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The Gray Council
By Jeff Boes
A slight departure for me. This time, a deck from MTGO, rather than real life. Offline, I play decks built around whacko rares that no one else wants. Online, where I have accumulated scads of commons and a modest amount of uncommons through mad eBay skillz (as the kids would say), I don't have the same options. And I'm interested more in creating and solving strategic problems, to make myself a better player. Which creature to target with my removal? Which lands to leave untapped during my opponent's turn? And so on.

Anyway, I came up with a decent enough deck, at least it wins its fair share in the Casual room (I'm "Murwiz", in case you want to humiliate me with your 35-rare Tooth-and-Nail deck).

11 Plains
11 Swamp
1 Fireshrieker
3 Loxodon Warhammer
1 Vulshok Morningstar
4 Daru Cavalier
1 Emissary of Hope
3 Grimclaw Bats
2 Noble Templar
3 Taj-Nar Swordsmith
2 Twisted Abomination
3 Wall of Hope
3 Altar's Light
2 Awe Strike
3 Dark Banishing
2 Echoing Decay
2 Smother
3 Infest

Remember, this is MTGO Standard, and I don't have 10,000 cards, so the card choices are somewhat dictated by my family budget ...

Land count is just a little low. I found I'm very, *very* vulnerable to an early LD spell. The landcyclers help a bit here, but I really should find two spells to cut and put in another couple of lands, possibly Mirrodin's Cores if I can get some.

There's the usual suspects in Black removal spells. Infest is a *little* dicey, since many of my creatures are within range, but I need a reset button. Plus, generally I have a Daru Cav in hand (a much-underrated creature, costly but the card advantage is pretty good; it's almost like having a Soul Foundry set for White Knights).

Altar's Light is a terrible spell, but in W/B it's all you have to take out indestructibles or when looking at artifact recursion (Skeleton Shard, Myr Retriever, Arcbound Reclaimer, etc.).

Lots of lifegain. This is a deck that tries to set itself up into a Grimclaw bats, backed with 3 or more Swamps each turn, and equipped with a Loxodon Warhammer. Once you get there, you are doing 7+ damage a turn and gaining 7+ life each combat. Not many opposing decks can outrace you from a 14-point swing each time you attack.

Viewed from there, the Walls of Hope and Awe Strikes are stall tactics. Sure, you may drop a 4/4 or better before I get set up. But you have to go uphill through my Wall of Hope and Awe Strike, each of which gains me a couple of turns on your "clock".

The equipment, is chosen primarily to take advantage of the Swordsmiths. I tried Empyrial Plate (I actually have one), and a couple of Banshee's Blades, but I'm leaning towards the current mix, because they make the Bats better, earlier.

My most recent cut was a couple of Tangleblooms for another Swordsmith and another Dark Banishing. I miss having another potential one-drop and artifact target to draw out turn-two Shatter, but I think this makes the deck a little more likely to survive into the midgame. Having an extra Dark Banishing is crucial against very aggressive decks. And the extra Swordsmith means I can drop one on turn 4 to chump block, knowing that by the time I get to 6 or 7 mana I'm likely to see another.

Let me know what you think of this deck. I've had some fun playing it, with nearly triple-digit life scores in a couple of games.

Read More Articles by Jeff Boes!

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