In With the New

Posted in Serious Fun on January 4, 2011

Normally here is where I'd open with something broad and warm like "Welcome to 2011!" but today isn't totally about the future per se, but how the past can create it. More specifically: how you are creating the future in the past, or something else as confusing as a late 80s or early 90s time travel adventure.

The aptly named The End of 2010 Deck Contest was your chance to cash in and show off the different ways to play for fun. While I try my best to bring you a few new decks to consider, it's the deep diversity and breadth of creative crossings that get sent to me that I think are more interesting. So without further ado here are some winners and honorable mentions that you readers sent in for yourselves!

    Winner: Monocolored

Andrew D.'s Reservoir Dogs

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I'll let Andrew describe his thoughts here:

"Originally the deck was shifting between a few names. 'Scrap Shooter' and 'Myr Vaulter 9000" both seemed pretty fitting, but I love me some old Tarantino references.

Anyways, the primary idea here is to throw various Myr at your opponent until they die. I honestly don't think there's much explanation to do here as the deck pretty much speaks for itself. The focused piece of the deck I believe is Barrage Ogre with his awesome ability to simply turn artifacts into Shocks. His ability to do so is a little limited but you can definitely get it going. Myr Reservoir will be covering for a lot of your Myr costs so your extra mana is there for Embersmith burning and or various other spells.

Obviously Myr Reservoir is great here. Providing for Myr spells is already decent (turn 4-5 Myr Battlesphere is pretty realistic here) but the original intent was the simple yet effective recursion of Perilous Myr.

Finally, the loose ends: Lightning Bolt because the deck is mono-red, Galvanic Blast because metalcraft isn't that difficult here with all those Myr floating around, and Chandra Ablaze since her first two abilities are almost always useful here (+1 shoot for 4 with extra Embersmith / Lightning Bolt / Barrage Ogre / Chandra Ablaze; -2 to fill up your hand again, and any Myr that hit your graveyard in the process are recoverable)."

The first word of the contest came during Burn Week's Third Eye Blind where I also shared a series of ever more variable decks that win through directing damage directly at opponents. Here Andrew gave us yet another burn deck, this one making use of two things I love: Fling-like effects, and cute Myr doing devilish things. If you want a different and interesting deck to sling some burn this is it!

And let's throw a planeswalker into the mix too? Sign me up!

    Honorable Mention: Monocolored

George Z.'s Conviction from Within

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George had a few words to describe the submission as well:

"The deck gets out some fast creatures then uses enchantments to go big. A third turn Hearthfire Hobgoblin followed by a fourth turn Light from Within gets a 5/5 double striker. Kitchen Finks and Wilt-Leaf Liege work well together, and both get very large with a Light out.

Knight of the Holy Nimbus and Finks make standard removal less effective, and the early game fist strike makes blocking difficult. If the quick beatdown approach doesn't work, then Emeria and True Conviction help out in the late game."

I liked this deck because it made good use of hybrid creatures in a monocolored deck. Light from Within is a card I don't often think of when putting together a White Weenie type deck (as opposed to Honor of the Pure and the classic Crusade) and I was pleased to see the chroma interaction with the Lieges. All those pretty hybrid mana symbols are white, even if they're another color too.

And any deck pumping out 5/5 double strikers is alright in my book. As an added bonus the idea to change this deck with just one card came to mind: Opalescence. True Conviction would not only lock up the late game aggression but also play the role of a 9/9 double strike and lifelink beater itself with Light from Within knocking around (though a 6/6 isn't paltry either).

As it is, this deck is pure, unadulterated creature-bashing fun. Sweet.

    Winner: Multicolored

Brian M.'s Gell Hell

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Brian shared how this works:

"I've been using this deck for a while now making slight changes when new sets come out. Since Wurmcoil Engine and Mitotic Slime were introduced this deck has become my favorite to use. It seems to hold up against multiple opponents but I use the sideboard for those occasions.

The idea is pretty straightforward: kill all creatures, my own included! The surprise was when I started playing against infect decks as in most cases the -1/-1 counters didn't matter to me as it kills my creatures quicker, a bonus most of the time; it actually made them rethink an attack as who wants Tuk Tuk or Roc Egg to actually go down?

The winner is usually a Rage Nimbus equipped by Warmonger's Chariot and Basilisk Collar that makes him a flying force. It That Betrays is a fun sideboard for taking the opponents cards they choose to sacrifice."

Not every deck has to be a tuned engine of redundant and efficient pieces. Sometimes you just do things because, well, it's awesome. Let's make creatures, upgrade ours to better things, and come out swinging. Life gain, token making, and Equipment all make this look like a scream.

What I really liked about this deck is that Brian went further and packs a sideboard, converting his deck from one meant for duels into one that is more serviceable for multiplayer engagements. What you take out and what you put in will probably vary depending upon what your friends cook up, but all said, the options available should help make any game a little better.

That, or I'm a sucker for cards I've previewed.

    Honorable Mention: Multicolored

Jesse's Kavu Predator Deck

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Jesse, too, was kind enough to explain what's going on:

"My deck is built around Kavu Predator. The point is to get the Kavu out and either play Skyshroud Cutter or Reverent Silence. Each of your opponents gains 5-6 life, making the Kavu huge and allowing it to possibly knock someone out on that turn. This deck has some of the most insane starts possible and no matter what stage the game is at it's very powerful. I once attacked with a 105/105 predator in a "2v2v1" game where I was the "1." It's probably time to get some Archenemy schemes and see how many opponents I can fend off at once.

I put in as many solid multiplayer cards as I could and they have pretty good synergy. Kitchen Finks can be sacrificed to Greater Gargadon more than twice due to Oran-Rief, the Vastwood. Punishing Fire with Grove of the Burnwillows makes Forgotten Ancient a better top-deck late in the game. The cascade cards effectively give you seven Kavu Predators, and once you get the combo online you can threaten people with Soul's Fire should they try to kill your Kavu."

Zing! I've thought about taking a swing at building my own Kavu Predator deck but here Jesse took care of all the hard work. Make Kavu, make opponents gain life, bash. Rinse and repeat.

Jesse also has an eye for the strategic and built some awesome synergies into the deck: all of you who want to see some multiplayer strategy can find it in droves inside these sixty cards. Handling other opponents, benefitting from having multiple opponents, and including synergy that's hard to slow down once it's going are all things that can be considered in deck building.

You can do anything you want, even if that means focusing more on the how and why of the deck rather than the what.

    Winner: Variant Format

Joseph E.'s Planechase Deck

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Joseph detailed what happens:

"My deck is for the Variant Format, it has produced quite a bit of silliness in our local Planechase scene. This deck is amazingly fun. Bloodbraid Elf cascades into mana ramping or a Paradox Haze. Everyone's turn gives you tokens beyond count sometimes, especially when they have more than one upkeep phase. I've never really compiled a complete and good sideboard for this but I know Summoning Trap is in it."

Planar Magic can be excitingly random and weird, with effects coming and going at what feels like a whim. However, decks like Joseph's here apply a two-pronged approach to dealing with it:

  1. Make lots of mana, which in turn lets you pay for rolling the planar die if you'd like.
  2. Create your own forms of chaos and calamity.

The planes may be shifting but you won't skip a beat when you cast Warp World or power out a Dragon Broodmother. The possibility of Summoning Trap seems nice when every creature is an awesome addition or token-making machine all their own.

But Joseph went further, pointing out that not everyone always wants to play with Planechase. Easy enough: time for Two-Headed Giant!

Joseph's Partner's Two-Headed Giant Deck

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"With all the tokens the first deck produces, the life gain is bountiful. Felidar Sovereign has won us many, many games. I hope this helps any ideas you may have had. Enjoy!"

That's one way to do it: while the first deck is doing its tokens and world-warping thing, the partner deck is profiting wildly. Nearly every creature joins in gaining life whenever buckets of critters pop into existence (or fall from the sky) and they come paired to Equipment and enchantments that also fuel the rising life total.

Two formats, and decks, for the price of one. Nice!

    Honorable Mention: Variant Format

The following deck is a little different: it isn't for a specific format but more a challenge of restrictive deck building.

Jeff van E.'s Budget Tribal Deck

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This deck has a couple of restrictions placed on it—tribal and a budget. I'll let Jeff cover the very straightforward strategy:

The deck basically focused on burn and fast creatures, splashing blue for wee Dragonauts and Distortion Strike.

While at a glance it looks like a similar riff on Kiln Fiend as Jacob Van Lunen made (which you can read about in Distortions) it's the sufficient and necessary considerations of a calculated budget and tribal emphasis that play key here.

Sometimes the ways to play aren't wacky and chaos-inducing, but card type or rarity restricted. Sometimes it's specific themes we have to adhere to. Sometimes it's with only what's lying around the local store, cast off from other's former Limited decks.

The point, however, isn't that budget or tribal considerations are better than other themes, but that within the walls of restriction you find the opportunity to explore things you might only glance at or otherwise overlook altogether. Jeff decided that an Elemental tribal deck that strikes hard and fast was his solution. But Kithkin, Soldiers, Clerics, Vampires, and dozens of other tribes exist. What would you choose if you were in Jeff's shoes?

That's exactly what his local troupe did, organizing a friendly tournament around these budget creations. Having fun can mean just making these wild concoctions, but it can also be about seeing how well they work. As Mark Rosewater says, "Restrictions breed creativity." Get creative and find some restrictions your whole group can get behind to see what's hidden in cards you don't use!

    Don't Drop the Ball

So we have six decks and six now, hopefully, smiling readers. Do you think that's the whole point?

Far from it.

Handing out virtual cookies is good and all but there's something else I wanted to press towards: trying new things. After deftly avoiding it earlier, here is where I'll draw on the cultural mainstay of making resolutions for the new year. There are a lot of things that one can resolve to do this year but I have something specific in mind:

    Resolution for 2011: Play More, Different Magic

It's no secret that I'm a fan of Commander (and am still excited about the upcoming Magic: The Gathering Commander decks!) as well as Stack and cube draft. But as much as I advocate playing Magic different ways I am guilty of sticking to my favorites.

I can come up with a few "justifications" but they end up sounding slightly hollow, mainly because they are hollow. And based on the conversations and happenings I've seen at my local game store I suspect that for many of you this is true as well. I've received numerous emails from those of you who have tried something new and really liked it, as well as those who haven't because your friends won't switch off.

Thusly, I challenge all of us to be resolved to play more Magic, throwing a change-up or two into the mix while we're at it. Several very different decks were shared here today so if you need a suggestion to try something new just grab one of those above and get started. Instead of quitting whatever you love cold turkey, flex a little more variety into your Magic diet. You might be pleasantly surprised by how you feel about this "new, different" way to play.

Join in next week when I dip my toes into a pool I've far too long avoided. See you then!

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