Deck Building ~ Venser, The Topless Sojourner
I love building Deck’s, it is easily an addiction in the most popular sense of the word. This addiction doesn’t impact my life negatively so it falls short with the DSM but regardless its quite a powerful joy. There is something about looking at the puzzle of 60 cards and trying to divine the best path to victory.
There are many kinds of magic players out there, those that must win every match, those that must be in control, those that must fit a theme, or even those that haven’t a clue what they are doing. At one time or another I’m in any one or all of these categories. There are many more of course but I’m just going off the ones I’ve experienced.
To begin you look at the mathematics of your energy system. In MTG you are handling lands which generate mana. Mana is effectively a linear currency, one land generally produces one mana and even when this is not true the lands will always produce whole units of mana. The only exceptions are unglued and unhinged which are joke sets that play off this fact and do “half” mana.
Mana should probably be capitalized most times but I’m going to forget a lot so please just roll with it. At any rate there are five conventional types of mana, White, Blue, Black, Red, and Green. These tend to be associated with tropes for their color. White signifies purity, justice, and a sense of order or balance. Blue is the color of wisdom and mental wealth, you’ll recall power rangers put the nerd as Blue in the original series, as a child I didn’t know why but this felt right. Coming into magic way back when I was assured that the feeling was mutually felt abroad.
My second favorite ranger, my number one hated color of deck to play against.
Next comes Black, black is the color of death and decay. It’s not so much evil as it is the root of entropy, the cards and abilities are the essence of nothingness and destruction. We tend to call these things evil mostly because it is good to avoid these things if you wish to survive.
Red is the color of passion and fury, which is often the case in history and lore. You will find goblins, barbarians, and other enraged beasts in this mana color. Likewise you’ll find direct damage, fireballs and lightning bolts rain from the heavens down upon the foes of Red Planeswalkers.
Finally is Green, the color of life, the animal kingdom, and arguably excess. Cards that will pull more lands out of your deck, large beasts, and humanoids that are in touch with nature (like elves) are all found in spades here. This has often been my favorite color in magic and is indeed my favorite color in real life. I’ve always envisioned a unified Scion as a planet lush with green.
You can mix these colors but you endanger overcomplicating your mana pool (the amount and variety of lands in the deck). Certain colors synergize very well and others are just a delightful challenge to mix. In a deck of 60 lands I will often run 22-24 depending on the build. In some cases I will run considerably less if I can mana a lot of cheap cards that draw lands themselves, this is very uncommon for me though.
With 24 lands in your deck that leaves you with 36 other cards. I like to have between 15 and 20 creatures in just about any deck, the main reason for this is that they are easy to manipulate. Creatures with come into play effects are great because they net you a body (something to block and attack with) and they also will give you card advantage (a topic for another day).
If we go conservative and have only 10 creatures that leaves 11 more cards to fill. You’ll notice that about 99 million percent of the time the professionals at competitions are running at least a splash of blue. The reason for this is that blue is big on control and card draw. You want to make sure your opponent can’t do what they want to do and want to make sure you can always be doing things. The most uncomfortable feeling in the world is trying to play your turn while your opponent has a blue mana and any other mana color open on their field. I usually mutter asshole under my breath when this happens.
I’m not the worlds best deck builder, in fact I’m probably quite bad. But today I’d like to show you one of my recent babies that is rather odd. It’s based around probably my favorite planeswalker: Venser, The Sojourner.
So for this build I’ve gone light on creatures and heavy on spells. It’s a very weird deck but a lot of it synergizes. Immediately you can see that most of the creatures are walls which means they will be dealing no damage. We’ll go over a few of the key components and that will be it. If you ever happen to try this deck out I’m sure you’ll find it fun if not a little bit stressful.
These all 4 have a simple job they are helping me move through my deck quickly and in a manner that doesn’t sacrifice cards. Scry just straight up feels great when you lift that card it is either what you want so you know your next turn will be great or it is terrible for the moment and you move the card to the bottom of your deck.
This deck is big on turtling and controlling the situation. I’ve got some good covers for when the situation starts going negatively because frankly you can’t always be dominating the situation. If your opponent happens to start overwhelming you the following options are quite nice at either slowing them or completely destroying them.
In practice I have found that it is best for you to build up a defensive wall that is just large enough to bait your opponent into trying to go all in to defeat you. Once they do you drop a day of judgment which leaves them mostly impotent for a few turns, this doesn’t always pan out so you’ll need some way to stall. Gideon Jura is wonderful for either forcing the entire enemy force to attack or instantly destroying a tapped problem child when he enters play (technically sorcery speed).
I use path to exile on the major hitters like 10/10 trampling crazy balls or double striking madness. That extra land they get shouldn’t concern you because they won’t be doing anything with it.
If you feel invested on the field and don’t want to wrath your own walls you can certainly drop a stonehorn dignitary, that will make certain that the next turn will not be an overrun. It also gives you an extra turn to draw a day of judgment if need be or to draw the star child of the deck.
If you drop the dignitary on turn 4 and then blink it with Venser on turn 5 you have just stopped them from attacking for two turns. If they have no removal in their deck you have locked down their creatures for the rest of the game. Venser also synergizes with a few things in the deck, I had originally built it completely around him but I found that meant that people would just mana leak him.
Blinking is slang that I realized I didn’t explain. Venser has the ability to make a card leave the game and come back to the game at the end of your turn. This means anything with a come into play ability can have it triggered and when you do this it gives Venser 2 more “Loyalty” counters. Once he has 8 or more you can trigger his –8 which is astoundingly powerful. Here are the synergy cards for Venser:
In the case of glimmer post this can give you the few extra life points you need (1,2, or 3 life in a blink depending on how many you’ve drawn and played), Stonehorn can utterly lock down their ability to attack, New Benalia can help you move through your deck to find the card you need, and Wall of Omens can help you draw a card you have Scry’d into the top spot.
But lets say you have built up your Venser play field and you don’t see yourself winning. Maybe they’ve got enough damage to kill you outright in the next turn or they have a combo building that you realize will be the end of you. This is where a few fairly innocuous cards come into play.
Not very awesome right? All three of them have fairly weak abilities for their casting cost, arguably. I love all three dearly personally but I’ve seen better options. You don’t necessarily need the Cloud Key but it allows you to go infinite.
Infinite you say? Now I’m interested…or at least I hope that was what you just thought. But what could synergize with these when Venser is failing?
This has become my favorite card and it was first launched in my favorite set. I got 3 of these from boosters and a fourth while in Japan with my now Wife . This is a beautiful utility card. It’s incredibly hard to kill because you can put onto the top of your library in response to anyone trying to remove it. This deck also has 4 which means people are going to have to choose either counter spelling it or suffering its wrath at some point. I tend to use the colorless from the glimmerposts to pay for the reorder ability on the top of this card. That little ability synergizes with nearly everything in this deck.
Let’s say you draw 2 Top’s (which you will, always), and 1 Cloud Key (less likely and not necessary but very nice). Now all you need is to draw either the Jace’s Erasure or the Inexorable Tide to do brilliant things.
You cast the Cloud Key and say “Artifacts”, now Artifacts cost you 1 less to play. Next you cast the Sensei’s Divining Top for 0. If you have 2 of them you might as well cast both of them now. Next you cast Jace’s Erasure if you have not already. This means you need 5 mana open, that’s not all that hard in a turtle deck to reach.
You tap the Sensei’s Divining Top (I’ll just start calling it the Top), the Top goes on the top of your deck and you draw a card. Your opponent moves one card from their library into their graveyard. You then tap your second Divining Top and draw the first divining Top. You replace the first one with the second one and then cast the first one for free (or 1, which doesn’t hurt at all frankly), you then tap that Top and draw the other Top. Do this as many times as they have cards left in their library and then pass the turn.
You just won . Congratulations. If you happened to Ultimate Venser you also exiled every permanent they own while doing this. So they ended the game with no permanents in play and no library. If they had no cards in hand they ended the match with nothing but a graveyard.
Whenever I do this I like to tell the other person that they are officially “Topless”. Unfortunately if they mana to remove your tops they’ll fire back with the same joke. Oh the agony!
But Venser can be tough to ultimate, so you’ll want a buffer. I only have one Tide in the deck because I am never counting on it, its just a nice happening.
With this combo you are not milling them for infinite but you are proliferating as many times as you want. Got an Eslpeth out? You can ultimate her and make every permanent you own indestructible. Jace Beleren out? You can make your opponent mill the top 20 cards of their library into the graveyard. Got Venser out? Well you can ultimate him and in the same turn exile every permanent they have on the field.
But what else? I have a few more cards in this deck that I haven’t mentioned. Between the Divining Top and the draw and scry you will almost always find yourself with what you need. But sometimes you are up against weird decks, weirder than this. Some will try to mill you which this deck is HIGHLY weak to. That’s where this beauty comes in:
If he goes into your graveyard from anywhere you shuffle your entire graveyard and library together. This means that they’ll never be able to mill you unless he is exiled or in play. I’ve actually hard cast him once and that felt really weird. It’s quite nice because you get to remove their most dangerous permanent and then next turn he starts annihilating 4 things when he swings.
I’m not actually sure how I feel about Fog Bank. This can potentially be the ultimate wall and it is very likely to eat some kind of removal (which is nice, one less to hit your important stuff). Alternatively the Wall of Denial is an absolute BEAST at stalling. I use these to give me an extra turn or two of survival which is usually enough to change the pace of the match.
But lets say they are at low life and it is a multiplayer match, or you’ve activated Gideon Jura’s “You must attack me.” ability. You can turn on a Celestial Colonnade to either deal 4 damage (and still have that mana open to use because the creature doesn’t tap to attack) or you can activate it and kill their most dangerous 4 or less toughness creature when it tries to kill Gideon. This is really convenient and I’ve had it work in my favor a few times.
If nothing else the CC’s are wonderful when you want to be aggressive and if you have Elspeth out you can make them 8/8’s which is a heck of a punch to the face.
So that’s it. This is a weird deck, one of those unusual beasts of my brain. It is actually working quite well in casual play. I think I might replace the Fog Banks, I’m just not entirely sure with what. Otherwise, thank you for checking out my weirdness and be prepared. Next week I’ll be far too busy to update probably ever, we’ll see. Maybe I can do picture updates.
I just had a moment of brilliance…I think I might replace one or both of the Fog Banks with:
That is all…