Entries Tagged 'Decks' ↓

Elesh Norn Gobbles Up All the Dorks

Elesh Norn from March of the Machine

  • Card Name: Elesh Norn
  • Mana Cost: 2WW
  • Card Type: Legendary Creature – Phyrexian Praetor
  • Rules Text: Vigilance. Whenever a source an opponent controls deals damage to you or a permanent you control, that source’s controller loses 2 life unless they pay {1}. {2}{W}, Sacrifice three other creatures: Exile Elesh Norn, then return it to the battlefield transformed under its owner’s control. Activate only as a sorcery.
  • Illustrated by: Magali Villeneuve

When we last spoke, I had just spent four Magic: The Gathering Arena wildcards on a different Phyrexian Praetor, Vorinclex. But clearly there is more than one sweet Legendary Creature in new set March of the Machine.

Elesh Norn caught my eye because of its dual abilities to borrow from the existing Standard White Control shell, and simultaneously attack and defend from a different angle.

Bring on the 187s! Bring on the Dorks!

There is already a strong tradition for Standard White Control decks to play a lot of card advantageous 187 creatures… Whether they’re de facto cantrips like Spirited Companion or its close competitor, Ambitious Farmhand. A whole school of White Control exists that plays four copies of Ambitious Farmhand and four copies of The Restoration of Eiganjo to help cheat on mana. Despite having a relatively high high end, this style of White Control only plays 22 lands.

I decided to borrow from that mana structure, and just replace The Restoration of Eiganjo with Spirited Companion, so all eight cantrip creatures at the two. Here’s what I’ve been working from:

In addition to drawing lands and moving through the deck, these cheap creatures are also great fodder for new March of the Machines Legend, Elesh Norn.

Elesh Norn needs three creatures to transform into The Argent Etchings. Once she’s in Saga mode, the game will usually end quickly.

The Argent Etchings from March of the Machine

  • Card Name: The Argent Etchings
  • Card Type: Enchantment – Saga
  • Rules Text: (As this Saga enters and after your draw step, add a lore counter.) I — Incubate 2 five times, then transform all Incubator tokens you control. II — Creatures you control get +1/+1 and gain double strike until end of turn. III — Destroy all other permanents except for artifacts, lands, and Phyrexians. Exile The Argent Etchings, then return it to the battlefield (front face up).
  • Illustrated by: Magali Villeneuve

All the cards in the deck are highly synergistic with one another. Wedding Announcement is another source of small creatures that can serve as Elesh Norn fodder. Serra Paragon can buy back Spirited Companion or Ambitious Farmhand from the graveyard. Both these creatures — along with outstanding defensive enchantment Ossification — are especially potent with the five mana version of today’s Legendary Praetor, Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines.

All together this deck retains most of what people want out of White Control — Lay Down Arms early, grinding card advantage through the middle turns — but tops up on a powerful pair of Phyrexian engines that can either end the game immediately or bury the opponent in card advantage.

Elesh Norn Game Play

I made a video with my new deck! I hope you like it. Will our hero (and his new sidekick Elesh Norn) earn a coveted Play-In Point after seven rounds of Standard battle? There is only one way to find out!


Vorinclex Holds It All Together


Vorinclex from March of the Machine

  • Card Name: Vorinclex
  • Mana Cost: 3GG
  • Card Type: Legendary Creature – Phyrexian Praetor
  • Rules Text: When Vorinclex enters the battlefield, search your library for up to two Forest cards, reveal them, put them into your hand, then shuffle. {6}{G}{G}: Exile Vorinclex, then return it to the battlefield transformed under its owner’s control. Activate only as a sorcery.
  • Illustrated by: Daarken

The Rate on Vorinclex

On its face, Vorinclex from March of the Machine is a pretty solid Magic: The Gathering card. A 6/6 creature for five mana with two combat abilities is already in the “not embarrassing” category; but in 2023, we do need a little more oomph to get excited.

Luckily, Vorinclex gives us something to get excited about!

This card has to more abilities! The first one is a Primeval Titan-like ability to search up two lands. A restriction to get Forests only (rather than any kind of land) does make this ability less powerful than Primeval Titan’s. Combine that with only putting them in hand rather than onto the battlefield, and it’s really less powerful!

That said, five mana is a mile less than six mana when you’re anywhere above four mana. So if you put it all together: Reach, Trample, and a double card-draw? Vorinclex gives you a solid return for five mana. It will often be the most powerful permanent on the battlefield upon resolution.

There is this additional ability as well. Vorinclex can transform into The Grand Evolution for an additional eight mana.

The Grand Evolution
  • Card Name: Enchantment — Saga
  • Card Type: Enchantment – Saga
  • Rules Text: I — Mill ten cards. Put up to two creature cards from among the milled cards onto the battlefield. II — Distribute seven +1/+1 counters among any number of target creatures you control. III — Until end of turn, creatures you control gain “{1}: This creature fights target creature you don’t control.” Exile The Grand Evolution, then return it to the battlefield (front face up).
  • Illustrated by: Daarken

The Grand Evolution will come up less often than Vorinclex proper. Even with a two-land boost (from five), eight mana is a high bar in Standard. That said, the ability to search up two addition (often large) creatures, make everyone huge, then kill all the opponent’s creatures to death means that resolving this five-plus-eight will tend to end the game.

And if not? Vorinclex will put it all together again for you after Chapter III.

Golgari Test Deck

I initially tried some mana ramp decks into lots of copies of Storm the Festival. They had predictably high high-ends, but were woefully ineffective against beatdown.

Finally, I settled on this:

Ultimately this is a kind of mid-range Black Control deck in the vein of Hall of Famer Willy Edel’s Golgari lists from when Strixhaven was still legal in Standard. In the early game it has a lot of Black Control’s anti-beatdown DNA, but bridges a higher high-end via Vorinclex.

The nature of exploiting Vorinclex’s 187 ability means having to play a lot of Forests. There are some nonbasic Forests as well, to get late-game black mana (as well as cycle into spells)… But this deck can’t reliably support four copies of Invoke Despair. Instead we have a mix of game-ending bombs, including a solo Storm the Festival. You have to admit it is kind of cool to play both Invoke Despair and Storm the Festival in the same deck.

The sideboard allows the deck to shift into a number of different directions. It can slash the expensive stuff to play a lot of Parasitic Grasp… Combined with Cut Down and Go for the Throat, a full compliment of Parasitic Grasps will make a Red Deck’s life very difficult.

Lots of new decks enabled by March of the Machine play Battles. Other decks play lots of Planeswalkers. Both types of decks spread wide, but with powerful non-creature permanents. After sideboarding, we can both go bigger and fight their go-wide strategy with Karn’s Sylex. Together with more copies of Storm the Festival, Karn’s Sylex can appear early or late to help us take control of the battlefield.

Of course you can just watch how this new deck plays out!

There are tons of appearances from new March of the Machine cards — Battles, Legends duos, and Praetors on both sides of the battlefield. Check it out!


Bending Razorlash Transmogrant

Razorlash Transmogrant

Razorlash Transmogrant from The Brothers’ War

  • Card Name: Razorlash Transmogrant
  • Mana Cost: 2
  • Card Type: Artifact Creature – Zombie
  • Rules Text: Razorlash Transmogrant can’t block. 4BB: Return Razorlash Transmogrant from your graveyard to the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it. This ability costs {4} less to activate if an opponent controls four or more nonbasic lands.
  • Illustrated by: Kekai Kotaki

Transmogrant Tenets

Razorlash Transmogrant sees a decent amount of play in a variety of decks. It’s sometimes included in the main, but more often played in the sideboard for specific matchups. If you’ve participated in much Standard, you know there are simply some decks that don’t attack (ergo the inability to block is less of a downside). Decks with lots of spells rather than lots of creatures (you know, the reason they’re not attacking as much) will also tend to be more vulnerable to recurring attacking threats. Cut Down Razorlash Transmogrant the first time? Cool. How about the third? You can’t even counter it (revived from the graveyard) come the mid-game.

Perfect play against Razorlash Transmogrant is challenging (assuming you’re one of the decks it is good against). Recently, the brilliant multiple-time Top 8 competitor Matt Sperling cost himself the elimination rounds at the Regional Championships via a Razorlash-related slip. Matt was intentionally sandbagging his fifth land drop to keep his opponent from being able to buy back his Transmogrant… Until he slipped. Most players can’t even fathom Matt’s line of holding back lands! Ergo, the artifact-Zombie will sometimes burgle you a little extra value.

But Razorlash Transmogrant is stone cold awful some of the time! It has one toughness! Almost anything can trade with it the first time. Up against a Wedding Announcement deck with mostly basic Plains? The artifact creature is not exactly going to glitter. The fact that it can’t block makes it a liability against pure attack decks like the Mono-Red we posted yesterday.

It’s fantastic sometimes and a near-mulligan others. What might make it at least, more consistently, good?

Bending Razorlash Transmogrant

You can’t break this card… But what about bending it? What might be a good shell for the The Brothers’ War’s mechanical Zombie?

That’s a very slight update to a deck that I posted about on CoolStuffInc last week (use promo code “Flores” for 5% off of anything at CoolStuffInc and I’ll love you forever because they’ll love me slightly more, presumably). The update is merely -1 Mountain +1 Swamp. This is an Invoke Despair deck, and I found I was losing games to Mountain + Sokenzan sometimes; Mountain + second Mountain being a legitimate disaster.

This is a good place to play Razorlash Transmogrant for three reasons:

  1. The greedy Liliana of the Veil wants things to discard – Discarding Razorlash Transmogrant is unusually painless, because you can get it back eventually. Against some decks, you can get it back almost immediately, at 4/2, and at a discount.
  2. The deck needs a critical mass of two mana creatures to set up Ob Nixilis, the Adversary anyway. You need something!
  3. Given you need a creature to set up Ob Nixilis, why not a card that is painless to sacrifice that you can get back anyway, almost immediately, at 4/2, at a discount, &c.?

Welcome to Rakdos Planeswalkers, Razorlash Transmogrant!

329 Words on Rakdos Planeswalkers

This deck looks like absolute hell for a Red Deck. 4 Cut Downs + two mana instant speed removal are a powerful front line of defense. Once Ob Nixilis gets going, any deck with cards like Play With Fire and Lightning Strike can start to look a little silly.

This deck will often be operating with three or even more Planeswalkers in play, due to the Casualty on Ob Nixilis. Once you have multiple Planeswalkers in play, forcing a hellbent opponent to play off the top becomes trivial.

What are you giving up to go Planeswalkers? First, you invest in weird creatures like Razorlash Transmogrant. At the same time you eschew the usual — usual and very good — creature packages on turns three and four. Every beatdown player quakes at the prospect of a 3/3 followed by a 4/5… But decks with a lot of Go for the Throat don’t. Rakdos Planeswalkes will punish opponents with a lot of point removal. Targets are not attractive, and most played removal can’t target Liliana.

This remains a powerful Invoke Despair deck! It boasts has four copies of Invoke Despair, rather than the three or even fewer that are seen in some other black mid-range or control strategies. As such it is capable of putting tremendous pressure on the opponent, from multiple angles. Some people just aren’t very good at interacting with Planeswalkers, and the one-two punch of spell-like activations and the biggest BBBB in the format will tax almost any opponent’s defenses. Combine that with recurring threats in the form of Tenacious Underdog and Razorlash Transmogrant and mid-range decks, in particular, will wilt.

Finally, the sideboard does allow Rakdos Planeswalkers to shift laterally into a more conventional Rakdos deck with Sheoldred, the Apocalypse and Graveyard Trespasser for a better ability to gum up The Red Zone + passively gain life. This is a Swiss Army Knife with a high (though not highest) power level. The re-buy creatures also make Fable of the Mirror-Breaker (always so attractive) even more attractive than most other decks. Thanks Chapter Two!

Rakdos Planeswalkers in Action!

I made a video on my newly re-launched YouTube page featuring this powerful, innovative, and meaningfully different deck. I’d love if you watched it, “Like” it if you like it, and let me know what I can do better:


How BDM Kept Me from a Reckless Impulse

Reckless Impulse

Reckless Impulse from Innistrad: Crimson Vow

  • Card Name: Reckless Impulse
  • Mana Cost: 1R
  • Card Type: Sorcery
  • Rules Text: Exile the top two cards of your library. Until the next turn, you may play those cards.
  • Flavor Text: A stitcher looks at their creation and sees the result of years of study and hours of toil. A devil sees a new plaything.
  • Illustrated by: Mathias Kollros

Last month I really liked this Mono-Red beatdown deck with Reckless Impulse. While I played a variety of decks to earn my Mythic rating, with only one pip to go, I used it to win the crowning pip in Best-of-One.

Designed — or at least promoted (to me) — by the popular YouTube streamer CovertGoBlue, this deck is a joy to play. Instead of clunky large creatures like Thundering Raiju, it is exceptionally stingy with its casting costs… Almost all “1” and “2” mana.

You’re never going to get to only one mana in Standard (versus a format with wider pools of cards, like Modern)… But CGB certainly made the effort.

The Secret of Reckless Impulse

This deck is hyper-aggressive… Even more aggressive and “low to the ground” than other aggressive Red Decks in Standard right now. Every single creature has haste! You might not want to play Bloodthirsty Adversary on turn two, but it’s nice to know that you can, and that she will fill your second turn with two or three damage.

But that’s not the secret! You see, most Red Decks in Standard have at least “mostly” creatures with haste. Some even have bigger and more imposing ones at the four, like Thundering Raiju. What makes CGB’s deck different is how it is laced together.

There are three cards that do this in concert:

  1. Ancestral Anger
  2. Blazing Crescendo
  3. (and of course) Reckless Impulse

All three of these cards either draw a card or have some proxy for drawing a card attached to them. Ancestral Anger is a “cantrip” … That is, you draw a card directly when you cast it. Blazing Crescendo sets a card aside in exile, where you can play it this turn or next. Both of these spells reward you for having creatures with haste. If you have a Phoenix Chick about to attack and the opponent only planned to take one damage, they might be eating two or even four, while you put yourself in a position to draw an extra card.

Since 1/3 of your cards are lands, the presence of Ancestral Anger, Blazing Crescendo, and Reckless Impulse help to lace a deck together with only 20 lands. CGB was thus able to shave two lands out of the usual 22-land Red Deck shell, while simultaneously increasing its access to lands and the deck’s general distribution of lands and spells over the course of a game.

Reckless Impulse itself is less aggressive than its two sister spells in this deck, but does you the solid of “drawing” two cards instead of only one. One note on how to correctly play Reckless Impulse: In most cases you’ll want to play the card before deploying your basic Mountain for the turn. In some cases you’ll flip over two Mountains, meaning that if you play a land first, you’ll lose access to one of them. This is not always possible, and never possible in the case that you’re stuck casting it turn two; but it remains a good rule of thumb.

This deck is awesome. I love it. I mentioned it on CoolStuffInc before leaving for San Diego (pro tip: use promo code “Flores” for 5% off at CSI). Now I’ve even made a video about playing it!

Why Didn’t I Play This Deck at the Regional Championship?

To be fair: This is kind of a gimmick deck.

There was a time when any Red Deck would have been considered kind of a gimmick deck… But this was one in a particular way. If you’re playing Best-of-One on Magic: The Gathering Arena, the opponent’s deck is by definition set. They only have what defense they have and they don’t know what’s coming at them before the first land is played.

The opposite was simply not to be true at the Regional Championships. An “open deck list” tournament, the opponent would have access to my full 75 at the start of each match. Participants literally walked around with printouts of their decks and handed them over for the opponent to study every round!

There are two strikes against this deck in a format like that:

  1. In Best-of-Three, even if you win Game One, the opponent will have the opportunity to bring in all their instant speed removal for the sideboard games. In the current Standard, that removal includes multiple discounted cards that both kill small creatures and gain life.
  2. In Best-of-One, where I fell in love with Reckless Impulse & company, the opponent would not necessarily know what was about to happen. If an opponent has removal in Best-of-One, they might still use all their mana main phase to tap out for a future attacker or otherwise make a proactive play. With open deck lists, opponents would know to play more conservatively. They might hold up mana for removal. They might just bluff removal! Either way, Ancestral Anger might not land (or even be cast). You need cards like Ancestral Anger and Blazing Crescendo to land just to draw your land in this deck. Poison 🙁

My friend and longtime collaborator Brian David-Marshall was the one who convinced me not to play a deck I loved for the above reasons. He was probably right.

Brian and I recently got the band back together. You might like MichaelJ, but I bet you love BDM. Give our latest episode of Top 8 Magic a listen, and tell him to make more on Twitter.


Ten True Facts About My Prognostic Sphinx Deck

  1. I “picked” “literally” the worst time to make a sweet new rogue deck. There isn’t even an open Open! (this weekend is the Journey into Nyx prerelease, etc. etc.)
  2. This is a Tapout Blue Control deck in the tradition of Jushi Blue; a much different kind of deck than most Standard Control decks. The goal is to scare off attackers with Prognostic Sphinx, then get in with Prognostic Sphinx. Patrick Chapin talks about Semi-Soft Locks in books like Next Level Deck Building; an unchecked Prognostic Sphinx is like a Sensei’s Divining Top with fists… Grinding the opponent out while punching him for three.
  3. I know Master of Waves looks weird in this deck, but it’s a much better than Prognostic Sphinx’s original sidekick (the Keiga to Prognostic Sphinx’s Meloku if you grok)… Arbiter of the Ideal. There are relatively few ways to kill a Prognostic Sphinx, but Edict effects don’t care about Hexproof. Master of Waves gives you bodies (plural) to help defend Prognostic Sphinx against Devour Flesh et al for a turn. Then once you start attacking with Prognostic Sphinx… You grok. Anyway, Master of Waves will randomly beat a Red Deck in Game One a fair amount.
  4. Even with four Master of Waves, four Tidebinder Mage, and two Staff of the Mind Magus, you can lose to a Red Deck. It’s true 🙁
  5. That said, this deck is superb against Red Decks.
  6. It’s even better against black control decks like Mono-Black Devotion or the polychromatic black variants. Those decks started off as tough opponents (especially in the Arbiter of the Ideal days). Nullify is quite good against lots of their threats, including Underworld Connections. Don’t get cocky and lose to Gray Merchant of Asphodel, though.
  7. Speaking of Nullify, it is not good against U/W Control variants. This was a little counterintuitive for me (I assumed an advantage) but we actually have fewer interactive spells / Counterspells than U/W or Esper in Game One. U/W actually has a decent number of trumps over us (Supreme Verdict > Prognostic Sphinx, Sphinx’s Revelation > Opportunity, more in-matchup relevant permission + Thoughtseize) though it is winnable in Game One. Pithing Needle became a late sideboard edition to fight Planeswalkers.
  8. I generally dislike Pithing Needle but this is actually the perfect deck for it; Pithing Needle sometimes does nothing but it is pretty mana efficient in decks that have bulk card advantage spells like Divination or Opportunity.
  9. Voyage’s End is generally better than Cyclonic Rift, but when Cyclonic Rift is good (say against multiple Planeswalkers or Assemble the Legion, where you have time to set up) it’s backbreaking.
  10. The deck was originally soft to opposing Mutavaults; Encroaching Wastes made for acceptable Mutavault defense but now also makes for good disruption. This is especially the case against non-blue mid-range control decks. And hitting an Underworld Connections? Whew.

Here’s the deck, en total:

Prognostic Sphinx Tapout

4 Ratchet Bomb

1 Aetherling
2 Cyclonic Rift
4 Dissolve
4 Divination
3 Master of Waves
4 Nullify
3 Opportunity
4 Prognostic Sphinx
1 Syncopate
3 Voyage’s End

2 Encroaching Wastes
13 Island
4 Mutavault
4 Temple of Deceit
4 Temple of Enlightenment

1 Pithing Needle
2 Staff of the Mind Magus
4 Jace, Memyory of Thought1 Master of Waves
4 Negate
4 Tidebinder Mage



Bogbrew Witch &c. | Bogbrew Beatdown!

This is bar none my favorite deck in Standard right now:


Bogbrew Beatdown

3 Bubbling Cauldron

4 Festering Newt
4 Bogbrew Witch
4 Lifebane Zombie
4 Tragic Slip

1 Blood Baron of Vizkopa
4 Cartel Aristocrat
1 Sin Collector
2 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad

4 Lingering Souls
4 Restoration Angel

4 Godless Shrine
4 Isolated Chapel
1 Orzhov Guildgate
6 Plains
8 Swamp
2 Vault of the Archangel

2 Devour Flesh
1 Doom Blade
4 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Blood Baron of Vizkopa
2 Obzedat, Ghost Council
3 Sin Collector
2 Fiendslayer Paladin

You may have seen a previous version of the deck on Twitter, which featured only three Bogbrew Witches main, but Skirsdag High Priest. I actually have great respect for making 5/5 Demons… But I made exactly zero, total, the whole time I was playing High Priests; I also attacked with one maybe once, though I don’t know what I was waiting for. Sin Collector has been largely better but hasn’t produced fireworks exactly; though the synergy with Restoration Angel has been pretty exciting in some matches.

I tested BDM’s more white-based Extort / Archangel of Thune deck more than any other decks of this class… But I think this one is the best of the B/W lot from a win expectation standpoint, though it of course has no Angelic Accord, which is what sent all of us down this road to begin with. You know…

“Bubbling Cauldron + Angelic Accord is basically a Batterskull.”

Brian’s deck doesn’t play the Bogbrew Witch combo, but I have grown to love those 9-12 cards tremendously over the past week or so. Though these decks can win on various dimensions I find myself becoming excited every time I can start chaining a Bogbrew With; and have had meaningful internal debates about whether I should try to stick a Witch, bait with a Restoration Angel at the end of the opponent’s turn, and the relative impact of a Witch on four versus Sorin, Lord of Innistrad. To tell you the truth, killing the opponent with just Festering Newts ain’t no joke. Sixteen you.

Festering Newt is one of the most surprising little cards you can drop on the first turn. Stromkirk Noble on the first turn has been one of the most bedeviling drops to play against for the past year and more for me; especially because my intended blockers have usually been Snapcaster Mage and Borderland Ranger… But Festering Newt is such a great answer! You can block and trade. They can remove it with Pillar of Flame, sure, but that is true for most everything; and essentially all other interaction will result in a dead Stromkirk Noble. Given the propensity of a Stromkirk Noble to get out of hand, I’m generally fine just blocking and trading one-for-one.

Lifebane Zombie is great in this deck; and overall great in the metagame. I have been stealing Boros Reckoners or Ghor-Clan Rampagers and then trading with Flinthoof Boars or Hellriders quite often. Lifebane Zombie is of course just as great with Restoration Angel as Sin Collector… Maybe better because Lifebane Zombie > Sin Collector.

The deck has a good amount of life gain, which buys a lot of time against aggro. It does not have a huge amount of lasting power against control, though; if you don’t keep your Bogbrew Witch around for a couple of untaps you are liable to run out. That is the struggle with this version, which has o Sign in Blood and no Angelic Accord. Sam Black suggested Dark Prophecy, rather said he didn’t think 0 in 75 was possibly right. Possibly he is right! Dark Prophecy would surely give the deck some lasting power against control, or in attrition matchups.

Anyway, just wanted to share this.

Like a lot of pleasantly surprised bogBrewers, I didn’t expect I would be playing many Bubbling Cauldrons in Standard but the combo has been very effective. It is just fantastic against aggro decks that want to race you as well as removal-poor midrange creature decks. Though this strategy can very likely be improved, it is going to be my jumping off point come the impending Theros rotation.


Angelic Accord, Podcast, etc.


Angelic Accord, version 1.0

2 Bubbling Cauldron
1 Elixir of Immortality
3 Trading Post

3 Bogbrew Witch
4 Festering Newt
4 Sign in Blood
3 Tragic Slip
4 Vampire Nighthawk

3 Angelic Accord
2 Fiendslayer Paladin
4 Lingering Souls
2 Terminus

4 Godless Shrine
4 Isolated Chapel
4 Orzhov Guildgate
5 Plains
7 Swamp
1 Vault of the Archangel

3 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
2 Fiendslayer Paladin
2 Orzhov Charm
1 Tragic Slip
4 Duress
2 Terminus
1 Liliana of the Dark Realms

For anyone wondering about the deck BDM and I were talking about in the most recent podcast the above is it.

I don’t want to spend a huge amount of time talking about the strategies, plans, and angles various on this deck as it ended up being a bit less than super awesome; but as BDM raved in the podcast it is fun to play, [presumably] fun to watch, and capable of some pretty exciting comebacks.

If you brave yourself up to give Angelic Accord a swing, keep these things in mind:

  • Trading Post + Angelic Accord is the basic combo. Once you have both of these in play, it is rare that you will do anything but discard to Trading Post every turn. But be careful! You have to discard before the opponent’s end step if you want to crash with a new 4/4 on your turn.
  • Bubbling Cauldron + Angelic Accord is basically a Batterskull. Almost anything can catalyze the first 4/4 Angel. You can crash on your turn, sacrifice the Angel, gain four, and net a fresh (untapped) Angel to block on your opponent’s turn. Okay, I’ll bite… It is probably a bit better than a Batterskull. Ya got me.
  • Elixir of Immortality allows you to loop your Festering Newts. The limit on the Bogbrew Witch combo is that you can only search up four Festering Newts. But if you can put your Festering Newts back into your deck, you break the normal limit on Bogbrew Witch. I don’t know if you’ve played much Bogbrew Witch in Standard, but the other two halves of the combo win a lot of games for me. Somehow… A real thing.
  • You can activate life gain abilities on both your turn and your opponent’s turn in order to trigger a single Angelic Accord twice per cycle. Truth.

Did I mention there is a new Top8Magic podcast up on ManaDeprived? Well there is! And BDM is back!

If you are somehow too lazy to click one of the several links to ManaDeprived on this page / in this post, I suppose you can listen to the cast here:

(I suppose.)

Hope you <3 it! LOVE MIKE

First Pass on Champion of the Parish

At least before we have a lot of tangible tournament results, I am thinking there are two main interesting cards to think about for Standard with Avacyn Restored:

  1. Delver of Secrets (surprise surprise), and
  2. Cavern of Souls

Specifically, Cavern of Souls gives you another dual land to play first turn Delver of Secrets (and through a Mental Misstep, if that matters)… Plus you get to play Champion of the Parish for double the possible aggressive starts!

Now if you are trying to buff a Champion of the Parish you need to configure your deck list a little bit differently. The Delver deck is already chock full of Humans (Delver of Secrets and Snapcaster Mage, for instance, are both Humans)… But Geist of Saint Traft isn’t. I decided to go a little bit of a different direction and swap Geist of Saint Traft with Blade Splicer. Blade Splicer is a little bit weaker on offense (2 + 4, with the 4 evasive being a bit more damage than 1 + 3 and the 3 not evasive); but the 3 [Golem] striking first (and potentially generating a fine synergy with Intangible Virtue) makes for an elite defense.

Please keep in mind this is just a first pass:

Champion Delver with Avacyn Restored v.1

4 Delver of Secrets
4 Gitaxian Probe
2 Mana Leak
4 Ponder
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Vapor Snag

2 Gut Shot

4 Blade Splicer
3 Gather the Townsfolk
4 Honor of the Pure
4 Champion of the Parish

4 Cavern of Souls
4 Glacial Fortress
6 Island
2 Moorland Haunt
1 Plains
4 Seachrome Coast

1 Batterskull
1 Consecrated Sphinx 
2 Dissipate
2 Mental Misstep
2 Negate
1 Gut Shot
2 Celestial Purge
1 Revoke Existence
3 Timely Reinforcements

Whether Intangible Virtue or Honor of the Pure is the right buffing enchantment is up for grabs, I think. It is a question of how much you care about Vigilance versus buffing Champion of the Parish; I have Honor of the Pure right now because this seems to be a bit of a “Champion” deck. I am sure you can see the hyper-aggressive starts like…

  • Champion of the Parish –> Gather the Townsfolk…

Or better yet:

  • Champion of the Parish –> Champion of the Parish + Delver of Secrets

I am not super satisfied with this pass right now. For one, I don’t even know which is the right two drop enchantment! Other things kind of up in the air…

2 Mana Leak + 2 Gut Shot… I am neither elite against G/R Ramp nor against other Delver decks in the main; when I was playing 2 Gut Shots in Baltimore I felt like a smart guy, but right now many Delver players are main decking three Gut Shots! I felt like Mana Leak was a compromise-able card based on my previous Cavern of Souls blog post (i.e. players like G3rryT and Jonny Magic are playing only two).

3 Blade Splicer or 3 Gather the Townsfolk? This one is pretty debatable. I went with 3 Gathers because we have shifted Cavern of Souls to a primary source of White mana… but it doesn’t actually cast a Gather the Townsfolk… Same reason I dropped the Moorland Haunt count by one (it doesn’t contribute to the Moorland Haunt activation). I guess you can cut a Gitaxian Probe… But that’s like my favorite card in Standard, so please don’t do that.

Obviously this version doesn’t have the “race you with an Invisible Stalker” functionality of the straight Delver deck; that said, I found Invisible Stalker to be the weakest card in straight Delver, worse than a Champion of the Parish, certainly, if you don’t have a Sword of War and Peace or a Pike.

The sideboard is medium-straightforward. The only weird card is Consecrated Sphinx. I actually kind of fell in love with that card in Delver playing a variation of Caleb Durward’s Delver list, whereas I give Jace, Memory Adept a rating of “uh… I guess it’s a card” in most situations.

I do think Mental Misstep is an absolute must for Delver, even though it is a bit weaker now that Cavern of Souls will be entering the Standard Arena… But if you watched Chi Hoi Yim work over Robbie Cordell in the finals of the Birmingham Open (and how could you not, with the attractive and charismatic Joey Pasco YT on the mic?) … You know what kind of havoc Mental Misstep can levy in the Delver mirror… Especially on the draw and when setting up Timely Reinforcements.

Speaking of which, a month or so ago I felt like the Delver mirror was my best matchup in Standard due to my figuring out Mental Misstep (and I know that is ironic as I finally lost the Delver mirror playing for Top 8, on camera)… and the truth is, my Invitational deck was nowhere near as prepared for other Delver decks as this one.

I think the tensions in Standard are going to be interesting. This version — whether you stay with Honor of the Pure or move [back] to Intangible Virtue — is pretty on-par with the “tokens” Delver decks in terms of tokens production + buffing (they are going to have some mix of Midnight Haunting and Lingering Souls instead of Gather the Townsfolk and Blade Splicer), but one Golem can rumble pretty adequately with multiple regular tokens, and you can use your Phyrexian mana to set up a favorable Gather, don’t forget. On balance you have much faster and more explosive mana, and you have literally twice the aggressive draws with Champion of the Parish to get in early damage and put the opponent (or any opponent) on his heels.

Again, just a first pass, but certainly adequate for… say… the first week’s FNM.

I am pretty sure if I were playing in the Rhode Island Open this weekend I would be playing four copies of each of Delver of Secrets, Champion of the Parish, and Cavern of Souls though… Those cards are too good and too fast to ignore, plus they are great together and make for wild synergies with token producers and everything else you want to do with the best deck since Caw-Blade Exarch Twin.



FNM Hero Report with Aether Adept (if you can believe it)

Unbelievably, this is the second Five With Flores post devoted to Aether Adept.
… I can’t believe it either!

Jon Medina invented this thing called FNM Hero where he has to start from scratch with a budget of only $100.

For some reason Medina has chosen to try to “go infinite” at Magic with a bunch of garbage (though given the budget constraints, non-garbage might be hard to come by).

You can actually build a semi-reasonable deck in Standard for under $100 (emphasis on “semi-“).

I decided to try this:

4 Aether Adept
1 Consecrated Sphinx
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Gitaxian Probe
3 Gut Shot
4 Mana Leak
3 Mental Misstep
4 Ponder
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Thought Scour
4 Vapor Snag

21 Island

4 Corrosive Gale
2 Dissipate
3 Flashfreeze
1 Gut Shot
1 Mental Misstep
4 Stitched Drake

Obviously the Snapcaster Mages and one Consecrated Sphinx are going to be the most expensive cards; I don’t recall Jon’s exact pricing strictures, but you can get Snapcaster Mage for about $17 on Amazon.com so I assume that using resources other than the most high profile sites you can get the rares for under $100. Everything else is pretty negligible in terms of cost.

I tested a lot of Delver last month and I knew going in that this deck would be even weaker to tokens than regular Delver of Secrets decks. Oh well. Obviously I played against 50% tokens.

The beauty of this is that even though I was playing a super budget deck with literally 21 Islands and 4 Aether Adepts, people still complained about Delver of Secrets. I mean the card is a penny and also the best card in Standard. What do you expect me to play? Maybe a mid-range Green creature for four times the cost and half the power?

Anyway I played four rounds in the Tournament Practice Room. It’s not like I made the next Naya Lightsaber or anything, but the results were pretty promising. I didn’t play real tournament queues because… Well, it should be obvious. But I figured that FNM (Jon’s forum for his project) is less competitive than a PTQ / SCG Open (which is what I would prepare for in queues). Here is what happened:


His deck was a fully loaded Pod deck.

If he is reading this he probably wants to jump off of the top of Birthing Pod, maybe into the mythical river Lethe to forget.

Anyway, I kept a triple Delver, one land hand in Game One. He was defeated. Yes, he got one of my Delvers with a Fiend Hunter. The next turn I flipped Mana Leak, turned the other two over, and it was never really close.

In Game Two he got three Birds of Paradise; conveniently I got three Gut Shots, using a combination of “drawing them off the top of my [budget] deck” and Snapcaster Mage[s]. I also Mage’d up double Flashfreeze, which was excellent.




I got the first game with “Mental Misstep your Champion” / Snapcaster Mage Mental Misstep, and then getting my one Sphinx online.

Game Two was a heartbreaker if we can consider fake budget decks “tested” in the Tournament Practice room heartbreaker-eligible games. I basically got him to three with scotch tape, spit, torn fingernails, and desperation. He had one card, and it was a Doomed Traveler I had bounced. He had two Crusades but I had basically never allowed him to get the pounce with creatures. I had an Aether Adept and an Insective Aberration in play.

What can he rip?

Obviously the Tom Martell commemorative Lingering Souls is the only card that saves him there, so that is what he got. I looked at the shiny Vapor Snag in my hand and frowned. I guess he could have played Day of Judgment there, but the outs were thin. I had one mana open at the end of his turn, so Mise Thought Scour.

… Flipping over what would have been the game-winning Corrosive Gale.



(If in fact we can consider this a hearbreaker-eligible game, again).

Sadly he had Vault of the Archangel in play so I didn’t really think it was worth playing out given his army of 3/3 flyers.

Game Three I got frustrated at having such substandard cards and threw it in too early. I guess if you are going to do an experiment like this you shouldn’t really take that attitude. I guess none of my cards are godawful (except Aether Adept, maybe); but not having basic defensive stuff like Ratchet Bomb or a way to get back in a game that starts to fall out of your hands is pretty annoying.


BW TOKENS (again)

G1 – I was actually pretty worried because my hand wasn’t aggressive and he got a one-two guy-Gather draw… And then conceded turn three when I Mana Leaked his Intangible Virtue. Um, okay. I’ll take it?

G2 – I got a fast double Delver draw, Leaked him once, and then got him to death on a Vapor Snag. Ho hum. The Vapor Snag turn was pretty interesting. He had four lands in play and a Sword of Body and Mind; he had two tokens from previous token generation. I was kind of weighing my options and decided I was going to Snag his Sword attempt, and at least make him tap all four lands to get the Sword online (plus take one less, I guess). But then he played pre-combat Honor of the Pure. Well that’s two mana down! He equipped one of the tokens, I bounced, he right-clicked, etc.



G1 – I kept a one-land double-Delver draw. I Probed him to see Merfolk Looter and flipped my first Delver with Gut Shot. I was so rich I did not even Gut Shot the Looter until the second time it came down.

G2 – This was a weird game where I countered everything and he didn’t have a second White for Sun Titan for several turns despite drawing lots of extra cards. He sat on a Nihil Spellbomb for a long time, which wasn’t actually that annoying, but was kind of a Greater Gargadon ticking down its time counters if you know what I mean. I wasn’t going to get out of the game with Snapcaster Mage is what it meant. Anyway, I countered everything but my deck doesn’t actually have that many counters and he eventually got the Titan and I conceded.

G3 – Probably the most improbable game I have played in months. I have a not-very-aggressive hand, but eventually get Consecrated Sphinx in play. I have previously Probed him and it seemed safe. Well of course he picks that turn to rip Sun Titan and naturally had Phantasmal Image. The next two turns we play cat-and-mouse with him getting the Image but me having Vapor Snag and Gut Shot. He then gets an Oblivion Ring and I can’t defend the Consecrated Sphinx. Now at this point he has a fake-Sphinx in play and I had a line where I could have played Thought Scour to start the “we both draw as much as we like” phase of the game. I could have drawn tons, gotten the tools necessary to deal with both his Titan and Image, or maybe even double-Leaked the Ring, but I didn’t see it at the time. Instead I just bounced his Sphinx so I wouldn’t have to deal with a Sphinx and tried to play the tempo game. Incidentally I had drawn 4-6 cards with my Sphinx and they were all g-d Islands.

I got some Delver beats in and put him to a bad spot. I drew Ponder and found Vapor Snag and two Islands. I probably should have shuffled. I kept the Snag, bounced his Titan and got in with an Adept and Insectile Aberration, putting him to one. Now there are lots of problems with this play. For one, I put myself in a spot where I knew I had lands on top and I would end up having to chump block. My implementation was also bad, but then again, it was 1:30 and I was playing a pretty Baxterized deck so maybe I can be forgiven? I could have waited a half-turn and bounced better even if I kept the Snag / Island / Island tops. The way I did it, he could re-play Sun Titan, get Phantasmal Image, and copy Insectile Aberration, locking me pretty badly down.

Now the game wasn’t over!

I of course had the Islands on top and had to chump his Titan after one attack.

Now it gets really weird.

He rips Trinket Mage (!?!) and gets the Nihil Spellbomb from last game. Now he has Spellbomb + Titan for a draw engine. The other half of the Spellbomb is also annoying as I pick that turn to draw Snapcaster Mage (or rather, Thought Scour into Snapcaster Mage). There is both a Vapor Snag and a Gut Shot in my bin and he is at one life.

The Snapcaster has to chump. Predictable.

In the ensuing turn he casts Forbidden Alchemy, binning Spellskite, and brings that back.

I draw not Vapor Snag but Gut Shot. Will he F6? No.




Like I said, “improbable.”



Both my second and fourth rounds were winnable. This is remarkable as I figured Tokens was an awful matchup, plus my deck lacked such basic functionality as “non-Island lands” or the plenty of white, viz. Geist of Saint Traft and Moorland Haunt. Think a Moorland Haunt might have won some of those one-point games? In particular I really wish I saw the Thought Scour catalyst “we both have Sphinxes” play in real time. That would have made for a story, wouldn’t it?

Now as bad as the structure of this deck is for FNM Hero purposes, I actually like some of the stuff. I was all ready to credit Caleb Durward with Consecrated Sphinx in Delver, but it turns out that way back in September my first Innistrad deck list had not just Delver of Secrets when the rest of the world was still playing Phantasmal Bear, but Batterskull and Consecrated Sphinx as two ofs, each. Man, I am smart at this! In any case, I found Consecrated Sphinx outstanding in this deck, and I think I would actually play 1-2 in “real” Delver.

Anyway, I got tired of not having Geist of Saint Traft in my deck and packed it in. That said, I think with a bit more focus you can probably 4-0 FNM even with a Baxterized Delver deck, and I know I would much rather be on Delvers than mid-range green stuff, especially if I can’t afford dual lands.

What do you think Jon?


Five With Flores Friday: 5.5 Burning Questions at the 11th Hour

Today we will answer five-and-a-half burning questions that burn like, you know (um, never mind):

Free Preview:

  1. Can You Send Me That Blog Post You Took Down?
  2. What Are You Playing At States and can I have the list?
  3. What is The Unofficial Michael J. Flores Soundboard and how do I get one?
  4. Strange, is that a Shock or three in your sideboard? I thought that you were ‘Doubtful that the card Shock is good enough to play as a sideboard card in 2011.”
  5. Also, how many removal spells do we think they’re holding when we cast our Frost Titan?

Let’s go!

Can You Send Me That Blog Post You Took Down?

Well… Probably not.

I already let @famouspj and @grousehaus read it; plus there were approximately DI of you who read it before I took it down.

Like I said before, pending approval from @chicgrit I might do an audio-only version and put that up. But we are watching “Horrible Bosses” tonight and I haven’t gotten around to reading the now-disappeared blog post to her.

Updates when I have them (if I have them) of course.

What Are You Playing At States and can I have the list?

I posted the list to my Star City Games column Flores Friday earlier today, you can read all about it here.

Because the column this week was basically just my deck list, I wouldn’t feel right posting it here at this point; however there are some changes I am probably going to put into place for tomorrow. Per some head-scratching (and lots of people in the forums picked up on this separately even though I had decided to do it myself previously), I am going to move around some of the removal spells.

This is what to do:

  • From the main deck, move all the Arc Trails to the sideboard.
  • From the sideboard, move one Ancient Grudge to the main deck; in addition, move all the Shocks from the sideboard into the main deck. We are not changing around any numbers… Just where the cards are.
  • Additionally, add one more, each of the M10 dual lands; remove one each of the basic lands. Thanks @G3rryT!

Wait a minute, did you just say Brimstone Volley is the second-best card in Standard?

I didn’t say that here, but I did sort of imply that in the column… Like so:

I certainly think Brimstone Volley is a Top 10 card in Standard (probably Top 5), but I would sooner see Dismember at Number Two (but maybe that’s just me).

What is The Unofficial Michael J. Flores Soundboard and how do I get one?

Enterprising superfan @hamiltonianurst put together some funny Flores-isms from my various podcast appearances. If you check out The Unofficial Michael J. Flores Soundboard you will be able to hear me say such-and-such is a bad card, my deck was awesome, other people are buffoons, or that I will play Blue.

Lots of fun.

The Unofficial Michael J. Flores Soundboard

And yes, this made its way around the office last week…

Strange, is that a Shock or three in your sideboard? I thought that you were ‘Doubtful that the card Shock is good enough to play as a sideboard card in 2011.”

Larry Swasey is bringing into the open something that I shared to him — presumably just between the two of us — in a personal Facebook communique. I am typing out this paragraph as I wipe a tear from my right eye, so wounded and betrayed to I feel by Larry bringing our brewing out into the forums like a common G/W deck idea.

Oh well, as above, I actually don’t have any Shocks in my sideboard any more. Ting!

Also, how many removal spells do we think they’re holding when we cast our Frost Titan?

Drew Levin’s question really is something to think about. I am going to be bringing my extra Burning Vengeances and Desperate Ravings to States; but I really like Frost Titan in the Primeval Titan matchups more than I dislike it, you know, elsewhere.

Wish me luck tomorrow,