The Kitchen Table #138: Peasant Magic Update
I've discovered the most difficult thing to do as a writer. Trying to come up with a good article while on an extended vacation is very difficult for me. Last week I begged it off by writing a bunch of small articles and smashing them together. This week, I'll need to actually write a whole article.
I have a canned article, but I don't want to use it except in emergencies. What I really need is a blast of inspiration that causes me to whirlwind five or six articles in a day or two and then be done for the entire eight week sabbatical.
Of course, you can tell by the title of the article that I already found something to write about. While I am writing, I don't title my article until the end, but you, as a reader, get the benefit of knowing the title ahead of time. It's like finding out how Encyclopedia Brown solves the crime before even beginning the story.
Recently there's been a lot of discussion about Peasant Magic over on the Pez newsgroup. How powerful is combo, how powerful is control, and so forth.
As many of you may know, in addition to sitting on the Five Color Ruling Council, I'm also on the Peasant Magic body. I've been looking for an article idea for Pez for months now, and the recent explosion of conversation has given me an excellent idea to give some updated Pez decklists and discuss the format.
Peasant Magic is a casual format that allows all Vintage legal sets plus the Un- sets. You are only allowed to play with commons and up to five uncommons. A card counts as the lowest commonality it was ever printed at, so you can play Counterspell or Rukh Egg as commons. A few cards are banned or changed.
Strip Mine is officially an uncommon, despite one printing that was common.
Some of the best decks of Pez are aggro, control and combo – it's a nice selection. Would you like to see? I thought you might:
Some Tournament Organizers like to play without the Un- sets, which we are comfortable with. Let's take a look at a few decks that won tournaments:
4 Sleight of Hand
4 Words of Wisdom
3 Ideas Unbound
2 Compulsive Research
4 Frantic Search
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Lotus Petal
4 High Tide
4 Dark Ritual
4 Cabal Ritual
1 Demonic Consultation (U)
4 Tendrils of Agony (U)
This is the deck that Deslandes Christophe piloted to a tournament win in Paris. In Pez decklists, it is customary to write a (U) after the uncommons to make the deck easier to read.
As you can see, this is a Tendrils deck that tries to kill quickly with a nice, built up Tendrils. Two types of Ritual plus High Tide make mana that allows the deck to go off, as well as working with Lotus Petals and Frantic Searches. Toss in a bunch of cheap search effects ad you have your deck. It's fun to try out.
There has been some tension in Peasant Magic for several years regarding the viability of combo decks in the format. Some people hear of the Peasant Magic idea and they immediately think of aggro decks like Stompy. They may think this is a refreshing way to get away from the complex decks of tournaments. Then they discover that combo is viable in Pez and they are disappointed.
I think a healthy format should have combo, aggro, and control all viable and winning tournaments. Sure, this format has combo decks winning, but it also has aggro and control decks winning.
If you were to Un- this deck up, you might want to look at the highly broken Framed! Framed is one of several highly abusive cards in Unhinged. It allows you to untap all of your lands for just 1U. Upping your spell count for the turn while also reloading is very powerful.
In fact, I think the creators of Unhinged pushed the comedy element too much at the expense of the casual element. Some cards are meant to be funny, but end up being broken (Mox Lotus, for example). I'd prefer a casual set that does not try to be funny. That'd be my number one wish for Wizards in two years after they publish 10th next summer. Put out a set that's casual only, but not funny. This would give you an option to explore themes that you could never do in a tournament set. How about a mechanic called Saboteur that places the card in an opponent's deck or graveyard? Ah well, I digress.
Un- cards are often unusually powerful, which means that in Pez tourneys that allow them, there are usually several decks that benefit. Framed is one such card.
4 Wirewood Herald
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Fyndhorn Elves
4 Multani's Acolyte
4 Timberwatch Elves
4 Quirion Ranger
4 Skullclamp (U)
4 Llanowar Elite
4 Wild Mongrel
4 Land Grant
1 Wirewood Hivemaster (U)
Do you want an aggro deck now? How about one of the premier aggro decks of the format? ElfClamp has ruled the roost of the Pez metagame as one of the two top aggro decks out there. This is my personal version of the deck, which differs in a few ways from others.
My deck runs Multani's Acolyte, for example. It's Clampable, it's an Elf (which helps the deck0, it draws you a card, and it's an aggressive play. I like it a lot.
I also like Wild Mongrel enough to play him even here. He's just too good to ignore.
I find few ElfClamp decks like to run Land Grant and four less Forests, whereas I swear by them. Nothing in this deck costs more than three, and that's just the Timberwatch Elves, which are a luxury. In reality, nothing costs more than two in this deck. There's tons of card drawing through the Acolytes and the Clamps. There's also eight one-mana Elves in the Fyndhorns and Llanowars, plus the Rangers can make mana in a crunch. Therefore, when I run this deck, I find 12 Forests reliable. In fact, sometimes, I draw too many. Four Forests in play is one too many.
Obviously, the sideboard changes based on what you are encountering in the metagame. Good boards almost always include Naturalize or a similar effect. You'll see why soon enough.
Remember, this is my personal version of ElfClamp, but the basic premise from deck to deck varies little.
This deck is build around a lot of removal paired with Isochron Scepter. It is commonly referred to as IsoBurn, but I hate that name. Every time I see it I think “In Search of Burn,” from some singles page. This deck is not in search of burn; it serves burn. Therefore, I prefer ScepterBurn.
This deck was piloted to a third place finish in another tournament by Jerome Cianfarani. It is a classic IsoBurn deck with a nasty twist.
As you can see, there are a few cheap creatures to throw out, then the rest of the deck is pure burn. The deck thrives on cheap burn, and when it draws its Scepter, it really goes off.
This deck is one reason that other decks run artifact removal. It is not the only deck, as you'll see later.
This deck has a couple of choices that are unusual. Immolation kills off creatures well, pumps the Flunkies to a 5/1 beater of doom, but replaces the traditional Lava Spike. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but I respect the choice.
The other neat thing Jerome has done is create a very interesting sideboard. I love the board moving to White with some interesting effects there for the deck. That's not typical of this genre of decks, but it is neat to see someone really expand on their sideboard.
This is another of my own builds. MBC gets some serious play, especially by players who've played Pez for a while but don't want to play the more advanced combo decks like Ritual Agony, above. This was one of Jason Chapman's favorite types of deck, when he wrote for Pojo on Peasant Magic.
It's a solid deck for virtually any matchup, but you have to pilot it well in all of those games. It will never win on autopilot. Let's break it down a bit:
Duress and Hymns mark an impressive discard outlet. You want to use these early and often until you have stripped your opponent of his resources or you need to do something else. You want to take out answers first, then look for problems that you can't answer second.
Diabolic Edict is your only real creature removal spell. It's great in the early game, and perfect post Pestilence to kill the Pro Black White Weenie creature that didn't die to the Pestilencing. This is just a stopgap measure.
Consume Spirit and Drain Life are you player-killing spells. Early they'll often be used to take out creatures, and later used to take out players. Never fear throwing one out against a creature, because there are eight in the deck, and you'll draw more.
Pestilence is the best card in the deck, even better than Cabal Coffers. It allows you to reuse your board-sweeping ability over and over again. It also can kill an opponent, especially if you've gained life from your Drains and Consumes. Remember that a Pestilence leaves play at the end of turn if there are no creatures in play.
That is why I play Cemetery Gate. It's a great blocker in the early game, and it has Protection from Black. It will take a grand total of zero damage from the Pestilence. That means it sticks around no matter how big your Pestilence that turn, and therefore, your Pestilence sticks around too.
There is a trio of Demonic Tutors, available to get what you need. Often you'll go for Pestilence or Cabal Coffers, but you'll occasionally want to go elsewhere. Against Ritual Agony, for example, you want to hit their hand hard, and I've tutored for Hymns before.
Obviously, the deck runs Dark Ritual and Coffers to help the manabase. The Ritual adds to Drains and Consumes while also helping Pestilences, so it is fine later in the game.
4 Cloud of Faeries
4 Prosperity (U)
3 Merchant Scroll
2 Feldon's Cane
1 Force of Will (U)
1 Peer Through Depths
3 Ideas Unbound
3 Serum Visions
4 Sleight of Hand
4 Frantic Search
4 High Tide
If you like your combo extra Blue, then look no further than High Tide. This deck was piloted by Matthieu Durand all the way to the top of a tournament. It is everybody's favorite friend from a long time ago, but, because of the commonality rule, it's not nearly as broken. It is, however, still really good.
This version uses Prosperity to cause your opponent to draw tons, while sacking a Cane to make sure you have enough cards in your deck to survive. You'll see a few modern cards, like Ideas Unbound and Peer Through Depths here.
First of all, it has one Force of Will, and no other countermagic to speak of. It does have a few cheap, situational counters in the board, but that's all. Imagine what happens when ScepterBurn drops a Scepter and imprints Red Elemental Blast or Pyroblast and has a few extra in hand to for the following turn.
Second, it's more vulnerable to disruption. Imagine what happens when MBC casts Duress followed by Hymn, then Tutor-Hymn again. This deck does not have the ability to recover like previous versions did. Except for Ideas Unbound and Prosperity, this deck does not have the ability to draw multiple cards at a time. If it gets hit hard with discard, it can find it very difficult to draw enough cards to get out of High Tide jail.
Finally, there are dedicated mono-Blue decks running around with four Force of Wills and a Foil. If you Prosperity several times, they will almost assuredly draw two pitch counters and counter the last crucial Prosperity or the Cane, in addition to having regular countermagic to prevent bad things from happening earlier in the turn. Even something like a Disrupt can stop one of these decks for a turn. All a mono-Blue deck has to do is counter the two Canes and up to a couple of Prosperities.
It still is a potent deck that can go off and win early, so you have to beware. As you can see, this deck won first, so there is some power here, it's just more limited than before. This is a perfect segue into another deck that will be familiar to you, but with less power than before.
4 Myr Enforcer
3 Somber Hoverguard
4 Cranial Plating
4 Welding Jar
4 Pentad Prism
4 Lotus Petal
4 Demonic Consultation (U)
1 Shrapnel Blast (U)
2 Ancient Den
2 Tree of Tales
4 Vault of Whispers
4 Seat of the Synod
4 Great Furnace
This version of the deck was created by Jason Chapman and comes with some interesting surprises. Roterothopter is another cheap artifact flyer for your Cranial Plating besides Orinithopter. That makes sense, and everybody likes it.
The deck also runs Sunburst Pentad Prisms, and runs off color artifact lands to Sunburst it.
New to the deck is Demonic Consultation, which will get you whatever card you need, be it another Plating or what have you.
Before you get all upset that yes, we have Affinity, and it's good too, allow me to point out several things. I know some are tired of Affinity, but that was with cards like Arcbound Ravager and Broodstar and Disciples of the Vault. In Peasant Magic, Affinity isn't even good enough to require maindeck artifact kill. There are no good sacrifice outlets, so there is no Disciple, you have to use precious uncommon slots for Shrapnel Blast, and the most powerful card in the deck is Cranial Plating, which is easily stopped.
What you've seen here is six decks that can go the distance in any Peasant Magic tournament, with two each of aggro, combo or control. That's balance.
If you think these are the only decks in the format that do well, you'd be dead wrong. The following deck types all placed in recent peasant tournaments:
Ritual Black Aggro
Other deck types have been advocated by great players as worthy to make the top, including Life, Zombies, and more. This is a very balanced format, and I'm sure that if you try it out, you'll find that you love it.
Good luck with all of your deck builds!