The design of this deck comes from my ongoing project to create a deck of each of the 27 possible color combinations. I had an Isperia deck designed for me by some of the nice folks over at MTGS but it really wasn't my style—far too passive and reactive. Additionally I like the commander to be a significant part of the deck and Isperia's relatively high casting cost kept that from happening so I decided to move the curve in the direction of our favorite Spirit.
This is the lucky thirteenth deck of the project (and my 18th deck in total). If you're keeping score at home here's the lineup so far:
Jund: Kresh the Bloodbraided (also Adun Oakenshield and Karrthus Tyrant of Jund)
Esper: Merieke Ri Berit
Grixis: Thraximundar (also Lord of Tresserhorn)
Naya: Rith the Awakener
RUG: Intet the Dreamer (also Animar Soul of Elements)
R/W/U: Ruhan of the Fomori
W/B/R: Oros the Avenger
W/B/G: Karador Ghost Chieftain
BUG: The Mimeoplasm (also Vorosh the Hunter)
White-Blue: Geist of Saint Traft
Black-Green: Nath of the Gilt-Leaf
White: Isamaru Hound of Konda
That leaves Five-Color White-Black White-Red White-Green Blue-Black Blue-Red Blue-Green Black-Red Red-Green Blue Black Red Green and Artifact still to be made.
Many of the thoughts you'll read here are stream of consciousness as I was thinking about the deck and looking up cards. This one might be a little choppier than a normal article but it's also more organic and shows not just what I was thinking but how I was thinking. This seems like a useful insight to both deckbuilders and critics (in the positive sense of the word). If it's a good line of reasoning you can replicate the success. If it goes sideways you can point it out to me so I can course-correct and you avoid it yourself.
Geist doesn't much suggest a strategy (more on that in a moment) so I ran with the idea of "What do I want this deck to do?" instead of "What do I want to put into the deck?" The latter is fine when you have a Commander that makes a clear statement like Kresh or Thraximundar but I think Geist is far less clear. You could go with the obvious Spirits deck or a slightly less obvious idea of an Angel theme or maybe run the "everything has hexproof" idea. Tribal is a little overdone (although I do still want an Angels deck despite the fact that it seems silly to run one of the best Restoration Angel in it) so I wanted to avoid that.
So I gave up and played some Skyrim. Nothing clarifies the thought process better than a little Smithing.
After a few more steps along my path towards the ability to create Dragon Armor I turned back to thinking about what I want to do with the Geist. I started visualizing what games would look like with me always playing it on turn 3. That means being moderately aggressive or at least getting into the Red Zone frequently. It's certainly not Kaalia of the Vast aggressive but it does mean attacking.
The first question I asked myself is if I could do anything with the token after it deals damage but before it goes away. While there are one or two things it feels like I'd really need to shoehorn stuff in that might not be that valuable at other points in the game so that got scrapped pretty quickly.
The second thing that came to mind was keeping alive the Geist. Since it's really only going away to board wipes or sacrifice things (like Grave Pact) its main weaknesses are the fact that it doesn't fly and its relatively low power and toughness. I decided to run with this a bit and it led me to "getting general damage kills with a 2/2" which is far enough outside the box to be worth exploring in some depth. I can't over-focus on this idea because Geist isn't on its own good enough to do this (unlike say Uril the Miststalker or Karrthus Tyrant of Jund). It needs plenty of support and support means resources. Plus I meanwhile have to keep from getting killed myself.
That last thought led me to some small measure of control. While I'm trying to rack up Geist damage I have to prevent your guys from doing the same to me. We'll put this on the back burner for the moment since I have to decide how that's going to manifest itself. Will it be some kind of counterspell strategy? Spot removal? Something that slows everyone else down? I know that Mirror Strike is a card that I want to play—a card that will make people twitchy about attacking with something giant—so I wrote that on the decklist right away.
Stuff About Making Geist Deal Damage
There are two ways to get Geist damage through. The first is making it larger and the second is making it unblockable. Stylistically I like the former rather than the latter so that's the direction I want to go although I'll probably eventually run some of both. The first card that occurred to me was a new one Ajani Caller of the Pride. Since one of the awesome things about this version of Ajani is that it comes back with Sun Titan both of them got written on the list together. That Sun Titan will be able to target a number of things like the bounce creatures we'll mention later.
Steel of the Godhead fits the bill as something that both makes the Geist bigger and unblockable so it's perfect. I don't play Swords of X and Y in too many decks so I start looking down the list of those. I'm not worried about targeted removal because of the hexproof which means I want to focus either on the effect the Sword(s) give(s) or the protection against the creatures it will face. I settle on Sword of War and Peace to punish greedy card-drawers gain some life and protect against damage-based sweepers such as Blasphemous Act.
I also go with the classic Sword of Fire and Ice for the same damage protection and the card draw. I pick Batterskull because it's good on its own as well as a beating when equipped to the Geist and put Sword of Vengeance on the short list. With all these artifacts I'd like something to fetch them but I'll have to use spells since Trinket Mage gets only the Sol Ring and Treasure Mage so far only gets Duplicant (and there's not really a plan for much else in that direction since we're keeping mana costs low). I've never actually played with Tezzeret the Seeker so I run with that plus Fabricate.
I think a small amount about things that definitely slow down the opponents like Grand Arbiter Augustin IV Spelltithe Enforcer Loxodon Gatekeeper and Kismet. I'm on the fence about them because they're the types of things that will get you targeted and I'm not sure this deck has enough real punch to deal with a whole table full of irritated opponents. I think I have to play a more subtle game so those are out.
I want at least one more equipment that gives trample to the Geist and I'm down to Loxodon Warhammer which is nice and lifelink-y and the crazily-technorific Vorrac Battlehorns (go ahead I'll wait while you look it up). Everyone plays Warhammer so Battlehorns it is. That card is also going to find a home in my Animar deck.
I decide that I want to keep the mana cost of things down. Despite the control-ish nature of the colors I want to have stuff to do all the time having available stuff to do both on my turns and others'. I think creating a situation where it's difficult for others to keep too many creatures on the battlefield is pretty good so I'm going to go with a bit of a bounce strategy. Cards like Equilibrium Erratic Portal and Crystal Shard come to mind. Then I'm going with the techiest of my techiness: Portcullis. Portcullis shuts down massive token creation strategies and if I have the early drop guys mine are the only ones that can be on the field until someone Wraths or deals with the Portcullis. There may also be some political advantage to the card. "Hey I'm keeping the Rith player in check." I don't necessarily want to go full Cloudstone Curio but it's at least on the table until I need cuts.
Bounce seems to lead to Blink. Deadeye Navigator is too good to not play as is Restoration Angel. The fact that they're relatively new cards and I haven't really played them much makes them pretty attractive. I guess that also leads us to Venser the Sojourner which makes me run through the other white and blue planeswalkers. Tamiyo is pretty spicy so we'll put her on the list too.
Bounce and Blink point me toward Clone effects. The thing I like about this line is that I don't have to necessarily hold the Clone waiting for someone to play their awesome thing. I can run it out earlier and then reset it to the awesome thing with Venser or the Restoration Angel. Duplicant is a natural fit. Although I play it in several other decks it seems like not playing the same card over and over since it always imprints something different. Phyrexian Ingester is certainly the fatter cousin of Duplicant and deserves a spot. Cryptoplasm can do many things and it can also come back with Sun Titan.
I have a fleeting thought of some janky Myojin of Cleansing Fire / proliferate combo and fortunately the thought dies quickly on the vine. Speaking of jank I also consider some kind of Isochron Scepter / Holy Day package and that also quickly withers.
I'm going to run a few Wrath effects of my own. I think I have some kind of promo or foily Day of Judgment that I'll run despite not being as good as Wrath of God (unless I put in some regenerators…) because it's pimpy. Austere Command and Akroma's Vengeance came to mind but I think the former is better since I'm going to have a fair number of enchantments that I want to keep around. Rout has its charms as well since it can be played as an instant.
You can't do everything in a deck but that doesn't mean you can't run a few answers to things. Return to Dust is one of the best cards in the format for dealing with stuff once so you don't have to deal with it again. I wonder how good Seal of Cleansing might be.
While I'm in bounce-land I think that both Hiberation and Wash Out have quite some application in battling against the hyper-aggressive green decks especially with Hibernation being an Instant. I'd be careful playing Wash Out in a deck with more than two colors since you're pretty likely to run it into a color that you'd like to keep on the table.
Ramp and Card Draw
W/U doesn't have the same weapons in the arsenal that G/X does so we have to do what we can. I'm not a fan of mana rocks but there really isn't much choice here after Land Tax Knight of the White Orchid and of course Solemn Simulacrum. Wayfarer's Bauble is the Rampant Growth replacement for non-green decks. I think I'm going to try to use card draw as the ramp replacement here. It'll be the first deck in which I play Future Sight since I took apart my original Phelddagrif deck back in like 2007. Sensei's Divining Top should be able to take care of the top of the library a bit getting the land situation a little more smoothed out.
Mulldrifter is a reasonable card draw creature especially if there is Blinking and bouncing going on. I don't want everything to be about the creatures (wouldn't want to get completely shut down by Torpor Orb) so Blue Sun's Zenith goes in.
I'm not sure if Cryptic Command goes in control or card draw but it definitely goes in the 99. I'm not a fan of raw counterspells needing something extra from them so Overwhelming Intellect is a particularly good choice. At the six-land point I'm pretty well established on the board so countering a fatty plus drawing a handful is probably the right call. I considered Windfall here since I'm likely to dump most of my hand early but without a way to actually take advantage of it (like with the off-color Underworld Dreams or something) I'm not a fan. Vanish into Memory is also some hybrid of control and card draw so we'll give that a whirl.
The mix here is going to need to be other three- and four-drops which are good at laying on some pressure perhaps taking some of the heat off of Geist and then some larger late-game beaters. Mirror Entity comes to mind because it can in a mid-game suddenly make the Geist pretty dangerous. I don't like that I can't save it with Restoration Angel but that's not really a huge drawback. Despite how obscenely good they are I'm avoiding Karmic Guide and Reveillark in this deck because I play them a good deal in the Karador deck so I'd rather move in some other directions. If you're going to use this list as a guide for your own I'd heartily suggest both cards.
Silverblade Paladin seems like it could get interesting especially Blinked out and returned to give double strike to something huge. Serra Ascendant feels a little cheesy although not so much as to avoid it. Hero of Bladehold doesn't need to be in a swarm deck to be good. Galepowder Mage is certainly on-theme although I want to make sure that I'm not completely enslaving myself to the idea. Sakashima's Student feels like there's a good deal of play in it.
Wrapping It Up
At this point there are 55 cards on the list. Being two colors I think I can afford 37 lands but given one of the colors isn't green I think I'd like to go to 38 just to make sure I hit the land drops. That means only six more cards left. I think we're okay on the control elements so I'd like a little more card draw and a few more medium-to-large guys.
Kozilek is both of those so he's in as is Consecrated Sphinx although I have a feeling he'll be one of the first cuts when I figure out something more interesting. I like Frost Titan for his ability to clear the path for the Geist. Elesh Norn helps as both creature control and making Geist bigger. I'd really like a Fog effect and for one extra mana Dawn Charm beats Holy Day. I'm going to make Sphinx of Uthuun the last pick since it has an enters-the-battlefield ability which involves getting cards and is a good-sized flier.
The land package on the decklist may be quite different than the lands I end up playing mostly due to availability. A brother only has so many Tundras after all. The significant land to me is Sejiri Steppe which can get Geist through a traffic jam. This leads me to Soramaro First to Dream to be able to replay it—so there's a sufficient reason to get rid of Consecrated Sphinx. I think I'll still be good on the card draw. I don't want too many enters-the-battlefield tapped lands since I want to come out of the gate swinging. Although it's perfectly legal to play Marsh Flats in this deck I object stylistically so the only fetch I'll play is the one on both colors.
Here's the list which will probably end up with a change or two before it ever gets played because I'm sure there's a few cards I won't be able to dig up.
- 1 Duplicant
- 1 Phyrexian Metamorph
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Aether Adept
- 1 Angelic Arbiter
- 1 Clone
- 1 Cryptoplasm
- 1 Deadeye Navigator
- 1 Frost Titan
- 1 Galepowder Mage
- 1 Hero of Bladehold
- 1 Knight of the White Orchid
- 1 Man-o'-War
- 1 Mirror Entity
- 1 Mistmeadow Witch
- 1 Phyrexian Ingester
- 1 Restoration Angel
- 1 Sakashima's Student
- 1 Serra Ascendant
- 1 Silverblade Paladin
- 1 Sphinx of Uthuun
- 1 Sun Titan
- 1 War Priest of Thune
- 1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
- 1 Geist of Saint Traft
- 1 Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
- 1 Mikaeus, the Lunarch
- 1 Soramaro, First to Dream
- 1 Sun Quan, Lord of Wu
- 1 Batterskull
- 1 Crystal Shard
- 1 Darksteel Ingot
- 1 Erratic Portal
- 1 Portcullis
- 1 Sensei's Divining Top
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Sword of Fire and Ice
- 1 Sword of Vengeance
- 1 Sword of War and Peace
- 1 Vorrac Battlehorns
- 1 Wayfarer's Bauble
- 1 Equilibrium
- 1 Future Sight
- 1 Land Tax
- 1 Steel of the Godhead
- 1 Blue Sun's Zenith
- 1 Cryptic Command
- 1 Dawn Charm
- 1 Faith's Reward
- 1 Hibernation
- 1 Mirror Strike
- 1 Overwhelming Intellect
- 1 Vanish into Memory
- 1 Austere Command
- 1 Fabricate
- 1 Rout
- 1 Wash Out
- 1 Wrath of God
I'm heading to Gen Con as we speak to cover the World Magic Cup. It's going to be a first-of-its-kind event following up on the two-studio coverage we had in Barcelona. I'll be in the booth with a cavalcade of stars such as Brian David-Marshall Rich Hagon Rashad Miller Marshall Sutcliffe and Zac Hill. Join us for all the coverage starting at 10:45 local time on Friday and stay tuned through what will prove to be an exciting weekend!