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Level Best, a T2-legal Leveller deck
By Jeff Boes
Leveler. Great artwork, cool flavor text ("Once a century, the levelers rip through every corner of Mirrodin"), and the best casting-cost-to-power ratio since Phyrexian Dreadnought. Oh, and a disadvantage that makes the Phyrexian Dreadnought look like the best bargain in the game after Manticore.

So of course, I'm challenged to make a deck around it. I wonder if that's my calling in Magic? To be able to build modestly-playable decks around chaff? Well, at least I've had a lot of practice, seeing as how the gods of randomness never deliver me four Exalted Angels in a single box of boosters ...

Okay, to the deck. The idea is to have a lot of draw-substitution effects, so that an empty library is an obstacle that can be overcome without losing on your next turn. Plus, we need ways to tutor for the Leveler if the rest of the board setup (I hesitate to call it a "combo", because that would imply that you win immediately) is in place. If you have lots of ways to change draws into something else, might as well have some extra card-drawing effects. Meanwhile, you need removal to clear the way for the Leveler to do its damage.

Card-drawing and tutoring for artifacts implies Blue. Draw substitution screams "Words of ..." to me, and by far the best of the five Words enchantments is "Words of War", which means Red. Let's check out what I have so far:

10 Mountain
2 Forgotten Cave
12 Island
2 Lonely Sandbar

4 Leveler
3 Tel-Jilad Stylus
1 Farsight Mask

4 Words of War
2 Pyroclasm
2 Grab the Reins
2 Shatter

2 Mana Leak
1 Shared Fate
3 Fabricate
2 Long-Term Plans
2 Reminisce
3 Psychic Membrane
1 Mage's Guile
2 Concentrate

I was hesitant to add City of Brass to the deck, because the extra couple points of damage it does to me is critical when the opponent's deck is fast (face it, most *any* deck is faster than this!).

The Stylus is an emergency trick, in case your Words of War gets Naturalized during your upkeep. You can always plunk one of your lands (or even the Stylus itself) on the bottom of your empty library, just before you draw. Reminisce is another such trick, most useful if you have managed to draw and play all your good stuff (Pyroclasm, Grab the Reins) before your Leveler appears.

Farsight Mask, Psychic Membrane and Concentrate are all methods of drawing extra cards. The Mask or Membrane plus the Words is rather frustrating to a Goblin deck, as you might imagine.

Shared Fate plus Leveler won't kill your opponent by decking, because Shared Fate provides a substitute for the draw, rather than saying "draw from your opponent's library". However, you'll get cards from their library, and they will get ... to rest their card-drawing hand for the rest of the game.

Fabricate is your Leveler tutor. Long-Term Plans is your Words or Shared Fate tutor.

Make no mistake, this is a one-trick pony deck. You have just one main plan to win, and that's to attack twice with an unblocked Leveler. If your opponent draws into four Shatters/Naturalizes, you're doomed unless you have Mana Leak, Grab the Reins or Mage's Guile in hand. Your backup plan is to plink them ten times with Words of War. See previous comments about Naturalize. If the backup plan doesn't work, the secondary backup plan is to hope they deck themselves before they beat you. Heh. Of course, most decks nowadays pack dangerous, unbalanced spells like "flying creatures" and "direct damage", which are unfair attempts to take advantage of your deck.

This deck *may* get a little better after Fifth Dawn, with the inclusion of the Beacon spells (e.g., Beacon of Destruction: 3RR, Instant, deals 5 damage to target, then shuffle Beacon of Destruction into library. Drawing that every turn wouldn't be so awful, would it?). But I wouldn't bet the farm. However, if you are like me, you enjoy playing decks like this one through loss after loss just so you can win one game and say "I *leveled* you, sucker!"

Read More Articles by Jeff Boes!

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