Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Teysa's Tokens Update

Last week I talked about a Teysa token based deck. During the week I had a chance to play it, makes some changes.

The deck I am currently running can be found here.

First off the error from last week. I misread Spawning Pit as making black creature tokens instead of colorless ones. This hampers the combo that was the reason for its inclusion. Despite this I still ran it, and found it to be useful for a quick recovery from a Wrath of God. In one game, post-wrath, I had twenty-two counters on it.

So, while it was not as good as I had originally anticipated, I still feel it is good enough to warrant an inclusion in the deck.

I was also using Ashnod's Altar, and Blasting Station as my other sacrifice outlets. I found the Altar to be horribly narrow, and if I had a Spawning Pit or Blasting Station I would always rather sacrifice tokens to them rather than to the Altar.

In the games I played I often found I could get through for decent amounts of damages at most stages of the game, but would have much rather had access to a Blasting Station to force damage through. To account for this I upped the number of Blasting Stations, removing Ashnod's Altar completely, and added some tutors to the deck.

Demonic Tutor was my first choice due to it's insane power. My second choice tutor was Beseech the Queen.

Not only does it have incredible art, it is a very effective tutor in this deck. Our primary tutor targets will be Teysa, Twilight Drover, Blasting Station, or a second Nether Traitor. That means if we can cast Beseech the Queen we can go and get any of them, as they all cost three or less, and we will occasionally get the benefit of it only costing three, which is very important, as the deck has lots of uses for its mana.

For card draw the list was originally running Altar's Reap. I often found that the ability to cast Altar's Reap as an instant was rarely relevant as the deck was mostly spending mana during it's turn. Occasionally it would allow you to hold up Crib Swap mana, and Altar's Reap before your turn, but I did not feel that this was enough to justify running Altar's Reap over Skullclamp.

As far as the big token making spells go, Necromancer's Covenant won over Oona, Queen of the Fae. I found Oona to be too mana intensive, and inconsistent. When you cast a Covenant you are much more likely to gain a large number of tokens, than you are with Oona, as you usually have to wait a turn before doing anything major with Oona, and that turn gives your opponents a chance to answer her, which they will often do as they know exactly what is going down if they don't. Covenant has a bit more of a surprise factor, and it acts as targeted graveyard hate.

You may be surprised to learn that a card that works very well with Necromancer's Covenant is Grave Titan. The token producing titan is a perfect fit, and he knocked out a couple of Belfry Spirits for his spot in the deck. Belfry Spirit was good, but as a five mana 1/1 he does not impact the board enough when he hits. This is a problem unknown to the Grave Titan.

The original list has a severe problem in that its three mana slot was clumped, while nothing existed at four. This was rectified through the inclusion of an Innistrad token maker that fits in nicely with our new zombie sub-theme; Moan of the Unhallowed.

Last week I suggested removal such as Necrotic Sliver or Vindicate be included in the deck, as this allowed us to deal with Planeswalkers, as well as artifacts and enchantments. But, as a friend of mine pointed out, the Blasting Station + Nether Traitor combo can also take out Planeswalkers. As a result I subbed out my Necrotic Silvers for another widely under-used removal piece:

As for the rest of the deck most of the changes were just tinkering with numbers to fit in some of the new cards. Some changes were also made to reflect the introduction of tutors. For example, Bitterblossom was cut to a one of, as the deck never wants to see two, so having one we can tutor for seems much more efficient.

I am also looking to include some number of Elspeth Tirel, as her interaction with Teysa is incredible, but at the moment she is just waiting in the wings.

Until next week don't forget to follow me on twitter (@DelverofSecrets), or send me an e-mail,

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Spirited Away

The two deck lists for today's post can be found here:
As a casual player tribal is often a big part of my meta-game and of my decks. Tribal decks are generally nice and simple to build as the number of potential cards to work with is significantly reduced, and once you filter out many of the bad cards one or two strategies tend to make themselves apparent.

The release of Innistrad brought us brand new tribes (werewolves), tribes in new locations (blue zombies), and tribes that had not been explored before (humans). It also gave us some new toys for some older tribes. My decks are generally a bit off beat (at some point I will tell you about the horror that is 5-colour cascade merfolk), and the general tribal strategy of play lords and attack isn't in my play book. As a result I took one look at spirits and decided they were the tribe for me.

Spirit is a creature type that is often used for filler, or if something is hard too classify. As a result spirits show up in every colour and do a range of random things that are not really related to their creature type. This is a big problem for any tribal deck builder as tribal relies very heavily on synergy between creatures. If this synergy doesn't exist much of the point of playing tribal is lost as they are generally better ways to do what the deck is trying to achieve.

Spirits have weak lords, and their common theme is soulshift. Soulshift is a cool ability that I think has some deck building potential, however I currently play with a Birthing Pod deck, so having two decks that care about converted mana cost is not really what I wanted to do with this deck.

In my search I came up Teysa, Orzhov Scion. Teysa is an incredible card for multiplayer. She makes it very difficult for people to attack you as they fear losing creatures, and not being able to get damage through as she enables easy chump blocks. Teysa also can enable a black based aggressive strategy as you can suicide black creatures in to push damage through, and come out with the same number of creatures, some of which are untapped and ready to exile something.

I <3 tokens

At this point I got very excited about building a Teysa deck, and decided spirits would have to wait for another time. Although before I left spirits I noticed a card just below Teysa called Twilight Drover.

Moar tokens

Now is probably a good time to note that I have a long-standing love affair with tokens. I rarely make a deck that cannot produce tokens in someway, and as soon as I saw Twilight Drover I knew he was a must have.

Twilight Drover triggers off of tokens leaving the battlefield, which Teysa facilitates, so late game we can sacrifice three spirits to exile a creature, and put three +1/+1 counter onto a Twilight Drover, which could result in six spirits!

Teysa, also likes to see black creatures die, and Twilight Drover likes to see tokens die so, I figured the main sort of tokens we wanted to be making would be black ones. In my search for things that make black creature tokens I stumbled across another spirit; Belfry Spirit. He makes a total of 4 black bats, and since this deck seems like it is going to be a bit on the slower side I thought he was a fine include at 5 mana.

For the rest of my black token producers I went with:
  • Bitterblossom; which I only included as a two-of as the deck cannot handle sustained life loss of multiple copies. 
  • Necromancer's Covenant; this gives us a bit of graveyard hate and life gain, as well as a horde of zombies.
  • Oona, Queen of the Fae; she allows us not only to create a horde of flying tokens, but she also gives us an alternate win condition.
Now we have a deck that can hopefully produce a mass of tokens, and it likes it when those tokens die, unfortunately we do not have any reliable way to ensure these creatures die when we want them to. So the next course of action was to add some sacrifice outlets:

  • Spawning Pit; This not only gives us an instant speed sacrifice outlet, but it also allows us to make more tokens. The main use of abuse for this will be with Teysa, as it allows us to create 3 spirits with 1 mana, and two black creatures. 
  • Phyrexian/Ashnod's Altar; As I stated earlier the deck is quite mana intensive so these help to pay for Twilight Drover's ability or for a Spawning Pit. If you have one of each altar and two tokens it is possible to go infinite with the Twilight Drover. 
  • Blasting Station; This is what I intend to be our big daddy for breaking stalled boards. Often in multiplayer you might not be able to attack through a large board, Blasting Station allows you to disregard the blockers and send your tokens straight to the face. Having a Teysa in play allows the Station to untap as soon as soon as you sacrifice a black creature to it. It is also important to note that Blasting Station will get multiple untap triggers if 2+ creatures come into play at the same time, so you can sacrifice a creature before each trigger resolves to get the maximum damage from the station. 
Guns solve all our problems

Because Blasting Station is so useful I wanted to include a creature that could abuse it with maximum efficiency. That creature would be Nether Traitor.

I'll be back.. In about 2 seconds...

Before I tell you about how great he is I would like to direct your attention to his type line, which does say spirit, man I am good. Now that we are back on the Spirit Express, lets look at Nether Traitor. He is our creature that keeps coming back. His real power though is in multiples, as we can sacrifice one to the Blasting Station, bringing back the other, which untaps the Blasting Station. Rinse and repeat.

Teysa's first ability allows us to deal with creatures. However, it is very conditional and I do not like to rely on conditional removal when I am facing down a creature the likes of a I-have-a-math-degree-and-still-can't-work-out-how-big-it-is Squirrel Mob. So for our unconditional removal I went with, what I think is one of the most underrated and underused removal spells in magic:

Baby switching, fun for the whole family!
Crib Swap is a great removal spell, especially in this deck. Not only is it a spirit, but it also interacts with Twilight Drover. Many people will miss this, but he doesn't mind whose token it was just so long as it left, so when we give them the token it has the potential to fuel our deck even further.

Now Crib Swap is great in our deck, we have a few creatures that don't mind dying, and I would expect Twilight Drover to draw some hate after a few games with this deck. Thankfully Innistrad provided us with a way to get them back:

So we come full circle, back to an Innistrad tribal card. Angel of Flight Alabaster allows us to return any spirit, so late game with might be a Belfry Spirit or a Twilight Drover if we are missing one. But, my favourite interaction has to be recurring a Crib Swap every upkeep.

I filled out the deck with some removal and card draw. The full deck list (found here), has a very pricey mana-base, as well as Vindicates. I certainly won't be building this version. I will probably be playing Necrotic Sliver in place of Vindicate (as it interacts with Teysa as well!). Feel free to completely ignore the mana-base as they are not really my forte, and just go with what ever dual lands you have. Although I would suggest a Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth to allow for recurring Nether Traitors as many times as possible.

If this version of the deck is still too expensive (Bitterblossom and Nether Traitor are not cheap) I built a  more budget version (found here), that focuses a bit less on making black tokens to sacrifice and more on making an army.

I had a lot of fun building this deck, and can't wait to see it in action, I hope you enjoyed reading about it. If you have any thoughts, comments, criticisms let me know. Send me an e-mail, or follow me on twitter (@DelverofSecrets).

Until next time

Friday, November 4, 2011

Cube Update and a New Format, and Thoughts on M12 Planeswalkers

So after getting through exams I finally got to touch my cards again, and managed to do some cubing. I finally got around to updating my list, which you can find here. I also uploaded some pictures (which are slightly out of date), that you can view here. These pictures are slightly out of date, and there are some orientation issues but I will get those sorted asap.

My cube is not exactly where I want it to be yet, as it is currently missing some important pieces, mostly being lands, and a few of the other pricier cards like Dark Confident and Berserk. However, I managed to pick up a Super-Secret Tech, so I can also start work on foiling the cube as well.

Aside from just making updates I also got to play the cube. We have an issue at the moment though in our playgroup, in that whenever we want to cube we generally have 5-6 people, which is too many for a Winchester Draft, and too few for a full draft. This generally leads to us playing sealed, which is an abysmal cube format.

To try and reduce the negative effect of sealed we tried a half sealed, half draft format. We each got a 25 card sealed pool which we looked at to give us an idea of what we were looking for in the draft. The draft consisted of 4 7-card packs. The format worked well, and was thoroughly more enjoyable than sealed.

I felt the 25 card sealed pool was a decent size and gave most people a few options on what they could do with it. The draft needs some tweaking. We had 5 players, and I found the 7 card packs to lack a bit of depth. In future I think I would try three 9 or 10 card packs.

As for my deck I ended up with a W/B aggressive deck. My notable cards included Bitterblossom (which I resolved 1 game in 4 matches), Umezawa's Jitte, and Booster Tutor. I ended up going 2-2, but felt I mulliganed poorly, and could have easily gone 3-1 (the deck that went 4-0 was ridiculous).

Many people in the cube community have been saying they have found Chandra the Firebrand to be underwhelming in cube and that 2012 will likely see her removal from many lists. I could not disagree more. Admittedly I have limited experience with her (I have seen her used in three decks so far), but every time she has been incredible. Last cube, for example, I saw the player with her copy a Devil's Play for 10 when the opponent was still on 20. I have lived the dream of copying a Plow Under with her.

I wonder if many of peoples experiences with comes from them wrongly including her in decks that do not want her. To me Chandra the Firebrand is a card you want to get early and build around. I think a lot of people get sucked into including her in decks where she might just act as an expensive burn spell, or a largely irrelevant pinger.

The other M12 planeswalker I am currently including in my cube is Jace, Memory Adept. There is no denying he is powerful. But, he is also the most unfun card I have played against in cube. From what I have seen Jace defies the purpose of cube, which is to have fun, powerful, and interactive games. Jace is completely non-interactive, and for that reason is likely going to be making an early exit. I think he would be more acceptable in a larger cube where he does not show up so often but, with a smaller cube like mine his showing up with high frequency is not something I, or anyone in my playgroup, wants to have to deal with every game.

If you have any comments on my cube, the draft format I tried or the M12 planeswalkers feel free to leave a comment, or hit me up on Twitter or via e-mail.

- DelverofSecrets

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ooze Or You Looze

With the release of Innistrad everyone is talking about new planeswalkers, werewolves, tribal humans, and vampires. I, like many others, have been particularly excited about the return of flashback. As soon as Ancient grudge was spoiled I was excited as it seemed to be an indication from Wizards that a host of powerful flashback spells were to come, and they didn't disappoint.

One of my favourite cards in the set, and potentially of all time is Forbidden Alchemy. In any sort of control deck 3 mana to dig 4 cards deep at instant speed is a dream come true, the ability to do it twice is sick. Forbidden Alchemy may have some standard application with the graveyard theme running ripe through Innistrad, but for us casual folk the card holds a lot of power.

The graveyard is an incredible resource in magic, and there are a multitude of ways to abuse it. My focus today remains in the recent history as I want to focus on Necrotic Ooze.

Necrotic Ooze definitely has some power, but for multi-player he has proven to be a bit of a challenge for me to deck build around. The main issue being is it is very easy to focus on filling up your graveyard with a bunch of expensive creatures with activated abilities, but these decks often fall into the trap of not committing enough relevant permanents to the board, and as such they have a tendency to get run over.

Forbidden Alchemy changes this. It allows you on turn three to fill up your graveyard (admittidely it is random, and you may whiff), and dig for the Necrotic Ooze to play on the fourth turn.

So this puts us into blue and black, which as far as activated abilities go are some pretty powerful colours to be in. While other colours do have some power to add to this maintaining a consistent mana-base will be important, especially if we end up with creatures requiring coloured-mana to activate their abilities, so we will stick to U/B for the present.

I would like to take a quick aside here to address the issue of playing off-colour creatures with the intention of dumping them into the graveyard for Necrotic Ooze to abuse. This is not a strategy I am ok with unless the effect is "you win the game". Cards like Godsire are powerful and it would be cool to pump out out 8/8's every turn from a four mana creature, but if we draw it late after a Wrath of God, it is completely useless, and wherever possible avoid dead draws. //Aside over

At the moment we have Forbidden Alchemy to get cards from our library into the graveyard, but we are going to need more than this. My second suggestion is Oona's Prowler. This is one of my all time favourite creatures, especially in this type of deck. It is an early beater that we can use to unload any expensive dudes from our hand, at instant speed. his is very powerful as it allows you to not give away what you want to do with the Ooze until you actually need to do it, and the less information your opponents have the better. Also if a Prowler trades of early Necrotic Ooze will gain the ability, so as long as we get one early (exluding any case of exiling) we should have access to instant speed graveyard filling.

Now that we have the basics of how we are going to achieve the decks goals we need some powerful activated abilities. With all the creatures I still want the deck to be able to cast them reasonably easily as I don't want to roll over and die if I don;t have access to an Ooze, and sitting there with a hand full of cards you can;t cast is never fun. Also, we get better use from our creatures if we cast them first and let them die naturally, then drop the Ooze late to get double value from our creatures.

The following list is a few creatures that interact well with Ooze, what is good though will vary from playgroup to playgroup though, so there may be some niche choices you want to make if your playgroup has a certain style that isn't covered here.

Avatar of Woe - She is expensive, but her ability is ridiculously powerful. Also the way our deck is designed to use creatures in the graveyard interacts positively with her cost reduction.

Myr Propagator - He is a cheap army in a can kind of guy, who -when used by the Ooze- makes more Oozes (Oozi?)

Merfolk Looter (or equivalent) - Digs use through our deck, and fills up the graveyard.

Merfolk Wavebreakers/Pili-Pala - Untapping your Ooze is going to be pretty important since many good activated abilities require tapping. In this case I would lean towards Pil-Pala, but the evasion from the Wavebreakers might also be relevant.

Nantuko Shade - Pumping for 1 black is pretty impressive and with some aggro elements to the deck Nantuko Shade is not out of place (although watch your commitment to blue, he wants a heavy black commitment).

By now we have built up a fairly solid base of things to do but we are left with a but of a dilemma, how do we win the game?

Obviously we can pump up a Nantuko Shade or Necrotic Ooze, but their lack of evasion makes me uneasy. Since we seem to be more black than blue at the moment I would keep that theme going through our win-condition and use Geth, Lord of the Vault.

Geth is super powerful, as he fuels himself, and our ooze (by giving us access to opponents activated ability creatures). Best of all Necrotic Ooze can use his ability as well.

To round out the deck I would recommend adding some spot removal, and potentially a reanimation spell or two.

Taking everything I discussed here is the deck list I came up with:

4x Necrotic Ooze
4x Oona's Prowler
4x Nantuko Shade
4x Merfolk Looter
2x Pili-Pala
1x Merfolk Wavebreakers
2x Avatar of Woe
3x Geth, Lord of the Vault

4x Forbidden Alchemy
3x Dismember
2x Beacon of Unrest
2x Nevinyrral's Disk
1x Black Sun's Zenith

24x Land

I added Beacon of Unrest as its reusability is very attractive, same goes for Black Sun's Zenith. Nevinyrral's Disk is our only way of interacting with artifacts and enchantments. Dismember is my removal spell of choice at the moment because it is unconditional removal for creature with 5 toughness or less, and we have Avatar of Woe for the late game problem creatures.

As far as lands go use what you have, obviously the more dual lands you can run the better.

That's all my thoughts on the Necrotic Ooze for the moment. Obviously I've barely scratched the surface as to his potential. If you have any comments on the deck, or article, or if you want to share your own Ooze deck ideas leave a comment of e-mail them to me at or send me a tweet.

- The Delver of Secrets (@DelverofSecrets on Twitter)

Monday, October 3, 2011

An Intoduction

Hello, and welcome to Delver of Secrets.

My name is Jonnie a.k.a. Poisoned Fly and I am a casual Magic: The Gathering player. I started just after the release of Conflux. In my not so extensive time with the game I have built numerous decks (both 60-card, and Commander variety), and have recently started work on a 450-card cube.

Outside of Magic, I am a student studying law and statistics. I enjoy games of all variety, but in general the more strategy that is involved the more I will enjoy it. Some of my favorite games include Settlers of Catan, and Ascension.

Over the next few weeks I intend to upload most of my decks to the blog so you guys can check them out, and to make it easier when I refer to them in my posts.

As far as posts go, I will try to hit a bit of everything; from deck-building tips and tricks, to strategy and politics.

I hope to update at least once a week, sometimes more, sometimes less.

If you have any comments or feedback about anything related to the blog, feel free to let me know!

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter: @DelverofSecrets