Preparing for Im-Pact

Posted in Reconstructed on July 7, 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.

"Is that card incredible or just incredibly dangerous?"

As both a Magic designer and deck builder, perhaps no comment about a mythic rare excites me more.

The card in question? Demonic Pact.

You literally lose the game if you use it incorrectly. Yet, at the same time, the upside is so high. Look at all that advantage! That value! That power! And besides, you'll probably be fine, right?


Perhaps no card in Magic so encapsulates the "deal with a demon" feel as well as this one. And today, we're going to dive right into building with it. Let's take a look at this decklist from Hiroya Kobayashi, from Japan!

Hiroya Kobayashi's Demonic Pact Control

Download Arena Decklist

The Battle Plan

This deck is a control deck like many you might be used to. Mass removal. Counterspells. Planeswalkers. You're going to try and delay the game as much as possible until you can land a big game-ending threat and use it to fling the game toward its end point.

But what really makes this deck tick in a special way is Demonic Pact.

All three non-lose-the-game modes are excellent in this style of deck, allowing you to take control of the game by attacking your opponent's hand, permanents, or drawing you cards.

But how do you make sure you don't lose to the Pact? After all, you are a control deck—you aren't exactly winning quickly.

Well, the secret is that, with very little concession in the way of card choices, you can bounce your own Demonic Pact and do it all over again—riding the Pact train all the way to Value Town. It's a bit of, "Oh look, I'm going to lose! Yep, I'm definitely going to lose! Look, I just made the third choice, I'm about to lose! Look I—Oh, I survived. Brilliant. I love it when I do that."

So what can be added in to make this all work even better? Well, tightening up the ways to reset your Pacts will help out a lot. Outside of that, making sure this is the best control deck it can be is going to be crucial.

Ready? Let's crack this deck open and take a look inside!

Deck Breakdown

What cards should stick around and which don't quite have enough impact to stay around? Let's go through the deck card by card and see what should stay and what should go!

This new Jace is awesome. There. I said it. He's great: he digs you toward what you're looking for, then after a couple cards he transforms and recasts your spells—or just builds toward a surprisingly reasonable ultimate ability. I love this new Jace and predict I'll be including him in many future decks.

Why use "future" there? Because I don't quite think Jace fits in this deck.

Something very important to consider when building a control deck is which creatures you're playing and how vulnerable to removal they are. In this case, the only creatures are copies of Jace—all of which die to commonly played removal like Bile Blight or Ultimate Price.

Now that can be okay, but the fact that this deck's only creatures are Jace poses a bit of difficulty here. Because other decks will have removal spells they can't use and they will have probably drawn at least one, I'd rather just make those removal spells dead and not include Jace. Trading Jace on turn two for a removal spell can be reasonable, but after the first three or four turns it's not going to force most opponents to play differently to deal with your Jace since they'll have the card and the mana anyway.

I will note that I think Jace is an excellent sideboard option for this deck, since your opponents will sideboard out all their removal and then you can bring Jace in. However, as a main deck card for this specific otherwise-creatureless control deck, I don't think he quite fits. Don't worry though, as I expect you'll be seeing plenty of Jace around in future weeks.

This is one of the centerpieces of this deck, and one I've already said many words about in this article. There are still a few strategy things left to say though.

In general, on a clear-ish board, you'll want to lead with the "draw two cards" option, unless your opponent has two cards in their hand and you want to clear them out, or you think this will be your only chance to use that effect.

In general, you should be okay to play a Pact on turn four. You'll have, at bare minimum, five more draws to find an answer before you lose the game, and that's before factoring in cards like Dig Through Time that can find your answer even easier. Yes, of course there is an element of risk in doing so—be sure to factor in your hand and the game situation (for example, if you're playing against another control deck and have no way to bounce it, you probably have time and you wouldn't want to risk your one way you do find to get countered)—but the deck is built to allow for casting a turn-four Pact in most situations.

Another important point is to not forget that Pact can also be a win condition. Dealing 4 to the opponent and reusing the pact several more times can certainly add up to 20. In a deck with few win conditions, don't forget about this one.

Pact responsibly...but Pact often.

A Standard control staple, I couldn't imagine playing any fewer than four copies here. Not only is it just a strong card, but in this particular deck it helps find your ways to bounce or get rid of Pact! You definitely want to be playing these.

A premier Standard removal spell, this fits well into this strategy. It not only offs creatures like Siege Rhino, but also takes care of any Planeswalkers—which can definitely be problematic in the long game this deck aims to play. I'll play all four!

Now here we get to something a little less usual: Disperse! In the place of something that you might normally see in a blue-black control deck, like Bile Blight, Disperse is certainly weaker at removing creatures.

However, what you end up with in exchange is a way to reset your Demonic Pact—a crucial element of making this deck function. And in that sense, Disperse can act as a card much more powerful than the normal Disperse you're used to casting!

Having a hand choked on Disperse is fairly undesirable, but you definitely don't mind drawing one or two as it is both good with Pact and as a way to slow down the early game. Three is a good number here.

Once you've hit spell mastery, this nice little trick can delay two creatures from hitting you for a couple attack steps. While a nice effect to have around, I'd rather have something more universal—and that's good in more matchups. Plus, delaying creatures is nice—but you still do have to fight them off eventually.

Instead, fitting into the same cheap mana slot is Clash of Wills. This new counterspell from Magic Origins is a simple way to stop your opponent from playing on-curve threats—and getting behind on the curve is a primary way this deck can lose. In the late game this can still easily serve as a counterspell, and early on they are probably going to tap out for a lot of their spells anyway. This plays a similar role to Silumgar's Command, only we don't have to load up with dragons in our deck to use it. I'm happy with the full four Clash of Wills.

After adding in Clash of Wills, this deck doesn't need as many counterspells. I'm still going to want some Silumgar's Command because it resets Demonic Pact, so that makes Dissolve look steadily less exciting. I'll keep one Dissolve to have as a full-on counterspell that you can choose from your selection of Dig Through Times if you need to, but I don't want more than one.

Instead, I'd rather be proactive. While it certainly isn't breaking any innovation benchmarks, I've found Thoughtseize very strong when playing the current Esper Dragons decks—and here you even have all of that lovely Demonic Pact life gain to make up for the 2 life you lose! Additionally, making sure your opponent doesn't have a way to stop you from killing off your own Pact on the crucial turn is going to be very important. As another small thing, it helps fuel your Dig Through Times early in the game so you can find your bounce spells easier. I'll take three Thoughtseize here.

Languish is awesome and excellent for the most part. It's a great sweeper that can deal with a wide class of threats.

However, there are a couple creatures that elude its grasp—primarily Siege Rhino and Dragons. Now, I definitely don't want to get rid of all the Languishes—that four mana benchmark for wiping the board can be game-changing. However, I would like to swap one out for a Crux of Fate. In a deck that features Dig Through Time, finding a one-of is actual reasonable and having that as a potential option is worth it. Two Languish, one Crux is what I'll go with.

Speaking of sweepers, here's Perilous Vault! It is turn slower than the prior two mentioned (which is why I still want one Crux since you can end-step cast Dig early, find Crux, then untap and use it), but it does have the advantage of wiping out non-creature threats…including your Demonic Pacts!

That's right: rather than bounce your Pacts, Vault can clear them out in a pinch. That can be especially useful if, say, you have two ticking down or if you need to both wipe the board and simultaneously make sure you don't lose to your own Pact.

Two is a number here I like: you don't want to draw a ton of these, but they can be plenty useful and are good to be able to Dig for. Two it is!

The blue-black Command is plenty strong, and has just been slightly outclassed to show up before now. But with its bounce mode suddenly has a high impact, it's the perfect time for this Command to show up!

Doing plenty of things that fit a control deck nicely, the ability to reset your Pacts makes this card shine. Casting a turn-four Pact, doing something else on turn five (perhaps a Dig Through Time!), and then leaving this up on turn six or seven can be completely brutal.

While I only want two copies, just because it's a tad expensive at five mana and a little weak against Dragon decks, I'm still very happy to have those two.

In addition, another card just sitting on the fringe of Standard that finally has his chance to come out is Jace, the Living Guildpact. In addition to bouncing your own Pact, it can also help you find action to close out the game with its +1—and if it hits ultimate, ensure you can redraw any win conditions that might have been Thoughtseized or killed off. There's only room for one copy, but I'm happy with one.

In addition to being a premier win condition once Pact has stripped your opponent of cards in hand and pushed you ahead, Ugin can even clear out your Pacts for you if absolutely necessary! Perfect. This Spirit Dragon makes for a great finishing move with this deck, and I'd like to keep both of them.

Finally, I would like one more win condition. The card that fits well here is Silumgar, the Drifting Death. It has hexproof so it can't be killed by targeted removal, kills off tokens, and avoids Elspeth's -3 ability. Playing one copy here is perfect.

With all of those tweaks, that brings the deck to:

Gavin Verhey's High Im-Pact Control

Download Arena Decklist

A little dangerous? Absolutely. But being the greatest can come with costs. It's a calculated risk. (As a side note, I'm pretty certain "calculated risk" are two of a Demon's favorite words to hear.)

There are a few ways you could try modifying this deck further. The first one I would see is trying to add white for an Esper version that features Utter End, and potentially even something like Ojutai. I could even see a Dragon Control version of this deck!

But regardless of which direction you take, I hope you have fun with it. May Demonic Pact serve you well!

McArtor's Mentions

Each week on McArtor's mentions, we take a look at some of the other great decks sent in over the past week. Check out some of these takes on the new Standard!

Qoarl's Mono-red Timetwister

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Kento Hatao's Valiant Soldiers

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Jeff van Egmond's Walkers Company

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Takahiro Machida's LIVING JACE

Download Arena Decklist

Andrew Weisel's Big Red

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Itou Kazunari's S-elfish

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Nick Frega's Mardu Beatdown

Download Arena Decklist

Kojima Kouji's Hydra Midrange

Download Arena Decklist

Dav's G/W Beats

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Bryce Stonehouse's Rally the Pack

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SwapGoTron's Charming Goggles

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A Visit to Vryn

Remember earlier, when I said you'd be seeing more of Jace soon enough? I wasn't kidding—you will definitely be seeing more of him soon. Why? Because in two weeks it's Jace Week!

Format: Magic Origins Standard

Restrictions: Your deck must contain Jace, Vryn's Prodigy

Deadline: Monday, July 13th, at 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!)

Ah, Jace! It should be fun to look through what you all build with him. And, of course, bonus points if the deck is otherwise Jace themed!

In the meantime, if you have any questions or feedback at all, please send them my way! It's great to hear from all of you, and you can always send me a tweet or ask me a question on my Tumblr.

I'll be back next week with a look at Gideon for Gideon Week! Until then, may you never have the misfortune of selecting "you lose the game."

Talk with you again next week,




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