures, making Okk a great drop instead of the chump he usually is.

Since you are going to be hitting so quickly, I decided to run some cheap damage effects. Both Sonic Burst and Flame Rift deal four damage for two mana. If you are dishing it out with cards like Ball Lightning and Cosmic Larva, then the four damage you take from Flame Rift is probably going to be negligible. It will be lethal to your opponent. Sonic Burst is available to blast a creature out of the aether, but should normally be reserved for your opponent’s dome.

I didn’t include Fireblast. Because with the Cosmic Larva’s upkeep and the Avatar’s discard, it seemed a little too ballsy for my taste. One counter and it could be game over for yourself leaving only one or two lands in play at the most.

Well, this was an easy deck to build. Normally, at this point, I’d move on and be happy that I was able to build a deck with a card, but I want to leave you with a few other Okk ideas.

Okk is great with Sneak Attack. Sneak out something nasty, and swing with it and Okk. Since Okk is so cheap, you drop him before the Sneak Attack. That way you can attack with him over and over again. Then you sneak into play something like a Force of Nature in size and then swing with both. On the following turn, you can sneak something else with Okk still out, maybe a Dragon Tyrant.

Another idea might be Pandemonium where it deals four damage for two mana.

Well, that brings us to the end of Okk’s day in the light, now let’s move on to the next card…

The Plagues They Are a Travelin’

This time I pulled a Traveling Plague from Odyssey. Now, I like creature removal as much as the next guy, but is there a limit to how bad a card can be before it achieves unplayability?

The problem with the Plague is that it can come back and kill your creatures. That means the best way to use the Plague is to have few creatures of your own.

Now in multiplayer, the Plague’s value increases significantly. It probably won’t get played on your creatures unless you have one of the most threatening creatures on the board. It’s funny. People enjoy seeing the biggest and nastiest creatures in play get offed with quickness. In multiplayer, the card has an enhanced value.

Let’s see what I can do in a duel.

This deck uses Traveling Plague on opposing creatures. With just four creatures of its own (no, the Agents do not count), it has few targets for the Plague’s return except those under the control of the opponent.

This deck wants to use delaying cards until it can Drain Life, Soul Feast, and Consume Spirit its way to a win. The beauty of these winning cards is that not only do they bring down the opposing life total, but they bump yours in case a creature or three are knocking your head in.

The deck uses Crown of the Ages to move Traveling Plague to other creatures as you have need. Note that you can let a counter or two build up on a Plague and then hop it to automatically kill a creature. This way you can keep killing opposing creatures, and not your own.

You can also try to keep your Sleeper Agent in play if you have one. This card can seriously weaken an opponent. If you have a Wall of Souls out, it won’t attack, lest your opponent take an additional three damage. Paralyze is also ideal for it. Use Paralyze to lock it down in the early game, then hop it over to another creature that is more pertinent with the Crown.

Paralyze and the Plague are your creature removal spells. You’d prefer to save your Drain Life and Consume Spirit for the opponent, and not creatures, but they can be so used in an emergency.

One of the little tricks in this deck is Avarice Totem. Get ten mana (which is not as hard with Cabal Coffers as it might otherwise be). Once you get to ten, use the Avarice Totem twice. The first time, target your worst non-land permanent — like the Plague, or a Paralyze for example. Then before that resolves, active the Totem again targeting your opponent’s best nonland permanent. Then the first one resolves, and you get that great permanent, then the second resolves, and you get the Totem back and give that chump permanent. Note that if your opponent has five mana open, they can put another trigger on the stack after the last one resolves, so it’s best to do it when your opponent cannot use the Totem. This is another reason Paralyze is good in this deck. It forces opponents to choose between leaving open Avarice Totem mana or untapping a creature.

With that, let’s take a look at the next card. It’s definitely an old card, but it was never a classic.

Fire and Brimstone

This is one of the more unusual cards of all time. I think one of the reasons I really love The Dark as an expansion set is because it can easily seem like the Planar Chaos set, only from Magic’s early days.

Note that this is a five mana White Flame Rift in most duels. You can, however, target yourself, dealing you eight damage if you want to. It has some serious restrictions, so let’s see what I can do.

This deck is not your ordinary deck. It wants to use some powerful life gain, and then use effects like Eye for an Eye, Fire and Brimstone, Harsh Justice and Mirror Strike to kill the opponent.

Life gain gives the player enough of a life bubble to survive the all out assaults that this deck encourages. Congregate is a money life gain spell, and with your token making spells, you should have enough creatures to really use this. Soul Warden should make you a solid amount of life, again enhanced by the token makers.

I included Chastise for a few reasons. One strategy to defeat this deck is to overload the offensive cards by attacking en masse dealing a whole bunch of damage all at once. Chastise changes the math significantly. There are some creatures that can kill you without being affected by your defense, like Guiltfeeder or Phage. (Phage can be Mirror Striked or Harsh Justiced and kill the player).

Weathered Wayfarer can get lands in the early game, or provide a body in the later game. This deck could really benefit from landage, since many of the cool spells cost four or more mana as instants. It can be used for Congregates, Soul Warden life, or to tap to flashback a Battle Screech. I didn’t want a threatening creature. I want my opponent to feel safe attacking, so there are no Commander Eeshas or Lieutenant Kirtars running about. Instead, this deck contains minor creatures, so that our opponent will swing with a nice sized army.

The deck’s large amount of 1/1s can be useful to deal those last few points of damage. Hit your opponent with a Harsh Justice, knocking him to four and you to twelve, and he will stop attacking. Now your creatures can plink him down to zero life.

This is definitely a tough card to build around, but I hope that I have done a decent job, at least, of making Fire and Brimstone good in this deck. Let’s take a gander at the next card.

De Vermis Mysteriis

This time I flipped a Vermiculos. This will be the first and possibly only deck today where I will put the fear of a bad rare into the hearts of an opposing player. If I built this deck in real life and challenged someone, I suspect I would cause them to cringe at the sight of a Vermiculos. It would become a must-kill must-counter card for sure.

This deck wants to play a Vermiculos. On the following turn, it should be equipped with a Cloak, and then a bunch of artifacts come into play, making it big enough to kill an opponent. Then the unblockable creature swings and kills.

There are a few engines that help Vermi. Mishra, Artificer Prodigy will double any artifact that you play when he is out. Play a Bauble, and you get a second Bauble. That pumps Vermiculos by +8/+8. Do that one more time and you have a 17/17. That’s enough damage to kill most people.

Mishra is an ideal card for this deck, but I wanted the Vermiculos to have a chance at winning without one in play. A clever opponent will send countermagic or removal Mishra’s way before the Vermiculos ever sees the table.

Artificer’s Intuition is perfect here. On the turns before you want to win with Vermiculos, use the Intuition to discard an artifact for a Servitor. Then discard a Servitor for a Servitor, and so forth, until three are in the yard and one is in hand. You can also discard extra lands or artifacts you don’t need to get Baubles.

On the turn before you attack for the win, play the Servitor in your hand. On the following turn, all three Servitors in the yard will come back, and Vermiculos will trigger and become a 13/13, before you even draw your card for the turn. Play two Baubles or an artifact land and a bauble and your Vermi will be a 21/21. That might kill some people.

Trinket Mage is running around to help you set up. Maybe you need a Bauble or a Servitor or even more mana. Trinket Mage can get you any artifact land in addition to Baubles and Servitors.

If you want to add some versatility to this deck, you could toss in Aether or Pyrite Spellbombs. They can be retrieved with Intuition or Trinket Magi, while also being easy to play with Mishra and a Vermi out. You also never know when you might want their ability.

Because this deck needs a Vermi and a Cloak ideally to win, I tossed in Diabolic Tutor. You can always use that as a backup artifact tutor if you have need, but otherwise, it is designed to be used for either the Cloak or the Vermi.

I tossed in four Arcane Denials. I wanted a cheap splashable counter, and I considered Delay as well. I went with Arcane Denial because you getting to draw off it is much better than your opponent’s draw in this deck. Counter only the best cards, like things that stop your Cloak, your Vermi, or prevent the damage.

This may be my most complex deck of the day. Treat it well!

And that concludes another entry in the bad rare milieu. This may be my last entry in this theme. I hope you enjoyed it.

Until later,

Abe Sargent