1 Isleback Spawn
4 Grim Lavamancer
3 Mana Drain
4 Cruel Ultimatum
2 Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker
1 Demonic Consultation
1 Wheel of Fortune
1 Beacon of Destruction
1 Beacon of Unrest
1 Beacon of Tomorrows
4 Serum Powder
4 Gilded Lotus
1 Sol Ring
1 Mana Vault
3 Chrome Mox
4 Dark Ritual
1 Tolarian Academy
4 Shelldock Isle
4 Underground Sea
4 Volcanic Island
"Twenty or Fewer Cards"
With Shelldock Isle at it's core, there are a couple tricks to getting your library to 20 cards. The most obvious engine for this is the Arc-Slogger. It's simple, direct, and it can single handedly whittle your library down as far as you so desire. --But wait.
Even before you get to the Sloggers (and even before you begin the game) a full set of Serum Powder begins knocking down the card count. (And any deck that uses Serum Powder is as casual as they come.) And then there are other cards like Wheel of Fortune, Cruel Ultimatum, Fire/Ice, and even the Shelldock Isle itself. But it's the Demonic Consultation that really steals the show. And once you start playing with this deck for yourself you'll soon understand my desire to feature the Consultation in place of the Shelldock Isle for the card image (above) that most defines this deck.
It's a tutor, it's instant, and it only costs a single black mana. Will it dig7 cards, 30 cards, or 50 cards? Sometimes the answer to these questions may seem completely random, but there are some tricks when consulting the demon.
- Know Your Deck - It's imperative that you memorize the quantities of each card of this deck. Depending on the size of your deck and depending on how deep you want to dig, you'll either want to tutor for a "4 of", "3 of", or "2 of" card. Generally, the only exception to this rule are the Sol Ring or Wheel of Fortune. Sometimes you just have to roll the dice.
- Pay Attention - When playing, you really have to pay attention to all of the cards in play, cards in your graveyard, and even the growing pile of exiled cards off to the side.
- The Shelldock Isle Trick - In this deck, Shelldock Isle pulls double duty. Obviously you can to Hideaway the card of your choice. But a less obvious is the power to stack the bottom of your deck. Imagine a Demonic Consultation and Shelldock Isle in your hand. Now imagine that when you play the isle one of the 4 revealed cards is a "1 of." That card can either be one of the Beacons or even the last Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker in your deck. You can stack that card on the bottom of your deck, play the consultation, and instantly have access to your Hiddenaway card.
When playing this deck, you have to think of 2 important library counts as the game goes on: 20 cards and zero cards. 20 cards to get access to the Shelldock Isles and zero cards for the Beacons. If you don't get it by now, repeat after me:
If there are zero cards in your library when you play a beacon, that beacon will be shuffled back into your library... and it'll be the only card in your library.
Essentially, you can play the same beacon every turn and you'll never deck out (unless your opponent forces you to draw. This also means that in this situation, Beacon of Tomorrows will give you infinite turns. (And if you have a Nicol Bolas Planeswalker in play, imagine the possibilities.) Also, with all the exiling of your library that goes on, sometimes all 4 of the Shelldock Isles and even the single Isleback Spawn is removed from the game. When that happens, what's the point of milling your own deck? The beacons deep the dream alive.
"Isn't this deck a little top heavy?"
Yes, there is an obscene amount of high mana cost cards in this deck. But with Serum Powder you can increase your odds for a useful opening hand. With Shelldock Isle, you'll get get those same cards for free. And with Chrome Mox, you can just dump them into an Imprint if need be. (An earlier version of this deck only has 3x Ultimatum and 1x Planeswalker until I added the moxes.)
With only 8 creatures in the deck, I needed a cheap, efficient, and useful red, blue, or black creature. I settled on the lavamancer. Unlike a lot of other decks I put together, this deck has 3 things going for it that make them possible:
- No Reshuffling of the Graveyard - Almost all of the decks I make with blue have card that shuffles your graveyard into your library (like Time Spiral). Even earlier versions of this deck sported 2 copies of Diminishing Returns.
- Limited Reanimation - Other than the Beacon of Unrest and Cruel Ultimatum, your graveyard is left alone to be an unused resource. (So when choosing cards, avoid artifacts and creatures if possible.)
- Cruel Ultimatum - Earlier version of this deck only used Arc-Sloggers and Isleback Spawns. Because of this the ultimatum rarely had a creature to bring back to your hand. Now it has a target.
There is some wiggle room with some of the cards (like the Tolarian Academy), but for the most part, this build was the most fun.