here are some decks so universally feared, so maligned, that the mere utterance of their names cause faces to twist and fingers to twitch. Not necessarily out of power, but because of pure annoyance. They're fun to play with, but not play against. You don't want to see one played at your tournament, and you definitely don't want to play against it.
Magician General's warning: Today I am going to be looking at a deck that fits squarely into this category. It's been known to cause sarcastic eye-rolls, endless complaining, extreme boredom, long rounds, and—in extreme cases—even lost friends. Proceed at your own risk.
Elixir of Immortality | Art by Zoltan Boros and Gabor Szikszai
Still here? Excellent. Can you guess what deck I'll be talking about today?
Land destruction? Not even close.
Discard? Try again.
Twenty-six counterspell control? Bzzzzt!
No, what I'm looking at is far more sinister. Some of you might have jumped straight to the top of the list. And if you did, somewhere just underneath Stasis but above Isochron Scepter-Orim's Chant, you would have found an archetype staring back, its curved letters beginning to taunt you.
One word: Turbo-Fog.
Here's the deck I'll be tweaking in this article, sent in by François Lebel:
François Lebel's Fog of War
The Battle Plan
If you've never seen a Turbo-Fog deck before, it might look a little confusing. The decklist is full of cards that are far removed from Standard staples. I mean c'mon—Fog?!? Yet somehow, it works.
Fog | Art by Jaime Jones
A Turbo-Fog deck spends the first few turns setting up. You want to get a card like Otherworld Atlas or Rites of Flourishing onto the battlefield and set up your draws with Ponder. After that, it's time to go Fog crazy.
As your opponent attacks, you can Fog (or similar) each attack, ensuring you don't die. Because your deck has so many Fogs and you're drawing so many cards per turn via Rites and Atlas, it's surprisingly easy to just Fog every turn for the rest of the game! Eventually you will win via some narrow victory condition, usually by running your opponent out of cards.
Avacyn Restored has provided this archetype with a brand new tool: Otherworld Atlas. The key to decks like this is to have enough continuous card drawing effects that you can Fog each turn, and Atlas fills that role extremely well. It's easy to build it up to two (or more!) counters, loading up your hand with more cards each turn.
Building a Turbo-Fog deck can be tricky because there are a lot of pieces to keep in mind. You need enough enablers, enough fogs, and enough ways to tie everything else together and win the game.
Usually, I also like at least a couple ways to try and close out the game quicker than just milling via mutual card drawers in my Turbo-Fog decks. Often, if you let people have access to their entire decks over the course of the game—especially after sideboarding—they might be able to find a way to beat you.
This deck works best when people aren't expecting it... like right now, for example! Sideboards are low on cards that are good against this deck, meaning it's the perfect time to pounce.
Let's look through the card choices and see what works and what doesn't.
Otherworld Atlas and Rites of Flourishing
This is the engine that makes the deck run. They are completely crucial.
Without these, the deck will stutter and fall short in a blast of cosmic fury that has been known to breach the fabric of space, opening a doorway for glowing monsters from another dimension that have gigantic teeth and pointed claws, which will rampage upon this Earth like nothing before, creating craters with footprints that contain 200% gamma radiation, slowly decaying the planet's crust until it implodes and sends debris outward that will travel as burning meteors, impaling other planets and planting the seeds of dark trees that will grow into a sentient race that demands universal domination. And you don't want that to happen, do you?
François's deck only had three of each, but because of how utterly integral they are I would want to play four of each. You have to draw them, and multiples are still useful. The more you have, the closer they dig you to fog effects. Multiple Rites early on is good anyway as well, since it allows you to build up your extremely crucial mana supply.
Consistency is always an element I look for in decks, and especially so in a deck like this. This is essentially a combo deck, and so being able to find all the right pieces at the right time is paramount—something which Ponder excels at. Whether it's finding Atlas/Rites early game or keeping up your fog count later on, Ponder is a great piece.
Gambit is another card-drawing spell with a neat upside: proliferation. In the current version of the deck, it only interacts with Otherworld Atlas, but that's a pretty neat interaction. If we add Planeswalkers—more on this later—it gains extra value as well.
The problem with Gambit is that I don't really need a draw-two here. I either want to be using something like Ponder to find my engine, or ensuring my engine stays intact once it's active. Gambit is good once you have an Atlas, but if you have an Atlas you're probably already in good shape. If I don't have an Atlas, there are probably better ways I can support my deck than a Divination. Gambit is a card that can go depending on what we're looking to add.
Day of Judgment
I always like to have a couple sweepers in my Turbo-Fog decks when I can. There are a couple reasons why.
First of all, they are a "fog" in the sense that they shut down an attack. Second, while fogs will deal with most creatures, there are some creatures that actually need to be cleared off the board. Huntmaster of the Fells and Hellrider, for example, are two big threats that can cause issues if not removed.
Of course, the one major factor to keep in mind here is that Day is the only white card in the entire deck. If it stays that way, I will want to cut white entirely to make the mana easier. If I keep it around, I will probably only want two instead of three in the main deck.
How many fogs is the right number of fogs?
This deck has fifteen fogs plus six Reclaim effects, which falls a little on the high side. The distribution of fogs also seems a little off, so let's run down each of the fogs featured here and look at their power.
is the best of the bunch. It's only one mana—very important since often you'll want to tap out for an Atlas/Rites/Planeswalker and just leave one mana up—and always works on everything. Perfect.
costs three, which is certainly not ideal, but it has no restrictions and, if things are tight, has a huge upside. Against decks like Red-Green Beatdown, tangling their creatures for a turn can be game changing.
Next best is Moonmist. It has an awkward restriction—especially with Huntmaster of the Fells and Wolfir Silverheart around—but at only two mana it's close enough to Fog that it's the next one I'd want.
Blunt the Assault
is next up. It's somewhat unwieldy at four mana, but the life boost it provides is extremely relevant. Once you have enough mana to do everything you want this is the best fog you can have thanks to the extra points of life.
Finally, there's Terrifying Presence. This is easily the worst of the bunch and isn't really a card I'd want in my Turbo-Fog deck. While there will be times it's a Fog at the cost of only one life, quite often they will have a huge creature and you won't be able to fog it. Additionally, every point of life matters in this deck. It's not a fog I'd want to put into my deck while I still had other good options.
The right number of fogs could be anywhere from ten to fifteen and a mix of this list is ideal. Fog is the only card you absolutely want four of; you will want a couple Blunt the Assaults and then a mix of Clinging Mists and Moonmists, depending on how your fog curve looks.
Reclaim and Noxious Revival
The idea behind these is to fundamentally have more fogs at the cost of draw steps. You can cast one of these, put a Fog on top, and then be sure to draw it.
Why play these over more fogs? The one advantage is that they allow you to get back your Rites or Atlas if either of them end up destroyed or countered, as well as cast Day of Judgment again. Otherwise, they are usually worse than a Fog. The deck currently has six, and that's a little on the high end; if drawn normally they don't serve as a Fog. Having a couple is right, but I wouldn't want this many.
Elixir of Immortality
Having one card to make sure you don't run out of cards is reasonable, and Elixir is a good card for the job since it also gives you some (often much needed) life and recycles all of your fogs. Two other good options would be Archangel's Light and Blue Sun's Zenith, although overall I am content with Elixir since it's cheaper.
The core of the deck is in pretty good shape, and all of the enablers and fogs are there. There are a couple cards worth adding in, though.
Yes, that's right. If you thought Snapcaster Mage-ing cards like Vapor Snag, Lightning Bolt, and Brainstorm was powerful, get ready for Snapcaster Mage's most broken interaction yet!
Okay, so maybe there was a little hyperbole used there. But in all seriousness, Snapcaster Mage is quite good in this deck. I prefer it over Noxious Revival. While Revival does have the upside of getting back an Atlas or Rites, it eats up your next draw and you don't always have immediate access to it.
Snapcaster Mage gets around those drawbacks with other bonuses. Snapcaster can reuse something like Ponder without losing a draw in the process. I also added a few other spells to the deck—more on that shortly—and being able to Snapcaster them is very valuable. The ability to block can actually be quite relevant, serving as damage prevention itself on occasion—or even just killing an attacking Huntmaster of the Fells outright. And, of course, it can reuse your fogs just fine.
Since I didn't want to play any white cards except for Day, I looked to see what other options there were for eliminating pesky creatures. I was also looking for a way to deal with Planeswalkers, and Beast Within is a perfect fit. The drawback is mostly irrelevant since this deck doesn't plan on being dealt damage once it gets rolling, so it's mostly a green Vindicate—sounds pretty good by my standards!
Having access to countermagic—especially with Snapcaster Mage in your deck—can give you the little boost you need against troublesome instants and sorceries. Against control decks it is vital to have around. I didn't want a ton in the main deck, but I definitely wanted one.
One-ofs take on a new meaning in a deck like Turbo-Fog. In this style of deck, you will often see most of your deck during a game. That means the difference between a one-of and none-of a card is tremendous. You can set up and build the game toward using a one-of with a surprising degree of success. Building the game toward utilizing a card not in your deck... is not something I recommend. This deck might have a higher density of one-ofs than normal, but for once it's not just because they're sweet—this deck has a very good reason for doing so.
Tamiyo, the Moon Sage and Jace, Memory Adept
Planeswalkers interact incredibly well with fog effects. This collection of fogs doesn't let your Planeswalkers be dealt damage either, meaning they can build up loyalty without any concern.
Tamiyo, the Moon Sage | Art by Eric Deschamps
Out of all the Planeswalkers in standard, there are several good choices including Garruk, Primal Hunter and Gideon Jura—who acts as a kind of fog himself. However, with limited room, Jace and Tamiyo were the two for the job.
Tamiyo is the main Planeswalker weapon of this deck, and all three of her abilities are incredibly useful. Her +1 locks down a single creature, allowing you to preserve your fogs if your opponent just has a single creature on the board.
Tamiyo's -2 is also extremely good, because your opponent will be attacking each turn to try and break through your wall of fogs. Attack with one creature to not let me draw cards with Tamiyo? Maybe I can just afford to take the hit and not spend a fog. Attack with all of them? Fog, then untap and draw four cards. Tamiyo is fantastic at supporting the fog strategy.
And then there's her ultimate. Her ultimate should completely lock up the game. It means you have an endless supply of fogs—and if you have Blunt the Assault, also a repeated source of life. While your opponents might have outs to just repeated fogs, Dissipate and Beast Within should ensure they can't meddle in your affairs any further by either countering every single one of their spells or turning each of their permanents into a 3/3.
Jace, on the other hand, is just a one-of, but he serves as a way to speed up your route to victory. He can draw you an extra card each turn in a pinch and then deck your opponent with the draw-twenty, but more often he will just mill the opponent out. If you can just stall for three or four turns via fogs, the game should end thanks to his +0 ability.
With those updates noted, here's the final decklist:
If the mana for blue-green was better, I would definitely play four copies of Glimmerpost. Unfortunately, it is not—but if red burn is really prevalent in your metagame, you can give it a try to help you out.
What is each card in the sideboard for? Let's me run down each one.
Your Game 1 matchups are generally pretty good. After sideboarding, you need to be prepared, though, and catch-all answers go a long way there. Countermagic is generally a great fit for this kind of deck, and so Dissipate and Negate fill that role nicely. Your control matchups can become difficult if they have a bunch of answers for your game plan, but by piling on the countermagic you can deal with each of their threats in turn.
Jace, Memory Adept is to go on the "aggressive," usually against control decks. More on that below!
Birthing Pod is a matchup that can give us trouble because of chaining Acidic Slimes and shutting off our engine. I favor Grafdigger's Cage over Torpor Orb here; the Cage forces them to use any Ancient Grudges they have on it before targeting Atlas.
The fourth Beast Within just supplements the other three for when you really need to get rid of permanents.
Finally, Witchbane Orb is for red burn decks. Traditionally, burn decks have been horrendous matchups for Turbo-Fog because your fogs don't help you. However, with the Orb around, they can't burn you at all! That makes it easy for your fogs to hold off their creatures and to easily take down the match.
Now, for how to sideboard against each archetype!
-1 Noxious Revival
Game 1 against beatdown decks is usually very favorable for you. After sideboarding, things might get a little trickier depending on what your opponents have. If they're red-green, they will likely have Ancient Grudge to throw a wrench into your plans. I would generally keep your main deck nearly the same and then, if they force Game 3, sideboard cards in to fight whatever hate they had for you.
If they're mono-red, the game changes a little. Instead of doing the above recommendation, bring in all of your Witchbane Orbs over Beast Within and cut a Snapcaster for a Dissipate—this is the matchup Orb is for. If you can protect Orb and fog the board, they can't really beat you.
Hellrider is the scariest card out of beatdown decks in this matchup. Try and keep an answer to this available at all times, and keep in mind they might have Cavern of Souls, so countermagic is not always an answer. If necessary, you can bring in Witchbane Orb to shut it off, but still be wary of Ancient Grudge.
-3 Clinging Mists
-2 Blunt the Assault
+2 Jace, Memory Adept
Game 1 against control is generally a little favorable. The main cards to watch out for are counterspells on your card-drawing engine, Oblivion Ring, and discard spells. After sideboarding, they might be bringing in any more of those three elements to fight you with. Your plan? To outgun them on two of those three axes!
Jace, Memory Adept | Art by D. Alexander Gregory
After sideboarding, you can go "aggressive" with Jace and countermagic. Your goal is to set up your engine like usual but, since you don't have to stop early attacks with fogs, you overpower them with countermagic and Planeswalkers instead. They will likely only have four Mana Leaks and a couple Dissipates, so you want to set up your game plan to stick a Jace. Once you do that, you're just a couple +0s away from winning.
Depending on your hand, you can either fearlessly run Planeswalkers straight into countermagic or craft an elaborate plan with Jace and countermagic backup of your own. If your hand is heavy on Planeswalkers, force your opponent to answer each one, otherwise try to wait until you can safely land a Jace.
If they have Oblivion Rings, bring in the fourth Beast Within over an Elixir to answer them.
If control decks are popular in your area, you can also consider a sideboard Blue Sun's Zenith as a combination way to deck them out or get ahead on cards when necessary.
Ramp and Combo
-1 Blunt the Assault
-1 Elixir of Immortality
This is how you want to start sideboarding, but depending on the deck you will likely sideboard in some more cards.
Against Ramp, you can bring in your Negates over a couple fogs, a Tamiyo, and a Revival, then turn into a control deck. It is very hard for them to beat you if you can keep fogging and deal with Inferno Titan. They do have burn spells, but Negate and Dissipate should shut those down while your fogs, Tamiyos, and Beast Withins deal with their troublesome creatures.
Against Birthing Pod decks, you want to bring in all three Grafdigger's Cage and cut all three Snapcasters that the Cage makes useless. If it looks like they have a lot of ways to deal with Cage, you might also want the last Beast Within over a Tamiyo to help fight Birthing Pod.
Against Reanimator, you just want to make sure nothing terrible like Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur or a Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded -4 happens—it's very hard to lose to them otherwise. The vast majority of their reanimated creatures don't typically beat an army of fogs. Bring in that last Beast Within over a Tamiyo to deal with anything that actually threatens you, and bring in the Grafdigger's Cages over three Snapcaster Mages to reduce the impact of their Ancient Grudges and slow down their game plan.
I received a crazy amount of decklists this week—I'm glad to hear all of you are so excited about Standard! Here are some of the coolest decklists that just missed being selected.
Luke Paulsen's Torpor Orb Combo
Tim's Thrummingbird Midrange
Brendan Hurst's Primal Surge
Antônio Faillace's Griselbrand Combo
Jack Goldsmith's Curse of Knowledge
William Cole's Standard Storm
Jeff Van Egmond's Flicker Control
Mahdi Fozi's Miracle Infect
Going for a Planeswalk
As I write this, Pro Tour Avacyn Restored has yet to begin. Yet, by the time you read this, it will have been over for a couple days. Time tends to become a little wibbly-wobbly when you're a Magic writer.
Aboshan, Cephalid Emperor | Art by Christopher Moeller
Fortunately, next week's challenge doesn't require me to pose you any challenges based on the results of the Pro Tour. In fact, we're getting about as far away from the Pro Tour as you can get—it's Planechase 2012 preview week up next here on DailyMTG! And what better way to kick it off than with a perfect format to play Planechase in: Commander?
Deadline: Wednesday, May 16 at 6pm Pacific Time
Send all decklists via email by clicking the "Respond via Email" link at the bottom of this article
Tweaking a Commander deck has been the most common request so far, and I'm excited to have the opportunity to work on one! Whether your commander is Aboshan, Cephalid Emperor or Zur the Enchanter, all Commander decks are fair game.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to find me on Twitter (@GavinVerhey). Otherwise, I'm looking forward to seeing what crazy Commander decks you guys send in!
Until next week, may you successfully keep all of your friends.