Hello, and welcome to the final installment of Ye Olde Core Set. Today I’m serving the final meal, featuring a cavalcade of decks that we used to playtest the format.
If you aren’t interested in the core set, no matter. You can just enjoy these decks on their own. For purposes of discussion, Abeth Edition will be abbreviated as Ath.
- 4 Pyroclasm
- 2 Earthquake
- 2 Tidings
- 2 Blaze
- 4 Incinerate
- 4 Last Word
- 4 Cancel
This was my first attempt to build a deck in Abeth Edition. The deck features a suite of counter magic, flyers, and removal with a smattering of card drawing.
I used this as a baseline deck. If a deck wasn’t better than this one, then it was not worth building or playing.
Pyroclasm, Earthquake, and Thunder Dragon all give you some sweeping removal. Clone or Blaze can be used on the bigger creatures that survive the removal. In some games, I found the Pyroclasms useless because my opponents were not playing creatures that were easily killed by the two damage. The same was sometimes true of the Thunder Dragon, but at least it was a good 5/5 flyer.
I wanted to find space for two more card drawing spells, perhaps two more Tidings. The problem is that every card in the deck has a role that is vital. Trust me, cards like Clone and Blaze might look like they are replaceable, but after running the deck, you need them. Clone is your Akroma kill, and can also be used to give you the best creature on the board.
Phantom Monster is your early drop, and it is the cheapest creature in the set that dodges all three of the mass removal spells your deck packs. Therefore, I am running a full suite of the creature. I have gotten many Phantom Monster kills, as my opponents kill my bigger creatures, and I win with the flying Hill Giants. Don’t underestimate the Monsters.
- 18 Forest
- 2 Mountain
- 4 Shivan Oasis
This was my second attempt to make a powerful deck. This deck uses Heartbeat of Spring along with accelerants like Vine Trellis and Fertile Ground to make a massive amount of mana, then drop a Blaze, Ivy Elemental, Cinder Elemental, or Snake Basket.
I chose to use some classic Green defense. Traproot Kami can come down before you start playing accelerants on later turns. With 18 Forests in the deck, the Kami can be a powerfully good blocker quickly.
Another card that uses the high Forest count to good measure is the Uktabi Wildcats, which not only have a P/T equal to the number of Forests you have but can also regenerate (but at a cost).
I used Vine Trellis as opposed to other options because the early defense, along with Traproot Kami, is really strong. Keeping opponents away while you set up, and then start Blazing, is key to keeping attackers away from you, when their controllers realize what you are up to.
Ivy Elemental is very playable even without a Heartbeat out. With Vine Trellis and Fertile Ground to accelerate your mana, the Ivy Elemental can easily be a 5/5 or 6/6 without a Heartbeat in the early mid-game.
When you play this deck against the next two, in a three-player multiplayer game, dropping a Heartbeat of Spring ends the game in about two turns.
This deck was created by Jason to exploit the mid-game mana accelerants, such as Thran Dynamo and Seething Song. The deck wants to drop a Searing Wind or a Blaze for ten, and follow with a Twincast for lethal damage.
You’ll note the lack of any defense at all, which is not something I’d ever roll with in a deck like this. I note the lack of Incinerate, Wall of Air, Psychic Membrane, Pyroclasm — something!
Jason’s deck becomes very quick when fueled by my Heartbeat deck, so beware. Searing Wind plus Twincast requires twelve mana, which can happen as soon as the fifth turn off artifact accelerants, Seething Song, and Heartbeat of Spring.
Browbeat perfectly suits this deck. Having the opponent take five a la Lava Axe can drop the amount of mana it takes to kill an opponent significantly, and allow you to use Earthquake as well. Usually, you get to draw three off the Browbeat.
This deck not only rolls to creatures, but it also really doesn’t like lifegain or countermagic. Thus, I feel it can be improved by adding countermagic and defense, both designed to help you last longer and get a better chance of going off. The Snake Basket also is good in multiplayer, giving you a winning condition against one player and leaving you one against everyone else at the table.
Note that you could go turbo Snake Basket. If you did that, I’d find a spot for Fervor, so you can attack in the same turn you pop the Basket and pull out the cobras. (This is a joke, obviously. They were originally cobras, and are now boring old snakes).
I don’t like the Colossus of Sardia, but it does give the deck something to drop off an opposing Show and Tell, so in multiplayer – where the chance of a Show and Tell is pretty good – you get a creature you can drop on par with the other stuff.
- 8 Plains
- 12 Island
- 4 Coastal Tower
This is Bret’s other deck, and it’s a lot better. With solid removal and emergency counters, this deck is better protected and enables it to attack people’s libraries. Howling Mine, Traumatize, and Braingeyser create a solid tandem of decking. The Twincasts can act as another Traumatize, Braingeyser, or card drawing spell, removal spell, or counter that get cast around by opponents.
Story Circle and Unsummon both play a solid defense, while eight walls are included to act as a proper defense. Thus, this deck rates much better on my list.
Oh, by the way, do not play Heartbeat of Spring against this guy unless you have Blazes in hand or Cinder Elementals in play.
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Giant Spider
- 4 Lhurgoyf
- 4 Canopy Spider
- 4 Seedborn Muse
- 4 Elvish Scrapper
- 4 Hunting Cheetah
- 20 Forest
This deck was created by Bret in order to push the Green. It runs several cheap creatures, some spiders, and some surprises, but I feel that it could be a lot better for the multiplayer game if you stripped out the Giant Growths and Fogs for 2 Multanis, 2 Whirlwind, and 4 Troll Ascetic.
Hunting Cheetah is better than you might otherwise credit. It can get you dual lands or Bosks, while also serving with its 2/3 body for three mana. It’s very powerful, and I suspect it will make the cut in some tournament-level decks.
- 24 Forest
I built this deck after no one else in the group built it. I felt it was important to try out the Secret Force deck Green has.
Getting a third turn Verdant Force requires having either Vine Trellis or Llanowar Elves along with Natural Order. This happens with great regularity. However, there are a lot of answers in the format, especially in multiplayer.
The third turn is when someone can cast Show and Tell, so Secret Force is no faster at its best than this strategy. Show and Tell allows other players to drop their big critters, and there are a lot running around. Colossus of Sardia, Akroma, Serra Avatar, Shivan Dragon, Greven il-Vec, Tidal Kraken, and Benthic Behemoth are all on the same level as a 7/7 creature with no evasive abilities, just the ability to pump out 1/1 saprolings.
Then there are foils like Terror, Nekrataal, Wrath of God, Hellfire (which may hurt the player a lot by the time they get to five mana facing saprolings), Icy Manipulator + Royal Assassin, Oblation, Sylvan Basilisk + Lure, and so forth. Then there are other ways of pseudo- topping the Verdant Force: allowing the saproling generation (like Pacifism or Dehydration), neutralizing it (Clone), stealing it (Sower of Temptation), killing the saprolings when they become too big (Rain of Blades, Pyroclasm, Tremor, Earthquake, Thunder Dragon, Famine, Plague Spitter). That seems like a lot of answers to me.
Note that Bribery punishes a deck with big creatures, but in a format full of big creatures and Show and Tell and Secret Force, it may be a bit slow as a counter measure.
After running the Secret Force deck, I can tell you that it can explode for a powerful early game, but note that deck was developed for duels. Around the multiplayer table, you have blown your wad, and someone will punish you for your impudence.
In addition to your combo elements, I tossed in Restock and Commune with Nature. You can use Commune to find mana accelerants in the early game to get your Secret Forces off, or you can use it to find other creatures as you have need. Restock allows you to go off later, including post Wrath. Bring back a Natural Order and cheap Green creature, or even go for Verdant Force if you have enough mana by then,
Snake Basket gives your deck something else to do with all of the mana it uses. The tokens it makes are Green, and thus fodder for a Natural Order to get a Verdant Force. The beatings will commence shortly. Or you can attack recklessly with your snakes, knowing that they were just temporary. Whatever suits your fancy.
Trained Armodon gives you an early creature with a good P/T to Casting cost ratio. It can serve as an early attack or keep away those no good varmints who seek to attack you. I pack Whirlwind for the killing of the flyers, including Sower, which is one of the deck’s Achilles heel.
- 1 Verdant Force
- 2 Clone
- 1 Mahamoti Djinn
- 4 Nekrataal
- 4 Merfolk Looter
- 2 Gravedigger
- 1 Tidal Kraken
- 1 Akroma, Angel of Wrath
- 1 Multani, Maro-Sorcerer
- 1 Excruciator
This is my personal final deck; designed around the Zombify and Show and Tell, with the intent of playing a big nasty as quickly as possible.
To assist, it runs a smattering of solid creatures like Nekrataal and Gravedigger. I’ll Zombify a Nekrataal if I need to. Gravedigger can return a creature, including a Nekrataal, while providing a nice speed bump.
With Blue in the deck, I decided to run a full set of Merfolk Looters. This is the only real discard outlet in the set (unless you want to Disrupting Scepter yourself). This gives you a chance to find the vital cards your deck needs while also providing fodder for your Zombify.
Also helping here is a full set of Strategic Planning. Putting two cards in the â€˜yard in addition to getting one for you can really speed up your deck and your graveyard love.
Because I fear a few other cards (such as Sower of Temptation with no Nekrataal in my hand), I am running the four Cancels. Cancel is pretty strong in keeping my main guys alive post-Zombify or post-Show and Tell.
Clone is running around for several reasons. First of all, in case some nasty legendary creatures get dropped off my Show and Tell, specifically one with Pro-Black, I have an in-deck answer (you might know it as Akroma). It will also allow me to double up my threats, turning a large number of these creatures into something lethal. I can also duplicate a Nekrataal or Gravedigger when I have need of their 187 ability, and there’s no shame in Nekrataal’ing an opposing fatty with a Clone.
Tidings is a ubiquitous card draw spell, and frankly, I run them over Braingeyser all of the time in these decks because it is so much better. Two copies appear here to supplement the Strategic Planning and Looters.
The final non-lands are the big fatties. Note that I have no intention of ever casting an Akroma, Verdant Force, Excruciator, or Multani. I can play the Djinn and Kraken if push comes to shove. This gives me the best beaters in the environment. You’ll note my lack of cards such as Lord of the Pit, Greven il-Vec, Colossus of Sardia and so forth. Many of these fatties have significant disadvantages attached. Serra Avatar was left off because it does not work with reanimation.
Frankly, I think Aaron’s deck is a bit mana light, but I understand what he is trying to do. Using Blue and Red as his base, he wants to dig until he gets a Show and Tell, Serra Avatar, and Fling. Then he plays Show and Tell, drops his Avatar, and kills you with Fling (assuming that he has the same life as you or less).
In order to get you to a lower life, he is running Browbeat and Incinerate. Sure, you can use one as card drawing as the other as removal, but they also can hit an opponent, especially the Browbeat, as paying the life is very common in duels.
The deck can later use cards like Searing Wind, Evacuation, and Anarchist to lengthen the game and bring an opponent to their knees.
The deck is very vulnerable to countermagic, so I would have liked to have seen a few Cancels in the deck. All a counter-wielding opponent has to do is allow the Show and Tell to resolve, then counter the Fling, which kills the Avatar as a sacrifice. Alternatively, Aaron could just beat with the Avatar against a counter deck, but then the Show and Tell would get fought over. He could return it with an Anarchist, but he still only has six tries at it, whereas a counter deck can have 12 legitimate counters (Spell Blast, Last Word, and Cancel).
I’d add 4 Cancel and 2 Fervor and 2 lands to the deck, pulling out the Searing Wind, Reminisce, Fatal Frenzy, and then one each of Solemn Simulacrum and Psychic Membrane. The Fervor allows him to Show and Tell, drop the Avatar, swing for 20 and kill someone, then Fling and kill another at the multiplayer table. I like that better.
Again, I don’t know how Aaron expects to ever play an Akroma with just 22 lands, and four of them pull another land out of the deck when they are played. Allow this to be a subtle little lesson to you casual deckbuilders out there — mana is important.
This is obviously a multiplayer deck. Soul Warden is a multiplayer staple, while Congregate has been giving players life for years on end.
Aaron wants to drop a Meekstone, and then swing with his vigilance creatures like Serra Angel, Standing Troops, Ardent Militia and, of course, Wolverine… er… Akroma herself. It doesn’t matter if the Glorious Anthem puts them above the Meekstone’s power threshold, because they have vigilance.
He also wants to use Icy Manipulator to tap your fatties, and thus they will remain tapped. A clever combination. Of course, if this deck has been played in 5th Edition rules, you could tap the Meekstone, and then untap all of your creatures while keeping your opponent’s locked down. However, when 6th Edition rolled around, they choose to errata only those artifacts (like Winter Orb and Howling Mine) than had been used in tournaments, to continue to work as they always had, and casual players were just screwed. It was one of the great screws against casual players in Magic’s history (there have been several, but that is a different article).
Castle will help keep his vigilance creatures alive on the block, and you’ll note that the old language about not getting the bonus if you are attacking has been removed. Thus his creatures get +0/+2 even while attacking, in addition to any applicable Glorious Anthem bonuses.
I’m not even sure that Wall of Swords is needed, although I understand why it is getting played. It seems like a bit too much on defense to me. Perhaps it would be better as Empyrial Armor. Still, this is my favorite deck of the trio that Aaron made.
- 4 Nekrataal
- 4 Juzam Djinn
- 4 Spineless Thug
- 4 Festering Goblin
- 4 Fledgling Djinn
- 4 Spined Fluke
- 4 Phyrexian Rager
- 20 Swamp
This is Aaron’s final deck. In, he wanted to build a SuiBlack deck, which I respect. I agree with a lot of his choices. Fledgling Djinn is a perfect choice, as it Night’s Whisper. Spineless Thug is alright. Festering Goblin is solid enough. Spined Fluke is a beater, and Juzam Djinn is right behind.
Consume Spirit is way too slow for my taste, but I understand its role as a finisher. Still, for finishers, I’d prefer Soul Feast. I’d also like to see some disruption, even Mind Sludge, which is virtually a Mind Twist is this deck.
I also think there is a place here for Insidious Bookworms, as another one-drop with the ability to cause a discard when killed. Terror is alright, as it clears a path, but perhaps Nekrataal is too slow. I’d pull the Nekrataal to make space for other cards.
I understand why the Phyrexian Rager is in the deck, but I am unconvinced that he is good enough to make the cut over cheaper creatures. Pulling him for the Bookworms is probably what I’d do. Plague Spitter would be good if you could clear out the 1/1s for one and the Nekrataal and Fluke. I think you’d have to change your deck around too much, though.
Nantuko Husk also has some value to me. As a sac outlet for Bookworms and Festering Goblin, it can be used aggressively. It can also make for a powerful attack, and Black doesn’t mind sacking a bunch of creatures if it kills an opponent.
That brings us to the close of this series of articles. I hope that you enjoyed it! Join me next week, when I do my casual overview of Shadowmoor for all of you kind folks.