Deckmasters 2001 Theme DeckJon: Why I built this deck and how to play it.
The first thing I noticed when looking over this format was that white might as well not exist. How can this be? You may remember the old-school Ice Age-Alliances format and how dominant white was. Well, not really white in general, but Blinking Spirit, Swords to Plowshares, Disenchant, and Kjeldoran Outpost were dominant - especially our friend the Outpost. Given the predetermined rarity mix and Wizards reprint policy, there are maybe four playable white cards left, so I threw the whole color out the window.
The next thing I noticed was that red was good - very, very good. Lava Burst, Incinerate, Guerilla Tactics, and Pyroclasm are all Constructed-quality born spells. Throw in some efficient creatures like Goblin Mutant, Orcish Cannoneers, Storm Shaman, and the super-friendly Balduvian Horde - which can conveniently fill the deck's rare slot - and we ahve half a strong deck. I also knew I definitely had to play Icy Manipulator and Phyrexian War Beast. They're inexpensive efficient artificts that could form a solid basis for almost any deck.
The next job was to choose a second color. That wasn't so easy. All the other colors have good uncommons and rares: blue has Browse, Binding Grasp, and Force of Will; green has Lhurgoyf, Hurricane, and Yavimaya Ants; and black has not only the all-powerful Necropotence (all hail), but also goodies such as Abyssal Specter, Ashen Ghoul, Dance of the Dead, Contagion, Withering Wisps, and Knight of Stromgald. But because the uncommon cards are so powerful across the board, I knew that regardless of which colors I chose, the twelve uncommons in the deck would probably not be the deciding factor. And while Necropotence gave black an edge in the rare department, it would be the common cards that would make the biggest difference.
As you probably know, I tend to play blue, so I turned to blue first. I realized it didn't have that many powerful commons, but I loved the versatility of its cantrips. In a restrictive format like this, the ability to cycle through your deck and get to you few power cards as fast as possible seemed invaluable, and I always get a warm feeling in my tummy when I have countering spells in my hand. But in the end, blue was too much like a boy band - all style and no substance. So I whittled my choice down to black or green. Ironically, black's creatures are simply much better than green's in the Ice Age and Alliances sets. In the end, I decided to build a red and black deck.
How does this deck work in practice? It doesn't do much for the first two turns unless you happen to draw Dark Ritual or if you need to burn an attacking creature away. But every turn after that, you should be able to play an effecient, versatile, hard-to-neutralize creature. Seriously, every creature in this deck is a problem for your opponent. Phantasmal Fiend and Foul Familiar are nearly unkillable, and they both pack quite a punch in combat. Add in hard-charging creatures like Abyssal Specter, Goblin Mutant, and Balduvian Horde... and Richard is going to be in trouble. Yes, the deck takes a while to get going, but the Ice Age-Alliances environment isn't a fast one, and every creature in the deck is a valid threat in its own right. In addition, most of the creatures are solid blockers as well. With the exception of Lim-Dul's High Guard, which regenerates, and Foul Familiar, which I can bounce, every creature in my deck has toughness of 3 or greater.
The instants and sorceries in my deck steamroll a path through the opponent's defenses so my creatures can charge through. Pyroclasm (which destroys none of my creatures), Incinerate, Guerilla Tactics, Contagion, and Dark Banishing are some of the most efficient removal spells around. Big ol' Soul Burn and Lava Burst can serve as game-enders or removal. And in a pinch, you can finish off an opponent with Incinerate or Tactics - versatility at its finest. To add insult to injury, Icy Manipulator can work offensively and defensively by either getting a blocker out of the way or temporarily spoiling a would-be attacker's fun. Last but not least is Necropotence. The opportunity to once gain trade life for cards for only BBB got me more excited than anything else about this format. I almost included two Demonic Consultations just for some extra Necro fun, but I predict Richard will corner the market on quirky stuff. All I know is, if "The Death Skull" finds its way onto the table, we might as well go on to the next game.
To review: My deck starts by summoning versatile, tough creatures, clears a path using all of its spot removal, and finishes by hurling great balls of fire at its opponent's head. And it prays to draw Necropotence the entire time.
* = from a previous set
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