This column is supposed to mix tournament quality information and stuff for more casual play. This article will – it should give you some pointers on building a tier one Worldgorger deck for Extended (the ones I have seen are not tier one, so far), as well as telling how we built a deck that broke the Emperor format. On the flip side, I would recommend that every casual play group ban the deck we came up with immediately. Consistent turn 2 kills on an infinite number of opponents are not what makes multiplayer fun.
This all started when we pre-registered for Origins. In the Origins booklet this year, PES listed the following event:
Type I Emperor:
“Creatures may tap to attack or to move into a teammates play area. Seating is as follows: Pawn 1, Emperor 1, Pawn 1, Pawn 2, Emperor 2, Pawn 2. Pawns’ spells /effects have a range of 1 [they affect players 1 seat away to the left and right.] Thus a Pawn’s Armageddon would destroy their lands, as well as the lands of the player to their left and right [including their own emperor’s.] Emperor’s spells have a range of 2. An emperor’s Armageddon would destroy all their lands as well as the lands of al players one and two seats to their right and left. A team wins when it defeats the other emperor. This event will be three rounds. Each round consists of one game. Type 1 deck construction rules.”
Ingrid, Vic, and I decided to team it up. A month or two before Origins, we started throwing around deck ideas. Also, since both Ingrid and Vic are judges, and since the rules variants are not all spelled out, we emailed Mike Guptil at PES about rules questions.
Here’s a copy of the email I sent him. It’s pretty long, but it serves to show how to analyze a new format. You need to think about what’s different and how some cards will interact differently in that case.
Please forward this to the judges or tournament organizer for the Magic Type 1 Emperor event on Thursday at Origins. I have some rules questions and comments. My team really wants to play, but we want to make sure the format isn’t as broken as it appears (or, if it is, we want to build decks accordingly). We would like to get the questions answered before we begin playing – and hopefully before we build decks.
Here’s the description in the Origins book: (see above)
For some of these questions, I’ve named the players on one team black pawn 1 (BP1), black emperor (BE), etc. The other team is white. Here’s a renamed seating chart.
BP1 BE BP2
WP1 WE WP2
According to the rules example, Armageddon has a limited range. I’m assuming that’s also true of Wrath of God, Tranquility, and so forth. For example, if BP2 casts Wrath, it affects BE and WP2.”Destroy All” effects only affect permanents within range. I don’t think there is much debate there.
I assume that also means that enchantments like Arcane Labs would have the same effect – namely that they will only affect players within range. Is that correct? What about enchantments like City of Solitude – will only certain players be affected?
Does the Legend rule extend across ranges? Can the pawns on opposite corners both have Lin Sivvi in play, since neither is within the range of the other?
What about enchant world spells: if BP1 has an enchant world in play, and WP2 plays another, what happens? The areas of effect of the two enchant worlds do not overlap – does that mean that they both stay in play? What happens if the effects overlap, but the actual enchantments are not in range? For example, if the BE and WE both cast Enchant World spells. The emperor’s ranges do not extend to each other (assuming the pawns are still alive), but the pawns would be affects by both enchant worlds. Does the earlier enchant world die because of the overlap, or does that only happened when a pawn dies and the two emperors are suddenly in each other’s range?
Can the white emperor Fork a spell cast by WP1 at the opposing pawn (BP2), and have the pseudospell created by Fork target the other opposing pawn, even though that pawn is outside WP1’s range (but inside the emperor’s range)?
How does Hunting Grounds function? I assume it only triggers off spells played by opponents within range.
Question on sideboards: The rules say T1 deck construction rules, but matches are one game. That means sideboards are useless – except that the new Wishes will be legal. Are there any special rules for Wishes and sideboards?
I think that the range rules means that no opponents can affect or target the emperor’s spells or permanents while the pawns live. I think that’s a problem. If an emperor can cast some enchantment that affects all pawns, and cannot be removed, that could have a massive effect on the entire game. Think about an emperor with The Abyss or Humility in play.
Here’s one minor deck idea that assumes the emperor’s permanents cannot be targeted: emperor has Moxen, Humility, Blanket of Night, Korbus Bell (all opponents lands are 0/1 swamp creatures that do not tap for mana). Pawns have moxen, Simoon – which would destroy all an opposing pawn’s permanents. At end of the last opposing pawn’s turn, the Emperor casts Rescue, bouncing the Humility to let the pawns attack unopposed. (Note – that’s not even a good deck build.)
If I were you, I would consider allowing targeted removal to affect the Emperor’s permanents, just to prevent the problem of the Emperor having a lock (e.g. Moat, Abyss, Humility, Darkest Hour/Light of Day) that cannot be removed. Of course, I can have more fun building decks if the Emperor’s permanents cannot be targeted, but the format will degenerate.
Another big question: Are spells on the stack affected by the range rules? Can a pawn counter an opposing Emperor’s spells if the emperor is out of range? If not, then the format has a problem. The Emperor can counter any pawn’s spells, but his/her counterspells could not be targeted. An emperor with mana, Forbid, Squee and Howling Mines would be tough to stop. Or an Emperor with four Misdirections, four Deflections, Blessing/Dwell on the Past, etc. All of the Pawns’ removal spells will be redirected to their own creatures or heads.
If the emperor’s permanents cannot be targeted, and the emperor’s spells cannot be countered, you are begging for combo decks. (of course, this is Type 1, so that will always be a problem… But allowing the emperor to build up the combo without anyone being able to counter his/her spells, hit him/her with Duress or target his/her permanents is really bad.)
Question: if the Emperor’s range is two, can he attack an opposing Pawn directly with his creatures, or must they move to an allied Pawn’s space first? Can the pawn being attacked target the attacking creatures, if they come from the Emperor’s space directly, even though the Emperor’s permanents are normally out of range?
The rules on moving creatures are unclear. The notes on Emperor on the Wizards website say that they stay under the control of the owner, but are in the area of other player. If a creature moves to a pawn’s zone, does it attack and use sorcery speed abilities on the pawn’s turn, or on the owner’s turn? When does it untap?
Does a creature need to tap to change zones?
If the black emperor (BE) moves a creature over to BP1’s area, can the creature be targeted by WP2 when that creature attacks WP2? If WP2 casts Wrath of God, or has No Mercy in play, is the creature affected or not? At that point, the creature’s controller is out of range of the Wrath, but the creature is in a space that is within range.
Can you move creatures outside your range? Can BP1 move a creature to the Emperor on one turn, then over to the other pawn’s area on the next turn? Think about your answer to the question about Wrath of God and so forth.
If a creature with an effect changes spaces, does the range of the effect change? For example, assume the emperor plays Lumbering Satyr, giving all creatures within range forestwalk. Does the range of the effect change when the Satyr moves to a pawn’s space?
Sorry for all the questions, but I figure it is better to ask in advance than get into rules arguments at the tourney.
Thanks in advance for your reply.
Eventually he responded. More on that later.
Prior to that response, we had decided that the emperor’s permanents were probably immune to targeted removal and outside the range of Wrath of God and so forth. We were uncertain whether the emperor’s spells could be targeted.
If the Emperor’s permanents could not be targeted, I argued that any creature deck was probably dead. The emperor could easily play something like Peacekeeper and none of the Pawns could attack with creatures. If the Pawns then played Aegis of Honor, etc., and just stayed alive, any creature-based decks would be unable to attack. The emperor could then do his/her thing is peace.
The emperor’s”thing” was also discussed. Early on, I suggested that the emperor could play some silly control deck, like Unnatural Selection/Pure Reflection/Empress Galina, and simply steal all the opponent’s creatures. Since opponents could not target the emperor, they would never get the creatures back. Some of the other ideas were in my email to PES.
I even suggested that the emperor could play junk like Light of Day/Darkest Hour and color changers. Other suggestions, like having the emperor playing the infinite Life deck and Testament of Faith could be okay, would work unless the opponent could do infinite damage. Ingrid and Vic suggested Sliver Queen and Coalition Honor Guard, or other alternative win conditions. These also looked very strong.
We quickly realized that the format seemed almost custom-built for combo decks. The only problem was that the combo deck had to kill at least two players – a pawn and an emperor. That makes cards that kill single players, like Stroke and Ghitu Fire, less useful.
At about the same time, Wizards made a stupid, stupid mistake. They printed Worldgorger Dragon.
It would have been simple and in flavor to say that when the Dragon came into play, all permanents except enchantments left play. That would have been just like Obliterate, and would have invalidated a truly stupid combo.
Here’s how it works, as I explained repeatedly to opponents:
- Cast Animate Dead, targeting the Dragon
- Dragon comes into play, it’s ability goes on the stack.
- The ability resolves, and all my other permanents leave play
- Since Animate Dead left play, Dragon goes to the graveyard
- Since the Dragon left play, the land and Animate Dead return to play. Animate Dead triggers, targeting the Dragon.
- In response to Animate Dead’s ability going on the stack, tap the lands for mana.
- Animate Dead resolves, Dragon comes into play, everything else leaves play.
- Steps 4-7 repeat endlessly. Your mana pool fills.
- You can interrupt the sequence to play an instant.
The sequence does not stop until you use Animate to target something else, remove the Dragon from the graveyard in response to it being targeted, or the Dragon gets removed from the game. However, you can interrupt it to fire off an instant. Some instants are better than others.
Stroke of Genius and Ghitu Fire will both kill a single opponent. If you generate a hundred mana (with at least one appropriately colored mana), you can force the opponent to draw their deck (Stroke) or burn to death (Ghitu Fire). Taking a shot at killing the opponent like that is pretty good – since if the spell is countered, the Worldgorger engine keeps running. Unless there is another creature in some graveyard, or unless someone can interrupt the engine, the game is a draw.
Simply firing off a Stroke or Fires in hopes that it will not be countered is risky. A better alternative is to cast Whispers of the Muse with Buyback. (Buyback: Spend extra mana, and the card returns to your hand, instead of going to your graveyard, when the spell resolves.) With Whispers, you can dump 600 mana in your pool, much of it blue, and then you can draw your entire deck. At that point, you can cast the kill card. The advantage, of course, is that, when you cast the lethal Stroke or Ghitu Fire, you have four Force of Wills, four Counterspells, and two to four Misdirections in hand, and tons of blue mana in your mana pool. At that point, it is unlikely that the opponent can stop the effect.*
With a good draw, that happens turn 2 in Extended. In type one, it can happen on turn 1.
Obviously, there are some limitations to the effectiveness of the deck in multiplayer – each Stroke of Genius or Ghitu Fire will kill only one person. However, if you draw your entire deck, and you include two kill cards in the deck, you will find them.
A second problem was that the opponent could, conceivably, have some answer in play. Circle of Protection: Red or Aegis of Honor will stop Ghitu Fire; Obstinate Familiar will stop Stroke.** Ivory Mask will stop both. However, a simple inclusion prevents all that silliness: One Capsize. Capsize is Boomerang with buyback. Any single card – and nearly any combination of cards, that can prevent the combo from killing the opponent, can be bounced back to the opponent’s hand.
The trick was making sure that you had enough ways to find the combo parts. Intuition was working quite well as a draw spell. It could put the Dragon in the graveyard, could get an Animate Dead, Force of Will or find Whispers, as necessary. It was also an instant, meaning that it could be cast once the combo was running. It was just a little slow at times, and even with Whispers and Intuition, I still sometimes had the wrong combo pieces. After some testing, I found an even better option: Cunning Wish. I put one Entomb, one Whispers, one Intuition, the Capsize, the Ghitu Fire***, the Stroke, a Misdirection, etc. in the sideboard, and put four Cunning Wishes in the maindeck.
However, since this was Type One, and since I was playing multiplayer, I could look at another option. Dark Ritual is legal, and it allows silliness like Turn One Undiscovered Paradise, Dark Ritual, Entomb, Animate Dead – and if you have Whispers in hand, you win.
I found a second problem: Opponents could cast Abeyance or Orim’s Chant in response to the Whispers, and Abeyance would resolve before Whispers would return to your hand. However, at that point the game is officially a draw, unless there is another target creature in some graveyard – in which case you mana burn to death. However, that concern did have me looking for alternative kills that would work around the problem.
I had been testing one Buried Alive, because four Entombs just were not enough to draw one consistently, and having to Tutor for it was a problem. Then I realized that Buried Alive works well with Dark Ritual, and Buried Alive can also get the ultimate kill card: Shivan Hellkite.
Turn one, Land, Ritual, Ritual, Buried Alive, Dance of the Dead – game over. The land needs to produce both red and black mana without pain, but with four Undiscovered Paradise, four Gemstone Mines, and two Rainbow Vales, that happens often enough. You bury a Worldgorger Dragon and a Shivan Hellkite, then Animate. You run the engine enough to get 200 mana or so – half red – in your pool, then Animate the Hellkite. At that point, you shoot your opponents. If they try Bind, Reverse Damage, or something like that, simply shoot them again in response. In the unlikely case that I got the Hellkite in my hand, I had Frantic Search in the sideboard and Cunning Wish to fetch it.
The only cards that prevent the Hellkite kill is Sphere of Law and Urza’s Armor – and they both fall to Capsize. The same goes for Pariah on a pro-red dude, or Coalition Honor Guard and Lashknife Barrier, or any similar silliness. It is probably possible to discover a combination of cards that is invulnerable to Capsize – something like Dense Foliage, Opalescence, Sterling Grove, Pariah, Crimson Acolyte and Ivory Mask, but the combo should go off long before that would happen.
Here’s my decklist as of two weeks before Origins:
Thoroughly Broken Emperor’s New Clothes, version 2.04.
Incidentally, please do not think that this deck is evidence that Type 1 is all about broken decks. This deck is not amazing – and maybe not even competitive – in Type I. It works here for the Emperor, because no one can target the Emperor. No one can rip the deck apart with Duress, mess up the mana base with Wasteland, or counter critical parts of the deck. If this were a deck intended for Type I duels, it would need more countermagic, plus Duresses of its own and a less fragile mana base. Real Type I is not all about turn 1 kills – those decks can work, but are about as consistent as the Type 2 deck with Firecat Blitz and Rites of Initiation.
About a week before Origins, we got a response from Mike Guptil at PES. The biggest ruling was that there was only one stack, and in range of everyone. That meant that the Emperor’s deck needed to run more counters, and be a bit more able to handle opponents and a bit less concentrated on finding the combo. It also meant that the pawn’s decks should also run countermagic.
After goldfishing this a lot, I found that the preferred kill was definitely the Shivan Hellkite. That got me thinking about dealing with drawing the Hellkite. The solution had to be something that would let me discard it at will, or put it back in the deck to find with an Entomb. Both had to work at instant speed. My best solutions were either Frantic Search or Brainstorm. If I went off with just Worldgorger, Animate Dead and Whispers, I would draw the Shivan, then Brainstorm and Entomb, or could use Cunning Wish to find Frantic Search and put it into the graveyard.
So, the revised version would need a better suite of counters, meaning at least three Force of Wills (and the fourth either maindeck or sideboard, to become a Cunning Wish target), Misdirection, two Mana Drains (Ingrid had the other two we own), plus a Fire/Ice and the Capsize as means of dealing with threats.
Fighting a longer battle also made me question the Rainbow Vales. I was strongly considering replacing one with a Badlands, but blue mana is very important. The deck needs lands which can produce colored mana, without pain, and without coming into play tapped. There is one other land around that meets that criteria, but it took forever to remember it. You probably have spotted it already, and were wondering why I had missed it.
Remember Forsaken City? I have no particular desire to remove cards from my hand, but it gives me the colors I needed.
Now, on to what my partners were playing. We decided that the emperor should have the Dragon deck, and that I could play it because I had the most experience with it. We talked long and hard about having everyone play the Dragon deck, but we don’t have the cards, and we were also concerned that the deck has little defenses against discard or really fast creature beats. Instead, we looked at having the pawns play some form of aggressive support deck, but one which could win on its own.
Ingrid loves playing aggro-control. She had her best Extended finishes with Counterslivers and won the Women’s Open in Las Vegas last winter playing Star Spangled Slaughter. She loves that deck, so we tweaked it and played with it – especially after a lot of discussion on what would be good in the pawn positions. We eventually concluded that the best bet was a deck that could apply pressure while having a full set of answers itself. Vic decided to play the same thing, so here’s what we came up with:
4 Lightning Angel
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Swords to Plowshares
1 Fire / Ice
4 Force of Will
2 Mana Drain
2 Cunning Wish
R Ancestral Recall
R Mystical Tutor
R Time Walk
2 Wrath of God
1 Disenchant / Seal of Cleansing
The sideboard was, once again, all Cunning Wish targets, since each match was only one game. We ended up taking a whole pile of cards along.
Here’s the deck I actually played, I think. I can’t find my final decklist, and I tore this apart in order to play in the Type I games later in the weekend. This is pretty damn close.
Thoroughly Broken Emperor’s New Clothes – as played
R Black Lotus
R Mox Sapphire
R Mox Jet
R Mox Ruby
3 Dark Ritual
4 Undiscovered Paradise
4 Gemstone Mine
4 Underground Sea
2 Volcanic Island
2 Forsaken City
Sideboard – just Cunning Wish targets, since we only play one game
1 Force of Will
1 Dark Ritual
1 Frantic Search
1 Whispers of the Muse
1 Ebony Charm
1 Diabolic Edict
1 Honorable Passage
1 Hydroblast?? (may have been Misinformation, or something else)
For what it was worth, we were team”That’s Mister Cthulhu 2U.”
Ten teams of three signed up for the event. The judges announced that the tournament would be five rounds of Swiss with no top eight. The judges then commented that they had received a bunch of email questions (heh), and proceeded to explain lots of rules. They also confirmed that teams could talk whenever they wanted, and even show each other their hands.
The teams varied. Some were friends with very shallow card pools, some had more expensive cards (although we were probably the only team with a full lot of Power Nine), and some had developed combo decks.
The first match was against a team with one fast green deck, one Goblins/burn deck, and an emperor who carried removal and additional burn. Their decks were pretty good, but not amazingly fast, and their draws were nothing special. The combo went off turn 2, with everyone holding countermagic.
After the win, we pulled out our fun decks and played a few games. We had also discussed this beforehand, and decided that it would be no fun for either ourselves or our opponents to play just one fast game, get the combo off, then sit on our hands for the rest of the round. We all had fun decks to bring along, although Ingrid would occasionally play emperor with her pawn’s deck. Ingrid thinks beating with Lightning Angels is fun, and it doesn’t have that gritty combo-deck feel. I’ll talk about my fun decks some other time – but I will mention that we only lost once all night with the fun decks, and that was because Vic dropped a turn 1 Bottomless Pit – Emperor Ingrid randomly discarded nearly all her land, and Vic never drew a threat.
The teams were a mixed lot. Against the teams with beatdown decks and no countermagic, the combo worked fast and flawlessly. (Example: against an opposing team whose turn one plays were Mountain/Goblin, Swamp and Forest/Elf, I had the turn one Gemstone Mine/Ritual/Entomb/Dance of the Dead/Whispers draw, with both pawns holding Force of Wills.) Against one team whose emperor had a Prodigal Sorceror/Awakening deck, we actually had to win the countermagic fight. We had only one team that had thought about the format as much as we had, and they were a battle.
Whipstich Workshop – the team was named after their favorite artist’s cards – had developed a combo deck of its own. The emperor played Hermit Druid and Mortal Combat. Since the deck ran Birds of Paradise, Utopia Tree, and some tutors, it found the piece parts fairly quickly. The real innovation was the pawns, who played lots of counters – including Force Spike and Daze – together with protection in the form of Land Tax and Solitary Confinement. The pawns were there solely to provide protection to their emperor.
The game came down to three crucial turns. They won the roll, and had our pawn play first. On my turn one, I opened with Underground Sea, Mox Sapphire and tried to cast Time Walk. It met Force Spike, which Vic Forced, and which they then Misdirected. Vic removed Counterspell to pay Force of Will’s casting cost, which proved to be our first mistake (he kept Fact or Fiction). The next turn, I resolved Entomb, but Animate Dead ran into a counter war that we lost. During this all, the opposing emperor was setting up, with Mortal Combat and Hermit Druid gradually appearing. One turn three, I tried Dance of the Dead for the win. Another counter battle ensued; they had the final counter on the stack, but Ingrid had five mana untapped and Cunning Wish in hand. She cast the wish, and we discussed, briefly, whether to get Pyroblast or Burnout. We decided on Burnout, because it would draw another card, but one opponent had Daze. Admittedly, it was the first time we saw it – but we should have played around it anyway. To make a long story short, the Daze killed the Burnout, Dance of the Dead was countered, and they got the combo off before we did.
Final results: Whipstitch Warrior (Ken Whitworth, Matt Snead and Ed Fear) were undefeated. That’s Mister Cthulhu 2U (that’s us) came in second with one loss.
I think our combo deck was a lot stronger, but the singlemindedness of their pawn decks provided better support. The pawns had more counters than we did. We had a fallback plan, and both of our pawns could win the game without the Emperor doing anything, but they proved that was unnecessary.
Solitary Confinement/Land Tax is a pretty good combo. Adding Compulsion would help in duels, but since the only function of the pawns was to stay alive and protect the emperor until he could combo, it wasn’t all that necessary.
In emperor, this deck is pretty much unstoppable, provided your pawns carry enough countermagic to outcounter the opponents. In multiplayer Chaos, where most players don’t run much countermagic, your only real fear is spot removal targeting the dragon, or possibly something strange like Tormod’s Crypt, Planar Void or Ebony Charm.
In Extended, the deck needs to run four Duress, four Force of Will, and so on. The build should be similar to the old Replenish decks. The biggest problem will be Oath decks. I played Oath in an Extended tourney last weekend, and felt pretty good with four Swords, twelve counters, plus four Pyroblasts and four Hydroblasts in the sideboard. (Hydroblast can destroy the dragon when the”remove permanents” from the game effect is on the stack. If that resolves, it’s generally game.)
In my casual play groups, I am going to recommend banning this combo immediately. Casual play should be about long and interesting games, not broken combos that win on turn one.
One final note: Mike Guptil and PES ran a lot of interesting formats at Origins this year. Type I Emperor, Peasant Magic, Block Party, creature decks, etc. The events ran pretty well and I had no problem with the judges. Nice job.
* – This does not work if the opponent has Null Brooch in play… But there are answers to that as well.
** Yes, it is a bad card. But if anyone ever makes an opponent playing Worldgorger Dragon scoop by playing the Familiar, they should dance on the tables. Hey, they should get a free pass to the top eight immediately.
*** – Ghitu Fire is a Sorcery – so although it can be cast at instant speed, it cannot be summoned with Cunning Wish. However, there are two instant-speed X spells that will allow the kill. Flaming Gambit can kill the opponent, provided that the opponent does not have any creatures in play any longer (Capsize solves that problem), or the old Mirage card Volcanic Geyser is a straight X burn spell.