Welcome back, my dearest readers, to my weekly Magic column. Last week I wrote about the interesting cards on the Card Image Gallery (seriously, what happened to the Visual Spoiler?) as of last Wednesday. This was because I spent my weekend in Italy, watching Formula 1-cars and other high-speed four-wheelers drive by at insane speeds. When I wasn’t at the track in Monza, I was shuffling around with the ofEmpires-deck I talked about two weeks ago. Today, I’d like to tell more about that.
I initially wrote about ofEmpires to make a few points about building with cards that are inherently bad. While this managed to get said points across, it fails in the actual deckbuilding-department. So today I’m gonna set that straight – also because I now have sixty cards sleeved up, and not a Decked Builder-file with a whole lotta ideas.
The Royal Flush
All my ideas concerning the royal artifacts where steered in one direction once I saw Seedborn Muse’s Royal Flush deck idea. It’s a monogreen deck that is based around the Royal artifacts and other tapping artifacts, backed up by Voltaic Key and Seedborn Muse. There’s also a creature base that likes artifacts (Ezuri’s Brigade, Darksteel Juggernaut) but is a tad slow. I liked a lot of his ideas and added them to my list, but that gave me a huge list way over 60.
In the car ride to Monza (which is usually about 10 hours from where I live, but we had an additional 2 hours of almost no movement in Switzerland) I had a lot of time to think about the deck. I had brought all of the cards I was considering for the deck, including proxies and blank proxies should I come up with new ideas. I did not want to start with a select group of these cards, so I did what seemed like the best solution: I threw the four of the Royal artifacts together and a singleton of every other option, and there I had my deck! (Yes, there’s a bunch of two-ofs in there too. That’s because I had extra space, and instead of adding one-ofs I was pretty sure would leave eventually, I settled for a few extra copies of cards I though would be roleplayers.)
1 Carapace Forger
1 Etched Champion
1 Ezuri’s Brigade
1 Oracle of Mul Daya
1 Overgrown Battlement
1 Palladium Myr
1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
2 Seedborn Muse
1 Sylvok Replica
1 Wall of Tanglecord
Other spells (25)
2 Ancient Stirrings
1 Brittle Effigy
1 Chimeric Mass
4 Crown of Empires
1 Druidic Satchel
4 Genesis Wave
4 Scepter of Empires
4 Throne of Empires
1 Unwinding Clock
2 Voltaic Key
1 Weatherseed Totem
This deck did not have my usual skeletal structure, where I identify card functions and tweak the numbers with that skeleton in mind. That wasn’t what this deck was supposed to have right away – it was more important to get a feel of which direction the quartet of four-ofs would steer the deck. And yes, I did bear in mind my five lessons from two weeks ago. I sleeved the deck up and started goldfishing on the desk in our room the first day we got back from the track. For fair purposes, I decided to only cut a card once I encountered in gameplay (this could be drawing it, seeing it with Ancient Stirrings, or flipping it with Genesis Wave). My brain tends to go faster than my testing, but I didn’t want to shortcut anything in order to see each card at least one time. Not drawn meant not cut.
Looking for identity
The above decklist is, as you would guess, a gathering of different ideas and angles for the deck. Ezuri’s Brigade and Carapace Forger use their metalcraft to support the Royal artifacts, while Overgrown Battlement and Wall of Tanglecord form a synergistic tag-team. Unfortunately, Wall of Tanglecord was a bit too farfetched. If I was to have a defender that would help my Battlement, I’m better off playing something like Wall of Roots. For now, I’m just going for a Battlement.
-1 Wall of Tanglecord (0)
+1 Overgrown Battlement (2)
Genesis Wave definitely proved itself a card-to-stay. I witnessed first-hand how insane a Genesis Wave could be. My curve pretty much topped at four, with Seedborn Muse being the only exception. So that means a Wave for four all but guarantees me four permanents on the board. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that Chimeric Mass sucks with Wave, so I took it out.
-1 Chimeric Mass (0)
+1 Sakura-Tribe Elder (2)
Now I had 2 Battlements and 2 Elders. I did this to see what would be the best two-drop accelerant for the deck.
At this time, I also made another change. Etched Champion was just not what I wanted to do. It resides at the crowded three-drop spot, and with a bunch of two-mana accelerants, having a whole assembly of three-drops is not recommended.
-1 Etched Champion (0)
+1 Oracle of Mul Daya (2)
I was pretty psyched about Oracle at this point. It gave me a bit of pre-Wave information, and because I was high on Druidic Satchel, it worked well there too. It also accelerated my mana, but that didn’t really turn out as expected, but I’ll get back to that later.
This is where my idea of the deck started to take shape. I wanted to have a medium-to-heavy mana component, since the Royal artifacts are pretty expensive (two cost five to cast-and-activate, and the cheapest one is three, so that’s thirteen mana for three artifacts). Also, casting a Genesis Wave for a minimum of four ASAP was a high priority. Based on that, I changed a bit.
-1 Ezuri’s Brigade (0)
-1 Seedborn Muse (1)
+1 Voltaic Key (3)
+1 Unwinding Clock (2)
The more I thought about it, the more I disliked Seedborn Muse (the card, not the columnist, mind you). It’s an expensive creature, which makes it both dangerous and fragile. You could easily waste your fifth turn playing a Muse and having it Terminated. The same goes for Ezuri’s Brigade, which isn’t even that exciting in this deck to begin with. Extra copies of Voltaic Key and Unwinding Clock are much more safer – and cheaper to cast.
Making the above changes made me become conscious about artifact mana. Unwinding Clock untaps them each turn, while Voltaic Key can make even more mana when you get to untap an artifact that taps at least for two. This inspired me to make another change.
-1 Weatherseed Totem (0)
+1 Palladium Myr (2)
While the Totem initially seemed like a good way to do something with excess mana, in reality that never happened. Palladium Myr taps for two, which is far more important, although not so important that it got him to the final decklist. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. You see, I started by adding more Myrs.
-1 Sylvok Replica (0)
-1 Brittle Effigy (0)
+2 Palladium Myr (2)
Palladium Myr became the fifth four-of in the deck. The two cards that made room in the process where two singletons that didn’t really feel in line with the deck. Ofcourse, should troubles occur with certain types of permanents, either or both could well find their way back into the deck. Later, the Palladium Myrs became Worn Powerstones: you can’t use either the turn you cast them, but Worn Powerstone doesn’t die to creature removal and still makes mana with Unwinding Clock.
-4 Palladium Myr (0)
+4 Worn Powerstone (4)
Next up on the chopping block was Ancient Stirrings. While it did do its best to find Royal artifacts, not being able to pick up Genesis Wave (but even worse, putting them on the bottom of my library!) was a serious strike against it.
-2 Ancient Stirrings (0)
+2 Sylvan Library (2)
I remembered how much I like Sylvan Library and that I have a playset of it at home, so I took two proxies and scribbled the words ‘Sylvan Library’ onto them.
Sylvan Library obviously makes cards that care about the top card of my library better. Well hello there, Oracle of Mul Daya!
-1 Carapace Forger (0)
+1 Oracle of Mul Daya (3)
Carapace Forger was a remainder of a line of thought that got separated from the deck a long time ago. Carapace Forger was bound to leave eventually.
Three Oracles and two Libraries. It didn’t feel right.
-1 Druidic Satchel (0)
+1 Sylvan Library (3)
Wait – what? Taking out a card that cares about the top of my library? It may sound strange, but the randomness of Satchel’s effects was too much of a burden. Even being able to manipulate it, there are times when you either have no Sylvan Library or no desirable top card of your library. Although I can’t imagine not building with Druidic Satchel eventually, Royal Wave was not the deck for it.
After some playing around, Oracle of Mul Daya also got the boot. It may seem weird to completely eliminate all top-card-of-library-matters cards, but it was in violation with my rules: I was trying to be too cute. The Library’s library manipulation was enough – I didn’t need any more to make its effect better. Also, I didn’t run enough lands for Oracle to work reliably without Library, and I wasn’t planning on running more.
-3 Oracle of Mul Daya (0)
+1 Sol Ring (1)
+2 Ancient Stirrings (2)
Oracle was supposed to do a few things: dig, and make mana. So I removed the four-mana card (which is pretty costly) and replaced them with three one-mana spells. I was surprised Sol Ring was relatively cheap in the Commander-version, so I saw no harm in trying to trade for those.
-2 Overgrown Battlement (0)
+2 Sakura-Tribe Elder (4)
I still wanted more shuffling, so my two-drop accelerant changed from a foursome of Overgrown Battlements to Sakura-Tribe Elders.
-2 Ancient Stirrings (0)
+2 Solemn Simulacrum (2)
And out went the Stirrings. It just wasn’t what I wanted to do, and Solemn seemed like a nice speed bump you weren’t afraid to tap out for. Unlike Oracle, you’d still get a card if it got Bolted (and, ofcourse, you always got a land).
-1 Pendelhaven (0)
-2 Urza’s Factory (0)
+3 Darksteel Citadel (3)
I realized that I had very little mana that Unwinding Clock untapped. The above changes to the mana base are an effort to change this a bit. The lands I took out were too specific and random in use to keep them in the deck. Darksteel Citadel was more effective more of the time.
This gave me a deck that I thought would be the final paper decklist before I started playing against opponents. But when I looked closer, I saw a glaring flaw I had previously missed.
Earlier, I mentioned that Palladium Myr / Worn Powerstone was not meant to be. Well, this was the time the card came out. What is this glaring flaw I speak of? It is that of the crowded three-drop spot. What do I need three-drops for when I regularly accelerate to four mana on turn three (Sakura) or even turn two (Sol Ring)? We need more four-drops!
Since Solemn wasn’t the best accelerant to accelerate into, I now had six card I had serious doubts about. Luckily, the solution was fairly easy: I just added four Thran Dynamos (now that’s accelerating!) and two Mind Stones to help with the crucial turn two. This is the deck I now have:
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
Adding Thran Dynamo was a huge boost to the deck. Often when you cast it you are able to cast another card too. Not to mention Voltaic Key, which can untap Thran Dynamo for huge amounts of mana. A turn three Dynamo followed by Voltaic Key and another four-drop is not unheard of. Turn four Genesis Waves for four or five aren’t fairytales either. I’m very happy with the deck and I’m glad Seedborn Muse gave me the ‘tech’ of Genesis Wave. I don’t know if I would even have a deck without Genesis Wave. Luckily Genesis Wave’s application goes further than Elves!, and it feels like a very powerful card to play with. Now if only the deck can hold its weight in duels. I’m very, very curious to find out.
A final point I wanted to make is unrelated to the content of this article, but at the same time goes for every MTG author out there, not just me. While writing is something we all do for fun, in the end there would be no writing without an audience. We write for you, our readers, to have something to read and think about.
Whenever you read something, you form an opinion about it. You like it, you don’t, you would change card X, you wonder if the author considered card Y, et cetera. But too often, you keep your ideas to yourself and not in the comment section, where others could jump in and the author would answer the questions that came up when you read the article.
So dear readers of Magic articles around the world, comment-comment-comment. You are much more crucial then you think. You give us ideas for new articles and new angles for existing ones. No matter how much we mull over decklists, in the end we are just single human beings. Therefore, the input of others is invaluable. We learn how to make better decks, write better articles, and what to write about when we don’t have any ideas ourselves.
So the next time you read an article, take some extra time to let the writer – who put a lot of effort into his article – know his work is being written. Sometimes all it takes is a ‘Great read!’ to let the writer know he isn’t shouting to a wall and that his efforts are being appreciated.