Just in time for New England Old School (@neosmtg)’s LobsterCon 2018, here is our first Old School Brawl deck tech! Let’s take a look at a beloved legendary creature who has been ruling over Swamps since 1994: Solkie!
That’s a complicated question. If you read my first Old School Brawl article on commander choices, you’d know that I actually dissuade the use of Sol’kanar as your commander because I think Tetsuo Umezawa is better. Sol’kanar is a guy you are happy drawing, but Tetsuo is a card you want to play again and again and again over the course of the game. Regardless of who you pick as your commander, the Black, Blue, and Red color identities (now commonly referred to by their Shard: “Grixis”) pack serious removal and disruption.
Solkie is a respectably cost-effective 5 cmc 5/5 body. He has the same power/toughness as Juzam Djinn for just one more mana. Not only that, but the extra mana removes Juzam’s downsides and gives you some extra abilities that. Swampwalk in a format where all the good commanders are three colors is nothing to scoff at! Even if you don’t choose him as your commander, he definitely warrants a maindeck slot in any other “Grixis” Old School Brawl deck.
According to The Sentinel, Library of Alexandria is banned and Ancestral Recall, Braingeyser, and Mind Twist are recommended bans.
Okay, so, first of all, the above photo is before I made some major pickups. Let’s take a look at what each color offers to the deck and which cards I overlooked, decided against, acquired later, or otherwise did not include in the deck!
The deck is a predominatly Black deck. Solkie does gain life from Black spells, afterall.
Black creatures include Basal Thrull, Lord of the Pit, and Sengir Vampire. None of these should be a surprise. You might remember Basal Thrull from our article on 93/94 Mana Dorks and Lord of the Pit and Sengir Vampire are fairly obvious flying fatties from the 93/94 era.
The one card that you may not be familiar with is Sorceress Queen, who is a conditional removal spell on a stick. Your opponents better think twice about blocking when you have an untapped Sorceress Queen on the table!
Notably absent creatures in my deck are cheapies like Cuombajj Witches, Erg Raiders, Nether Shadow, and Order of the Ebon Hand (Black Knight also fits in this category, but he was included in the original iteration of the deck). These are great 93/94 cards, but they are significantly worse in multiplayer settings and in settings where you are trying to be more diplomatic with your plays and attacks.
Other no-brainer creatures that I didn’t think made the cut, but perhaps you may consider, are Hell’s Caretaker, Hypnotic Specter, Royal Assassin, and Juzám Djinn. The “thinkers,” or more situational creatures that may warrant maindeck slots, are Guardian Beast, Nettling Imp, and The Fallen. Wall of Shadows has its uses. Finally, don’t forget about Initiates of the Ebon Hand if you are thinking about packing Drain Life!
The remainder of the Black package is basically a bunch of good removal and The tutor.
Pestilence, Weakness, Terror, Paralyze, Sinkhole, and Hymn to Tourach all tend to trade for at least a 1:1 with a pesky opponent. The Abyss and Oubliette are also good ones, if you can score one for a reasonable price.
Playable removal spells that you may not recognize are Ashes to Ashes, Imprison, Hellfire, Blight, Darkness, Word of Binding, and Demonic Torment.
Then, we get to the fun little tricks. Animate Dead, Raise Dead, and Demonic Tutor help you find and keep your best cards on the table. Finally, Howl from Beyond was used as a cute, sneaky finisher, but has since been cut for cards that have greater impact on games instead of sometimes stealing a kill.
I didn’t include them, but you should also be aware of or try to include the tricks found in All Hallow’s Eve, Dark Ritual, Lich, Greed, and Underworld Dreams.
Red is where the real value come in.
Red 93/94 creatures are some of the most aggressively-costed and efficient creatures in the format. Granite Gargoyle and Roc of Kher Ridges are straight-up gas. Sedge Troll is a no-brainer in any R/b deck. Finally, Mijae Djinn has a 50/50 downside, but when he’s good: he’s good!
Creatures that didn’t make the cut for me, but you should consider are big nasty Shivan Dragon, Mana Dork Sisters of the Flame (check out my article on Mana Dorks!), and a couple of Alis: Baba and from Cairo. Ydwen Efreet is good for the same reason as Mijae Djinn is, but a 3/6 is often worse than a 6/3.
Since the photo, a Chain Lightning was acquired! Logically, Lightning Bolt would follow suit. Shatter destroys, at the very least, your least favorite opponent’s Mana Rock. Rounding things out are two [X] spells, Disintegrate and Fireball. Finally, Stone Rain will take out one of your opponents’ best lands.
Cards you may not have immediately thought of are the toolbox/draw spells: Wheel of Fortune, Winds of Change, and Fork. Several removal spells that were ommitted include Earthbind, Earthquake, Fissue, Inferno, and Pyrotechnics.
Unsurprisingly, Blue is the home of the remainder of the toolbox spells. Surprisingly, Blue also offers some strong midrange aggro options!
First, we start off with some big boi Flying creatures: Air Elemental, Mahamoti Djinn, and Phantom Monster. Phantom Monster is a worse Roc of Kher Ridges, but it still finds the end zone. I, however, prefer to use the more-cost-efficient-yet-upkeep-intensive options Phantasmal Forces and Serendib Efreet. You gotta risk it to get the biscuit. And yes, I am that guy who prefers the Ifh-Bíff Efreet art on Serendib instead of the Arabian Nights half-faced, Scyther-arm Serendib.
Next up are some tricksy Hobbitses, Vodalian Mage and Clone. Vodalian Mage has since been cut, but still warrants consideration. Other options, of course, is the more expensive half of the copycat package, Vesuvan Doppleganger, and the two thieves: Seasinger and Old Man of the Sea.
Apprentice Wizard would also be good as a Mana Dork here, considering the amount of X spells in the deck. Finally, feel free to use Wall of Vapor and/or Wall of Air if you build a more Controlly version of this deck.
For proactive removal, I used the counterspells Spell Blast and Power Sink, but obviously Counterspell, Remove Soul, and Mana Drain should be on your radar. One that may not be on your radar, but definitely should be, is Flash Counter. Amnesia and Mind Bomb provide some often-overlooked Blue discard. Mind Bomb also has the bonus of being sweet in a group setting.
Obviously, Invoke Prejudice is a sweet card, but it may be tough to cast in this format.
In addition to Psionic Blast, Blue provides some reactive removal options (albeit “soft” removal) such as the tap and “bounce” spells: Unsummon, Boomerang, Twiddle, and Telekinesis.
Gank yo opponents’ shit with Control Magic, Copy Artifact, and Steal Artifact. Both Recall and Transmute Artifact turn your dead cards into better cards, but Transmute Artifact is probably a dead card most of the time in a singleton format with only about two dozen impactful artifacts. The same goes for Power Artifact, which is sweet, but really only combos with what, two cards?
My only non-Commander multicolored card is Ramirez DePietro because I have always been a fan of the Foglio family’s silly art style and the flavor text is hilarious, but my article on Old School Brawl Commanders makes arguments for several other playable multicolored creatures: Gwendlyn Di Corci, Nicol Bolas, and Tetsuo Umezawa.
For starters, the Mana Rocks are a no brainer. Once those are taken care of, colorless removal and quasi-removal should be considered: Dancing Scimitar, Forcefield, Icy Manipulator, Nevinyrraal’s Disk, and Aeolipile. The tomes, Jalum and Jayemdae, allow you to diplomatically accrue a handful of answers. Finally, Juggernaut is… well… just too good to leave out of any deck.
The three colors’ legendary lands (Hammerheim, Tolaria, and Urborg), their three respective dual lands (Underground Sea, Volcanic Island, and Badlands), and City of Brass are obvious choices, but what about fun colorless and non mana-producing lands? Mishra’s Factory and Maze of Ith both seem worth the spots in any Old School Brawl deck.
With all that being said, here is my decklist submission for LobsterCon 2018:
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