The Kitchen Table #254 – Shards of Alara Decks

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Friday, October 10th – Today, I want to take a simple idea for the article. With the brand new set on the shelves, I would like to build several decks that revolve around the new cards. Some decks may just have a single card from Shards of Alara, whereas others might be packed with new goodies…

Hello readers, and a happy Thursday to you all! I hope that all has been pleasant in your life. If not pleasant, then at least interesting. Welcome back to the column that is dedicated to the casual side of Magic.

Today, I want to take a simple idea for the article. With the brand new set on the shelves, I would like to build several decks that revolve around the new cards. Some decks may just have a single card from Shards of Alara, whereas others might be packed with new goodies.

I’ve done set reviews for years, and it has become traditional for me to follow a set review with a deck article using the new cards, so why go against tradition?

Without further ado, then, let’s look at some decks!

This deck uses a trick from Naya to work alongside some serious Jund action. Bloodthorn Taunter can tap to give a creature with power five or greater haste. Note that three dragons and Frost Ogre all qualify. Then the Dragonspeaker Shaman can reduce the cost to play dragons. Let’s take a look at how this deck might curve:

Turn 2 — Taunter
Turn 3 – Shaman
Turn 4 – Flameblast or Shivan Dragon. Give it haste with Taunter. Swing in air for five.


Turn 2 – Taunter
Turn 3 – Shaman
Turn 4 – Crucible of Fire
Turn 5 – Shivan Hellkite, with haste from a Taunter, for eight damage in the air.

Sure, you could build a bunch of other dragon decks, but Fireblast is a great entry to the race. This deck will work just fine, without all of the Zirilian of the Claw and Scion of the Ur-Dragon and other cards running around. That gives this deck a less conventional way to drop and swing with your scaly beef.

Okay, let’s take a look at this combo deck.

In order to win, you need to have the following: Lich’s Mirror in play, Channel and Decree in hand.

On the crucial turn, do the following:

Play Channel

Tap some lands and cycle Decree of Justice.

While the Decree is on the stack, pay all of your life to make some colorless mana.

Lich’s Mirror triggers, shuffling everything together including permanents and hand, and resets your life to twenty.

Pay all 20 life to make twenty mana.

Continue to reset and pay twenty mana until you have hundreds of mana in your mana pool.

Keep repeating this until you have a Mountain and Goblin Bombardment in hand.

Allow cycled Decree to resolve, and make an arbitrary amount of tokens.

Play Mountain, and drop Goblin Bombardment (use Channel to make colorless).

Sac soldiers in order to kill everyone at the table.

One of the problems with Lich’s Mirror is that it shuffles everything back when it resets including permanents, so you need to have something that can resolve post Mirror that kills everyone. Hence Decree of Justice, which, while on the stack, allows you to reset any number of times, making a thousand thousands in mana, and then putting them into the Decree once it resolves.

In order to get to the good stuff, I included Scroll Rack, Harmonize, Wall of Blossoms and Ohran Viper. Hopefully, between these, you can find the three cards you need to go off. Note that you do not need to find or play Goblin Bombardment in order to win.

In order to go off, you need to stay alive. That’s where Moment’s Peace comes in, because it can buy you two turns. Wall of Blossoms can also block early, and Ohran Viper can kill attackers for you if you need to pull it off attacking duty.

Other than that, the deck appears to be relatively strait forward. Just cycle, pay mana, reshuffle, and win.

… Wait a second…


If you are paying attention, then you will note that this deck idea will not work. Lich’s Mirror will shuffle all permanents you own back into your library. That will, obviously, include the Mirror itself. I did not notice this at first, even through my normal deck edit, so I went ahead and submitted the article like a dummy. Luckily, Craig noticed that the deck would not work as suggested by myself above. Instead of removing the offending deck, I thought I would leave it there to see how many others notice.

Now, there are ways to work around it. You can replay a Lich‘s Mirror with the extra colorless in your mana pool from the Channel. However, you are not guaranteed to even draw a Mirror post reshuffling. Further note that the Mirror does not reshuffle your cards that are removed from the game. If you can put a large number of your cards into your RFG pile, then the Mirror will allow you to reshuffle and replay it. Here’s a recommendation:

Doomsday with a Mirror out. Cast Channel. Set up GBB and Mountain and three other Mirrors, and then cycle your Decree, Channel away, and replay the Mirror in every reiteration. You will die if you draw too many cards, but between the lands, Mirrors, GBB, Mountain and such, this won’t matter. There are other methods you can use to mass remove cards, so take a look around.

Another option is to steal the Mirror. It only shuffles back into your deck if you own it, not if you just control it. Use something like Acquire to find and control a Mirror, then go off. This is good if your table is virtually guaranteed to have a Mirror in a deck, but bad if it doesn’t, obviously.

So, there are two ideas that you can use to make this deck work. I hope you enjoyed laughing at my inability to build a deck. Or perhaps you were as taken in as I was, in which case, we both are feeling a little sheepish!

I am building this deck because I opened a foil Ooze Garden and I wanted a place to use it. Sometimes you build a deck and it is a one trick pony. This deck uses a bunch of fading and vanishing creatures to get some early pounding done, and then sacs the creature to an Ooze Garden just before it would die, and makes a nice permanent token. Turn a 5/5 Blastoderm into a 5/5 Ooze for just two mana once old Blasty hits the end of its life.

Within this one trick, there is not much room to maneuver. I added the obligatory card drawing and artifact/enchantment destruction. You could add land search, creature kill, and other tools to the deck. Just remember that Ooze Garden is your key card, so play it when you can, and turn your soon-to-die creatures into oozes.

There are a pair of Eternal Witnesses that can get you a dead Ooze Garden or allow you to reuse the Seals. Groundbreaker can make a surprise attacker, and then after combat, sac to make a permanent 6/6 Ooze.

When these creatures die to the Ooze Garden, you will get a stocked graveyard. That’s why Eternal Witness and Deadwood Treefolk are in the deck, especially the Treefolk with their ability to return two creatures to your hand from your yard. I also tossed in a pair of Nature’s Resurgence to reload your hand.

The deck does have some subtle tricks, so note them. For example, there is no reason not to sac an Eternal Witness as soon as you have the open mana, so that you turn a 2/1 into a 2/2. This way, you have a bigger creature, plus when you play Deadwood Treefolk, you can bring back a Witness.

The result is an odd deck and I’m not sure how it plays, but it might be really good or pretty poor. Why don’t you play it and let me know!

This is your normal control deck, complete with counter magic, sweeping removal, card drawing, creatures, and more. Let’s take a look under the hood.

We have counters. Cancel is in Shards as well as other sets, and we also have the old standard, Counterspell. The deck can easily say no.

The deck also wants to draw cards. I tossed in Tidings, but other options like Fact or Fiction would be nice. Dismantling Blow can also draw you a pair of cards if you just want to draw.

The deck has some removal. The aforementioned Dismantling Blows are good against the occasional artifact or enchantment. You have Scourglass to take out creatures, enchantments, and planeswalkers. All of your creatures are artifacts, so they survive the scouring. Then we have Swords to Plowshares to take out unruly creatures.

Triskelion and Masticore join your creature removal by taking out the smaller stuff while also getting some hits in. Don’t keep Masticore around longer than you absolutely need, because you don’t want to keep feeding its upkeep ability.

Sanctum Gargoyle recurs your artifacts while also adding to your creature count. The deck needed more bodies and recursion, and it does both while dodging Scourglass. Sharding Sphinx gives you a nice big flyer that also avoids the Scourglass while allowing all of your artifact creatures to spit off little 1/1 Thopters when they hit a player. Giving you an aerial threat as well as the ability to replicate little creatures is a nice adjunct to the deck.

The result is a deck that is completely control but might play a little different than your normal control deck.

This deck was based off the old Machine Head deck using Blightning as the inspiration. After that, I added creatures that made sense for the deck, going back to Invasion block and the Rakdos cards to find inspiration. From Wrecking Ball to Skizzik, I discovered cards that worked well with the old Machine Head deck, but I pulled out some of the old cards like Void and Dark Ritual. Void is great and Dark Ritual can really speed up your deck, but this more casual friendly Machine Head doesn’t want the Ritual and I felt the Void was outclassed by some of the newer cards.

I did stick with the classic Blazing Specter as well as Hypnotic Specter. (Classic in the sense that Blazing Specter was in the old Machine Head deck.)

I wanted some card drawing, and although Night’s Whisper does not give me the oomph that I wanted, it can massage your hand while not costing much in life or mana.

For removal, we have tons of options. From burn in Lightning Bolt and Incinerate to Terminate and Wrecking Ball, this deck packs creature removal. It is not afraid to drop burn on someone’s head. With Blightning and haste creatures, an opponent might find their life total dropping faster than they thought, giving you an opening to exploit with the burn. Note that Wrecking Ball can also take out a land, which is good against special lands from Maze or Ith to Volrath‘s Stronghold.

Hypnotic Specter, Blazing Specter and Blightning give you a nice parcel of hand disruption. There are no Duress or Hymn to Tourach here because the deck is not a dedicated discard deck, but it does feature some nice options in that area.

Both Chandra Nalaar and Liliana Vess would feel at home in this deck if you want to planeswalker it up.

How about one more deck?

This deck is an updated multiplayer friendly Rift-Slide deck. I noticed that Angelsong and Volcanic Submersion were both good additions to a cycling strategy, so I decided to toss them in and build around them.

The deck features a lot of stuff, and it can get confusing. For defense, Steel Wall is a great early drop and playing it does not impact your ability to set up with tutors and key cards.

The deck wants to set up Astral Slide and Lightning Rift. It can use Idyllic Tutor to find them. Fluctuator is included, not because I want to go crazy with the Fluctuator but because I want to give opponents a target for their removal that is neither Slide nor Rift. If you are facing a board of all three, you likely take out the Fluctuator with your Naturalize. That’s why I am only running two, as decoys. If you can run with one, that‘s good, but if not, that‘s fine too. Note that, unlike Rift or Slide, an extra Fluctuator in play does nothing for you, so that commends a lower number as well.

For creatures, we have Eternal Dragon and Exalted Angel. Both of these still have a high value on the market, so if you do not have any, go with other options. For example, if you have the Battlegrace Angel from the Shards, that will work fine. Even cards like Commander Eesha and Shivan Dragon can be used.

The Decree of Justice can give you a nice selection of 1/1 solders to beat down with, so remember that you also have them. With so few winning conditions in deck, don’t be afraid to aim your Rift at your opponent’s dome.

You have a lot of cycling cards to use, from the Fog of Angelsong to artifact, land, and enchantment removal to Radiant‘s Judgment. Feel free to cycle or play these cards, as you have need.

I included 16 cycling lands, which may be too much, but I wanted you to have a lot of cycling options. The deck wants lands, so don’t be afraid to drop a cycling land even when you have five or six lands out already. Just cycle when you need to.

This will never win tournaments, because of the inclusion of too many comes-into-play-tapped lands, Steel Wall and such, but I think you’ll find the power sufficient for your kitchen table.

And with that, we have six decks created. Perhaps one speaks to you in one or more ways. I hope so! With that, I leave you folks, ready to return next week for even more casual Magic fun!

Until later…

Abe Sargent