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By: spg, spg
Mar 04 2009 11:32am
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Explorations #20 - Conflux Deck Sketches

Whenever new cards are released, I like to do a set review in the form of deck sketches instead of a card-by-card analysis.  You can check out the articles that I wrote for Shards of Alara here, here, and here.  Today I'm going to take a shot at putting together a few decks based on cards from Conflux.  These decks are not likely to win you a premier event or PTQ, but should be right at home in any casually competitive setting.  My hope is that these decks will give you (and me) a glimpse into the casually competitive side of Conflux.

I should mention that these decks are completely untested, and are definitely not optimal lists.  They're basically just vehicles that I like to use in order to explore new sets.  In the future I will most likely pick a few of these decks to do a full article on, including game reports and evolutions - but for now I'm going to keep it a little more simple.  I've got five lists to go over roday, so we had better just get started.

Esper Bounce House

Early on in the Conflux spoiler season I noticed the card Esperzoa.

Later on in the spoiler season I noticed Master Transmuter.

Both of these guys seem like a lot of fun.  Esperzoa is a powerful creature that's reminiscent of Stampeding Wildebeests.  Of course it's in a better color, one mana cheaper, and with a better (usually) form of evasion - but who's keeping track?  Master Transmuter is the closest thing to Tinker that we're likely to see in Standard for a very long time.  It's not nearly as good as Tinker, of course, but that shouldn't be much of a surprise when we're referencing one of the most powerful spells of all time.

I spent some time with these two cards, laying down a deck around each one.  I must be dense or something, because it took much too long for me to realize that I should be running through both of them in the same list.

Here's the fantasy sequence that spawned this deck idea:

Untap with Esperzoa, Master Transmuter, Glaze Fiend, and Pithing Needle in play.  Return Pithing Needle to your hand to satisfy Esperzoa's upkeep cost.  Re-cast Pithing Needle, naming a problematic card on your opponent's side and pumping Glaze Fiend to 2/3.  Use Master Transmuter to return Pithing Needle to your hand and put Sharuum the Hegemon into play, return Tidehollow Sculler from your graveyard to play.  Grab the most important card from your opponent's hand and pump Glaze Fiend to 6/7.  Replay Pithing Needle and make Glaze Fiend 8/9.  Swing for a bunch and then do it all again next turn!  Does that sound sweet or what?

Now obviously this isn't going to happen in every game, but this deck packs tons of similar synergies.  There are a bunch of artifacts (and artifact creatures) with 'comes into play' abilities, lots of ways to repeatedly bounce/reset these artifacts, Scourglass to serve as a one-sided super sweeper, Cryptic Command, and some cool alternate win conditions in Ethersworn Adjudicator and Master of Etherium.  I'm not sure if twenty-six lands plus four Mind Stone is too much mana (it probably is?), but this deck needs alot to operate properly.

Throne Control

What do you guys think of this card?

If you're a hardcore tournament player, then your first thought was probably something along the lines of: "It doesn't DO anything."  That's very true, it doesn't do anything.  It's a terrible topdeck (especially for something that costs a full FIVE mana), requires a bunch of other stuff to go right in order to do anything at all, and severely limits your deck building selection in order for it to function.  For tournament players, this combines to turn Sigil of the Empty throne into garbage - but for another segment of the Magic playing population it's an interesting challenge and fun win condition.

If we're playing a deck with Sigil of the Empty Throne, then we've got to be running a huge number of enchantments.  In addition, Sigil of the Empty Throne doesn't even come down until turn five - so we're talking about a deck that wants to last well into the last game.  This is going to require a serious commitment to defense, so I'm going to brainstorm a list of cards that can play in a strategy like this.

Oblivion Ring
Fantastic, versatile removal.  Takes care of everything from Demigod of Revenge to Ajani Vengeant.

Story Circle
Useful against just about any deck that we'll come up against.  Tons of cards that you see today are either gold or hybrid, so a single Story Circle can often hold off a surprising variety of threats.  I mean, just think about the creatures alone that Story Circle: Green (for example) can hold off: Chameleon Colossus, Sprouting Thrinax, Kitchen Finks, Rhox War Monk, Boggart Ram-Gang, Garruk Wildspeaker tokens, Doran, the Seige Tower, Rafiq of the Many, Stoic Angel, Quillspike, Deus of Calamity, Hellkite Overlord, and Tattermunge Maniac - just to name a few.

Runed Halo
Another versatile enchantment, able to deal with a huge variety of cards.

Prison Term
This is a decent way to deal with a creature, and has the added bonus of moving (for free) to any new creature your opponent lays down.  There's no need to fear premature enchantment with Prison Term.

Greater Auramancy
Another card that doesn't do anything without a bunch of other enchantments, but makes a strong board position almost impossible for an opponent to crack.

Hoofprints of the Stag
Also creates a 4/4 flying dude for five mana and a little bit of work, but lets you pay for the five mana investment-style.  Unfortunately the second 4/4 costs eight mana.  We're not going to be drawing a ton of cards with this deck, so won't be exploiting Hoofprints in any sort of semi-broken way.

Endless Horizons
I've had my eye on this card for a long time.  There aren't too many decks these days that play enough Plains to care - but Endless Horizons simultaneously thins out your deck and helps you to hit your land drops each turn for a one-time investment of four mana.

Enchantment-based alternate win condition.

Idyllic Tutor
We're going to be running a huge number of enchantments, Idyllic Tutor will help make sure that we always have the one that we need.

Wrath of God
Beats back early aggro, leaves our enchantments alone.

Martial Coup
Another exciting card from Conflux, Marial Coup provides another Wrath effect along with an alternate win condition.

I've always been a big fan of the Incarnation cycle from Lorwyn, and Purity is one of the best of the bunch.  A 6/6 with evasion and an awesome ability (plus inevitability) for six mana?  Back in the day we were happy to get a vanilla 6/4 for six mana.

How about something like this?

Throne Control
Steve Gargolinski - Standard Legal
2 Purity
2 cards

Other Spells
4 Sigil of the Empty Throne
4 Oblivion Ring
3 Story Circle
3 Runed Halo
3 Mind Stone
2 Prison Term
1 Greater Auramancy
1 Endless Horizons
1 Mobilization
3 Idyllic Tutor
4 Wrath of God
2 Martial Coup
2 Scepter of Dominance
25 cards
21 Plains
4 Mutavault
25 cards
Prison Term


I tried to balance board control with strong enchantments, a small Idyllic Tutor toolbox, and a few different alternate win conditions.  I wanted to fit a playset of Path to Exile in this deck, but I decided not to run the new Swords to Plowshares in favor of even more enchantments.  I did manage to find room for a few copies of Scepter of Dominance - Icy Manipulator is back in white at a cheaper cost, which may be just what it needs to regain relevance in Magic today.

This deck has a really high manacurve, which is the reason for three copies of Mind Stone.  If you're worried about this, and you probably should be, then you may want to find some non-enchantments to add into the mix.  Other than the included Runed Halo, I didn't find anything particularly exciting at less than three mana.  There's stuff like Pacifism, but that isn't particularly exciting.  Hoofprints of the Stag is one option, but that doesn't exactly cause a huge early game impact.  Maybe Path to Exile does belong in this deck?

Mutavault isn't being played as much as it used to be - but this is the perfect deck for a playset.  Mutavault can chump block, go on the offense, and doesn't force us to stretch our manabase too far.  We're not supporting three colors with a splah of the fourth and fifth - running a single color gives us room for a few utility lands.  If Desert was still in the format then it would be great for this deck.

NAYA/jund Ramp

There are three cards in Conflux with a casting cost that includes X.  Here they are:

These cards are decent on their own, and then absolutely flip out when X is greater than or equal to five.  We're talking about some serious next level moves available to green, red, and white mages.  Naya is the shard where five power matters, so I guess it's not totally surprising that it's also the shard where X >= 5 matters.  All three of these cards seem like a blast to me.  Martial Coup is like Rise of the Hobgoblins or a cycling-only Decree of Justice that ramps up into a (mostly) one-sided Wrath of God.  Banefire is very similar to an old favorite of mine, Demonfire, and triggering the "can't be countered/prevented" clause is probably even easier this time around.

Speaking of favorites, one of my buddies absolutely LOVED to play Hydras back in the day.  Rock Hydra and Balduvian Hydra were staples in his decks, and even though they were always pretty much terrible - he sure loved to play them.  Apocalypse Hydra is a variation of the old-school Rock Hydra or the new-school Feral Hydra that gets pumped up big time when you're casting him for a respectable amount of mana.

Here's a chart of total mana spent to power and toughness:

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Rock Hydra N/A N/A 1/1 2/2 3/3 4/4 5/5 6/6 7/7 8/8
Feral Hydra N/A 1/1 2/2 3/3 4/4 5/5 6/6 7/7 8/8 9/9
Apocalypse Hydra N/A N/A 1/1 2/2 3/3 4/4 10/10 12/12 14/14 16/16

Pretty neat, huh?  Apocalypse Hydra goes from respectable creature to vicious monster in the blink of an eye.  What a difference just one mana can make!

During my Alara deck sketch article I wrote about a Jund mana ramp deck (check it out here).  This deck archetype actually turned out to be pretty decent, and if you want to read a tournament report then you can check out what Mike Flores did with it at States last year here.  I thought it might be fun to take the basic ramp skeleton and fill it out with some sweet Naya cards instead of Jund.  I'm sure that the tuned Jund tournament deck is more powerful, but this one has some fun and new cards.  Here's my first shot at a list:


Originally I had an idea to use creature-based acceleration like Birds of Paradise and Knotvine Mystic.  I liked the idea of running Thousand-Year Elixir alongside Knotvine Mystic and ramp creatures that have a strong tap ability.  This seems like an exciting play to me, but not particularly good.  I ended up sticking with an acceleration package of Mind Stone along with the Fertile Ground/Garruk Wildspeaker combo.

I knew I wanted to run a full set of Banefire and a full set of Apocalypse Hydra, so those playsets went right in.  I only decided to run a single copy of Martial Coup, since I don't want to blow up all of the sweet big creatures I am getting into play - but it is a fantastic stabilization card and it may be correct to run more copies.  After adding some utility into the list in the form of Naya Charm, Firespout, and Gift of the Gargantuan I had five slots left to fill out with sweet creatures to ramp into.  I wanted to make this a fun mix of power and novelty.

Meglonoth seems like a ton of fun, so I added in two copies.  I can't wait to play with this card.  He brings the offense and I absolutely love his defensive trample ability, I've been waiting a while for that one to show up.  Godsire has not seen much love, even in the casual room, and if ANY deck wants him... it's this one.  I'll run a copy.  I didn't find anything super exciting in Naya for the last two slots, so I decided to branch out to Jund and add in a singleton Hellkite Overlord and Broodmate Dragon.  Thankfully we live in a Standard world where adding a fourth color is no concern whatsoever!

Of the five decks that I made for this article, this one probably seems like the most fun to me.  I'll definitely be putting it together at some point.

Bloodhall Aggro

Here are two similar cards from Conflux that seem like a lot of fun to me:

So what do these two cards have going for them?  Well, for starters, the art on Bloodhall Ooze is fantastic.  Kederekt Parasite's cliche style doesn't really stack up, but I guess it could be worse.  On the funtional side, these guys are each 1/1 for one mana with a pretty cool long-term ability: Kederekt Parasite is a 1/1 Underworld Dreams, and Bloodhall Ooze has the ability to transform from Mons' Goblin Raiders into Ohran Yeti into Shivan Dragon into Tectonic Fiend and beyond.  Well, the Bloodhall Ooze doesn't gain any cool any abilities like flying or Firebreathing - but you get the idea.

These two seem to fill out the first eight slots of a pretty cool creature-based, Jund aggro deck. 

Tattermunge Maniac
A very agressive option that never quite made the impact many thought ir would given the pedigree of two power for one mana.

Ashenmoor Gouger
A three-mana 4/4 is very good, and has essentially no drawback in a hyper-agressive deck.

Shambling Remains
See Ashenmoor Gouger.  Slightly easier to cast, comes back for more with unearth, trades one point of toughness.  I'm not sure which creature is better in this list, so we'll go for both of them.

Goblin Deathraiders
Saw some play in Blightning Aggro decks post-Shards of Alara, triggers Kederekt Parasite and half of Bloodhall Ooze.

Rip-Clan Crasher
2/2 haste for two is pretty solid, but I'm not sure if this is a better choice than Goblin Deathraiders in the two slot.

Sprouting Thrinax
One of my personal favorites: satisfies all of our color desires, provides some protection against mass removal, and beats down for three.

Not much needs to be said about this one.

Boggart Ram-Gang
I'm always a little surprised to not see this guy in more decks - we're talking about a 3/3 for three with two strong abilities.  It's hard to believe that not too long ago a vanilla 3/3 for three Gnarled Mass was a defining creature of the format.  Times change, I guess.

Here's one potential decklist:

Note that there's nothing in this list that actually requires green mana other than Sprouting Thrinax, which lets us run a pretty easy splash.  Due to the agressive nature of the deck I didn't want to run many comes-into-play-tapped lands, so there are no Vivids and only the three copies of Savage LandsAncient Ziggurat is right at home in this deck, making the green splash even easier.  Every card in the deck, with the exception of Bitterblossom and the singleton Loxodon Warhammer, can be cast with mana from Ancient Ziggurat.

I'm not sure about running this many creatures without any real reach, but I wanted to make the first version of this deck to exploit the abilities of Bloodhall Ooze and Kederekt Parasite as much as possible.  Playtesting should help determine how many copies of Lash Out or Incinerate (if any) this deck wants to run.  It may also want something like Gift of the Gargantuan to keep the quality cards flowing in the mid-late game.

RB Elemental Discard

A few years ago I used to play Legacy every Sunday morning.  I guess that's what some people do instead of going to church?  For a while I played a mono-black Pox list that was focused on (sort of) symmetrically destroying everything around - hands, creatures, and lands.  There's a version of this deck in Classic that does pretty well in the tournament scene.  Here's an example list:

I haven't played Pox in Classic or Legacy in a very long time, but there was a card in the Conflux spoiler that briefly teleported me back in time:

One thing to note before we get started is that Nyxathid constantly adjusts his power and toughness based on the number of cards in your opponent's hand.  It is not a one-time deal where his power/toughness is set as the creature comes into play.  I've noticed some confusion on this in forums, so I just thought that I'd point it out.

I'm not sure if Nyxathid has what it takes to make the cut in a format with so many options, but if I was still actively playing a Pox deck then I would defintely test this guy out.  Assuming that your strategy is working out, Nyxathid should often be a 5/5, 6/6 or even 7/7 that can come into play off of a single Dark Ritual with no real drawbacks.  This sounds awesome, but we're talking about a deck that basically gets to play a 5/5 flying dude for BB - so I wouldn't be surprised if Nyxalid comes up short.

While I'm not sure if Nyxathid is good enough for competitive Classic/Legacy, I know for sure that it's good enough for casually competitive Standard.  Building a deck around Nyxathid means running a bunch of discard, that much is obvious - but straight up discard plus Nyxathis is boring and I really wanted to come up with a strong secondary theme.  After staring at the card for a while I noticed that Nyxathid was an elemental.  Say hello to a cool secondary theme!

Shriekmaw Mournwhelk Smokebraider
Elemental BFFs

A while ago there were lots of decks running elementals and Makeshift Mannequin, using the reanimation spell to abuse the comes-into-play abilities of cards like Mulldrifter and the aforementioned Shriekmaw.  It never saw any serious tournament play, but one of my personal favorite cards to abuse with the Mannequin strategy is Mournwhelk.  He's above the cost of the more popular Elemetals (which is in many ways why they are the popular ones), but you can't deny that card advantage.  I'm going to put together a deck that uses Mournwhelk as the link between the Elemental Mannequin strategy and Nyxathid discard.

Here's the list I came up with:

BR Elemental Discard
Steve Gargolinski - Standard Legal
4 Mournwhelk
4 Smokebraider
4 Shriekmaw
4 Thunderblust
4 Nyxathid
20 cards

Other Spells
4 Thoughtseize
4 Blightning
2 Raven's Crime
4 Makeshift Mannequin
2 Scepter of Fugue
16 cards
4 Reflecting Pool
4 Graven Cairns
4 Sulfurous Springs
7 Swamp
5 Mountain
24 cards

I'm running four copies of Blightning, four copies of Thoughtseize, two copies of Raven's Crime, and then two copies of Scepter of Fugue to fill out the discard package of this deck.  I think that should be enough to keep your opponent's hand empty and your Nyxathid huge.

In addition to the four copies of Nyxathid and the four copies of Makeshift Mannequin, I decided to go with sixteen additional Elementals (on top of Nyxathid): Mournwhelk, Smokebraider, Shriekmaw, and Thunderblust.  Smokebraider makes it a lot easier to cast the non-evoke versions of your creatures, and also enables a turn three Thunderblust.  Not a bad alternate win condition.  If you have Demigod of Revenge then that's probably just a better option in this slot, but I love how Thunderblust comes down early with Smokebraider mana - exciting!

I like the idea of Smokebraider mana, Thunderblust, and Blightning enough to run this deck as black-red, but there's probably a perfectly good mono black version out there somewhere if you're interested in messing around with it.  There's probably another one that splashes blue for Mulldrifter.

That's a Wrap

Alright so that wraps it up for today, hopefully you found something interesting in this article.  Did I miss any cool archetypes that you're waiting to build with the new Conflux cards?  If so then let me know in the comments.  Want to read a full article on any of these decks?  Let me know that also.  Thanks for reading!

Steve Gargolinski


IF you have Demigods of revenge? by Effovex (not verified) at Wed, 03/04/2009 - 12:16
Effovex's picture

I have to say, I find it a bit weird to see Demigod of Revenge as a "if you have them they're probably better" inclusion in a deck that's already worth over a hundred tix. I'm not saying you should budget your decks, just that that was a strange comment. I think Thunderblust is fine in the deck anyway, since it interacts better with Makeshift Mannequin and makes the deck Standard Tribal legal.

You are definitely correct by spg at Wed, 03/04/2009 - 12:41
spg's picture

You are definitely correct that the Demigod/Thunderblust comments were weird, and I should have been more clear. Those comments were more of an attempted justification of running Thunderblust (over the super-powerful and super-similar Demigod) than a budget consideration.

Note that these deck sketches are not made to be particularly budget friendly, I just add pretty much whichever cards I want. When I do a full article on a deck, I always include a budget version.

:) by LOurs at Wed, 03/04/2009 - 12:19
LOurs's picture

I like these explorations, nice job :)
I am usualy an "only classic" player, but i must admitt that ALA & CON are changing my mind about limited & standard; i am enjoying to play these sets a lot. So i am not aware enough to debate about the Standard Meta, but my experience in limited allowed me to discover the grixis slavedriver : it was an impressively good card in limited and maybe there is something to build around it even if it is really expansive in mana (the unearth cost could help a lot).

About Nyxathid, i am trying to put it into competitive decks in classic. My first tests seem to show a relative effiency : in a pure black deck, with a lot of discard, it is a good card. Often, it comes into play with less power than i expected before, it upgrades itself more & more. I recently tried a deck (a test, not so competitive but to evaluate potential) like this : 15 discard cards, 4 tombstalker, 4 goyf & 4 nyxathid as threat supported by 2 berserck => it was a very very strong creature basis !!!! I even killed a furious dreadnought with them without loose all my creature ...
In standard/extend, i think it could be interesting to test it with Tar fiend (great synergy) or even in a fast & furious discarding rats decks with a liliana vess support :)

Kinda seems like these are by Metalman (not verified) at Wed, 03/04/2009 - 15:02
Metalman's picture

Kinda seems like these are all casual decks? If the intention is to make competitive decks then it might be good to talk about how they play versus some of them...something simple like "this deck, while fun, actually has game versus fairies", etc.

I guess I'm really a spike with timmy tendancies though. I cant justify playing a deck thats purely fun and gets trounced by competitive decks so I like to see stuff like that investigated.

Fun analysis though.


I tried to give some context by spg at Wed, 03/04/2009 - 15:12
spg's picture

I tried to give some context for the article at the beginning:

"These decks are not likely to win you a premier event or PTQ, but should be right at home in any casually competitive setting. My hope is that these decks will give you (and me) a glimpse into the casually competitive side of Conflux."

I don't usually test these decks against the Standard tournament metagame, but it's definitely something that I will keep in mind for the future.

Although I should definitely by spg at Wed, 03/04/2009 - 15:44
spg's picture

Although I should definitely specify that if you're looking for a deck that can beat Faeries, then you probably want to be reading someone else's articles =)

Rosheen Meanderer by Peter (not verified) at Wed, 03/04/2009 - 21:23
Peter's picture

I want to fit Rosheen Meanderer into that Naya ramp deck somehow.

Naya Ramp! by Katastrophe at Thu, 03/05/2009 - 00:07
Katastrophe's picture

Only 5 targets in the deck, though. There are tons of expensive things but only 5 X-spells. Maybe a singleton would be fine?

I'm a classic player too, and I don't care much for standard. But that Naya Ramp deck looks Timmylicious! :D I'd play that.

Esper Bounce House is my second favorite. It looks like a novel deck. I'd put an Atog in there if I could. It seems like it would be powerful and I think it's hilarious to have an Atog eating people. (But why stop there? Artifact lands! Bounce a Needle, play an Mindslaver. Or bounce a Winter Orb during their end step. Hehehe.)

Nine targets, actually: 4 by Peter (not verified) at Thu, 03/05/2009 - 01:38
Peter's picture

Nine targets, actually: 4 Hydras, 4 Banefire, 1 Martial Coup.

grand. by whiffy at Wed, 03/04/2009 - 21:51
whiffy's picture

I like the idea of deck sketches. It gets your brain working on a new card and helps whith your abilaty to evaluate new cards. for those of you who want to know how the decks play or stack up to the meta you should try this exercise and if the idea is enough to your liking you may actually try a similar deck out. Lord knows i have dozens of classic decks i have never even played just becuase i wanted to see on paper how different cards interact.

my request is for another classic article there steve lol, and if your gonna try any of these sketches out i would vote for bounce house(in classic?)

I will definitely have by spg at Thu, 03/05/2009 - 13:53
spg's picture

I will definitely have another Classic article coming sometime soon. I've been working on one for a while but it turned out to be very, very long. It's coming!