Above and Beyond the Call of Deck-Building

Posted in From the Lab on March 18, 2009

By Noel deCordova

This week, as per the title, we'll be going above and beyond the call of deckbuilding—or, as it is commonly abbreviated, A and B the C of D, wot! The D usually stands for "Duty," but as it goes in my friendly laboratory (well, my friendly antechamber), crazy deck-building is my solemn duty. I'm coming at you all today with a special four-pack of Conflux decks based around cards that have slipped out of the mainstream for one reason or another.

Two of these decks will be based around certain cards with gold symbols that haven't gotten much attention or playtime. In short, reject rares. They're funny things, reject rares. They vary from the promising (Vicious Shadows) to the mediocre (Twinning Glass) to the downright awful (the Mudholes, Pale Moons, and Moonlaces of the world.) Yet somehow, all three of these sub-categories carry within them a strong appeal to rogue Johnny deckbuilders, who would like nothing more than to see an unused card get some love. Reject rares have even spawned their own draft format (the straightforwardly titled Reject Rare Draft) that is a surprising blast to take part in.

The other two decks are based around a Conflux mythic rare that seems to be a bit of an outsider among the Progenituses and Nicol Bolas, Planewalkers of the world. Hopefully I'll be able to pull Malfegor to these lofty heights, starting with the next paragraph!

    What Do You Get When You Cross a Demon and a Dragon?

A Demon Dragon you shouldn't cross under any circumstances.


Boy, that was a quiet rimshot! In any case, it's true of Malfegor, the black and red lord of Grixis, second in command to only Nicol Bolas himself. Don't mess with this guy, or he'll hold you down with one hand and beat you down with the other three. According to his flavor text, Malfegor can neither be trusted nor ruled, and here I am attempting to do both of those things. Hey, if I can get along with Rakdos the Defiler (who seems like Malfegor's twin brother who was separated at birth), I'm sure I can handle the latest monster.

So, what's mechanically interesting about Malfegor? Well, for starters, he's a 6/6 flyer for six mana in red and black, colors that have historically been subpar in flying. That's certainly efficient. What's more exciting is the mass sacrifice he creates for your opponents at the cost of your hand. Therefore, I felt the best use of Malfegor would be in a hellbent-ish deck, using Rakdos Pit Dragon to beat down. Cackling Flames and Fiery Temper seem like appropriate red removal in this sort of deck. And Dread Slag is downright perfect: early on, it's a useless card that's fine to discard to Malfegor, and later it's a brilliant topdeck.

While pondering Malfegor, I couldn't help but think that at times, you'd be discarding your whole hand to kill maybe two creatures. Although the times where you wipe out an army of Saproling tokens with Malfegor are obviously the most desirable, those potentially underwhelming moments bothered me. Therefore, I went with Burning Sands as a doubly wrecking permanent alongside the Demon Dragon. Now, only killing two creatures comes with two free Stone Rains! And during mass sacrificing, Malfegor could act as the latter half of Boom // Bust.

However, removing both creatures and lands still isn't enough! Speaking of Bust, there's a certain card printed in Future Sight that was immediately paired with the red Armageddon: Bitter Ordeal. With Malfegor and Burning Sands kicking around, as well as your removal, Bitter Ordeal should always be at least half a Cranial Extraction.

I was thinking about using Ignorant Bliss as a way to dodge discarding a ton of cards, but then I realized that Malfegor wouldn't do anything! I settled on some good old card drawing—namely, Night's Whisper and Diabolic Tutor. Since this deck wants to hoard cards in the early game and find Malfegor, those two should fit the bill.

Drago Malfoy

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This deck is slightly tricky to play. Try and land a Rakdos Pit Dragon as soon as you can, and once you're at six mana, start holding onto your lands for Malfegor. You'll usually want to Tutor for one of your dragons as well. Between your burn and Malfegor, you should keep the board clear enough to stabilize. Howltooth Hollow is mostly for fun, but a different version of this deck could be based on discard and flashback, using such cards as Skull Fracture, Pain Magnification, or Syphon Mind (which, along with Malfegor himself, thrives in multiplayer). In fact, this more focused deck sounds like fun.

Drago Malfoy 1.2

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    Professional Profiteering

Gwafa Hazid, Profiteer is one of the more annoying creatures to be printed in recent times. The slimy Bantian rogue plays both sides for fools and could probably sell a hen her own eggs back ... for a profit, of course. Between the counter producing and the Pacifism effect, we've basically got Aurification in creature form.

What's cool about Gwafa Hazid is that since he'll demand removal from somewhere, the bribery counters that he has placed on your opponent's creatures will remain where they are. Then, when you play another Gwafa, he won't have to re-bribe these creatures, as they'll once again be locked out of combat. To make Gwafa as recurring and annoying as possible, I went with Sigil of the New Dawn, which can repeatedly bring back the briber. Kitchen Finks (possibly more annoying than Gwafa) is pretty ridiculous with the Sigil in play. Mulldrifter and the other evokers from Lorwyn and Morningtide also work well with the white Onslaught enchantment. Slithermuse in particular becomes well worth the investment, as Gwafa Hazid can keep your opponent's hand larger than yours most of the time.

Speaking of Gwafa's drawback, I've seen many around the internet pair the profiteer with Psychic Possession, the first and only Enchant Opponent. The idea is that Gwafa's card bribes will psychically help you out. Personally, I'm not so much of a fan of this combo, as if Gwafa is killed, your card-drawing engine dies with it.

Mind's Eye, however, is an acceptable substitute. For , you can Pacify a creature and even up the card drawing. A similar (and also annoying, which has somehow become the theme of this deck) card to run here is Jace Beleran, who can help fill your opponent's hand for a giant Slithermuse. If you ever activate his ultimate ability, it'll help you activate Shelldock Isle, which could, say, pop your fun singleton of Forced Fruition into play.

Noggle Ransacker seems like a decent comes-into-play creature for the Sigil of the New Dawn. Momentary Blink can save your Gwafa if necessary, and it can target a Slithermuse or Kitchen Finks for great synergy. Ancestral Vision can leave your hand on the cheap, and restock you later in the game. Finally, Grand Arbiter Augustin IV can both clog up your opponent's hand by acting as a Sphere of Resistance and help you play your stuff faster.

This deck can reasonably hold its own in a one-on-one game, sure, but it can also be decent on the multiplayer front as well. Not to step on Kelly Digges's toes in the multiplayer pool, but during my analysis of Gwafa Hazid, Profiteer, I came up with a decent Two-Headed Giant idea. Gwafa specifically targets "a creature you don't control," not "a creature your opponent controls." Thus, you could target your teammate's creatures to give him or her extra draws. Sure, this will Pacify those creatures, but that's why your teammate came with a Power Conduit deck! With the Mirrodin artifact in play (of which I'm a Giant Fan) Gwafa becomes, ", : Battlegrowth your teammate's creature. Your teammate draws a card."

If you wanted to try this idea, the above Gwafa deck is, as I said, fine in Two-Headed Giant. Both Jace and Noggle Ransacker have global effects, and Mind's Eye is bonkers when four players play at the same time. I'm no multiplayer expert, but this seems fun!

    Jet Lassos: Yum!

Okay, so it's a stretch to make that anagram seem relevant. Appropriately, drawing enough cards off of a Soul's Majesty to make it worth its mana cost is also a long shot. For sharing a converted mana cost with Tidings, Soul's Majesty better draw me at least three cards (I'll knock off a card for it being green.)

Another Conflux card that cares about the power of your creatures is Wall of Reverence, a rare that once straddled the line between reject rare and decent rare before rising to fame within Gabriel Nassif's Pro Tour–winning deck. Alongside fellow defender Plumeveil, Wall of Reverence gave Nassif upwards of 4 life a turn while holding down the fort.

In casual, Wall of Reverence can be paired with Cradle of Vitality for tons of +1/+1 counters on the Wall, which will gain you more life. And with all the +1/+1 counters floating around, Soul's Majesty is bound to draw you some cards. I added Kitchen Finks and Plumeveil to the budding decklist, on the basis that the former is amazing with Cradle of Vitality, and the latter for the above synergy.

Want more synergy? I always thought that Cenn's Tactician stood out from its fellow class-boosters in Morningtide in a rather sad way. The High Ground ability is just not as good as the Rogue's Larceny or the Warrior's Primal Rage. In this deck, however, where the goal is to get +1/+1 counters on your Walls, High Ground becomes quite useful. In addition, Cenn's Tactician can slowly grow a Soldier to powerful levels, ripe for Wall of Reverence or Soul's Majesty to take advantage of. Burrenton Bombardier and Chameleon Colossus are perfect Soldiers for the deck, as the former creates more +1/+1 counters, and the latter can increase its power for obvious synergy.

I wanted to add some Runed Stalactites to the deck, for the possibility of making Wall of Reverence a Soldier, so I went with Stonehewer Giant as an Equipment fetcher. This allowed me to run a small toobox of Equipment for the right situation.

You could go any way with this mold: more Soldiers, more life gain, more controllish cards, etc. Just remember to cast Soul's Majesty at the right time. Although the deck evolved in a different way, it was the card I intended to build around. And hey, running it lets me name the deck after a Doors song. Which, really, is one of the best ways to name a deck.

Soul Kitchen

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