This month I began the search for the meanest deck in Magic: the Gathering. If you have been following along, you may be aware of my experiments so far: Mud Portal (Smokestack brew), Lantern Control, and Dutch Stax. Below I will discuss the deck lists that I piloted, some reflections, changes I would make, and rate them on a scale of 1 to 5 on how mean the deck felt—1 is annoying and 5 is insufferable.

Mud Portal

Lands (26)
Ancient Tomb
Chalice of the Void
City of Traitors
Gods’ Eye, Gate to the Reikai
Inventors’ Fair
Thespian’s Stage

Creatures (8)
Myr Retriever

Spells (26)
Crucible of Worlds
Grim Monolith
Paradox Engine
Planar Bridge
Possessed Portal
Thran Dynamo
Sideboard (15)
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
Sorcerous Spyglass
Spine of Ish Sah
Staff of Domination
Tormod’s Crypt

While the deck was very mean when it worked it did struggle the age old problem of Mud not having reliable card-advantage spells. The mana overall was great with Grim Monolith, Thran Dynamo, and Metalworker. There were a few things that could have likely improved the deck, such as Ensnaring Bridge and Walking Ballista. By contrast, the pair of Paradox Engines did almost nothing.

Though I am a fan of 12 Post, I actually didn’t care much for the locus lands in this deck. They often weren’t necessary to build my mana, and Cloudpost entering tapped felt relevant enough to adjust the mana base slightly to make room for Crystal Vein as another sol land and Wasteland to use with Crucible of Worlds to set up a lock against decks with greedy mana.

I would rate this deck a 3.5 out of 5. Once you get a Possessed Portal with either Inventors’ Fair or Planar Bridge your opponent is very well locked out and you have the ability to further advance your board to win with either Myr Retriever or Metalworker. Unfortunately these cards are not cheap in mana and therefore the deck isn’t quick enough to set up a concession.

Lantern Control

Lands (18)
Academy Ruins
Botanical Sanctum
Darkslick Shores
Inventors’ Fair
River of Tears
Spire of Industry

Spells (42)
Abrupt Decay
Ancient Stirrings
Codex Shredder
Ensnaring Bridge
Grafdigger’s Cage
Inquisition of Kozilek
Lantern of Insight
Mishra’s Bauble
Mox Opal
Pithing Needle
Pyrite Spellbomb
Pyxis of Pandemonium
Whir of Invention
Witchbane Orb
Sideboard (15)
Abrupt Decay
Ancient Grudge
Collective Brutality
Grafdigger’s Cage
Leyline of Sanctity
Maelstrom Pulse
Nature’s Claim
Pithing Needle
Search for Azcanta
Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
Welding Jar

I had decided to play Lantern Control, but wasn’t sure what specific list to run. Lo and behold, it won the Pro Tour, which made my decision easy. The deck was likely more miserable for me rather than for my opponents. While I probably didn’t run the deck very well (which makes it miserable for the pilot), I also wasn’t very pleased with the 75. Though who am I to argue with a pro-tour-winning deck?

I personally wanted some amount of Surgical Extraction post-board. Seven maindeck discard spells felt like too many. It could also use options like Seal of Cleansing or Seal of Primordial to fight Stony Silence, which was a large part of my poor experience with the deck. You can play the Seals out while hiding under an Ensnaring Bridge, while reactive answers clog up your hand.

I would rate this deck a 4 out of 5. The deck basically puts your opponent in a helpless grind as they watch their few answers slowly hemorrhage from the top of their deck. Ancient Grudge and Stony Silence aside, this deck can drive your opponents mad within several turns with very little they can do about it once you have achieved the lock. (Unless they have Noble Hierarch or Cranial Plating to pump after attacking, that is.)

Dutch Stax

Lands (28)
Ancient Tomb
City of Traitors
Flagstones of Trokair
10 Plains
The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale

Spells (32)
Chalice of the Void
Crucible of Worlds
Elspeth, Knight-Errant
Mox Diamond
Oblivion Ring
Sideboard (15)
Rule of Law
Suppression Field
Timely Reinforcements

This is the deck I am most familiar with, having played multiple Stax variants throughout the last seven years. That said, I’ve never been able to put together four Moat and four Tabernacle in paper. I thoroughly enjoyed playing this deck online.

I suggest adding Leyline of Sanctity to the sideboard, likely in place of Suppression Field. Though the Fields were nice to have in the 75, they mess with cards like Wasteland and Elspeth, Knight Errant.

Another card that I do love in these Stax builds is Armageddon. It is possible that some number of Trinisphere, Elspeth and maybe Moat should be exchanged for either two or three copies. Armageddon allows us to leverage Smokestack with Crucible against a mana-heavy deck. Against decks I’ve ben defeated by, Mill and Death and Taxes caused trouble because they flooded the board with annoying small creatures like Hedron Crab or Mother of Runes. We could have wiped out all lands and then played a Tabernacle to wipe their board of creatures as well.

I would rate this deck a 4.5 out of 5. This deck leverages mana very well, can power out all of its lock pieces capped at a mere four mana, and can create a hopeless situation with just a single Smokestack and Crucible of Worlds in play. It loses half a point because the mana can be awkward—having fourteen lands that don’t produce white mana with many cards that require two white mana means that you can’t always ruin your opponent’s life.

The journey continues! I still have four more decks to try out. If you have a deck that you consider the meanest deck in Magic feel free to tweet @aarongazzaniga for a chance to see your worst nightmare on stream.

If you missed any of the streams you can check out the raw video here. I hope you all enjoy the journey to find the meanest deck in magic, we’ll see you again soon!

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 or in email at [email protected].

Aaron Gazzaniga works 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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