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By: spg, Steve Gargolinski
Dec 04 2009 2:15am
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Explorations #52 - Prison Guards

I've written a whole bunch of Explorations articles, and many of them focus on different deck building exercises.  Sometimes I go in depth with a deck, including card choice analysis, game reports, evolution, etc.  Sometimes I just throw out a whole bunch of different ideas with brief descriptions.  Often during these articles I say something along the lines of, "This deck looks like a lot of fun, I should write a full article on it at some point in the future."

For whatever reason, I don't often manage to do this.  I always mean to, but it just doesn't seem to work out.  Time keeps on moving forward, and it's hard to back up and take another look at an old deck - even if it's a good one.

Today I'm going to change this trend, and build a deck that I've been wanting to for quite some time - one that I called Prison Guards.  I first wrote about this deck here in my M10 set review.  Here's the list for reference:

Prison Guards
Old Extended Legal
Creatures
4 Windborn Muse
4 True Believer
4 Ethersworn Canonist
4 Gaddock Teeg
4 Weathered Wayfarer
4 Aven Mindcensor
4 Qasali Pridemage
1 Kataki, War's Wage
4 Guardian Seraph
33 cards

Other Spells
4 Oblivion Ring
4 cards
 
Lands
10 Plains
1 Forest
4 Windswept Heath
4 Temple Garden
4 Wooded Bastion
23 cards

 
Guardian Seraph


... and here's what I wrote about the deck back then:

"This deck runs just a huge number of creatures that come with built in protection. Here's a rundown:

Guardian Seraph slows down any sort of damage that your opponent is sending your way. Windborn Muse forces them to choose between developing their board and sending their creatures into the red zone. True Believer helps you dodge spells like Tendrils of Agony and Lightning Bolt to the face. Ethersworn Canonist prevents any sort of high-velocity plays for your opponent, fighting things like Ponder into Ponder or a bunch of spells into something with storm. Gaddock Teeg shuts off a huge number of spells that people love to play. Aven Mindcensor prevents any kind of library searching. Qasali Pridemage fights artifacts and enchantments, while Kataki pitches in against artifacts."

Gaddock Teeg Guardian Seraph Qasali Pridemage
Three major pains.

I think that sums up the deck pretty well.  Play out a bunch of creatures, all of them have some sort of protection, and attack.  In a way, you could consider it to be green-white fish.  Even though this deck is almost 100% creatures, it brings a wide variety of effects to the table.  Before I make any changes with this one, I want to take it out for a few test games.

My only change is going to be swapping out Windswept Heath for a few basics, due to the Extended rotation.

Out:  4 Windswept Heath
In:  2 Plains, 2 Forest 

Prison Guards Update
Extended Legal
Creatures
4 Windborn Muse
4 True Believer
4 Ethersworn Canonist
4 Gaddock Teeg
4 Weathered Wayfarer
4 Aven Mindcensor
4 Qasali Pridemage
1 Kataki, War's Wage
4 Guardian Seraph
33 cards

Other Spells
4 Oblivion Ring
4 cards
 
Lands
12 Plains
3 Forest
4 Temple Garden
4 Wooded Bastion
23 cards

 
Guardian Seraph


Let's do it!

Game 1 vs U/R Clout/Chandra

I keep a hand that's full off too much land, and start off with Weathered Wayfarer.  Villain plays out Coldsteel Heart and then Crag Puca, while I come back with Windborn Muse and get through for some damage.  Villain plays Clout of the Dominus on his Crag Puca and I take six, but it seems like I'm the beatdown so I keep getting in for damage.

I use double Oblivion Ring on two consecutive turns to take out Clout of the Dominus and Puca.  Mystical Teachings grabs Into the Roil and I ambush a Scalding Tarn with Aven Mindcensor - which is pretty sweet.  He plays down Chandra Ablaze, but I just attack for the win.

Analysis:  Too much land in this one, although the deck functioned decently.  Ambushing a fetchland with Mindcensor is totally awesome, and occasionally a strong play even in Vintage!  Hopefully next time I'll get less land, more creatures.

Game 2 vs Naya Allies/Obsidian Battle-Axe

Villain starts off with double Jungle Shrine, and I get turn two and three True Believer.  I start to beat down with my 2/2s while villain plays out Obsidian Battle-Axe and then Oran-Rief Survivalist.  Thankfully I've played out Windborn Muse in the meantime, and he's having a lot of trouble sending creatures into the red zone.

I play out Guardian Seraph and continue to get in for damage.  Villain kicks Burst Lightning in order to take my angel down, but I play out a second copy on my next turn.  He gets Kazuul Warlord and Kazandu Blademaster, but I win the damage race pretty easily.

Analysis:  Windborn Muse is an absolute backbreaker when I'm up against any kind of aggro deck.  Not only does she get in there for two evasive points of damage, but she totally stalls out either your opponent's board development or their ability to get into the red zone.  Two games down and Windborn Muse has been great in both games.

Game 3 vs U/G Shorecrasher Beatdown

Obsidian Battle-Axe

I start off with Weathered Wayfarer and then True Believer.  Villain plays out (Slippery Boggle), Shorecrasher Mimic, and then Favor of the Overbeing - which is a gigantic beating.  My only hope is Oblivion Ring, but I take the beatdown before drawing any sort of solution.

Analysis:  Weathered Wayfarer has been almost completely useless in every game that I've drawn him so far, I'm pretty sure that card has got to go.  Not a whole lot to say about this one, my deck can't really battle a gigantic flying, trampling, and vigilant creature very well.

Game 4 vs Mono Black Control

I curve out perfectly in this one with Weathered Wayfarer, Gaddock Teeg, Aven Mindcensor, and Guardian Seraph.  Villain plays out double Mind Stone, but doesn't resolve a single other spell before taking the beatdown.

Analysis:  Villain revealed his hand after the game, which contained triple Tendrils of Corruption.  Thank you Gaddock Teeg!

Intermission

Alright, with a few games under my belt I'm going to take a shot at updating my list.  There are a few cards that I know want to go.

Out:  4 Weathered Wayfarer, 4 Ethersworn Canonist, 1 Kataki, War's Wage

I've had Weathered Wayfarer a lot so far, and it's never been anything other than a simple 1/1.  Ethersworn Canonist is pretty decent, but it just hasn't been maximally useful either.  I'm going to run down a bunch of options to fill out these slots.  Since I'm going to be removing the Warfarers, my plan is to add a land.  That gives us eight slots to fill out.

Heartwood Storyteller
I'm a huge fan of this creature, and I think this is the perfect deck to try him out in.  Since we run pretty close to 100% creatures, the Storyteller will punish our opponent for every non-dude spell they cast.

The only bummer with this guy is that he costs double green, but the mana in this deck is super-easy.

Glowrider
Another way to punish our opponent for even thinking about casting a non-creature spell.  Unfortunately this one rotated out of Extended.

Kami of Ancient Law
Decent beatdown stats with the ability to take out problematic enchantments.

Wickerbough Elder
Decent mid-game stats with the ability to take out enchantments OR artifacts.

Loxodon Hierarch
An old-school favorite.  This card used to be one of the kings of Standard, but now sells for around 1 ticket.  Gains us life, protects the team from certain sweepers, and provides a decent body.

Dauntless Escort

Dauntless Escort
I'm not sure if this card is better or worse than Loxodon Hierarch.  It's lower on the curve, and isn't quite as big - but indestructibility is more useful than regeneration, and his ability doesn't require any mana investment.

Samurai of the Pale Curtain
Fights dredge decks if you want a weapon against that strategy.

Vexing Shusher
If you're having a tough time resolving your spells, then Vexing Shusher is the solution.  Not only does he dodge counterspells, but he has the ability to protect your other spells.
 

Goldmeadow Harrier
At certain times in Magic's history, Whipcorder has been really good.  Goldmeadow Harrier is probably

just better, since it comes down a turn earlier and still provides the sweet tapping ability.  Goldmeadow Harrier not only helps us force damage through, but protects us from creatures above our curve - such as the Shorecrasher Mimic that beat me down before.

Tidehollow Sculler
Tidehollow Sculler doesn't fit into our green-white shell, but is otherwise absolutely perfect for this deck.

... and now to go over a few non-creature options:

Worship
Whenever you're playing a deck with so many creatures, Worship becomes an attractive option.

Honor of the Pure
Pretty much every creature in our deck is white, so this is basically Glorious Anthem for two mana.

Umezawa's Jitte/Loxodon Warhammer
If we reach a creature stalemate, then it's often really advantageous to have a few pieces of powerful equipment.  Not only does this provide some reach, but it also greatly strengthens the power of your topdecks.

Congregation at Dawn
Speaking of topdecks, Congregation at Dawn ensures that you get exactly what you want, other than Oblivion Ring, for the next three turns.

Based on these options, I'm going to try adding in Goldmeadow Harrier and Heartwood Storyteller.

In:  4 Goldmeadow Harrier, 4 Heartwood Storyteller

... and finally I'll be balancing the lands a bit.

Out:  1 Plains
In:  2 Forest

Prison Guards v2
Extended Legal
Creatures
4 Windborn Muse
4 True Believer
4 Goldmeadow Harrier
4 Gaddock Teeg
4 Heartwood Storyteller
4 Aven Mindcensor
4 Qasali Pridemage
4 Guardian Seraph
32 cards

Other Spells
4 Oblivion Ring
4 cards
 
Lands
11 Plains
5 Forest
4 Temple Garden
4 Wooded Bastion
24 cards

 
Heartwood Storyteller


Let's test this baby out!

Game 5 vs R/U Threaten/Bloodpainter

Villain plays out Ornithopter, I cast Gaddock Teeg, he uses Think Twice and then Electrolyzes Teeg.  I come back with Aven Mindcensor, he bring out Orcish Bloodpainter and uses Ornithopter to take down the Mindcensor.  I'm able to come back with Guardian Seraph and threaten three in the air.

Villain play out Dominus of Fealty, which is one nasty combo with Orcish Bloodpainter.  Thankfully I have Oblivion Ring to take care of the big guy - and then Goldmeadow Harrier.  Villain plays out Mulldrifter, a second Orcish Bloodpainter, and then takes down my Goldmeadow Harrier.  I play out a second and third Guardian Seraph, and two Ornithopters chump block.  Threaten grabs one of my Angels and then sacrifices it to the Bloodpainter.  I come back with Heartwood Storyteller and villain concedes.

Analysis:  I didn't get either of the new creatures going in this one, but they were both pretty threatening.  Villain took out the Harrier immediately, and concedes as soon as I cast Heartwood Storyteller.  Let's play another game or two and see if we can get these guys some action.

Game 6 vs Ramp/Landfall Elves

I start off with Goldmeadow Harrier into Qasali Pridemage.  Villain spends his first two turns casting Llanowar Elves, but I'm able to send both creatures - he doesn't have any profitable blocks.  I add Heartwood Storyteller to my army along with Gaddock Teeg, while my opponent spends some time casting another Llanowar Elves along with Oran-Rief, the Vastwood.

I get in there for some damage, and then Villain taps out for Rampaging Baloths.  I use Oblivion Ring to take out the Baloths and attack for the win.

Analysis:  It's a bummer I had to give my opponent a card with Oblivion Ring to take down the Baloths, but it's certainly better than facing down a gigantic group of creatures.  I felt a little better when he revealed his hand afterwards:  Rampant Growth, Harrow, Abundance, and Beastmaster Ascension.  Heartwood Storyteller may not have drawn me any cards in this one, but it certainly made my opponent's hand a lot crappier!

Game 7 vs Orzhov Something

Villains plays Mourning Thrull and Leonin Sun Standard - but that's about it.  I get True Believer, Qasali Pridemage, Gaddock Teeg, and Windborn Muse.  I attack a bunch of times and there's not much he can do about it.

Analysis:  Not much to say about this one.

Game 8 vs MGA

I play out Goldmeadow Harrier and Gaddock Teeg, Villain casts Silhana Ledgewalker and powers her up with Moldervine Cloak.  I bring out Windborn Muse and Guardian Seraph.  Villain attacks and I double block, I guess he didn't see that one coming?  He concedes.

Analysis:  The deck my opponent played in this one is a lot of fun.  I used to play it sometimes back in the Ravnica days.  Forests, Moldervine Cloak, Blanchwood Armor, and creatures that are tough to block.  Cool deck!

Silhana Ledgewalker Moldervine Cloak Blanchwood Armor
Pretty cool combo!

I think that's enough test games to show what this deck is all about.  Time to look at a few different versions.

Some Different Looks

The first thing I want to do is reduce the cost of this deck, to produce a budget version.  Thankfully this deck is already pretty cheap, so there aren't many adjustments that need to be made.  Other than the manabase, we're looking at around $8 for the main deck.  Here's the breakdown:

4 Windborn Muse = $1.40
4 True Believer = $2.00
4 Goldmeadow Harrier = $0.20
4 Gaddock Teeg = $2.00
4 Heartwood Storyteller = $1.60
4 Aven Mindcensor = $0.32
4 Qasali Pridemage = $0.32
4 Guardian Seraph = $0.40
4 Oblivion Ring = $0.32

Temple Garden and Wooded Bastion are a bit expensive, but those slots are easy enough to rework.

Out:  4 Temple Garden, 4 Wooded Bastion
In:  4 Graypelt Refuge, 4 Ancient Ziggurat

Given the number of creatures in the original deck, I probably should have been running Ancient Ziggurat anyways.  Here's the complete budget list:

Budget Prison Guards
Extended Legal
Creatures
4 Windborn Muse
4 True Believer
4 Goldmeadow Harrier
4 Gaddock Teeg
4 Heartwood Storyteller
4 Aven Mindcensor
4 Qasali Pridemage
4 Guardian Seraph
32 cards

Other Spells
4 Oblivion Ring
4 cards
 
Lands
11 Plains
5 Forest
4 Graypelt Refuge
4 Ancient Ziggurat
24 cards

 
Ancient Ziggurat


One thing that might surprise you is how much this deck has in common with a strong deck in the current Vintage metagame. Yep, believe it or not - people play a deck that looks pretty similar to this one in a format with Black Lotus and Mox Sapphire.  Stephen Menendian has written a number of articles on green/white beatdown decks in Vintage. Here's a list:


Doesn't that look awfully fair for a Vintage deck?  It certainly does, but this one brings major game.  Null Rod shuts down Black Lotus and every Mox variant, Aven Mindcensor prevents any type of searching, Kataki doubles up on the artifact hate, Vexing Shusher doesn't care about (Forece of Will), and Ethersworn Canonist stops storm combo.  This deck may not look like much, but it's very well positioned in that powerful format.

I've even seen versions of Menendian's deck that run Heartwood Storyteller.  Seriously... in Vintage!  If stuff like this is good enough for Vintage, then it's probably good enough for casual Extended.  I hope you have fun with some variation on this deck.

Thanks for reading!

Steve Gargolinski
spgmtg@gmail.com
article archive
twitter.com/spgmtg
th1ckasabr1ck on MTGO
 

19 Comments

Im working on a similar deck by ShardFenix at Fri, 12/04/2009 - 05:48
ShardFenix's picture

Im working on a similar deck and one card I would suggest you try out is Thorn of Amethyst. Increasing the cost of all your opponents non-creature spells can be tough.

Thorn of Amethyst is a solid by spg at Fri, 12/04/2009 - 11:49
spg's picture

Thorn of Amethyst is a solid options, and I kind of just gave up on it after realizing that Glowrider didn't exist in Extended anymore - probably unfairly. Good call.

yeah my clan and I have been by ShardFenix at Fri, 12/04/2009 - 12:24
ShardFenix's picture

yeah my clan and I have been working on prison decks as well and tat was our exact first thought as well Glowrider+Thorn. Suppression Field is definitely a consideration too. I was playing it in mine and watching someone play 2 to terramorphic expanse or even 4 for expedition map is great.

Thorm of Amethyst by Katastrophe at Fri, 12/04/2009 - 21:29
Katastrophe's picture

Along side Thorn of Amethyst I've also used Damping Matrix. It's like Null Rod, but way easier to trade for.

Deck looks like some fun. Do by Stu Benedict at Fri, 12/04/2009 - 13:25
Stu Benedict's picture

Deck looks like some fun.

Do you think opening it up to Bant colors would be worth the trouble to try to fit in Kira, Great Glass-Spinner?

I actually thought about by spg at Fri, 12/04/2009 - 13:35
spg's picture

I actually thought about Kira, and if she/he/it only cost a single blue then it might be a no-brainer. One of the attributes I wanted to keep in this deck is a clean manabase - at least for the initial version. I wanted to make sure that it would port over well to a budget version and that you'd always be able to cast your spells.

But that doesn't mean it's not good future work. I'd say you definitely should experiment with stretching the manabase and let me know how it goes!

if you keep with the filter by ShardFenix at Fri, 12/04/2009 - 15:17
ShardFenix's picture

if you keep with the filter lands from shadowmoor and eventide the mana should be relatively easy since both Mystic Gate and Flooded Strand are only going for about a dollar. Seaside Citadel is also always a consideration though the CIPT is not so great.

The Ancient Ziggurat would by Stu Benedict at Fri, 12/04/2009 - 15:24
Stu Benedict's picture

The Ancient Ziggurat would also get me there .... any ideas of other blue creatures that have static abilities that mess with the opponent?

I had no idea the Shadowmoor by spg at Fri, 12/04/2009 - 15:47
spg's picture

I had no idea the Shadowmoor lands were going for so cheap now... those are awesome options for cheap-ish Extended manabases now.

Here's a quick brainstorm of blue creatures that might be good in this deck:

Teferi (five plus triple blue though), Fatespinner, Meddling Mage, Cursecatcher, Grand Arbiter Augustin IV, Martyr of Frost (requires a big blue investment), Spiketail Drakeling, Grimoire Thief, Looter il-Kor, Mistmeadow Witch, Sygg, River Cutthroat, Cephalid Constable, Trygon Predator, Vendilion Clique, Glen-Elendra Archmage, Mystic Snake, Swans of Brynn Argol

Also Surgespanner and Stoic by ShardFenix at Fri, 12/04/2009 - 15:59
ShardFenix's picture

Also Surgespanner and Stoic Angel can work as well.

Edit: These cpatcha's are rather tiresome especially when im logged in to my account

Ahh yes ... I forgot about by Stu Benedict at Fri, 12/04/2009 - 18:58
Stu Benedict's picture

Ahh yes ... I forgot about Stoic Angel .. always wanted to get them, but never got around to it .... ha ... 12 cents a copy, really? yes pleeez

Yeah after playing the deck by Shard (not verified) at Sat, 12/05/2009 - 00:26
Shard's picture

Yeah after playing the deck Im about 6-0 so far in the casual room. I dont think Ive played a single Oblivion Ring yet though. I think with the amount of time this card actually shows up Im going to have to try Thorn of Amethyst. And the mana base for this deck is amazing. For under 5 tickets I think Im running 4 Wooded Bastion, 4 Graypelt Refuge, and 4 Ancient Ziggurat plus 8/4 Plains/Forests and I have never been unable to cast a turn 2 True Believer, turn 3 Heartwood Storyteller, turn 4 Guardian Seraph.

lol yeah i love me some cheap by ShardFenix at Fri, 12/04/2009 - 19:18
ShardFenix's picture

lol yeah i love me some cheap angels...after picking up guardian seraphs to try this deck i think i have a basic budget angel deck

4 Battlegrace Angel
4 Stoic Angel
4 Guardian Seraph
4 Blinding Angel
4 Empyrial Angel

but who knows

Even Emeria Angel was under a by spg at Fri, 12/04/2009 - 19:43
spg's picture

Even Emeria Angel was under a ticket before Worlds, but spiked up a bit...

yeah im disappointed in that by ShardFenix at Fri, 12/04/2009 - 21:25
ShardFenix's picture

yeah im disappointed in that simply becuase i wanted to pick it up cheap and figured it would not jump like it did so i waited...same thing actually happened with Pact of Negation. Another loss on my part.

Prison Guards by Katastrophe at Fri, 12/04/2009 - 21:45
Katastrophe's picture
5

I have a casual room deck that I called "WG Goblins" because, like Legacy goblins, every creature has a powerful ability and costs just 1 or 2. It just now occurred to me that Fish is a more apt comparison. And the Pridemage, Canonist, and Teeg are in my build, too. The Canonist in particular does some funny things. It's not just anti-storm, it prevents double Lightning Bolt, it prevents Harrow into anything, it prevents "Raise Dead this dude, cast this dude", it prevents lots of things. And since I'm playing a heavy creature deck with some equipment it doesn't bother me too much.

But I also run Skullclamp. -_- And not a single person has ever complained to me that Clamp is not casual. Oh but, Jitte, see Jitte isn't casual. No sir. People will harass you then drop if you put a Jitte on the stack. But Clamp? Sure run 4 Clamps, no problem. But don't you dare cast a turn 1 Duress! Nevinyrral's Disk? Cool card. Wrath of God? "No thanks I want to have fun *drop*". The reason I bring this up is because you suggested Jitte/Warhammer somewhere in your article. But Jitte is on this mysterious banned list that brings out the red mana in people. So instead, "Clamp/Warhammer".

You're definitely right about by spg at Fri, 12/04/2009 - 21:51
spg's picture

You're definitely right about the Canonist, it prevents a whole bunch more plays than I was giving it credit for.

well after playing this deck by Anonymous (not verified) at Mon, 12/07/2009 - 03:03
Anonymous's picture

well after playing this deck for a few days now, i personally think some changes are needed.
-4 Guardian Seraph
+4 Battlegrace Angel

I decided this simply because the Guardian Seraph has never really done anything for me...ever. If I ever go up against a deck with grapeshot then i guess ill be sorry, but the life link has helped more often than i thought it would. And youre basically attacking with a baneslayer or better wth the pridemages even if you cant use it as defense.

-4 Goldmeadow Harrier
+4 Ethersworn Canonist

I think the stopping power here is key. The tapping is a nice trick but I don't think its up to par with the rest of the deck. The ethersworn is just too good, especially in multiplayer.

Then slot i switch on is oblivion ring, sometimes its the ring sometimes its thorn of amethyst. I tend to prefer canonist+thorn or harrier+ring

I've played the deck for a by spg at Mon, 12/07/2009 - 09:56
spg's picture

I've played the deck for a while now too, and I agree 100% on Guardian Seraph. The only reason I was hesitant to remove the Angel is that she started the whole idea for the deck in the first place. That's a pretty bad reason to leave Seraph in the deck, but it's the trap I fell into.