By Tony Mei

I was introduced to Magic by a friend that wanted to go to the M14 prerelease. Since then, my MTG experience has been limited to going 0-4 in drafts. After spectating a few local FNM’s, I decided that building a standard deck would help me lose games much more quickly and assuredly. As a college freshman, $15 a week is a nice chunk of my budget, money otherwise spent on my growing caffeine addiction or squirreled away for semester’s textbooks. In between classes and other life obligations, Magic is one of the highlights of my week. I’d like to play as much as possible, even at the sacrifice of a few good cards. If I learned anything from my brief stint in team sports, losing because you’re comparatively bad is far more fun than standing around.

There was, of course, the question of what I wanted to play. I was thinking about control, because watching control players always made me feel smart. Local players favored Esper variants, with plenty of counter spells and nasty Planeswalkers. After realizing that a set of Thoughtseizes and Elspeth, Sun’s Champions cost more than my current net worth, I kept searching. I asked around a lot, looking for a fast, interesting deck that wouldn’t be completely neutered by decks that cost considerably more. Lots of people suggested Red Deck Wins, playing with the strategy of “beat top decks before they played too many $25 cards.” I searched for a generic deck list, cut out the Mutavaults and Boros Reckoners, and thought about the stuff I could do with the remaining cards.

A friend recommended for deck testing. It’s a nifty website: upload your deck and immediately battle others. Obviously a bit less streamlined than MTGO or Cockatrice, but a fine way to grind a few games out before I plunked about $15 down for some singles.

At first, I assumed that RDW would be pretty forgiving to people who didn’t know what they were doing. My first opponent played a turn one Tome Scour. Unfazed, I pressed on with a legion of cacklers, satyrs, and emissaries, chipping down his life in increments of two. I deployed my troops as soon as I drew them and ending up with zero cards in hand for the better part of the game. Unfortunately, that usually doesn’t work out when you’re bleeding in excess of ten cards a turn to Jace and his friends. There comes a point around turn six when the speedy red army falls apart, as if all of their weapons were replaced by wet noodles. And so they milled about while their general was milled to death.


At the end of this game, I should have been tried for Satyr abuse. I’m pretty sure they did more damage to me than my opponent.

Back to the drawing board, I pitched in the Mutavaults and Reckoners. I figured if I really wanted to build this deck for real, I could sacrifice a couple months worth of living necessities. It seems like most of my opponents had the same idea, because the next six or so games was a series of increasingly painful mirror matches. While my enemies waltzed from Burning-Tree Emissary-s to Reckoners to turn five Fanatic of Mogis that decimated my life total, I found new and clever ways to somehow kill myself using Firedrinker Satyr. As it turns out, RDW is an intricate dance of controlled aggression, decision making, and not drawing four lands in a row, three things I don’t seem to be terribly good at. I shelved the deck and kept looking.

On reddit, I found an interesting deck list about something called Nivix Cyclopes Blitz. It sounded quite entertaining and fun. And the poster promised about the entire deck came out to about $10, which was well within the budget. As far as I could tell, the basic strategy involved blue cards, red cards, and quickly escalating creatures to do absurd sums of damage. My deck list ended up looking a bit like this:

Nivix Cyclopes Blitz

Land (22)
10 Island
10 Mountain
Izzet Guildgate

Creatures (14)
Frostburn Weird
Nivix Cyclops
Young Pyromancer

Spells (24)
Armed // Dangerous
Izzet Charm
Lightning Strike
Magma Jet
Mizzium Skin
Steam Augury
Titan’s Strength
Sideboard (12)
Anger of the Gods

There are a few edits I’m considering. Card draw is good, but I get the impression Steam Augury just gives me another opportunity to make bad decisions. Maybe some Opportunity-s would be reasonable. The rest of the list is solid, a good squadron of hefty early defensive blockers that turn into monsters after a few instants and sorceries.

A weird death.

A weird death.

Game one started off okay until my opponent kindly informed me that I had pumped my Frostburn Weird to death. I could only imagine the concern on my creature’s face as he followed the orders of his happy but mathematically inept general. Several turns later, I was ready to deal a death blow using Fluxcharger, Titan’s Strength, and the double strike granted by Armed // Dangerous. Sadly, as it turns out, Armed // Dangerous isn’t an instant. My enemy, quite likely chuckling to himself, put me out of my misery a few moves later.

My next few games went a bit smoother. I crushed a red deck with a 16 damage swing. And a strange control deck met its demise when Mizzium Skin countered an Anger of the Gods, saving my contingent of elemental tokens. (Editor’s Note: Mizzium Skin will not actually counter Anger of the Gods, since Anger of the Gods doesn’t target.) Things are, for a little bit, looking up.

nivix cyclops blitz

An unassuming start…

...followed by a 16 damage turnaround. I like how this deck thinks.

…followed by a 16 damage turnaround. I like how this deck thinks.

If there’s anything I learned in the past few weeks, Magic is a lot of math skill and attention to detail. For me, that’s a pretty terrible combination of traits I don’t possess. But I’m optimistic, and it’s too late to turn back now. I’ll be getting my Steam Augury-s and Young Pyromancers in the mail soon, and who knows what’s going to happen next.

Tony is a college kid living in Philadelphia. He started playing Magic after M14’s release and hasn’t improved much since. When he isn’t making bad plays, he enjoys writing about them.

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