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BMoor's Magic The Gathering Deck Garage
Upkeep Advantage
June 24, 2013

Hello Bmoor,

I found your Decklists online a few months ago and I’m always intrigued by the cards that you recommend, and I always find myself jotting down the names of cards that you recommend and I finally found time to write down my deck and I’d be honored if you could be as sincere with this deck as you have been with the others. I’m very certain that I can learn something from you as I already have.

The decks main focus, is upkeep advantage. There are several lines to back up this plan if not. The replenishment of Elves and Dragons with Imperious and Outcast. The planeswalkers have always helped out with direct burn or 10 card draw, especially with the Venser’s Journal. Scute bugs I’ve had up in the 25/25 range.

What started as an Elemental deck 4 years ago, when I came back to magic after an 8 year dryspell, I found a phone app that I could look back at the past sets and pull up individual cards and sort out etc etc. That’s when I realized I had jotting down cards that I absolutely favored out of the others. This deck is almost a copy of my spirit, you know? Advice from a friend of mine, magic player from the start, your deck represents who you are, your potential, really deep stuff man. Anyway, I feel like its not quite there, because after looking at your pages, I’m always throwing my head back and saying to myself “Why didn’t I find that earlier!!”

My win ratio is about 5:1. I’ve gone against B Zombie, B Vampire, B Knights, BG Zombie, R Dragon, WB Soldier/Spirit, U Mill. Usually lose to the vampire deck, (wife’s deck).

The cards that I really liked ..I like all of them except for choices of countering, I wanted the spells to get looked at, with exception of Paradox Haze and Intruder Alarm, I noticed there are enchantments such as Archmage Ascension, and Counterbalance, I’d gladly add Sensei’s Divinening Top for the combo of two or all three. Inexplorable Tide, Invoke Prejudice, Mana Chains , etc etc.
The lands too I would like your best judgement, It’s a 5 color deck, so I’d like to stick to it, but I can accept to remove the Black as I only have about 3 cards that tap from it, but the land that produced the mana also produces Red so its not strictly in the deck for black.
Green Mana producers for creatures, or elves in general to support Perfect’s ability with Intruder Alarm. Llanowar Elves could help, I also have a Ivy Lane Denizen or anything you could suggest for that.

Basically A dragon/elf Upkeep advantage that taps in the 5 colors respectfully, with blue counter and a lot of produce mana of any color to support the randomness.
That’s the deck I was going for.

And again, Thank you for your time.

Bmoor, I know I can trust you.

Hope to hear from you,

Kevin Billings


1 Avatar of Woe
1 Lord Of Extinction
1 Chandra’s Spitfire
2 Dragonmaster Outcast
1 Dragonsoul Knight
1 Jace’s Phantasm
2 Llanowar Elves
1 Druid Of the Anima
1 Imperious Perfect
1 Bird Of Paradise
2 Scute Mob

1 Murder
1 Electrickery
1 Terminate
1 Manamorphose
1 Paradox Haze
2 Negate
2 Psychic Barrier
1 Cancel
1 Intruder Alarm
1 Disperse
1 Blustersquall

2 Norn’s Annex
1 Vessel of Endless Rest
1 Trepanation Blade
1 Venser’s Journal
1 Mage Slayer
2 Manalith
1 Swiftfoot Boots

1 Jace, Memory Adept
1 Chandra Nalaar

6 Island
5 Mountain
1 Crumbling Necropolis
2 Rupture Spire
1 Clifftop Retreat
1 Selesnya Guildgate
1 Selesnya Sanctuary
1 Transguild Promenade
2 Akoum Refuge
1 Primal Beyond
1 Azorius Chancery


I can definitely agree with you that a person's favorite decks are a reflection of their own personality-- it may not be to Myers/Briggs accuracy, and there's nothing preventing you from playing any kind of deck (indeed, the Pro Tour is full of people who choose decks based on win percentage, not fun) but show me a man's shoebox of casual decks and I'll tell you what kind of gamer he is.

That's probably the most unpleasant part of my job-- when someone brings the deck they poured their heart into and I have to take it apart and put it back together again. But then, you sent your decklist in to me, so I suppose you asked for it. Just remember-- if you really think taking my advice would destroy what made that deck fun for you, you're free to ignore it. I promise I won't take it personally (I won't even know unless you e-mail me back to tell me, and nobody's done that yet).

Kevin here freely admits that his deck is full of randomness, and one of my biggest principles of this deck has always been to avoid lots of singleton copies in favor of a more dependable draw. The rise of the Commander format has loosened my tolerance of singletons, as an unpredictable draw can lead to a deck that remains interesting over more games. But this isn't Commander, and if you're drawing a different loadout every game, it's that much harder to evaluate how good any one card is for your deck.

The randomness of this deck doesn't just extend to singletons, though-- Kevin seems to have multiple strategies fighting for deck space. First, there's the namesake "upkeep advantage" strategy-- combo Paradox Haze with Dragonmaster Outcast, Venser's Journal, and/or Scute Mob. Second, there's the Intruder Alarm combo, where Imperious Perfect and a mana Elf give you an endless army of Elf tokens. Third, he also appears to have a graveyard theme, with a single Trepanation Blade powering up Lord of Extinction, Jace's Phantasm, and Avatar of Woe. Meanwhile, Chandra's Spitfire will trigger so rarely that I don't even want to dignify it and Chandra as "fourth".

This would be enough of a headache even if you weren't running five colors. If we're going to make any headway with this deck, we've got to isolate what is working well enough to build on, and what needs to be pulled, and the colors are as good a place to start as any. Kevin said he'd be okay with pulling Black, but honestly it's White I'd like to cut first. Right now, the only white cards here are Norn's Annex (which doesn't even require white mana to be cast at all) and the activation of Dragonsoul Knight's ability. Black can at least claim that there are cards in the deck that require it. But I was probably going to pull those cards anyway, so we can safely cut both Black and White. Blue is necessary for Paradox Haze and Intruder Alarm, Green is necessary for Imperious Perfect and Scute Mob, and if we cut Black and White we'll need Red for creature removal, so we can safely cut this down to three colors.

Doing that also eliminates "Theme #3" as Lord of Extinction and Avatar of Woe come out. That means Trepanation Blade should also be cut, since it no longer benefits the deck enough. Jace's Phantasm can stay though-- even without mill effects it's decent as a 1/1 flyer for one mana, and in the late game it will occasionally get bigger. Now let's look at Theme #2.

To successfully pull off your infinite Elf combo, you'll need three things. Intruder Alarm, Imperious Perfect, and a creature that taps for one green mana. Without that mana-tapper, you can only make as many Elves as you have lands that tap for G. Right now, you've got two Llanowar Elves, one Druid of the Anima, and one Birds of Paradise. More worryingly, you only have one Imperious Perfect and one Intruder Alarm, making this a very tough combo to execute. To start, I'm going to replace all your mana creatures with four copies of Elvish Harbinger. She may cost more to cast, but the fact that she can search out your Imperious Perfect makes it worth it. Tapping for any color of mana you want is a very helpful ability for this deck.

Theme #1 isn't on much more solid ground. Only one copy of Paradox Haze, and a total of five cards in the deck that combo with it. Luckily, there's a little cross-combo synergy here, in that Dragonmaster Outcast will trigger Intruder Alarm. A few more upkeep triggering cards would be nice, but mostly we need ways to get you your combo pieces. Let's look at your spells.

Manamorphose is a profoundly bad choice. Yes, you filter your deck a little and can change the color of some mana, but you can only do it once. You'd have been better off just drawing another land than the Manamorphose. Manalith and Vessel of Endless Rest are better choics for mana fixing-- trouble is, they're fighting for the three-drop slot against Paradox Haze, Intruder Alarm, Imperious Perfect, and the like. I'd say pull all of them for a full set of Prophetic Prism. Like Manamorphose, the Prism changes color of your mana instead of actually giving you more of it, and it also draws you a card. Unlike Manamorphose, it sticks around to keep doing it turn after turn if you need it to. Since so many of your cards are relatively cheap, color changing is more important to you than mana acceleration, and the extra draw from the Prism will help you find what you need. You should also consider a playset of Ponder-- it just seems like such a shame to use Venser's Journal and not have any good card draw.

Since I pulled Lord of Extinction, Avatar of Woe, and the Spitfire (I did pull the Spitfire, I just didn't mention it yet) we've got room for something that'll really help you find what you need-- Drift of Phantasms. A 0/5 flying wall isn't a bad card to have, but mostly I'm adding it for the Transmute ability. You can use a Drift to search your deck for a Paradox Haze, an Intruder Alarm, an Imperious Perfect, or an Elvish Harbinger. Suddenly, assembling combos just got a lot easier.

And speaking of cards I pulled, I cut Trepanation Blade. I also want to cut out Mage Slayer, since it does nothing to actually make the creature it's on any better at attacking. Sure, you could put the Slayer on a Jace's Phantasm and sneak in for an extra 1 damage per turn, but why bother? Replace those two Equipments with either two more Swiftfoot Boots, ot two copies of Mask of Memory. Getting a Mask on a small evasive beater like the Phantasm will really help you sift through your deck and find everything you need.

I still haven't addressed the fact that when I pulled Black, I also pulled Murder and Terminate. We need creature removal. Lightning Bolt is always good, and it's been reprinted recently enough that you can get a few reasonably cheap. Since we've made into a Red/Blue/Green deck, any of the three appropriate Charms would also be an excellent addition. Simic Charm is a combat trick for any type of combat situation, Gruul Charm can get your Elf swarm through or take out a flyer, and Izzet Charm is counterspell, burn, or card draw all in one! Actually, Izzet Charm is probably the one that fits your deck the best. You were looking for a better counterspell, weren't you? Pull Cancel and Negate, plus the empty slots from Terminate and Murder, to get a few copies each of Lightning Bolt and/or Izzet Charm.

I also pulled your two biggest creatures, didn't I? If you want something solidly large with which to swing, I'd recommend Progenitor Mimic. It fits right in with the Upkeep Advantage AND the Intruder Alarm themes! And since I added Drift of Phantasms, throw in a singleton copy of Dragonshift. Dragonshift will turn Elf tokens into a fearsome force if you can Overload it, you can search for it with a Drift when the time is right, it goes with your Dragon theme, and it'll even allow a Drift in play to swing for four, since the Drift will "lose all abilities [including defender], and gain flying".

Finally, your lands. We cut this deck from five colors to three, so pull all the lands that tap for black or white. I know Akoum Refuge still provides Red mana, but it comes into play tapped. That 1 life point doesn't make it any better than a Mountain would be for you. As for nonbasics, Rupture Spire and Transguild promenade are fine, but I'd like to see you running afew copies each of Izzet Boilerworks, Simic Growth Chamber, and Gruul Turf. Each one is kind of like two lands in one, and you can get a playset of each online for less than four dollars, so there's really no reason not to go for it.

That's just about everything I can think to do. Your deck is still pretty random, but if you tighten your focus a little you should be amazed at how much more smoothly it runs. But before I close, I want to point out that I didn't remove Dragonsoul Knight even though I cut Black and White out of the deck. I didn't forget it was there, I left it in for a reason. Kevin mentioned Dragons as a theme, so I wanted to leave in the Knight for thematic points. And if Kevin adds a full set of Prophetic Prism and Elvish Harbinger as I suggested, he'll be able to pay WUBRG to have his 7/5 flying trampling first striking Dragon without needing a true five-color deck.

Good luck!



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