one million words's picture
By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Apr 19 2008 1:56am
4.8
Login or register to post comments
2134 views


More Rainbow Stairwell

 
I should start by defining the format, for those of you that missed my last article.

Rainbow Stairwell requires that you play exactly six cards of each of the five colors, plus artifacts, 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 2 (either WW or 1W), and so on. Deck size is 60 cards, no sideboard.

Gold cards, split cards and cards with split mana are banned. So are X spells and Wishes.

After playing several dozen games, I think I have a pretty good handle on the metagame. Basically, although decks vary, a large number play a very controlling game. They generally do not run very many creatures, and the few they do run do double duty (think Shriekmaw.) 

These decks run planeswalkers, especially Garruk Wildspeaker, Ajani Goldmane and Liliana Vess. Actually, many of the control decks run all five planeswalkers.

 
They also run a number of cards which can steal an opponent’s creatures. Personally, the card I like least is probably Evangelize. If they can get Evangelize with buyback going, it is pretty hard to lose. 
 
The following is a pretty typical of the controlling version of a Rainbow Stairwell deck. The cards in bold are cards that you should expect to see. The others are typical, but may change.  

Even some cards that I would consider locks do vary. For example, I have seen at least one player run Clearwater Goblet over Mind'sEye.   Yes, Clearwater Goblet can gain a ton of life, but cards >> life.

Note that this deck runs Mystical Tutor, but not Vampiric Tutor. Vampiric Tutor is a good card, but it costs a small fortune online. I don’t have one, and I’m not buying one anytime soon.  I haven’t seen anyone else playing them, possibly for the same reasons. 
 

Fairly Typical Control Stairwell Deck

 
White
Blue
Black
1
2

Chainer’s Edict

3
4
5

Liliana Vess

6

Govern the Guildless

 
Red
Green
Artifact
2
3
4

Etched Oracle

5
6
 

Non-Basic Lands

Basic Lands

 
 
(this varies)
4 Plains
4 Island
4 Swamp
4 Mountain
4 Forest
 
 

Some of these are close to givens, but even they vary. I have faced at least one opponent who swore by Rude Awakening, which is a very powerful finisher, but I don’t know that I would play it over All Suns’ Dawn.   ASD is such a beating when it returns five potent cards.

Others slots are really varied. The last half dozen control builds I played against had a half dozen different cards in the blue five slot. In 2005, I played Meloku, but changed to Allied Strategies for a while, having found a good deal on one at MTGOTraders.com. I recently followed AbyssSoul’s lead and changed to Acquire.   Acquire is like Bribery, but it gets good stuff, like Mind's Eye or Sensei's Divining Top. I have also seen people running Aeon Chronicler and Persuasion in that slot in control decks. Really old school players have run Morphling, but I don’t see it. The format has far too many non-targeted means of removing or stealing creatures. 


The best cards in the format have to be these four:  Mind's Eye, Sensei's Divining Top, Thawing Glaciers
 and  Journeyer's Kite.   And, because it kills three of the above four, Ancient Grudge.

Card drawing and mana fixing are the keys to making this archetype work, and in the vast majority of the games I have lost, I can remember my opponent playing either Thawing Glaciers or Top on turn one.   Mind’s Eye is broken card drawing – and Ancient Grudge is solid because it kills three of the other four (if you are tricky with the timng on the Top) and because it is usually a two-for-one. 

Control decks like this are brutally effective, and will win nearly any game that goes long against non-control decks.   Mid-range decks, like the one I started playing a couple weeks ago, struggle, since their creatures are likely to be stolen and their removal is less useful.  After spending a fair amount of time tweaking my mix of creatures and utility spell builds, I have decided I either have to attack the strategy directly or work to win the game before these decks can set up.

Speed can win in this format, provided it does not get mana hosed or flooded. The trick is to never fail to apply pressure. That means that you have to be able to hit your early drops, and that means managing your mana. Anything that costs generic mana is good, and colored mana is bad. Anything with double colored mana is terrible. For example, Dauthi Slayer is a great beatdown creature, but you have almost no chance of casting it on turn two in this format. Skinthinner, on the other hand, also beats for two, and you have a much better chance of casting it on turn two. You have an excellent chance of casting it on turn three, because it has Morph. 

Morph creatures are quite good in an aggro build. 

Last article, I built a budget deck. I went a bit further and built an all-commons Stairwell deck. It is quite aggro, and I have often beat control decks with the build. When it works, it works well. When it floods, you lose. If you are dropping Morphs and they are casting Evangelize with buyback, you don’t win. 

 

All Commons Rainbow Stairwell

 
White
Blue
Black
1
2
3
4

Guardian of the Guildpact

5
6
 
Red
Green
Artifact
1
2
3
4
5
6
 

Non-Basic Lands

Basic Lands

 
 
4 Plains
4 Island
4 Swamp
4 Mountain
4 Forest
 
 

In this format, Guardian of the Guildpact is immune to everything, except non-targetted removal like Chainer’s Edict and Wrath of God. It’s nuts. 

The lands are pretty simple – common non-basics is a pretty small subset. The Grotto and Expanse are both fine, but after that you need to be looking at Ravnica bounce lands. The exact mix can vary, but it is probably a good idea to run green ones, since the best common mana fixers are all green. 

The toughest decisions I have had have been between good removal and good Morph creatures. For example, the white three slot could be either Wingbeat Warrior or Oblivion Ring. The black five slot could be either Sootfeather Flock or Agonizing Demise.   In both cases, I have chosen the fast aggressive beater over the removal. With the attackers, you will never be left without a threat when you both are ripping lands. Equally importantly, both threats fly. On the other hand, O-Ring can remove broken stuff, like Mind’s Eye, while Agonizing Demise can both kill a blocker and deal damage. I can see going either way, but I think you need to go for the creatures in this format. Remember, beating the good control builds is all about racing them. If you start trying to play control, too, you play into their hands.

(late edit: I have yet another option for the white three slot: Orim’s Thunder. It can often two-for-one an opponent, it can remove critical blockers, and it kills the most annoying artifacts. That said, I’m still probably running Wingbeat Warrior.)

Here’s another questionable call: Ascending Aven. It is a 3/2 flier with a reasonable Morph cost. It is tough to hardcast. I could also run Phantom Monster in that slot – a 3/3 flier that does not have Morph. Phantom Monster is not coming down on turn three (okay, unless turn two involved mana acceleration), and Phantom Monster can easily be stuck in your hand. I’m pretty sure Ascending Aven is the right call over PM, but that slot could also hold Deep Analysis. That is a harder call.

I have probably won 40-50% of my games with this build – games against full-powered Stairwell decks, that is. I have also found a few players with pauper / all common Stairwell decks, which are generally mirror matches.  I am winning about 60% of those. 

Hehehe. 

Let’s look at a build that does not work as well.   After having good luck with all commons, I decided to try abusing the Lorwyn block tribal theme. I needed a five color tribe, and elementals seemed like the best option. 

 Here’s the build.
 

Elemental Rainbow Stairwell

 
White
Blue
Black
1
2

Hoofprints of the Stag

3
4
5
6
 
Red
Green
Artifact
1
2
3

Incandescent Soulstoke

4
5
6
 

Non-Basic Lands

Basic Lands

 
 
 
4 Plains
4 Island
4 Swamp
4 Mountain
4 Forest
 
 

I remember finishing a game – on the losing side – and commenting to my opponent that this “felt like a bad draft deck.”   It’s true – the mana curve sux, the thing is five colors and it really doesn’t have any broken things to do. It just beats with fair to middling creatures. Swinging for five with a non-evasive Changeling Berserker is nice, but nothing special when you consider that you can draw from the entire classic card pool.

This deck does not really abuse anything. It is not blazingly fast. It does not kill before the control decks get online, and once they do, Elementals are not going to compare favorably with Evangelize and Damnation.  
 
When your deck is significantly slower than the speed decks, much weaker than the control decks and if it does not do any broken, comboish things, it is time to get a new deck.
 
After looking at the amount of creature kill and creature theft some decks were running, I decided to try avoiding creatures all together. I also noticed that enchantment kill was pretty limited – so I decided to run lots of them. Here’s my all enchantment build. 
 

A Really Enchanting Rainbow Stairwell Deck

 
White
Blue
Black
1
2

Hoofprints of the Stag

3
4

Honden of Cleansing Fire

(Honden of Night’s Reach)
5

Honden of Seeing Winds

6
 
Red
Green
Artifact
1
2
3

Honden of Infinite Rage

(Enchantress’ Presence)
4
5
(Honden of Life’s Web)
6
 

Non-Basic Lands

Basic Lands

 
 
4 Plains
4 Island
4 Swamp
4 Mountain
4 Forest
 
 

I really like this build. When it works, it can be amazing. 

Dega Sanctuary could be Oblivion Ring - and maybe should be Oblivion Ring – but every so often the lifegain is critical. 
 
Enchantress’ Presence is amazing in this deck. If it hits early, it draws tons of cards.

The deck has three amazing combos, and if Enchantress is out, it usually draws into one of them.

The first is Sylvan Library / Abundance. If you get both in play, you get three cards a turn for free. Sylvan Library lets you draw three cards, but you have to pay four life for each card drawn after the first. Abundance replaces those draws – meaning that, since you did not actually draw any cards, you don’t have to pay any life. Broken!

Sylvan / Abundance is just so good.  In part, this combo won Pro Tour Chicago for Bob Maher, Jr., back late last century.  It is one of the more borken things my old enchantress decks could do (along with swinging for 50+ damage on turn three.)  It feel sooo good to have it back.

 The second powerful combo is Zur’s Weirding and life gain. If you can be ahead in life, and gaining life as you do so, Zur’s Weirding can completely hose your opponent.  I have often locked down a game completely.  Just make sure you have enough life, or your opponent can do it to you.

The third is playing an enchantment-heavy deck and Jokulhaups Haups kills lands, creatures and artifacts, but not enchantments.   It is also why the deck wants Darksteel Ingot – the indestructible artifact.   I have often faced a tough board position, with an opponent beating down and in control. I had only a couple Hondens, plus Abundance. I cast Jokulhaups, and the board position went from very sucky to amazing in one turn.

I have lived the dream, albeit briefly.   I once had the red, white and black Hondens, plus Sylvan / Abundance all in play – and I cast Jokulhaups. I didn’t get to enjoy it much – my opponent conceded immediately.   For a brief period of time, though, I had the ability to “draw” three cards, deal three damage to my opponent, make him discard three cards and gain six life every turn, while my opponent had a totally empty board.

Words of Wind protects you from decking yourself. It can also partner with Mind’s Eye and enchantments like Seal of Fire to make your opponent bounce a lot of permanents. 

Imperial Mask seemed questionable, until the turn where I ripped it just after my opponent put the eighth counter on Chandra Nalaar. Chandra doesn’t do much with Mask in play. 
 
The deck is not perfect. It has few ways of dealing with a resolved Plainswalker, short of the red Honden or Confiscate. On possible option to solve that problem might be to run Skull of Orm over Darksteel Ingot. Skull will let you reuse critical enchantments, like Confiscate on planeswalkers, or Seal of Fire. On the other hand, the deck can get slow starts, and opponents can run you down before you can set up.   Skull of Orm is, if anything, going to slow the deck down further. 
 
The enchantments deck runs Jokulhaups – relies on it, to some extent. I’m not sure I’m happy with that. Rainbow Stairwell is supposed to be a casual format, and land destruction does not really fit that theme. Of course, neither does control, but that’s another debate. However, the control decks all like to play out a lot of land. They are vulnerable to LD – and that leads to the following deck. I think it would be a winner, but I really don’t want to play it, or play against it, at least until we have Rainbow Stairwell tournaments.
 

Piss You Off Completely Rainbow Stairwell

 
White
Blue
Black
1
Swords to Plowshares
2
3
4
5
6
 
Red
Green
Artifact
1
2
Sakura Tribe Elder
3
4
5
All Suns’ Dawn
6
 

Non-Basic Lands

Basic Lands

 
 
 
4 Plains
4 Island
4 Swamp
4 Mountain
4 Forest
 
 

The goal of this deck should be to get a planeswalker down, then cast Armageddon or Haups and go nuts before the opponent can recover. The one possible downside is that the deck may be mana short afterward – Darksteel Ingot and Citadel survive both Haups and Geddon, but you have to draw them. Elvish Aberration can fetch Bosk, which gives you three of your five colors, so try not to play that land until after you destroy all lands for the first time. 

Muse Vessel is just a test, but if you can get it working, it should be pretty sweet. Be warned, however – it is slow. Fast decks may eat this for breakfast – to the extent that you may need to play something like Clearwater Goblet over Mind’s Eye. Life gain may be more important than cards when you are periodically destroying the world. 
 
I have no idea if Nettlevine Blight will work or not.  Enslave or Ink Eyes might be better, but Blight should do a much better job of pissing people off. 

Now that I look at this, I am really tempted to play Piss You Off, simply to see if it works.  If I do, I’ll just play it a couple times, and in the tournament practice room: Piss really isn’t a casual deck.

See you online - once we are done being offline.
 
PRJ
 
“one million words” on MTGO

4 Comments

Thanks by eotinb at Sun, 04/20/2008 - 17:34
eotinb's picture

I'm really enjoying the articles on this format. It feels a bit like 2-player EDH being both singleton and full of bombs. Thanks for the decklists and evaluation of the format.

by hamtastic at Mon, 04/21/2008 - 15:12
hamtastic's picture

Every time I play rainbow stairwell I wonder why I hadn't been playing it more... it's a fantastic format that really encourages strange synergies.

Good article and thanks for the reminder on RS! 

I don't play Rainbow Stairwell.. by Arnnaria at Sat, 04/19/2008 - 15:24
Arnnaria's picture

I don't play Rainbow Stairwell, but I really like the way you formatted the decklists.  Crisp, clean, and looks pretty.

My favorite format by mtgbaron at Sat, 07/02/2011 - 22:49
mtgbaron's picture
5

Pete, I know this article is a few years old now, but I just got back into mtgo. I wanted to say this was a great article,and I am looking forward to getting back into R.S.