This week I have an interesting one, bringing back an old card in this mana denial strategy suggested by a friend. Usually when people think about mana denial they think of Pox and Stax decks, which focus on land destruction and prison elements. This deck uses Contamination instead, which restricts the mana produced by lands to only a single black mana which many decks don’t want or need.

Contamination is a great way to shut most decks out of the format including Miracles, Burn, Death and Taxes (without Aether Vial), Twelve Post, and basically every other deck that does not have access to mana dorks depending how early we get Contamination down. Usually Contamination appears in Pox decks with cards like Nether Spirit, Bloodghast and/or Bitterblossom as a way to keep pace with the upkeep cost. This version uses the Thopter Foundry/Sword of the Meek combo to also gain incremental value as the game goes on.

Contamination Blade

Lands (21)
Academy Ruins
Flooded Strand
Polluted Delta
Underground Sea

Creatures (12)
Deathrite Shaman
Snapcaster Mage
Stoneforge Mystic
True-Name Nemesis

Spells (27)
Enlightened Tutor
Force of Will
Liliana of the Veil
Lingering Souls
Sword of the Meek
Swords to Plowshares
Thopter Foundry
Umezawa’s Jitte

This is at heart an Esper Stoneblade deck with a much better way to prevent your opponent from having answers to your game plan by dropping Contamination once you have set up a bit. In order to maintain Contamination in this build we have Thopter combo for the upkeep cost which doesn’t discriminate mana and will take whatever scraps of mana you have lying around to make at least one token a turn. Since we are not relying on recursive creatures we don’t have to worry about Grafdigger’s Cage being an issue for us. For the match ups that are running Deathrite Shaman we have cheap answers and since we have access to our own Shamans to continue producing the mana that we need we can survive the lock to get our own threats into play and close the game.


Deathrite Shaman is not a new inclusion to an Esper Stoneblade style of deck. Having access to a turn two True-Name Nemesis or Liliana of the Veil on the play is something that is hard for people to answer or catch up to. Deathrite provides us with the mana necessary to still cast our spells through the lock and also works as a clock since the drain life ability runs off black mana.

Snapcaster Mage is here for value in a longer game where we may have to control the game for a bit before we get the lock assembled or if the lock fails to come online. Flash on Mage also allows for it to be a great Ambush Viper as a surprise blocker or a way to answer an opposing Liliana of the Veil.

Stoneforge Mystic acts as a way to either tutor the Sword of the Meek half of Thopter/Sword combo or in the correct scenario you can just tutor Umezawa’s Jitte and play the Stoneblade value game.

True-Name Nemesis is here to be the asshole that it is. It is difficult to answer, really hard to interact with, and can close a game in six or seven turns with not a whole lot that you can do about it in game one.

Lock Pieces

Contamination is the name of the game and the rule of the game is black mana all day, every day. Contamination doesn’t care if your lands are basic, non basic, Locus or full of Sol because they are merely going to produce a single black mana. Fetchlands and Wastelands are still active so we are still capable of feeding our Deathrite Shamans unlike when you have a Blood Moon in play and cannot use them to put them into the graveyard. It also means we can use Deathrite Shaman and Academy Ruins to rebuy artifacts since Contamination doesn’t affect abilities of lands.

Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek are the fuel for the lock. Contamination requires a sacrifice and Thopter Sword combo provide all the fodder necessary to maintain this hunger while providing further value by gaining us life and even creating additional tokens to get ahead of the cost and begin applying pressure to close out the game.

We have a pair of Enlightened Tutor to find the pieces necessary to set up the lock on an opponent and ensure we can get Thopter/Sword online to feed Contamination.

Image result for thopter foundry combo


Swords to Plowshares is the one true removal spell that we are running here since it is cheap and only costs one color of mana. Once the lock is set the cost is very important to consider in order to ensure casting with ease off a Deathrite Shaman. Some other considerations would be Disfigure, Dismember or Darkblast since they are solid options on color with our ultimate game plan. I prefer Swords to answer larger creatures without bias.


Liliana of the Veil is our lone Planeswalker in this brew since she is easily cast before and after the lock is put into place. Her +1 ability can rip apart our opponent’s hand early and since we have Lingering Souls and Sword of the Meek we have some fodder that doesn’t mind hitting the bin. Her -2 handles any early threat deployed by an opponent and her ultimate can help grind out opponent into dust for the long game.

Image result for liliana of the veil


I have not figured out a sideboard for this deck yet but discard (Thoughtseize, Duress), additional counter magic (Flusterstorm, Spell Pierce) and likely some number of anti graveyard cards like Grafdigger’s Cage and Leyline of the Void for strategies like Dredge, Reanimator and Storm. I would likely include a Batterskull alongside additional removal for the match ups where Contamination lock isn’t the ideal game plan like Death and Taxes with Aether Vial and Pox which is generally mono black anyway.

Initial Thoughts

This deck is able to attack the opponent on multiple axis either being an aggressive Stoneblade deck all in on True-Name and Jitte or a mana denial deck establishing the Contamination lock. I do believe that this can be a great way to randomly spike a local event since people won’t be anticipating this game plan. For a much larger event it will likely be a very capable of making it to the end, but definitely an exhausting day having to grind through most match ups.

Happy brewing to each and every one of you. If anyone has an idea for a brew that they would like to see, I will gladly take requests and challenges on twitter. 🙂

Aaron Gazzaniga part time at a game store and in his off time has been an avid magic player/brewer since 2003. Having begun in Odyssey Standard Block and always favoring control and prison style decks, we come to this moment in time where Aaron finally gets to talk about and share his ideas. If you want to contact Aaron tweet @aarongazzaniga

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