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By: AJ_Impy, AJ Richardson
Apr 15 2009 9:14am
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Welcome, gentle readers. Last time out, I gave a brief (all too brief, truth be told) introduction to the format, with some commentary on the strange quirks in the card pool. Today, we'll be going a lot more in-depth, and because it's me, I'll be giving you a look at the more Johnny-side creative possibilities for the format.

Kaleidoscope is truly unique amongst the ranks of the custom formats. Prismatic, Singleton and Tribal all began as purely casual: the only prizes on the line at their release were for the 'official' formats, Standard and Extended. (This was before Classic: we're going back to version 1 here.) Momir Basic and Pauper began out of a groundswell of popular support at a later time, but likewise they were casual before they were given official recognition. What sets Kaleidoscope apart? It will be earning prizes right from the off: It was conceived and designed as a Tournament-supported format from day one.

Now, what does that mean for the Johnny deckbuilder? Firstly, expect to have to face first- and second-tier decks, especially before the official release. As a brand-new format, there's a lot of testing going on as people try and see what will earn them packs and promos, with plenty of uncharted territory to be explored. Nonetheless, there are already some recognized archetypes: Let's take a look at a couple of them.

Gruul Haste

4 Stomping Ground
4 Karplusan Forest
4 Wooded Foothills
4 Forest
4 Mountain
4 Tattermunge Maniac
4 Scab-Clan Mauler
4 Rip-Clan Crasher
4 Boggart Ram-Gang
4 Burning-Tree Shaman
4 Giant Solifuge
4 Boartusk Liege
4 Firespout
4 Pure/Simple
4 Giantbaiting

Giant Solifuge This is an example of the red-green Haste deck, filled with fast, hard-hitting creatures, aiming to overwhelm the opposition whilst they're still trying to get their mana sorted. Vulnerabilities include lifegain, instant-speed sweepers such as Jund Charm, and the lack of a long game if you somehow survive the initial onslaught. If you get to a point where a hasty 4-power creature isn't a threat, there's not much more it can do to you.


Naya Zoo
This style of deck is less concerned with individual speed as it is with putting out a massive, quality threat out every single turn. Figure into Mauler into Thoctar will have you dead in short order. With less haste, this deck is more vulnerable to sorcery speed removal like Pure/Simple, Savage Twister, Firespout or Crime/Punishment. It has a bit more reach and longevity than the pure aggro of the Gruul deck thanks to Lightning Helix, the draw from Horizon Canopy, the life from Loxodon Hierarch and using Naya Charm to break stalemates by tapping the opposition. 4 Stomping Ground
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Temple Garden
4 Horizon Canopy
4 Pillar of the Paruns
4 Mutavault
4 Pure/Simple
4 Lightning Helix
4 Naya Charm
4 Figure of Destiny
4 Tattermunge Maniac
4 Watchwolf
4 Scab-Clan Mauler
4 Woolly Thoctar
4 Loxodon Hierarch
Naya Charm

That's what we're up against, people. This is the world our decks will be playing in. How, then, do you play something Johnnyish when Spike has a 4-turn clock? There are a number of possible answers...

Heavy Metal Thunder

Every block, you will see a bunch of interesting niche legends. Some find a home in Commander decks, as the engine that keeps the deck ticking. Others are constructed-worthy and see time in the block or in rare cases standard or extended spotlight. Some look like they do cool things, but don't seem to fit anywhere. However, there's one little multicolored legend that doesn't really get played anywhere, especially not Commander. (Well, I will admit to playing him in Artificer tribal decks, but I'm me and that's that.) Now, it occurs that the shard of Esper has a whole host of artifact creatures, which just happen to be multicolored. Most of them are blue and black, sharing two of the three colors of this legend. Now, if we put them together in the same deck... Well, if you could give every nonlegendary creature in your deck the comes into play abilities of Broodmate Dragon and/or Demigod of Revenge, you would, wouldn't you? It's time for Mishra, Artificer Prodigy to shine.


Mishra, Artificer Prodigy
Buy one, get one free

1 Arcane Sanctum
1 Crumbling Necropolis
2 Adarkar Wastes
4 Blood Crypt
4 Godless Shrine
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Watery Grave
4 Rupture Spire

4 Trial/Error
4 Odds/Ends
4 Mortify
4 Void

Mishra Machines:
4 Mishra, Artificer Prodigy
4 Tidehollow Strix
4 Windwright Mage
4 Mishra, Artificer Prodigy
4 Sludge Strider
4 Tower Gargoyle

Your Tidehollow Strixes (Strixi? Striges?) are good at clogging up any early rush, and the lifelink on your Windwright Mages makes them useful for soaking up the onslaught or flying above it, as does the incremental drain of your Sludge Striders. You have a plethora of 4/4s with which to gum up the board or dominate with: your Tower Gargoyles are a very solid evasive threat, especially if you play one with Mishra at the ready. Going from 4 to 12 power on the board in one spell is some good.

Your control suite, Odds/Ends, Trial/Error, Mortify and Void, are good for establishing control of the board: Odds is a hard counter against a control deck, as well as there being any number of spells you benefit from copying or countering. Ends is a devastating double untargetted sacrifice against aggro or midrange, a good solution to unsolveables like Oversoul of Dusk, Shield of the Oversoul, Sapling of Colfenor, Progenitus or (Simic Sky-Swallower). Your other split card is best known for the counterspell-like qualities of Error, but don't underestimate the value of Trial to rescue a chump blocker, especially with Mishra in play to double your pleasure next time. Void is a brutal, effective sweeper that kills expensive unsolveables, cheap swarms and the like as well as hitting the hand to get rid of the replacements. Mortify is an interesting case: If it could hit Planeswalkers, it would be almost strictly better than the much-heralded Pure: All the artifacts currently in the format are also creatures, except for the artifact lands which Pure can't hit anyway.

The Game of Life

Now, if you find yourself in an aggro-heavy metagame, one way out of it is copious amounts of lifegain. It just so happens that I've got copious amounts of lifegain right here: Standard decks are awash with the power of Kitchen Finks and Rhox War Monk, and there are quite a few other multicolored life-boosts around to supplement them. If we're playing Green and White creatures with a power-dependent ability, it makes sense to kit them out with a nice bit of unsolveability in the form of Shield of the Oversoul. Now, auras can be a significant 2-for-1 risk in most formats, but aside from Unmake, Putrefy and Mortify, there aren't that many instant speed ways of dealing with your aura target in the format, particularly if it has 4 or greater toughness to dodge the Lightning Helix bullet. That War Monk looks nice, doesn't it? Now, if we're sticking auras on a War Monk or the other blue-white three-color Alara lifelink creature, Steel of the Godhead fits our theme nicely.

Once in a Lifetime
4 Godless Shrine
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Rupture Spire
4 Shimmering Grotto
4 Temple Garden
4 Nip Gwyllion
4 Mourning Thrull
4 (Quasali Ambusher)
4 Rhox War Monk
4 Windwright Mage
4 Blind Hunter
4 Lightning Helix
4 Shield of the Oversoul
4 Steel of the Godhead
Evasion and lifegain are the key. Shield on an Ambusher, Fink or War Monk will set you up nicely, especially if you have a Gwyllion or Thrull to take the (Hit) for it. (Quasali Ambusher) is currently the only spell in the format you can play when tapped out, and if you have a Temple Garden in play, it will quite happily eat Tattermunge Maniac, Rip-clan Crasher, single-pumped Figure of Destiny, Steward of Valeron or any other tasty 2-toughness creature sent into the red zone early. Don't be afraid to give +1 and flight or +1 and lifelink to your early drops if the situation calls for it. Trading a Nip Gwyllion for a Tattermunge Maniac is a useful play if it leaves your opponent staring at an unbloodthirsted Scab-Clan Mauler. Rhox War Monk

X marks the Spot

Going back to underused legends, here's a fun, not-quite competitive deck I made to exploit another one. There are very few means of mana acceleration in the format, and I covered a goodly chunk of them in my last article. There are a couple that I missed: Under certain circumstances Zoetic Cavern can get you an extra land on the table ahead of the curve, and there is Shadowmoor's lost and rambling mad giant legend. Now, there's only a subset of spells that that card works with: I guess we'll have to build in lots of that subset.


1 Forest
1 Island
1 Plains
1 Swamp
4 Blood Crypt
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Stomping Ground
4 Mirrodin's Core
4 Rupture Spire
Utility Burn:
4 Lightning Helix
3 Blightning
3 Jund Charm
4 Exploding Borders
3 Balefire Liege
Rosheen and her marvellous X-spells:
4 Rosheen Meanderer
4 Supply/Demand
3 Savage Twister
2 Deepfire Elemental
2 Crime/Punishment
1 Rise of the Hobgoblins
1 Brightflame
1 Invoke the Firemind
1 Apocalypse Hydra
Rosheen Meanderer  

This deck has a glut of removal, both mass and targeted, in order to get you to a point where you can drop Rosheen and go to town. Supply/Demand gives you tutor access to any powerhouse spell appropriate for the situation, as well as the option of 7 little Saprolings on turn 5 thanks to the big friendly giant. Balefire Liege combos particularly well with the singleton Rise of the Hobgoblins, and also with your mostly-red utility spells. Being able to Exploding Borders for 8, Helix or Blightning for 6 can end games in short order. Deepfire Elemental can give you total control of the board over cheap horde decks if it hits, doubly so if Rosheen is there to kick the extermination up a notch or two. Brightflame gets silly when you can wrath the board and put your life total from shock range to over the starting 20 on turn 5: I've used this to pull out of certain doom on more than one occasion. This is an optimal format for the Radiance spell. Invoke the Firemind can fill your hand or kill your opponent as you see fit, Crime/Punishment is an extremely useful Engineered Explosives variant, attached to resurrecting your opponent's best creature. Stealing a defunct Shield of the Oversoul to make Rosheen into an indestructible 5/5 is insult upon injury. Apocalypse Hydra, it may be a timmy idea, but who doesn't like the thought of a 14/14 mythic pinger on turn 5? Well, apart from your opponent. He doesn't get a say in the matter, unless he has a Pure, Unmake, Putrefy or Mortify handy.

And Finally...
A brief note about lands: You may have noticed some of the lands in the above decks are... subpar. No Pillar of the Paruns, Exotic Orchard or Reflecting Pool, cards like Rupture Spire, Shimmering Grotto or Mirrodin's Core in their stead. This is purely a matter of cost: When I can afford better 5-color lands, I'll play with them and incorporate them into my decks. Feel free to adjust the land bases of any of the decks here to match what you have available: After all, I'll be doing the same in due course.

That's all I have for you this time. With the format still to have its official release and an upcoming purely multicolor set, there will be plenty more to talk about, and plenty more bizzare but effective decks to create in the near future. Until next time, may you never be short that vital color.


this format sounds good but ... by LOurs at Wed, 04/15/2009 - 10:07
LOurs's picture

interesting approach of the format, but i really think speaking about Kal format before ALA reborn is a bit too early... sure there are interesting highlights & propositions, but in all existing sets, ALA reborn would be THE most important set. An example ? Take a look to this card which was spoiled these last days :

Time Sieve
T, Sacrifice five artifact : take an extra turn after this one.

An entire deck could be build only around this card. It also could radicaly change your perception & the possibilities of the Kal format...
If you add a new GB planeswalker & Meddling Mages (and many other surprises like that), you obtain a huge diffence between what we are expecting about Kal format and what it will really be.

all that being said, your article is interesting
maybe just an effort on deck presentation for the look :)

no love for control? by jedroguski (not verified) at Wed, 04/15/2009 - 10:14
jedroguski's picture

In all of the Kaleidoscope articles I have seen so far on PureMTGO nobody has said much about a true control build. I think people are writing it off way too soon. I am currently piloting a 5 color control deck that has very little problem with a quick aggro deck. Aggro is for sure the dominant archetype in the outing, but everone would be foolish to forget about control alltogether.

This is pretty much business by spg at Wed, 04/15/2009 - 10:31
spg's picture

This is pretty much business as usual for new formats.. It's a lot easier to figure out the problem them to figure out the solutions. Control decks usually develop after aggro decks.

The trouble with Time Sieve... by AJ_Impy at Wed, 04/15/2009 - 12:45
AJ_Impy's picture

...is that Kaleidoscope requires multicolored artifacts, limiting you to Reaper King, Transguild Courier and three blocks' worth of Esper, with a minimum casting cost of 2 in all those cases. Is it possible? Certainly: I have an idea for a Johnny build using Pyrrhic Revival and Hag Hedge-Mage with 5 X/2 Artifact creatures, but there's remarkably little wiggle room to run such a deck in such a way that it would win. I'll see if I can build one after Alara Reborn comes out. Bear in mind that ARB will be coming out in May online, and Kaleidoscope is slated for April: As such, there is scope for K-articles using what we have now.

As for a control build, I'm definitely not writing it off. I've seen, and worked on, quite a few effective control builds these past weeks, but the trick is finding a consistently successful option. This is a format without Wrath of God, and with only a handful of potential wrath analogues. What we do have relies on damage (Branching Bolt, Savage Twister, Jund Charm, ARB Lavalaunche), a given manacost (Culling Sun, Punishment, Void) or 7+ mana and a deck built around the effect (Worldpurge, Din of the Fireherd, ARB Soulquake). There is no one card that could take Wooly Thoctar, Boartusk Liege and Oversoul of Dusk all off the board simultaneously before turn 5. (It can be finessed with more than one: Mirrorweave on a Plaxcaster Frogling will do it but needs 2 specific cards.) Once there is a definite control archetype, I'll be sure to showcase it. I agree with spg, they need time to be refined.

And yes, I'm not entirely convinced by how the deck presentation came out, but this won't be a problem here on in.

cant hardly wait by bearer of woe at Wed, 04/15/2009 - 14:29
bearer of woe's picture

Nice article, can't wait for this format to get into swing...but am I the only one dusting off Teeg for my Naya build?

People, you do not need to by blandestk at Wed, 04/15/2009 - 17:43
blandestk's picture

People, you do not need to wait for Alara Reborn to talk about this format. Give it up!

Why is Pillar of the Paruns by Anonymous (not verified) at Wed, 04/15/2009 - 22:00
Anonymous's picture

Why is Pillar of the Paruns not an auto 4 of in every deck?

From the article by JXClaytor at Wed, 04/15/2009 - 22:19
JXClaytor's picture

And Finally...
A brief note about lands: You may have noticed some of the lands in the above decks are... subpar. No Pillar of the Paruns, Exotic Orchard or Reflecting Pool, cards like Rupture Spire, Shimmering Grotto or Mirrodin's Core in their stead. This is purely a matter of cost: When I can afford better 5-color lands, I'll play with them and incorporate them into my decks. Feel free to adjust the land bases of any of the decks here to match what you have available: After all, I'll be doing the same in due course.

pillars don't let you by Tarmotog at Thu, 04/16/2009 - 00:26
Tarmotog's picture

pillars don't let you activate abilities and some cards interact with basic land types so pillars don't have to be an auto include..

I think Pillar should still by blandestk at Thu, 04/16/2009 - 03:47
blandestk's picture

I think Pillar should still be an auto-include, despite the activation negatives. It's only four of your lands and it's pretty much the perfect land for the format when it comes to casting.

AJ_Impy's picture

You can't transmute, can't play activated abilities, can't unearth, cycle, forecast, can't pay upkeep costs. It is good. It is not a panacea.Some decks really don't need it, such as tight two-color builds.

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