So, one day I was playing sealed on MTGO and my talking cat was berating me for one reason or another and...oh, wait, wrong writer.
Yeah, that's right, my job is to analyze a new deck and some card choices for it. That's pretty much it. Kinda stale, I know, but I'll make it as fun as possible; I think you'll like it. That's all I'll be doing all article, so, yeah, you can leave now. I pretty much spoiled the whole thing.
Still here? Awesome. So, why should you deviate from the beaten path when it comes to playing decks? Because for some people, the fun of building a deck is just as good an experience as anything you can get during a game. To them, a good new innovative deck is as precious of a work of art as anything a crazy, self ear cannibalistic Frenchman could make. A perfectly-tuned mana base is as beautiful as a Rembrandt, your pieces of svg tech as unique as a Dali, a well timed finisher…
Man, I ran out of artists. I mean, even Dali was a stretch.
But enough of that.
True to the title, today’s offering is about is about the Epic Saviors of Kamigawa sorcery, Enduring Ideal. There are very few cards, even for this cost, that can Win the Game the way the Ideal can. The ideal, provided we use it well, can both lock the opponent out of the game and win the game for yourself. Spells are overrated, anyway. Restriction breeds creativity, so today's deck will be limited to Kamigawa block constructed.
So, shall we take a look at how a deck gets built? Alright then. We’ll examine the basic steps of deck building.
Step one: The base.
What is your deck? Sometimes it’s just an idea: MUC, R/G aggro, Ponza. Sometimes it’s a combo. And sometimes it’s just one or two cards.
Today, obviously, it's the Ideal.
Step Two: The win condition
Winning the game is tech, or so I hear. It can be by way of something like a horde of creatures if you're playing aggro. It can be a few choice fatties for a control deck. It can be a few effectient creatures in aggro-control. Or it can be some sort of combo in...well...combo. But, no matter the circumstances, in one way or another, you need to be able to win the game.
Since, for this deck we’ve already committed to using Enduring Ideal, lets look at some enchantments in Kamigawa block that can win the game.
Not so much.
An aside: Gatherer may be awesome, but the best card database out there will -always- be your copy of Apprentice. With different fields for almost everything imaginable (which are type-in instead of gathere's box select, so It can pull up things like Enchant creatures or sort by creature types), it’s easy to find whatever you’re looking for while you're building your deck: in this case, Kamigawa block enchantments with the word “Damage” in them.
So, our search returns 12 results, including some favorites such as Vassal’s Duty, Mark of Sakiko, and Kumano’s Blessing. I said Apprentice was a good card database, not a perfect one. So, this time, I'll allow you to make the choice of win conditions.
Yosei, the Morning Star: Yosei is a very good card. There are multiple decks that can make good use of his status as an efficient flier with a good effect. This is a very important concept of deckbuilding: just because a card is good does not make it right for your deck. There are obvious examples, such as an off-color card: One wouldn't play Yosei in, say, a mono-blue control deck. But the Enduring Ideal deck runs white, so is there a problem? Frankly, yes. This deck really, really wants to win with an Ideal into some enchantments. If you're taking time to cast a 5/5 Dragon, you are in serious trouble. Yosei is contrary to the purpose of the deck. There are few times where your deck is at 6 mana but can't make 7. Yosei makes your deck lack focus, and focus is key to a solid deck.
Myojin of Cleansing Fire
The Myojin is a good, versatile card. It suffers from the same fate as Yosei: it is not fetchable with Enduring Ideal. In spite of this, it is my reccomendation that this card goes into your deck. Go up and read my explanation on Yosei: if this deck is taking time to cast a large creature when it -should- be going for an Ideal, you are in trouble. The Myojin, however, is a very good way of getting yourself -out- of trouble. The largest peril of deckbuilders is having your deck become too one-dimensional, focused around one Ideal ("Ideal" pun count: 2) hand that will win the game. Decks need to be able to win even if, at some point in the game, things don't seem to be going your way. The Myojin lets you do that like few other cards can. Unlike Yosei, it lets you keep focus: a controllish deck that wants to stabilize the board before an Ideal for the win. It is the combination of the first two concepts of deckbuilding we have learned: Versatility and Focus.
Honden of Infinite Rage
Now we come to a far easier choice. Honden of Infinite Rage is a very good win condition. It's a recurring source of damage that can both be fetched with Ideal or hardcast if we take care to include a Mountain in our deck. This is another card that combines focus with versatility. It has focus since it obviously fits into our theme: things to fetch with Enduring Ideal. It has versatility because it can be cast either way. This makes the Honden a great choice for our deck.
Genju of the Realm:
Staying on our topic of versatility, we come to the 8/12 trampling beatstick. The Genju is another threat that can come out after an Ideal. There are some decks that can handle a Honden but not a Genju, and vice-versa. Again, we go back to out first two themes: -versatility- and -focus-. The Genju gives us Versatility since it allows us to simply go aggro against some decks after an Ideal. Some decks WILL beat you if you're doing just a few a turn with the Honden, but you can outrace them with a large man. And, of course, there is focus: The Genju can be fetched up with your Ideal and serves as a good finisher. Plus, if you're a very lucky person, this can be hardcast, and there are few feelings in the world of Magic like a turn 4 Genju of the Realm.
Step 3: The Path to the Win.
Very, very few decks can survive by simply playing win condition after win condition. Sure, it's a viable strategy, but, many times, it will be the wrong idea: you run the risk overextending into a Wrath of God or one of its brethren. You also have a tendency to run of of steam in the late game. There are many viable strategies like this, however, and I don't discourage you from using them (Black Hand is one of my personal favorite decks to play, actually). I'm only discouraging you from playing them when they involve casting a 7-mana sorcery. Weenie decks like those need fast and efficient threats: their job is to end the game before 7 mana is a thought on anyone's mind.
First, refer back to step one: what is your goal? What does your deck want to do? Our goal: get to 7 mana as fast as possible and cast an Ideal.
Now, we must FIND a route to our goals. Again, I'll give you some choices, before going over my own.
The Ideal (3) game of Magic will involve choices. One of your most important jobs is to -Limit- the Choices that your opponents have, and make the choices that he does have all work against him in some way.
Heartbeat is good. Turn 3 Heartbeat of Spring, Turn 4 Enduring Ideal sounds like a very, very good thing. However, we can -never- forget that we are playing against an opponent, even if one's not staring us in the face. Let's go over that sequence again: Turn 3 Heartbeat of Spring. Opponents turn 4: Drop a 4-6 mana (since he's likely already elder'd or reach'd already), and Cranial Extraction for your Ideal. This changes your game plan to: Turn 4 Weep in Agony, which I hear is an even worse card than Sorrow’s Path.
You have enough to worry about. If you can help it, -do not- help your opponent win the game. If you get just 2 of your 8 mana accelerators, which isn't that hard of a feat, then you have a turn 5 Ideal if you hit all your land drops. The difference between turn 5 and turn 4 is not as important as giving your opponent more chances to get out of things.
Step 4: The Supporting cast
The supporting cast is divided into three areas: elements that support your win conditions, elements that actively work against your opponent, and "other" (Other includes stuff like tutoring, card drawing, and whatnot).
Well, the Power's out again.
Before get back to all our fun little multiple choice lists, I'll talk about two cards that will be included in your deck. The vast majority of decks will be winning the game by swinging with creatures. Therefore, the first thing you reach for when you cast an Ideal will be, in many situations, Meishin the Mind Cage. Since the Ideal will fill up your hand as you draw uncastable cards, the Mind Cage's effect will always be relevant. You'll shrink the creatures enough to prevent all but a miniscule amount of damage. In a similar vein, Night of Souls' Betrayal is a good Ideal target since it also reduces toughness, rendering enemy 1-toughness creatures with abilities worthless, and functioning without cards in your hand. (This becomes important with the prevalence of Myojin of Night's Reach)
For the damage that does get through, there's Honden of Cleansing Fire. The Honden nets you two life a turn; not a bad deal. Then take into effect that after an Ideal, the Honden nets you around 6 life a turn while fueling your Red Honden. That's a "win the game" sort of card. Another card that fuels your Hondens while offering a powerful effect is Honden of Life's Web. Creating chump blockers while making your other effects stronger is very good, and if you don't have a Meishin for whatever reason, this can act as another win condition.
Lastly, we come to Final Judgment. It's useful for saving you from a situation in which you don't have an Ideal, or for the turn before an Ideal, stabilizing the board so the Ideal guarantees the win. Since two of the best and most popular decks in the format, Black Hand and White Weenie, are creature-based aggro decks, the Judgment will more or less always be in your deck if you're playing White.
We'll go back to the good old standby of lists. Hooray lists!
Given our already known cards, which of these does not belong in the deck, and why?
Honden of Night's Reach:
Honden of Night's Reach is, in most cases, a weak card, due to its high mana cost for what is usually a weak effect. It has limited uses, and is almost completely worthless without other shrines to back it up. However, due to Enduring Ideal, we can only have to devote 1 spot to this Honden. It fits our first 2 criteria: cards that work with your win condition (it + the red Honden is an OMG COMBO~), and it actively works against your opponent. Therefore, the black Honden is a solid inclusion for this deck.
Yet another enchantment that provides an effect that probably doesn't cost 3B. However, during a game of Magic, there are certain things that you have to do. Removal is one of those things. Enduring Ideal's drawback is to make you not be able to do these things in trade for an enchantment of your choice every turn. Your job is to circumvent this drawback: the Clutch, while normally subpar, (in constructed, at least) allows you to do normal spell-like effects (in this case a Dark Banishing) after your Ideal starts Enduring. Ideally (4), you'll have a near-full grip of cards when this comes down, as Enduring Ideal tends to make said grip very much near-full by taking away your ability to cast spells. Therefore, the Clutch is in.
Honden of Seeing Winds:
Now, why are we bothering to talk about this when we already have seemingly discussed the issue witch Honden of Night's Reach? Well, because they're different cards, and, in this case, we will come to a different conclusion. Yes, that's right, the blue Honden will -not- make it to the deck. There are two things we can try to be doing with the Honden: Try to cast it before an Ideal for card advantage, or fetch it with an ideal to boost your shrine count. The first route is probably a bad idea: you're not likely to get more than 2 Honden at the most before an Ideal, and even then, if you're at 5 mana, your mana is better spent on other things: a Kodama's Reach, for example, would put you over the top into Ideal range. If you fetch it after Ideal, you're just shooting yourself in the foot. The more cards you draw, the more of a chance you have to get enchantments in your hand, enchantments that you can now no longer cast OR fetch. Your Shrine count will almost never have to go above 4 to win the game, so what is basically a drawback just to get another shrine is a bad idea.
Well, if you've read ahead, you know the Lantern is in, but I guess it's my job to tell you why. Greedy, aren't you? Remember that it's ALWAYS good to have a backup plan. There's quite a bit of Enchantment Destruction out there, and once an Ideal hits, you're unable to stop it. However, in a format without Disenchant, an artifact can look at that Enchantment kill and shrug it off. This artifact, in particular, lets us get
all of our enchantments back if they're gone, and they'll come back to play at the next upkeep thanks to Mr. Ideal, if you like.
Part 5: The mana base.
The most boring part of deck building, by far. Sure, it might look nice when you’re done, but personally I can’t stand tweaking and re-tweaking ad infinitum. This involves lots and lots of number-crunching, building, and playtesting. And number-crunching, building, and playtesting. The maybe some more number-crunching, building, and playtesting. Then building again.
Alas, as I've stated above, it's extremely important to the deck. Green and White are our main colors, so most of our lands will be Plains and Forests. We want to be able to still sometimes get a win in the times we can't get an Ideal, so 1 each of every other basic land is in order so we can cast the rest of our enchantments. Since it's the probably the best mana-fixing land in all of block, Tendo Ice Bridge deserves 4 spots here.
At this point, it all comes down to finding the perfect Plains/Forest balance. This, kids, is where all the testing gets in. Just play a few goldfish games. If you're constantly getting color or mana screwed, adjust accordingly. I've opted for a slightly higher balance of Forests over Plains, since your two most important early spells (Elder and Reach) not only take Forests to run, but can fetch whatever other land you're short on. As such, I'd want more Forests in so you're not in the unfortunate position of being caught without a Green source.
Part 6: The Deck!
Here’s where your hard work all comes together and you have an (almost) finished product. Enjoy!
Sadly, there are some people, in fact, the majority of them, who will go out there and play the list without tweaking it. Therefore, our 15-card sideboard must be prepared for them.
Cranial Extraction is a pretty easy 4-spot. There are a lot of decks that roll over if you get rid of one card, and a lot of them are hurt to the point where the game is heavily in your favor.
Splinter is in. Lots of people run artifacts, and they’re all pretty important. Here’s a Cranial Extraction that actually effects the board.
Kodama of the North Tree. Every deck needs a backup plan, and with your multitude of mana acceleration, a turn 4 Kodama is easily possible. Last I checked, that was a good thing.
Mark of the Oni. Lots of decks play demons. Lots of decks have creatures that are useful if you only have them for 1 turn. Ideal fetches this, so, cool.
Finally, your last two copies of Reito Lantern: It's a card that's only good against some decks, but vital enough that at least some of it must be maindecked. However, upping our count to 4 post board makes the game much easier.
In any case, -I- have a deck, and you at least are armed with the basic steps of making a deck. Remember, even the most formidable decks ever had to come from the mind of some good deckbuilder before they were ever uncaged to wreak havoc on the public. Hopefully, after today, you are good enough to be one of those builders. If not; hey, you can still sling a mean Ideal.
Credits: Thanks to iloveatogs for the banner.
Thanks to Dr. Tom and Lesurgo for playtesting help.
Thanks to Goblinboy for editing.
SUPER SECRET BONUS SECTION~
Usually, the base sets add little to decks: a few staples like Wrath of God, something like Mana Leak, very boring things like that.
With the Ideal deck, though, 9th edition unravels a whole stream of possibilities. While without a full Ravinca list (though R-E's plugging away at it, for sure), we can look at what is already known and apply it to our deck.
Therefore, here is a quick version of the deck once Ravinca enters the fold and we move into the realm of Standard. Obviously I can't be perfect with it due to lack of information on Ravinca, but this should provide a very good base.
Ideal: Kamigawa Block + 9th edition+Birds of Paradise
When Form of the Dragon was previewed for 9th edition on magicthegathering.com, my thoughts went directly to Ideal in Standard. (This may be because of a post-rotation Extended Ideal deck that I tested for a long time before dropping). 9th adds Form, making Hondens obsolete...Except for the White one, which can lock your opponent out of the game in conjunction with Zur's Weirding. Story Circle and Ivory Mask are both great "don't lose the game" methods; this deck WILL contend for something, mark my words: especially if Ravinca brings us more tools for it than just the Birds, which I some how get the feeling that it will. (hint: Temple Garden).