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By: Lord Erman, Nafiz Erman
Nov 29 2011 1:46am
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From Casual Room to FNM
Part II
by Nafiz Erman

Hello dear readers and welcome back to Rogue Play. Last week I wrote the first installment of this fabulous(!) series called From Casual Room to FNM (here's the link if you missed it), and this week I'm back with the second one. Just as I did last week, I'm once again going to build one or two casual decks first and have tons of fun in the Casual Room with them. Then I'll add only a few cards to those decks and make them FNM worthy. And finally I'll go truly wild(!) and add many good ("good" as in expensive and powerful) cards to those decks and turn them into cutthroat competitive Standard decks.

So, what do I have in my "menu" of goodies this week then? Well, I have tons of great stuff this week that include clerics, angels, knights, gargoyles, ghosts... as you can guess, this week I'm going to talk about mono White. Mono White is already being played in tournaments as in Tempered Steel decks, and this week I'm going to show you some other interesting options. Tempered Steel decks are very good of course but trust me dear readers; they are not the only reason why one would play mono White in Standard.

So, shall we start?


DECK #1 & DECK #2
Casual mono White

The first casual deck I'm going to show you has started after I came up with the idea of using this duo in the same deck:

Suture Priest Inquisitor Exarch

Neo-Soul Sisters?

Well yes my inner-me but with a twist! Will you please look at the creature type of those two creatures? They both are Clerics. So why not build a Clerics tribal deck for Standard?

A tribal deck for Standard that uses a niche tribe? Can it be done? Can it be successful in todays Standard?

Ah my dear inner-me, you really should learn trusting me after all those years we spent together. Anyway, just check this out first dear readers:

Casual Clerics
A Standard Deck by Nafiz Erman
4 Inquisitor Exarch
4 Suture Priest
4 Fiend Hunter
4 Adaptive Automaton 
4 Grand Abolisher
3 Avacynian Priest 
3 Leonin Relic-Warder
26 cards

Other Spells
4 Oblivion Ring 
3 Dismember
3 Strata Scythe
Tezzeret's Gambit
12 cards
22 Plains
22 cards

Grand Abolisher


What I do with this deck is very simple actually: I gain life and make my opponent lose life with my Clerics and I tap his creatures, exile them and kill them. My Cleric lord (that is Adaptive Automaton of course!) pumps my creatures in the meantime, and I draw extra cards with Tezzeret's Gambit when I'm about to run out of ammo. Oh and I also have this:

Strata Scythe

Have you ever used this equipment dear readers? Do you know what it's capable of? It costs the same as any of those "big" swords for starters. That's good. And it only costs  more to equip. That's the whole downside of it. And then? Well, and then you have something like this:

Nice, isn't it?

One other thing about the deck: It may not be that obvious by looking at the list, but this deck has the power to kill the opponent out of nowhere. Both Suture Priest and Inquisitor Exarch look harmless at first and that's why the opponent leaves them be for a while. Sadly for him it's always too late when he realizes that they are going to kill him. Every creature he plays is life loss for him. Every Inquisitor Exarch I play is even more life loss!

And the best part is that the deck forces the opponent to play more and more creatures (so that he loses more and more life). Because what he plays gets exiled either with Oblivion Ring or with Fiend Hunter. Or even with Leonin Relic-Warder if it's an artifact creature. Dismember is also in the list and surprises the opponent as all he sees are a bunch of Plains' on my side of the table. 

And that means that he has to play more threats. Meaning more life loss! And then all the things I said above happen again and again...

There is one other thing you can do with the above Clerics deck and that is to replace Tezzeret's Gambit with Honor of the Pure. Sometimes both Dismember and Tezzeret's Gambit in the same deck might hurt. Especially when there are no Suture Priests and/or Inquisitor Exarchs around. 

Dismember should stay because a one mana removal is very important for this deck. So maybe, and that's a maybe, you can replace Tezzeret's Gambit with Honor of the Pure. I'm not saying you must (because then why am I play it myself, right?), but it's an option.

Alright, we saw how we can enjoy the healers of Magic in the Casual Room. I have one other casual deck which I'm sure you'll like as well. But this next one is not Aggro but Control. And for this next one, I will use the same cards as my starting point as I used in the last week's mono Black Control deck. Meaning the Wellsprings, Phyrexia's Core and Spine of Ish Sah.

Here's the base:

The start of a mono colored control deck
The base
0 cards

Other Spells
4 Ichor Wellspring
4 Mycosynth Wellspring
1 Spine of Ish Sah
9 cards
3 Phyrexia's Core
20 Basic Lands of your color
23 cards

Ichor Wellspring


This start proved itself many times and now I'm going to use it again. And my Wellsprings will be extra useful this time because White is horrible in drawing extra cards (where is Wall of Omens when it's needed the most?).

There is one other thing White's horrible these days at, and that is surprisingly removal. We don't have any playable White spot removal spells left in Standard and no, neither Rebuke nor Fiend Hunter are good enough for this Control deck I'm going to build. Therefore I am once again forced to play Dismember. In the first Clerics deck Dismember wasn't a big issue. I even had Tezzeret's Gambit in that one. But this time Dismember will be an issue. And this means that I need lots of good ways to gain life.

The one point of life I will gain from Phyrexia's Core is good of course, but it's nowhere near enough. And that's the reason why I'm going to add Timely Reinforcements, Druidic Satchel (which also helps in other things), Elixir of Immortality and even Pride Guardian to the deck.

Did you just say Pride Guardian? Or am I hearing things? I'm hearing things, right?

No, you're not hearing things my inner me and yes, I did say Pride Guardian.

My opponent starts with a Mountain and plays Furnace Scamp. I play a Plains and a Pride Guardian. My opponent realizes that this will be a long game.

Do you see now why I play Pride Guardian? I actually tried a lot of things before I decided to use it. But none of those options were good enough against Aggro. Sometimes even a turn four Day of Judgment was too late. And then I came across this creature and said "why not". And a few test games in the Casual Room showed me that Pride Guardian was actually the perfect turn one play against Aggro decks (as can be seen above). So I added it in and I'm very happy with that decision so far.

The rest of the deck contains the usual stuff of Control decks; meaning removal, more removal, even more removal and big finishers followed by some more removal.

And now let's see how the deck looks like after adding those cards to it:


There is one other interesting card in the list other than Pride Guardian and that is Manor Gargoyle. But you know what; I will not tell you why I play that creature over many other possible candidates. I will show it to you. Please watch the below video dear readers. It will not only make you understand why I play Manor Gargoyle, but it will also give you a very good idea about the deck you see above.

So what do you think? I believe that it was a nice game showing you the capabilities of the deck. And please do note dear readers that when the game ended I had twenty two cards left in my deck (meaning I already drew 2/3 of my entire deck) and I never drew one Day of Judgment nor an Oblivion Ring that far. So what you watched above happened simply without those cards!


DECK #3 & DECK #4 & DECK #5
Semi competitive mono White

Alright let's continue. Just like I did last week, I'm assuming that you liked those casual decks above and want to take them to your local FNM tournament. Surely both decks above are nice but sadly they are not good enough to win FNM tournaments (regardless of the level of competition). So what should we do? How can we make those decks better without investing tons of money into them?

Let's start this section with the Control deck dear readers which you just watched in action. That was a nice deck and it can actually be a lot nicer if you just add these two cards to it:

Solemn Simulacrum Gideon Jura

You will in a moment see how those two cards will make the mono White Control deck better but first there is something I must tell you.

As I said last week, we're now about to leave the safe harbor called Casual Room and entering the vast and dangerous waters called competitive Magic. Here there are numerous monsters out there, each more powerful than the other. But just because we play a mono colored deck we must be extremely careful; extra careful against these two:

Phyrexian Crusader Sword of War and Peace

Last week our enemies were Mirran Crusader and Sword of Feast and Famine. This week we have two other enemies. But this time we're a bit luckier as we're playing White and White simply means mass removal. We may not be able to kill Phyrexian Crusader directly with Oblivion Ring perhaps, but we can easily get rid of it with Day of Judgment.

So yes, we'll add Solemn Simulacrum and Gideon Jura to our deck and we will be ready to fight in our local FNM tournaments. And how will our deck look like after we add them in? Here's how:


I find it very interesting and surprising that this above deck has zero (as in "0") Innistrad cards in it. For a long time I kept Manor Gargoyle in but sadly had to remove it at the end. Oh and Pride Guardian is still in.

My plan when playing this version is exactly the same as the first casual one. I'm mana ramping fast early turns, a lot faster now because I also have Solemn Simulacrum in, then draw cards with Ichor Wellspring, "repel" unwanted guests with my almost neverending removal spells and then win with one of my win conditions. That win condition is Gideon Jura sometimes. Sometimes it's Steel Hellkite and sometimes it's Archon of Justice but most of the time it's a very big White Sun's Zenith.

The deck plays the same way as the first version and therefore I'm not adding anymore videos here. The only thing I'm going to mention is the sideboard. I divided the sideboard into two parts: Anti Control and anti Aggro. Cards like Marrow Shards, extra copies of Timely Reinforcements and Day of Judgment are clearly anti Aggro. But as always, mono White Control has troubles beating dedicated Control decks, and that's the reason why I have these two cards in my sideboard:

Shrine of Loyal Legions Surgical Extraction

A second turn Shrine of Loyal Legions is the one of the worst things that might happen in a game for the Control player; especially if he's playing Blue/Black. And the same is also true for a Surgical Extraction removing all their Mana Leaks or Dissipates or Day of Judgments.

And here's a very short story about Surgical Extraction: In one game, while testing the deck, I removed my opponent's Doom Blades with my Surgical Extraction and saw that my opponent was holding a Massacre Wurm in his hand. And I was just about to sac my Shrine of Loyal Legions! So the card is not only useful because it gets rid of a card, but it's also very good because it allows you to peek into your opponent's hand.

Alright, I think we spent enough time with the Control deck. Let's get back to the Aggro version of mono White and see how we can make that deck FNM worthy.

Right at this point I must tell you one thing: We can take the above casual Clerics deck and take it into two different directions. The first direction is to stay true to the theme and continue playing a Clerics tribal deck. I will show you this option in a moment. But there is one other way we can build this deck and this one involves this particular Cleric:

Kemba, Kha Regent

If we're talking about Kemba, Kha Regent, then we're of course talking about equipments. And if we're talking about equipments, then we're automatically talking about Puresteel Paladin.

I know adding Puresteel Paladin will make this deck a Puresteel deck rather than a Clerics theme deck, but I just have to show you this option too. As the author, it's my duty to present you as many playable options as possible. The Clerics deck will follow after the Puresteel deck, so do not worry.

So if you like to play Puresteel Paladin but if you're on a budget and can't afford cards like Mirran Crusader, Sword of Feast and Famine and Sword of War and Peace, here's my semi competitive and budget friendly version of it:

Semi Competitive Puresteel
A Standard Deck by Nafiz Erman
4 Puresteel Paladin
4 Fiend Hunter
4 Mentor of the Meek
3 Kemba, Kha Regent
3 Leonin Relic-Warder
3 Etched Champion
1 Phyrexian Revoker
22 cards

Other Spells
4 Flayer Husk
4 Mortarpod
3 Dispatch
2 Mox Opal
2 Swiftfoot Boots
1 Strata Scythe
16 cards
2 Ghost Quarter
20 Plains
22 cards

Puresteel Paladin


There isn't much I can tell you about this deck. That's basically the well known Puresteel deck minus the expensive stuff. So you can take this deck as your starting point and start playing it as it is. And in time you can invest into the money cards slowly and make it a much more powerful deck.

Alright, as I said I just had to show you this above deck. Kemba, Kha Regent can win games very quickly if left unattended and that's one reason why I showed you the above deck (so you see how you can use her in a semi competitive deck). And Puresteel Paladin is surprisingly a very budget friendly card considering what it's capable of, and that was my second reason.

Anyway, let's move onto the Clerics tribal deck. How can we make it FNM worthy? Are there cards that we can use to upgrade it? Well, as always I will add just two cards to that deck and we'll see together how the deck changes and turns into a much more powerful deck. I have these two cards in my mind:

Mikaeus, the Lunarch Phyrexian Metamorph

And this is the deck after we add them to it:


This is an extraordinary deck and surprisingly I love playing it a lot (considering I don't like Aggro that much in general). Just like the first casual version, this deck "steals" games out of nowhere too. But unlike the first one, this one hits much harder and much faster.

Okay, as I don't think there is much I need to explain about this deck, I move onto the final section of the article which is...


DECK #6 & DECK #7 & DECK #8 & DECK #9
Competitive Mono White

So we first built two casual mono White decks and enjoyed them in the Casual Room. Then we took them, invested a bit into them and turned them into semi competitive decks. As our FNM meta is not as cutthroat as the Daily Events on MTGO, we even had success with one of those decks in our local game shop.

But we want more! So let's say that we have the cards and the budget to make those decks even better but we don't know how. We don't know which cards we should add to our deck(s). And that's the part where I step in dear readers! Now I'll show you how you can turn those decks into real cutthroat and competitive killer decks.

Let's start with the Clerics deck. Do you really believe a theme deck such as that one can turn into a "killer", so to speak? Of course it's possible but first we must add Blue to our deck. And why is that? Well we do it because Blue will allow us to cast the ultimate Cleric of Standard:

Geist of Saint Traft

A competitive Clerics deck is never complete without this St. Traft. Never! And adding Blue to the deck gives us one other very important card which is Moorland Haunt. I think we all know how useful that card is, especially during late game.

So let's see the list now and then we'll talk further.


So as you see I'm still keeping the Clerics theme in the deck. I do so because even though Honor of the Pure is a good card, I believe that Honor of the Pure plus Adaptive Automaton are better. Much better even. Too bad that I had to let go the core of my Clerics deck which was the Suture Priest and Inquisitor Exarch duo. Those two cards were great in the Casual Room, they were great at the local card shop but they will not be sufficient when we enter the arena where only the big boys fight, so to speak.

I'm still keeping Grand Abolisher in the deck because as you know he allows us to equip our creatures in calm and without worrying about removal spells. 

One other thing is that I chose Sword of War and Peace over Sword of Feast and Famine in this deck. I did so because I'm seeing more and more aggressive decks around these days. If you're expecting lots of Control decks, then you are of course free to replace the Boros sword with the Golgari one.

By the way one can surely drop the whole Clerics theme and replace them with cards like Mirran Crusader and Hero of Bladehold. As a matter of fact that wouldn't be a bad choice just as Craig Wescoe proved at Worlds. But if you're after an original AND powerful list, I'm definitely confident that the list above will satisfy all your "Spike-ish needs".

Alright that was the competitive Clerics deck. And no, I will not show you the competitive Puresteel deck here. That will not make any sense because I'm sure we all know how to build one. Even if we don't, we can always google for it and simply netdeck. There is nothing I can add to that deck. I have no new advice how to make the known Puresteel deck better. I offered you the semi competitive version, and that's all I will do.

Now I'm moving to the mono White Control deck.

Last week as you may remember, the core of my casual mono Black deck and my semi competitive mono Black deck was the "Wellsprings + Phyrexia's Core" engine. But then I dropped them while building the competitive version(s). This week I will not do that. This week I will continue keeping the "Wellspring engine" in my deck.

Are they good enough for competitive play?

Well, let's take a look at the deck first and then you decide. 


My whole aim when playing this deck is to reach to five mana as soon as possible. Because I only start playing when I have at least five lands in front of me. And to do that I get my lands with Mycosynth Wellspring and I ramp with Solemn Simulacrum. In the meantime I stay alive with Dismember, Day of Judgment, Timely Reinforcements and Oblivion Ring, and I also keep my opponent busy with my Hero of Bladehold. Then when I'm at five mana, I start playing my planeswalkers. Then my Wurmcoil Engine. Then my Karn Liberated or Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. Then... well, then it's hopefully "gg"!

There is one other version I want to show you and this one is a bit more centered around Elspeth Tirel. She's already seeing a lot of play in Township token decks, but why not try her and her tokens in a mono White deck?

So let's take a look at this one dear readers:


Surprisingly I love playing this deck and surprisingly it performs way above my expectations. Those 1/1 tokens really do get out of control pretty quickly and your opponent simply can't fight them one by one. Midnight Haunting is very "nasty", Intangible Virtue is not only my Honor of the Pure but also my Serra's Blessing, Elspeth Tirel is my everything and Shrine of Loyal Legions is most of the time my finisher.

Township Humans are nice but Elspeth's tokens are nicer.
My opponent is being "tokenized".
Elspeth the Control Slayer!

Looks fun, no?

The only thing that makes me sad is that I couldn't fit White Sun's Zenith into this deck. If you can think of a way, please do let me know as well, because I strongly believe that that card belongs to this deck.

Alright, were these all? Of course not! I have one final deck I want to show you and that is this one: 


I will not explain you this deck with just words. Instead, I recorded a video and if you watch it, you'll understand the idea behind the deck, my card choices and how it plays out.

Here it is:

I hope you liked this one as well.



So, this was my take on mono White. I loved testing the Clerics deck and I loved playing and testing all the Control decks. And I hope I was successful in showing you interesting ways of playing mono White in todays Standard. Surely Tempered Steel is good, surely the deck called Geistblade with Mirran Crusaders and Hero of Bladeholds is good, but they are absolutely not the only ways one can enjoy his Plains'.

Those Clerics decks can really do some silly things and the Control decks are incredibly fun to play. As a matter of fact, I just watched that video above once again and remembered why I enjoyed that Control deck so much while testing. I just hope you enjoy all of them as well. Oh and if you have the cards, please do try the Elspeth tokens deck I showed you. You can't imagine how fun it is to bash the opponent with all those tokens!


Random or not, the only thing I know is that it hates me!

So yes, is the shuffler really random? I mean, is it really random? For a long time I thought it was but my mind has changed after this:


So as you can see I have fourty six cards left in my library. Meaning I drew fourteen cards that far. And as you can also see, thirteen of those fourteen cards are lands! And I have twenty four lands in that deck. Can you really believe this?! 

So please, somebody answer me this: What are the odds of drawing thirteen lands in your first fourteen cards (when there are twenty four lands in total in your deck)? Somebody who's good with numbers please do calculate it, because I really want to know.

So do you really believe that the shuffler is random? Or is it treating you also like it's treating me? Do you have your own odd stories with the shuffler? Please do share. I think my recent "experience" with it was really extraordinary but who knows; maybe yours is even more crazier than that!


From Casual Room to FNM, Part III

Yes, I liked writing these articles. Thanks for asking! And next week I'll be back with the third installment of this series and will show you how you can turn the wild life in the Forest into a deadly weapon. Until then, have fun tapping your Plains'!

Thanks for reading.

See you online,
Nafiz Erman, aka Lord Erman


Hey just wanted to drop in by grandpoobah at Tue, 11/29/2011 - 04:39
grandpoobah's picture

Hey just wanted to drop in and say I really liked this article. I've considered writing articles on "competitive casual" myself from time to time, as I love building fun decks and playing them in the casual room. Beating decks chock full of all the power mythics with a bunch of commons and uncommons and junk rares is rather rewarding :)

chances by Madd at Tue, 11/29/2011 - 04:39
Madd's picture

By my up-too-late math, you would have about .000402% chance of drawing 13 lands out of 14 cards from your deck. That's 1 out of 2487562. Odds of dying in a car accident in America this year? Something like 1 out of 6500.

u madd bro? by greyes3 at Tue, 11/29/2011 - 11:33
greyes3's picture

u madd bro?

Play Poker? by dave78pdx at Tue, 11/29/2011 - 13:41
dave78pdx's picture

This would be the MTGO equivalent of drawing a royal flush, TWICE! Srsly, bro, buy a lottery ticket.

probabilities by TeutonicThunder at Tue, 11/29/2011 - 08:47
TeutonicThunder's picture

You should think of the randomness in this way: Every possible combination of cards is equally probable. Therefore, these things should happen. They don't usually happen in real life because manual shuffling is pseudo-random at best.

The standard rand() function of c++ (might be used here?) can produce up to 10^6 "good random values" so that shuffling a 60 card deck is to be considered random.

The probability of drawing by zimmerbloke at Tue, 11/29/2011 - 21:51
zimmerbloke's picture

The probability of drawing exactly 13 lands in 14 draws (assuming 24 lands in a 60 card deck) is given by the following equation:

P(13 lands) = (36 choose 1)*(24 choose 13)/(60 choose 14)

Where (n choose k) is the binomial coefficient indexed by n and k.

The above statement evaluates to approximately .000518%, or about 1 in 193030.

If the question extends to drawing *at least* 13 lands in 14 draws (same assumptions), the probability increases to approximately .000529%, or about 1 in 188907, according to the following:

P(>=13 lands) = P(13 lands) + P(14 lands)


P(14 lands) = (24 choose 14)/(60 choose 14)

Just a ton of info and work by Leviathan at Tue, 11/29/2011 - 22:44
Leviathan's picture

Just a ton of info and work put into this article. The decks look fun and almost make me want to plat Std again! Excellent article.

Great Article by toolazy2stand at Wed, 11/30/2011 - 14:48
toolazy2stand's picture

Since, I've been drafting a lot, and trying to get cards in order to build competitive decks, I forget how much fun it is to brew casual decks (strong, weak, anything in between). Your article is a great reminder of why it's so much fun. Great job!

Thanks everybody for the by Lord Erman at Wed, 11/30/2011 - 17:41
Lord Erman's picture

Thanks everybody for the comments. The only motivation I need to keep writing these "from completely casual to cutthroat serious" articles, is to know that you like them and read them! So thanks again for the comments and for reading.

Oh and yes, that "13 lands in the first 14 cards" accident(!) was increadible, and I don't think it will happen again... as a matter of fact, I really do hope that it won't happen again!


not keep 6 lands by Etriol at Fri, 12/02/2011 - 06:49
Etriol's picture

May be it is better to learn lesson not to keep 6 landers.
But it is your choise to hope for "randomness"

I'd like to find out more? by ShaunPaoletta at Sat, 04/08/2017 - 08:19
ShaunPaoletta's picture

I'd like to find out more? I'd want to find out more details.