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By: CottonRhetoric, Cotton Rhetoric
Aug 06 2015 12:00pm
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This article you are about to read will feature three different fun decks. The title is 3 Fun Decks, by which you may surmise that the article will include as much, and indeed you are correct. (This paragraph is satirizing the extraneousness of a typical Magic article's opening paragraph.) Hey the other day I was on hold with customer service, and I was watching something on television, when all of a sudden my pet started acting oddly and I noticed that the weather was also odd.

Deck 1 No Quarter

No Quarter

Have you ever seen this card? And if you have seen it, did you remember it? And if you did remember it, was it just because it shares a title with a Led Zeppelin song?

My point in these rhetorical questions is that most people (correctly) assess this card as garbage and remove it from their brains moments after seeing it. But my very modus operandi is to lift such cards out of the dirt, polish them, and build a deck around them that could only possibly function in the casual room.

The primary goal of this deck should be to drop creatures with high power. So to start with, let's examine what the best options are for each casting cost. Green and red are the best colors at this, so we'll limit our searches to those colors. (We'll also limit the searches to creatures without significant drawbacks. Yes, Mijae Djinn and Cosmic Larva have power higher than what 3cmc creatures usually get, but this does little to help us.)

        Vengeful Firebrand
  • 2 mana: 3 power is the best we can get without drawbacks. And Brushstrider is our best drop, being able to play both offense and defense. (Playing with weird cards makes you play with more weird cards!)
  • 3 mana: 4 power is the top of the curve. If I was writing this article when No Quarter was still new, I'd be recommending Elvish Ranger, but nowadays we have Yasova Dragonclaw.
  • 4 mana: 5 power here, and with some neat bonuses. Conifer Strider has hexproof, Summit Apes has menace (which pairs quite nicely with No Quarter), Surrak, the Hunt Caller (basically) gives himself and everyone after him haste, Insatiable Souleater gives himself trample (which, when the defender dies before damage is dealt, means his entire power tramples through to the opponent), and Vengeful Firebrand can increase his own power past 5.
  • 5 mana: We can get as high as 7 power without drawbacks, such as with Thunderblust or Ayumi, the Last Visitor. However, some of the 6-power creatures have advantages really worth considering. Avalanche Tusker must be blocked, which has synergy with No Quarter, and Deadly Insect has shroud. Crested Craghorn's provoke can be nice, but his power is probably a bit too low for consideration.
  • 6+ mana: These creatures are good enough to win the game without No Quarter. Let's skip them and keep our curve low!

If we want our deck to have a chance, we should give it some more synergies beyond just high power and No Quarter. Originally I was thinking of adding white to give all of my guys first strike, as that also combines well with their high power and low toughness. (So Knighthood, Valor, Archetype of Courage, things like that. Plus Accorder Paladin is a strong 2-drop.) But I eventually concluded it wasn't worth the color requirements. These days, enough artifacts give first strike that we don't need to splash for it. I'd rather just run Viridian Claw and Chariot of Victory—they only affect one creature each, but with most of our creatures costing around 4, how many will we really have out at once anyway? Staying on-color, there's also Flaming Sword, Temur Battle Rage, Bloodmark Mentor, Lightning Talons, and Claws of Valakut.

Chariot of Victory  Temur Battle Rage  Lightning Talons

Another technique is to force blocks. There exist enough Provoke-type spells to make that easy, and you can choose your favorites. My own are permanent ones, like Invasion Plans and Grand Melee. My advice though is not to spend TOO many deck slots on this stuff. After all, if your opponent chooses not to block your 6/1, isn't that kind of good for you?

A few more assorted recommendations before getting to the decklist: O-Naginata basically has no drawback in this deck. Power-matters cards like Mosswort Bridge, Whisperer of the Wilds, and especially Triumph of Ferocity combine well with our theme. And if you do want to increase the mana curve... Silvos, Rogue Elemental and Phytotitan are probably your best bets for 6 mana.



Deck 2 Saprazzan Heir

Saprazzan Heir

Another deck centered around blocking! But that's about all they have in common. Whereas the last deck was all about the combat stats, this is all about the combat bonuses. For you see, Saprazzan Heir is not the only card to benefit from being blocked:

Infiltration Lens  Tolarian Entrancer  Elven Warhounds

Rust Scarab  Drelnoch  Engulfing Slagwurm

...There are also a lot of lame ones like Port Inspector, Sacred Prey, and Dream Fighter, but we can ignore those.

Sidebar: Drelnoch, although bad, will always have a special place in my heart because I once won 4 foil copies of him from a contest on this site. The contest was to design a deck using four of him. Uh, I may have been the only person to submit a serious response. (Interestingly, it has only 5 non-land cards in common with this deck. I'm not sure how I did that, as Drelnoch, I reiterate, is bad.)

Two questions arise from this. One, how do we get our creatures to be blocked? Two, how do we help them survive being blocked, to reuse their abilities? I shall answer these in the order I asked them.

Getting our creatures to be blocked: This will be a green-blue deck, meaning no Grand Melee like this article's previous deck. We're better off with Provoke, Irresistible Prey, and Courtly Provocateur.

Helping our creatures survive: This has some techy answers. One option is to prevent damage to them, with things like Blinding Powder, Inviolability, Gaseous Form, Magebane Armor, and Bubble Matrix. My favorite option is to use bounce effects, returning the creature to your hand after it's blocked and the trigger is on the stack. For instance, Quickling, Peel from Reality, and especially Temur Sabertooth, who can help us win the game while we're pulling off our dumb tricks.

In an earlier build of the deck, I had the idea to also add some cards that benefitted from being unblocked, like Quietus Spike. The idea was to put my opponent in a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't situation. In practice though, it just made half my own cards dead, so I retooled things to be more focused and single-minded.




Deck 3 Circle of Protection: Red

Circle of Protection: Red

The idea for this deck came to me while flipping through some old InQuest magazines. If you're not familiar with it, it started in the mid-90s, during Magic's infancy, and it often included combos that were a bit doofy, even by my standards. Some were outright terrible, like Gorilla Pack + Phantasmal Terrain (2UUG and two cards for a vanilla 3/3!!). And this one other combo... its badness became the topic of an entire Reddit thread.  You'd better just read InQuest's own description of it.  Ooooofff.

But as anyone who played Magic back then, a very cool (kitchen table) idea at the time was using Circle of Protection: Red on your own spells. It was about as cool at the time as Mana Flared Fireballs, or Royal Assassin + Icy Manipulator. InQuest was all over those combos. But back then, the only spells to pair with CoP: Red were things like Earthquake, Inferno, Power Surge, and Orcish Artillery.

TODAY, we have things like:

Acidic Soil  Steam Blast  Heartless Hidetsugu

Witch Hunt  Flame Rift  Collapsing Borders

And whereas we used to have to rely on Chaos Lace (blech!) and Dwarven Song (blech!!!) to make our opponent's creatures red, we now have Distorting Lens and Painter's Servant. A bit stronger!

This is most of our deck, but I have a few more notes:

  • We want to get a CoP out every game, so we'll add redundancy with Rune of Protection: Red.
  • We rarely want more than one CoP, so we'll add filtering with Tormenting Voice.
  • We'll want some lifegain for those pre- (or post-) CoP situations, so Lightning Helix and Solemn Offering can help with that.
  • In a deck that already has Heartless Hidetsugu and Orcish Artillery, the temptation will be to also add Lifelink and such. But don't do it! That does not combine with the CoPs. (You could make that deck instead of this one, but I don't recommend making them both at once.)
  • Wall of Hope not only stalls the opponent early on while we set up... it also pairs nicely with Steam Blast (whether a CoP is in play or not).


P.S. In issue #9, right after Homelands came out, InQuest had an entire article about the "untapped potential" of Marjhan.