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Manics and Maniacs


I was hoping someone would inspire me with a new idea this week or ask for some help. I have had a lot of people hit me up for advice on how to tune their decks this week, but there must be something in the water—three people all asked for help with a deck the main win condition of which ended up being drawing their entire decks and then having a Laboratory Maniac in play, which, while effective, isn't very conducive to our tenets of 75% deck-building. I don't harbor any sort of animosity toward that strategy in particular, and it's super-risky to put yourself on the precipice of losing the game should your opponent manage to resolve a removal spell. The main issue I have with Laboratory Maniac as a win condition I summarized in the article about Zegana. I bet a few redditors are going to think I'm talking about them since they asked about decks like this on reddit; I'm not. I had people hit me up via e-mail (which I welcome: altjason17 at gmail dot com) and ask about their decks. There must be something in the water; lately, everyone wants to draw their entire decks.

I couldn't think of anything really constructive to say other than, "Have fun, and don't worry about trying to build a 75% deck." Not every deck needs to be 75%, and as long as you don't get sick of always trying to win the same way, Laboratory Maniac shenanigans can be a cheeky and fun way to win until your playgroup grows bored with the deck as well. If you jam a few other ways to win other than saying, "Ta DA! I drewed my whole decklibrary!" you might have even more fun with it. I don't think combos, finite or otherwise, are complete anathema to a 75% deck, and I might revisit the combo deck sometime soon. My first effort turned out a lot of fun, after all.

Dakkon Blackblade
I decided to look elsewhere for inspiration. I went back to my 75% roots and thought about how I could use restrictions to make sure I could include the most powerful cards I could think of and still have a 75% deck. The answer came to me when I remembered a game I played against Kevin An at Grand Prix Philadelphia this year. Kevin's Dakkon Blackblade deck had a unique twist to it: Every card in the deck was white-bordered. This didn't mean Kevin went all Schwarzenegger with an eraser, but rather, he limited himself to cards that were available in white borders. If I were to attempt this, I had to establish some rules for myself and figure out how much leeway I was willing to give myself.

  • The card can be available black-bordered as well as long as there is a white-bordered printing.
  • It doesn't have to be in a real set; Beatdown Box, Anthologies, and the like are all okay.
  • Gold-bordered and silver-bordered cards don't count.
  • English printings will be the basis for establishing border color.
  • Lists with five items are more psychologically satisfying.

This is going to be fun. Armed with a list of restrictions, I decided to pick a fun, white-bordered commander that was as far from Kevin's deck as possible so I didn't accidentally swipe any of his good ideas. Legendary creatures in white-bordered sets limits us to practically just Chronicles, which is fine with me. There's a commander in that set I have been wanting to attempt for quite a while.

Is this deck going to work out? I have no idea, but I think it has a fighting chance against other white-bordered decks, and I think you can pull off wins against even the toughest of decks. White-bordered cards appeared as recently as Ninth Edition, and they were printing some pretty good cards in Ninth Edition. We have access to a lot of nonbasic lands, but I didn't want to run too many since we're jamming Natural Order to punish our opponents. In fact, there was plenty of punishment to be found in white borders, from Tainted Aether to Grave Pact to Oppression.

Xira Arien
Our card-draw game is on point. Not only does our commander tap to draw cards, but we have access to Sylvan Library, Necropotence, Greed, Phyrexian Arena, Dregs of Sorrow, and Collective Unconscious; we're going to be drawing a ton of cards. This will help us out in tough matches, but we're not drawing with such abandon that we run into the Prime Speaker Zegana homogeneity problem. We mostly just have good card selection. Necropotence feels like cheating, but I doubt your opponents will complain when you're drawing into Ashes to Ashes or Snake Basket.

They may complain when you draw into Plague Wind and Living Death. I'd like a Damnation in here, but Plague Wind is okay in a pinch. I wish we had access to Decree of Pain, but if we prepare, we can gain some decent advantage from Living Death. Greater Good can help us fill the ’yard and really benefit from a one-sided graveyard extravaganza. Hell's Caretaker and a few assorted goodies like Exhume (Battle Royale, baby!) and Animate Dead can make sure we don't just wait around for a Living Death to pop up randomly. I am eschewing tutors in my deck. If you decide white-bordered is restrictive enough, you have Demonic Tutor, Diabolic Tutor, and Vampiric Tutor in black, and you could run Worldly Tutor if you were so inclined. Those all have a white borders on them somewhere.

Our mana ramp is a little poor, so I decided to jam forty lands. Regardless, you're likely to get off to a slow start, but I am confident you'll be underestimated long enough to catch up. Your color-fixing is poor, so watch out. Still, once you make enough mana to start cranking out fatties, you're in good shape.

In addition to board wipes, you have some targeted removal and some removal utility in creatures as well. If Crypt Rats are good enough to be a staple in Pauper, I feel they deserve a slot in this deck. Banshee joins the fun. Royal Assassin is classic cool for those of us who have been playing since the mid '90s. No Sorceress Queen though; I had to draw the line somewhere. Even Desert Twister feels playable in this deck. I hope that doesn't mean our list is terribad.

Desert Twister
Is it? Why don't you take a crack at it? There are plenty of cool white-bordered legendary creatures in Chronicles for you to take your own stab at it. Chronicles has a whole cycle of Elder Dragon Legends, so you can go super-old-school EDH. Maybe Nicol Bolas would pair up with Invisibility. Chromium puts you in good colors. Palladia-Mors was always my favorite. You have Stangg and Tor Wauki and Kei Takahashi—there are a lot to choose from. Unfortunately, the commanders we really want, like Hazezon Tamar and Angus MacKenzie, aren't in Chronicles (and their prices reflect it!), but we have more than enough to work with. Go to Gatherer, and input your colors and the sets that had white-bordered cards, and scroll through the lists of cards you can legally play with this restriction. A few gems might pop out and surprise you. I know they did for me!

That's all for this week. I'm counting on you to really let me have it in the comments section. Did I miss out on a few obvious choices? Could you build better than I did within these restrictions? Do you just want to nitpick and talk about how Seeker of Skybreak just to untap my commander is greedy and silly? Leave it all here or on reddit, and let's get into it. Thanks for your continued support, and I'll be back next week with another original idea that I got from someone else. Ciao!

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