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Peasant Magic - 01.XX.04



Isochron Scepter was one of those cards that people noticed the moment it first hit the spoilers. It is obviously a powerful and abusable card and people certainly haven=t been disappointed. The PEZ metagame as well as card selection, however, forces us to make Isochron Scepter fit a different mold.

The Scepter itself is all about investment and risk. In the early and mid game, without the mana acceleration offered to other formats, the Scepter trades off with another spell and generally means that you are preparing to use the Scepter on the next turn. Thus, the turn Scepter is played it generates a 2:0 card disadvantage. We can assume, however, that the card played on the Scepter nets some type of advantage whether bounce, counters, removal, or card drawing. Most of the time, the turn after the Scepter enters play, it generates even, 1:1, card advantage. After this point, it just gets better, assuming that they don=t have artifact removal - something much more common than counters.

For PEZ decks, this creates a problem. Most of the PEZ field can win by turn 5 so a card that generates advantage over the course of 2 or 3 turns is much more fragile than in some other formats. For the Scepter to be useful in PEZ decks either must be able to retain or recapture the advantage lost during these early turns. Alternately, decks that don=t rely on the Scepter but just use it to fill a few Uncommon slots can get a big push because their strategy allows the Scepter to be laid when game situation won=t interfere with game development.


This is the obvious and over hyped version of a dedicated Isochron Scepter deck which attempts to lay the Scepter early and then clear the opponent=s permanents from the board starting with the lands. It relies on the dedicated use and access to the Isochron Scepter and must be built and played aggressively in order to be able to reestablish stability post Scepter.


9  4 Opt

9  3 Impulse

9  3 Force Spike

9  2 Miscalculation

9  4 Boomerang

9  4 Aether Burst

9  3 Hoodwink

9  3 Vision Charm

9  4 Isochron Scepter

9  1 Temporal Fissure

9  2 Fade Away

9  1 Sol Ring

9  4 Lotus Petal

9  22 Island

This version includes both the Sol Ring and the Petals in an attempt to assist with a first turn Scepter. This is actually a critical draw to the deck since it suffers the same fate as most other Blue decks in PEZ if it allows the early game to get out of control.  As soon as possible, the intent of the deck is to bounce lands back to the opponent=s hand and stall their mana generation. Alternately, Vision Charm can be just as effective against the majority of the field which is comprised of mostly mono-color decks. By switching all the opponents lands to an alternate type before the main phase you can restrict them to relying on Instants alone.


For this version, Miscalculation is preferred to Counterspell because of the ability to cycle into bounce which helps streamline the theme of the deck. Dream=s Grip is a possibility for the deck but only if we can avoid dropping the more productive bounce from the deck. This means it would trade off with the card drawing instants which are critical early stabilization or with the counters and this would weaken the deck against other threats. A trade off with Aether Burst, however, may prove to be marginally beneficial in some match-ups. 

The deck is supported by 2 copies of Fade Away and a single Temporal Fissure. These cards provide the closest thing to a reset button available in PEZ.

There are multiple problems with this deck in PEZ. First, many decks in the field run well on only 2 or 3 mana. This means that the intended soft lock must come early and that many decks will not be stopped just slowed by this method of control. Being able to lay an early counter on the second Scepter is helpful. If Instant burn becomes a problem, the deck can sideboard Tanglebloom which is moderately helpful as are some of the White Instants - Pay No Heed and Soothing Balm. Second, as with many Scepter decks, early mana will be tied up in necessary use of the Scepter. This means that even if the Scepter comes out turn 1, it will likely be turn 4 before you are playing any cards from your hand. For all intents and purposes this is like a self imposed Acrane Laboratory which is a bad deal when it only affects you. The reset cards and Lotus Petals help out to some degree. Lastly, while the power and importance of Vision Charm as a win mechanism cannot be understated it is a poor clock often taking 10 or more turns to solidify the win. Using a creature like Wayward Soul can create a slightly quicker clock the gain is minimal and interferes with the other components of the deck.


One of the strengths of Isochron Scepter isn=t the combo potential but simply its potential for card advantage. Obviously when paired with powerful card drawing effects you can run through your Library at an astonishing pace. But any spell Imprinted on the Scepter is moved from a 1:1 equation to something much more positive. More experience players are going to look for a way to abuse this. PEZ makes that quest more difficult but perhaps there is something suggestive in this deck.


9  4 Opt

9  4 Accumulated Knowledge

9  3 Impulse

9  2 Merchant Scroll

9  2 Disrupt

9  4 Prohibit

9  4 Counterspell

9  4 Aether Burst

9  2 Boomerang

9  1 Temporal Fissure

9  2 Wayward Soul

9  4 Isochron Scepter

9  1 Forbid

9  2 Lonely Sandbar

9  21 Island

This deck is much looser than the version relying on Bounce. It has a stronger control component and can set itself up for a recurring Forbid with little difficulty. Because of these advantages, the deck has a stronger mid-game presence but it is just as critical to maintain stability with this deck as it is with its bounce heavy cousin.

Other Options


While both of the Blue decks above, and similar decks, are a little weak, they are both playable and new sets may introduce additional cards to make them more attractive. Tweaking each of them may also help a little. Black can be added for more solid removal potential and either White or Green are attractive for either life gain or the fog effects.

Having made mention of the power of fog effects, I believe that this is where Isochron Scepter has the best potential to make a major change in the dynamics of PEZ.

Iso - White


9  4 Life Burst

9  4 Soothing Balm

9  3 Festival

9  4 Holy Day

9  4 Moment of Silence

9  4 Pay No Heed

9  2 Prismatic Strands

9  3 Vision Charm

9  1 Galvanic Key

9  1 Gilded Light

9  4 Isochron Scepter

9  4 Lotus Petal

9  2 Abandoned Outpost

9  20 Plains

From the first, this deck bears no resemblance to other Isochron Scepter decks that have been popping up here and there. In fact it is much more reminiscent of Fog Machine and is, as suggested by the testing, much more stable and resilient. The point of the deck is basically to do nothing. The deck is very efficient at avoiding damage and gaining life and works best when confined to this role. The win mechanism is intended to be played late game when you are able to Mill your opponent to death with the Vision Charm on a stick.

While Fog Machine faired poorly against direct damage, this deck is much stronger. The possibility of gaining 4-16 life per turn is a great answer to burn as is the Pay No Heed, Prismatic Strands, and Gilded Light. Although the Fog component of the deck is weaker than Fog Machine, 13 prevention sources generally is sufficient especially when backed with the life gain. This makes the deck very strong against the majority of the field.

The deck is far from perfect, however. The deck provides no answer to Tides based decks, except for Vision Charm, and, in it=s current state, would have a weak SB counter component at best. It is also vulnerable to even limited Artifact removal. Vision Charm is of limited utility and there are few other commons that would be helpful: Welding Jar, Disempower, Drafna=s Restoration, Reality Ripple, Reconstruction, and Razor Barrier which is probably the best bet perhaps deserving preference over Galvanic Key. Lastly, discard and/or Land Destruction can hurt the deck though not critically. Reworking the deck as a UW build helps to lessen these vulnerabilities but seems, so far, to have an inverse relationship with the other positive aspects of the deck. This style of dedicated Scepter deck is, IMO, most likely to have an impact on PEZ.

The Real Impact on PEZ


While I have a great deal of faith in the White version of the deck, and I also believe the more traditional Blue versions will see play, I think Isochron Scepter will have the greatest impact on PEZ by filling 1 or 2 of the Uncommon slots in a wide range of decks. Any deck that employs a decent number of low cost instants can get a major push from inclusion of the Scepter. Giant Growth in Green for example or Lightning Bolt for Red are just a few of the many examples. In decks with a Scepter or two, I especially recommend cantrips like Aggressive Urge or multipurpose cards like Steal Strength to combo with the Scepter. Putting these cards on a stick makes for an exponential increase in their power and utility while they remain strong without the Scepter.

Other decks that rely on a heavy component of Instant can also find the Scepter beneficial. Especially decks like Stupid Red Burn will find the Scepter compare favorably with cards like Browbeat.


Scepter Decks are now part of PEZ and while the Blue decks may not be as strong now, watch out for Scepter remakes of Fog Machine. The real impact that I see is not the decks built around Isochron Scepter but instead decks that utilize the Scepter to enhance the main strategy. The Scepter really is attractive to all colors and most deck types and each expansion will just enhance this card=s potential.

See you next week, hopefully with a full spoiler from Darksteel!!!

Jason Chapman - chaps_man@hotmail.com



Jason Chapman - chaps_man@hotmail.com



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