It's a Mystery

Posted in Reconstructed on May 12, 2015

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.

What deck am I looking at today? Well, it's a secret.

No really—spoilers!

Okay, okay, I suppose I can give you some more direction about what we'll be unmorphing today…

Welcome to ReConstructed! Today, we'll be looking at not just a commonly requested Standard deck, but a commonly-requested budget Standard deck. That means I won't be able to add in any new rares to this week's submission. And fortunately for all of you budget-warriors out there, it has a lot of pieces you may have already acquired through drafting.

You might be able to start guessing what I'm talking about here. I suppose for a morph strategy it might have made more sense to be a bit more coy—but there's no time to look back now! Instead, it's time to look ahead to our decklist for this week:

Alex Wolf's Trail of Value

Download Arena Decklist

Budget Rules

Before heading off any further into the mysterious blue (and green) yonder, it's time to recap my rules for building a budget decklist! If you've never seen this before, what you can expect is:

  • I will not add any new rares or mythic rares to the decklist. I'd rather make the deck extra budget-y and then let you season to taste with delicious rares than cook it so rare you won't eat it at all.
  • The one exception to the above is mana fixing. You'll get a lot of mileage out of acquiring a mana base: lands can go in many decks and are one of the crucial elements. Your cards probably aren't going to help you if you can't cast them!
  • I try not to make substitutions. Budget doesn't need to mean making a worse version of a current deck—it just means building toward an archetype that has easier-to-obtain cards. Cards like Master of Waves and Jeskai Ascendancy simply can't be replaced in decks that need them.
  • Budget doesn't mean bad. I'm not setting out to make a deck we know will be suboptimal through this process. There have been plenty of highly successful low-rarity decks throughout Magic's history, and there are certainly ways to follow in their footsteps.
  • If you want more explanation on any of those points, check out the beginning of my first budget article.

Alright. Got it all down? Good. Now, let's hop into the details on how this deck operates!

The Battle Plan

So, what exactly is going on with this deck?

After all, face-down creatures don't inherently have any kind of benefit in large groups. If I were to fill up a deck with 40 morphing creatures, that wouldn't give me any kind of "linear" deck building bonus. So what am I doing here?

There's a bit more to it than that. We made a few cards that very specifically care about face-down creatures—and that's where the real, ahem, Magic begins to happen.

Obscuring Æther and Trail of Mystery are both gigantic morph rewards. Together, they help create a backbone for this tempo-oriented morph deck.

At three mana, morphs can sometimes be a tad clunky, but at two (thanks to Obscuring Æther)? You have an army of grizzly bears with massive upside. And then, once you start getting that upside, Trail of Mystery sees to it that your army will be gigantic.

This deck wants to get ahead on mana early and start deploying a litany of permanents to the battlefield. These efficient morphs, enhanced further by the enchantments, will cause a nightmare for your opponent as they don't know which is which—and you're gaining a massive advantage out of them.

So what is this sort of deck looking for in future refinement? Well, for one, I want to make sure that we push the linear and see if there are any other kind of morph rewards that are worth playing. Secondly, I want to help work on the tempo side of this deck, speeding it up further.

Finally—and this is actually a new one that's never come up on budget ReConstructed before—I actually want to cut down some of the rares. For a budget deck, this is a bit too rare-heavy. Even though most of the rares are easy to acquire and the mana base is low on rares, I want to try and cull some extra rarity from this deck to better fit the budget needs.

Alright. We have a few goals. Ready to get started? Let's go!

Deck Breakdown

What deserves to keep its mystery and what can be flipped over and removed from the deck? Let's go through this deck card by card and find out!

Some cards are going to get cut from this deck—but Rattleclaw Mystic certainly isn't one of them. Not only does it provide you with mana to accelerate you, but it also is a morph on its own, which works well with a lot of your other cards. Turn-one Obscuring Æther into a turn-two Rattleclaw Mystic enables five mana on the third turn, providing some really explosive draws! I definitely want to keep all four.

Mana acceleration is so strong in this style of deck that I also want to add in four copies of Elvish Mystic. The Mystic is at a high level of power in this deck for a couple reasons. For one, most of your lands enter the battlefield untapped so it's easy to cast it on turn one. But, moreover, jumping to three mana so you can start morphing right away is a pretty big deal. I'll take four.

One of the marquee cards with megamorph, Stratus Dancer is at home in a strategy like this one. First of all, you can play it face-down. Secondly, it's a 3-power attacker in the air, which plays perfectly into this deck's more tempo-oriented game. And speaking of tempo, countering a spell when you turn it up is a big deal that can completely throw your opponent off. All four of these are worth keeping.

Den Protector has really taken off in Standard, showcasing a solid and aggressive body alongside a great trigger that lets you reuse your best cards over and over again. You'll want to hold these for after the first few turns so you actually have something to return, but it's extraordinarily powerful once you get to the point where the Protector starts rolling. This card is staying.

This deck has some solid Quickling synergies. Once you've triggered a creature's "is turned face up" ability, you can Quickling it back to repeat it all over again. With Den Protector, you can even create a grindy loop where Den Protector returns Quickling, Quickling is cast returning Den Protector, Quickling blocks and dies, and the process begins anew. And, of course, each time you turn something face-up you get to trigger all of your abilities like Trail of Mystery.

However, while Quickling is great when your deck is working, when your deck is floundering it's not so helpful. I want to have cards that can help me get ahead whether I'm winning or not—and Quickling isn't quite so good at doing that. While an alright addition, Quickling is going to quickly get out of here.

It's big. It's beefy. It's hard to deal with. Sagu Mauler is the nightmare many decks didn't even know they had, as they gnash their teeth trying to remove it from the battlefield. While it doesn't directly have a "is turned face up" trigger like most of the other morphs in this deck, it makes up for it by secretly having an "opponent looks sad while this smashes face" morph ability.

Three is a great number here: you usually want to draw one, but not more. I'll keep them.

Morph, megamorph, and manifest were all designed to play together. So even though Cloudform is a different kind of morph-generating card than what we've seen before, it still works reasonably fine with cards like Trail of Mystery.

Hitting a creature with Cloudform has a lot of allure. Having something like a flying Sagu Mauler is always a nice (and hilarious) dream to live for. However, there are a number of creatures with flying already in the deck. And instead of getting something random every time you cast Cloudform, wouldn't you usually rather just play more copies of the morphs you liked to guarantee hitting more often instead of just missing the 50% of the time you hit a land or enchantment?

Cloudform doesn't quite do it for me in this deck. They can go.

This Aven is an excellent package that pushes the deck toward what its game plan is. It morphs face-down, unmorphs for only three, and generates a sizable tempo swing. In a deck full of creatures that have triggers you can reuse, it can even bounce your own creatures. And it can always be a 2/2 flier for two mana in a pinch. The Aven is a card I want to upgrade to four copies of.

The intent behind this slot is certainly worth thinking about: a counterspell that can generate some additional tempo, allowing you to throw away a late mana creature or a creature that has an "is turned face up" trigger that's already been used. Plus, you want to hold mana up for all kinds of morph and megamorph costs, so keeping three mana up is fairly natural.

In the end though, the Sorcerer doesn't quite do enough for this deck. It doesn't play into its build-around themes, nor does it carry itself on power level alone. The Sorcerers are getting removed.

Sometimes, this will be better than Sagu Mauler. Sometimes, this will be weaker. It certainly depends on the situation. However, generally I'd rather have the Mauler and there are only so many slots for that kind of card. Additionally, one of the goals I mentioned at the onset was to trim back on the number of rares you'd need to trade for to play this deck. And as a mythic rare Hooded Hydra tends to get the budget glare of disapproval. This Hydra agent can go away.

An absolutely key card for this strategy. In many ways, it's even better than an Elvish Mystic since it can't be removed by creature destruction and it lets you "double up" and play multiple morphs in the same turn for a reduced cost. And in multiples, it can get real crazy, allowing a morph to cost just one or even zero mana!

And don't forget its second ability. It can be surprisingly strong: keep in mind that, as long as it's been around for a turn, Obscuring Æther can attack right away when you turn it face down. When this deck wants to pivot and move into the "going for the throat" phase of the game (not to be confused with the Go For The Throat phase of the game) Obscuring Æther can still be a major player even then. I definitely want all four.

Provides you with enough mana to sink into all your morphs late game? Check. Lets your creature hit a little harder as you turn it over? Check. Trail of Mystery generates both card advantage and damage over the course of a game, and this is a deck that will happily take both. You don't really want to draw two, and you also don't want to draw a hand of all enchantments and not enough creatures to work with them, so I'm going to move down to three copies.

But how many enchantments can there be you ask? Well, a lot—because I also want to add in Secret Plans. This card is actually one of the missing backbones that you want in a deck like this. Absolutely crucial to the strategy, Secret Plans is part of what helps makes this deck tick. You generate so many cards from it, letting you trade profitably and shrug off mass removal with your full hand. I want to play the full set of them, bringing the deck to 11 enchantments—plenty, but not so many that you won't draw some creatures to supplement them.

There's something wonderfully circular about the idea of sacrificing something like a Den Protector to Life's Legacy to obtain maximum value out of it. However, in general, the card flow from Life's Legacy is supplanted by Secret Plans—and rather than cast a makeshift Concentrate that's also a rare, I want to look at what this deck might be missing and shore up those holes.

The one thing this deck isn't full of right now is removal. Granted, blue and green aren't really colors known for their penchant for destroying permanents. There are two good paths to walk down: either a hard counterspell like Dissolve, or a removal spell to get a creature off the table.

While I think you could go for either, this deck is going to tap out enough for its own creatures that I'd rather have a removal spell I can cast when the dust settles than a counterspell I have to leave up mana for—that's why Silumgar Sorcerer didn't make it, after all. And—hilariously enough—the one I'm interested in is Reality Shift.

For two mana at instant speed, this wipes any major threat away whether it be a Whisperwood Elemental, Dragonlord Atarka, or Courser of Kruphix. And in a pinch you can even target your own creature in response to removal to keep your board presence up. I'll play a couple of these.

And with all of those updates made, that brings the final decklist to:

Gavin Verhey's Secrets

Download Arena Decklist

And there's our mystery unveiled! Perfect.

This deck is a ton of fun to play on its own, and full of value plays. It's amazing what a Secret Plans can do when it gets rolling!

The one card most obviously missing from here if you were to debudgetify the deck is Deathmist Raptor. So if you're building up this strategy and have a play set, I'd definitely put those in. Another card to look at is Whisperwood Elemental. But even without those, this deck can still do plenty fine on its own and hit hard.

Hope you all have fun with this one! Enjoy your army of face-down creatures!

McArtor's Mentions

Here on McArtor's Mentions we take a look at some of the many other cool decks that were sent in this week. Let's take a look:

Nick Picone's Ugin's Engineers

Download Arena Decklist


Download Arena Decklist

Nekomata-sensei's White Wheenie

Download Arena Decklist

Shawn Wrenn's Naya Heroic

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Thomas Weighill's RB Dash

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Mark Ian Alloso's Green White 'Counters'

Download Arena Decklist

Sho Nishizawa's Impact Tremors

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Ed's Peasant Blue Artifacts

Download Arena Decklist

Sakamoto Daisuke's Turbo Wind

Download Arena Decklist

Anthony Pichery's Budget G/W Constellation

Download Arena Decklist

Kojima Kouji's "Swift Warkite"

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Tomoaki Matsunaga's Elk Ramp

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Morphing Away

That's it for this week's take on budget Standard! Enjoy.

In two weeks, we'll be looking at and talking about a wide variety of decks. What do I mean? Well, check out this challenge:

Format: Your Favorite!

Restrictions: Choose your favorite format and send in a deck for that format you'd like to be talked about. Additionally, for this week, please include your country of residence as well.

Deadline: Monday, May 18th, 6 p.m. Pacific Time.

Submit all decklists by emailing me at

Decklists should be submitted with YOURNAME's DECKNAME at the top. Underneath should be one card per line, with just a leading number. For example:

12 Mountain

4 Satyr Firedancer

3 Ash Zealot

4 Lightning Bolt

…and so on. Please don't use anything but a space to separate the card numbers and names—don't write "4x Lightning Bolt," for example. Well-formatted decklists have a much better chance of being read and making it into the column. Poorly formatted decklists are more likely to be ignored. (If I can't read your decklist, I certainly can't talk about it!)

I'm very excited for this! I haven't really done a, "Pick your favorite format!" ReConstructed before, and I can't wait to see what comes out of it. Stalwart Standard fan? Send in a Standard deck. Modern? Go for it. Legacy your jam? Put one in! Is 200-card Singleton the format you enjoy the most? Tell me all about it!

There should be plenty for me to look through this week, and it'll be a blast to see what it all is!

In the meantime, if you have any feedback on this article, please feel free to send it my way. You can always send me a tweet or ask me a question on my Tumblr and I'll be sure to see it.

I'll be back next week with a look at Modern. Until then, have fun crushing your opponent under the weight of your secrets!




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