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Meddling Depths of Power

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Magic 2013 brought with it an exciting new face of the Magic set Intro Pack, and I'm not just talking about the packaging upgrade. For the first time since Tenth Edition, we've seen a core set release that had legendary creatures in it—and this time, they're completely new. With Commander hotter than ever, it's no surprise that Wizards of the Coast is finding as many ways to integrate its target audiences as it can.

Talrand, Sky Summoner
Just as we saw with Tenth Edition, each legendary creature has a moment in the spotlight as part of a preconstructed deck. Today, we'll be looking at Talrand, Sky Summoner and his collection of fifty-nine other cards. Historically, U/R decks tend to be some of the most unusual constructions, typically veering away from the usual summon-creatures-and-smash plan to put more reliance on its instants and sorceries. In the Intro Pack era alone, we've seen the artifact-heavy Metalcraft from Scars of Mirrodin, Mirrodin Besieged’s instant-and-sorcery-centric Mirromancy, and a flashback-focused Eldritch Onslaught in Innistrad; Zendikar's Pumped Up is the strange cousin nobody likes to talk about.

Continuing in the same eccentric vein is Depths of Power. Like Mirromancy, the deck takes a reactive core and builds a spell-heavy weave around it to help make the most of its inherent card advantage. In the Mirrodin Besieged offering, this was the prospect of free casts with the mighty Galvanoth. In today's deck, we're instead looking at a steady stream of 2/2 Drakes. Of course, out of the box, any Intro Pack has a number of aims to fulfill in addition to just winning—helping guide new players is one of the raisons d'être of the product line.

In our Meddling series, we look at rebuilding an Intro Pack deck to enhance and develop its core themes while staying true to the vision of the original. Traditionally, we limit the available card pool only to those sets already contained within the deck, but today, we'll be taking a slight detour. The card pool for a precon deck is at its smallest for core sets since even the decks of the autumn big set get to lean on the core set. Alas, a core set stands all by its lonesome. For today's Depths of Power rebuild, we'll be dipping into some of Innistrad block's natural fits. Meddling purists take heart—the other traditional rule of not adding rares or mythics is still going to apply. After all, one of the primary aims of this feature is to keep things on a very narrow budget, using the tools available to help improve the deck. Let's begin with a look at the stock decklist as you'd find it right out of the box.

Instants and sorceries are the name of the game here, as you can see not only from the spell selection but also from the creatures. Cards such as Augur of Bolas and Archaeomancer are only at their best in an environment built to support them, which means lots and lots of spells. Although the deck is well built to support this aim, there's certainly plenty of room for improvement.

Creatures We Keep

Archaeomancer
As far as creatures go, many of them are safe. The Archaeomancers get the nod, as do the copies of Augur of Bolas. With that out of the way, we have a few other things we'd like to salvage from the deck before jettisoning the rest. One of the things the deck wants to do is congest the red zone while it spends its time playing through its deck, so the obstruction-specializing Fog Bank wins out. Although Kraken Hatchlings is a fantastic 1-drop and more burn-proof than the Fog Bank, the mana savings is no great incentive since we're building for a longer game anyway.

It's a rare Meddling that sees us discount any rares, so we'll be holding onto the Stormtide Leviathan. Talrand's in, of course, as he's the fulcrum of the deck. Finally, we'll be holding firm to the Wind Drakes since our non-Leviathan win condition is attrition in the sky.

Creatures We Cut

Kraken Hatchling
Everything else, not that there's much left over. We want the deck to be lean and efficient, which are objectives Intro Packs don't typically possess. The Harbor Serpent is conditional fat, costing way too much and most times doing way too little. As mentioned above, the Kraken Hatchlings are out just because the Fog Banks can do a bit more soaking.

Although I'd like to keep the Mindclaw Shaman in for thematic purposes (it together with the Augur and Disciple form the Bolas Trio), let's face facts: Unless you catch your opponent with an instant or sorcery in hand, you're paying 5 mana for a humble 2/2. We all may dream of ripping the Great Big Blowout right from our opponent's hand, but as often as not, you'll either whiff or find something not as optimal as you might have hoped. It's certainly not worth the gamble.

Finally, the copies of Scroll Thief have been cut their walking papers. Again, we find the enviable potential of card advantage offset by the hoops you have to jump through to get there. In this case, you have to swing in unopposed with a 1-power creature. If we had some reliable way to grant evasion, sure, it would be worth consideration, but on its own, it's just taking up room for some of our better choices.

With the creatures out of the way, we can now turn our attention to the real heavy lifting of the deck, the instants and sorceries. In the original configuration, the deck does a little bit of everything, but nothing particularly well. With a dollop of card-draw, a pinch of countermagic, and a dash of removal, it was a bit of a bland porridge on the whole—all the more reason to get stuck into it.

Spells We Keep

Not many. By opening up the pool to Innistrad block cards, most of the cards in the stock configuration are easy casualties. Sleep is an easy one, offsetting its generous price tag by offering the versatility of buying us time or setting up a game-ending alpha strike. Talrand's Invocation is unusually strong, offering you 4 evasive power over two bodies for only 4 mana. Finally, the Ring of Evos Isle is too much fun to pitch, and it brings some very useful augmentation to the table with our blue creatures.

Spells We Cut and Additions

Think Twice
With everything else going out the window, we've given ourselves plenty of room to build. It's not that the spells in Depths of Power are bad, it's just that we have some very strong options with Magic 2013 that synergize even more strongly with Talrand. Of the three main thrusts of the noncreature support suite, we'll be rebuilding only the removal and card-drawing options. This deck asks for a more proactive approach than countermagic is able to offer it, and while it would be nice to have some protection for our key card, we just don't have the room in the deck to consistently do so.

Instead, we'll be looking to up the frequency at which you find Talrand—a lot. Since we're not adding any more rares to the deck, we need to make the most of our single copy, and that means churning through our library. Another quick note on the deck's tech: Since Talrand triggers whenever you cast an instant or sorcery spell, he's a natural fit with a deck that packs in a ton of flashback cards. Making a pair of 2/2 Drakes is nice, but making two more from the same card is even better.

With that in mind, the first things we stick in here are Think Twices and Faithless Lootings. This will help give us the greatest chance of finding Talrand, and they still prove useful even in games in which we're not able to deploy him. By helping us sift through to find our best cards needed at the moment, we naturally give ourselves the best chance to win.

Silent Departure
For creature removal, we're going all-in on Silent Departures. A case can definitely be made for Unsummons here—since it gives us an additional layer of protection for Talrand in case your opponent is holding removal—so it might be a metagame call. You may wish to adjust your ratio of Unsummons or Silent Departures in accordance with what you're expecting to be up against. Still, we want to keep our flashback count high to wring every last Drake Talrand is hiding right out of him.

Last, for some burn, we're going to go for a set of Brimstone Volleys. Geistflame is nice since it has flashback, but its damage output is positively tepid. This is a sluggish environment for burn. Since the departure of Lightning Bolt, last seen in Magic 2011, we've seen a gradual waning of the power of direct damage. The current core set stand-in, Searing Spear, costs twice as much. I've opted for Brimstone Volleys instead. Although it costs 1 more mana, the opportunity to blast a quarter of your opponent's life total away with a single card is compelling. We don't have a lot of space left for burn, so we need to make what we have count. Here's the final list.

As always, your mileage may vary, and there are a lot of fun directions to take this deck, especially if you throw off the card-pool restraints. You might consider adding more Talrands to really make the deck tick, or you may try to splice in a Delver of Secrets and Ponder package while the latter's still legal. Of course, if you're building for the kitchen table, you might generate some extra mileage with those Kiln Fiends and Charmbreaker Devils. One thing's for sure: With Return to Ravnica looming on the horizon, it's a great time to be Izzet!

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