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When I first saw Omniscience, I wasn’t impressed.

“Sure, that’s powerful, but it’s so obvious.”

The Johnny in me wants to come up with something cleverer than that. However, the Timmy in me loves the big, crazy plays, and Omniscience gives me a lot of options for how I want to win the game, and it all just comes down to how I build my deck. I think as others have come to realize how powerful Omniscience is and grown tired of it—especially as it ruins its fair share of Commander games—I’ve grown more enamored with it and the deck-building options it gives me.

This week, I have a Standard deck I’ve had bouncing around in my head since Gatecrash spoilers. I wanted to write about it before I embarked on the Magic Cruise 5, but I hadn’t solidified a decklist before I left, and I didn’t have a chance to finish until a few days after I returned. I’d have written about it after that, but it was Boros Week, so I decided to stay on-theme. Then, I had a crazy, Magical Christmas Land Commander game that I just had to write about. And then, last week was Simic Week, so I didn’t want to skip out on my favorite guild’s them week. But I can’t hold it in anymore.

Let’s Start with the Dream

Similar to Nathan Weizenbaum’s puzzles—in which readers had to come up with the fastest routes to victory given certain restrictions but with “perfect luck”—let’s take a look at this deck’s luckiest draw and then break down the deck from there.

Play Cards in Hand Mana
Turn one 7 0
Watery Grave tapped 6 0
Turn two 7 b
Watery Grave tapped 6 b
Turn three 7 ub
Watery Grave tapped 6 ub
Turn four 7 uub
Swamp 6 uubb
Crypt Ghast 5 0
Turn five 6 uuubbbbb
Swamp 5 uuubbbbbbb
Omniscience 4 0
Army of the Damned via Omniscience 3 0
Temporal Mastery via Omniscience 2 0
Turn five’s extra turn 3 uuubbbbbbb
Attack with thirteen Zombies for 26 damage. 3 uuubbbbbbb

Most of the games in Nathan’s puzzle solutions didn’t go past the second turn, but you’ll notice we’re playing all Standard cards here . . . and we get to attack with thirteen Zombies. Also, we get to build a bit more of a consistent deck around the above shell.

Here’s my list:

As I talked about in the introduction, this is an Omniscience deck. However, it’s as much a Crypt Ghast deck. In fact, I built the deck around the idea of the synergy between the two: If you control both, you can cast spells for 0 mana and then use your overflowing b to extort. Draw spells are just good in general, but when you get to refuel your extortion resources while extorting—and mana is hardly an issue—you’re in a pretty good position.

Mana, Mana, Mana

Crypt Ghast
Chromatic Lantern
Liliana of the Dark Realms

So, yeah, the core is Crypt Ghast and Omniscience, but we need to get there, and we’ll need contingency plans. (Okay, fine; if you’re read many of my articles, you know I’m not always one for contingency plans . . . but this time, I’m doing it, okay?!)

We’ll need uuu for Omniscience, and Crypt Ghast only doubles the mana of Swamps. Fortunately, there is a Swamp in Standard that makes u, and that is Watery Grave. As in the above example, three Watery Graves with one Crypt Ghast can make uuubbb, which covers all the blue and puts us 60% toward our 10-mana enchantment.

However, we won’t always draw three of our four Dimir lands, which is why Magic 2013’s Liliana is around to help find them. In addition, Chromatic Lantern can do the dual-land work for us, allowing regular old Swamps to tap for u while still generating the bonus b from the Ghast.

Draw, Draw, Draw

Sign in Blood
Amass the Components
Crippling Chill

Sign in Blood is just a great draw spell for black decks, and our extorting can mitigate the life-loss component. We can cast it, extort, draw two cards—perhaps one of which is another spell—and then cast the follow-up spell with another extort trigger, and the 2 life we lost has already been regained. Meanwhile, our opponent has lost 2 life—even though we didn’t target him with the Sign in Blood!

Okay, fine, so you already knew extort was good. And you knew drawing cards was good. Let’s move on.

Amass the Components draws cards as well! It draws more cards than most spells in Standard, and having to put one back isn’t a huge deal. While “comboing off,” it can keep things rolling with spells to extort with while putting superfluous lands on the bottom. As far as cards that draw a bunch more cards go, I tried to find room for Griselbrand in the deck, and Jace's Ingenuity might be okay if a bit costly, and I’m even now tempted to splash green for Urban Evolution. Try them at your leisure!

Forbidden Alchemy is a good instant-speed filterer, and with all the mana we hope to generate, flashing it back might even become more feasible than it is for many other decks. Let’s just hope we have the time! Oh, and putting a few choice instants and sorceries in our graveyard can actually work toward our plan because of a few flashback-related spells in the deck

While turn-five Omniscience is great to dream about, it’s a bit ambitious, and surviving just a bit longer can make all the difference. Crippling Chill is both a draw spell and a stalling card, making it useful in various ways and at various points in the game. That said, it’s probably the weakest card in the deck and might not deserve its place.

Kill, Kill, Kill

Army of the Damned
Past in Flames

Speaking of staying alive until later in the game, we have Mutilate to erase opposing armies. Few decks are capable of running this to good effect, but since we have a lot of Swamps in our deck anyway, it’s nice to have this mono-black Wrath of God variant. But this is for killing opposing creatures; let’s move on to killing opposing players.

I’ve already discussed the option for extorting out the opponent (all the way from 20 to 0 is the dream, and if he gained some Thragtusk life and we get to extort for 25 instead, all the better), but my dream-sequence table mentioned Army of the Damned.

This is mostly because I love Army of the Damned, but it’s also a good way to just provide a quick kill when extorting isn’t enough. The two copies of Temporal Mastery can go a long way toward making sure we have enough time to do whatever it is we’re trying to do. We might have to use one up in order to make it to the turn when we can cast Omniscience, and then we’ll just have one left over with which to untap our thirteen Zombie tokens. Increasing Ambition can help us make it to that point.

The OmniDoor Standard deck that was more popular a bit ago used Temporal Mastery to untap Door to Nothingness, which could also work, assuming we always had a Chromatic Lantern on the battlefield.

Another great thing to untap into is a ton of mana along with Past in Flames. The prospect of pulling off a Yawgmoth's Will when every spell has an Ebony Charm kicker is just exciting enough to make me want to splash red. Having one Blood Crypt in the deck with Liliana of the Veil and Chromatic Lantern should be sufficient to cast the single red spell. Unfortunately, Omniscience doesn’t interact super-well with Past in Flames, as we still have to pay mana for graveyard spells, but we can use the free-spell effect to cast draw spells until our hand is all lands and then switch into graveyard mode to keep the extortion flow going. It might take a lot of mana, but that’s what multiple Crypt Ghasts and multiple turns are for.

Marshes, Marshes, Marshes!

 . . . er, I mean . . . Swamps, Swamps, Swamps

Okay, no; we’re done talking about the lands, too. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this mono-black Omniscience brew! People are fiddling around in Standard with Omniscience options with Gatecrash’s new Unexpected Results and Enter the Infinite, and I’m interested to see what comes of it. But I have to say, I am not a fan of Enter the Infinite at this point. Sure, it’s powerful, but it’s so obvious.

Then again, I said the same thing about another card not too long ago. And we all know how that turned out.

Until next time, I’m Andrew saying, “Don’t just have an idea—have all of them.”

Andrew Wilson


fissionessence at hotmail dot com

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