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By: Lord Erman, Nafiz Erman
Aug 03 2010 1:03am
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ROGUE PLAY
Build Around Me
Part II

by Nafiz Erman

Hello dear readers, I'm back with another installment of Rogue Play. Last week in part one of Build Around Me which can be found here, I took three cards of M11 and built decks around them. My cards last week were Phylactery Lich, Time Reversal and Destructive Force. The Lich deck was a nice almost mono Black Aggro deck that had a few Red cards in it too (such as Lightning Bolt and Terminate). My aggressive and hard-to-kill creatures were attacking the opponent and were putting him under heavy pressure, while Dark Tutelage was giving me extra ammunition each turn.

My Time Reversal deck was actually a four color Underworld Dreams deck. Howling Mine, Font of Mythos, Jace Beleren and the new Temple Bell were in for extra cards and the damage was coming from Underworld Dreams. Time Reversal then was dealing tons of damage out of nowhere and was ending games on its own.

And finally my Destructive Force deck was generating mana like crazy during early turns and then was clearing the table with its really destructive spell. And after that Primeval Titan, Garruk's tokens or even Raging Ravine was sealing the deal.

Okay so now you remember what happened in part one. Last week when ending the article, I said that part two is going to be about two artifacts and one enchantment. Well, there has been a change in the plans since then. The cards I'm going to talk about in this article are actually these:

They all look nice and let's see what I can do with them. Here's the first deck:

 

DECK#1
Building Around Reassembling Skeleton

Reassembling Skeleton was one other card that "hit" me as soon as I saw it. The skeleton had "ABUSE ME!" written all over him (I guess it's a he) and I was eager to grant him his wish. But how?

Actually "how" was not the right question because there were tons of possibilities I saw with him and I mentioned those possibilities also in my M11 set review too. So instead of "how", the question I had to answer was this: Which one? Which one of those options was the best one?

But after a short period of thinking, I found my answer.

As I was building a deck for Standard, the best option to use Reassembling Skeleton with was obviously the mad planeswalker called Sarkhan the Mad. The synergy between those two cards was huge and so I started building a deck around them two.

Bloodghast was my first obvious pick for the deck. And then for a while I tried Emrakul's Hatcher too. I was determined to build the deck as a  one, and I was not considering a third color at that point. And that dear readers, was my biggest mistake.

Surely Siege-Gang Commander and Grave Titan were nice cards but they were all costly cards. And to be honest while they were on the table, I wasn't needing anything else. So my Sarkhan the Mad / Reassembling Skeleton combo was not fitting to that deck. They both started looking like some "win more" cards and I truly hated that! That combo had to be my main win engine.

And so I started from the scratch. 

I again started with four Sarkhan the Mad and four Reassembling Skeleton, but this time I was also open to other suggestions and colors as well. I first added Green to the deck for some hot(!) Awakening Zone and Master of the Wild Hunt action but gave up that idea very quickly. There was only one way of building a competitive Jund deck and my version sadly wasn't exactly that.

Blue wasn't offering me anything so I started examining the final remaining color; White. And there, I found my answers.

Yes, the beautiful Elspeth, Knight-Errant was all I needed. She has proven her usefulness over the years and in this deck she was once again going to be a superstar. I was in need of sacrificial creatures for Sarkhan the Mad and Elspeth's tokens were simply perfect for the job.

But Elspeth wasn't the only good card White gave me; now I also had Wall of Omens and Path to Exile at my disposal. Early game Wall of Omens was protecting me from harm and late game my Sarkhan the Mad was transforming it into something much more powerful and dangerous. Marvelous!

And finally, White gave me one other new gem of M11; it gave me Squadron Hawk too. A 1/1 flyer for wasn't enough to scare my opponents at first sight, but after my Sarkhan the Mad was transforming it into a 5/5 Dragon, my opponents were starting to tremble!

Everything was looking good but right at that point I saw a flaw in the deck and it was sadly Bloodghast. Paying in a deck that also needs to pay for Elspeth, Knight-Errant wasn't so easy. Especially not easy considering the fact that I also had Red as a third color in the deck. I tried hard to keep him in the deck but sadly I couldn't succeed.

Right at that point the deck was looking like this:

Building Around Reassembling Skeleton
An Under Construction Standard Deck by Nafiz Erman
Creatures
4 Reassembling Skeleton
4 Squadron Hawk
4 Wall of Omens
12 cards

Other Spells
3 Sarkhan the Mad
2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
5 cards
 
Lands
0 cards

 
Sarkhan the Mad

 

After that point I changed the deck a lot. I added removal and removed them and added new ones, added some other cards and then removed them too until I found the right cards. Actually my problem was finding my Sarkhan the Mad. I decided to play three copies instead of four because as you know, planeswalker cards are really dead cards while you have them already on table. Three is a good number for planeswalkers but without Blue, it was hard to dig deep enough to find me my Sarkhan. And thus, I added this card to the deck:

Crystal Ball is great in many ways. It's the modern and "nerfed" Sensei's Divining Top and that fact alone makes it highly playable. But when used with Sarkhan the Mad, it became even more powerful.

While testing I realized that I wasn't always needing a new 5/5 Dragon. Not overextending is always a clever and wise decision and during those times, I was using Sarkhan the Mad's first ability to draw extra cards. And Crystal Ball came in right at that point. I was using it, putting a land or a one mana card on top of it and then I was drawing it with Sarkhan.

Or there were other times when I was needing badly a 5/5 Dragon due to the board position but my poor Sarkhan wasn't "sane" enough to help me because he was sitting with one loyalty. During those times Crystal Ball was again my savior. I was using it, putting a new and "fresh" Sarkhan the Mad on top of my library and then I was drawing it with the one on table. After the old one was gone, I was playing the new one and my Sarkhan the Mad / Reassembling Skeleton cycle was starting all over again!

And so I finalized my deck and ended up with this:

 

Okay there are some interesting things going on here and please allow me to explain them one by one.

First and foremost, I'm very happy to have this nice little artifact once again in Standard:

And this deck dear readers, is ABSOLUTELY the right one to abuse it. Jinxed Idol against  Control is almost an auto-win. But even against some other midrange decks I side it in. No one, and I mean no one can win a Jinxed Idol-war against me with this deck, so as I said, I'm very happy to have it back.

Back to the maindeck... I have the well known Stoneforge Mystic-Cunning Sparkmage-Basilisk Collar trio in this deck as well because of two reasons:

1- It's a great way to deal with creatures of any size.
2- I have them because... why not?!

Finally I have my fourth Sarkhan the Mad in the sideboard because after game one, my opponents were realizing what was going on and they were always attacking him in game two and three. I had to have him on table and therefore the fourth copy was needed after game one.

Okay dear readers, did you like the deck? I know that it looks like a deck that is build around Sarkhan the Mad rather than Reassembling Skeleton, and this is partially true as well. It is true that the main win engine is Sarkhan the Mad here, but it is also true that without the skeleton (and the new hawk too), this deck would never have functioned properly.

Now onto deck two.

 

DECK #2
Building Around Jace's Erasure

The so called "planeswalker signature spells" that came with M11 are all nice cards but most of them sadly won't see high level competitive play. Liliana's Caress is good with Megrim in a  Discard deck but that seems to be the only good signature spell. Or is it? What about Mr. Beleren's signature spells? I mean Jace's Ingenuity and Jace's Erasure.

To me, both are great cards and now dear readers, I will present you a deck that plays both along with Jace.

So what we are going to build is basically a Mill deck. Mill decks rarely become Tier-1 decks but maybe Jace's Erasure is good enough to change that fact. Let's see.

To be honest, when I first saw the card I didn't take it seriously. "Mill? In the same Standard with the Eldrazi? You got to be joking!" I said and moved onto other cards. But then I realized one thing: Almost everyone was thinking like me and therefore no one was adding those titans to their sideboards. Yes, there were a few Eldrazi Mana Ramp decks around but the majority of decks were totally unprepared to fight Mill decks. And so I decided to give this one a shot.

As you know, everyone who tries to build a Mill deck starts as  and everyone that does so fails horribly.  Mill decks never work. I am also aware how sexy(!) Mind Funeral and/or Nemesis of Reason look like, but in reality they are just not good enough. What Mill decks need is protection and sadly it has been some time since we had Damnation in Standard. Therefore the only reliable way of building a Mill deck is to go .

Protecting the Mill
Wall of Omens Day of Judgment

I tried many Mill decks in the past and therefore I knew very well that I had to build this one as a  from the beginning. I started with four Jace Belerens and four Jace's Erasure, and then added my removal and some counterspells, and started testing. But as you also do know dear readers, the first versions of decks are always far from perfect and this one was no exception.

Playtesting revealed one problem; even though I was able to protect myself from harm, I was still very slow. Jace's Erasure mills the opponent every time you draw a card, and I had to find ways of drawing cards like crazy.

And right at that point I made the first change in the deck. Jace Beleren became Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

Before you throw rocks at me, curse me and block me forever for using Jace v.2, please first hear me out dear readers. I know that the upgraded Jace isn't for everyone. I know that most of the readers don't own it. So please please pretty please, every time you read Jace, the Mind Sculptor here, replace it with Jace Beleren. He works too but v.2 is much better. I will show you the best and the optimum version here and it's up to you to tweak the deck the way you like.

Anyway, why Jace, the Mind Sculptor? Because of his Brainstorm ability of course! Every time I was using it, I was milling my opponent for three cards which was way faster than the original Jace. His other abilities were also useful but in this deck I was almost only using his Brainstorm ability.

So Jace v.2 was a good start for drawing cards but I was needing more options. Wall of Omens was there too and so was Spreading Seas as well. They were also letting me draw a card and that meant milling the opponent one more card. Then I added the other signature spell of Jace which was Jace's Ingenuity. For some time I thought of using Mind Spring but the fact that Jace's Ingenuity was an instant was more appealing to me and so I decided to use that one.

There were also many other good cards that were allowing me to draw cards, such as Sphinx of Lost Truths, but sadly I had to cut a few good cards even though they were very useful, and thus the poor Sphinx was left outside the final list. Why? Which cards did I use instead?

Well, I had to make a decision. I was either going to be playing without counterspells or with them. I first tried playing without counterspells but my opponent's were casting many "ugly" spells and therefore at the end, I decided to use them. I selected Deprive, Mana Leak and Cancel to be my counterspells, tested and found the right numbers for them and so ended up with this deck:

Building Around Jace's Erasure
A Standard Constructed deck by Nafiz Erman
Creatures
4 Wall of Omens
4 cards

Other Spells
4 Jace's Erasure
4 Spreading Seas
4 Day of Judgment
4 Mana Leak
3 See Beyond
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Deprive
2 Jace's Ingenuity
2 Condemn
2 Path to Exile
1 Keening Stone
1 Cancel
32 cards
 
Lands
4 Celestial Colonnade
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Sejiri Refuge
8 Island
4 Plains
24 cards

Keening Stone

 

First things first: I bet you wonder whether this deck works or not. Yes dear readers, it does. The thing it does best is drawing cards, and drawing cards is never a bad thing. It is always said that the one player who can draw more cards than the opponent has a bigger chance of winning, and this deck is the proof of it! Because it is only designed to draw cards and to win by drawing cards.

There are two cards I want to mention separately and the first one is See Beyond. It is another fantastic card for this deck and not only it gets rid of an unnecessary card from my hand (such as the second copy of Jace while one is already on table) but it also mill the opponent. And the second one is this:

Keening Stone

What I'm telling you here in this article are facts dear readers, and not just some stories. And here's another such fact for you: Keening Stone wins games. Instantly. Just like that. You play it, and if the opponent can't deal with it during his turn and allows you to untap with it, the game ends. Right there. Instantly. Just like that.

And as I said, you can always try Jace Beleren instead of Jace, the Mind Sculptor. It's a bit slower but it also gets the job done. After all, all you have to do is drawing cards!

And now I move onto the final deck of the article.

 

DECK #3
Building Around Sun Titan

I will not lie; this was the hardest deck to build. And the reason is not because there aren't enough targets for Sun Titan to "work on". On the contrary, there are so many good ones and that fact makes making decisions very hard.

As my target was to "make my Sun Titan shine", I examined all the colors and first made a list of good playable cards from all colors including multicolor cards. And after I was finished, I realized how long that list was. And then I started building decks around Sun Titan and every time I combined it with another color combination and tested the deck.

During my "search for the best option" I first tested these options:

1- Sun Titan in Green / White.
2- Sun Titan again in Green / White but together wih Fauna Shaman this time.
3- Sun Titan in Mono White.
4- Sun Titan in Bant.
5- Sun Titan in White / Black.
6- Sun Titan in White / Blue.
7- Sun Titan in Red / White / Blue.

Then I started writing my findings about each version but stopped at one point and deleted everything I wrote. Why? Because if I continued like that, then this was article would have been an almost never-ending one! I so badly wanted to share my findings with you dear readers, but realized that it was not possible to do so in this article. And so I came up with a brilliant(!) idea. I decided to save all my findings for the next article!

Yes dear readers, actually my initial plan for this Build Around Me articles was to make them a two part series but apparently there will be a third one. There has to be a third one! Because all of those options I mentioned above are really good and in the next installment of Rogue Play you will be reading all of them in great detail.

Okay, back to the topic now. Of course I will not leave you without a deck just because I'm saving the best part for next week. Actually this week I will share with you the optimum version of Sun Titan deck I came up with. And next time you will read about how I got there.

So which one is the optimum Sun Titan deck then? I mentioned seven options just above and surely one of them must be the optimum one, right? 

No dear readers, it's not right. The optimum version is none of the above.

As I said, I will not tell you this week how I got to this final version. But I will tell you which cards are in my final version and why they are there.

As always and just like for every other deck out there, card drawing is very important and I couldn't think of a better option than Jace Beleren. I first tried many other cards, even Courier's Capsule just because Sun Titan can get it back, but realized that there was nothing that could replace Jace Beleren.

And do you want to know what was the most funny thing? Well, the most funny thing was using Jace to draw a card and to send him to the graveyard, and then bringing him back onto the battlefield with Sun Titan, and drawing another card with him!

Of course that, and killing an opposing Jace v.2 was also a lot of fun.

Jace Beleren by the way was only one of Sun Titan's many nice targets. I was also having tons of fun(!) abusing cards like Sea Gate Oracle, Tidehollow Sculler and Fleshbag Marauder. And in case it isn't clear dear readers, my final version is a  version.

I have a few other things to say but maybe right at this point I should show you the deck.

Here it is:

 

So what can this deck do? Well, let me tell you this much dear readers: It can do some really absurd things! Almost all the cards in the deck are waiting to be abused by my Titan. I'm actually pretty sure that you don't need me to explain you most of the deck. But I think that there is one card that might not make sense, and I believe that it is Elspeth, Knight-Errant.

Actually she became a part of this deck after testing. During those test games I realized that my deck was a bit too dependent on Sun Titan and I just didn't like that. I wanted to have a Plan B. Actually in almost all my games I was able to draw my Titan, but I wasn't able to make him live for too long. He is a real lightning rod and my opponents were most of the time killing him right when he entered the battlefield. And then I was trying to find another one and lost a few games this way.

And so I started searching for options and came across Elspeth, Knight-Errant. Of course I am aware that I cannot get her back with Sun Titan but that's not the point. After I added her to the deck I played over a dozen games and I am pretty sure that I won one game with a 4/6 flying Sea Gate Oracle and at least two with a 6/4 flying Fleshbag Marauder while Sun Titan was nowhere in sight. So I think that you get the picture.

And finally a few words about those four Leyline of Sanctitys I have in the sideboard. I was so sick and bored of getting hit by a Blightning, Duress and such cards, and therefore added this card to my sideboard. And right after I added it, my first game was against a Valakut deck. I lost game one horribly but I managed to get down a Leyline of Sanctity in game two and three on turn zero! And I don't think that I have to tell you how fun it was to watch my opponent's face after that!

Okay dear readers, I will stop right here. As I said, the next installment of Rogue Play will be all about this new Titan. I mentioned above many other ways to build a good and competitive Sun Titan deck and next time we will be talking about them.

By the way, maybe you noticed that I keep saying "next time" and not "next week". This is because...

 

ROGUE PLAY GOES TO VACATION

That's right! It's once again that time of the year. Last year I was away for two weeks but this year I cannot do that. I have an incredible amount of work to do and therefore I will only be away for one week. And therefore there won't be a Rogue Play next week. So while you are desperately waiting to read what I did with Sun Titan, I will be doing... nothing! Of course "nothing" here means swimming, sunbathing, reading, sleeping, eating excellent food and generally relaxing.

I know that it's not fair. But hey! I'm a Blue mage remember? Being fair is my worst and biggest enemy. I'm all about being unfair!

 

NEXT TIME ON ROGUE PLAY
Build Around Me, Part III

After next week, I will be back with the third and the final part of Build Around Me. And as I said, that article will be all about Sun Titan.

Hope to see you in two weeks! Take care!

And thanks for reading.

See you online
Nafiz Erman, aka Lord Erman

9 Comments

This will be interesting I'm by Flippers_Giraffe at Tue, 08/03/2010 - 02:59
Flippers_Giraffe's picture

This will be interesting I'm in the middle of writing a Sun Titan article as well. I'm sure are decks will be very different though.

Hi, i just love your by Chakkan at Tue, 08/03/2010 - 05:13
Chakkan's picture

Hi, i just love your articles, and decided only now to participate cause i'm a huge fan of mill decks !
My main regret : seeing Mesmeric Orb out of Extended play...

I know this is a "build around me" deck, but on what turn do you usually go off ?

I just made a standard mill deck, that happened to mill a complete deck on turn 3-4 more than once and very consistantly on turn 6, WITH graveyard hate.

If interested, this is a list :
4 Hedron Crab
4 Wall of Omen

4 Archive Trap
4 Mana Leak
4 Path to Exile
4 Into the Roil
4 Ponder
2 Whiplash Trap
2 Trapmaster's snare
2 Ravenous Trap
2 Relic of progenitus
2 Jace Beleren v 1.0

4 Terramorphic Expanse
4 Evolving Wilds
4 Plains
10 Islands

This is perfect start :
- Island, Hedron Crab
- Hedron Crab, Terramorphic expanse, mill 12
- Terramorphic Expanse, mill 12, if a creature is played, perfect timing for trap enabler Path to Exile, then Archive Trap (if 2, then almost GG on turn 3)

I meet a lot of Eldrazis, opposed to what you said... but if i see one popping, i can continue instant speed milling (by cracking terramorphic or adding a trap), and after milling effect is resolved, then remove graveyard with Relic or Ravenous Trap.
I must confess that i'm even amazed at how people play these Eldrazis in decks that would almost NEVER cast them... and of course, when i don't get my graveyard hate in hand, it always pop out as one of the last cards of the library.
Example, Path to Exile (with 2 archive trap in hand and a Trapmaster's snare), cast one trap (nothing happens), cast second trap (nothing happens), tutor for 3rd with snare (kept in hand in case of Eldrazi), cast 3rd Archive Trap, and boom ! Eldrazi...
I know my lesson , don't be greedy (except in your Greed theme deck of course).

I'd be happy to hear if you got in trouble with your deck, cause you don't play graveyard hate. It's not good only vs. Eldrazis, but Vampires as well (bloodghasts), for instance.

Though I don't know if I should add some See Beyond or Jace's Erasure (according to your article) instead of Whiplash Trap for more consistency, but since it already win games in a tremendous way, i guess it might be too much icing on the cake.

I'd be glad to hear your point on it.

Chakkan yours is a good deck by Lord Erman at Tue, 08/03/2010 - 13:08
Lord Erman's picture

Chakkan yours is a good deck but it's a bit different than mine. You prefer the (faster) Hedron Crab / Archive Trap route while I prefer a more control-ish version. Therefore I "go off" way later than you do.

I have to admit that Archive Trap looks really sexy but testing showed me that I need removal and counters more than anything. But now that you mentioned it, I think I can at least put it into my sideboard and bring in against other Control decks.

Relic of Progenitus was another card I had in mind, at least for the sideboard, because it deals with the Eldrazi. At the end I didn't add it to the deck but if I start seeing more Eldrazi (or other decks that manipulate the graveyard), I know what I'll play.

You don't need Jace's Erasure by the way because, as I said above, yours is a different version than mine. And therefore you don't need See Beyond as well.

By the way a suggestion: After I submitted the article, I re-discovered Telemin Performance. You should really try finding space for 2x Telemin Performances in your sideboard. You can't imagine how devastating it is against Polymorph decks, WU decks and/or WUr planeswalker decks. Not only you mill them for ~10 cards but you also get yourself a nice(!) Emrakul or a Baneslayer Angel!

LE

Great! by Splendid Belt at Tue, 08/03/2010 - 08:22
Splendid Belt's picture
5

Beautifully written, explained and presented as ever LE. One thing though, wouldn't Sea Gate Oracle be slightly better in the mill deck than the slightly underwhelming See Beyond? I know it draws (and therefore mills) a card fewer, but on the positive side it digs to the same depth and crucially provides another (much needed, surely) blocker?

Oh, and the Sun Titan / Jace combo sounds quite broken. Can't wait to try it!

Well, aren't we happy to make by Chakkan at Tue, 08/03/2010 - 08:33
Chakkan's picture

Well, aren't we happy to make more opponent cards useless by playing less targets for removal ?

See Beyond also protects some higher cmc cards from disruption.

U/W mill by dishwater63 at Tue, 08/03/2010 - 12:26
dishwater63's picture
5

funny, i thought the same thing when i first considered building a mill deck. U/B, although fun, just can't keep itself in check while grinding away at a deck. U/W was my next thought, and sure enough, it works. my deck is kind of similar, except i run the path to exile/archive trap combo and a few other things. i also actually have both jace beleren and mind sculptor because out of the two mind sculptors that i pulled, i sold one pretty much immediately. now i wish i would have sat on it so i could sell it now. i had no idea he, of all cards, was gonna go up in price.

Hi guys and thanks for the by Lord Erman at Tue, 08/03/2010 - 13:28
Lord Erman's picture

Hi guys and thanks for the comments.

Flippers, I'm definately not surprised that Sun Titan got your attention as well because it really is a gem for deck builders. And just imagine it in BYOS! A Kitchen Finks that never dies? Wasteland and/or Fullminator Mage every turn? Mangara of Corondor? Orzhov Pontiff? Promise of Bunrei? Wall of Blossoms, Spike Feeder? Bottle Gnomes? Oblivion Stone? Vendilion Clique?

The possibilites are just endless!

Splendid Belt, Sea Gate Oracle is definately a better card than See Beyond in almost every deck but not in this one. Jace's Erasure needs you to draw cards and therefore See Beyond works better in this deck (much better even).

Surely Sea Gate Oracle is a nice blocker, especially early game, but I can protect myself with my removal spells and counterspells, and with the amount of cards I draw with this deck, I almost always have my answer in hand.

Thanks again everybody for the comments.

LE

I feel bad as I just by darthibanezowner at Tue, 08/03/2010 - 17:03
darthibanezowner's picture

I feel bad as I just submitted my article on Sun Titan and it seems as if I wasn't the only one. My version is a straight UW one, but features some of the same cards. Its interesting seeing your take on it. I too have won games throwing a Sea Gate Oracle into the air with Elspeth.

Throwing a Titan in the air is even better though!

Don

this was fantastic, the by JustSin at Tue, 08/03/2010 - 23:05
JustSin's picture
5

this was fantastic, the skeleton was one that I had wondered about and you found a great way to use it with Sarkhan