The Kitchen Table #212 – Let Them Have Decks

Read Abe Sargent every Thursday... at StarCityGames.com!
I think that the best Magic writers are good at doing two things well. Firstly, you have to be inventive, and create your own material. In order to be a good Magic writer, you have to create formats, variants, decks, new ways of looking at cards. Alongi gave us Spider, Rattlesnake and other ways at looking at cards, plus he created numerous variants for the multiplayer table. Rizzo gave us Friggorid, Wakefield gave us dinosaurs…

Hello and welcome to yet another week of no laptop-ness. As a result, my six or so articles that were all ready to go are

not available, and I am writing these as I go along. This is week three of the Laptop Crisis.

As a reminder, the Deckbuilding challenge continues. I have some good entries with interesting decks, but I don’t have as

many as last time, so there is plenty of room for your deck. Read last week’s article for the rules and send in those decks!

I think that the best Magic writers are good at doing two things well. Firstly, you have to be inventive, and create your

own material. In order to be a good Magic writer, you have to create formats, variants, decks, new ways of looking at cards.

Alongi gave us Spider, Rattlesnake and other ways at looking at cards, plus he created numerous variants for the multiplayer

table. Rizzo gave us Friggorid, Wakefield gave us dinosaurs.

However, I also think that a good writer needs to use existing material. I mention this because The Ferrett got some heat

because his multiplayer article last week on MagicTheGathering.com was all about linking to other formats for those who might

be interested. As a writer, we all have biases, and last week, I did my apparently regular analysis of my articles for you

to see if my decks reflected my biases.

Long-term writers struggle to find new things to write. The longer a writer writes, the more likely they are to let their

biases creep into their columns. I try to stave this off by doing things like build decks around random cards in order to

push my biases out the door. Some of my best, most inventive decks come from random cards that were pulled that forced me to

build in new ways.

Decks and articles go hand in hand. Each can suffer from the writer’s biases. There are more Five Color articles in my

column than any other casual format. It’s my favorite format, and you get that from my writing. I also love Highlander.

Sometimes I have to force myself to think about cards in a non-Highlander way in my articles. These are strong biases that I


Going back to The Ferrett, he loves what I call Chaos Magic, and he calls Free-For-All. He wants everybody to shuffle up at

the kitchen table, and then just play. However, he admits his bias, and then works to adjust it. What you do get from The

Ferrett is the absolute best writing on multiplayer politics ever. That’s why he is a great writer — he brings his own stuff

and works with others.

On the other hand, Anthony Alongi, my own favorite writer, was never that good at the politics aspect of the multiplayer

game. His own biases as a writer prevented him from dropping highly insightful pieces on multiplayer politics. The

Ferrett’s prevent him from creating great variant articles. Mine prevent me from balancing out my own decks and formats,

leading me to talk about the stuff I enjoy over and over again.

I mentioned two weeks ago that I thought writing about Casual Magic was the hardest aspect of Magic to write, because you

couldn’t just spin off a list of popular decks or techs or highlight a matchup. Writing about Casual Magic requires you to

think about a new article idea every week. Then, to highlight the point, I discussed the top four decks at a major Peasant

tournament in Paris.

I could bring you more of this. Two weeks ago I was like the Brian David-Marshall of Casual Magic. I could highlight casual

tournaments around the world, and show you what’s out there. That’s perfectly in the purview of my column. However, I guess

my own biases trigger here as well, because I don’t feel that a regular weekly column that explores casual tournaments is

something I want to pursue. It is fine to highlight tournament winning casual decks at times, but it is not something I

want to focus upon in one of the few weekly casual columns out there.

I love online play, and my six articles on my laptop included a little bit on that. I also have a new idea for my set

reviews to make them more casually friendly. I’m trying to stretch this column for you.

What do you want to see? Here are some articles I’ve done in the past. Do any strike you as something you want to read?

Casual Eye for the Competitive Guy — This article

takes tournament winning competitive decks and tweaks them to run well at your multiplayer tournament. This has the added

benefit of being controversial.

Raredrafting — I could explore this topic a lot more,

including draft walkthroughs. This is also controversial, so there is some potential there.

More Deck Articles — I haven’t done dedicated deck articles in a while. Would like me to speed up their return? These are

articles where I create a few decks for your perusal.

Deck Doctor — I’ve done this twice before in articles.

This is where I take a deck and then edit it to become a better deck for multiplayer while still keeping its theme.

Even More Stories of the Three Kingdoms — In these

articles, I present cards from the Three Kingdoms Portal set and tell you about their background from the epic Three Kingdoms


More Multiplayer Politics — I’m no Ferrett, but if you want more articles like Advanced Multiplayer Strategies, Best Player Syndrome, and The Standstill Dilemma, I could do so.

More Silly Card Tricks — These are articles where I

look in great detail at just a few highly complex cards that are great for multiplayer or duels, such as Portcullis,

Cloudstone Curio, Equilibrium, Frankie Peanuts, and Mages’ Contest. I could do a lot more if you are interested.

Is there anything else you can think of? Give me all of your ideas and comments in the forums please. They have regularly

seen print in my articles, and I’m not ashamed to say that you have great ideas. Is there an area or aspect of casual Magic

that I am neglecting? Let me know!

I wrote all of that without having an article in me. I figured I should get the preamble out of the way, then proceed with

the writing. Unfortunately, nothing just tweaks me and makes me sing with excitement. Normally when this happens, I go back

into my archive and see if anything triggers a new article. Sometimes I will just start writing and see what pops out.

Let’s build decks. It’s the easiest article to write.

This deck uses Retether as a virtual Wrath of God after you’ve stocked your graveyard with goodies. You have a lot of auras

that control creatures — Hobble, Fetters, Arc, and Fatal Attraction. These auras will help you keep opposing creatures down.

Then you can Retether to bring them all back and take out a lot more creatures.

In order to get this deck off the ground, I tossed in four Stinkweed Imps. They make great blockers, taking out anything

that comes near. The Imps are also amazing for their dredge ability, which will stock up your yard with tasty auras.

In addition to the removal auras, I also included Strands of Undeath, which is another great card to use and reuse.

Unquestioned Authority, Hobble, and Scavenged Weaponry all draw you cards when they get played. This can turn a Retether

into a Concentrate as well as a Wrath with the right cards in the yard.

Auratouched Mage is great at retrieving an aura that you need. If you have to make your opponent discard, get Strands of

Undeath. If you need to Bolt a creature, get Galvanic Arc. If you need to get a great blocker or attacker, get Unquestioned

Authority and draw a card too.

Sunhome Enforcer is a brilliant card in this deck. With its combination of lifelink and firebreathing, and a naturally large

booty, it likes all of the auras in this deck. Firebreathing plays well with first strike (Galvanic Arc), regeneration

(Strands of Undeath), unblockability (Unquestioned Authority), and even general pumping (Scavenged Weaponry). It’s a fine

blocker and attacker on its own, but it plays well with others.

If you wanted to change the deck, the best option might be to do this:

-2 Scavenged Weaponry
-2 Unquestioned Authority
-4 Sunhome Enforcer

+4 Flight of Fancy
+4 Drake Familiar

If you go four colors, then the Sunhome Enforcer loses some power by not being so inflatable. Pull it for Drake Familiar and

then pull the poor card drawing enchantments for Flight of Fancy. If you go this route, you might want more attackers to

reconcile with the missing Enforcers. Drop the Fatal Attractions for two more attackers, like Etched Oracle. Arcanum Wings

would be good in the deck too.

You could add Replenish to the deck, and even pull the Retether for it. The only advantage that would give you is you could

drop Fetters on a non-creature when you Replenish, but you can’t when you Retether. If you went the Replenish route, build

around it by adding Lucent Liminid.

I didn’t want to step into the Blue and Drake Familiar territory too much because it would be reminiscent of a previous deck

I built, using Drake Familiar. Instead, this deck focuses on breaking Retether.

Sometimes I just walk into Goblin Bombardment combos. I don’t even mean to, they just pop into my head. I was looking

through the Stronghold spoiler and trying to find good cards for a deck, and there was Mortuary.

We all review cards and then mentally assign them to a queue in our head. “Power Cards,” “Scarwood Bandits,” “To Be Looked

at Later,” and “Crap Bin” are just four examples of the queues in my head. Whenever I look at Mortuary, I assign it to the

Crap Bin, because its ability is not a “may” effect. I often dismiss cards in my Crap Bin later when looking for ideas, but

this time, Mortuary jumped out at me.

What if there was a way to use Mortuary to get the creature back? That’d be cool. I was looking for a way to get it back

into my hand, when my mind recalled a card I had never used in any deck, but had filed away in the To Be Looked at Later

queue. That card was Remembrance, which always seemed like something you could use.

Suppose you have out a Squire, Mortuary, Goblin Bombardment, and Remembrance. Sac the Squire to the GBB to deal one to an

opponent, then stack the Mortuary and Remembrance appropriately. Resolve the Mortuary, putting the Squire on top of your

library. Then search your library for a Squire and put it into your hand. Now you are guaranteed to have a Squire in your

deck every time you search. However, under this situation, you have to replay the Squire, and that costs mana.

You could just play Mogg Fanatic, and sac it to itself to deal one, and cut out the middle man, while also decreasing the

cost to play your creatures. However, this is still not a game winning combo.

You want a zero casting cost creature. You need Shield Sphere, which can block early attacks. Alternatively, you could go

off with an Urza’s block “untap lands” creature like Peregrine Drake, or even roll with Priest of Gix. However, we are going

to focus on the zero drops.

We’ll run 8 sacrificial creatures in order to give the deck some needed redundancy. Also note — we don’t even need Goblin

Bombardment. Blasting Station works just as fine for this task, and since it’s colorless, we can run just two colors. My

first build is just two colors, but I need redundancy, so I add two Goblin Bombardments so that at least one combo piece has

six cards instead of four in the deck.

Then I added some removal and tutors to round out the deck. The beauty of this combo is that it existed in Standard a long

time ago (Goblin Bombardment in Tempest, Phyrexian Walker in Visions, Mortuary in Stronghold, Remembrance in Urza’s Saga, and

yes, they were all Standard at the same time). Despite this, I don’t remember the combo getting any notice.

You might remark, “Abe, this is a just a bad Fruity Pebbles.” That’s certainly true. Please note that this combo does not

have the bad juju of Enduring Renewal in case it gets disrupted, which is better for multiplayer when the chance for

disruption is bigger.

However, note that this is not the only deck in which you could abuse Mortuary plus Remembrance.

This is the same infrastructure, but it does something a lot different. It still has the Mortuary, Remembrance, and tutor

suite, along with a pair each of Blasting Station and Shield Sphere for the win.

We also have Carnival of Souls for the win. Play Shield Sphere over and over and make a bunch of mana. Then win with Magma

Mine. Carnival of Souls works only with a Soul Warden or Auriok Champion out to prevent death by life loss.

You could also sack the Priest of Gix over and over again to Altar of Dementia, and then win by decking. Claws of Gix gets

you infinite life off a Priest of Gix and a Carnival of Souls and Soul Warden/Auriok Champion.

This deck wants to do too much, but you could easily focus on Blue and the untap creatures with the Mortuary plus Remembrance

engine. You could also get a focus on just decking and so forth.

Your deck could just focus on reusing the same creature, like Bone Shredder and Radiant’s Dragoons (because they naturally

die) and Shrieking Grotesque.

Alright, let’s look at another deck and leave behind this engine.

This deck uses Dingus Staff to punish a player for having dying creatures. It will also punish you, so the deck runs just

eight guys.

How do you ensure that your opponent will have creatures die? Give away very fragile 1/1 token creatures, from Varchild’s

War-Riders, Hunted Phantasm, and Forbidden Orchard.

Once you have given away some tokens, drop a Caltrops and they’ll not advance toward you. Then your unblockable Phantasm or

rampage trample War-Riders will get through. Your opponent can never block and kill the War-Riders with just the tokens you

give away. No matter how many tokens jump in front, the War-Riders will always trample for two damage and kill all of the

blockers. .

In fact, the War-Riders are easily the best use of rampage in all of Magicdom. They would have bee a marvelous time shift in

Time Spiral.

It is such a cleverly designed card that a lot of players have used the War-Riders in their decks over time. Combined with

removal effects like Tremor, the two-drop 3/4 creature is immune to Lightning Bolt kill. Its trample defeats blockers from

Drudge Skeletons to Beloved Chaplain, and it’s so cheap you don’t care if you lose them to removal.

I’m confident that I am not the first player to attach the War-Riders and Dingus Staff. Where I am giving you something

different is the addition of Blue to the deck, with Hunted Phantasm. It will swing right past the five 1/1s you give your

opponent, and like the War-Riders, the Phantasm is a 4/6 unblockable for a really cheap cost at three mana.

I made sure the deck had some removal, and its removal is helpful because it can also take down multiple tokens when needed.

Sure, Fire/Ice is a good removal spell normally, but in this deck, it’s downright essential. The same is true of cards like

Pyroclasm and Arc Lightning. You don’t want a Disenchant to your Caltrops to turn a defensive army that can’t block into an

offensive army that will kill you.

Pyroclasm is good in normal decks as great early removal. In this deck, it’s even better. With a Dingus Staff out,

Pyroclasm can end the lives of players as well as small creatures, while keeping your creatures safe.

Because of the fear I have that this deck would be defeated by countermagic or removal, I tossed in eight counters. Don’t

counter a card unless it prevents you from winning. You only have eight, and you don’t want to use them recklessly. I would

have liked to have slid in a little card drawing, but I ran out of room. If you can squeeze it in, put a little Blue card

drawing in your deck

Note that although you own the survivor, goblin and spirit tokens, your opponent controls them, thus the Staff triggers for

them and they lose life.

If you really want to hose your opponent, try finding room for Mogg Infestation. It will kill all of one player’s creatures

(triggering Dingus Staff) and then give that player double their creature count in 1/1 goblin tokens, which can fall to your

Pyroclasm for serious damage. Someone with five creatures out would take thirty damage from a Mogg Infestation followed by a

Pyroclasm. This version of the deck cold really hurt lifers.

Lifers are players at the multiplayer table who dedicate a portion of their deck to gaining a severe amount of life. For my

final deck, let me give you an example I just built in my head:

This deck is really annoying, and built for the multiplayer game. How does it work? You want to get Oath of Druids out, and

to do that, we have four copies of it, plus four tutors.

1). Oath during your upkeep.
2). Flip Gaea’s Blessing.
3). Flip Ancestor’s Chosen.
4). Put the Blessing trigger on the stack first then the Chosen.
5). Resolve the Chosen and gain a lot of life, maybe twenty or so.
6). Resolve the Blessing shuffling your graveyard back.
7). Draw a card and take your turn.

If you don’t hit a Blessing, no worries, because you will next turn.

Then when someone kills a Chosen, play a Blessing to shuffle it back in for another Oath, or wait until you mill a Blessing

and let that triggered ability shuffle it for you.

You gain a bunch of life regularly.

Note that Sterling Grove not only retrieves your Oath of Druids, but it protects it as well.

Your deck is packing Oblation. Why that instead of Swords to Plowshares?

Suppose you have out both Chosen but want to Oath again. Oblation a Chosen back to your library and draw two cards. Then

Oath up your single copy of a Chosen and gain a bunch of life. Note that this works with one Chosen in the yard and one in

play. If you flip a Blessing after you Oblate the one in play, you can shuffle the other back into your library for more

Oath fun.

Scroll Rack allows you to put any drawn Chosen or Blessings back into your library for Oathing. It can also try to find you

cards in the general sense.

Note that your opponents will likely be Oathing as well. You need to deal with their creatures. Thus, we have Chronomantic

Escape and Aurification to assist. Chronomantic Escape is the only Fog effect that prevents every player from attacking you

for one round, which is money at the multiplayer table. Hopefully, with the shuffling your deck is taking and the Scroll

Racks, you can find three and put up an impressive Chronomantic shield.

You also have Aurification, which gives any creature that damages you defender. That will keep Akroma from hitting you more

than once, and with your life bump, one hit isn’t all that bad.

As an enchantment, Aurification is quite capable of being protected or fetched with Sterling Grove as well.

This deck runs six cycling lands for several reasons It is quite possible that after a while, you have more than enough

lands. I don’t want the player to have too many superfluous lands. Secondly, by cycling the lands instead of playing them,

you keep them in the deck instead of in play, where they will keep adding to the Chosen life count. Thirdly, they allow you

to draw more cards after a shuffle.

This deck wins by playing and activating Whetstone a lot of times. Note that Whetstone will mill you as well as everyone

else, but you have Gaea’s Blessing, so you can shuffle your graveyard back to your library.

Since Whetstone is your only winning condition, I tossed in a pair of Hanna’s Custody to help keep it safe. The Custody is

kept safe by the Sterling Grove, which means that mass removal or a lot of Disenchants have to get played in order to hit

your Whetstone.

This is a pretty cool deck, and I’m proud of it.

One Final Rant

This article reminded me of the not so recent change to walls. Aurification received errata that functionally changes the

card, and there is a better errata available. Originally, as printed, Aurification turned opposing creatures into walls.

Then, after the errata, it gave them defender. This is the same in many cases, and in today’s deck, it doesn’t matter

because either way works.

However, it is a functional change in many ways. First of all, combos like Aurification and Dwarven Demolition Team no

longer work, because the creatures no longer become walls. Aurification plus Tunnel or Goblin Digging Team or Word of

Blasting are deck ideas that no longer work.

Sometimes it takes a while to think of these combos. I just discovered Mortuary plus Remembrance today. I also just now

thought about how to abuse Aurification with Dwarven Blasting Team, and now I can never build that deck.

A counter to Aurification would have been to play Rolling Stones or Animate Wall on the creature and keep attacking.

However, since that creature is no longer turned into a wall, that strategy no longer works. You’ll also note that cards

like the Glyphs no longer can target a creature under Aurification. Also a creature that has been Aurafied can now block a

Juggernaut, is destroyed by Thicket Basilisk, cannot block something with Invisibility, can be forced to attack and thus die

to Nettling Imp or Norritt, and so forth.

There is a solution. This is how Aurifiction currently is worded according to Oracle:

Whenever a creature deals damage to you, put a gold counter on it.
Each creature with a gold counter on it has defender. When Aurification leaves play, remove all gold counters from all


Just change it to this:

Whenever a creature deals damage to you, put a gold counter on it.
Each creature with a gold counter on it has defender and is a wall in addition to its normal creature types. When

Aurification leaves play, remove all gold counters from all creatures.

This simple change restores the original intent of the card, and allows it to be used with and against all of the cards that

interact with walls.

And with that, I bid you all a fond farewell.

Until later,

Abe Sargent