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The Richest Babylonian Man

When I first built this deck over six years ago, it was the most expensive deck that I owned, coming in at a solid $35. At the time, I was reading The Richest Man in Babylon, and for some reason this whole deck concept that I was brewing really reminded me of the lessons learned in that book. The most important lesson that The Richest Babylonian Man can teach you, is that your life is as much a resource as your mana. Ultimately, I don’t consider this to be a budget deck, but when it comes to card selection, there were quite a few budget selections that were made. The archetypes of this deck make it interesting to maintain, because it seems like there’s a new card printed every set that could potentially fit in this deck. I am constantly on the lookout for options to improve this deck. Keeping a deck fresh and tuned is just another facet of deck building. This deck in particular is something that I am proud of.

Let’s spend some life

Wall of Blood: Defender (This creature can’t attack.) Pay 1 life: Wall of Blood gets +1/+1 until end of turn.

Phyrexian Processor: As Phyrexian Processor enters the battlefield, pay any amount of life. 4 Colorless Mana + Tap Phyrexian Processor: Create an X/X black Minion creature token, where X is the life paid as Phyrexian Processor entered the battlefield.

Pain’s Reward: Each player may bid life. You start the bidding with a bid of any number. In turn order, each player may top the high bid. The bidding ends if the high bid stands. The high bidder loses life equal to the high bid and draws four cards.

You gotta spend life to make life. I mean really make life—not piddly interest. Each of these cards provides a different way to spend life, and they each have the possibility to combo with different cards (that we’ll see shortly) to squeeze the life out of our opponents.

With Wall of Blood, we can spend life to boost its power and toughness accordingly. Don’t be fooled by the fact that it has defender. It doesn’t need combat to hurt.

Phyrexian Processor lets us pay life and eventually transform that life into a creature. Unlike Wall of Blood, this creature lets us swing in for some solid ground damage. If things go according to plan, we won’t ever need to attack.

Finally, Pain’s Reward lets us present a game of chicken against our fellow opponents, where we play a deadly contest where life could transform into card advantage or more. I’ll take this time to say, if you really want to bust out the moves, pull a full Triple-H and cryptically exclaim “it’s time to play the game!” when you drop this card on the stack.

You’re probably thinking that these cards are really risky to play, because if we hit zero life, we’re dead. Well, we’re not going to lich it up here, I’ve got other plans in mind.

Safety net: insurance to bring it back

Children of Korlis: Sacrifice Children of Korlis: You gain life equal to the life you’ve lost this turn. (Damage causes loss of life.)

Tainted Sigil: Tap Tainted Sigial + Sacrifice Tainted Sigil: You gain life equal to the total life lost by all players this turn. (Damage causes loss of life.)

Before we get into win conditions, I want to set the stage a bit more. It’s never wise to make a risky investment, especially without planning ahead or ensuring that a solid safety net is available for protection (not to be confused with protection.) With Children of Korlis, or Tainted Sigil, we can, at instant speed, regain the life that we just spent, thus netting a life loss and life gain of equal or greater value within the same turn. We can spend tons of life, but we can also make it back, and in some cases, we can double it.

Recording these values is of particular importance, so always keep an eye on how much life you’ve lost, and how much life you’ve gained.

You might find later on that these cards are redundant in this deck. No safety net is perfect, so we must be careful that our opponents do not have a way to stifle, or bolt us into a position we can’t recover from. Remember that paying life is a cost, and it is paid when the ability is triggered.

Capitalize on losses and gains

Essence Harvest: Target player loses X life and you gain X life, where X is the greatest power among creatures you control.

Rite of Consumption: As an additional cost to cast this spell, sacrifice a creature. Rite of Consumption deals damage equal to the sacrificed creature’s power to target player or planeswalker. You gain life equal to the damage dealt this way.

Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose: Whenever you gain life, target opponent loses that much life.

Now that we have a way to set our life loss and our life gain at will, sometimes to values more than the starting life total, we need to capitalize on those changes.

Working off of Wall of Blood or Phyrexian Processor, both Essence Harvest, and Rite of Consumption let you target a single player and hit them with its power. If Wall of Blood is a 20/22, then we’re dealing a tremendous blow to a single opponent. Certainly this doesn’t work perfectly in multiplayer, but it can be very effective as a tool of politics. Protect me, and I won’t instantly kill you. If I had the room for green mana, I would definitely be playing Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord, who can sacrifice a creature to hit each opponent. In blue, Quicken would also come in handy. Maybe in a future revision, I will see about splashing for Jarad (not Quicken,) but I imagine the dual black/green and white/green lands would be the most expensive part of that modification.

In the interim, we need a way to exploit the situation to its fullest effect. In comes Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose as a cheaply costed Sanguine Bond. The original iteration of this deck leveraged Sanguine Bond to convert life gain into life loss. Since this deck liberally employs life gain, it seemed like a solid option. Unfortunately, Sanguine Bond doesn’t do enough to justify its presence as a 5-drop. Vito can be played earlier than its enchantment alternative, can act as a blocker in dire circumstances, and without a particularly stable board full of creatures (which this deck does not have) isn’t that threatening. Of course, all of this assumes no one else understands how this deck operates.

Tools to stay in business

Nyx-Fleece Ram: At the beginning of your upkeep, you gain 1 life.

Font of Agonies: Whenever you pay life, put that many blood counters on Font of Agonies. 1 Colorless Mana + 1 Black Mana, Remove four blood counters from Font of Agonies: Destroy target creature.

Revitalize: You gain 3 life. Draw a card.

Mortify: Destroy target creature or enchantment.

Diabolic Tutor: Search your library for a card and put that card into your hand. Then shuffle your library.

Before I get into the tools to stay in business, I wanted to explain that the lands for this deck are all budget options to support a black and white life manipulation archetype. Ultimately the only abilities that these lands have worth mentioning is life gain on ETB. Beyond that, there isn’t anything else to really discuss.

Because there are so many cards here that contribute to the game plan of this deck, there isn’t that much room for support and utility. There is a reason why we stick to the minimum number of cards allowed in Magic: The Gathering™ and this deck isn’t going to stray from that methodology. It can be devastating not having the right answers for the right situation, but there is only so much room available. Like I mentioned at the start of this article, the sheer number of cards that could fit makes it difficult during the card selection portion of building and maintaining this deck. Without further ado, let’s go over the wide variety of choices I’ve made.

Nyx-Fleece Ram, or as I like to call him, Mini-Oloro, can be played early, can block big ground creatures, and can provide that extra little edge to outpace your opponents and deliver a 20-life combo kill. I know that this Ram doesn’t seem like a decent option, but I have had great success keeping him around and getting him out early. Admittedly, late game, he’s a dead card.

Font of Agonies has the opposite problem, because in the early game, it’s also a dead card. After a single Wall of Blood life dump, however, opponent creatures are permanently on notice. While instant speed targeted removal is better, especially if it hits other nonland permanents, Font of Agonies seems like a perfect fit with this deck.

Revitalize is a solid life gain card that replaces itself with draw, and can be played at instant speed. I find that the extra 3 life is just right to edge out opponents while counting to 20.

Mortify is solid all around removal. It can target a single creature, sure, but it also provides enchantment removal. Imagine being up against Luminarch Ascension with a deck that doesn’t hit opponents until the game is practically over. I’ve been there. Mortify is worth the three mana and it is a budget staple.

Finally, Diabolic Tutor, like most tutors, can fit into almost any deck. I will say, though, that it would be my first card to cut if I were to put in the effort to make Jarad work. On the one hand, it’s very useful to search and find the exact card that you need in any moment, but on the other hand, that’s not always that fun in casual/kitchen table.

I know that I insinuated that small life gain, like Revitalize, Nyx-Fleece Ram, or Radiant Fountain isn’t good enough for this deck. The truth is that we need at least one more life than our opponent to make this deck work in one hit, and if we can gain a little bit of life from our utility cards early on, we can be in a position later to spend 20 or more life to down anyone who threatens our portfolio. It’s important to note, however, that in this deck, any card that gains life must also have another worthwhile ability to keep it relevant.

I know that I’ve chosen a lot of support cards when I don’t have the room for it. Although decision making is an article on its own, I wanted to briefly touch on what has become a sub-theme of this article: card selection. It’s hard to say whether the budgetary considerations I’ve imposed on my deck building hinders or helps my decision making. Let’s look at Mortify and Font of Agonies. Right now, both of these cards are budget-oriented options that fit this deck fine. Despite not spending a tremendous amount of money, I still have choices that I could employ full playsets of if I had the room. Which would be a better choice? On the flip side, Vindicate, Anguished Unmaking, and Utter End would potentially eliminate my issues with choosing Mortify or Font of Agonies, but I’m just swapping one type of problem for another. Which is harder to make a selection from? The answer depends entirely on the metagame at hand. Play style, opponents, format, and budget, all contribute to these decisions. In my case, they might even pull in different directions.

Finalizing combinations

We’ve discussed each category individually, but it might help to finalize this article by enumerating all of the combinations that I’ve found while building this deck.

  • Wall of Blood + Essence Harvest (+ Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose)
  • Wall of Blood + Rite of Consumption (+ Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose)
  • Wall of Blood + Tainted Sigil + Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose
  • Wall of Blood + Children of Korlis + Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose
  • Phyrexian Processor + Essence Harvest (+ Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose)
  • Phyrexian Processor + Rite of Consumption (+ Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose)
  • Phyrexian Processor + Tainted Sigil + Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose
  • Phyrexian Processor + Children of Korlis + Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose
  • Pain’s Reward + Tainted Sigil + Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose
  • Pain’s Reward + Children of Korlis + Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose

Clearly it seems like there’s a lot going on in this deck, but I personally think it’s fairly simple once you understand synergy. Everything in this deck builds towards combining various cards in a cacophony of success. In building this deck, I’ve tried to make it so that whatever is topdecked helps achieve that success. It’s up to the player to understand how, when, and in what order to pace and cast the spells they have available to them. I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about this deck, and if you can see anything else I’ve left out, please let me know in the comments!



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Zendikar Rising

Every new set brings a plethora of giddy feelings known as spoiler season, and I can’t help but want to participate in looking at all the new shiny cards. I thought I would mix things up a bit and give you my personal thoughts on a handful of hand-picked spoilers from Zendikar Rising, the newest set soon to be released for Magic: The Gathering™. Traditionally, the Zendikar plane has been a favorite among players because it’s so story driven. Personally, I’ve never been a huge fan of Zendikar, but I am excited to see wizards, vampires, and traditional blue/black mechanics resurface. Let’s find out if that’s the case!

Usually I look at spoilers through two lenses. In the first, I look at cards that I aesthetically or mechanically want to collect. I usually don’t have a deck in mind for these cards, so I’ll be looking at low power cards that I think have some use to my collection. More than likely, I’m fond of these cards because of the art or flavor they provide. In the second, I look at cards that I think are functionally powerful enough that I want to build around immediately, drop into an existing deck, or that I think will become staples on Arena.

New flip lands

Clearwater Pathway: Tap Clearwater Pathway: Add 1 Blue Mana. // Murkwater Pathway: Tap Murkwater Pathway: Add 1 Black Mana.

Cragcrown Pathway: Tap Cragcrown Pathway: Add 1 Red Mana. // Timbercrown Pathway: Tap Timbercrown Pathway: Add 1 Green Mana.

Hagra Mauling: This spell costs 1 Colorless Mana less to cast if an opponent controls no basic lands. Destroy target creature. // Hagra Broodpit: Hagra Broodpit enters the battlefield tapped. Tap Hagra Broodpit: Add 1 Black Mana.

Glasspool Mimic: You may have Glasspool Mimic enter the battlefield as a copy of a creature you control, except it’s a Shapeshifter Rogue in addition to its other types. // Glasspool Shore: Glasspool Shore enters the battlefield tapped. Tap Glasspool Shore: Add 1 Blue Mana.

I often can’t afford powerful staple lands, like fetchlands, shocklands, Prismatic Vista, or even Fabled Passage. But I can evaluate how effective they will be. Anyone who gets the colors they need when they need them, or ends up with a tapland in the wrong color at the wrong time, understands just how important mana fixing is in this game. There’s nothing more powerful in this game than a smooth mana experience. That’s why I’m always excited to see new imaginative ways to implement mana fixing.

I have to say, these new lands that enter the battlefield as either/or are going to be very useful options in multi-colored decks, especially in EDH. We saw in Jumpstart that ETB taplands that can be either/or could be very useful in budget decks, but these lands come into the battlefield untapped. They’ll easily be in demand during the standard format, and I can see them being in demand in EDH decks too. They can’t be fetched easily without subtypes, but they can provide some much needed immediate color fixing.

I will also mention that these utility flip lands, like Hagra Mauling, or Glasspool Mimic, are absolutely powerful. They’re over costed for the ability, sure, but the fact that they can provide early game color fixing with late game utility is well worth the extra cost (and in Hagra Mauling’s case, potential cost.) Not all of these utility flips are going to be good enough to warrant use, but if we look toward Eldraine, we can see that plenty of adventures were had. I can see a lot of these cards being EDH staples, I just hope they won’t be too expensive once the set is released.

My only grievance is that these cards are rare. WOTC is well aware that lands are the most important part of any deck and they’re already working so hard to ensure that they feed the secondary market. That kind of greed is unconscionable to sell sealed product. I say this because the game is already very expensive and those kinds of barriers of entry only push people away. It’s very difficult to justify dropping a hundred dollars on lands, just to be even casually competitive. I don’t blame people for being apprehensive toward investing in the game.

Big fat crabe


Charix, the Raging Isle: Spells your opponents cast that target Charix, the Raging Isle cost 2 Colorless Mana more to cast. 3 Colorless Mana: Charix gets +X/-X until end of turn, where X is the number of Islands you control.

That’s no spelling mistake. Truly this leviathan crab is a big boy with 17 toughness, but I suspect he’s going to be a monster with chonky decks, like those that employ Assault Formation, Huatli, the Sun’s Heart, or High Alert. Here’s a list of cards in that same vein. I think Charix will be an affordable budget option that does impressive things in the right deck.

In a way, this card reminds me of Arixmethes.

This reminds me of something…

Legion Angel: Flying. When Legion Angel enters the battlefield, you may reveal a card you own named Legion Angel from outside the game and put it into your hand.

Almost everything about this card reminds me of Emeria Angel, but the ability here is totally unique and hard to gauge effectiveness. Generally when oracle text references cards that you own outside of the game, they mean your sideboard, or your collection on hand if a sideboard is not part of the format. Sideboards are effective because in best-of-x games, you can sideboard in the right answers to various decks you come across. Being that sideboards are traditionally fifteen cards, it’s a tough call to justify putting a bunch of angels that you will never sideboard in to deal with potential issues. That being said, allowing your sideboard to function as a second library during a game is powerful. Spells like Karn or Granted have shown that to be true.

I personally think the best combination of Legion Angels is two in the deck, and two in the sideboard. That way you don’t over saturate your deck with angels that do not trigger, but you also don’t constrict your options too much in the sideboard. I also believe that Legion Angel is a worthy card in flying decks, or standard white control or stax decks that need a win condition that can’t splash for Dream Trawler.

Solid removal

Bloodchief’s Thirst: Kicker 2 Colorless Mana + 1 Black Mana (You may pay an additional 2 Colorless Mana + 1 Black Mana as you cast this spell.) Destroy target creature or planeswalker with converted mana cost 2 or less. If this spell was kicked, instead destroy target creature or planeswalker.

It’s not an instant, which is why it won’t be as beloved as Fatal Push. For 1 Black Mana though, I think this card is going to be a big player. Plus, with the kicker, which in total is only one more mana than Murder, you can also take out any creature or planeswalker. It’s no Vraska’s Contempt, but it’s still a sleeper hit in my opinion.

This or that?

Deliberate: Scry 2, then draw a card.

Deliberate is the instant version of Omen of the Sea. Personally I think this card, and Omen, are both great budget cards. Compared to Preordain or Serum Visions, the instant casting speed is well worth the extra colorless mana. This is especially true with decks where leaving mana up allows for better control. I can see this being a pauper staple, used heavily in standard, and even see it being played in a variety of other formats. I know I’ll be picking up a few.

Too slow?


Relic Robber: Haste. Whenever Relic Robber deals combat damage to a player, that player creates a 0/1 colorless Goblin Construct artifact creature token with “This creature can’t block” and “At the beginning of your upkeep, this creature deals 1 damage to you.”

Three mana for a hasty 2/2 might seem like it’s too slow for red. Red is all about gotta go fast when it comes to doing damage as quickly as possible and counting up to 20 life. However, Relic Robber seems to combine Chandra, Awakened Inferno and Captain Lannery Storm. Personally, I think this card is an all-star. One trigger is good, but two triggers is amazing. True, it has to deal combat damage in order to trigger, but the construct it creates can’t block, which means it’s staying around unless your opponent can sacrifice it. Burning removal on the construct seems like a waste, even if it introduces a clock.

New York’s hottest club is shambles

Swarm Shambler: Swarm Shambler enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it. Whenever a creature you control with a +1/+1 counter on it becomes the target of a spell an opponent controls, create a 1/1 green Insect creature token. 1 Colorless Mana + Tap Swarm Shambler: Put a +1/+1 counter on Swarm Shambler.

This card is meow. This card has everything. It:

  • Is low costed at only one mana.
  • Comes into the battlefield with a counter on it, so it can affected by proliferate.
  • Protects your board by providing value for removal of your creatures, including itself.
  • Has an ability that can permanently boost its power when being used as a blocker.

I realize it’s only great, and fully taken advantage of, in decks that leverage +1/+1 counters, but that’s such a widespread mechanic that this card is easily an all-star.

Burn it down

Cleansing Wildfire: Destroy target land. Its controller may search their library for a basic land card, put it onto the battlefield tapped, then shuffle their library. Draw a card.

Land destruction is the type of mechanic that really makes people rage. It’s bad enough having games where you can’t draw into the lands you need, but it’s much worse when you’re in a multi-color deck and you can’t get the color you need. This card is low costed because it lets your opponent replace the land you destroyed with a basic land, which is definitely antithetical to land destruction, but what if your opponent is playing three colors? They might only have access to various non-basic lands to help them fix mana. I think this card has serious power when playing against more competitive decks that rely on fetching into a shockland. Plus, it replaces itself with a draw effect. I think this is a powerful card that forces your opponents to make tough decisions, and that’s always fun.

Squid boy

Skyclave Squid: Defender. Landfall — Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, Skyclave Squid can attack this turn as though it didn’t have defender.

Bear with both an upside and a downside. Call me crazy, but I think Skyclave Squid has some serious chops. The defender is definitely a downside, but only if you’re playing aggro. As a blocker, 3 power and 2 toughness is more than enough to push back aggro decks on turn 2. I could also see Skyclave Squid having value in a landfall deck, which I’m sure will be prevalent once this set releases.

Mill returns

Soaring Thought-Thief: Flash. Flying.  As long as an opponent has eight or more cards in their graveyard, Rogues you control get +1/+0. Whenever one or more Rogues you control attack, each opponent mills two cards.

I get that rogues are getting a huge push this set, and this rogue lord is certainly worth it for the tribe, but I’m more interested in how this will affect multiplayer mill. Combining rogues and mill seems like a really fun way to make mill more powerful. This would be perfect for a casual deck that primarily goes off with a mill combo. Typically mill decks don’t value creatures, but they could benefit from having some bodies on the field that offer an alternative damage-oriented win condition. Flash and flying is a nice touch too, which makes it pretty easy to slot into a blue deck that values instant-speed effects.

Thoughts on Zendikar Rising

I’m not super impressed with this set. The flavor seems lacking, and I was expecting some more interesting vampires and maybe some blue/black vampires like we’ve seen in the past. Nevertheless, there are some cards that are getting my attention. Most of the decent cards that would slot into my EDH decks are already out of my budget, but I am taking a hard look at the various flip lands, because I believe those are going to be the best options to come from this set.

Speaking of, excluding some of the more financially affordable flip lands, I feel like there is a stark divide between cards that are both powerful and unique, and cards that are effectively draft chaff. I fear that for a while now, WOTC has been pumping their sets full of draft chaff to manipulate the secondary market, and this set reminds me of that fear.