The Kitchen Table #193 – Even More Abe Precons

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Two weeks ago, I wrote about six “precons” that I built for my playgroup. Since then, the group has really embraced playing with these precons in games both large and small. As such, I set out to build more precons for my group. My task was to make these new precons about the same power level as the old precons. As a reminder, these decks were all built out of the cards left over at the store after years of people picking through the boxes.

Hello again, and welcome back to the column that investigates the corners of the Magic universe in the HMS Kitchen Table. As you may know, I am going across the pond to London to go to school at Middlesex University in about six weeks or so, although I am still awaiting my student visa so nothing is guaranteed.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about six “precons” that I built for my playgroup. Since then, the group has really embraced playing with these precons in games both large and small. As such, I set out to build more precons for my group.

My task was to make these new precons about the same power level as the old precons. As a reminder, these decks were all built out of the cards left over at the store after years of people picking through the boxes. A new set gets new commons and uncommons as the store opens up packs, but there is never an influx of old commons added to these boxes. As such, over time, the absolute best cards disappear quickly, and then the other good cards start to follow. As an example, finding countermagic is not tough, but finding playable counters can be. The same is true of burn and removal.

I then add between two and five rares, and then we play it around my circle while I try to sell the deck for $10 to someone there.

I created the original six decks to balance each other out. I also wanted each deck to have certain things that it was the best at. Let’s take a look at the previous decks quickly, in case you do not want to go back to the previous article for a refresher.

Oni Beats — This Ogre and Demon deck featured a ton of Ogres and Oni, but little else. It was the only deck to have a card that stole a permanent from another player in Mark of the Oni. It also is the deck with the most consistent mid-range and larger creatures. Starting on turn 3, in begins to drop fat after fat. Despite a full set of Befoul, it lacks any instant creature removal, and it is devoid of any first or second turn plays. Some people commented in the forums that this deck was not as powerful as it might appear because of these weaknesses, but I wasn’t sure. After playing, those people were dead on. The deck can make a lot of bacon, but it is easily disrupted. One more note, this deck’s Painwracker Oni is the largest evasive non-flyer in the format.

Moo Cow — This R/G aggro deck is built around the Endangered Armodon, or the Moo Cow for short. This is a brilliant creature with little disadvantage in the deck since all of the creatures are big enough. This deck has the most consistent fat and the best suite of removal in any aggro deck. It also is the best deck at taking out artifacts. On the other hand, despite earlier plays like Gruul Signet and Assault/Battery, it also has many of the same issues that the Oni deck has — namely a lot of potential to be out-rushed by the weenie deck in the format. This deck had the largest creature in the first round of decks — a 6/6 Goblin Goon.

Aerial Attack — The final aggro deck in the first six is a U/W bird deck that tries to make a bunch of creatures and then swing with the flying horde. This deck has the best card drawing spell in the format — Airborne Aid. It also has the biggest creature horde in the format, and almost every creature in the deck can fly. The deck doesn’t have any big creatures in the mid-casting cost range to compete with 4/5 and 5/5 creatures that can come out fast. A Moo Cow or a Yukora can hit fast and require a lot of chump blocking. On the other hand, if you draw one of your protection cards, including two birds with pro Green, then you’ll be in a good position. I beat Oni two games out of three with this deck.

Dampen Your Thoughts — Everyone at my table, including myself, was very impressed with how well the Dampen Thoughts deck worked. It was bought by another player on its first night! In one multiplayer game, the Dampen Thoughts player had 17 1/1 spirit tokens in play at the same time and was killing people with damage. Two Baku Altars in play at the same time is nuts. This deck excels at protection, and it is the only deck to attack your library as its primary winning condition. It does not like a lot of attention, since it only has four creatures main deck.

Stereotypical Counterburn — This deck has several things to recommend it. First of all, it has two of the biggest flyers in the format — Mahamoti Djinn. It also has the only recursive removal with Hammer of Bogardan. Between the Ghitu Slingers and the Steamcore Weirds, this deck features the most burn of any deck. This deck has the only sweeping removal in the first set of six decks, a pair of Slice and Dice. However, this deck cannot take out larger creatures that are not killed by a Slide and Dice. It wants to outmuscle those creatures with a Djinn, but if your deck can take out the Djinn, you are screwed. An example of a deck that can exploit this weakness is Moo Cow, which is a bad matchup for this deck.

Morph Control — A U/B deck featuring a lot of morph creatures, one Djinn of its own, some countermagic and some removal. The large number of morphs can be tricky, and the powerful combination of removal and countermagic makes this deck arguably the single most powerful deck in the original slate, although all of the decks really balance each other out in multiplayer. This deck can have trouble with large creatures that it cannot Spell Blast, or kill with Smother or Krovikan Rot or Aphetto Exterminator. If it cannot draw a Spite/Malice or a Snuff Out, then it is going to be game. This deck has the most consistent large flyers, with two Silent Specters and an Aerial Caravan to join the Djinn.

I decided to write again on this topic because none of these decks are going with me to London. Therefore this topic has a limited shelf life, so I figure that I might as well write on it some more. This is a fun project. How do you make decks that balance each other and yet feature no real overpowering? It’s interesting.

The Second Generation

As such, I set about to build six new decks. Again, these decks are three aggro and three control. I used Blue in four decks last time, so I only used it in one this time around. We played with these decks last week, and again, they were a lot of fun, but I tweaked a deck here and there from the original decklist to reflect some new power.

I needed each of the new decks to play well with the old. I want my decks to each have something special, but to not interfere with the special things that the old decks have. Without further adieu or preamble, here are be the second generation of decks.

Every deck needs to have a few things that make it uniquely special. This deck has that. The Clockwork Beasts are the highest power creatures in the format in the second generation, and they are pretty cheap. This deck also arguably features a lot of evasion, with four Mountainwalkers and four pro White creatures.

One of the things I like about this deck is the sheer value of the mid-game. This deck can stand with the Moo Cow and Oni decks with its serious beef like the Beasts, War Machine, and Fire Elemental.

The deck takes advantage of the Red mana by using it in clever ways. The Brute is not that bad in this environment where regenerators have some value. Sandstone Warrior is simply amazing, and Firebreathing plus first strike plus an all Red deck make a powerful creature. Flowstone Salamander is also pretty keen, with the all Red-ness of the deck.

As you would expect from a Red deck, it has a lot of removal. I know that Lunge, Fissure, Aftershock, Heat Ray, and Meteor Shower may not be your idea of high quality top-notch removal, but these eleven cards can take out smaller and larger creatures with varying degrees of mana.

Pro White can give this Red Deck a different feel, and two of those creatures can be played at instant speed. This deck has more tricks than burn up its sleeve. However, the pro White and Mountainwalk tricks that the deck has are just expensive creatures against any deck that lacks these colors. Be careful of enemies that you cannot walk past or defend against.

This deck has two things going for it that make it superlative in the format. This deck has the most synergetic creature base in the format. These creatures really work together. No other creature base in any deck is close to as synergetic as this. Just watch a player with this deck in multiplayer, and you’ll see the creatures get bigger and bigger in order to burst through, or they get smaller and more profuse if large creature removal is expected.

This deck also has the best flying removal in the format. Needle Storm, Squall, and Storm Front seriously control flyers, and this deck is the only deck besides the original counterburn deck and the new mono-Black control deck to have any sweeping removal, even if it does hit just flyers. Note that the removal doesn’t kill a certain number of flyers, so it’s no Hurricane, which I feared would ruin the environment.

Storm Front owns the big flyers running around like Mahamoti Djinn, Aven Fateshaper, Primoc Escapee, and Silent Specter. You may not have enough mana to activate it to keep yourself safe from the many flyers of the Bird deck, but your sweeping removal should handle them just fine. Note that there are pro Green flyers in that deck that will mess with your plans of world domination through spike living.

The Basilisk is the money creature in the deck, and its power should not go unrecognized. Remember to send its counters to other creatures using Graft. You can always hop counters to it if needed, but you can’t easily take them off again except by playing more creatures.

This deck has no evasive creatures at all, and that is the deck’s biggest weakness. It simply out-smashes the biggest defenses, or it outnumbers them, or it loses. It cannot go the dome with its flying removal and it cannot evade at all. Not even a single trampler.

What does this deck have going for it?

It has creatures with protection against three different colors, just like the bird deck. White, Red, and Black are the three colors of defense in our cleric deck of love. This deck also has two cards that can take advantage of the Moo Cow’s disadvantage. This deck certainly has the trickiest creature base, with damage prevention, morphs, and more.

This deck also has the only tempo card in the entire format. Glowrider doesn’t hurt this deck that much: it only has seven non-creature spells. It does hurt a lot of decks, and it’s a powerful foil against Dampen Thoughts, which is virtually all non-creature spells.

Note that Celestial Gatekeeper has made an appearance in two decks now. It proved itself in the Bird deck, so I added two more to the Cleric deck. It is a money card that some may overlook to their shame.

This deck straddles the fence between aggro and control. It was designed as an aggro deck, but with Mine Bearer, the protection creatures, and stuff like the Field Surgeon, I have to wonder. That’s okay though, because I have a control deck that plays like an aggro deck later in the second generation.

A guy won with this deck at our multiplayer table the other night. It was his first ever Magic night, since he learned to play just last week. It was also his first multiplayer game. We got him down to three life, and then he drew and played Starlight Invoker. Using this, his life total was at forty or so in a few turns, and we just moved on and killed other people. Then it was just me and him, and I was with the Flanking deck below, and he swarmed me.

I realized that this deck has more tricks than you think at first, and it has a pretty good “comeback” ability. However, it is very vulnerable before it sets up, or to effects like burn or evasive creatures, because its damage prevention only works on creatures, not on the player himself.

This deck certainly has the most defensive creature base in the format.

This deck has several things going for it. Crypt Rats, Slice and Dice, and Squall/Needle Storm are the only sweeping effects in the game. Of those, only Crypt Rats is scalable, so it can be used to suit your purpose. There are only two, so use them with care.

This deck really plugs up the air with six regenerating flyers. Since it’s Black, you can’t attack it with fear either. That means this deck can stop things like Spikes, Moo Cows, Painwracker Oni, and Mahamoti Djinn with humble Black flying regenerators.

This deck did have the largest creature in the format in Spike Cannibal. I have since pulled it out. I didn’t think that a one-sided Wrath effect was fair on the Spike Girls deck.

Since this deck can handle flyers and feared creatures, I felt it should have some of its own. Gluttonous Zombie adds to the number of feared guys in the format. In the meantime, Treacherous Vampire and Stalking Bloodsucker are flyers of size. If you have threshold, the Treacherous Vampire is the single largest flyer in the format, but it comes with an awful price if it dies.

This deck is a fan of the buyback. It has three buyback spells that can help it survive the long game. Brush with Death, Lab Rats, and especially Disturbed Burial bring some good times for the deck.

Like many decks with a lot of mana needs, this deck can run out of mana quickly. Between the many regenerators and the buyback effects, and things like Crypt Rats, this deck needs mana. Any deck that can either attack its mana, such as with Glowriders or Aftershocks and Fissures and Befouls, will be smart to do so. This deck is also uncomfortable with big tramplers or pro Black creatures, and there are a lot of the second running around, and a few of the first. Its small defense creatures also hurt it when it comes time to block the Flanking deck’s attackers, and when I played that matchup, I attacked aggressively into this deck and owned it.

It has been remarked that this deck plays a bit like Equinaut, or maybe like Bear Beats, two decks that I have explored in previous articles and which my playgroup enjoys. This deck uses a lot of bounce and creatures to reuse “Comes Into Play” (CIP) abilities on creatures. There are no Battlemage or Nekrataal abuse effects, however, which should keep the deck’s power level in line with others.

This deck has the best bounce in the format. It’s not just bounce for itself, but Man-o’-War, Curfew, Barrin’s Spite, and the Urborg Emissary all bounce opposing permanents.

I love Curfew, and this deck has given me a chance to bring it to light. Play this, and you can return a creature that has a CIP ability. That’s good. Everybody else has to bounce one of their creatures as well. Around the multiplayer table, this one instant could bounce four, six or more creatures. It can be used in the traditional uses for bounce, such as saving a creature. You get the reused ability. Then you get to slow down opposing decks. All of this costs an amazing one mana.

You’ll note that Thalakos Seer is the only shadow creature in the environment.

In addition to ruling the roost in bounce, it is also tops in discard. With the repeatable Marsh Croc and five come into play discard creatures, including three that hit everyone other than yourself for a card each, this deck can really winnow opposing hands.

Note the Knight of the Mists. You’ve seen knights in the Mono-Red deck, called Defender of Chaos. You are about to see some more. Also, the Knight is the only creature outside of the Flanking deck to having flanking.

This deck features the only X spell in the format with Energy Bolt, which is XWR, deal X damage to a player or gain X life. This deck also features the best non-sweeping removal spell with Pyrotechnics, and it even has a pseudo-sweeping removal effect with Lava Storm (but it isn’t really). This deck even features the only effect in the environment to pump all of your creatures with the Sun Standard. This deck is also the only deck currently with flanking except for the single Knight of the Mists in the above deck.

The Flanking Deck tries to win by mugging up the red zone on defense with a large number of defensive creatures, and then bringing love with a variety of flanking knights. This was intended to be a R/W control deck, but it feels aggro-y to me, which is fine because I have an aggro deck that feels control-y to me as well.

This deck holds the line with defensive cards like Mine Bearer, Tormented Angel, Alabaster Wall, Dive Bomber and Wall of Resistance. Then it can swing with its flanking knights on the ground, and maybe pump them up with the Sun Standard.

Eight flankers are featured here, plus other creatures that can attack from Dive Bomber to Ghitu Slinger. Honorable Scout can gain a bunch of life for you. This deck has enough removal to take out the truly threatening creatures, allowing your defense to do the rest of the work.

Leonin Sun Standard is a very powerful card in the format, and may be one of the single best cards out there. When I played this in a five-way multiplayer, it definitely allowed for the killing of some players. Cessation was beautiful, there was one each on both of the Clockwork Beasts.

There are a few weaknesses this deck has. The only card to help it punch through a defense is the Sun Standard, and if that isn’t drawn or it is destroyed, there are no more effects of a similar nature. You’ll note that the deck has 2/2 creatures as its attackers. They are great against Mono-Black’s one toughness regenerators, but they are just not a major threat.

Defender of Law is running around just like Mono-Red has Defender of Chaos. It’s also a knight.

The main weakness of this deck, outside of the size of its creatures, is the Knight of the Mists you find in Bouncy Bounce Bounce. If that deck locates its Knight of the Mists, and then keeps bouncing it back and replaying it, it can take out half of your army, including your threats. That’s a problem.

The Third Generation

With that, we end the second generation. However, I had so much fun with the second generation, that I felt a need to create a third! The third generation stands at three more decks, and I am working on a fourth. Let’s take a look!

This deck uses big fat to reanimate (or play in the late game). It has a handful of true reanimation spells — Necromancy, Exhume, and Body Snatcher with two more than come online if it gets threshold in Stitch Together.

Since this deck has a reanimation theme, I thought it should have the biggest creature. However, the theme of another deck required an even bigger creature than the Colossus. However, the Goliath Spider, the Colossus, and the Plated Slagwurm are all bigger than the previous high of Goblin Goon.

Still, the Colossus does have the highest power. I wanted to add just a handful of large tramplers into the game. We go away from that in Gen 2, so I wanted that hint back. Some decks don’t like large tramplers. Note that the Colossus is dead meat walking against a deck like Moo Cow that has Ancient Grudge and Molder Slug packed and ready to hose. It’s also very heavy on the mana and a target for other removal spells in the environment like Cinder Cloud, Pacifism, Cessation, Hobble, Arrest (on a new deck below), Snuff Out, Annihilate, Befoul, can be stolen with Mark of the Oni, and probably a lot more cards as well.

The card I suspect many decks will actually fear is the Plated Slagwurm. This format is chock full of cards that will kill a Colossus, but this creature? Some decks don’t mind. Clerics can prevent the damage, Mono-Black can regenerate, Birds has a pro Green creature, and so forth. However, it is a serious threat. I may take it out after playing with it, so it is on notice. However, I was wrong about the Ogre Deck, so I may be wrong here. If it proves too powerful, I’ll throw in another big Green trampling creature most likely.

I like the Gorilla Berserkers. I wanted a mid-range creature that could be a threat but wasn’t another obvious reanimation target. Thus I found the Berserkers. You don’t see them get play that much, but they seem serviceable enough with their slate of powers.

I made sure that there was a smattering of removal, especially if you consider the Stinkweed Imps as removal. The Abominations can cycle in order to get them I the yard prior to a reanimation spell, so you do have the potential to cycle on turn two and Exhume or Necromancy a 5/3 regenerator on turn 3.

This deck can be attacked by flyers. The Stinkweed Imps are good flying defense, and the Goliath Spider is so good is kills Mahamoti. However, if you haven’t drawn your single Goliath Spider, you may find your Stinkweed Imps on the receiving end of one of the many two damage effects in the environment, from Magma Jet to Ghitu Slingers to Steamcore Weird to more below. Two damage effects are all the rage in this format. That leaves the imps dead, and the skies open for an attack. You can be sure that the control decks will kill or counter the Spider on sight if they see it, and thus your sky will remain open.

Also, your creature base is really Green. You can be occasionally vulnerable to the fear creatures in the environment.

True to its color heritage, this deck kills a lot of things. It can handle larger threats with removal, smaller threats with removal, and provide threats of its own.

This deck has the single best winning condition in the set — Caustic Tar. It may be a six mana enchant land, but it is one of the hardest ways to stop once it begins. Decks built for the red zone will fall. Note that there are ways of taking it out, like Fissure, Aftershock, Befoul, Daru Sanctifier, and such.

The Ickspitter is the first and only Tim in the environment, unless you count Opportunist, which I do not. Combined with Granite Shard, they can annoy and harass your opponent’s life total or small creatures.

Lots of creatures in this deck can take out creatures. Nosy Goblin is money against Morph Control. Lots of other decks like the morph as well, and this can ruin them. Flame Elemental, Ghitu Slinger, Snapping Thragg, and Ghitu Fire-Eater all can kill creatures in the board. When you include the removal this deck has, and the ability to reuse it with Bosium Strip, you have the most removal heavy deck in the format.

Even Keldon Vandals can take out artifacts.

This deck also has two shadow creatures for defense or attack. Greater Stone-Spirit is the money card here, pumping defense or swinging into the endzone for game.

The problem with this deck is that its creature base is almost exclusively designed for killing creatures, and not forgetting damage through. Lava Zombie, Greater Stone Spirit, Mire Kavu, Deepwood Legate, Shadow Rider, Goblin Mutant and Slinking Skirge are your attackers. That gives you 12 creatures that you want to send at opponents. Of those, the Skirge can quickly get overwhelmed in the skies. The Shadow Rider, while good, is just a 3/3. Deepwood Legate, Mire Kavu, Lava Zombie and Greater Stone Spirit are the true threats. That’s just eight threats.

Sure, this deck might out-removal other decks, but you don’t need that many removal cards to take this deck out. Pacifism, Arrest, Hobble, Cessation, Cinder Cloud, even Slice and Dice can tear through this deck’s creature base with ease.

This is the final deck in the third generation so far, although I am working on a Five Color Green deck. Like decks of its ilk, this deck wants to play some saproling creation effect, then convoke into something bigger. The deck has ten bigger creatures with convoke, including the biggest creature in the game, Autochthon Wurm. That Wurm has trample, but I’ve already listed tons of cards that can deal with an overly large creature in the environment.

This deck also includes the ability to tap down blockers through Diversionary Tactics and Leonin Bola. Even a Viridian Longbow can be used over and over again once you have the mana to deal a lot of damage during your main phase.

Centaur Chieftain allows your army to punch holes without being as overly powerful as Overrun. This effect might be able to be staved off.

This deck has a heavy reliance on creatures. It cannot respond well to threats that it cannot outmuscle. As protection creatures, feared creatures, and at times, flyers come its way, it has to take it. With just two Arrest in the entire deck, this deck is the ultimate aggro deck, with little in the way for answers. In multiplayer, opponents can gang-tackle the big creatures, and then swing in for game at their leisure.

There you have another set of three decks added on. I am playtesting the 5cG deck as the final deck in Gen 3, but it takes a while to figure out what works and doesn’t work in it. If you are very, very lucky, by the time this article sees publication, the playtest deck will be complete, and I will post the deck in the forums to give you a full TEN decklists for today.

With that, I bid you folks adieu. I hope you enjoyed today’s trek through building a metagame with these limited cardpools. Farewell!

Until later,

Abe Sargent