Deck Swap

Posted in Serious Fun on March 29, 2011

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

Building decks can be tricky business. Some of you are incredibly creative players with a real knack for the new. Whether it's Commander, Two-Headed Giant, Standard, or just vanilla multiplayer, the decks others have cooked up and fleshed out are the decks I usually admire most.

The other week I suggested trying other player's deck as a way to break up aggression or monotony within a play group. What I didn't do a very good job in conveying is exactly how much fun it is to give someone else's deck a try.

It's part of the journey into the unknown, the exciting thrill of peeking at each draw, unsure of what's coming next that makes someone else's deck an interesting adventure. Beyond seeing Magic through someone else's shoes, borrowing a deck gives you an opportunity to actually live out someone else's experience.

I say "opportunity" because while we may be playing the same deck, how I play the cards within it will be at least a little unique to me. And that's part of the true beauty of Magic: the same pieces become very different parts, even in the same system.

Musical Chairs

On some of the occasions that I've jumped into games with my local troupe, I managed to grab the deck list and share something interesting. Taking the inspiration or following the lead from someone else is an easy way to get in on previously unknown action you enjoy. And as an added bonus for me, many of my fellow comrades-in-playing enjoy switching decks up too.

So that's exactly what I did.

Since I'm a little overly fond of it, I brought an updated Quest for Ula's Temple deck, the one we put together last year for US Nationals. It's still a scream for me to throw down powerful undersea denizens at the end of turns. But, oddly enough, I've never actually faced my own fate.

A Super-Soaker 3.1 Adventure

Download Arena Decklist

It's a little awkward at times but surprisingly fun to play—at least that's my take. With a lot of cards that can massage the top of the deck, a few that can draw deep and rebuy lost swimmers, and a Mimic Vat to boot, this is the kind of blue deck I love.

And I was looking forward to not playing it all night.

With a store deeply stocked in casual night players it wasn't hard to find a few friendly faces. Several of my fellow players gleefully swapped decks and got down to business.

And with the same contorted faces, we drew our opening sevens into the dark.


Yitzy is a regular around the shop and often finds wonderful treasures in packs that he gladly trades off to me (like the foil Green Sun's Zenith I've been digging at for a Commander deck). The deck he traded me this time, however, looked a little like this.

At a glance it's clear: let the beatdown with Soldiers commence!

The early turns consisted of Yitzy casting combinations of Brainstorm, Preordain, and finally a Clone Shell, as I tore through his life with a Ballyrush Banneret and Veteran Swordsmith. The Hero of Bladehold I dropped the turn before he died sealed the deal.

Ballyrush Banneret
Veteran Swordsmith

I knew from playing my deck previously that it would sometimes start a little slower than slow. But there were also explosive starts hidden in there. Yitzy didn't seem to mind either way and was up for trying it again, having decided to go first.

And there it was on the first turn: Island, then Quest for Ula's Temple.

Quest for Ula's Temple

And over the next three upkeeps, it revealed Mulldrifter, Deep-Sea Kraken, and Stormtide Leviathan, in that order. Then, another Stormtide Leviathan. And, after plopping those two big fish into play, he still had yet a third in hand to join them.

By my fifth turn the writing was on the wall, and nothing remotely useful came off Yitzy's deck. It was a little odd: knowing what a savage run my deck could do was a little different from actually seeing it happen across the table.

Yitzy fanned through the rest of my deck, as I did for his, and we both liked what we saw. Quest for Ula's Temple isn't an everyday kind of deck, and it isn't usually the kind to handle an aggressive load like Yitzy's Soldier-Knight rushing.

Or so I thought. Maybe the awesome opening of the Quest on turn one is a bit much?


Don is always up for playing some Magic. Whether it's something a little more finessed, like Legacy or Standard, or knock-about good-times casual, like Two-Headed Giant or multiplayer, he's always ready and willing.

This time the deck I was handed was something not uniquely Don, but certainly a usual suspect in Don's bag of tricks.

It was like a hopping to a time machine; when our Quest for Ula's Temple deck was just getting started, Pyromancer Ascension decks were having some of their own spotlight in the competitive world. I wasn't familiar with trying to power up the red Ascension, but I knew the general premise of the deck was to cast many spells, specifically those already cast at least once before, then blow up some life or library.

Pyromancer Ascension

On a hunch I decided to play like it was just such a deck and was rewarded with seeing the namesake enchantment a few turns into the game. To get an Ascension down I had to fight through Don repeatedly playing Mimic Vat then Mulldrifter or Æthersnipe.

Mimic Vat

It took all four copies of Into the Roil across ten turns, and more than a few Preordains as well, to get to a second active Ascension, letting me convert two Lightning Bolts into Don's doom. It was close, though.

Don was able to slip some fish onto the battlefield in the first game. The second game featured some unintended consequences as I used Tome Scour to great effect, getting an early active Pyromancer Ascension and drilling his library down to just 27 cards. But Don dropped in both copies of Oversold Cemetery and was able to get back both Mulldrifter and Æthersnipe every upkeep.

Oversold Cemetery

Meanwhile, he was scrying to his heart's content with Crystal Ball. And Mimic Vat may have shown up too.

I know I'd be feeling awesome if it was me sitting across the way.

In a reversal of roles, he used Æthersnipe to keep Ascensions off the board. Once he hit critical mana he played Wrexial, the Risen Deep and suspended Deep-Sea Kraken. It was looking really good for him until I was able to untap with a counter on one of my Ascensions. An Into the Roil and Archive Trap later, I squeaked by before the big fish did the Don's dirty work.

Wrexial, the Risen Deep

Playing Don's deck started out a little scary, only having a few spells to push back the tide of Leviathans and Krakens. But playing against my own deck afforded me the knowledge to which things I needed to push back on more than others. Handy, but also not the most fair of situations to be placing others in, even if they too have a similar knowledge set for their deck.


As a fellow Adam of the world, I was excited to hear that Adam had "some Goblins" for me to try out. They aren't my usual cup of tea despite how frequently I ponder decks built around them.

Red and black Goblins promised both a steady stream of angry dudes and a specific deficit in ways for me to attack the Quest for Ula's Temple directly. And after a brief moment of "Uh oh!" I started to get excited.

The first game was the usual Goblin affair: drop some creatures, attack, and lay down any burn spell handy. The first game was also the unusual Quest affair: a turn-one Quest led to two Stormtide Leviathans on the battlefield by the end of my fourth turn.

Sometimes, blistering fast isn't quick enough.

The next game started much more promising since despite his first turn Quest again, I was able to attack and use a combination of Fodder Launch and Lightning Bolt to kill the first Stormtide Leviathan and get another attack in to drop him to just 2 life.

Fodder Launch
Lightning Bolt

Thanks to that Quest on turn one, however, things were pretty complicated after that.

It was a strange situation: Stormtide Leviathan held back my entire angry crew, but also restrained Deep-Sea Kraken. While I ended up just one more draw away from a finishing blow via Lightning Bolt, what bothered me more was the "This is not awesome" moment of the Deep-Sea Krakens with Stormtide Leviathan.

Adam didn't seem to mind as much, since Stormtide did exactly what it's meant to do (stop combat from decks like Goblins), but I like all my creatures to be cracking when possible.

Experiment Results

While these little demos of switching up decks with opponents seemed a little silly at the start, they definitely helped point out some clear trends with my deck that are most visible looking in from the outside:

All three—Yitzy, Don, and Adam—enjoyed the deck. While it wasn't something they themselves would necessarily create, the mix of powerful effects and random shenanigans (Is there any time Mimic Vat isn't both of those?) kept them interested. In that same way, I played a Goblins deck, an aggressive deck I usually don't run with, and Pyromancer Ascension, a combo deck I wasn't intimate with.

We all came away a little wiser to the world of Magic. And now it's time to turn some updating over to you guys. I've been playing with Quest for Ula's Temple deck for quite a months and I believe it's time to try something different.

What's the most fun deck thought or idea you'd had in a long time? Is there a specific deck you've already seem in action? Share what you think the next Serious Fun deck should be and we'll run a poll in a week or so.

And while Soldiers, Goblins, and Pyromancer Ascension were all fine decks (the Ascension one was especially fun to fiddle around with!), I'd like to broaden the scale a little more. If you send me an idea and a deck list, I can give it a whirl online to see exactly what you're talking about.

Join us next week when we jump into a dark side of the multiverse!

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