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February 21, 2018

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Something Old and Something New: Discard and Burn

There are two things that I’ve come to learn over the course of my years playing Magic the Gathering: never rush a deck build, and always be open to new alternatives.

Back in the day, one of my favourite deck archetypes involved a whole lot of discard and a whole lot of punishment for it. I was sold on a mono-black deck featuring The Rack that I had built myself. In fact, one of the main reasons I kept coming back to Magic over the years was because that deck type got a new toy.

One addition that solidified my return to Magic almost two years ago was Liliana’s Caress, a card that didn’t have to wait to punish you for discarding. Hands down one of my all time favourites, it represents the perfect win condition. It’s not quite aggro, it’s not quite mid-range, it’s a fairly cheap playset, and it activates my favourite archetype much, much faster than before.

Of course, I didn’t come back when it was released to the public. I only heard of it after everyone had already got their hands on it, but by the time I came back my preferred deck type was not only competitive in one form, but also budget friendly and quite deadly in another. It inspired me to dive back into deck building. However people were already building competitive Modern archetypes for discard, featuring my original favourite win condition. The challenge fell to me, in my mind, to create something that I could buy, build, and eventually play all by myself.

Discard Your Life

Artifact (4)
The Rack

Creature (7)
Hypnotic Specter
Ravenous Rats

Enchantment (11)
Liliana’s Caress
Quest for the Nihil Stone
Shrieking Affliction
Waste Not

Planeswalker (4)
Liliana of the Veil

Sorcery (14)
Blackmail
Duress
Mire’s Toll
Wrench Mind

Land (20)
Geier Reach Sanitarium
16 Swamp

I know it’s not the best, but when I first came up with it I hastily put it together for the purpose of stomping face just like I used to. The only real card that I was aware of when I initially built this that was expensive was Thoughtseize so I thought this would be fairly competitive locally. What I had failed to realize was that the local meta had grown a lot since I last played regularly.

Cards like Inquisition of Kozilek and Liliana of the Veil had made the rounds as staples in these kinds of decks, and I had only really caught on to some of them. Despite that, I still found that this deck to be satisfying when it came together on the battlefield. Not only was it my masterwork, it was one of the original ideas I’d ever had in Magic. I’ve never really had the kind of budget to build the Pro Tour level decks that make the rounds anyway.


Time passed, as it does, and I moved to the Standard scene after having been crushed a time too many while trying to qualify for the Pro Tour in Modern. Even then, I was never truly satisfied because neither my first colour combination, Rakdos, nor my first real archetype, discard, really saw much play until Kaladesh came around with a reprint of Mind Rot.

I tried not to be excited since there wasn’t a whole lot of support for discard, but then I laid my eyes on Dreamstealer in Hour of Devastation and held my breath. Could it be? It wasn’t until Ixalan block came out that Rivals brought me the shining light in this archetype that, failing me or not, made me a happy man:

It wasn’t just a reprint of Liliana’s Caress, it was a little better.

While it has a higher CMC, Raiders’ Wake gives you an additional incentive for playing a little bit of aggro and splashing in a bit of red. Throw on some aggro one-drops and, while you weren’t invincible, you were looking at driving the discard and punishment engine just as efficiently as my old ideas. It also gave me incentive to splash in red, which gave me no end of joy. That’s all more than I can say for my efforts with Mill decks, an archetype that’s constantly changing in the format.

Angrath the Denier

Creature (14)
Fanatical Firebrand
Grasping Scoundrel
Kitesail Freebooter
Dreamstealer

Enchantment (3)
Raiders’ Wake

Instant (4)
Abrade

Planeswalker (2)
Angrath, the Flame-Chained

Sorcery (13)
Duress
Harsh Scrutiny
Lay Bare the Heart
Torment of Hailfire

Land (24)
Dragonskull Summit
Mountain
16 Swamp

I took a breath when building this and made sure to not repeat the same mistakes I’d made when building my Modern deck. When I got back into the game and I rushed that deck together, I was anxious to get into the local meta again. I was excited to start rolling out the pain in a small but challenging meta, and it became clear that the local scene for Magic had changed.

Good or bad, it was on me to acknowledge how it changed and adapt to that in Standard. When making this deck, I had to take my time and wonder about what I was going for, what I found satisfying about playing a deck I liked, and bring together pieces that I was happy with. Not with what Magic was pushing, and definitely not what the meta was commonly playing.

These cards are kind of like an A-Team of sorts; old visages of times gone by where versions of them have seen better days. Still, at the end of the day they get the job done. It’s cards like Abrade and Fanatical Firebrand that make it all come together though. These help manage the board state so that I can get my major pieces on the board.

While both are fairly casual in their current forms, I am constantly refining and testing them to see how they hold up and what side boards would be good for them. Hopefully they turn into something that’s both fairly budget-friendly and competitive. What are your thoughts?