Writer's Challenge I

Posted in Feature on August 29, 2002

By Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar

Last month, Ben Bleiweiss asked me 1) when I was going to run another Deck Challenge and 2) if he could submit a deck. I replied that 1) I didn't know and 2) of course.

Then it occurred to me that in many respects I hog all the deckbuilding on this site. Oh, sure, Anthony will usually toss at least one decklist into each of his articles. Brian David-Marshall and Bennie Smith supply a deck per article, too; but they write only about once a month. And here I am, pumping out between three and five decklists a week like I'm some sort of sicko freak without a life who is desperately trying to get some attention and . . .

. . . wait, never mind.

Anyway, after talking to Aaron, he sent the following email to Mark, Anthony, Ben, Randy, BDM, Bennie, Rei Nakazawa, Toby Wachter, and Doug Beyer (he's the Web developer who does all the technical stuff):

Hello everyone. Jay M-S wants to do a column in which he showcases decks built by the writers of the site, and I can't argue that it sounds like a good idea. He outlined some quick guidelines below. I hope everyone can find a few minutes to submit something for him.



Hi All,

From time to time, I would like to throw out some wacky deckbuilding guidelines and see what the writers of MagicTheGathering.com can do. The idea is for my article to highlight your deck creations, then have the readers vote on their favorite deck of the bunch. Think of it as a way to showcase your own deckbuilding creativity.

The guidelines for the first Challenge are below, and there's a limit of one deck per person. If you'd like to participate, please have your deck to me by Friday, August 16.

If you don't want to participate, or if you can't make the deadline, then PTHTHTHTHTHTHTHTH on you!

Also, if you have ideas for future Deck/Writer's Challenges, let me know.

Deck Guidelines:

Pick any two of the following:
--Battle of Wits
--Chance Encounter
--Coalition Victory
--Epic Struggle
--Mortal Combat
--Test of Endurance

Those two cards will be your deck's primary paths to victory. Try to make both of them viable (not a 250-card Battle of Wits deck with a single copy of Coalition Victory it will never play). I debated including Celestial Convergence and The Cheese Stands Alone, but decided to leave them out. If you feel passionately that you'd like to use one of these two (or both), let me know.

The deck can fall under any of the following formats: Odyssey Block Constructed, Standard, Extended, November-Extended (without Onslaught), Type 1.5, Vintage, or "Casual" (allowing any card printed, including Portal, Unglued, etc.). Tell me in your email which one you chose, in case it's not obvious to me.

Tell me whether the deck is meant to be a one-on-one "duel" deck or a multiplayer deck.

Normal Constructed guidelines apply (60-card minimum deck, with a maximum of four copies of any card other than basic land, etc.).

No sideboards are allowed unless you're using Wishes.

If you want to include a brief description of the deck or certain card choices, that would be great--but it's not necessary.

Try to remember what House of Cards is all about, and have fun with the assignment. These won't be Pro Tour - viable decks, but someone might be inspired to bring one to Friday Night Magic or a small local tournament.

Any questions--let me know. Send your deck to me at houseofcards@wizards.com by Friday, August 16!


An immediate reply came from Anthony:

See, folks, here's why we shouldn't do alternative win conditions in Magic: Another silly Jay Mouldenheizerowzer-Salazalazar contest.

Fine, I'll do something. Only on the condition that we all enter a binding contract not to do Epic Struggle - Test of Endurance - Congregate - Soul Warden.

Ben, do you need help digging up cards from older expansions, or are you all set there?


That Alongi . . . he sure is a funny guy.

Toby quickly followed:

Let me get this straight: You want me to put together a Battle of Wits decklist?

Wow. That really is a challenge. I don't know if I'm up for it, but I'll try my best.


Check out here to see why Mr. Wachter, too, is a funny guy.

Despite the hilarious commentary, the deranged and motley crew rose to the Challenge. In fact, they even decided to make it at least two win conditions rather than exactly two. I asked Aaron to participate as well, making ten total contestants in this deck beauty pageant.

The decks are listed below, with who created them hidden until next week. Peruse at your leisure and vote for your favorite deck. Trust me: It will take a while because all of the decks use a bewildering array of tricks. All I can say is that I am now very afraid of my colleagues.

The descriptions below are mine, not those of the creators. It turns out that if you give writers a chance to explain their decks, you get a veritable novella on card interactions. I'll do my best not to swing the vote one way or the other.

Chance Encounter - Mortal Combat

What do you get when you combine coin flips and a full graveyard? A whole bunch of creatures that threaten to destroy themselves through coin flips. That, and a few Djinns and Efreets that can merrily flip coins until Lord of Tresserhorn or Avatar of Woe decides to take them out. Note that the Frenetic Efreet "trick" with Chance Encounter no longer works, although 'Freet still fits the deck perfectly. Best quote from the creator: "Goblin Kites are [expletive] broken in this deck; I should have packed in four."

How Lucky You Died

Download Arena Decklist

Coalition Victory - Epic Struggle

What do you get when you combine several colors and lots of critters, some of them many-colored? A deck that aims to fill the board with land and recur Time Warp and Time Stretch an obscene number of times (with counterspell backup), eventually playing Sliver Queen followed by either Coalition Victory for the immediate win or Sliver tokens and Epic Struggle for a slow, painful death. Howling Mine and Helm of Awakening keep multiplayer opponents happy before you "go off" and beat them. Best quote from the creator: "The deck can't quite take infinite turns, but it can come close enough that you should have no problem winning with whatever victory condition suits you."

Just Win, Baby

Download Arena Decklist

Epic Struggle - Mortal Combat

What do you get when you combine lots of critters with a full graveyard? A deck that tries to 1) mill a bunch of creatures into your graveyard with Hermit Druid and win with Mortal Combat or 2) use Living Death, Dual Nature, Deranged Hermit, and Recurring Nightmare to win wth Epic Struggle. Genesis and Monk Idealist fish out the necessary enchantment(s) from your graveyard if needed. Best quote from the creator: "The nice thing about using the 'I Win' enchantment approach is that you can dedicate your entire toolbox to your own combo instead of tainting the process with ways to deal with your opponent's schemes."

Epic Combat!!!

Download Arena Decklist

Epic Struggle - Chance Encounter

What do you get when you combine lots of critters with coin-flips? Two different things, apparently.

The first thing you get is Giant Fan and Sheep. This deck looks to put creatures, tokens, and counters to a dizzying array of uses. Giant Fan is there to speed up token creation or to turn +1/+1 counters into Luck counters to speed toward Chance Encounter. Goblin Bookie is there to slant coin flipping in your favor, while most of the other creatures are adept at making dorky little tokens. Best quote from the creator: "And, of course, Flock of Rabid Sheep has perfect synergy between our two win conditions."


Download Arena Decklist

The second thing you get is Wood and Orcs. The core of this deck is the combination of Jungle Patrol and Intruder Alarm, which, along with mana-producing creatures, can produce "infinite" silly Walls. The first option for victory, with 104,000 Wood tokens, is Epic Struggle. The second way to victory uses Unnatural Selection and Orcish Captain to make some of the tokens into Orcs and flip coins with them (using the "infinite" red mana the Woods generates) for a Chance Encounter win. Best quote from the creator: "This makes me happy because you are generating more than 20 creatures, yet attacking with them to win is not an option."

Infinite Wood

Download Arena Decklist

Battle of Wits - Mortal Combat

What do you get when you combine a big library with a full graveyard? Besides an enormously difficult shuffle, you get a deck that tries to tutor for Battle of Wits to win as option one, or fill its graveyard with Traumatize (using it on yourself) or Cephalid Vandal to win with Mortal Combat as option two. Of course, you can also Traumatize yourself to fuel the biggest Mortivore or Psychatog ever known to humankind. The sideboard is included because of Cunning Wish--it provides some extra tutoring power and defense. Best quote from the creator: "This 'Challenge' isn't much of a challenge at all." (Hurumph!)

Challenge? What Challenge?

Download Arena Decklist

Test of Endurance - Coalition Victory

What do you get when you combine loads of life with several colors and five-colored creatures? A "domain" deck that looks to quickly diversify its mana into all five basic land types to make good use of spells like Evasive Action, Worldly Counsel, Allied Strategies, and--most importantly--Collective Restraint. Eventually the deck uses a combination of Death Grasp, Overgrown Estate, and Ancestral Tribute to reach 50 life. Either that or it simply drops Cromat or Atogatog to win with Coalition Victory. Best quote from the creator (Well, actually he didn't provide anything besides a decklist, but I'd like to think he wrote the following): "CROMAT! ATOGATOG! MUHAHAHAHA!"

Coalition Endurance

Download Arena Decklist

The Cheese Stands Alone - Coalition Victory

What do you get when you combine Cheese and all five colors? A guy with a cheese head, which is pretty funny. Plan #1 here is to play The Cheese Stands Alone and then Kaervek's Spite in response. Another way to Cheese your opponent is to play your mighty enchantment and then play Jokulhaups while discarding your hand to Wild Mongrel. Of course, if worse comes to worse you can plop a five-color creature onto the board and simply Coalition your way to victory. Best quote from the creator: "The cool win is Cheese, Spite in response."

All or Nothing

Download Arena Decklist

What do you get when you combine a big library; a full graveyard; and lots of life, critters, and color? A brain-splitting mess, frankly. If you're lucky, you win using Battle of Wits while your library is full. Otherwise, what you really want to do is Traumatize yourself. Armed with your big graveyard, you then Living Death and/or Replenish as necessary with the idea that at least one of the win conditions will be met. You may also end up decking your opponent, especially if using Ancestral Tribute or Ancestor's Chosen. Best quote from the creator: "Big plan = Traumatize."

5 Lands, 8 Guys, a Lot of Rares, and a Whole Bunch of Winning

Download Arena Decklist

Can you believe it? Only two writers picked the same combination--and they both used utterly different paths to victory. Wow, do I feel clever!

But so many questions remain! Which is your favorite deck? Which is my favorite? Who created which deck? Who used those Unglued cards? Who was the lone spoilsport who didn't submit a deck?

And, of course, which deck is the people's choice? Deadline for voting is Tuesday September 3. Tune in next week to find out the results!

Jay may be reached at houseofcards@wizards.com.

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