Mill ’em then Kill ’em

So, Ravnica Allegiance standard has been pretty boring on the jank front, in my opinion. Sure, some cards from RNA improved some previous jank decks, but I honestly don’t think any cards really enabled any new, successful jank. War of the Spark on the other hand has a ton of potential and there are a number of cards I’m excited about in the set. I didn’t want to let the entirety of RNA standard to fly by without even a single garbage deck on my site though, so here I am to close out this incarnation of this format with what is probably the worst deck I’ve made so far, and in Best of Three to boot. Without further delay, here it is:

Deck Rarity Overview:

Normally I would look at the main deck and sideboard for a Bo3 deck separately, but this entire deck’s concept requires the full sideboard, so I’ll be considering them together.

Between the main deck and sideboard this deck needs:

4 Mythic Rare Non-Lands
12 Rare Non-Lands
20 Uncommon Non-Lands
14 Common Non-Lands
16 Rare Lands
9 Basic Lands
NOTE: This is a deck that absolutely does not work without the rare lands. Even taplands will probably be unsatisfactory here.

The Concept

There is a card that I was initially excited about in RNA that I never made a successful deck around. I tried over and over, but could never find anything that stuck; particularly in Best of Three, where most janky plans are killed after sideboarding, but last week I finally had an idea I was happy with for the card that helps mitigate the post-sideboard problem that janky decks have in Bo3. The card I’m talking about here, by the way, is Verity Circle.

Images courtesy of Gatherer

During RNA spoilers Verity Circle really spoke to me. It screams value and REALLY combos with Drowned Secrets.

However, when I was trying to brew a deck to use it, it came with a number of problems:

1) It dies to Enchantment Removal and Mortify is in the meta.
2) A shocking number of decks have sideboard cards that hose mill or have no creatures to tap
3) Nexus of Fate makes us Auto-Lose and is run maindeck in some meta decks.

Over the course of my testing around Verity Circle mill decks I lost to Gaea’s Blessing, Devious Cover-Up, Nexus of Fate, and just generally to all sorts of creatureless control, and if a deck didn’t have any of those in the main board, it almost certainly had at least one in the side board. It was rough, and the deck probably ended up with a record close to 4-30. I won several game 1’s, but I lost almost every single game 2/3.

Just the other day I had a hilarious breakthrough, though! Why play just one bad deck when you could play TWO bad decks? Even better, why play just mill when you could play mill, AND aggro? I’ll cover the sideboard plan in full later, but the main idea is that we go from playing Verity Mill to playing High Alert.

But before we cover our game 2 and game 3 strategies, let’s talk about game 1.

Game 1 – Mill ’em

Before sideboarding, our deck is a combo/control mill deck that focuses on playing Verity Circle then using various tempo-like effects and walls to mill out the opponent and draw cards. Once you have a copy of Verity Circle and a copy of Drowned Secrets, you mill out the opponent surprisingly quickly.

This combo requires quite a few supporting cards to help tap creatures and slow down the opponent though. In no particularly order, we have:

4 Copies of Time of Ice.

This card is a tempo powerhouse and the deck’s main answer to large threats that the opponent plops on the board. The first thing it targets misses two untap steps then is bounced back to its owner’s hand. When combined with Verity Circle it also draws us an extra card per turn for two turns. It doesn’t look like much, but this is usually a nice card to have around.

Next we have 4 copies of Sleep.

Sleep does three things for the deck, and is an all around all-star. It slows down aggressive opponents, giving us at least one turn of relief from the onslaught, it taps the entire enemy team, giving us some cards and some mill if our combo pieces are on the board, and it opens the way for attackers during our sideboarded games.

The last, and in my opinion weakest, of our tapping cards is Tempest Caller, of which we still play 4 copies.

It functions like a bad Sleep. It accomplishes two of the three purposes that Sleep fills, but doesn’t keep the opponent tapped down. It’s better than nothing though, and with the combo pieces out it acts as a pseudo-finisher.

Sometimes, though, tapping everything doesn’t quite cut it. We sometimes need a panic button for when things go really wrong. For these situations I run 4 copies of River’s Rebuke.

And just in case of a major threat that really just needs to be dealt with, we run three copies of our only counterspell – Thought Collapse.

The final components of the maindeck slow down aggressive opponents and bridge the gap between our two strategies. We’re running a couple of walls in the main deck.

4 copies of Wall of Lost Thoughts.

This one’s pretty obvious. It blocks, it mills, and post-sideboard it attacks.

Lastly, we have 4 copies of Wall of Mist.

So this is the main deck. Though we’re not done talking about the deck as a whole, I think this is a good time to post the main deck list. We’re basically talking about two different decks, so I think it’s important to give the full picture of our game 1 plan.

Game 2 – Kill ’em

Unlike most sideboards, which contain a variety of cards to add to the maindeck in pieces in order to shore up each particular matchup, in pretty much every single Game 2 the entire sideboard comes in to this deck. As mentioned above, the sideboard strategy shifts the deck from combo/control mill to aggro using High Alert. In addition to the four copies of High Alert, the sideboard is:

4 Copies of Arcades, The Strategist.

He’s got a big butt, has vigilance, flies, and creates a little redundancy with High Alert. He’s not quite as good due to his second clause only affecting creatures with defender, (and one of our upcoming cards has a huge butt, but not defender) but he’s necessary for consistency and has some card draw attached too.

Next we have 3 copies of Gleaming Barrier.

Yet another two-mana wall. The sideboard plan involves increasing the number of creatures dramatically to make sure we represent a quick kill, and gleaming barrier helps us do that. Would be a 4-of if sideboards had 16 cards.

Our last card is a little weird because he’s not a defender, but when combined with High Alert he’s an absolute beating. He’s also nearly impossible to remove without hard removal affects. We have 4 copies of Looming Altisaur.

High Alert curves right into this fatty, and if you have High Alert on the battlefield he’s a 4-mana 7/7.

So that’s the sideboard. Here it is in its entirety:

In general the strategy is always the same. Board out 4 Verity Circle, 4 Drowned Secrets, 3 Thought Collapse and 4 Time of Ice. Bring in the entire sideboard. The dual lands in the main deck make all of this relatively easy to cast in most games, and it entirely changes the strategy. Because game 2 basically always looks the same, here is the post-board decklist so we can discuss it in context:

With this particular sideboarding plan, every card that’s useless to our new deck is removed and replaced with a card that changes the strategy entirely. Instead of Verity Circle + Drowned Secrets + Tap cards we have High Alert + Big Butts + Tap cards. This lets us get an army of things that are difficult to remove, then tap the opponent’s defenses and kill them with a big swing or two. Further, the opponent was playing against mill last game. This means that aggro decks are sideboarding in all of their aggressive creatures because they saw no removal, and control decks are sideboarding out all of their creature removal because all they saw was walls and mill. This plays to our advantage and the deck has a shockingly high game 2 win rate.

Game 3 – Mind Games

I won’t talk too terribly much about Game 3. It’s almost a coin flip unless one of the strategies has a really good matchup against the opponent. My strategy in every game 3 during testing was to leave everything the same as game 2, but spend about a minute and a half in the sideboarding window so the opponent thinks you switched back to mill and takes an opening hand that’s good against it.

What I find is that often times opponents assume that we’re swapping back to mill to screw with them, so they leave their sideboard the same instead of boarding back in the removal. In the final testing games the deck didn’t lose a single game 3. Just the very threat of switching back to mill seems to really mess with opponents, and it’s pretty fun.

The Results

With ALL of that said, here’s the result of the testing I did. When I do Bo1 decks I play through 20 Bo1 games. This time, since I was playing Bo3 I ended up playing 10 matches in the casual queue. The deck went 12-11 in games and 6-4 in matches. Here’s the data dump:

The deck struggles pretty heavily game one, ending with a 3-7 record. The Verity Mill plan is bad against control decks and drakes decks, which were plentiful in the Bo3 casual queue. That said, it steals a couple of games and I truly believe that the game 1 plan really sets up game 2 and 3 for success through pure head games alone.

Game 2 was a lot better, the new strategy scoring 6 wins out of 10 games. Each game that Verity Mill won in game 1, High Alert won in game 2, and any time High Alert won a game, I won the match. That’s a pretty strong showing for the concept, in my opinion.

Game 3 is interesting for 2 reasons: I never switched back to mill even though my opponents thought I would, and I never lost a game 3. Of course the sample size is small, but I think it still speaks well of the concept.

Conclusions

This deck isn’t great, but it’s a blast to come out of the gate in game 2 with a totally different strategy than game 1, and adding that extra layer of decision to the opponent’s game 3 sideboard plan is incredibly effective. I don’t recommend the deck unless you already have the cards, but I did have fun playing it.

How janky is it?

Extremely. The entire concept is a gimmick. It’s a jank deck made up of two unsuccessful jank decks crammed together. It turns out that in my experience the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but it still has a rough time since it basically folds to Thought Erasure. It was a fun one-off, but I won’t be going back to this one.

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