"For the love of god, someone give me a sweet brew for my article before I try to play Faith's Reward"
This was me just before I started playing some games for this article. It all started in school earlier that day when my friend Sam asked me if there were any good sacrifice outlets in Standard. We then started joking around about Paraselene, Detention Sphere, and Elvish Visionary. He told me about a dumb Faith's Reward deck he had put together for no reason other than to joke around. I got home, messed around with some Pauper, and then determined I needed to figure out what to play for my article.
I had originally decided on a four-color Burn at the Stake deck that had been floating around on Magic Online, but I didn't like the looks of it. Most of the lists just made some tokens and cast Burn at the Stake...hardly interesting. I then opened my email to see a humorous email from Sam about the Faith's Reward deck. I knew he wasn't serious about it, but now I was. I was originally going to start with the five-color shell that Sam had sent me, but I wanted to make this somewhat realistic.
I began tossing cards in left and right and started making assorted cuts. I finally determined what I wanted my plan to be. My plan A would be to use a sacrifice outlet, Blood Artist, and Faith's Reward to do a lot of damage in one big turn. I also wanted some amount of a plan B, so I threw Goldnight Commander in as well.
Here is the list I decided to run through a couple of matches. It was a little rough around the edges, but it taught me a lot.
- 3 Arbor Elf
- 4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 4 Blood Artist
- 4 Bloodflow Connoisseur
- 4 Bloodthrone Vampire
- 3 Borderland Ranger
- 3 Cathedral Sanctifier
- 4 Elvish Visionary
- 2 Goldnight Commander
In the original list, the deck played a streamlined game; it cast some dudes, got some value, and then tried to kill the opponent with Blood Artist. I'll go over a bunch of the card choices once I get to my updated list at the end. For now, check out some games I played with the deck. Also of note, I started with playing games in the casual room of Magic Online. While this reduces the competitiveness, I feel it will give the matches more of an FNM feel, returning to the original roots of the column.
Round 1: Esper Spirits
He started with a Delver of Secrets that didn't flip for a while, and I advanced my board state with some Elvish Visionaries, mana dorks, and a Blood Artist. He got out a pair of Dungeon Geists to tap down an Avacyn's Pilgrim and Bloodthrone Vampire, but I had more than enough small creatures to keep a good presence. He then slammed a Drogskol Captain, which threatened a very real clock. I was able to play a Goldnight Commander and some other small creatures to force him to block with the Captain, but he still had more than lethal on his turn. I had to sacrifice a large percentage of my board, but when he went for an all-out attack, I was able to drain for enough with Blood Artist to stay alive. I then played the last two guys in my hand and attacked him for lethal on my turn.
In game two, he started with only one land but played a Delver that quickly flipped. Once he finally hit his second land, he played a Favorable Winds, but at that point I had a decent board of Elvish Visionary, Arbor Elf, Blood Artist, and Bloodthrone Vampire. He used a Cackling Counterpart to make another Insectile Aberration, but I played out another Bloodthrone Vampire and attacked for a few. He blocked, but I still had enough to drain him for lethal.
Round 2: Chronic Flooding Combo
Game 1 I started to get off the ground, but a mulligan to five left me short on cards. He had a turn 2 Nightshade Peddler and turn 3 Izzet Staticaster, and while I tried to get something going, I was easily demolished. I conceded to just those two creatures knowing I could do very little to get out of that spot.
In game 2, he had a slow start, casting a couple of Mulches to get something going. Unfortunately for him, I had my quickest start yet. I set up a quick board of double Blood Artist, Bloodthrone Vampire, Avacyn's Pilgrim, and Elvish Visionary. He played a Huntmaster, but after some quick math, I realized he was still dead to the Faith's Reward in my hand.
Game 3 I set up a wall of mana dorks and a Blood Artist, but I was still looking for some real action. He built up a decent graveyard but had no Angel of Glory's Rise. He used some Rolling Temblors, but I had Faith's Reward to counter them. I finally hit a Bloodthrone Vampire, but I couldn't kill him until the next turn. Fortunately for him, he Mulched into both Angel of Glory's Rise and Unburial Rites. Two Nightshade Peddlers and Izzet Staticasters later, I was dead.
Round 3: U/W Flash
Game 1 I began with an Avacyn's Pilgrim and some other value 1/1s. He had a pretty slow start, but so did I. I couldn't resolve anything major because of his counterspells, but finally I used a Cavern of Souls to slip through a Blood Artist and Bloodflow Connoisseur. While he had some good defense measures set up, I was able to deal him exactly enough damage because of his lack of blockers.
Games 2 and 3 were very uneventful. I mulliganed to five both times and started to build some of an offense, but I was thwarted by public enemy number one: Sphinx's Revelation. Game 3 I got a little bit of an offense going, but it couldn't race Supreme Verdict and Sphinx's Revelation.
While I didn't do so great in the games, I really enjoyed the deck. I had some good ideas in mind to tune the deck a little bit. Here is the list I came up with after playing some games.
- 4 Arbor Elf
- 4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 4 Blood Artist
- 4 Bloodflow Connoisseur
- 4 Bloodthrone Vampire
- 3 Borderland Ranger
- 3 Elvish Visionary
- 2 Falkenrath Noble
- 2 Goldnight Commander
My most astute observation in the games was that Blood Artist was far and away the best and most important card. I was a little disappointed in the lack of similar effects in Standard until I found...Falkenrath Noble. A Limited powerhouse but now long forgotten uncommon, Falkenrath Noble was just the card I wanted. While it's a little bit expensive, it has the same ability as Blood Artist. Also, it has a little evasion, which I like for when I need to get a couple extra points in.
I also loved Lingering Souls out of the board, but it was typically a card I only wanted to draw one of. It works well with Blood Artist as a sacrifice outlet and goes exceptionally well with Goldnight Commander. Now seems like a great time to go over some of the other card choices in the deck.
4 Arbor Elf, 4 Avacyn's Pilgrim - While I originally started with seven mana dorks, I knew I wanted to bump up to eight. They are great to sacrifice to get Blood Artist triggers once you no longer need extra mana, and they help you get the fast starts this deck wants. Occasionally you get flooded with just mana dorks and lands, but that didn't happen enough for me to want to cut one.
4 Blood Artist, 2 Falkenrath Noble, 2 Goldnight Commander - The drain ability is the most important piece of the deck. It is your plan A and is how you win most of your games. Goldnight Commander is good, but Blood Artist is so synergistic. The Artist gives you great Faith's Reward turns, helps you survive against other aggro decks, and can downright kill your opponent. I did seventeen plus damage twice with Blood Artist in one turn (granted, one of those times I had two Blood Artists).
Once you start adding in multiple Faith's Rewards, things get crazy. I also put Goldnight Commander is this group because it is your plan B but not by much. It works well with all of your small creatures and is very good with a sac outlet and Faith's Reward. The key is to do the math to see how many guys you should leave on the field to get pumped. Remember, things don't come back with haste off of Faith's Reward.
4 Bloodthrone Vampire, 4 Bloodflow Connoisseur - These are definitely the second most important cards in the deck. They work amazingly well with Blood Artist and are how you set up big Faith's Reward turns. They can also downright kill your opponent on their own. You would think that the sac outlet would be more important than Blood Artist, but it's close. Typically, I want to draw lots of Blood Artists and only one of these. Bloodflow Connoisseur doesn't swing for as much, but it survives damage-based removal/sweepers and can attack for large chunks across multiple turns.
3 Elvish Visionary, 3 Borderland Ranger, 2 Lingering Souls - These cards are important for getting value out of your cards like Bloodthrone Vampire and Faith's Reward. With only 22 lands in the deck now, Borderland Ranger may become a four-of. I'll see if I have mana troubles in the future. Lingering Souls doesn't work as well with Faith's Reward, but it works amazingly well with Goldnight Commander. You can cast it to give your team +4/+4 or to create an army that Goldnight Commander can pump.
4 Faith's Reward, 2 Increasing Ambition - While the deck is named for Faith's Reward, it isn't super necessary. It usually wins you the game a turn or two sooner, but it can also win out of some unwinnable board positions. It's also very good at protecting versus Wraths, and you can even chump block a bunch and surprise your opponent end of turn with a lethal army. Increasing Ambition is more of a test card, but I have liked it so far. I have yet to flash it back, but I often found myself wanting one specific card, whether it be Faith's Reward, Blood Artist, a sac outlet, or even just Elvish Visionary or Lingering Souls. The card is pretty versatile but is expensive, so it may eventually get the boot or get cut down to one copy.
22 Lands - I'm not sure I like going this low, but I felt with seven mana dorks, 23 lands, and three Borderland Ranger that I was getting a little bit flooded. Now that I'm on eight dorks, I wanted to try cutting a land. I haven't had a problem yet, but I could see it becoming one.
3 Cathedral Sanctifier - I wasn't incredibly happy about cutting this guy from the main because it seems important versus Zombies. While my deck can be very quick, their deck can be quicker. I have yet to play against the undead horde, so if I discover it's a problem this guy may need to go back into the main. I may even need some more help like Centaur Healer or Thragtusk. By the way, Thragtusk is card I considered for this deck, but he seemed too expensive and not impactful enough. He may have a spot in the sideboard though.
1 Killing Wave - In some matchups, I felt I needed another way to interact with my Blood Artists that wasn't just a sac outlet. Killing Wave seemed perfect as not only will I get the triggers from all of my creatures but from all of my opponent's as well. I plan to try out the card in the future for matchups like G/W Aggro and see how it goes. I like it particularly because in certain situations it can act as a Wrath effect if my opponent's life is low enough.
4 Duress, 1 Appetite for Brains - I wanted ways to strip key cards out of my control opponents' hands, and these seemed perfect. Originally I had more Appetites, but creatures really aren't the problem. Duress can hit Sphinx's Revelation, which is a good card against me if they can make the game go longer. Duress also hits Azorius Charm, a card that could potentially cause a problem. You may have noticed by now my glaring lack of removal. I kind of wanted to fit something cool in the board like Bone Splitters, but for now I'm just hoping for the best. Appetite can hit bigger creatures that pose problems like Drogskol Reaver and Thragtusk, but it can't hit Izzet Staticaster, a card that is a real issue for this deck. I plan to put more thought into what I want to do about that in the future.
3 Deathrite Shaman - I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to use for graveyard decks. Originally I had Crypt Creeper for his synergy with Faith's Reward, but Deathrite Shaman is so good. He not only hits relevant creatures that could be Reanimated or spells that could be flashed back, but he burns your opponent in the process. That is very key in this deck because you can often find yourself a point or two short of victory. He is also a one-drop, which makes it easier to flood the board for Goldnight Commander or Blood Artist.
3 Golgari Charm - I wanted a catchall card in the sideboard. Rest in Peace can pose a real problem for this deck when it sits on the field. We don't care much about having our graveyard removed in the first place, but not being able to stick things in there when we want to go off can be problematic. Golgari Charm also hits problem enchantments like Detention Sphere and can save our team from a wild Supreme Verdict. I even used the -1/-1 ability once to clear my board of double Blood Artist and five other 1/1s, dealing my opponent a lethal fourteen damage.
Overall, this deck is definitely a lot of fun to play, and I recommend you give it a try. I plan to work on this deck more in the future, so you may see it again. For next week, I think I might try my own version of the Burn at the Stake deck unless something better catches my eye. I'd love to see some submissions from you guys. I'm always looking for new ideas to try from week to week, and you guys usually have some great ones. Sorry if I don't respond to every email or comment. I do my best, but there's a lot to sort through. For now, I leave you with these final words: thank god it's FNM!
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