Deviations from the Norm with John B. Turpish  



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1.14.01  The Standard Torment

Upon reading about cards to be released in an upcoming set, I no longer think about the cards in my current mindset as I used to.  Instead I've taken to jumping right into forming deck ideas in a format where that set will clearly be relevant, and that format is usually type 2.  I was better prepared for States in 2001 than I have been for just about any other tournament, and I'm sure this head start is at least part of the cause.

I imagine a number of you are doing the same thing with Torment, and I've decided to share with you some of my deck ideas.

The first I'll bring to your attention is one which I most certainly cannot take full credit for.  This idea was borne of a conversation I had with an old friend.  To avoid his name appearing in this column more often than my own, and also to annoy him, let's call him AC.

Senile Tutor

4 Braids, Cabal Minion
4 Ichorid
4 Shadowmage Infiltrator
4 Phyrexian Rager
4 Standstill
4 Ravenous Rats
4 Mesmeric Fiend
4 Nightscape Apprentice
4 Blood Pet
4 Salt Marsh
4 Underground River
1 Crosis' Catacombs
1 Darkwater Catacombs
4 Cabal Pit
9 Swamp
1 Island

For those unfamiliar with the Torment cards I'm using:

Ichorid 3B
At the end of turn, sacrifice Ichorid.
At the beginning of your upkeep, if Ichorid is in your graveyard, you may remove a black creature card in your graveyard other than Ichorid from the game.  If you do, return Ichorid to play.

Mesmeric Fiend 1B
When Mesmeric Fiend comes into play, look at target opponent's hand and choose a non-land card there.  Remove that card from the game.
When Mesmeric Fiend leaves play, return that card to its owner's hand.

Blood Pet is an oddity in this deck, as I'm trying to establish a board advantage and sacrificing my early creatures doesn't tend to help that.  The real reason he's in here is because he's a 1/1 for B.  Clearly he's better than Necra Disciple for this deck, because having an unattractive option is better than having none.  I have used his ability, too, when I had three land in play along with Blood Pet, no land in my hand, a Braids in hand, and I felt playing Braids early was crucial.  The only card I could see as a rival for this slot is Urborg Skeletons.  Its regeneration may prove a useful stall technique depending on what you'll be facing.

Nightscape Apprentice!  I originally threw this little fellow into a Braids deck for another one-drop, and while he does that well, his blue ability is proving very useful.  Here's one situation where it helped: my opponent is attacking with a white-kicked (not blue) Rakavolver.  I block with Braids, and Apprentice her.  My opponent doesn't gain any life, since no damage was dealt, I take no damage, and I don't sacrifice anything on my turn.  Then I attacked with Shadowmage Infiltrator, played a land, and then Braids.  This went on for several turns.  I won that game.  Also, you'll find that someone Urza's Raging your Braids can be a little less painful if you have the option of sacrificing a draw and five mana to save her.  The mana doesn't even have to be paid all at once!

Ravenous Rats and Mesmeric Fiend are both solid disruption at their mana cost, as well as food for Braids.  The Fiend is much better at the former and the Rats at the latter, but they both fit perfectly in the deck.  I feel confident in them both being 4-of.

This deck uses Standstill in a way that's a little different from the usual, "Nimble Mongoose, turn 2 Standstill."  While it's true that a turn 2 Standstill can follow an Apprentice, you generally would only do that if you haven't seen a third land or a Rats/Fiend.  The reason being at some point you'll be looking at four land and a Braids and trying to decide whether to give your opponent three free cards or to allow her to continue to stockpile lands making Braids all but useless.  No, Standstill is really a mid-game way to refill the hand.  It may be played turn 4 following Shadowmage Infiltrator, or better yet, on turn 5 after Braids, Cabal Minion.  If you have even a slight board advantage, Braids, and Standstill, your opponent must choose whether to be passive, allowing you to dominate the game, or hand you food for Braids or answers to their cards, thereby helping you to dominate the game.  I've found most people prefer the atter, and that probably is the correct choice most of the time.

Red Light, Green Light 1U
At some point before your next turn, draw 3 cards.


Why does everyone ignore Phyrexian Rager?  He's a decently-sized creature, a cantrip, and food for Braids.  It helps you to establish card advantage, draw into land to sacrifice to Braids if that's what you need, and essentially reduces the size of your deck thereby improving consistency.  Oh, and it has synergy with Nightscape Apprentice.  If cantrips often cost 2 colorless more that the non-cantrip equivalent, and they do, then ask yourself whether you'd play a 2/2 for B that caused you to lose 1 life when it came into play.  You better believe you would.  It's not quite that good, but it most certainly is quite good.

I like being able to draw into what I need while establishing card advantage and inching my way toward the win.  This deck loves black creatures.  Shadowmage Infiltrator–what's not to love?

Three extra damage from his originally being played is nice, particularly against control, but the real reason Ichorid is in the deck is something AC pointed out to me…

Upkeep, stack Braids' ability, then Ichorid's.  Remove this guy I sacrificed to Braids last turn now that he isn't helping me anymore, sacrifice Ichorid to Braids.

Sacrificing each creature twice is good against everyone, but Ichorid alone is great against control.  Each time they kill a creature o fyours your mourning will be quelled by the sadistic satisfaction of knowing they're about to take another 3.

Braids is justified, I believe, by the fact that her name is mentioned in nearly every other card discussion above.  Let me add, though, that your finisher being a 2/2, and a woman, is much classier than a 6/6 Beast, and will leave you with more self-respect when you win a game with her.  Or perhaps I exaggerate.


4 Roar of the Wurm
4 Circular Logic
4 Aether Burst
4 Mystic Snake
4 Counterspell
1 Memory Lapse
2 Obsessive Search
1 Disrupt
4 Wild Mongrel
3 Plagiarize
1 Rites of Refusal
4 Cephalid Colloseum
1 Treva's Ruins
4 Yavimaya Coast
5 Forest
10 Island

And for the Torment impaired…

Circular Logic 2U
Counter target spell unless its controller pays 1 for each card in your graveyard.
Madness: U (You may play this card by paying U at the time you discard it).

Obsessive Search U
Draw a card.
Madness: U

Plagiarize 3U
Until end of turn, if target player would draw a card, you draw a card instead

I'm not going to get into this deck too much, as it was more a deck that I built to be fun to play (remember I'm a control-lover, so fun to play means something different than what it does to most of you).  It's really just how I think a control deck would look like if it was using Madness.  The singular Rites of Refusal will often just discard a spare land to be a really weak Mana Leak.  However, I find it's justified in case you don't have Wild Mongrel or Cephalid Looter in play and want to discard your Roar of the Wurm.  You can often find yourself with tons of extra cards, too, if Cephalid Looter and Cephalid Coliseum your opponent following a Plagiarize during their upkeep.  In that situation the Rites are a fifth Counterspell (though you really shouldn't need it right then if your opponent just discarded four cards and didn't get to draw).  Obsessive Search can also reduce the pain of this.  

Happy Fun Box

4 Mana Breach
4 Wrath of God
4 Counterspell
3 Plagiarize
4 Standstill
4 Aether Burst
4 Life Burst
4 Teferi's Puzzle Box
3 Wild Research
2 Zombie Infestation
4 Shivan Reef
4 Cephalid Colisseum
4 Battlefield Forge
4 Adarkar Wastes
1 Skycloud Expanse
4 Coastal Tower
3 Dromar's Cavern

I want to make Teferi's Puzzle Box work in constructed, I really do.  This deck's so wacky it's a blast when it starts moving.  The card advantage you can get off of the Box and Plagiarize is nuts.  Keeping your hand full with Mana Breach, Standstill, Dromar's Cavern, and the aforementioned combo (plus Coliseum) makes Wild Research and Teferi's Puzzle Box really tick, which turns those Bursts into some serious Power.  If it looks like you're going to have to discard down to 7, that's about the time Zombie Infestation starts coming into play.  This deck isn't all that great yet.  If anyone has some suggestions, please help!

Chaos Magic

Chaos Magic can work in any setting, but I've found it's typically employed in multiplayer games.  There is a stack of cards, typically hand-selected.  At the beginning of the first upkeep of the game, the top card of the stack is flipped over.  If that card is a land, each player puts a copy of that land into play.  Otherwise, each player just played that spell.  For instance, if the card was Opportunity, each player would draw 4 cards.  Then, at the beginning of each of THAT player's upkeeps, the next card is turned over.  If there are any permanents left over from the last card, they are removed from the game.  For instance, the previous card was Craw Wurm.  The top card is flipped over and shown to be Tolarian Winds.  Each player removes their Craw Wurm token from the game, then discards their hands and draws as many cards as they just discarded.  All creatures played this way gain Haste.

This format isn't something that's supposed to heavily tax your strategic thinking, it's just something wacky for you to try with your friends when you're looking for something different.  It can be a lot of fun, but make sure the pile consists of things that will be interesting when they enter the game.  Creatures aren't very interesting for the pile, and may confuse people.  I'd suggest more global effects like Mana Flare, Wrath of God, or Stasis.

May you find what you seek.

John B. Turpish

Copyright 2001

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