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1993-94 “Enchantress” (21st February 2017)

Green is clearly the underdog of Magic's five colours, but it still has a dedicated legion of fans and aficionados—me included! There’s been quite a buzz about green on Old School blogs recently, and I’d like to join my fellow bloggers by writing something about green magic. In this post I am departing from my line of Monoblack deck analyses to explore a bit more of the strategy behind this often overlooked colour, beginning with this card:

Verduran Enchantress (Beta)

I love it, I think it has abundant potential. In this post on 1993-94 Enchantress Decks, I'll brainstorm some ideas as to how to use it.

Verduran Enchantress is a powerful card-drawing engine, but vulnerable to creature removal. I would consider including 3-4x of the card “Safe Haven” in the deck in order to deal with spells or abilities that target the Enchantress, as well as some big creatures like Erhnam Djinn, so that my opponent has more than one threat on the board to deal with. Additionally, to speed things up, I'd use a few Howling Mines and maybe a Fastbond.

Does the enchantress deck need another colour? I think this would help a lot. Black and green makes for a very aesthetically pleasing colour combination, especially with the inclusion of attractive and useful cards like Elves of Deep Shadow and Dark Heart of the Wood.

Dark Heart of the Wood (The Dark)

The first decklist I'll post is a prototype version of my B/G Enchantress (circa 2014) with a few spots left in it for future development, which I filled up with Deathgrip and Lifeforce to give me a rough idea of how to round off the mana curve. (I never got the chance to use it in actual play before half of the cards were burned in a fire and the rest were tragically lost.) Here's the decklist:

B/G Enchantress

13x Forest
1x Pendelhaven
10x Swamp

1x Feldon's Cane
1x Howling Mine

2x Craw Wurm
2x Dark Heart of the Wood
2x Dark Ritual
2x Deathgrip
4x Elves of Deep Shadow
3x Lifeforce
1x Nether Void
2x Stream of Life
1x Sylvan Library
3x Underworld Dreams
4x Unholy Strength
4x Verduran Enchantress
4x Wild Growth

I posted the initial version of that deck on, a page I highly recommend visiting--it's one of the most comprehensive and frequently-updated Old School blogs out there, and it's been going strong for years now. I did point out that a few Bayous would be really nice, and of course, a Mox Jet, a Mox Emerald and a Black Lotus. I'm just picturing a turn 1 Lotus and Verduran Enchantress with Unholy Strength on her or Wild Growth on the land for an instantaneous draw off the Enchantress. Another good play is a turn 1 Wild Growth or Elves of Deep Shadow for a turn 2 Enchantress and then--provided she doesn't get killed beforehand--some turn 3 enchantments.

When I was testing this deck, I noticed that it had the tendency to go very fast once there were one or two Enchantresses in play, often drawing upwards of two or three extra cards per turn. Nether Void might seem like a strange choice of enchantment to include, given that your strategy is to play lots of cheap enchantments each turn, but I don't feel that it was a bad pick, since it is a very useful way of locking down your opponent. Also, you never seem to be short of mana with this deck. If I end up branching out into another colour to complement my Monoblack deck, green will be my first choice.

Here's another one for you, credit to tapanmeister (aka @santacruzmtg on Instagram). I didn't get the chance to contact him to ask permission to use this decklist, so if he contacts me and asks me to take it down, I'll have to replace it with something else.

Old School Enchantress

2x Bayou
1x City of Brass
8x Forest
1x Island
1x Mishra's Factory
1x Mountain
2x Savannah
2x Tropical Island
2x Tundra
1x Underground Sea
1x Volcanic Island

1x Feldon's Cane
1x Fellwar Stone
1x Sol Ring

1x Animate Dead
1x Avoid Fate
1x Balance
4x Birds of Paradise
1x Braingeyser
1x Brainstorm
1x Channel
1x Clone
1x Copy Artifact
1x Dance of Many
2x Dark Heart of the Wood
1x Demonic Tutor
3x Fastbond
1x Fireball
1x Island Sanctuary
1x Mind Twist
1x Recall
1x Regrowth
2x Sylvan Library
4x Verduran Enchantress
1x Wheel of Fortune
4x Wild Growth

Pretty awesome, but note the three Fastbond in there; I think this build would be illegal in many Old School formats that have Fastbond on the restricted list.

As with my other posts, I’ll keep it short and sweet—that’s all for now. Thanks for reading and keep loving your Old School Magic!

- LC

 Monoblack Deck Analysis, Part IV (14th February 2017)

This is the fourth and final post in my series on Monoblack strategy and deckbuilding, with specific reference to my own black deck. But, don’t be surprised if I make (detailed) references to it in future posts. It is, after all, currently my one and only deck, and I am very pleased with it.

Here’s the decklist again:

LC's Monoblack

1x Maze of Ith
4x Mishra's Factory
1x Strip Mine
18x Swamp
1x Urborg

1x Cyclopean Tomb
2x Icy Manipulator
2x Jade Statue
1x Sol Ring

4x Black Knight
4x Dark Ritual
1x Demonic Tutor
4x Hypnotic Specter
1x Paralyze
1x Royal Assassin
4x Sinkhole
3x Stone-Throwing Devils
2x Terror
4x Underworld Dreams
1x Word of Command

Obviously there’s a couple of cards missing, i.e. Mox Jet and Black Lotus, and naturally, since they cost more than the rest of the deck put together, they’re having to wait until last. It happens that I’m still working on the sideboard for this deck. When that’s all done up with nice black-bordered cards, I can start saving for those Power Nine bombshells that will really make this deck something else.

After this post, I’m intending to accumulate deck lists and photos from other Old School players in the interest of presenting a broad overview of the Old School Magic card pool and to highlight some lesser-known cards and/or strategies that could or do fare well in actual gameplay. One reader would like me to post something on red plus green. Fear not, your requests have been heard! All in due course, as they say.

I am listing the official Magic database, called “Gatherer,” in the Links section of this site, for your reference. I recommend that you bookmark it, or better yet, just memorise the entire Old School card pool one by one so you know what people are talking about when they name certain obscure cards without doing you the courtesy of posting pictures.

I'd like to point out that I have kept my Hymn to Tourach x4, Pox x4 and Cursed Scroll x4 in a binder, just in case I end up playing Legacy, 95 Magic, or Old School in a format that includes Fallen Empires with Hymn unrestricted, or restricted to x1. If you haven’t heard of these cards, look them up on the Gatherer database and you’ll immediately agree that they go well in this deck. Since I’m kicking it Old School on this blog, they’ve had to take a back seat to some more recent additions like the Icy Manipulators, Cyclopean Tomb, Word of Command and Stone-Throwing Devils.

Now let’s take a look at my Monoblack sideboard. My first point of order is to examine City in a Bottle. I'm still waiting on my second one to arrive from ABU Games. Here's the one I bought from Star City Games:

City in a Bottle (Arabian Nights) x2-3

So, if I'm going to use City in a Bottle, I'll need to board out my three Stone-Throwing Devils. This will mean that I am short on first-turn plays, so I just have to hope for Dark Rituals or learn to tolerate that intial "Swamp, Go." I am a really stingy person in some respects, specifically to do with whether I am using all my mana or not each turn.

The main threats I propose to deal with by using City in a Bottle are large creatures like Djinns and Efreets, specifically Serendib Efreet, Erhnam Djinn and Juzam Djinn, which, I believe, arethe three most frequently played of these poweful creatures. City in a Bottle also allows me to get rid of my opponent's Library of Alexandria or Bazaar of Baghdad without wasting a Sinkhole on them.

One more thing comes to mind: I saw an exciting Old-School match on Twitch where the Monoblack player, David Chamber, was using Hasran Ogress and Stone-Throwing Devils in his deck. I believe there were four of each. That's eight cards in a deck that become unplayable with City in a Bottle in play.

Yes, a very useful and well-costed card to hose down players who use powerful Arabian Nights cards. It gets rid of Guardian Beast, Unstable Mutation and Kird Ape too... what's not to like?

Gloom (Beta/Unlimited) x3-4

“What chance does white weenie stand against this Monoblack deck?” The bleak expression on this fellow’s face says it all!

By now you may have noticed that the quantities of cards I am listing before each scanned image on this blog sometimes don't match the number of cards actually scanned, e.g. "Gloom x3-4" above a scan of only TWO Glooms (and yes, they are “crappy,” inferior white-bordered ones to all of us puritanical black-border fanatics). What I am actually doing is indicating the desired number of these cards for my sideboard and the number of slots I have set aside for them. As I indicated, I’m still building the sideboard but I can guarantee you I will at some point purchase 3-4 Beta Glooms.

Let’s take a brief look at this card and why it’s so handy.

If my opponent is playing white, Gloom devastates his or her game plan, setting the poor sucker back to the point where even a Disenchant to get rid of the card will cost 5 mana. I've used it against my friend's weenie deck--Savannah Lions, White Knight, Crusade etc.--and it is *the* card to use against white. I'm setting aside three to four slots in my sideboard just for Gloom, it's that effective. Turn one Dark Ritual + Gloom = game more or less won. Just get those Black Knights riding and those Sinkholes dropping, and your white-deck opponent doesn't stand a chance.

Quote from a white-deck opponent: “I hate that card.”

Deathgrip (Beta/Unlimited) x2

Like City in a Bottle, here’s another card I haven’t had the chance to use in actual play yet.

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse for green against my Monoblack deck--and I have played Old School Monoblack against a Modern green deck to devastating effect--see how I’m including 2x Deathgrip to counter all their spells! (Gloating laughter)

So that's the first seven to nine cards of my sideboard taken care of. I am including these two cards too:

Pestilence (Beta) x2

Here's my strategy against black weenie decks, that is, the dreaded mirror match. Pestilence can wipe out their creatures with ease and also speed up the game by lowering life totals.

That's nine to eleven cards... let's call it ten. What else would I need? Well, I'm including a Feldon's Cane in the odd event that I play someone who tries to deck me. I've also got my eye on two Tormod's Crypt x2 from The Dark, as a strategy against the Reanimator deck. As I said in my last post, a Xenic Poltergeist to deal with 0 mana cost artifacts, and possibly another one or two Word of Command to be used against control decks.

So until now, all I have done is make fairly obvious and largely uninsightful remarks on what is a relatively cheap and simple deck to build: Monoblack. The best posts are yet to come. I have great plans for this weblog and have outlined some of my projections as to how to make it really, really good. I am a big fan of cards with “flavour” and tasteful artwork and would like to explore the Magic: the Gathering mythos a bit more, for example the artwork and flavour text of Bird Maiden. Just a projection for the future…

That's it for now. Any suggestions as to how to rebuild or improve this deck or sideboard will be acknowledged and gratefully appreciated. I will answer any and all emails I recieve regarding Old School Magic, and if I like your suggestions or ideas I will incorporate them into future blog posts. Comments on the site itself are also entirely welcome.

Happy Old School gatherings!

Until next time,

- LC

 Monoblack Deck Analysis, Part III (10th February 2017)

Welcome to The Enchanted Forest, this is part three of my Monoblack deck blog posts and I think it will be the second last. In my fourth and final Monoblack Deck Analysis post I will look at my sideboard, and in other future posts I'd like to start looking at some other popular Old School decks and individual cards from black as well as other colours. I've extended my Magic socialising/networking to a couple of posts on Taylor's Wizard's Tower blog and he emailed me not long ago with some positive feedback on this site.

When you're ready, let's take a look at some more of the cards I'm using in my Monoblack deck (decklist in my first post below).

Word of Command (Beta) x1

Word of Command

I could write a whole blog post on this card alone, but it would just be me ranting and raving about how much I like it. Instead, I'll write a few notes on its game dynamics so you guys have a better idea of how it can be used. This might be a bit premature, seeing as I haven't had the chance to actually use it in play since I got it in the mail two weeks ago, and so you may just wish to consider these my speculations and ideas as to what to do with this powerful card. I honestly think Word of Command is underrated and sees too little play in Old School Magic.

Like Glasses of Urza, Word of Command (firstly) allows you to have a peek at your opponent's hand. This in itself is useful for deciding what to play and what not to play over your next few turns. Secondly, it lets you play one of their cards as though you were that player. I understand that the Oracle text amends the wording to something like, "You control that player until this spell resolves." Aside from rattling your opponent's psychological equilibrium, this is useful for baiting out counterspells and damage/removal spells that would otherwise be used to muck up your game plan.

One reader emailed me anonymously with the following comment: "Word of Command is very situational, but can make for some amazing plays! One of my favorites was a friend of mine playing a Word of Command at the perfect time against a Eureka deck, causing the Eureka to 'fizzle' for his opponent, and allowing him to play his creatures instead! Pretty sick!"

That's awesome :D

From what I've read, I gather that Word of Command lets you do some absurdly cool stuff such as making an opponent play a Sorcery during their upkeep or discard phase, etc. Naturally this is perfect against Chain Lightning, etc.

Moving on...

The Second Line of Attack

Underworld Dreams (Legends) x4

Underworld Dreams x4

Mishra's Factory (Antiquities) x4

Mishra's Factory x4

It's my strategy not to depend too much on any single card in this Monoblack deck. If an opponent Disenchants my Underworld Dreams or Assembly Worker, I will menace him or her with Black Knight or Hypnotic Specter. If my Black Knight or Hypnotic Specter is struck by a Lightning Bolt, there is a Jade Statue to deal with. And so on. The deck is highly aggressive, which is why I like to think of it in terms of "lines of attack," and to think about which cards of mine are vulnerable to certain cards, and plan the deck's build accordingly.

So without further ado, let's take a look at the "second line of attack," as contrasted with the first one which is composed of 4x Black Knight, 4x Hypnotic Specter, and 3x Stone-Throwing Devils. Unlike these creature cards, Underworld Dreams is of course an enchantment and Mishra's Factory a land which becomes a 2/2 artifact creature. So you will need something like a Disenchant, Tranquility or Nevinyrral's Disk to destroy Underworld Dreams, otherwise you cannot avoid taking damage from it. Over the course of even a short game, this makes for at least six or seven unblockable, unprevented damage from the one card.

Mishra's Factory requires little explanation regarding its attack capability, but I might just say a word or two about its defensive capability. It is legal to block with it and then tap it to pump itself up to a 3/3, which means that it can block and kill a White Knight, and that two Factories can block and kill a Juzam Djinn. Normally and ideally, though, Mishra's Factory will be on the attack as an Assembly Worker alongside the creature base in my "first line of attack."

That's about it for now. In my next post I'll look at my sideboard, which is still coming together. Thanks for reading and keep loving your Old School Magic!

- LC

 Monoblack Deck Analysis, Part II (8th February 2017)

This is the second in what I hope to be a long line of posts about Old School decks, the main focus being on my Monoblack deck and how it performs in future games/tournaments. My decklist is in the first blog post on this page (see below).

I got these cards in the mail just yesterday from Star City Games:

(Update [23 February]: Added colour scans)

That's US$50 worth of awesome Old School cards (postage to Australia included). There were actually four Devils, but I'm only including three in my deck since I'd rather save that extra slot for Maze of Ith. I'm using Stone-Throwing Devils because I want to be able to play something on turn 1 and most of my black cards cost 2 or 3 mana to cast. There's no real strategy behind using them - obviously they are pretty straightforward; they can block and kill Savannah Lions without dying, they're vulnerable to a Kird Ape if it's a 2/3, and they are useful as blockers particularly in conjunction with Black Knight (which also has first strike). They are also useful just to block with and throw away to save me some damage before or while I start the beatdown with Underworld Dreams, Black Knight, Mishra's Factory and Hypnotic Specter.

Jade Statue is my secret weapon. I can't tolerate the idea of having untapped lands mid- to late-game just sitting there doing nothing. With Jade Statue, my lands and Sol Ring can be put to good use. If I only turn it into a creature on my own turn, I can avoid enchantments being played on it during my opponent's turn such as Paralyze and Spirit Link, and can also dodge Chain Lightnings, which are Sorceries - of which you would need two to kill this 3/6. I found that in playing the deck against "goldfish" (or, an imaginary opponent), the activation costs of Mishra's Factory, Icy Manipulator, Jade Statue and the mana cost of whatever black creature or spell I draw and want to play on my turn means that most of my lands are being used in a single turn, even in the mid- to late-game stage. Jade Statue's only real weakness is artifact destruction spells such as Disenchant, Shatter, Crumble and Dust to Dust, as well as Nevinyrral's Disk.

When I played against goldfish last night, I only drew Maze of Ith for one game, but I can picture it being very useful both to save my small creatures and to prevent damage being dealt to me from my opponent's (imaginary) big ones.

My next purchases will be some Beta Swamps in better condition than the ragged ones I have (with the exception of three pristine Beta Swamps I bought for US$15 each), as well as another City in a Bottle or two for the sideboard, then some Beta Glooms - also for the sideboard, and a couple of Tormod's Crypts, and perhaps a Xenic Poltergeist. After this I would like to save up for a Mox Jet and a Black Lotus. It might be another two years or so before I can get these two crucial cards, and I'd like to buy Unlimited copies as they are not only cheaper but will also stand out as Power Nine cards in an otherwise totally black-bordered deck. Finally I'm thinking I'll get another copy each of Word of Command and Royal Assassin to take the place of Terror in my deck. Paralyze is a card I like but I'm thinking that it's not as useful as Terror except in the dreaded mirror match against other Monoblack decks, for which I have two Beta Pestilence in my sideboard as a strategy against small black creatures.

Incidentally, I need to get a webcam for Skype games so I can actually PLAY someone. My last two opponents were playing Modern cards and found my deck to be quite a thorn in their side: at that time (a few months ago now) I was using cards from Fallen Empires (Hymn to Tourach), Ice Age (Pox) and Tempest (Cursed Scroll). These I have replaced with a single Paralyze, a Strip Mine, a couple of Terrors, and the cards I bought recently - see my deck list below. After making the deck fully Old School compliant (i.e. using only cards from 1993-94), I'm just itching to play someone and see what can be improved or what works best. Monoblack forever!

Until next time,

 Monoblack Deck Analysis (4th February 2017)

This is the first in what I hope to be a long series of posts on Old School Monoblack decks.

I'd like to begin by presenting my own decklist and writing about why I included specific cards. This deck evolved from being a Legacy Pox build with Cursed Scroll and Hymn to Tourach to a full-fledged Old School build in a matter of months, mainly because of the influence the current Old School blogs have had on my taste in Magic. Back in 2000 I asked myself the question, "Why not play using just older cards?" and to my surprise and satisfaction, Old School has turned into quite a popular format.

Anyway, here's my decklist - you Old School players should all know these cards:

LC's Monoblack

1x Maze of Ith
4x Mishra's Factory
1x Strip Mine
18x Swamp
1x Urborg

1x Cyclopean Tomb
2x Icy Manipulator
2x Jade Statue
1x Sol Ring

4x Black Knight
4x Dark Ritual
1x Demonic Tutor
4x Hypnotic Specter
1x Paralyze
1x Royal Assassin
4x Sinkhole
3x Stone-Throwing Devils
2x Terror
4x Underworld Dreams
1x Word of Command

Now I'll write about why I included certain cards. Most of the time, at least with the newer inclusions, it's because I saw them in someone else's deck and decided that they were worth using in mine.

However, this was not the case with Jade Statue and Word of Command - I noticed these cards and I wanted to use them, and that's why I included them. I'd like to say a bit more about those two cards below; bear with me while I discuss briefly the rationale behind the inclusion of Black Knight and Hypnotic Specter.

The First Line of Attack

Black Knight (Beta) x4

Black Knight x4

 Hypnotic Specter (Beta) x4

Hypnotic Specter x4

Black Knight and Hypnotic Specter require little explanation. They are almost obligatory for an Old School Monoblack deck.

They are both 2/2, and Black Knight can block and kill a Crusading Savannah Lions (but not a "Forested" Kird Ape). Black Knight cannot be Swords-to-Plowshares'ed but is vulnerable to direct damage spells like Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning. He is immune to black removal spells such as Terror, but a Royal Assassin can kill him and a Paralyze can lock him down. The same is true for Hypnotic Specter, which, if you happen to get it out on first turn with a Dark Ritual, can severely hamper your opponent and give you some exceptional card advantage.

These two cards could be considered the "core" or the creature base of the deck. If you want to play black weenie and include Bad Moon to give all your creatures +1/+1, there is a decent variety of small creatures to make up those extra slots, for example Erg Raiders, and the 1/1 Stone-Throwing Devils from Arabian Nights for a one-mana drop on the first turn. These would have to shift out if I sideboarded in, for example, 3x-4x City in a Bottle, to deal with Djinns, Efreets and Library of Alexandria.

There's another card I like called Will-O'-the-Wisp, but it's only good for defending unless you cast Unholy Strength on it or have a Bad Moon or two in play.

Speaking of defending, let's take a look at some defensive strategies...

Royal Assassin (Beta) x1

Royal Assassin

Royal Assassin is an excellent choice for creature removal and I'm hoping to buy another one from Beta before long. He's immune to Terror and can kill, for example, a Juzam Djinn (but not often a Serra Angel unless you tap her first... see Icy Manipulator below).

Icy Manipulator (Beta) x2

Icy Manipulator

I haven't had much chance to use these in actual play just yet, but as you can see, the one I bought above has weathered a lot of play already. Hopefully its "icy power" has accumulated from repeated use and it will serve me well in tying up opponents' lands, creatures and artifacts. Indeed, it should be used to tap your opponent's biggest creature or most valuable land or artifact.

One more thing I'd like to show you before I wrap this blog post up with some notes on my deck, is a Beta Sol Ring that has been touched up around the edges:

Sol Ring (Beta) x1

Sol Ring

Nice job, don't you think? (No, it wasn't me who inked it...)

Now Sol Ring goes well with my 2x Jade Statue, which is another card I haven't had the opportunity to actually use in play. I really like Jade Statue, for the following reasons: it can block a Juzam Djinn and survive, it can kill off weenie creatures, it can survive Lightning Bolts and Psionic Blasts, and it strengthens my creature base noticeably.

Another card I am in favour of using is Word of Command, which is presumably good for baiting out counterspells and using your opponents' Disenchants, Lightning Bolts etc. on their own permanents... again, I haven't had the chance to use mine yet. The rest of the deck more or less speaks for itself: Mishra's Factory provides valuable beatdown and/or defence, Underworld Dreams is a nice "clock" that has won me more than one game, and various disruptive strategies like Sinkhole, Terror and Paralyze can give you that crucial advantage early or mid-game.

Until next time,

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