And the Deck Challenge Winner Is…

Posted in Feature on July 13, 2006

By Bennie Smith

Bennie Smith began playing Magic in 1994 and started writing about it shortly after. A Virginia State Champion, he enjoys few things better than winning at tournaments with home brews. Bennie has a weekly column on He also recently published The Complete Commander. Follow him on Twitter, on Facebook, and the occasional Commander games on Magic Online under the handle "blairwitchgreen."

Real quick, before I get started, are you or do you know players who use the MTGO screen names jomesy or Mozzam? Drop me an email from the link at the bottom of this column; I'd like to get in touch with them!

Deck Challenge III Finale

I just want to say a big thank you to all the voters: these four decks have all been a lot of fun to play! While it's been much more difficult to choose between the decks, I value fun quite highly and have had a real good time getting to know each deck. In order by the highest vote getters, here's how the decks played out.

Deck#7: Leveler Possession (Extended) by Agentkirb

The Leveler deck was both a lot of fun and extremely difficult to play. Of all the decks, this one was a big Rosewaterian Magic: The Puzzling each game, trying to figure out just how you were going to set up to win. I got a little bit of flack running this in the Casual room with a sideboard, and if my opponent objected too strongly I just used the Wishes and Researches to access cards removed by Leveler. I didn't actually win a single game with this deck, technically; one game I was set up to win in the next few turns but my opponent lost his connection and didn't pop back on. Another game we drew when my opponent played Copy Enchantment on Psychic Possession when neither of us had card drawing in hand. Then there were a lot of losing games… so the deck must be awful, right? No, the pilot was awful while trying to get the hang of a complex deck. Many of my losses were incredibly close, where I lost the turn or two before I would have won, which leads me to think that with more practice and experience running it, I could have turned a few of those games.

Of course, some of those losses come from the wild and chaotic nature of the Casual room. Case in point:

I actually felt pretty good about this game before my opponent dropped Rhox. Even then, I thought I might be able to pull it out by Cunning Wish for Research and setting up 4 Aether Bursts to draw while smashing face with Leveler. Screaming Fury on Rhox shaved off a turn. The one he cast right after this one shaved off another turn—the current one. If Rhox says take 15, you take 15.

Deck#10: Chronatog Possession (Vanguard) by Crusader

This deck wants a certain set-up to function well, but the nice thing is that it's got tons of redundancy, so it's not difficult to put together the pieces. Below is close to ideal (if you ignore the lethally low life total).

With this set up, you basically just live during your opponent's turn; untapping during his untap phase with Seedborn Muse, drawing during their draw phase, playing lands with Scouts and Gardener, playing creatures and sorceries at instant speed with Orrery, and getting a free Ancestral Recall each turn from your Avatar. One slight kink in the decklist I discovered was Seismic Assault: the entire deck is really geared towards getting lands into play so you can flip the Gardener or play a huge Invoke the Firemind or Skyscribing, so you typically won't have lands in hand to keep pitching. I think swapping them for Words of Worship might be a good call.

Deck #1: Niv-Mizzet Possession (RBC) by Kiendrid601

This star of this deck ended up being Niv Mizzet, and really who can resist the sexy Firemind anyway?

Niv-Mizzet + Psychic Possession + Skyscribing = a shload of damage. Odds // Ends was a fun and surprisingly effective split card that I hadn't had the opportunity to play before, so I was definitely pleased with that. I had a pretty good record with this deck against other RBC decks in the Casual room, and the deck creator insisted the deck was at least Tier 2 competitive, so if you want to try something a little off the beaten path for RBC give this a whirl.

Deck#5: Puzzlebox Possession (Standard) by R41d

When Guildpact came out, some buddies and I worked on a Puzzlebox/Niv-Mizzet deck, and Jay Delazier coined the name “Hellraiser,” which I thought was very clever, and the deck performed well in testing. Adding Possession was a natural, since it turbo charges the deck's synergies. Most of the games I won on the back of The Firemind, but sometimes other plays developed.

Flipping Jushi into Tomoya the Revealer sets up some really ridiculous plays; in this particular instance, I used Tomoya on myself on the end of my opponent's turn to double the number of cards in my hand, then on my turn cast Spiraling Embers. It got countered, but eventually I would Tomoya me, then Tomoya my opponent and hit him with a Cerebral Vortex.

And the winner is… Agentkirb's Leveler deck! Like I said, it was really tough to choose between these four, and I certainly won a lot more games with the other decks, but the Leveler deck is challenging, weird, and I can't help but think quite powerful once you log enough time with it. Each of the final four players will get their requested 3 booster packs, but Agentkirb gets the 4 premium Psychic Possessions! Congratulations, and thanks for submitting such a cool deck.

Those of you who requested Coldsnap booster packs will need to wait until Coldsnap releases online, so be patient!

Magic Online On Air

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat." – Albert Einstein

How many of you have heard about Magic Online radio shows? Across the Pond, MTGO's first morning radio show, can be heard 6am-8am Eastern Time at Check it out!

The show is sponsoring a Deck Challenge of their own, and is taking submissions for 5-Color decks and on July 17th, the show will announce the winner and prize. The deck must be legal in the Magic Online Classic format, and contain all 5 colors of spells. The most original and effective deck will win the prize. If you'd like to join in, send your decklist to

One for the Highlight Reel

Writing for Magic websites is a lot of fun, and one of the things I most enjoy about it is the opportunity it affords to connect with people from all over. The audience for is huge, and getting emails and messages while on Magic Online has led to many enjoyable games and a few friendships. However, I wanted to share the absolute highlight of all the emails I received:

My name is Laurel, a 5th grade student in Virginia. I am doing a project on my hobby, Magic: The Gathering. One of the components in this project is to interview someone who plays Magic: The Gathering for a living, and I was wondering if you would be willing to answer some questions.

1. How long have you been playing Magic: The Gathering?
2. Who or what made you want to start playing Magic: The Gathering?
3. What is your favorite color and why?
4. What is your favorite expansion/block?
5. What is your favorite creature?
6. What are your favorite instant, and your favorite sorcery?
7. Do you consider yourself a casual or competitive player?
8. Have you ever attended a Pro Tour event? If so, how many and what was your best finish?
9. How likely do you think you'll still be playing in 10 years?

Thank you in advance for your help.

While I was initially flattered to be selected and eager to help out, I was worried a bit that I might not be exactly whom she was looking for.

Hi Laurel - I'd be happy to answer your questions, but I just wanted to double check to make sure I qualify; I actually don't play Magic: The Gathering for a living, I do some writing about it as a part-time job. If you'd rather interview an actual professional Magic player or somebody who works for Wizards of the Coast and makes a living making Magic cards, I can help you get in touch with somebody. Let me know!

Her father clarified for me.

I'm Robert, Laurel's father, and I want to thank you very much for your quick response. You are perfect for this project. The idea behind the project is to interview some folks who are fortunate enough to have found a way to make a hobby into more than just a pastime. Writing for a website devoted to that hobby certainly qualifies. By the way, keep up the great work on your column. I enjoy reading it every week. Robert

Cool! This is what I sent her. She sent similar requests to other people with contact links on, and got replies from just about all of them too.

Hi Laurel—first off, I just wanted to say thank you for choosing me as a topic in your paper. I've gotten a lot of email over the years that I've been writing, but I have to say yours was one of a kind and really made me smile. I hope my answers help contribute to a good grade for you!

1. How long have you been playing Magic: The Gathering?
I started playing in the Winter of 1993-94. Wow, that's a long time!

2. Who or what made you want to start playing Magic: The Gathering?
I had read a game review on Magic in White Wolf magazine and it sounded like a fun game. I went out and bought two starter decks of Unlimited (the base set at the time) and four booster packs of Arabian Nights for my friend and me to build decks from. I've been hooked ever since!

3. What is your favorite color and why?
Green. Ever since I opened a Force of Nature in my very first starter deck, I've loved large green creatures. Since then, I've also come to appreciate other aspects of green—it's mana acceleration, mana fixing, and its utility creatures.

4. What is your favorite expansion/block?
I can honestly say that whatever the current expansion/block is, that's my favorite. I love how Magic is constantly changing, and I love getting brand new cards to try out. I suppose that's why I've kept playing all these years. If you forced me to actually pick one set as my favorite, I'd probably have to go with Onslaught. I loved how that set focused on creature strategies.

5. What is your favorite creature?

Weatherseed Treefolk
Weatherseed Treefolk—I love having a creature that will just keep coming back. A close second is Eternal Witness.

6. What are your favorite instant, and your favorite sorcery?
My favorite instant is Crop Rotation, since there are so many cool lands available that you can go fetch (though my favorite target is typically Gaea's Cradle). My favorite sorcery would be Plow Under, though I really like the newer Life from the Loam too.

7. Do you consider yourself a casual or competitive player?
Probably 60 percent casual/40 percent competitive. I love the thrill of competition, and matching your deck building and play skills against various opponents, but my primary goal with Magic is to have fun, which will often lead me to playing less competitive decks just to try something out or because I want to play with a pet card.

8. Have you ever attended a Pro Tour event? If so, how many and what was your best finish?
I've never made the Pro Tour, but I've played in a lot of lower level events like PTQs, Regionals, and States/Champs. I won the Virginia State Champs in 1999, which was thrilling and unexpected (by me and many of my peers, haha!). I've also made Top 8 a few other times at States/Champs. That seems to be a tournament I do pretty well in.

9. How likely do you think you'll still be playing in 10 years?
Very likely. I've been playing for 12 years now, and I still love the game. Also, I have two children that will be 13 and 15 in ten years, so I'm hoping I'll be dragging them out to have fun in tournaments by then!

Laurel ended up getting an A on her paper, which would have made a happy ending to the story... but it didn't end there! Turns out that Robert and Laurel live in the Richmond area, and during the Coldsnap prerelease here (which I attended Saturday to help Star City run the event), I got to meet them face to face. Laurel, who's 11, and her dad are both very much into the game and had a great time at the prerelease. If it hadn't been for my gig here on Into The Aether, I might never have gotten to meet this nice Magic-playing family. I saw a lot of young people at the prerelease, many of them with one parent or both, or with a sibling or two, and it really increased my anticipation for the day I can take my kids and share that with them.

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