he machinations of Ravnica are in place. The maze is being run. The mysterious wonders of the Implicit Maze are upon us.
It's time to do something a little... Weird.
I received a slew of exciting original decklists in my inbox this week, but none tickled my fancy quite like the submission from Brandon Crawford. Much like the last Weird-related combo deck to show up in my inbox, this concept grabbed me and just didn't let go. I kept thinking about it long after I had shut off my computer. It's's just crazy enough it might work...
Ready to see what we're going to be working with today? Let's take a look!
Brandon Crawford's Old Maniac Melek
The Battle Plan
What in Niv-Mizzet's name is going on here?!
Let me break it down.
Melek, Izzet Paragon is one of my favorite cards in Dragon's Maze. In fact, I built so many absurd decks with it internally that it's "my fault" it costs six mana instead of five. But this deck takes the tricks Melek can pull to a whole new level.
While Melek is in play, you play with the top card of your library revealed and can not only cast that spell, but copy it. In conjunction with a deck full of one- and two-mana draw spells, you can rip through your deck at lightning pace, as each Thought Scour mills you for four cards and draws you two and each Desperate Ravings adds two more cards into your hand. Furthermore, you can even cast instant-speed cards between the copies resolving, helping you hit spells over and over.
Now, normally, just churning through your deck quickly wouldn't get you very far. You end up with a lot of things happening... but the end result doesn't actually get you that far ahead.
Enter Laboratory Maniac.
Suddenly, moving card after card out of your deck seems a lot more interesting.
Weird? Indeed! Crazy? Absolutely. Fun? Definitely!
Let's see what changes we can make.
What is working in this deck and what deserves to hit the maze showers? Let's discuss each card individually to see what can be tweaked.
Melek is one of the key cards of this deck. While His Weirdness is a legendary creature, he's so crucial to this deck's game plan that playing four is absolutely correct. Plus, with cards like Desperate Ravings, you want to have plenty around so you can cast them without fear.
One crucial thing to keep in mind with Melek in this deck is that each copy resolves separately. For example, let's say the top card of your library is a Think Twice. You cast it, revealing a land. Then the copy of Think Twice resolves, drawing you that land and revealing, say, a Thought Scour.
Now, normally that would mean you're going to draw that Thought Scour next... but in this case, you can cast Thought Scour (and copy it!) before the original Think Twice resolves. That Thought Scour will likely uncover even more cards, allowing you to cast more spells. It's a neat little trick with Melek—and one that is definitely vital for this deck. Keep it in mind.
The Laboratory Maniac is another one of the key cards in this deck. We definitely want to play some of them. The question to ask ourselves here is how many is the right number, and do we want to supplement this strategy at all?
When I was studying creative writing in college, one professor told me something that has always stuck with me. He said, "A good story always has at least two different plots." I believe deck building is similar. It's important you have multiple avenues of attack, multiple "plots" in the story arc of your game.
What does this mean? Well, I would love something to support the plan of simply going insane and Maniacing your opponent out for victory. That can be a solid plan going long—but I want another avenue of attack. Fortunately, Melek plays into another strategy quite well: burn.
Not only do burn spells provide some much-needed creature control, but doubling up on a simple card like Searing Spear suddenly sends 6 points of damage at your opponent's noggin. It only takes a few plays like that to reduce your opponent's life total to 0—or reduce your opponent's board presence to ashes so you can work toward your Maniac victory.
Why do I bring all of this up now? Well, another three-mana 2/2 counterpart that fits well into this strategy is Guttersnipe! When you're easily chaining four or more spells together in a single turn, a Guttersnipe can quickly send a sliver of ice through your opponent's heart. Maniac doesn't do anything until the very end of the game, so you don't need a bunch of them: I'm going to add a couple Guttersnipes for a more proactive card to cast in that spot.
On the surface, Goblin Electromancer fits into this deck perfectly. However, with some of the more burn-centric modifications I'll be cutting some of the more expensive spells. While it's nice getting a discount on Desperate Ravings and Think Twice for when you're going off, the spell suite I'm looking at has several cards that the Electromancer won't help with. Additionally, I really want to keep a critical mass of spells in this deck so Melek hits as often as possible.
While Goblin Electromancer certainly isn't bad in this deck, every card you play in your deck comes at the cost of another card you could be playing, instead. I'd rather have other spells over this little guy.
The Card Drawing
Let's take a moment to go over the four pieces of card drawing this deck plays: Faithless Looting, Desperate Ravings, Thought Scour, and Think Twice.
Thought Scour is definitely a four-of staple in a deck like this. On its own, Scour is a "cantrip" (a card that draws you one more card) that digs you three cards deeper into your deck for the purposes of Laboratory Maniac. With a Melek on the battlefield, it helps you skim past dead cards—as well as being fantastic on top of your deck. It also fuels your graveyard-based spells—like Think Twice and Desperate Ravings.
Out of those two cards, Desperate Ravings definitely is the one I'm more excited about. It puts you one card deeper into your deck than Think Twice does, which can make a big difference when several copies are resolving over the course of the game.
Think Twice doesn't excite me nearly as much, but it's still a perfectly reasonable card to play. It's not that exciting, comparatively, with a Melek on the battlefield, but it still helps smooth out your draws early on—and drawing two cards for two mana with Melek is still plenty reasonable. You could certainly make an argument for Forbidden Alchemy since it dumps cards into your graveyard, although I think it's slightly behind Think Twice without splashing black. (Although if you were to try a version splashing black, I would definitely run the full set of Forbidden Alchemy.) This deck can probably shave a Think Twice or two, but I wouldn't want to cut it entirely.
Finally, Faithless Looting is a marvelous card for this deck. It flashes back if you Thought Scour it away, helps you find the cards you need, and gives you massive card quality. Sign me up for all four.
The strategy Brandon employed here to stay alive was to use a bunch of blue Fog-style cards to buy time while he churned through his deck. Downsize, Cyclonic Rift, and Blustersquall all played toward this goal.
While that is an original plan and has a solid dose of ingenuity, it's going to be difficult to actually chain together enough protection spells to protect you over the several turns you're going to be setting up for your combo finish. Instead, I'd rather do things a more traditional way: with some burn spells.
There are four cards that leap to mind to play with here.
The first is simple but effective: Searing Spear. For two mana, it can clear a lot of your opponent's early game threats off the board. Later on, while you're setting up to win, Melek can help you cast it to slice your opponent's life total by 6.
The second is Izzet Charm. While this can't target your opponent, the versatility more than makes up for it. First of all, it also lets you draw two cards and then discard two cards, moving you further toward the goal of finding Laboratory Maniac. It also provides a bit of protection, allowing you to constrain your opponent's ability to cast problematic noncreature spells. I don't want a ton of these in addition to the other spells I'm already adding since they also deal with creatures for two mana, but I'd like a couple of them.
The third card to add in is Bonfire of the Damned. Now, your first thought might be, "But wait, Gavin! That doesn't work with Melek." And you're technically right. But think about it for a moment. First of all, if a Bonfire is on top of your deck, I'd say that's a pretty good place for it to be anyway.
Second of all, the way the math works out, a Bonfire of the Damned copied off of Melek is nearly the same as a miracled Bonfire! If you tap five mana for a Bonfire to cast off of the top of your library, then, when the dust has settled, you're Bonfiring for four. And to top it off, the "two" Bonfires means it would take two Frontline Medics for your opponent to deal with it. Sign me up for three!
Finally, the last card I'd like to play some of is Mizzium Mortars. I only want a few because it's not always good off of Melek, but I'd like to have some way to sweep my opponent's board along with Bonfire of the Damned. The fact that it's a good early game removal spell as well makes it very flexible.
To round out the deck, the last card I really want to play the full four copies of is Temporal Mastery. When you cast it off a Melek, Izzet Paragon it's absolutely crazy, giving you a Time Stretch. Even early on, it can push you ahead on land drops and help ramp toward playing your Weird six-drop. With all of the card filtering you have, you can dump the ones you draw fairly easily. In the late game, it can enable you to absolutely take over with two turns in a row. And, if nothing else, it's a ton of fun!
So, what does the deck look like with all of those changes made? Well, it ends up a little something like this:
Gavin Verhey's Miracle Melek Madness
This is the kind of fun, crazy deck that would make the Izzet guild proud! With Dragon's Maze releasing this weekend, find some copies of Melek and get ready for your local event. This deck will definitely surprise some people.
Melek is one of the most fun cards I've played with in a long time, and if you love Future Sight you'll probably love this Weird Wizard as well. Give him a try!
What were some of the other post-Dragon's Maze decks that caught my eye? Let's take a look!
Wataru Hirakawa's Dragon Which Flies Away
Tibalt Adson's Lavinia Blink
Takahashi Kazuyasu's Jund
Nishiura Natsu's Look Out Exava!
Johnnie Alexandro's Bred for the Hunt
Kira D'Amour's Four's a Crowd
Mark Ian Alloso's Parallel Tokens
Milos Gvozdenovic's Master of Cruelties
A Block in the Maze
In two weeks, we'll be just shy of Pro Tour Dragon's Maze and the crazy Return to Ravnica Block format! If you've been following the online results, then you know this is quite an intriguing format—and Dragon's Maze will only push the direction of decks even further. With the Pro Tour right around the corner, we'll spend that week looking at a competitive deck you could potentially bring to the Pro Tour!
Return to Ravnica Block Constructed
Restrictions: Your deck should be aimed at being competitive. (It will be tweaked with an eye toward the Pro Tour.)
Deadline: Sunday, May 5, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time
Submit all decklists by clicking on "respond via email" below. Please submit decklists using the following template. (You do not need to adhere to the specific numbers below, but it's just how a general decklist should look when laid out.)
Return to Ravnica Block
4 Other Spell
4 Other Spell
If you don't know what's popular in Return to Ravnica Block Constructed, I recommend checking out www.mtgonline.com and taking a look at some of the online events. That should give you a fairly good idea of what to expect.
Hopefully, you all enjoyed this new take on Standard! I'll be back next week with a look at Modern, just in time for Grand Prix Portland. In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to send me a tweet or an email and I'll be sure to take a look at it.
Until next week, don't be afraid to be a little Weird when you need to. Have fun!
When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he wanted a job making Magic cards. Ten years later, his dream was realized as his combined success as a professional player, deck builder, and writer brought him into Wizards R&D during 2011. He's been writing Magic articles since 2005 and has no plans to stop.