Attention to Detail #10 – Making a Pact
by Jordan Kronick
January 27, 2006
prerelease is over and the real fun can begin.
Guildpact is already making a big splash and many
drafts are being played. I myself played seven
drafts last Saturday, and I've done perhaps three
times that many in the intervening days. Of course,
being a part of the Magic Online Guildpact beta test
helps a lot in that regard. Part of the testing
process for Magic Online involves going back to old
sets and making sure that new cards interact the way
they are supposed to with the remnants of Magic
past. There's a lot of old cards out there and
there's a lot of weird interactions to test. The
best part of this process is that it causes you to
come up with all sorts of interesting interactions
with older cards. The first thing I want to look at
today is one of the Guildpact cards that seems
custom made for interactions with older cards.
Abyssal Nocturnus is certainly one of my favorite
cards in the new set. For those who may not have
seen this little gem yet, here's the card text:
Abyssal Nocturnus 1BB
Creature – Horror
Whenever an opponent discards a card, Abyssal
Nocturnus gets +2/+2 and gains fear until end of
It's such a simple, tight little package of a card.
Obviously it doesn't take a lot of creativity to
realize that the Nocturnus is best when your
opponent is discarding lots of cards. Stuff like
Duress, Hymn to Tourach and Cabal Therapy can all
quickly make your Nocturnus a nasty bugger. But,
like any discard-based strategy, there's a flaw.
Eventually your opponent is going to run out of
cards. If they don't have anything they can't
discard anything, right? Well that's where the fun
interactions come into play. Although black has a
virtual monopoly on discard effects, blue has a
niche with causing people to both draw and discard
cards. Well that's just as good when you're using a
Nocturnus – it might even be better. Four cards come
immediately to mind. Each is available on Magic
Online and can be had pretty darn cheap.
First, there's a pair of cards from Odyssey –
Cephalid Looter and Cephalid Broker. Back in Odyssey
these were usually used to draw cards and generate
Threshold. Giving your opponent more cards and a
bigger graveyard was generally not a very good idea
back then. But the Broker seems tailor-made to the
job of keeping your Nocturnus huge and scary. One
activation gives +4/+4 and fear, and doesn't
actually result in any card advantage for the
opponent. The Looter will do the same thing, but one
card at a time. Still, it's a bit cheaper.
Next, there's a card from Ravnica that falls right
along the same lines – Lore Broker. This one is
going to do the same job as your Looter, but you get
the effect as well! That's great, because while we
want to be causing the opponent to discard, we want
to draw cards too. More cards means more Noctunuses
(or would that by Nocturni?). The cheap casting cost
makes Lore Broker an all-star as well.
Fourthly is a card that I've loved for many years.
It's been a huge weapon in a couple decks that never
really made the scene, but it's a big nasty effect.
I'm talking, of course, about Urza's Guilt. With a
Nocturnus out, you could potentially cause the
opponent to lose 4 life while simultaneously giving
your bad guy +6/+6! That's a huge life swing. And
there's a card that combos really well with Urza's
Guilt as well – Megrim. In the above situation, you
would be doing 6 damage from discard, causing the
loss of 4 life, and also giving your Nocturnus the
+6/+6 bonus. Including an attack from the big guy
that's a stunning 18 points of life loss – and it
can be done on turn 5 without needing any
acceleration. Now that's a deck that's worth
So let's build this from the ground up. I'm going to
try to limit the amount of direct discard that the
deck uses for two reasons. First of all, Urza's
Guilt is slightly less effective when used against
someone with an empty hand. Secondarily, the casual
rooms of Magic Online (where I fully intend to test
this deck) have an overwhelming hatred for discard.
We don't want to make people too angry – at least,
not until the giant Nocturnus is swinging at them. I
also want to point out that I'm going to try to make
this deck as inexpensive as possible. I could be
including things like Umezawa's Jitte and Shadowmage
Infiltrators in here, but I fully understand that
those things are out of most people's financial
reach – including mine!
First of all, the creatures. For a black/blue deck,
this thing actually uses a pretty high number of
4x Abyssal Nocturnus
Obviously, we need four copies of the key card.
Nocturnus, Nocturnus - he's our man! If he can't do
it, nobody can!
4x Cephalid Broker
I really like this guy in here. There's a strong
possibility that our plans for a quick kill could be
disrupted, and we may need to go for the long game.
Whether it's giving +4/+4 or letting you dig deep
for an answer, Broker is going to be a big help.
4x Lore Broker
Speaking of Brokers, we've got this little gem. I'm
not going to include the Cephalid Looters because I
feel that they are too expensive for the deck. We
want to be casting Nocturnus or finding Nocturnus on
turn 3, not playing a 1 toughness creature. Even the
Lore Broker has a toughness of 2! This guy will help
us find the threats and provide a bit more of the
4x Drift of Phantasms
One thing that this deck doesn't do very well is
defend itself. We don't want to be blocking with the
Nocturnus or the Brokers because that could easily
result in the loss of one of our big weapons. So
instead, we've got this thing. It serves two
purposes, of course – first of all, it blocks until
we can kill the opponent. Second of all, it can be
Transmuted to find a Nocturnus! That sounds good to
4x Ravenous Rats
Well, it can't all be draw-and-discard effects.
Ravenous Rats are one of the staple black cards that
seem to show up in just about every aggressive black
deck out there. It serves a lot of purposes in our
deck, it's incredibly cheap and it blocks in a
pinch. That sounds like a good choice.
Well, 20 creatures sounds like a lot. This deck
still has a lot of spells to include, so let's get
on with it!
Part of our kill mechanism. Not to mention one of
the coolest most combo-rific cards out there. If you
want to try building this deck, I highly recommend
picking up something 7th or 8th edition versions of
Megrim, as the 9th edition art really leaves a lot
to be desired.
2x Urza's Guilt
I actually wavered on this one. Although it's part
of the idea that originally led me to build this
deck, it's very expensive. Invasion block cards are
so rare that even the “junk” rares like this one are
still pretty spendy. Fortunately, I've got two of
them already. If you want to try building this thing
yourself, feel free to replace the Guilts with more
direct discard. It's mostly a matter of style.
Besides the Ravenous Rats, this is the only
concession I'm making to the world of direct
discard. Duress really is just about the best
discard for the price. One of the problems this deck
has is that the Nocturnus is vulnerable. If we can
remove things like Wing Shards or Rend Flesh before
they have a target, we'll be a lot better off.
To round out the deck, I think it needs a bit of
creature removal. Although this strategy is very
aggressive, it has a big hole in the plan. What if
the opponent has black or artifact creatures?
Abyssal Nocturnus isn't going to work too well in
those situations. Well, there's a piece of removal
or two that we can toss in for just such an
4x Rend Flesh
Maybe the best common black removal printed in
years, Rend Flesh had a huge drawback in the
spirit-filled Kamigawa block. However, now that it's
entered into larger formats, it is even better.
Black creatures? Artifact creatures? This'll take
them all done. Well, the non-spirits anyway.
So what if they have a black spirit? Well, that's a
tough one. Black and blue don't do a very good job
of removing such creatures, usually. And what about
annoying enchantments and artifacts? Well, there's a
card that's absolutely perfect for this sort of
thing. It's one of my favorite cards of all time,
It just might be the perfect card for this deck. It
causes discard. It can remove any permanent on the
table (well, the ones that aren't somehow
untargetable anyway), and it's cheap. The last step
is to throw in some lands. There's a number of
nonbasic lands that might go into this deck, but I'm
just going to avoid the whole issue. Watery Graves
and such notwithstanding, I want to build this thing
cheaply. 38 spells? Let's go for 11 Islands and 11
Swamps. The deck has a pretty low mana curve and the
Brokers can help us flesh it out, so 22 lands should
Unfortunately, I'm not going to get a chance to test
this quite yet! We don't have complete access to the
cards on the Magic Online beta test, so it will just
have to wait until Guildpact releases into the
online world – that happens on February 27th, by the
way. If anyone wants to try putting this together in
paper form and giving it a whirl, I'd love to hear
some reactions. Just throw a post in the Pojo
message boards or contact me on Magic Online under
my handle – ChainMaster.
I'm going to completely change gears now to talk
about another of my favorite Guildpact cards. Where
Abyssal Nocturnus is quick and powerful in the short
term, my next choice is just the opposite. It's a
bit slow in all the ways Nocturnus is fast. It
doesn't do much damage, while the Nocturnus can get
huge in a hurry. And it is absolutely great in
multiplayer games, while the Nocturnus would quickly
run out of steam against multiple opponents. I'm
talking, of course, about Agent of Masks.
Here's the card text for those who don't recognize
the name right away:
Agent of Masks 3WB
Creature – Human Advisor
At the beginning of your upkeep, each opponent loses
1 life. You gain life equal to the life lost this
5 mana for a 2/3 is usually a really bad deal. Many
people look at this card and see the 1 life loss per
turn for such an investment and dismiss it as
overcosted. I really don't think that's the case. At
the prerelease and in my last week of testing
Guildpact, I've discovered that a lot of people are
undervaluing this guy. As the members of Magic R&D
have said, Orzhov thrives on the “bleeding”
strategy. That is to say that the Orzhov like to win
slowly, a pin prick at a time. Agent of Masks is the
perfect example of that. It doesn't win in shining
giant glory like a Nocturnus, but rather it slowly
drains your opponent until they are dead. But it
does so much more than that as well! Agent of Masks
is maybe the strongest multiplayer card in Guildpact.
Or at least the one most likely to get your some
unfortunate attention from your opponents. It can
gain you a lot of life very quickly while your
opponents take only a little bit of damage. A few
turns of that and suddenly you're going to be in a
very enviable position. To say nothing of multiple
The second thing that really interested me about
Agent of Masks was the creature type! Guildpact
brings with it 3 new Advisiors (this plus Teysa,
Orzhov Scion and Droning Buerecrats). If you combine
that with the previous from Kamigawa (Masako the
Humorless and Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker), you've
got five. And you know what five means, don't you?
It means Tribal deck! Of course, there's a problem
with the Advisor tribe – 3 of the five creatures are
Legendary! I didn't say it was a very good tribe,
did I? Of course, in these figures I'm not counting
the sixth advisor – Trusted Advisor. In addition to
being off-color to the rest of the group, his
ability would repeatedly bounce himself with no real
I'm going to investigate the Advisor problem deeply.
I'm going to find a way to make this most red-tape
infested tribe functional. Stay tuned to this column
and maybe I'll find the key.
That's all for this week. Next time I'm going to
fire up the bat signal, so make sure to check that
out. Until then, enjoy winning fast and winning
slowly. Just do it with a little style.
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