here was a time, in the distant past, when people built decks entirely without the aid of the Internet. In fact, there was a time when people did everything without the aid of the Internet. I find this basically impossible to imagine—which is a little weird, considering that I can in fact remember it pretty clearly. (Still, though ... did I really read new cards for the first time in a printed magazine? It boggles the mind a bit.)
As the Internet took shape and Magic took root on sites like The Dojo, a controversy developed over the concept of "netdecking"—copying deck lists off the Internet. It all seems a little quaint in retrospect; these days, the vast majority of tournament players would never consider not using an existing deck list, at least as a starting point. But at that time, netdecking was viewed by some as a threat to the creativity that defined the game. Anybody can win with a winning deck copied off web; it takes a real Magic player to brew a winner from scratch.
Eventually, the increasing ubiquity of Internet service and the proliferation of sites devoted to Magic—like, oh, say, this one—rendered the whole discussion obsolete. Tournament Constructed Magic is now basically defined by the interplay of which popular decks will see play and how the popular lists will adapt to this changing metagame.
The issue has remained a little more contentious in casual play. If someone sits down to duel me at my local store or in the casual room on Magic Online with a 75-card copy of the latest winning Five-Color Control list, well, at least one of us probably isn't having much fun.
But when we're talking about multiplayer, tournament deck lists often don't even make a lot of sense. They have cards that focus on attacking one player's cards or life total that don't do as much in multiplayer. They also, of course, feature cards that you may or may not have. Some players go out and get the cards they need to build exactly the deck they want; I tend to build decks with what I've got out of a sense of high-minded laziness.
Sometimes I see a tournament deck that really excites me, and I want to build something like it for multiplayer. I don't, however, want to copy the deck list exactly. That would be boring, and I probably don't have all the cards anyway. It also might earn me the animosity of my fellow players.
When I "multiplayerize" a tournament deck, I try to identify what essential things I like about the deck, what elements are there because of tournament-specific concerns, which cards I'm lacking, and what sort of additions and substitutions I can make without changing the deck's core concept. Let's take Nicholas Gulledge's White-Blue "UrzaTron" deck from a recent PTQ, featured last week on Top Decks and see what changes when it goes through the Muliplayerizator.
Nicholas Gulledge's White-Blue 'Tron
Extended - 1st place, PTQ, Mobile AL
I love 'Tron decks. The combination of Urza's Mine, Urza's Tower, and Urza's Power Plant has helped some of my favorite ridiculously huge spells from Mirrodin block—Mindslaver and Sundering Titan in particular—see play in tournament Constructed. And even though, yeah, in practice Mindslaver never actually tends to control any turns—you build up to Mindslaver, Academy Ruins, and , and then your opponent concedes because you're going to play Mindslaver over and over until you deck them—still, just seeing it at tournament tables makes me smile.
What Does This Deck Do?
The whole point of this deck is to stay alive long enough (using white control spells)
to dig to your Urza's lands (using blue card-draw spells) so you can get one (or more) of each 'Tron piece in play, so you can play your gigantic silly kill spells (Mindslaver, Sundering Titan, Decree of Justice, etc.).
I found other versions that use Triskelavus, Platinum Angel, Exalted Angel, Eternal Dragon, Keiga, Draining Whelk, or even Commandeer in that "big silly stuff" slot. It almost doesn't matter—pick an expensive spell that most tournament decks would never even consider, then play it on turn five and smash them with it.
What's Going to Stay?
The Urza's lands are definitely in, of course (although there was a nearly identical deck at one point that used Cloudpost + Vesuva instead). Wrath of God (or similar) is essential to the deck's control package, and blue card draw and/or tutoring of some kind will be necessary to put the 'Tron together quickly.
The Kitchen Finks and Sower of Temptation in the sideboard both seem worth a look for the finished deck, as life gain and Control Magic effects both get better in multiplayer.
The Mindslaver "lock" isn't much fun for casual duels, but in multiplayer it isn't a lock at all. Mindslaver is hilarious in multiplayer, going from "Stop hitting yourself!" to "You two—fight to the death!" The "lock" just lets you do that over and over again, which seems strong but still fun. Sundering Titan is even better in multiplayer than in single-player, as you'll often be able to avoid targeting any of your own lands, so I'll probably keep that one, too.
What's Going to Go?
The 2 Chalice of the Void and 2 Engineered Explosives (with only two colors!) are great for current two-player competitive Extended—they wipe out aggressive five-color "Zoo" decks and especially the scarily fast aggro-combo Elves decks based around Heritage Druid and Nettle Sentinel (similar to the Elves deck I wrote about earlier this year). In casual, though, you usually find fewer cheap spells, and Chalice of the Void in particular is a downer card anyway.
I looked back at White-Blue 'Tron decks from before the Elves menace reared its head and found them using counterspells like Remand and Condescend. I'm a little leery of counterspells in multiplayer, but a few cheap ones to protect these giant spells I'm trying to play definitely couldn't hurt.
Chrome Mox makes the deck fast enough for Extended, but in multiplayer I'd rather have the extra card than the extra turn. Losing Chrome Mox makes the deck easier to put together; I'll probably want to substitute more lands and/or additional artifact mana.
The Multiplayerized Deck
I started with this skeleton:
1 Academy Ruins
2 Tolaria West
4 Urza's Mine
4 Urza's Power Plant
4 Urza's Tower
~7 dual lands
1 Sundering Titan
1 other big creature (without too much colored mana)
1 Crucible of Worlds
4 Azorius Signet
3 other lands / artifact mana
2 Decree of Justice (or other big X spell finisher)
4 Gifts Ungiven (or other big card draw)
4 Thirst for Knowledge (or other cheap card draw)
3 Oblivion Ring (or other spot removal)
3 Wrath of God (or other mass removal)
5 other cards
That's a pretty good start. Let's break it down a bit.
The dual lands will be based mostly on availability in my pool. I really want to keep the dual land count around where it was, although I don't think the specifics matter as much. I have two Hallowed Fountains and at least one Adarkar Wastes; I don't own any fetch lands at all, so Flooded Strand is out. I can fill out the rest as needed, although I'm biased against lands like Mystic Gate and Nimbus Maze that don't work as my only source of colored mana. If nothing else, I could do worse than Coastal Tower / Boreal Shelf / Arcane Sanctum.
I like Talisman of Progress in the artifact mana slot, although with Adarkar Wastes, I'll want to watch how much pain I'm taking. This deck will need to draw on its colored sources repeatedly, even with the four Signets. As it turns out, I don't have any Talismans of Progress (the only Talisman I lack, for whatever reason).
Looking at all those holes, I'm starting to think I might be better off losing the dual lands and using Wanderer's Twig, Wayfarer's Bauble, Armillary Sphere, Traumatic Visions, and a suite of basic lands.
The Big Time
In the creature department, I'd like a more durable complement to Sundering Titan. I'm torn between the indestructible Darksteel Colossus, the shroudy Inkwell Leviathan, and the board-impacting Kederekt Leviathan. Inkwell Leviathan's the only one of those that can come back via Academy Ruins, which might earn it the nod; we'll see how many slots I end up having (and how rough that double blue is going to be). I am also a fan of Arbiter of Knollridge, even if it's not as huge; the life reset is often excellent, especially as this deck is likely to take a pounding early.
I only own one Gifts Ungiven and two Thirst for Knowledge, so I'm going to have to look for substitutes. Courier's Capsule, however, can be activated at instant speed, maintains the artifact count for those two Thirsts, and can be recurred with Academy Ruins in a pinch. Beyond that, Compulsive Research and Catalog are the closest analogues to Thirst for Knowledge, Foresee can dig up to six cards deep, and Covenant of Minds is good both for mind games and for politics ("Whew, I need a Wrath to stop Laura's Kithkin horde. Tom, would you do the honors?"). Kiss of the Amesha isn't great for digging to the 'Tron, but might be good to refuel later in the game. On the other end of the spectrum, Ponder is a pretty good option for cheap card selection.
As I said, a few spot counters could go a long way toward protecting my big spells. For that role, Remand, Negate, and Lapse of Certainty are looking pretty good. I'm also considering Overrule, which doesn't dig like Condescend does but will potentially gain me a huge amount of life post-'Tron.
I only own one Wrath (strange but true), so that's another place I'll have to substitute. Looking over the cards I own, Martial Coup (as Mike points out in the article I linked earlier) seems like a great fit here. Of course, with seven mana needed to Wrath, it ends up looking more like Decree of Justice than Wrath of God, so we'll see. Austere Command is a little expensive, but I like the flexibility, and Scourglass is a "Wrath" that leaves all of my permanents—except Oblivion Ring—alone. In light of that, I'll probably bring in Faith's Fetters for O. Ring.
For spot removal, Path to Exile (which Mike also recommends) is a great addition; we'll see how many Oblivion Rings / Faith's Fetters it can unseat.
Putting all that together, and based pretty heavily on the idiosyncrasies of my collection, here's the deck list I came up with:
I haven't played with this deck yet, so we'll see what happens. I'm a little skeptical of the mana base, but if all goes well, the deck should be 'Tron-flavored fun that doesn't make anybody reach for their Fulminator Mages.
Expect a full report later!
While I was tinkering with this deck, it occurred to me that I could build a pretty cool green-white 'Tron deck based around Conflux's Knight of the Reliquary and a few similar cards like Reap and Sow. White is still your control color while green gets the 'Tron, draws cards, and potentially allows extra land drops from cards such as Rites of Flourishing. As soon as I have a few copies of Knight of the Reliquary, I do believe I'll try that out.
Meanwhile, though, there are some other tournament decks that have caught my eye. In Standard, I have a particular fondness for Red-White Tokens, a.k.a. Red-White Heights, alias Red-White Reveillark, also known as "Boat Brew." Here's a pretty good example from before Conflux was released:
Aaron Nicastri's Red-White Heights
Standard - Worlds 2008
The key thing I like about this deck is something it shares with the similar Black-White Tokens deck and some pre-Shards Kithkin decks: the neat little combo between Windbrisk Heights and Spectral Procession. You're hoping to stick Windbrisk Heights on turn one or two, make three tokens on turn three, and attack with them on turn four, slamming something nasty into play from under the Heights with mana to spare.
I was planning to build something around the Windbrisk Heights / Spectral Procession engine, whatever the colors ended up being, but I hit a snag when I discovered that my imagined panoply of Windbrisk Heights boiled down to ... one. I can't figure this out; I distinctly recall at least three of them at some point. Anyway, that'll have to wait, but I'm still thinking about it.
At a glance, the list above could lose Guttural Response and Burrenton Forge-Tender, which are adaptations to specific decks, and without the Forge-Tender to search for, Ranger of Eos looks a little less exciting. It's a red-white deck, so I might not be able to resist cramming in Bull Cerodon; Nobilis of War also seems hilarious with the token theme. I'm also tempted to crib the Mirrorweave from the earlier Kithkin builds. They copied Thistledown Liege, but copying Nobilis of War is pretty good too.
Wait For It
So what about you? Do you ever check out tournament decks for inspiration? If yes, what decks have caught your fancy recently? If no, is that personal preference, or will bringing a deck that looks like a tournament deck earn you dirty looks from your friends? Just curious!
Oh, one other, totally unrelated thing: I don't usually do these, but I've got a poll I'd like you to take. It might look familiar to some of you. Don't worry about that—just answer honestly, and I'll see you next week!
What is your favorite Conflux rare?