Transmute for the Win

Have you ever wanted to bring a constructed deck to a draft tournament? Think of how easy it would be. You’d roll over everyone. None of the matches would be close. I can’t offer you that, but I am going to show you how – using one of the new keyword mechanics – you can come even closer to that dream.

Have you ever wanted to bring a constructed deck to a draft tournament? Think of how easy it would be. You’d roll over everyone. None of the matches would be close. I can’t offer you that, but I am going to show you how – using one of the new keyword mechanics – you can come even closer to that dream.

Clearly I can’t show you a way to bring your sixty-card monsters to your draft table, but this set offers us a unique opportunity.

Nick was knocking on this door in his last article. I then made one of my standard outside the box comments in his forum, which promptly was shot down left and right. He actually came dangerously close to this topic twice. The first time was when he talked about his G/U/b archetype. The second was when he called Mark of Eviction underrated.

Before I get too deep into this, I want to make sure one thing is clear. Both of the decks I am going to talk about today are very very good. They happen to be as fun as any draft archetype I have ever drafted, but they are also, at least in my opinion, the best decks to draft in the format. If that last statement proves to be an exaggeration, you’ll find that these archetypes are at the very least quite good.

So I have teased a lot here, I might as well get to the point. The keyword that enables these decks is Transmute. Transmute offers us a world of tutors only slightly more expensive than the original. I have this problem when evaluating cards. I often gloss over the keyword and look at the rest of the card. Well in this set we were given three broken key words. You should already be drafting your decks to exploit these, but today I am going show you how to exploit Transmute like never before.

Here’s the bad news. While these decks are both powerful and accessible, they are also both dangerous to force and hard to draft. I’ll start with the first of the two decks that I found.

The Savra deck

Savra, Queen of the Golgari, too slow for Constructed and too narrow for Limited. I mean how can you play that card in draft? You’d have to build your whole deck around her and run the risk of never drawing her. She’s only one card in a 40 card deck! That’s where Transmute comes in. I know this will be a leap of faith. I know that not everyone (myself included) is a MODO millionaire and each sanctioned match you play on MODO is a critical one, but you have to trust me here. This strategy (as well as the next one) will pay off in spades.

You need to get a Savra early for this to work. There’s a chance you’ll just wind up with some of the tools anyway in which case you can nab her in the second pack. Once you have this sultry vixen you can get to work on making her work.

Congregation at Dawn

Once I have a Savra, there is no card I take over this one. Normally, I don’t even like this card. I don’t look at it in the pack most of the time (unless I have some other bomb I want to tutor for), but when I have Savra, I see this card and think “one card combo.” This card allows you to get Savra, Shambling Shell, Thoughtpicker Witch, Dimir House-Guard, or any other creature that will help the Savra Engine.

Dimir House-Guard

Other than Congregation, this is the best card in the set once Savra is in your pile. It not only tutors for an undrawn Savra, but also provides a sacrifice outlet at zero mana once Savra is already in play. Just in case Savra is already dead and you have to win with your regular old Golgari deck, you have a 2/3 regenerating fear creature. There’s nothing this card can’t do and there is no common you should be taking over it in this deck.

Shambling Shell

When I first started drafting this archetype I figured this card would be the most critical. It’s its own sac outlet, has a good ability when it sacs, triggers both of Savra’s abilities, and dredges itself back. On top of all that it’s a very solid 3/1 for three that is a boon to any Golgari deck.

Thoughtpicker Witch

This card was underrated in the early going. Then people realized the synergies with this card in a solid Dimir Mill deck. Not long after that people realized the inherent strength of the card itself, and I believe that it rests in about the right spot in most pick orders you will read or hear. Where this card really shines is in the Savra deck. If you have this card going with Shell and Savra then you are in a really powerful position.

That’s it, really. I know it sounds silly. Four marginal cards plus a narrow, fragile rare really make a deck? They sure do. Other cards you want to keep an eye out for are Clutch of the Undercity, Strands of Undeath, and Dimir Machinations. The Transmute cards are obvious and the Strands will help to keep that fragile Savra alive. Other cards become playable too – Sewerdreg is a fine maindeck addition since it also becomes an Edict in this deck. And make sure you are stocking up on Black creatures in general. Even Roofstalker Wight is solid if you miss out on Shells and need to lean on Picky and House-Guard.

Ideally you want the rest of your deck to be filed with cards that can extend the game. Early defensive creatures, solid removal, all your typical Golgari goodies. The fat is not as essential in this deck. I’m not saying I’d ever cut a Siege Wurm, but I am certainly not taking it over Dimir House-Guard like I would in a deck without Savra. Other cards that will likely have to move up in your pick order are Farseek and Civic Wayfinder. More often than not you will be splashing in this deck for tutor cards. This means you want easy access to your splashes, so look out for splash color Signets too.

When you play this deck you generally don’t want to be very concerned with early damage. Not to say it’s okay to be missing attacks, but your goal here is to create a stalemate you will eventually break with Savra.

This deck is incredibly fun and incredibly powerful, but sadly it revolves around a rare. Clearly you won’t be able to draft this deck very often. I am merely telling you about it so you don’t miss out on this exciting opportunity. For me opening Savra is like landing my dream job – tons of money, and fun at work. That’s Savra. And so is the next archetype.

Mark of Eviction/Cloudstone Curio

I want to reiterate right now that the statement I made in Nick’s forum was 100% honest. I truly believe that Mark of Eviction is the best card in the set, and here’s why…

I have this crazy friend named Donnie Dunham. Donnie is loaded with raw Magic talent, but Donnie has a few problems. First of all, he believes way too much in luck and fate. These are two things a successful gamer simply cannot afford to give any credence to. Second of all, he adopts pets very easily. When he finds a fun strategy in Magic he fixates on it and will do nothing else. Donnie was the one who turned me onto the Mark deck, and luckily I was “not sober” so I was able to convince myself to draft it in back to back 8-4’s. I split in the finals of both and none of my four matches were close. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Adam Chambers, who tried to sell me on the Curio deck. I scoffed at the time, how wrong I was. Of course he was forcing the Curio deck whether he got a Curio or not. I wonder why he 1-5’d Day 2 of Worlds…

The two cards mentioned above, much like Savra, are cards you need to base your deck around. And much like Savra, if you do it properly you will wind up with one of the strongest archetypes in the format. The best part of this one is it revolves around an uncommon, a criminally underrated uncommon. I have seen this card lap in drafts. This is the card I most want to see in my opening pack. When I open this card, I feel like I opened a Visara or a Rorix – it is an unmitigated bomb and should be treated as such. Even if you don’t follow the draft strategy outlined here, you’ll still find Mark to be a welcome addition to any deck.

Cloudstone Curio interacts with most of the cards you want in this deck, but isn’t quite as versatile as the Mark.

Galvanic Arc/Faith’s Fetters/Fists of Ironwood/Flight of Fancy/Strands of Undeath

Duh. I’m sure anyone who read Mark of Eviction or Cloudstone Curio knows the power of these cards in this archetype. You will normally want to be 5 color Green when you draft this deck to maximize the effectiveness of the Mark/Curio. And of course, that means…

Civic Wayfinder/Farseek/Signets/Karoo Lands

Crucial. If “come into play” (CIP) effects are the most important part of this deck, mana fixing is the second most important. Civic Wayfinder fills both of these roles. He is a mana fixer and generates card advantage with his CIP ability. Don’t worry about overloading your deck with mana, once you get your engine going you will be nearly unstoppable.

Vedalken Dismisser

I separated him from the other CIP cards because he is uniquely powerful in this deck. With Curio in play he gives you a powerful, but slow engine that will likely win you the game. With Mark he offers you a soft lock that will be even more likely to win you the game. This isn’t a combo you want to rush out. Try to draw out their removal so the lock becomes true.

Drake Familiar

This card moves from sketchy playable to bombastic flier. You are already playing plenty of those enchant creatures, so might as well add this guy to the mix who also has some uses that go beyond synergies in the deck itself.

Dizzy Spell/Dimir Machinations/Perplex

If you don’t have a Mark, then clearly Dizzy Spell is garbage, however when you do have Mark, it’s nearly as good as the Mark itself. The other two cards are used to access the Curio. Also, don’t ignore two, four and six casting cost Transmute spells as they can fetch your CIP cards. Sadly the Transmute cards critical to this deck aren’t as powerful on their own as Dimir House-Guard is, but you’ll find that every once in a while you’ll steal a win by casting that Dizzy Spell. My current count of games won by casting that card is three. One of them was a game 3. I’m not trying to say Dizzy Spell is awesome, or even playable if you don’t have a Mark to tutor for, I’m just saying the spell itself has some applications.

So there you have it. The joy of Transmute bringing Constructed decks to Limited play. I know you haven’t heard much from me in articles or on the scoreboard lately, but I give you my personal guarantee that if you draft these decks when the opportunity presents itself you will have fun and you will win.

So go out, and show those drafters who’s boss!


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