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By: Leviathan, Mike Morales
Oct 13 2011 12:17pm
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INTRODUCTION:  SOMETHING BORROWED, SOMETHING BLUE

Time Spiral was a pretty interesting block where a lot of new concepts were tried out.  First, there were re-prints of a whole mess of cards, like Nicol Bolas and Whirling Dervish.  On top of that, lots of individual spells were color shifted.  Giant Growth became Brute Force, while Drop of Honey became Porphyry Nodes.  However, most interesting to me was the fact that they color shifted some of the legends of the past to make different versions.

crovax the cursed crovax, ascendant hero

akroma, angel of wrath akroma, angel of fury

jedit ojanen jedit ojanen of efrava

mirri, cat warrior mirri the cursed

Some of these are obviously more powerful than their originals, but most are just different.  I've seen just about all these guys used as Commanders in the past.  However, there was another color shifted legend that recently caught my eye:

braids, cabal minion braids, conjurer adept

Most people know that Black Braids is banned as a Commander (although I did have a few people ask me how I could be playing a banned legend in this current deck).  However, I did run into a Blue Braids player recently.  I was excited to see what he brought to the table, but unfortunately he never played his Commander during the game.  His deck was basically mono-Blue control but didn't seem like it was built around Braids at all.  I figured I might as well give it a shot at building something around her, and here we are.

THE DECK:  DROPPING LARGE BEATS

Let's take a closer look at what we are going to work with: 

braids, conjurer adept

She doesn't have that maniacal grin anymore, but she also doesn't appear all that friendly.  Maybe she'd be nicer if she were Green?  First of all, she is mono-Blue, so you at least have a solid base to work with.  This Braids is pretty much the exact opposite of her Black twin.  Instead of forcing players to sacrifice, she helps you play free spells.  This means that you are going to want to play a decent amount of fat in order to fully take advantage of her ability.  Please keep in mind that she cannot drop Enchantments or Planeswalkers into play.  But usually the critters you get out are big enough to make a difference.

Unfortunately, she is a little too symmetrical for my tastes.  This is especially true if you play her during your main phase.  Every other player will get a chance to use her, and then she can get blown up before it gets to be your turn.  Nobody likes sloppy seconds, and I know I don't like to share my women.  So there have to be a few ways to get around this problem.

The first is being able to play her with flash.  This way you can play her before you turn, and you will at least be able to use her first.  Hopefully this will help you get a jump start on the game.  The next way to keep her to yourself is through bounce.  If you flash her in before your turn, then bounce her during your turn, no one else will get to use her.

Of course, things won't always go your way, and sometimes other people will be able to drop their fat and you won't get to.  Therefore we need to copy, steal or bounce our opponents' stuff.  Or failing that, at least have some defense so we don't get crushed by the onslaught of titans and colossi that will be running around. 

Let's take a look at the deck:

Braids, Conjurer Adept
A Commander Deck
Creatures
1 Arcanis the Omnipotent
1 Chancellor of the Spires
1 Clone
1 Consecrated Sphinx
1 Draining Whelk
1 Duplicant
1 Gilded Drake
1 Glen Elendra Archmage
1 Inkwell Leviathan
1 Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur
1 Kederekt Leviathan
1 Kira, Great Glass-Spinner
1 Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
1 Memnarch
1 Phyrexian Ingester
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
1 Sakashima the Impostor
1 Sphinx Ambassador
1 Sphinx of Magosi
1 Sphinx of Uthuun
1 Steel Hellkite
1 Stormtide Leviathan
1 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
1 Thada Adel, Acquisitor
1 Tidespout Tyrant
1 Treasure Mage
1 Vesuvan Doppelganger
27 cards

Other Spells
[Artifacts]
1 Caged Sun
1 Crystal Shard
1 Darksteel Ingot
1 Extraplanar Lens
1 Forcefield
1 Gauntlet of Power
1 Journeyer's Kite
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Mana Crypt
1 Oblivion Stone
1 Sky Diamond
1 Sol Ring
1 Vedalken Orrery
1 Vedalken Shackles
1 Venser's Journal
[Enchantments]
1 Control Magic
1 Copy Enchantment
1 Leyline of Anticipation
1 Mind Unbound
1 Mystic Remora
1 Paradox Haze
1 Rhystic Study
1 Vanishing
[Instants]
1 Capsize
1 Cryptic Command
1 Hinder
1 Mana Drain
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Spell Crumple
[Sorceries]
1 All Is Dust
1 Ancestral Vision
1 Bribery
1 Fabricate
1 Rite Of Replication
34 cards
Lands
1 Academy Ruins
1 Maze of Ith
1 Minamo, School at Water's Edge
1 Miren, the Moaning Well
1 Reliquary Tower
1 Riptide Laboratory
25 Snow-Covered Island
1 Strip Mine
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Terrain Generator
1 Thawing Glaciers
1 Tolaria West
1 Vesuva
1 Winding Canyons
38 cards

Sideboard
1 Braids, Conjurer Adept
1 cards
vanishing

 

Sort of control deck, but not fully.  There are a lot of moving pieces in the deck that need to work together to get full advantage of Braids.  Let's break it down a little.

Flash  
leyline of anticipation Teferi, Mage of ZhalfirWinding CanyonsVedalken OrreryLeyline of Anticipation
Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, Winding Canyons, Vedalken Orrery, Leyline of Anticipation:  Doesn't seem like a whole lot of ways to give your guys flash, but they were all I could think of.  Keep in mind that the Orrery and Leyline are both lightning rods, as many experienced players know that they can be very dangerous.  But it is obviously very nice to be able to hold back and react on other players' turns, rather than try and dump your hand on your own.  And at least this way you know that you will have a shot at using Braids' ability.
 
Bounce  
tidespout tyrant

Crystal ShardTidespout TyrantRiptide LaboratoryCapsize
Crystal Shard, Tidespout Tyrant, Riptide Laboratory, Capsize:  Not a whole lot of bounce, but it is all pretty good.  The Tyrant is a game changer all by himself.  The Laboratory is the easiest way to bounce Braids to make sure that others don't get to use her.  The best part is that there are a lot of other wizards in the deck that can use the Laboratory as a safety net as well.  If you really wanted more bounce, you could always add Erratic Portal or Cloudstone Curio, but I was fine with what I had.

Vanishing sort of works as bounce, in that you can phase Braids out during your turn.  You will find that a lot of people don't understand phasing, and get upset when Braids comes back with the Aura still attached.  But it's a great way to have her leave for a while and come back when needed.

Card Draw  
mind unbound

Arcanis the OmnipotentConsecrated SphinxJin-Gitaxias, Core AugurKozilek, Butcher of TruthSphinx of MagosiSphinx of UthuunMind UnboundMystic RemoraRhystic StudyAncestral Vision 
Arcanis the Omnipotent, Consecrated Sphinx, Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur, Kozilek, Butcher of Truth, Sphinx of Magosi, Sphinx of Uthuun, Mind Unbound, Mystic Remora, Rhystic Study, Ancestral Vision:  The worst feeling I had while playing this deck was when I had Braids where I could bounce her and flash her, but I had nothing to drop into play with her ability.  Hopefully all of these will help keep your hand full, and many of them cost  enough that getting them out with Braids is probably the better plan.  I realize that the Core Augur can be mean, but not only does he fill my hand but he also makes it so that my opponents can't abuse Braids.

Mind Unbound was fun when it stuck around, especially in conjunction with Paradox Haze.  Just remember to stack the triggers so that you draw the cards before Braids' trigger goes off.  Finally, Kozilek was included mainly for his ability to shuffle my graveyard.  But he is a nice beatstick as well. 

Theft & Copy  
gilded drake

Chancellor of the SpiresCloneGilded DrakeMemnarchPhyrexian MetamorphSakashima the ImpostorVesuvan DoppelgangerVesuvaVedalken ShacklesControl MagicCopy EnchantmentRite of Replication
Chancellor of the Spires, Clone, Gilded Drake, Memnarch, Phyrexian Metamorph, Sakashima the Impostor, Vesuvan Doppelganger, Vesuva, Vedalken Shackles, Control Magic, Copy Enchantment, Rite of Replication:  So if your opponents are going to be dropping fun stuff, you are going to want to steal it and/or copy it.  Casting a kicked Rite of Replication on someone's Blightsteel Colossus makes games interesting.  Ideally, Copy Enchantment is used to copy Paradox Haze or another card draw enchantment.  You do have to watch out for Vedalken Shackles, though, as there have been numerous games where people drop creatures that are too large for it to handle.

Also, Bribery, Thada Adel and Sphinx Ambassador can be considered theft.  Thada is pretty much in here to steal Sol Rings, and she is very good at it. 

Counters  
spell crumple Draining WhelkGlen Elendra ArchmageCryptic CommandHinderMana DrainSpell Crumple
Draining Whelk, Glen Elendra Archmage, Cryptic Command, Hinder, Mana Drain, Spell Crumple:  Now you obviously cannot counter a card that is put into play using Braids' ability.  However, there will be plenty of times when opponents will try and mess with the board state you have carefully constructed using instants and sorceries.  That's where these guys can come in and save your bacon.  Cryptic Command can be useful as a stall tactic, while Mana Drain helps you ramp out your stuff quicker.  Obviously Spell Crumple and Hinder are good at tucking opposing Commanders. 
Answers  
kederekt leviathan

DuplicantKederekt LeviathanPhyrexian IngesterSteel HellkiteOblivion StoneAll is Dust 
Duplicant, Kederekt Leviathan, Phyrexian Ingester, Steel Hellkite, Oblivion Stone, All is Dust:  If you can't steal the stuff that is causing problems, sometimes you just gotta blow it up or press the re-set button.  Kederekt Leviathan has helped me out on a lot of occasions, leaving people with hands full of stuff that they cannot afford to play.  The others are just useful cards in general.  All is Dust doesn't work so well against Karn decks, but otherwise it's just fine.

You may be wondering why there is no Evacuation or Inundate, as they both could be helpful.  I had them in my original version, but I found that I was playing too many reactive spells and not enough large beaters.  So they didn't make the cut.  Feel free to add them if you wish. 

A few notes on some other cards.  Obviously if there are bunch of huge beaters being dropped by opponents, we need some defense.  Stormtide Leviathan, Maze of Ith and Forcefield help slow opponents down, while Venser's Journal helps with life gain and backs up our Reliquary Tower.  Also, Paradox Haze works well with a bunch of the cards in hand as it allows us more uses out of Braids' triggered ability, and Copy Enchantment is another fun way to get more upkeeps.  The deck also has the usual assortment of mana doublers with Extraplanar Lens and Caged Sun, and artifact ramp with Mana Crypt and Darksteel Ingot.  

There are only 3 tutors in the deck in Treasure Mage, Fabricate and Mystical Tutor but that's the way I like it.  If you wanted, you could add the transmute guys like Drift of Phantasms, Muddle the Mixture and Ethereal Usher, as well as Trinket Mage and Sensei's Divining Top to help smooth out draws.  But this isn't the way that I wanted to go.   

As I mentioned previously, my first draft of this deck was way more controllish, sitting back and reacting.  I ended up changing it to being able to drop more fatties into play with Braids.  This definitely raised the CMC of the deck up to about 4.43, which is pretty high for my decks.  It means that you may have games where you have a lot of fat sitting in your hand, but no way to hardcast it.  Of course, this makes the deck a little less consistent, but probably more fun to play, at least for me.  That's because these are the kinds of hands where you just run Braids out onto the table and hope for the best.  It doesn't always work out, but it definitely can.

The high CMC also means that the deck is very mana hungry, even if you have Braids working the way you want.  This is the reason for the inclusion of Thawing Glaciers and Journeyer's Kite (to make sure that you hit your land drops) as well as Terrain Generator (so that you can drop lands into play when you have a ton of cards in hand.

As for the fatties themselves, I tried to pick stuff that was useful or had abilities, and wasn't just a beater.  Of course, if you wanted the most powerful cards you could probably stick a bunch of Eldrazi into the deck, or Blightsteel Colossus.  Other cards I considered were Hoverguard Sweepers, Grozoth with other 9 CMC fat, Akroma's Memorial, Spine of Ish Sah and Roil Elemental.  But I couldn't fit everything in, and this is the list I liked the most.

The deck obviously likes to be able to use Braids, but she isn't always necessary.  I have been able to win without using her ability by just being a Blue control deck.  It is a little tough unless you have a way to double your mana, but it can be done.

THE GAMES:  FIGHT!

This is the part of the article where I usually give you guys a turn by turn breakdown of a game, hopefully showcasing just what the deck can do.  Unfortunately, each of my replays with this deck after I got it to this final version were either corrupted of lost into the ethernet.  Even the games where I got blown out due to mana problems didn't remain unscathed.  So I am just going to give a quick summary of a couple of games to give you an idea of what it does.  These are all pretty much from memory so sorry if you were in these games and I screwed up the summary.

In one game I was up against Vish Kal, The Mimeoplasm and Glissa, the Traitor.  Vish took out my early Rhystic Study, and I used a Bribery to steal a Vulturous Zombie from Mimeo to start the beats.  I also got Thada Adel into play, but she was stumped by Glissa's Tumble Magnet.  

tumble magnet
Good with proliferate.

Mimeo got Damia, Sage of Stone into play after dumping most of his hand but I had Phyrexian Ingester to get rid of her.  Eventually I got Mind Unbound in play with Leyline of Anticipation, along with Riptide Laboratory.  I had previously played Braids who lasted a full turn, with the scariest thing dropped being a Platinum Emperion from Glissa.  Eventually I am able to drop Tidespout Tyrant into play and bounce problem cards while keeping a full grip from Mind Unbound, and everyone conceded.

In another game I was up against Sharuum, Ulamog and Uril.  I used an early Treasure Mage to search up a Duplicant, while the Uril player sent a Sheltering Ancient in my direction.  I put out Braids on turn 4 just for the heck of it, but Uril got rid of her with Swords to Plowshares.  I ended up drawing a bunch of cards but have Venser's Journal to help me out.  Uril cast his Commander and started beating me up.  Around this time the Sharuum player conceded due to mana issues.  I ended up having to search up Forcefield to protect myself from Uril, but Ulamog played Karn Liberated with Rings of Brighthearth in play, and used Karn to exile my Forcefield and Winding Canyons.  

karn liberated
Just rough beats.

Uril hit me with his Commander again and sent the rest of his team after Karn, killing the planeswalker.  Uril was going to beat me down when I play Kederekt Leviathan, clearing the board.  Uril then played Primeval Titan.  I cast a kicked Rite of Replication targeting the Titan, then steal with Titan with Gilded Drake.  Both of my opponents conceded after that.

CONCLUSION

The deck can be pretty fun to play, even without having things in place to fully abuse Braids.  There are a couple of issues with the deck though.  I did get blown out by Wake of Destruction in one game even though I had been doing pretty well.  Land destruction is just really tough to recover from.  In addition, it took me a while to realize that the deck has no real form of graveyard hate.  That is probably a serious oversight, and I'm sure that you guys could fix it if you wanted.

The other problem with the deck is that it is mono-Blue.  Just by being Blue the deck is often the number one threat at the table in opponents' eyes.  By being Braids, however, you can typically off set this notion from your opponents.  In addition, dedicated combo decks can be an issue.  You aren't always going to have a counterspell on you.  But even with these flaws, the deck is still fun to play.

So if you want a change of pace from your typical mono-Blue control, give Braids a shot.  I hope you enjoyed the deck.  Until next time!

Leviathan, aka Tarasco on MTGO
mrmorale32 at yahoo dot com

CONQUEROR & COMMANDER ARCHIVE

8 Comments

YAY!!! by apaulogy at Thu, 10/13/2011 - 15:42
apaulogy's picture
5

Thanks Leviathian!!!

This is what I was looking for. Now I can build a mono blue deck without being a total d**k...(I have been thinking about Vendilion Clique a lot, but don't want to get run out of games)

You rock, sir.

Glad you like it! A couple by Leviathan at Thu, 10/13/2011 - 16:15
Leviathan's picture

Glad you like it! A couple of extra notes on the deck:

This article was submitted before the most recent update. As many of you know by now, Commander games have been changed such that you can have up to 6 players. I obviously didn't have a chance to play with more than 4, and obviously if you just throw Braids out there with 5 other opponents you have a much smaller chance of having her stick around for your next turn. Obviously you can try to be the "fun guy" who is helping other people out, but most of the time it's probably better to sit back and be non-threatening. The deck is much more likely to do well in a 4 person game.

Of course, you could try and make it a stronger mono-Blue version, adding stuff like SDT, Future Sight, Mind Slaver, Jace's etc., but that just paints a bigger target on your head.

That game with Vish was me. by Paul Leicht at Thu, 10/13/2011 - 17:23
Paul Leicht's picture
5

That game with Vish was me. Yeah the lock was pretty complete and I think everyone was a little exhausted.

I would really like you to by Lord Erman at Fri, 10/14/2011 - 01:40
Lord Erman's picture

I would really like you to come up with a nice deck challenge article. Present the challenge and build a few decks for it. Only creatures? Only rares? No rares? No creatures? I don't know, but whatever that challenge is going to be, it has to be really a very good and very interesting one.

Then pick three more players the next week (people who commented on your article and who accepted the challenge) and play a game with them and then write about it. As a matter of fact, record it and comment while playing. Or maybe you shouldn't play yourself but just record and comment. That would be a nice change from the usual articles.

LE

PS: Maybe you should create a card pool and no decks can be build using cards outside of that pool. But then the card pool must be full with playable AND interesting AND affordable cards. I don't know, just a suggestion.

LIKE! :D 5 fireball idea by Paul Leicht at Fri, 10/14/2011 - 03:03
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LIKE! :D 5 fireball idea this.

EDH games are generally far, by Gardevi at Fri, 10/14/2011 - 08:48
Gardevi's picture

EDH games are generally far, far, far too long to record in one sitting with no breaks. I don't know how many people would watch it. Even though I love these articles, I know I wouldn't watch an EDH video.

Hey, that's an interesting by Leviathan at Fri, 10/14/2011 - 12:28
Leviathan's picture

Hey, that's an interesting idea. I will definitely think about some sort of deckbuilding challenge. In the meantime I know that the Commander PRE on the weekend changes up their challenge every week. I think last week you weren't allowed to have colorless mana symbols in your cards. Interesting. I would link to it but I'm on my phone.

As for recording games, aside from the technical aspects (which I currently know nothing about) it takes a certain type of personality to keep people interested for up to 2 hours. I know that I have tried to sit through recorded games before, and it's tough. I will think about this too.

If people like this idea or have others, feel free to speak up! I'm always willing to listen.

I'm more interested in the by Paul Leicht at Fri, 10/14/2011 - 16:16
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I'm more interested in the theme than recordings. Id prefer a well written report in your usual style.