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Affordably Frozen

First, let me apologize for this post going out late. I’ve been a little behind on this blog due to some personal concerns, but I’m continuing to make this a priority and I am doing my best to keep the pressure on!

Dark Depths: Dark Depths enters the battlefield with ten ice counters on it. 3 Colorless Mana: Remove an ice counter from Dark Depths. When Dark Depths has no ice counters on it, sacrifice it. If you do, create Marit Lage, a legendary 20/20 black Avatar creature token with flying and indestructible.

I can see how, if you’ve never played with it before, you might think that Dark Depths is a jank card. It doesn’t produce mana. It’s a legendary, which means you can only have one on the battlefield. It costs 3 colorless mana each time you want to remove an ice counter, and it starts with ten. Its ability can be countered. Finally, the creature it produces is vulnerable and can’t attack the turn it enters the battlefield. But now, imagine for a moment, that all of the ice counters can be removed immediately without spending nearly as much mana, or any at all! Suddenly it becomes a little bit better despite its faults. Speed becomes important, and pacing the game to ensure you can trigger the ability at the perfect moment, becomes quintessential. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?

I have always wanted to play my own variation of this deck since I first saw Dark Depths. It’s such a thematic design; plus the card, and the combo tools to release Marit Lage on time, have always interested me. Recently Dark Depths dropped to just above $10, and I bought one. Admittedly, a single card for that much seems excessive, but it’s been trending over $25 for so long. Well, I’ve come up with a terrible deck idea to trim a somewhat traditional build into what I’m affectionally calling “Affordably Frozen,” otherwise known as “Marit Lage on the Cheap.” My goal for this deck is to keep it around $60. I think it’s worth the cost (especially given the format it’s so popular in.) Luckily, I already own a lot of the cards I plan to put in it, but for those who are looking at this without a collection to support it, you might think it’s not really my usual budget deck. Honestly, based on my past decks, that’s fair criticism.

Although I’m not basing this deck specifically off any other single deck I’ve seen before, before I begin, I recommend checking out a version of the real thing by clicking here. That way you have a solid idea for comparison purposes.

Bring her to life

Vampire Hexmage: First strike. Sacrifice Vampire Hexmage: Remove all counters from target permanent.

Thespian’s Stage: Tap Thespian’s Stage: Add 1 Colorless Mana. 2 Colorless Mana, Tap Thespian’s Stage: Thespian’s Stage becomes a copy of target land, except it has this ability.

Vampire Hexmage has the incredible ability to remove all counters, regardless of their type, from a single permanent; including Dark Depths. Since the ability triggers at instant speed, you can wait until just before your turn begins so that Marit Lage can attack immediately. This effectively reduces the need to stock up on haste enablers (like Lightning Greaves, Swiftfoot Boots, or a cheaper alternative, Chariot of Victory. Side note: Marit Lage in a chariot!) Vampire Hexmage can pose a slight problem with requiring double black mana to cast, but that’s why we’re also mainboarding Dark Ritual.

Thespian Stage, for the price of two mana and a tap, can copy any land, like Dark Depths. However, it doesn’t copy the requirement for the counters since it hasn’t entered the battlefield. Therefore, it immediately turns into Marit Lage, ready to swing when your turn begins. Isn’t that a cool interaction?

This makes summoning Marit Lage a two-card combo. That means, fast, efficient, and easy to put together. Unfortunately, Marit Lage is vulnerable, even moreso in a budget variation, so it’s really important to time this deck going off perfectly. Gotta keep her breathing long enough to take out your opponent.

Keeping the monster breathing

Not of This World: Counter target spell or ability that targets a permanent you control. This spell costs {7} less to cast if it targets a spell or ability that targets a creature you control with power 7 or greater.

Not of This World was designed to be a tribal Instant for the massive Eldrazi who have become the big bad win conditions that many of us scorn. Here, we’re going to use it to protect Marit Lage. See, because Marit Lage is a 20/20, and thus, like many Eldrazi, has a power greater than 7, Not of This World becomes free to cast once Marit Lage is out. Now, this doesn’t protect Dark Depths unless we have 7 mana, but that’s okay. That just means we can’t play Dark Depths until we can trigger it, and we know it’s safe to do so.

Ramp… ramp ramp ramp ramp

In order to reliably and efficiently be sure that Marit Lage is summoned, we need to exploit green’s most iconic archetype, which is ramp.

Expedition Map: 2 Colorless + Tap Expedition Map + Sacrifice Expedition Map: Search your library for a land card, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library.

Crop Rotation: As an additional cost to cast this spell, sacrifice a land. Search your library for a land card, put that card onto the battlefield, then shuffle your library.

Once Upon a Time: If this spell is the first spell you’ve cast this game, you may cast it without paying its mana cost. Look at the top five cards of your library. You may reveal a creature or land card from among them and put it into your hand. Put the rest on the bottom of your library in a random order.

Ancient Stirrings: Look at the top five cards of your library. You may reveal a colorless card from among them and put it into your hand. Then put the rest on the bottom of your library in any order. (Cards with no colored mana in their mana costs are colorless. Lands are also colorless.)

Sylvan Scrying: Search your library for a land card, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library.

If I could get rid of green, I would, but I can’t. Personally, I would prefer to have the interaction and protection that blue provides, but a three-color deck would be cost prohibitive for a budget build. I firmly believe it’s possible, but it’s just not reasonable to maindeck with this build. Ultimately, green is just too useful at ramp. We may not need a lot of mana to go off, but we need specific cards, and green can get us everything we need. Truth be told, there are also some black/green cards that are really effective in this format, but I can’t afford them, so I’m just going to have to pretend they don’t exist.

Now, most of our ramp cards only deal with land. Expedition Map, Crop Rotation, and Sylvan Scrying all help us get the lands we need, mainly Dark Depths and Thespian’s Stage. One of the benefits to having a land-focused deck, is to also pack it with useful utility lands to help us deal with our opponent’s moves. These cards also let us get any of our other lands, like Blast Zone, Bojuka Bog, Detection Tower, Ghost Quarter, Nephalia Academy, or even the snow lands that I’m using to play Arcum’s Astrolabe. I know that snow lands cost a bit more, but I think they’re thematically relevant and I’ve always wanted to play them. Chromatic Sphere would probably be a better option overall to play for mana fixing, but I’m not doing it!

The rest of the cards in this section aren’t tutors, so they’re not letting us dig into our deck to get exactly what we need. Instead, they let us filter the top cards of our deck to pull what we might need earlier than we would just drawing into it. Once Upon a Time is a potentially free way for us to grab a land or creature, like Vampire Hexmage. This card is notorious for being banned in a lot of formats, and for good reason. I think it’s absolutely amazing as the first spell in the game, and worth the late-game cost. Ancient Stirrings lets us grab any colorless card, like a land, but also like the aforementioned Arcum’s Astrolabe, Chariot of Victory, or more importantly, Not of This World. This card is bonkers as a turn one drop to grab Not of This World, especially when you have everything else to get Marit Lage out.

Collectively the bulk of this deck is all about reducing the variance of our deck, and that’s really important because we need to go fast, like Sonic.

Sideboard and Alternative Win Conditions

Autumn’s Veil: Spells you control can’t be countered by blue or black spells this turn, and creatures you control can’t be the targets of blue or black spells this turn.

Chronozoa: Flying. Vanishing 3 (This creature enters the battlefield with three time counters on it. At the beginning of your upkeep, remove a time counter from it. When the last is removed, sacrifice it.) When Chronozoa dies, if it had no time counters on it, create two tokens that are copies of it.

The majority of the sideboard is pretty straight forward, and I’ve included a list below. One notable card though, is Autumn’s Veil, which lets you shut down blue and black spells at instant speed. Since blue and black are incredibly common in competitive formats, this card seems like a no brainer to include.

Now you’ve seen a blue card here, and you’re probably getting ready to call me out. I know, I know. Earlier I said I couldn’t support the idea of a third color in this deck, but as a last-ditch effort when things are looking rough, I’ve included a splash of blue to include Chronozoa as an alternative win condition to Marit Lage. See, my thinking here is that Chronozoa is a weird option to come across in this kind of format, so it won’t be expected. Plus, with Vampire Hexmage, you can trigger its Vanishing ability whenever it becomes threatened, forcing it to clone itself. Then it just becomes a race to keep making Chronozoa’s until your opponent becomes overwhelmed. Is it a good win condition? No. Is it interesting? I think so. Funny, too!

Deck List

Every other card that’s in this deck list seems pretty straight forward. Fatal Push takes down creatures early, Hagra Mauling // Hagra Broodpit is a split land/removal spell to deal with creatures late game, Duress gives us the ability to see what’s coming and take away powerful spells, and Bala Ged Recovery // Bala Ged Sanctuary is a split land card that lets us get Dark Depths back if we lose it.

  • 4 Vampire Hexmage
  • 2 Arcum’s Astrolabe
  • 3 Expedition Map
  • 2 Chariot of Victory
  • 4 Crop Rotation
  • 4 Dark Ritual
  • 3 Fatal Push
  • 2 Once Upon a Time
  • 1 Hagra Mauling // Hagra Broodpit
  • 3 Not of This World
  • 3 Ancient Stirrings
  • 3 Duress
  • 2 Sylvan Scrying
  • 2 Bala Ged Recovery // Bala Ged Sanctuary
  • 1 Blast Zone
  • 1 Bojuka Bog
  • 1 Dark Depths
  • 1 Detection Tower
  • 1 Ghost Quarter
  • 3 Llanowar Wastes
  • 1 Nephalia Academy
  • 4 Snow-Covered Forest
  • 4 Snow-Covered Swamp
  • 2 Temple of Malady
  • 3 Thespian’s Stage

I hope you’ve enjoyed this version of a classic! As you can see, I’m pretty proud of this version even if it’s expensive and totally vulnerable in such a competitive format. I’m sure its win rate will be well below anything tolerable by most players, but to me, it’s simply great.

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He Left His Family Behind

This article was originally going to be a black/red, then black/red/blue, then black/green, then mono-black Historic deck that featured Tiny Bones, in all his wonderful little glory. It was focused on forcing an opponent to discard their hand, and then leveraged Tiny Bones to deal the final blow.

Tinybones, Trinket Thief: At the beginning of each end step, if an opponent discarded a card this turn, you draw a card and you lose 1 life. 4 Colorless Mana + 2 Black Mana: Each opponent with no cards in hand loses 10 life.

When I originally built the deck in the summer, it honestly felt like Historic, as a format, was closer to kitchen table than any other format besides Commander. I came across numerous jank decks that did all sorts of hilarious things, and a discard deck that used Tiny Bones and Davriel seemed to fit that meta really well. Of course I came across high powered decks, but most of them were highly dependent on key cards, and with enough removal, Tiny Bones fared well. I had such a blast with Tiny Bones, that I may have burned myself out, because I ended up taking a break from Arena, and Historic, and I hadn’t been back since.

For this article, I spent some time playing Tiny Bones again, and upgrading his deck with a variety of cards that were released in the past few months. What I found in opponents, however, was astonishing. I fought maybe one or two jank decks, but the majority of my opponents were playing fast, tuned decks, of which many did not appear on MTGGoldfish. Some of these decks were brilliant, like the one that used Sea-Gate Stormcaller, Neoform, and Dualcaster Mage to continually flood the field with mages copying the original spell, clones, and haste-enablers on turn 3. Even if some of these decks were easily defeated with the right removal, it seemed like in order to be competitive, I would need to invest considerable money (or wildcards) into the format. I’m not about giving WOTC anymore cash right now, so that’s just not happening. The takeaway, though, is that Historic has truly become a competitive environment, including all of that nasty and rude behavior. Maybe it was always competitive, and I just got really lucky with Tiny Bones.

So instead of my dilapidated Tiny Bones deck, I thought I would showcase my kitchen table multiplayer discard deck, one which I have found to be very enjoyable to play in a more casual environment. It’s been awhile since I’ve played it, but the core pieces are all the same. That being said, I feel like Tiny Bones would make a great addition to this deck, but with a price tag soaring above $40 per copy, I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Before I begin, keep in mind that the key to a good discard deck is to force your opponents to decide whether playing a card and leaving their hands empty is worth it. This is the sweet spot, because it pressures them to make rash decisions to empty their hands, or keep their hands active which would let you benefit from them discarding. If you can keep that pressure on your opponents, so that they’re stuck at zero or one cards in hand, it rarely matters what they play. The benefit to multiplayer is that if you’re forcing everyone to discard, but you’re not outwardly threatening the board state with bombs, in order to stay relevant, your opponents might just start using removal on each other.

Let it go


There are downsides to this kind of deck, too. Multiplayer discard is much harder to play than one-on-one, because you’re immediately put into a position of playing archenemy. If all goes according to plan, you’re expecting the entire table to be focused solely on you, which means you need to be very precise with each move you make. That’s why it’s worth hitting yourself if it means hitting your opponents. If you’re taking hits too, your opponents will be less concerned about you stealing the game away. Of course, if we play this deck correctly, we’ll be less affected by letting go of our cards than they will.

Arterial Flow: Each opponent discards two cards. If you control a Vampire, each opponent loses 2 life and you gain 2 life.

Mind Rake: Target player discards two cards. Overload 1 Colorless + 1 Black (You may cast this spell for its overload cost. If you do, change its text by replacing all instances of “target” with “each.”)

Smallpox: Each player loses 1 life, discards a card, sacrifices a creature, then sacrifices a land.

Arterial Flow is pretty straight forward and very effective because it only hits your opponents. Casting Mind Rake with its overload cost is cheaper, but it hits the caster too, but paired with the right cards, that shouldn’t matter; like Asylum Visitor, who can be cast as a discarded card using Madness.

The real MVP is Smallpox. You might not think this card is really that scary, but it is terrifying to play against. There is good reason for it being almost universally hated, especially when it’s dropped on turn two or three. At this point, everyone has their opening salvo out. Usually some kind of stax creature is on board, maybe even one half of a combo, people usually have their colors with multiple dual-lands, and they’re maybe down to three-to-five cards in hand. Things are heating up. Setting the entire board back by forcing them all to discard a card, sacrifice a creature, and sacrifice a land is enormous. Doing it twice in a row can easily result in multiple people scooping.

Don’t be afraid of sacrificing in order to get where you want. It’s really important that you be ready and willing to toss away good cards in order to keep the pressure on. It’s all about the long con.

Recurring discard

Dakmor Salvage: Dakmor Salvage enters the battlefield tapped. Tap Dakmor Salvage: Add 1 Black Mana to your mana pool. Dredge 2 (If you would draw a card, you may mill two cards instead. If you do, return this card from your graveyard to your hand.)

Raven’s Crime: Target player discards a card. Retrace (You may cast this card from your graveyard by discarding a land card in addition to paying its other costs.)

Let’s talk about my favorite combination of cards in this deck. Dakmor Salvage lets you Dredge for 2 to return it to your hand, and Raven’s Crime lets you discard a land to play it from your graveyard. That means you can force at least one person to discard each turn, which is exactly the spot you want to be in late game; when your opponents are out of gas and top-decking. Remember, you can always sacrifice Dakmor Salvage to Smallpox, putting it in the graveyard for later.

Taking advantage of the situation

Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage: At the beginning of each opponent’s upkeep, if that player has one or fewer cards in hand, Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage deals 2 damage to them. -1: Target player discards a card.

Quest for the Nihil Stone: Whenever an opponent discards a card, you may put a quest counter on Quest for the Nihil Stone. At the beginning of each opponent’s upkeep, if that player has no cards in hand and Quest for the Nihil Stone has two or more quest counters on it, you may have that player lose 5 life.

Shrieking Affliction: At the beginning of each opponent’s upkeep, if that player has one or fewer cards in hand, they lose 3 life.

Megrim: Whenever an opponent discards a card, Megrim deals 2 damage to that player.

Fell Specter: Flying. When Fell Specter enters the battlefield, target opponent discards a card. Whenever an opponent discards a card, that player loses 2 life.

Now that your opponents keep discarding cards and have empty hands, how do we capitalize on this? I keep saying it, but it’s all about the pressure. Consistency is the only way to ensure that you’re bleeding everyone else out. The best way to do this is through packing your battlefield with various enchantments or creatures that punish your enemies passively.

There are two effects that we need to combine to effectively take advantage. The first is punishing your opponents for discarding in the first place. This is where Megrim and Fell Specter shine, because every time an opponent discards a card, they’ll lose 2 life. The second is punishing your opponents for casting what else remains. Davriel, Quest for the Nihil Stone, and Shrieking Affliction all punish your opponents for emptying their hands. If your opponents are foolish enough to hold onto their cards, you can force them to discard, and if they cast whatever is on hand, they’ll get hit. It’s a lose-lose situation, especially when they’re forced to cast cards at inconvenient times.

I will note that I picked up Quest for the Nihil Stone when it was less than a dollar each, but it really is less effective in this kind of deck compared to Shrieking Affliction or Davriel. Instead, if I could afford it, Waste Not would be an incredible card to add to this deck. Same with Liliana’s Caress to replace Megrim.

Looking toward the future

Cunning Lethemancer: At the beginning of your upkeep, each player discards a card.

Stronghold Rats: Shadow (This creature can block or be blocked by only creatures with shadow.) Whenever Stronghold Rats deals combat damage to a player, each player discards a card.

Syphon Mind: Each other player discards a card. You draw a card for each card discarded this way.

Fraying Omnipotence: Each player loses half their life, then discards half the cards in their hand, then sacrifices half the creatures they control. Round up each time.

These are some of the cards that I’ve been looking at, but I haven’t tested yet in this deck. I like the idea of forcing players to discard a card on each turn, like Cunning Lethemancer and Stronghold Rats might provide. If I’m going to do that, though, I need to be sure that I’m taking advantage of the situation, which would mean filling the deck with Madness enablers or cards that benefit from being put in the graveyard directly from hand. Fraying Omnipotence is similar, and a more effective (but more costly) version of Pox, but since it hits the caster as well it has to be worth it.

I am seriously considering dropping the money on Syphon Mind, because despite it costing four, late-game this could seriously tip the scales in my favor. Forcing everyone else to discard and benefiting from that in the way of card draw is simply magnificent. It would definitely draw hate though.


This deck is in the middle of being rebuilt, and I wasn’t really ready to reveal it. Given the Tiny Bones situation, however, it seemed both spooky (the art and flavor text on these cards alone is terrifying) and appropriate. Unfortunately, that means I don’t have a complete deck to share with the world. If you have any suggestions on what kind of removal or other cards you think might fit in this mono-black deck, I would be more than willing to hear what your thoughts!