Welcome to Mimic Week! All this week on magicthegathering.com, the regular columns will appear as usual… but with a twist. Your eight regular writers, plus at least two guest authors who've written for the site before, are hiding in the ten regular column slots—maybe even their own—under a clever pseudonym: The Mimic! Can you figure out who actually wrote each article? Tune in Monday, July 28 for the answers!
ello everyone, and welcome back to Building on a Budget, the column dedicated to building decks that cost 30 tickets or less on Magic Online. For this one I wanted to take a crack at a card that allows for some crazy board positions, interesting play decisions, and the chance to play control with a little combo thrown in. I had no idea what deck I wanted to end up with, all I knew was that I wanted to use this little gem:
In the casual room, where creature decks are your meat and potatoes, budget mass removal options can be tough to come by, which is why control can often be difficult to pull off. Blowfly Infestation is one of those cards that doesn’t look like much at first, but get it in play with the right friends and everything changes. In particular, since I was going for a -1/-1 theme, I knew I wanted to pair this card with another Shadowmoor uncommon that hasn’t gotten much love yet:
My hope was that in a deck with lots of -1/-1 effects I’d be able to keep creature decks in check long enough to continue building to some kind of overwhelming board position. Looking at the other -1/-1 effects available and sticking to black-green, several paths opened up. With wither I had the option to make even normal damage trigger my enchantments, and with persist I could bring creatures into play with -1/-1 counters to set things off. Finally, there were also creatures like Chainbreaker and Grim Poppet that show up to the party already stocked with -1/-1 counters.
I went through all the options available and ended up settling on a theme of using cards that create or start with -1/-1 counters, plus some tries at ways to take advantage of that theme. Even after trying to narrow the focus down I still had a lot of options so I threw the following first-draft together to see what worked and what didn’t.
Blowfly, Don't Bother Me, Version 1
With so many five-drops (and higher), I knew I’d want plenty of mana. In the end I decided to go with 22 land plus 8 cheap accelerators for a total of 30 mana sources. Fate Transfer was a card I’d always been interested in but never found a home for, and it looked like lots of fun in this deck. After checking to make sure Dusk Urchins were relatively easy to acquire, I added those as well in order to give the deck some card drawing while also pushing the -1/-1 theme. Finally, because I was worried the Infestations might just lead to the whole world getting blown up repeatedly, I decided to add a couple Treetop Villages to give some staying power if the board got too hostile for regular creatures. With four Expanses I didn’t want to go too crazy on “comes into play tapped” lands, though, particularly since the Villages aren’t as easy to get as some of the other cards in the deck.
I seriously considered Devoted Druid instead of Wall of Roots, but I was worried the deck might be slow enough that I’d need the extra blocking. In addition to their looking fragile I was concerned I just wouldn’t get as much use out of the Druids unless I was already set up with the enchantments, but I figured I’d watch how the Walls did and see which looked better. (Wall of Roots also looked better with Fate Transfer.) The four one-of creatures in the deck each looked potentially interesting, but I needed to see them in action before I knew where to go from here. Time to play!
(Sorry, opponents’ names withheld to protect The Mimic’s identity!)
Going first against an opponent playing out various dual lands and Coldsteel Heart to quickly set up all five colors, I get Wall of Roots plus two Dusk Urchins. A Redcap murders the first blocker and then next turn he plays Aven Riftwatcher. My first play with Fate Transfer pegs the awesome meter as I move all the Riftwatcher’s time counters to one of my Dusk Urchins, wiping the Riftwatcher from the board in the process due to vanishing and no time counters not getting along well. My opponent pauses a moment and then hits the concede button before I get to swing in with a swarm that’s also threatening to draw me a whole fist of cards when they’re done. He’s nice enough to chat a bit about my deck first. It looks like we’re off to a great start.
Wall of Roots, Fate Transfer, Blowfly Infestation, Chainbreaker, and three lands. What an opening hand! A timely Wall of Roots shows up against a suspended Greater Gargadon from my opponent’s blue-red deck. I decide to go with the Blowfly Infestation to test for a counterspell just in case, but it resolves. Next up I run the freshly drawn Flourishing Defenses into all that open mana, and it resolves too.
A Mogg Fanatic on his side makes things complicated but I decide to go for it and play out a Chainbreaker with Fate Transfer mana up, gaining two tokens in the process. He swings in, I block with an Elf Warrior, damage goes on the stack, he sacs Mogg Fanatic to kill Chainbreaker, and I Fate Transfer Chainbreaker to the doomed Elf, but it turns out he has Incinerate for the Chainbreaker in response. Not ideal, but still not terrible. A whole screenfull of triggers go on the stack and when all is said and done I stack the final Blowfly Infestation so that it occurs on my now empty board, clearing the way for the final two Defenses tokens to enter safely. Note to self: stacking Blowfly Infestation and Flourishing Defenses correctly is crucial!
Next I have another Dusk Urchins, and now my opponent’s life is dropping pretty quickly. He plays out Mutavault to get a blocker but I send in the team anyway after playing out another Chainbreaker for two more tokens. As soon as he activates the Mutavault I use Fate Transfer #2 in combination with my new Chainbreaker to knock it out of the way, and since the now (temporarily) living Mutavault has summoning sickness, my opponent can’t use its mana to counter my Transfer. Mutavault hits the graveyard (giving me two more Elf Warriors in the process for good measure), and I get to put the blowfly token from Mutavault dying on my Dusk Urchin. My Urchin dying sends numerous cards to my hand, not to mention giving me another Elf Warrior token, at which point my opponent conceded quickly after some very nice compliments on how original my deck was. Thanks!
Despite the fun I’m noticing some issues, but I want to give the deck a chance to breathe before messing with it too much, particularly when there are so many wacky cards and interactions I haven’t played with before. So, I decide I’m going to stick to the great JMS rule and leave the deck alone until I’ve completed my full five games. (Guess you know I’m not JMS!)
Facing Llanowar Elves into Kitchen Finks, I get Treetop Village and then Wall of Roots into Search for Tomorrow.
Down comes a third Forest
and in comes the opposing team. I think a bit and decide to take the damage just in case he has a trick so I can keep my Wall for Fate Transfer
later, particularly so I can get the needed extra mana going in the meantime. I play a Dusk Urchins
and pass it back. Primal Command
sends my Treetop Village
back to the top of my deck (ouch!), and my opponent searches up a Gargadon with only green mana up.
I Search for Tomorrow, play out mana source number five, and drop Kulrath Knight into play. With Serrated Arrows and Incremental Blight and Fate Transfer in hand I feel like I’ve got a great control board so I keep the Urchins back on D. Makes sense yes? Remember that Gargadon my opponent couldn’t play? That probably should have clued me in that he might have Firespout, duh. Hello overextend, I deserved that.
It gets worse. A couple turns later I have a second Urchins holding off his Finks (Ouphe wars!), but the Gargadon is ticking down and I really don’t have any good answers to it once it goes off if I don’t have a way to generate lots of chumps. My opponent plays a Murderous Redcap, and I totally blow it by misclicking my last Serrated Arrows token onto his Redcap instead of onto my own Dusk Urchins so that I can then use that counter plus a Fate Transfer from his Finks to my Dusk Urchins to start digging for answers. Instead I point the arrow at the Redcap, and he correctly sacs it to his Gargadon in response. When it comes back, my Urchins is dead, and for the second time I haven’t drawn any cards off of it because of a mistake. My deck gives me the blank I deserve, and this one’s over. I’ll take a loss I deserve any day though. This one I was outplayed plain and simple, and the better player took it home.
Record: 2-1 (Sorry deck, my bad!)
This one starts with two Terramorphic Expanses in a row, and then I draw a Treetop Village in addition. But my opponent is stuck on with a Sootstoke Kindler so I’ve got some time. I get Urchins out, my opponent plays Springleaf Drum, and I draw the other Treetop Village. Fortunately I have Blowfly Infestation to prepare the control game and pass the turn back. He answers with a Ceaseless Searblades.
I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and hope with everything I’ve got. Peeling one eye open to see what I’ve drawn, I’m greeted with the fifth mana source I needed so badly, allowing a great Incremental Blight for one on his 1/1, two on his 2/4, and three on my Dusk Urchins. I get to use Blowfly Infestation to wipe the board, and I get to draw four cards in the process!
Nice peel me!
Now that he’s got his mana, he’s ready to start getting all those cards out. He plays Inner-Flame Igniter, and I figure this is my chance and go for Flourishing Defenses while I’ve got enough life to hopefully live through the turn. He adds another Igniter to his side, and I go for expanding my board again, playing a second Defenses plus Wall of Roots, hoping to be in great shape if I just untap, and it’s looking pretty good that I’ll get to do just that. He just has Manaforge Cinder (cool combo with the Searblades!). A swing and I’m at a decent-feeling 14, then he plays Igniter #3 and I get to breathe a sigh of relief as I get the turn back. Using up all my mana I play a second Blowfly Infestation and then Serrated Arrows. One ridiculous arrowhead counter gets removed and, after a hail of triggers, the board looks like this:
Not bad for one arrow!
My opponent gets to play first and opens with Forest and Springleaf Drum. I’m a little slower to start with Terramorphic Expanse, but I’ve got Wall of Roots and two Search for Tomorrow to get things rolling after that so hopefully my opponent doesn’t come out too fast. Then again, a deck with Springleaf Drum is probably going to be a decent match-up for my deck if it means lots of little guys.
My opponent follows up with Treefolk Harbinger and then uses the drum to play Rampant Growth, choosing to accelerate his mana rather than go for searching (since the Rampant Growth shuffles his card back into the deck.) My turn goes as expected as a Wall of Roots and suspended search hit the table, but I’m getting nervous when a Hunting Wilds sends my opponent’s mana skyward. Maybe that Drum isn’t for little guys. My fears are answered when a very scary Dauntless Dourbark shows up as 8/8, then drums to Rampant Growth itself to 9/9. Yikes!
I amuse myself by picturing a 9/9 playing that little drum while my second Search for Tomorrow gets land #4, then play out Serrated Arrows and hope there will be a tomorrow. (How sick would Fatal Frenzy be here? Granted, that takes one non-Forest, but still!) “Fortunately,” my opponent drops me to half my life total in one swing and then passes the turn back with just one card in hand. Now feeling much better I get to untap and play out Kulrath Knight, dropping another great arrowhead counter, this time to keep myself alive against a massive beater.
My opponent plays a smaller tree, but this time I have Chainbreaker plus Fate Transfer to wipe it out, keeping my precious arrows for the really big guys. Next is Double Blowfly Infestation when my opponent plays a Timber Protector. From here the Dusk Urchins, Kulrath Knight, and Chainbreaker go all the way as his creatures get locked down. My opponent has the Boom / /Bust + Timber Protector combo, but I’m all set just with what’s on the board to hold the fort. The lesson is that Kulrath Knight is just amazing in this deck against decks that don’t (or can’t) manage to remove it.
Now that I’ve got some games under my belt I have a much better feel for what’s working. First off, it’s clear that the core idea of Blowfly Infestation, Fate Transfer, and Flourishing Defenses is working great, to the point that I want to lean even more on those cards. The most pleasant surprise is Fate Transfer, which turns out to be a riot. It is often surprisingly powerful, and even when it’s terrible or outright dead in my hand I don’t care because of the funny stuff that happens when I do get to use it. It turns out to be a great trick, fits my theme, and continues to surprise me with all the wacky ways it works. Going to four of those means I’m definitely adding another Chainbreaker as well. Playing these out early, blocking something coming in, and then using Fate Transfer to grow my guy while wiping out two opposing creatures is great. Also great in this deck is Dusk Urchins. Like Fate Transfer (and in combination with it), they sit right in the middle of all the deck’s synergies, and in this case they also provide fantastic blockers so I can get set up and draw cards.
is also working out great. One of the few ways to deal with massive monsters quickly if needed, it’s incredible against decks that are lighter on removal. What I hadn’t thought about the first time around is that those are the same decks that are often likely to have the massive guys I otherwise have trouble with. A fun bonus is that Kulrath Knight
counters, so thanks to Fate Transfer
tricks, you can throw Wall of Roots
counters around, move vanishing counters off bad guys to other bad guys that don’t have vanishing so they stay locked down, lock down +1+1 counter guys all on their own, and the list goes on. At 3/3 for five it’s vulnerable to certain removal, but if it sticks it shuts the whole opposing board down. Finally, it curves perfectly by surprise-striking out of nowhere turn five after a Serrated Arrows
comes out turn four, allowing me to essentially lock down two creatures the turn it comes out plus any other shenanigans the deck’s series of synergies allow. That’s exactly the kind of time gain I’m looking for with this deck.
Along those lines it’s also definitely time to go to four Serrated Arrows. They are incredible in this deck, and the Redcaps aren’t working out as well as I hoped. In fact, persist in general turns out to be okay, but not amazing the way some of the other engine cards are working together. Grief Tyrant turns out to not be as good as I thought because the scenario where Blowfly gets going nuts is the scenario where everything just gets wiped out anyway. So, time for another Poppet instead, which looks to be just as outstanding in this deck as I hoped. They’re also great with Kulrath and the Fate Transfer engine (worst band name ever?).
Other cards I was initially wrong on: with one dramatic exception, Incremental Blight has been a dead draw. Another disappointment has been Scarscale Ritual. It isn’t working as I’d hoped, partly because I need to balance tempo and control. Every now and then it looks like it could be fantastic, but often I have trouble keeping creatures in play, and this doesn’t help. For now I’m keeping the singleton Witherscale Wurm to see what happens when I draw it.
Lastly, the deck’s curve means I need even more mana than I originally thought (even with all that acceleration), and the Treetop Villages aren’t working out well enough to make up for coming into play tapped in a deck that already has four Terramorphic Expanse. Time to focus the engine and trust in that to get the job done.
Blowfly, Don't Bother Me, Version 2
Other things to watch: the Blowfly engine often leads to situations where the board can just Wrath itself, sometimes at bad times if my opponent has the right answer at the right time. Related but more positive, there are often opportunities for arbitrarily large loops with this version, particularly once Blowfly and Flourishing Defenses are in play together or once multiples start firing. Currently I have some ways to go nuts with this, but nothing that benefits specifically from being able to create an arbitrarily large number of creatures that immediately die. So, either for this deck down the road or a different version, it’s worth keeping in mind things like Essence Warden so I can go huge on life, or perhaps a combo based on graveyard triggers.
The deck is a blast to play and leads to scenarios that are fun even if I’m losing, and that’s the point in the first place. Also, so far I’ve only received positive comments from my opponents, most of whom think the deck is amusing, and even when the crazy stuff happens like massive Elf Warrior armies out of nowhere, I’ve had positive reactions from my opponents, even when they concede. It’s a personal taste thing, but if I’m in the casual room my main goal is fun and if I can pull that off while entertaining my opponent at the same time, that’s ideal. As I said above, a lot of these scenarios are so cool I don’t even care if I lose. But I’ll admit, winning is fun too!
Back to the trenches!
Time to face Satans Hammer (I have to give you at least one opponent’s name, right?). As you can guess from the name, Satans Hammer was a very friendly opponent with a black-red Goblins deck. I’m on the play and have a great hand of Blowfly Infestation, Search for Tomorrow, Serrated Arrows, and four lands. A little mana-heavy, but I’ll take it.
I open with Blowfly turn three after a couple of Goblins from Satans Hammer. He answers with Boggart Shenanigans
, which could get really
painful since my plan seems to be wiping out everything that moves (often even my own guys). I think a bit and decide to run out Kulrath Knight
rather than Serrated Arrows
so I don’t tip my hand as much. He goes for Marsh Flitter
, and I get to play the Serrated Arrows
, hit the Faerie, chain that into wiping out both Goblins (woohoo!), and end with a counter for my Kulrath Knight
, who swings over for 2.
Next is Boggart Shenanigans #2, which is starting to get scary. However, I’ve got a big trump in hand with Grim Poppet. I decide to hold it for now to see what he does and wait for a target if I need one because with Double Shenanigans I’m probably going to have to get the most out of every card I’ve got. He lays out some creatures but over the next couple turns I am able to use Grim Poppet to mow down anything that dares show, since every counter I put on a 1-toughness guy just reloads the Poppet, which is just as nasty as I’d hoped.
At this point I’m taking 2 points a turn but I’m dealing damage too, so the race looks decent. Eventually he gets out a Mad Auntie and I get to go for a new plan, putting just one counter on the Auntie so that now it has to stay still but pumps his other Goblins so that I can put counters on them to lock them down without having to worry about actually killing them and taking double Shenanigans damage each time. He does manage to get a ton of little creatures out, but I’m able to keep things contained. A second Knight speeds up my clock, and a Fate Transfer allows me to grow a fresh Chainbreaker and point the counters at a new creature on his side. Down goes his creature, and I get to use the counter from that dying Goblin to reload my Grim Poppet, which promptly locks down the final blocker, allowing me to come in for the win. Go Poppet!
Facing black-green elves I’m on the draw and up against Forest / Llanowar Elves into Wren’s Run Vanquisher revealing Imperious Perfect. Yikes! For my side it’s Wall of Roots followed by Serrated Arrows on the Llanowar, 4 damage when the Perfect comes down, and then Arrows #2 to take down the Perfect. In comes the Vanquisher to put me at 13, but then my opponent passes the turn with plenty of cards and mana open. I make a guess that it’s Gilt-Leaf Ambush, but the good guess doesn’t help any since I didn’t have any attackers anyway. I play Dusk Urchins instead and choose to keep a land on top when the Ambush hits, preparing for all the spells I need to get out of my hand.
Vanquisher comes in, and I get to trade the Urchins with it. I’ve stabilized the board, and then a Flourishing Defenses means I’m ready to go nuts. Two Chainbreakers join the party to make four Elf Warrior tokens (wheee!), another Dusk Urchins helps hold the fort, and then Witherscale Wurm at last makes an appearance. With Fate Transfer in hand and Flourishing Defenses on the board this one’s over quickly thereafter, and a Kulrath Knight helps ensure that I’m not falling to any surprise Overrun before I’m done putting it away. Witherscale Wurm turns out to be way more than I need, but swinging in with it on a board like this is so much fun I don’t care.
This time I’m on the draw facing a red-black deck. I have a very promising opening hand of double Flourishing Defenses, mana, and a very saucy-looking Grim Poppet. Unfortunately, on the third turn I get hit by a Mind Rot and decide I need to toss the Poppet given how slow my draw looks otherwise. By what I’ve seen so far I figure I’m facing some kind of control deck, in which case getting the two Defenses is probably my best shot at having a solid long game. Both Defenses do indeed come down, but when I play out an Arrows it meets a surprising Smash. Fortunately I’m able to shoot an arrow into my Wall of Roots to make two Elf Warriors off my Defenses. Next up is a Chainbreaker, which makes a very nice four tokens, and then a Fate Transfer at the end of his turn puts it away, insta-growing my Chainbreaker, and making four more Elf Warriors in the process by moving the counters over to a Wall of Roots that’s more than happy to take one for my team. Or at least that’s what I think it said.
This one I simply get blown out. My opponent opens with Flamekin Bladewhirl, Smokebraider, Shared Animosity, and Flamekin Harbinger getting Incandescent Soulstoke. On my end I have a Search for Tomorrow followed by Blowfly Infestation. My turn-four Kulrath Knight eats a Remove Soul from my opponent’s remaining two mana, and that’s definitely that.
Facing that kind of draw going second with this deck I certainly don’t mind losing. A Wall of Roots or Dusk Urchins a turn earlier would have bought some time, and a Serrated Arrows would have wiped his entire board if I’d had it since my opponent confirmed he didn’t have a Rune Snag (just Remove Soul), but that’s part of the power of aggro decks like my opponent’s here. A fantastic opening that needed oven mitts to hold meant I had to have the answer right away. I didn’t, and that’s how it goes. It’s also one of the neat things about this deck. Sure, I got blown out, but I had some outs and there were still some fun things the deck could have pulled off. If that’s still possible facing a draw like this, I can’t ask much more of a casual deck, can I?
For my final game I’m facing blue-white control on the draw. I have a solid start with Wall of Roots and Dusk Urchins followed by double Flourishing Defenses. I don’t get to live the dream with Urchins + double Defenses though as an Oblivion Ring shuts down that awesome sickness after an Aven Riftwatcher adds some life for my opponent. From here things start to go downhill as he plays Mulldrifter, then another Mulldrifter, and then a Clone on Mulldrifter.
A Serrated Arrows
means I’m making tokens and buying some time, but my opponent has a whole fist of cards and looks pretty darn established at this point. I’m not giving up that easily though. Testing for countermagic wherever I can, I at last manage to get a Dusk Urchins
into play and swinging, making two tokens a turn in the process, and when the time comes for it to die in combat I add another -1/-1 counter to the Urchin with Serrated Arrows
so that I get to make two more tokens and draw a total of three cards. This draws me into a Grim Poppet
Facing an opponent that has drawn half their deck at this point there’s really no choice but to go all in and play the Poppet. I wipe out everything on his side of the board, reloading the poppet each time with counters thanks to Blowfly Infestation while making tokens two at a time in the process! At this point I’ve got the ability to make as many Elf Warrior tokens as I want since I can just point the Poppet at an Elf Warrior token, have it die, put the Blowfly Infestation counter back on the Poppet, and add two more Elves to my board in the process.
I pass the turn to my opponent and just have to hope he doesn’t have a Wrath of God. He does indeed have the Wrath, and my whole board goes to the ‘yard. Given how many cards he drew that’s certainly reasonable. Galepowder Mage plus a ton of nasty “comes into play” effects on my opponent’s side puts it quickly away.
I lost this game, but both of us got a chuckle out of Grim Poppet and Dusk Urchins getting their Defenses / Blowfly groove on. My opponent also had some great plays this game. Losing happens plenty in this game, and I’ll take it with a smile every time if I manage to make my opponent smile and/or pull off a neat combo while going down.
Starting with a wacky theme like this it’s easy to go way overboard with the first build, and I definitely did that here with cards like Grief Tyrant and Incremental Blight that turned out to be more than I needed. That said, I’ve always had the best experience building this way at first when exploring something new; just going completely over the top and also trying lots of singletons and crazy ideas to see what works and what doesn’t. After some test runs it became clear what was working plus what was most fun to get going and that made it easy to get the focus down.
At this point I’m happy with the deck. I’m sure there’s more tuning that can be done but for the casual room this one’s plenty good enough for me, and I go on to play lots more games with this configuration. Along the way, though, I keep thinking about other temptations. What if I threw caution to the wind and added in a bunch of infinite combos? After some quick looks through Gatherer I settle on the following wackier list that abandons the Fate Transfer tricks in favor of various ways to go arbitrarily large. Time for one last go-round before packing it in:
For my final final game, I find myself against a blue-black deck with a lot of the Fate Transfer stuff from my earlier deck! The game goes into a huge battle of exhaustion, and suddenly it’s me that’s locked under Kulrath Knight, and that thing’s even better when everything already comes into play with counters! Thanks to the combo engine I know I’m still in it though, if only barely. Essence Warden is doing a great job keeping me afloat as I continue to take damage only slightly faster than I’m gaining life. With Essence Warden, Dusk Urchins, and the Blowfly Infestation / Flourishing Defenses combo, I’m ready to go off, but the Kulrath Knight is keeping my Urchins from attacking since it has a counter on it already.
Teetering on the edge of death, I finally rip something to set off the combo, dropping a welcome Fallen Ideal
on my Essence Warden
. That lets me sac my Urchins, draw a card (since the Urchins had a counter on it), then create a loop where Blowfly and Defenses keep making and killing Elf Warrior tokens. After 47 loops of this I’m at a bunch of life and get to play the awesome Bitter Ordeal
I’ve been waiting all game to send. In fact, I’ve been waiting to play that Bitter Ordeal
ever since Kelly Digges suggested it when I mentioned the combo deck idea to him. Forty-seven mighty copies of the card go on one glorious stack, and my opponent composes an epic poem to memorialize my feat for all generations.
Or, my opponent saw that I now had an arbitrarily high life total and conceded when he saw how many clicks were coming, then said he laughed hard when I showed him the Bitter Ordeal. I’m not sure now; it might have happened that way, actually.
You know, now that I think of it, I bet Biting Tethers would be sick in this deck! And if I’m adding blue, how can I resist Unstable Mutation with Dusk Urchins and Fate Transfer?
Even five thousand words later, there’s always more to explore. I hope you had as much fun as I did, and I hope you have even more fun trying out this deck or something inspired by it.
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