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By: Lord Erman, Nafiz Erman
Nov 22 2011 4:33am
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This whole From Casual Room to FNM series started thanks to the planeswalker Sorin Markov. I know that this new series of articles will be great and tons of fun, and I know that you will like them as well. So thank you Mr. Markov for being the inspriration of a great new series.

ROGUE PLAY
From Casual Room to FNM
Part I
by Nafiz Erman

Hello dear readers and welcome back to Rogue Play. Normally when I'm online, I spend most of my time between the Tournament Practice Room and 2man queues. I build a few decks, test them and then take them to the 2 mans. Then during weekends I try to attend at least two PRE's, and if I'm not doing all those things I can be seen in the Multiplayer Room playing some Commander games. So I can clearly say that the Casual Room is the place I visit the least.

And recently after finishing a few very tiring and long tournament games, I wanted to relax a bit. Commander games take too much time, so I was after a few short and fast games. I went to the Casual Room and wanted to play some "easy" decks of mine. And only then I realized that I had no such decks. Not anymore at least. I had some very nice ones saved but they all belonged to the previous era of Standard.

Considering how much time has passed since the rotation, you can also figure out how frequently I visit the Casual Room!

Anyway, I directly headed to the Deck Builder screen and started looking for some casual ideas. I first opened my old decks and tried to figure out what I can do with them. One was mono Green with Dungrove Elders and Garruk, Primal Hunters. I simply lol'ed because at one time those cards were considered casual and now the same cards are winning tournaments.

And when I was examining my other old Standard decks, I saw Sorin Markov there in one of them. And thus, everything has started.

 

From Casual Room to FNM
Seriously, what's this series all about?

First of all I must say that with this new series of articles, Rogue Play is also returning to its roots. Years ago I started this column to show people rogue decks that can put up a good fight against Tier-1 decks. In time things have changed, most importantly I have changed and so did Rogue Play as well. My target audience with Rogue Play was other Johnny/Spikes like me during the early days, but in time I turned into a "more Spike and less and less Johnny" type of a player, and my recent articles were a reflection of that fact.

But as I said, I'm finally returning to my roots with this new series of articles. From Casual Room to FNM series are all for my fellow Johnny/Spike brothers out there. Because in these articles I will show you decks that are interesting and fun to play, but those decks are good and winning at the same time as well. And that is all what Johnny/Spikes care about; winning with style!

Finally this is how these articles will look like: First I will show you a very nice casual deck. A casual deck that is of course aimed to win. That deck, as it is, will be more than enough for you to storm the Casual Room. But then I will add a second version. Then a third version. Then a fourth version, fifth version, sixth version... Basically I will show you how you can bring that deck to FNM level by just adding a few powerful cards.

Sounds good? Everything's okay? Good, now I can truly start the article.

 

DECK #1
Casual Mono Black Control

I know that Mono Black Control (MBC) is many players' favorite deck type. I love that archetype myself as well. And recently I found myself looking at this incredible card below: 

Sorin Markov

Normally at six mana people prefer to play threats like Grave Titan or Wurmcoil Engine over this planeswalker but I thought that there could be a way to make him useful somehow. And then I also realized that Sorin's "planeswalker signature spells" were also very good and highly playable cards:

Sorin's Thirst Sorin's Vengeance

And besides, I do know very well that a sixth turn Sorin Markov bringing the opponent immediately down to ten life, followed by a seventh turn Sorin's Vengeance killing him instantly, is the dream play of all Johnny/Spikes. So I said "let's do this" and came up with the below nice casual deck:

 

So what do I have here? The first thing you wonder must be this: I'm playing lots of six and seven mana cards and I just play twenty three lands. How is that possible?!

Well, of course mana is important but to not to get mana screwed I play Mycosynth Wellspring together with Phyrexia's Core. I also play Ichor Wellspring and Phyrexian Rager to draw new cards constantly. I played with this above deck maybe even more than fifty times and to be honest I don't remember being mana screwed at all.

So early turns I'm busy with getting my land count up to at least five. Because I only and truly start playing once I'm at five lands. Bloodgift Demon, Sorin Markov, Rune-Scarred Demon, Life's Finale and Sorin's Vengeance are the cards that help me win the game, and as you can see I spend my early turns reaching to the required land count so that I can cast those expensive spells.

But of course not always my opponents leave me be and allow me to play my lands in calm. Aggro decks are all over the place Casual Room and that's the reason why I run that many removal. Sorin's Thirst, Doom Blade, Go for the Throat, Dismember, Grasp of Darkness... they all are in for one simple reason; to keep me alive until I reach to the late game. Oh and I also have this one:

Spine of Ish Sah

As you know mono Black has big troubles against artifacts and enchantments, and that is the reason why I'm running Spine of Ish Sah as well as Ratchet Bomb.

I also have Bloodline Keeper as my mid-game creature in the deck. I don't want to leave my side of the battlefield that empty during early turns, and therefore play this one. Besides, this Vampire "semi-lord" has the power to stall the game long enough with his tokens until you bring in your heavy beater(s), so I think he's the perfect candidate for the job.

So yes, this is my casual mono Black Sorin Control deck. So far my win ratio in the Casual Room with this deck is 80%-ish and I can clearly say that I'm very happy with it. As a matter of fact, I'm even considering buying this deck from www.capefeargames.com to play against my daughter and wife (they learned to crush my Grand Architect deck with their Grixis Control deck; I need new tools to fight them!).

 

DECK #2 & DECK #3
Semi Competitive Mono Black Control

Okay, just above you saw how you can have lots of fun in the Casual Room playing a mono Black Sorin Control deck. Now let's say that you liked the deck and want to take it to your local FNM. The competition there isn't as cutthroat as a Pro Tour, but still you'll need a good deck to win some games. And the deck above, while fun, isn't enough for a local FNM tournament.

So how can we make it FNM worthy then? Which cards should we add? In other words, how much money should we "pour" into this otherwise cheap deck?

Well of course I do know that sky is the only limit when we talk about upgrading this above casual deck, but maybe by just adding these two cards to the deck, it can be something a lot more competitive:

Lashwrithe Black Sun's Zenith

You will in a moment see how these two cards will upgrade the deck, but before we get there, there is something I must tell you.

Now that we left the safe "harbor" called Casual Room and set sail to the dangerous and unstable waters of competitive Magic, we must be aware that we will be facing lots of ugly and vicious predators. And we should know in advance what those are so that we can prepare ourselves. There are of course many, but these two below are our biggest enemies:

Mirran Crusader Sword of Feast and Famine

Those two cards weren't an issue in the Casual Room but now we really do have to worry about them. And that's the reason why we will change our removal package from targeted to non-targeted. Meaning we will play Geth's Verdict and Tribute to Hunger instead of Go for the Throat and Grasp of Darkness. Here's one version with our new cards added that also still uses Sorin Markov:

Semi Competitive Sorin Control
A Standard Deck by Nafiz Erman
Creatures
3 Phyrexian Rager
3 Bloodgift Demon
6 cards

Other Spells
4 Lashwrithe
4 Ichor Wellspring
4 Mycosynth Wellspring
3 Tribute to Hunger
3 Doom Blade
3 Geth's Verdict
3 Dismember
3 Black Sun's Zenith
2 Sorin Markov
2 Spine of Ish Sah
31 cards
 
Lands
3 Phyrexia's Core
20 Swamp
23 cards

Lashwrithe

 

And just because we are aiming for competitive Magic, we do now have a sideboard!

So what do we do with this deck? We actually do the same thing we were doing with the first casual deck. With our Wellsprings and Phyrexian Rager, we almost never miss a land drop and reach to five mana. In the meantime we kill everything with our removal spells and threaten our opponent with a mid-sized Lashwrithe.

And then we will play our Sorin Markov, play our Spine of Ish Sah and repeatedly destroy things, draw cards with Bloodgift Demon and win from there.

Our sideboard may also need some explanation. We side in those four Sorin's Thirsts against Aggro decks so that we kill things AND gain life, we side in Ratchet Bomb against token decks or decks that play things like Mimic Vat and/or Birthing Pod, we side in Memoricide against decks that are built around one single card (such as Tezzeret decks), use our Deathmark when we see the opportunity (killing a Hero of Bladehold or a Primeval Titan for one simple Black mana must feel good) and finally bring in Nihil Spellbomb in case we encounter Solar Flare decks.

So this was one way to build a semi-competitive Black Control deck but that is absolutely not the only way to build it. As a matter of fact, below I have one other for you. What happens if we remove all those Wellsprings and Mr. Markov from the deck? What other cards are there that we can use in this strategy?

Let's see the answer together dear readers:

Semi Competitive Mono Black Control w/o Sorin
A Standard Deck by Nafiz Erman
Creatures
4 Phyrexian Rager
4 Bloodgift Demon
8 cards

Other Spells
4 Lashwrithe
4 Tezzeret's Gambit
3 Sorin's Thirst
3 Tribute to Hunger
3 Geth's Verdict
3 Tumble Magnet
3 Black Sun's Zenith
3 Doom Blade
2 Dismember
28 cards
 
Lands
24 Swamp
24 cards

Serra Angel

 

So basically this deck does the same thing as the above one but with different tools. I'm not using Wellsprings in this deck and therefore I added one more Swamp to it. Then I use Tumble Magnet as another way of dealing with things I cannot kill (such as Mirran Crusader), and I also use Tezzeret's Gambit in this deck to draw cards. It's also nice to be able to proliferate that Tumble Magnet as well.

Actually Tezzeret's Gambit is also the reason why I have three Sorin's Thirsts in the deck. I'm losing life to Tezzeret's Gambit, and those life losses can be a big problem against Aggro decks.

The sideboard is also similar to the first one but this time I also added Distress to fight Control decks.

Okay dear readers, now we saw two different ways to build semi-competitive ways to build a mono Black Control deck. Now in the below section we'll see what would happen if we add even more good cards to this "project".

 

DECK #4 & DECK #5 & DECK #6 & DECK #7
Competitive mono Black 

So first we played mono Black in the Casual Room and had tons of fun. Then we liked the deck and invested a bit into it and turned it into a semi-competitive deck. We considered two semi competitive options and tried both. And now after playing those decks, we're satisfied that mono Black is a very good strategy and that it can be played in competitive environments and wonder how we can make our deck even better.

As I said above sky is the only limit when we talk about upgrading our deck and to be competitive we know we should be investing in format staples. There are many but thankfully we won't be need them all in the same deck. There are many different options and ways one can build a good mono Black Control deck. So we will now altogether examine the decks I present you below (there are four different options), and then if you are satisfied and like what you see, you will invest into the deck you like the most.

Let's start with the cheapest one which in my opinion is also the most fun one:

A different take on mono Black Control
A Standard Deck by Nafiz Erman
Creatures
4 Phyrexian Metamorph
3 Solemn Simulacrum
3 Phyrexian Rager
10 cards

Other Spells
4 Mimic Vat
4 Lashwrithe
3 Tribute to Hunger
3 Doom Blade
3 Geth's Verdict
3 Black Sun's Zenith
2 Sorin's Thirst
2 Dismember
2 Batterskull
26 cards
 
Lands
4 Inkmoth Nexus
20 Swamp
24 cards

Mimic Vat

 

You really have no idea dear readers how much fun this deck is. I mean really, just try this and you can thank me later. And once you try it, you will also realize the huge potential of this deck. Just imprint that Snapcaster Mage onto Mimic Vat and watch the unending slaughter of removal spells. Imprint Hero of Bladehold and kill them with their own weapon. Imprint Primeval Titan and put almost all your lands onto the battlefield while killing your opponent. Imprint their Acidic Slime and destroy all their lands. I mean the options are limitless.

But do you want to know the best thing about this deck? You will first kill their critter and imprint it on Mimic Vat and then you will play Phyrexian Metamorph and target their Sword of Feast and Famine and kill them with their own deck!

So yes, just test this deck and see what it can do for yourself.

Now I want to move to the next deck in this section which I built around the "Mistress of Standard"; oh and you do know very well who she is.

Examining Liliana I see that she has a very interesting first ability. Her second ability is very good of course and we all know that we can use it to get rid of that boring(!) St. Traft or that Dungrove Elder, but what I find interesting is actually her first ability. So how can we truly abuse it?

Surely the first and the obvious option is to use some flashback cards. Sever the Bloodline, Moan of the Unhallowed and even one copy of Army of the Damned are good choices. But we need more! We need something... well, I don't know about you but at least I need something that will make my opponent say "Wow, I haven't thought of this!". Is there such a card?

Well you know what? Actually there is!

Vengeful Pharaoh

Do you see it? So we will play Liliana and +1 her by discarding our Vengeful Pharaoh. Then the next turn our angry pharaoh will kill a critter from the graveyard and we will continue doing this as long as we can keep Liliana alive. Nice, isn't it?

And now let's see how we can use this nice idea in an actual deck.

 

First of all I must say this: There were a few games during early testing where my Liliana of the VeilVengeful Pharaoh combo backfired right at me. Especially against token decks, this combo was a big problem. So my pharaoh was killing a token and just because he doesn't say "may", he was instantly sending himself to the top of my library, and thus he was preventing me drawing anything else the next turn.

To overcome this problem I added Phyrexian Rager, Solemn Simulacrum and Bloodgift Demon to the deck.  Too bad we don't have Sign in Blood in Standard anymore. So when my pharaoh is going back and forth between my graveyard and the top of my library, I still continue drawing new cards with Bloodgift Demon and with Phyrexian Rager. And Solemn Simulacrum also helps me building my mana base in the meantime. Now I can clearly say that that Aggro match-up has become slightly better after I added those cards to the deck.

Oh and you know what? I did get a few "wow, nice mate!" kind of comments while playing this deck.

Alright let's move on. I'm on a "holy mission" to build competitive mono Black decks, and I believe that this next card will help me greatly in this mission:

Phyrexian Obliterator

I know that many of you dear readers have tried this creature and many of you have failed. And now it's my turn. Let's see what I can do with it.

The first idea of mine is to use it in a bit more aggressive deck. Surely a true Control deck can also use it, but why not play it in something that looks like this:

 

I think that this deck deserves some explaining.

First of all you may wonder (or you may not) why I'm playing these:

Perilous Myr Molten-Tail Masticore

Actually it must be obvious. Just at the beginning I said that we have to be able to deal with threats like Mirran Crusader and sworded protection from Black creatures in the format. And that's why I have these two in the deck. In an ideal world Perilous Myr blocks something and then Shocks that annoying(!) Mirran Crusader and kills him. Late game I can do the same with Molten-Tail Masticore as well.

And right at this point I must say this: The current Standard meta is not mono Black friendly. There are way too many artifacts around and cards like Mirran Crusader and Sword of Feast and Famine do get played at the highest level of Magic. And that's the reason why I'm running either non-targeted removal or artifacts to deal with those problems.

The above deck is actually very good and I'm liking it a lot. But there is one other way to deal with all those problems I mentioned above.

And that is...

...to add Red to the deck!

 

Life is always easy when you have your friends with you, isn't it? And the same is also true for our Black fella here!

And why did I choose this angry and chaotic friend of Black instead of its tricky and sinister one? The answer is very easy actually. Blue cannot solve my Birthing Pod problems. It is also useless against Mimic Vat, Mirran Crusader, planeswalkers and Sword of Feast and Famine. Red on the other hand, can solve those problems perfectly.

Did my opponent just play a Mirran Crusader? Okay, I cannot kill him with Go for the Throat obviously but I have my Incinerate. Or did he just sworded a creature and get it out of Incinerate range? Fine, then I will use my Red Sun's Zenith on it.

And while I do these things, I'm still playing my Phyrexian Obliterator and beating my opponents with it!

I also have both Batterskull and Wurmcoil Engine in the deck because life gain is good or so I heard. Some even speculate that life gain wins games against Aggro!

And if you still have doubts about this last deck, please do watch the below match. It will really help you understand the capabilities of it. Just watch it please:

Looks good, no?

By the way I never used Grave Titan in any of my decks simply because I don't believe that that card belongs to a mono Black deck.

What?!

Just let me finish please my dear inner-me. In a mono Black deck, where I have to deal with Mirran Crusaders and such annoyances, I believe that non-black answers are better options. Grave Titan isn't my solution against Mirran Crusader. It can't do anything against a sworded creature. And enter Wurmcoil Engine right here! Of course Grave Titan is the optimum finisher in a  Control deck or in other Control decks, but in my opinion Wurmcoil Engine is better if you're playing mono Black.

 

WRAP UP

Playing mono Black in Standard seems very risky at first; at least while we still have Scars of Mirrodin block in the format. I can even say that it's not the best option right now. But please dear readers let's not confuse "not the best option" with "totally unplayable". As I tried to prove you this week, there are many different ways one can build a mono Black deck and be successful with it. Oh and I'm not of course talking about mono Black infect here. I'm talking about "traditional" ways of finishing the game.

Anyway... what do you think? Did you like this week's concept? I took a totally casual deck idea and step by step, I turned it into a tournament worthy deck. Was I successful in my quest? Please let me know.

Oh and before I say goodbye...

 

MAGIC QUIZ

Here's something interesting for you. Please first examine the board position below:

The beginning of my upkeep. How can I win the game on my turn?

So we're playing Standard and my opponent, who is playing mono Red, just managed to bring me down to one life with his hasty Hero of Oxid Ridge. And he still has two cards in his hand and I don't think that they both are lands.

I on the other hand have no cards in my hand and just have one simple and harmless Warstorm Surge in front of me. This is my upkeep. I will draw one card. And I should top-deck like a champion and find me a card that can win the game right now, or otherwise I'm most definitely dead.

So here's the question: Which card can win me the game right at this position without passing the turn to my opponent? Oh and the number of cards in libraries and graveyards are not important. The answer isn't there. The answer is one incredible top-deck. Finally let me repeat that we're playing Standard.

Oh and no, there are no sinister tricks or whatever here. There is really one card in Standard that can win you the game right at the above shown situation.

Warstorm Surge

 

NEXT WEEK ON ROGUE PLAY
From Casual Room to FNM, Part II

Unless you tell me that this article was horrible and you never ever will read the second part, next week I will continue doing what I did this week. I still have tons of great ideas and next week I will continue showing them to you. This week I tapped lots of Swamps and my plan is to tap some Plains' next week. Mono White is a very powerful strategy and it is already being played at high level tournament games (say hello to Tempered Steel decks) but there are still other options and decks one can try with just Plains'.

So we'll see us next week and next week the righteous will prevail!

Thanks for reading.

See you online
Nafiz Erman, aka Lord Erman

13 Comments

Quiz Answer by JXClaytor at Tue, 11/22/2011 - 04:38
JXClaytor's picture

Putrefax. Comes into play surge gives 5 infect, attack for haste damage ten infect wins you the game. There may be other ways, but off the top of my head this is the only one that did not involve Genesis Wave, and then getting absurdly lucky.

No, it's not Putrefax but by Lord Erman at Tue, 11/22/2011 - 04:51
Lord Erman's picture

No, it's not Putrefax but Green Sun's Zenith which will fetch you Putrefax! :P

I should ask harder questions, this was a bit too easy apparently.

LE

I think you're just splitting by JXClaytor at Tue, 11/22/2011 - 05:23
JXClaytor's picture

I think you're just splitting hairs now. Either card would have won you the game :D

Great article as always LE. by Paul Leicht at Tue, 11/22/2011 - 06:41
Paul Leicht's picture
5

Great article as always LE. Mirran Crusader is ALL over casual, I am surprised you haven't run into to it there. Every other white deck I face runs them. And Heroes of Bladehold.

Love the article. by Mikey K159 at Tue, 11/22/2011 - 10:35
Mikey K159's picture

Article was a good read, as I am always happy to read about MBC. Though I must say, I think bloodline keeper can be totally casual and should always be in a MBC deck:).

"Examining Liliana-" by Westane at Tue, 11/22/2011 - 10:53
Westane's picture
5

"Examining Liliana-" Yes...

Really good article, I always love watching deck progression. Good read.

yeah putrefax was my first by ShardFenix at Tue, 11/22/2011 - 11:25
ShardFenix's picture

yeah putrefax was my first guess too Maybe including a line that said you had to use all your mana would have made it a bit harder and gotten the answer you wanted.

loved the decks though. Out of my paper playtesting group i am the one that always plays rogue decks so i could see myself sleeving one of these up in the near future

AND THEN HE GUT SHOTS YOU by Gardevi at Tue, 11/22/2011 - 13:13
Gardevi's picture

AND THEN HE GUT SHOTS YOU WITH ONE OF THE TWO CARDS LEFT IN HIS HAND! OH, SO CLOSE!

;)

Other ways by Madd at Tue, 11/22/2011 - 14:27
Madd's picture
5

Other ways you could win would be Bonehoard, Spider Spawning, Slag Fiend, Splinterfright, and Boneyard Wurm. Obviously these are all dependent on what is in your and/or your opponent's graveyards.

Three cards are also in standard that could allow you to survive another turn (depending on what is in your opponent's hand) would be Wurmcoil Engine, Batterskull, and Peace Strider.

Love the article.

I really liked this style by themonkey at Wed, 11/23/2011 - 09:34
themonkey's picture

I really liked this style ofarticle. I play mainly budget casual and there aren't many articles written with a casual player in mind. Most of what you read are tournament quality decks that have cards out of my price range. Your article starts fairly budget and works up from there. In addition here are things that I can port over to my casual decks. I like your mix of removal sells. I'm always unsure how many doom blades/go for the throat/etc... to include. I also like the mycosynth wellspring, phryxian core, ichor wellspring package and will include this in other decks of mine that have mana problems.

I'll second that by GrandAdmiral at Wed, 11/23/2011 - 10:31
GrandAdmiral's picture
5

These are my favorite Rogue Play articles. I still bust out the Nulltread Gargantuan deck from a couple of years ago every once in a while. I like how there's a competitive budget option with paths to upgrade. Last night I played a couple of games with deck #2 (substituting 3x Wurmcoil Engine and 1x Batterskull for the Lashknifes because I owned the former but not the latter - it might be the first time a more expensive card was subbed for a less expensive card) last night. It's really fun sacrificing the Spine to the Phyrexia's Core and repeating. Can't wait for part two.

Thanks everyone for the by Lord Erman at Wed, 11/23/2011 - 11:13
Lord Erman's picture

Thanks everyone for the comments and I'm glad you liked this one. As I said in the article many times, this kind of decks & articles were the reason why I started Rogue Play in the first place. And I want to continue these series as long as the "beast in me" allows me to do so!

@GrandAdmiral: If you're going to replace Lashwrithe with some other cards, all I can advise you is to watch out for your mana curve. Lashwrithe is the perfect mid-game card for mono black. If you take it out and bring in Wurmcoil Engine, you may have trouble against fast decks. Oh and that Nulltread deck was indeed a very nice deck!

Thanks everyone again for the comments.

LE

You are welcome. by GrandAdmiral at Wed, 11/23/2011 - 12:19
GrandAdmiral's picture

Yeah, the Lashwrithe for Wurmcoil switch was mainly due to card availability at the time. I plan to add the Lashwrithes back in, although I might leave in one or two Wurmcoils. I like their ability to block the Mirran Crusader, recover lost life, and sacrificing the Wurmcoil to Phryexia's Core protects it from getting stolen or exiled. Not super relevant, but I have won games because I was able to take out my own creature and fizzle an opponent's spell.

I did update the Nulltread deck at some point with Sea Gate Oracles and a white splash for Kor Skyfisher. I can't remember everything I changed or if I increased/decreased the competitiveness, but it was fun watching cards flying all over the place. :)