CottonRhetoric's picture
By: CottonRhetoric, Cotton Rhetoric
Sep 12 2011 7:22am
Login or register to post comments

New Phyrexia brought us this unique five-card cycle:

  Chancellor of the Spires  Chancellor of the Dross

Chancellor of the Forge  Chancellor of the Tangle

High risk... high reward.  And as of this article's posting, they're all 12 cents or less!

The green one is the most powerful of the five, as tournament reports have illustrated, but there are plenty of ways for the casual gamer to use these exciting new cards.  I'll be showcasing three such decks.

Deck 1 Ghazbán Ogre


Ghazbán Ogre is another risky card.  And yet, if you reveal a first-turn Chancellor of the Forge, you can put yourself ahead on the life totals before your opponent even plays a land.  Chancellor of the Dross is even safer, putting you out of bolt range.  (Many a Ghazbán Ogre player has been foiled by a first-turn Lightning Bolt to the dome.)

Between those three cards, we have most of the deck determined for us.  We'll want:

Adding multiples of each plus playsets of the black and red chancellors is already most of the decklist.  And yes, we do want 8x chancellors, to maximize the probability of opening with one (or more than one).  In fact, I went up to 10x, putting in 2 of the green chancellor, which doesn't synergize with Ghazbán Ogre in quite the same way, but enables some pretty explosive openings when it triggers.

Of course, with our curve maximizing at two, and with all of those Rogue Elephants and Scythe Tigers, we will have no opportunity to hardcast those chancellors, should we draw them in the late game.  And even if we use them in our opening hand, they stay in our hand afterwards (it's not like using an Elvish Spirit Guide, which removes itself from your hand).  So what do we do with these dead cards?  Discard outlets.  In a green weenie deck, Wild Mongrel is probably our best option.  I also tried a build with Anvil of Bogardan at one point, but it was too slow for the deck's style and I was never happy to draw it.

22 lands felt like the right number after playtesting, which probably seems like a lot given our mana curve, but remember than 7 of our cards require a land sacrifice upon casting.  I made them all basic forests, since the deck's curve really requires an untapped green mana on the first turn.

Here's the list!  Like all of my decks, it's intended to be casual and customizable.

Land (22)
22 Forest

Creatures (22):
4 Ghazbán Ogre
4 Wild Dogs
4 Rogue Elephant
3 Scythe Tiger
3 Jungle Lion
4 Wild Mongrel

Chancellors (10):
4 Chancellor of the Dross
4 Chancellor of the Forge
2 Chancellor of the Tangle

Spells (6):
3 Rancor
3 Might of Old Krosa

Wild Mongrel Might of Old Krosa

Next up, a deck that still isn't casting its Chancellors... but does cheat them into play.

Deck 2 The Blue One

 Chancellor of the Spires    

It's not the best of the five, but there's no denying that The Blue One is the coolest of the five.  What seems like a straightforward Tome Scour reveal ability turns out to be a setup for its versatile, unpredictable, powerful EtB ability.  It would be possible (if not preferable) to craft a deck ignoring the EtB ability and just going for a straight up mill victory, but my articles have never been about doing what's good.  They're about doing what's fun!  And the unpredictable, swingy EtB ability can be very fun.

So what can we expect when it triggers?  Like the original Memory Plunder, there are times when it will get a Cruel Ultimatum and there are times it will get nothing at all.  Usually it will be between these two extremes.  Just remember that even if you "only" get a free Lightning Bolt, that isn't too bad — it does come attached to a bigger body than Mahamoti Djinn's.

Of course we want to create as many chances as possible for putting stuff in our opponent's graveyard that's better than Lightning Bolt, so let's add some more milling effects.  Not enough to make it a mill deck, just enough to enable our reanimation.  Mesmeric Orb, as I've said frequently in the past, is likely the most effective mill spell for its cost.  We should also look to cards that fill the graveyard from the hand instead of from the library, so Windfall and Delirium Skeins could be looked at (but probably not both in the same deck)!

Notice that all of those cards are symmetrical.  It's because we want to fill our own graveyard in addition to our opponent's.  Not for the sake of the Chancellor's EtB ability, which can only look at the opponent's graveyard, but for the sake of cheating the Chancellor's cc by reanimating him from our graveyard.  But don't look to Zombify as a reanimation spell, which only targets your graveyard.  Look to Animate Dead and Necromancy, which can take creatures from the opponent's graveyard too — a graveyard we've been filling since the first turn, ideally.

    Animate Dead

We'll need some big creatures to reanimate beyond the 4x blue chancellor, and there are plenty of options, none being particularly better or worse than the rest.  As long as it doesn't have an anti-graveyard clause like Progenitus, pick the gigantic creatures of your choice.  With all of the gigantic creatures having been printed lately, you don't even need to buy an expensive mythic to get a game winner.

It's tempting to run guys with synergistic abilities, like Taniwha, or Nemesis of Reason, but by the time we've filled our graveyard and reanimated a guy, we don't want to do more filling of our graveyard — we want to win!  We could pick a creature that wins by milling, like Szadek, Lord of Secrets, but that's a matter of preference.  Just remember that we have the option of attacking with our 5-powered Chancellor, which has no synergy with milling as a wincon.  I also tried a build with Isleback Spawn, but the Mesmeric Orbs and Windfalls didn't do that much milling.

Some food for thought:

This all brings us to a fork.  Do we add Mental Note and Careful Study to enable a turn-two Animate Dead on an Eldrazi?  There is a lot to think about: on one hand, this is a very strong strategy, but on the other hand, this is a casual deck, so NO, WE ARE NOT GOING TO TAKE THAT  ROUTE.

Adding some cards for utility, here's what we get:

Land (24):
11 Swamp
10 Island
2 Jwar Isle Refuge
1 Academy Ruins

Creatures (10):
4 Chancellor of the Spires
4 It That Betrays
2 Liege of the Tangle

Spells (26):
4 Mesmeric Orb
4 Words of Wisdom
2 Doom Blade
2 Go for the Throat
2 Last Gasp
4 Animate Dead
4 Necromancy
4 Windfall
Mesmeric Orb Necromancy

Deck 3 Vanguard

There is so much synergy between the chancellors and the avatars.  Consider:

  • Dakkon Blackblade and Momir Vig let you get rid of dead-draw chancellors
  • Elvish Champion plus Chancellor of the Tangle plus a single forest gives you GGG on the first turn (and more if you're playing with Elvish Spirit Guide and the like)
  • Erhnam Djinn sets you up for a powerful Chancellor of the Forge EtB trigger
  • Heartwood Storyteller plus Chancellor of the Annex can really glom up your opponent's hand
  • Hell's Caretaker can sacrifice the Chancellor of the Forge token (and/or reanimate the chancellor itself)
  • Ink-Eyes can reanimate the creatures put into the opponent's graveyard by Chancellor of the Spires
  • Maro plus Chancellor of the Forge plus a single Ornithopter allows for a first turn 8-point attack
  • Mayael can draw, for free, any of the chancellors you don't open with
  • Squee's +3 handsize maximizes your odds of opening with a chancellor

Any one of those could turn into a compelling deck, but I've only got room for one, and the most interesting to me is Hell's Caretaker.  (Incidentally, it's an avatar that, during 50+ articles specifically about vanguard, I've never once used.)


As said in the bulleted list, we'll need 4x Chancellor of the Forge, whose token can serve as fodder for the avatar's ability.  And with a discard outlet, we can also put him in our graveyard to serve as the target for the avatar's ability.

Let's take it further by adding more cards that fill multiple roles at the same time.  Putrid Imp, Oona's Prowler, Owl Familiar, and Aquamoeba are simultaneous discard outlets and sacrificeable creatures.

We can also use other chancellors as reanimation targets, to double up on our theme, and to help us to feel productive during those games in which we don't open with the red chancellor.  The white Chancellor of the Annex is my choice, as it affects your opponent in ways that the black, green, and blue ones don't.

Cards like Krosan Tusker and Walker of the Grove put themselves into the graveyard while being respectable, if not brilliant, reanimation targets.

I ran through a few different builds before eventually settling on mono-blue, if only because it's less expected for a Hell's Caretaker deck.  It also gives us access to Force Spike, which can be a useful trick to catch an opponent trying to budget their way around a Chancellor of the Annex.  Blue has a number of other similar counters at 2 mana, but Mana Leak is the best so let's just go with that.  We can also borrow the Windfall idea from the previous deck, although those ended up being the only 4 cards in common.  Other than the chancellors themselves, of course.

As for other creatures to sacrifice, remember that Hell's Caretaker can be activated as an instant.  So although damage-on-the-stack tricks aren't around anymore, there are still plenty of tricks you can do.  Wall of Tears's bounce trigger will stack, and you can sacrifice it to the avatar before combat damage happens.  Brackwater Elemental and Fog Elemental can be sacrificed after combat damage but before they kill themselves.  Rounding out the deck with a few situational cards, here's the list:

Avatar: Hell's Caretaker

Land (24):
21 Island
3 Khalni Garden

Creatures (25):
4 Merfolk Traders
4 Owl Familiar
2 Wall of Tears
3 Fog Elemental
4 Chancellor of the Annex
4 Chancellor of the Dross
4 Chancellor of the Forge

Noncreatures (11):
2 Force Spike
2 Echoing Truth
3 Mana Leak
4 Windfall
Owl Familiar Fog Elemental

(See, Hell's Caretaker can do much more interesting things than turn two Akromas or juggling Yosei, the Morning Stars.)

That's all for this week.  In closing, get some Chancellors!