Sadly, a Deck With Sphinx of Jwar Isle

… and even sadder… it’s good.

It is possible I have been a little harsh on my man Sphinx of Jwar Isle on this blog.

Here are some of the things I have said about him over the past year or so:

“I generally dislike Sphinx of Jwar Isle due to its being expensive and crappy.”

“But come on… Was I really going to lose to Sphinx of Jwar Isle?”

“I think Sphinx of Jwar Isle is such a fake card.”

“… boring… “

In my own defense, people have been playing him in basically atrocious decks. I mean why would you play Grixis Control when you could play Grixis Burn? Why would you — in general — play Sphinx of Jwar Isle when you could play Sphinx of Lost Truths? Especially in U/W or some kind of gassy Esper variant?

Unfortunately — and I mean really unfortunately — we may now have an answer to this question.

I was trolling around Twitter and saw a deck by Neale Talbot on his blog. This is Neale’s initial version:

Target This!

4 Deft Duelist
4 Calcite Snapper
4 Wall of Denial
3 Sphinx of Jwar Isle

3 Path to Exile

4 Treasure Hunt

2 Marshal’s Anthem
3 Oblivion Ring
4 Spreading Seas
2 Ardent Plea

3 Jace, The Mindsculptor

3 Island
3 Plains
4 Arcane Sanctum
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Celestial Colonnade
2 Sejiri Refuge
2 Misty Rainforest
2 Marsh Flats

Original deck list from

I didn’t hate the deck; in fact it reminded me of “the Untouchables” — a series of decks that were played around the time of my first Pro Tour (primarily in the Juniors division), centering around cards like Autumn Willow and Deadly Insect. The concept of this deck is similar… All the creatures [thematically] have Shroud.

Looking over the deck list I decided that I didn’t want to Ardent Plea into Deft Duelist ever, and the Spreading Seas portion of the deck seemed a bit inconsistent. So I cut that and some of the creatures in favor of more defense and card advantage.

This is my take on Neal’s deck, based on several matches of testing:

U/W Tap-out Untouchables version 1.1

4 Calcite Snapper
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Mind Spring
2 Sphinx of Jwar Isle
4 Spreading Seas
4 Treasure Hunt

4 Deft Duelist

2 Day of Judgment
2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
1 Marshal’s Anthem
2 Martial Coup
2 Oblivion Ring
4 Path to Exile

4 Celestial Colonnade
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Halimar Depths
7 Island
5 Plains

1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
3 Wall of Denial
4 Celestial Purge
2 Day of Judgment
4 Kor Firewalker
1 Martial Coup

The first version I played had a third Oblivion Ring and no Marshal’s Anthem. Marshal’s Anthem clearly right in this deck… I somehow forgot to play it despite its being in Neal’s deck list. Oh well, old.

You probably understand how this deck works. The creatures all have Shroud and are therefore relatively difficult to deal with using conventional means (Terminate, Path to Exile, even creature combat).

The deck seems to perform well against a variety of decks. It has Day of Judgment to gain an advantage over reach-poor decks like Boss Naya and White Weenie, and a combination of early game mana disruption and Shroud defense against Jund. Against other U/W decks, you are the beatdown. Strangely, they have a hard time dealing with your creatures. This can lead to the opponent having to tap out at inopportune times, allowing you to deal with their Planeswalkers or just get a Planeswalker advantage yourself.

I mostly won with the deck, and I managed to do better than break even in the tournament queues.

The deck is serviceable against Allies, but you have to watch for their Haste. I found that even when I felt like I should be winning, the reload power of that deck was not to be completely overlooked. The deck is relatively weak against the card Eldrazi Monument. Eldrazi Green seems like a very easy pairing but for that card… But then again, they did name their deck after it. Jund is… Jund. You win some, you can get blown out by triple Blightning, too.

The best matchup seems to be Boss Naya.

Deft Duelist sings in the Boss Naya match, but it is the weakest card generally. I find myself siding out Deft Duelist quite a bit, when I reach for the three additional Wrath of God effects in the sideboard. Generally Calcite Snapper is the superior threat… Sometimes you just go beatdown with Calcite Snapper, and even Jund can just look on in horror as Sprouting Thrinax gets covered by Oblivion Ring, Bloodbraid Elf meets Path to Exile, and Beast tokens go flying into the aether thanks to Jace, the Mind Sculptor as the ravenous convertible turtle rumbles in for four, Four, FOUR per turn.

This is obviously not a Regionals-ready deck… yet. But I was very surprised at how its synergies could make up for the relative weakness of some of the individual cards.

Analysis of the main deck cards:

Calcite Snapper
I was hot and cold on this one; however the ability to go aggro — and put the opponent on a legitimate clock — came up several times in both practice and tournament matches. This is clearly one of the centerpiece cards of the deck.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor
I won with this about 20% of the time. Many games are about setting up several Shroud creatures to surround and protect Jace… and that’s it.

Mind Spring
Very good in this deck. You need a reload in part because you are drawing, let’s be frank, motherlovin Deft Duelist.

Sphinx of Jwar Isle
I think two is the right number; however if I fall even further out of love with Deft Duelist, I can see going to three copies. He isn’t good (still); he kept running up against either Boss Naya with Basilisk Collar online or Baneslayer Angel. However he could pull it through sometimes thanks to Marshall’s Anthem or help from Jace, the Mind Sculptor or other spot removal. I begrudgingly admit that this card is actually perfect in this deck (though I maintain that he probably isn’t optimal in most other decks).

Spreading Seas
Never side them out.

Treasure Hunt
I was much happier with the Treasure Hunt / Halimar Depths combo in this deck than I was in the more reactive Esper deck. The U/W aggro deck can play out, say, a Deft Duelist and then use Treasure Hunt to draw up; I rarely had to discard, and I usually got a little bonus (though “desperation” Treasure Hunts rarely seem profitable).

Deft Duelist
Shockingly good against Boss Naya. These did everything from running by a squad of defenders to beat up Ajani Vengeant to huddling around Elspeth, Knight-Errant and Jace Beleren so that they could do their damn jobs.

Most of the other main deck cards have seen heavy play in other decks discussed on this blog. They are all good… I often feel like I want another Oblivion Ring, but maybe that’s just because I lost to Eldrazi Monument.

Sideboard Cards:
Jace, the Mind Sculptor – came in most matches

Wall of Denial – I never sided more than one copy in, even against the beatdown decks where you would expect them to be good… I felt like these conflicted too much with the excess mass removal (though they seem quite useful against Jund, where you don’t want Day of Judgment)

Celestial Purge – All-star, not surprising.

Day of Judgment / Martial Coup – The next most common cards to come in after Jace, the Mind Sculptor #4. Especially backbreaking for Vampires, Boss Naya, White Weenie, and to a lesser extent, Allies.

Kor Firewalker – I never sided these in. I would like to do a ten game set or so versus Mono-Red, Red-splash-Black, and / or Barely Boros to get a feel of how necessary Kor Firewalker is. I only played versus one Mono-Red deck, and he would have no second game after his Goblins were so dominated by Deft Duelist in the first.

I think this one might be worth some time investment… Let’s see how Rise of the Eldrazi looks in a few weeks. I could see incorporating more Planeswalkers, such as Gideon Jura.


facebook comments:


#1 OrrinB on 04.06.10 at 6:03 am

Shouldn’t there be some baneslayers in the board?

#2 admin on 04.06.10 at 7:04 am


Don’t you think Baneslayer Angel loses some of its SURPRISE! value if everyone is expecting it to come out of the board?

This is already a creature deck.

I would rather they leave in Terminate for the Baneslayer that never appears than to fulfill their maybe-correct sideboarding strategy.

#3 Frenchy on 04.06.10 at 3:26 pm

I have been tinkering with a deck since launch day of worldwake. Jace, Chalice, Duelist, Snapper,Wall o Denial, Sphinx, Ranger of Eos, Soul Warden, Elspeth, Harms Way, Colonnade, Fortress, Halimar Depths. It truly is a very fun and viable deck. The bomb diggity card though is it runs 2 Lorthos. Turn six-ultra-tap-permanents is game.

#4 MTGBattlefield on 04.06.10 at 9:51 pm

Sadly, a Deck With Sphinx of Jwar Isle…

Your story has been summoned to the battlefield – Trackback from MTGBattlefield…

#5 Russell Tassicker on 04.19.10 at 8:10 pm

“I think this one might be worth some time investment… Let’s see how Rise of the Eldrazi looks in a few weeks. I could see incorporating more Planeswalkers, such as Gideon Jura.”

So, how is it looking now? I really want to play a Jace deck post-Rise and I like the look of this one, but Consuming Vapors has me worried about it’s viability. Thoughts?

#6 Five With Flores » Some Thoughts on Consecrated Sphinx on 01.20.11 at 11:37 pm

[…] general dislike of certain Sphinxes (Sphinx of Jwar Isle) and approval of other Sphinxes (Sphinx of Lost Truths) is fairly well known to readers of this […]

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