Take Ten is an article series that looks at the commander preconstructed decks. It breaks them down and then provides ten cards that will improve the deck from it’s preconstructed status. Since we are adjusting a preconstructed deck and not totally rebuilding around the commander, Take Ten looks to keep the cost of the cards to around a $100 budget for the ten card upgrades.
Today we look at the Mystic Intellect Deck. The Mystic Intellect precon deck was advertised as the flashback deck. This deck looks to play lots of instants and sorceries and then gain value by casting them again from the graveyard. Play cards a second time to achieve additional value. In a singleton format the ability to use a card again creates redundancy. These redundant effects often tilt the table to your advantage. The deck also looks to gain value by playing cards that will give additional value anytime you cast an instant or sorcery. By pairing these two concepts Mystic Intellect looks to overwhelm the other opponents at the table.
What Mystic Intellect Does
The deck starts with Sevinne, the Chronoclasm Play your instants and sorceries to put them in the graveyard and then cast them again with your commander out to copy the instants and sorceries again. Unfortunately the deck only includes eight cards that care about casting cards from the graveyard including Sevinne! Two of the cards are Increasing Devotion and Increasing Vengeance. These cards payoff only themselves when cast from the graveyard. This makes the graveyard spells matter cards as we want to use them in this deck six cards not eight.
For this reason Sevinne is a red herring and the actual commander of the deck should be Elsha of the Infinite. Elsha’s value engine starts with her ability to look at the top card of your library. The ability to know what is coming up is an advantage. By knowing what is coming it helps you plan your plays for maximum effect. Elsha also allows you to play the top card of your library at flash speed if it is a nonland, noncreature card. This ability allows you to play magic with eight cards in hand instead of seven. The deck also contains many cards that have flashback or can be played from the graveyard. This expands your hand size and play lines further.
This deck is truly a pile. The deck is unfocused on how it wins. Your best bet is to hold on early game play what you are able. Then cast Elsha and build a graveyard. After that cast flashback cards and copy them for value and somehow miraculously win the game from something that is in your pile.
All decks have different packages for what they want to accomplish. The precon starts with the following card packages
- 10 Card Draw/Card Quality
- 9 Mana Ramp/Mana Fixing
- 10 Removal Targeted and Mass
- 8 Spells Matter
- 5 Graveyard Spells Matter
- 16 Misc
- 21 Graveyard Spells Matter Trigger
- 40 Land
Of the 21 graveyard spells matter trigger cards twenty of them fit into other packages with only Backdraft Hellkite not finding another home. The deck also contains 28 instants and sorceries which is a little low for a spells matter deck. The sweet spot is 30-33 of these cards. This allows you to draw a card of the type you want about one in every three draws.
There are also six cards that can draw cards that fit into other categories. These cards serve their other functions first. There are eight graveyard spells matter cards in the category, Three of the cards cards fit into other categories as well.
The deck lacks focus. When we look to upgrade this precon we will look to focus the instant and sorcery theme and tighten it up. Unfortunately, this goal is not accomplished with just substituting ten cards in and out. The deck needs rebuilt to focus it. . That is not the intent of the Take Ten Series.
There is a temptation since the deck contains blue cards to include an extra turn theme. While tempting extra turns are not going to help the deck progress to win the game. Taking an extra turn with little to no win conditions just causes the deck to spin its wheels accomplishing little. While take an extra turn is a viable strategy for this deck, it can not be successfully accomplished unless we allotted all ten of our cards to this strategy. This ignores the rest of the deck.
The deck currently has one win condition in Devils Play we will want to add a win condition to try and shore up the end game. We will also look to build on the copying spells theme. If we can copy spells for cheaper than they can normally be cast then we gain value for the effect.
The deck has too many misc. Effects we will look to cut them down and put in cards that will support the spells matter theme. This should help reduce the good stuff or pile feeling of the deck.
Finally we want to up our instant and sorcery count to thirty while preserving our creature count with at least twenty cards that are either creatures or create creatures. The deck becomes more resilient if we can push the creature count towards twenty-five but that will be asking too much for replacing just ten cards.
The following is our deck categories target card numbers
- 10 Card Draw/Card Quality
- 10 Mana Ramp/Mana Fixing
- 10 Removal Targeted and Mass
- 30 Instants and Sorceries
- 20 Creatures
- 10 Spells Matter Payoffs
- 10 Miscellaneous
- 10 additional Instants Sorceries and Creatures to round out targets above
- 40 Land
The Take Ten
Remove Jace’s Sanctum for Solemn Simulacrum
Jace’s Sanctum was originally in the spells matter category. It reduces the cost of instants and sorceries. This is an extra form of ramp. The sanctum also allows you to scry one which is not bad when Elsha is on the battlefield. The ability to scry and move past lands and creatures from the top of your deck is a nice synergy. Unfortunately, on it’s own it does little to nothing.
In its place we will include Solemn Simulacrum. This card will fill out our final ramp card by actively putting a land on the battlefield. It also will draw us a card when it dies, which is an added bonus for the card. It is also a creature. Even a small body like Solemn can be enough for players to look elsewhere to attack.
Remove Armillary Sphere for Smothering Tithe
Smothering Tithe is one of the strongest ramp cards in white. The ability to put a treasure on the battlefield every time an opponent draws a card creates value for a turn where you are ready to explode. Since Elsha will allow you to cast spells off the top of your deck at flash speed these treasure tokens gives you a flexibility to do so while not tipping off what cards you may play.
Armillary Sphere mana fixes but it does not ramp. For four mana it puts to lands in hand but you still have to play them as normal. This rate is far below what a commander player should be looking for when they invest in mana ramp and fixing. It is far better to invest that four mana and a card in Smothering Tithe that fixes and ramps.
Remove Runic Repetition for Archaeomancer
Runic Repetition is in the card draw card quality category. Its targets can only target cards that have flashback. There are better cards that will allow us to recur our spells. This card requires an obvious upgrade.
Archaeomancer ups the creature count of the deck a little more. It’s real value is in its ETB ability of bringing an instant or sorcery back from the graveyard. We will be upgrading these in a bit so there will be targets that are worthwhile for Archaeomancer.
Removed River Kelpie for Deadeye Navigator
Deadeye Navigator will blink Archaeomancer again and again allowing us to bring our used instants and sorceries back to our hand. Also as long as you hold two mana up the Navigator is almost impossible to remove. With the addition of Archaeomancer and Solemn Simulacrum there are eight cards with enters the battlefield triggers to abuse.so there is just enough of them to get some value out of him. Finally, the Deadeye Navigator goes infinite with Dockside Extortionist as long as your opponents have three or more artifacts on the battlefield. In this scenario the Extortionist makes three or more treasure tokens every time you blink him.
When it comes to card draw oftentimes I feel like Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. She was the spoiled child who got a golden ticket and the father appeased all her wants. She is the one who broke out in song for the 1971 movie singing “I want it now.” I do not mind waiting a turn for repeated card draws or waiting for an opponent to cast a spell and then not pay one for Rhystic Study. These triggers are easy to accomplish and require little effort. The moment a card requires me to do multiple things I begin to sour rapidly on how it draws cards. Then I think of that spoiled child and demand “I want it now!”
River Kelpie is card draw but you will have to play cards with flashback in order to activate it. The Kelpie can trigger some card draw but it is easily cut as you have to first cast a spell to get it in the graveyard and then find a situation where you want to cast it again from the graveyard. There are some shortcuts like faithless looting that let you discard a card but still it is too many hoops for card draw. I want it now and River Kelpie is a bad egg.
Remove Rolling Temblor for Cyclonic Rift
As River Kelpie is situational for card draw Rolling Temblor is the same for mass removal. First it only targets non fliers and second it deals only two damage. This is not enough damage to deal with the threats in commander. Yes it has flashback but it will cost nine mana to chain together four damage to each creature and that still wont vanquish the most dangerous threats. Rolling Temblor falls short of what mass removal should be. Hallowed Burial would have been a far better reprint and more effective at clearing the board than this card.
Instead let’s bounce back all our opponents permanents. It costs seven mana to do so but it can be done at instant speed. Cyclonic Rift is the strongest blue card in the game and it fits a spells matter theme. It can protect you if someone attacks. It also can clear a path to attack and close out a player. The deck is light on creatures so it’s asking too much to kill multiple players but it is still an effective tool. Finally this card combos with Archeomancer and Deadeye Navigator to keep your opponents board clear turn after turn.
Removed Purify the Grave for Kykar Winds Fury
Kykar, Winds Fury does everything but draw you a card. First it is a token maker for doing what you want to do with your deck the most. Since the deck is creature light the ability to create more of them for defensive purposes is a boon. Kykar and these tokens have flying. This evasion will help you push through some damage as necessary. .Finally you can sacrifice these tokens for a red mana. If you are a mana short of casting a card Kykar can get you there.
Given this is a spells matter deck the last thing we want to do is remove a spell. Purify the Grave breaks this concept. It’s cheap but that’s about it. Unfortunately the power of this card is not on par with other one mana cards that are in the format such as Swords to Plowshares. Purify the Grave just exiles one card in a graveyard. While often players will have some graveyard shenanigans unless you are facing a graveyard deck this card does too little to be an included in your 99. Out of the box Kykar will run better.
Remove Oona’s Grace for Bribery
The deck needs ways to close out the game. By copying spells, we want to string together two or three lage spells that will take over the game. We will choose to search our opponents library grab their best creature and put it on the battlefield. Unfortunately, Bribery will not fetch your opponents commander but there will be several strong candidates among decks to choose from. This card will get stronger as you play more and more games in your meta.
An example of what Bribery can do.
You have four creatures out and have eight lands to chain a Bribery and an Increasing Vengeance form your hand. with one mana left over. You know one player plays with Avenger of Zendikar and another player plays an elf ball deck that uses Craterhoof Behemoth to win the game. Use the stack to first target the elf ball deck and then the deck that has the avenger of Zendikar. The trigger for Avenger of Zendikar occurs after you put it on the battlefield creating eight 0/1 plant tokens. Then the second Bribery resolves and you bring out Craterhoof Behemoth. Its trigger occurs giving all your creatures +13/+13 for the turn You just added 55 power to the board to attack. Often that is enough to win.
To make room for Bribery we are going to take out Oona’s Grace. We like card draw at instant speed. That aspect of the card is good. What is not good about the card is that all it does is replace itself for three mana. Three mana is too expensive to draw a card. This makes Oona’s Grace inefficient and not card advantage. Depending on what you draw it does not even help out in card quality. It would be better to run brainstorm than this card in a commander deck.
Yes, Oona’s Grace has the retrace ability so you can cast it out of the graveyard. Even with Sevine on the battlefield the cost of the spell is average. It will also cost you a land from your hand. While late game a land can be a dead cards, early and mid game the land is preferred to build your mana base
Remove Ghostly Prison for Fury Storm
The deck already has two cards that copy spells. We want to add a third. Three is not a lot of this effect but it is the minimum number of cards that we want for the effect. Fury Storm is from commander 2018 and it copies itself for each time you cast your commander from the command zone. This will allow you to put multiple copies of a spell on the stack to have an explosive play.
The deck also wants Thousand Year Storm as well. This capitalizes on copying spells aspect of the deck. Unfortunately, with just ten cards to upgrade we are limited to how many cards that copy effects can go in this deck build. Thus Thousand Year Storm did not make the cut versus Fury Storm as it is an enchantment and it costs five mana.
Ghostly Prison is protection so that opponents do not attack you in mass. The deck is resilient enough it can take some damage here and there while it builds its board. Ghostly Prison is a “one of” effect in this deck. This means there is only one copy of the given effect in a deck. The odds of having the card in your hand when you need it is low. The card is good. Often it will not be around when you need it. For this reason we will remove it to strengthen up our copy target spell effects so that we have a greater chance of drawing into it.
Remove Bloodthirsty Blade for Ral Storm Conduit
Bloodthirsty Blade is a temptation to keep in the deck The ability to place this card on a big beater and force it to attack anywhere else but you first protects you. Second it encourages the table to remove that creature. There is a greater chance that big fat creature is going to come their way and it just got bigger! This card has a lot abut it to like. There are builds of mystic intellect that will use this card and benefit from it.
In the Take Ten deck build we are trying to focus on upping the creature count if possible as well as have a third of our deck as instants and sorceries. While good Bloodthirsty Blade is not optimal in this build. The card we are going to put in another planeswalker so it is critical that we remove a card that is not a creature, instant or sorcery. We are getting critically low on these cards that do not affect what we do so Bloodthirsty Blade is removed.
The card we are adding is Ral, Storm Conduit. This card is a win condition. Whenever you copy a spell Ral will do damage to an opponent. This is slow and more often will just ping an opponent and draw attention to you and Ral. You can play it off as it is just bad card draw and you want the scry effect.
His minus two also allows you to double up and copy additional spells. In reality Ral has a more nefarious purpose in this deck. With Fury Storm or two other copy target spell cards and any instant or sorcery Ral goes infinite and wins the game. The combination is mana intensive and help is needed from your fairy commander godmother to make it happen.
Removed Burning Vengeance for Chaos Wand
Burning Vengeance is a slow plodding damage effect that only triggers when you cast a card from the graveyard. If you build a deck with a critical mass of these effects then it can be useful in helping you win the game. It is better to look at the card as to how it will not only affect the battlefield but also how an effect will affect game play. Once opponents start taking direct damage from your flashback spells and their life totals drop they will want this card gone in order to prevent the hemorrhaging of their life total. Burning Vengeance is on an enchantment so it is difficult to remove. In some cases your opponents will decide that it is easier to just remove you from the game then to remove the enchantment. Mystic Intellect is not a deck that can survive a game of archenemy.
In its place we will add a unique card that does not see much play. Chaos Wand is inefficient as it costs three mana to cast and four mana to activate. It’s first use is very inefficient as it costs seven mana for the effect. You can lessen this cost impact and break the mana use up over two turns.
This card serves several purposes. First it gives you access to instants and sorceries outside of your color pie.This opens up Tutors, removal and ramp. The second is it allows you to access spell strategies you were not able to build into the deck. If there is a mono blue deck in the game all of a sudden you have the potential to Counterspell a card or hit an Expropriate along the way. It is not reliable but it is there.
Finally, its used as a political tool. Players do not like cards that are used against them. When you play Chaos Wand you can make a point to tell the other players at the table you do not intend to use the wand unless they act against you and then keep your word. This is a little thing but if a card such as this deters a player form even one action against you it has been effective.
There are many different ways this deck can be adjusted. For example, if you are willing to invest all replacement cards into the theme you can add a strong pillow fort package to supplement it. This Take Ten is a more balanced approach and it adds the basic building blocks for a copying spells and spells matter theme while upgrading the card draw and ramp packages. The deck is more viable but still occupies the five or six range on the power scale.
Mystic Intellect is a tough deck to upgrade.It is a pile of cards that is asking for a total rebuild not just a ten percent tweak of the build. The deck would be better served if you added in an additional five cards in order to focus it wants better. For this reason the cost of the cards added total around $75 and did not utilize the full $100 budget. This provides a little extra capital to add the additional upgrades.
Despite its flaws the deck is still worth a purchase for several of the reprints are strong cards. It also includes strong new cards like Elsha of the Infinite, Gerrard, Weatherlight Captain and Dockside Extortionist. Keep an eye out on the Dockside Extortionist. It is a very strong card. It even makes an appearance on my top ten red cards. Check out the article when it is released to see where it ranks.
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