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By: Lord Erman, Nafiz Erman
Mar 24 2009 12:04pm
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ROGUE PLAY
by Nafiz Erman
"Twenty in One"

 

 A long time ago in a multiverse far, far away...

 

 

Hello and welcome. I'm glad you decided to join me. Just like the opening crawl says, there is much going on on Alara these days. In my previous article, I talked about the tournament decks of the Alara Block; in a way that some thought to be very absurd and uninteresting. But those who read it carefully, learned everything about the ALA block meta; which decks to expect to play against a lot, how they work, which specific cards are popular, what to play and what not to play.

But now, let's leave those tournament decks aside for a while and delve into the fun parts of Alara. Let's talk about those "scrolls of a devastating magic" that planeswalker captured.

yeah okay but not this one!

Actually this week I have a theme for you. The article's name "Twenty in One" means something. And just like some of you might have guessed, this time I will talk about decks that do the twenty damage in one single turn. And no ladies and gentlemen, these aren't some broken decks that uses every broken card available on MTGO to do such an amazing thing. No, these are humble block decks. And yes, such crazy things are possible in ALA block. Who would have thought, eh?

So without any further delay, let's start with the first deck. 

WHERE ANCIENTS TREAD (seriously now, where?)

Everyone who knows me, knows that I'm going back and forth between my Spike side and my Johnny side. Sometimes I don't even stop by at the casual room to say "hi" to friends, and spend my whole time in tournaments. I love competitive Magic a lot. That helps me get better as a player. But I also never denied nor will deny, that somewhere in me lives a shy little Johnny. And sometimes, this little shy boy surprisingly springs forward and does some crazy things. But that happens only when he sees a card that makes him go wild.

And Where Ancients Tread was actually NOT such a card (you thought that I would say otherwise, didn't you? Gotcha!)...

When I first saw it, back when the Shards of Alara set was released, I thought that it was a simply "meh" card and that it might get the attention of some pure Timmies. And my first experiences after the set was online didn't prove otherwise; every now and then, there was some Timmy playing this one in a Naya deck with some pure Timmy fatties such as Mosstodon or Spearbreaker Behemoth or Rakeclaw Gargantuan.

So it was definately not my stuff...

But during those days, when I was testing my very first ALA block deck, which was an Esper deck, I realized something. I realized that when I played a Sharuum the Hegemon and targeted another copy of it in the graveyard, I was creating a loop. At first that didn't ring a bell. But then when I searched for cards with "Whenever a creature" in their rules text, I saw Where Ancients Tread! So I can say that contrary to the popular belief, the ancients neither tread nor even show up in Naya. They actually prefer Esper.

So with Where Ancients Tread in play, I play a Sharuum the Hegemon and that action already puts the first five damage on the stack. Then I target another copy of Sharuum the Hegemon in the graveyard and when that second copy comes into play, it triggers Where Ancients Tread again and another five damage goes to the stack. I repeat this process as many times as I see fit and deal the "twenty in one" turn!

 

 

So here you have it! The first "twenty in one" idea of mine. And now let's see this sheer idea as an actual decklist and talk about it a bit. 

Where Sharuum Treads
A Constructed Block deck by Nafiz Erman
Creatures
2 Sphinx Summoner
4 Sharuum the Hegemon
4 Corpse Connoisseur
10 cards

Other Spells
4 Where Ancients Tread
4 Oblivion Ring
4 Path to Exile
4 Courier's Capsule
4 Worldly Counsel
2 Protomatter Powder
4 Obelisk of Grixis
26 cards
 
Lands
4 Arcane Sanctum
2 Crumbling Necropolis
3 Exotic Orchard
3 Plains
4 Island
3 Swamp
1 Mountain
2 Esper Panorama
2 Grixis Panorama
24 cards

Sideboard
0 cards
 
Where Ancients Tread

 

First of all, we all are aware that we are talking about casual decks here, right? Okay just checking. I know that tournaments decks would tear this one apart but that's not a concern. I don't even have a sideboard for it.



I'm playing this combo since the very early days of ALA block but only after Conflux was online, it became more viable. When playing the deck, my interactions with the opponent are at a minimum level. As long as they don't do something huge, I simply don't care. I have my own plan and that is to get one Where Ancients Tread on table as soon as possible and to get one Sharuum the Hegemon in the graveyard. But that is not an easy task as it may sound.



In every game the components I'm missing are different. Sometimes I have a Sharuum the Hegemon in graveyard and a second copy in hand but no Where Ancients Tread. In other games I have the enchantment in play and the sphinx in hand but there is nothing in the graveyard. And in some games I have the sphinx in the graveyard and another in hand to go off and also the enchantment is in my hand but I have no red mana to play it!



And that is the reason why you see so many search tools in the deck. Corpse Connoisseur is the way to get the sphinx to the graveyard. Sphinx Summoner gets me the other copy of Sharuum the Hegemon I need. Courier's Capsule and Worldly Counsel help me to dig deeper in my deck. And at those times when I don't have a Sharuum the Hegemon in hand, I simply unearth Corpse Connoisseur to get another Sharuum to the graveyard and then use Protomatter Powder targeting it. That also gets the combo off.



So as you see I have enough cards in deck to get what I need and to do what I want to do. But even then, sometimes things go differently. This isn't a solitaire game and sometimes the opponent corners me and that means that I have to let go the combo and start fighting. Even though this is a casual deck and losing the game won't matter, I still don't like to lose. And I also don't like decks that can win with an incredibly creative and huge way which sadly only happens like in one game out of hundred. So when I have to fight while playing this deck, I have enough options in it that help me to fight.



And here is one screenshot that might help you understand how cool this combo is:

 

If you liked the combo, you can try it in other formats as well. In extended for example, we have Pandemonium. Eventhough it works for both sides, it costs one less to play when compared to Where Ancients Tread and it doesn't have the "size matters" problem which the ALA version has.

Better or worse than Where Ancients Tread?

So, that pretty much covers the first "twenty in one" deck. Now let's move onto the second one.

 

X MARKS THE SPOT

With the release of Conflux, we got three X cards:

The powerful X spells from Conflux

Actually my love for the "X" cards started before Conflux became online, thanks to the legendary creature from Shadowmoor called Rosheen Meanderer. I built a Blue/Black/Red deck which was very nice and actually very good ("good" as in "casually good") around her that had cards like Profane Command, Broken Ambitions, Mind Shatter, Titan's Revenge, Mind Spring, Unwilling Recruit and the mighty Oona, Queen of the Fae because of her X ability.

I had a lot fun with this deck and after the release of Conflux, as you might have guessed, I immediately replaced four copies of Titan's Revenge in that deck with four Banefires. And even though I was casting some gigantic Banefires while playing the deck, I realized that I wanted to cast one X=20 Banefire at least once. Unfortunately that did not happen with my Rosheen Meanderer deck but it surprisingly happened (and is still happening very often) with my ALA Block Keeper of Progenitus deck!

X = Big ! X = Bigger !!!

Before we go any further, here's the decklist:

 

X Marks The Spot
A Block Construced Deck by Nafiz Erman
Creatures
4 Keeper of Progenitus
4 Jungle Weaver
2 Apocalypse Hydra
4 Wall of Reverence
4 Knight of the White Orchid
18 cards

Other Spells
4 Path to Exile
4 Oblivion Ring
4 Naya Charm
4 Banefire
2 Martial Coup
18 cards
 
Lands
4 Jungle Shrine
3 Exotic Orchard
4 Naya Panorama
5 Plains
4 Mountain
4 Forest
24 cards

Sideboard
0 cards
 
Keeper of Progenitus

 

Now there are, as always, things to talk about this decklist.

The main goal here is to get one (or preferably more) Keeper of Progenitus on table and then finish with one of the X spells mentioned above. Sometimes it is one gigantic Apocalypse Hydra, sometimes it is a X=20 Banefire and sometimes death comes from a swarm of 1/1's thanks to Martial Coup. In any case, it is almost always "twenty in one".

And a few words about the other cards...

Wall of Reverence is currently the best way to stall the opponent, as it blocks almost everything and survives almost always. And the life gain is a bonus. Knight of the White Orchid in this deck does the same thing he does in every deck; he gets me a Plains while thinning my deck. Path to Exile, Naya Charm and Oblivion Ring are obvious cards but I'm sure you wonder what I'm doing with four copies of Jungle Weaver. And no, they're not in because of my love or obsession for spiders. They are in because;

a) They cycle, so I get more cards. And during late game with Naya Charm I can get one back to hand to cycle again if needed.
b) The deck, just like any other deck, needs a Plan B. What happens if I somehow fail to get a Keeper of Progenitus in play? What will I do? How will I win? With a 2/2 Knight of the White Orchid? With a X=7 Banefire? With a 4/4 Apocalypse Hydra? No, I need a Plan B and this 5/6 spider with Reach is just that.

And let's see all these information in action.

A gigantic Apocalypse Hydra... which has killed everything on the other side of the table the next turn and attacked for the win.
Swarmed by Martial Coup. Do you see how many lands I have and the size of Martial Coup? That dear readers, is exactly the power of Keeper of Progenitus.
And finally we have a huge Banefire. Okay X is not twenty here but it was more than enough to end the game.

And that ladies and gentlemen, was the second "twenty in one" deck. Let's move onto the final one.

 

TWO-PUNCH STEVE

Two-Punch Steve is the nickname for Magister Sphinx used by the playtesters of WotC. And it is really not that hard to guess why. You play it, lower your opponent's life total to ten, and then finish the opponent in two turns with this 5/5 flyer. That simple. Simple it may be and interesting for sure but not fun enough on its own. Not fun enough if you don't use it in the right deck which will turn it into "Turbo Two-Punch" Steve.

In case it isn't clear yet, this is a Reanimator deck we're talking here. The aim is to get Sharuum the Hegemon in play at the end of the opponent's turn, target Magister Sphinx in the graveyard and get it into play too, lower the opponent's life total to ten, and then during your turn attack with these two 5/5 flyers for the win. It may not be exactly a "twenty in one" but it is very close nevertheless.

And besides, Reanimator decks are always fun to play. The history of Magic, whether tournament level or casual play, is full with them. Only a couple of years ago we were all talking about Solar Flare. Nowadays I see that everybody is playing this or that form of Reveillark deck in Standard. And "Two-Punch Steve" is my version of next generation casual Reanimator deck.

 

Two Punch Steve
A Block Construced Deck by Nafiz Erman
Creatures
4 Grixis Battlemage
3 Frontline Sage
4 Sharuum the Hegemon
1 Sphinx Sovereign
2 Sphinx Summoner
3 Magister Sphinx
17 cards

Other Spells
4 Path to Exile
4 Oblivion Ring
4 Agony Warp
4 Protomatter Powder
3 Esper Charm
19 cards
 
Lands
4 Arcane Sanctum
3 Exotic Orchard
4 Esper Panorama
5 Island
4 Plains
4 Swamp
24 cards

Sideboard
0 cards
 
Magister Sphinx

 

Now, every Reanimator deck must answer these questions:

1- How to fill the graveyard?
2- Which creatures to fill the graveyard with?
3- How to reanimate them?

Now let's see how my Two-Punch Steve deck answers these questions.

1- How to fill the graveyard: I fill the graveyard simply by Grixis Battlemage and Frontline Sage. I could have also used Corpse Connoisseur maybe but playtesting showed that it is not as good for this strategy as the other two "draw a card and then discard a card" creatures I have in deck now.

2- Which creatures to fill the graveyard with: I have three Magister Sphinxes as my main reanimation targets. I also have one copy of Sphinx Sovereign in deck because of its life gain ability mainly. In some games, that ability determined the winner. I also don't hesitate to send my Sharuum the Hegemon to the graveyard if I have a Protomatter Powder in play.

3- How to reanimate them: I reanimate my targets either with Sharuum the Hegemon or just like I mentioned above, with Protomatter Powder just at the end of opponent's turn (or sometimes during Combat, when my opponent blindly attacks with his creatures ignoring my Protomatter Powder).

How to play the deck must be pretty obvious actually, so I won't talk about it very much. Just get you "draw a card and then discard a card" dudes on table, start filling the graveyard, deal with the opposing creatures in the meantime (those twelve removal spells should be more than enough), and then either hardcast a Sharuum the Hegemon or use your Protomatter Powder and finish the game.

And that was pretty much it about this deck. Even though it wasen't exactly "20 in 1", it was definately "20 in 1,5", as opponents' EOT to me counts as that 0,5!

And a final note about all these three decks: Even though those flashy and exciting endings such as a X=20 Banefire are nice and fun and all, you don't have to wait until those things happen every time. I mean, if you're playing this Two-Punch Steve deck for example and if you have one Grixis Battlemage plus one Frontline Sage on table, there is no meaning in just sitting and waiting. Just attack with the battlemage!! Don't wait for Keeper of Progenitus when playing the X Marks the Spot deck if you have a Jungle Weaver in hand and enough mana to play it. Just play it!!!

 

BONUS DISCUSSION: Be a Vorthos!

Yes please be one. I am definately a Spike/Johnny who has his "Timmy moments" as MaRo described recently, but I'm also a Vorthos (and that means, that I'm pretty much everything there is). If you don't know what Vorthos is by the way, please check this article by MaRo first.

I mean, let's say that you and I play ALA Block constructed and you play a Bant deck. If you're not a Vorthos, then these could easily be your basic lands:

I mean, come on!!! These aren't even lands from Shards of Alara!!

Or if you aren't a Vorthos, you might as well play these basic lands in your Bant deck:

This is sooooo horrible... This is sooooo wrong...

Please, just allow your inner Vorthos to see the light of day for once. Flavor of Magic won't eat you alive and kill you. And besides, the creative team of Magic does a tremendously nice job of creating flavor texts for cards. You may start reading those flavor texts as your first step to your "Vorthosian Enlightenment". Then perhaps, as the next step, you will start paying attention to the basic lands you play in your Bant deck. And some day, after you achieved your enlightenment, you too may build your "Weatherlight Crew" deck!

Oh and by the way if you were wondering, the true Bant basic lands are these:

 

Thank you for reading.

See you online
Nafiz Erman, aka Lord Erman

8 Comments

I try and make sure I have no by chucklezdaccc (not verified) at Tue, 03/24/2009 - 15:41
chucklezdaccc's picture

I try and make sure I have no white bordered lands in my decks.

Thank you for a great by Mr Moto at Wed, 03/25/2009 - 06:12
Mr Moto's picture

Thank you for a great article. This, and the article you mentioned in the beginning, is one of the reasons I go to PureMTGO often :)

And yes, land-art matters - which is why I only use Kamigawa lands...best lands ever

Ravnica's basic lands are #1 by Lord Erman at Wed, 03/25/2009 - 06:23
Lord Erman's picture

Aaah a fellow Vorthos! Thanks for stopping by.

I agree that the Kamigawa basic land arts are good. Especially mountain and island. And the best thing is that when you put four Kamigawa plains for example with different art next to each other, you get the full art (which is also true for other basic lands of that set). An excellent idea!

But to me, Ravnica's basic lands are the best of the best. Until the release of that set, I was only playing with Mirage's basic lands, because they are simply awesome. But Ravnica changed all of that.

Today, unless I'm playing block (which I only play with the basic lands of that block), I ONLY play with Ravnica basic lands.

LE

I am by no means a Vorthos, by blandestk at Wed, 03/25/2009 - 20:53
blandestk's picture

I am by no means a Vorthos, though I can appreciate the artistic and story elements of the game. But I completely agree about Ravnica and Mirage lands; they're great. But I will always use the Alpha lands from MED. The old frame and the iconic, understated art are by far my favorites.

Good Article by JBushEsq at Wed, 03/25/2009 - 19:57
JBushEsq's picture
5

Really enjoyed this one man.

Oh and its all about the Guru Equinox lands!

Nice article with some by epistrophy (not verified) at Thu, 03/26/2009 - 03:12
epistrophy's picture

Nice article with some fun-looking decks.

I prefer the Unhinged lands myself.

I would have prefered them by Lord Erman at Thu, 03/26/2009 - 05:07
Lord Erman's picture

I would have prefered them myself too if only I could afford them :)) .

LE

Plains by Magpie Manny (not verified) at Sun, 03/29/2009 - 19:52
Magpie Manny's picture

Nice article,

I actually do the same with my lands. You forgot one plains however, each shard has two basic lands...

Bant: 2 plains
Naya: 2 forest
Jund: 2 Mountains
Grixis: 2 swamps
And esper: 2 islands ofcourse...

So be a better Vorthos and add both of the lands.