Monastery Siege

Posted in Perilous Research on January 1, 2015

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

Welcome to the first week of Fate Reforged previews here on Today, we're going to talk about choices. In every game of Magic, we're presented with a countless number of decisions. Some cards take things a step further, giving us options on top of our options. Today, we'll be talking about a card that asks us a question, then, depending on our answer, continues asking us more questions.

When playing Limited, the quality of the cards we draw in any particular game will have a drastic effect on the outcome. One player may draw all of his or her best cards, while another player flounders with bad mana or happens to draw the weaker half of his or her deck. Because of this factor, free and reusable looting effects have always been very powerful when playing Limited.

I didn't start drafting regularly until Odyssey. Back then, I tried to talk with the better players at my store. I asked tons of questions. I wanted to know what the best common in the set was. Nearly every one of the winning players agreed that Cephalid Looter was easily the best. With Cephalid Looter on the third turn, we'd find ourselves drawing a much higher mean level of quality with the cards that come off the top of our deck. Of course, flashback and threshold made looting even better. Since then, I've always valued looters very high.

Cephalid Looter | Art by Keith Garletts

Nowadays, we have the delve cards. An inexpensive looting effect seems like it would be a nice inclusion to our draft decks, especially those decks with cards like Dead Drop and other big delve spells. Jeskai Elder often runs away with the game when it goes unblocked for more than two turns, but it's often brick-walled in the face of so many morphs and so many high-toughness creatures in the current Limited environment.

Luckily, now there's a new way to loot to our heart's content:

Monastery Siege is a card that's sure to challenge our decision-making skills.

First, we're presented with the option of Khans or Dragons. Usually, we'll be choosing Khans and looting for the remainder of the game. When the opponent has ten lands in play, we'll happily have six or seven and plenty more gas to fight the good fight. Occasionally, we'll be choosing Dragons when we're trying to play around specific removal spells that might be outs off the top of the opponent's deck. For example, if Mike knows Marissa has three copies of Rite of the Serpent in her deck and Mike has Butcher of the Horde in play attacking, then Mike will want to choose Dragons when he casts this right after Marissa plays her fifth land. Nice play, Mike.

Once we've chosen Khans, we get looting right away. It's important to set up curves with our looting process. We want to use four mana on turn four, five mana on turn five, etc. We're losing a lot of tempo by casting Monastery Siege, so we'll need to catch up and we won't be able to afford to not use all of our resources to their maximum potential.

What kinds of decks do we want to draft when we take Monastery Siege?

The obvious answer is that we'll want a lot of delve cards. Treasure Cruise is decent, but we'll already be drawing pretty well. We'll want cards like Hooting Mandrils and Sultai Scavenger, cards that affect the board. The absolute best cards alongside Monastery Siege are Murderous Cut and Dead Drop, cards that happen to be very strong on their own that only become better when we throw Monastery Siege into the mix.

We've already spoken about mana efficiency and the power of delve cards that affect the board with Monastery Siege, but it's important to stress the danger of getting run over when we spend our third turn, a turn usually used to cast a morph, without affecting the battlefield. To compensate for this, we need to play a lot of two-casting cost cards, or at least a few. As long as we've got something that costs two to trade with on this turn we shouldn't be getting run over too often and, with the high card-quality we'll be getting off our Monastery Siege, we should be able to establish our dominant position by the fifth or sixth turn.

Monastery Siege is great to build around in Limited, but what about Constructed applications?

In Constructed, we can use Monastery Siege to fill our graveyard with powerful creatures. The intention is to reanimate them or fuel enough Treasure Cruises to easily overtake opponents while battling through an attrition war.

What would the deck look like?

The most obvious synergistic card with Monastery Siege in Standard is Whip of Erebos. Using Monastery Siege, we can fill our graveyard with expensive cards like Hornet Queen and use Whip of Erebos to reanimate them.

We can take things a step further and use cards like Endless Obedience to permanently reanimate the biggest targets imaginable. Personally, I like the idea of putting Ashen Rider and Hornet Queen into play.

We want to reduce the cost of our Endless Obedience and we need a way to fill our graveyard if we don't draw Monastery Siege. Satyr Wayfinder fits this role beautifully. It fixes the mana of our already four-color deck, it chump blocks when we're setting up a big play, and it fills our graveyard with big reanimation targets like Ashen Rider and Hornet Queen.

Sidisi, Brood Tyrant is another obvious inclusion in this type of deck. The card fills up our graveyard, advances our board state, gives us extra bodies to convoke Endless Obedience, and generally forces the opponent to have an answer.

Sylvan Caryatid is a necessary inclusion to hold off early aggression while fixing our mana and enabling powerful plays like Sidisi, Brood Tyrant on the third turn.

Courser of Kruphix is still the best card in Standard. In terms of pure power level, the card is pretty unmatched when compared to the other available cards in the format. We'll also be playing a lot of fetchlands to fuel our delve cards and fetchlands work very well in combination with Courser of Kruphix.

Murderous Cut is too good to pass up in a deck like this. By the time the opponent plays a card that we'll want to be using this on, it will almost assuredly cost only a single black mana.

Sidisi's Siege

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Going forward, it may be wise to remove the Endless Obedience package and become a more streamlined deck with more delve cards and Doomwake Giant, which conveniently gets triggered by Monastery Siege.

Monastery Siege is a dream for the decision-loving Magic player. The card gives us tons of options and presents us with a puzzle that, if solved, should guide us to victory. Join me next week for another exciting preview that's sure to turn up the heat.

Knowledge is power!

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