“Self”, I thought to me, “there comes a time in every young boy's life when he has to take a rare and build a deck around it with his own two hands.” “Well,” I countered to myself, “wherein creativity and productivity lay in congress, therein is found said deck ideas.”
So a deck it would be, mates! But which ring of sixty cards would I have festooned around my avatar's neck for the week? Struck by my muse I was.
Armed with creativity I was, but productivity was still in coming. To take, and to take against, that was the goal. No lackadaisical confrontation, but a forced conscription to the other side. Consultation with funds and purchases led me to these choices:
Whereupon the hand was empty, wherefore finds the Muse Vessel its purpose? ‘Twas told the artificer who built that glorious engine of pilfering told weakness against foes who showed empty hand and kept empty mind. Therefore, we must make him think and keep his idle hands occupied.
Should it be fair that I spend four mana and three to take, and not be able to use? Nay, my dishonest work has led to no reward henceforth. It should be that I receive, and I engage. Solve this, and solve the Vessel.
A foul brew to distill! To fleece, Annex and Confiscate serve true times two. To reseat, Boomerang, Eye of Nowhere and Repeal would be the suite. Remand, a denial. Temporal Adept, the captain at the helm. A Searchlight, guiding the ship to the Islands, finding an Eternal Dominion.
“Rare enough,” my sole concurrence. “It would cost no more than ten and five, hence no Eviction, no Mimeofacture, no Dream Leash, no Psychic Possession.” A Mark of Eviction would tell no tales against the lands, the Plotter only with. Perhaps later I'll find use for my other tools. Perhaps not.
You have been warned.
Opponent #1: TrapperJ (B/W Knights)
I am assailed at every quarter by the Paladins of en-Vec, and the Hands of Honor, guided by the Ghost Council of Orzhova wielding Umezawa's Jitte. Though I hold his hordes off for twelve seasons, eventually I am overcome by sheer numbers.
Victories: 0. Defeats: 1.
Opponent #2: Halopappy (U/B Ninjas)
Alas, my beginnings are not enjoyable. I find two Islands, but no more. With Spectral Searchlight and two Annex in grip, a horde of ninjas overwhelm my very territory. Okiba-Gang Shinobi claw at my life and my mind, and soon I am found with neither.
Victories: 0. Defeats: 2
Opponent #3: Ockadox (Roxodon Hierarchy)
Whoin should I find but my foe from weeks past, Ockadox! He still harnesses the powers of the Swamps, Plains and Forests. Where he employs Farseek and Sakura-Tribe Elder to take a step forward, I use Annex to take a step forward while making him take a step back. Oh unfair day!
Temporal Adept joins the fray, holding off his Kokusho. The dragon frustrated, I accelerate ahead and find the powers to cast the epic Eternal Dominion. Armed with the knowledge of my opponent's deepest secrets, I summon forth Ink-Eyes, and then Kokusho on my following action, killing his Kokusho (which I had wisely left around with my Adept). Ink-Eyes makes the Dragon turncoat, and a trifecta of Skeletal Vampires come to my aid. All have turned against Ockadox, and all is lost for him.
Victories: 1. Defeats: 2
Opponent #4: Toddwylie (W/G Natural Affinity/Genjus)
When one plays with lands as their only route to victory, what happens when the lands turn against them? I Annex his Plains, use the Eye of Nowhere to return his Genju-enchanted Forests, and then build up towards the Eternal Dominion. His mind is on the Wrath of God, and his board on a sole Genju of the Fields. I steal three more, and Toddwylie concedes, with me beyond sixty life. Victories: 2. Defeats: 2
Opponent #5: Jktk0401 (Mono-Black)
He gets stuck at three lands for a couple of turns. I Remand his Highway Robbers on the sixth, draw into an Annex, and use it on his Swamp. He concedes.
Victories: 3. Defeats: 2
Opponent #6: Nolight (Nephilim)
I start this battle with an Island... His first play is a tapped Temple Garden, which I Boomerang, leaving him with nothing. He plays the Temple and a Birds of Paradise, and I play Spectral Searchlight. He plays a second land, and I Eye of Nowhere it, plus Repeal his Birds. I then drop Muse Vessel and Temporal Adept, and proceed to savage his hand and his board. Soon, I cast Dune-Brood Nephilim, and his hope is lost.
Victories: 4. Defeats: 2
It is time for a change, and to move forward. I am unhappy with the performance of Spectral Searchlight. In many cases, I have Annex in my grasp, but am unable to cast it until the fourth turn, despite a Searchlight in hand. Should the Searchlight be Fellwar Stone, my opponent's land would be my land. Moreover, Fellwar Stone serves the same purpose as Spectral Searchlight, but one step earlier – access to colors of mana not my own.
Opponent #7: Tsmr (U/R Niv-Mizzet)
I Boomerang and Eye of Nowhere his first three lands, leaving his board completely empty. I follow this with Muse Vessel, and he answers with Wee Dragonauts a turn later. I get to work on his hand, taking Mana Leak, Tidings, and Repeal. For his part, he is allowing me to take the control elements, opting instead to try to burn me out with Char and Blaze. This plan almost works, as I am dropped to a precarious three life. That is as far as I will fall.
I drop a second Vessel, and go after his Mountains. I take one with Annex and one with Confiscate, leaving him without any sources of Red mana. I take a Niv-Mizzet and a Dragonaut of my own with the Vessel, and drop the Dragonaut to stop his. They trade (backed by his stolen Mana Leak against a Blaze), and Remand stops Char from finishing the game. I steal yet another Mountain, and earn a victory through concession when his Niv-Mizzet hits my side of the world.
Victories: 5. Defeats: 2
Opponent #8: Lynnpaul (B/G Legends)
I face down an early Vinelasher Kudzu, and take some damage to set up Muse Vessel. I Repeal his plant, and Annex a Swamp. He Naturalizes my Vessel, but I have another. Twin Vinelashers come down against me, but I return them to his hand when they get larger than two power. Meanwhile, Muse Vessel has taken Ink-Eyes, and I cast the Legend upon drawing a Fellwar Stone. Isao is the next to be drawn into the Vessel, and he too begins playing for my team. With this pair of Legends arrayed against him, Lynnpaul quickly falls prey to treachery and betrayal.
Victories: 6. Defeats: 2
Opponent #9: Podwrangler (Samurais)
My opening hand is three Islands, two Muse Vessels, an Annex and Eternal Dominion. I draw Confiscate, Eternal Dominion, Muse Vessel, Confiscate, Eye of Nowhere, and then die to an army of Samurai. Victories: 6. Defeats: 3
My head is now clear. My losses have all come to quick waves of creatures. My hand has been cluttered by that which is too costly, and so I will make it that my hand is cluttered no more. I also have had a shortage of mana one time too many, so that must be remedied.
Many times I find myself wanting just one more turn to gain control of the game, so I figure an Exhausted opponent is an opponent who cannot do me harm. With the changes in mind, I return to battle. I would not taste defeat again.
I get Fellwar Stone, he answers with Nezumi Graverobber. I play Quicksand and Temporal Adept. He gets Nezumi Cutthroat, which I return with the Adept. He continues to play rats in the form of the Cutthroat plus Nezumi Shortfang. I get another Quicksand down, which further stifles his offense. Muse Vessel joins the board, and I tap out to bounce his Cutthroat with my Adept. This leaves him a window to trade his Cutthroat for a Throat Slitter, killing my Wizard. My revenge is using Muse Vessel to grab the Cutthroat, plus a Kuro's Taken the following turn (which I play).
He attacks into the Taken while I am tapped out of Black, but I am willing to trade. He uses rat offering to play Patron of the Nezumi, drops Umezawa's Jitte on the table, and makes me discard with the Shortfang. Muse Vessel grabs Loxodon Warhammer, and Muse Vessel also spits the aforementioned stolen Cutthroat onto the board. Miracle Max hands his Patron a Jitte, but I Boomerang it on the attack, and he is one mana short of re-offering his 6/6 giant to the board. I am more than happy to steal it with the Vessel. I play his Warhammer to my board, leaving two Quicksands open. He empties my hand completely with Nezumi Shortfang and empties my graveyard with his Nezumi Graverobber, flipping them both. I take three damage from my empty hand, and play the Patron. He is held back by my Quicksands yet again, but equips Jitte on his 3/3. I equip Warhammer on my Patron, and then Repeal his flipped Shortfang when he blocks. He is unable to deal with my 9/6 trampling, pinging, spirit-linked monster.
Victories: 7. Defeats: 3
Opponent #11: Phillio (U/R Izzet)
He quickly gets Izzet Guildmage, two Gelectrodes, and Honden of Infinite Rage on the table. I am pinged all the way down to six, but I take all of his Islands with Annex, allowing me one monster turn where I bounce everything at the end of his turn with Boomerangs and Repeals. I drop Temporal Adept, ConfiscateGelectrode when it is recast later, and use the Adept to keep Honden of Infinite Rage off the board. He concedes with only five Mountains on the board when I drop Muse Vessel.
Victories: 8. Defeats: 3
Opponent #12: Smackeh (R/G Burn)
He gets Seal of Fire, but is stuck on one Mountain. This doesn't stop two Lava Spikes from bashing in my head. I get Fellwar Stone and a third-turn Muse Vessel, and start chomping away his hand. I grab Moldervine Cloak in time for him to draw a Forest, use Seal of Fire on me, and drop a 3/3 Scab-Clan Mauler.
I Confiscate it. He drops Seal of Fire #2. I put his Moldervine Cloak on his Scab-Clan Mauler, and swing in for six. Muse Vessel grabs Psychotic Fury, allowing me to swing for twelve and a card the next turn. He casts Simic Initiate, and I Exhaustion him, to make sure he doesn't have enough mana to burn out my/his Mauler for six. Victories: 9. Defeats: 3
Opponent #13: Grotto (G/R Genjus)
Victories: 10. Defeats: 3
Opponent #14: Dason (R/W Burn)
He gets Skyknight Legionnaire. I Annex his only Plains, but he plays another and casts Centaur Safeguard. I Confiscate the Safeguard, and he Shocks it (which allows me to gain three life). I Annex his other Plains, and drop Muse Vessel. He swings, but I get Volcanic Hammer with the Vessel, and use it to kill his Skyknight.
Back to neutral, he gets Plains and tries to Lightning Helix me. I Remand, and then Annex (#3) his Plains, and grab Lava Axe with the Vessel. He refuses to be short on White mana, and drops yet another Plains, but I have a second Remand for his Lightning Helix. I get Blaze with Muse Vessel, and he finally resolves Lightning Helix against me. Muse Vessel takes (and casts) Veteran Cavalier. He casts Sparkmage Apprentice, and I Boomerang his Plains and steal it. He plays another Plains, I draw another Boomerang, and end up stealing my fifth Plains of the game! I Lava Axe him, Blaze him for nine, and finish him off with the Cavalier.
Victories: 11. Defeats: 3
Opponent #15: EngineKid (G/W/U)
He's playing a lot of bounce lands, and I drop turn 3 Temporal Adept. He has no way to remove it in his deck, and I send him back to zero lands within a turn, adding Muse Vessel to the mix. He concedes at the prospect of being locked at zero lands. Victories: 12. Defeats: 3.
It was immensely fun to grab my opponent's permanents and spells over and over again, using his own tools against him to win the game. On the flip side, it was immensely frustrating for my opponents to have their permanents and spells stolen over and over again, and having their own tools used against them. In addition, the bounce aspect of the deck was also mind-rattling to play against, when used as mana-denial in the early game. Nobody wants to be hit by three Boomerang-effects in a row, facing down Muse Vessel on turn 4 with no permanents on the board.
To sum up, I found that Muse Vessel itself performed admirably, and the deck went on an undefeated tear after the third revision. It could still be improved (my workmate Aaron recommended I get Sleight of Hand in the deck somehow, as a way to smooth out my hand on the first turn or late game), but overall I can put the Building On A Budget stamp of approval on Finding My Muse. Just please, please keep in mind that while this deck is a lot of fun to play, it can be frustrating to play against. Use with caution!
Next Week: The Doctor is in!