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By: maeiou, Noah
Jan 11 2010 2:19pm
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Sanguine Bond
Our focus

Sanguine Bond is a pretty interesting (albeit pricey) card that lets us get more bang for our life-gaining buck, turning even the most innocuous Healing Salve into a decent play. Its price is its most obvious flaw, especially in the super-fast Standard format that's shaping up with Zendikar. This, I felt, could be countered by a strong blue-white defense that the planeswalker control decks use to great effect. Another notable drawback is the lack of creatures with lifelink in Standard. With the Bond being our starting point, the most obvious win condition in this deck is to swing in with some strong lifelinkers that will, with the Bond, essentially gain double-strike when they hit. The potential candidates in our colors, then, include:

Baneslayer Angel
With this being a casual deck, we're not looking to spend 44 tickets on what is probably the best out of this lineup.

Battlegrace Angel
A staple in Bant exalted, Battlegrace offers a solid 5/5 flying, lifelinky attacker with the potential to make our other creatures more effective.

Caravan Hurda
This 5-mana beast is an impotent attacker and a severely late blocker.

Child of Night
A quick, otherwise featureless vamp.

Felidar Sovereign
Mythic with vigilance and lifelink, but a bit pricey.

Sphinx of the Steel Wind
An 8-mana removal-resistant Battlegrace upgrade

Vampire Nighthawk
Great blocker, evasive attacker

Windwright Mage
I love this card, but we're not going to be running enough artifacts to make it worthwhile.

And these, while lacking lifelink, are probably going to factor in our prolonging the game to make the Bond a factor:

Wall of Denial
A favorite of the planeswalker control, this wall is a beast in the early game.

Deft Duelist
This guy is a great 2-drop who is likely going to do more defending than attacking. Excellent at dissuading aggro.

Wall of Reverence
It combos well with the Bond, but its targetability and lower toughness may not let it make the cut.

My ideas for this deck were slightly beyond my ability to purchase cards (by 100%), so I ended up having to make do with what I had. This mostly meant taking out the Walls of Reverence, Baneslayers, Sphinxes, and most of the Nighthawks. Our main focus is going to be on retrieving key cards and keeping our creatures alive, so I kept the initial count low. Here were my first thoughts:

4 x Deft Duelist
4 x Wall of Denial
3 x Battlegrace Angel
1 x Vampire Nighthawk
1 x Felidar Sovereign

I wound up with a little more white than I was anticipating, but this is going to be rounded off by the rest of our spells. The mana base for Esper is fairly well-developed in Standard, so I wasn't too worried about dealing with land issues at the end of construction.

As is hinted at above, our creatures are certainly the most straight-forward way of having our way with our opponent, but there are plenty of life-gaining shenanigans to be had with other spells in Standard.

Needlebite Trap   Tainted Sigil   Sanguine Bond

Needlebite Trap is a much-maligned draft buster. Nothing pleases me more in draft to have my opponent drop a first-turn heal land like Akoum Refuge and having a 10-life swing for 1 mana. Its normal casting cost is harsh, but when combined with the Tainted Sigil and Sanguine Bond, this card is 20 points of damage and 15 points of healing. Tainted Sigil will have a similar effect with a swing of Battlegrace Angel. The normal blue and black card-finding tricks can be well-applied in this deck:

A cheap play for a card advantage, this is a staple in many casual control decks.

Mind Spring
This can be useful late-game when we've started to play out our hand a little more, or, in a pinch, can be used as an emergency expensive Divination.

A favorite of mine, Ponder lets you get trash out of your way or line-up a killer set of draws.

Diabolic Tutor
The black Tutor is a sweet card-finding trick.

Mark of Asylum
Normally a sideboard card, the Mark here will be instrumental in hosing red (and some black, e.g., Tendrils of Corruption) removal against our stronger lifelinkers.

Ajani Goldmane
With his life-gain and global-counter abilities, this guy is a super addition if he's not too pricey.

I admit that, at the time of construction, I was a little too infatuated with Needlebite Trap, as it's a blank against most constructed decks with limited applicability at the hefty cost of 7. This was a card, clearly, that would need to have some trimming. Nevertheless, my initial decklist went like this:

Sanguine Shenanigans, V1

4 x Deft Duelist
4 x Wall of Denial
3 x Battlegrace Angel
1 x Vampire Nighthawk
1 x Felidar Sovereign
13 cards

Other Spells
4 x Sanguine Bond
4 x Needlebite Trap
4 x Diabolic Tutor
3 x Tainted Sigil
3 x Divination
2 x Ponder
2 x Mark of Asylum
2 x Mind Spring
1 x Ajani Goldmane
25 cards

4 x Arcane Sanctum
4 x Terramorphic Expanse
1 x Glacial Fortress
4 x Island
4 x Plains
5 x Swamp

Glacial Fortress

Arcane Sanctum

The creature list goes largely unmodified (for now) and my spells list looks strong, except for the noticeable lack of any and all forms of removal. My land situation is fairly solid; I would prefer to have some fetch lands like Marsh Flats or more M10 duals such as Glacial Fortress and Drowned Catacomb over the Terramorphic Expanses, but my collection was my limiting factor, and I rarely, if ever, experienced insurmountable mana troubles.

Game1 versus White Ally

Unfortunately, my MTGO logs of this game were lost, so I am unable to recount the exact process of the game. My opponent started with a Kazandu Blademaster; Soul Warden and Ondu Cleric; and Makindi Shieldmate on turns 2, 3, and 4, respectively. I countered with a Deft Duelist and Wall of Denial early, leaving us at an early and, for me, beneficial deadlock. He was slightly mana-screwed, having to discard a Felidar Sovereign before finding a Whispersilk Cloak and attaching it to his now-5/5 Blademaster. His life gain from Ondu Cleric comes back to hurt with a few (Needlebite Traps) and I eventually play out a Battlegrace Angel and Sanguine Bond. He now had an unblockable 8/8 Blademaster attacking, but there was little he could do to stop the Battlegrace Angel from doing 10 damage per turn. Soon thereafter, I dropped a second Sanguine Bond, swung in for 15, and dropped a Tainted Sigil, to which my opponent conceded.

Kazandu Blademaster   Ondu Cleric   Wall of Denial   Battlegrace Angel

This is a great matchup for my deck, and I was extremely lucky to face it first. I had no real mana issues and my delaying tactics worked just long enough to get the big guns out. The obvious flaw of a lack of a way to deal with a white 8/8 vigilance, first-strike attacker caused me to redesign the deck slightly, putting in two (
Doom Blade)s, and taking out one Battlegrace Angel and a Tainted Sigil.

Game 2 versus Land Destruction Control

I'm on the play and keep a sketchy two-lander. I've always been an aggressive player and, I feel, this will be the downfall of me when playing a control deck. I drop an Arcane Sanctum and pass the turn. My opponent drops a Forest and gives it back. My draw is a Deft Duelist, which limits me to dropping a second Sanctum and passing. My opponent terramorphics for a Mountain and passes. I draw a Swamp, which leaves me able to play my Vampire Nighthawk, Deft Duelist, or Mark of Asylum. As he has no creatures out, I'm in no rush to play out my Duelist and drop the Mark of Asylum to shield the next-turn Vampire Nighthawk. My opponent drops a Swamp and passes. I draw a second Mark of Asylum, but play the Vampire out.

My opponent end-of-turns Harrow, netting himself another Swamp. He Demolishes one of my Arcane Sanctums and drops a Jungle Shrine. In tough shape, land-wise, I draw a Terramorphic Expanse, which I crack for a Plains. I swing with the Nighthawk. My opponent drops a big Realm Razer and makes my land predicament worse. He and I exchange blows for a turn while he cracks a Terramorphic Expanse into a Mountain. I manage to draw an Island, but at the end of my turn he Lightning Bolts his own Realm Razer to put all lands back in play.

Realm Razer

My opponent drops another land and plays Ajani Vengeant, immediately tapping down my one attacker. On my turn, I drop a Deft Duelist to deal with Ajani, but he counters with a Marisi's Twinclaws. Thankfully, I've added the two (Doom Blade)s by this point, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to Diabolic Tutor for one of them. I mercifully draw an island and Divination into a Swamp and a (Doom Blade), with which I destroy the Twinclaws. This lets me swing in for 2 against Ajani Vengeant with the Duelist, dropping him to 3 counters. At this point, the game is at 12 life to 20 in my favor.

My opponent plays out a second Marisi's Twinclaws, drops a Swamp, taps down my Nighthawk, and passes the turn. I drop my Swamp, tutor for the 2nd (Doom Blade), kill the Twinclaws, and again  swing in for 2, dropping Ajani down to 2 counters. At the end of my turn, my opponent Naya Charms for his (Marisi's Tiwnclaws). During his turn, he plays the Twinclaws, taps down the Nighthawk, and passes. I draw a Plains, drop a second Deft Duelist, and Mind Spring for 3. I pick up a Swamp, Divination, and Ponder, and pass the turn. My opponent is inactive, tapping down the Nighthawk and passing.

Ajani Vengeant   Marisi's Twinclaws

My Divination turns up an Ajani Goldmane and Felidar Sovereign. I drop Ajani, killing them both, and pass the turn. Unfortunately, my opponent has a second Ajani Vengeant in hand, plays him out, taps down the Nighthawk, and passes. I draw a Battlegrace Angel, drop a Terramorphic Expanse, cracking it for another Swamp, and play out the Felidar Sovereign. My opponent taps down the Nighthawk, Terminates the Sovereign, and passes. I draw an unhelpful Needlebite Trap, play my Arcane Sanctum, and drop Battlegrace Angel, passing the turn. My opponent plays out a second Realm Razer on a tough board position for him, taps down the nighthawk, and passes. This puts Ajani Vengeant at a dangerous 6 counters and out of killing range for my Battlegrace Angel. Nevertheless, I swing in for 5 against Ajani Vengeant with the Angel. My opponent taps down the angel and passes the turn. Things are not looking good as my Vampire Nighthawk is finally able to untap and my opponent concedes.

Vampire Nighthawk

While this isn't exactly how I want to win games, I was happy with the way this one played out. The Deft Duelists were clutch and the tapping down of the Vampire Nighthawk highlighted how useful having more than one of him in this deck would be. The Felidar Sovereign is weak against popular black removal, such as Terminate and Doom Blade, and, I think, the deck would be better served by replacing him with a meaner, more evasive beastie like the Sphinx of the Steel Wind. My card advantage in this duel was the key to my success, but I think I may need more easily-accessible removal.

Game 3 versus Ramp Gigantiform

I start on the play and drop a Swamp, hoping for the first-turn Needlebite Trap. My opponent, however, is not in a generous mood and instead plays a Forest and drops a Llanowar Elves. My hopes dashed, I drop an Arcane Sanctum and pass the turn. My opponent drops a forest and Rampant Growths into a 3rd Forest. Confoundingly, he does not attack with the Elves. This is a decision that will come back to haunt him. I drop an Island, but have no Duelist or Wall to play, so I pass. I am beginning to realize that my hand was probably not a wonderful keep, despite the Diabolic Tutor, Diabolic Tutor, and Battlegrace Angel. He drops a Forest and plays a turn-5 Gigantiform on his Llanowar Elves and passes the turn.


I drop an Island and Diabolic Tutor for a Doom Blade, noting to myself that this was one creature that even the Wall of Denial would struggle against. This allows my opponent to drop another forest, play Deadly Recluse, swing in with the 8/8, and cast Primal Bellow on it, dropping me to 7 with one swing. Doom Blade in hand, I drop a Plains and pass. My opponent drops a sixth forest, thus ensuring my loss if he has a second Primal Bellow and swings with both creatures. I wait on casting Doom Blade until the last second and my opponent guesses I have conceded. He plays Vines of Vastwood, bewilderingly unkicked, onto his Deadly Recluse. In response, I kill the Gigantiformed Llanowar Elves and drop to a lucky 6. I drop and crack a Terramorphic Expanse after drawing my second Doom Blade. I have two Mind Springs in hand, so I draw one for three and leave two mana open for the Blade. My opponent drops a second Llanowar Elves and swings with the Deadly Recluse. As no pump is forthcoming, I sit on the (Doom Blade), and draw and play out a Wall of Denial. The Deadly Recluse swings again and, as I'm unwilling to lose my Wall, I (Doom Blade) the spider. He drops a Borderland Ranger and passes the turn.

Primal Bellow

Finally feeling in control, I drop my Battlegrace Angel and pass the turn. My opponent drops a forest, plays Rampant Growth, and passes the turn. I play out my Sanguine Bond and swing with the Battlegrace Angel, but he Naturalizes my Bond before damage is dealt. My opponent evidently topdecks another Primal Bellow and swings with the Elves and the Ranger. I block the Borderland Ranger with the Wall of Denial. The bellow on the Elves would have dropped me to 1 (and I'm sure he was then kicking himself for his earlier missed opportunity), but he instead chooses to kill the Wall. I cast a second Sanguine Bond and swing in with Battlegrace Angel, putting him at 5 and myself at 14. My opponent draws a Forest, swings in for 3, and passes. I cast Needlebite Trap and win.

This was a game I clearly should not have won and equally clearly that my deck should do well against. I kept a decent hand, but one with 0 answers to early threats. I was lucky to find a few through drawing, but I felt that I would normally cream this deck.

Game 4 versus Blue Mill

This game was essentially a race with both decks playing out in an obvious fashion. I dropped a turn-2 Deft Duelist after mulling to 6 and my opponent dropped two Memory Erosions on turns 3 and 4. Turn 5 I played out Battlegrace Angel and turn 6 I Diabolic Tutored for Sanguine Bond. On turn 7, I dropped the Bond and the real race began. My opponent Mind Funeraled me 3 times and by the time I was able to swing in for lethal, I had 10 cards in my library.

This is a terrible matchup for my deck, as there's little to no accelerating. However, the sheer amount of damage possible through the Angel/Bond combo was able to race me to victory in two turns. My starting hand was good and I received two clutch land draws, but I can't see myself coming out on top in this matchup too often.

Game 5 versus Mono Black Aggro
I'm on the play with a great defensive hand, and on turn 2 I drop out a Deft Duelist. My opponent counters with what will amount to be the bane of my existence, Black Knight. Black Knight will hose my entire deck, as it dodges the majority of my creatures, including Deft Duelist and the Wall of Denial, and cannot be killed by my single removal, (Doom Blade). My opponent ends up dropping another, along with a few ineffective vampires, and pumps a Knight one with an Unholy Strength. He beats me down for the win before I can begin any life gain.

Black Knight

This was a demoralizing loss after my great start, but made me think about replacing some cards with the extremely synergistic Tendrils of Corruption. When this deck was a mono-black control deck in my mind, before factoring in the benefit of adding white and blue, Tendrils was at the top of my list, but didn't make the cut due to the max of 5 Swamps I can draw with our current version. I'm still unconvinced that it should be in here, but it's something to think about when playing against mono black decks.

Game 6 versus White Soldier

My opponent began with several Exalted soldiers, swinging in with a turn two 4/3 Elite Vanguard pumped by double Akrasan Squires. I eventually put up a Wall of Denial and began taking two per turn. I was able to delay by playing out more Walls and an Ajani Goldmane to pump them and cut down on the soldiers' numbers, but a Veteran Swordsmith and a Brave the Elements put me out of my misery.


I got pretty badly swarmed this game, showing that early defense against big beasties wasn't enough to deal with overwhelming weenies. While putting in a few slightly more offensive Wall of Reverences would help, really what I needed was a wrath effect like Infest to deal with the attackers.

After this Game 5 I decided to seriously revamp the deck, experimenting with Oblivion Rings, Infests, and more land. What I wound up with looked like this:

Sanguine Shenanigans, V2

4 x Deft Duelist
4 x Wall of Denial
2 x Battlegrace Angel
2 x Vampire Nighthawk
1 x Felidar Sovereign
13 cards

Other Spells
4 x Sanguine Bond
4 x Diabolic Tutor
2 x Tainted Sigil
2 x Divination
2 x Sign in Blood
2 x Mark of Asylum
2 x Mind Spring
2 x Infest
2 x (Doom Blade)
1 x Ajani Goldmane
23 cards

4 x Arcane Sanctum
4 x Terramorphic Expanse
1 x Glacial Fortress
4 x Island
5 x Plains
6 x Swamp
Sign in Blood

I really wanted to avoid all mana issues, so I dropped in two more lands. Needlebite Trap had really done nothing in any of the test games, so, despite my initial fascination, I cut all of them out. I didn't think Ponder had been all that great, so I went instead with a couple Sign in Bloods, which gave me a cheaper (and different) Divination to play around with. Infest became my wrath effect. A friend gifted me a second Vampire Nighthawk, so I slipped him in as well.

Game 7 versus Green Ramp

My opponent started off a little mana screwed, but oneExpedition Map and two (Khalini Heart Expedition)s later, he was well on his way to meeting his mana requirements. I had dropped a Vampire Nighthawk turn three and drawn into good spells with a fine mana base, though, so by the time he dropped his first Timbermaw Larva, I was ready with an Infest. Sanguine Bond hit the board and he put down a second Larva and a Terra Stomper. I had dropped a Wall of Denial the turn before, though, and I followed that up with a Felidar Sovereign and a Deft Duelist. He swung in with both creatures; the Duelist died to the 11/11 Larva and the Sovereign to the Stomper. Pumping the Terra Stomper with Primal Bellow put me down to 23, but the Sovereign also hit him for 4 via the Bond, dropping him to 3. The Nighthawk finished him the next turn.

Terra Stomper   Timbermaw Larva


The one turn of mana screw my opponent experienced made a large difference in this game (and really pointed to the one major drawback of the land-finding Expedition). My removal for the first larva was clutch, but it is really this kind of deck that my deck is best suited to play.

Game 8 versus Black Vampires
My opponent begins with a Vampire Lacerator and a turn two Blood Seeker and i drop a Deft Duelist in response. He plays a Blade of the Bloodchief and equips his Blood Seeker and a Bloodchief Ascension. I already sense trouble, so I block the Lacerator, pumping the Seeker. I drop a Battlegrace Angel, but it meets a Hideous End and the Seeker is getting too large to deal with. He drops a Bloodghast and swings with the Seeker. I draw a blank Doom Blade, drop a second Battlegrace, and promptly watch it die to a second End. With low life and no answers in hand, I concede.

Bloodchief Ascension   Blade of the Bloodchief

Blanking out half of my removal is never going to end well for me and the quick answers to Battlegrace Angel were real trouble. I'm happy with the way this deck turned out, but it could obviously stand to be improved.


Shenanigans Recap

For someone who doesn't play a lot of control, this was a really fun deck to play around with. The amount of damage through unsuspected sources like the Tainted Sigil is really attractive to me, and turning life gain into a useful mechanic outside of just increasing your own total is fun. My deck can definitely be much better, and I hope anyone who reads this will experiment with other cards.

I wound up building a white/black version of the above deck, taking out early blockers in favor of more removal like Infest, Disfigure, and Tendrils of Corruption. In addition to this removal, I put in four (Necromancer's Covenenant)s, which works well with Sanguine Bond. This, too, added a little to the land count.
None of the cards in my decklist outside of the one-fers Glacial Fortress, Ajani Goldmane, and Felidar Sovereign sell for more than a ticket each. And while all of these are extremely useful, only Ajani is the one that I would say is the one that I wouldn't bear to cut. This is a cute novelty deck that's cheap to put together and fun to play with. Enjoy!