Battle of Wits, Now with 100% More Time Spiral!

Posted in Building on a Budget on January 29, 2007

By Ben Bleiweiss


  • Building on a Budget is dedicated to making decks that cost 30 tickets or less on Magic Online. Weekly deck testing is done using Magic Online. All prices quoted in this article are taken from the Magic Online buyers and sellers rooms!
  • This week's deck is the third Battle of Wits evolution. The first, starting with Dissension, can be found here. The second, with Coldsnap, was in two parts. They can be found here and here. You're reading the Time Spiral update!
  • The format? Standard. This includes 9th Edition, Ravnica, Guildpact, Dissension, Coldsnap, and Time Spiral.
  • 243 cards of pure fun!

Welcome back to Building on a Budget! For those who are new to the column, welcome for the first time to the Building on a Budget Battle of Wits evolution! Each set release, I take a budget build of Battle of Wits and update it with the newest cards and technology available. There have been a lot of changes since the last iteration of the BoaB BoW Deck, especially in abbreviation tech, so let's get down to business.

Battle of Wits

First, if you're new to this series-within-a-series, I suggest checking out the first three parts from last year. I've linked to them in the sidebar of this article (up top!), so you have easy access. Second, there are the ground rules for the budget Battle of Wits deck, just as a reminder:


  • Battle of Wits is the only rare allowed in the deck. This is a budget deck, and 240-250 cards already pushes the boundaries of many budgets.


  • The cap on uncommons will be forty, and forty will be the cap on uncommons. Even if all of the cards in this deck were bulk commons on Magic Online, the base price of this deck would be six tickets (four for commons, two for the four copies of Battle of Wits).


  • Standard is the format! In this article, that means 9th Edition, Ravnica, Guildpact, Dissension, Coldsnap and Time Spiral are legal.


  • The intent is to win with Battle of Wits. It's fine if it comes down to alternate win conditions every now and then, but we're not just going to take Dragonstorm, Solar Flare, Boros Deck Wins and Lightning Angel control, throw them in a blender, and watch the puree congeal. This is a Battle of Wits deck, first and foremost.

The biggest change to the Battle of Wits deck this time around is the rotation of an entire block! Here's how the deck looked, when last we saw it:

Coldsnap Battle of Wits

Download Arena Decklist

Because I am keeping this deck Standard legal, every Champions of Kamigawa, Betrayers of Kamigawa and Saviors of Kamigawa card must go.

Betrayers: 3 Ninja of the Deep Hours, 1 Quash, 1 Befoul
Champions: 1 Distress, 1 Hideous Laughter, 1 Nezumi Graverobber, 1 Petals of Insight, 4 Rend Flesh, 1 Soratami Cloudskater,
Saviors: 1 Death Denied, 1 Exile into Darkness, 4 Ideas Unbound

The biggest hit here is, believe it or not, the Hideous Laughter. There are no silver bullets currently in the common or uncommon slots of black or blue that can mass-remove creatures. The rest of the cards were all targets for transmute spells.

Also, it was pointed out in the forums of the last Battle of Wits article that the deck runs too many lands mathematically. Therefore:

Out: 7 Island, 7 Swamp

All right, time to add some cards. The most significant addition to the deck are 4 Mystical Teachings. The strategy for this deck is to use transmute cards, tutors, and card drawing cards to get to Battle of Wits. Frequently, games go turn 3 Transmute Dimir House Guard for Diabolic Tutor, turn 4 Diabolic Tutor for Battle of Wits, turn 5 Battle of Wits. Because there are so many cards in this deck, it's entirely possible to run several silver bullets (cards that are marginally useful against most decks, but extremely useful against individual strategies), since you have the room to stuff them in, and the ways to search them out. Mystical Teachings is a double silver-bullet grabber, and an incentive to stuff more instants in the deck.

Speaking of one-of instants, I added one Strangling Soot, one Tendrils of Corruption, and one Wipe Away. I also put in four Sudden Death (straight replacements for Rend Flesh), four Chromatic Star (card drawing and color fixing), 4 Terramorphic Expanse (in place of Islands/Swamps), 4 Sage of Epityr (early deck fixing), 4 Looter il-Kor (good card drawing), 4 Dimir Aqueduct (which should have been in the deck previously, but somehow escaped my notice!), 4 Think Twice (solid card drawing), and 4 Prismatic Lens.

Time Spiral BoW 1.0

Download Arena Decklist

In: 4 Dimir Aqueduct, 4 Looter il-Kor, 4 Mystical Teachings, 4 Sage of Epityr, 4 Think Twice, 4 Sudden Death, 4 Terramorphic Expanse, 4 Prismatic Lens, 1 Strangling Soot, 1 Tendrils of Corruption, 1 Wipe Away, 4 Chromatic Star

Mystical Teachings

Game 1: UPUP (Izzet)
He gets Lotus Bloom and Niv-Mizzet on turn four. I play Coldsteel Heart and Izzet Signet, Mystical Teachings for Dark Banishing, and Dark Banish his Legend. He plays Gelectrode on back to back turns, but one meets Nekrataal and the other Strangling Soot. I then flash back Mystical Teachings for Clutch of the Undercity, transmute that to Diabolic Tutor, and fetch Battle of Wits for the win.
Record: 1-0

Game 2 (Match): Jamie Wakefield (Mono-Green Extended)
Game 1: I get turn 3 Transmute for Diabolic Tutor, turn 4 tutor for Battle of Wits, turn 5 Battle of Wits. Textbook game.

Game 2: He gets Overrun with triple Eternal Witness, elves, and double Beast Attack. I can't kill all of his guys, and die with Battle of Wits in hand.

Game 3: He gets Scryb Ranger. I get Izzet Signet and Thought Courier. He drops Llanowar Elves, and I cast Mystical Teachings for Slay, Slay his Ranger, Sift. He casts Ravenous Baloth, I cast Looter il-Kor and Nekrataal his Baloth. I transmute Dimir House Guard into Diabolic Tutor, he casts Beast Attack end of turn, and then drops Spectral Force. I chump his Beast Attack with Nekrataal, and Perilous Research it. I Diabolic Tutor for Nekrataal, and kill his Spectral Force, then Compulsive Research into a 3rd Nektraal. He Eternal Witnesses his Beast Attack, I Nekrataal his token, and use a second Diabolic Tutor for Battle of Wits. He recasts Beast Attack and then Overrun. I have two Nekrataal on the board, and use Mystical Teachings to get Clutch of the Undercity, bouncing his Beast Attack token, and double-blocking his Eternal Witness (first striking it to death). I then cast Battle of Wits with 201 cards left in my deck, and it dies to Krosan Grip (I was trying to use Mystical Teachings to get Muddle the Mixture to protect Battle of Wits, but it didn't matter).

Clutch of the Undercity

Ok, plan B - kill through damage. He cast Call of the Herd, and I Clutch of the Undercity it, cast Counsel of the Soratami and Treasure Trove. He flashes back Beast Attack and Call of the Herd. I transmute Brainspoil into Ribbons of Night and kill his Beast Attack token, then drop Thieving Magpie. He casts another Beast Attack, I bounce the token with another Clutch of the Undercity, Last Gasp his Elephant Token, and attack. He casts Ravenous Baloth. I transmute Drift of Phantasms for Sudden Death (he can't respond since I have priority), kill his Baloth, attack through his elves (Last Gasp versus Pendelhaven) and finish him off with damage.
Record: 2-0

Well, there are definitely more silver bullets I want to run. Now that I have Mystical Teachings, it's even easier to run one-of instants! I add in a Cancel, a Cremate, and a Darkblast. I also bring in 3 Repeal (more bounce) and 4 Telling Time (which is a great card-quality selection spell). To make room for them, I take out an Island and a Swamp, one Golgari Signet, the Train of Thought (which is suboptimal to other card drawing spells, and is a sorcery), 1 Crystal Seer (Sage of Epityr fills this role better, now), and 4 Coldsteel Heart (I don't need them now that I have Prismatic Lens, which doesn't come into play tapped). I also kill the Tendrils of Corruption, because I usually won't have enough Swamps in play to make it worthwhile over Ribbons of Night.

Out: 1 Train of Thought, 1 Crystal Seer, 4 Coldsteel Heart, 1 Tendrils of Corruption, 1 Island, 1 Swamp, 1 Golgari Signet
In: 1 Cancel, 1 Cremate, 1 Darkblast, 3 Repeal, 4 Telling Time

Time Spiral BoW 2.0

Download Arena Decklist

Game 3: Lord Zitro (B/U Control)
I get down Sage of Epityr, which lets me set up turn 3 Thieving Magpie, turn 4 Looter il-Kor, and turn five Brainspoil for Battle of Wits. This draws a concession.
Record: 3-0

Game 4: Pheuriaz (G/W Urzatron)
He gets turn one Soul Warden. I get Telling Time, which sets me up for Clutch of the Undercity on one of his Urza pieces on turn four, allowing me a comfortable margin to drop Battle of Wits on turn 5. This also draws a concession. It's nice to have a card in the deck that says, very simply, you win the game.
Record: 4-0


Game 5: KidSyndrome (Biorhythm)
His entire draw this game is mana acceleration through spells, and a lone Llanowar Elves on turn one. I kill the Elves with Darkblast on my turn one, and I drop Battle of Wits on turn six. He concedes and shows me a hand of Biorhythm and no other business spells, and he did have eight mana available on the board, but didn't want to draw the game. I'll consider this game a draw, because the turn after I dropped Battle of Wits, he could have cast Biorhythm and set us both down to zero.
Record: 4-0-1

This was, unofficially, the first drawn game that I've had so far in my run on Building on a Budget!

Game 6: HellzW0lf (Slivers)
Because I have so many signets on the board, I miscount my mana by one when figuring out whether I can transmute for Battle of Wits and drop it in one turn, or not (I could have, but I didn't), and I die to Slivers the turn before I would win with my enchantment.
Record: 4-1-1

Game 7: Dragondude2004 (W/R)
A textbook draw of Brainspoil into Battle of Wits on turn 5, with no resistance. I wish there was something more interesting to say about this particular game, but barring Hide/Seek, there wasn't much he could do to stop me.
Record: 5-1-1

Game 8: Jonaldus (G/W Control)
He casts triple Mwonvuli Acid-Moss, uses Magus of the Disk to blow up three Signets, and does his best to stymie my deck's mana development. However, it's hard to stop a deck that runs 96 lands and 27 mana-producing artifacts. I eventually drop Battle of Wits and win.
Record: 6-1-1

Game 9: Owlswater (Thallids) He pitches double Verdeloth turn one to Allosaurus Rider. I Boomerang it, and drop double Signet. He drops Sarpadian Empires, I transmute Dimir House Guard into Diabolic Tutor, and cast Counsel of the Soratami. He casts Sporesower Thallid, I cast Diabolic Tutor for Battle of Wits. He drops another Sporesower Thallid, and I drop Battle of Wits and win.
Record: 7-1-1


Game 10: Miccul (B/W Control)
I get to three mana, transmute Drift of Phantasms to Compulsive Research, use that to draw Dimir Aqueduct, and drop Battle of Wits turn six. He Mortifies it, and drops Sengir Vampire. I Sudden Death the Vampire, and transmute Brainspoil into Battle of Wits. He drops another Sengir Vampire, and puts Unholy Strength on it. I cast Battle of Wits, and he has no response.
Record: 8-1-1

Game 11: Nirvana6923 (Enchantress)
He drops turn 3 Yavimaya Enchantress. I have Rakdos Signet, cast turn 3 Diabolic Tutor, turn 4 Battle of Wits, win. His Enchantress is 9/9 by this point, thanks to Pentarch Ward (naming Black), Spirit Link, and Moldervine Cloak. In my defense, I was holding a Boomerang.
Record: 9-1-1

Game 12: Tattersail (Mono-Blue Control)
This is a super-long game, as he's packing (that I can tell) 4 Mana Leak, 4 Remand, 4 Cancel, 4 Spell Snare, 4 Rune Snag, 4 Repeal, 4 Boomerang, Draining Whelks, and possibly other counterMagic. I transmute Dimir House Guard on turn three for Nightmare Void, and start trying to Void out his hand. He Rune Snags it, Remands it, and then Draining Whelks it. I cast Darkblast on his 5/5 Whelk, and then Sudden Death it to death. I then get back Darkblast (in case he has another Whelk, so I can kill it once it comes into play, before it's trigger resolves and gives it counters), and then go back along to the Nightmare Void plan. Eventually, I strip his hand of all cards, and we go into top deck mode. I haven't flipped a flashback spell with the Nightmare Void yet, but I keep dredging it every time I need to cast a card drawing spell. On turn twenty, I get Brainspoil. On my next turn, I dredge Nightmare Void, strip away the last card in his hand, transmute Brainspoil, and drop Battle of Wits with 201 cards left in my library. He doesn't top deck Boomerang or Repeal, and I win.
Record: 10-1-1

For the third time in a row, this was a successful run with Battle of Wits. We took out a lot of uncommons and added a lot of commons, so the deck is cheaper than ever at this point! If you're looking for a fun diversion that plays like highlander but isn't, I highly recommend throwing this deck together online. It costs less than 20 tickets to build, and a good majority of the cards are ones you'd want to have for other decks you build anyhow.

Next Week: It's Junky, It's Funky, and we're going to try to break it in half! Enter the Time Spiral!

As a special feature over the next few weeks, I'm going to be going set by set and pointing out the cards that make great additions to any budget deckbuilder's portfolio. I'll be separating the cards into two categories: Essentials and Specialized. This basically means as follows - the Essentials are cards that, if you're playing that color, you'll probably use over and over again. Examples of Essential cards are Naturalize, Volcanic Hammer, and Izzet Boilerworks. Specialized cards are cards that aren't at universally played as Essential cards, but have their uses. Examples include Warp World, Mark of Eviction, and Chastise.

This week's set? Guildpact! I'll list the cards by color and note whether they are Essential or Specialized. All cards on this list cost two tickets or less. For a primer on how to find the best prices using Magic Online, please refer to my "Buying on a Budget" article Most of the commons and Uncommons on this list can get gotten at 16-for-a-ticket and 8-for-a-ticket, respectively. Most of the Rares are either 2-for-a-ticket, 1 ticket, or 2 tickets each. If a card costs more than 2 tickets, it is not included on this list (though these are few and far between for Guildpact - mostly the Dual Lands and Giant Solifuge aka Cap'n Tickles). Happy bargain hunting!



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