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By: Leviathan, Mike Morales
Nov 29 2013 12:02pm
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Hey, so it's S.P.H.I.N.X. week here at PureMTGO!  I've been an avid watcher of the Venture Brothers for years now, and I'm glad to see that the people here at Pure are getting into it as well.  First, here's a little intro to give you a better idea about S.P.H.I.N.X.:

Wait, what do you mean we're not here to talk about S.P.H.I.N.X.?  Ooooh, you mean this is about the Sphinx creature type?  Huh.  Well, I guess that makes much more sense.  I had this whole essay planned about how S.P.H.I.N.X. correlates to other organizations like S.H.I.E.L.D. and how Shore Leave's character deconstructs gay stereotypes but I guess that's going to have to wait.

Well let's start off by talking very briefly about the sphinx creature type in general.  The sphinx wasn't really a big deal until Shards of Alara Block, and ever since then they have sort of been Blue's version of dragons:  There is one in every set, it's usually big, and although they are interesting their mana cost is often prohibitive.  Since the sphinx creature type isn't as old and venerable as the dragon type, there just aren't as many of them.  As a matter of fact there are only 4 legendary sphinx creatures out there:

isperia the inscrutable isperia, supreme judge sharuum the hegemon 

Funnily enough 2 of the 4 legendaries are actually the same character.  When Isperia first came around, she was basically a Commander for a "fliers matter" deck that would sometimes run stuff like Telepathy to make sure that she could guess properly.  As a matter of fact one of the first decks I wrote about was an Isperia the Inscrutable deck, which you can find HERE.  That was a long time ago and since then things have changed tremendously.

Sharuum was the next legendary sphinx, and she has been a monster.  She enabled easy infinite combos (prior to the nerfing of Clones with the new legend rule) and also lent herself to Esper control decks.  She provided easy recursion and was very good.  The new version of Isperia isn't quite as popular since she requires that you get attacked to receive any sort of benefit but I still do occasionally see her.  Finally, we have Medomai, who can go into a control shell with double strike equipment.  For extra value pack plenty of planeswalkers.  I've only ever seen her used as a Commander once so be prepared for hate.

So for Sphinx Week I had to pick one of these 4 and the choice was pretty clear, I had to use Sharuum.  She provided many more options and could be the basis of a good control deck.  It was when I was putting this together that I found out that a sphinx generally costs 6 to 9 mana, and there weren't really any good cheap ones.  It's kind of nutty just how expensive they cost.

sphinx ambassador sphinx sovereign goliath sphinx

I quickly realized that going full sphinx tribal and being competitive would have been practically impossible.  Instead, I pulled back, going with a sphinx theme.  I also pushed flyers and artifacts.  This is what I came up with.

Sharuum the Hegemon
A Commander Deck
1 Argent Sphinx
1 Baleful Strix
1 Chancellor of the Spires
1 Consecrated Sphinx
1 Enigma Sphinx
1 Ethersworn Adjudicator
1 Grand Arbiter Augustin IV
1 Indomitable Archangel  
1 Isperia, Supreme Judge
1 Junk Diver
1 Magister Sphinx
1 Magus of the Moat
1 Medomai the Ageless
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
1 Pilgrim's Eye
1 Sanctum Gargoyle
1 Sharding Sphinx
1 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Sphinx of the Steel Wind
1 Sphinx Summoner
1 Sphinx of Uthuun
1 Steel Hellkite
1 Tidehollow Strix
1 Warden of Evos Isle
1 Weathered Wayfarer
1 Windreader Sphinx
26 cards

Other Spells
1 Azorius Signet
1 Coalition Relic
1 Dimir Signet
1 Grim Monolith
1 Mana Crypt
1 Mirrorworks
1 Orzhov Signet
1 Scroll Rack
1 Sol Ring
1 Trading Post
1 Bitterblossom
1 Ghostly Prison
1 Gravitational Shift
1 Land Tax
1 Moat
1 Phyrexian Arena
1 Propaganda
1 Rhystic Study
1 Counterspell
1 Enlightened Tutor
1 Mana Drain
1 Path to Exile
1 Sphinx's Revelation
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Tithe
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Jace Beleren
1 Tezzeret the Seeker
1 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Imperial Seal
1 Revoke Existence
1 Time Spiral
1 Wrath of God
34 cards
1 Academy Ruins
1 Ancient Den
1 Ancient Tomb
1 Azorius Chancery
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Command Tower
1 Dimir Aqueduct
1 Flooded Strand
1 Godless Shrine
1 Hallowed Fountain
6 Island
1 Marsh Flats
1 Mishra's Workshop
1 Orzhov Basilica
5 Plains
1 Polluted Delta
1 Reliquary Tower
1 Scrubland
1 Seat of the Synod
1 Strip mine
4 Swamp
1 Tundra
1 Underground Sea
1 Vault of the Archangel
1 Vault of Whispers
1 Watery Grave
38 cards

1 Sharuum the Hegemon
1 cards
sharuum the hegemon


Deck Tech:

This is a creature based control deck.  There are 12 sphinxes, not counting Sharuum.  I wanted to fit in more but I just couldn't.  There are also a ton of artifacts mainly because I really wanted to run Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas.  Finally, there are a lot of fliers.  This will make Gravitational Shift work well for you and make stuff like Moat a lot better.

Interestingly the strongest sphinx in the deck (aside from Consecrated) is likely Sharding Sphinx.  Left unchecked, you can amass a pretty good amount of flying tokens.  Combine with stuff like, Bitterblossom, Windreader Sphinx and Gravitational Shift and things can start really doing well.  The deck also has a slight taxing theme.  Things like Propaganda and Grand Arbiter slow people down, giving you time to set up your offense/defense and get things going.

Unfortunately, the deck is extremely slow.  I am not exaggerating by saying that this is the slowest deck I've put together, and I've put together about 100 decks.  It is very, very slow.  The slowness is really why I included this card:

magister sphinx

Originally I didn't include Magister.  The card sort of annoyed me and I figured I didn't need it.  But the deck was so slooowww that I really needed something, anything to speed it up.  Magister seemed like it would fit the bill, plus it was on theme.  Unfortunately, running Magister out there automatically puts a target on your head.  Be prepared for the backlash from the entire table once you play it.

This isn't really the best deck.  There aren't enough answers to be a true control deck, and not enough creatures to be an aggro deck.  Still, it can be fun to play.  It definitely leans more toward control.  And you have to be prepared for the Sharuum hate out there.  Sharuum definitely has a reputation as a tough deck to play against especially since it's popular enough that most people know about her.  Just don't get mad when you get targeted from the start of the game.

Possible changes would be the addition of Thopter Assembly (I didn't include because it isn't fast enough for my tastes) and the Sword of the Meek/Thopter Foundry combo.  The combo is another one that just doesn't do enough for me.  If this deck was more focused on control I could see putting it in here.  As is, I would likely have to take out a sphinx or two to make room.

How does the deck do as it is?

Game 1:

So in this deck we have a rare Blind Seer sighting, who used cards like Ether Well and Alter Reality to along with the numerous Counterspells he was packing.  Luckily I managed to get out an early Consecrated Sphinx.  I focus on Mishra since he's usually a combo deck, but even with my massive amount of draw I'm still only doing about 4 damage a turn.  Luckily once Mishra makes his move by casting Possibility Storm Seer is able to stop him.  If he hadn't, it's likely Mishra would have combo'd out right then.  I have Gravitational Shift out and start amassing tokens with Bitterblossom when everyone concedes.

Game 2:

In this game I go up against another Sharuum deck who is more controlling than me, and a Daxos deck who has a bunch of answers.  Plus Animar, who isn't much of a huge threat.  It takes a little while, but I manage to get out Sharding Sphinx, Windreader Sphinx, and a Phyrexian Metamorph copying Sharding.  Right after I tutor up Gravitational Shift the other Sharuum uses Merciless Eviction to wipe out my creature horde.  Although I have a lot of cards in hand, every threat and defense I put up gets dealt with by Sharuum and Daxos.  I have Scroll Rack out which makes sure that when I get hit with Daxos he only sees land, plus a pretty large hand.  Eventually my card advantage is enough to overwhelm my opponents

Game 3:

This is a game of "Who can use my Magister Sphinx?"  Two of my opponents are playing The Mimeoplasm, which means that they can use the Magister when it hits the graveyard.  But before that happens the player using the stock Devour for Power list takes out Erebos with a huge Lord of Extinction.  When I cast Sphinx of Uthuun one of the cards revealed is Magister, which I take to put the non-Devour for Power deck to 10.  Unfortunately the non-precon Mimeo has (Hythonea the Cruel) to wipe the board.  More graveyard hijinks occur, as the precon deck gets my Magister and takes out the non-precon.  I have 3 flying blockers, but he takes them all out at the same turn to fly in for the win.

So there we go!  The inclusion of Magister Sphinx really turns into a game of who can copy it and bring it back from the dead.  It doesn't make for the most fun games, but it does make them quicker.  I really wish that I could have squeezed in more sphinx creatures but since they all cost so much it would have been really tough.  If I had access to Green ramp it might have been a different story.  Still, the deck was fun to play, and I hope you guys enjoyed it.

The holidays are coming up and my output is going to likely slow down a bunch.  With work and travel I just won't have as much time to play.  My goal is to get out 2 articles in the month of December, and 3 in January, but it might not happen.  Just be patient with me and I should be back to my regular schedule at the end of January.  Thanks for reading!

Leviathan, aka Tarasco on MTGO
mrmorale32 at yahoo dot com



The pictures as thumbnails in by Kumagoro42 at Fri, 11/29/2013 - 19:28
Kumagoro42's picture

The pictures as thumbnails in the YouTube videos look great! I need to jump on that train, how do you do that? I only see the choices between different points in the video.

Great article as usual. And Magister Sphinx in Commander: that's the allure of the Dark Side. :P

Under the thumbnail options by Leviathan at Sat, 11/30/2013 - 01:38
Leviathan's picture

Under the thumbnail options that are provided after you upload the video, there's another option for "Custom Thumbnail" that you can hit to upload a jpeg. So you just gotta find an image you like to upload. It makes things look pretty good.

Haha, the Dark Side has its allure sometimes. Consecrated Sphinx primarily...

Ah, thank you. So you can't by Kumagoro42 at Sun, 12/01/2013 - 02:12
Kumagoro42's picture

Ah, thank you. So you can't do it afterwards, you have to do it right when you finished upload. (EDIT: No, it was just that I needed to verify my account!)
I once put music on the videos (you get a huge selection of public domain stuff to choose from), maybe I should start doing it regularly.

Don't call Consecrated "dark side". Consecrated is beyond good and evil. She comes with the format, like Command Tower!

Bonus points if the custom by Elbinac at Sat, 11/30/2013 - 12:34
Elbinac's picture

Bonus points if the custom thumbnail is a hand drawn doodle.

I'm just glad somebody by Procrastination at Sat, 11/30/2013 - 18:10
Procrastination's picture

I'm just glad somebody finally made some Venture Bros references!!

We need to do more pop by Kumagoro42 at Sun, 12/01/2013 - 00:24
Kumagoro42's picture

We need to do more pop culture references. Sometimes I feel Magic players only play Magic all day and don't know anything else!

Haha, being at the end of the by Leviathan at Sun, 12/01/2013 - 23:01
Leviathan's picture

Haha, being at the end of the week I was really hoping no one would drop the S.P.H.I.N.X. bomb before me!

Haha.. by Elbinac at Mon, 12/02/2013 - 02:29
Elbinac's picture

I was wearing a helmet and carrying an air raid siren all week.