Magic Words, Part 1

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The letter W!elcome to the long-delayed, completely back-burnered, and ideally anticipated results for the Pick-a-Word Build-Around Contest! The raw details: I held a contest a little over month ago for a deck based flavorfully around a word, any word. The results: below!

Out of 107 emails, I eliminated 66 on the first pass, 11 on the second, and finally a heart-wrenching 12 more to wind up with 18 decks, to be spread out between a couple articles. Thanks to all who submitted a deck; I absolutely enjoyed absorbing them, even if you didn't make the articles.

Let's get to it!


Straightforward seems like a good starting approach for these results. AJ Grasso kicks things off with a Birds deck:

Birds, birds, and more birds! Like a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock movie, your opponent will be running in terror from the angry flock of birds you have cast upon them. The game plan is simple: play as many cheap birds as possible and swarm your opponent with your feathery friends. Use cards like Soulcatchers' Aerie & Soraya the Falconer early to pump your birds to monstrous sizes. Roc Egg, Seaside Haven, and Impaler Shrike all combo nicely with Soulcatchers' Aerie, allowing you to gain card advantage while making your birds even bigger. Stormscape Familiar makes your white birds cheaper. Combo this with Squadron Hawk and you'll be dropping 2-4 birds a turn. Sage Owl smooths your draws out while Impaler Shrike draws you more birds. Dovescape functions as protection from board sweepers but can be very risky because your Aerie will grow your opponents' birds. Finally, Battle Screech keeps the birds coming even when you ran out of birds to play.

Pick-a-Word Contest


Next up is Matt Higgs with his mono-red Blitz deck:

In the blink of an eye, lightning can destroy nearly anything on earth. Its name has become synonymous with puissance, speed, and spontaneity. It instills awe, fear, and humility in the hardest of hearts; nothing so transient has ever had such an impact. This deck, BLITZ, comes from the German word for lightning. Within this deck, you will feel the clarifying rush of electricity course through the cards in your hand. Every creature has haste, and each is more fearsome than the last. Transforming pure red mana into blazing lightning is enormously effective. Lightning is effervescent, striking a player without warning and without defense. Many forms of lightning in the deck can ignore or overrun any meager defenses a slow-hearted mage might present.

Pick-a-Word Contest


Alex Lamoureux built a fun and flavorful Death deck:

Early in the game, black magic summons Deathspore Thallids and Dregscape Zombies to provide sacrifices upon the altar. Apprentice Necromancer can briefly unearth a single creature, perhaps brought to the graveyard by Entomb. Hymn to Tourach, played on a flute made from the victim's bones, drives madness into the mind of the enemy planeswalker.

In the midgame, the deck tries to fill its graveyard by dredging Darkblast, unearthing Extractor Demon, and sacrificing minions to Ashnod's Altar. With a temporary Extractor Demon combining with Ashnod's Altar, Hell's Caretaker will have its choice of cards from the graveyard. Sacrificing and returning a pair of Dakmor Ghouls gives Hell's Caretaker the ability "Tap: Target opponent loses 2 life and you gain 2 life."

Once the graveyard is full of undead, the necromancer is prepared to summon powerful demons. Dread Return or Demon of Death's Gate can bring out powerful creatures by sacrificing the weak. Tombstalker and Twilight's Call use a full graveyard as fuel for a powerful final assault. Having sacrificed his army, and his own sanity, the evil mage calls on the power of death to shatter the world of the living.


Devin Green chose the word "peace," and took it to strategic heart when deckbuilding:

Atalya, Samite Master and I have set up a lovely little community here by the coast where our members can live in peace and harmony safely nestled within the towers and spires of this coastal sanctum. Here we strive towards Purity, towards peace of all sorts. Whether it be through the watchful gaze of the Platinum Siblings and their protective herd of Pegasi or the occasional Absorption of a stray Lightning Bolt, nonviolence is the key to solving our problems here.

Most of the choices here are obvious; Peace Talks, Palliation Accord, Plumes of Peace, and Peacekeeper were must-includes. Other choices, like Celestial Force, Elixir of Immortality, and Pristine Talisman are here to give us the resolve to endure violence without being forced to lash out to protect ourselves. The Elixir also helps us recur our counters and revive our fallen brethren. If things get hairy, though, I'm not afraid to step in and bear the cost of nonviolent resistance myself with my Personal Incarnation.

Naturally, there are many ways to win with this deck, mostly in the delay-then-crush-them mode of game play.

The real goal, however, is to get your Platinum Angel and Abyssal Persecutor (he enrolled here in hopes of dealing with his violent tendencies. He's actually a pretty chill dude once you get to know him) to prove that violence really isn't the answer. At that point the game is unwinnable for everyone, and hopefully you've made yourself untouchable, so the only way to conclude is by giving your opponent a friendly hand shake and maybe getting an ice cream sundae to share.


Adam Chmelka's Swarm deck describes itself, as a (what else) token rush deck.


Joe H.'s deck clogs up your opponent's development, aiming for an ultimate decking:

The dictionary defines clog as something that hinders or to block off, and that is exactly what this deck does. This deck slowly clogs up the battlefield along with your opponent's hand, leaving your opponent helpless as they watch their library slowly creep away. This goal is achieved with multiple cards that stop your opponent from attacking you, and with multiple cards that limit your opponent's other actions.

The basic strategy is to just completely block off your opponent from being able to do anything. Start by using all your resources to stop your opponent from attacking you. Then when you have good board control, cast Limited Resources to seal the deal. There are multiple cards to make your opponent have to pay to attack you; stack a few of these, and their five lands after Limited Resources won't be enough to pay. Also, three spaced out Chronomantic Escapes can also do this job nicely. Add this to Leyline of Sanctity protecting you and Cursed Totem stopping creature's activated abilities, and your opponent has little to no options. Then to make sure that your opponent decks out before you do, force your opponent to draw more cards with Careful Consideration. This deck will lead to slow games, the nature of a clog.


Herpus McDerpus (yep) submitted a fine Learn deck:

School is now in session, and you're ready to LEARN! You've been told many things about this college. They have a well known library (of Alexandria) that you want to check out, a couple of ponds to study by (Reflecting Pools), and some of the wild and unpredictable parties (Evolving Wilds).

First thing you do is meet your new roommate (Enclave Cryptologist), who will learn alongside you, and possibly help you study later. Who knows, you may even get two roommates! You decide to look over all your Accumulated Knowledge before classes start; sometimes you may have to Relearn some of it. You've also found another study buddy (Echo Mage). He learns quickly how to help you while you study. You also have found a best friend (Lorescale Coatl) who will be learning with you every step of the way.

Now you're ready to explore New Frontiers as you read through your textbooks (read the runes). Finally, you meet one of your teachers, Arcanis. He seems to be able to fill your mind with so much knowledge every day.

And then there is the other teacher, the one you're probably only ready for if you've explored New Frontiers and are ready to put your knowledge to good use. It's time for your most difficult, yet most rewarding, class with Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind. As you learn with him, you realize that knowing is more than half the battle, and the world starts to cower in fear of your knowledge, and with a final Rush of Knowledge, you reduce the world to nothing at your feet MUHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!


Now we're in the realm of the silly submission. There were lots of these, but only four warmed my heart enough (to be divided between now and a fortnight.)

James Marsh decided to use this contest as an excuse to build a Wolverine theme deck, using the famous "snikt!" as his word of choice:

This deck is designed to pop blades out of nowhere (via tutoring), equip them to creatures who like to wield weapons, and dig into your opponent's life total, gaining life all the while (to simulate Wolverine's healing factor.)

Let's start with our SNIKT enablers. Anyone who's anyone has heard of Stoneforge Mystic digging into libraries to find swords, but before she was around, we also had Steelshaper Apprentice, Taj-Nar Swordsmith, and Stonehewer Giant.

With Indomitable Will's artwork and the flash, you can almost hear the SNIKT every time it's played.

Kitesail Apprentice, Kor Duelist, and Sunspear Shikari (who supports the life-gain theme) love to wield blades and get ferocious surprisingly quickly.

Sun Droplet is as literal a top-down design of a healing factor as I can think of.

We have a toolbox of blades ready for battle. For hand claws (to approximate Wolverine's claws), we have Shuko and Neko-Te. Given his time in Japan, I'm sure Wolverine would be very comfortable wielding No-Dachi, Tatsumasa, or any of the other toolbox of swords, including Trusty Machete, Sword of Light and Shadow and Sword of War and Peace (both working with the life gain theme), and Sword of Vengeance. Finally, True Conviction turns everyone into Wolverine, double striking and sending your life total into the skies.


Leave it to Darth Parallax, a notorious inbox fiend, to defy the 3-5 letter rule:

GOTTERDAMMERUNG. It's a German word which means Twilight of the Gods. Armageddon. Judgement Day. The Apocalypse. Which is exactly what this deck does. It makes the End of the World happen. Most of the synonyms for this word have been turned into Magic cards, interestingly enough, and it was fun discovering just how many of them I could fit into this deck.

Everything in this deck either Destroyedicates everything on the field, or ... well, pretty much all the cards do that. With all the mass death and destruction going around, I figured I'd want Undertaker and Twilight Shepherd to run a recursion subtheme, Gideon Jura to be an indestructible survivor who laughs at Near-Death Experiences, and Gaea's Herald to make sure everyone else gets through. If you want the one-card answer to the question "What does this deck do?", ask Avatar of Slaughter.

Whew! A theme week is all that stands between the rest of the results and now. I find contest results inject the column with a randomness overdose, which is a great, great thing. Hope you enjoyed it. Until next time.

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