Magic: The Gathering; Dimir, My Process for Deck Building

Hythonia the Cruel

Hythonia the Cruel

Hythonia the Cruel

Everyone has their own, unique, process for building a deck when it comes to Magic. Even people who build competitive, tournament decks have their own approach, that is part of the beauty of the game, that it taps into creativity on the part of the players. This also causes people to become attached to their decks. They built them, they play them, it’s something they are invested in.

I’m sharing three decks that I’ve put together that are moderately successful. I thought it would be useful, possibly even helpful to see my process for building a deck. Now I like to build Johnny decks not Spike decks and it’s kind of messy since I’m not in a super hurry to get it done.

First I pick a theme or find a card I want to play. For my Dimir deck (black and blue), I stumbled across a Hythonia the Cruel and loved the picture. Upon reading the card I realized that I couldn’t just throw her into my Rakdos deck because her Monstrous form destroys all non-Gorgon creatures. This, naturally, meant that I was now committed to building a deck around Gorgons. I also had a Morkrut Banshee I couldn’t wedge into my Rakdos deck and I really think it’s a good card. So I’ll put it with my Hythonia the Cruel and see what I can do with them.

Xathrid Gorgon

Xathrid Gorgon

Once I have the seed of a deck, like the above two cards, I begin to choose cards that I like, that I think might work or that seem cool and throw them into a deck case. Editing will come later. I tend to throw a bunch of cards together if I like them or think I want to play them and then have to edit later. It’s far easier to cut a deck down than try to find that one perfect card. Also, if you get a deck together that functions you can play it until you stumble across that perfect card.

There aren’t really enough Gorgons to make a full deck with just them so I’m thinking Gorgons and Zombies. This means I need to find some kind of graveyard recursion. Zombies call for it by nature. I wouldn’t be being true to the spirit of the creature if I neglected graveyard recursion. The question is what? Also I think a Skullclamp is called for.

My card list so far:

1 Hythonia the Cruel
4 Gorgon Recluse
3 Keepsake Gorgon
4 Xathrid Gorgon
1 Black Cat
1 Morkrut Banshee
1 Pharika’s Chosen
1 Steel Hellkite (I like it and I haven’t found another home deck for it)
1 Stromgald Crusader (His place is not secure in this or any deck but I keep trying)

Nyxathid

Nyxathid


1 Lifebane Zombie
1 Diregraf Captain
1 Nyxathid (I keep trying to get this into a deck)
1 Night’s Whisper (the art goes in this deck)
1 Grasp of Darkness (foil, gorgeous and disturbing art)
1 Tendrils of Corruption
1 Countermand
1 Exclude
1 Dissipate
1 Dismiss
1 Dark Ritual
2 Aspect of Gorgon
1 Skullclamp
1 Sol Ring

32 cards so far and I still don’t know quite what this deck does. To make it work I have to know what it does—besides win, silly. I need to know how it is going to win. I need to pick a focus for it like my Orzhov deck has and my Rakdos deck.

Night's Whisper

Night’s Whisper

From what the cards already do there is a lot of removal. That may be the way to go. A little more control from the blue and that could get my Gorgons and Zombies through their defensive line.

Figure 24 land to start with in an average deck with a relatively undemanding mana curve, that leaves me with 4 more cards I can easily fit into the deck and keep it at 60 cards. I’ll have to see what I find. This is the beginning of my Dimir deck. I will keep you updated as I complete it and how it plays in game play. K

Magic : The Gathering About that Orzhov Deck

Obzedat, Ghost Council

Obzedat, Ghost Council

Obzedat, Ghost Council

Just the week before Christmas 2014 I got back into playing Magic: The Gathering. I dusted off my two old decks and after several painful defeats reworked them, taking out some old cards and putting in some new ones. I’ve been having so much fun I decided to make a new deck with all new cards.

I started with a couple cards I knew I wanted to play and then as I chose cards that I thought went with them I began to think about what I wanted the deck to do. With my Rakdos deck it’s all about sacrificing creatures and bringing them back from the graveyard. With my Azorius deck it’s about casting large flying creatures. As I began to look at the cards I was drawn to for my Orzhov deck I found that life gain and life drain seemed to be the way the cards were going so that became the focus of the deck.

Erebos, God of the Dead

Erebos, God of the Dead

It’s awful to say but I began to look at the cards I was considering and trying to see how I could make the deck such that every time I did something, my opponent was punished for it. No card does just one thing with the exception of basic land. I still managed to get some cards in the deck that I just like too. There’s always room for some cards you just like. Having a defined focus for the deck led to me building one of the best decks I’ve ever put together and it was good from the beginning.

Often times when a deck is first put together it goes through a period of tuning and refinement as a player discovers what works and what doesn’t in the deck. For my Orzhov deck that was not the case. I still fine tune it but it has worked from the first game.

Ashen Rider

Ashen Rider

Here is the card list for my Orzhov deck:

4 Tithe Drinker (I know, I actually put 4 of something in a deck that isn’t land)
3 Vampire Nighthawk
2 Vampire Hexmage
2 Butcher of Malakir (extremely ugly but too good not to put in the deck)
2 High Priest of Penance
1 Angel of Despair (I’ve been trying to get her in a deck since I got her)
1 Deathpact Angel
1 Obzedat, Ghost Council (awesome and I love the way Obzedat rolls off the tongue)
1 Erebos, God of the Dead (Ya bruh)
1 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
1 Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath
1 Ashen Rider (this is the bad boy that started this whole deck)
1 Shriekmaw (a personal favorite)
1 Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief
1 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
1 Blood Artist (I should pick up another one of these)
1 Child of Night (foil)
1 Pulse Tracker (also foil)
1 Crypt Ghast (I need another one of these)
1 Whip of Erebos
1 Sol Ring
1 Profane Command (This card is amazing)
1 Merciless Eviction
1 Syphon Mind (I’m thinking of making this a sideboard card)

Profane Command

Profane Command


1 Victimize
1 Utter End (I need another one of these too)
1 Grasp of Darkness (foil)
1 Zealous Persecution
1 Mortify
4 Isolated Chapel
2 Vault of the Archangel
1 Orzhov Guildgate
1 Arcane Lighthouse
1 Ghost Quarter
10 Swamp
7 plains

This deck is really a lot of fun to play and it’s competitive enough to win its fair share of games.

The Continuing Story of a Betta Named Gipsy Danger

Gipsy

Gipsy's new tank

Gipsy’s new tank

Degarla, alas my Degarla. As it turns out Degarla was a girl snail. Ebriah was not a girl snail. I discovered this when I checked the tank on Christmas morning to feed everyone and there was a gift of a clutch of eggs left on the edge of the tank. It didn’t take any time at all to discover that Degarla was the generous one who left the gift.

What I did not know was that female snails will leave their ponds and go in search of new ponds to lay eggs in. Sadly, our house is a vast desert and Degarla was not found for 36 hours. She was closed up tight and still alive but dying. I quickly put her back into the water but that only led to a lingering death. I called the pet shop to ask if there was anything more I could do and they said no. I still miss her.

Ebriah has since fallen into a deep depression—either that or he’s hibernating or maybe even dying, although I hope he’s not dying. The death of Degarla led to a huge ammonia spike in my 5.5 gallon tank. It was so bad that Gipsy Danger got ammonia burns on his face and beard. In a bit of a panic, since I didn’t want to loose Ebriah, Gipsy and the Vashta Nerada I put Gipsy in a small hospital tank and went out and got a 10 gallon tank (on huge sale) and a stand (also on sale) for him.

Gipsy

Gipsy

Since Gipsy Danger is such an alpha Betta and since he didn’t seem to care to share his tank with any interlopers I got the 10 gallon tank all set up, let the water cycle and then put him in by himself. He enjoyed the space but he didn’t seem like his normal self.

So after a few days I put some cherry shrimp in the tank with Gipsy and he immediately, and I might add happily, started chasing them around. He never catches them but it makes him happy to have something small and not fish-like to chase around a bit.

My cherry shrimp have had at least one surviving little shrimplet and is carrying another clutch of eggs. The ghost shrimp are settling in as well. One of them had a clutch of eggs but they never hatched. I don’t know if it was because of the ammonia spike or just because ghost shrimp are difficult to breed in an aquarium with a betta in it.

cherry shrimp

cherry shrimp

I put a lot of plants in my aquarium too. It turns out that the only plants I can keep alive in the house are aquarium plants, so now I have an indoor garden too and Gipsy likes playing in them, the shrimp like hiding in them. The snails seem to enjoy uprooting them. Well they used to. Ebriah doesn’t much like the big tank. He hasn’t been himself since Degarla died. I kept Ebriah in the big tank for two weeks and he never came out of his shell. Occasionally he would stick his siphon out but he never really moved around. So I put him back in the smaller tank. I hope he’s ok and he’s not dying too.

Gipsy is doing very well. His ammonia burns healed up within the first week in the new tank and he sleeps and plays in his aquatic forest. I put in a little forest for him and he sleeps in it. After the first day he stopped chasing the shrimp around most of the time. Once in a while he’ll still chase them but I think he likes having them around to play with. I got him a new cave and he still likes to pretend he’s a moray and jump out at the shrimp to watch them scatter.

Gipsy and Vashta

Gipsy and Vashta

Magic: The Gathering –Speaking of Johnny Decks

Avacyn, Angel of Hope

Avacyn, Angel of Hope

Avacyn, Angel of Hope

Last time I wrote about my Fallen Angel deck, now named Rakdos. I seem to recall that I promised I’d write up my Angel deck, now called Azorius (Blue and White). This is my slowest deck. The mana threshold went up from 5 to 7 when I rebuilt it and there is very little acceleration to be found playing Blue or White. I also didn’t want to dilute the deck by putting too many counter spell type cards in it. I had to use some countering abilities though, since I cannot speed up the deck, my only hope is to slow down my opponents.

The real crux of my Azorius deck is that if I don’t miss a land drop and don’t get defeated before turns 5 to 7 I can and will cast a large flying creature every single turn after I hit the peak of my mana curve. It’s a dicey strategy since a lot of decks, even casual ones, if they get a good opening hand, can take me down before my deck gets going. If I, somehow, manage to survive though, the angels are amazing.

Archangel

Archangel

I’ve tried to select angels that multi-task. Gone completely are the classic Serra Angels of yore that used to be the backbone of the deck. Gone too are the Archangels that used to be my big closers. Now I have Akroma, Angel of Wrath and Avacyn, Angel of Hope among others. It was a difficult choice to remove the Serra Angels and Archangels but the deck is slow, I need for the Angels I play to give me bonuses of some kind.

Iridescent Angel

Iridescent Angel

Of the Angels I have in the deck the two that seem to cause the greatest gnashing of teeth and wailing from my foes are the Iridescent Angel and Reya Dawnbringer. The Iridescent Angel has protection (pro) from every color and Reya Dawnbringer allows me to return target creature card from my graveyard to play during my upkeep. I find them quite useful.

One of the other things I look for in cards and in a deck is that it is pretty. There is enough Magic: The Gathering art out there, and variant art for individual cards that I can usually find something I like or that fits with the visual theme of the deck as I build it. My Azorius deck is the most beautiful deck I’ve ever been able to put together. With a very few, notable and very practical exceptions, every card is simply gorgeous. Yes art matters.

There are still some angels I would like to get for this deck and a few cards I’m not too certain about keeping in there. This deck, of all my decks, is my favorite, it contains the remnants of the first deck I ever made and it is the one that I’m most particular about. Unlike my Rakdos deck or my Orzhov deck it is not quite right yet, it doesn’t have quite the right feel to it.

Angel of the Dire Hour

Angel of the Dire Hour

Here is the current breakdown for my Azorius deck:

1 Seraph of Dawn
1 Platinum Angel
1 Battlegrace Angel
1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence (new addition)
1 Angel of the Dire Hour
1 Akroma, Angel of Wrath
1 Avacyn, Angel of Hope
1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
1 Angel of Salvation
1 Angel of Jubilation
1 Angel of Serenity
1 Reya Dawnbringer
1 Shepherd of the Lost
2 Sunblast Angel
2 Archangel of Thune
2 Serra Avenger
2 Lightkeeper of Emeria
3 Iridescent Angel
2 Wall of Omens (cheap and card drawing but I’m iffy about these in the deck)
1 Noble Stand
1 Moat
1 Concentrate
1 Timely Reinforcements (iffy)
1 Remember the Fallen
1 Iona’s Judgment
2 Dismiss
1 Erase
1 Cyclonic Rift (so useful but I resist it in this deck)
1 Comeuppance (useful but kind of ugly)
1 Sphinx’s Revelation (not right for this deck but card drawing is so good)
1 Return to Dust
1 Loreseeker’s Stone (iffy)
1 Sol Ring
2 Pearl Medallion
1 Elixir of Immortality (Doesn’t seem right for the deck)
1 Maze of Ith
1 Seraph Sanctuary
1 Prahv, Spires of Order
1 Emeria, the Sky Ruin
2 Azorius Guildgate (we have a name, folks)
2 Glacial Fortress
4 Tundra (Did I mention the remnants of my first ever deck?)
2 Island
18 plains

Sunblast Angel

Sunblast Angel

Whew! That’s quite a list to type up. I’m currently looking to pick up some other angels to swap out for some of the questionable stuff, like a Baneslayer Angel. I really like this deck but it is not the fastest deck to play, it’s really more of a style thing and it does need some improvement. I’m very happy that there are so many angels to choose from that I can really make something close to competitive using angels.

Next time I think I’ll write up my Orzhov deck, which is actually quite good and may be second only to my Rakdos deck. K

A Productive Superbowl, Writing was done

Gipsy's new tank

Well, gentle reader, despite Seattle throwing away the Superbowl with that last play

Gipsy's new tank

Gipsy’s new tank

call, I got a lot done tonight. I got a chapter of new content written for The Shadow of the Hand of God and I’ve written and pre-scheduled the next four posts for the little blog here. One for each Saturday in February. Three about Magic: The Gathering and one about my Betta and the sadness of a lost snail. So the good news is that there will be blogs and maybe some extra ones as topics suggest themselves to me.

I’m really getting excited about the re-write of The Shadow of the Hand of God. I think it will be better, more accessible and more interesting. As I get closer to having it completed I’ll post some of the new content. K.