Champions of IntoTheAether

Posted in Feature on November 9, 2004

By Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar

I'm still suffering from Champions of Kamigawa fever. Last week I talked about the Champions Release Events, which was my awkward, bumbling attempt to learn the new cards through Sealed Deck and Draft (many people were quick to point out the awesomeness of the White in my first Sealed League that I somehow neglected). Very soon I'll jump into a four-week Champions Sealed League. For now, though, Champions of Kamigawa is flowing freely online so it's time to turn an eye towards Constructed...

Today I'm going to revisit the Magic Online Constructed formats I've described previously--Emperor, Prismatic, PDC, Tribal Wars, and Singleton--now that Champions of Kamigawa has arrived. In fact, I'm going to pick a deck I built for each and see how it might change with Champions. Why? Because many people approach new sets less by what new decks are possible, and more by how old decks are changed. I usually start with the new, but for whatever reason today I'm feeling rather nostalgic for the old.

Also, as a caveat, I’m going to be covering a lot of ground today, so I'm going to take a break from giving actual game results (though I did play each deck at least once) and instead just focus on the decks.

No Love of Metal

Glissa Sunseeker
My first Constructed stop was the weird and wild world of Emperor. Returning to Emperor was interesting for me because it was a chance to peek back at the Multiplayer room and see if any format besides 1-1-1 had stuck since my Three Days of Emperor Fun. Sadly, the only games I saw running were 1-1-1 games, so I once again “went rogue” and advertised a 2-2-all Standard Emperor game for a couple of evenings. People gave me a little grief for choosing Standard as the format, but I figured I would stay true to my original experiment. Besides, the whole point was to retool one of my old Emp decks which were all built for Standard.

If you recall from my Three Days of Fun, because of a misclick on my part I actually didn't have the chance to play one of my flanker decks, called Metal Haters. Here is the original deck:

Metal Haters (pre-)

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The idea behind the deck was to both take advantage of the fact that everyone was playing artifacts thanks to the Mirrodin block and, just in case, to turn everything into artifacts via Mycosynth Lattice. It was a fun idea, and I was disappointed not to see the deck in action.

Now that Champions of Kamigawa has arrived in Standard and kicked Onslaught Block out, I wasn't sure it made sense to stick with the Elf theme in the deck since I lost Wirewood Herald. Dropping Elves as a design criteria allowed me to use the Lattice for things like Tanglewalker and Ouphe Vandals. I also focused more on Glissa Sunseeker as an artifact killer now that I had access to Time of Need. Here is the revamped deck:

Still Metal Haters

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A few notes on the changes:

It's a flanker deck, but it also works reasonably well as an emperor. When I am surrounded by teammates, I can focus less on survival and more on getting the Lattice out to interfere with the opposing team. Expect me to continue to pop into Multiplayer over the next few weeks, and expect me to be packin' hate for all things metal.

Peeking Through the Door

It's easy to revisit a pet Prismatic deck since, well, I only have one Prismatic deck. Here is where I last left my Door to Nothingness deck:

The Doors v.1.6

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As always, I'm going to lean heavily on Doug Beyer's take on Prismatic, especially since last week he talked about Champions' effect on his favorite format. Based on Doug's article and my own pondering, here are the changes I've made:

  • Once again, Sakura-Tribe Elder and Kodama's Reach are grrreat. In the Door deck, I've dropped Pentad Prism and Explosive Vegetation for them. The Prism always sort of bugged me in the deck because there was nothing to do with the artifact once it had used its counters and because it was useless with Roar of Reclamation. I'm a big fan of Explosive Vegetation, but Kodama's Reach simply pulls two lands faster.
  • One of the cards that has bugged me in my most recent version is Skeletal Scrying, largely because a) I want cards in my graveyard, and b) I'm trying desperately to survive, so the life-loss is often more than I can afford. Champions seemed like a good opportunity to ditch the Scrying for some other black card. My choices were: Hideous Laughter, which is like an Instant-speed Pyroclasm 5-8; Nezumi Graverobber, which is like a Withered Wretch and Zombify rolled into one (both of which my deck could use); and Rend Flesh, which is just plain 'ole good creature removal. I decided on Rend Flesh, mostly by process of elimination. I worried about Hideous Laughter's double-black cost and the Graverobber, while really cool, seems to fragment what my deck is trying to do (basically I worried about the temptation to beat on my opponents with their own creatures instead of get Door to Nothingness into play).
  • Gifts Ungiven has so much synergy with the idea of loading up my graveyard to return a Door to Nothingness to play that it's practically cater-made for my deck. I decided to drop Complicate for it. My deck doesn't really have the ability to reliably counter anything of substance, and I had been using Complicate mostly for its Cycling ability. Gifts Ungiven has a lot more card-drawing and tutoring horsepower than Cycling.

Other considerations included: Heartbeat of Spring, Ghostly Prison, and Sensei's Divining Top, each of which helps the deck but which I couldn't find space to add. The toughest call for me was whether to keep Renewed Faith or add Ghostly Prison. This may still be a change I make down the line. For now, though, here's the deck:

The Doors v.2.0

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A Common... Arcane Combo?

To be honest, I think Nate's “all commons combo” deck from my PDC experience is pretty tightly built. In fact, when I played it I remember thinking that I would like to add more card-drawing into the deck but not seeing anything I could afford to take out. As you might recall, here's the deck I took to a PDC tournament:

The Big Bounce

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Creature (8)
4 Spire Golem 4 Tangle Golem
Instant (16)
4 Dream's Grip 4 Opt 4 Twiddle 4 Harrow
Enchantment (8)
4 Fertile Ground 4 Dawn's Reflection
Land (20)
13 Forest 7 Island
60 Cards

Psychic Puppetry
Champions of Kamigawa provides one really intriguing card for this deck: Psychic Puppetry. A repeatable untapping effect means that the deck can have “mini-combos” earlier in games and thus not horde its Twiddles for the big, game-ending combo.

However, Psychic Puppetry is just an overpriced Twiddle if you can't Splice onto Arcane. Here's where other direct parallels from Champions to cards already in the deck come in. What about Reach Through Mists instead of Opt? Kodama's Reach instead of Harrow? Neither of these options are better than their replacements on their own, but if you get a Spliced Puppetry out of it, then they might be worth it. I also think the deck needs a sprinkle of early defense pre-sideboard, so I added two Consuming Vortex.

The Arcane Bounce

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Remember folks: You can always just type “/join PDC” to get in on an all-commons game. I've had a chance to try this deck out a few times and for me the jury is still out on which is the better build. When the Splicing works, it's a beautiful thing, but then again Kodama's Reach is no Harrow. Maybe you can play me online and help me decide the correct way to build it.

Still Rhymes with “Zoomin'”

I promised that after Champions of Kamigawa I would look at some of the new or improved tribes available to the Tribal Wars format, such as Shamans, Rats, Snakes, Foxes, Moonfolk, Ogres, Demons, and Samurai. I still plan to do this sort of article, but for now let's turn to a slightly less obvious tribe.

I made the claim that Humans are eventually going to be the tribe with the most tools available to them, since Humans show up in every color and will likely be a part of every future set. Mirrodin Block kicked off the official Human tribe, and my options were pretty limited when I made this deck:

The Race

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Champions of Kamigawa dumps a whole new pack of Humans into the mix. I'm still a big fan of decks focused on “cogs,” so I want to keep the core of my Human deck as Trinket Mage and Auriok Salvagers. I think there are now enough Humans in blue to help out a deck like this and focus its color base. Gone are the cheap thrills of Disciple of the Vault and Moriok Rigger (the Disciple always sort of bums me out in the Casual room, frankly), which have been replaced by the card-drawing goodness of Azami, Lady of Scrolls (remember that Trinket Mage and Thought Courier are Wizards too) and Jushi Apprentice. I have also found room for Sensei's Divining Top, which is by far the best cog to appear in Champions.

The Race Redux

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Almost a Wizards deck, but trickily Human. To me, the coolest thing about this deck, like any “toolbox” deck, is its versatility. Last week I won a game with my opponent at 117 life because of Tomoya the Revealer. The other thing that's nice is that it's a deck where Meekstone really shines. Any deck where Meekstone shines is cool in my book. Any deck with so many justifiable one-, two-, and three-copies of cards is also pretty neat.

May I Please Have Another

Singleton is the only format where I didn't choose to retool a pet deck per se. I have a pet Singleton deck, but I'm actually rather happy with how it plays and I don't see a huge opportunity right now to change cards. I mean, oh sure... Sakura-Tribe Elder fits into the deck, but you could have predicted me saying that, right?

Instead, I made a Singleton deck with a cool idea behind it that in practice was just, I don't know, boring. The deck was based on +1/+1 counters, listed first in my initial Singleton article. This deck was an example of my “Embrace the One” strategy.

Plus One

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The reason I found the deck boring in practice was because it didn't have enough really spectacular things it did with its counters. A Chlorophant with threshold is always cool. A Power Conduit, Energy Chamber, or Dragon Blood with things like Triskelion or Pentavus is spiffy. But a continually-2/2 Clockwork Beetle? Less exciting.

Champions of Kamigawa brings two very fun counter-based cards: Jugan, the Rising Star and Orochi Hatchery (man was I happy to see the Hatchery use charge counters and man was I disappointed that the Myojin use “divinity” counters). I added these to the deck, put in the requisite Sakura-Tribe Elder and Kodama's Reach, and added both Eternal Witness and Restock so that I can do my cool things more often. The result is a deck that has a much higher percentage of tricky tricks and splashy effects, and is overall a lot less boring to play:

Plus One, Two

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Coming Up

Next week, it's my turn to step completely outside of my usual column topic to do an Unhinged preview! Woo hoo! I'll also outline what my “constructing preconstructed” experiment is all about and give you a few votes to get me started.

Stay tuned...


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