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By: Lord Erman, Nafiz Erman
Oct 17 2011 11:34pm
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ROGUE PLAY
Horror Lurks Within Block
Part II
by Nafiz Erman

Hello dear readers and welcome back to Rogue Play. Last week in this article I talked about five very nice ISD Block decks and this week I will continue showing you more nice decks for the format. Even though we just have one set out for Block Constructed, the number of decks we can build with that one set is incredibly high.

As I have lots of things to talk about, I would like to cut to the chase immediately.

 

DECK #1 & DECK #2
Solar Flare & Crimson Solar Flare

Back when Solar Flare was in Standard, I was a huge fan of it. I played it nonstop in tournaments and it won me a good amount of packs back then. Now it returned to Standard and I will once again play it nonstop in Standard tournaments. But that's the topic of another article, and this week I will look at this deck and try to build it for Block.

So what do you think; can it be done? Can it be successful without cards like Day of Judgment, Sun Titan and Oblivion Ring? That dear readers, we'll see in a moment.

Solar Flare's back in Standard. But what about Block?

But first, in case you are not familiar with the whole Solar Flare concept, here's a quick summary for you: First of all Solar Flare is a Control deck. The deck aims to win with big creatures but in order to do that, it first removes the opposing threats, nukes the board, draws cards and then when it's safe it brings in its own threats. The only part this deck differs from a regular Control deck, is the part "how" this deck plays its fat creatures.

Surely Solar Flare is able to hardcast its finishers -and it also does so from time to time-, but most of the time Solar Flare likes to reanimate its threats. Back when Solar Flare first appeared, Compulsive Research was the deck's discard engine. Now it will do the same job with cards like Forbidden Alchemy and Liliana of the Veil.

Speaking of Solar Flare's threats, I can say that they all are very scary. Back when it first appeared, it was playing creatures like Akroma, Angel of Wrath and Angel of Despair. The deck was perfectly able to hardcast them, but under normal circumstances it was discarding one of those two creatures with Compulsive Research on turn three and it was resurrecting them with Zombify on turn four.

Times have changed and this time Solar Flare uses creatures like Wurmcoil Engine, Sun Titan, Consecrated Sphinx and Sheoldred, Whispering One. But sadly for us, we don't have any of those in ISD Block. So even though our Forbidden Alchemy is much better than Compulsive Research, our creature package is a bit worse than the old version (as well as the Standard version). But don't worry dear readers, we are still not unarmed!

Our reanimation target number one is without doubt Skaab Ruinator. A 5/6 flying Zombie is almost impossible to kill in ISD Block. Victim of Night can't kill it. It takes two Garruk Relentlesses to kill it; and besides I'm perfectly okay if my opponent "spends" his two Garruks to kill my lone creature.  Brimstone Volley can't kill it either. Not even with Morbid. And it takes a HUGE Devil's Play to get rid of it.

So as you see, Skaab Ruinator will be a perfect finisher for our ISD Block Solar Flare deck. And in desperate times, we can even exile three creatures from our graveyard and hardcast it.

The rest of the deck is full with the usual stuff; counters, removal and card drawing; oh and Lily of course. And right at this point, before advancing any further, I believe that it's time to show you the deck I have in mind. You take a look at the list and then we will continue talking about my card choices.

Solar Flare, an ISD Block deck by Nafiz Erman

25 Lands

4x Isolated Chapel
8x Island
6x Swamp
5x Plains
2x Ghost Quarter

12 Creatures

3x Snapcaster Mage
3x Bloodgift Demon
2x Skaab Ruinator
2x Slayer of the Wicked
2x Reaper from the Abyss

23 Other Spells

4x Think Twice
4x Liliana of the Veil
3x Dissipate
3x Forbidden Alchemy
2x Rebuke
2x Unburial Rites
2x Tribute to Hunger
2x Divine Reckoning
1x Sever the Bloodline
 

15 Cards Sideboard

3x Purify the Grave
3x Curse of Death's Hold
2x Divine Reckoning
2x Victim of Night
2x Lost in the Mist
2x Urgent Exorcism
1x Dissipate

The first thing you should know about this deck is this: From time to time this deck suffers mana issues. And by "mana issues" I mean getting color screwed. Last week I told you the types of decks I think will succeed in ISD Block, and an allied three colored deck was not one of them.

Surely there is that Traveler's Amulet which is actually the solution to all our problems, and as a matter of fact my first version had a full playset of it, but later during testing I had to remove it to make room for some more removal. I was dying way too fast to Aggro decks and Traveler's Amulet wasn't helping me overcome that problem. Having said that, I still do believe that Traveler's Amulet belongs to this deck. I just couldn't fit it in. Who knows, maybe you can.

One other thing that must be mentioned is Divine Reckoning. Sadly it isn't Wrath of God. I tried hard to convince myself but no. Divine Reckoning kills all but leaves that boring Mayor of Avabruck there... who continues his job and spawns tokens as if nothing has happened!

And finally this deck has problems against planeswalkers. If your opponent manages to sneak in one Garruk Relentless, you're in big trouble. And this is the reason why the thing I'm going to tell you just below is so important:

!!Play Snapcaster Mage correctly!!

Playing Snapcaster Mage the right way takes some time and needs practice. Surely it's perfect if you can flashback that previously used Dissipate with him, but you shouldn't be holding him in your hand just because you want to do some cool things.


Use him wisely.

What do you mean?

I mean, play him and kill that transformed Reckless Waif! Play him at the end of your opponent's turn even though there is nothing to flashback in your graveyard, and kill that Liliana of the Veil! Why wait? Snapcaster Mage is your best friend, use him wisely. Of course I know that using that Rebuke once again is very nice but there will be times when you have to use your Snapcaster Mage as a removal spell.

So sometimes you will be using him the way he's meant to be. But sometimes -like, most of the time- you will find yourself looking at this card:

Snapcaster Mage -
Instant
Deal 2 damage to target creature or planeswalker.

As I said, you have to use him correctly.

Okay, I talked enough about this Solar Flare deck. And now I want to talk about another version of it which I call the "Crimson Solar Flare". And my reason is very obvious; this new version plays Red (heavily I might add) in order to deal with the opposing problems. White sadly isn't enough. As I said Divine Reckoning isn't Wrath of God. There is no Swords to Plowshares around; we don't even have Condemn. Oblivion Ring or Journey to Nowhere are only some sweet dreams in ISD Block. Fiend Hunter dies way too quickly.

So what will we do? Well, we have no other option other than adding Red to this deck. Which of course will change the look of the deck completely.

Crimson Solar Flare, an ISD Block deck by Nafiz Erman

25 Lands

4x Sulfur Falls
4x Isolated Chapel
2x Clifftop Retreat
6x Island
6x Swamp
3x Mountain

8 Creatures

3x Snapcaster Mage
3x Bloodgift Demon
2x Reaper from the Abyss
 

27 Other Spells

4x Brimstone Volley
4x Think Twice
3x Dissipate
3x Liliana of the Veil
3x Geistflame
3x Tribute to Hunger
3x Forbidden Alchemy
2x Unburial Rites
2x Devil's Play
 

15 Cards Sideboard

4x Rolling Temblor
3x Purify the Grave
2x Victim of Night
2x Urgent Exorcism
2x Lost in the Mist
1x Devil's Play
1x Dissipate

 

Now this is more like it! Red makes this deck much better and I'm sure that you can even feel it by just looking at the list.

So let's talk about this version a bit. The first thing I must mention is that I'm not playing Skaab Ruinator in this version. This is actually a Grixis Control deck with a bit of Solar Flare elements in it, and this time I preferred three Bloodgift Demons together with two Reaper from the Abyss' as my win conditions. Unburial Rites is still in the deck, which is the reason why I have White mana producing lands in my list. But most of the time rather than the "Lily into resurrection" route, I find myself hardcasting my threats when playing this deck.

The most important part of this version is the removal package. Now it's thousand times better than the previous Solar Flare version. One thing I must say is that Tribute to Hunger works fantastic in this deck; it is much more effective than it is in the first list I showed you. Most of the time my Red burn spells kill the small critters on the battlefield and I take down that "big dude" using my Tribute to Hunger and gain tons of life in the meantime.

And now a few words about the sideboard. Without doubt the card I side in the most is this:

Rolling Temblor may cost one more mana than Pyroclasm but Pyroclasm doesn't have flashback, right?

Most of the other cards in my sideboard should be clear. Victim of Night comes in against Humans, Lost in the Mist comes in against other Control decks, Purify the Grave comes in against decks that use their graveyard (say bye-bye to your Skaab Ruinator!) and Urgent Exorcism acts as my Disenchant variant. I never killed a Spirit with it (because I never faced any!) but destroyed many ugly enchantments (I'll talk about one of them in detail below).

Okay those two were my Solar Flare decks. After seeing what people are playing in the queues I will surely update them both but so far this is how they look like.

 

DECK #3
Ghostfire

If you were playing Magic back when Solar Flare was popular, then you also remember the deck called Angelfire. It was another Control deck of that era. It was a  deck and it was a deck built around Lightning Angel. I know that it's hard to believe now but back then a 3/4 flyer for four with haste and vigilance was a very powerful creature.

And now for ISD Block I will show you one other  Control deck. But this time the center of the deck is not an Angel; this time it's actually a Ghost.

And I think that now you understand where the name Ghostfire comes from.

In my set review when talking about Geist of Saint Traft, I said the following thing:

"Please dear readers, do not forget that this is a mere 2/2 for three that must attack to do something; and in the worst possible color combination for a creature that has those stats. So most of the time people will cast this and then start thinking what went wrong!"

Of course what I said is true if you just play him and then do nothing. St. Traft isn't a creature that can win a game on his own if you leave him be. But if you really build around him, if you really make him your superstar, then he has the power to win games on his own; sometimes even in just two swings!

But I am also aware that this is ISD Block and not Standard. We don't have Angelic Destiny here. Nor do we have any swords... oh wait a second! We may not have any swords in Block but we do have a pike! Remember this one?

As a matter of fact this is exactly what we need for our St. Traft. Swords give him protection from a color which is of course nice, Angelic Destiny gives him wings which is also very nice. And this new pike gives him first strike which in my opinion is more important than any other way of protection. It's almost impossible to kill a 4/2 creature with first strike and hexproof. And by the time the opponent brings in a creature with five toughness, St. Traft is already a 5/2 first striker!

And now let's take a look at what we can do with this combination.

Ghostfire, an ISD Block deck by Nafiz Erman

23 Lands

4x Clifftop Retreat
4x Sulfur Falls
2x Moorland Haunt
5x Island
5x Plains
3x Mountain

10 Creatures

4x Geist of Saint Traft
3x Snapcaster Mage
3x Delver of Secrets

27 Other Spells

4x Think Twice
4x Dissipate
4x Brimstone Volley
4x Midnight Haunting
3x Runechanter's Pike
3x Geistflame
3x Rebuke
2x Devil's Play

15 Cards Sideboard 

4x Rolling Temblor
3x Purify the Grave
3x Witchbane Orb
2x Lost of the Mist
2x Urgent Exorcism
1x Devil's Play

 

This dear readers, is a deck that can play AND protect its St. Traft. And it can even win with him!

There is one important thing I will tell you about this deck and that is about Runechanter's Pike. During my early testing with the deck, I was so afraid to use my flashback spells during a game because every spell lost from my graveyard meant a "smaller" pike. But then I realized one thing: I wasn't needing a "big" one in the first place!

Most of the creatures in the format are X/3 or X/4. Meaning one or two spells in the graveyard are more than enough for me. A 3/2 first striker can kill almost anything and in case my Geist of Saint Traft encounters a Bloodgift Demon or a transformed Werewolf, I simply keep one more sorcery or instant in my graveyard and make my St. Traft a 4/2 first striker. And while my hero(!) survives the battle on the ground, his lovely Angel token kills my opponent up from the above!

But things even get funnier(!) when there is a clear path to the opponent. In some games I manage to deal with every threat my opponent plays, and then attack with a 6/2 or bigger Geist of Saint Traft. I know very well that in a such situation the game ends in just two attacks.

One other thing: Delver of Secrets is a perfect creature in this deck as almost all the time I reveal an instant or a sorcery from the top of my deck. So a first turn Delver of Secrets means almost always a 3/2 flyer on turn two when playing this deck. And you can't imagine how terrible such a creature is for the opponent. He's life total becomes seventeen, then fourteen, then eleven and then eight. In just a few turns. He may kill it of course but you cause him so much trouble in the meantime! You counter his spells, kill his creatures, do so over and over again. So yes, Delver of Secrets is very important for this deck.

The next card that needs explanation is a card that sits in my sideboard; it is Witchbane Orb.

Okay, why do I have this in my sideboard? When do I bring it in? Surely I'm not afraid of a few unimportant curses. There must be another reason.

And of course there is. Actually there are.

These two dear readers, are the only cards that can kill my lone Geist of Saint Traft (apart from mass removal as in Rolling Temblor). But if you look at them, you'll see that they begin with "Target player...". And that's the reason why I bring Witchbane Orb in against them. With my orb out, that "target player" can be anyone but not me (or "target opponent" in case of Tribute to Hunger).

So as you see, I have Witchbane Orb not because I'm afraid of some curses. I have it not because I fear a bunch of burn spells targeting me. No dear readers, I have it because I want to make St. Traft a truly invincible warrior. Black has the power to overcome his hexproof ability and that's the reason why I have Witchbane Orb.

I don't believe that the rest of the deck needs any explanation. The only other card that may make you say "Huh?" is most probably Urgent Exorcism. But as I tried to explain above when talking about my Solar Flare decks, this card isn't there against Spirits (because there aren't any Spirits around!), but it's against those nasty enchantments; especially this below one.

 

DECK #4
Burning Vengeance

This card called Burning Vengeance is actually a very interesting card.

I admit that I didn't take this card seriously at first. But then during testing someone used it against me and showed me how devastating it can really be. And right after our game ended, I built this below deck:

Burning Vengeance, an ISD deck by Nafiz Erman

23 Lands

4x Sulfur Falls
2x Shimmering Grotto
9x Island
8x Mountain

6 Creatures

4x Snapcaster Mage
2x Delver of Secrets

31 Other Spells

4x Think Twice
4x Dissipate
4x Burning Vengeance
4x Brimstone Volley
4x Devil's Play
3x Geistflame
3x Desperate Ravings
3x Forbidden Alchemy
2x Silent Departure

15 Cards Sideboard

4x Rolling Temblor
4x Witchbane Orb
3x Ghost Quarter
2x Traitorous Blood
2x Lost in the Mist

Last week I showed you my  Counter Wolves deck and said that it is the deck I'm going to play as soon as ISD Block becomes online. But if that deck somehow fails me, if it turns out that it isn't as good as I think it is, then I know which deck will be my next choice; it will be without doubt the deck you see above.

There is one card that I want to talk in particular which is this:

Isn't this basically Think Twice?

Desperate Ravings may seem horrible for most of the normal decks out there because that "discard at random" part really hurts. But not this deck. This time we are totally fine by discarding random cards because every card we discard can be played back later. So Desperate Ravings is a custom tailored card for this deck. I just couldn't fit the fourth copy into the deck but it really should be a four-of.

Then I have Delver of Secrets in there too. I'm so very much in love with this card and try to fit it into almost all my decks. I would totally understand if you take it out but I just love to have a 3/2 flyer for one.

There are still a few things I'm considering for this deck and the first one is Blasphemous Act. It seems like a perfect sideboard card but I just can't convince myself to actually try it instead of Rolling Temblor. Also Naturalize seems interesting to me. I already have Shimmering Grotto in my list (to flashback my Forbidden Alchemy), and I think I can cast Naturalize without messing with my manabase. I have Witchbane Orb against burn and mirror matches but maybe Naturalize is a finer solution to my problems in those match-ups.

 

DECK #5
Tokens

And the last deck I'm going to show you in this article is a tokens deck. If you look at the card list of the set, you'll see that there are some very nice cards that produce tokens. Such as Midnight Haunting. Such as Mayor of Avabruck or Garruk Relentless. Such as Moan of the Unhallowed. And then there is also this one:

So let's see what will happen if we put all those nice cards into one deck.

Tokens, an ISD Block deck by Nafiz Erman

24 Lands

4x Woodland Cemetery
4x Isolated Chapel
3x Gavony Township
5x Plains
4x Forest
4x Swamp 

14 Creatures

3x Doomed Traveler
3x Mayor of Avabruck
3x Geist-Honored Monk
3x Mikaeus, the Lunarch
2x Slayer of the Wicked

22 Other Spells

4x Midnight Haunting
4x Altar's Reap
4x Intangible Virtue
4x Moan of the Unhallowed
3x Rebuke
3x Garruk Relentless

15 Cards Sideboard

3x Purify the Grave
2x Slayer of the Wicked
2x Victim of Night
2x Bramblecrush
2x Nevermore
2x Divine Reckoning
1x Garruk Relentless
1x Army of the Damned

 

Actually I think that the list is very self-explanatory. I'm just producing nonstop tokens with this deck. All kinds of tokens and not just Zombies or Spirits or Wolves. I say that because Sever the Bloodline affects us less than you'd imagine. Then Intangible Virtue, Mikaeus, the Lunarch and Gavony Township pump my tokens, Altar's Reap draws me cards at instant speed, Slayer of the Wicked and Rebuke remove unwanted guests and then... well, then I simply win!

My sideboard is very versatile and handles different decks. I side in that lone Army of the Damned against slow decks (such as Solar Flare), and Nevermore is useful against many things but especially against Burning Vengeance it's an instant "gg". And the rest of the cards should be clear.

There is one card I'm still thinking of adding to this deck and it's this card:

This Skirsdag High Priest is actually a perfect addition to this deck. Maybe, and just maybe, I should make room for two copies. Tokens die very easily and very quickly so it's quite easy to achieve Morbid. Even our own Altar's Reap would do. Then? Well, then all hell will break loose! 5/5 Demons -almost- every turn is not something to be sneezed at.

 

WRAP UP

Okay dear readers, that was all from me. Since two weeks I'm showing you many nice decks (some nicer than the rest) and I do hope that I was successful in showing you that this format won't be just  Werewolves vs  Vampires. The Block format has much more depth than just those two decks, and I hope you liked at least one or two decks I showed you.

There is one other deck I'm hearing and reading about, and that is a Dredge deck. I haven't seen it in action, I haven't tried to build it myself so I don't know the exact look of that deck. All I know is that that deck fills its graveyard very fast with cards like Armored Skaab, MulchDream Twist and with Splinterfright, and then wins with Skaab Ruinator or with Boneyard Wurm. As I said, I haven't seen it in action. I didn't test it. So I don't know how good that deck is. But I know that people are talking about it and that they will try it.

Okay and now, before I say goodbye...

 

ONE FINAL (totally unrelated) THING 
A very fun blog about Magic: Facts of Magic

I recently found this blog (click the link above) and I laughed so hard, that when I reached the end of the page there were tears in my eyes. It's actually an old blog so maybe you know it. The writer mocks the fact that WotC often uses real world research, events and such things on Magic card design and some of the things he wrote were incredibly funny.

Such as this one: "The pox was a disease notorious for having killed one-third, rounded up, of Europe's population. Smallpox, on the other hand, killed only a single person". Genius! Hilarious! I don't know what else to say.

Then there is this one about Terror: "Terror is an emotion that, when experienced, results in death". Or there is also this one about horsemanship: "A person riding a horse cannot be stopped by foot soldiers, large animals, walls, archers or even catapults". I seriously lol'ed to this.

And this final one was really one of the best ones; it's about Web: "When a web is left unattended, it is not unusual for a lion to climb up it and then battle a falcon in midair".

There are many more and the people who commented to that blog post also have some very nice ones, so you really should check it out.

Okay dear readers, that was all from me for this week. Thanks for reading.

See you online
Nafiz Erman, aka Lord Erman

7 Comments

Good job. I have to ask by Kumagoro42 at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 08:04
Kumagoro42's picture
5

Good job. I have to ask because it's really haunting me: why the old Solar Flare deck was called like that? I mean, it looks like a name for a red deck, not a deck using the coldest colors ever. Was it ironic?
Also, how was it different from the classic "discard & reanimate" archetype which ever existed, to the point of requiring a new name? I mean, Caw Blade is UW Control (sort of), but it deserved a new name because it used very specific win-con cards (Squadron Hawk and the swords) with very specific enablers, and this made it different from any UW Control deck of the past. I don't see how using Zombify instead of Exhume was different enough. In fact, the new ISD-based Solar Deck replaces every single card of it, yet the name seems too specific to define a generic broad archetype like Fish or Rock. Or if that's the idea, why we're not calling it just Reanimator? Because it's more midrange and the reanimating strategy isn't Plan A? (Indeed I just saw a list that, while still called "Solar Flare" by the writer, had just 2 Unburial Rites in the sideboard!).

Re: the website, one of the funniest MTG lampoon I ever read (also passingly mentioned in one of the comments there) is this one:

- I summon Soulless One.
- Remove Soul!
- Ha! You think that will... hang on... it worked?! How did you even do that?!
- Muahaha! Now, Headless Horseman, attack! But first, put on this Helm of Kaldra.
- No! Neck Snap!

(I was never able to identify the original author/authors)

If I remember correctly, the by Lord Erman at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 08:32
Lord Erman's picture

If I remember correctly, the name Solar Flare comes from Angel of Despair. The angel on the art looks very much like Krillin (a character in Dragonball) and that Krillin dude has an ability that is called Solar Flare. I never understood the connection (as I had zero knowledge about Dragonball), but that name somehow became popular.

Regarding the deck: The deck had two different versions. The CHK - RAV version was playing many 1-ofs as its finishers, because Cranial Extraction was a big problem back then. And it wasen't called reanimator because it wasen't technically one. Solar Flare was a Control deck with Wrath effects, with Persecutes and Castigates and Remands and Mortify's. Normal Reanimator decks don't play those cards as their sole purpose is to drop a fattie to the yard and then reanimate it as fast as possible.

After CHK rotated out and TSP rotated in, people replaced those CHK dragons (Yosei and Kokusho mainly) with Akroma. And in time the deck dropped Zombify completely and transformed into a more Control deck than a reanimator deck. 10th Edition then gave it Beacon of Unrest and the final versions of the deck were playing it as a 2-of. Then RAV rotated out and the deck died.

And our history lesson is thus over :)).

LE

I don´t really agree that the by dende17 at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 09:04
dende17's picture

I don´t really agree that the main plan of old Flare decks was the reanimation strategy. It was even less about reanimating than the new buildsy as research was worse at getting things in the grave, (you wanted to discard land most of the time since you had bouncelands), and unburial rites is much stronger than zombify. I also played the deck heavily at the time and in about 80% of the games you would play zombify to reanimate something you hardcasted turns ago. (Especially in the mirror where card advantage was king)
Also I think the section in which you compare research to alchemy is at least misleading. While Alchemy is better in a more reanimation heavy deck, it is not the better card, that would be research for sure. But of course this is just my personal oppinion, overall a really good article with some very spicy lists. (As always, you are definitely one of my favorite authors here.)

Oh and the origin of the name is indeed from dragonball.

The current Solar Flare seems by Paul Leicht at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 17:29
Paul Leicht's picture
5

The current Solar Flare seems to play a lot like the initial Dredge (before all the techy stuff happened to next level it.) I think the name sticks because people want to play with a deck with a cool name regardless of its context. Im thinking of calling my latest concoction Super Rockets Flare, being that it is Esper Colored.

I am loving the Skirsdag fellow a lot to the point where he might be my new favorite squire. Ever. And a close second is his friend the Stitcher's Apprentice.

As usual LE great article. :D

No offense, but the price on by geo67 at Wed, 10/19/2011 - 11:03
geo67's picture
3

No offense, but the price on the SnapCaster's, the Geist of St, and the lands from this set are already beyond what most people can afford to pay. Especially for play sets. The sad thing is not sure who dictates the prices of the cards, but before the new set was released on MTGO and Cardhoarder "GrimGrin" was priced under 2 bucks, now he's well over three, and it hasn't been a week yet. Before the set even came out, "SnapCaster" was already over 20+ dollars.

Would like to see some fun decks that don't rely on a "SnapCaster" in it.

Price is dropping a lot. It by Kuriboh at Fri, 10/21/2011 - 02:07
Kuriboh's picture

Price is dropping a lot. It was only high during the prerelease

I am pretty happy tho, I just by geo67 at Fri, 10/21/2011 - 10:25
geo67's picture

I am pretty happy tho, I just bought a couple more packs and actually pulled GrimGrin...so building a workable commander and 100 card singleton with him is in progress. I take back my negativity...although, I did get trounced by a guy with SnapCaster...grumble...Course, not sure if it was the actual card, my deck building, or all around shoddy play that did me in. :)