Even the most hardcore tournament player needs to take time out from the serious PTQ scene from time to time, and if you don’t believe me you’re probably about to get run over by the”burnout bus,” Nigel…
One of the more popular ways for players to chill while still keeping their fingers in that magical pie is by playing 5-Color, a.k.a.”the biggest format with the biggest decks.”
(Jarrod Bright might get more of a laugh out of that more than most…)
It certainly gives you something to do with those older cards during the non-Extended seasons, anyway. Besides selling them of course, but that’s never that fatal because you can always pick up replacements right here at StarCityGames, am I right?
(Plug, plug, plug! I’ve just sat on the bathplug, and it really hurts! I got myself right on the tailbone, owowow…)
As a change of pace – not that I ever have any kind of rhythm here – I’m gonna take us for a leisurely stroll through my 5-Color deck. A monstrosity that can win a good 50% of its games, topple at any moment, and yet somehow reflects me as a person. Kind of.
First of all, it’s covered in red sleeves. This is considered a bit of a no-no in 5-Color circles – but then again, so is telling other players to bite me, which I’ll quite happily do if you don’t like my sleeves. Some might say that the sleeves are red because that happens to be my favorite color in Magic, others because they’re soaked in the blood of my former opponents, and a scant few say they’re red because it compliments my luscious, dark brown hair. While it’s quite true about the hair, it’s only really because there was once a time when you could only really get black or red sleeves around here and probably anywhere else, and I have a massive pile of old used and abused red card-condoms, so to speak.
Secondly, my 5-Color deck reflects an inner anal-retentive nature that Taeme, a.k.a. Iain Telfer, loves to point out on roughly a biweekly basis. If you don’t know already – and even if you do, you’re about to be told again – 5-Color has deck limitations like regular Constructed magic. The deck has to have no less than 250 cards within, and has to have at least eighteen cards in each color.
I say”in each color” as opposed to”from each color” because that means you can’t just go ahead and shove 4x Sliver Queen, 4x Sliver Overlord, 4x Last Stand, 4x Atogatog, and 2x Rith, the Awakener and expect to satisfy a good 97% of your decks color requirements. Anyway, much like I won’t play a Limited deck with more than forty cards, nor a Constructed deck with more than sixty cards – and I mean if Rob Dougherty himself wins a Pro Tour with a sixty-one-card deck, you had better believe I’ll find a card to cut – I won’t build a 5-Color deck with a single card over 250.
I will count that sucker to be sure, too.
But that’s not all. The deck will be focused on no more than three colors, probably two – and I have done only one color before. The other colors will feature no more than eighteen cards each. Not nineteen, because there happen to be nineteen cards I can’t live without in that color: Eighteen.
It’s kind of a challenge, I guess. But if you ask Taeme, he’ll just say it’s the insanity kicking it.
(But that’s fine, I can vouch for him too.)
(I can’t believe I’m about to do one of those articles where the author presents a decklist and talks about the cards…)
(*Hangs head in shame*)
Let’s talk lands. I like to run around a hundred of those adorable little mana producers, which works out at exactly 40%, the same as running twenty-four lands in a sixty-card deck. Many 5-Color enthusiasts run as few as sixty-five land in their decks, but I hazard a guess that they’d also run that in a Standard tournament or even a prerelease. So I figure they can’t be trusted to know their backside from a week-old pizza, let alone how to build and sufficiently randomize a Magic deck before cutting for the ante.
Oh yeah – ante. We play trade back, because we play for fun mostly and losing cards is not fun. Basically, you choose a bad rare from their pile of cast-asides, and they decorate it somehow for you. My favorite is the Goblin Game Disco Dave did for me that has parts of its text blocked out, so it now reads:
“Each player hides all players simultaneously. Each player loses life equal to the number of players tied up.”
If any of you feel like flaming me for my stance on ante, you obviously don’t know me well enough.
Anyway, the lands. I usually like to play with the full compliment of Invasion duals, and would probably only start removing any of them if I somehow successfully collected a full, forty-strong playset of original dual lands. With this build however, white is not even remotely a dominant color, so I’ve reduced the number of white Invasion lands accordingly.
The Mirage sac lands used to be quite the mainstay of 5-Color decks, because they could happily fetch forth dual lands until the cows came home – that is, as long as the cows waited a turn for the Mirage fetch lands to untap. Then came the Onslaught fetch lands, making it pretty much”end of story.” But don’t feel too sorry for the Mirage ones, they do hold one single advantage over the new fancy-pants editions: They don’t stop the ante.
When you cut for ante at the start of a game of 5-Color, you keep revealing cards until you find a rare or a suitably rare promo card of some kind. The player who reveals the highest mana cost card gets to play first, and as per the rules set out at www.5-color.com, they also get to draw. So therefore, rare lands have a bit of a drawback. But unfortunately for the Mirage sac lands, coming into play tapped far outweighs the ante thing. Let’s not forget the super sac land from Judgment: Krosan Verge. This thing can tutor for almost any four-color combination of mana producing lands and have them in play for you by turn 4, and accelerating you to boot.
(Did you notice there how I can’t decide if I’m calling them”fetch lands” or”sac lands” there?)
(I’ll bet the Ferrett did, and it probably annoyed the crap out of him.)
(Normally, I edit them all to read fetchlands for consistency’s sake, but he at least cared enough to annoy me – The Ferrett)
Once again, I’ve missed out some of the lands in that cycle that can get me white mana. This time I chose to go with 4x WG lands instead of a 2x WG and 2x WU split because of the dual lands I actually have available to – but more on them later, obviously. Lands that tap for all five colors of mana are probably going to come in handy with this kind of deck, at least I’ve found them too anyway. While Reflecting Pool doesn’t technically provide the whole basket of goodies itself, it’s still one I have a soft spot for. I’m pretty sure I’ve never anted one, either, so I feel like they return that love in their own special way. I try not to use City of Brass unless I’m playing some kind of beatdown build, but seeing as I’ve been playing for well over six years now, like many more experienced players I cannot bring myself to play anything other than a control deck in any format.
(Obviously not true. Digby, you can stop writing an email to me calling me a liar, right now!)
(I have this strange need to play the very best deck in any format, no matter what.)
(You can shaddup too, Taeme…)
Back when Gemstone Mine was standard legal, I dreaded the idea of playing four of them. Just watching as your mana trickles away down the sink? Awful! Well, until you cast Armageddon, anyway. But now they’re four among two hundred and fifty cards, so I’m not at all worried. That and I’m not overly concerned that I’ll lose a swathe of DCI points when they do finally pork me from the south.
Ahh, next comes the stragglers. The two lands that replaced a couple of basics to get my red mana count up. Why will become apparent very soon.
I’ve always hated pain lands. I mean sure, I’ve played them in constructed and will again in the future, but every time I see one I get this feeling of betrayal, the feeling that I’m playing them to avoid color screw and therefore the world is not all happy bunnies and purple elephants. And then you tap one for a specified color and it bites you! Horrid little Judases! I want more lands that don’t bite me – like dual lands for instance. Unfortunately, whenever I draw one of my dual lands, I’m reminded of yet more painful facts: I don’t own 4x of all ten flavors, and I can’t fetch the color red to save myself.
4 Tropical Island
3 Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author] (1 UNL, 1 REV, 1 German REV”Buschland”)
That’s them; that’s all of them. That there is every original dual land I own. A playset each of Revised Bayous and Revised Tropical Islands, and an eclectic collection of Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrublands[/author]. All in all, it could be a whole lot better or worse. Ideally, I would have some Underground Seas in there because as will be shown later, this deck is built around blue and black, but unfortunately, what the deck needs most is a solitary Plateau. Just one. With just one Plateau, I’ll finally be able to fetch the color red with my sac lands. I’ll be able to plainscycle for it too, and my Krosan Verges won’t look as silly as they do when they repeatedly fetch, game after game, yet another Tropical Island and a Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author]. Failing getting myself a Plateau, I’m gonna try and scrounge up a Badlands, because I can swampcycle for that, or at least fetch it with a sac land. Currently, I can only swampcycle for a Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author] or an actual Swamp, and that wears thin quite quickly.
(Why don’t I drop the swampcyclers? Shaddup, Taeme!)
Maybe a Taiga… The Verge could get me that. But unfortunately, R/G dual lands are actually used by some people, so I’ll be hard-pressed to find one. Yeah, I’ve basically given up all hope of ever seeing a Volcanic Island.
One thing I do like about my dual lands is that they’re very easy to tutor for. Along with my four Contract from Belows and some of the Jeweled Birds, they are the only white-bordered cards in the deck. If fact, you couldn’t pay me to take Alpha, Beta, or even foreign black bordered Plateaus or Badlands over Revised or Unlimited ones.
(Okay, you could. I know I can trade them on for nice white-bordered copies.)
Everyone loves manlands – Digby especially so. I swear, his 5-Color deck probably has six or seven copies of every single one ever printed, or something. I tend to only run those you see above, but I sometimes make room for Ghitu Encampment because it has a power of two and err, it’s red. My Mishra’s Factories are a source of pride, joy, and merciless beatings if played on turn 1. Unfortunately, while they’re all black-bordered, one of them is foreign. Not that I have a problem with foreign cards; it’s just I have three of these FBB Factories, and Giles flat-out refuses to trade his single original Mishy for all three of my Englishly challenged ones. Grrr, and so on.
Ever wanted to kill a man? Oh, I mean a land? Then you can’t say”no” to these puppies, but on the other hand Dustbowl seems a bit cheesy for my liking. Weird, really, because there’s little else I like over toasted bread, cheese, and tomato-based food products. Last but not least, I have some basic land cards in my deck – probably too few in the face of such cards as Back to Basics and Destructive Flow, but you gotta let poor Giles win somehow.
(Man, if that’s not setting up a spoonful of Murphy’s Law, I don’t know what is…)
I don’t have too many swamps, obviously, due to the fact that the majority of my dual lands come with murky water and rotted trees already installed and I’m left swimming in black mana. Note that the (Arena) signifies that these Swamps are the Arena promo varieties, not that I’m nerdy enough to claim that:
“Thith ith where my monthterth fight, *snort, and slide glasses up nose with middle finger*”
If you’re not sure why I’m running a single Snow-Covered Swamp, then you clearly don’t know how Tainted Pact works in regards to these hideous pieces of cardboard filth. Well, I’m sure you’ve figured it out now anyway.
If you remember back about a week, you will recall that I do a wee bit of trading now and again and pretty much any chance I can get, really. Therefore, I have a nice little collection of promo lands – and unfortunately, I do mean little. As shown by the fact that I have two different promo Forest pictures used here. If I had to choose, I think I would prefer a second copy of the Arena one, but the APAC 1 Forest is nice too. Not as nice as the APAC 2 Forest, but I have like, five of them and only one APAC 1 copy and therefore don’t get to use them very often. *Shrug*
The APAC 1 Plains is one of the nicest I have ever seen. If you’re not what sure what I mean, head over to this site and check out his vast image library of pretty much everything rare and Magic. (We also have APAC lands for sale – The Ferrett) I do have an Arena Plains, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a touch too dry in appearance compared to the APAC 1 Plains for my liking.
I like this Mountain best of all. No, not the Snow-Covered one, the Arena one. Second place would have to go to the APAC 3 Mountain, though… Although I do still have another Arena Mountain lying around, so I don’t need to resort to using multiple pictures this time.
(Grumble, grumble, Forest, grumble…)
Heh; guess who doesn’t own enough Snow-Covered Islands, yet somehow owns ten or eleven APAC 2 ones? Yes, while I assume there are several correct answers to that question and so proving anybody wrong here could be difficult, but bonus points go to those of you who said”blisterguy.” Commiserations go also to those of you who spoke your answer out loud and are now receiving funny looks from family, friends, and workmates and so on.
That concludes the land section of my 5-Color deck, which should add up to exactly a hundred lands. Next week we’ll look at just kidding! I wouldn’t do that to you. Onto the actual cards now.
Because of the way each card is attributed to a color for counting purposes, I can go through a color at a time. We’ll start with my favorite color, which happens to be red as I said earlier. Just because it’s my favorite color doesn’t mean I’m stupid enough to play it in every tournament I enter or some such shenanigans – and in this case, red has been limited to the bare minimum of eighteen cards, and only six of them are actually red alone.
Firebolt is somehow better than Lightning Bolt in 5-Color, which is a shame because I have 2 Blitzschlag, a (Korean name), and a (Chinese name) in lovely black border ready to go if need be. But really, not much else can be said about red.
Oh no – wait! I did have Form of the Dragon in there for a while so I could Academy Rector it into play. But basically, it would come into play, put it’s end of turn trigger on the stack and Disco Dave would Disenchant/Naturalize/Nantuko Vigilante/whatever-else-he-had-handy it, just to annoy me. So it was back to the sidelines for poor old Form of the Dragon, for now…
1 Regrowth (French BB REV”Reapparition”)
1 Living Wish
3 Roar of the Wurm
4 Pernicious Deed
4 Sylvan Library (1 LEG, 1 German BB REV”Waldesbibliothek”, 1 French BB REV”Bibliotheque sylvestre”, 1 Spanish BB REV”Biblioteca Silvestre”)
Some people have said that four Sylvan Libraries are too many, and they may actually be right in some strange parallel universe where nothing makes sense and people drive fruit boats to work. Four of a card is only one in 62.5 when it comes to 5-Color, so… I dunno, they must be drinking petroleum, or something.
I know for a fact that people around here will rightfully shoot a Sylvan on sight, and have done since long before sac/fetch lands made them that much better again. But on the other hand, I’m only running three Roar of the Wurms here, so what’s up with that? Actually, I wouldn’t even bother running them if Quiet Speculation was restricted… Heh.
(Goes all rubbery.)
See? White is the last”limited” color in this here red-sleeved buh-huweamuth. And has for a long time supported such gems as 4 Eladamri’s Call, Balance, Land Tax, and Weathered Wayfarer. It was all well and good until I got my 4th Eternal Dragon a few weeks back, then I had to take to white with a chopping implement of some sort. Balance went, because I just couldn’t be bothered with it. Land Tax was a pain to execute with so few basics, and so was the Wayfarer, but more so because I had to actually tap mana to use it. The Call was the last to go, and that was basically because I was sick of tutoring for the Rector every second game. Somehow, tutoring for a kill method goes against the grain for me. I like watching movies where the assassin takes up a nearby inanimate object like a candlestick or a stuffed cat to”finish” the job, not when they pull out some contraption from their pocket or whatever. So in the same way, I try to win with whatever my deck spits up.
Anyway, the cards themselves:
Once again, if I wasn’t able to play four Quiet Speculation I would drop the Ray and go up to four Dismantling Blows. Some people think I like to work a single copy of any”Ray” card into my decks because it happens to be my name. But then again, some people are annoying, too. Do you find that?
(Not you, though; I like the people that take the time to read these, I really do.)
There was a time where I didn’t max out on the cheap, efficient creature removal like Swords, Firebolt, and Terminate, but that was because most of us around here played some form of control deck. That meant that sometimes an Uktabi Orangutan would smash my Fellwar Stone, and then go to work on me. Oh no! Nineteen, seventeen, fifteen, thirteen, eleven, nine, seven, five… find a Ghitu Encampment and bring it playwards. Untap, get it Wastelanded, and then get smeared against the wall by the stupid sex-monkey. Grrr, etc.
Oh, I mean:”And so on.”
3 Ivory Tower (2 AQ, 1 German BB REV”Elfenbeinturm”)
1 Zuran Orb
4 Jeweled Bird (1 AN, 3 CH decorated for Scott Richards to use in the Invitational)
4 Powder Keg
1 Phyrexian Furnace (Korean)
1 Sol Ring (French BB REV”Anneau solaire”)
Yeah, I thought I’d do my artifacts next, you got a problem with that? It seems odd that if I’m gonna play more than one Ivory Tower that I should chose to play a mere three of them, but it’s because I only own three black-bordered Towers, and can’t bring myself to spoil the deck with an awful fourth edition copy.
The Jeweled Birds are a little special to me. When Scott Richards won the last-ever Latin America Championships, he qualified for the Invitational in the process and therefore needed a 5-Color deck. He pillaged mine for the bare necessities like Contracts, Jeweled Birds, and anything else we could think of, and he then scrounged up some power 9 cards when he reached Cape Town. The 5-Color rules state that if you’re using a Jeweled Bird, it must either be Arabian Nights, or heavily modified. While mine are probably not quite modified enough, and I put that down to the designer in me not wanting to go overboard and make Scott look silly at the big event, I feel the pedigree associated with these three Birds warrants their inclusion to the deck.
(That’s my story anyway, and I’m sticking to it!)
I can now tackle the final two colors in bits, because they aren’t limited to only eighteen cards like the others. To me, Tainted Pact is almost as important as Contract from Below in a 5-Color deck. You can dig that much further with the Pact before you risk hitting multiples of any card – especially if you’re covering some of you basic lands in snow, if you know what I mean. My second favorite landcycler has to be El Twistor del Abominator. I did have the blue one in the deck too, but I found I never, ever, and I mean ever wanted to cast that piece of decaying rectal polyp, so it went the way of the dodo. Smother and Expunge add to my new-found paranoia concerning small creatures attacking be before I know what to do about them. It may have something to do with Alice and I adopting two kittens some eighteen months ago, but I’m really not sure…
I’m always hesitant to include Demonic Consultation after I Consulted a good 150 to 180 cards away in a game versus Digby once – and the card I consulted for was a card I was playing 4 of, I can assure you. But what the hell, you can’t live forever, so the Consult stays to satisfy the tiny portion of me that likes to take risks. The Edict can be Speculated for randomly, and the Decree of Pain is just fun, fun, fun for me and pretty much no one else. Somehow, I keep Mystical Tutoring for it and cycling it to kill my Rector to fetch my Future Sight… Notice how I’ve left out such cards as Diabolic Tutor and Mind Twist? I’ve played with these cards enough in 5-Color I think, because somehow now the idea of drawing a Diabolic Tutor bores me, and the idea of Twisting anyone – and I’ll even include Digby in that – makes me feel a bit dirty.
I was going to remove the Psychatogs like I had removed many other”boring” cards, but Dave assured me he was playing with them too, so I figured it was okay. This is the first time I’ve really given Lim-Dul’s Vault a solid chance in a deck, and it seems to be working out. I assume I’ll get to go nuts with it in due course in an attempt to tutor something spectacular. I hope it works out, and doesn’t just go flat on me.
Card drawing is even more important in 5-Color than in um, er… I guess pretty much any other format really. And that’s because um, I said so.
(Sorry, I didn’t think that last sentence would turn out so lame…)
Some token Counterspells, which are kinda on my”boring watch list”. Misdirection will probably stay though, because it’s at least a bit more fun than the others are. I can’t remember if I’ve ever told this story here before, but like my father in-law, I’ll err on the side of caution and tell it again.
(I can hear you all groaning – now stop it!)
Unlike my father in-law, I won’t exaggerate the facts with every subsequent telling of the story.
Anyway, when Scott Richards and his adopted Family of Mexicans…
(They adopted him, not the other way around.)
…Set out for the Invitational all those years ago, they took with them my only two Mana Drains. Somehow on their slow and winding course back, they stopped by whatever Australian grad prix where the Artist behind Mana Drain – one Mr. Mark Tedin – happened to be in attendance. When one of the Mexicans told be they had managed to get my Drains signed at the Grand Prix, I feared that their lovely countenances had been grossly spoiled by copious quantities of gold and silver marker pen. Quite the contrary however! Mark Tedin must be quite the gentleman, as he signed them quite discretely along the card type line, obscuring nothing of importance and adding some recently lost years to my as-of-now-still-quite-youthful life.
A bit of miscellaneous bounce and yet more creature removal. I hope R&D doesn’t consider Repulse to be”too good,” because I love that wee spell. Unfortunately, if I put my common-sense pants on, I fear I won’t be seeing it again any time soon. And as for the Chain? It’s cute. I would play more, but I can’t seem to find any additional copies amongst my mountainous piles of cardboard.
These two cards make me giggle, and that’s pretty much the whole point of playing 5-Color to me. I did originally have 4 Control Magic in there, but one by one they became Chromeshell Crabs. While not technically better than Control Magic, I have a funny feeling I will enjoy their presence that much more. That and they’re rare, and therefore bring up the”rares with a converted mana cost greater than zero” versus fetchlands ratio somewhat. The Quanar is one of my new favorite cards, which will probably change once Scourge is actually released on Magic Online and I can get my hands on some Warchiefs to bring the beats. But the Quanar is serving me well as of now; the other day Disco Dave cast Harrow and I almost missed my opportunity to score a couple of free lands for myself. Which effectively cost me all of one colorless mana. Ahhh, Quanar…
This group is bunch of restricted blue cards. I usually pack as many restricted cards into my deck as I possibly can, but for some reason I’m coming around to the realization that they aren’t as much fun as they’re cracked up to be. The Merchant Scroll can’t seem to get much other than Repulse, Misdirection, or Fact or Fiction in my deck. And to be quite honest, once 8th edition becomes legal it will probably step out of the deck and go on standard duty, where it waits to be used whenever I may possibly need it.
The following cards are one-ofs that don’t really need to be:
The Flash of Insight can be Speculated for which I like, and I would run more Complicates if I could find more of them, but I have a funny feeling that they’re off at a party with my additional Chain of Vapors, and I wasn’t invited. You may ask why I would consider running Complicate while also considering dropping the other counters from my deck. I’m not sure, really, but the fact that I’ve fallen in love with Complicate in Onslaught Block Constructed might have something to do with it, and maybe the fact that when you catch someone with its cycled ability… That’s fun.
And last, but definitely not least, is Arcanis. He’s really an afterthought when it comes to this deck, although I’m looking forward to some good times when he comes out to play. Is there a story behind this Arcanis in particular? You had better believe it!
One Friday, I showed up at our local card-playing establishment with an almost complete Reanimator deck. The one card I was missing was this very blue legend himself. It was far too late to call in a favor/order from dear old starcitygames.com, so I was left to beg friends and strangers alike for a copy of Mr. Omnipotent. The starting time for the FNM tournament was nearing and it seemed I was going to be without an Arcanis, I was getting despondent and was considering not entering because Reanimator is gas with, but not without, El big Wizardo. Finally, Dave crawled in from work, and I was all over him like an excited puppy:
“Do you have Arcanis, Dave? Doya? Doya? Doya?!?”
Dave expressed the opinion that while he thought he did not, we could look through his cards for one anyway. He motioned towards the section he thought it might be in, and I dove in like it was Christmas morning. As I neared the end of the pile, I realized that Arcanis was in fact, not going to appear.
“It’s not gonna happen, Dave” I told him”but thanks anyway…”
And just as I flicked through the last few cards, Dave flipped a card towards me face down and declared:
“I’ll play a morph…”
Yeah, it was Arcanis.
I stuffed that wizard into my deck as fast as I could, for fear it would disappear with a puff of smoke, or something, and entered the FNM, not losing a single game all night.
Now that’s what I call a happy ending to an otherwise useless article about my stupid 5-Color deck! Unfortunately, now I have to go and shuffle this freakin’ monstrosity again…
Remember to have fun while you’re playing these magical cards, children!
Until next time,
(blisterguy anywhere, and just about everywhere)