This entry is part 1 of 10 in the series Community Contribution

By DAN aka chaosorbFTW
I started playing Magic when I was 13, and I’ve had a lot of learning experiences with the game over the years. However, no matter what strategy tips, deck building ideas, or playtesting epiphanies I’ve had, no lessons have been more important to my game than my “Big 3” revelations:

1) Lands don’t get sacrificed once you use them (it was early in my development, and once I figured this out the game made a lot more sense).
2) My decks would probably be a lot better if I added some rares into the piles of commons I was playing.
3) More information leads to better decisions, and better decisions lead to more wins.

I have always loved Type 1, and originally whet my teeth in the format playing a version of Keeper. It wasn’t until a few months after I started playing that I realized why the deck had become so popular: it could answer almost anything, as long as you knew what you were up against and made the correct decisions. It had silver bullets for almost any strategy, just enough counter-magic to control the game, a handful of disruption spells, and a few solid win conditions that were difficult to deal with. It was not the most broken or degenerate deck of it’s time, but in the right player’s hands it was exceptionally hard to beat. What made that deck really tick was it’s controllers ability to make the right decision at the right time.

Keeper List from Darren Di Battista’s Keeper: The Primer (Approximately 2003)

[mtg_deck]
5 Moxen
1 Black Lotus
1 Sol Ring
1 Strip Mine
3 Wasteland
1 Library of Alexandria
4 City of Brass
1 Undiscovered Paradise
3 Tundra
4 Volcanic Island
4 Underground Sea

4 Mana Drain
4 Force of Will
1 Misdirection
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Stroke of Genius
1 Braingeyser
1 Fact or Fiction
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Merchant Scroll
1 Time Walk

2 Morphling

1 The Abyss
1 Mind Twist
1 Yawgmoth’s Will
1 Diabolic Edict
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Vampiric Tutor

1 Balance
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Dismantling Blow

1 Gorilla Shaman
1 Fire/Ice

1 Regrowth
1 Sylvan Library

1 Zuran Orb
[/mtg_deck]

I wanted to employ that type of strategy in EDH, and the general I found best suited to that strategy was Alara Reborn Mythic Sen Triplets. Sen Triplets combines a reasonable casting cost with an exceptional ability, has the additional flexibility of being an artifact, and also gives you direct access to an opponents key resource: seeing and playing spells from their hand.

While you can gain an exceptional advantage in the game just knowing what cards are in your opponent’s grip (and with some careful reasoning we can assume additional cards/combos based on what is seen), no matter what information is available to you as a player, if you do not have access to the right suite of threats and answers you cannot consistently expect to win. Even though David Price famously said  “While there are wrong answers, there are no wrong threats”, the quality of those threats still has to meet a rigorous standard when you are game-planning for a card pool that includes every card ever printed minus about 40. You need every card in your deck to be able to apply pressure, answer an opposing threat, or find a card that does. The brilliance of Sen Triplets is that not only does it allow you access to vital information, it also puts you into the three colors that are arguably most suited to fulfill those tasks. You have the pinpoint tutoring and creature control of black, card draw and selection of blue, and defensive prowess of white at your disposal. Depending on how you decide to attack your opponents, you can create a deck that ranges from heavy control to combo, and almost anything between.

In keeping with the principles behind the Vintage deck I was attempting to recreate, I decided to run a small, dedicated creature base and allow the remainder of the deck to be reactive, adjusting on the fly as I learned more about the game state from either my General or the progression of play.

Creatures

1 Sen Triplets
1 Blightsteel Colossus
1 Snapcaster Mage
1 Aven Mindcensor
1 Scrivener
1 Vendilion Clique
1 Venser, Shaper Savantz
1 Voidmage Husher
1 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
1 Memnarch

Blightsteel and Memnarch are the heavy hitters of the groups, allowing you to turn the tides of any game very quickly when they become active. Teferi can be used as a threat as well, however he is more suited to slowing down the pace of the game and allowing you to react more effectively. When you know opponents can only cast spells during their turn, you can plan your counter and removal strategy to be more efficient. The remaining creatures are there to answer opponent’s spells and abilities, change board position or remove important spells from your opponent’s hand.

One of the key points about the Keeper deck list was it was constantly playing spells that kept card advantage for it’s controller, or could tutor for exactly the card needed to answer a specific threat or play strategy. While the access to many of the staples of Keeper are available in EDH, there isn’t the ability to run multiple copies of key spells or the most powerful effects.  In order to counter this loss in redundancy and compensate for a 40 card increase in deck size, the number of tutors has to be increased.

Tutoring/Search

1 Demonic Tutor
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Grim Tutor
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Personal Tutor
1 Planar Portal
1 Expedition Map
1 Sensei’s Divining Top

Demonic Tutor and Vampiric Tutor are auto-includes and do a fantastic job of getting exactly what is needed. After those two, the tutor pool gets a bit shallower in terms of flexibility and impact. Grim Tutor is solid, but at 2 black mana and a nearly $200 price tag it may not be the best option overall. It can easily be replaced with Diabolic Tutor if necessary, losing only a small amount of tempo. While Mystical tutor is a solid play as always, Portal’s Personal Tutor is debatable. It’s sorcery speed and extremely limited search capacity make it strictly worse than almost any other replacement spell. The huge upside is that for a single blue mana, you can find a way to sweep the board, steal a creature, or do almost anything else needed as long as you have a turn to wait or a draw spell. Given time Planar Portal can completely devastate board positions, however there is a large initial investment and cost to keep it’s tutoring ability online. Expedition Map and Top are self explanatory, and while they may not be the flashiest ways to build position, they are reliable and extremely effective.

A dedicated 60 card vintage deck can effectively control a one on one match with a solid counterspell suite and effective card drawing. Without using a degenerative general or other countespell combo like Dovescape, it is just not possible to stop 3-4 100 card decks with countermagic. The goal, then, is to pack enough counters to be able to make the opposition think before casting every spell, and have a legitimate chance to stop any critical spell that might hit. That being the case, we have a small number of spells that make the cut. Each card needs to be efficient, effective, and if possible extremely flexible.

Counterspells

1 Hinder
1 Spell Crumple
1 Mana Drain
1 Force of Will
1 Desertion
1 Dissipate
1 Cryptic Command

Mana Drain is without a doubt the best counter ever printed, and if available is irreplaceable. Hinder and Spell Crumple are excellent in this format, as they allow you to hard counter anything as well as tuck a general if necessary. Dissipate allows you to permanently remove a spell, and Desertion lets you pick up a win condition or artifact bomb. Cryptic Command is the most versatile of the bunch, and while not necessarily easy on the mana considerations, can perform the job of several spells while taking up only one spot.

Keeper and this EDH variant share the trait of having an extremely light creature base. When control is gained, the deck’s win conditions can take over the game. The key is making sure that the board can be reasonably controlled. While Keeper ran cards like Balance and The Abyss to keep the board clear, this version needs a heavier commitment to board and creature control to make sure it’s controller can stay alive long enough to win in the medium to long game. There are two sets of spells included here: those that control creatures specifically, and those that can help control any card on the board.

Creature Control

1 Akroma’s Vengeance
1 Rout
1 Black Sun’s Zenith
1 Decree of Pain
1 Ashes to Ashes
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Spin into Myth
1 Path to Exile
1 Syphon Flesh

Akroma’s Vengeance is one of the most effective sweepers in the format. While it is higher on the curve than traditional Wrath of God effects, the additional ability to hit artifacts and enchantments makes it a vital part of the strategy. Rout replaces Wrath with an instant speed bonus, and Black Sun’s Zenith gives the deck a way to deal with indestructible creatures. Decree of Pain is a huge tax on the mana base, however it is an effect that is almost irreplaceable. The ability to sweep the board and draw multiple cards is more than worth the mana commitment. Syphon Flesh, while not able to target the best creature or remove every threat can help create a more favorable position for the caster. In removing threats from other players and creating blockers, the caster buys additional time to draw another removal spell or turn the zombies provided into threats of their own. Ashes to Ashes, Swords, Spin into Myth, and Path to Exile let you pinpoint a specific threat and make it disappear.

Board Control

1 Vindicate
1 Capsize
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Repeal
1 Nihil Spellbomb

In addition to creature specific removal, this deck needs to be able to answer any threat on the board. [cad]Capsize[/card] allows you to answer any threat indefinitely given ample mana. Vindicate also hits almost any target and allows you to remove it, so both are automatic inclusions. Oblivion Ring is a solid answer to most threats including indestructible cards, however it can be fragile when played against decks with a lot of enchantment or spot removal of their own. Given it’s upside it is definitely worth including, however it is definitely able to be replaced if a more solid alternative is found. Repeal and Nihil Spellbomb round out the board and graveyard control. Both are effective, efficient removal spells that also keep the caster even in terms of card advantage.

The grease on the wheels of any control deck is a constant influx of cards to it’s controller. While Ancestral Recall and multiple copies of Fact or Fiction or other similar draw spells powered Keeper for years, this version needs to run a more varied and slightly less effective suite of card drawing spells.

Card Draw

1 Fact or Fiction
1 Phyrexian Arena
1 Deep Analysis
1 Opportunity
1 Jace’s Ingenuity
1 Stroke of Genius
1 Brainstorm

Brainstorm, one of the most potent selection spells ever printed makes the list on the basis of it’s efficiency alone. While digging 3 cards deep is not as effective in a 100 card pile, the spell still creates enough strategic advantage to warrant inclusion. At this time it made the final cut for the list, however it is in no way an auto-include and can definitely be swapped out if metagame or personal preference dictates. Fact or Fiction is exceptional for card advantage, adding in the ability for an opponent to make a mistake in separating card piles. Opportunity and Jace’s Ingenuity provide large infusions of instant speed cards, while Stroke of Genius can double as a slightly less efficient version of either or a late game finisher. Deep Analysis rounds out our options by being both efficient and reusable.

The creatures available to this deck are solid, however it is nice having alternate paths to victory. Elspeth can create tokens, pump attackers, or create indestructability for all of your permanents. Gideon is a reusable attacker that protects himself, Bribery lets you point an opponent’s most lethal threat back at him. For three card spots, you can help shore up your attack position immeasurably.

Alternate Win Conditions

1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
1 Gideon Jura
1 Bribery

Keeper built tempo playing the 5 moxen and Black Lotus, as well as using mana drain effectively. While there is one copy of Drain included, there needs to be a more diverse group of accelerants included.

Mana Accelerants

1 Sol Ring
1 Grim Monolith
1 Mana Crypt
1 Worn Powerstone
1 Fellwar Stone

Sol Ring is one of the best accelerators ever printed, and Grim Monolith is a solid back up plan. While Mana Crypt is exceptional, it can create problems in a long game, so it is far from an absolute in the deck. Fellwar Stone and Worn Powerstone are included not as much for their raw ability but more for the efficiency with which they can be played, allowing the controller to accelerate their mana curve at a much earlier point of the game than traditionally possible.

Rounding out the spell selection for the deck are cards that can create card advantage without specifically drawing additional cards. Misdirection and Redirect allow the caster to either save spells or creatures from counters or reap the benefits of targeted spells opponents cast. Time Warp and Temporal Manipulation allow additional draw steps and untaps, while Relearn and Deja Vu let you recast the spells needed most. Disturbed Burial is a slow source of creature advantage more suited to a long game, but can be cast without buyback in a pinch if one card is sorely needed. Mirari allows an almost insurmountable source of card advantage by doubling all spells cast, and Syphon Mind creates the opportunity for a huge swing in card advantage. The final card in the list is Mind Twist, and it has been the last card I’ve included on the list for some time. While it’s power and game changing effect are absolutely unquestionable, it is definitely not acceptable for every play group. I happen to sling cards with a group who agrees that no card is too unbalanced for play and it is perfectly acceptable to wring every drop of advantage from the card pool. Not all EDH groups do or should agree, so this slot is strictly up for grabs as far as Mind Twist is concerned. If your group doesn’t object it’s an excellent inclusion, and if they do there are a multitude of outstanding replacement effects.

Other Card Advantage Sources

1 Misdirection
1 Redirect
1 Time Warp
1 Temporal Manipulation
1 Relearn
1 Deja Vu
1 Disturbed Burial
1 Mind Twist
1 Mirari
1 Syphon Mind

Finally, the mana base. Many of the duals, fetches, and shocklands speak for themselves so I will skip to some of the more important choices. Riptide Laboratory allows you to reuse and abuse the Wizard based creature set, and Strip Mine provides efficient removal of problematic lands like Emeria, the Sky Ruin and Kessig Wolf Run without being abused with mass land recursion. Tolaria West lets allows you to tutor for any land necessary, and Urborg helps shore up your black mana options, even without being abused by Cabal Coffers. The sole card I have been trying to fit is Maze of Ith. While I have been swaying between the Maze’s power of removing creatures from combat and a more stable mana base for the moment I have chosen to err on the side of caution and cut it. It can absolutely be included in any list and will most likely improve defense for most matches, however keep in mind it’s inability to produce any mana will need to be compensated in either additional lands or additional artifact mana producers.

Land

1 Arcane Sanctum
1 Azorius Chancery
1 Command Tower
1 Dimir Aqueduct
1 Drowned Catacomb
1 Flagstones of Trokair
1 Flooded Strand
1 Glacial Fortress
1 Godless Shrine
1 Hallowed Fountain
5 Island
1 Marsh Flats
1 Orzhov Basilica
5 Plains
1 Polluted Delta
1 Reflecting Pool
1 Riptide Laboratory
1 Scrubland
1 Strip mine
2 Swamp
1 Temple of the False God
1 Tolaria West
1 Tundra
1 Underground Sea
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Watery Grave

While on the surface there are very few similarities between the original Vintage list and this EDH variant, the strategy and paths to victory mirror each other closely. The wide array of answers and tutors allow for the deck’s controller to find the necessary spells for victory, and with Sen Triplets providing information on opposing players it becomes much easier to make the correct decision more often with more positive outcomes.

Knowledge has always been power, and Magic has proven that tenet to be true. With the proper deck and Sen Triplets on your side of the table, that power can be channeled directly at the playgroup you are looking to dominate.

Series NavigationCommunity Article – GU Doug on Theme Decks >>