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By: Lord Erman, Nafiz Erman
Apr 07 2007 8:08pm
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ROGUE PLAY

by Lord Erman

Episode VI: "Veni Vidi Vici"

Welcome dear readers to the 6th Edition of "Weeny Weedy Weekly" Rogue Play Series; "Veni Vidi Vici". In this article we will be thinking about how we can win, without thinking about how we can be the first one to deal the 20 damage. As you may have guessed, in this article we will be talking about the alternative win conditions in Magic.

Whether we play Aggro or Control or Combo, our eyes are always on our opponent's life total. We may be aiming to lower it very fast, or bit by bit or perhaps all of a sudden; but no matter how we do it, we try to do the same thing; we try to bring our opponent's life total to zero.

But don't you also get bored of doing the same thing over and over again, every day, in every game, with every deck? If your answer is yes(and hopefully it is yes), then you will find many "refreshing" ideas in this article.

Let's talk about those alternative win conditions for starters. Actually there are two; 
1- Depleting our opponent's library (a.k.a. "Mill")
2- Playing a "you win the game" card

Mill decks exist since the dark ages of Magic. The first Millstone was printed in Antiquities set which was back in 1994. Since then, there were always such cards that lured players into "thinking the other way". And "thinking the other way" is exactly what I'm trying to accomplish here each week on Rogue Play and therefore I believe that alternative win conditions in Magic is an excellent subject, which I just cannot leave unmentioned.

And of course, building a mill deck is not the only option available. We can also build decks around "you win the game" cards such as Battle of Wits or Coalition Victory.

MILLSTONE
ANTIQUITIES 1994

 

THE CHEESE STANDS ALONE
UNGLUED 1998

   

The grandfather and name-giver of Mill Decks.

   

Well okay, perhaps this is not the best example. But I think that this card could have been printed in any "normal" set. Sky Swallower and One with Nothing are the first cards I can think of to use it with.

So the idea of this week's edition is to show you dear readers different ways of winning available in Magic. Without further delay, let us move forward to what I got for you.

My task is simple. I have to come up with a good Mill Deck and one other also good "you win the game" deck. And just because this is the Rogue Play Series, I just can't copy/paste a tourney winning Battle of Wits deck, so I have to find another way. And after spending the last weekend thinking about just what to play, I found my candidates. They are Glimpse the Unthinkable in a Blue/Black Standard Mill Deck and Test of Endurance in a mono-white Extended Vanguard Deck.

So everything is set and I am ready to build the decks.

MY "YOU WIN THE GAME" DECK

During my early years in Magic, I had one deck with the following cards:

The main idea was first to empty my opponent's graveyard with Thran Foundry and then to play a Forbidden Crypt and finally to Donate my Forbidden Crypt to my opponent. With zero cards in his "new library", he was eventually going to lose. Donate was hot back those days and people were Donate-ing many interesting cards to each other and Forbidden Crypt was my gift for my opponent. Was I winning? Of course I was! Like 1 game in... well... in 30 games!

But cards with "you win the game" (or "your opponent loses the game") in their text, always had a warm place in my heart for they were (and still are) provoking me to build decks around them which is quite a challenge. And unfortunately everytime I tried, I failed; at least until recently. But before I continue, there is also one other thing I want to mention.

After the release of Guildpact, a mono white deck emerged. I played against it several times but if I'm not wrong, after it has been published on SCG(could be somewhere else), the deck became quite popular and suddenly I was playing against that deck at least 1 or 2 times per day. It had cards like Myojin of Cleansing Fire, Yosei, the Morning Star or Storm Herd and used the Urza lands to cast those high cost spells. The deck was also gaining a lot of life in the meantime and when Storm Herd was successfully cast, there were always like 30 or 40 pegasus tokens on table. I enjoyed that deck also for a while but get bored in time and never ever played it since then.

Lately I was looking at my older decks and came across that one. And all of a sudden a light bulb somewhere in my head blowed. I said "what if I play this deck in another format? Like vanguard. And with Serra Angel Avatar?".

The idea was bright, but it was going to get even brighter...

The Serra Angel Avatar was surely helping me casting bigger Storm Herds but that was all. The deck was still not interesting enough. But after I added Test of Endurance to the deck, everything has changed.

Before I continue any further, let me give you the decklist.

 

 

Test of Endurance, An Extended Vanguard Deck, by Lord Erman

 

24 Lands

12x Plains
4x Urza's Mine
4x Urza's Power Plant
4x Urza's Tower

10 Creatures

4x Weathered Wayfarer
3x Myojin of Cleansing Fire
3x Yosei, the Morning Star

1x Avatar

Serra Angel Avatar 

4 Artifacts

4x Sensei's Divining Top

22 Other Spells

4x Test of Endurance
3x Faith's Fetters
2x Honden of Cleansing Fire
2x Beacon of Immortality
3x Devouring Light
1x Heroes Remembered
1x Storm Herd
4x Wrath of God
2x Terashi's Grasp

 

no sideboard

First of all, the biggest strategy about this deck is this: keep playing until "that very moment". You will know it when it comes. Do not "wake up" your opponent too early. Make him busy with your Yosei, the Morning Star or Myojin of Cleansing Fire. Annoy him by casting a few Wrath of Gods. Is he playing Momir Avatar? Good. Annoy him more with Devouring Light. Type "in the heaven of donkeys, there will be no dredge for that fat Golgari Grave-Troll"(well, maybe you shouldn't say that).

Do these things until that very moment. And when it comes... Cast a totaly unexpected Test of Endurance. All he could do will be typing "gg".

One funny thing I experienced while playing this deck was this: The moment I played my Test of Endurance, it always stayed on the stack like for 3 or 4 seconds. Not because of some technical lag problems. But because only at that very moment my opponent finally was aware of what was going on. He was finally realizing the plot I was weaving for him. And that was causing him to stop and causing him to be unable to press the "OK" button.

So you, the little Spikey in me, do you like the deck?

What? Lousy? You call my deck lousy? How dare you? And hey, stop hitting your brother Johnny there! Well okay. I know how to calm you down. Just read this. You will like it.

MY MILL DECK

Oh yes, this is a good deck. In fact, if I only knew that this could be this good, I would have mentioned it in my previous article which was about serious gaming. And you there, the little ill-mannered, impolite and rude Spikey! You will definately like this.

The Glimpse the Unthinkable - Traumatize combination is available to us since the release of Ravnica: City of Guilds. Many of us made a deck back then, to "Mill" our opponent. But there was always something missing. Twincast was another obvious choice but even though we had so many good cards in deck and even though the deck seemed very good and very solid in theory, it just wasen't good enough against other good decks.

Actually it was too hard to balance the deck. Aggro decks were a big threat and if we were to add more removal spells to the deck, then we were losing against control. Some of us (including me) tried to run a Black/Blue/White version of it just for having access to Wrath of God but then the deck was a little bit inconsistent and we were having also mana problems.

But after the release of Planar Chaos, eveything has changed. First of all, we don't need white anymore. We now have Damnation and thus we can deal with aggro decks without having the need of playing a 3rd colour. And we have also a split second Extirpate. Fantastic against control or combo. Now that have all the missing stones set in place, we can build this deck once again.

As I always do, before building a deck, I searched the Net and saw what others were playing and by the way, I think that there is no shame in doing that. Research is good. Research saves you time. Research gives you ideas.

Anyway, I encountered 2 different types of decks. First one was designed more towards to casual play. It had cards like Szadek, Lord of Secrets and Vedalken Entrancer in it.But for I am always under constant pressure from a barbaric being in me(Hi Spikey!), that deck was not even an option.

The second deck type was a more control-ish one. But after examining it a little bit closer, I found out that it was almost the same deck as that popular Dralnu du Louvre. In fact everything was the same, even the Skeletal Vampire was there but with only 4 Glimpse the Unthinkables scattered here and there.

So you see, research is good. I found out that no one was even thinking of playing a deck based on a true and dedicated Mill strategy. Now behold the true face of House of Dimir! For they are the true Masters of Deceit!

 

HOUSE OF DIMIR, A Standard Deck, by Lord Erman

And here is the text version.

23 Lands

5x Island
4x Swamp
4x Dimir Aqueduct
2x Dreadship Reef
4x Underground River
4x Watery Grave

0 Creatures

--

9 Artifacts

4x Dimir Signet
1x Jester's Cap
4x Jester's Scepter

28 Other Spells

4x Cancel
3x Extirpate
2x Repeal
4x Compulsive Research
4x Damnation
4x Think Twice
4x Glimpse the Unthinkable
1x Psychic Drain
2x Traumatize

15 Cards Sideboard

4x Defense Grid
3x Tormod's Crypt
3x Bottle Gnomes
2x Tendrils of Corruption
1x Extirpate
2x Persecute 

First of all, having zero creatures in deck means that your opponent will have A LOT of dead cards in hand. Even alone this fact, makes this deck fun to play. But as you also see, there is more than fun in here.

I don't think that the main deck needs any explanations; the cards speak for themselves. With 4x Compulsive Research and 4x Think Twice, you will definately have in your hand what you want to have. Sometimes it can be a Damnation or sometimes a Cancel. With so much card drawing, you don't have to worry. 

I think that the sideboard is also very clear. If I'm playing against a Dralnu or another heavy counter deck, I replace 4x Cancel with 4x Defense Grid. I can never win a counter-war against him, so at least I negate his counters. And not to mention, that I still have Jester's Scepter in deck, which is unaffected by Defense Grid. Bottle Gnomes are against aggro, Tendrils of Corruption is against more aggro (particularly against Phyrexian Totem), Persecute against mono-colour decks, Tormod's Crypt against Dredge and/or Reanimator decks and the fourth Extirpate is, well, against decks with Extirpate!

And one final funny note about this deck: when you have Jester's Cap and 2 or 3 Jester's Scepters in play, your side of the table looks more like a circus with jesters tapping and untapping and all! It really looks funny.

VENI VIDI VICI

 I CAME

I came to win. But not with my massive armies. This time I used a different path. First I used a "you win the game" card. And then I made my opponent run out of ammunition. With no cards in his library, he eventually lost.

I SAW

I saw that no one was prepared for such a thing. My Test of Endurance Deck, won 7 games in a row in the casual room, having a 10-3 record at the end. I also saw, that it is the perfect time to play once again the long forgotten mill strategy. With all the cards it always needed now at its disposal, I can think of no better time than now to play this deck.

I CONQUERED

Indeed I did. I used the "Element of Surprise" to my advantage. When my opponent was thinking that I will be casting more fatties, I played a Test of Endurance and won. When my opponent was thinking that I'm playing a variant of Dralnu du Louvre, I played a Glimpse the Unthinkable and won again. For once, my opponent's Wrath of Gods, Sudden Deaths and/or Pyroclasms had no meaning for me. And what a joy that was!

Okay dear readers, this is all for this week. I truely hope that I was successful in showing you "the other way" while focusing -as always- on winning. Fun we may have with entertaining decks, but what good is fun if it's not followed by victory!

Until next time...

Your One And Only Ruler
Gaius Julius Ceasar

Sorry!!! Must be because of this whole "Veni Vidi Vici" thing.

Take Care,
Nafiz ERMAN, a.k.a. Lord Erman

One Final Note: I said this before but I see no harm in repeating myself: when you are online, come and join us at /join pureMTGO. It is really a cool place with full of cool players. And we also have a clan, PureMTGO clan, in case you are interested. More information about the clan can be found here.

0 Comments

by elrogos at Tue, 04/10/2007 - 17:51
elrogos's picture

Maybe i have not explained myself, i have not said that the dimir mill deck is useless, it is pretty powerful and can be a deadly and fast mill deck, it simply doesn't control much the board. With a simple artifact or enchantment lockdown the game for a blu/black is finished, while white total control is just amazing, cause it lets you play mass removal on every permanent type, not only on critters (with green enchantments decks or heavy artifact decks, for example, you will never have enough mana or enough cards to extirpate everything, or to counter everything, while a magus of the disk or a tempest of light clean the board). Personally, i've found out that dimir decks without circu and dimir critters become weak after the first game (you have a sideboard with tormod's crypt, but even your opponent has one, maybe with feldon's cane or extirpate...). But, after all, this is just an opinion, simply stating that a really expensive deck as "house of dimir" is not so invincible and its "milling power" is just the same of a simple dimir deck played in a clever way. On the other hand, it's a deck easy to play, and this is important too. and these opinions have nothing to do with the good quality of the article :)

How about this! by Lythand at Tue, 04/10/2007 - 13:56
Lythand's picture

First off let me say that I am a fan of your articles. I love the rogue style and have played many (with not much success though) rogue decks in FNM.

A few things I want to point out. First its not the milling that wins you the game, although that is the key engine in winning. Its forcing your opponant to draw a card from the library that he does not have to draw. That wins you the game. With a lot of mana one could very easily brain geyser an opponant to force them to draw more cards then they have.

As far as the card "The cheese stands alone" , well one of the future sight rumors going around is this card.

Barren Glory 4ww
Enchantment (TS) R

At the beginning of your upkeep,if you control no permanents other than Barren Glory and have no cards in hand, you win the game.

Pretty much the same card but more realistic in naturla playing settings.

A few cards I would consider in this deck, since I play an extended mill deck online. Mesmiric orb comboed with gaea's blessing and vulturous zombie. And maybe a vampiric link to make sure your life total stays up because lord only knows how much players hate it when I play the zombie or the orb. (yes I play this deck a lot).

In responce to eirogos's coment on graveyard shufflers, I have two words. Tormods Crypt. Remember, even if the gaea's blessing does go from the library to the graveyard, the ability is triggered and goes on the stack, meaning you can respond with extirpate or tormods crypt. Granted the extipate will only remove the copies but it wont be happeneing again.

Anyways great article. Its nice to see puremtgo picking up in activities.

by Lord Erman at Mon, 04/09/2007 - 08:37
Lord Erman's picture

Thanks for the comments guys. And I would also like to thank to those who contact me when I'm online and share their ideas with me about my articles. You must know that I really do appreciate it. Of course no deck is perfect, at least not my decks, and there is always room for improvement. The reason I completely ignored cards like Ivory Mask is that I never saw them played. There are no tier1 burn decks around these days and discards decks with The Rack are not heavily played so players nowadays don't consider Ivory Mask as a sideboard option. I have 2 Repeals in deck in case I encounter some troublesome artifacts and/or enchantments. But Elrogos, it is absolutely true that an Ivory Mask could be a real threat. And Jinx: my Forbidden Crypt deck was horrible because I was horrible at deck building back those days and I was also a student back then which caused some major finance problems :))). Anyway, I thank you all again for reading my articles and sharing your thoughts with me. By the way: Before challenging me for a game, please send a pm first. I might be in the middle of some important playtest and I hate to simply reject challenges. Thanks!

by MysticLancer at Sat, 04/07/2007 - 20:55
MysticLancer's picture

Merhaba Nafiz! (I think I got that right...)
I really liked this article. It was very well written and had some great ideas. The decks were really innovative and seem like they will work well. Keep up the good work and I look forward to the next one!
Lance (MysticLancer)

by jinx_talaris at Sun, 04/08/2007 - 09:10
jinx_talaris's picture

Fun stuff man. I like the tone of your articles. Gives them an enjoyable personality and keeps me interested. More great deck ideas and play styles. I'm a little disappointed to hear about your Forbidden Crypt/Donate deck's poor record. I also have that same combo (tormod's crypt rather than thran foundry though) and it led me to many victories :D. Good stuff, keep it up.

by elrogos at Mon, 04/09/2007 - 07:28
elrogos's picture

Hi man, nice article, just a thing about the mill deck, if i can. It is quite powerful, and maybe with the right use of counters it can be deadly, but it has no way to deal with enchantments and geas's blessing, so an ivory mask or some graveyard shuffler will ruin your game. Being a great fun of milling decks, i really think that blu/black milling is only effective in a total dimir deck, while a control/mill deck has many more changes to win with a blu/white combination (in standard even red blu is quite useful with tsp draw and discard cards). Life gaining + creatures removal and mass destruction (of everything, critters, enchantments and artifacts) of white decks are really the best way to protect a good milling deck against people able to "defend" their library :). After this the Jester's Scepter, as i discovered with many losses, are not that wonderful cards. Yeah, repeatable counters, but useful only in decks the recurs them to mill the opponent, or in heavy counter decks, while a good card in standard against most red decks is the marvellous Commandeer, killer of blazes, demonfires and seething songs.
However, i like your articles, i really think that with more original people like you we would see no more silhana/moldervine or Tron/teferi decks! keep up the good work!