Serious_Fun

Wizards and decklists and combos, oh my!

That’s Mister Wizard To You

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The letter G!ood morning, students! This week, magicthegathering.com has asked me to write about {INSERT TRIBE NAME HERE}. Man, do you Magic players love {INSERT TRIBE NAME HERE} – in fact, many of you have {INSERT TRIBE NAME HERE} decks already built!

But there are many crazy tricks you can pull with {INSERT TRIBE NAME HERE}. After all, did you know that:

  • Mistform Ultimus is a(n) {INSERT TRIBE NAME HERE}?
  • …You can set Conspiracy to “Rebels” and then use Lin-Sivvi to fish as many {INSERT TRIBE NAME HERE}s out of your deck as you like? (Or heck, set it to “Goblins” and then use Moggcatcher, or set it to “Merfolk” and cast Seahunter!)
  • ….You can get a never-ending stream of {INSERT TRIBE NAME HERE} by either using Riptide Replicator or Volrath's Laboratory? Alternately, you can set Sacred Mesa to create flying {INSERT TRIBE NAME HERE}s with Artificial Evolution! Combine with Cryptic Gateway to put the remaining {INSERT TRIBE NAME HERE}s from your hand into play at instant speed… And then cast Coat of Arms, Tribal Unity, or Konda's Banner for pure facesmashery, or use Mana Echoes to get a boatload of mana!
  • ….Patriarch's Bidding is an incredibly strong card to use with {INSERT TRIBE NAME HERE}, since you can get all of your {INSERT TRIBE NAME HERE}s back from the graveyard?
  • ….You can use Belbe's Portal as an expensive (though effective) trick to put your {INSERT TRIBE NAME HERE}s into play at instant speed?
  • Steely Resolve will protect your {INSERT TRIBE NAME HERE}s from direct damage?

Be careful, though, because Aswan Jaguar from the old Shandalar game will hose you every time when you're playing a {INSERT TRIBE NAME HERE} deck!

Okay, seriously. Today is Halloween – ooo, scary! – and what better day to discuss a little magic Magic action than with the Wizards tribe?

Wizards are the most flexible Magic tribe around. Oh, you might think that Slivers can do a lot, but have you see the breadth of what Wizards have to offer? They can do direct damage (Prodigal Sorcerer; Grim Lavamancer), they can counter spells (Daring Apprentice; Disruptive Student; Voidmage Prodigy), they can get you cards for a price (Dark Confidant; Dimir Guildmage; Jushi Apprentice), they can bounce things (Echo Tracer; Heidar, Rimewind Master), they can keep creatures off your back (Ith, High Arcanist; Vedalken Dismisser; Cabal Patriarch), or they can just cause havoc (Goblin Flectomancer; Izzet Guildmage; Simic Guildmage; Memnarch).

In fact, it's harder to list the things that Wizards can't do. They're a pretty flexible bunch. But there's one serious problem. I like Wizards, they're pale nerdy dudes like me, but…

…They're about as useful as I am in a fight.

Here's a fun fact: I have never thrown a punch. I have the gift of being both large and cowardly, so I've always either bluffed my way out of fights or slunk away into the alleyway while they threw shoes at me. I'd probably go down in one shot to the first person who landed a blow to me, which makes me twice as combat-worthy as most Wizards.

I've searched the Gatherer database, and if you're looking for a Wizard who can deal more than 3 damage in combat, well… You're gonna be looking for a while. Mike Tyson–style Wizards do exist, but they also tend to be really pricey – and even then, they have abilities so valuable that you don't want to risk them in combat unless you absolutely have to. I mean, come on – Memnarch steals everyone's stuff, and Lim-Dûl steals everyone's dead stuff. Do you want them to get chumped by some punk 2/2 and a Giant Growth?

Didn't think so.

Thus, you'll have to find some other use for your Wizards. I myself do not have a Wizard deck – but fortunately, the members of my playgroup do!

Ian's Deck

The first member of my playgroup to provide is Ian. And here is what Ian should be saying as he stands before you, hat in hand:

“Hi, my name is Ian and I'm addicted to the Urzatron.”

The man's love of Urza's Mine, Urza's Tower, and Urza's Power Plant goes beyond infatuation. Last night, I watched him play three decks, each using a different color, and all three of them had the Urzatron in them. Then he pulled out a fourth deck, and that deck had proxied Urzatron lands in it.

He just can't free himself of his addiction to Big Mana. It's a shame, really. You see him looking down at his lands, his hands trembling slightly as he tries over and over for that fix of seven mana from three lands. He needs that power to function in the morning. I've suggested that he wean himself down, maybe try to work with a Grim Monolith or a Seething Song, but he always goes back to his sweet, sweet love.

This deck, strangely enough, does not feature the Urzatron. That's because it needs islands. Lots of them.

This deck, full of crazy one-ofs and two-ofs, is what Ian uses to relax after whipping out his much more serious Tooth and Nail- and Affinity/Modular-based decks. It's not the strongest multiplayer deck, but it does win occasionally because it's just so silly.

Like many Wizard decks, this isn't an aggressive deck – but really, if you want aggro, go play Goblins. These are Very Intelligent Guys – they plan their way to victory! You kind of have to take whatever comes into your hand and run with it.

The overall goal of this deck is to beat you over the head with your own spells. Generally, what Ian likes to go for first is to try to find an Azami, Lady of Scrolls to start drawing cards like there's no tomorrow, using his Voidmage Prodigy and Daring Apprentices to counter the spells that really bother him. Eventually he works his way up the chain to an errant Twincast, Spelljack, Grinning Totem, Memnarch, or Uyo, Silent Prophet to steal or hijack the strongest or best spell you cast. Then he beats you about the head and shoulders with the strongest card in your deck.

That said, if there's a removal-light field, he can – and has – administered the gigantic beatdown with Nameless One and Konda's Banner. Personally, I love this when it happens, even when I'm on the receiving end of the blue beats, because the Vorthos in me giggles. I'm sitting there in my castle, trying to figure out what spells to cast next, and suddenly these twelve-foot-tall giants with gray beards and funny dunce caps storm over the horizon to smack me in the face.

“Aren't you supposed to cast spells?” I ask.

“Spells bad!” they cry. “You die now!”

There is a smushing sound. And then silence.

Vedalken Plotter, incidentally, is surprisingly good in multiplayer. It's not going to win you the game, but there are enough bouncelands and Legendary lands floating around that you'll almost be guaranteed to get something good for your Plotting.

If this deck has a severe weakness aside from being an erratic casual deck, it's Kaho, Minamo Historian. In theory it seems like a fine play, getting three instants to cast at will, but in reality I don't think I've ever seen poor Kaho live long enough to cast anything. If I were Ian, I'd probably abandon this high-risk, high-reward Kaho program and throw in a couple copies of what is obviously the most powerful Wizard in all of Time Spiral….

Ovinomancer.

No, I kid, I kid. (Though I've seen Ovinomancer in multiplayer, and lemme tellya – the sheep token thing? It never gets old.) Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir would serve triple-duty in this deck, protecting his guys from unwanted instants, allowing him to warp them in at the end of turn and get full usage out of them the next, and making his handful of Counterspells count for more.

There's probably a way to tighten this deck up to focus more on the Wizards theme (and to give you guys a use for all of those now-not-Standard-legal cards from Kamigawa block you have floating around). Try this:

We're Off To Copy With Wizards, A Wonderful Wizards Are Us

This deck's a little more consistent – heavier on the Counterspell capacity, with more consistent mana acceleration thanks to the Apprentice Wizard, and still just as vulnerable to a Pyroclasm. But you know, what fun is that? I'd rather have a deck that never plays the same twice.

Let's move onto the next Wizard deck….

Vrax's Deck

As much as I'd like to tell you that it's me, sadly I am not The Player To Beat in our silly little casual games. That honor would belong to Vrax. Vrax has a suitcase full of decks, and even his silliest ones usually have a good chance at winning – why yes, I did lose to his coin-flipping deck when Krark's Thumb and Mana Clash hit, why do you ask?

If Ian's addicted to the UrzaTron, Vrax is addicted to blue. He loves to play with the counter-n-steal color any time he can work it in, so his Wizard deck is, predictably, blue.

“But wait,” you cry. “Wizards are blue!” And the answer to that is, “You'd be surprised.” There are Wizards in just about every color, and most of them playable. I don't think of Thornscape Battlemage as a Wizard, but sure enough he is. Maga, Traitor to Mortals is a gigantic pain in the butt, but he's not a Wizard. Oh, wait – he is!

In any case, Vrax has a little combo deck that's blue. And it looks something like this:

Wizards Curiosity Combo

The whole idea behind this deck is to keep some sort of Prodigal Sorcerer pinger on the table, enchant it with Curiosity, and then cast Mind over Matter. Mind over Matter was a very nasty card back in the day, because it combined with another broken card called Tolarian Academy to generate near-infinite mana. In Vrax's case, all he wants to do is ping you for one, draw a card, discard a card to untap the pinger, ping you again… Lather, rinse, repeat.

(Vrax also wants you to know that he would put Teferi in this deck. Teferi's like salt; it makes every deck just a little better.)

Now, Mind over Matter is an old card, but fortunately we have a new and even more powerful Wizard in town to do the job. He's a bit more expensive, but he's got a two-card combo for the kill. You ready for this deck? It's even Standard-legal.

Blink And You'll Mizzet

The whole idea behind this little Wizardly deck is to abuse the biggest, baddest Wizard of them all – Niv-Mizzet, the giant Dragon. The early game is spent getting down some tiny guys and attacking with them to gain card advantage – the Looter il-Kor will almost always have some target, and who wants to waste a removal spell on a little plinky dude in multiplayer?

You get it down and start working on the board until you can play (and protect!) Niv-Mizzet. (Save those Remands, Sparky.) Then you get to work on the nasty combo: Ophidian Eye and Niv-Mizzet. With Ophidian Eye, every time a creature deals damage to an opponent, you may draw a card. With Niv-Mizzet, every time you draw a card, you may deal one damage to an opponent.

See the synergy?

Feldon's Cane is in there for large groups, because it's entirely possible that you could deck yourself before you run out of damage – which leaves you briefly vulnerable while you stop the combo to discard your hand at the end of your turn, pop the Cane, and then restart it (which you can usually do simply by tapping Niv-Mizzet to draw a card). But this is a combo that most people won't see coming. And isn't that Wizardly?

A Note On Decks

Two weeks ago, I presented a Vintage-style deck in my article, and the forums went berserk. “I don't have old cards like that!” they cried. “These decks are useless to me!”

Sadly, that's hard to avoid. Me? I'm an old-school player with old-school cards. I know a lot of you whippersnappers are new to the game and don't have the stockpile of endless Swords to Plowshares that I do, so I do try to discuss decks that can translate into current strategies. (Case in point: A reader of mine named Nik emailed me to inform me that he'd Standard-ized the Greater Gargadon/Obliterate deck and taken it to a Standard tournament, and gone 5-3 with it. It can be done!)

But I also don't have a huge stockpile of Standard-legal cards. I can proxy some of them, of course, but showing up with a deck of all “Lands with Sharpie text” makes it really hard on my fellow players – you'd be surprised how much of Magic is based on identifying cards by the art, let alone trying to read my awful handwriting to understand cards that nobody's heard of.

Another problem is that my group is also all old-school. Some of those old cards are powerful. You may not understand why they don't print Swords to Plowshares any more until you play against them all the darned time. And in my group, a purely Standard-legal deck would most likely be outclassed among the seas of dual lands and Lightning Bolts that we have floating about.

Thus, I'm in sort of in a bind here: I hate presenting decks that I haven't tried myself, because everything looks good on paper. I could throw out a ton of “Standard-legal” decks that I never played and tell you, “Hey, this is great!” but that's not my style. Or I could play a bunch of cards that are Standard-legal and find that they don't work because all-new cards just can't compete with the Days of Yore.

(Or I could say to my fellow players, “Hey, you know what? You guys have to buy a new complete set of Ravnica lands to replace your old-school dual lands and play only Standard-legal decks from now on.” Yeah, I'm sure that would go over like a ton of bricks with my beer-and-pretzels Magic-playing pals.)

I will try to keep decks to a reasonable limit; the problem with the Vintage-legal deck was not that it was made from Vintage cards, but that so many of those cards had no replacement. There are plenty of red sorceries that read something like “Destroy all lands and creatures,” and you can pretty much use any of them in a Greater Gargadon/Big Dumb Red Sorcery deck. But there aren't any other Magic cards that do what Sphere of Resistance does (at least not with the same efficiency), and as such building a deck with Sphere as a key card means that you pretty much have to use Sphere or it doesn't work.

So. I'll try to come up with the occasional Block or Standard deck, but usually it'll be a mix of old cards and new. I will try to use cards that can be easily replaced, albeit possibly with more recent (and possibly inefficient) versions. Deal?

Dressed For Halloween?

I get to plug my webcomic Home on the Strange periodically, and today's as good a day as any… Because it's Halloween! And if you're still looking for a costume to wear when you go out tonight, we have some suggestions for easy-to-make costumes that only nerds will appreciate!

(Wanna see the costume I'm wearing? It's this. Can't you see I'm white and nerdy?)

The Time Spiral Contest Winner!

Today is Halloween – the day when pure evil holds sway over the world! I got over two hundred entries for the contest, many of them with long and well-thought-out essays on why their personal favorite Time Spiral card was the best in multiplayer.

I promised that I would tell you what the Best Time Spiral Card In Multiplayer was this week. But there is so much good material in what you fine folks sent me that I'm not going to explain why I chose this card… Because there's not enough room here to do it! When I cut and copied your emails into a Word document, it was over a hundred pages of reasoned arguments, neat card combos, and absolutely hysterical plays.

So rather than try to smush all of that down to fit into the end of a Wizards-themed column, I'm going to spread this out. Over the next two weeks, I'll be analyzing each of your picks for the Best Time Spiral Card In Multiplayer and tell you why each one did (or didn't) make the cut.

But Halloween? It's a time of pure evil. So I'll tell you what card was the best card in all of Time Spiral, because it's thematically appropriate.

A wizard. A wizard is the best card in all of Time Spiral.

Evilly yours,
The Ferrett

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