Friday, March 30, 2012

Rith, the Token Awakener

Well, this deck certainly got some love from AVR! Sure, the number of new cards added might not be all that much, but each of them has quite a significant impact on the deck. In short, here are the new additions:

Champion of Lambholt - I fell in love with this chick at the prerelease, and luckily she seems right at home in a token deck. Making tokens makes here huge, while her getting huge makes my tokens harder and harder to block! Win-win!

Craterhoof Behemoth - I have already played a game where I swung for 71 damage on Turn 7 thanks to this guy.

Cathars' Crusade - Duh.

Reforge the Soul - As always, I need more draw, more gas. This works nicely.

Burn at the Stake - For when getting through the Red Zone is more trouble than it's worth... can easily take out one player out of the blue, or kill just about any size creature that needs killin'.

(will finish up later)


A while back, I did a crossover article with CommanderCast, where I outlined a possible WRG Token deck with Rith, the Awakner as the General. It was an idea spawned by a friend who’s Rhys the Redeemed deck wasn’t performing to his standards, and he was looking at maybe adding a third color to the deck as a way to power it up a bit.

Well, he never did anything with it, after all that. I think he just dismantled it and built something completely different instead. So, when it finally came time for me to get some new deck ideas brewing, it seemed natural to resurrect an earlier idea I’d already drafted, and bring the project to life myself, since my friend never got around to it. No point in wasting a good idea, right?

Even better, I happen to have a bigger, deeper card pool than he did, so a lot of stuff I had to leave out of his version, I could easily add to mine. So I started with the list I’d drawn up for him, then figured out what high-end stuff I’d want to add, then fine-tune it down to 100 cards. Simple as that, and I’d have a deck.

Well, it turns out it’s not quite so simple, as between Green, White and Red, there are a LOT of cards that you might want to play in a token deck! Fortunately, though it’s still fairly easy to separate the chaff from the wheat. Red has a lot of ways to make tokens, but most of them aren’t nearly as efficient as Green and White’s methods, so we’re mostly relying on those two colors for token production, but Red does open up a lot of avenues to exploit and get value from those tokens.

In the end it was still fairly easy to trim this beast down, and while I don’t think it’s 100% perfect, it’s really hard not to be happy with the list as it appears now.


Token Producers
Twilight Drover
Emeria Angel
Darien, King of Kjeldor
Dragonmaster Outcast
Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs
Chancellor of the Forge
Ant Queen
Rampaging Baloths
Avenger of Zendikar
Hornet Queen
Rhys the Redeemed
Selesnya Guildmage
Dragon Broodmother
Rith, the Awakener

Here we have our token generators. There is some unnecessary redundancy – for example, King Darien and Kazuul both trigger off being attacked, and I’m not sure we want or need both of those, but I’ve never really used either card, so I just threw ‘em both in to see which turned out to be better in practice, rather than try and theorycraft an answer. They might both prove their worth, or not.

There were about 100 million other creatures, especially in Green, that could be playable here, but I tried to pick a mix of proven powerhouses (Avenger of Zendikar) and untested-but-cool cards (Chancellor of the Forge). With such a huge field of diverse choices, I was less concerned about picking the “wrong” cards, and just played what I wanted to play, knowing that if something like Chancellor of the Forge turns out to be utter garbage, there are countless other cards waiting in the queue to take its place! This is the kind of deck were you can rely on the strength of a few cards, like Avenger, to make up for any subpar inclusions you want to run just for the hell of it.

Token Supporters
Suture Priest
Mentor of the Meek
Mirror Entity
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Moonveil Dragon
Sigil Captain
Juniper Order Ranger

This group contains creatures that feed off the token-production aspect in some fashion. Suture Priest turns tokens into lifegain, Mentor of the Meek turns them into cards, and Mooveil Dragon just turns them into firebreathers! None of these should be particularly revelatory or wildly original. Elesh Norn? Duh. But still, you can’t always play with the formula just to be different – sometimes things just work because they do, and messing with a sure thing is a dumb idea.

Misc. Utility
Academy Rector
Wood Elves
Eternal Witness
Dauntless Escort
Primeval Titan

The usual suspects, of course. Academy Rector is there almost solely to fetch Doubling Season or Parallel Lives, though I can see it getting Mirari’s Wake or Aura Shards a fair number of times. Also suitable targets include Beastmaster Ascension or Shared Animosity. Dauntless Escort is anti-Wrath tech – board sweepers are the number one bane of all token decks!


Token Producers
Martial Coup
Decree of Justice
Elspeth Tirel
March of Souls
Storm Herd
Fresh Meat
Garruk Wildspeaker
Artifact Mutation
Aura Mutation

I always love it when the usually-boring utility spells manage to land squarely on-theme and suddenly seem way less boring! Aura Mutation and Artifact Mutation are prime examples here. Ordinarily I would just run Indrik Stomphowler and Acidic Slime, and be content to do so, but here these two spells just fit perfectly. Sure, there will be times when you draw Aura Mutation but really need to kill an Artifact, but that’s alright, because we’re happy that we have utility spells that are actually thematically appropriate.
Fresh Meat is another anti-Wrath card, but I think it can be so much more – imagine sac-ing a whole army of 1/1’s to Goblin Bombardment, then replacing them all with 3/3’s. It’s definitely going to catch your opponents off guard a few times, and they will have to get used to playing around it. Eventually just bluffing that you’re sitting on a Fresh Meat will discourage them from casting that Damnation.

Token Supporters
Intangible Virtue
Shared Animosity
Goblin Bombardment
Vicious Shadows
Parallel Lives
Doubling Season
Aura Shards
Fires of Yavimaya
Mirari's Wake
Glare of Subdual
Sarkhan Vol
Titanic Ultimatum
Phyrexian Altar
Eldrazi Monument

This section is bloated, I already am aware. There is just too much stuff that has potential, but too little of it has been proven to be either good or bad, so sometimes redundancy just occurs when I can’t decide which of two cards is better, so I decide to throw ‘em both in and see what works. On the other hand it doesn’t feel redundant at all to have both Parallel Lives and Doubling Season, as both of those will be HUGE targets for removal, so having a back up copy seems like a wise move. Haste is super-important to getting maximum benefit out of your tokens – being able to attack even once before a Wrath comes down is often all you need to have made the investment worthwhile. To that end both Sarkhan Vol and Fires of Yavimaya are in, despite the slight redundancy. It’s just that important.

A lot of people will see Phyrexian Altar and immediately think “infinite mana combo”. Well, I don’t think there is any such combo in the deck, but I don’t need there to be – theoretically the Altar will just be “a lot of mana” and that’s actually good enough for me.

Misc. Utility
Swords to Plowshares
Path to Exile
Wheel of Fortune
Blasphemous Act
Kodama's Reach
Beast Within
Sol Ring
Darksteel Ingot

Good stuff is always important, and we shouldn’t be such a slave to our theme that we’re unwilling to include a few key spells – like removal, mana fixing, or card draw! All three of these types of spells are there to help your deck run more smoothly and give you ways to interact with your opponents beyond swinging into them. Nothing up there in this category is particularly inventive – Blasphemous Act is probably the most “tech” thing up there, as it’s basically always going to cost “R”. I suppose you could target one of your own permanents with Beast Within, while Doubling Season is in play, to turn a chumb-blocking 1/1 Saproling into two 3/3 Beasts. But that’s probably not the best use of the spell – usually you want to hold onto it until someone drops a Planeswalker.


Sacred Foundry
Stomping Ground
Temple Garden
Fire-Lit Thicket
Rugged Prairie
Wooded Bastion
Boros Garrison
Gruul Turf
Selesnya Sanctuary
Clifftop Retreat
Rootbound Crag
Sunpetal Grove
Jungle Shrine
Command Tower
Reflecting Pool
Gaea's Cradle
Khalni Garden
Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree
Kher Keep
Windbrisk Heights
Temple of the False God
Yavimaya Hollow
Kor Haven
Kessig Wolf Run
High Market
Gavony Townsip
Plains x3
Mountain x3
Forest x4

Here we have our mana base. Kessig Wolf Run might seem odd at first, but when you consider that: First of all, our General needs to deal combat damage to a player to be relevant, and second of all, we also have Gaea’s Cradle in the list, then the Wolf Run starts to make sense. He helps Rith get through for damage, and later can turn any measly token into a huge threat.
The rest is pretty standard stuff. Lands that make tokens: Check. Lands that put +1/+1 counters on stuff: Check. High Market: Check.
And that’s the deck. Hope you like tokens, cause that’s what you’re getting with Rith in charge.


The Zombie Apocalypse

With the influx of quality Zombie cards the current block has given us, along with a cool new Zombie Legend, it’s no surprise that everyone and his mother has some sort of Zombie-tribal list. Fortunately, the tribe has been supported well enough since Magic’s earliest days that the sheer number of Zombie cards is enough to build a dozen decks.

Okay, that might be overstating it a bit, but you get the idea. I’ve seen mono-black decks helmed by Balthor, the Defiled or Geth, Lord of the Vault. I’ve seen U/B builds with Grimgrin, and… well just Grimgrin, and finally there is no shortage of Thraximundar decks with minor zombie themes.

I’m of the opinion that three color decks are usually the way to go, and Grixis happens to be one of the strongest color-trios out there. It also happens to be that Thraximundar is one of my favorite generals of all time, and he’s a Zombie! However, I’m also on a kick right now of trying not to do what everyone else is doing, at least to an extent. While it might not be the slightest bit original to go Zombie tribal right now, I think you’ll see that what I’ve cooked up isn’t entirely without a few original ideas…

Starting with the general, I made the surprising decsision of going with Sedris as my general (I even surprised myself, as I’d pretty much assumed that I’d be using Thrax initially). The primary reason for this was that I wanted to combine the Unearth and Flashback mechanics into one highly synergistic machine of a deck where using every creature and spell twice would provide the back-breaking card advantage that would lead me to victory. That ended up being WAY too much to fit into one deck, and the Unearth creatures out there are almost entirely unplayable in EDH.

So I changed tracks a bit, picked Sedris as my new general, and scrapped most of the Flashback stuff, filling out the deck instead with zombies and zombie-related things. In the end, I was able to keep a few of the original ideas – such as breaking River Kelpie and Flayer of the Hatebound in half by recurring shit tons of creatures. Also, it means I get to play Zombie Apocalypse, one of the coolest cards in this block so far!

Here’s how it all shaped up:


Zombie Lords
Cemetery Reaper
Death Baron
Diregraf Captain
Lord of the Undead
Undead Warchief

Obviously, we want as many Zombie Lords as we can get. I don’t have Zombie Master, the original Lord of the tribe, because I don’t think I even own one, and the lack of the +1/+1 to all Zombies element makes me a little sad. Also missing is Lich Lord of Unx, which I’d like to run because he’s cool, but didn’t because he’s terrible.

Heavy Hitters
Balthor the Defiled
Geth, Lord of the Vault
Havengul Lich
Mikaeus, the Unhallowed
Sedris, the Traitor King

These Zombies are the nukes of the deck. They are all powerhouse plays with enormous, swingy effects, and these six cards represent the biggest part of why I am so excited to play this deck. Having all six of these badass mofos in one place is pretty damn awesome.

The Undead
Coffin Queen
Corpse Harvester
Deathbringer Thoctar
Fleshbag Marauder
Graveborn Muse
Lightning Reaver
Noxious Ghoul
Unbreathing Horde
Vengeful Dead
Withered Wretch

Behold the shambling hordes of undead. It’s not a long list, I admit, but it’s full of really good cards, and while I’d like to implement a slightly larger Zombie count, this was the best I could do for now. Keep in mind, though, with the Lords and Heavy Hitters (who are all Zombies!) I do have 23 Zombies in the deck, and a few of the non-Zombie creatures in the next section can become Zombies…

The Living
Body Double
Flayer of the Hatebound
Grave Titan
River Kelpie
Solemn Simulacrum

These are the essential non-Zombie creatures I felt I just had to run. As previously mentioned, Flayer and Kelpie are there to make Unearth as busted as possible since the Exile clause makes Unearth itself just a tad weak. Grave Titan is an obvious pick as it shits out Zombies like mad, while Body Double can become a copy of any Zombie in my ‘yard. I really, really want Phyrexian Metamorph in here too, but I had to leave him out to make room for more thematic cards. As always, once cards in the list reveal themselves to be underperformers, I will start adding in these leftovers like the Metamorph.
The Evoke guys are all really good cards on their own, but are even better with Sedris or Mikeaus in play. Synergize! Like a boss!
Sad Robot and Duplicant should require zero explanation.


Apocalyptic Events
Decree of Pain
Living Death
Patriarch's Bidding
Zombie Apocalypse

These are the mass removal and mass reanimation spells, obviously. I also wanted Blasphemous Act in here, as it’s a card I’ve really started to appreciate more and more. It’s almost always a straight up Wrath of God for one single red mana. Alas, the black spells have more flavorful connections, and are slightly less conditional.

Tribal Support
Army of the Damned
Cruel Revival
Door of Destinies
Endless Ranks of the Dead
Ghoulcaller's Chant
Rise from the Grave
Rooftop Storm

Obviously, these all reference Zombies in some way, and are supportive of the tribal theme. Rooftop Storm is another of those cards that just makes me smile. It’s such a cool, flavorful design, and the mechanic is stupid good, too. I’m almost equally as excited to be playing Endless Ranks of the Dead finally. Army of the Damned is probably the worst card in this group, overall, but how can I not play it? Then again, casting it with Vengeful Dead on the board will likely make my opponents think twice about casting a Wrath effect right away…

Cackling Counterpart
Deep Analysis
Demonic Tutor
Profane Command
Rite of Replication
Slave of Bolas
Teferi's Veil
Wheel of Fortune

Boring old good stuff, mostly. Teferi’s Veil is interesting though. It’s one of the very few ways I can cheat around the Unearth exile effect. As long as the Unearthed creature keeps attacking every turn, it’ll always be Phased Out before the Unearth exile effect can find it! Cackling Counterpart has proven to be a strong card in almost any deck, but here I’m most excited about the potential to cast it targeting Vengeful Dead in response to a Wrath effect. Or, alternately, targeting Flayer of the Hatebound with my own Patriarch’s Bidding on the stack.

Of the 30 or so cards that could and probably should be in this group, but isn't here, the one that I want most is Warstorm Surge. Second to that, Grave Pact. If I can find a way to get those in, I'll be very happy.

Nim Deathmantle
Sword of Light and Shadow
Mimic Vat
Sol Ring
Dimir Signet
Izzet Signet
Rakdos Signet
Coalition Relic

Nim Deathmantle is an obvious choise as it is on-theme flavor-wise, and it can turn one of my few non-Zombie creatures into a Zombie! Putting the Deathmantle on a Grave Titan seems pretty sexy. It came down to Sword of Light and Shadow versus Sword of Fire and Ice, and I’m still not sure if I chose correctly, but the recursion aspect plus the more relevant protection colors makes me think I picked the right tool for the job. Ideally, though, I’d run both!
Mimic Vat and Skullclamp should both be eye-rollingly obvious choices, but you can’t deny that they are both clearly good enough to warrant their inclusion. In fact the deck is pretty light on draw power overall, so the clamp is actually of crucial importance.


Blood Crypt
Steam Vents
Watery Grave
Terramorphic Expanse
Scalding Tarn
Cascade Bluffs
Graven Cairns
Sunken Ruins
Crumbling Necropolis
Command Tower
Reflecting Pool
Dragonskull Summit
Drowned Catacombs
Sulfur Falls
Bojuka Bog
Halimar Depths
Creeping Tar Pit
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Temple of the False God
Volrath's Stronghold
Tolaria West
Unholy Grotto
Phyrexian Tower
Minamo, School at Water's Edge
High Market
Swamp x4
Island x4
Mountain x4

The mana base is terminally boring, I admit. Volrath’s Stronghold is painfully obvious, as is Unholly Grotto. Phyrexian Tower, Minamo, High Market and Vesuva are also staples that I play in virtually every deck that can run them. Yawn. In fact, the only real interesting thing is what’s missing, rather than what is here. You see Urborg up there, yes, but no Cabal Coffers!

Relax, I’m not trying to be some Magic hipster, refusing to run cards just cause they are “mainstream”. Obviously, if that were the case, half a dozen or more of my lands up there would also be missing. No, I just felt that Coffers didn’t really add all that much to the deck. The only X-mana spell in the deck is Profane Command, and while Coffers does do wonderful things for that card, it’s not worth reusing a card most people are sick of seeing just to power up one spell.

*(Plus, I couldn’t fit in Expedition Map to help find the Urborg/Coffers pair, and drawing Coffers without Urborg always sucks ass.)


Auras of War, Finished List

Finally! Of all the new deck projects I’m working on, this was the toughest to crack. I started out with a pool of nearly 100 cards, not counting lands, that I wanted for the deck. Obviously that meant I was going to have to cut well over 30 cards, and to do so without neutering my own strategy was an immensely difficult task.

As I reminder, here are the objectives laid out by myself, which I had to always keep in mind while making cuts and additions during the building process:

1. To avoid linear, repetitive gameplay (a la Uril the Miststalker)
2. To avoid over-reliance on my General
3. The deck should be creature-oriented and avoid combo or heavy control
4. To make the deck viable within a metagame that is heavy on sweepers and spot removal

Objective number one was the biggest sticking point. While it was completely necessary, it also made the deck that much harder to build. If I were willing to just go all-in on Voltroning up Jenara as the primary purpose of the deck, it would have been considerably easier to make cuts, but that would have lead to a boring, repetitive deck that functioned like a slightly weaker version of a Uril the Miststalker deck. I’ve already done the Uril thing, though, and while that was fun initially, it got old pretty quickly. It was imperative that I avoid doing that here.

So I tried to include creatures other than Jenara that would be worth enchanting with my Auras, as well as broadening the Enchantment theme to include a wider range of effects that extend to ALL my creatures – instead of running Shielding Plax to give Jenara Hexproof, I went with Asceticism to give all my creature Hexproof. I wanted to make it so that any creature could potentially be a viable threat.

Only by playing the deck will I know for sure if I succeeded in hitting all my objectives, but for now this is the final list I plan on rolling into battle with.



Argothian Enchantress
Femeref Enchantress
Kor Spiritdancer
Mesa Enchantress
Verduran Enchantress

- Simple, obvious card advantage. Gotta do something to compensate for the two-for-ones I’ll be giving my opponents.

Other Enchanters

Academy Rector
Faith Healer
Hanna, Ship's Navigator
Sovereigns of Lost Alara
Totem-Guide Hartebeest
Umbra Mystic

- Just some Enchantment-specific utility creatures. Some find Enchantments, some recur them, and Faith Healer is the all-important sac outlet. Faith Healer + Rancor + any Enchantress = “G: Draw a card and gain 1 life.” Fun!

Other Creatures

Cephalid Constable
Dauntless Escort
Drift of Phantasms
Drogskol Reaver
Eternal Witness
Frost Titan
Jenara, Asura of War
Rafiq of the Many
Sun Titan

- These are either non-specific utility creatures, or plausible targets for buff auras. Or both.

Auras - Buffs

Angelic Destiny
Armadillo Cloak
Bear Umbra
Eldrazi Conscription
Gaea's Embrace
Rancor Shield of the Oversoul
Steel of the Godhead
Favor of the Overbeing
Spirit Mantle

- This is the one section I’m not 100% happy with, but it’ll work for now. Favor of the Overbeing is their just to complete the cycle, while Spirit Mantle made it in mostly because I set 10 as the minimum number of “buff” Auras I was willing to run. Any less and I’d have to consider cutting Kor Spiritdancer, which was something I wanted to avoid.

Auras - Answers

Cage of Hands
Faith's Fetters
Volition Reins

- These are Auras you typically don’t want to put on your own guys! They’re more for dealing with things that I’d rather not have to deal with. Lignify is a great way to shut down problematic Generals, since killing them just means the player can recast them later. Fetters also does this job well, and can also turn off Planeswalkers or annoying lands like Volrath’s Stronghold. Cage of Hands is mediocre, but it’s reusability makes it a potential draw engine with an Enchantress out.


Aura Shards
Copy Enchantment
Enchanted Evening
Enchantress's Presence
Finest Hour
Fertile Ground
Holistic Wisdom
Karmic Justice
Land Tax
Mirari's Wake
Oblivion Ring
Rhystic Study
Sigil of the Empty Throne
Sterling Grove

- I made a last minute decision to put Finest Hour in, in place of True Conviction. Ideally, I’d like to have both, but space issues didn’t allow for that. Also missing Martyr’s Bond, but with Karmic Justice already in, I felt like it was an acceptable loss.

Other Spells

Cleansing Meditation
Creeping Renaissance
Eladamri's Call
Enlightened Tutor
Idyllic Tutor
Sol Ring
Three Dreams
Wrath of God
Winds of Rath

And, these are the only 10 cards that aren’t a Creature or an Enchantment. I wanted to keep this category as low as possible, but there were some obvious cards here that were just to crucial to pass up. Replenish might just be one of the most important spells in the deck, considering how fragile my game plan really is. Winds of Rath is hilariously techy, and I hope it actually works out. It could be a dud, but we’ll see…


Serra's Sanctum
Kor Haven
Mistveil Plains
Secluded Steppe
Halimar Depths
Tolaria West
Lonely Sandbar
Llanowar Reborn
Yavimaya Hollow
Tranquil Thicket
Command Tower
Reflecting Pool
Seaside Citadel
Misty Rainforest
Evolving Wilds
Flooded Grove
Mystic Gate
Wooded Bastion
Breeding Pool
Hallowed Fountain
Temple Garden
Glacial Fortress
Sunpetal Grove
Hinterland Harbor
Plains x4
Island x4
Forest x4

Closing Thoughts…

Enchanted Evening is in the deck, for now at least, to combo with Aura Shards and more importantly Cleansing Meditation. With Enchanted Evening in play, Cleansing Meditation will destroy ALL permanents in play, then if I have threshold (and I almost certainly will at this point!), I return all of MY permanents destroyed this way to the Battlefield.

There is some slight anti-synergy with that play, because any Auras returning to the battlefield will be returning AT THE SAME TIME as any creatures returning, and because they’re happening simultaneously, the Auras will not be able to target the creatures, as the creatures aren’t technically on the battlefield yet.

For this reason, and others, I considered Retether as well, but couldn’t find room. Should playtesting reveal any cards that need to be replaced, Retether is at the top of the short list for adding in later.

That’s pretty much the deck in a nutshell. Play Enchantments, draw cards, stick a suitable threat, and go to town.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Total F**king War!

--EDITED 05/12

Of my 7 existing decks, this one is the deck that has undergone the most significant changes post-Avacyn Restored. Perhaps the biggest change is the most front-and-center change: replacing Agrus Kos with Gisela as the general of the deck.

Or, perhaps that change is just the most jarringly noticeable. I think it's more subtle, yet more important, that the deck has actually also undergone a major philosophical shift. No single card choice my be quite as impactful as the new general, but overall I made the very tough decision to reassign where I place this deck along the "Theme vs. Power Spectrum"...

The deck list you'll see at the very bottom of this article - the original list with Agrus - was designed with a very strict adherence to my thematic vision for the deck. There were a handful of "good stuff" inclusions, but even most of those were at least flimsily justifiable on a thematic basis.

Also critical to the deck were a number of War and Battle themed cards that were still at least mechanically viable and relevant, yet were still more obviously included for thematic resonance over power. In case I've lost you with the high-level stuff, lemme give some examples...

Glory of Warfare is, perhaps, one of the cards that most compelled me to want to make this Total War deck in the first place, and it at least has proven to be worth it's salt. Crescendo of War and Archangle of Strife, however, were more questionable inclusions that I forced into the deck because they fit the IDEAL model of the deck in both flavor and function. Archangel of Strife is undeniably great when you have a handful of Double Strike creatures on the board... but she's also overwhelmingly terrible against a token swarm deck like Ghave. Unfortunately I see a lot of various token decks in my group so I kept drawing the Archangel and Crescendo of War in games were casting them would have been suicidal!

Thus, those awesomely-thematic cards got cut. So, too, did the equally awesome World at War, which also proved far to situational to use reliably and kept sitting in my hand unused for turn after turn after turn. HULK HATE HAVING DEAD CARDS IN HAND! So it had to go.Furthermore, Hero of Oxid Ridge and Hero of Bladehold both seemd to have a lot of potential, but sadly they both failed to meet those expectations by a wide margin.

Meanwhile, through playing the deck, I noticed some holes and weaknesses that had nothing to do with any particular card's performance... they were issues that had more to do with what was missing, rather than what was present. Such as the lack of a four-mana Wrath effect. I had three sweepers and two of them cost six mana (Desolation Giant, Austere Command) while the other cost a minimum of 7 if I wanted it to work as a sweeper (Martial Coup). All three of those cards were perfectly good, and none disappointed me. I just found the number of times I really needed a sweeper that cost less than 6 to be higher than I'd expected, so I needed to supplement the package with something. Wrath or Day would have been great for Agrus Kos, but with Gisela in mind I picked a more techy choice: Wave of Reckoning. Wave is usually going to kill almost everything in play already, as most creatures in EDH have equal P/T or higher Power. But with Gisela in play, Wave of Reckoning is all but guaranteed to kill every creature that isn't mine, while leaving most of my own guys relatively unscathed, thanks to Gisela's damage reduction ability.

I also needed more gas - a common problem for Boros decks - so luckily AVR added Reforge the Soul as another fantastic "Draw 7".

Finally, I just rounded out the deck with a handful of cards from AVR that looked fun and cool, but were more powerful than cards currently in the deck. Slayer's Stronghold and Lightning Mauler add some more much-needed Haste to the deck, while Silverblade Paladin and Hound of Griselbrand simply fit that oh-so-sweet Double Strike need! I also added the Knight of the White Orchid because I really needed a bit more mana-searching (I traded for a Tithe as well, but haven't been able to squeeze it in yet!). Flametongue Kavu came back to the deck to supplement my removal suite, which I had found to be lacking.

Overall many of these changes have forced me to dip well outside the strict Military and War theme. FTK and Hound of Griselbrand are good cards for the deck, but they definitely don't fit the theme the way Hero of Bladehold and Archangel of Strife did.

But in the end, I realized the deck simply functioned better when I was willing to bend the theme to make it run more smoothly and efficiently. As cool as the deck was, it wasn't as much fun to play when I kept drawing cards that were either ineffective or even disasterous for me to cast them. I still think the deck is generically flavorful enough and cool enough on it's own that I don't need to force it to have more "theme" at the expense of "power". It will still play very much the same as it did before - hopefully it will be just a little more reliable and a little more powerful, while still being aggressive and fun.

Here's the full, current list.

Gisela, Blade of Goldnight

Weathered Wayfarer
Serra Ascendant
Stoneforge Mystic
Puresteel Paladin
Knight of the White Orchid
Mentor of the Meek
Mirran Crusader
Silverblade Paladin
Loxodon Punisher
Stonehewer Giant
Sun Titan

Spikeshot Elder
Lightning Mauler
Markov Blademaster
Flametongue Kavu
Hound of Griselbrand
Desolation Giant
Vulshok Battlemaster
Urabrask the Hidden
Godo, Bandit Warlord
Inferno Titan

Figure of Destiny
Boros Swiftblade
Duergar Hedge-Mage
Soltari Guerrillas
Nobilis of War

Solemn Simulacrum

Basilisk Collar
Swiftfoot Boots
Sword of Fire and Ice
Sword of Light and Shadow
Sword of Feast and Famine
Sword of War and Peace
Sword of Vengeance

Enlightened Tutor
Path to Exile
Swords to Plowshares
Second Sunrise
Orim's Thunder
Return to Dust
Increasing Vengeance
Wild Ricochet
Fight to the Death

Steelshaper's Gift
Remember the Fallen
Wave of Reckoning
Austere Command
Martial Coup
Wheel of Fortune
Reforge the Soul

Land Tax
In the Web of War
Glory of Warfare

Sol Ring
Boros Signet
Coalition Relic
Scroll Rack


Same as the original list, but with Slayer's Stronghold added.

Orginial article and list below

This is a War-themed deck, with Agrus Kos in command, leading the battle. The deck is meant to be an aggressive deck, with many cards that reward you for attacking as often as possible. Where possible, I tried to include cards that, through flavor and mechanic, convey the theme of all-out warfare. A few obvious choices didn't make it in, but I'll address those after the list.

Many of you may recognize the core of the list as being quite familiar – indeed this list is very much inspired by, and quite similar to, my Jor Kadeen deck (which was, ultimately, inspired by obsidiandice’s Oros build). It's the same fundamental design – cheap aggro creatures, beefed up with a robust Equipment selection, and a versatile Sunforger package. However, the issue with Jor Kadeen was the Metalcraft requirement, which was surprisingly ineffective. Either I didn't have enough Artifacts to enable his Metalcraft bonus, or I had such a strong board position that his Metalcraft bonus was largely irrelevant. I found I was rarely casting Jor Kadeen, unless I ran out of creatures and he was my only option.

I can't say with any real certainty if Agrus Kos will be more useful overall, but I have a feeling he might be.

Since Metalcraft is now not really a theme of the deck, the number of Artifacts could easily be lowered, allowing for a more streamlined and focused creature selection and support package. One of the issues I had with Jor's build was a slightly-too-low creature count. Not having to run a minimum number or artifacts allowed for some extra dudes to be slotted in, which should help quite a bit.

Here's the list as it stands now. With the military and war theme, I thought it would be cool to list creatures by rank…

The Boros Legion

Agrus Kos, Wojek Veteran

This one is pretty obvious; he's the top brass. When he takes the field personally, the troops find their performance greatly improved.

Archangel of Strife
Urabrask the Hidden
Nobilis of War

My original intent was to have a White, Red, and Multicolored Legendary creature fill these slots. They represent the commanding officers of each of their branches (colors) of the military, and I wanted them each to have an effect that benefited all of my other creatures with a blanket effect. However, the best possible choices weren't always Legendary. While the White officer could have been Elesh Norn, Archangel of Strife just has too much flavor to pass up (obviously, in this deck, we're ALWAYS choosing “War”). For the Multicolored officer, Nobilis was the only real candidate - Basandra has awesome flavor, but is an unfortunately shitty card.

Hero of Bladehold
Hero of Oxid Ridge

These are the guys that lead the infantry in the initial charge, what with their Battle Cries and all. I wanted to run Accorder Paladin and Goblin Wardriver too, but due to space issues, and the fact that this isn't a token deck, they got cut. Really, even the two Heroes are not the strongest choices here, but they're flavorful as hell, and just good enough to make the cut, I think. Flame-Kin Zealot and Balefire Liege are suitable alternatives, if you prefer.

Stoneforge Mystic
Stonehewer Giant
Godo, Bandit Warlord
Brass Squire

These are the guys who hand out the weapons and armor before battle, and some are also quite good at wielding those weapons, too. Kor Outfitter got cut, mostly because he stubbornly only shows up in hands lacking in Equipment. Auriok Steelshaper was a much stronger contender, but he pushes too hard into maintaining a stricter Tribal element.

Serra Ascendant
Student of Warfare
Mentor of the Meek
Mirran Crusader
Loxodon Punisher
Markov Blademaster
Vulshok Battlemaster
Figure of Destiny
Boros Swiftblade

The grunts on the frontlines. I specifically wanted these guys to be small – 1/1's and 2/2's mostly – and relatively cheap. Their value comes from the fact that they can potentially hit the ground and start attacking as early as Turn 2. I also tried to make most of them be some relevant creature type – Soldiers, Knights, Warriors. There are a couple of exceptions, but I'm sure you can see why Serra Ascendant is worth fudging a bit. Also, the Doublestrikers in particular are downright scary when equipped with a Sword or two.

Special Units
Spikeshot Elder (Sniper)
Soltari Guerrillas (Sniper)
Weathered Wayfarer (Advance Scout)
Solemn Simulacrum (Advance Scout)
Duergar Hedge-Mage (Demolitions)
Inferno Titan (Artillery)
Reveillark (Medic)
Sun Titan (Medic)

These guys are the specialists, that fulfill unique or important roles.
My snipers specialize in repeatable, targeted creature kill to clear the battlefield of High Value Targets. Neither looks like it’s going to kill all that much, but attach a Basilisk Collar or any Power-boosting equipment and they can easily kill Primeval Titans on up.
The advanced scouts explore ahead of the legion seeking new sources of mana to fuel the Legion's magical assaults.
Medics revive fallen soldiers, that seems pretty obvious. Of course, Sun Titan can also recur almost every piece of equipment in the deck.
Duergar Hedge-Mage is a demo expert, blowing up enemy artifacts and enchantments.
Finally, Inferno Titan bombards enemy territory with artillery before rolling in like a fiery tank from hell!

The Armory

Basilisk Collar – “One shot, one kill” when equipped to Spikeshot Elder, Soltari Guerillas or Inferno Titan.
Sunforger – Easily the most powerful weapon in the Boros arsenal.
Swiftfoot Boots – In place of Greaves, because sometimes we need to put multiple Equipment on one guy.
Sword of War and Peace
Sword of Light and Shadow
Sword of Fire and Ice
Sword of Feast and Famine
Sword of Vengeance

Sword of Vengeance gets the nod here over Sword of Body and Mind because, well, it's better. Umezawa's Jitte is probably an even better choice, but it's kinda mean. For a more competitive metagame, though, I'd definitely run Jitte at all costs!

Sunforger Package

The enchanted weapon known as Sunforger can produce many powerful effects when wielded in battle. Here are 10 such effects:

Enlightened Tutor
Fight to the Death
Increasing Vengeance
Order // Chaos
Orim's Thunder
Path to Exile
Return to Dust
Second Sunrise
Swords to Plowshares
Wild Ricochet

Most of these choices are pretty obvious.
Wild Ricochet is just a nutty card and can really screw an opponent up, if they don't see it coming.
Increasing Vengeance might be better or worse than Reverberate, as it doesn't allow us to copy anyone's spells but our own. However the potential to do so up to three times is to good not to try out.
Second Sunrise is there because I know from experience that Fracturing Gust and Austere Command can pretty much annihilate us; Sunrise gives us a potential out. It's already save my butt at least twice, so it has proven to be effective in that regard.
Fight to the Death is janky, but cool. As much as the Boros Legion loves to do battle, if we can trick our enemies into wiping out each other's armies, we can win the war without risking our own troops. Strategy is ultimately more important than sating our bloodlust.
Finally, Order // Chaos can likely become something else as we already have two other Exile effects, and the Chaos half almost never matters. I'm considering Oblation – I don't like “tucking” someone else's General, but it can also be used on my own permanents that are being targeted by a removal spell to get me a couple of replacements for whatever I just lost. Also, Chaos Warp is pretty good. Not sure what I'll do here.

You'll probably have noticed a glaringly obvious omission: Master Warcraft. This is a card I fully intended to run, because it's just SO on-theme. But it's also a card that is terribly un-fun, mostly because it doesn't actually work the way you think it ought to work. Whenever you cast Master Warcraft in a multiplayer game, it's almost always one of two situations – either you declare that no creatures attack, making it a four-mana “Fog”, or you declare that all creatures one opponent control must attack, but the player who controls those creatures just sends 'em all at you out of spite. If you could force one opponent to attack another opponent, it'd be an amazing card, but as printed it just means “everything attacks the guy who cast Master Warcraft”. Lame.

Battlefield Magic
The Legion likes to have its warmages cast powerful enchantments over the site of the battle that help them overcome even the most overwhelming odds.

Glory of Warfare
Crescendo of War
In the Web of War
Land Tax

Okay, so Land Tax isn't really on-theme at all, but it's absolutely necessary as this deck needs hit land drops reliably. Other cards considered include Warstorm Surge (so perfect for the deck thematically, but most of my creatures are too small to make this really worth it), True Conviction (definitely worth playing, especially if you don't have all the doublestrikers), and Goblin War Drums (If I didn't absolutely need Land Tax, it'd become this).

Other Stuff
This section is just random stuff. Some of it has mildly thematic appropriateness, but mostly it's just “Good Stuff”.

Austere Command – One on hand this is one of the spells I fear the most, when cast by an opponent. I've seen this card literally destroy every single non-land permanent I controlled without touching a single permanent controlled by my opponents. Ouch! Then again, when I get to choose its modes, it can destroy multiple permanents without harming a single of my own.

Martial Coup – The most on-theme Wrath effect, of course.

Remember the Fallen – Great card advantage, gets back an Equipment and a creature to wield it!

Steelshaper's Gift – Pretty obvious.

Wheel of Fortune – The deck needs gas, and this refills our tank.

World at War – On theme, of course, and can easily win games. I wanted a couple more of these effects, but this and Godo were the best of the bunch.

Sol Ring, Boros Signet and Darksteel Ingot – The default package, natuRally. I'd love to add Expedition Map, too, but can't find room at the mOment.

Scroll Rack – Amazing by itself, but downright busted when paired with Land Tax.

The Killing Fields

Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion
Kor Haven
Kher Keep
Forbidding Watchtower
Ghitu Encampment
Mistveil Plains
New Benalia
Teetering Peaks
High Market
Temple of the False God
Enough Duals & Basics to make a total of 38 lands

Most of those should seem pretty obvious what their roles is.

Mistveil Plains is pretty busted with an active Sunforger – being able to continually sunforge up a Path to Exile turn after turn, or recycle a blown-up Sword when we draw a late game Stoneforge Mystic… Mistveil Plains is easily the most important land in the deck.

Kher Keep… your opponents might scoff at your measly 0/1 Kobolds, but when they get hit by a Doublestriking Kobold carrying a Sword or three, their scoffing will cease immediately. Usually, this thing just provides fodder for Skullclamp, which honestly is enough reason to run it, but I have actually managed to go on the offensive with a single Kobold armed to the teeth!


I'm pretty happy with this list overall. As always, I couldn't fit everything in that I wanted, but here are a few of the more pressing concerns.

Draw – I have a few really good ways to draw cards, but they're susceptible to removal. My group knows to kill Scroll Racks ASAP, especially if there's a Land Tax as well. Skullclamp + Kher Keep has been a great engine in the past, but Skullclamp is another prime target for removal.

Removal – Yeah, I have some spot removal in the Sunforger package, and two Wrath effects. But that's still significantly less than what I'm used to running. Ideally, I'd have at least one more Wrath, and FTK and Duplicant rounding out the spot removal. If any of the thematic cards prove to be not good enough to warrant keeping, these will be the top contenders to get the slot.

Mana – I already mentioned wanting Expedition Map, as a way to snag important utility lands (Mistveil Plains and Kor Haven are of particular import). I don't think I'll have too much of an issue, as the curve is fairly low, but I can see this thing stalling at 5 lands if I don't draw Land Tax early.

Other than those three items, I'm pretty confident this thing will run the way I want it too. It helps that this is basically the third iteration of the deck – it started out as Oros, became Jor Kadeen, and now this. The core concepts of those precursors are still very much intact here, it's mostly just the thematic approach that has changed.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Clash of the Titans

A while back, I was discussing with a friend and fellow Magic player the relative merits of Grave Titan. This conversation led us to the surprising conclusion that, except in specific decks, Grave Titan is the “worst” of the cycle, at least in EDH. I’ll talk a bit about why that is, but I want to take the time to discuss the value of each of the members of the powerful Mythic cycle. Starting with the clear winner for best of the bunch…

Primeval Titan – This shouldn’t really warrant much of a discussion, as it’s pretty well-known to be the most powerful member of the cycle. It is the only one, for example, to inspire multiple debates on whether it should be banned in EDH (no, it should not be, is the correct answer!). Obviously, this thing is at its best (or, worst, depending on your viewpoint) when grabbing ridiculous land-combos like Urborg + Cabal Coffers or Gaea’s Cradle + Kessig Wolf Run. But even just as a boring ol’ mana-fixer, grabbing two “fair” lands per turn repeatedly can really swing a game in one player’s favor. It is without doubt or hesitation that I call Primeval Titan the most powerful Titan.

Sun Titan – I find myself almost as surprised by this ranking as by Grave Titan’s. I initially discounted Sun Titan’s usefulness largely because of the mana cost factor. Sun Titan’s recursion caps at three mana, and most EDH decks seem to have a mana curve starting at four! I figured he’d be good at getting back Eternal Witness, which could in turn get back things the Titan could not… but after a great deal of experience playing with and against Sun Titan… well, he’s a lot better than I gave him credit for. In fact, he’s so damn good that I have found it to be often worth streamlining and lowering your mana curve just to maximize his value! I first began to take him seriously in my Oros/Equipment build that later became a Jor Kadeen/Equipment build. In both decks, I took advantage of Sun Titan by keeping my curve as low as possible and making sure that Sun Titan could target at least 50% of my permanents if not more. This worked out a hell of a lot better than it looked on paper and I began experimenting with Sun Titan in other decks as well.  Since then, I have come to really appreciate what he can do in almost any deck. Sure, I wouldn’t play him in a Kaalia deck, for instance, but he’s really good in a much wider variety of decks than you’d expect.

Frost Titan – This one is pretty close in power to what I expected, but I do find myself slightly more pleased with his performance than anticipated. I think he’s actually much, much closer in power to Sun Titan than I initially estimated, though Sun Titan still beats Frosty by a decent margin. He’s actually more narrowly effective than Sun Titan, which doesn’t seem apparently obvious at first glance. He doesn’t require you to make any particular deckbuilding conceits to maximize his potential the way Sunny does. Yet, it turns out Frosty’s power instead depends more on what your opponents’ are doing – thus taking the ability to really push his power out of your hands. That said, being Blue, he is always playable with Rite of Replication, and that interaction alone is enough to push him over the top. But, without absurdly broken copying effects, he’s usually at his best against decks like Thraximundar or Rafiq that frequently try to rely on one badass attacker to kill you. Being able to neuter an opponents’ biggest (and only) threat turn after turn is not to be taken lightly.

Inferno Titan – I had this one pegged as the worst of the cycle by a long shot, but he’s really surprised me over time. Also making his debut (for me) in that Oros deck, he was originally just meant to be a combo with Basilisk Collar. While putting the Collar on this guy is still one of the best uses for him, he’s actually pretty good even without Deathtouch. I assumed the 3 damage would far too often fail to kill the most significant threat on the table – after all, EDH is the land of huge creatures swingin’ into each other. But usually, just a little application of Haste is all that’s needed to start killing the real scary things. Being able to swing for 6 while scattering 6 more damage around at will is quite good. But even when you can only get three damage out of him, there’s almost always something relevant to kill with it, even if it’s not the biggest threat. Sometimes that’s enough. The rest of the time, there’s Basilisk Collar!

Grave Titan – This is, perhaps, the coolest member of the Titan family. He’s 10 power for 6 mana, not a bad deal even for a Mythic. His art is awesome/disgusting – a giant walking around literally spilling zombified corpses out of his carapase as he goes... nevermind how they got there in the first place (did he eat them?? WTF?). It’s one of the coolest art-to-mechanic relationships I’ve seen in the game. Yet, this guy is the only member of the cycle to consistently underperform, sadly. And as my friend and I discussed our disappointment with Grave Titan, we hit upon the reason WHY he fails to live up to the hype. Allow me to explain.

Simply put, he is usually just a vanilla 6/6 for six mana.

Nevermind the fact that, in theory, he’s “ten power for six mana!!! OMFG!”. Let’s think critically about this. Yes, he’s a 6/6 with two 2/2 bodies along with him. But, in this format, on most battlefields, those two 2/2 Zombie tokens are almost entirely irrelevant. They often can’t block the scariest threats (because those almost always have evasion), they usually can’t get through as attackers (because there’s almost always something that can block them with little risk), so they just sit there neither attacking nor blocking. And for MOST decks, the only way to actually get value out of those little guys is by attacking or blocking with them. So, realistically, Grave Titan is more accurately described as “six power for six mana”.

Now let’s look at the Titan himself a moment. Other than the tokens, what does he do? Deathtouch. On a 6/6 non-Flying body, Deathtouch is probably even MORE useless and irrelevant than those tokens. No one is ever going to block with something bigger than a 6/6 unless they’ve got tricks up their sleeve. So he’s either already going to kill whatever blocks him, or trade with them at best. And no one is ever going to swing INTO a Grave Titan unless they’re relatively sure the Titan has NO chance of blocking. I have never, EVER seen the Deathtouch matter in the slightest. You could put a Lure effect on him, and kill up to 6 enemy creatures - that’d be cool, but I’ve never seen it happen. So, in most cases, Grave Titan is really just a vanilla 6/6 for six mana… in other words, he’s basically this guy:

Would you play this guy? Probably not…

Now, there are exceptions to every rule, and Grave Titan does have its time and place to shine. Ghave decks, for instance, are very well-suited to get value out of Grave Titan and his zombie tokens in a number of ways. Consider Aura Shards: if there are Artifacts and Enchantments you want to destroy (and there are. Always.), Grave Titan gives you three triggers all at once. Not bad. Consider Fecundity: if the Titan scares someone into a Wrath (and he often does), you’ll draw three cards to replace one. Nifty! Consider Doubling Season: Duh. It’s Doubling Season! Now GT is 14 power for 6 mana. Still not a huge deal, but if you have almost any other way to get value out of your tokens, it can make a HUGE impact.

So, it seems that the key to making Grave Titan really shine is to find multiple, reliable ways to make sure those 2/2 Zombie tokens actually matter, and don’t just sit there ineffective and useless. Not every deck is equipped to do this, of course, and if you’re thinking of including GT as a “good stuff” inclusion, it’s probably not gonna work out. Make sure that he actually belongs in your deck – if you’re playing Ghave or any kind of Zombie tribal, he’ll probably be okay. The rest of the time, I guarantee you can find something better.

Monday, March 26, 2012


After my post a few days ago, wherein I graded each of my current EDH decks on performance, I came to the conclusion that most of my decks were NOT living up to my expectations and it was time to rebuild.

After brainstorming over the weekend, I've come up with the following plan:

1. Three decks will remain in the line-up - Edric, Wrexial and the deck led by Ghost Council.
That W/B deck would undergo some changes and become a Vish Kal deck.
Wrexial remains virtually unchanged, with the exception of a few minor card swaps.
Edric would undergo minor but significant alterations to play better with a stable playgroup.
Instead of being a "super spy" deck, it's more of a "political advantage" deck, but  remains roughly the same deck overall.

2. Four new decks will be added to the roster - Agrus Kos, Jenara, Sedris and Rith.

Agrus Kos will be a "Battle and Warfare" theme deck, but will largely resemble both the Jor Kadeen and Ruhan decks that I ran before. It will include and Equipment theme with an emphasis on Sunforger and an appropriate package of targets for that powerful Equipment. None of this is groundbreaking or anything, and the deck will simply replace Jor Kadeen's artifacts-matter emphasis with an emphasis on cards like Crescendo of War and Fight to the Death - R/W spells that flavorfully reference battle and Warfare. Expect the Battlecry mechanic to replace Metalcraft.

Jenara will be the Enchantress-themed deck already posted about last week, but it's still undergoing development and revisions. I expect to finish this before I move on to Agrus, but it depends if I can solve the issues I'm currently having with trimming the decklist down to a manageable size.

Sedris will be a bit of a Zombie tribal deck mixed with an Unearth/Recursion theme, and seeks to exploit the Unearth mechanic's synergy with stuff like River Kelpie and Flayer of the Hatebound. We'll see if I can manage to fit both of these themes into the limited deck space. I'm actually making good progress on this one, so it should be more or less finalized within a few days.

Finally, Rith the Awakener will be a token deck, based off the article I did for Commandercast Crossover Week. A member of my playgroup had an underperforming Rhys the Redeemed token deck that he wanted to improve upon by adding a third color. Brienne of CommanderCast covered adding Blue to the deck, while I worked with Red as the third color. That player ended up doing neither option and built a Grixis deck with Thrax at the helm instead. LOL. So, rather than waste a good idea, I decided to go ahead and sleeve up that Rith token deck, with some updates and changes of course.

There's already a "finished" list on the CC website for the Rith deck, but it was built with my friend's collection in mind, not my own, so I think I probably have the card pool to improve upon that list quite a bit. I'll start working with it as the base as soon as I finish up the other In-Progress lists!

Stay tuned for more lists!

Vish Kal's Coup

In a surprising move this weekend, the Ghost Council of Orzhova  was ousted from power by their lieutenant, Vish Kal, the Blood Arbiter. The notorious vampire instigated the coup and successfully overturned the Ghost Council’s rulership, cementing his command over the Orzhov legions.

Along with the Ghost Council themselves, Kal dismissed a number of the Council’s most loyal followers, including Elesh Norn, Hero of Bladehold, Pawn of Ulamog, Phyrexian Plaguelord and a number of other token-producers.

Unsurprisingly, Vish Kal filled those vacancies with his own loyalists, particularly a number of vampires such as Vampire Nighthawk and Bloodline Keeper.

In a statement to the press, Kal outlined the plan for his reign, which would focus less on token producing and Grave Pact effects, and would carry the pre-existing theme of “life and death” over into the creature base, by including a number of creatures with Lifelink and Deathtouch (such as the aforementioned Nighthawk, and newcomer Wurmcoil Engine).


Okay, that’s about enough of the cheesy fanfiction bullshit. Here’s the scoop: My Orzhov deck was moderately successful under the Ghost Council’s command, but it was not a complete home-run. The deck’s two themes felt inorganic and at odds – the “duality of life and death” theme was explored through mirror-image White and Black cards, as well as the presence of a high number of creature removal and reanimation. The deck was seemingly all about killing things and reanimating them. Yet, to make Ghost Council work as a general, I had to shoehorn in an awkward token-making subtheme. Many times, though, I was forced to blow up my own token armies with Wrath effects because my opponent’s creatures would outclass my measly tokens.

So the token aspect was not fully working out, both in flavor terms and in gameplay terms. I decided to swap out Ghost Council for Vish Kal as my general, and retool the deck to eliminate the token stuff and emply more useful and synergistic effects. However, I had a bit of a hard time coming up with what to put IN the deck. In short, the deck needed an identity, and it proved difficult to come up with one. I was still really enjoying the way the deck played out other than the tokens, so I wanted to keep the Life and Death theme very much intact. But I couldn’t figure out how to make the creature base gel with what the non-creature stuff was doing.

Then it finally dawned on me. Lifelink and Deathtouch. It was so obvious – both abilities have my thematic keywords in their names! Lifelink and Deathtouch... simple as that. I started with the obvious two choices – Nighthawk and Wurmcoil - then I knew I had my deck’s identity. It’d be a life-gain deck mostly, but with a minor emphasis on Deathtouch, removal and reanimation effects.

Another exciting moment came when I stumbled upon Cradle of Vitality – a card that was janky and useless before, but seemed almost tailor-made to go into a Vish Kal deck. With the Cradle out, I don’t have to sac my dudes to power up Vish Kal – just hit somebody with him, and pay 1W to give him 5 counters. As long as I can gain life in any fashion, the Cradle will keep Kal powered up and ready to neutralize threats all day long.

Once I cut the majority of the token-makers and any other cards that just didn’t make sense for the deck’s new direction (for example, Butcher of Malakir – yeah, he’s a vampire, and he’s good, but without the token fodder to sac, he’s just less appealing), I focused on making the creature base more thematically resonant with various life-gain creatures, a few Deathtouch-ers, and a healthy dose of generic “Good stuff” like Akroma, Deathbringer Liege and Mirran Crusader. Though, many of these seemingly random “good stuff” cards were in fact chosen for how they could interact with some other cards (for instance, I still haven’t had Akroma and True Conviction in play at the same time yet).

Battlegrace Angel was an obvious pick, and Mirran Crusader followed from that choice as the Angel’s bonuses are great when applied to a Crusader attacking alone. The Crusader is also one of the best guys you could equip with a Sword of Stuff and Junk.

Elspeth got the boot in favor of the weaker but more appropriate Ajani Goldmane. So many of the deck's creatures already have Flying, yet almost none have Vigilance, so Goldmane just felt like the right call, despite the obvious power of Elspeth.

I managed to keep Martyr’s Bond in the deck, and it’s now sort of mirrored by Black’s Sanguine Bond (okay, they don’t really do anything similar at all, but they’re both Enchantments with the word “Bond” in their name… give me some slack!).

I kept the draw engines in place – Land Tax + Scroll Rack, Bloodghast + Skullclamp, and of course every “Arena” effect I could find.

Also joining the party is Sword of War and Peace – a good-stuff inclusion that also manages to be relevant as it gain me life!

Finally, as one of the other efforts to really give the deck a defining theme, I managed to tweak the numbers a little to bring the White and Black cards into perfect balance! There are 12 White creatures and 12 Black creatures. 9 White spells and 9 Black spells. This, in my mind, makes the deck a more fitting representation of the “Yin and Yang” – light and dark in perfect balance – opposite yet equal. Two sides of the same coin, etc. Okay, okay, I get you - less hyperbole and more decklist!

Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter


Serra Ascendant
Weathered Wayfarer
Suture Priest
Mentor of the Meek
Mirran Crusader
Academy Rector
Wall of Reverance
Emeria Angel
Battlegrace Angel
Karmic Guide
Sun Titan
Akroma, Angel of Wrath

Fleshbag Marauder
Vampire Nighthawk
Dimir House Guard
Falkreath Noble
Bloodline Keeper
Graveborn Muse
Puppeteer Clique
Bloodgift Demon
Geth, Lord of the Vault
Sheoldred, Whispering One

Stillmoon Cavalier
Deathbringer Liege
Divinity of Pride
Angel of Despair

Solemn Simulacrum
Wurmcoil Engine


Land Tax
Swords to Plowshares
Path to Exile
Cradle of Vitality
Wrath of God
Ajani Goldmane
Martyr’s Bond
True Conviction
Return to Dust

Phyrexian Reclamation
Vampiric Tutor
Demonic Tutor
Phyrexian Arena
Unburial Rites
Sanguine Bond
Decree of Pain
Profane Command

Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
Debtor’s Knell

Expedition Map
Sol Ring
Orzhov Signet
Sword of Fire and Ice
Sword of Light and Shadow
Sword of War and Peace
Scroll Rack
Mimic Vat


Godless Shrine
Fetid Heath
Isolated Chapel
Marsh Flats
Caves of Koilos
Tainted Field
Orzhov Basilica
Command Tower
Terramorphic Expanse
Phyrexian Tower
Volrath’s Stronghold
Kor Haven
High Market
Temple of the False God
New Benalia
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Cabal Coffers
Leechridden Swamp
Bojuka Bog
Plains x9
Swamp x9


Alright, so that’s the deck as it stands now. I am missing one extremely obvious and important card – Vault of the Archangel. This land was already one of my most anticipated Dark Ascension cards, and unfortunately I haven’t acquired one yet. I have, however, witnessed the card in action a couple of times. And folks, let me tell ya, it’s a beast. It has the potential to completely reverse the outcome of a game – one match I witnessed included a Ghave deck that appeared to be dead in the water against a Thraximundar deck that was using Thrax and Sheoldred to absolutely dominate the game. Topdecking the Vault, the Ghave deck was able to use the threat of Deathtouch to hold off Thrax from further assaults, while Lifelink allowed Ghave’s Grave Titan to race the unblockabe Sheoldred with ease.

So, yeah, I’ll definitely be getting a Vault for the deck ASAP. Other than that, though, I think the deck looks great. I haven’t played it yet though, so we’ll see how it goes. One thing I might do is replace Sheoldred. For one thing I already have Debtor’s Knell, and Geth, and Puppeteer Clique AND Phyreixian Reclemation… so as good as Sheoldred is, I think she might just be a bit TOO redundant. I thought about putting Rune-Scarred Demon in her place, but ended up not doing that. What do you all think?

Leave me a comment if you have any questions or suggestions, especially about what Sheoldred’s slot should actually be (keep in mind, it needs to be a Black creature to preserve the Yin/Yang balance!).