New sets mean new opportunities. The latest Magic set, Scars of Mirrodin, did not disappoint. Scars presented opportunities for new cards to shine (see: Mimic Vat), opportunities for old cards to shine (see: Phyrexian Devourer). Scars also had one card that I could make shine while doing the same with other cards. The card; Prototype Portal. The other cards; Mono White Silver Control.
Let me first just set something straight which may seem true due to my misleading, yet catchy intro. Prototype Portal didn’t actually made an old deck of mine viable. It was more of a shot in the arm of an archetype I once tried my hand at but failed: Mono White Control (MWC hereafter). It should have been great, but it wasn’t. It turns out non-Blue control is quite different from Blue control. I also think my sense of control and grinding out advantage back then (some two to three years ago) where not what they were today. My white deck was not only a deck that did not know how to exploit its mass removal, it was also a mish-mash of good cards. But a bunch of good cards don’t necessarily make a good deck.
Noel deCordova’s Prototype Portal-deck in the Imprint Insanity-article during Imprint Week on magicthegathering.com put me on the track of a new MWC-deck. His deck used Howling Mine and Blood Clock to keep his opponent’s hand full while punishing him for it with Ebony Owl Netsuke, Thought Prison and Mindslaver. Mindslaver with a Thought Prison is pretty brutal; Mindslaver with Prototype Portal is game over. I liked this interaction. I liked it so much I decided to build a similar deck. As someone who is careful with annoying his opponents, I decided a combination of two cards that requires fourteen mana to activate wouldn’t be the same as a turn-two Stasis.
As usual I found way too many cards for me to ever cut reasonably down to sixty. I decided I had to remove the whole hand-attack part in order to be creative. I am, after all, a casual player as much as a deckbuilder. Playing with my personal creation usually lengthens the period of fun I have with a deck.
After some (and by some I mean a tiresome amount) of queries later I had something of a deck. Let’s take a look! (Disclaimer: I decided not to autocard the deck; just look at the pictures below. Ooh, shiny pictures! And like with most of the decks I posted on this blog, I find it more useful for myself to post a work-in-progress. Don’t worry, I’ll record the process from v1.0 until whatever number I end up on.)
Mono White Silver Control v1.0
4 Ancient Den
4 Darksteel Citadel
4 Flagstones of Trokair
4 Indomitable Archangel
4 Lodestone Golem
2 Wurmcoil Engine
Other spells (27)
3 Crystal Ball
4 Mind Stone
4 Prototype Portal
4 Scepter of Dominance
4 Tumble Magnet
3 Voltaic Key
I don’t know when it was, but after I read an article (I think on Channel Fireball) I made it a habit to be able to formulate my deck’s plan. If you can’t, you either need to think more about your deck or you need to change some cards around. And if your play experience differs from your plan, you have to change one of those. Let’s go over the cards, armed with the following plan:
“This deck’s plan is to establish control using roadblock-type cards to buy enough time for the big mana finishers to come online and finish the game.”
For each card I’ll try to explain the link with the plan (the pros) and the cons (if any) of the card.
The artifact lands
I always feel like a good little schoolboy when I use the artifact lands in a way that’s not broken in half. In this deck they help with the metalcraft of my Archangel and they aren’t half bad under a Portal, since I get a free land each turn. Their drawbacks are vulnerability to artifact removal (Ancient Den) and the inability to make colored mana (Darksteel Citadel), respectively.
The other two lands
These regular lands just make white mana, basically. Plains is literally basic while Flagstones of Trokair are functionally almost the same with a bit of an upside and a downside. The upside is nice, but the lands entering the battlefield tapped hurts at times.
The thing I hate the most about imprint is the vulnerability. While playing Portal and immediately using it negates this a bit when they destroy it, it also costs a lot of mana. Indomitable Archangel allows you a bit more time to set up. Oh yeah, and she’s a 4/4 for four. The more I think of it’s effect, however, the more I see the drawbacks. For example, shroud is kind of a drawback when you have Voltaic Key. Leonin Abunas doesn’t have this, giving your toys trollshroud instead. Another problem of the Archangel (and Abunas) is them being removal magnets; not only because of their strong effects, but because they are the only creatures my opponents can target. Other minor drawbacks are metalcraft (she’s not always active on turn four), and the fact that she’s not Portal-compatible.
This guy is slowly becoming my favorite artifact creature. Moreso, I like copying him. In this deck, I can. I used to copy him with Sculpting Steel and such (a deck that’s still together [/plug for something that someday will be a blog post]), but Prototype Portal looks like more fun. He can also block and attack, but his main strength is the strain he puts on your opponents’ mana development. He is supplemented nicely by Scepter of Dominance, which I’ll discuss later.
This guy feels a bit out of place thematically, but for that he makes up by being a big guy that kills everything and doesn’t immediately die when he dies. I thought it might be cool for me to add him, but I fear six mana is a lot for prototyping purposes. I might have to replace the Sixth Titan by something that costs less, or I have to add more mana acceleration (something like a Palladium Myr looks great, for example, especially when combined with Voltaic Key). Wurmcoil Engine is another Scars of Mirrodin-card I’ve grown quite fond of, but I’m wary of liking him too much when he’s no longer needed.
I figured the deck could use some card selection post-Howling Mine. There was no way to influence or increase carddraw, and this seemed like a good place for Crystal Ball. Lacking shuffle effects gave the ball the benefit of the doubt over Sensei’s Divining Top, a card I’m starting to dislike sleeving up for each and every deck. Crystall Ball helps digging for a card I need and is therefore useful in multiples (i.e. it’s Portal compatible).
Mana advantage is a two-edged sword. It could mean denial or acceleration. This deck tries to do both. I like having a card like Mind Stone to put under a Portal, especially since late-game I can sacrifice Mind Stone-tokens to draw extra cards. However, I fear imprinting artifact lands is a better business, since activating a Portal with Ancient Den under it actually costs -1 mana, not 1, like Mind Stone. If that proves to be the case, maybe Everflowing Chalice could take it’s place, since that one is more flexible in the mana department.
Ah, the good ol’ griefer card that’s this deck’s premier win condition. Mindslaver is, like Wurmcoil Engine, one of the big bombs that the deck tries to buy time for to come online and win. And as I also said, I fear Wurmcoil Engine might be out of place in this deck due to the plan of the deck, and the pivotal role Prototype Portal plays in that. What I mean by that is that Wurmcoil Engine could be replaced by a card that can cement Mindslaver’s impact, mostly by controlling the board (preferrably at less than Wurmcoil’s six mana).
Much has already been said about Prototype Portal. I want to establish that while Portal is the central card of the deck, I want to be able to function properly without him (until the point where I finish the game with Mindslaver-Portal, or some other card). Portal can be used to quickly gain a big advantage on the opponent, but the deck should be able to hold it’s own without a Portal. However, Crystal Ball helps us digging for one while also ensuring the other cards we draw to be of relevance.
Scepter of Dominance
Part of the two-hit ‘combo’ with Lodestone Golem in the mana denial-department. What’s nice is that both the Scepter and the Golem can disrupt the opponent’s mana, they can also tussle with creatures should that need arise. Scepter has a nice way of forcing the opponent to overextend, making way for a disastrous Scourglass. Multiple Scepters (i.e. putting one under a Portal and then going to town) can get out of hand quickly.
Scourglass is my sweeper of choice. I love sweepers. There’s no better feeling in Magic than wiping away multiple turns of development on the opponent’s part with just one card. It’s too bad the card not only costs five mana, but also costs an extra turn that gives the opponent information. In multiplayer, playing Scourglas usually means the last round of attacks is directed at me. And while I may sound like a little whiny baby here, I don’t like Scourglass blowing up my Archangels! That’s by far the biggest drawback, since the turn you have to wait is negated when you have one under a Portal. Still, reason enough to investigate Scourglass’ place in this deck.
Tumble Magnet is perhaps the one artifact that loves Prototype Portal more than anything else in the deck. For three mana you make another one and can use it immediately, without additional mana. And if you’ve depleted it, well just make another one. I got to say that just the tapping is not enough unless you apply enough pressure or lure them into a Scourglass. However, should Scourglass leave the deck, I either need to aggressify the rest of the deck or cut back on the number of Tumble Magnets.
You know what doesn’t work with Voltaic Key? Indomitable Archangel. You know what Indomitable Archangel likes? Early artifacts, for metalcraft. See the discrepancy here? To make a long story short, either Voltaic Key needs to go, meaning I could use another cheap artifact to fill the void. Or, and I find this more likely, Archangel gets the axe in favor of the less aggressive but all-around better Leonin Abunas.
So there you have the, admittedly rough, first draft. Now comes the time to rethink all criticism I’ve noted during my writing this and perhaps get some feedback on the MTGSalvation Casual Forums, where I used to be a frequent dweller and am still some times. I’ll post the deck there too, after this blog goes live.
The biggest question marks in this deck are Indomitable Archangel, Wurmcoil Engine, Scourglass, and to a lesser extent Mind Stone, Tumble Magnet and Voltaic Key.
I thought a bit about how to replace these and came up with a few cards that could be cool. I did some searching, plus I looked to the physical stack of cards that didn’t make the first cut.
Arcbound Crusher was in Noel’s deck as a potentially big creature to benefit from various artifacts entering the battlefield. Leonin Abunas was something I considered above and is probably going to replace Indomitable Archangel. Another route I’m considering is that of proliferate, using Contagion Clasp as a very good and cheap Portal-card, Everflowing Chalice for mana and Contagion Engine as the big removal card that works wonders with Portal. The higher demand for mana is leveraged by Everflowing Chalice, which should become an automatic four-of in Proliferate Portal. Now that’s a solid deckname right there!
Other proliferate-benefactors would include Triskelion (basically an Inferno Titan under a Portal) and Sun Droplet (mean card is mean), and of course Arcbound Crusher). But perhaps the biggest bonus would be this little creature.
How on this great green planet did I ever, ever miss this card? It’s perfect, since under a Portal you can poop out a 4/4 every turn, for two mana. Since Epochrasite isn’t cast from activating Portal, you get a Jotün Grunt without the drawback. Whatever I do, I’m likely to include Epochrasite. HE’S BORKEN (miss-spelling on purpose for dramatic effect).
Join me in the MTGSalvation-forums or just here if you feel like helping me along. Thanks for reading!