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By: Lord Erman, Nafiz Erman
Feb 19 2014 12:00pm
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Hello dear readers and welcome to Rogue Play. When it comes to building three colored decks, my favorite combination has always been Black-Blue-Green decks; in other words BUG decks. Reason? Very simple actually.

Green provides fast mana, color fixing, big fatties and artifact/enchantment removal. Blue's role is to give me cards, counterspells, bouncing and some other nasty tricks; but mainly card advantage. And finally Black kills stuff, then kills some more stuff while killing stuff. As you see, it's a perfect combination. No other color can fix my mana like Green does, no other color gives me cards like Blue, and Black has always been the king of removal. Now I'm sure you understand my "passion" for this three color combination.

So recently I had some spare time and logged on to Magic Online. Downloaded the new client and said "let's build a deck". I was away from Magic for over two years, and therefore many things were new to me. I filtered to Standard and as you might have guessed, to BUG colors. And I started looking for that card. You know, the one that makes your jaw drop to the floor. The one that is all the inspiration you need to start a deck. The one card you never can get out of your head. So yes, I started looking for it. The list was long and there were a few nice cards here and there but nothing seemed extraordinary to me. And I was about to lose all my hope when I reached to the end of the list; to the letter V. There I saw her:

Vraska the Unseen 

My first reaction was something along these lines: "omg lol, what the pfff" etc.. This card is old news to you maybe, but as I said above, I was away for too long from Magic and I was simply amazed by it. This was exactly what I needed. Creature removal if attacked, Vindicate if needed, and a win condition if ultimated. I didn't need anything more. And so, I started working to build a deck around her.

The first thing I started looking for was some nasty big and fat creature with a reasonable mana cost which was also hard to deal with. I knew I was asking too much, but there had to be one. I needed a Plan B. Winning with Vraska the Unseen was going to be fun and all, but I had to be realistic; that wasn't going to happen in every game. So I started going over options until I came across this one: 

Reaper of the Wilds

How and why this creature costs $0,12 at mtgotraders.com, is beyond me. I have little clue what people play in Standard these days, so I won't and can't comment on this. I'm sure there is a reason why such a powerful card isn't really powerful on serious tables where serious people play serious Magic. And you know what; I don't really care! This is just an awesome card for me, end of story.

So yes, Reaper of the Wilds was going to be my Plan B. Other than desperate situations, I was always going to play her when at six mana to be able to active her hexproof ability. And thus, the deck started taking shape.

A Nice BUG Deck In The Making
Under Construction
4 Reaper of the Wilds
4 cards

Other Spells
3 Vraska the Unseen
3 cards
0 cards
Vraska the Unseen


Now that I knew what I was going to play and how I was going to win, I concentrated to mana fixing, ramping and card drawing. I immediately typed Rampant Growth to the search field but... wow, Rampant Growth wasn't in Standard. In panic, I started looking for other similar options but there wasn't really something playable. Seek the Horizon? Really? 

Where was Farseek or Explore? Or some Kodama's Reach variant or Wood Elves variant? Apparently this was a "strange" Standard. I mean, there were some options of course but not as "traditional" as I was used to. And things like Karametra's Acolyte or Axebane Guardian weren't really the ones I was looking for. I sighed, and settled for Sylvan Caryatid for ramping and Lay of the Land for fixing.

At least for card drawing I had some playable options. Opportunity was a poor man's Sphinx's Revelation and I was totally fine with it. Speaking of Sphinx's Revelation...

Please excuse me being in complete darkness here but what is the price of that card? I mean, a few years ago we had Blue Sun's Zenith in Standard and it was doing almost the same thing. And yet it never was a card that had such a price. Is it the life gain part that makes Sphinx's Revelation so "uber"? What am I missing? Ah well... apparently I missed a lot of things during my absence.

Anyway, I also added Urban Evolution and Omenspeaker to my deck and it started to look like a real deck:

A Nice BUG Deck Taking Shape
Under Construction
4 Reaper of the Wilds
4 Sylvan Caryatid
3 Omenspeaker
11 cards

Other Spells
3 Lay of the Land
3 Vraska the Unseen
3 Urban Evolution
2 Opportunity
11 cards
0 cards
Urban Evolution


Right at this point I must say that the new planeswalker Kiora, the Crashing Wave fits into this deck perfectly. She can shut down a fattie turn after turn, gets cards and plays extra lands while also providing an alternate win condition.

Sadly, she's just new and hot, and therefore costs a ton. Please note that my aim with this deck is to provide readers something nice to play in the Casual Room (or whatever it's called these days) and nothing else. And the audience in the Casual Room always had limits with budget. So while Lady Kiora is "custom tailored" for this deck, I can sadly not include her to the list. But if you have her, by all means, go and add her to the deck. You'll see how she improves it.

Alright so there I was, satisfied with the way the deck was going. Now it was time for the final part; the removal suit. It was now Black's time to shine, and it indeed did that.

Abrupt Decay Hero's Downfall Putrefy

Other than those three "non-brainers" above, I added one copy of that new removal called Gild to the deck. It may cost four mana but it exiles its target instead of destroying it. I thought that with the abundance of those indestructible Gods walking amongst the mortals these days, having such a trick in my deck would be nice; and indeed it was. I also added Far/Away to my list for both of its parts and before I went to mass removal, the deck was looking like this:

Almost There!
Under Construction
4 Reaper of the Wilds
4 Sylvan Caryatid
3 Omenspeaker
11 cards

Other Spells
3 Lay of the Land
3 Vraska the Unseen
3 Urban Evolution
2 Putrefy
2 Opportunity
2 Abrupt Decay
1 Gild
1 Hero's Downfall
1 Far/Away
18 cards
0 cards
Wrath of God


The deck was almost complete. Now I needed some mass removal and a quick search revealed that I didn't have anything close to Damnation in Standard. But there was this one:

Gaze of Granite

I also added Ratchet Bomb, and my mass removal package was complete.

I then started looking for a counterspell. I had room for two copies. Negate was an option, that new Dissolve was nice, Syncopate was again in Standard but I took a "friend" I knew very well from my very first Magic days; I selected Spell Blast.

I still had one single slot left but I knew what it was going to be. In all my casual Control-ish decks, that last spot was always Elixir of Immortality. With that many one-ofs and two-ofs in the deck, being able to shuffle them back was always a nice trick. But at the very last minute I came across another gem; I found Bow of Nylea. It was also getting my used cards back to my deck, but it was also doing much more than that. Life gain, direct damage, pump... I was like "wow, this is nice!". On top of it, it was also very budget friendly so it replaced my beloved Elixir of Immortality in this deck.

And after adding lands, the final version of the deck looked like this:


I have my shocklands ever since the original Ravnica days (yes I'm an old player), so I added them to the deck without thinking. If you don't own them, there are some other nice replacements in Standard such as those gatelands or those scrylands etc... And obviously, that lone Rogue's Passage is in the deck to make one of my Assassin tokens connect, in case the path is blocked.

So yes, the deck was ready and now it was time to test!


Against Mono White Heroic /w Green Splash

It was the typical Aggro vs. Control games. I went down to five life while dealing with stuff like Akroan Skyguard, Wingsteed Rider, Soldier of the Pantheon, Fabled Hero, Favored Hoplite... even Mutavault. Oh and all pumped with a Spear of Heliod and protected with Gods Willing of course.

Gaze of Granite killed a bunch of them in one turn, Abrupt Decay and Putrefy killed some others, Reaper of the Wilds kept them under control and I even had to "spend" a Vraska the Unseen to deal with this "pest" problem I had.

When I was down to eight life, I had a breathing room and filled my hand with Urban Evolution and then with Opportunity. Then the second wave came, which I tried to hold off with Omenspeaker and Sylvan Caryatid. I played another Vraska the Unseen, brought her to seven loyalty, but I was down to five life at that moment and I had no creatures left on table.

At that point I emptied my hand by killing his creature with Abrupt Decay, playing my Ratchet Bomb just in case and playing my Sylvan Caryatid. Then I ultimated with Vraska the Unseen. Seeing no way to deal with my three tokens, my opponent conceded.

Overall: 1-0 


Against Naya Tokens

When I saw the Naya colors, I thought it was going to be an aggressive deck but it wasn't. Early turns we both played lands, then he started making some tokens. I lost a Reaper of the Wilds to Chained to the Rocks because I played her without hexproof mana up, he played his Assemble the Legion but Vraska the Unseen destroyed it and got killed by a burn spell right after that. 

Sadly his second Assemble the Legion went through and he slowly started making an army. An Omenspeaker and Sylvan Caryatid held them away from me a short while, then I topdeck'ed a Ratchet Bomb. I set the bomb off before he attacked with his horde, buying me some time, played Opportunity at the end of his turn and Urban Evolution on my turn and finally got me my Gaze of Granite. His next wave of tokens almost killed me but my mass removal spell cleared the board the next turn.

From there it was easier. A timely Spell Blast prevented him from playing his Heliod, God of the Sun, brought in Vraska the Unseen who then Vindicated that Chained to the Rocks giving me my Reaper of the Wilds back, and it was "gg" a few turns after that. But it was a close game.

Overall: 2-0 


GAME 3: 
Against Some Top Deck

Yeah yeah yeah... Elspeth, Jace, Sphinx's Revelation, Supreme Verdict etc... Fought as best as I could, gave him a heart attack with my Vraska the Unseen and Reaper of the Wilds but seriously, this deck isn't designed to fight such high tier decks. It was fun though and for a moment I thought I stood a chance.

At least now he knows that Azorius Charm doesn't really work on Reaper of the Wilds.

Overall: 2-1 


Against Bant Hexproof

I had some mana issues at the beginning, couldn't fix my colors right away, so he kept bashing me with those hexproof dudes for a while. But when I had my lands issue sorted, I solved that hexproof problem easily.

I just love this card.

Next I brought in my Reaper of the Wilds and someone too learned the lesson that the Reaper can actually protect herself and that you can't really kill her with Detention Sphere. His final effort to hold on to the game was to bring in a Witchstalker, but the right side of Far/Away solved that problem too. From there it was "easy-peasy".

Overall: 3-1


Against Red/Green Mana Ramp into Some Nasty Dragons

Alright somewhere above I said mana ramping was apparently out of Standard. This game showed me that it wasn't really the case. Just at the end of his turn three, when I was looking at his two Sylvan Caryatids and that Gatecreeper Vine, I knew something big and probably ugly was coming my way. And I wasn't wrong.

So it turned out to be that my opponent was a Dragon fan; and yes, this is why I love the Casual Room! Where else can you play against some nasty Dragons otherwise?!

So Scourge of Valkas, followed by another Scourge of Valkas, some other Dragons, another mana creature called Satyr Hedonist... So yes, mana ramping into fatties was possible after all! He was "throwing" nasty fire-breathing fatties turn after turn at me, but thankfully my hand was full with removal. Every time he played one of those fatties, I killed it with one of them. Next I brought in my Reaper of the Wilds, my Bow of Nylea and then my superstar Vraska the Unseen and managed ultimate with her.


He tried playing another one of those Dragons which I Spell Blasted. Blocking my deathtouch Assassins (thanks to Bow of Nylea) with his mana creatures only bought him one extra turn which wasn't good enough at the end.

Overall: 4-1


Against Black/Red Control

I hate those first turn Duresses, and it was one of those. Even before I played a single land, my opponent knew my whole game plan. That Duress removed my Vraska the Unseen, a few turn later his Ratchet Bomb killed my mana creatures (hey, Ratchet Bomb is MY trick!), he then killed two of my Reaper of the Wilds' without targeting them, all the while filling his hand with Read the Bones. A second Duress removed my Opportunity and then Pithing Needle came down naming Vraska the Unseen.

I Spell Blasted his third Duress, played Abrupt Decay targeting the needle and played my Vraska the Unseen. A few turns later I ultimated with her, played another Reaper of the Wilds just in case, only to lose everything to an overloaded Street Spasm. Vraska of course died shortly after that. Gild dealt with his Desecration Demon but I couldn't answer his second Desecration Demon.

Ah well, when it happens it happens. When it doesn't, I can always blame the shuffler!

Overall: 4-2


Against Black/Red Aggro

Games against Aggro decks can have two outcomes. Either they bash me pretty fast before I could do something significant, or I stop the bleeding at some point and slowly gain advantage and win. This was the latter.

"Bleeding" continued until I cleared the board with Gaze of Granite. And that nasty Red god called Purphoros, God of the Forge was the main reason of me bleeding. Urban Evolution then gave me Bow of Nylea and three life per turn kept me alive long enough to safely get my Reaper of the Wilds out. And then yet another player learned the lesson. You know which lesson:

Seriously guys, stop slacking and start reading cards.

It was over shortly after that.

Overall: 5-2


Against Naya Slivers

Oh wow, it's been some time since I played against Slivers. So let me see... Putrefy, Spell Blast, Abrupt Decay, Vraska the Unseen first with her -2 ability and then the +1 one... That's pretty much how I survived. Then I played a second Vraska the Unseen and ultimated. Far/Away dealt with the last two "annoyances", and it was "gg".

Overall: 6-2


Against Mono Blue Control

This was an interesting and a looooong game. At his turn three he tapped himself for a Divination and I punished him with a third turn Reaper of the Wilds. Just like everybody else, he tried to kill her with a removal (in this case it was a Rapid Hybridization), only to find out the hexproof part of my creature. Alright I give up... I hereby accept the fact that nobody reads cards these days anymore!

The next turn I attacked again with my Reaper of the Wilds but he tapped himself for an Aetherize this time. The punishment followed very soon of course and I brought in my Vraska the Unseen.

Nothing significant has happened until my Vraska reached to seven loyalty. I was expecting some trick at that point, and it was Cyclonic Rift as expected. I brought in my Reaper of the Wilds again and continued not doing anything (I'm very good at that!).

After a while he brought in a small flyer and Aetherized me again. Reaper of the Wilds returned to the battlefield of course, and finally on his turn he gave me a reason to play something; he played his Windreader Sphinx. My attempt to kill it at the end of his turn failed, but I had so many removal stuck in hand, so there was no escaping. On my turn I first killed it, attacked with my Reaper of the Wilds and brought in my Vraska the Unseen.

He played another flyer which I Vindicated with Vraska, then he Aetherized my Reaper again. But as we all know, Blue can't really get rid of permanents on its own. It only delays things. And then the breaking point of the game came:

He tried to play Cyclonic Rift with Overload, I said "No!", and the game ended there.

Overall: 7-2


Against Green/White Midrange

It was a very straightforward game with a sweet ending. Early turns he played a few mana creatures and a Deadbridge Goliath, I kept his nasty pets away from me with my Reaper of the Wilds and a few Omenspeakers, and then played my Vraska the Unseen. He played a huge Mistcutter Hydra and tried to pump it even more with that new Armadillo Cloak but that attempt failed thanks to my Hero's Downfall

I then ultimated with Vraska and finally that lone Rogue's Passage in my deck reminded me why I added it to the deck in the first place:

An unblockable Assassin for the win!

Overall: 8-2



And that was the end of my testing. An 80% win ratio was satisfying. In my experience, if your deck has a lower win ratio then 70%, you should really consider making some changes in it. So this one above passed that test.

It also passed the "fun" test in my opinion. I had huge fun playing the deck; I still do. And probably I will make this one my "pet deck" so to speak, and will play it for a long time. I will add cards when new sets come and go, and will enjoy this one for a long time. From my opponents' side, the deck was also fun to play against; well at least it wasn't an unfun deck. No discard, no heavy counterspells, nothing game breaking or top tier. Just a casual deck with synergy.

And if you liked this one, at least the idea, there are things you can of course do to make it even better. As I said somewhere above, that new Simic planeswalker fits perfectly to this deck. 

Vraska the Unseen

I'm hoping that the tournament crowd can't find a use for Kiora, the Crashing Wave. I doubt that it will be the case but hey; a man can dream, right? Because right now she's definitely not very budget-friendly. But if the price drops significantly, I know I would like three copies in the deck. I can cut one Opportunity, one Urban Evolution and one Reaper of the Wilds to make room. All of that of course, IF she becomes "casual room friendly".

You can also get rid of the Putrefys in the deck and replace them with more Hero's Downfalls. Killing planeswalkers just like that, is a nice option to have. Other than that, I don't know what else can be changed in the deck.

So there you have it dear readers. A nice casual BUG control deck. If you have the cards, please give it a try. Because I know you'll love it too.

Thanks for reading
Nafiz Erman, aka Lord Erman 


LOVED IT! :D by The D.K. at Wed, 02/19/2014 - 12:31
The D.K.'s picture

Nice to see you back Lord Erman! I'm trying to get some inspiration for some wacky decks right now too, but Wizards doesn't seem to print good build around me cards anymore... It's all tourney staples or win-more cards at the rare and mythic rare position.

That said, even though your deck is a BIT on the higher cost side for the JFF room, it still feels very casual and I love it. Vraska is awesome, and I can't wait for Jace vs Vraska so I can finally give her a spin in my EDH deck. Great win % too, with the expected loss to the American Planeswalkers deck (or Super Friends or whatever it goes by these days).

And yes, that life gain + mythic rarity is why Sphinx's Revelation is so dang expensive. It helps control decks "not lose" which is the whole point of their deck. They don't try to win, they just win by not losing. :P

Delighted to see you writing by AJ_Impy at Wed, 02/19/2014 - 12:44
AJ_Impy's picture

Delighted to see you writing again! I like the look of the deck, I may have to try and conjure up something along these lines.

Welcome back. I'm looking by romellos at Wed, 02/19/2014 - 12:51
romellos's picture

Welcome back. I'm looking forward to read your new articles.

As a fellow countryman, you have inspired me a lot. It's really good to see you here, once again.

As per usual an inspirational by Paul Leicht at Wed, 02/19/2014 - 20:24
Paul Leicht's picture

As per usual an inspirational read (too bad this wasn't about inspired creatures so that could be a pun. :P) But seriously every time I read a Lord Erman article I want to read another! Great job and welcome back. I hope you can find the time to do this more often.

I totally love the gorgon theme and while I don't care to face reaper across the red line, it is because it has that pesky ability that no one else seems to be aware of. Gaze is awesome, and I need to find more space in decks for it. (I've been playing with Unexpected Results so much that I avoid x spells now a days, but it is definitely quality non-white removal.)

Welcome Back! by GrandAdmiral at Wed, 02/19/2014 - 21:02
GrandAdmiral's picture

Excellent article! The deck looks like a lot of fun and I might have to go to my first Standard event since.... well, since I was inspired to go thanks to a certain Mono White Control deck featuring Spine of Ish Sah. I played versions of that until rotation. :)

Hope to see more articles like this one in the future.

Welcome back Lord Erman. by Rerepete at Wed, 02/19/2014 - 21:07
Rerepete's picture

Welcome back Lord Erman. Another great read.

Welcome back, Erman! by Kumagoro42 at Wed, 02/19/2014 - 21:37
Kumagoro42's picture

Welcome back, Erman!
We share the love for the same planeswalkers!
I'm confident Kiora is high-priced only because BNG is just arrived. I think she'll be down to a reasonable price a la Vraska soon enough. (Then again, she's 4 mana, so you never know. Plus, trends change fast these days, Jace, Architect of Thought was 12-15-ish for almost a year, then doubled his price in a few months.)

I might play this very deck (with some minor tweaks, like Farseek for Lay of the Land) in the Modern league that has recently started on Gatherling (organized by ellmaris), which is casual enough.

I'd also be delighted to see you back on the tribal scene, Erman! We miss you!

Oh how I have awaited your by 2of1 at Thu, 02/20/2014 - 03:36
2of1's picture

Oh how I have awaited your return and you did not dissapoint me!!
Welcome back!


Hey all, You all get a cookie by Lord Erman at Thu, 02/20/2014 - 06:47
Lord Erman's picture

Hey all,

You all get a cookie for remembering me. Because that's some serious accomplishment.
You get another delicious cookie for coming and saying you remember me. Because that means a lot.
You get another third cookie for... well I can't think of a 3rd reason, so no more cookies for you! You already had two you greedy buggers!!!

And no I'm not drunk. Why did you ask?!