Kelpie, Obi-Wan Kenobi...

Posted in Building on a Budget on October 2, 2008

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

The masses have spoken.

I received over three hundred e-mails begging me to write about River Kelpie, and over fifty of those included deck lists. I want to thank everybody, I didn't get to respond to all of you, but I learned a lot from those deck lists, and I got really excited about the deck.

River Kelpie
Haakon, Stromgald Scourge

One thing that really intrigued me was the inclusion of Haakon, Stromgald Scourge in a River Kelpie deck. I hadn't even glanced at Haakon since States last year and was really excited when about ten people sent me e-mails with their Haakon / River Kelpie lists.

There are a lot of possibilities when building a control deck. I had a lot of options that needed to be explored before I could even start scratching together a deck list. Initially, I assumed I would be playing a five-color control deck like Quick 'n Toast, but I played a few games and found that I couldn't really figure out a reliable mana base within my budget. After a lot of fiddling, I decided to make a blue-black Kelpie deck with an excessive removal suite.

Some of you have probably noticed how highly I value a good curve. This week is no exception.

A lot of players think curves only exist for aggressive decks. However, a control deck needs to curve very well in order to keep up with aggressive decks that inhabit the same format. A control deck curves differently, though. While it's important to have spells I can play on the first few turns, it's also important to ensure that those spells still have action later on in the game. As a control player, I'm looking to win the game by grinding out card advantage in the long term. Those extra cards aren't much of an advantage if they don't do anything in the later stages of the game. I decided to take a look at which cards do something early and late.

Nameless Inversion: This seems like the obvious choice. It's a solid removal spell early on, and later in the game I can set up a machine gun with Haakon.

Shriekmaw: Early on, Shriekmaw is just a sorcery speed terror, but late in the game it becomes nothing short of incredible.

Terror: The original spot removal is still good enough. Terror is an extremely efficient way to deal with most threats in the format.

Cruel Edict: I believe this card is harshly underplayed. It's the only two mana black spell that outright kills things like Chameleon Colossus or Akroma, Angel of Wrath.

Scarblade Elite

Scarblade Elite: I have a soft spot for this guy and, depending on our Assassin count, would really like to include a few.

Raven's Crime: Early on, Raven's Crime is just a simple one for one that cost me some mana, but it has the potential to steal some early games. If my opponent mulligans to five it's probably worth it to just go all-in on my Raven's Crime and strip their hand down to nothingness. The Crime also allows me to cycle my lands when I have a Kelpie in play. If I have two Kelpies in play, bom chicka wa wa!

As we get to our three-cost cards we can start getting a little spicier. I think it's important to remember what we're trying to do with this deck. Even though we're playing a River Kelpie deck, I want this deck to function as a Makeshift Mannequin control deck when it doesn't draw its favorite aquatic card advantage machine.

Mulldrifter: Mulldrifter is the best three-cost card (when evoked) in any deck that plans on playing Makeshift Mannequin.

Bonded Fetch: The Fetch may seem a little odd at first, but it's a necessary evil in my deck. It can set up some really good Mannequins for my fourth turn. It's also important to remember that I'm planning on running a very high land count. I'm playing a lot of spells that cost five mana, and I want to make sure I don't stall on three or four land. Bonded Fetch lets me trade my excess land for relevant spells in the late game. It's also the sexiest way to bin my Haakon and start gunning down my opponent's board.

The four-drops of this deck are pretty hard to narrow down; I have a good number of options.

Makeshift Mannequin: This is the one four-mana spell that I can absolutely guarantee I'll be playing. Ever since the first time I played this card in Limited, it's been an emotional roller coaster. Some nights I lie awake in bed next to my girlfriend clutching a Makeshift Mannequin to my chest thinking, "Never leave me!" In all seriousness though, this card is completely cocoNUTS in a deck running Mulldrifter, Shriekmaw, and River Kelpie.

Murderous Redcap: The Redcap may or may not be very good in my deck. First off, it's an Assassin, so it can power up my Scarblade Elites. Second, it has a "comes into play" ability, so it's a fine Mannequin target. Finally, its persist plays really nicely with my Kelpie.

Dread Return: This is a card I was more strongly considering when I was planning on having a five-color deck with Kitchen Finks. Imagine having this in the bin and sacrificing a few persist guys to flash it back when I have a Kelpie in play. That's like Cruel Ultimatum card advantage on a spell that cost zero mana.

Careful Consideration: I, like many others, am a member of CDA, or card draw anonymous, I call my sponsor hourly, but I just can't help myself; it just tastes so good when it hits your lips. This card was a shoe in for the old Mannequin decks, but I'm not sure if I'll have room once I start throwing subthemes into this Yellow Submarine.

Now we get to the top of the curve. This is where the magic happens. I've taken my deck out to dinner, sweet talked it a bit, and now it's time to get busy.

Lim-Dul the Necromancer

River Kelpie: Obviously. My fishie friend is absolutely absurd. He makes me draw a lot of cards and if my opponent tries to kill him, he just comes back. And guess what, he draws me a card in the process. I don't think it's really possible to play River Kelpie and not at least three for one your opponent, barring a timely Unmake or Hallowed Burial.

Mulldrifter: See above.

Shriekmaw: See above.

Lim-Dûl the Necromancer: "You can't be serious, Jake. You didn't even like that card in Limited." I'm so serious. Lim-Dûl is an excellent one-of in this deck, he may not even be worth it, but stealing my opponents creatures and drawing cards in the process is quite possibly the most wonderful, heartwarming, epiphanistic (I had to make a word up just to describe how good this feels) thing I've ever been able to do.

I have a few too many cards here to make a coherent deck, so I'm going to have to make some cuts. I think the must-includes are as follows: Mulldrifter, Shriekmaw, Makeshift Mannequin, River Kelpie, and Nameless Inversion. I'm definitely playing four of each of these cards. I want at least twenty-five land, so I don't have many slots left to fill. I want to include a few Scarblade Elite, so I'll want to play with Murderous Redcap. I see a lot of Akromas running around the casual room, so I want to play at least a pair of Cruel Edicts. I'm going to play at least one Haakon to set up my machine gun. I also can't get over Lim-Dûl, so I'm going to play at least one of him. Raven's Crime also has way too much synergy with the Kelpie to convince me not play with it. The list I ended up settling on looked like this.

Kelpie, Obi-Wan

Download Arena Decklist

The sideboard would definitely include Cruel Edicts three and four. The rest of the board seems pretty up in the air. I could include some Stromgald Crusader for white matchups (it also works quite well with Haakon). I could also play some more Raven's Crime for the control matchups. If you're lucky enough to have some Glen Elendra Archmages, then you should have four of those in the sideboard too. I think it's definitely worth testing the Archmage in the main deck too.

I'd probably played about fifty games with the deck before I finally settled on a list. Here are the games I got to play with my final list.

Round 1: Costume playing Black-Green

I had to mulligan on the play here, and my opponent kept his starting seven. I played a land on my first three turns. My opponent, however, was not so fortunate. He missed his second land drop and played lands two and three on his third and four turns. It was pretty unusual, though, because he just passed even when he played his third land. Maybe he misclicked and kept an awkward hand. Eventually he played a Mirri the Cursed, but it was way too late, and I had a Murderous Redcap in hand. I locked up control pretty easily here. He understandably conceded when I had four creatures to his zero, seven lands to his four, and seven cards in hand.


Round 2: Hio playing Green-White Control

Bonded Fetch

I had a nice starting hand here. One thing I really like about Bonded Fetch is that I can keep almost any hand that includes him and three lands, he's happy to cycle through my deck when things get awkward. Hio and I just played lands for the first few turns. I play my Homonculus on turn three and cycle to pitch Lim-Dûl the Necropotencemancer. He played a Civic Wayfinder and passes. He got in for a few points but after a few turns I just completely took over. I Mannequined back my Lim-Dûl on turn seven with damage stacked to finish off his Kitchen Finks, and the Finks came to play on my side. He had an Austere Command on the same turn, but I was left with River Kelpie, Kitchen Finks, and a fist of eight cards. The game wasn't quite over, though. Hio started playing Evangelize with buyback. Luckily, I had drawn enough cards to have a few Nameless Inversions that I could play on my own guys to counter the big spell. After a lot of back and forth I eventually squeaked this one out.


Round 3: Quick 'n Toast

I didn't get a chance to take down this player's name. Sorry! I started with a pretty decent hand and the game progressed as one might expect between these two decks. He played some Kitchen Finks, and I played some Murderous Redcap. He played Firespout, and I got back my Kelpie. It was a tight race and I was pulling ahead on card advantage and thought I would get there. Then things went terribly awry. He played Puppeteer Clique and brought back one of my River Kelpies. I tried to restabilize, but there wasn't anyway I could race the Clique. I had to shoot it and let him get back one of my Mulldrifters. Even after that backbreaker I was still in the game. We continued to trade one for one while building our hands. Then he drew another Puppeteer Clique and that, my friends, was too much for this handsome cowboy to handle.


Round 4: Jimmyslayer playing Black-White Aggro

Things didn't bode too well for my opponent this round. We both kept our opening seven. He played a turn two Nightsky Mimic. I played my second land and passed. He attempted to cast Edge of Divinity on his Mimic the next turn, but I had a Nameless Inversion for the blowout. He played another Nightsky Mimic and passed. I played my third land. He, again, attempted to play Edge of Divinity on his Mimic, this time it stuck. He attacked me for seven. I had the Cruel Edict in hand, though, so I two for oned him for the second time by the fourth turn. On his fourth turn he played a Knight of Meadowgrain. I had a Murderous Redcap in hand. On his turn he played a land and another guy, I had the Shriekmaw. After that he really didn't do much. I played Mulldrifter after Mulldrifter and he just watched the show. He conceded before I could finish my business.


Round 5: HonestMorals playing Blinded by the Light


This is Peter Doolan, my friend and ex-roommate, whom I wrote about last week.

Interesting story about where his user name comes from: Peter and I were living in a house that was next to a True Value Hardware store. The owner of the hardware store was our landlord. As a result, our house became known as True Value House. Peter downloaded Magic Online and was making an account that he tried to name TrueValue. When that was already taken, we audibled to HonestMorals.

Interesting story about the interesting story: I scored what may very well be the highest score in the history of the universe in Resident Evil 4: Mercenary Mode (exaggeration) while Peter was setting up the account.

Peter and I both kept our opening hands. I didn't have a Nameless Inversion, but I had two Redcaps and Mulldrifter with a good mix of lands. He played a turn-two Soltari Priest. I was kinda cold to the Priest. He played a turn-three Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers, and I was up against the wall. I drew a Shriekmaw, but it was a little late to the party. Peter played his Light From Within and basically crushed my skull. It's so obnoxious that Unmake removes my creatures from the game. I think I'd probably win this match about half the time if I had to play it more.


Round 6: Pakarn playing Black-Green Aggro

This game was never really close. I kept my opening seven-card hand and he mulliganed on the draw. I Nameless Inversioned his guy at the end of his second turn and played a Bonded Fetch on the third. He played a Woodlurker Mimic and at the end of his turn I fetched and pitched a Haakon to my graveyard. I now had the machine gun set up and could repeatedly Nameless Inversion. My opponent conceded as soon as he understood what was going on. (It took him about four seconds.)


Round 7 TTA playing Quick 'n Toast

Puppeteer Clique

I was probably playing too cautiously this round. I was trying to play around the Puppeteer Clique again, but that usually just results in awkward plays. I think the odds of a Quick 'n Toast player having Puppeteer Clique in the first game are actually pretty low. By turn six I had shaken the fear and started getting down to business. River Kelpie started doing its job, and I eventually drew into my Raven's Crime. I started drawing two cards off each Crime and eventually he was out of gas. I swung a few times and that was all she wrote.


I strongly suggest that anyone who hasn't had a chance to play with River Kelpie build this deck. It's an absolute blast to play, and when it gets going it really can't be overcome. I'd probably keep the main deck the same. If I had some extra cash I might want to try a Glen Elendra Archmage or Puppeteer Clique.

Anyway, I've already got a ton of suggestions for future articles in my mailbox, but I'd be glad to see some more. I'd like you guys to decide whether you would like to see me write about a deck using Shards of Alara next week or just focus on the online play. Let me know in the forums.

Thanks for reading!

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