Very Good Decks From Very Crappy Cards – The Last of a Long Contest

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Monday, April 28th – Some of the “crap” cards suggested for my “Crap Rare Contest” turned out not to be crap, but actually format-defining. And you broke them in half! Tune in to see how one man’s terrible card is the bane of Vintage… And it’s not just Deathly Gamble!

Well, as of last week I’ve chosen the crappiest card the readers submitted — this week, we get to see how you broke other entrants’ cards. And to do that, let’s take a look at some potent cards that weren’t crappy at all, but instead format-defining.

Deadly Dawn

Split second (As long as this spell is on the stack, players can’t play spells or activated abilities that aren’t mana abilities.)
Remove all cards from the game. This includes all permanents in play, hands, libraries, and graveyards.
Take an extra turn after this one.
“Some say it’s best to go down fighting. I’m not one of them.” — Norin the Wary

Many players looked at this and realized, “Hey, if you somehow manage to skip your next turn, YOU WINZZ0R.” And lo, the split-second makes this spell just crazy if you can set it up.

Jacob Orlove, that bastion of old cards, was the first to submit one of many decks that could shattered its power using older cards — specifically, the next-turn-skippin’-for-power-now fun of Time Vault and Meditate:

To Everything, There is a Season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
3 Deadly Dawn
4 Meditate (draws into the cards we need, and sets up the skipped turn)
3 Time Vault (lets us skip a turn if we have Key out, combos off in several other ways too)
3 Rings of Brighthearth (infinite turns with Time Vault: skip one, get two! Also good with Key, since this can’t double Metalworker on its own)
4 Voltaic Key (we need to be able to untap Vault if we want to skip a turn with it, and obviously good with Metalworker)
4 Metalworker (to cast all these cards)
3 Smokestack (to make the extra turns we give them with Vault and Meditate bad)
3 Tangle Wire (ditto)
3 Mizzium Transreliquat (infinite turns with Vault, because this untaps normally, then copies until end of turn and taps for an extra turn. Can also copy our other stuff)
2 Crucible of Worlds (because some of our lands are fragile or reuseable, and good with Smokestack)
2 Goblin Welder (just in case we need to get stuff back, good with Rings)

4 Ancient Tomb
4 City of Traitors
4 Wasteland (good to copy with Rings)
4 Volcanic Island
4 Polluted Delta (also good to copy)
3 Seat of the Synod (good with Metalworker)
3 Great Furnace (ditto)

“I wrote this up in a hurry,” says Jacob, “So the mana may be wrong. But it looks like it might actually be fun to play!”

Others chose to break the Dawn with Chronotog Totem or Chronotog itself, a fine way of mana accelerating and drawing cards. (Many also used Eater of Days.)

Mana –
1 Badlands
1 Underground Sea
4 Volcanic Island
4 Bloodstained Mire
4 Polluted Delta
1 Sol Ring
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Emerald
1 Lotus Petal
1 Lion’s Eye Diamond

4 Simian Spirit Guide

Obligatory –
4 Force of Will

Combo-finding stuff –
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Personal Tutor
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Imperial Seal
2 Intuition
4 Brainstorm
1 Fact or Fiction
4 Drift of Phantasms

Combo –
4 Chronatog
4 Meditate
4 Deadly Dawn

– Sam A.

And still others tried to break it by casting Deadly Dawn during your opponent’s upkeep, generally either by allowing you to cast a sorcery spell at instant speed thanks to Quicken:

4 Deadly Dawn
4 Platinum Angel
4 Jhoira of the Ghitu
4 Tinker
4 Drift of Phantasms
4 Voyager Staff
4 Quicken
4 Jhoira’s Timebug
4 Compulsive Research

2 Ghost Quarter
4 Steam Vents
4 Wooded Foothills
4 Flooded Strand
4 Polluted Delta
3 Island
2 Mountain

– Gary B.

Or Vedalken Orrery:

3 Deadly Dawn
4 Vedalken Orrery
4 Chronatog Totem
4 Eater of Days
1 Personal Tutor
4 Sleight of Hand
4 Telling Time
4 Lotus Bloom
4 Seething Song
4 Burning Wish

4 Steam Vents
4 Volcanic Island
4 Shivan Reef
6 Island
6 Mountain

1 Deadly Dawn
14 other cards
– Jeff H.

Another idea — and a little unwieldier, but that’s the Standard for you — was to use Oblivion Ring to remove Barren Glory, allowing you to WINZZOR INSTANTLY. With two enchantments, one of them six mana. Not quite as good.

Also, many tried the old “Suspend Ancestral Visions, have it resolve on your extra turn, then deck your opponent before your draw” trick, which is considerably less powerful, but doable. But again, we’re getting more into Standard territory, with something that kind of works but maybe not really sorta.

Or heck, you can even use Jhoira of the Ghitu to suspend an Obstinate Familiar in Extended, which is terribly, terribly clunky but doable:

4x Jhoira of the Ghitu
4x Deadly Dawn
4x Obstinate Familiar

4x Counterspell
2x Cryptic Command
4x Force Spike
4x Counterbalance
4x Sensei’s Divining Top
4x Thirst for Knowledge

2x Vedalkan Shackles

4x Shivan Reef
4x Steam Vents
4x Flooded Strand
4x Polluted Delta
8x Island

Steve G. here gets major, major props for utilizing one crap rare to break another not-quite-as-crap-as-we’d-like rare.

Or if you’re still in the mood for Obstinate Familiar, David B has noted that you can use Wurmfang Drake to tuck an Obstinate Familiar away underneath it, ready to return when everything goes away.

In any case, Deadly Dawn? Horrifically, horrifically broken. Not a crap rare at all!

Deathly Gamble
(Nonexistent mana costs can’t be paid.)
Deathly Gamble is black.
If Deathly Gamble is in your opening hand, you may remove Deathly Gamble from the game and put a copy of it onto the stack. Else, discard Deathly Gamble, lose 2 life, and draw a card.
Your life total becomes 1. Until end of turn, you may play cards in your hand without paying its mana cost. At the end of turn, if you have cards in hand, you lose the game.

Now, I realized right off that this card was flat-out broken in Vintage and Legacy — but not being a Vintage or Legacy player, I wanted to see how it would get broken. Sadly, what I got were endless variants on the same decks, making this not just broken, but boring.

How do you do it? Use Serum Powder and Deathly Gamble to mulligan until it’s in your opening hand, play a bunch of draw spells for free to get the cards you need, draw your whole deck, combo in some form (Flash Hulk was very common), WINNZ0R.

As someone said, “It’s like Dream Halls on crack.” And it is, it truly is.

Most decks won via some combo of storm and haste creatures, like so:

4 Deathly Gamble
4 Angel’s Grace
4 Platinum Angel
4 Grapeshot
4 Bogardan Hellkite
4 Dragonstorm
4 Skizzik Surger
4 Groundbreaker
2 Akroma, Angel of Wrath
2 Eron, the Relentless
4 Storm Entity
4 Null Profusion
4 Harmonize
4 Ancestral Vision
4 Tidings
4 Foresee


Or this:

4 Deathly Gamble
4 Serum Powder

4 Mind’s Desire
4 Sins of the Past
4 Tendrils of Agony
4 Dragonstorm
4 Bogardan Hellkite
4 Hunting Pack
4 Decree of Silence
4 Pact of Negation
4 Gifts Ungiven
4 Recollect

4 Elven Cache

– Glen P.

There were so many decks that they blended together. And as such, bleah. What fun is that? It’s thoroughly, thoroughly broken, and not even in interesting ways! Just load and win. No fun at all.

Until end of turn, “may” abilities are no longer optional. (Unless they are impossible.)
“Because I said so, that’s why!” – Squee, Goblin Nabob

Now, there was some debate on this card and Trade Secrets, which several folks saw as an auto-kill. The current Oracle wording on Trade Secrets is this:

“Target opponent draws two cards, then you draw up to four cards. That opponent may repeat this process as many times as he or she chooses.”

With Fiat in play, this turns into this:

“Target opponent draws two cards, then you draw up to four cards. That opponent must repeat this process as many times as he or she chooses.”

Unfortunately, you folks are reading a different wording than I am. Because me? I’d simply say, “I choose to repeat it zero times” and the chain would end right there. Unfortunately, the question of how Wizards would rule on this will remain forever hazy, since I can’t imagine them printing this card… But you never know. However, as a pseudo-editor and contest chooser, I’m calling this a “bombo” and saying it wouldn’t happen.

Bush is right. Someone has to be the decider.


4 Soldevi Sentry
4 Fiat

Infinite mana:
4 Grim Monolith
4 Power Artifact
4 Auriok Salvagers
1 Lion’s Eye Diamond

Color filtering:
4 False Dawn

1 Phelddagrif
1 Questing Phelddagrif

Tutors and card draw:
4 Trinket Mage
4 Brainstorm
2 Thirst for Knowledge
1 Sensei’s Divining Top

1 Pithing Needle
1 Engineered Explosives

4 Polluted Delta
4 Flooded Strand
4 Tundra
4 Hallowed Fountain
1 Breeding Pool
1 Steam Vents
1 Watery Grave
1 Plains

Then again, if you’ve got infinite mana, the worst way to spend it seems to be on a two-card combo that collapses if you don’t have both of them in play. Hence, not good. (A few noble souls also tried to work with the Punisher mechanic of, say, Temporal Extortion, but then we were getting way up there.)

So Fiat? If it is broken, it remains to be seen how. And by God, since Wizards is never going to print this, we’ll never know. Dangit.

Pulsing Obelisk
Creature spells cost you 2 less to play.
Whenever a creature comes into play under your control, return it to its owner’s hand.
“With a touch, it flashed, and then they disappeared. Then it flashed again, and I was home.” Rasheer the Journeyman

Again, I was pretty sure it would be overpowered, even at two mana less, and I was right. Many folks pointed out the infinite storm-and-mana combo with Coal Stoker (and hence fatal Storm with Grapeshot) was trivial:

EZ Mac Mana- Nick P.
4 Flamekin Harbinger
3 Stingscourger
4 Court Hussar
3 Coalstoker
3 Sower of Temptation
2 Venser, Shaper Savant

3 Grapeshot
3 Molten Disaster
3 Fabricate

4 Pandemonium

4 Pulsing Obelisk

4 Steam Vents
2 Academy Ruins
4 Mutavault
4 Volcanic Island
6 Mountain
4 Island

Or Priest of Gix also generates infinite mana and storm:

1 Forest
1 Island
1 Swamp
4 Flooded Strand
4 Polluted Delta
4 Underground Sea
1 Bayou
2 Tropical Island

2 Priest of Gix
2 Maga, Traitor to Mortals
4 Shriekmaw
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Mulldrifter
1 Ravenous Rats
1 Man-o’-War
1 Squee, Goblin Nabob

4 Pulsing Obelisk
3 Chrome Mox

4 Survival of the Fittest

4 Brainstorm
4 Force of Will

4 Ponder

“The idea is simple: Get pulsing obelisk in play, cast Priest of Gix (which, in this deck, is a Dark Ritual with buyback 0) to generate infinite black mana, and then play Maga, Traitor to Mortals for an arbitrarily large amount of damage. Survival of the Fittest finds the creatures, and the cantrips and Mulldrifter find the obelisk and the survival. Mulldrifter becomes ‘U: draw two cards. Buyback 0′ with an Obelisk in play, Ravenous Rats is better than Mind Twist (and can be used to clear the opponent’s hand before casting Maga to get around possible Counterspell), and Shriekmaw kills a creature for every B spent, with Man o’-War taking care of the black ones.

“The manabase could use a little work, as the deck in its current incarnation is prone to flooding, but even so, it goldfishes consistently by the third or fourth turn, and has significant control elements and disruption.

“Cheers, Aaron B.”

Also, Cloud of Faeries is another amazing method to infinite manage:

1 Magma Mine
4 Stroke of Genius
4 Maga, Traitor to Mortals

4 Pulsing Obelisk
4 Priest of Gix
4 Cloud of Faeries

4 Wall of Phantasms
4 Fabricate

3 Thoughtseize
3 Brainstorm
3 Pact of Negation

4 Underground Sea
9 Island
7 Swamp
1 Seat of the Synod
1 Vault of Whispers

– Christian M.

Or heck, we can even return to that old almost-was of Vintage, Kobolds!

4 x Tundra
4 x Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author]
4 x Underground Sea
4 x Polluted Delta
4 x Flooded Strand

4 x Crimson Kobold
4 x Crookshank Kobold
4 x Kobold of Kher Keep
4 x Court Hussar

4 x Pulsing Obelisk
4 x Brain Freeze
4 x Abeyance
4 x Force of Will
4 x Brainstorm
4 x Tendrils of Agony

– Dane C.

Or heck, you don’t need infinite mana when you have zero-cost artifact creatures and Storm, as Christopher M. notes.

1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Pearl
1 Lotus Petal
1 Mana Crypt
1 Mana Vault
1 Sol Ring
1 Tinker
1 Time Walk
4 Brain Freeze
2 Grapeshot
4 Pulsing Obelisk
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Enlightened Tutor
1 Imperial Seal
1 Ancestral Recall
4 Force of Will
4 Brainstorm
4 Ponder
1 Brass Man
4 Shield Sphere
4 Phyrexian Walker
4 Gemstone Mine
4 City of Brass
1 Tolarian Academy
2 Polluted Delta
2 Volcanic Island
1 Underground Sea

(Have I mentioned we always hate typing in Vintage decks? ‘Cause we do. Standard decks are almost always 3-ofs and 4-ofs with the occasional one-shot, but Vintage decks? Fifty lines of typing. Grah.)

Some wanted a little more Standard-legal fun with Pandemonium, which given the power level of the other decks seems a little underpowered:

2 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Graven Cairns
4 Swamp

Combo/Finders: 12
4 Pandemonium
4 Beseech the Queen
4 Pulsing Obelisk

Kill: 26
4 Keldon Marauders
4 Bogardan Hellkite
4 Grief Tyrant
4 Cragganwick Cremator
3 Deep-slumber Titan
4 Subterranean Shambler
3 Sulfurous Blast

Daryl G.

Even the creator of Pulsing Obelisk, Tyler H., went ahead and broke his own card!

4 Man-o-War
3 Avalanche Riders
1 Venser, Shaper Savant
4 Mulldrifter
4 Wood Elves
4 Birds of Paradise

4 Pulsing Obelisk
4 Force of Will
4 Chrome Mox
4 Daze
4 Brainstorm

4 Taiga
4 Tropical Island
4 Volcanic Island
4 Wooded Foothills
4 Polluted Delta

3 Flametongue Kavu
4 Tormod’s Crypt
4 Stifle

4 Naturalize

Haven of the Meek
Whenever a creature attacks, remove all creatures you control from the game. Return them to play at end of turn.
“Norrin’s where?”

I was really hoping to see more entries on this one — but alas, the easy temptation of Deathly Gamble, Pulsing Obelisk, and Deadly Dawn overshadowed it. We had a fine attempt from Ed B. to break it with the little-known but much-loved Rishadan cycle from Mercadian Masques:

4x Haven of the Meek
4x Sage of Epityr
4x Rishadan Cutpurse
4x Man-o’-War
4x Rishadan Footpad
4x Scrivener

4x Ghostway
4x Boomerang
4x Wrath of God

4x Hallowed Fountain
4x Tundra
4x Flooded Strand
4x Gemstone Mine
6x Island
2x Plains

“A friend of mine actually has a deck based around this very idea. The way the deck works is to lay down Rishadans to force the opponent to sacrifice permanents. With Haven of the Meek, you can attack with your Rishadans and force the triggers again and again. Once the opponent is down to no permanents, you can Boomerang the Haven and actually swing in for the win. Should a Boomerang be Countered, Scrivener can fetch it back, even if he’s already in play, simply through a bounce out/in, either through Ghostway, Haven, or Man-o’-War.

“There’s also attack, Wrath, have the Rishadans come back in and force sacrifice post-Wrath (i.e., no creatures to sacrifice – sorry, token players!).

“In multiplayer, Haven of the Meek could be disgusting in this sort of setup. Really, the only threat to the deck would be through hasty creatures, such as Ball Lightning/Groundbreaker, and it should be able to keep them off the table – Boomerang ’em after the Remove Trigger is on the stack; what do you care? Everybody’s saccing stuff once your men come back in. The other way it’s not so great is the fact that the deck has a high curve, and with U/W, there aren’t a lot of accelerants to use.”

But actually, Ed, I’m not feelin’ the love on this one. It sort of assumes that you’ll have the ability to drop three or four Rishadans and then get to the attack step with your enchantment… And then why wouldn’t you just use this with Pulsing Obelisk?

Dammit, even in my crap rare contest, other crap rares are forcing cards out of the environment!

That said, some folks tried to use this with Pandemonium. I’m still not a Pande-fan; the risk is too good that your guys will get hit.

Plague of Ferretts
Plague of Ferretts deals X damage to each creature you control. You gain life equal to the damage dealt this way.

Francois T. pointed out that Plague of Ferrets gets funny when you have Vigor on the table…. Though it gets even funnier when someone Terrors your Vigor in response.

Josh L. tried something a little more devastating, like this:

LANDS (26)
3 Urza’s Tower
3 Urza’s Power Plant
3 Urza’s Mine
4 City of Brass
4 Windswept Heath
4 Wooded Foothills
3 Overgrown Tomb
1 Stomping Ground

1 Temple Garden

3 Broodhatch Nantuko
3 Mogg Maniac
4 Saber Ants
2 Phytohydra
3 Vigor
3 Coalhauler Swine

4 Living Wish
4 Sylvan Scrying
4 Vampiric Tutor
4 Plague of Ferretts

Tome of Malignancy
Whenever you draw a card, put a charge counter on Tome of Malignancy. At the beginning of your upkeep, draw a card and lose 1 life for each charge counter on Tome of Malignancy.

We got one deck for this — a soft lock deck, sorta.

Malignant Words, by Louis P.
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Emerald
1 Sol Ring
1 Mana Crypt
1 Mana Vault
3 Grim Monolith
4 Tome of Malignancy
4 Force of Will
2 Pact of Negation
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Time walk
4 Rune Snag
4 Brainstorm
3 Words of Worship
2 Capsize
2 Mystic Snake
3 Seedborn Muse
4 Tundra
4 Tropical Island
2 Breeding Pool
2 Hallowed Fountain
4 Island
4 Fairy Conclave

“The point of the deck is to crap out the mana artifacts and land as fast as you can as well as getting a Tome or two down. Then get a Muse into play for silly mana with the artifacts and Words of Worship the pain of the tomes away and Capsize everything you don’t like in play. You get recurring counterspells with the Snakes and Capsize, and if a tome gets too big you can Capsize that as well. then once you capsize everything in play that you don’t like gg.”

It’s… A little underpowered. Not broke by any means. I’m still not feelin’ the love here.

Possessed Soldier
Creature – Zombie Soldier
At the beginning of your upkeep, put a +1/+1 counter on Possessed Soldier.
Whenever Possessed Soldier attacks or blocks, sacrifice X permanents, where X is the number of +1/+1 counters on Possessed Soldier.
At the end of your turn, if Possessed Soldier didn’t attack this turn, sacrifice a permanent.

The closest I got to a deck was Sven D. pointing out that there’s a positive interaction between Unstable Mutation and Possessed Soldier. That’s about it.

No Pain, No Gain
All opponent’s creatures gain +1/+0.
Whenever a creature does combat damage to you, the creature’s controller loses 2 life.
They only think they’re stronger.

Two entries — one a Ravnica Orzhov-style deck involving Hissing Miasma to make the opponent hurt, the other utilizing Forcefield/Thunderstaff and “force an attack” effects like Fumiko the Lowblood and Grand Melee. Neither seemed to work spectacularly well.

Slash and Burn
Sacrifice a land: put a charge counter on Slash and Burn.
At the beginning of your precombat main phase, add X mana of any color to your mana pool, where X is the number of charge counters on Slash and Burn.

Kevin M. developed this deck to abuse the enchantment:

4 Slash and Burn
3 Boom/Bust
4 Life from the Loam
4 Terravore
4 Obliterate
3 Jokulhaups
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
4 Lesser Gargadon
4 Fireball
2 Groundskeeper

4 Karplusan Forests
9 Forests
9 Mountains
2 Gods’ Eye, Gate to the Reikai

Not really tournament-breaking, I grant you, but perfectly fine in a casual game.

You know what got no entries? These cards:

Tyranny Shield
Permanents your opponent controls can’t be the target of spells or abilities your opponent controls.
“Now your poor Fungusaur will never feel the lash of that Bullwhip again!” — Verdeloth, Fungal Rights Activist

Blind Ambition
If a spell or effect would put a +1/+1 counter on a creature an opponent controls, put that many -1/-1 counters on a creature you control instead.
“He cunningly planned to claim the success of his adversaries as his own at every turn, not realizing it would lead to his own inevitable failure.”

Mana Freezer
Snow Enchantment
Mana burn doesn’t cause players to lose life.

Alas, I guess crap is just crap sometimes. Oh well.

The winner, however? Well, the strange thing is that even though many people submitted for Deadly Dawn and Deathly Gamble and Pulsing Obelisk, they were all staggeringly similar in theme. And while that’s not strictly the fault of the entrants, it does make it hard to pick out someone in particular to win.

So instead, I’m going to give the award to Josh L. for his Plague of Ferretts deck, which between Coalhauler Swine and Mogg Maniac at least has a chance at winning. He alone found all the cards that could work well with his crap rare of choice, and made it happen. So you win a playset of four crap rares of your choice, Mister Josh!

The Weekly Plug Bug
This week on my webcomic “My Name Is Might Have Been“: Our heroes start the long trek to their first gig.

Signing off,
The Ferrett
[email protected]StarCityGames.com
The Here Edits This Here Site Here Guy