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By: CottonRhetoric, Cotton Rhetoric
Sep 23 2015 12:00pm
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Today's marvelous giveaway: I almost don't even want to give these away. It's such a cool card. But you could win four foil Martyr's Cry if you post a casual deck in the comments section that uses 4 Martyr's Cry!!  Prize goes to my favorite submission, announced on Saturday.

And a special congratulations to the winner of last week's contest, Paul Leicht!

Oath of Druids  Oath of Lieges  Oath of Scholars

Oath of Ghouls  Oath of Mages

Like many cycles, this one has a clear outlier, and because this is a casual column, I won't be talking about that particular one. I'm here to talk about the other four. They might not be winning you any tournaments, but they can certainly accomplish things in the Just for Fun room!

1. Oath of Lieges

What immediately jumps out at me about this card is the way it pairs with sacrifice and bounce effects. This plus a Kor Skyfisher means you'll get to activate it early. Combining it with an Aggressive Mining means you'll get to activate it indefinitely. Every color has these tricks, some better than others. Some highlights from each:


Reaping the Rewards  Kor Skyfisher  Emancipation Angel

Honorable mentions: Those are actually the only playable ones. The rest are junk like Aura Fracture and Exalted Dragon.



Serendib Djinn  Psychic Vortex  Gush

Honorable mentions: Soldevi Excavations, Sea Drake, Living Tsunami



Drinker of Sorrow  Bog Elemental  Greater Harvester

Honorable mentions: Infernal Tribute, Akuta, Born of Ash, Strands of Night, Horror of Horrors



Hammer of Purphoros  Rathi Dragon  Aggressive Mining

Honorable mentions: Balduvian Trading Post, Lesser Gargadon, Goblin Razerunners



Scythe Tiger  Rogue Elephant  Constant Mists

Honorable mentions: Squirrel Wrangler, Village Elder, Heart of Yavimaya


Colorless and multi:

Zuran Orb  Lotus Vale  Goblin Trenches

Honorable mentions: Wand of the Elements, Arcane Spyglass, Scorched Ruins



So there are several different directions we could take a deck in. White-green alone could be either an aggro rush deck (with the 1cc creatures) or a defensive prison deck (with Constant Mists). My favorite option is white-red, thanks mostly to a card not even listed above:


Talk about synergy!

By now, most of the deck is already put together. Just a few assorted notes:

  • Weathered Wayfarer provides some well-needed redundancy. And although it will usually tap for basics, we do have a few nonbasics for it.
  • Winter Orb is mostly to encourage our opponents to play more land. But it's also nice that we have something to do with our tapped lands (sacrifice them). And it also pairs well with the Lotus Vale we were already running!
  • Always (always) choose to draw first.



2. Oath of Ghouls

Oath of Ghouls

Assuming you satisfy the conditions, which is not that hard, this card does for two mana what Palace Siege does for five. Or what Necromantic Thirst does for four plus a combat trigger. Or what Strands of Night does for four up front and another BB, 2 life, and swamp sacrifice every activation.

It's a good deal, okay!

We will need some redundancy, much like how the last deck used a Weathered Wayfarer next to its Oath of Lieges, but fortunately we don't need to resort to any of the inefficient cards I mentioned two paragraphs ago. Oversold Cemetery is our best option, and although it's not quite as easy to enable as Oath of Ghouls, we can still manage with the right deck. We already wanted to stuff our graveyard with creatures; now we just have to stuff it a little more thoroughly.

Oversold Cemetery

So now comes the big question: what creatures do we want to return?

Honestly, running nearly any creatures in this deck would make them stronger. But I don't like to go the generic route. I'm only happy if I have dumb synergies going on. So along those ends:

Creatures with sacrifice effects: Scavenger Folk-type cards are pretty good when they're reusable. Fleshbag Marauder is now a Cruel Edict with a very cheap buyback cost. Augur of Skulls becomes so strong as to be possibly superfluous.

Creatures with EtB or Dies triggers: They're not quite as easy to recur, since we can't control when they die, but Ravenous Rats-types and Sprouting Thrinax-types are worth considering.

Creatures that kill themselves: Bone Shredder, Dusk Urchins, Ball Lightning, Blastoderm, Volatile Rig, Woebringer Demon...!

Creatures you can discard from your hand: And I don't mean Faerie Macabre and Street Wraith. I mean Linessa, Zephyr Mage and the other Grandeur cards.

This is already more than enough for a deck. Grandeur is the angle I like most, and I notice that the green and black ones synergize well with each other.

Korlash, Heir to Blackblade  Baru, Fist of Krosa

How to increase your odds of getting them? Living Wish, of course! (Aren't you glad I inspired you to buy a playset last week?) These will also allow us to get any number of other synergistic cards; there are too many to include in the maindeck, and many of them are only relevant in specific situations). Um, I WOULD recommend Infernal Tutor as a way to get multiples in your hand at once, but it's not the $1 junk rare it used to be

Some other considerations:

  • We'll need to fill our graveyard, as I mentioned earlier.  Stinkweed Imp and Shriekhorn are my own favorite ways to do this.
  • We may need to empty our opponent's graveyard. But it won't come up every game (or even many games), so it should be a card that also accomplishes something else. Withered Wretch is a great solution. Necrogenesis is not bad either, and its restriction about removing only creatures isn't relevant to the Oath of Ghouls. (Another note for my wealthy readers: Scavenging Ooze is a bit better than Withered Wretch, although it is more than five hundred times as much money.)
  • Several of the Wish targets in the sideboard aren't at all relevant to our gameplan, but function simply as situational answers. For instance, Skylasher.
  • The landbase is chosen to have as many swamps as possible, hence the Overgrown Tomb instead of the Temple of Malady I'd usually pick. And the Snow-Covered Swamps are for the Gangrenous Zombies in the sideboard.



3. Oath of Mages

Oath of Mages

Actually, um, there's Curse of the Pierced Heart now, so really we have no reason to play Oath of Mages ever. Not even for that redundancy I'm always talking about.


4. Oath of Scholars

Oath of Scholars

Now this one is cool! Imagine how powerful it would be if it automatically worked every turn. Well, that basically is how powerful it is, if you build your deck around it.  The truth is, emptying your own hand is very very easy.  And yes, your opponent can shut off the Oath by emptying their own hand, but there are workarounds for that (more on those later). First, how do we empty our own hand?

The most sensible answer is to just have a low-curve aggro deck. It's not the only route—you could also have a midrange deck with discard tricks, like Knollspine Invocation and such—but aggro is (mostly) the route I'll be going with today. I do want to have at least a couple of discard outlets, though, just to make sure we don't get stuck with more lands in our hand than we're capable of dropping.

You could run hellbent cards, which is by name a red-black ability, but there are also blue cards like Imaginary Pet, and colorless cards like Fool's Tome and Mindstorm Crown. And speaking of colorless, Grafted Skullcap is at once an enabler of the Oath and a fair replacement for it.

If we are drawing 4 cards every turn (remember that the Oath is in addition to your draw step), Chasm Skulker would grow to powerful heights very quickly. Let's put that at the top of our curve. Below that, take the weenies of your choice. My choice was to pick ones with evasion, and pair them with Curiosity-type effects and pump spells. Straight to the dome! 12 such creatures seemed to be the right balance from playtesting, but certainly adjust it to your liking.

As mentioned, we will need to consider how to prevent our opponent from emptying their hand. We could make our opponent draw, but I don't want to. No, there is a much better solution that that: bounce spells! If we cast Unsummon at the end of our opponent's turn, we are (almost) guaranteeing that we'll get to activate the Oath as scheduled. Sigil of Sleep doesn't work at instant speed, but is an on-theme way to bounce.

Assorted notes:

  • Ideas Unbound is a good fit, since we're already trying to rush through our spells and keep the handsize low.
  • Cloudseeder is a late-game contingency while also getting rid of excess chaff.
  • Notice the very low mana curve. Oath of Scholars is the most expensive spell in the deck, and we only need to cast it once, so there is a low land count. You can get by with only three land drops—if the third land is Crystal Vein. Sacrifice it to get to the 4 needed for an Oath, and although you'll only have two land left, you're about to start drawing 4 cards every turn. Your lands will be fine.
Rush Rush
2 Flying Men
4 Triton Shorestalker
4 Augury Owl
3 Cloudseeder
2 Looter il-Kor
4 Chasm Skulker
19 cards

Other Spells
4 Curiosity
4 Sigil of Sleep
2 Ordeal of Thassa
3 Snap
2 Ideas Unbound
4 Oath of Scholars
19 cards
4 Crystal Vein
18 Island
22 cards
Ideas Unbound


One broken card, one pathetic card, and three fun ones. All in all, not a bad cycle!


Here's my entry the idea is by Flippers_Giraffe at Wed, 09/23/2015 - 15:42
Flippers_Giraffe's picture

Here's my entry the idea is to overload your opponent with cards and kill them with Black Vise and the Iron Maiden. Martyr's Cry will be used in combination with Painters Servant to make all creatures white and then exile them.

Mishra's Factory is our attacker who cant be exiled by Martyr's Cry and Elspeth can pump out loads of tokens if required.

Rule of Law will stop our opponent from emptying their hand.

4 Black Vise
4 Howling Mine
2 Iron Maiden
2 Temple Bell

4 Wall of Omens
3 Painters Servant
4 Rule of Law
4 Enlightend Tutor
3 Swords to Plowshares
4 Martyr's Cry

3 Elspeth, Suns Champion

3 Mishra's Factory
15 Plains
1 Karakas
4 Windswept Heath

I like flipper's idea better by Paul Leicht at Wed, 09/23/2015 - 16:46
Paul Leicht's picture

I like flipper's idea better because my first thought was painter's servant but this is what I came up with

4 Shifting Sky
4 Martyr's Cry
3 Moat
2 Enlightened Tutor
4 Knowledge Pool
4 Curse of Exhaustion
4 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
2 Teferi's Moat
1 Mystic Tutor
1 Blue Sun's Zenith
2 Braingeyser
3 Sky Diamond
3 Marble Diamond
4 Flooded Strand
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Tundra
6 Plains
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Pearl
2 Island

White token by Cauchy at Thu, 09/24/2015 - 09:46
Cauchy's picture

Ok, I have a deck where you don't need to shift color :)
Generate some tokens, exile with martyr, kill with spiraling embers. Remove Flipper's Rule Law or Telir's Curse with vindicate and use the simians to cast embers if you need extra mana. I have a soft spot for killing with Spiraling Embers.

Lands (23)
4 Scrublands
4 Plateau
4 Badlands
2 Marsh Flats
2 Arid Mesa
7 Plains

Creatures (6)
4 Simian Spirit Guide
2 Hero of Bladehold

Spells (28)
1 Gather the Townsfolk
2 Raise the alarm
4 Lingering Souls
4 Martyr's Cry
1 Timely Reinforcements
2 Vindicate
4 Spiraling Embers
2 Spectral Procession
3 Battle Screech
4 Triplicate Spirites
1 Hour of Reckoning

Planeswalker (3)
3 Elspeth Tirel

Better be quick with that by Paul Leicht at Thu, 09/24/2015 - 16:20
Paul Leicht's picture

Better be quick with that removal as the next spell after curse is Knowledge Pool :p (And or Teferi then followed by Pool.)

I like this though. :D

Three to choose from! A new by CottonRhetoric at Sat, 09/26/2015 - 09:30
CottonRhetoric's picture

Three to choose from! A new record for my articles!

This was certainly tough. I like Cauchy's approach as you will certainly be drawing a lot of cards. But if the win condition is attacking with tokens, wouldn't you rather just pump them up, not sacrifice them?

Paul's deck takes an unexpected approach, going strictly defensive, which I also like. But it seems like you would be helping your opponent a bit too much. Instead of casting Shifting Sky (OR Painter's Servant) into a Martyr's Cry, it would probably be better just to cast a Wrath! (And Black Lotus, Paul, please.)

Giraffe uses both halves of the cards to good effect, and cleverly protects himself with Rule of Law as well. Prize goes to Giraffe! Email me at cottonrhetoric at gmail dotcom to arrange a good time for the trade. I'm free on most weekdays in the 4:30 to 9:30pm EST range.

Congratulations to by Cauchy at Sat, 09/26/2015 - 09:56
Cauchy's picture

Congratulations to Giraffe!

Just for the record, my win condition is not attacking with the tokens but drawing cards and then kill with Spiraling Embers. So I dont want to pump the tokens. It probably only works in theory :)

Right! I am dumb. Tune in by CottonRhetoric at Sat, 09/26/2015 - 20:05
CottonRhetoric's picture

I am dumb.
Tune in next week for another contest opportunity, the submissions for which I will read more carefully.

Thanks for picking my deck by Flippers_Giraffe at Sat, 09/26/2015 - 11:08
Flippers_Giraffe's picture

Thanks for picking my deck :)

I hardly ever win anything lol

Just check to see if I'm online when you login my playing times/days are very erratic due to work and I'm in the BST (British Summer Time) time zone as well.

OK, is your screenname the by CottonRhetoric at Sat, 09/26/2015 - 20:04
CottonRhetoric's picture

OK, is your screenname the same as on this site? (Mine is not.)

yeah I'm Flippers_Giraffe by Flippers_Giraffe at Sun, 09/27/2015 - 12:31
Flippers_Giraffe's picture

yeah I'm Flippers_Giraffe

Heh in defense of lotus + by Paul Leicht at Sat, 09/26/2015 - 21:00
Paul Leicht's picture

Heh in defense of lotus + moxen I was looking for a way to make the deck a little faster and figured that would be fine. Yeah its not really a budget include (though moxen are getting there) but it is easily replaced by lands (Ancient Tomb, Temple of the False Gods, etc).

As to the might as well cast wrath I think I will disagree on this point. I was going for the "I am harmless, and helping you" strategy that suddenly becomes lethal with Teferi or Curse and Knowledge Pool. Oh suddenly all that draw becomes you drawing out your deck helplessly.

Anyway I agree with Giraffe's being best and it is nearly what I would have gone with had I gotten there first.