one million words's picture
By: one million words, Pete Jahn
May 09 2008 1:37am
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Building a Deck for Casual Play
MTGO is in hard times right now.   Trading is tough, and PEs and leagues are non-existent.   Multiplayer exists, but I hate the look and feel of the “Mana Wheel” display.  The one thing that does work is constructed and draft 8-man queues. I’m not a fan of single elimination events. What to do? 
Play casually. 
The two parts of MTGO that works just fine for me are the deck editor and the casual duel screen (in compact mode, of course.)   I haven’t seen any serious bugs, don’t get much delay and I don’t have all that many aesthetic problems with the format. That means it’s time to build some decks and start bashing.
At the moment, I don’t have the cards, nor really the inclination, to build copies of the archetypes currently dominating Standard, decks like Faeries and Merfolk.   I have those, and use them in the tournament practice room, but I want to build something suitable for the casual play room. So, it’s time to build something brand new.
The last couple decks I have built are combo and control decks. I don’t want to build another – and certainly not for the casual play room.   I want to try something tribal. 
I’ve done Merfolk. I’ve done little red beats and goblins. Everyone has done Faeries. Elves in not really new.   Black rogues seems good, but I don’t have some of the cards, and that can end up too much like Goblins.   I’ve built a red aggro deck and a white weenie / Kithkin deck.
I haven’t built a red fatties deck for a while. I’ll try that. For casual, red fatties sounds ike a Giants theme deck. 
To start, I will simply list all the Standard legal giants I have in my collection, then add four of each to the deck and see what that looks like.
Um – not much. I now have 158 cards, with no lands.   Time to start some major cutting.    For reference, here’s the CSV file listing the deck with all the giants included. I broke it down by color. 


I haven’t even included Changelings. At the moment, I don’t see any value in doing that, but we’ll see. Cuts come first.
The first question is whether I again anything by playing all four colors. Black is obviously useless – Cyclopean Giant is not even that good in draft.   I’m not going to try to get to double black just for a lousy 4/2.
Down to 154 cards already. That’s Progress!
Green is next.   Green does offer a bit – the Dustwasp has evasion and combat tricks like Giant Growth are nice.   However, the “Giant” Dustwasp is really a bug, and Craw Giant is nothing really special. If I really want a Giant Growth effect, I can run Brute Force. Green can go, too.
Down to 130 cards – no, 127. I just realized I have 7 Hill Giants in the deck. Looks like I double clicked, and got the Seventh, Ninth and Tenth Edition version.   Normally I trade away – either to a dealer or to my storage account – all but four of everything. I haven’t cleared all of that out, however. Whatever.
Before cutting further, I need to decide whether I want to go mono-red, or whether I want to play two colors. Mono-red works just fine, but RW gives me a bit more flexibility, and lets me play some more interesting Giants. (Brion is an interesting Giant – more on that later.)
Fortunately, I own the necessary lands. I am going to want to have a bunch of them, since my mana curve is going to be really high. The obvious places to start are the appropriate dual lands. I will want all of them. I may also want a couple Vivid lands. Coming into play tapped should not be a huge problem is a deck as slow as this one will be. 
4 Ancient Amphitheater
4 Battlefield Forge
3 Vivid Crag
8 Mountains
4 Plains
I probably have room for two off-color lands. Mutavault can become a Giant, and I just bought my second from On the other hand, my biggest problem may well be Faeries decks, and Deserts work quite nicely in slowing down the Fae. I have also thought about Arena, since my guys are likely to be bigger than those of my opponent in any matchup I can think of – but Arena does not tap for mana. That’s a big problem, and it means that if I play Arena, I’m going to count it as a land, not a spell. 
I’m not going to play Terramorphic Expanse – at least not at first. I want to draw lots of lands, and playing Expanse cuts down the possibility of drawing lands later in the game.  I am going to want to get to six or seven mana consistently, and the Expanses make that less likely. 
I looked briefly at playing Scrying Sheets and snow lands.   I would love a card advantage engine, and Sheets is a good one, but very few Giants are snow creatures. It doesn’t pay to run Sheets unless you can include something beyond a dozen lands and some Coldsteel Hearts.
I will also want some artifact mana acceleration, since my curve is going to be high.   Prismatic Lens, Coldsteel Heart and Mind Stone are all good two drops. Coalition Relic is another strong possibility. That said, I am going to try Foriysian Totem, since it turns into a Giant. More importantly, it gives me something that can dodge Wrath of God and Damnation
Adding two Deserts and four Totems, I am now at twenty nine cards.   That’s half my deck, and it means I am going to need to start cutting in earnest. 127 Giants has to drop to thirty one at most – considerably less if I include any utility cards. 
Let’s start with the simple ones. Fomori Nomad is just a generic 4/4 for 4R. Boring. Axegrinder Giant is a bit bigger for a bit more. He’s gone. Hill Giant is a bit less for a bit less. Not what I want.  Hillcomber Giant is a Mountainwalker, which can be useful, but I don’t want to mess up my manabase trying to ensure double white early. Out. Cloudgoat Ranger has great evasion, but he’s also double white, and gone. 
Lowland Oaf gives Goblins flying. The only Goblin I might play is Stinkdrinker, and he’s not worth flinging.   Blind Spot Giant is very marginal – he only works when you already have creatures to beat with. I don’t think I can live with that. 
Kithkin Greatheart is more interesting. He is really fast and useful, since a 3/2 first striker attacking on turn three is great. However, I expect that Thundercloud Shaman is going to be critical to beating the Fae, and probably Elves, and Thundercloud is generally going to kill the Greathearts, so they leave. (They may make the sideboard, and/or reappear once I start testing.)
Countryside Crusher is a great beater, but I really don’t want to stop dropping lands. I can foresee winning a game with Harbinger stacking Giant’s Ire, then casting another one to draw it, and casting it. That would only take 13 mana – 7 with a Stinkdrinker in play. That is still a ton, and Countryside Crusher is totally incompatible with such a deck.
The very last card I cut was Stonehewer Giant. Stonehewer has a great ability, but he has two drawbacks.  First, he costs double white. More importantly, I only own one.   Something like Loxodon Warhammer would be very good in a deck full of non-evasive fatties, and if I owned two or three, I might make room for a couple Warhammers and a few Stonehewers.   I still might – we’ll see. I might also try the Obsidian Battle Axe if my warrior count gets high enough.
I also cut the numbers on a lot of the upper-end Giants down to one. I can search for them with the Harbringer, and having smaller numbers means I am less likely to start the game with five 6+ casting cost monsters, and two lands, in hand.
I added a couple utility spells. Oblivion Ring gets rid of anything, and Incinerate kills creatures or burns faces. Giant’s Ire is the only method I have of card drawing, so I’ll try it out.
Here’s the first version of the deck.
Giants, v1.0
Ancient Amphitheater
Battlefield Forge

Foriysian Totem

Giant's Ire
Oblivion Ring
Feudkiller's Verdict
Pact of the Titan

Stinkdrinker Daredevil
Giant Harbinger
Brion Stoutarm
Thundercloud Shaman
Bloodfire Colossus
Borderland Behemoth
Arbiter of Knollridge
Hearthcage Giant
Sunrise Sovereign
I need a sideboard. A couple basic threats can hurt this deck. First, decks like Faeries – or other decks with weenies – will cause problems. I want Sulfurous Blast to answer that. Blast also answers Merfolk. Against larger creature decks, I am going to try Desolation Giant. Against discard, I will play Dodecapod
I want Disenchant, to kill Bitterblossom and anything weird. Oblivion Ring handles some of those problems, but Disenchant provides some backup, where necessary.   Finally, I want to add one more Sunrise Sovereign, in case size and pump is necessary.
Actually, I don’t need a sideboard for the casual play room, since I will probably only play single games. Still, it’s always worth planning ahead.
Game on!
Game One: carsongreen with UB Ixidron
I got off to a reasonably fast start, Incinerating one of his Morphs and dropping two Stinkdrinkers. He had Dash Hopes, and I paid the five life. The Stinkdrinkers let me play Feudkiller’s Verdict for WW, and the Dash Hopes meant I gained life and got a 5/5. He played an Ixidron – then conceded when he saw that Ixidron had no effect on my 5/5 token.   At that point, I had three Morphs and a 5/5, while he had Ixidron and nothing,
Game Two: Portman with Rogues
I mulliganned a two land hand, into two lands and a Totem. I never drew the third. He had a turn two Frogtosser Banneret, into a turn three Banneret, Oona’s Blackguard and Banneret number three. He beat, I did not draw a land. Turn four he played Stinkdrinker Bandit and the plusses for unblocked meant he had a turn four kill.
Game Three: flcoder with RB Beats
Once again, I mulligan due to lack of lands. He has a fast beats deck with Smallpox, chained Gravediggers and sweepers like Pyroclasm. He Terrored my first couple creatures, and I was on the ropes briefly. However, I recovered after a couple turns, and hit five mana. I started dropping creatures too large for his bears. Shortly thereafter, my bigger guys established control, and he conceded. 
Game Four: Bluberry with Forced Fruition and Story Circle
Bluberry was playing a stall deck that was intended to deck me. He dropped a very quick Story Circle, and that slowed me down. He then dropped another Story Circle (one on red, one white) plus Jace Beleren and started having us both draw cards. He had Sunken Hope to bounce my creatures – but a combination of Stinkdrinkers and other giants let me keep creatures on the table. He played Wrath and Austere Command – but Jace and finally the Forced Fruition let me fill my hand over and over. Finally, I drew into an Oblivion Ring and played it. When I targeted the Story Circle naming red, he “lost the connection.”
Game Five: mstan11 with Rogues
I was up against rogues, again. Once again, my opponent got a fast Prowler – in this case, on turn two. This game was a bit different – I had played first, I was not mana screwed, so I could hide the Prowler under an Oblivion Ring. He developed quickly, and beat me down. I got some blockers out, hit him with Giant’s Ire, but I was losing the race. In the end, he could have killed me on turn five, but he didn’t see it. (He had a Marsh Flitter and another Goblin in play, and topdecked a Cloak and Dagger. I was at 4 life – had he sacked the goblin, then equipped, he would have won. He didn’t see it.) On my turn, I dropped my sixth land and played Sunrise Sovereign. The +2/+2 and trample won the game. 
Game Six: dwangel with black discard Rogues
Once again, I was facing rogues. He hit me with three quick Ravenous Rats, but I was still able to hit five mana.  I dropped a Harbinger, and put a Thundercloud Shaman on top of my library. Thundercloud cleared out the blockers, and I swung. The next turn I dropped Sunrise Sovereign again, and big tramplers won the game.
Game Seven: DeathKnyte89 with
Once again, my opponent played Swamps. He dropped a Festering Goblin, then stalled. I curved out, with a Stinkdrinker on turn three and both Brion and Giant’s Ire on turn four.   Sunrise Sovereign dropped once again, and even though Nekrataal took out Brion, I still killed him with Giants and an Incinerate.
Game Eight: Reyemile with Rogues
Another game, another opponent that opens with Swamps. We both played lands for a while, then he dropped a Banneret and hit me with it. A few more rogues appeared, while I pluued lands. Finally, I played my first spell on turn five – a Thundercloud. We raced - but he kept ripping Marsh Flitters. In the end, I ripped twelve lands, and he killed me on turn ten with exactly enough damage. He was at two life and had no blockers and no cards. Close, but no cigar. I would have lost a lot earlier, but I did drop Arbiter of Knollridge when he was at 28 life, thanks to Tendrils of Corruption on my dude.
Game Nine: reitheangelic with GB Elves
He opened with a Lawnmower Elf (okay, Llanowar Elves.) I fried it with Incinerate. We both developed a bit, then I dropped Brion, then a Harbinger and revealed Thundercloud Shaman. He looked at the one-sided Wrath for a bit, then conceded.
Game Ten: Kronoskeeper with UB Faeries
He had a bunch of counters and faeries. I dropped a Harbinger, and it basically raced his whole team. He countered a Giant’s Ire, two Thundercloud Shamans, an Incinerate and a few more spells. The turn he countered Incinerate, however, I had a second in hand, so his attempt to double block my Harbinger with a Flitter and tokens was doomed. He then emptied my hand with a Mind Shatter for three. After that, my Desert hit play, and he had trouble swinging. In the end, a pair of Oblivion Rings bought me enough time for the Harbinger to bring it home.
Eight and two, with one game lost to mana screw and an opponent with a blistering start and the other going to exactly zero on the turn before I would have won is not that bad.
I think the deck could use a bit of tuning. The Totems are not that useful, and both Coalition Relic and any two-drop artifact might be better. I beat with the Totems on only two matches. I think Mindstones would work better. They would certainly be better late game.
The fatties; Bloodfire Colossus, Borderland Behemoth and Hamletback Goliath, were totally useless. I never wanted to fetch them with the Harbinger, and didn’t really want them when I had them in hand. True, my Borderland Behemoth is foil, which gives him a bit of cool, but I wish he was another Sunfire Sovereign. I think I would pull those three cards for another Thundercloud, the Sovereign and a third Desert. 
Well, I’ll let other people do Shadowmoor reviews. I’m going to go play some more casual games. Maybe I’ll try a non-rogues mono-black deck.
“one million words” on MTGO 


by SoulAdvocate (Unregistered) (not verified) at Fri, 05/09/2008 - 13:46
SoulAdvocate (Unregistered)'s picture

A good article, Pete.  This is along the lines of a Chris Romeo style article, and I've been missing that for a while.  Suggestion (besides moarplz) - try Lash Out over Incinerate.  It looks like Incinerate is there to kill weenies, which Lash Out is almost entirely better at, especially with a high curve.  The first time you kill a dude, tutor up your fourth land, and burn the other guy for 3, you will be happy. 

by atog28 (Unregistered) (not verified) at Fri, 05/09/2008 - 09:00
atog28 (Unregistered)'s picture

Yeah, the way you build the deck seemed like you're an artist, like a sculptor. :-)

As I just read the article about Morningtide becoming the 'new Invasion block', I found it funny that when you wrote that, you needed three more Mutavaults, and now got your second one. I'm still not having any of those (or other money cards of Morningtide, that is) and as I don't like the look and feel of MTGO v3 since I last tested it, I fear that you are very, very right. Once with v2.5 I was drafting several times a week but have stopped that since it didn't work anymore and I'm currently not missing it (drafting paper still works fine for me).

Finally, I wanted to share a slightly different approach to the Giant deck. I've put this decklist to standard tournaments, surprising many players but not winning more than half the duels. It's still fun in the Casual room in MTGO. Ok - it was fun, for my part... :-)

Nice by The Pink Floyd (Unregistered) (not verified) at Fri, 05/09/2008 - 05:48
The Pink Floyd (Unregistered)'s picture

Hi Pete, liked this article.


One question, did you never consider any changelings for use as giants. If not what was the reasoning behind that.

I did consider them by one million words at Fri, 05/09/2008 - 07:31
one million words's picture

The biggest problem was cutting cards - I could have added Avain Changeling, Berserker, Taurean Mauler, etc.  Even Crib Swap.

Avian Changeling is best early, but white was more of a splash than a main color.

Tauren Mauler would have been great, but I don't have them. 

The real reason, however, is that I already had so many cards (158 giants) and so many cuts, I just didn't want to add more playables.  :)