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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Mar 27 2008 11:06pm
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Blast from the Past: Rainbow Stairwell
 
Rainbow Stairwell is a casual, five color format. It is one of the more interesting deckbuilding challenges around, since the requirements really prevent you from building a tight, consistent deck. Those requirements also make the games a lot of fun, since you never quite know what will happen.
 
The core of the format is the requirement that you play exactly six cards of each of the five colors, and that each color has to have cards with converted mana costs of one through six. That means that you have to have one white card with a converted mana cost of W, one white card with a CMC of two (either WW or 1W), and so on. 
 
Gold cards, split cards and cards with split mana are banned. So are X spells and Wishes.
 
The exact land mix varies. When I first heard about the format, back around 2000, decks had three copies of each basic, plus one of each of the original dual lands.   When I first wrote about the format on MTGO Traders, back in 2005, the rule was 15 basics, one of each of the Invasion taplands, plus a choice of four or five other non-basics. The players playing the other day were using a different rule: four of each basic land, plus your choice of four non-basics.   Since they were the most recent players I have seen, I’ll play by their rules.   After game one, I modified my deck accordingly.  
 
Here’s the deck I initially played.
 

 
White
Blue
Black
1
2
3
4
5
6
 
Red
Green
Artifact
1
2
3
4
5
6
 
Non-Basic Lands
Basic Lands
Invasion Taplands
 
3 Plains
3 Island
3 Swamp
3 Mountain
3 Forest

 
The one-on-one game was a lot of fun, and I won it going long.   I think I finally won with Meloku, and a fair amount of Nantuko Vigilante beats. I did not that a few of these cards date back to 2005, at least. I own better alternatives today. For example, Wormfang Drake was the closest thing I could get to Serendib Efreet back at that time. Serendib Efreet was a primary beater in 5Color, the paper equivalent to Prismatic. I liked the idea of a 3/4 evasive beater. Nowdays, of course, I can play Serendib Efreet instead.
 
I made a few quick adjustments after the first games. First I changed the mana to fit the 20 basics, 4 other rule. I dumped the Invasion lands, and changed two of the non-basics to lands that I can find with the land cyclers.   I also upgraded a few cards. Here’s the interim version.
 

 
White
Blue
Black
1
2
3
4
5
6
 
Red
Green
Artifact
1
Sensei's Divining Top
2
3
4
5
6
 
Non-Basic Lands
Basic Lands
 
 
4 Plains
4 Island
4 Swamp
4 Mountain
4 Forest
 

 
 
This version certainly works, but after playing a few more matches, I see some cards that I will clearly have to change.   Here are a few on my hit list.
 
Ronom Unicorn:   (white 2 slot)

Once upon a time, killing enchantments was an important in RS. It does not seem to be quite as important. Killing artifacts, on the other hand, is key. This might be better as Disenchant.   I may also try Momentary Blink in this slot, especially if I add more creatures with comes into play abilities.  The best option, however, might be Hoofprints of the Stag. If people don’t play enchantments, they may not play enchantment removal, and that could mean I could keep this around. 
 
Miraculous Recovery: (white 5 slot)

The Miraculous Recovery is really fun. I have often been able to ambush opponents with it. One great memory was an opponent beating down with a couple 2/2s, and Eternal Witness and a Nekrataal.   I had no blockers, then I Miraculously Recovered a 4/4 Triskelion, which shot both 2/1s, blocked one 2/2, stacked damage then killed the other.   Wonderful – but the white five slot could also be (Evangalize), and that is broken in a format full of very strong creatures. 
 
Exalted Angel: (white 6 slot)

When I first started playing this format, my choice was something like Samurai Enforcers, because I owned almost nothing with that casting cost. Later I bought a Noble Templar, because land cycling is really good.   Now that I have invested in an Exalted Angel, that is great fit. It is a huge, evasive creature when necessary, and a morph for when your mana is not quite working. That said, I am very close to replacing it with Akroma’s Vengeance, because sometimes you really need to clear the board. Here’s an example: in a recent 2HG game, one opponent hit me with Acquire, and took my Mind’s Desire. His partner then played his own copy, and then cast Sculpting Steel to make another. They had another annoying artifact on the table – maybe Loxodon Warhammer or something like that.   Vengeance would have won the game – and when I am the one with all the good stuff, then I just cycle Vengeance. Always good, sometimes amazing – that’s about what I want in an RS card. I have seen Final Judgment in that slot , but Vengeance is better.
 
Brainstorm: (blue 1 slot)

Pongify is cheap removal, but not great. The real choice comes down to Brainstorm or Ponder.  Brainstorm can hide cards if you are hit with discard, but discard is not really common in the format. Ponder is not an instant, but the option to shuffle your library when you see three stones is very powerful. A bit further down the list is Mystical Tutor, which is excellent, but since nearly everything in your deck is good, straight card drawing is often better than a tutor.
 
Serendib Efreet: (blue 3 slot)

This seems pretty aggro for what is otherwise a more controlling build. On the other hand, the Efreet is very strong. Other options include Dream Cache, Exclude or Silkwing Scout – which can help fix mana as well as beat. Some people play Kira, the Great Glass-Spinner in this slot, and Pestermite is worth considering. An aggro deck might like Manta Ray, although the double blue in the mana cost can be a real problem, especially with 20 basics, although it will probably like Psionic Blast better. 
 
Fact or Fiction: (blue 4 slot)

I bought my FoF, and I am going to play it. EoTFoFIW, baby!   Depending on the deck, cards like Sower of Temptation or Gifts Ungiven may be better, but I wanna play my FoF.
 
EoTFoFIW means “end of turn fact or fiction, I win,” which was pretty much always a true statement.
 
Rend Flesh: (black 3 slot)

This slot is almost always devoted to some form of creature removal. In years past, I played Dark Banishing. Later I changed that to Rend Flesh, because it can hit black creatures. Recently, Wizards has printed a lot more removal spells with different restrictions. I could see playing Eyeblight’s Ending or Rend Flesh, while I am trying Strangling Soot solely because it hits twice. On the other hand, I could justify other options: Organ Grinder causes loss of life, and beats, while Necromancy can be an instant speed Animate Dead, and it can steal creatures in anyone’s graveyard.
 
Arc Slogger: (red 5 slot)

I really love Arc Slogger in a 250 card deck, but in a 60 card deck it is sub-optimal. I have also considered Shard Phoenix, but triple red to return it to hand is nearly impossible. I may settle for Tephraderm, which is quite painful to block and only has one red in the casting cost. If I want to pay double red, Kumano, Master Yamabushi is a strong contender.   Another option might be Pyrotechnics, which can whip out a lot of blockers or deliver 4 to the head. Not great, but not much is.  
 
Sakura-Tribe Elder: (green 2 slot)

The 20 basics, four non-basics makes color screw a huge problem. My green cards are heavily slanted to helping fix my mana. For a long time, I did not seen anything that could supplant my Sakura-Tribe Elders – a Rampant Growth that beats. However, I recently opened a foil Joiner Adept. It may be better – it is certainly better while it lives. It’s a 2/1 that attacks well and ends color screw problems, even in a five color deck.  
 
Or, if you like beating down, I hear there’s a 5/6 for 1G that occasionally sees play. This guy. I hear he’s pretty good. 
 
Kodama’s Reach: (green 3 slot)

This is another really tough slot.   I was running Kodama’s Reach, which does a really nice job of fixing mana. However, a lot of this format revolves around graveyard recursion, and a number of decks run Eternal Witness. Getting the double green for Witness can be a problem, but by the time you have it, odds are very good that you will have something good in your graveyard to fetch. For faster, more aggressive decks, Thornscape Battlemage can provide some beatdown, as well as removal. If your budget is really tight, go for an Ana Battlemage
 
If beatdown is your thing, Call of the Herd can also fill this slot quite nicely.
 
Nantuko Vigilante: (green 4 slot)
 
This slot also has a ton of competitors. My Vigilante is a morph creature, meaning that color screw does not impact it. It also kills artifacts and enchantments. The only problem is that it is competing for a very important slot. Garruk Wildspeaker also costs four mana, and he is extremely powerful. For that matter, Glissa Sunseeker costs four mana, and can kill one sixth of any opponent’s deck.
 
All Sun’s Dawn: (green 5 slot)
 
This is really close to a lock. All Suns Dawn usually fetches four excellent cards. The slot could also hold Genesis, Hystrodon – a trampling card drawer – and even a useful utility beater like (Indrik Stompholwer), but All Suns Dawn is a given. It is just too good.
 
There are a few other cards that I will never consider changing. I call these cards locks – they are so very good.   I have also seen them in nearly every opponent’s deck. These include Swords to Plowshares, Jilt – even Twisted Abomination.  Nezumi Graverobber is mandatory, since a lot of decks do a lot of graveyard recursion, and if you flip it, any creatures you can steal will be good.  Journeyer’s Kite falls in the same category – it is almost always present in the 20 basic land builds. Etched Oracle is probably the best card in the format. Finally, Mind’s Eye definitely fits that category. The five mana artifact lot has a ton of competition, but Mind’s Eye is so broken in slow formats like this – and it is insane in multiplayer games. 
 
Watching other players handle their 20 basics / 4 nonbasics land mix, it was obvious that the land cyclers I used to use were not the answer. Instead, nearly everyone is now running Thawing Glaciers, and many seem to back that up with Krosan Verge. I have even seen some colorless utility lands in the final slot - Arena and (Sunhome Fortress) spring to mind. However, without duals to fetch, land cyclers are boring. 
 
Elvish Aberration: (green 6 slot)
 
The six mana green slot also has some competition, but without running duals Elvish Aberration  is going away. The most common card in that slot seems to be Deadwood Treefolk, and I can see a lot of advantage to a fat Gravedigger that fetches something twice.  Other cards look good – Jedit, for example, if you could reliably get GGG – but the only thing I could see challenging for the slot would be Tromp the Domains – and that only in an aggressive, creature heavy deck. That sort of deck would probably have either won or been Wrathed away by the time you could cast Tromp, so Deadwood Treefolk looks better, even in that deck.
 
Here’s my current build of the my Just Good Stuff deck. The emphasis is on “at the moment.” One of the best parts of Rainbow Stairwell is that you can keep tweaking the build. 
 

 
White
Blue
Black
1
Swords to Plowshares
2
3
4
5
6
Akroma’s Vengeance
Keiga, the Tide Star
 
Red
Green
Artifact
1
Sensei's Divining Top
2
3
4
5
Mind's Eye
6
 
Non-Basic Lands
Basic Lands
 
 
4 Plains
4 Island
4 Swamp
4 Mountain
4 Forest
 

 
That’s my current build – at least at this very moment. I am also trying a few other builds.
 
The other advantage to the format is that you can get into it really cheaply.   Here’s a really cheap build that you can put together for just a couple TIX. It uses a few favorite “tech” cards of mine – things like Duskwalker and Faerie Squadron. They are cheap commons 0 but the best part is that they can beat fast early on, but are still very good, evasive 3/3s when you draw them late game. Sure, they aren’t astounding – but they also cost $0.03 each at MTGO Traders. The price is sure right.
 
The secret to cheap aggro in the format is evasion, landwalkers and reuable pump, like Bonesplitter. The exact cards don’t matter – if you have (Solkenzan Bruiser) instead of Rock Badger, use the Bruiser. They are both 3/3 mountainwalkers for 4R. Just try to avoid anything with double (or triple) colored mana in the casting cost. Aggro needs to get it’s beat on fast, and waiting to draw a second red source, when you only have seven in the deck, is not a great idea.
 
For the same reasons, almost anything with Morph is good.  
 
Likewise, feel free to add anything you have.   Sure, Darksteek Ingot is amazingly good mana fixing that no one can kill, but if you have a Loxodon Warhammer, feel free to play it.
 
Pure Aggro / Cheap Stuff
 

 
White
Blue
Black
1
2
3
4
5
6
 
Red
Green
Artifact
1
2
3
Thornscape Battemage
4
5
6
 
Non-Basic Lands
Basic Lands
 
 
(any two multicolor lands you own)
4 Plains
4 Island
4 Swamp
4 Mountain
4 Forest
 

 
That should be pretty simple. The only expensive cards on the list – and expensive is defined as anything MTGO Traders sells for more that a dime – is Etched Oracle. That said, this should still get you started, and give you a base to build off of. Rainbow Stairwell is a very forgiving format – it is far easier to play and experiment without losing turn five every game in RS than it is in, for example, Extended or Classic. 
 
I’ll be looking for some Rainbow games in the near future. Hunt me up.
 
PRJ
 
“one million words” on MTGO
 
 

0 Comments

RS by The Pink Floyd (Unregistered) 159.134.94.21 (not verified) at Fri, 03/28/2008 - 11:22
The Pink Floyd (Unregistered) 159.134.94.21's picture

Never played the format, so I'll build and give the cheap version a go.

 

Nice article Pete

Moi by Panimu (Unregistered) 86.3.158.167 (not verified) at Fri, 03/28/2008 - 15:10
Panimu (Unregistered) 86.3.158.167's picture

Might have been me, my partner played Acquire to fetch Mind's Eye, then I sculpted it. Later my partner played his own, but I kept mine in hand fearing Vengeance.

 Also for 1cc blue I like Hydroblast, for much the same reason I like Ancident Grudge. Everyone is bringing red spells by default, so stop that Godo in his tracks. Ditto, pyroblast.

 The synergy I enjoy is Eternal Witness + Deadwood Treefolk (+Genesis) with these two (or three) you can recur anything in your dec, forever.