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Off with Their Heads

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Dear Doctor,

I know that we agreed to give my deck a good cleansing. I took apart Abe’s Deck of Happiness and Joy, which clocks in at over 2,800 cards now. One of my New Year’s Magic resolutions was to really take the deck apart and reexamine it. I know; I have issues.

So I did, and I have purple-sleeved stacks of cards all over. I pulled another section of cards, but I also found many cards to add to my deck. In went cards such as Gorgon Flail, Tidehollow Strix, and Shivan Hellkite.

And, of course, I pulled out some more cards. It hurt, but at the end of the day, it was worth it. Another large section of crap was yanked from the deck. I’ve done this twice before—the last time in October. It’s not always easy to make these cuts.

So the additions from Born of the Gods—plus others recently made—have really upped the card count, and I feel that these cuts allow me to make the additions because they assuage my conscience. Look at how many cards I pulled out!

I also found four cards that had duplicates in my deck. Can you imagine! So this was a cleaning long in the making. I added more than twenty of each basic land as well to help fix my mana needs.

I’ll give you another e-mail later, Doctor, and we can schedule my next appointment. Once again, sorry.

Sincerely,

Abe

How do you shuffle a big deck? How do you tutor a big deck? For years, I’ve been haphazardly adding and pulling cards from it. The deck has become uneven. For example, a few years ago, I realized I was playing roughly forty percent of the Looters, such as Cephalid Looter and friends. So, I added in the rest in order to be consistent. But that was the exception, so it was time for a good cleansing.

And I am adding in a lot of cards.

The result is a bigger deck, but also a few cards yanked for failing to make the grade. Today, I will give you another list of cards that were offed. Then, I’ll end with a list of cards that are being added from Born of the Gods.

Minotaur Illusionist
Minotaur IllusionistHow times have changed. This foil baby was so useful once that my playgroup jokingly called him Morphlotaur (a combination of Morphling and Minotaur). And now the Morphlotaur is retiring. It’s time. He can sacrifice to shoot a creature for 3 damage (usually), and you can spend a couple of mana to give him shroud. So as long as you have shields up (2 mana available), no one targets him. But it forces me to keep that mana open, and who would target him anyway? Sure, he can sacrifice, and I’ve spent a whopping 6 mana to Lightning Bolt a creature. And I have the potential to recur it with various tricks, but there are always tastier targets to grab with tricks like Oversold Cemetery and Genesis. His abilities are not great, and as creatures become better and better, dealing 3 damage to one isn’t worth the mana anymore because targets have too much toughness. So sorry my good friend, but it’s time for the Morphlotaur to pick up his plowshare and head into the pasture.

Quagnoth These days, I skip 6-mana creatures that have very little to offer. I added this to my deck years ago when I realized that my creature count was too low and I was searching for bodies. It’s been on my watch list for a while, and it’s time to dump him. For 6 mana, you need more than an uncounterable 4/5 shroud creature. Shroud is fine, but it’s not as though people would tend to target the vanilla 4/5 anyway. So it can feel superfluous, and I can’t equip him, so it gets in the way. Quagnoth was never sexy and never strong. Time to go home, buddy.

Shrieking Grotesque
Shrieking GrotesqueI think a few things fought to keep our good Gargoyle friend in my deck. First, it’s a flying Ravenous Rats. So it can swing early on with its 2/1 body or block that nasty creature and buy a turn later. But a quick caveat: I don’t even play Ravenous Rats. In fact, I don’t play any creature with a discard enters-the-battlefield (ETB) trigger. (An exception would be a card that forces everyone to discard a card—like Liliana's Specter or Cackling Fiend—or a card that forces multiple cards to be discarded). Over the last few years, I’ve pulled cards like Hellhole Rats and others. Plus, this doesn’t even play well with typical ETB tricks! You can’t Flicker or reanimate to get another discard. So it’s worse than advertised, and it’s time to go guard that church again.

(Cards that were on my old watch list have often headed back to my deck, and that includes the Hound of Griselbrand, Cao Ren, Wei Commander, and Liu Bei, Lord of Shu.)

Chaos Confetti I would put this card back in my deck today if I found a playgroup that embraced this card and Un- cards like my previous one. Our rule for this card was that you could use it (and Blacker Lotus) if you had one already torn up. So I had the pieces of a spare Chaos Confetti that was torn, and I used them whenever I drew this effect, and I would then I would remove the Confetti from the game and place it into the really-removed-from-the-game zone.

Naya Battlemage I don't generally play tappers like Master Decoy. Unless they do something else, like Icy Manipulator or Opposition, I steer clear. Because the Naya B-Mage can pump or tap, I tossed it in, but I've been very disappointed with the results. I rarely pump, and tapping is just not strong at the multiplayer table. You have to tap down an attacker before the person attacks, so you often don't know if the creature was coming your way or not. So it’s useful more to tap down blockers and such, and that's not nearly as flexible as it is in duels, so it's a card that needs to be pulled from the deck.

Bloodfire Kavu
Bloodfire Kavu This Korean card has been in my deck for years. Pyroclasm is fun because it fights against a lot of strategies, such as mass token making. Having one on a stick is ever better because you can sacrifice this to dole out a Pyroclasm of hurt to everyone. But creatures have become bigger and bigger in my metagames. When you can easily have a 3/3 on the second turn, and even bigger after that, little removal spells don't do as much. And a 4 mana 2/2 that requires another mana to sacrifice in order to smash all of the creatures for 2 damage is becomingly increasingly irrelevant. Time to go.

Aven Mimeomancer I had such high hopes for this card. Each upkeep, I can make your big beater a 3/1 flyer! Or I can make my Birds of Paradise a 3/1 flyer—it works both ways here. But the problem is that if the board state is even close to the Mimeomancer breaking things open, its 1 toughness allows it to be killed by anything from Singe or Zap on up. It just doesn't have the chops to push the battlefield in the right direction.

Rivals' Duel I often look for removal spells that can provide card advantage. A deck like mine can’t always rely on drawing powerful card-draw spells, so little advantage like this is valuable. So the idea is that you can force two creatures to fight each other, and perhaps they will both die. But there are too many restrictions on the effect: sorcery speed, the targets can't be of the same creature type, and the targets have to have similar enough stats to kill each other in the fight. After playing with it for a while, I observed that it almost never provides card advantage, and that turns it into a clunky 4-mana removal spell. I don't need that either. Time to bench my foil copy.

Scroll of Origins
Scroll of Origins Put this ability on a land, and it's among the most powerful cards in the game (Library of Alexandria). Take that ability, put it on a 2-mana artifact, and make it a bit better, and it's suddenly chaff. Oh, sure, I can draw a card with it sometimes here and there. It doesn't suck. But there's no reliability to the effect. Despite my foil version looking sexy, the card just doesn't have the value.

Morkrut Banshee Why doesn't the Banshee fly? If it flew, it would be in the same space as cards like Serra Angel, Sengir Vampire, and more. But I'm tired of this body being on the ground and watching as smaller dorks fly in the air over her. I don't always get to trigger her ability, and I don’t always get to kill what I want when I do. But if she flew, she'd be worth it. The foil brings out her fangs and the moon, and she'd be all flying over the landscape as a feasible 4/4 for 5 mana and sometimes killing something on arrival. But no, this Banshee has to suck. I love flexibility in a card. She’s the opposite. Her ability is too limited to kill, to deal damage, to block, or to be effective.

Woebringer Demon This is a card that has been on my watch list for a while (it's a 4/4 flyer for 5 mana like the above Banshee should have been). You look at the Demon and think, “It's a new The Abyss on a stick; great!” But the problem is that it looks good in theory, but it usually just does little. Someone almost always has no creatures in play. Someone else has enough stupid dorks to protect his or her massive beater. And then it usually kills itself very quickly, and then you have barely helped your board position (if at all). On the very rare occasion that it actually is played on a board that matters, it invariably is countered or killed. Just once in the years of playing it can I remember it actually taking over a game. That's a fun story, but cards cannot live on one story alone.

Three Wishes
Three Wishes Years ago, I picked up a Japanese Visions box. It had a Vampiric Tutor, Undiscovered Paradise, and Desertion in there. All of those can be found in Abe's Deck of Happiness and Joy. I also included a few other cards here and there, and Three Wishes was one. Hey, my deck needs card-draw, right? Right? But it's limited and not really that strong, and the weakness of the card-draw forces me to pull it today. It's been in my deck for way too long, and it's not that cool. Plus, it's hard to remember what it does with the Japanese text. So time to head on out.

Meishin, the Mind Cage Pulling this foil hurts. I almost left it in on principle. I love this card so much that I have extolled its virtues in several articles. How can I pull it from my signature deck if it's so good? And it is. It has taken over games. But that was way back, and in years, it has done nothing but sit in my hand and suck. It's too situational in a deck that's not specifically built around it. Plus, in a day when ramping strategies morph into large beaters that can overcome the -X/-0 on it, it’s not even the shutdown card it used to be. Meishin is fun, but it needs another avenue of expression.




And, with that, I’ve pulled out another thirteen cards from Abe’s Deck of Happiness and Joy! It’s benching time for these vets. So, what cards from Born of the Gods will be making the cut?

It’s another addition of thirty-four cards to my deck; it just keeps going!

See you next week,

Abe Sargent


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