Return to the Chalice

Chalice of Life is a card that has intrigued me since it was first previewed. It takes a game plan that's traditionally very bad and turns it into a legitimate win condition. Although I've written about this card before, Magic 2013 has given us a powerful new tool for the deck: Rhox Faithmender. Here's the updated version:

The Creatures

Rhox Faithmender
Rhox Faithmender makes transforming Chalice of Life insanely easy. A single Whitesun's Passage or Elixir of Immortality will bring you straight up to 30 life. The Faithmender also blocks nearly any creature that might come your way without dying, and it gains you 2 life in the process. Even just a Chalice of Life can do some major work with this guy on the board, giving you 2 life every turn.

Trinket Mage effectively gives you extra copies of Elixir of Immortality. It can also trade with many attackers, saving you a lot of life in the long run. Huntmaster of the Fells, Strangleroot Geist, Borderland Ranger, and many other creatures currently seeing play can be at least partially killed by a Trinket Mage.

Drogskol Reaver serves as an alternate win condition for the deck. It swings for 6 damage per turn just like a Titan, but it also allows you to draw quite a few cards. In addition to the two cards you'll draw when it attacks, every life-gain spell in the deck turns into a cantrip with this on the board, making sure your hand is always full. Drawing so many cards also helps you find Chalice of Life in case the Reaver dies before finishing off your opponent.

The Spells

Chalice of Death
Chalice of Life is the primary win condition for the deck. It kills your opponent in four turns and isn't as vulnerable to removal as most creatures are. It can come down early enough to sneak in through counter-magic—many decks fail to leave mana up at some point during the early turns of the game, and once it's on the board, only Oblivion Ring and dedicated artifact removal can effectively deal with it.

Whitesun's Passage and Elixir of Immortality each allow you to gain 5 life very cheaply. Any two of them will bring you to the critical 30-life mark; any one in combination with a Rhox Faithmender also does the job. They also make life difficult for aggro decks, buying you time to deal with the initial assault.

Against aggressive decks, Timely Reinforcements will allow you to gain 6 life, provided you play it early on. If you draw it after you've already gained life, it will still make three Soldier tokens to help preserve your life total.

Day of Judgment goes a very long way toward preserving your life total against creature decks. Your opponent will often overcommit to keep the pressure on despite your life gain, at which point you can wipe everything away and start gaining back up to 30.

Whitesun's Passage
Ponder helps you find the cards you need to win the game, whether that be Chalice of Life, a Drogskol Reaver, or even just a Whitesun's Passage. Using Ponder correctly in this deck takes a good deal of practice, as you have to carefully weigh the merits of keeping a decent top three against those of shuffling in order to try to find a Chalice more quickly.

Mana Leak helps keep you and your win condition alive against whatever your opponent might do to stop you. Keep in mind that this is not really a control deck, so although you'll often be tempted to counter your opponent's threat, it's often better to wait and protect your Chalice from possible removal if you can reasonably afford to do so.

Oblivion Ring gets rid of threats that would stop you from reaching 30 life as well any opposing Oblivion Rings that might be keeping your win condition off the board. It's also a very valuable tool for dealing with planeswalkers, which this deck has a hard time interacting with otherwise.

The Sideboard

Day of Judgment
The extra Drogskol Reavers come in against most decks, helping blunt the blow of the artifact removal your opponent will be sideboarding in by providing you with another way to win. They also help greatly against control, giving you more chances to land one of your win conditions despite counter-magic.

The extra copies of Timely Reinforcements and Day of Judgment give you a major edge over fast decks, making you extremely difficult to kill. The extra life and extra blockers buy you a lot of time and tempt your opponent to play more creatures in an effort to subvert your defenses, falling right into the path of your Day of Judgment.

Dissipate is another way to protect your win conditions against control decks, provided you have the mana. It can also stop your opponent's win conditions if you need to buy more time.

Divine Offering fits remarkably well into this deck. It deals with troublesome artifacts quite efficiently, and the life-gain is far more relevant in this deck than in most others.

Mental Misstep stops dangerous first-turn plays like Birds of Paradise and Delver of Secrets while also giving you the ability to counter spells like Smelt and Rancor that might create problems. If you're about to win the game, you can even stop your opponent from digging for answers with Ponder.

Celestial Purge helps you deal with resilient threats like Geralf's Messenger and Falkenrath Aristocrat that might make it hard to maintain your life total. It's especially useful against the Aristocrat—you can exile it even before it gets in its first hasty attack.

The single Grafdigger's Cage can be searched up by Trinket Mage, effectively giving you three copies. It comes in against decks it greatly hinders, such as Naya Pod and various reanimator decks.

Playtesting

W/U Delver – Game 1

Trinket Mage
I won the roll and kept a hand of two Islands, a Plains, Glacial Fortress, Ponder, Trinket Mage, and Rhox Faithmender. My opponent took a mulligan, and I started us off by playing the Island and casting Ponder. I shuffled away some lands and life-gain, and I drew a Plains. I passed the turn. My opponent played a Seachrome Coast and cast Thought Scour on himself before passing the turn.

I drew Oblivion Ring, played my Glacial Fortress, and passed the turn. My opponent played and Island and cast Augur of Bolas, grabbing a Ponder. He passed the turn.

I drew and Island, played it, and cast Trinket Mage, grabbing an Elixir of Immortality. I passed the turn. My opponent played a Glacial Fortress and cast Ponder. He kept the three cards and passed the turn.

I drew a Plains and cast Rhox Faithmender before ending my turn. During my end step, my opponent returned it to my hand with Vapor Snag, bringing me down to 19. My opponent played another Glacial Fortress and passed the turn.

I drew Chalice of Life, played a land, and cast Rhox Faithmender again. It resolved, and I cast Elixir of Immortality before passing the turn. My opponent cast Restoration Angel during my end step, fickering Augur of Bolas and grabbing a Vapor Snag. On his turn, he cast Vapor Snag on my Rhox Faithmender, then cast Runechanter's Pike and equipped it to Restoration Angel, giving it +5/+0. He attacked for 8 and passed the turn.

Runechanter's Pike
I drew Day of Judgment and cast Oblivion Ring on Runechanter's Pike. I then played a land and cast Chalice of Life, tapping it to go up to 11. I passed the turn. My opponent cast Ponder, choosing to shuffle. He then cast another Runechanter's Pike and equipped it, dropping me to 2 with the attack. He played an Island and passed the turn.

I drew Drogskol Reaver, played a land, and cast Day of Judgment. I tapped the Chalice to go up to 3 and passed the turn. My opponent cast another Ponder, choosing to shuffle, then played a Moorland Haunt and passed the turn.

I drew the other Day of Judgment, played my Rhox Faithmender, and passed the turn. During my end step, my opponent cast Snapcaster Mage, flashing back Vapor Snag to get rid of my Faithmender again. I responded by activating the Elixir to gain 10 life, then activating the Chalice for another 2. I ended the turn at 14. My opponent equipped the Pike, swung for 8, and passed the turn.

I drew Trinket Mage and cast it, finding an Elixir of Immortality. I cast the Elixir and passed the turn. My opponent made a Spirit token with Moorland Haunt, exiling Restoration Angel. He equipped Runechanter's Pike to the token on his turn and swung with both creatures. I blocked the Snapcaster Mage with Trinket Mage, activated Elixir of Immortality and Chalice of Life, and ended up at 5 when my opponent passed the turn.

I drew Ponder, cast it, and kept a top three of three copies of Elixir of Immortality. I drew and cast one and ended my turn. My opponent made a Spirit token during my end step, then untapped and swung with both. I activated the Elixir and the Chalice, and I was at 3 when my opponent passed the turn. I drew Rhox Faithmender and cast Drogskol Reaver. My opponent had a second Snapcaster Mage to bounce it with the other Vapor Snag, and I died to his attack.

Sideboarding:
−4 Rhox Faithmender
−1 Mana Leak
−2 Drogskol Reaver
+2 Mental Misstep
+2 Timely Reinforcements
+1 Day of Judgment
+2 Divine Offering

W/U Delver – Game 2

Oblivion Ring
I kept a hand of two Plains, two Islands, two Timely Reinforcements, and Oblivion Ring. I led with a Plains, and my opponent started off with a Glacial Fortress.

I drew Whitesun's Passage, played an Island, and passed the turn. My opponent played an Island and cast Delver of Secrets. He ended his turn.

I drew Ponder and cast it, keeping Elixir of Immortality, Mana Leak, and Day of Judgment. I drew and cast the Elixir of Immortality, played an Island, and passed the turn. My opponent transformed Delver of Secrets with a Mana Leak and swung for 3. He cast Augur of Bolas, grabbing and casting Gitaxian Probe with his last available mana. He then passed the turn.

I drew my Mana Leak, cast Timely Reinforcements, and passed the turn. My opponent dropped me to 20 with Delver of Secrets and passed the turn.

I drew Day of Judgment and ended my turn. My opponent cast Restoration Angel during my end step, flickering Augur of Bolas and grabbing a Ponder. On his turn, he played a land, cast Ponder, choosing to shuffle, and cast Runechanter's Pike. He equipped it to Restoration Angel and swung for 8 in the air, dropping me to 9. He passed the turn, and I cast Whitesun's Passage during his end step.

I drew Ponder and attacked with my Soldiers. Augur of Bolas blocked one, and my opponent dropped to 18. I cast Day of Judgment and passed the turn. My opponent played a Seachrome Coast and passed.

I drew Elixir of Immortality and cast Ponder, shuffling away a Plains, a Whitesun's Passage, and an Oblivion Ring. I drew another Ponder, then cast Timely Reinforcements to go back up to 20. I ended my turn, and my opponent made a token with Moorland Haunt. On his turn, he played a land, equipped Runechanter's Pike to the token, and attacked for 3. He then passed the turn.

Augur of Bolas
I drew Trinket Mage, cast Ponder, and kept Island, Oblivion Ring, and Chalice of Life. I drew the Island, played it, and cast Oblivion Ring. My opponent cast Mana Leak on it, and I cast my own Mana Leak to counter his. He cast a second Mana Leak to end it. On his turn, he attacked for 5 with the Spirit token. He then played a land and passed.

I drew the Oblivion Ring and cast it, but my opponent flashed in a Snapcaster Mage to recast one of the Mana Leaks. I cast Elixir of Immortality and passed the turn. My opponent dropped me to 11 and ended his turn.

I drew Chalice of Life and cast Trinket Mage. My opponent cast Restoration Angel, flickering the Snapcaster Mage to cast the second Mana Leak again. I passed the turn. My opponent swung for 8, and I activated an Elixir, dropping to 8 before he ended his turn.

I drew a Glacial Fortress, cast Chalice of Life, and passed the turn. My opponent swung for 8, and I soaked up 6 of it with the Chalice and Elixir of Immortality. He passed the turn, and I drew another land and conceded.

 


All right, so this deck might not entirely have what it takes to compete against the best decks in Standard. Regardless, it's a fun sideways strategy and a great choice if you're looking to take something a bit off-the-wall to your local Friday Night Magic.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, you can find me on the forums under Twinblaze, on Twitter under @Twinblaze2, or simply leave a comment below.