Deck Challenge III!

Posted in Feature on June 22, 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."

In the DNA?

As I write this, it's Father's Day and I had a great time with my kids today. It was 95 degrees with relatively low humidity, and I busted out the inflatable pool for the first time this summer. Anna Marie (5 ½) and Aaron (nearly 4) had a grand time splashing in and out and getting chased by the water hose. One of the distinct joys of having children is seeing a little of yourself coming out in them; Anna Marie and Aaron both display great imagination, spontaneously concocting ad hoc games and scenarios plucked from what they see around them, what they read, see on TV, or daydream about. Growing up, I was the kid that cooked up games for the neighborhood gang to play, and I love seeing that quality coming out in them.

The other day I was chatting with Ken Krouner and he mentioned his “non-gamer” friends. It was a bit startling to realize that I really didn't have many non-gamer friends. My friend Alan I've known 30 years, and we became really good friends huddled around dice (robbed from Risk and Yahtzee), pencils and Dungeons & Dragons books. Most of my other friends came into the picture as we expanded our play group and our games—D&D was the focus, but we also enjoyed the original Illuminati game, Gammarauders, Axis & Allies, Shogun, Supremacy, and eventually Magic: The Gathering. Sure, we did more than game, but gaming was what we had in common and gave us the framework to develop deeper and lasting relationships. Even my wife Martha and I fell in love as nearly unstoppable Spades partners in college.

I'm looking forward to introducing my kids to the games I loved as a kid. Games like Sorry!, Life, and Clue. My Grandmother played a mean game of Rummikub and I look forward to passing on the tradition of gaming. I'm hoping that gaming is in my children's blood as much as it's in mine.

Ultimately, of course, I look forward to introducing them to Magic! They're already curious about “Daddy's cards” as I scramble to move the rares to higher ground, and Anna Marie hooks me up with a Lucky Penny when I attend tournaments. So I'm asking the Magic-playing Dads out there: when and how did you introduce Magic to your kids? What about tournament Magic? Drop me an email or comment in the forums, I really want to hear from you!

Into The Aether Deck Challenge III!

I've gotten the go ahead to roll out the next Deck Challenge to all you enterprising and creative deckbuilders out there. My first Deck Challenge used Greater Good; the second Tombstone Stairwell. Both of these are four-mana enchantments that do interesting things, so I decided to stick to that neo-theme for the third go-'round. This time, the Deck Challenge is to build around... Psychic Possession!

Psychic Possession

This is the very first “Enchant opponent” Aura, but that ground had been plowed in Unglued with Volrath's Motion Sensor (though it is technically of the type Enchant Player). Psychic Possession also has the phrase “skip your draw step,” a fairly steep price to pay that should certainly raise the antenna of long-time players. Cards bearing that phrase include Necropotence, Yawgmoth's Bargain, Solitary Confinement... as well as Symbiotic Deployment and Fasting. Which side of the spectrum does Psychic Possession fall? Well, that's what we'll find out in the coming weeks!

First, I'll review the deck submissions and come up with 10 that stand out as particularly cool, clever, or powerful. I will then put the vote to you all to pick your favorite of the bunch. The top 4 vote getters will then be play tested by me and I will then choose the winner based on which one actually plays the coolest, cleverest, and/or the most powerful. Yes, that's highly subjective but hey—it's my contest. Long-time readers may have some insight into what sort of cards and decks pluck my heartstrings, so feel free to pander!

Da Rules*

  1. Contestants must have Magic Online accounts and make their Psychic Possession deck using one of the available MTGO formats (excluding Singleton, of course). You must send in your decklist along with your Magic Online sign-on name and your runner-up prize preference - three booster packs currently available online, including Coldsnap.
  2. Decks must be submitted to me via email, either by the link posted below or directly to my email address (intotheaether AT gmail DOT com). I will stop taking deck submissions Monday, June 26th at 6pm Eastern Standard time (U.S.), so times a'wasting!
  3. Contestants must use 4 copies of Psychic Possession and have it be a focus of the deck, rather than be pitch fodder for Disrupting Shoal. You don't have to win exclusively with Psychic Possession, but it should play a major role.
  4. Each deck submission needs to have one brief paragraph explaining how the deck is designed to win and take advantage of Psychic Possession. This is my “Bennie might be a bit obtuse” clause in case I miss the point.
  5. Pay attention to your mana. Your deck idea may fire the cool and clever cylinders, but if I shuffle up and play it and the mana doesn't work, it's not going to roar and hum and I won't get to see its wondrous potential realized. Which will make me sad.

Da Prizes
First place gets 4 premium copies of Psychic Possession for their Magic Online account, along with the fame and fortune of being recognized as one of the premier MTGO deck designers! The three runners-up will get a draft set of their choice and a great Bad Beats story about how their deck came this close...

I look forward to seeing what you all come up with! If you have any other questions about the contest, post in the forums and I will answer you right away.

Momir Magic Rocks!

Since the Dissension release events rolled out, Momir Magic has caught fire as a fun and easy way to play Magic Online! Even if you have nearly no cards in your account – or are brand new to the online game – all you need to play are basic lands and a Momir Vig avatar, which I've heard are relatively easy to find for less than five tix.

Activating Momir Vig is exciting since you put your fate in a virtual dice roll; for your mana, you could get an incredibly cost-efficient, tournament-caliber creature, or you might get an overcosted skill-tester that might have such a severe drawback as to guarantee that you lose the game. The random selection comes from any creature available online... but some of you may have noticed creatures cropping up from sets that are not currently available online! How did this happen? Turns out that Magic Online programmers have a host of cards set up as possible future promos, and the creatures amongst them are not immune to the random snatchings of Mr. Vig! Here are some of the creatures you could possibly stumble across:

3cc – Argivian Archaeologist, Sedge Troll, Khabal Ghoul, Serendib Efreet, Preacher, Thunder Spirit
4cc – Ifh-Biff Efreet
5cc – Morphling, Sliver Queen, Two-Headed Giant of Foriys
6cc – Hand of Justice
7cc – Serra Avatar, Hazezon Tamar
8cc – Baron Sengir

Scott Markeson from Big Lake, Minnesota won the very first Momir Vig Basic 4x Premier Event, which was the first PE that I personally have seen “sell out” with a full 512 participants! Scott has been playing Magic 4-5 years and is no stranger to winning tournaments; he is one half of the current Minnesota State 2-Headed Giant Champion. I wanted to check in with him and see if he had any insights to share on this extremely fun format after slugging through nearly 13 hours to be crowned the winner.


“My basic strategy for playing the Momir tournament was first the land count and I really didn't want to think about it, so 12 of each it was, then whenever I won the roll I would always choose to play first because then you get to eight mana faster and start pumping out the good guys. When on the play, I start making guys on turn 3 and go all the way up to eight then just keep making eights. Sometimes I would skip five-drops because of all the creatures that can just lose you the game right then, but five also has some decent fliers. Six-drops are really good also because you get all of the dragons and other fatties like that, but there is still a lot of garbage at six. Seven has phage but taking a seven-drop is usually worth the risk, since a lot of the angels are at that stop, and they're all good.

Hoverguard Sweepers
"Then you get the eight-drops, which are what I feel are the best drops. For that much mana, you get Sundering Titan, Hoverguard Sweepers, Petradon, that islandwalk guy, Tidal Kraken, Akroma, Razia, and other stuff like that. So basically, just get up to 3 as fast as you can to start making guys. On the draw, you do the same thing basically, but start making guys on turn 2 and hope for an accelerant. For some good stories in the 5th round, it was game three and things were looking real bad - he had lots of guys and I had a Bloodfire Colossus. After he attacked, I was at 7. In my turn, I sacrificed the Colossus and I was at 1. I made a guy that blocked, and then he made a Symbiotic Wurm, which meant I had to get a get a guy that couldn't kill it, or I was guaranteed to die. On his turn, he made another big guy and I blocked with the white Myojin that I was lucky to get. Finally on my turn I made an eight-mana guy and got the only card I could to win: Hoverguard Sweepers. In the Top 8, my opponents got Phage and Worldgorger against me.”

Jasper (Derxus) Siemssen made Top 4 in the same tournament and offered to share some of his thinking too.


“Unlike most people, who said they would follow a fixed strategy for when to use the Momir ability, I don't have a fixed strategy. I feel comfortable going first or second, because I can gain an advantage from both. That is, because I either wait until the third turn to use the ability or I react to the opponent doing it the first time. If I wait until my opponent uses his ability first, I get the advantage that my creature is one converted mana cost higher, and typically stronger than the lower cost creature. When I go second, the obvious advantage is the one card extra.

“Once I start using Momir's ability, I usually play it every round, avoiding the 7-mana slot (Phage is bad news) and just making another 6-mana creature. Sometimes I avoid the 5-mana slot as well, because of Leveler and Soulgorger Orgg, two cards that I've lost to several times already, and play a 4-mana creature instead. Then I usually end up with 8 mana in play and just being able to drop a land or play the ability, but not both. But 8 mana is the perfect slot, so I will play the creatures over the land 90% of the time and stay with 8 mana and not go higher.

“On the strategy of playing the ability before or after the combat phase, I would usually play it after I attacked, except for when I was at 4 to 6 mana, because there are a lot of haste creatures that I would like to attack with the turn they come into play.

“What about land mix? I hear a lot of people say that one should stick to Swamps and Mountains to support game winning cards like Nightmare and Vampiric Dragon. At first I just played 12 basic lands of each type, but then I started getting into more and more games where my opponent puts out some creatures out with landwalking abilities, which can basically decide the game outcome. So I thought about playing just Mountains, Swamps and Forests, because those are the lands that, if you need them, you will need most of (blue, for example, for card draw, is more or less unnecessary beyond one extra card per turn).

“Ultimately, I ended up with just what I had started though (12 copies each) when I considered that the drop land / discard land way of Momir Vig Basic offers you the choice which lands to drop in each specific game. You start off by playing Mountains, Forests and Swamps and discard all the Plains and Islands. Then, if you get a bomb that has an ability requiring white or blue mana (like Azorius Guildmage), just drop that one Plains or Island and you are okay. This way you stay very flexible.”

Dissension Release 4x Championship Winner

On June 10th, the 4x Release Championship kicked off, and when the dust settled Navin Ram was the Champion, winning 72 packs and a premium (foil) set of Dissension! Since the full block of Ravnica Limited is now in full swing online, I thought it would be nice to see his sealed and draft decks and hear how he won the event.

Navin Ram:

Twinstrike“Originally I had intended on opening my sealed deck, looking at my rares, and then dropping. However, the card quality in my sealed pool was too good to pass up. My sealed deck was extremely easy to build, and my removal was ridiculous. I had Putrefy, Cackling Flames, Twinstrike, Brainspoil, Wrecking Ball, and Seal of Doom. The deck pretty much built itself, as my card quality in green provided solid late game creatures to go with the removal. Although some people would not agree with splashing the Leafdrake Roost, the card is a bomb and won me several games. The only match I lost during the day was to an opposing Twinstrike, but I did get lucky twice ripping a Cackling Flames with no cards in hand against an opponent who would have beaten me within a couple turns.

“My draft was also extremely solid, mainly because of all the goodies that I got in pack two. My first pack provided me with Fetters, Snapping Drake, Mark of Eviction, Veteran Armorer, Centaur Safeguard, Flight of Fancy, another Safeguard, and a Benevolent Ancestor. At this point, the deck was rather mediocre and I was relying on either red or black in the next pack to make my deck. Fortunately, I was apparently one of the only Orzhov drafters at the table and I got cards way later than I should have, such as an 8th pick Pillory and 12th pick Shrieking Grotesque. Pack three I got cut off from blue/white. I was planning on picking up several Azorius First Wings, but they didn't come around. I only got one as a first pick. I did get a Minister of Impediments, the white Eidolon, Soulsworn Jury, a Signet, one off-color Karoo land, and the extremely underrated Carom. I hoped to use the Tidespout Tyrant, but my deck was quite aggressive and I preferred to play 16 lands rather than the 17 needed for the Tyrant.

“I was also blessed with some good luck in the Top 8, as one of my opponents timed out, and in game 3 of the finals, my opponent got mana screwed.”

4x Championship Sealed Deck (Ravnica Block Limited)

Download Arena Decklist

4x Championship Top 8 Draft (1st place, Ravnica Block Limited)

Download Arena Decklist

*Sorry, with small children in the house, Nicktoons has infused my brain with references to many of their cool shows. Fairly Oddparents rock!

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