The Weekly Guild Build: Blink And You’ll Mizzet

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StarCityGames.com!As a casual player, I did a little soft-shoe in the store when I opened my Niv-Mizzet, that card-shootin’ dragon with the mostest… But I also opened not one, not two, but three Guildmages to help boost the power. And yet none of those Guildmages were Blue. What’s a playa to do?

When last we left our intrepid hero, he was without a MODO-ready Dissension set to test and sort through, and a weekend packed with a Broadway show, his wife’s graduation, a friend’s wedding, and a movie he had already promised to see with friends. What is a Magic writer to do when he cannot, you know, play Magic?

Well, he drags a friend out to play with him.

My friend Dmitri is not the most up-to-date Magic player, but he is enthusiastic and a smart guy overall. He’s been wanting to play Sealed, but hasn’t had a chance to get to a tournament since the Saviors of Kamigawa prerelease… And so he agreed to spend an evening at Starbucks with me, just playin’ a few games.

As a bonus, I gave him advice on how to build his deck, though it was a very tricky build. But we’ll get to that in a moment. What did I open?

Okay, I got a Niv-Mizzet — which, as a casual player, sent me into a titter of unprovoked squeals, making me do a tiny soft-shoe right in the coffee shop. I have a U/R multiplayer deck that I adore, and she’s goin’ in — sure, she costs a lot, as all dragons do, but my multiplayer deck’s designed to last to the long game anyhow. Combine her with a Stroke of Genius and she’s lethal in a weird way; I like that.

For extra comedy value, I just misspelled “Genius” three times in a row. Just so ya know.

But unfortunately, Sealed Deck does not live by bomb alone, and the bombs here are thick ‘n’ plenty… Starting with not one, not two, but three Guildmages. Rakdos Guildmage is the hizzouse, Golgari Guildmage dominates in the long game, and Orzhov Guildmage is decent. Okay, it’s still a pretty strong effect, but compared to the deck-blasting power of other Guildmages, it’s merely fine.

So if we follow our bombs, we wind up with a U/R/B/W deck — not the clearest hint in terms of colors. So let’s go to the colors and look at ‘em.

Solid playables: Azorius Herald, Conclave Equenaut, Courier Hawk, Divebomber Griffin, Nightguard Patrol, Shrieking Grotesque.

Solid but not deep. You get some sweet fliers and a couple of conditional effects for the right mana — but there are no protective instants or creature-stoppers like Faith’s Fetters, meaning that you’ll need another strong color to back this one up.

But we cannot consider these cards in the vacuum — if you’ll remember, of the four cards that were pulling us into colors, only the Orzhov Guildmage required White. Considering that going white will lock us out of some nice fat cards that we’ll need elsewhere, our other colors will have to be exceptionally weak to force us into this — if you’ll forgive the mild pun — very vanilla selection.

Solid playables: Bramble Elemental, Cytospawn Shambler, Elves of Deep Shadow, Farseek, Greater Mossdog, Gristleback, Moldervine Cloak, Wildsize

When I look at this, here’s what I see:

Blah blah blah MOLDERVINE CLOAK blah blah blah.

I like the big creatures, but Moldervine Cloak can take the weeniest of evasion creatures and turn it into a gigantor threat. And then come back later to do it again. Thus, I’m pretty sure Green will be in here, at least as splash.

Fortunately, the rest of the Green is strong, with good creatures, needed mana fixing, and a combat trick that replaces itself. It’s a hair’s breadth shy of what I’d want to call it a main color, but it’s ready-made to couple with some other color and Voltron its way into an Optimus Prime.*

Solid playables: Ordruun Commando, Seal of Fire, Sell-Sword Brute, Sparkmage Apprentice, Tin Street Hooligan, Whiptail Moloch

One of the cards I listed above is a filthy lie. I just wanted to be sure you were paying attention.

In any case, we’re back to Red, the color of weenie creatures and point-based destruction effects. What we have here is not bad, but it doesn’t really make my heart sing at this point.

On the other hand, he said, that off-color activation of Rakdos Guildmage is very nice. And I’d like to be able to use it, if we can use Black.

Solid playables: Disembowel, Helldozer, Necroplasm, Sewerdreg, Stinkweed Imp

There’s not a whole lot of depth here, but there is power. Disembowel is obviously nice, and Necroplasm is particularly sweet if we can control the number of counters on it — as I discovered when I used a Golgari Guildmage to “hop” over the three-counter point, thus creating an infinite destruction engine.

Helldozer is really hard to cast, but if I am playing Black I’ll play it. Ideally, you want to be attacking with your 6/5, but if there’s some sort of ground stall it won’t kill you to hang back and chew up their lands until you can gain an advantages. Then again, I probably like Helldozer more than most.

Also note that all three of our Guildmages are mulatto. Thus, we’ll almost certainly be playing this color on some level.

Solid playables: Compulsive Research, Drake Familiar, Flight of Fancy, Helium Squirter

It starts out strong, and then fizzles like Barbaro out of the starting gate. These are big, beefy cards with little synergy aside from “Things that fly,” relegating this color to a splash at best…

…which, in turn, knocks out Niv-Mizzet. Unless there are some spectacular Gold cards to boost the Blue count, a double-Blue splash isn’t going to work. Thus, the Dragon reluctantly hits the sidelines.

Gold Cards
Solid playables: Crime / Punishment, Guardian of Vitu-Ghazi, Mourning Thrull, Orzhov Guildmage, Golgari Guildmage, Coiling Oracle, Rakdos Guildmage, Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind, Consult the Necrosages, Lurking Informant

That’s some strong Gold cards, and it makes the choices tricky. I want Black to play at least two out of the three Guildmages (and to give us access to the happy removal of Disembowel and the card-blocking power of Lurking Informant). Blue’s out, which leaves us with Red, White, and Green as potentials.

Going B/W/G doesn’t give us a whole lot of synergy, since we don’t have any Orzhov cards to speak of, and the Selesnya cards aren’t great. We’d get fliers, full access to two Guildmages (one of is the weakest one), and a bunch of fliers to slap a Moldervine Cloak on. Not bad in terms of power…. But can we do better?

We can. B/G/r looks a little weird, but the mana actually works out pretty well — we get the beef of Green, the destruction of Black, and total access to the most powerful two Guildmages. Furthermore, by throwing in the Boros Garrison and the Orzhov Signet, we can hope to get the life-gaining power of the Orzhov Guildmage.

Try this:

Stinkweed Imp

Bramble Elemental
Cytospawn Shambler
Elves of Deep Shadow
Fists of Ironwood
Greater Mossdog
Moldervine Cloak

Seal of Fire
Tin Street Hooligan
Sparkmage Apprentice

Golgari Guildmage
Mourning Thrull
Orzhov Guildmage
Rakdos Carnarium
Orzhov Signet
Lurking Informant
Rakdos Guildmage

Boros Garrison
2 Mountain
6 Swamp
6 Forest
Rakdos Carnarium

This deck actually worked very well, both in test draws and in the handful of games that Dmitri and I played. Some might question the amazing splash power of Tin Street Hooligan and Sparkmage Apprentice, but I tend to think of them as conditional removal spells — the Hooligan removes artifacts, and the Sparkmage Apprentice is a nice point of damage when I need it. It’s not up to my usual standards for splash cards, but what I really want is that sweet, sweet Rakdos activation.

I got them and how. Twice I got into long standoffs that got resolved by the creation of 2/1 little men that broke it open. I’m happy, even if I almost certainly should have played Crime / Punishment…. But I was too busy looking at Dmitri’s cards to pay attention to my own.

Speaking of Dmitri, how was he doing? Dmitri was not particularly experienced with Sealed, so I built my deck and then sat down and went over the cards with him to ensure that he had a decent deck.

What did he crack?

When I arrived, Dmitri was looking over a R/U build, which I completely expected — Dmitri plays Blue in every format he can, and his signature multiplayer deck is of that vexing mono-Blue type that steals everything in sight.

That said, I wasn’t sure if I agreed with that… But then again, this was a tricky build. Outside of the Kraj and the Sunforger, he had no b-b-Bombs to work with, so it was tough to decide where to go… And tougher still after debating it for forty minutes with Dmitri, who had his own ideas on what to do.

Let’s go over the colors again:

Solid playables: Absolver Thrull, Faith’s Fetters, Freewind Equenaut, Ghost Warden, Wojek Siren

Ghosts of the Innocent,” Dmitri asked. “Is that any good?”

“I don’t know,” I answered, and I still don’t. I have problems with any card that blunts my own offensive while stalling my opponent’s. I mean, it’s gigantic, and giganticer still when you consider you’ll need ten power to kill it while it’s out, but since I’ve never seen it in action I can’t say.

Depending on the day, I may or may not consider Wojek Siren a “solid playable.” This color’s decent. Not great, just decent. Kind of like the card pool.

Solid playables: Aquastrand Spider, Dowsing Shaman, Farseek, Fists of Ironwood, Gather Courage, Overwhelm, Sundering Vitae

I’m not sure whether Thrive is all that in this environment; it certainly wasn’t in Mercadian Masques, and I don’t think that the Simicness makes it that much stronger.

That said, this is a weird black hole-style Green, since it has all the traditional powers of Green — mana fixing, boosting, gigantic finishing spells — but it barely has any creatures to speak of. The rest is nice, but you can’t launch a fatal Overwhelm on the back of nothing.

Solid playables: Galvanic Arc, Hypervolt Grasp, Pyromatics, Tin Street Hooligan

This is quite nice Red when it comes to blowing stuff up, and the creatures support the quick rush theme…. But I don’t like it that much. There’s the mini-combo of Dowsing Shaman and Galvanic Arc, assuming that we can rid ourselves of the Arc once it’s upon the table, but given the wealth of boost effects and big monsters in the environment, I don’t trust damage alone.

It’s gonna take a hell of a lot of Gruul to pull me into this one, even if it was Dmitri’s first choice.

Solid playables: Dimir House Guard, Vigor Mortis

Shallow and weak. Next?

Solid playables: Compulsive Research, Infiltrator’s Magemark, Peel From Reality, Vedalken Dismisser

There’s a lot of chaff hiding the real targets here, but Blue has some nice stuff. It might be worthy of a splash.

Sunforger makes everything nice. Even if you don’t have a lot of White or Red instants to Tutor for.

Solid playables: Seeds of Strength, Selesnya Evangel, Boros Guildmage, Skyknight Legionnaire, Experiment Kraj, Trygon Predator, Riot Spikes, Moroii

Depending on my mood, Seeds of Strength can swing in and out of an auto-play; it’s powerful, but the mana is pretty tough. Aside from that, the Simic is really strong, and we want to go into it since it’s where our bomb cards are, but Blue isn’t that strong.

Unfortunately, Dmitri and I debated on what the colors should be for a very long time, and I was concentrating more on getting him to ask the right questions than I was on having him build the best deck. Rather than analyzing the cards as a player, I was instead asking him, “Yes, Magewright’s Stone could provide that cool Johnny play, but how many tapping creatures do you have? Then is that worth a maindeck slot?”

I asked him repeatedly, “So you go U/R/G. What does that look like?” And we looked at all the decks, and in trying to get him to assess the individual cards in lieu of a deck I sort of lost track of the deck myself. What we built may not have been optimal, but I’m reasonably sure Dmitri learned a lot along the way.

Our eventual game plan was to go G/W/u, with the game plan of stalling until you can churn out enough creatures to come through with a thundering Overwhelm:

Absolver Thrull
Faith’s Fetters
Freewind Equenaut
Ghost Warden
Soulsworn Jury
Wojek Siren

Aquastrand Spider
Dowsing Shaman
Fists of Ironwood
Gather Courage
Skarrgan Pit-Skulk

Peel from Reality

Boros Guildmage
Experiment Kraj
Lurking Predator
Seeds of Strength
Selesnya Evangel
Trygon Predator


Dimir Aqueduct
Azorius Chancery

Gruul Turf

I should note that at the time, I thought Soulsworn Jury countered any spell. Had I known that it only countered creature spells — not so good — I would have probably put in either the Vedalken Dismisser or Ghosts of the Innocent (just to see how it worked).

Then again, I don’t know whether I would have gone with these colors. Even now, there’s not an obvious path, and maybe I should have listened to D’s initial instincts and gone with Red.

Ah well. In any case, I trounced D, as you’d expect; I know the format, he doesn’t, and I’m more used to tournament play. I didn’t see a whole lot of new cards, either, but I did play long enough to feel confident in my build. Dmitri’s? I’m not so sure, but he gave me a run for his money despite him not mulliganing a couple of hands he should have thrown back.

MODO will still not get the beautiful touch of Dissension until the 30th, leaving me with one weekend to go.

Until then, let’s see what I can do next weekend to keep my hand in the game.

The Weekly Plug Bug:
Oh, yeah! My web comic!

Blah blah blah HOME ON THE STRANGE blah blah blah.

Some weeks, you’re filled with ideas for clever plugs. Other days, not so much.

Signing off,
The Ferrett
The Here Edits This Site Here Guy

* – Okay, I never saw any of those shows. I’m too old. But doesn’t it sound cool?