In January, I was working on a series of articles on the history of Extended, but I kept veering off (No, Morton! Veer bad!)* and writing about my favorite Extended decks. To force myself back on topic in those articles, I started a separate article about my all-time favorite decks. These are my calls for all-time favorite decks – with the caveat that the newest weirdness I am working on always qualifies, right up until I have it done and working.
On a side note, it’s sad that some of these decks are dead and gone in Constructed formats. Extended will rotate next fall. However, all of these deck are – and forever will be – playable in casual games and formats. Even better, once Tempest, Saga and Masques blocks rotate, the prices for most of the cards in those blocks will fall. And they are all playable in Legacy format tourneys.
I have played Enchantress decks in PTQs, at GPs, in team games, in multiplayer and I have even built a 5color Enchantress deck. I have also written about Enchantress fairly often, including an article on the old Dojo, plus YW #19 and YW#58. Those articles have decklists.
At their core, Enchantress decks run Argothian Enchantresses, plus some other Enchantresses or Enchantress effects. These have included Verduran Enchantress, Femeref Enchantress, and Enchantress’s Presence. All do the same thing – they draw cards when you play enchantments. Having multiple Enchantresses in play, and drawing and playing cheap enchantments, means you draw a ton of cards.
Enchantress taught me a number of lessons; it was the first deck I played that had really explosive turns, and I discovered that I really enjoy having explosive turns. Here are two examples of the sort of explosiveness I mean:
“One game I forgot to upkeep an Endless Wurm (I was enjoying a brownie instead of paying attention) so I didn’t “go off” until turn 5 or 6. By that time, I had drawn all but five cards in my library. John had a Phyrexian Negator to block, and Ingrid had four Kavus and some elves with a total toughness of about nineteen in the way. Neither opponent had taken any damage.
“I sent a 17/15 Rancored Auratog and an Endless Wurm at John, and a 43/41 Rancored Auratog at Ingrid. So I won. Of course I won. My opponents saw twelve or thirteen of their cards. I saw fifty-six of mine. That makes it hard to lose.”
– from “Draw Some Cards, Win” on the Dojo
“The Endless Wurms were there for fun, but you generally can cast them early on and they do win games. I still remember game three of a PTQ match when I started turn 4 with three lands, an Argothian Enchantress, and an Auratog on the table. I finished the turn saying, ‘Endless Wurm, Endless Wurm, Endless Wurm, burn for two, discard twelve cards, go.’ I had five cards left in my library. If I hadn’t been playing Femeref Enchantress, I could have pumped the Auratog enough for the win that turn, but with the Femeref I would have decked myself if I had. Needless to say, three Endless Wurms were too much to handle, and I won next turn.”
– from YW#19
Enchantress decks come in a variety of builds (YW #58 lists several), but I have generally played the G/W versions built around Rancor and Auratog in past Extended seasons and in casual play. Exploration and Wild Growth, coupled with Gaea’s Blessing and Serra’s Sanctum, provide mana acceleration. Ten to twelve Enchantresses provide card drawing. The kill card was usually Auratog, although cards like Endless Wurm or Verduran Enchantress have appeared on occasion. Sterling Grove provides search as well as protection for silver bullets like Worship, Energy Flux, and even Moat at one point.
More recently, I have played an Enchantress deck abusing Words of Wind. The deck uses its insane card drawing to play Words of Wind, then bounce and replay an Exploration and a Serra’s Sanctum while bouncing every permanent an opponent has. It can also use a combination of Serra’s Sanctums, Gaea’s Cradles, and lands enchanted with Wild Growth and Fertile Ground to gain near-infinite mana or storm count with Snaps, Cloud of Faeries, and Palinchron, or Snap and Eternal Witness. In that version of Enchantress, the kill card is generally Stroke of Genius, or Brain Freeze in multiplayer.
I think the reason I love Enchantress decks is that they have the power of a combo deck without looking like one. All the buildup and explosiveness are done in the open, and the deck goes off during your own main phase, not in your opponent’s end step. This can tend to make opponents a bit more friendly in tourneys and so forth – but this advantage is best in casual play and multiplayer, where playing a combo deck can get the whole table gunning for you. That is less of a problem with Enchantress. Of course, if you prefer combo versions, the Enchantress decks with Cloud of Fairies and Words of Wind are perfectly fine combo decks, often getting infinite mana and infinite spell counts on turn 4.
The Rock and his Millions
The Rock was originally a Type II deck designed by Sol Malka while Saga and Masques block were T2 legal. It was based around Phyrexian Plaguelord (The Rock) and Deranged Hermit (his Millions). The deck could abuse Deranged Hermit with Diabolic Servitude, but it also ran powerful silver bullets and a set of Vampiric Tutors. The deck had Uktabi Orangutan to deal with Tinker and Wildfire decks, Rapid Decay against Replenish, Duress for Yawgmoth’s Bargain and the like, and a host of other, powerful effects.
The deck gave my ratings a real boost during that T2 season. Here’s a decklist:
Rock and his Millions – Sol Malka
4 Birds of Paradise
1 Llanowar Elves
4 Albino Troll
3 Yavimaya Elder
4 Yavimaya Granger
4 Deranged Hermit
4 Phyrexian Plaguelord
2 Vampiric Tutor
3 Rapid Decay
1 Tranquil Grove
2 Diabolic Servitude
4 Treetop Village
2 Dust Bowl
2 Bone Shredder
1 Engineered Plague
1 Rapid Decay
1 Vampiric Tutor
3 Reverent Silence
2 Uktabi Orangutan
During Extended season, I had been playing a G/B Survival of the Fittest deck. Once Survival was banned in Extended, I looked for similar decks to play. Rock was legal and had gained some impressive power from Invasion block. Spiritmonger was a huge fattie for the time, but Pernicious Deed was what really rocked. Deed was an amazingly versatile reset. Later, with Odyssey block cards like Ravenous Baloth, Genesis, and Living Wish added, the deck got even better – but it was powerful even in its original incarnation.
The Rock was still being played during this last Extended season, both in aggro (Macey Rock) and control modes. The deck was solid. The next rotation, however, will take out Yavimaya Elder and Vampiric Tutor. The Yavimaya Elders were already being replaced with other cards – but Vampiric Tutor to find silver bullets, like Deed, was critical. Phyrexian Plaguelord may be the deck’s signature card, but the silver bullets and global resets are what has made the deck work. Whether it will still work next fall remains to be seen.
That said, however, any deck that runs green and black is always called The Rock, regardless of whether it has any other Rock attributes.
This is another deck I have written about here. The deck is fine in multiplayer, since it has an answer for most anything an opponent can play (with the exception of board sweepers like Akroma’s Vengeance and Oblivion Stone). It has evolved a bit, and I tweak it now and then – and occasionally steal cards for other decks. Here’s a rough decklist:
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Genesis
- 1 Silklash Spider
- 2 Seedborn Muse
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 1 Yavimaya Elder
- 2 Dwarven Miner
- 4 Wall of Roots
- 4 Viashino Heretic
- 1 Flametongue Kavu
- 1 Flowstone Overseer
Something pretty much like that. It is sixty cards, so some of that is probably sideboard.
The Answer was designed to have a method of dealing with all the threats that could be played in multiplayer games. Tranquil Grove is a reusable Tranquility. Viashino Heretics are a method of killing artifacts, and dealing damage. Coupling that with Forge[/author]“]Thran [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author], which makes creatures into artifact creatures, the Heretics become creature removal as well. The Forge also work well with Artifact Mutation, especially on Isochron Scepter. Adding Seedborn Muse to the effect means that I can use the Scepters, Heretics, and other control effects on every player’s turn.
This is the kind of deck I really enjoy playing. Nothing in the deck is really big and broken on it’s own. Nothing screams “kill this guy first” to the table, at least, not until the synergies become apparent. Once they do, I have pretty solid control – at least until someone plays a global reset.
Rules Headache #4
Years ago, I made a Type 2 deck built around Unnatural Selection and Pure Reflection. It had a ton of tricks built around Unnatural Selection’s ability to change creature types. I wrote about the Standard deck here.
For multiplayer, I added some duals and fetchlands to smooth the mana supply, and replaced Pure Reflection with Spirit Mirror. I also added Dismantling Blow and Impulse as card drawing, and some resets and a minimal amount of counter magic. Soul Wardens were very good with the reflection tokens and gating creatures. The deck still played a couple of Sunwebs, since they were fine blockers early and fine attackers later, but I won more games through having an opponent concede in the face of the Unnatural Reflection/Spirit Mirror lock that anything else.
A friend once built a very similar deck, and we both played them as partners in a two-headed game. By turn three, we both had the ability to destroy any targetable creature for the cost of one mana. Once Empress Galina hit the board, it was obvious to everyone that the game was way past over.
Unfortunately, this deck is pretty much gone – destroyed by rules changes. Since the “Wall” type is now “Defender,” an ability instead of a creature type, you cannot use Unnatural Selection to allow Sunweb to attack. Since Legendary is now a supertype, you can no longer use Unnatural Reflection and the Legends rule to clear the board of duplicate creatures – or steal them with Empress Galina.
The only part of the combo that still works is making a creature a Reflection with Unnatural Selection and destroying it with Spirit Mirror, but that is not enough to build a deck around. If you want a clunky, two-card combo to kill creatures one at a time, you can always use Merfolk Assassin and War Barge, or Icy Manipulator and Royal Assassin, and stay in one color.
I had real trouble deciding on my fifth deck. I had a lot of candidates. I loved G/B Survival – the deck that got me one game away from qualifying back in the day – but it is not that different from The Rock. I looked at Maze Launcher – my green beatdown deck that hides an infinite damage combo (Argothian Elder/Maze of Ith and Rocket Launcher). I looked at the mono-white control multiplayer deck with Akroma, Akroma’s Vengeance, Enlightened Tutors, and silver bullets. I pulled up the decklist for my Black Market deck.
These were all great fun when I created them, and worth considering, but in my five all-time favorites? Not really.
I looked at the decks that I play, and decided to try to recreate them online. Anything that I could make there was probably something I could enjoy.
My first realization was that I don’t have the cards to recreate old favorites. I now have almost 3000 cards online. Of those, almost all are commons. I spent a bit over $3.00 for four of every common in Onslaught, and people have given me some commons. Put another way, I own about a hundred and twenty rares, from a bunch of different sets, in a bunch of different colors. My duplicate rares, so far, are the white Myojin, Uyo, Flying Carpet, and Tower of Eons. Nothing to build a deck around.
I had a sudden inspiration: I have always kept a no-rares deck around, to play newer players and show that no-rares can be good. That could work. The problem is that I haven’t updated it recently – I generally keep a draft deck around to demonstrate the new cards to newbies. My no-rares constructed deck still plays Armadillo Cloak on random green creatures, and has a nifty surprise package. Maybe I could recreate that?
Llanowar Elves are still around. Silverglade Elemental (whoa, this deck is old!) could become Sakura-Tribe Elders or some random 4/4 for 3GG. Phantom Centaurs are still around – if a bit pricey (about $1.00 each). Blastoderm (yes, I first built the deck when Masques was Standard-legal) can be replaced, but that hurts.
Flipping further through the deck: Visions River Boas – well, they were reprinted, so I’ll just have to live with white borders. I look up their prices online and get another shock – they were in Sixth Edition, not Seventh. No River Boas online. No Uktabi Orangutans. Ever.
I’m crushed. It only gets worse when I realize that my deck’s signature interaction in multiplayer – getting an Armadillo Cloak or Loxodon Warhammer on Squallmonger – won’t work either. Squallmonger is in Masques.
Good gawd, I have been playing for a long time. My first PTQ was in Saga block, and my first PTQ T8 came in Masques block – both sets whose card pools that will rotate out of Extended (and into obscurity) next fall.
Eric Taylor may be a dinosaur, but I must be at least a Woolly Mammoth – I remember the end of the Ice Ages, and drafting Homelands. I have playsets of cards that rotated out in the last Extended rotation – and more that will rotate this fall.
None of this is helping me choose favorite deck #5.
I can’t decide. Instead, I’ll invoke the rule that my favorite deck is whatever I’m working on now. I have been “working” on finding something using the rares I have online. Something T2 legal (duh – since I started playing two months ago, that’s what I have). Something that takes a unique approach to the format and can beat the tier one deck: Tooth and Nail.
It also has to be something I haven’t seen anyone else do, and not something that I might want to write a whole article about.
As always, finding a deck to beat the metagame is tough. It’s rare that one man can outthink and out-playtest the millions of other players working collectively on the Internet. It is even less likely that I can do it building around a couple bad rares. That said, let’s start.
I have a Quicksilver Fountain, and I know I can get three more for a ticket if I try. Quicksilver Fountain might be the answer to Tooth and Nail: try getting the Urzatron and GG out when your lands keep turning into Islands. (Okay, I know it’s probably too slow, but let’s think about it.)
The goal here is to mana-screw my opponent. I want to keep them with nothing but Islands, while I yank counters off my lands. I also want to have some means of getting rid of the Fountain if necessary, since the counters are only removed if all lands are Islands, not if the Fountain leaves play. Shrapnel Blast could serve in this slot.
I want to accelerate my mana production, and maybe do some mana fixing to give me a second blue for Chisei. Wayfarer’s Bauble makes a lot of sense – mainly because it is a common, and I have some, as well as no other one-drops. Chrome Mox would be useful, but Chromatic Sphere is more in my price range. I also own one Journeyer’s Kite, which might help accelerate to more land. Another option would be to go green, so I could play my one Birds of Paradise, and my one Sakura-Tribe Elder. (I try not to draft green.)
Mirrodin’s Core might also be useful – both as a mana fixer and as a source for counters for Chisei. Too bad I don’t have four yet. In keeping with the bad rares theme, Jinxed Choker could also be a source of counters for Chisei, but fortunately I don’t own one of those, either. (I do own a Circle of Protection: Artifacts. Choker, CoP Artifacts = combo! I’ll have to think about whether that combo is significantly worse than Quicksilver Fountain. It is certainly dreadful, but worse than the Fountain? Hmmm.)
I also own one Meloku, one Ryusei, and one Keiga, and just busted an Arc-Slogger in a draft. Maybe I can work them in there.
Here’s the first draft:
- 2 Chisei, Heart of Oceans
- 1 Meloku the Clouded Mirror
- 1 Ryusei, the Falling Star
- 1 Keiga, the Tide Star
- 2 Ember-Fist Zubera
- 1 Arc-Slogger
Maybe the Hearth Kamis should be Ember-Fist Zubera, or vice versa. More Islands might be necessary to have Mana Leak actually work. Something like Kumano would be very nice to have. Ditto the Jitte – or many other expensive rares. For a budget deck, something like Frostwielder might be the affordable alternative to remove Witnesses and Birds and other stuff from the game. That could be a good idea.
Not building a deck around Quicksilver Fountain might also be a good idea.
I haven’t built the deck, but let’s look at some typical matchups. I’ll assume I’m playing this deck in single games against random opponents in the tourney practice room. That means I don’t have to worry about sideboard cards or sideboarding strategy. And keep in mind that I haven’t actually convinced myself to buy the Fountains – this is a thought experiment.
Tooth and Nail:
In theory, I mess with their mana a bit, then drop a flier. On a really good day, I mess with their mana, drop Chisei, then Boil away their lands a couple of turns later. Generally, just messing with their mana should be enough, but I may have to bounce some stuff. No sideboards means I don’t have to worry about Heartbeat of Spring. I may be able to win a couple games here.
They are land-tight to start with, and a lot of their cards cost double white. So long as I draw Pyroclasm before they draw Glorious Anthem, I’m golden. My fliers are bigger than their fliers.
Yes, I know MBC is a huge part of the metagame. Yes, I know just how good Quicksilver Fountain will be in messing up their mana. However, they won’t counter Quicksilver Fountain, and they will wonder what is going on. Then, during their end step, Shrapnel Blast them with the Fountain, and if they counter, Boil away their lands. After all, you have three Boils, and they only have a dozen or so counterspells.
It’s not as if you could win this matchup, anyway.
You know, this is pretty pointless. (You probably figured that out many, many paragraphs ago.) I may also grab a Fountain or Chisei if I see one late in draft, and try the deck sometime – but I won’t pay tickets for it. As always, the deck I am working on right now is one of my favorites, but it’s way past time to start working on another deck. Any other deck.
* – That’s an in-joke I don’t expect anyone to get.