Explorations #44 - Embracing Confusion
So I was away for a couple of weeks, and then wrote an article that was mostly about hiking. I wanted to thank everyone right off the bat for all the various congratulations messages, it really meant a lot to me.
Now that I'm back in the swing of things, let's build a fun and wacky casual deck!
Mirrodin is one of my favorite blocks of all time, even though lots of people have negative feelings towards the block in general. If you go back and look through three sets, you'll see that there are TONS of cool and flavorful cards. Many, many cards that all just scream out, "Please build a deck around me!" They just keep coming, one after another.
Unfortunately, here's what people remember the most about Mirrodin block:
Yeah, those cards didn't end up creating a very enjoyable Standard environment. Today let's start off with a look at the lighter side of Mirrodin:
Every once in a while I see someone running a deck based on this sweet enchantment, and I always tell myself that it looks like fun and I should build a deck like that someday. Well, the time is now!
Back when I first starting playing Magic, Gauntlets of Chaos was one of my favorite cards:
I loved how this one seemed to be a solution for pretty much any problem. No matter what badass card happened to be ruining my day, chances are Gauntlets of Chaos has something to say about it. Opponent has Shivan Dragon? No problem! Mishra's Workshop? Not an issue! Millstone? Nothing to worry about! This ability to deal with generic threats is shared with other personal favorites from the time such as Icy Manipulator, Desert Twister, and Demonic Tutor. I guess it shouldn't be a huge surprise that Vindicate is one of my all time favorite cards.
Anyways, Confusion in the Ranks is like Gauntlets of Chaos supercharged and with a double-edge. It's effectively Gauntlets of Chaos that automatically triggers whenever an artifact, creature, or enchantment comes into play for either player. Notice that this is slightly different from Gauntlets of Chaos, in the original Gauntlets could deal with artifact, creatures, or lands - Confusion in the Ranks triggers on artifacts, creatures, and enchantments. An important distinction.
Now at this point we have two options. We could just go ahead and run this card in an average red deck and hope to have some fun, or we could build a deck designed to maximize the power of Confusion in the Ranks. If you've been reading my stuff for any length of time, you know we're obviously going with option number two. Let's start off by going through a whole bunch of cards that can work to break the 'symmetry' of Confusion in the Ranks.
Let's say we play a creature and use the Confusion in the Ranks trigger to trade it for one of our opponent's monsters. Right now we're the owner of the creature we cast even though it's currently under our opponent's control. If we use Tel-Ajid Stylus to send that creature to the bottom of our library, then we've effectively just cast Control Magic. This also works for artifacts and enchantments.
Norin the Wary
Ahhhh the Time Spiral joke that is Norin the Wary. Creative deckbuilders have spent years trying to find good applications for Norin, and Confusion in the Ranks is an absolute perfect one. Norin the Wary comes into play and trades for one of your opponent's creatures. Whenever anything at all happens, Norin leaves the battlefield and then returns at the end of turn - which allows you to trade for another creature!
For sure I'll be running Norin the Wary in this deck, you've got to play that guy every time you get the opportunity.
Glitterfang, Viashino Sandscout, Viashino Sandstalker
These cards are functionally similar to Norin the Wary when it comes to Confusion in the Ranks. These three guys are red creatures with a built in mechanism to bring them back into play. The main difference is that you need to wait a turn and recast these guys, whereas Norin the Wary returns at the end of turn automatically with no future mana investment.
On the other hand, Glimmerfang and the Viashino creature are capable of beating down. Norin the Wary has a very difficult time getting through the red zone. Not even Stifle or Trickbind help. I'm not really sure what does.
Very similar to Norin the Wary, although Saltskitter costs four, has beefier stats, and stands some chance of making it through the red zone.
I've used this card before in a deck with Endless Whispers that you can read about here SPGTODO, but Bronze Bombshell also works great with Confusion in the Ranks. Four mana turns into Control Magic plus Searing Flesh. Not bad at all!
Empty the Warrens, Warbreak Trumpeter, Firecat Blitz
Here are a bunch of different ways to put a ton of tokens into play, which we can use to trade for our opponent's more useful creatures. The Firecat Blitz tokens have the benefit of automatically exiling at the end of the turn.
This one turns the creature trading aspect of Confusion in the Ranks up a notch, basically doubling every creature swap.
This ever-useful piece of equipment allows us to protect our most valuable creature from our opponent's Confusion in the Ranks efforts via shroud, and the best part is that we can reequip it for zero mana. The haste ability is also useful, allowing us to steal and then attack with our opponent's best creature all in one go.
Another funky recursive creature that we can use for some creature or artifact-controlling shenanigans. Pretty much requires that we play four copies.
Can be used as a sacrifice outlet for our opponent's creatures, combos well with Myr Servitor above.
Let's say your opponent has a good creature in play, like say Chameleon Colossus. Why not just create a 0/1 pest and trade? Can also steal artifacts.
Tutors up Confusion in the Ranks.
Seat of the Synod, Ancient Den, Great Furnace, Tree of Tales, Vault of Whispers
Land drops that turn into artifact swapping once Confusion in the Ranks comes online. Note that we can also use these to trade lands, due to how Confusion in the Ranks is worded.
Illusions of Grandeur
Confusion in the Ranks can basically act as Donate for Illusions of Grandeur, the only problem is that our opponent needs to have an enchantment in play - which is not exactly a given.
One cool aspect of building a deck around Confusion in the Ranks, is that the deck needs to have a decent red component. If we're talking a large red component, then the first natural idea is to build a mono red deck which doesn't require an expensive manabase. I always like to make budget versions of decks if I can, and today's idea really lends itself to this. So the first version I want to mess around with is a budget-ish, Extended, mono-red deck. Check it out:
I consider this to be a straightforward mono-red Confusion in the Ranks deck. It uses the framework of Norin the Wary, Glitterfang, Viashino Sandscout, and Viashino Sandstalker to get in for beats and steal creatures with Confusion in the Ranks. On top of this aggressive creature base I've added Lightning Bolt, Magma Jet, and Banefire. Seething Song can increase explosiveness and power out a turn three Confusion in the Ranks.
This deck is pretty cheap, you should be able to put it together for around $15 or so from scratch. If you want to cut the price down a bunch more, then you can try these changes.
Out: 4 Great Furnace, 4 Magma Jet, 2 Banefire
In: 4 Mountain, 4 Incinerate, 2 Blaze
Alright now that both of those deckslist are out there, I'm going to run through a few test games. I'm going to be using the non-super-budget version, let's see how it runs.
Game 1 vs UW Control
I start off with Ghitu Encampment, Mountain - my opponent starts off with Hallowed Fountain and Island. At the end of turn two I cast Magma Jet, but it gets taken care of with Remand. This was all part of my plan, so I untap and use Seething Song into Confusion in the Ranks. My opponent plays out Jester's Scepter, and I come back with Genesis Chamber and Glitterfang.
He plays out Worship, which automatically trades for my Confusion in the Ranks. My opponent does not like this fact and concedes.
Analysis: It was pretty cool how I was able to bait out Remand with Magma Jet at end of turn and then throw my opponent a huge curveball with Seething Song into Confusion in the Ranks. Confusing and complicated cards like this are kind of fun, since the average opponent makes so many bad plays. I mean he just gave me Worship, which pretty much makes it impossible for him to win.
Game 2 vs W Soldiers
I keep a lame one land hand, and start off by getting in with Glitterfang. My opponent plays out Mosquito Guard and then Ballyrush Banneret, which really puts the brakes on my offense. Veteran's Armaments come into play followed by the Veteran Swordsmith himself, but I take him down with Lightning Bolt. Veteran Armorsmith comes into play on the next turn, and I have to find some land so I use Magma Jet to take out his Banneret, which thankfully finds Kher Keep.
This third land allows me to play Seething Song and then Confusion in the Ranks, my opponent comes back with Cenn's Tactician. I take some damage, but I'm all ready to unload some creatures and steal a bunch of Soldiers. I cast out Glitterfang, but Path to Exile removes it before the swap can happen. I cast Viashino Sandscout on the same turn, but ANOTHER Path to Exile takes him down before the swap can happen. I take a bunch of damage and go down to five life, but thanks to the Path to Exile mana I'm able to cast double Viashino Sandstalker on the next turn and steal his two best creatures. With no way to get out of this he concedes.
Analysis: This game was a real good example of this deck working correctly, even though I did keep a stupid hand with just one land. It was very unfortunate that he had double Path to Exile, but it was also very fortunate that I had so many Viashino-style creatures.
One thing to note is that I had Nuisance Engine in my hand in each of the first two games, and had no desire at all to cast it. I'm going to change up the deck a bit based on this. Out comes one copy of Nuisance Engine in exchange for a third copy of Norin the Wary. We'll play a few more games and see if the last one should go.
PS - If you're not playing on a budget, then I'd recommend swaping out one Mountain for Miren, the Moaning Well. This lets you sacrifice unwanted (stolen) creatures for a life boost.
Out: 1 Nuisance Engine
In: 1 Norin the Wary
Back to test!
Game 3 vs UBR Cruel Control
I start off by beating down with Glitterfang and Viashino Sandscout, but I end up on the bad end of a three-for-zero Slice and Dice! Phyrexian Rager and Mulldrifter come down for my opponent, but I manage to get some offense going again with double Ghitu Encampment. I get in some decent beats, but then another Slice and Dice puts a stop to that quickly.
Magma Jet lets me keep Confusion in the Ranks on top of my deck. I'm hoping that my opponent will tap out for some badass creature, and then I'll be able to drop Confusion in the Ranks with Norin the Wary on one turn and take the threat. Unfortunately my opponent plays out a few Darksteel Ingots, and then casts Cruel Ultimatum and ruins this plan. I start getting something going again with the last two Ghitu Encampments in my deck, but then Slice and Dice takes them out, Izzet Chronarch hits the table and I take Cruel Ultimatum again. I manage to kill the Chronarch and get in for some damage again, but Makeshift Mannequin brings the Chronarch back to play and then... yep you guessed it - Cruel Ultimatum #3. Triple Jund Charm turns his Izzet Chronarch into an 8/8 and it finishes me off.
Analysis: Well, triple Cruel Ultimatum is very tough to win through - so it shouldn't be too surprising that I lost this one in the end. I was actually really surprised at how much resilience this deck showed in the face of that nightmare sorcery. The fact that my opponent was playing tons of two toughness creatures and I had Ghitu Encampment really helped, since he was forced into many unfavorable blocks - but it was just a matter of time before I was buried under piles of card advantage.
Also I had a feeling there was another Slice and Dice coming when I lost my two Ghithu Encampments, but I had no choice but to keep sending in the team and hope that he didn't have it. I certainly wasn't going to win in the long game once Cruel Ultimatum came online. After the first copy resolved I really thought I still had a decent chance to win. If I was running Shrapnel Blast, then it would have represented the win, but Ultimatum #2 removed any remaining hope I had.
Game 4 vs Merfolk
My opponent starts off with Cursecatcher and I play out Ghitu Encampment. He plays Merfolk Sovereign and I take care of it with Magma Jet. He attacks with Cursecatcher and I don't think he notices I had Encampment mana up and my first striker eats his guy. He passes the turn with no play and I start getting in for some damage with Viashino Sandstalker, which he can't block. Cursecatcher comes down and chump block, then Sygg, River Guide hits play. By this point I have enough land to cast Confusion in the Ranks with Glitterfang and steal Sygg. This gets the concession.
Analysis: My opponent's deck never really got going well in this one, he was on three lands for a while and not really casting anything while I built up Confusion in the Ranks mana. I'm really curious what he had in hand with three mana in play and not a ton of plays for a Merfolk deck. Maybe Wanderwine Prophets? Deepchannel Mentor?
Game 5 vs UW Control
I start off with a hand with zero lands, a hand with just Kher Keep, and then five decent cards. I play out Ghitu Encampment and my opponent suspends Riftwing Cloudskate. I get in there with Viashino Sandstalker and then recast the Sandstalker only to run into Mana Leak. He plays Mistmeadow Witch, which I take out with Lightning Bolt. I start getting in with Glitterfang, but his Riftwing Cloudskate hits the table followed by Mulldrifter and I'm having a tough time getting any more damage through.
I play out Confusion in the Ranks, but Mana Leak stops my key enchantment from hitting the table. He casts a second Mistmeadow Witch and Momentary Blinks my attempt to get rid of it with Magma Jet. I have my opponent fairly low on life, but times are tough with active Mistmeadow Witch on Riftwing Cloudskate. Thousand-Year Elixir only makes things worse and I can't finish.
Analysis: The mulligan to five really hurt this game, but UW Blink control is just a terrible matchup for this deck. Even if I had been able to get Confusion in the Ranks into play, he had plenty of ways to bounce it. Once we entered the late game, my creatures were not scary at all and he had tons of board control options.
Game 6 vs GW Manascrewed Control-ish?
I play out Ghitu Encampment and then Viashino Sandscout, which my opponent gets rid of with Path to Exile. On the next turn I play out another Sandscout, which my opponent takes out with another Path to Exile - after missing his land drop. Thanks to those two Paths I have plenty of land and I unload with Viashino Sandstalker and Glitterfang. My opponent doesn't hit another land drop until he's pretty much dead.
Analysis: This was just a manascrew bummer for my opponent. He ended up discarding Thornling and Austere Command, so obviously he was going for some kind of control strategy. This deck isn't the most aggressive thing ever, but it has can put some damage together when it really needs to.
Game 7 vs GW
I start off with Glitterfang and then Genesis Chamber. My opponent plays Steward of Valeron and then Oblivion Ring to get rid of my Genesis Chamber, which is a major bummer. I play Sandscout, but then my opponent drops another Steward of Valeron and Quillspike on the same turn - I take them each out with a Lightning Bolt. My opponent comes back with Wilt-Leaf Liege and I'm forced to use a Bolt and a Banefire to get rid of the big guy.
After this my opponent plays out Heartmender and another Quillspike. I stay alive for a while with Ghitu Encampment and Kher Keep, but am stuck on just these three lands forever. I never draw any more lands or Seething Song, which prevents me from casting Confusion in the Ranks.
Analysis: Once again in this game I had Nuisance Engine in hand without any desire to get it into play. I definitely want to remove the final copy from this deck. In addition, I didn't realize how strong of a backup plan Genesis Chamber was for when Confusion in the Ranks doesn't hit the table, so I want to go up to four copies of this artifact.
Out: 1 Nuisance Engine, 1 Viashino Sandscout
In: 2 Genesis Chamber
Hopefully these changes will make the deck a little bit more resilient to draws that don't include Confusion in the Ranks.
Game 8 vs RDW
I play out Norin the Wary and then turn two Genesis Chamber, which starts pumping out 1/1s. My opponent uses Lightning Bolt and then Incinerate to knock down my life total, but I amass a huge army of 1/1s with double Glitterfang in my hand. Boggart Ram-Gang comes into play and I take him down with a Bolt of my own. At four mana I am now able to create four 1/1s each turn with the aforementioned double Glitterfang and Norin the Wary along with Viashino Sandscout. I go down to six life via burn and Keldon Marauders, but my 1/1 army is overwhelming.
Analysis: One game in and I'm already psyched about the four Genesis Chamber plan. I can't believe I didn't understand how important that card was to the strategy in the absence of Confusion in the Ranks, but at least I learned my lesson!
Game 9 vs RB Grow/Devour
I start off with Glitterfang and my opponent casts Dragon Fodder. I play out Genesis Chamber and he gets Rockslide Elemental along with a Myr token. I use Magma Jet to take down the Rockslide Elemental before it gets too big and then start creating 1/1 tokens with Glitterfang. Scavenger Drake hits the table and I take it down with a Lightning Bolt, my opponent plays Goblin Assault.
At this point I'm creating two 1/1 creatures per turn with Glitterfang and Viashino Sandscout. My opponent uses my Genesis Chamber tokens to create a 10/10 beater, which I start to chump block. I'm one mana away from Confusion in the Ranks for like five turns when Volcanic Fallout wipes out my team and I take ten. I honestly didn't see Fallout coming from a deck with so many little creatures, that one caught me by surprise. Puncture Blast and Lightning Bolt finish me off.
Analysis: This one was a really close, fun game. I really thought I was going to pull it off after having so many chances to draw into Confusion in the Ranks mana. I guess maybe I should have seen the Fallout coming somehow, but it just seemed to out of place. Genesis Chamber worked really well for me in this game, even if it did fuel my opponent's strategy.
Game 10 vs Black Cloudpost
I start off with Glitterfang and my opponent plays out Cloudpost and then Swamp. I get Genesis Chamber, Magma Jet into another Genesis Chamber, and then start making 1/1s. My opponent brings Big Game Hunter into play and gets some 1/1s of his own. I draw Norin the Wary and my enormous army overwhelms my opponent.
Analysis: This one went pretty much as it was drawn up. Norin the Wary is so much fun to draw with multiple Genesis Chambers in play. I spent most of this game with triple Seething Song in my hand - where were they last game??
Game 11 vs UB Control
I start off strong with Glitterfang, Viashino Sandscout, and then Seething Song into Confusion in the Ranks. My opponent plays out Ashen-Skin Zubera, which I'm able to steal, and Bile Urchin which hits me for one. I get through twice with the Zubera along with Viashino Sandstalker - but then Hideous Laughter puts an end to that party. Pulse of the Dross forces me to discard a Viashino Sandscout, and my opponent comes back with Kira, Great Glass-Spinner.
I'm able to steal the Glass Spinner with a combination of Glitterfang and Norin the Wary. I don't draw any more firepower, but I'm able to beat down successfully with these two creatures.
Analysis: Last game showed what the deck can do with Genesis Chamber, and this game showed what it can do with Confusion in the Ranks. Not even Kira, Great Glass-Spinner can resist the pull of confusion.
Some Different Looks
After those last two games, it seems like the perfect time to wrap things up. I really love how this deck can run any of three different gameplans depending on the draw and matchup. Crimson Confusion can go for the straight-up beatdown, the Genesis Chamber Myr token swarm, or the Confusion in the Ranks creature steal.
Before I go I want to throw out a few different options for this deck as well as some different directions to take the deck if you're interested. Let's start off with some potential options for the mono red version.
Grey Ogre with the ability to bounce itself is kind of a nice compliment to the Viashino Spells. It may be nice to have something in this deck that can stick around for more than a turn.
If stealing enchantments is what you want to do in Extended, then Ghitu Firebreathing is probably the best option.
Once, a long time ago, I was beaten down in a triple Urza's draft by the combination of Scoria Wurm and Mask of Law and Grace. Yep, you read that correctly. I can't believe it worked either, and it's always stuck in my head.
I like the idea of running this card. It is a bit of removal and a bigger body that can stick around for a while if needed like Grinning Ignus. If it turns out that you end up running a bunch of Snow-Covered Mountains, then be sure to run Skred.
If you end up running creatures that don't have built-in bounce, then Blood Clock is a great way to add the functionality. Not only does Blood Clock give you a way to return creatures to your hand, but it forces your opponent to do the same.
If you want to run a variation of this deck, then I've got two Classic versions to throw out there. Take a look at this red-white Classic deck:
This deck has a few things going for it. It's a solid two color, R/W deck with Confusion in the Ranks and Enlightened Tutors to find it. Enlightened Tutor also benefits from a toolbox of seven different artifacts to seek up on command as needed. This is a highly customizable set, and I've gone with a mix of a whole bunch of different stuff in this list, it'll take a bunch of testing to figure out what the correct balance should be.
On top of all of this, I've built a bit of a RW control shell, since we need to survive long enough to get Confusion in the Ranks going. Ghostly Prison slows down the assault, Lightning Helix and Pyroclasm remove creatures, and Firemane Angel is one of my all time favorite win conditions. I'm running it as an alternate wincon to Confusion in the Ranks shenanigans.
This deck may want to run Wrath of God or Balance, so if you're into either of those then go ahead and find some space. Another card you could find space for is Illusions of Grandeur. Since we're running Enlightened Tutor anyways, then we could just put in a singleton copy to search up when our opponent has a nice enchantment to swap with.
Out: 1 Ghostly Prison
In: 1 Illusions of Grandeur
There are a million different things we could do to support this tiny splash in the manabase, here's one way:
Out: 1 Ghostly Prison, 1 Pyroclasm, 1 Plains, 2 Mountain, 1 Rugged Prairie
In: 2 Coalition Relic, 1 Plateau, 2 Volcanic Island, 1 City of Brass
So this deck runs one copy of Illusions of Grandeur along with two copies of Coalition Relic and some additional dual lands for mana fixing. This mana base is pretty expensive. If you want something cheaper than you could substitute in pain lands, vivid lands, or something like Mirrodin's Core, Rupture Spire, Archaeological Dig or the sad Rainbow Vale. Coalition Relic can be replaced with Darksteel Ingot.
Since we're running blue, it might make sense to check out running a version with a more serious blue component. Brainstorm and Ponder can improve card quality, maybe a single copy of Tinker could run with all of the artifacts to bring Inkwell Leviathan into play? There are tons of possibilities.
So that's the first deckbuilding article that I've managed to write in a while, hopefully you enjoyed it! I think this deck is a blast to play, it's something you can put together on even the tightest budget, and is pretty competitive in the casual room. If you're into wacky decks at all then go ahead and throw it together, you may just love it. If anyone ends up testing variations on the Classic version that I posted let me know how it went!
Tune in next week for a whole bunch of Zendikar deck sketches! Thanks for reading!
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