States of Rogue

Posted in Feature on February 28, 2008

By Chris Millar

Welcome to Rogue Week! It's time to take a look at the crook, the thief, his lowlife, and their robbers. And some proper Rogues as well. First, a fascinating piece of trivia: Did you know that the word "rogue" does not appear in the flavour text of a single Magic card? It also appears in the name of Rogue Elephant as well as every article title this week. Sadly, the word is also missing from each of the English-to-Pun dictionaries that I use to write my column, so all of you pun enthusiasts will have to go without. Pun haters rejoice.

Enough of my long-winded preamble. If there's a place for Rogue decks, it's this place. Yep, the Internet. From what I Gatherer, Rogues are a big part of Morningtide. I'm always up for some tribal shenanigans, so let's see what do with the latest batch of knaves, rapscallions, scamps, scoundrels, ne'er-do-wells, and other nouns stolen from

Keeping Your Witsniper About You

If you read Kenneth Nagle's excellent feature article a few weeks ago, you are familiar with the merrowing tale of a certain Merfolk Rogue, Merrow Witsniper. One-mana 1/1s with comes-into-play abilities are pretty rare (though usually common). As I've mentioned before in this column (and to anyone who'll listen, really), I'm a big fan of Sage of Epityr, the Fugitive Wizard / Index mash-up that Aaron Forsythe dubbed "an endearing little man." I probably like these cards because they "combo" with some of my other favourite cards, like Ninja of the Deep Hours and Cavern Harpy. Don't misunderestimate their power, either. One of the most legendary plays that occurred in my gaming group involved a lowly Maggot Carrier that killed not one, but two players at the same time! It would've been three, but the fourth player had already been the recipient of an unmerciful Ember Shot smackdown. I think. My memory is a little fuzzy or I've blocked out the entire incident.

Merrow Witsniper
What Merrow Witsniper does is mill somebody for one. The ability is not that exciting, really, at least if you just run him out there. You'd need to have four Dual Natures and two Doubling Seasons in play before you'd surpass the milling power of Glimpse the Unthinkable, which costs only one mana more. The Witsniper gets much more exciting after someone plays one of the Lorwyn Harbingers, a Personal Tutor, a Congregation at Dawn, or some other spell that manipulates the top of the library. Bye-bye, powerful card of some description! Foiled by a glorified Merfolk of the Pearl Trident! Besides this kind of purely reactive use, Merrow Witsniper can team up with a number of other cards to produce (slightly) more powerful effects. For instance, new evoke Elemental Nevermaker lets you put a nonland permanent on top of its owner's library when it leaves play. Combine it with our endearing little merman and you have a mono-blue method to effectively destroy a creature, enchantment, artifact, or even planeswalker. You just have to make a quick stop at the library first. There are plenty of other cards that allow you to set up the top of your opponent's library. Two that sprang to mind, for whatever reason, are Future Sight's Lost Hours and Tenth Edition's Agonizing Memories. The former lets you take a card from your opponent's hand and put it three cards from the top of their library. The latter lets you take two cards from their hand and put them directly on top. A well-timed Merrow Witsniper or two will let you get rid of those cards forever!

Now, I know what you're thinking: "A two-card combo that makes your opponent discard one card of his or her choice? Seems like a long way to go, especially when you've also got a card like Noggin Whack in the format." And you'd probably be right. However, I also wanted to use some of the other library-eating Rogues from Morningtide, like Grimoire Thief and the new Jester's CapMass of Ghouls, Earwig Squad. By tapping, the Thief will remove from the game all the cards you put on top with either Lost Hours, Agonizing Memories, and Nevermaker. Cards in the library are also preferable when you play Earwig Squad, since it prevents the possibility of recursion. The Earwig Squad's shuffle effect (post-Agonizing Memories, say), can also muck up your opponent's plans. The last but not least reason for these quasi-discard effects is Rogue sorcery Knowledge Exploitation, a kind of Bribery for spells.

Vedalken Mastermind lets you reuse your Witsnipers, Nevermakers, Pestermites, Mulldrifters, and Earwig Squads, while Looter il-Kor's near-unblockability helps to ensure that your prowl spells will always be at their cheapest. Here's where I ended up:

Sniper Riffle

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Of course, there are many, many places you can take such a deck. All you need are creatures with "comes into play" abilities and some way to reuse them. In this case, I avoided combining Vedalken Mastermind with too many evoke Elementals (Ben Bleiweiss already did a fine job exploring this realm). Nevermaker was a key to my deck, however, and Mulldrifter was too hard to resist. Shriekmaw is obviously excellent, as are Aethersnipe and, somewhat surprisingly, Mournwhelk.

Two Rogues that I really wanted to squeeze in the deck were Marsh Flitter and Highway Robber (yup, it's a Rogue now). Both of them have comes-into-play abilities that can turn the tide of the game and, if left unfettered, bring you victory, slowly but surely. As always, there is much too little space. That's why Highlander / Singleton is such a great format.

I used Vedalken Mastermind as my bounce mechanism, but you could certainly try something else. Glen or Glen Elendra Pranksters could form the backbone of a fun deck, with Pestermite, Spellstutter Sprite, Faerie Harbinger, and Dewdrop Spy filling in the ranks. The Spy's ability to play peek-a-boo with the top of your opponent's library makes it a natural pair with Merrow Witsniper. Outside of Standard, you've got Wizened Snitches, an older Faerie Rogue that performs the same function (as well as ensuring that you will always be able to win your clashes, should you decide to include such cards).

The aforementioned Cavern Harpy and Ninja of the Deep Hours are other ways to bounce your 'Snipers. Crystal Shard and Man-o'-War are other personal favourites that also accomplish this goal. Rootwater Thief, meanwhile, is another Rogue that helps dismantle your opponent's library and could also find a place in a deck with Grimoire Thief and company.

Two Throngs Don't Make a Right

Notorious Throng
Before I discovered (by reading the card!) that Notorious Throng makes black Faerie Rogue creature tokens and not blue ones, I cooked up this deck using one of my favourite ingredients: Gauntlet of Power. It does two of my favourite things. One, it provides you with a ridiculous amount of mana, which is always a good thing to have, especially if you're a Johnny. And two, it pumps up your creatures (usually), which is also nice, especially if you're a Timmy. Unfortunately, you can't use a Gauntlet to both double your blue mana and pump up black creatures at the same time. That would take two separate Gauntlets or a deck that just splashed for Notorious Throng. Of course, if you have a Gauntlet set to blue in play, and can hit your opponent with a Mistform Skyreaver (Hint: Turn it into a Rogue!), the subsequent Notorious Throng will almost surely be game ending. As far as I know, Mistform Skyreaver is the largest creature with evasion that is a Rogue or can easily be turned into one. The other way to make huge Rogues is the mana-intensive Riptide Replicator, which fits right in with Gauntlet of Power.

In the Knavey

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Here's a different take on Notorious Throng. It's focused more on pumping out lots and lots of Rogue tokens with Marsh Flitter and Paradox Haze-enhanced Bitterblossoms, pumping them up with Oona's Blackguard, Stinkdrinker Bandit, Loxodon Warhammer, and Cloak and Dagger, before finally dropping the Notorious Throng for the Time Walk and (hopefully) the victory. I didn't want Paradox Haze to simply double the power of my Bitterblossoms, so I was happy to find out that Infiltrator il-Kor is a Rogue with suspend. As I mentioned before, the shadow helps out your prowl spells by giving you a reliable source of combat damage. Your shadow guys can also put your opponent away quickly with a little help from Oona's Blackguard or a piece of equipment.

Throng Song

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Getting a Handle on the Vandals

Starke of Rath
As Doug Beyer mentioned yesterday, the Rogue creature type didn't even exist until Mirrodin, when Neurok Spy put them on the Magic map. Where on the Magic map? If I'm not mistaken, they're located in a little village on the outskirts of Beebleton. All I know is that until recently, Rogues had a thing against shiny baubles, and, to a lesser extent, beebles. I'm not sure when the Rogues' ancient grudge against artifacts first took hold, but it's undeniably there. Of course, most of the Rogues I'm referring to have only been given that creature type during the recent Grand Creature Type Update. Artifact-hating cards like Goblin Vandal, Joven, Chandler, Aladdin, and Starke of Rath have all been retrofitted with the mark of the mountebank. Apparently, one-time Townsfolk Keldon Vandals moved to the big city to take on larger-scale graffiti projects, play more competitive games of mailbox baseball, and take part in other forms of scalawaggery.

The nucleus of this deck comes from one of my favourite reader rogues, Christian M. of Denmark. I did my best to random it up. He writes:

The deck wants to use cards like Thran Forge and Mycosynth Lattice to turn the opponents' permanents into artifacts while the 3x3 Rogues (3x Aladdin, 3x Joven, and 3x Chandler) want to wreck said permanents. Memnarch serves double duty here, both making artifacts but also taking control of them.

I made some changes, mostly to fit in more Rogues. The 3x3 Rogue matrix became a 2x4 matrix, as those three were joined by Starke of Rath. I also made room for the Vandals from above, as well as Looter il-Kor and Neurok Spy. I added some Crystal Shards for their synergy with Keldon Vandals and Starke of Rath (activate his ability and then bounce him for repeatable artifact and creature kill).

Of course, you can use other, non-Rogue artifact kill like Christian did. Viashino Heretic is pretty amazing with Mycosynth Lattice, as are Shattering Pulse and Shattering Spree. For a more in-depth look at Lattice-Spree, check out Ben Bleiweiss's Grand Spree article here. Here's my Rogue Week version:

Consult Oracle

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Until next time, go roguin'.

Chris Millar

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