The Kitchen Table #267 – Highlander Happiness and Joy

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Wednesday, January 7th – As long time readers may know, I have this ever growing Highlander monstrosity that is probably over 1300 or 1400 cards by now. I call it Abe’s Deck of Happiness and Joy. I play it a lot, because I love it. I have three long boxes of purple metallic sleeved cards, all foil basic lands, and foils of some of my favorite cards.

Hello all, and welcome back to the column that documents the casual. I am your scribe, detailing various corners of the casual world for posterity. Today I want to build some decks based around a simple idea.

As long time readers may know, I have this ever growing Highlander monstrosity that is probably over 1300 or 1400 cards by now. I call it Abe’s Deck of Happiness and Joy. I play it a lot, because I love it. I have three long boxes of purple metallic sleeved cards, all foil basic lands (or the occasional special land like Guru, APAC, Euro, Beta, etc), and foils of some of my favorite cards. I love upgrading cards in the deck and try to do that every so often.

For today’s article, I am going to build decks from the cards in my deck. There are a lot of powerful cards and a lot of jank side by side. As such, I play combinations of cards that might not have ever been played before. Ever sac a Black Lotus to play a Raven Familiar on the first turn, so you can get land? I’ve done it twice. I’ve had out Livonya Silone and Chandra Nalaar at the same time. I’ve not played Living Death because I had my only Desolation Angel in my graveyard.

However, I want to do more than just build decks. Since Abe’s Deck of Happiness and Joy is a highlander deck, let’s make these decks Highlander. They can only use cards from my deck.

I want to amp this deck challenge up one more level of difficulty, so here we go. I can only use a card once. Not every card has to be used, but I cannot use any card that is not a basic land more than one time. So if I use Tundra in one deck, I cannot use it in another.

In many of my previous deck articles, I included decks that are duel oriented for the casual duel. Today, all of the decks will be oriented towards multiplayer fun.

So, I cannot use a card more than once, I can only use cards from my deck, and I want to emphasize the multiplayer-ness. Let’s see what I can do.

Mono-Black Multiplayer Control

1 Dread
1 No Mercy
1 Damnation
1 Decree of Justice
1 Rend Flesh
1 Terror
1 Expunge
1 Annihilate
1 Chill to the Bone
1 Eyeblight’s Ending
1 Sudden Death
1 Avatar of Woe
1 Visara the Dreadful
1 Kokusho, the Evening Star
1 Innocent Blood
1 Bane of the Living
1 Nekrataal
1 Bone Shredder
1 Shriekmaw
1 Keening Banshee
1 Chainer’s Edict
1 Massacre
1 Beacon of Unrest
1 Void Maw
1 Planar Void
1 Night of Souls’ Betrayal
1 Plague Sliver
1 Dimir House Guard
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Diabolic Tutor
1 Stronghold Overseer
1 Ambition’s Cost
1 Ancient Craving
1 Scroll Rack
1 Staff of Domination
1 Barren Moor
1 Sol Ring
1 Polluted Mire
1 Leechridden Swamp
21 Swamp

Okay, let’s take a look at the deck.

The deck is operating in an environment of multiple opponents, so it includes some pinpoint removal, some sweeping removal, and then a few tricks for the metagame.

One of the strongest enchantments you can play at the multiplayer table is Planar Void. It shuts down a billon graveyard tricks, and you can drop it on the first turn, before countermagic is normally up and ready. Except for a single Beacon of Unrest, this deck does not use the graveyard as a resource, allowing you to run Void Maw along with the Planar Void. If you remove a great card with Void Maw, and you draw the Beacon, just use the Void Maw’s ability to put it in the graveyard, and then Beacon it under your control.

We need some pinpoint removal to take out problems. Expunge cycles, so you can draw another card if you have need. The rest are varying degrees of creature removal, from Annihilate to Sudden Death to Terror.

While discussing the pinpoint removal suite, let’s not forget the Unholy Quartet of Terror: Shriekmaw, Nekrataal, Keening Banshee, and Bone Shredder. Each gives you a body and kills a creature when it comes into play. They provide fodder to sac for an Innocent Blood, or they can add to your density of creatures. The Shriekmaw and Banshee have evasive abilities combined with enough size to be pertinent.

I did not run any Nevinyrral’s Disk type destruction so you have no answer for artifacts and enchantments. Yours are too important to lose to a Disk. Night of Souls’ Betrayal is better than you think, and only kills the Nekrataal and Bone Shredder, which have already killed something when they came into play.

We have Dread and No Mercy running around, both helping with the same thing. When a creature hits you while one of these is out, it dies. That’s a powerful incentive to go elsewhere.

The deck has got some nice, big threats. Dread is a 6/6 feared creatures, Visara a solid 5/5 flyer along with Kokusho, the Avatar is a strong 6/5 beater, the Stronghold Overseer is a flying shadow inflatable creature, and the Void Maw has some size. The Plague Sliver is both a nice sized beater and also a hoser for any opponent who might be running slivers or changelings.

The 61st card I would have put in, if I had the room? Swallowing Plague was the last card cut.

The deck has some tutoring action. Diabolic and Demonic can get you anything you need, while Dimir House Guard can transmute for No Mercy, Nekrataal, Night of Soul’s Betrayal, Damnation, Ambition’s Cost or Ancient Craving, Plague Sliver and a few more cards. That gives you access to a lot of options.

There’s some solid sweeping removal in the above mentioned Damnation, Decree of Justice, Bane of the Living, and my favorite, Massacre. Massacre can be played for free most of the time, and takes out the weenies (especially when combined with Night of Souls’ Betrayal). It’s a solid card.

Scroll Rack is one of the ways you have of drawing and manipulating your library. The Staff of Domination can be used to gain life, tap creatures, untap a creature to reuse it (such as Avatar of Woe, or Visara, hint, hint, hint) or, most importantly, to draw cards.

The card I most wish I had in here would be Mutilate, but I don’t run that in my Five-Color Highlander deck. Perhaps you might find room.

I hope you enjoyed the first deck. Let’s look at the second.

Multiplayer Taxing

1 Propaganda
1 Ghost Prison
1 Collective Restraint
1 Moat
1 Teferi’s Moat
1 Magus of the Tabernacle
1 Windborn Muse
1 Rhystic Study
1 Counterspell
1 Vex
1 Arcane Denial
1 Dissipate
1 Dismiss
1 Faerie Trickery
1 Adarkar Valkyrie
1 Akroma, Angel of Vengeance
1 Serra Angel
1 Serra Avenger
1 Eternal Dragon
1 Fact or Fiction
1 Concentrate
1 Opportunity
1 Stroke of Genius
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Crib Swap
1 Oblation
1 Dismantling Blow
1 Seal of Cleansing
1 Privileged Position
1 Enlightened Tutor
1 Idyllic Tutor
1 Deep Analysis
1 Hinder
1 Commander Eesha
1 Kor Haven
1 Maze of Ith
1 Tundra
1 Coastal Tower
1 Azorius Chancery
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Boreal Shelf
1 Mystic Gate
9 Plains
9 Island

This deck uses enchantments and a few other things to tax your opponent silly until they cannot attack you with much of anything.

With Privileged Position out, you can protect all of your janky enchantments from Propaganda to Moat to Rhystic Study to Seal of Cleansing. It also protects your other things, keeping your Windborn Muse, Magus of the Tabernacle, and other creatures safe. Commander Eesha with shroud is virtually untouchable.

The deck sports seven counters, mostly centering around the two to three casting cost area. These can be used to protect the vital parts of your deck. You don’t want an Akroma’s Vengeance or Multani’s Decree to wipe away everything you’ve worked towards.

The deck also features a modicum of removal, such as Swords and Crib Swap. Dismantling Blow can both draw you card and take out an offending artifact or enchantment. Seal of Cleansing joins it. Oblation is your Deus Ex Machina, able to handle anything it can target.

Card drawing is also important, so the deck sports cards like Deep Analysis, Fact or Fiction, Concentrate, Opportunity, and Stroke of Genius. Other cards like Dismantling Blow and Eternal Dragon yield you card advantage as well.

The deck has a few creatures as well. Since she has flying, the Commander can nip through any defense for two damage a turn even with a Moat in play. Akroma also knows how to swing in the air, and is joined by Eternal Dragon, Windborn Muse, Serra Angel and Serra Avenger. Even Adarkar Valkyrie joins the squad.

You have your enchantments for defense, plus Eesha and the lands Kor Haven and Maze of Ith. Your defense is very strong.

With Magus forcing players to upkeep their creatures, and your taxing attacks, it is hoped that you get a chance to draw some strong cardage from Rhystic Study. Even if you don’t it is just more chances to force opponents to tap their lands.

The 61st card in this deck would have been Aura of Silence. Adding to the taxing would be nice, plus it can be used as a Seal of Cleansing.

The deck sports a pair of tutors that can be used to pinpoint the enchantment that you need exactly when you need it. I would have played Academy Rector, but I feared with the right combination of enchantments out it would never get killed.

Next deck…

Abyss and Artifacts

1 The Abyss
1 Bosh, Iron Golem
1 Darksteel Colossus
1 Tinker
1 Transmute Artifact
1 Reshape
1 Memory Jar

1 Goblin Charbelcher
1 Triskelion
1 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Xanthic Statue
1 Chaos Orb
1 Duplicant
1 Imperial Seal
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Forcefield
1 Tidings
1 Guardian Beast
1 Draco
1 Mirror Golem
1 Memnarch
1 Acquire
1 Trash for Treasure
1 Goblin Welder
1 Platinum Angel
1 Timetwister
1 Braingeyser
1 Mind Spring
1 Sculpting Steel
1 Copy Artifact
1 Planar Portal
1 Rings of Brighthearth
1 Mizzium Transreliquat
1 Stuffy Doll
1 Mindslaver
1 Grim Monolith
1 Dimir Signet
1 Izzet Signet
1 Rakdos Signet
1 Mind Stone
1 Mana Vault
1 Thran Dynamo
1 Academy Ruins
1 Great Furnace
1 Seat of the Synod
1 Vault of Whispers
1 Thran Quarry
7 Island
5 Swamp
2 Mountain

Good things the Rings of Brighthearth will copy — Bosh activation, Planar Portal, Goblin Charbelcher, Memnarch’s two abilities, Goblin Welder, Academy Ruins, and, of course, Chaos Orb. (You cannot normally duplicate Chaos Orb because the Oracle wording of the ability says “If Chaos Orb is in play, flip…” but the Guardian Beast will give it indestructible, keeping it around to use again and again. I know. Sick.)

I wish I had some powerful White artifact helpers in Abe’s Deck of Happiness and Joy like Roar of Reclamation, Bringer of the White Dawn, and Hanna, Ship’s Navigator, but I do not, so I cut White out of the picture. Leonin Abunas is all I have and it’s not worth splashing a color for one card. I also would have loved to have tossed in Broodstar or Cranial Plating, but I have neither in my deck.

Note that I stayed away from pushing too far. I included one Power Nine card with Timetwister, which is barely Power Nine. I did not include Ancestral, Time Walk, or the jewelry. I wanted to keep the deck sane.

Using Blue, Red and Black as the backbone of the deck, I emphasized artifacts. There are enablers like Goblin Welder and Trash for Treasure alongside Reshape, Tinker and Guardian Beast.

There are some big creatures, like Draco, Darksteel Colossus, Platinum Angel, Memnarch, Bosh and the Xanthic Statue. With your three artifact clones (Copy Artifact, Sculpting Steel, Mizzium Transreliquat), you can have three more beaters as well.

The main way this deck will likely win is by getting Bosh and flinging artifacts every which way. Charbelcher kills are not uncommon with my decks, so there is some value there as well. Both are enchanced by the Rings, so I value them a lot in this deck.

The Abyss plays well with artifact creatures because you cannot target them. It will kill a Guardian Beast or Goblin Welder, so do not slap it down if you have one of those out. The Abyss will dominate the board for you, and create a path to attack through.

There are six tutors in this deck (Reshape, Transmute Artifact, Tinker, Imperial Seal, Vampire Tutor, and Planar Portal) so you should be able to reliably get the power cards.

Memnarch can steal a bunch of artifacts from your opponents (whether they began as artifacts or Memnarch stole them). Then they are protected by your Guardian Beast if they are not creatures. You can turn something into an artifact with Memnarch, and then sac it to a Goblin Welder, Tinker, or other sacrifice effect. You can also Memnarch in response to a sweeping removal spell, or even The Abyss. Thus, Memnarch turns your Guardian Beast or Welder into an artifact creature, so The Abyss won’t target them. Memnarch can make something expensive an artifact, steal it, and then Bosh will throw it. It takes a lot of mana, but you have a nice amount of mana artifacts to help with that.

Memnarch is the queen of this deck (Bosh is still king).

Note that you have tricks to fall back upon such as Stuffy Doll and Platinum Angel and Academy Ruins. Stuffy Doll is a powerful multiplayer card, the Angel keeps you alive, and the Ruins can rat-a-tat-tat the best artifacts in your deck.

Mindslaver and Memory Jar love recursion via Academy Ruins, Goblin Welder or Trash for Treasure. They are big fans. Mindslaver plus Academy Ruins is a game winning combo against one player.

You can draw a few cards too with Tidings, Braingeyser, Mindpring or Timetwister. Timetwister allows you to reuse those artifacts you lost or sacrificed, while refilling your hand. Everyone loves a Timetwister every now and then to clean up the graveyards.

Duplicant is one of the few removal cards in the deck. Use it well. It’s great fodder to use and reuse, via Goblin Welder tricks. Mirror Golem can get some valuable protection and strip out the occasional problem card from a graveyard, such as Eternal Dragon or Anger.

Solemn Simulacrum can get you one of your lands while also being ideal as a sacrifice for various effects and a decent body to plug the ground until you can establish control. You’re never upset to see him no matter what stage of the game you are in, unlike other mana cards like Rampant Growth.

Note this deck is running at 61 cards. I don’t think you’ll notice when you play, but it is a thing I did on purpose. I couldn’t drop to 60. Perhaps you can.

I wanted to do a fourth deck, but nothing is jumping out at me, so if this article proves popular enough, I may do a follow up with three or four more highlander decks made from the parts of Abe’s Deck of Happiness and Joy not used above.

Until later…

Abe Sargent