Posted in Reconstructed on November 6, 2012

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

There are some decks so universally feared, so maligned, that the mere utterance of their names cause faces to twist and fingers to twitch. Not necessarily out of power, but because of pure annoyance. They're fun to play with, but not play against. You don't want to see one played at your tournament, and you definitely don't want to play against it.

Magician General's warning: Today I am going to be looking at a deck that fits squarely into this category. It's been known to cause sarcastic eye-rolls, endless complaining, extreme boredom, long rounds, and—in extreme cases—even lost friends. Proceed at your own risk.

Have a strange sense of déjà vu while reading that? No, it's not just you.

That was how I opened my last article on Turbofog, one of the most popular ReConstructed articles. It's a rather appropriate opening for this, considering that many of the Turbofog games that started when I wrote that article nearly six months ago are just about wrapping up today.

Why revisit it? Well, because today I'm going to try something new with this column: ReConstructed's first-ever sequel article! If it's popular, I'll do more in the future. If it's a flop, then I'll have to get by ghostwriting the next six Paranormal Activity movies until I can scrape together enough money to try an original project again. Either way, it should be pretty exciting.

But like most sequels, there's a twist. This time around, I'm actually going to be looking at someone else's critique of a deck that was submitted to me and talking about the choices they made. Not only will we end up with a new decklist at the end, but we'll look over different paths you can take and some common deck-tweaking pitfalls along the way.

"Wait, so let me get this straight: This is an article about a deck that is someone else's critique of another deck that originally appeared in this column as a response to a totally different prompt?"

Yep. Hey, this article isn't called "Fogception" for nothing.

Let's get started!

    Two Decks Enter...

The main deck first posited two weeks ago by Josh LeBlanc looked like this:

Josh LeBlanc's Turbofog

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For those not familiar with how this deck works, I'll give a very quick overview.

Essentially, your goal is to Fog all of your opponent's attacks until you can deck him or her out or assemble an otherwise unassailable board state. You do this by having a critical mass of cards that prevent all combat damage that would be dealt this turn, alongside plenty of ways to draw cards, so the steady stream of Fogs continues to move onward. As long as you continue to Fog and draw cards, eventually you should be able to win, given access to all of the tools in your library.

Okay, so now, here is James Fernandez's main deck take on that same archetype. Remember, the prompt for this week was to take any deck from the honorable mentions—in this case Josh's—and then tweak it however you thought best. Here was how James Fernandez did it:

James Fernandez's Fog Redux

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Now, there are some key similarities and some key differences between the two decks. Let's take a look over them and talk about what was changed.

7 Forest -7 Forest
2 Glacial Fortress +2 Glacial Fortress 4 Glacial Fortress
4 Hinterland Harbor 4 Hinterland Harbor
+4 Hallowed Fountain 4 Hallowed Fountain
+4 Temple Garden 4 Temple Garden
3 Island 3 Island
3 Plains -3 Plains
1 Reliquary Tower -1 Reliquary Tower
2 Sunpetal Grove +2 Sunpetal Grove 4 Sunpetal Grove
+2 Grove of the Guardian 2 Grove of the Guardian
2 Augur of Bolas +2 Augur of Bolas 4 Augur of Bolas
2 Snapcaster Mage -2 Snapcaster Mage
4 Clinging Mists 4 Clinging Mists
+1 Cyclonic Rift 1 Cyclonic Rift
4 Druid's Deliverance 4 Druid's Deliverance
2 Elixir of Immortality 2 Elixir of Immortality
4 Fog 4 Fog
1 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage +2 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage 3 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
2 Supreme Verdict +2 Supreme Verdict 4 Supreme Verdict
1 Terrifying Presence -1 Terrifying Presence
+1 Heroes' Reunion 1 Heroes' Reunion
2 Jace, Memory Adept -2 Jace, Memory Adept
+4 Inaction Injunction 4 Inaction Injunction
2 Moonmist -2 Moonmist
+1 Sphinx's Revelation 1 Sphinx's Revelation
4 Otherworld Atlas -4 Otherworld Atlas
+2 Think Twice 2 Think Twice
4 Safe Passage -4 Safe Passage
+1 Cackling Counterpart 1 Cackling Counterpart
4 Sleep -4 Sleep
    Something Borrowed

Let's start by looking at what spells stayed the same between the two decks.

[card]Augur of Bolas[/card]

Both players chose to play Augur of Bolas in their decks, although LeBlanc split it 2/2 with Snapcaster Mage and Fernandez went with the full four Augurs. Both players agree that Augur is phenomenal in this deck—and I'm certainly right there with them. It gives you a turn-two play, buys you some time by blocking, and digs you into Fogs or card drawing.

I feel like Fernandez has mostly made the right choice here, opting for four Augurs. It just does a ton of things this deck is trying to do, and it does it well. My final build is probably going to lean toward playing the full four, although I may only play three depending on the spell density. It's important your Augurs don't miss too often!

Unsurprisingly, Fernandez kept in the core Fogs. Fog and Clinging Mists are both fairly necessary to making this deck operate, and so he chose to keep both of them in.

Fernandez also kept in Druid's Deliverance. While it does not operate well with Planeswalkers (which is why Fernandez said he cut Safe Passage), he said he tried to make up for this by adding in a small token package with Cackling Counterpart and Grove of the Guardian. (More on that later.)

Overall, with the focus on Tamiyo, I think I would actually prefer Moonmist to Deliverance. Making sure your Tamiyo can stay alive and get to ultimate is incredibly crucial.

[card]Elixir of Immortality[/card]

Both players opted to play a couple Elixirs for the kill, giving you a midgame life boost and also reshuffling your cards in so you can deck your opponent.

Elixir is a good choice, and it's what I used last time. In these kinds of decks, though, I also like being able to kill opponents quicker if I can. Often, if you give opponents access to their entire libraries, they can concoct a plan against you. A little-discussed card out of Return to Ravnica that fills a similar role is Psychic Spiral, a way to recycle all of your Fogs while also milling your opponent for a ton of cards. I think I would rather have that here.

Regardless, both players are right that you need a way to recycle your deck. The general function of this slot is staying as-is.

LeBlanc's original decklist featured four whereas Fernandez's only features two, but both of them believe—and I agree—that you want some main deck outs to creatures.

I do think a common mistake in Fog-centric decks is to maximize your Day of Judgment effects. On the surface, they're kind of like Fogs, right? However, the point of Turbofog is to continually Fog, meaning that you really only need to wipe the board of creatures with abilities. And in today's Standard, with cards like Thragtusk and Restoration Angel creating threats even after you resolve a Wrath, having a Fog effect can actually be better quite a bit of the time.

In this case, I disagree with Fernandez. I would go back to two main deck, and then probably sideboard the others.

LeBlanc only had one, while Fernandez went up to three. In his email to me, Fernandez noted he was trying to move to a "Tamiyo ultimate win," which is fairly easy to accomplish in a Fog-based deck.

In any case, I certainly agree with Fernandez's change here. Often, you will play a deck some, find the natural synergy, and then expand on it to make it a core part of the deck. In this case, Fernandez found the synergy between Tamiyo and Fogs, and looked to capitalize on that as much as possible. Either you can build up to Tamiyo's ultimate or you can also just draw a ton of cards with her as your opponent attacks and you Fog each turn. Playing three is certainly a good spot to be in, in my mind.

    Something New

Now that the similarities have been covered, let's look at the differences between the two. We'll start with LeBlanc's original version.

Snapcaster was a card that Fernandez chose to cut. In his email to me, Fernandez wrote that he"felt Snapcaster Mage and Elixir of Immortality were at odds."

I definitely agree with Fernandez when he says that's a bit of an awkward nonbo. However, most of the time you don't want to activate your Elixir too early anyway. And especially with the move to Psychic Spiral meaning you'll never be shuffling back in too quickly, Snapcaster Mage becomes an even better fit. He lets you re-access your Fogs, but also reuse any utility cards like Supreme Verdict—or even Psychic Spiral—in a pinch.

This is an example of a typical deck tweaking (and building) pitfall. You look at all of the cards together and try and remove any bad synergies to ensure everything works smoothly. This is a good pass to make, but you also have to mediate yourself. Snapcaster Mage is a powerful and versatile enough card that it's worth playing, despite some slight lack of synergy.

LeBlanc had a bunch of different Fog-like effects, of which Fernandez stripped away several. Fog redundancy is important, but Fernandez appropriately looked at the Fogs in the deck and focused on its most important pieces.

When modifying a deck, you are always looking for ways to improve the core components. In this case, Fernandez identified which Fogs he wanted to keep and then went down to a lower number of effective Fogs, while upping the number of utility cards the deck had at its disposal. You don't need as many Fogs (to a point) if you have more ways to draw cards to consistently find them.

Terrifying Passage is still likely to let one of their creatures through a lot of the time, so Fernandez got rid of that one. Safe Passage,in his own words, "doesn't protect a Planeswalker," which is something Fernandez was trying to accomplish and I certainly agree with. Sleep costs an expensive four mana—a lot when you're trying to Fog and still do something else—and doesn't always help you with cards like Restoration Angel in the format.

The only Fog I disagree with cutting is Moonmist. As I mentioned earlier, I'd want Moonmist over Druid's Deliverance because it helps keeps your Planeswalkers protected.

This is the single card from the deck Fernandez cut and I couldn't imagine living without. I'll talk about that in a moment—but first, some words on deck building.

A common mistake when you're rebuilding a deck is to cut a card that looks odd or clunky without realizing how key it is to that deck's game plan. Then you go to play the deck and note that it doesn't seem to work as well as you think. A lot of that time, that card is the key. It's important to consider all ramifications of each card you cut.

In this case, Atlas is that card. It looks expensive and like it is part of a pure mill plan—but Atlas is beyond crucial. It fuels you finding all of your Fogs, and also helps mill your opponent along.

A lot of deck builders building decks like this will become concerned with something happening to one of their cards that finishes them off—in this case a mill spell—and then play extra cards to help them out. And as I said before, it is important to have a few ways to speed up your kill so you don't rely on opponents seeing every card in their deck each game.

The trick is knowing where the line is. Often, it's not really something you have to be too concerned about, and drawing these cards naturally can be very weak while you're trying to set up. Generally, in a deck like this, I would want one effect in addition to my primary kill condition: a card that can just kill your opponent, but has value beyond that as well. You don't need it, and I certainly wouldn't play more than one, but playing one card like this is reasonable.

Cyclonic Rift | Art by Chris Rahn

Okay, so now that we've covered the original version, let's look over some of Fernandez's tweaks where he breaks from the norm.

Because of the populate ability of Druid's Deliverance, Fernandez wanted to play some cards which created tokens. Not just to take advantage of the ability, but also because it provided another avenue to win.

When it comes to control/combo-centric decks like this one, something that's very easy to do is to look for backup plans. It's easy for the human mind to think of every possible permutation of terrible things that could happen. Maybe they're playing twenty-four main deck counterspells, or maybe they're playing Havoc Festival, or maybe even as you're playing a gigantic ferret jumps off of your opponent's shoulder and bites you on the nose. Bad things can happen.

However, many of those situations aren't that realistic. You don't need to prepared for them. Beating down with tokens isn't really going to help you take down many games where you get to the point that you can do it and you're still doing all right. I would rather just stick to the core plan to ensure that plan is strong and, if they Havoc Festival, they Havoc Festival me.

Plus, I'd rather have Moonmist than Druid's Deliverance anyway since it protects Tamiyo.

However, I will say that I definitely agree with Fernandez adding in some lands here. As he said in his email to me, "The first thing I did was up the land count. Twenty-two wasn't enough." While the Groves may go, the number of lands is still going to remain high. You want to play one every turn, after all, and if you stumble with this deck it's very easy to outright lose.

One of the best innovations Fernandez added to this deck was Sphinx's Revelation. It does exactly what a Turbofog deck wants once its engine starts: it mitigates creature damage, brings you out of range of burn spells, and draws you a ton of cards. While Fernandez only started with one, I would definitely want to play more.

An idea that Fernandez wanted to try was cantripping early on while slowing down creatures to help set up your game plan. As he told me, he plans to use it to "dig to the next real Fog and have an early play."

The problem with this card choice is it doesn't work as well at all stages of the game. Sure, on turn two it Fogs and cycles—but later on, shutting down one of their eight creatures isn't going to help you. It's important while deck building to think about how a card operates at all stages of the game, and in this case you can't really count this card as a Fog since it's not going to work well enough with the long-term game plan.

Now, I do agree it's important this deck has some strong, early, proactive plays. I'd rather use this slot for something that isn't a Fog and is excellent at setting up my game plan—like Farseek. Yes, Farseek is also dead in the late game, but on turn two it's so powerful at helping you get to Atlas and also fuels your Sphinx's Revelations that I'd say it's more than worth it.

Fernandez felt some early game card drawing was important. While I do love Think Twice, there just isn't going to be room. It's always important to remember that every card in your deck comes at a cost of something else, and there are enough crucial slots in this deck that a two-mana cantrip isn't really where you want to be. Between Augur of Bolas and Farseek, you're going to have enough two mana plays that you can rely on Otherworld Atlas and Sphinx's Revelation for the long game.

To finish off the deck, Fernandez added in some one-ofs that he "felt were strong if drawn, but even better once you had a Tamiyo Emblem." Let's first talk about Heroes' Reunion.

Reunion with a Tamiyo emblem is pretty crazy, meaning for you can gain 7 life over and over. Wow! It's basically impossible for the opponent to trump you except by milling at that point.

The problem, of course, is that once you have a Tamiyo emblem you should be in pretty good shape anyway. Sphinx's Revelation already can gain you extra life, so gaining a bunch over and over with another card doesn't really interest me so much. Once Tamiyo is ultimate you should basically always win by looping Fogs and Revelations; the only reason why you would play cards to combo with her is if you need a way to deal with some other threat.

What does interest me, however, is Cyclonic Rift. Cyclonic Rift not only has functions on its own, but also serves as an out to any troublesome permanents your opponent slaps onto the battlefield by bouncing his or her entire board every single turn. You don't have a lot of slots for something like this, and so it's basically a toss-up as to if you want Rift or Dissipate in your main deck.

Ultimately, I'm going to go with Dissipate simply because I want to be able to fight off opposing counterspells and lock my opponent under one once a Tamiyo emblem is active. (Alongside just being a fine card on its own.) However, it could certainly go either way and I couldn't blame somebody who wanted to Rift here.

Tamiyo, the Moon Sage | Art by Eric Deschamp

    ...One Deck Leaves

So that's a run through of both decklists! By looking over both player's decklists and opinions and infusing that with a little of my own tuning, we were able to create something brand new in our laboratory! Let's take a look.

Gavin Verhey's Fogception

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This wonderful fusion of both decks makes use of the Tamiyo finishing core than Fernandez identified, while using the Atlas engine of LeBlanc's original deck. Everything together makes this run better than either deck individually. If you've been waiting to try out Turbofog in the new Standard, this is a deck to try out! I hope you have fun with it—and that your opponents are Cybermen who won't get too bored of your antics.

    Honorable Mentions

Even among refined honorable mentions, there was a ton of variety. Let's take a look at some of the modified decks out there!

Tyler Shank's Infinite Confusion

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Bill Kline's Five-Color Control

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Michael Steidls's Red-White Tokens

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Brian's Burn

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Andrew Montoya's Duel Blisterburns

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Alfredo's Villegas's Mutilate Control

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Mickybloom's BUG Midrange

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Jonnie Alexandro's Bant Midrange

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Doug Murphy's Corpses Make Me Stronger

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Yasuhisa Hirano's Safe Sphere

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Garth Avery's Keyrune Control

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