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By: Lord Erman, Nafiz Erman
Mar 28 2014 11:00am
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Hello dear readers and welcome back to Rogue Play. I seriously don't know what's wrong with me. Whenever I see a card that I really shouldn't bother even reading maybe, I stop and start thinking a deck for it. Why can't I just play cards like Domri Rade, Archangel of Thune or I don't know, Armada Wurm or Loxodon Smiter and simply just win?! Why do I have to make things more complicated? Do I get any extra "elegance points" for playing something different? 

Well, the only reason I can think of is this: If I play those "obvious" decks, I will be just another no name Magic player. Playing decks everybody plays, will only make me just another drop of water in the ocean. And I don't like that. I don't even like the sound of that. And I guess that's what leads me to "weird" cards and decks build around those cards.

I told you these because recently I found myself looking at this card this time:

Pyxis Of Pandemonium

A typical piece that would be only appealing to a Trinket Mage such as myself. But to be honest, at first this wasn't even interesting for someone like me. It was Pandora's Box "imprinted" on a card, but that was it. For a very long time this card meant absolutely nothing to me. Then one day I somehow started looking at it more seriously. I imagined a game where I was using the second part of its game text and I was putting into play all kinds of horrible and terrible monsters with it. Was it possible to do something like that?

Actually it was. But sadly not in Standard simply because these cards aren't legal there:

Congregation at Dawn Lantern of Insight

But I don't give up easily, so I insisted. I built several versions of a deck that was using Scry cards heavily. First it was Izzet because of Thassa, God of the Sea, Omenspeaker, Dissolve and Stormcaller of Keranos

Thassa, God of the Sea Omenspeaker Stormcaller of Keranos Magma Jet Fated Conflagration

At first it seemed to be a nice idea but sadly practice showed that it wasn't working. The problem was, that I wanted at least three monsters coming out from Pandora's Box; otherwise it just wasn't worth the effort. And the problem was just that. It was simply taking too long for me to find those three Worldspine Wurms or Ashen Riders. And Aggro decks were simply tearing me apart. As a logical next step, I added more monsters to the deck; only to find myself with a hand full of them instead of a removal spell that will kill those five creatures I was facing.

I then added White to the deck for Supreme Verdict. But my problem stayed the same; too few monsters in deck meant long games and too many of them meant a Worldspine Wurm in my hand instead of that Supreme Verdict I was needing.

Long story short, I just couldn't find the right balance. So I dismissed the idea. I came to the conclusion that to make Pyxis of Pandemonium work, I was needing at least Lantern of Insight

Sometime later I was working on a completely different deck. I was busy with a mono Blue Aggro-ish deck, that was casting two or three mana creatures and was sending them to the red zone with some nice Aura's on them, while Bident of Thassa was filling my hand. I was working on the removal part of that deck. Rapid Hybridization was okay but I wasn't really liking the idea of giving my opponent a 3/3. Weren't there any "real" removals in Blue?

Of course there weren't. Blue in its whole "lifespan" of past twenty years, was only good at delaying things. Blue was the color of Boomerang and its kin. Oh and also that Time Ebb and its variants. But hey; who plays Time Ebb, right? What was I going to accomplish by sending that Desecration Demon on top of my opponent's library? He was going to cast it again the next turn, right?

Unless...

Oh wait... hmm...

Is it even... no way, it can't be... but what if...

Pyxis of Pandemonium? Together with these below cards?

Time Ebb Griptide Totally Lost

I immediately dismissed that other Blue deck I was working on; this new idea was simply way too exciting to let go. 

If you are following my articles, you'd know that I keep telling you how focusing is important when building decks. But that moment I realized that focusing too much was also a bad thing. In all my previous attempts to make Pyxis of Pandemonium work, I was too focused to make it work as an offensive weapon. But I never thought of making it a defensive one!

You see, I was only concentrated on "unleashing" horrible monsters (Worldspine Wurms in this case) to the battlefield with Pyxis of Pandemonium. I was so focused to that, so that at the end I missed the other possibility; to send my opponent's creatures to exile zone forever!

In all my previous attempts to make Pyxis of Pandemonium work, I was too focused to make it work as an offensive weapon. But I never thought of making it a defensive one.

And right when I started working on the deck, I saw that Pyxis of Pandemonium actually had a twin sister in Standard! And no, her name wasn't Leia. Her name was Codex Shredder.

Twins! Kind of.
Pyxis of Pandemonium Codex Shredder

I was really excited when I realized that I can use Codex Shredder with Time Ebbs and other similar cards. But those two, even though similar, had their clear differences. With Pyxis of Pandemonium out, Time Ebb was saying this:

Time Ebb -
Sorcery
Exile target creature, then exile the top card of your library.

And with Codex Shredder out, it was saying this:

Time Ebb -
Sorcery
Destroy target creature. It can't be regenerated.

As I said and as you can also see, those two are actually different cards. Which for me meant that I simply had to build two different decks for those cards.

I'm first showing you what I did with Pyxis of Pandemonium.

Pandora's Box
A Standard Deck by Nafiz Erman
Creatures
3 Omenspeaker
3 Prognostic Sphinx
6 cards

Other Spells
4 Pyxis of Pandemonium
4 Divination
4 Griptide
3 Totally Lost
3 Time Ebb
3 Ratchet Bomb
3 Opportunity
2 Dissolve
2 Aetherize
2 Elixir of Immortality
30 cards
Lands
1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
23 Island
24 cards
 
Pyxis of Pandemonium

 

I know that the deck looks like a "pile"; just like all my decks you see in my articles. But don't worry, in a moment you will see this deck in action and you will be amazed to see the things it can do.

The only card that I really need to mention in the list is this one:

Prognostic Sphinx

The fact that it can protect itself is nice of course, but that's not why I chose it. I chose it for its "Scry 3" part. Exiling that Desecration Demon with Griptide is nice of course, but I must be careful when using Pyxis of Pandemonium because it can also backfire at me. I need to make sure it's always an Island or another totally useless card that I'm exiling myself. Omenspeaker helps surely, but it's not enough. That's why my finisher is Prognostic Sphinx.

Okay let's see this deck in action before I talk about the other version. Let's see shortly what it is really capable of.

 

GAME 1:
Against Good Stuff Rock Control

Luckily I start this game with a first turn Pyxis of Pandemonium. I say luckily, because it makes my life so much easier when fighting those two Nightveil Specters and that ugly(!) Blood Baron of Vizkopa. Then his Erebos, God of the Dead comes and stays for a long while but I play my Prognostic Sphinx sometime later, and start slowly bashing my opponent.

At that point my opponent makes a mistake; he plays Vraska the Unseen and instead of using her +1 ability, he tries to kill my Prognostic Sphinx with her -3 ability. As a result, I end up with a hexproof Sphinx and he ends up with a dead planeswalker the next turn. 

His second Blood Baron of Vizkopa enters play and leaves instantly due to a Griptide, and shortly after that I finally send his Black God to the depths of Pandora's Box with a Totally Lost. His final attempt to bring in another Vraska the Unseen gets countered, and my Prognostic Sphinx slowly but steadily wins me the game.

Overall: 1-0

 

GAME 2:
Against Boros 

I keep a hand without any Pyxis of Pandemoniums and a first turn Favored Hoplite tells me that this is going to be an extremely tough game. My game plan from that point on becomes to slow down my opponent as much as I can, until I find my Pyxis of Pandemonium; and maybe even an Elixir of Immortality as well.

Time Ebb and Griptide help early turns but then comes a point when they are simply not effective enough. That's when I do this:

That well timed Aetherize gives me a breathing room, and Opportunity fills my hand. But those "legionnaires" start coming back one by one! Ratchet Bomb at least deals with the one mana cost ones, but things start to look bad for me. 

I stop the bleeding at three life, and bring in finally my Pyxis of Pandemonium and my Prognostic Sphinx. But he still has the manpower, so to speak, and continues attacking. I bring in Omenspeaker and go down to one life (as in "1"!!). In the meantime I play every Time Ebb and Griptide and Totally Lost I draw of course.

I literally start sweating at that point because I'm at one life! I may have the board advantage but a single Shock will be enough to kill me at that point! Thankfully he draws more soldiers. I'm totally fine with them at that point. I even start attacking and bring in a second Omenspeaker

With Prognostic Sphinx starting the action, I finally find my Elixir of Immortality. It was about time!! 

Drawing blank, my opponent concedes.

Overall: 2-0 

 

GAME 3:
Against Green / White Aggro

A very short summary would be this: No Pyxis of Pandemonium, no victory. Simple as that.

I fight as best as I can, draw cards with two Divinations, use all my Time Ebbs and Griptides I have in hand and even use Ratchet Bomb, but just can't find my Sphinx nor my Pyxis of Pandemonium. The result is a horrible death of course.

Overall: 2-1

 

GAME 4: 
Against Mono Black

Contrary to the previous game, this time I have everything I need in hand and do all my nasty tricks one after another.

Everything he plays gets bounced back to his library and then to some black hole in the Aether, I fill my hand constantly with my card drawing spells, Elixir of Immortality sends all those bounce spells back while my Sphinx always makes sure that it's an Island I exile with Pyxis of Pandemonium

Realizing there is no way he can fight this madness, my opponent concedes.

Overall: 3-1

 

GAME 5:
Against Grixis Gods & Good Stuff

Everything he plays looks so scary and everything I play looks so meaningless. Time Ebb? Really?! Pyxis of Pandemonium stays on stack for quite a while and I'm guessing he's seeing the card for the first time online. And probably he's wondering what kind of a "noob" would play such a card. Ah well...

Call me Trinket Mage.

So let me see... Nightveil Specter gets Time Ebb'ed, Desecration Demon gets Griptide'd; all while Pyxis of Pandemonium is "online" of course. Then my Prognostic Sphinx comes down and he brings his Mogis, God of Slaughter. Every turn I hit him for three, and he hits me with his God for two. Then another Desecration Demon comes, then yet another one comes(!!!) but sadly for him, they all share the same fate as the others before them. 

We continue and I keep hitting him for three and he hits me with his God for two for some time. When I begin to worry, finally my Sphinx reveals Totally Lost, and I deal with that boring God. 

Everything he plays looks so scary and everything I play looks so meaningless. Time Ebb? Really?

He then starts sending his removal targeting my Sphinx; one removal spell every turn before I can attack with my Sphinx. That's a smart move because to be able to gain hexproof from Dreadbore, my Sphinx must tap itself. As a result, I deal no combat damage for three turns in a row and that's when he brings a Underworld Cerberus.

But my Omenspeaker comes and helps me by scrying for two, and I get rid of that scary creature eventually. Running out of removals as well, my opponent concedes. 

Overall: 4-1

Okay dear readers, I think these games were enough to give you roughly an idea about the deck. Now I believe it's time you see the other version; the one that uses Codex Shredder instead of Pyxis of Pandemonium.

Here it is:

A Different Version of Pandora's Box
A Standard Deck by Nafiz Erman
Creatures
4 Omenspeaker
2 Aetherling
6 cards

Other Spells
4 Codex Shredder
4 Divination
4 Griptide
3 Totally Lost
3 Time Ebb
3 Ratchet Bomb
3 Opportunity
2 Dissolve
2 Aetherize
2 Elixir of Immortality
30 cards
Lands
1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
23 Island
24 cards
 
Codex Shredder

 

The "backbone" of the deck is the same as the previous one; only a few things have changed. Codex Shredder has replaced Pyxis of Pandemonium of course but also my finisher changed and became this one:

Aetherling

Just because I'm not exiling the top card of my own deck anymore, there isn't really any need to play Prognostic Sphinx. I can do all my tricks until I feel safe and then just bash with my 8/1 unblockable and unkillable creature. Which gives me the advantage of ending games much faster.

The only downside is that I need more time to get my finisher on table. And protecting it requires mana; even attacking with it requires mana. When playing the previous deck, I was totally fine with playing Prognostic Sphinx when I had only five lands in front of me. Now I can't do that. 

Alright dear readers, now let's see what this version can do. And then we can decide which one is the better one.

 

GAME 1:
Against Green / White Big Mana

The moment I see those "mana dorks" coming down, I realize something big and scary is about to come. My Ratchet Bomb luckily gets rid of his main "power source" by killing those two mana creatures all at once, but this doesn't stop him from casting an Archetype of Endurance. Luckily, I am prepared.

That was close... dangerously close.

Only one turn later my Aetherling comes down but my opponent is not giving up. He plays Collective Blessing and all of a sudden things change drastically. But once again, I am prepared.

Oh my God, this is so cruel... and I'm lovin' it!!

And that Aetherize simply ends the game.

Overall: 1-0

 

GAME 2:
Against Mono White Weenie

I encounter the same problem the other version of this deck had too; no Codex Shredder means no victory. I dig very deep, slow him down as much as I can, even use Aetherize and Ratchet Bomb, but just can't find that Codex Shredder

Well, I know that I can't really start every game with a first turn Codex Shredder or a Pyxis of Pandemonium, but I expect to get at least one when I'm down to thirty cards in my library!!!

Overall: 1-1 

 

GAME 3: 
Against Mono Black Devotion

At least once in all my test runs, I run into some top tier deck and this is one of those. 

I kill every scary creature he plays with my mono Blue removal spells(!!). Oh and yes, that card is called Totally Lost my dear opponent and yes, it just killed your Desecration Demon! Have a nice day.

At some point I fall down to six life but Elixir of Immortality keeps me safe from the danger zone and he keeps wasting his removal on my Omenspeakers. Good job! Near the end of the game, seeing I'm not drawing Aetherling, I "sac" my Codex Shredder targeting my Opportunity, play it and eventually find my finisher. The rest is "mumbo-jumbo".

Yes, that card is called Totally Lost. And yes, it just killed your Desecration Demon. Have a nice day.

Overall: 2-1

 

GAME 4:
Against Mono Blue Devotion

Just above I said I play at least once in my test runs against top tier decks. Well, forget that. Because it's either two or sometimes even more. This is one of those again. It's the mono Blue devotion deck. The one you know. The one you keep seeing in every tournament report. No card less, no card more.

But I'm not completely defenseless, because I have the shuffler with me this time. She gives me two Codex Shredders and both of my Aetherizes very early in the game. The first Aetherize I use exactly at this point you see below:

That Ratchet Bomb I have on table then turns into Chalice of the Void set to two and that gives me some breathing room to play my Aetherling and my Omenspeaker. But he has one Cloudfin Raptor on table and it brings me down to two life. I keep bashing him with my Aetherling who then comes back to the battlefield as untapped and ready to block.

By the way, Morphling is one of my all time favorite creatures and I guess this new version of hers will also enter that list of mine. 

Then he plays one Nightveil Specter. I'm at two life and can't handle two fliers. So I set my Chalice, errr, Ratchet Bomb to three at the end of his turn, and blow up his Nightveil Specter on my turn. This of course means "freedom" to his two mana creatures he keeps in his hand, but only a few turns later they once again find themselves being Aetherized.

Next turn I once again set my Ratchet Bomb to two and continue attacking with my Aetherling. And only a few turns later, when everything he has is gone and the battlefield is crystal clean, I end the game.

Just because I want to annoy him more, I play a third Codex Shredder at the end which is of course completely unnecessary. Sorry but that's what you get from me for playing a top tier deck in the Casual Room.

That, no cookies, but some Griptides. They're good for your health!

Overall: 3-1

 

GAME 5: 
Against Blue / Black Planeswalker Control

So we start and very soon we find out that we're both playing Control decks. But there is a tiny problem for him; I land not one but two Codex Shredders very early and start milling. My Codex Shredders send in total twenty five cards to his graveyard during the whole game and yes, that's almost half of his deck.

After some time my third Codex Shredder joins the action and I start thinking that I can even win by milling him by three every turn. And during that whole milling process, I see some Ashiok, Nightmare Weavers, two Jaces and one Liliana of the Dark Realms. But no creatures.

In return, my opponent hits me three times with Thoughtseize. After the second one, I return those cards back to my library with an Elixir of Immortality but that third Thoughtseize discards my Aetherling. Seeing my win condition gone, I sac' one of my Codex Shredders at the end of his turn and get him back. Next turn I cast it with enough mana open to protect it. He indeed sends tons of removal targeting him but as you know, killing an Aetherling is not easy.

Overall: 4-1

 

WRAP UP

So let's recap. This week I showed you two almost identical decks. Both decks' game plan is the same and they play the same way, but their key card is different. But after testing them both, I think I liked the second one a bit more (only a bit though).

Yes I know that exiling cards is a more powerful play than sending them to the graveyard, but with the first deck I am exiling cards as well. Thankfully I have Prognostic Sphinx in it, so that I am always in control of what I am exiling myself.

On the other hand, playing and protecting Prognostic Sphinx is much easier than protecting an Aetherling. You always have to have open mana to protect Aetherling but that's not the case with Prognostic Sphinx. You simply discard those excessive Islands or those extra copies of Pyxis of Pandemonium, and that's just it.  

But in any case I can say this: The last time I played a mono Blue Control deck was when Nevinyrral's Disk was around. Ever since then, it was simply not possible for me to play such a deck. Therefore it was a lot of fun for me to work on those two decks and play them. And seeing how they performed against even top tier decks, I can say that I am really impressed. That's all I can say.

But before I say goodbye...

 

SOME FINAL -unrelated- NOTES

Sometime ago I wrote an article about a deck I built around Vraska the Unseen. The link is here if interested. In that article I said that I was already in love with the deck and that I was going to make it one of my "pet decks". And I did exactly that. Whenever I'm not testing a deck for an article, that Vraska the Unseen deck is always my first choice for entertaining myself. 

And the reason why I'm mentioning this now, is that I made serious changes to the list. The current version, assuming you'd like to know, is this:

 

I don't have much space left, so I will not go into details of what changed and why. I'm just informing you that this is the final version of that deck.

For your info.

The second "unrelated note" I want to mention is actually my Assemble the Legion deck. In my previous articles I kept mentioning it and said that I will hopefully write about it someday. Well, looking at my "to-write" list, I see that it will not happen any time soon and therefore I decided to share it with you now.

 

There you go! 

Red God + Assemble the Legion = Big Ouchie!
Fellowship of the Gods!

Now something else. Something a bit... bizarre if nothing else.

So I'm a Vorthos, and from time to time I build decks to please that crazy Vorthos in me. The deck you'll see below is one of them:

D.E.A.T.H.
A Legacy Legal Vorthos Deck by Nafiz Erman
Creatures
4 Deathrite Shaman
4 Deathgaze Cockatrice
3 Deathbringer Liege
3 Deathpact Angel
14 cards

Other Spells
4 Death Pulse
4 Sudden Death
3 Death Grasp
3 Curse of Death's Hold
3 Living Death
2 Death Wind
2 Nim Deathmantle
1 Death Rattle
22 cards
Lands
1 Shizo, Death's Storehouse
12 Swamp
8 Plains
3 Forest
24 cards
 
Living Death

 

I trust you are smart enough to see the theme there. Some quick explanations:

1- Yes I have Shizo, Death's Storehouse in deck but no legendary creatures. So what?! It just had to be in. You'd understand if you were a Vorthos.
2- Death Pulse isn't there to act as another removal. I only cycle it because this deck can't draw any cards otherwise.
3- You may think that I'm not using Living Death properly because I have no way to send stuff to the graveyard. Well, Living Death in this deck is Wrath of God. I have tons of removal to kill stuff and Deathrite Shaman to exile them from the graveyard (that's why I have Forests in deck). When I play Living Death, it's only me who benefits from it.
4- There is a card called Chalice of Life. It's one of those two-faced cards and the back side's name is Chalice of Death. I thought long about adding that card to the deck. But then decided not to because the front part, which is the part that comes into play, says Chalice of Life. It just wasn't right. Again, you'd understand if you were a Vorthos.
5- Life/Death is not in the deck simply because I wanted to prevent myself from playing the left side of it. I could have used it in some games where sending those 1/1s to the red zone could win me the game. This would of course not have been right. Something you'd only understand if you're a Vorthos. 

Alright, now I can truly say goodbye.

Uhm, so... goodbye then! 

And thanks for reading as always.

See you online
Nafiz Erman, aka Lord Erman

1 Comments

Magnificent. I love those by AJ_Impy at Fri, 03/28/2014 - 11:18
AJ_Impy's picture
5

Magnificent. I love those moments when a deck idea just hits you, some unforeseen synergy makes you realise that the stone that was overlooked can become the capstone. Also, 'Just another drop of water in the ocean' is a perfect summation of why innovating is such a key part of the game.