Thin Lines: Two Fairly Bad (Yet Interesting) IBC Decks

There’s a thin line between genius and insanity. There’s also a very thin line between what makes a very good deck and an utter pile.

Who was that great American who said”Dare to be stupid?” Was it Ben Franklin? Maybe”Weird Al” Yankovic. You can see how one might get those two confused.

There’s a thin line between genius and insanity. There’s also a very thin line between what makes a very good deck and a pile of crap. Take Turbo-Haups, for example. On paper, the deck initially looked rather suboptimal. How could a thirty-land deck (that wasn’t called Counter-Phoenix) be any good?

It’s time in the sun was short, but it qualified a number of people for Regionals (almost including yours truly…sigh…). It was definitely an atypical”thinking outside the box” deck. By going against conventional thinking, the deck turned out to be quite successful.

With that in mind, I’ve come across two new IBC decks — here’s one of my own making, that may appear, on the surface, quite horrible, but may have potential.

A while back I posted about a tri-color Nether-Go variant that I’ve had some success with in Standard. I munged U/W Nether-Control and U/B Nether-Go together because I wanted to be able to run both Undermine and Absorb (and, heck, Dromar’s Charm too) together.

Now Apocalypse has given us two new gold counterspells, this time in the opposite colors: Suffocating Blast and Mystic Snake.

And when perusing the spoiler list I thought, boy howdy, wouldn’t it be great to be able to run all of these counterspells in one deck?

Lo and behold, that little lightbulb when off above my head (blinding the two people standing next to me at the time), angels sang, yadda yadda yadda, you know how it goes.

Snake-Go, or,”The Magical Mystery Tour”

4 Absorb

4 Undermine

4 Suffocating Blast

4 Mystic Snake

4 Reef Shaman

4 Chromatic Sphere

4 Jungle Barrier

3 Rout

3 Fact or Fiction

4 Coastal Tower

4 Salt Marsh

4 Yavimaya Coast

4 Shivan Reef

7 Island

3 Forest

To call this a work in progress would be an insult to actual works in progress. But there’s just something about this pile of a deck that seems like”Hey, y’know, this might actually be playable.”

The idea is akin to Nether-Go, which just wants to counter, counter, counter stuff, then beat down with a recycled Nether Spirit from the graveyard. But we have no Nether Spirit in this environment — we do have Pyre Zombie, but he costs too much to keep recursing. At least in this build.

Absorb, Undermine, Mystic Snake; we already know these are good. People I talk to have mixed opinions regarding Suffocating Blast. Some seem to think it’s weak because you can’t cast it without a valid target in play. I think it’s the cat’s pajamas. A counterspell with two-for-one capabilities? Where do I sign up? I love this card.

But even with eight of the cross-color pain lands and come-into-play-tapped allied color lands, the mana base is shaky, to say the least. To help smooth that out, I’m adding four Chromatic Spheres and four Reef Shamans. If you get a Shaman out on turn one, by turn three or four you ought to be able to cast anything your deck has in it.

I took out my original four Dromar’s Charms in the deck (as if sixteen counters weren’t enough; why not twenty?) for more defense with Jungle Barrier. Another cantrip and a damn fine wall.

Of course, the deck has only one win condition, as do most Nether-Go decks — the Mystic Snake. Unfortunately, the Snake can’t come back from Rout, but that’s what the other three are for. Hopefully. I’m toying with Quicksilver Dagger as the kill instead of Snakes. The Dagger combos well with Jungle Barriers and gives your Reef Shamans something to do in the late game when your mana is set. If I was to go in this direction, I might take out white or black and lose the Absorbs or Undermines in favor of the Dagger, or maybe just make the deck straight U/G/R and add Guided Passage and Razorfin Hunters.

The mana base is very high — 26 lands — because this deck cannot afford to miss mana drops.

The one real weakness in this deck is to the R/G beats seen in PT: Tokyo. Uncounterables like Blurred Mongoose and Kavu Chameleon give this deck fits, and a turn two Yavimaya Barbarian has the ability to go the distance, being immune to Jungle Barrier, and any bounce or blue creature in the deck. Rout is your only answer to this beastie once he’s on the table.

Horribly janky, this deck, but not as janky as my next suggestion. Aaron”The Captain” Fitzgerald, a regular among the High Plains Drifters, showed me this IBC deck, vaguely reminiscent of Nether-Haups.


4 Smoldering Tar

3 Reckless Assault

4 Dega Sanctuary

3 Necra Sanctuary

4 Sterling Grove

4 Phyrexian Arena

3 Powerstone Minefield

4 Breath of Darigaaz

4 Geothermal Crevice

4 Irrigation Ditch

4 Tinder Farm

4 Sulfur Vent

7 Swamp

5 Mountain

So how does this monstrosity work? Simple, in the way that quantum physics is simple if your name is Schroedinger or Planck. Basically, it uses the synergy between the multiple Sanctuaries. Dega Sanctuary + Smoldering Tar equals lotsa life. Necra Sanctuary + Sterling Grove = kill mechanism. A turn three Dega Sanctuary followed by a turn four Reckless Assault basically gives you carte blanche to start trading life for damage in a, well, reckless manner.

A few tweaks have been made, a couple by yours truly. Breath of Darigaaz is a good board sweeper that helps to keep those annoying Battlemages and Kavus from knocking on your front door, and Powerstone Minefield (my idea) will also keep those attackers at bay.

Phyrexian Arena draws you cards — and, of course, Obliterate provides the coup de grace, clearing the board while leaving all your enchantments in play. Sterling Grove gives you a little Tutor power while protecting your enchantments from D-Blows and Aura Blasts.

Now, the deck has some problems, notably that Tranquility and Tranquil Path pretty much make the entire deck moot. Gee, what deck runs those cards, hmmm….? Also, the deck can be overwhelmed by fast beats.

But let’s not overlook the fact that the deck runs four colors and sixteen sac-lands, and without the use of mana fixers like Harrow, the mana base is really, really unstable. You don’t get those right colors out of the gate, it’s pretty much game over. Aaron includes four Ancient Springs to try and increase his chances of getting a second-turn Phyrexian Arena into play, but I feel that dilutes an already janky mana base even further.

This deck has definite possibilities and with a lot (and I mean a lot) of tuning it might actually be playable.

Me? I’ll stick with Snake-Go for now.

Dave Meddish