Last week, we kicked off a fun challenge: to build an Intro Pack for Conspiracy. With another Conspiracy set on the horizon, and with Intro Packs on the verge of being phased out, it’s a fun way to explore the intersection of the two. It also will be interesting to look at what goes into making these 60-card pre-constructed releases from within rather than without. It’s my belief that by building one together, we can highlight the craft and thought which goes into their design.
We determined last week the Intro Pack deck we’re designing will be White and Blue. We started first by looking at the different rares available, and found a couple to fit the bill. Sharp-eyed reader Roni Tabick backed Brago, King Eternal, noting the option of Pristine Angel was disqualified as she’s a mythic in this set. Hat’s off to Roni, and a note of caution in using Gatherer that set rarities don’t always line up.
Indeed, Brago was the unanimous choice, so that’s the direction we’ll be going. What makes Brago interesting is he sits at the junction between two different strategies. First, he has Flying, so he fits right in to a Skies deck. Second, the King Eternal’s ability to flicker your permanents begs to be abused in conjunction with enters-the-battlefield (ETB) creatures. Imagine the extra value to be had by flickering them every turn, getting their ETB effect over and over and over again.
Unfortunately, imagining it will have to make do, because there’s not a lot of ETB cards in the set in our colors/rarities. Still, it makes for a nice tactical splash, “coincidental synchronicity” as we often see in Duel Decks, where certain cards will occasionally line up to squeeze a little extra benefit from the deck (but aren’t the core of the deck’s strategy).
So, Skies it is! And today, we’ll look at building the rest of the deck.
The Second Rare
Looking at the Blue and White rares in the set for the deck’s second rare card, we have a few options, some greater than others.
- Academy Elite
- Council's Judgment
- Custodi Soulbinders
- Plea for Power
- Reya Dawnbringer
Academy Elite and Custodi Soulbinders are interesting cards. Although neither of them fly, there is some synergy with Brago here thanks to the fact that each determine how many +1/+1 counters they have when they enter the battlefield. These +1/+1 counters can then also be “cashed in” for an effect (looting in Blue, Spirit token creation in White). Since Brago can flicker them whenever he inflicts combat damage to your opponent, this gives them the opportunity to reset their counters.
I think we can safely discount the Academy Elite. That seems like a lot of work just to be able to loot for a few turns, so the payoff isn’t really worth it. In addition, to get any size out of them you need to be running a lot of instants and sorceries, which isn’t really where we’ll be putting our focus. But what about the Soulbinders?
One thing that’s interesting here is they gain counters equal to the number of creatures on the battlefield. Since using their ability puts a creature into play (one with flying, no less!), flickering them with Brago should actually serve to make them even bigger. In addition, creatures tend to be played in high numbers in an Intro Pack environment, so the Soulbinders can help break the board stalls which commonly happen in these kinds of games. All in all, a good choice.
What of the others? Council's Judgment and Plea for Power us the Will of the Council mechanic, which might be fine for multiplayer but becomes a lot clunkier in two-player. There might be a fun deck to be made for two-player abusing Brago's Representative, but that’s not really the deck we’re looking to build. Both of these are safely out.
Misdirection and Stifle are clever cards, but perhaps a bit narrow for our purposes. Reya Dawnbringer checks the evasion box, but she’s a legend, and we want this deck to spotlight Brago. Finally, there’s Rout. If Brago’s flickering lasted until the end of your turn, you might have a particularly sinister combo here. Connect with Brago, exile all your creatures, nuke your opponent’s board with Rout, then return your army from exile. Alas, Brago’s flicker is for a moment, and this isn’t a deck which would benefit from a board-sweeper. Sweepers tend to work best in slow, controlling decks, so you can reset the board by dealing a grave setback to your opponent, then drop a fat closer and grind out a win.
So it looks like the winner here will be Custodi Soulbinders, making even more bodies for our air force! In conjunction with Brago it’s a nice combo, but neither card relies on the other to do work here, exactly what you’d like to see in an Intro Pack.
The next step is to identify which creatures would be a good fit for the deck. There are a total of thirty-one Blue/White/Artifact creatures at common or uncommon in Conspiracy. In another set we might have more artifact creatures too, but in Conspiracy artifact creatures tend to be interactive in the drafting process, and the nature of a precon means we won’t be “drafting” this deck. I’ve pre-excluded all six of those out of hand, leaving three ‘general’ artifact creatures. Here’s what we have to choose from:
- Air Servant
- Ajani's Sunstriker
- Apex Hawks
- Brago's Representative
- Council Guardian
- Courier Hawk
- Crookclaw Transmuter
- Custodi Squire
- Doomed Traveler
- Enclave Elite
- Galvanic Juggernaut
- Glimmerpoint Stag
- Grixis Illusionist
- Jetting Glasskite
- Marchesa's Emissary
- Marchesa's Infiltrator
- Minamo Scrollkeeper
- Noble Templar
- Peace Strider
- Pillarfield Ox
- Plated Seastrider
- Pride Guardian
- Reckless Scholar
- Runed Servitor
- Screaming Seahawk
- Shoreline Ranger
- Silverchase Fox
- Sky Spirit
- Wakestone Gargoyle
- Wind Dancer
Whew! That’s a lot of options! It’s important to remember too while we want Skies to be our tactic of choice, it doesn’t mean all of our creatures will have flying. If a non-flying creature brings something useful to the deck, it’s certainly worth considering.
But let’s begin with an opening round of culls. First up are the cards that just aren’t strong enough, or bring enough to this deck’s strategy. That sees off Ajani's Sunstriker, Doomed Traveler, Enclave Elite, Galvanic Juggernaut, Glimmerpoint Stag, Grixis Illusionist, Marchesa's Emissary, Minamo Scrollkeeper, Noble Templar, Pillarfield Ox, Plated Seastrider, Runed Servitor, and Wakestone Gargoyle.
The next cuts are those that don’t work for mechanical reasons. While we’d like to be able to work in some of the set’s new mechanics, as mentioned above Will of the Council is a bit clunky. That lets us dispense with Brago's Representative and Council Guardian. But let’s take a closer look at Custodi Squire. In this case, she checks off several boxes. Sure Will of the Council is a bit inelegant in two-player games, but this does give us another ETB option to exploit with Brago. Plus, she ties in with our design philosophy of flying creatures, being a nice-sized 3/3 for 5 mana. She’s worth considering.
Now, let’s review some of the deck-building constraints we’re subject to.
Now of course your mileage may vary, but here’s what I managed to come up with.
2x Courier Hawk
1x Wind Dancer
2x Apex Hawks
1x Sky Spirit
1x Air Servant
For the 1-drops, we don’t have a lot of options, but a deck like this likes having some early plays to stall the midfield. Although the Plated Seastrider has a stronger back-end, a point of power and the ability to attack, they’re not as reliable an early play thanks to their Blue-dedicated cost. Gaining life also tends to be enjoyable particularly for newer players, and it will help buy them time to deploy their air force.
In the 2-drops, the Courier Hawk is a nice, evasive body that can offer some additional defense, without sacrificing attack power. The Silverchase Fox is exactly the kind of singleton these sorts of decks love to have, giving an out to any nettlesome enchantments that might hit the table. The Soulcatcher is a wonderfully thematic inclusion, reducing the pain of creature loss, while Wind Dancer is a useful option for squeezing in some extra damage by giving a ground creature flight. This can pair well with the Custodi Soulbinders, which have the potential to become quite large.
I went with a pair of Apex Hawks in the 3-drops, because they’re a good sink for mana later in the game. Marchesa's Infiltrator is a splash of Dethrone, a new Conspiracy mechanic, and another potential dance partner for the Wind Dancer. Two Reckless Scholars offer some card quality improvement, another thing Intro Pack decks are often fond of. Finally, the Sky Spirit follows in Brago’s gold-colored footsteps. The fact that it’s a reprint from my favorite set (Tempest) didn’t hurt its chances, either.
At the top of the mana curve, we’ve got an Air Servant to help remove any air-based blockers, and the aforementioned Custodi Squire for extra attack and ETB shenanigans. A Jetting Glasskite is a difficult-to-stop closing option, while the Shoreline Ranger can help with mana fixing, which is always useful.
So our creature core is right on the mark at 20 cards, split between 8 uncommon and 12 common.
Now, let’s look at the non-creature supporting suite!
Add the Spells
Adding the non-creature spell suite is a little different than choosing your creatures, and in many ways easier. You might have to look through a large number of creatures to fill in all your slots, but when the question is, “what removal will I want,” it becomes a much easier endeavor.
So looking at the typical effects found in the combination of White and Blue, we’ll want to consider the following:
- Card drawing
- Combat tricks
We’ve got 4 uncommon slots, and 10 common slots to complete our deck.
Removal. There is some quality removal in the Conspiracy environment, starting with one of the greatest removal spells of all time, Swords to Plowshares. There’s no way we can pass one of those up, and in it goes. Aether Tradewinds is another good call here, since we have a few creatures with ETB effects being part of our deck’s subtheme. Finally, Stasis Cell should round out our removal package. Although the Cell has the ability to move about, it’s a bit costly in terms of mana. With Brago on the field, they can change victims for free.
Countermagic. A splash of this never hurts, as an extra bit of protection for our bombs or closers. There’s only one option available, Dream Fracture, so in it goes.
Card drawing. A little of this always comes in handy. Brainstorm is *cough* a no-brainer, and while Fact or Fiction can be strong, I’m opting instead for Breakthrough for an uncommon here for the fun factor of drawing four cards. It’s also solid in the late game when you might need just one more push to finish off the opponent.
Combat Tricks. Stave Off is an easy choice here, since it can serve double duty by acting as a ‘counter’ to an opponent’s removal. If they target your Brago, you can thwart them by casting this in response. In addition, if they find some aerial defenses, this can help you get through a last bit of damage.
Miscellaneous. Finally, there are some delicious options in Conspiracy to round out the deck. First, it would be criminal not to include a copy of Favorable Winds here, which pumps all of your flying creatures. In fact, I like it so much that I’m going back and cutting a Reckless Scholar to make room for another one.
Next, we’ll add in a copy each of Unquestioned Authority and Traveler's Cloak. Both of these offer a creature the ability to bypass blockers and get in for damage, which is nice for some of our non-evasive beaters. But the real beauty of these cards is that they let you draw a card when they enter the battlefield. This is intended, of course, to help offset the drawbacks of auras (namely, the risk of getting two-for-one’d), but with Brago’s flickering they become card-drawing engines. Too good to pass up!
Guardian Zendikon comes in for a spot here as we round third. It’s not a great card, but it’s the sort of easy cut that Wizards likes to include in their decks to give aspiring deck-builders the benefit of a few easy choices. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not dreadful here. After all, it helps keep the ground game in check, and it helps the Intro Pack’s mission to showcase a variety of different cards.
That brings us to the final decklist.
The Skies of Paliano ? Shadows over Innistrad Standard | Jay Kirkman
- Creatures (21)
- 1 Air Servant
- 1 Crookclaw Transmuter
- 1 Custodi Squire
- 1 Jetting Glasskite
- 1 Marchesa's Infiltrator
- 1 Peace Strider
- 1 Reckless Scholar
- 1 Shoreline Ranger
- 1 Silverchase Fox
- 1 Sky Spirit
- 1 Wind Dancer
- 2 Apex Hawks
- 2 Courier Hawk
- 2 Pride Guardian
- 2 Reckless Scholar
- 2 Soulcatcher
- Spells (15)
- 1 Dream Fracture
- 1 Stave Off
- 1 Swords to Plowshares
- 2 Aether Tradewinds
- 2 Brainstorm
- 1 Breakthrough
- 1 Guardian Zendikon
- 1 Traveler's Cloak
- 1 Unquestioned Authority
- 2 Favorable Winds
- 2 Stasis Cell
So, here’s the finished product of the Intro Pack deck for Conspiracy. I hope you’ve enjoyed the process as much as I have, and perhaps gained some insight into the types of design processes that have to go into making them.
Naturally, your mileage may vary. Think we should have found room for another Swords to Plowshares? Thought there were some good creatures left out? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the deck, and what you might have done differently in the comments below!