WotC announced this week the latest of Duel Decks Elspeth vs Kiora released sometime this year. Two very exciting Planeswalker, I’m guessing that Elspeth deck will be a Mono-White (or Boros) and Simic for Kiora’s. There’s a good chance these Walkers will continue seeing play, so this is a good way to pick them up with extra value, you got love Wizards for that. I’m looking forward to see the decklists and new art! Here’s the latest sneak peak, although I expect there will be better pics from Wizards this week. Enjoy!
What motivates you to Brew? Is it a card? Is it a mechanic? Is it a colour? Brewing up a deck takes as much creativity as any other creative output, whether it is writing the next piece of great literature, or composing the next symphony, or even painting a masterpiece to be displayed. No, regardless of what you do in your life, if you brew up decks at Magic, you need some sort of inspiration. Let’s explore some of those sources of inspiration and where you go looking for creative ideas to make a deck.
There are lots of different types of decks out there and lots of different people out there brewing things up. Not every one brews up first rate competitive decks…and that’s fine. Let’s be honest, the very creative and best are rare and hard to find. If it was easy to be creative there would have been more Mozart’s, Rembrandt’s, or Shakespeare’s. The same theory applies to creating a deck…the top deck builders are the top deck builders for a reason. They “see” things that the average player misses, and that’s what makes them special. However, we can learn a process, we can all improve, and the fact that we aren’t that special talent does not invalidate our own efforts to build decks. In fact, there is a great deal of satisfaction in building your own deck even if it is never going to be used at more than a game at your kitchen table. Building decks is a creative activity that brings with it its own level of enjoyment and joy regardless of how talented you are.
So, when you sit down to brew, where do you start? For me there are a couple of ways that often kick start the process. The first and most obvious jumping off point is you open up an automatic “build around me” card that it is just too tempting to turn up. These are usually super powerful mythics or rares and come in a variety of colours and shapes, but these present an opportunity to exploit something very explosive and powerful. However, sometimes these are commons or uncommons that can yield a more consistent result because you likely have a playset to fill out in your deck. One such example would be the card Aqueous Form from Theros. “Huh?” you ask, but let me run down how this could be such a card. We have seen that unblockable creatures are super hard to contain and interact with…and the only thing harder is an unblockable creature that is also hexproof. Basically, I took one look at Aqueous Form and said “ well…let’s make my own Hexproof/Unblockable creature and make the game totally degenerate”. So, I next needed to find hexproof creatures…and I was off and running to build a deck all on the back of 4 common Aqueous Form cards.
Another approach for inspiration is looking at the decklists of others for ideas. This does NOT mean straight out copying the deck list. As much as that is a very popular form of building decks, it is not really inspiration because there is very little of your own creative thought that goes into the deck. No, the idea spawned by the decklist is a decent place to start but you need to take that idea and then build around it by substituting and replacing pieces of your own. This may be done on account of you not having the same pieces as the decklist that was posted, but sometimes it is to reflect your own interests. Perhaps you want to push the linear mechanic in the deck further. Perhaps it is to reflect your playgroup and you make changes to deal with particular decks. Whatever your reason, you move away from the standard decklist that you found somewhere on the internet and take it in a different direction. On occasion I have done this as well mostly to get a sense of some core pieces that can fit nicely together that interest me, but I then go around and fill out the shell with the cards that I want.
A third way to find some inspiration is looking at decks from previous formats and then modifying them with the use of cards that are currently in the Standard format. The nice thing with Magic is that often similar cards get printed that have the same or similar effects. This isn’t always the case, but you can find most effects you want printed in one form or another. As a result, the same style of decks and archetypes can exists, but with slightly different cards and with some slight differences. One such archetype that I have been enjoying is the Hexproof/Auras decks…particularly the Bant Auras deck that was played while Geist of Saint Traft and Invisible Stalker were in Standard. Both of these cards are effectively broken and to arm them up with Auras makes for a potent deck. My immediate thought when they rotated out was that Theros could NOT support such a strategy again because the deck was pretty degenerate. Honestly, who wants to play a deck that allows for almost 0 interaction and races you with devastating effectiveness? Not me…unless I’m the one running the deck! Then I saw a deck tech on the coverage for the Theros Pro-Tour that was a W/G Hexproof auras deck and my hopes were renewed as I took inspiration from source #2 (someone else’s deck). This is where my interest in Aqueous Form, an idea for a current deck in the Meta, and a previous archetype coalesced to form one common deck idea.
Now, once you have a deck idea the actual brewing process can be very quick or it can take a long time to assemble the cards you want/need. I’ve sat down and in 25 minutes put together a perfectly reasonable deck with a variety of synergistic pieces. That’s fine so long as you are prepared to play with a bunch of common and lower price tag cards. However, I have also been building a deck for the better part of the last 8 months in an attempt to assemble all the cards I want. Now, the prime reason it has taken me so long to build the deck is that I have been looking to pick up the premium rare cards and lands to make the deck go. When you play Magic on a relatively tight budget it takes time to trade, acquire, scrimp and save enough to acquire the pieces you want for you deck. That is exactly the situation in which I find myself and have had to piece together the cards for my latest deck.
2015 Core set Standard
So, that’s the deck I’ve been building since September. It is a combination of all three forms of Inspiration that I usually use. The common playset of Aqueous Form, the W/G Hexproof shell from Pro-our Theros, and some of the main tenets of Bant Auras as it existed while Geist and Stalker roamed the battlefield. I’m actually proud of this deck because I have yet to actually see a deck that looks like this in Standard anywhere. Now, that likely means it is likely no good, but it is nice to think that is entirely my own brew and not copying or emulating any other deck running around Standard currently. It is also a long way from being a budget deck. That’s part of the reason it has taken me so long to build this deck and to take it out for a test drive. Inspiration is great to give you direction…but sometimes the old bank account can hold you back from some of those goals. It has taken me 8 months to put together the pieces for this deck and will likely continue to evolve.
I haven’t included much in the way of discussion around tribal decks because they are almost self evident. You open up a bunch of Goblins…you make a Goblin deck. Horsemen (Centaurs), make a Horsemen deck. That’s easy enough, but just because it is easy doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun. Sometimes the simplest source of inspiration is the best sort.
I built a rather wonky casual deck around this one common and the interaction with Spark Trooper. What could be more fun than a recurring Ball Lightning with Lifelink! Sometimes finding cards that extend across sets separated by a number of years can yield some fun and unexpected interactions and fun inspiration for a deck.
Sometimes I wake up and want to build a deck that will totally cause nothing but grief for my opponents. It is not normally my style, but there is a sort of sick satisfaction from just hosing your opponent and locking him out and then crushing him. Mill. Counter decks. Land Destruction. This can be immensely enjoyable…but only in small doses.
I have to say that a Monte Cristo sandwich is really quite delicious. If you’ve never tried one, if you see it on the menu of a restaurant near you, give it a whirl. Think Grilled cheese sandwich meets French Toast…and 100% delicious. That’s some solid food to Brew on!!
Thanks for reading…if you have any other ideas on what motivates you brew I’d love to hear about it. Everyone is different and maybe you have a trick that you could share with the other readers. Shoot me a tweet and let me know.
Until next time keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.
Bruce Gray @bgray8791
As with any Blue and White based control strategy we find a stock shell with this deck sporting a trio of Jace, Architect of Thought for draw and protection from creature swarms, a set of Sphinx’s Revelation to restock your hand with options and incidental lifegain to boot, a set of Supreme Verdict to deal with Aggro creature swarms, and a set of Detention Sphere which is able to answer most every other problem the deck may face. The meat of the deck comes from its planeswalkers, where we find the duo of the light and darkness alongside a pair of Jace options. First looking at the light we have Elspeth, Sun’s Champion as a primary win condition spitting out soldiers three at a time, while also able to sweep the board of all creatures with power greater then four and should she go ultimate will pump those soldiers of hers into veritable jet planes. Next plunging into darkness we find Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver who is especially powerful against creature decks to steal away their threats by milling away the top of the library and given enough support then dropping them into play. Then we have the two Jace, Architect of Thought integral to the deck surviving creature rush Aggro and grinding out card advantage, but also a singleton Memory Adept to work against Control strategies and mill them down to no library while you sit back playing a defensive role. The potatos of the deck come from a variety of Control staples of permission, removal and draw. The permission package is two-fold using the potent Thoughtseize to strip away their threats before they can play them while also providing you with very valuable information about what their plan is, and also a pair of Dissolve as the deck only real denial with a bonus Scry tacked on to help dig through your deck for more answers. As for removal this deck is chock full of including Supreme Verdict and Detention Sphere already mentioned, but also some spot removal with a trio of Devour Flesh to abolish that huge threat when the enemy doesn’t have a swarm present and a Doom Blade able to destroy anything in RG Monsters in a pinch. As for draw power the main tool lies in Revelation and Architect, but the deck also leans heavily on the eleven Temples for Scry to help filter draws into what is absolutely needed. We wrap up with the utility player Azorius Charm which can gain a few points of life with Soldiers if desperate, filters itself into a new draw when needed, and even bounces an attacking or blocking creature to the top of its owners library to set them back and save some life.
While it’s true we are on the verge of a new Standard format in a few weeks it is certain that UW Control will be a strategy to continue going forward. Normally I would also say that with the summer here and Magic in its dog days that it isn’t important what to play, but remember that the World Magic Cup Qualifers are coming up. If you like oppressive Control strategies then I would definitely recommend this deck for you but be sure to clue into the current meta as this is always a deck that needs to be tweeked and tuned for what’s current. And good luck chasing down that glory.
Another weekend of SCG Standard has passed and sitting at the top of the heap we find a successful jumble of acceleration into monstrous beasts and powerful planeswalkers. What we find there is essentially the GR Monsters shell that’s been prevalent in Standard for quite a while, but dipping into White for additional planeswalkers and some removal options. And judging by the popularity of this archetype in the Theros Block format it looks like it has quite a future ahead.
It is no stranger that the most prevelant duo of Green mana dorks both in Standard and Block is Sylvan Caryatid into Courser of Kruphix. This not only fixes your mana and even effectively draws you additional cards but also gains you vital life points which are so crucial in this aggressive metagame. The downside is that Courser provides your opponent with nearly perfect information which can foil you bluff when playing off the top of your deck. As an additional accelerent there is also Voyaging Satyr which won’t help if you are missing a color but will still allow you to gain extra mana. All of that goes towards powering out some monstrous fatties quickly so you can activate their Monstrosity abilities and close out games quickly. The two we find in the deck are Polukranos, World Eater which also acts as much needed removal in this deck and also the hasty flier Stormbreath Dragon which peeled off the top is often the recipie for certain doom. If those monsters are the meat of the deck we then find the fine wine pairing in the foursome of planeswalker to accompany them. The main player is party animal himself Xenagos, the Reveler who not only brings his satyr buddies with him but also helps acheive Monstrosity fast with his ramping ability. Next to join the party is Ajani, Mentor of Heroes who has a dual purpose between pumping up your creatures and digging into your deck to find more threats, but also when protected can threaten its ultimate to bolster a diminishing life total. There is also a major contribution from Elspeth, Sun’s Champion with her legion of soldiers following her, but be wary of her second ability as your bombs tend to be destroyed as well as the opponents. And why not a misers Chandra, Pyromaster as well to add a little card advantage to the deck and her first ability helps slip your big boys past their chump blockers handily. The rest of the deck is rounded out by some varied pieces of removal. There is Keening Apparition which is able to destroy any enchantment the opponent presents to the board such as Chained to the Rocks or even Underworld Connections. As a great sweeper Mizzium Mortars is able to be overloaded to deal four damage to all the opponents creatures and cast aside any would be blockers for your giant monsters. Then the last piece of the puzzle comes with the flexible Selesnya Charm that can either pump and grant Trample to a creature to rampage for a win, exile a creature that has power greater then five, or even add another threat to the board with a vigilant knight token.
So here we find that the GR Monsters deck which has already been a force in Standard continues to have room to grow and adapt as it proves it is a major player in Standard. What really interests me with this list is that the core of the deck is all from Theros Block and will undoubtedly continue to be a force into the next rotation of Standard. If you are looking for a deck to invest in as a long term prospect then this is undoubtedly the one.
The final pairing at the Pro Tour consisted of two Junk decks, this one and that of the champion Patrick Chapin. For those that aren’t aware Junk is a three color combination consisting of White, Black and Green. While the two decks both went for similar packages of removal, ramp and included Elspeth they went in different directions with the focus of their creatures. Nam Sung decided instead of going for raw power from monstrous creatures to work with the synergy of enchantments from Constellation.
The deck focuses itself around the card drawing engine from the Constellation ability on Eidolon of Blossoms and the 19 enchantments in the deck where Eidolon will draw you a card whenever you play an enchantment with it in play. There is also the formats standard Green excelleration package consisting of the two awesome anti-Aggro ‘walls’ Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix which happens to also be an enchantment for the Constellation engine. The beatdown plan comes in the form of another enchantment with Herald of Torment who is either able to Bestow itself to beef up one of the other creatures or just go to town itself, which is very relevant in the format as a Flying threat and possible blocker against Prognostic Sphinx. Another enchantment Brain Maggot is there as part of the disruption package in conjunction with Thoughtseize to strip away those hard to deal with threats and gain valuable information about the opponents game plan. It wouldn’t be right for a White Midrange deck to not play one of the most powerful cards in the format and we find the decks lone planeswalker Elspeth, Sun’s Champion to provide additional threats to the board, destroy any creature which are too powerful, or even create an emblem to pump your entire team into a Flying horde. The deck rounds itself out with an robust suite of removal with a full set of Hero’s Downfall to kill creatures or planeswalker threats, a pair of Silence the Believers to banish a few pesky creature threats in one shot, and also Banshing Light which not only hits a wide range of permanent threats but is also an enchantment to trigger Constellation. While the deck is already strong on draw, when you stick an Eidolon, it does also run all three sets of on color Temples to Scry through the deck as fast as possible.
Charlie Rinehart was able to stymie SCG circuit superstar Chris VanMeter on his mission to shave off his beard, which he has sworn to wear until he is victorious in a major tournament. This came down to a battle of the Midrange decks after both successfully dispatched Esper Control decks in their semifinal matches. While CVM chose to attack the format with an ever popular style with Jund, Charlie took a different route and combined the strengths of Black and White known as Orzhov midrange, which has been a powerful choice of late.
The deck follows some similar lines that this formats bogeyman Mono-Black Devotion has in using a trio of creatures that form the foundation of the Black deck. We see the pest know as Pack Rat as the two drop of choice in the deck, quick to grow into a swarm of vermin if unchecked and synergistic with the manland Mutavault to big fast and effective beats to the enemy. There is also Lifebane Zombie which against the Green based monster decks is truly effective but also is able to sneak past most defenders to either chip away at life totals or finish off annoying planeswalkers. Then continuing up the curve we the other borrowed creature with Flying powerhouse Desecration Demon which is a bargin at four converted cost and will most often force your opponent to sacrifice his worst creature in an effort to stave off the onslaught for another turn, but eventually he will be out of fodder and you’ll have a gigantic flying demon. Then we get to the creatures which helped to inspire the dabble into white. There are two five drops which both help the deck to recover lost life points first with a singleton of the legendary Obzedat, Ghost Council which also has a great synergy with another singleton Whip of Erebos that allows it to be returned from the grave and then use its own trigger to stick around for more turns after. The other five drop is the powerful and elusive Blood Baron of Vizkopa with not only Lifelink to assure that you remain alive against aggressive strategies but also protection against both White and Black which ensures it dodges a lot of the formats removal to ensure it keeps you alive and kicking. The last creature is a one of Sin Collector which work with the other key disruption in your deck Thoughtseize to provide important information about the opponents plans and strip away a valuable card. For planeswalker power we find Theros Block superstar Elspeth, Sun’s Champion which this deck is often able to drop down behind some protection then use it to ramp up the board state into a one sided slaughterhouse on your road to victory, and is also a very key as additional removal to rid the board of huge monsters that have accumulated on the other side of the table. As far as removal is concerned this deck is rife with a plethora of choices starting with a full set of the creature and planeswalker killer Hero’s Downfall, then also adding pairs of Ultimate Price to rid the board of any of the many mono-colored creatures in the format, Bile Blight that functions as the decks sweeper although it is limited to shrinking all copies of one particular card, and as a catchall answer Banishing Light which is able to remove a good variety of threats. The final card is the decks only real source of card advantage, although the scrylands do help filter bad draws, with another choice borrowed from Mono-Black with Underworld Connections that is so key for this deck to grind out small bits of advantage to try and pull ahead to seal the deal.
It was an amazing weekend of Theros at the latest stop on the Pro Tour showcasing both the draft format and Block Constructed. As has become tradition at the Pro Tour after the release of the final set of the block they debut this fresh and largely unknown constructed format. For those that aren’t familiar with Block Constructed your card pool is limited to just the cards from the three sets, or in the case of the Lorwyn Block four, from that particular block only. You follow regular deck construction rules with a minimum 60 card deck that has no more then four copies of any card other then basic lands and a sideboard of 15 cards or less. You can imagine that with this restricted selection of cards that you would find only a very few deck types dominate but the top 8 had five distinct archetypes which is what you would expect to find at any other constructed elimination.
Aside from this deck there was also what emerged as the two pillars of the format with BUG Control and RG Elspeth, Boros Heroic and the other finalist who’s Junk Constellation deck just couldn’t hold up against Patricks creation. The benchmark for power was widely accepted to be Elspeth, Sun’s Champion which led to the flipside of Prognostic Sphinx as her natural foil since it conveniently skirted the destroy ability on Elspeth, was able to fly over the top of most defenders and with the ability to gain hexproof on a whim resilient to other removal spells. The other power combination arose from Green with the excelerent duo of Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix which are both conveniently strong walls against Aggro decks and fast mana to help quickly power out Midrange or big monster strategies.
Patrick chose to go with the power player of Elspeth in a marriage with the Caryatid/Courser combo and then tacked on Black for its strong removal. In order for the deck to pull ahead to solidify distinct advantage your early creature plays always want to be the Sylvan Caryatid which provides you with any color mana to fight against any deficiency your lands might throw you and Courser of Kruphix that while it does provide information to your opponent will often net you additional cards whenever you’re able to play a land off the top, not to mention the very relevant additional points of life you’ll grind out over the game. The beatdown then starts with Fleecemane Lion which is a solid 3/3 for two mana able to attack through opposing Caryatids and eventually able to go monstrous transforming into a near unremovable beast. Next we find the regal cat Brimaz, King of Oreskos who brings with him some of his pride of soldiers whenever he attacks or blocks ensuring that you continuously clutter the board with more and more creatures. The other creature found in the deck is another legendary character with Polukranos, World Eater which doubles as removal with his Monstrosity ability and usually turns into a humongous threat that demands removal or a long line of chump blockers. The next step after starting with some creature threats usually ramps up into an Elspeth, Sun’s Champion who when protected will undoubtedly finish off the game with her combination of creatures, removal and eventually even an over the top pump. We then get into the krux of the black in the deck from the removal which includes the blocks best from Hero’s Downfall which is amazing instant speed against both creatures and planeswalkers alike, and Silence the Believers which with the ramp from this deck can quite easily hit two or sometimes even three targets if necessary then exile them so if the target happens to be indestructible that’s just too bad. As a catchall against other permant problems there’s a misers copy of Banishing Light to exile anything from enchantments or planeswalker to creatures or artifacts, even if it’s a god you need to deal with. As far as one ofs in the deck the only real draw comes from one copy of Read the Bones which does a little digging into the deck before drawing, but is also backed by full sets of all the on color Scry lands and to a lesser extent Courser as well. The final cog on the wheel is found in disruption with Thoughtseize which can not only strip your opponent of a very valuable card but also provides you with information about what his plan is going forward.
So there we have the birth of a new Block format from Theros. While the Block constructed isn’t usually a very widely played format there is going to be a Grand Prix stop in Manchester at the end of the month which is the other big tournament for this format. The interesting facet that we can extrapolate information for is that Block does help act as a precursor for the upcoming Standard landscape after the next rotation. While it is ofcouse not a fully accurate portrayal since M15 and Khans of Tarkir will also play into the equation, there is still a wealth of knowledge and forsight we can study to get some advance preparations. It will also be interesting to see if the Grand Prix continues to tweek the metagame or if the pros solved everything in Atlanta. But I can’t wait to see if any of these strategies are good enough to hold up or if new mechanics will shake up everything. Only time will tell and there’s still four months left to go…I can hardly wait.