Deck Challenge III Vote Off!

Posted in Feature on June 29, 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."

Wow, I have to say the response to my third Deck Challenge was surprising… and a little horrifying. But in a good way—over 270 deck submissions was a testament to your enthusiasm for the contest, but plowing through all of them over the course of a few days was also a daunting task! I want to thank those who took the time to develop decks and send them in; it was great hearing from all of you!

I'm still a little bleary-eyed now as I sip some coffee, making the extremely difficult cut down to the final 4 percent. You all made it tough, because after cutting those who didn't follow Da Rules, and those who had shaky mana bases, I was still left with well over 150 decks that all looked like a lot of fun. I won't claim these are without a doubt the very best of the best that were sent in, but these are all submissions that captured my attention for one reason or another, and I wouldn't mind playing any of them.

Psychic Possession
When I launched this deck challenge, I naturally had some ideas as to what would be in a “typical” Psychic Possession deck. Compulsive Research was almost mandatory; an already fantastic card on its own, with a Possession on the board you can turn the spell on your opponent and not have to discard anything. Another obvious choice was Teferi's Puzzle Box; with a Possession in play, you would not have to discard your hand, but you could potentially draw a bunch of cards when your opponent resolves the Puzzle Box's effect. Breaking Possession usually involves drawing a lot of cards, and drawing lots of cards naturally attracts the attention of the great guild master Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind. The vast majority of decks I received used these cards, sometimes all of them. A lot of decks also recognized how nice Mikokoro, Center of the Sea was under a Possession.

When introducing the Challenge last week, I mentioned Solitary Confinement as another enchantment with a drawback of skipping your draw step, and many of you jumped on the fact that Psychic Possession negates Confinement's drawback by effectively shifting your draw step to your opponent's turn. I got a lot of submissions taking advantage of that synergy.

Others dipped into the realm of Onslaught's “Words” enchantments to take advantage of the card-drawing power of Possession. This can get particularly nasty in conjunction with Words of Waste, effectively locking your opponent out of the rest of his library except for instant-speed cards. There were all sorts of creative surprises amongst the deck submissions, and some of them appear below.

Before I get to the decks, I did want to mention one thing. While there are a lot of “everybody draws” cards that get a lot better with a Psychic Possession in play, the original iconic representative of that card actually doesn't—Howling Mine. Since players draw their extra card during their draw step, you won't get the bonus card at all during your turn (though you'll draw two during your opponent's draw step). On the other hand, the latest Howling Mine variant, Walking Archive, does improve under a Possession, since it gives extra cards during player's upkeep.

Okay, let's get to the semi-finalists. Below are the 10 decks that made the first cut, and my reasons for picking them. At the end of this section there will be a poll where you can vote for your favorite. The top 4 vote getters will make the second cut and I will then playtest them and pick one of them as the winner. The deck designer will get four premium copies of Psychic Possession for the Magic Online account, and the runners-up will get the three booster packs of their choice, currently available to purchase on Magic Online's shop.


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Why I picked Kiendrid601's deck: This was one of the few Ravnica Block decks submitted, so that naturally helped it stand out from the pack. Kiendrid601 also mentioned that he's tested this quite a bit and has had some success with it in the format. His deck doesn't try to “break off” Possession so much as uses it to enhance already strong synergies. This was my “Spike” pick.


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Why I picked amethystmage's deck: This was the only Tribal Wars deck submission, so it naturally stood out from the pack. While it might not be the strongest Niv-Mizzet Possession deck out there, I thought it did a good job working on Psychic Possession synergies within the constraints of the rules of Tribal Wars.


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Why I picked IntoTheRain's deck: While I haven't had the best success playing them myself, I've always had a fondness for Enchantress decks, so when this hit my inbox I was intrigued. IntoTheRain takes advantage of the Possession/Confinement synergy alongside Sterling Grove to find the combo, protect it, and also give the deck a toolbox capacity. I particularly like Elfhame Sanctuary here. Since you're skipping your draw step anyway, why not go fetch out a basic land instead?


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Why I picked omenofthephoenix's deck: Most of the Words of Waste Possession decks I received also used Megrim, often as the win condition, but omenofthephoenix didn't and has a lot of other things going on instead. I like the inclusion of Seizan, Perverter of Truth, since under a Possession he turns into a powerful card drawing engine in addition to being a large beatdown creature. I also really like Geth's Grimoire, which I find to be a much more effective companion to the Words of Waste/Possession lock. Last, I also liked Clutch of the Undercity as a nice utility spell that can also transmute to tutor for the signature card.


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Why I picked R41d's deck: Many of the decks I received were chock full of cards designed to break off Psychic Possession... but neglected to attend to the fact that you're going to have an opponent across from you trying to take your life from 20 to zero. I thought R41d did a decent job of balancing his Puzzle Box/Possession/Niv-Mizzet synergies and Spiraling Embers/Cerebral Vortex kill, with interactive cards like Remand and Mana Leak to keep you alive long enough to go off. I particularly like Kindle the Carnage here, which can nuke even the fastest and fattest early assault.


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Why I picked Amethyst Shadow's deck: Fire // Ice, Electrolyze, Counterspell and Remand gives the deck a nice Spike appeal, while still allowing room for Possession cards. Amethyst Shadow foregoes Spiraling Embers and just relies on Niv-Mizzet or Cerebral Vortex for the kill under a Possession/Puzzle Box set-up. I also like Mind's Eye as virtual copies #5 and #6 of Psychic Possession.


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Why I picked Agentkirb's deck: Agentkirb had by far the most unique deck submission; in his quest to break off Possession he naturally went for the Words enchantments… but then somehow made the leap to include Leveler! Like the Words, you can actually use Possession to keep from losing to your own Leveler since it skips your draw step, and drawing cards when your opponent does is a “may” ability. Agentkirb didn't stop there, however. He went ahead and turned Leveler's massive drawback into a kind of benefit by using Research // Development to restock your library after Leveler removes it. In his email, Agentkirb mentioned choosing cards removed by the Leveler with Research or the Wish but didn't include a sideboard; I think a deck running Research // Development and Cunning Wish ideally needs a sideboard, so this is the sideboard I would run if this deck makes the final 4. If Agentkirb has a different sideboard in mind, I hope he can post it in the forums and I will switch it out.


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Why I chose russel_lunt's deck: Descendant of Kiyomaro has proven to be quite a powerful creature in tournament decks that draw a decent amount of cards, and russel_lunt was one of the only submissions to utilize it. Like some of my other picks, I thought he did a good job of balancing Possession elements with solid cards that recognize you'll be interacting with an opponent; Kira, Great Glass-Spinner is a nice touch.


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Why I chose mejes' deck: How could I not pick a deck featuring Malignant Growth and Questing Phelddagrif? Both of these eccentric cards get a boost with a Possession out, as does the odd utility spell Oblation. Rule of Law also performs as a nice way to blunt your opponent's ability to benefit from the extra cards he'll be drawing. I imagine winning with this deck will be quite the interesting journey.


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Why I chose Crusader's deck: It's Vanguard! Need I say more? Actually, I got a handful of Vanguard submissions, but I picked this one for several reasons. First, I thought the use of the Chronatog avatar was quite clever. Many decks submitted used Spellbook as a way to hold onto cards when you're drawing way more than you can hope to cast, but Spellbook doesn't really do anything to help you win. Chronatog gives you that benefit without costing you card slots, and you get it the whole game. What's really nice about Crusader's deck though is it completely negates Chronatog's drawback of skipping a turn to draw cards by using Possession, Seedborn Muse, Budoka Gardener and Vedalken Orrery—who needs your own turn when you can do everything on your opponent's turn?

So there you have it—the Sweet… er, Terrific Ten!

Which Psychic Possession Deck Do You Like Best?Deck #1: Niv-Mizzet Possession by Kiendrid601Deck#2: Niv-Mizzet Wizards by amethystmageDeck#3: Enchanting Possession by IntoTheRainDeck#4: Wasting Possession by omenofthephoenixDeck#5: Puzzlebox Possession (Standard) by R41dDeck#6: Puzzlebox Possession (Extended) by Amethyst ShadowDeck#7: Leveler Possession by AgentkirbDeck#8: Descendant Possession by russel_luntDeck#9: Malignifant Possession by mejesDeck#10: Chronatog Possession (Vanguard) by Crusader

One last thing I'd like to mention—many people wrote in saying that they were surprised at how good Psychic Possession proved to be once you actually gave it a try. I had a sneaky suspicion that might be the case when I decided to pick the card for the Deck Challenge. It just might be worth picking up a few copies while they're still dirt-cheap...

Invasion Block Sealed Deck Tournament VI!

In case you missed the announcement, I just wanted to remind everyone that your chance to win coveted and valuable Invasion block booster packs starts today, with IPA Qualifiers running through Wednesday, July 5th. Premier Events in various formats, both Limited and Constructed, will be designated as IPA QTs, with the Top 8 finishers earning an invite to play in the Invasion Block Sealed Deck tournament on Saturday, July 15th. Maybe you'll crack open a Pernicious Deed! Check out the link above for more details.

Check in with me next week as we take a look at the most recent Tribal Wars 4x Premier Event that ran this past Sunday, June 25th, featuring the new change to Standard. What tribes rule now? If you played in the tournament and made Top 8, drop me an email if you are interested in sharing your deck and thoughts on the new format!

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