Orzhov Visions

Posted in Feature on March 30, 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 StarCityGames.com. 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 honor of Orzhov Week and the fact that Visions is going to be released on Magic Online very very soon (tune in next week for details!), I thought I'd take a peek at Visions through a lens Dark and Light.


Rares - Aku Djinn, Forbidden Ritual, Kaervek's Spite, Necrosavant, Pillar Tombs of Aku, Vampiric Tutor

Vampiric Tutor obviously jumps out of this list as one of the best Tutor cards ever printed; its instant speed and cheap cost can arguably make the case for it surpassing the original classic Demonic Tutor. Mirage had Enlightened Tutor, Mystical Tutor, and Worldly Tutor; after Visions and Vampiric Tutor, speculation was high about what the Red tutor card would be like in Weatherlight. Would it fetch only lands? Maybe it would be like Vampiric, but at sorcery speed. Of course, the joke was that the Red tutor randomly decided not to show up... until Gamble in Urza's Saga years later. Gamble did turn out to be the perfect Red Tutor card.

Kaervek's Spite
For long-time players who devoured tournament reports on Usenet and The Magic Dojo, another card on the list stands out. Ah, Kaervek's Spite! Mike Flores' old crew Team Discovery Channel coined a funny little catchphrase for this highly risky card that quickly caught on as Magic lingo (as did so many other things from Flores and Company). From The Tao of TDC, a very funny read by Charles "Tuna" Hwa that might be a bit dated, but is bound to elicit chuckles from old-timers:

1) You are at 4 life, your opponent is at 5. You are playing a monoblack deck, while you opponent is playing PT jank. Even though you know your deck is superior to his, since black is, well, strictly better than white, you have no cards in hand, while your opponent has 2 White Knights. You draw Demonic Consultation, but have only 10 cards left in your library. Knowing you cannot drain for more than 4, You:

a) Consult for one of your four Steel Golem's you have left to draw.
b) Consult for one of your four Drain Life's anyways to stay alive.
c) Consult for your one Kaervek's Spite.
d) Consult for your one Kaervek's Spite while chanting "Spring forth, my Burly Protector, and save me!"

The answer, of course, is d. Now, MTGO players will be able to get their hands on their own Burly Protector, going all in for that instant-speed five points of damage! What more could you possibly need?

Another old favorite is Necrosavant, who has quietly undergone a metamorphosis recently, changing from Summon Necrosavant to Creature — Zombie Giant. I suppose being the only Necrosavant in existence (other than Mistform Ultimus) was a little bit lonely, even for a dead guy. Visions will be legal for Tribal Wars, and Zombies aren't a bad little tribe to join.

Uncommons - Blanket of Night, Brood of Cockroaches, Crypt Rats, Desolation, Necromancy, Nekrataal, Suq'Ata Assassin, Vampirism

Two of the best cards here, Nekrataal and Crypt Rats, have already seen play on MTGO for those who want 'em, but it will be nice to have the original black-bordered versions available. Desolation is a nasty bit of disruption that can complement a beatdown strategy, and Suq'Ata Assassin gives poison aficionados another weapon, this time with Fear. Accumulate those poison counters, sir!

Necromancy is a fun and flexible reanimator card that also happens to combo with Worldgorger Dragon to give you infinite mana. You have been warned!

One thing I stumbled across when checking Necromancy on Gatherer is something called substance. Have you ever heard of it? Neither had I. Here's what it said (with italics added by me):

Rules Text (Oracle):You may play Necromancy any time you could play an instant. If it was played any time a sorcery couldn't have been played, it gains substance until end of turn and when it loses substance, sacrifice it.

When Necromancy comes into play, if it's in play, it becomes an Aura with enchant creature. Put target creature card from a graveyard into play under your control and attach Necromancy to it.

When Necromancy leaves play, destroy enchanted creature. It can't be regenerated.

Substance appears to be a property exclusive to the Mirage/Visions “instantments,” enchantments that can be played at instant-speed but end up being sacrificed at the end of the turn if you do so. The Comprehensive Rulebook mentions Substance twice:

502.49. Substance
502.49a Substance is a static ability with no effect.

Substance is a static ability with no effect. Certain older cards have received errata that give them substance for a brief period of time.

Weird, huh? Brings to mind The Bard, William Shakespeare who said, “The very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.”

CommonsCoercion, Dark Privilege, Death Watch, Fallen Askari, Funeral Charm, Infernal Harvest, Python, Tar Pit Warrior, Urborg Mindsucker, Wake of Vultures, Wicked Reward

Fallen Askari saw some play in beatdown decks, and Funeral Charm is a great little package of options: weenie creature-kill, boost your larger creature's power or let him swampwalk in, or take advantage of the very rare instant-speed discard spell. I remember getting a lot of mileage from Funeral Charm in an old Extended Pox deck that fought the High Tide menace back in 1999:


Download Arena Decklist

Funeral Charm could squeak in two extra points of damage on the back of Mishra's Factory or Steel Golem, or another point under The Rack, and then wait around for reuse under Yawgmoth's Will.


RaresArchangel, Equipoise, Eye of Singularity, Retribution of the Meek, Tithe, Zhalfirin Crusader

With the printing of Visions, much of Randy Beuhler's Sandsipoise deck is now legal, with all its oddball Equipoise action. I posted a decklist last time but neglected to include the lands... hm, perhaps they were phased out? Here's the list again with the lands included.

Sandsipoise by Randy Buehler

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Tithe is an incredible powerhouse card that saw a ton of play in formats where dual lands were legal, fetching two for one card advantage and enabling White/X color combinations, all at instant speed. Tithe gets a shot in the arm with Ravnica - not only are there new duals now that count as Plains (Temple Garden, Sacred Foundry, Godless Shrine), but the “Karoo” lands also help get your land count down in order to maximize Tithe's Plains-tutoring power. Tithe played an important role in “Pro Tour Jank” or “Richmond Gun” decks that employed a strategy way back in the day reminiscent of modern day Boros. Check out this old chestnut:

White Weenie Tithe by Olle Rade

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Honorable Passage
Uncommon - Daraja Griffin, Honorable Passage, Longbow Archer, Miraculous Recovery, Peace Talks, Relic Ward, Teferi's Honor Guard

Honorable Passage was a potent weapon to fight against the Fireblast scourge; your opponent just sacrificed two of his Mountains to hit himself in the face for 4, ouch! Longbow Archer often played as Knight #5-8 in decks looking to take advantage of the first strike ability, and the Archer was particularly helpful in controlling pesky Frenetic Efreets.

Commons - Freewind Falcon, Gossamer Chains, Hope Charm, Infantry Veteran, Jamuraan Lion, Knight of Valor, Parapet, Remedy, Resistance Fighter, Righteous Aura, Sun Clasp, Warrior's Honor

When I first started getting the competitive itch to play outside of my multiplayer circle, I started running a mono-Red deck very similar to the Sligh/Geeba decks that had been popular on Usenet. Freewind Falcon was my own personal nightmare, especially after Empyrial Armor came out in Weatherlight. Turn 2 Falcon stopped whatever early offense I had, and then turn 3 Armor suddenly put my on a much faster clock than anything I could muster. Remedy was also a nice trick that can turn combat math around in your favor, or save you from a deadly alpha strike.


Righteous War

As luck would have it for Orzhov Week, Visions features one Black and White card in the set and it is appropriately named, don't you think? When Orzhov fights Orzhov, the side that fights with Righteous War is going to come out on top!

Ravnica Block Constructed 4x Open (715154) Recap

Saturday, March 25 2006

100 players mustered out for the event that was both a 4x payout and a qualifying tournament for the E3 Championship this weekend. The unholy alliance of Golgari and Orzhov seems to hold sway over the format currently, with powerful early removal spells ramping up to late game powerhouses like Skeletal Vampire, Angel of Despair and Debtors' Knell. Cephalid_PL's aggro deck had some success pushing through enough damage to win before control's inevitability set in, using efficient damage dealers from the Gruul and Boros guilds. way2Sleazy4u went for a more focused Orzhov strategy, utilizing Teysa, Dark Confidant, Skeletal Vampires and the slow drain of Orzhova. AlexH and zyklone went nuts with the mana fixing, utilizing cards like Farseek and Civic Wayfinder to assemble four-color behemoths of good cards like Firemane Angels, Loxodon Hierarchs, and Ribbons of Night. AnssiA's deck had similar elements to the G/B/W control decks, but ran Vinelasher Kudzu for some early beatdown.

Here were the final standings:
1st Place: Kirushi, G/B/W Control
2nd Place: Zom, G/B/W Control
4th Place: Cephalid_PL, Gruul Zoo
4th Place: ubermike, G/B/W Control
8th Place: way2Sleazy4u, B/W Orzhov
8th Place: AlexH, 4cGoodstuff (no blue)
8th Place: zyklone, 4cGoodstuff (no red)
8th Place: AnssiA, G/B/W Aggro Control

The top four players were willing to share their decks and thoughts on the Ravnica metagame. The winning deck was the same as one of the 4th place decks.

Got Rice Bat? (Ravnica Block Constructed) by Kirushi and ubermike

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“When we started testing Ravnica block after Guildpact was released, it became clear that the format, at least for now, could be split up into G/W/B control decks and decks that lose to G/W/B control decks. Knowing this, I built the deck with the intention of focusing on the mirror as much as possible.

Rolling Spoil
“The mirror match, generally speaking, is won by the player who gets to seven mana and starts casting Angel of Despair first, but when it comes down to it, it's really more who gets to four mana and starts casting Rolling Spoil first, as they're going to get to seven first too. As a result, we played a full 4 Golgari Signets on top of 4 Farseek to power out Rolling Spoil, the card that really defines the format being a strong weapon against both control and aggro. Also, we played Congregation at Dawn to line up the Angels when you reach seven mana. Finally for some protection against removal, along with a great way to end a board stalemate, we played a few copies of Ghostway to go along with all the comes into play effects.

“Between myself and clanmate ubermike who played the same maindeck, the deck was 14-3-1 in matches.

“The name Got Rice comes from a spoof song that circulated on the internet several years ago. For MTGO, my clan uses the more family friendly name Got Rice Barn, and Bat seemed to fit naturally. If that's inappropriate you can just call it Ghostway.dec or Ghostway Despair Control or something.

“Since Ravnica Block Constructed isn't used in tournaments in the paper Magic world (and therefore there is less strategy writing and netdecks), you see a lot of different decks from people just trying things out like Storm Herd or Savra or Mindmoil with Niv-Mizzet. The dominant archetype so far is GWB Angel of Despair-based control with many different variations sometimes including Red for Firemane Angel, or splashing for the Blue costs in Dimir Guildmage or Ribbons of Night. Right now it seems like the aggressive decks are still finding out what colors they want to be, and how to deal with the Rolling Spoil, Seize the Soul, Culling Sun, Mortify, Putrefy and Skeletal Vampires being constantly thrown at them along with several good life gain cards. I'm sure no matter what colors the best aggro deck ends up playing, it will play Dark Confidant and it probably won't play Rumbling Slum.”

Mike Laviolette (ubermike) had this to add:

“My team knows for a fact that hitting four mana (for Rolling Spoil) and seven mana (for Angel of Despair) quickly is the key to winning, hence the mad acceleration. The Caryatids work amazingly with Ghostway and they also buy me time vs. aggro decks, and Mortify is a very flexible removal spell.

Ghostway is the heart of the deck, swinging stalemates dramatically in my favor. In round 4 I cast a Ghostway with 2 Caryatids and 3 Angels in play with damage on the stack, saving them all and then End of Turn draw two cards and destroying three permanents, for just three mana...ouch!

Congregation at Dawn is another big game winner, setting up turn after turn of Angels or Hierarchs, or fetching the Helldozer.

“In the sideboard, the Trophy Hunter as a Congregation target used vs. birds/bats has come in handy a few times.

“Kirushi and myself decided to invest in RBC right after it came out and together we built a Glare deck splashing Black. After that it was all uphill! Every time one of us won a Premier Event, we would change decks to beat the metagame we helped set. Right now, there is a whole lot of Black/White/Green control, with a tiny bit of aggro mixed in.”

G/B/W Control (Ravnica Block Constructed) by Zom

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Pierre-Jérôme Meurisse (Zom) said:

“I will be adding another Angel of Despair, Temple Garden and Godless Shrine in future builds, I didn't have them when the tournament started. For the sideboard I never used the 2 Primeval Light so I need to figure out what to replace them with.”

Gruul Zoo (Ravnica Block Constructed) by Cephalid_PL

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Jakub Wudarski (Cephalid_PL) said:

“It is not a secret that the most popular archetype in this block is G/B/W control with all its variations; other decks seem marginal. Trying to build a deck to beat G/B/W control is difficult, with the Caryatids, Hierarchs and Angel of Despair just being tough to break through. Our deck must beat the clock and finish the opponent before that Angel hits the table. Still, the format is very interesting and is still not stabilized, because we still have three more guilds to add to the mix. For me it is good fun so far.”

Tribal Wars 4x Open (706922) Recap

Sunday, March 26 2006

90 players came out for this event that was also both a 4x payout and a qualifying tournament for the E3 Championship this weekend. The old standard powerhouse, Tooth and Nail, continues to dominate in the hands of the Shaman tribe, but it was the Human tribe's Auriok Salvagers combo deck that took the brass ring, turbo-charged by Mirage's Lion's Eye Diamond. I'm not sure what Geoster's Human deck was trying to accomplish, I saw Disciple of the Vault, Dark Confidant, Sensei's Divining Top and Aether Spellbomb. It may have included the Salvagers combo too and used Disciples as “burn.” Knights, Goblins and Clerics rounded out the rest of the Top 8.

Here were the final standings:
1st Place: Brusher, Human Salvager Combo
2nd Place: tankong, Shaman Tooth and Nail
4th Place: yorick, Knights
4th Place: Monbailly Olivier, Shaman Tooth and Nail
8th Place: Gula, Shaman Tooth and Nail
8th Place: tcarmody, Goblins
8th Place: Yeufann, Clerics
8th Place: Geoster, Humans (artifacts)

Salvagers Combo (Tribal Wars - Humans) by Brusher

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3cWhite Weenie (Tribal Wars - Knights) by yorick

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Mon Lee (yorick) had this to say:

“The deck is a straight forward White Weenie deck backed by burn to clear a path and finish the game. Efficient creatures and cheap burn have a good history. I had played knights in the first 4x tribal event and had some minor success. A few tweaks and some changes to the creature base got it to the current form. Earthquake is fantastic when almost all my creatures have protection from red or have flying. The current batch of top decks would either be one combo (Salvagers) or the other combo (Tooth and Nail) deck.”

Thanks to all of you who were willing to share your decklists. Check back next week as we give you information on the Visions Release Events!

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