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Monk's Corner
Ray Powers

*Level III Judge

*WOTC Tournament Organizer for Arizona & San Diego

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Betrayers in Block - a Deck Idea
By Ray "Monk" Powers

As I mentioned earlier this week, one of my quests with the changes in my life was to try to play more Magic with what little free time I was gathering by resigning from being a Tournament Organizer for most of the companies I work for. I wanted to start with block for several reasons:

1.. I like a format without Affinity

2.. I like a format with a few sets, not because its simpler, but because it is more meta game oriented, and its fun to try to figure out The Solution to the format.

3.. I hadn't really gotten to do anything with Betrayers yet, and wanted to spend some time playing with it.

4.. I like a format without Affinity.

With only Champions out, I had two decks I really enjoyed playing. The first one will probably remain my favorite deck to play because its both challenging and fun to play, but is two draw dependent to be seriously competitive unfortunately. I'll just call it "The Honden Deck."

1 Swamp
12 Forest
3 Plains
4 Mountain
2 Island
4 Kodama's Reach
4 Glacial Ray
2 Honden of Night's Reach
2 Honden of Cleansing Fire
2 Honden of Infinite Rage
3 Honden of Life's Web
2 Honden of Seeing Winds
4 Hana Kami
4 Ethereal Haze
4 Sakura Tribe Elder
3 Petals of Insight
4 Ghostly Prison

Contrary to what you may think, this deck wins with recurring Glacial Ray and the Honden of Infinite Rage, not the Honden of Life's Web. Having three of the green Honden is important because it's what locks the game in your favor. With multiple Ghostly Prisons in play and multiple blocker tokens every round, you are safe to start firing off damage right at your opponent's head against any creature deck. Against some of the control decks or mill decks, I have four Lava Spike in the sideboard to speed up the damage race to finish them off quickly.

Still, the deck is draw dependent, and you have to mulligan pretty much any hand that does not include Forest, another land, and Sakura Tribe Elder or Kodama's Reach. It does however seem to do fine against the annoying g/b and g/u/b Zubera/Devouring Greed decks, by blowing up each zubera as it comes out, and starting to gain life with the white Honden before they can do the final finishing Greed.

Far more consistent, however, has been the W/R Samurai Deck.

4 Blessed Breath
4 Glacial Ray
4 Brothers Yamazaki
4 Kitsune Blademaster
4 Mothrider Samurai
3 Nagoa, Bound by Honor
4 Ronin Houndmaster
2 Samurai Enforcer
4 Samurai of the Pale Curtain
1 Sensei, Golden Tail
4 Yamabushi's Flame
10 Mountain
12 Plains

This deck is pretty straight forward. You swing, swing, and swing some more.
If something stops you from swinging, you throw burn at your opponent's head to finish them off. The deck has a pretty good curve, but the problem is that the upper curve cards are not very good. Mothrider Samurai and Samurai Enforcers are not really very good at four mana for a 2/2 creature. Even the Kitsune Blademaster and Ronin Houndmaster seem a bit costly for their power and toughness, and only the lack of better samurai, and the haste ability of the Houndmaster really makes them worth the cut.

But one Hideous Laughter could decimate this deck, and sometimes it just felt too slow, so I still played it, but shelved it as tier two, waiting to see what samurai would come out in the next set.

What? There were no good samurai in Betrayers? Well, poop. What there was, however, was some great tempo cards to help speed up a weenie rush deck, so if I was willing to give up the Samurai theme, I could still make something work out. The value of Ninjitsu in a tempo based deck such as this one was not to be undersold, so it came down to losing the red for black or blue.

This is what I ended up with:

Sneaky Samurai

4 Devoted Retainer
4 Kami of Ancient Law
4 Teardrop Kami
4 Empty Shrine Kanushi
4 Samurai of the Pale Curtain
4 Mistblade Shinobi
4 Ninja of the Deep Hours
4 Veil of Secrecy
2 Ronin War Club
2 Kentaro, the Smiling Cat
2 Nagoa, Bound by Honor
2 Isamru, Hound of Konda
9 Island
11 Plains

Gone are the three casting cost 2/2 creatures that fit the curve but didn't add much more damage, and in their place are some lower costed creatures and the amazing (in this deck) Ronin War Club, which I am willing to bet you will never actually pay to Equip in all your play time with this deck.

With such a low curve, we can now go down to 20 land. We also have 14 one drops, meaning if we go first, a Ninja of the Deep Hours in hand is almost always going to hit the ground running for us. I'm not sure yet is Nagoa still makes it in the deck, because the samurai number is down to 10 not counting him. If I wanted to replace him, I think it would be with 2 more Ronin War Clubs. They work great with Ninjitsu, and help keep your creatures alive through the same problem you had with the earlier version of this deck, the evil Hideous Laughter. Our one drops are all out there to try to make a hit on turn two, with the Hounds, Devoted Retainers and Empty Shrine Kanushi all having some way of making it harder for your opponent to block early on. The Tear Drop Kami may seem like an odd choice, but as a one shot tapper mid game it will be fine to push through another Ninjitsu, or perhaps the final damage needed to come through for the win.

Samurai of the Pale Curtain are an obvious choice. 2/2 Bushido creatures for two mana, and an ability that single handedly stops soulshift makes these guys a threat on any front. Kami of Ancient Law may seem like an odd choice, but one Ghostly Prison, Honden of Cleansing Fire or Honden of Life's Web can really ruin your day, so you need to be prepared to deal with it as soon as it hits.

The change from Blessed Breath to Veil of Secrecy may also confuse a few people. The easy answer is that, with eight ninjas in the deck, this card now gets to serve a dual purpose, being used as both a creature saver, and as a way to get through more damage or set up a creature for some hot Ninja action. In either case it fits the tempo and theme of the deck slightly better than Blessed Breath, and without more Arcane spells, the Splice cost is fairly irrelevant.

All in all this deck is built to move fast, keeping your opponent off guard by drawing cards, bouncing your opponent's creatures, and tapping other creatures to keep up the attack, leading off and never letting go of tempo.

Is this deck Tier One? I don't know yet. It needs more testing to really know for sure, but one thing I do know, its fun to play. Its aggressive without being obnoxious, and who doesn't want to swing with Ninjas?

Thanks for reading this week. Next week I'll be on my new job for a week, and well, let's see if it gives me any time to play Magic or not. With any luck, Betrayers will be hitting MODO soon, and then I'll have plenty to talk about!

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