Decks from Dragon’s Maze

After a lot of articles about Dragon’s Maze cards and how they will be awful or awesome in everybody’s pet format (including mine!), I figured it’s time to actually build stuff with these things. After all, all of the strategy, theory, card evaluations, and tournament reports ultimately boil down to one thing: making and playing decks.

This is our last injection of Ravnican love into our decks for the foreseeable future. It’s been a fun return, although my heart is not fond for another swing by anytime soon. I’m glad we didn’t blow up the plane or anything this time.

So, without further ado, we have four decks inspired by cards from Dragon’s Maze.

I thought this would be a fun little Standard-legal casual deck for those interested in such things. I like mixing decks up, and one of my decks goes way back for some inspiration, so this is just Standard-legal. This seemed to be a nice place to get us started.

The inspiration here was Drown in Filth and Rot Farm Skeleton. One uses the graveyard the other helps to fill. Then, I moved back into Innistrad block for some immediate tag-team partners. In went Spider Spawning, Splinterfright, and Boneyard Wurm. All of those use elements of a stocked graveyard as resources.

Rot Farm Skeleton
So, I had all of these great cards to harness my graveyard but not as many ways to fill it up. What would suffice? I looked and decided to add Mulch as my land acceleration instead of many other options. Mulch often puts two or three cards into the graveyard along with itself. That’s a nice addition of fodder for the other cards. I considered Jarad's Orders. Originally, I had included Grim Flowering, but I realized I had too many cards that used the graveyard and not enough to help build it. So, I pulled them for the Orders. This will give me one creature in the ’yard and one in the hand to match the situation.

Most of the deck was set. I wanted a bit of beef for the deck, so I tossed in one copy each of the two Primordials in my colors. I also included the duo of Soul of the Harvest and Harvester of Souls. Each of these creatures can really smash a board. We needed some creature removal, and in went Sever the Bloodline, which can flash back if it hits the ’yard via Mulch or the Rot Farm Skeleton.

With six slots left, I knew I wanted to add more creatures since my deck particularly wants them in the ’yard. First was Acidic Slime because this deck wants some removal just in case opposing permanents are interfering with our plans. Next was Deadbridge Goliath, a duo of which could give me a nice salvage later. And then, after consideration, I went cheaper on the mana cost for a pair of Korozda Guildmages to play early and to run some nice activations.

As I added lands, I tossed in Grim Backwoods to give me a sacrifice outlet for card-drawing. The deck was light on card advantage of any sort, so this gave me a way to convert one resource to another, and it could also sacrifice a Rot Farm Skeleton to activate it again to fill up my graveyard. That finishes up the Golgari deck.

This deck was originally built around Tajic, Blade of the Legion. But as it evolved, I ended up pulling him out since it was quickly becoming about Legion's Initiative (LI). I threw in a set of those and then added a ton of creatures it abused.

Legion's Initiative
I began with creatures that had sexy enters-the-battlefield (ETB) abilities. Solemn Simulacrum will tutor a valuable land, Duergar Hedge-Mage often smashes artifacts and enchantments, and so forth. The Hedge-Mage has “may” effects, so I am not forced to blow up my own stuff if it’s the only option. Remember that you can exile your whole team with LI, and when they arrive, all of those triggers will happen again.

I found space for a few creatures that had very powerful ETB triggers but that cost a bit of mana. Inferno Titan will arrive and dole out some damage, Sun Titan will recur small stuff, and Mindclaw Shaman will steal a precious card from a foe. This trio of singletons will love to be abused, but there are not enough here to clog up a hand early.

Then, I added cards that had synergy with our concept. The powerful Auriok Champion mimics the abilities of Soul Wardens. I gain 1 life every time a creature arrives, including those I don’t even control. One trigger of the LI could gather me 4 or 5 life from the Champion’s triggers. Another synergetic element is the Kruin Striker. This powerful 2-drop in red adds trample and +1/+0 for the turn for each creature that enters my battlefield. You can imagine brining out six creatures from the LI and then swinging with a 7/1 trampler. These are so good I tossed in one Silverblade Paladin. I really want to give one double strike as it arrives on the battlefield post-LI all big and ready to smash. My 7/1 trampler with double strike is just a sin against life totals.

Cathars' Crusade
Fiend Hunter is here for the trick of its ability. Play it, put the exiling of an opposing creature on the stack, and then activate the LI. It leaves play, which forces the triggers to resolve in a different order, and thus, the creature is permanently exiled since the return trigger goes off before it was exiled. Mentor of the Meek is here for combos as well—there are enough cheap creatures here to pay 1 or 3 mana every time your team returns to draw some cards and keep applying the pressure.

Look at the power of Cathars' Crusade here. You might think it’s a silly card at first. After all, all of the counters will leave the creatures each time they exile, so why is it in here? Take a look under the hood. Imagine you have just four creatures when you activate LI. When they come back, with haste and ready to smash face, this triggers four times. Your creatures are suddenly +4/+4, and you have a team that will blast through any defenses.

Now add Planar Guide for more triggering fun, Wrath of God and Day of Judgment to clear out paths (just cast them after exiling your crew), and even the nice Conjurer's Closet to rock an ETB trigger here and there, and we call it a deck. There are a metric ton of great creatures to consider that I skipped—such as Murderous Redcap and Avalanche Riders. I tried to keep most of the creatures here on the new side, and you could push that by pulling some cards for others.

This deck is very flexible. Auriok Champion will swap for Suture Priest. Wrath of God comes out for any mass-removal spell of your choice. You can find substitutes for cards, such as Kor Cartographer and Pilgrim's Eye for Solemn Simulacrum. If you don’t have, or want, the Titans, you could toss in the Primordials. It can be salted to taste. Enjoy!

Our third deck today pushes that recently-printed theme after I decided to make this deck just Return to Ravnica block. All of the great cards are here, so why not? This is a more multiplayer-oriented deck. But I didn’t push the multiplayer theme too hard, so it’s missing cards such as the two Primordials, and the numbers of some higher-casting-cost cards have been massaged to also work in duels. Additionally, I want to steer clear of most of the extort cards in order to make this different and distinct. The only extort card is Treasury Thrull, and it’s too good to skip.

High Priest of Penance
Instead, I focus on control, which we have in abundance. Our creatures hold the board and help the cause in various ways. The High Priest of Penance is a brilliant early drop to gum up the ground—few want to attack into it. A great later drop that does the same is Teysa, Take Two. That protection from creatures is nasty. Between these two, ground attacks will be a non-starter.

Sin Collector is almost a Duress on a 2/1 body. It does exile the card, which is a nice bonus. There are no graveyard tricks for you! However, it does not hit enchantments, artifacts, or planeswalkers—just instants and sorceries. That’s what I would force eighty percent of the time in multiplayer. (All made-up statistics are my own!) So, you net a body, a discard, and an exile for 3 mana. That’s a cheap cost for a nice package deal.

I like the Urbis Protector because it gives me a body to muck around and a flying dork as well. It plays nicely with the deck. We all know the power of Fleshbag Marauder in multiplayer. So, I included a pair of Slum Reapers. You can sacrifice the weaker Sin Collector or Urbis Protector is you want—they have already done their jobs. This is often a nice edict for everyone. Timed right, it can seriously wreck a board or two. Our final creature is the sexy Blood Baron of Vizkopa, who has the right set of cost-to-power and abilities for the price. You might not see many chances to see it a 10/10, but as a 4/4 for 5 mana with three great abilities, it shines.

Obzedat's Aid
After that, I tossed in a full set of Obzedat's Aid because it is truly that good. Bring back everything and anything from your graveyard! (I think Slum Reaper might want another go.) Merciless Eviction is a great mass-removal spell because it exiles the targets and selectively takes out whatever you need.

Once I added in a full set of those spells, I looked for other cards that worked. Debt to the Deathless is suitably scary, so in went two. Grave Betrayal is amazing but a bit pricey, so I added just one. I also went for a one-of with Gideon, who can be a house of pain in multiplayer. In particular, I like him as a combat adjunct when needed. I also threw in one Profit // Loss as a good surprise for your foes who may not be expecting too many combat tricks.

I felt there were enough graveyard shenanigans that Crypt Incursion was necessary. It will hurt many decks. It also is a nice instant trick that can surprise someone. Finally, I wanted a bit of instant removal, so Grisly Spectacle complied.

I liked Rogue's Passage enough to add a pair, and then the rest of the deck has lands to cast your great cards. This deck has nice early creatures that are great to stall the game, cards that provide nice synergy, cards that are multiplayer bombs, and even a creature (Teysa) and a land (Passage) to attack late through a stalemated board. It has mass removal, recursion, instant removal, direct damage, life-gain, and even graveyard removal. It’s a well-rounded deck for a Block deck, and I expect it will do well in any environment, even against decks that are not relegated to just Block.

This is a nice little Rakdos deck built around Exava and Carnage Gladiator. I loved the idea of swinging with creatures at a multiplayer table with the Gladiator out—every time someone blocks, he or she loses 1 life; it’s not just the person you attack. But how do we force blocks? I needed Lure, but I’m not in green. So, Nemesis Mask came to my rescue. Once I had that in my deck, I began to look for creatures that fit the theme.

Infernal Medusa
Sure, she’s an oldy, but Infernal Medusa is very strong with a Nemesis Mask, just like the old Thicket Basilisk and Lure combo from twenty years ago! If you don’t have any in your collection, this is a nice excuse to pick up a few from online retailers; she’s pretty cheap. And with all of these nifty Gorgons running around Ravnica, she’s very much in flavor. I also loved Vampire Nighthawk because of the deathtouch—you can finish two creatures that block with the Mask, but I didn’t want four because only flyers can block it, and it can’t kill more than two blockers anyway. So it has limited value. And don’t forget that the Carnage Gladiator has regeneration, so you can load it up and swing into a large defense, forcing a lot of life-loss, perhaps killing some things with damage, and then regenerating.

Olivia Voldaren wants to zap a creature immediately to gain a counter in order to swing with haste. Or you can play her as-is—she’s quite good either way. The bloodthirst duo of Furyborn Hellkite and Skarrgan Firebird will come out quite large and swing with haste if Exava has her way with them.

Don’t ignore the power of Lyzolda in this deck. She still rules because you can sacrifice creatures for cards or damage or both. Many creatures are both black and red, turning her into a powerful machine. Another powerhouse is Rix Maadi Guildmage. By forcing people to block with the Nemesis Mask, you can activate it a few times to drop some blockers and either kill them or keep a Masked creature from dying to combat damage.

For lands, Lavaclaw Reaches is included to enhance my options. Because it can inflate to such a nice size, it’s great beside another attacker with a Mask in order to smash face for a lot of damage. Or you can drop it on a Mask to guarantee killing a bunch of foes; or you can even just make it a creature to sacrifice to fuel the engine of Lyzolda’s altar.

After that, I just fleshed out the deck with Lightning Bolt, Toil // Trouble, and Agonizing Demise, and I called it a Rakdos.


I hoped that you enjoyed this trek through all things Dragon’s Maze as we investigated four decks inspired by some useful entries from the latest set. Feel free to modify them as your card stock and interest provide!

See you next week,
Abe Sargent

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