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By: Javasci, Robert Johnson
Apr 04 2007 10:56am
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MoonlaceOne With NothingSquire.  All of these are rare (or rarer) on Magic Online, and all of these are rejected by many players.  More importantly, all of theese are famous for those qualities.  However, there are some among us who thrive on challenges.  When a card is marked by the general public as useful, that marking becomes a challenge to those people to find a use for that card.  This begins what is often the most challenging kind of deckbuilding, building decks around Bad RaresTM.

Step 1: Identify the Card

The first step in any endeavor is to know what you're doing.  Thus, the first step here is to pick a card with which you want to work.
Moonlace

Step 2: Identify the Card's Strengths

Even the Bad RaresTM do something.  If you're going to make use of a Bad RareTM, you first have to find out what it does and where it might be useful..

Moonlace, for example, changes an object's color.  This does nothing on its own, but back in Invasion block there were many cards that cared about an object's color.  If we can modify the effect of one of those cards to our benefit, we can find a use for Moonlace.  This brings us to step 3...

Step 3: Identify Possible Combinations

We now know what the card is and what it does.  However, on its own, what it does is nothing useful.  Therefore, we need to overcome that.  We must find a card or combination of cards that makes this effect matter.  This often involves searching your favorite search database (for me, that is the Magic Online Deck Editor, with My Cards unchecked) with different keywords until you find something useful.

Also, always start with the largest card pool available to you, since that allows the most possible opportunities.  I. e. if you limit yourself to standard, there may be a pre-standard card that would be perfect, and there probably will be.

With the example of Moonlace, it changes color.  Specifically, it makes objects colorless.  Therefore, we first search for "colorless".  If anything cares about colorlessness, we can use it.  However, everything there is either making colorless tokens, making itself colorless (thus making Moonlace irrelevant), referring to colorless mana (Trinisphere, Protective Sphere), or Mycosynth Lattice.  None of those are any use.  We then search for "color".  We find lots of cards that care about "mana of any color", usually adding that to your mana pool.  We find lots of cards that want more colors on their cards, which are useless with Moonlace.  We find everything we found with "colorless".  Then, we find Spreading Plague.
Spreading Plague

Spreading Plague can be deadly, but can also backfire.  However, a colorless creature can't share a color with anything else, so a Moonlaced creature is safe from Spreading Plague.  The problem is, just these two cards won't win games.  This brings us to step 4...

Step 4: Expand

This step may be repeated any number of times or not done at all, depending on the deck.

We now have a combo that is somewhere between just starting and completely finished.  The next step is to finish off the combo.  It is, in effect, repeating step 3 for different cards until you complete the combo.

In our example, Spreading Plague kills many creatures, and Moonlace protects a select creature from the plague.  However, Spreading Plague kills nowhere near enough for it to be any use.  A card that made all creatures the same color would be great, and such a card is Shifting Sky.

We are now repeating this step.  We have a 3-card combo in 2 colors that will kill all creatures already in play except one of yours as soon as any other creature comes into play.  However, this still leaves the opponent with one creature at any given time.  This is unacceptable.

Enter Forbidden Orchard and Twilight Drover.  Either of these two can create tokens on demand, which wipes out all existing creatures (except the Moonlaced one).  Thus, by adding them in, you have a prison combo.  Whenever your opponent plays a creature, you simply make a token and kill it.  This, however, cannot win the game by itself, which forces us to go to step 4.5...

Shifting Sky
Forbidden Orchard
Twilight Drover

 

Step 4.5: Choose a Win Condition (Prison Combos Only)

If your combo is a prison combo, that means that the opponent can't do anything (or can do very little), but you still need to win.  Choose a card that can win the game given your lock.  If it's one of your pieces, so much the better.

In our example, it is a prison combo, but Twilight Drover can already win the game.  Therefore, there is no need for another win condition.  However, this will not fill up 36 (+/- 4) slots in the deck for nonlands, which brings us to step 5...

Step 5: Finish the Deck

You have a combo made up of two, three, four, or even five cards.  However, even given 4x of each of those cards, that is still only 8-20 cards in your deck.  You need around 36 nonlands.

The rest of the space will be filled with support cards.  That means cards that help your combo, cards that protect your combo, or cards that stop the opponent from winning before you get your combo.  In my deck, that is usually tutors (Vampiric Tutor, transmuters) or all-purpose pest removal (Disenchant, possibly Vindicate once I get them).  The deck that resulted looked something like this:

Lands:
4 Godless Shrine
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Watery Grave
4 Forbidden Orchard
3 Plains
3 Island
2 Swamp

Other:
4 Twilight Drover
4 Moonlace
4 Spreading Plague
4 Shifting Sky
4 Vampiric Tutor
4 Mystical Tutor
4 Enlightened Tutor
4 Weathered Wayfarer
4 Drift of Phantasms

This deck may or may not win anything, which brings us to step 6...

Step 6: Test the Deck

Now, you have to play the deck, find out its weaknesses, and fix them.  This is pretty self-explanatory.

I played a few games.  Eventually, I realized that enlightened tutors were not helping, so I replaced them with 4 Dizzy Spell.  Eventually, I realized that I often lost when low on life and about to win, so I added Vampiric Link.

I then noticed something.  The only cards in my deck that are not ext-legal are the tutors.  I earlier said that you should play the least restrictive format possible.  However, at this stage you should go for the most restrictive format still possible given your decklist.  I then came up with the following deck:

Lands:
4 Godless Shrine
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Watery Grave
4 Forbidden Orchard
3 Plains
3 Island
2 Swamp

Other:
4 Twilight Drover
4 Moonlace
4 Spreading Plague
4 Shifting Sky
4 Vampiric Link
4 Brainspoil
4 Dizzy Spell
4 Weathered Wayfarer
4 Drift of Phantasms

Now, it was extended legal.  I kept testing, and eventually found that it won a lot, but could use some extra help against artifacts and enchantments.  Enter Disenchant.

No, testing is not as glamorous or exciting as the other steps.

The final deck looks like this:

Lands:
4 Godless Shrine
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Watery Grave
4 Forbidden Orchard
3 Plains
3 Island
2 Swamp

Other:
4 Twilight Drover
4 Moonlace
4 Spreading Plague
4 Shifting Sky
3 Vampiric Link
3 Brainspoil
3 Dizzy Spell
4 Weathered Wayfarer
3 Drift of Phantasms
4 Disenchant

 

You are now done.  Keep playing your deck, or move on to new cards, whichever suits your preference.

0 Comments

by jinx_talaris at Fri, 04/06/2007 - 06:11
jinx_talaris's picture

I enjoy reading these types of articles. They feed my inner Johnny and at least make some use out of Wizards' junk rares. I say keep up the good work and Johnny says, "Feed me, Javasci!"

Nice article, by Gumby at Thu, 04/05/2007 - 11:41
Gumby's picture

I did something similar in paper with Quickchange and Spreading Plague when Ravnica came out. All my creatures were artifacts, and I'd change their colors to match whatever my opponent was playing when they came into play. It was fun to play, but I'd like to see how your deck works.

The Plague by tempesteye at Thu, 04/05/2007 - 09:11
tempesteye's picture

Good deck idea.
I actually use Spreading Plague in my Black/red Tribal Human deck. I combo off Norin the Wary and Distorting Lens. But Shifting Sky/Orchard is also a good way to go.

Hollow0n3's picture

I am with montan and AJ on this one, the article itself is very interessting. On the other hand, the deck is very hard to rebuild for people on a budget. I am pretty sure that I won't be able to even attempt to do that in this year. Not even sure if I will ever be able to build a personal version because of the manabase. Beside that, I would like to see more articles from you.

by Stu Benedict at Thu, 04/05/2007 - 07:04
Stu Benedict's picture

He essentially made it a budget deck when he switched formats from classic to ext.

Just switch the lands out guys.

Good article ... more ... more.

responses to various comments by Javasci at Thu, 04/05/2007 - 08:33
Javasci's picture

When you're trying to break a specific card, you rarely have room for budget concerns. As I said in step 3, the larger your card pool, the more chance you have to find a combination. To put it another way, if you limit your card pool, you will probably not find the combination your are looking for. I. e. if I didn't have access to Invasion block rares, I wouldn't have been able to make this deck, due to Spreading Plague. Also, especially for casual decks, you almost never need shocklands or vampiric tutors, you can easily replace them with budget cards i. e. basic lands or transmuters.

Also, on One with Nothing, just use Haakon, Stromgald Scourge.

by Montan at Wed, 04/04/2007 - 17:36
Montan's picture

I was really expecting someone doing this, thanks! Now if you break One with Nothing you'll be my hero (not including it in a Rakdos deck that is :P). I really like the step by step breaking of the card, and if you can include a "budget" version would be cool, not everyone has 12 shocklands to play casual with fun decks.

by AJ_Impy at Wed, 04/04/2007 - 11:58
AJ_Impy's picture

An interesting walkthrough of the 'deliberately break a card' method, a useful primer for Johnny wannabes. I look forward to seeing you show off your creativity in future articles.

by hk3family at Wed, 04/04/2007 - 12:28
hk3family's picture

Well, I do agree; this is an interesting concept. Making use of the "bad rares" that are always in every set. I, as well, look forward to reading future articles by you.