Booby Trapped!

Posted in Building on a Budget on February 5, 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.

• This week’s format? Standard. This includes 9th Edition, Ravnica, Guildpact, Dissension, Coldsnap, and Time Spiral.

• My guide to budget cards on Magic Online will return with next week’s column!

Around the time of the Constructed State Championships last year, Bennie Smith (who currently has a weekly column at on Mondays) IMed me with much excitement in his digital voice.

“I am very excited!” said Bennie Smith, in a sentence I don’t think Bennie’s actually ever IMed me. “I have this totally awesome new deck and I have completely broken this Time Spiral rare in half!” he emphasized, using none of those words.

“Ok, Bennie, I’ll bite. What’s the deck?”


Mishra, Artificer Prodigy
His answer? Mishra, Artificer Prodigy combined with Booby Trap.

I’ll admit I was intrigued and repulsed at the same time. This seemed like the king of rickety-jank combos on one hand, but on the other hand it was twenty to the dome, and Mishra himself is a hefty 4/4 beater for four – hardly useless without the other half of the combo. Bennie gave me the outline for the deck:

Step One: Play Mishra, Artificer Prodigy
Step Two: Play Mishra’s Bauble, grabbing a second copy.
Step Three. See the top card of their deck. If it’s a basic land, wait a turn, and use the second Bauble.
Step Four: If it’s not a basic land on the top of their deck, double Booby Trap their deck (naming that card), and inflict twenty points of crushing pain during their next draw.
Step Five: Profit.

Yes, Bennie’s idea was so mind-blowing that profiting was moved down two steps. Scandalous!

Imagine my surprise when Bennie shows up to States and is not running his fabled Mishra, Artificer Prodigy/Booby Trap deck, but some horrible green/blue or green/white or green/green deck that went 0-20 and lost to several draft decks that were plucked from the side event area. I never heard another peep about this deck, until I decided that, in lieu of Bennie ever making the deck for reals, I would be able to take the idea and see how the deck would look on a budget.

Booby Trapped! 1

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The core of the deck remained intact from its original concept, which can best be explained by this mathematical equation:

[(1MAP) + (2MB)] * (2BT) = 20

Now came the tough part of building the deck. There’s an intrinsic problem that must be solved when building a deck around Mishra, Artificer Prodigy – you want to run a lot of artifacts to take advantage of his ability, but you also need to support three colors of mana by turn four to get him out in the first place!

My original build of Booby Trapped! focused almost exclusively on getting the Booby Trap to go off. Chromatic Star is there to smooth the mana and to act as a card-drawing spell, especially when combined with Mishra. Coldsteel Heart is also in the deck to fix the mana, as well as to accelerate to a potential third-turn Mishra. My lands were a pretty even spread across blue, red and black, with the Ravnica bounce-lands liberally sprinkled throughout to allow a better chance of getting all three colors at once, early.


Booby Trap
Serrated Arrows was the only other artifact in my first build, as it’s the most efficient creature-removal artifact in Standard right now. It’s also a card that isn’t redundant with Mishra – against decks where you want Serrated Arrows, you would not mind drawing two at the same time. This is not so much the case with, say, Aladdin’s Ring.

The rest of the original deck focused on returning permanents to the top of my opponent’s deck. The three cards chosen for this were Temporal Eddy (which can hit both lands and creatures), Time Ebb, and Vedalken Dismisser. It’s important to note that Booby Trap can trigger off of any nonbasic land. There are times when you’ll want to Temporal Eddy a bounce land or a pain land, and then name that with your Booby Trap.

The natural enemy of this deck? Dredgers. Luckily, I didn’t face one all week!

Included below is a list of all of the different cards I considered for the initial build of the deck, and then decided not to go with. I include it this time, because you can see that with playing black, red and blue (and with a stable mana base), there are tons of options for cheap, good commons and uncommons that can fit holes in this deck.

Clutch of the Undercity
Compulsive Research
Diabolic Tutor
Dimir House Guard
Izzet Chronarch
Last Gasp
Looter il-Kor
Mana Leak
Mystical Teacthings
Ribbons of Night
Rift Bolt
Sleight of Hand
Strangling Soot
Sudden Death
Sudden Shock
Sulfurous Blast
Telling Time
Think Twice
Thought Courier
Thoughtpicker Witch
Volcanic Hammer

Game 1: Pure Grit (Mono-B Gravepact)
He gets an early Nether Traitor. I Time Ebb it, then play Mishra, Artificer Prodigy. Mishra gets double Booby Trap (I blindly name Nether Traitor, since I’ve already seen one), and then swings in for eight over two turns. He plays Grave Pact, and I answer with Serrated Arrows. He trumps with Nantuko Husk, killing my Mishra by sacrificing his Nether Traitor. I kill the Husk with my double Arrows, and he plays Sengir Autocrat.

I Vedalken Dismisser his Autocrat, removing the tokens from the game. (They do not go to the graveyard in this case, because Sengir Autocrat specifically says to remove the tokens from the game. Normally, if a token takes lethal damage or dies, it counts as hitting the graveyard for effects like Grave Pact.) He replays the Autocrat, and I Time Ebb it, swinging in for two. He plays it a third time, and I drop Booby Trap, naming Sengir Autocrat. He drops a second Autocrat (which was already in his hand). Just as the board locks up, he draws a Nether Traitor and takes twenty damage, ending the game.
Record: 1-0

Mishras Bauble
Game 2: Davnel (W/B Orzhov Control)
He gets stuck on mana, and I get down Mishra, Mishra’s Bauble (drawing two cards), Chromatic Sphere (drawing more two cards), and then Serrated Arrows (killing his Thoughtpicker Witch). He casts Pillory of the Sleepless on Mishra, but I draw my third Bauble (the first ones turned up land – frown!), see Mortify, and then drop double Booby Trap, killing him.
Record: 2-0

A Memorable Quote From This Game:
(After I play the Booby Traps)
Davnel: “I wonder what my next card is?”
Me: “I’ll give you two guesses, and your first one doesn’t count!”

Game 3: Blazing_Archon (Bond of Agony/Lifegain Deck)
Well, I find one weakness of my deck: concentrated lifegain. Blazing_Archon proceeds to slap me around with Faith’s Fetters, Lightning Helix, and other lifegaining spells, putting him wellllllllll out of Booby Trap range. In fact, he’s out of quadruple Booby Trap range by the time he plays back-to-back Bond of Agony to kill me.
Record: 2-1

Game 4: Full Collapse (U/B Dimir Mill)
He plays Glimpse the Unthinkable four times, Repeals and bounces my Booby Traps off the board several times, and uses Mystical Teachings to draw several control and Counterspells. I start attacking his mana with Temporal Eddy and name Watery Grave with double Booby Trap. He shuffles his library during his upkeep with Mystical Teachings, keeping himself away from death. I have three cards left in my library when I drop a third Booby Trap, naming Repeal. He draws Repeal the following turn and dies (he was below 10 from Mishra).
Record: 3-1

Game 5: KingofOBX (W/U/G Selesnya)
He gets Juniper Order Ranger and a bunch of green/white guys, then flips his Thelonite Hermit, making his Ranger huge. I get a third-turn Mishra, Booby Trap him for Juniper Order Ranger on turn five, chump block his 10/12 monster, and Time Ebb it for the win. Yays!
Record: 4-1

Juniper Order Ranger
So far, I don’t have a lot of confidence in the deck. Sure, it’s 4-1, but half of the games have come down to last-minute heroics (or luck), and any sort of lifegain seems to rock my world. I want to add in some more ways to deal damage (so that my deck isn’t completely reliant on Booby Trap to win), and I also have been drawing too many lands each game.

In short, I take out the Dismissers, as they seem to be overkill against many decks. If a deck is already running short on creatures, Vedalken Dismisser is a dead card in hand (since it’ll only return itself), and a 6-mana dead card at that. I also take out one Time Ebb (haven’t needed it as much as Eddy, which can set up the nonbasic land/Booby Trap combo), an Island, a Mountain, and a Serrated Arrows.

I still want mana acceleration in the deck, so I swap the Coldsteel Hearts straight for Phyrexian Totem. I only need to hit twice with a Totem to get an opponent into single Booby Trap range, plus I can fetch out double Totem with Mishra in the later game. Coldsteel Heart past turn five is generally useless.

I also decide to go with a mini-discard theme. I’ve been itching to try out Blizzard Specter from Coldsnap for a while now, and I figure that I can combine it with The Rack (which Mishra can also grab two of) to have a third (and fourth) source of damage.

Out: 4 Vedalken Dismisser, 4 Coldsteel Heart, 1 Island, 1 Mountain, 1 Time Ebb, 1 Serrated Arrows
In: 4 Phyrexian Totem, 4 The Rack, 4 Blizzard Specter

Booby Trapped! 2

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Game 6: Pen_Draco_Maug (B/R Aggro)
I get no Islands, and get stuck with a hand full of blue cards. He casts double Ravenous Rats, Rakdos Guildmage, and kills me with the three. I couldn’t draw a Serrated Arrows either, which would have easily stabilized this game.
Record: 4-2

Game 7: Diddy86 (Mono-Green)
He plays Llanowar Elves and then Search for Tomorrow. I cast Time Ebb on the Elves, then Temporal Eddy on the Elves, so they will be shuffled into his library with Search for Tomorrow. This draws a concession, as Diddy86 must not feel like playing against Blue Time-X cards today.
Record: 5-2

Game 8: Dedre (Izzet)
I drop Phyrexian Totem, and he drops Gelectrode. I attack for five, and he drops another Gelectrode. I drop Mishra, and then Mishra’s Bauble. He doesn’t kill Mishra, and I get to Booby Trap him for the win.
Record: 6-2

Game 9: Hyppeyboy (Thallids)
He drops Thallid Shell-Dweller and Primal Forcemage. I drop Phyrexian Totem, then Blizzard Specter, and Time Ebb his defender with two counters on it. Hyppeyboy must also not feel like playing against this deck today, as this play draws the concession with him at 18 life.
Record: 7-2

Lightning Helix
Of all the times not to topdeck Lightning Helix…
Game 10: Torstan (R/W Boros)
He gets Skyknight Legionnaire, which eventually beats me down from 20 to zero. Over the course of the game, my Mishra and Phyrexian Totem stare down his Sunhome Enforcer, and I drop three separate Booby Traps with him at seven life. I never draw Serrated Arrows, and he never draws another Skyknight Legionnaire, Sunhome Enforcer, or Lightning Helix.
Record: 7-3

I’m still not terribly happy with the deck. While Phyrexian Totem is nice in theory, it’s best when your opponent has no cards in hand. This isn’t a dedicated discard deck (which is where Phyrexian Totem most likely belongs). In addition, the Totem costs three. I really want my mana acceleration to come at two, since this enables a fourth-turn Mishra or Serrated Arrows. At three, I literally get no acceleration use out of an artifact unless it’s for Booby Trap.

Out: 4 Phyrexian Totem, 1 The Rack
In: 4 Coldsteel Heart, 1 Serrated Arrows

Booby Trapped! 3

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Game 11: Ivan912 (Mono-Red Burn)
I get burnt and Stuffy Dolled to death while drawing a million lands. I am helpless against an onslaught of Volcanic Hammer, Sudden Shock, Sulfurous Blast (which deals six to me with Stuffy Doll out), Browbeat, and other burn spells.
Record: 7-4

Well, I drew Blizzard Specter and triple The Rack this game, and they were pretty useless. The Specter immediately died, and the The Racks (and yes, it’s the The Rack. Just like that other set is the The Dark!), did diddly and squat to help my board position.

This was definitely a case of me losing sight of the goals of the deck. This isn’t a Booby Trap deck with a discard subtheme. This is a Booby Trap deck with a Booby Trap theme.

Months ago, I wrote my five rules of deckbuilding. People often misinterpret rule #3, and this is a perfect time to clarify it.

Rule #3: Focus Your Goals, but Don’t Be a Slave to your Theme.

In the first build of the deck, I was a slave to my theme. The theme was Booby Trap plus Mishra, Artificer Prodigy. This is not a problem – these two cards make the deck work. However, I threw in literally every “put that card on top of your deck from play” card in blue, and I found them to be redundant, and useless against decks that were creature light. This was being a slave to my theme.

In the second revision, I didn’t focus my goals. Instead of focusing on getting Mishra plus Booby Trap each game, I diversified into a discard theme, which had nothing to do with Mishra at all. These cards weakened the deck, as they functioned independently of the other 52 cards in my deck. Yes, there are decks that want a diversity of threats. Combo decks are not one of them – they want to get their combo, as often as possible.

To get back on track, I took out the The Racks and the Blizzard Specters, and added in four Electrolyze and three Compulsive Research. The Researches are just good card-drawing spells, and the Electrolyzes are cantrip creature removal, which buys me time (and digs me through my deck) against early threats. They also combo really well with Serrated Arrows.

Out: 4 Blizzard Specter, 3 The Rack
In: 4 Electrolyze, 3 Compulsive Research

Booby Trapped! 4

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Game 12: Mingz003 (G/R Storm)
He Ignites Memories me, but my hand is all lands and Chromatic Stars. He still burns me out, even though I have double Booby Trap set to Ignite Memories and a hand full of lands. Record: 7-5

That’s it. I’m tired of being reactive with Booby Trap. Out come the Time Ebbs, and in comes a card that I never thought I would play but that’s perfect for this deck: Tunnel Vision! Tunnel Vision is thought of as one of the worst rares in Ravnica. It’s a six mana sorcery that mills you to a named card (which you then put on top of your deck – not even in your hand!), or that can mill your opponent to the same. Normally? An overcosted piece of junk. In this deck? Hey, I know a card that likes to control what’s on top of my opponent’s deck. One hint: It rhymes with Lubey Sap!

Out: 3 Time Ebb
In: 3 Tunnel Vision


Tunnel Vision
Game 13: JayLeeHaynes (Rakdos)
I hit him with Booby Trap and Mishra’s Bauble once, naming Ragamuffin. I then draw double Tunnel Vision, using the first one to draw a Booby Trap, and then using the second one to kill him with Rakdos Rats (and my second Booby Trap named to that very card).
Record: 8-5

Game 14: Twisted_Paladin (Deep-Sea Kraken Control)
He gets down Deep-Sea Kraken. I Booby Trap it, and before I can Temporal Eddy, he draws his second one! I Temporal Eddy it off the board anyhow, he counters a Mishra and kills a second one with Clone, but I eventually drop a third Mishra to the board, Temporal Eddy his second-landing Deep-Sea Kraken, and then beat him to death with my 4/4 backed with Electrolyzes.
Record: 9-5

Game 15: dw_pen73 (B/G Nether Traitor)
He gets turn-one Llanowar Elves, turn-three Nether Traitor, and turn-four Moldervine Cloak. I get turn-three Coldsteel Heart, turn-four Mishra with Chromatic Star, turn-five draw two from the Star, get Mishra’s Bauble, play double Booby Trap (naming Nether Traitor), and win.
Record: 10-5

Definitely a fun deck to try out, but I wouldn’t recommend it for long-term use. It’s a pretty one-trick pony, and while that trick is initially very impressive (BOOM! TAKE TWENTY!), it could get repetitive after a while. Unlike my Exploding Wurms! deck (which could win through Undying Flames or through reanimation), this deck either wins by Booby Trap, or it doesn’t.

But still, you get to win with Booby Trap and Tunnel Vision – what more could you want?

(Final budget of this deck, using Magic Online prices: 8-12 tickets)

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