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By: CottonRhetoric, Cotton Rhetoric
Aug 19 2015 12:00pm
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Cotton Threads, welcome to another article. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. (Shakespeare's works are public domain so it's legal to plagiarize them. You can sell your own printed copies of Hamlet if you want. You don't even need to put his name on it!) Speaking of books,

Deck 1 Orcish Librarian

Orcish Librarian

I've been wanting to use this card since I first saw it (and yes I was playing Magic when Ice Age was still new). It wasn't until this deck, which is centered on self-milling, that I felt it had a proper home. But now that I've seen it in action I want to put it in almost every red deck I make! This deck happens to benefit from the self-milling, but even the ones that don't are unlikely to mind it. (When's the last time you won a game with fewer than 20 cards in your library? Weeks, right? If not months?) So mentally replace the exile line with "shuffle your library" and you have a closer picture of how the card actually functions. It's honestly quite good. I'd recommend it for basically any red deck that isn't in "kill as fast as possible" mode, or in need of also casting a conventional tutor for singletons.


I haven't talked too much about the deck yet. It all started when I was trying to find things to do with Leveler (see right) other than Laboratory Maniac. I eventually remembered the Beacon cycle and the Sun's Zenith cycle. If you cast one of those after a Leveler, it would be the only card left in your library, and you could recast it every turn! You couldn't cast anything else not already in your hand... but maybe you wouldn't need to....

After realizing something is possible, we then have to ask whether it is desirable. Let's run through each of them to see:

  • W's Beacon of Immortality (double your life): NO. This would require a third combo piece, like Test of Endurance. Kind of contrived.
  • U's Beacon of Tomorrows (take an extra turn): NO. This is obviously powerful and game winning, but consider your opponent's feelings for a moment. Nobody wants to watch you play Solitaire for 5 minutes with your infinite turn combo. This is unfit for the casual room, which is what my decks are made for.
  • B's Beacon of Unrest (get an artifact or creature from the grave): NO. This has combo potential, but really is starting to require an elaborate setup.
  • R's Beacon of Destruction (deal 5 damage): YES. This can not only win the game, but it can do so by itself. It's even an instant, meaning we can cast it on our upkeep for the same 5 mana we cast Leveler with! (If it was a sorcery, like several of the others, we would need ten whole mana on the same turn.)
  • G's Beacon of Creation (get a 1/1 for each forest): YES. Not in today's deck, which lacks forests, but this is easily powerful enough to win the game by itself after a few casts. You could totally make that deck. In fact... you should totally make that deck.
  • White Sun's Zenith (get X 2/2 tokens): MAYBE. It is very mana intensive at XWWW, but it is an instant at least.
  • Blue Sun's Zenith (target player draws X cards): NO. We can't use it on ourselves, and this is an inefficient way to mill our opponent.
  • Black Sun's Zenith (put X -1/-1 counters on each creature): SORT OF. I might use this as a support card, next to one of the others on this list, but it's obviously not doing the job on its own.
  • Red Sun's Zenith (deal X damage): YES. It's a sorcery, but it's only XR, meaning we could cast it for a low (or zero) X on the same turn as Leveler, and then more on the recasts.

So you can see how I wound up with a red focus for this deck. Running both Beacon of Destruction and Red Sun's Zenith will give the well-needed redundancy our combo needs.

Now, this deck doesn't play out like a win-all-at-once combo deck. (I tend not to like those.) If we even want the repeated damage spells to win the game, we'll need to control the board a bit beforehand, since the combo deprives us of drawing anything new. Arc-Slogger and Gloom Surgeon are good ways to control things, while also speeding along the milling process. (We won't always draw or even want a Leveler. In fact, there aren't even four of them in the deck!)

    Divining Witch

Another way to get rid of your library, and the reason I'm not running four Levelers, is Divining Witch. Compare the two for a moment: Leveler empties your library while giving you a vanilla 10/10. Divining Witch empties your library after giving you whatever card you need to either set up a combo or control the board. A 10/10 is nice, but honestly, doesn't the versatility of the witch sound better? (Leveler doesn't even trample!)

In most games, I activate her twice: once to find a Beacon of Destruction and once naming Solfatara or Kookus or some other random card with a funny name that's not in the deck—as a way of emptying my library. Make sure not to do it too early; you have to have a safe setup on the board first. It's kind of like using one of Kamigawa's Epic spells!

It's always hard to pick the optimal artifact destruction spell, when we have so many dozens of choices nowadays, but I went with Smash to Smithereens, since this is after all a burn deck (of sorts). Wall of Souls is a great card to buy you some time early on. And I also threw in a set of Slagstorms when I noticed that most of my creatures had a high enough toughness to survive it.

Here's the list! It's meant to be casual and customizable.

RB Self-Milling
4 Divining Witch 
Gloom Surgeon 
3 Wall of Souls
3 Orcish Librarian
2 Arc-Slogger
2 Leveler
18 cards

Other Spells
2 Smash to Smithereens
4 Slagstorm
4 Worn Powerstone
4 Beacon of Destruction
4 Red Sun's Zenith
18 cards
3 Temple of Malice
4 Badlands
9 Mountain
8 Swamp
24 cards



Deck 2 Rekindled Flame

Rekindled Flame

This is another deck that started with a single card. Paying 4 every turn for 4 targeted damage is fairly strong, isn't it? And unlike the previous deck, we don't have to mill our own library to set it up. All we have to do is empty our opponent's hand (repeatedly)!

There are so many ways to do this, but in my experience, it really only takes a single card. And that card is Necrogen Mists. If your opponent doesn't have (at least) a Howling Mine or something, it will get the job done on its own. 9 games out of 10. (We can add some more discard spells for that tenth game, but really, most of them are just in here to increase the odds that you'll draw something.)

Bottomless Pit is as close a duplicate as we'll get without dipping into fragile creatures like Cunning Lethemancer. The random discard is harder on our own hand, and is more likely to draw resentment from our opponents, so I'll run only 2 of them to the 4 Necrogen Mists and not the other way around. (I firmly believe that "just for fun" games should be fun—for both people!)  Rakdos Augermage is our last discard backup, although his main duty here is as a body. Scandalmonger is tempting and would definitely get the job done, but is a bit too mana intensive for this particular build.

Necrogen Mists  Bottomless Pit  Rakdos Augermage

We don't have to stuff our deck with Hymn to Tourachs and Duress; the above are truly enough to activate the Rekindled Flame.

So then: what else can we run to capitalize on our opponent's empty hand? Guul Draz Specter is a strong choice (and his second ability comes up WAY more than his third). The Rekindled Flame even helps clear a path for him, as few opposing fliers are big enough to survive it. Nyxathid is obviously strong. His stats are well over the curve even if our opponent has even three cards in their hand—and they usually won't. 

Since we'll be discarding, too, we can slip a Carrionette into the graveyard pretty smoothly. It's a great trick that very few opponents ever see coming. The drawback on Null Brooch is virtually nonexistant. And Howltooth Hollow is surprisingly easy to enable.

Madness and Hellbent cards are a natural fit—you would think. But in practice, very few of them jibe with this deck's gameplan. Most are just random 4/3 creatures or whatever. The only one (from either list) I ended up using was 2x Keldon Megaliths. But we can at least borrow a strategy from Hellbent decks: running Seal of Fire and Torch Fiend type cards, ie things we can drop early and use after our hand is empty.




Deck 3 Sundial of the Infinite

Sundial of the Infinite

Two years ago, when Sundial was new, I wrote an entire article about it, featuring not only a list of strategies, but three entire deck lists built around it. And yet, none of them have a single card in common with this one! (Other than lands and the Sundial itself.) Talk about a versatile card, my goodness.

    Lethal Vapors

So what tricks does this deck have?

  • Mark of the Oni: Whenever its sacrifice trigger goes on the stack, end the turn. You keep the creature forever.
  • Hecatomb: For just one extra mana up front, you can cast and keep this without sacrificing any creatures. And I don't know if you've ever seen one of these on the battlefield (most people haven't) but... it's strong. Like, really strong.
  • Necroplasm: If he's ever about to destroy a CMC you don't want him to, end the turn, and he won't. Most notably, you can skip over X=3, allowing him to survive himself and hit larger creatures later on. (This is admittedly a more negligible bonus than the others on this list, but as you'll see later in the article, he also combines with this deck's non-Sundial theme.)
  • Lethal Vapors: Heh heh heh. I mean usually your opponent just gives you an extra turn before this even comes up, but in case they are stubborn: cast your creature, wait for this card's destroy trigger to go on the stack, and then end the turn. Your opponent still can't cast creatures, but you can do so freely.
  • Shriekmaw: Evoke him, kill a creature, and end the turn before he kills himself. It's functionally the same as hardcasting him, but for two less mana. (Just remember that it's okay to evoke him normally before you even get the Sundial to remove an early threat.)
  • Dawn of the Dead: "Exile it at the end of the turn," huh? I'd rather keep it!

Now any successful Sundial deck will need to operate without a Sundial. So we need to give ourselves another focus. And the one I settled on was Ring of Xathrid. It's another very (casually) powerful card. It makes even a lowly Vault Skirge a formidable foe in no time, swinging not only like a lifelinking Exalted Angel, but even being able to regenerate! The ring also combines with Necroplasm, doubling the rate at which he accumulates counters, allowing him to skip past certain CMCs. And if you want to slow him back down so as not to skip over a certain one, just change who it's equipping.

And the last card I want to really talk about is Thought Gorger. It ended up being my favorite card in the deck. He:

  • Gives you something productive to do extra combo pieces we don't need. (Two Sundials are not stronger than one, nor are two Hecatombs.)
  • Provides fuel for the Dawn of the Dead engine.
  • Draws cards when he dies, which is strong enough an ability on its own, but is even stronger considering...
  • ...when equipped with Ring of Xathrid, he can draw way more cards than you paid up front!

So yes I recommend him highly in other words. Just don't forget that he's not a Mindless Automaton; you can't cherry pick which cards to discard. He takes your whole hand automatically.

Last tip: You can also use the Sundial reactively. If your opponent ever casts an instant or activates an ability on your turn, you can, if you want to, activate the Sundial to counter it! (A lot of players will do that to you, but never more than once.)


"Come what come may, time and the hour runs through the roughest day."  –Cotton Rhetoric


The very first "Sligh" deck by Joe Fiorini at Wed, 08/19/2015 - 20:39
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The very first "Sligh" deck was referred to by it's creator as his "Orcish Librarian Deck". It seemed out of place even then, and it likely was. Creatures are just that much better now. I'm a bigger fan of browse, but the book muncher is pretty cool too.

The original Sligh deck is in that article. 2x Librarian.

Sligh... by Fred1160 at Fri, 08/21/2015 - 14:05
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The name comes from Paul Sligh, the man who had success with it (second at a PTQ). The creator of the deck, Jay Schneider, actually referred to the deck as "Geeba." It was an inside joke: he and some of his friends would say that the goblin language consisted of the one word "geeba" with different meanings possible based on how you say the word.

Cotton as per usual your by Paul Leicht at Thu, 08/20/2015 - 02:18
Paul Leicht's picture

Cotton as per usual your twisted brilliance is dazzling. Love the 3rd deck even more than the first. I had no idea about Thought Gorger (I played the beta MTGO with Torment but never played Torment constructed.) What a crazy card!

I must have entirely by Kumagoro42 at Thu, 08/20/2015 - 06:55
Kumagoro42's picture

I must have entirely forgotten about the existence of Hecatomb, and now I want to play with it something fierce. With the Sundial, but even by just finding a mix of creatures you want to sac or you generate cheaply. After all, you don't need to drop it early on, since you need swamps in play. And compared to the same effect in red (as in Koth of the Hammer), in black you can splash what you want and still have all swamps thanks to Urborg.