The Apprentice's Workshop - Episode 13

The Apprentice's Workshop


15 March 2013



Ok. If your name is Replayced, Altharus, MagnorCriol, killroy726, or theperson98, you guys are all currently in line for imminent workshops, in that order. Everyone else who's gotten in line, remind me when I told you to remind me, and I'll get to you.

Today's deck

Sensei taught me the secrets of divination

Modern RussischerZar


This is a modern, casual deck.

Decklist (60)

Instant (15)

2x AEtherize

2x Dispel

2x Echoing Truth

3x Into the Roil

3x Negate

3x Telling Time

Artifact (2)

1x Lightning Greaves

1x Sphinx-Bone Wand

Enchantment (2)

2x Training Grounds

Sorcery (8)

3x Mystic Speculation

3x Serum Visions

2x Time Stretch

Creature (10)

4x Delver of Secrets  Flip

3x Djinn of Wishes

3x Snapcaster Mage

Land (23)

3x Halimar Depths

20x Island

Sideboard (15)

3x Commandeer

3x Dissipate

2x Echoing Truth

3x Pithing Needle

1x Snapcaster Mage

3x Surgical Extraction

Deck's Idea

All right, so this deck has a pretty fun idea. It has immense amounts of scrying, first of all. Its plan has three stages:

1 - Get Djinn of Wishes out.

2 - Get a Time Stretch cast, preferably by using the cheap and fast Djinn of Wishes.

3 - Abuse the extra turns to win, by casting more Time Stretch using Snapcaster Mage or Djinn of Wishes (or hardcasting), swinging for the win with Djinn of Wishes and a few other creatures, or winning with Sphinx-Bone Wand.

A good, fun casual idea. The deck as constructed will win plenty of games. But.......

A Rule to Consider

There are very common deckbuilding errors, and these errors are frequently made by the experienced and inexperienced alike. Probably THE most common error, aside from having too few lands, is spreading your deck too thin by having a few copies of lots of different things.

This is a problem! It makes your deck run unreliably, and unless all your cards are absolutely as good as any of the other cards in any given situation, then your deck will also be underperforming.

The most frequent cause of this "too thin" problem is trying to make your deck have an answer for every conceivable threat or situation. This isn't possible. You should always pick the main idea of your deck, and then DEDICATE to that idea. Make the deck run inexorably and smoothly toward that idea. When you include answers, include as few unique ones as possible; just run lots of copies of the BEST ones for your deck. This is what I mean when I refer to "tightness," a tight deck is one that has lots of copies of a few cards, and thus runs very reliably and efficiently (if the cards are chosen well).

Here's a handy rule of thumb that applies to most (though not all) 60-card-minimum format decks that one might build, which will help your decks stay tight and reliable.

Count the number of UNIQUE NON-LAND cards that you have in the deck. Don't worry about how many copies you have of each, just count the number of DIFFERENT cards (except for the lands, which we don't care about) that you have. If the number is around 12 or so, you are on the border of having too many unique cards, but might be able to justify it depending on the deck. 13 is very dubious. 14 is almost certainly bad. 15 and up, I am absolutely certain than you need to cut some cards and add more copies of other cards that you already have.

This is only a rule of thumb. Experienced players know when, why, and how to break this rule. But unless you can justify a departure from the rule clearly and convincingly, you should stick to it, especially if you're relatively inexperienced.

This deck has 15 unique non-lands, and I don't think we need all of them, so let's take a look at cards that I consider to be on the chopping block.

Questionable cards


Aetherize is not a bad card and will do excellent service in this deck. But it is a little dubious in this deck because we already have so much OTHER bounce which we apparently hope to use as answers. Not cutting it yet, but let's come back to it later and see if it still makes sense after we make some changes.

Echoing Truth

This card probably says a lot about RussischerZar's local group metagame. It's a puzzling choice otherwise; this card is excellent against tokens, but is thoroughly mediocre otherwise. If our deckbuilder is going up against a ton of token decks, this makes sense, otherwise I'd suggest cutting it.

Into the Roil

Another strange choice; blue has better answers for things than just to bounce them. Of course, this deck is trying to buy time to get its machinery working, but I think there are better ways to do that than this card.

Training Grounds

This is here for the sole purpose of reducing Djinn of Wishes' activated ability cost. Two copies is not a reliable way of doing this, and indeed, if we get out more than one copy, it's a total waste. Probably the deck is better served by other cards in this slot to protect its combo (or if speeding up is the concern, then by just plain ramping).

Lightning Greaves

Dubious at one copy. Yes, sometimes our opponents will have kill spells, AND we will have the Greaves, AND we will be able to equip it to a Djinn before they can use their kill spells, but the cost is that we have a complicating one-of that will make our deck less consistent, and which has limited utility outside of protecting the Djinn. Cut.

The other cards all make lots of sense to me. Only the proportions give me concern; we have a lot of 1x and 2x of stuff, and that's going to make our deck run a bit clumsily. Let's try to shore that up by cutting some more cards for tighness' sake while we consider some cards to add.


We have 8 card slots. One of these I'm putting toward a land, because this is a fairly mana-heavy deck and 23 is a bit low. One more Halimar Depths is very nice for this deck, so let's do that. Another Island would also be excellent, and probably just as good as Depths; 4x Depths will be hard to use correctly, although in the end I think it's the better choice over Island.

This leaves us with 7. What strikes me is this - the deck needs a: to establish its combo pieces quickly, and b: to defend the combo once established. Instead of defending ourselves with AEtherize, I think it would be a better idea to just force our own idea on the opponent than to worry about attackers; the number of cases where AEtherize will win us games by buying us JUST enough time is very low. So I think I'll cut that as well.

Now we have a mighty nine slots.

The first thing I want to put in is another counterspell, not JUST because I am me, but because this deck's best way of protecting itself is counterspells. Since the deck also loves to scry, we'll use Condescend. Let's put in 4x Condescend. Dispel is looking kind of weaksauce at this point, so we'll also cut it and go up to 4x Negate.

After these changes, we have six spots. Four of these I want to use on ramping this deck up. Blue is a difficult color to ramp, but because it's mono-colored, we can easily get away with the reliable Everflowing Chalice. 4x of that is a great idea, as they work well with each other.

The remaining 2 spaces I want to use on giving us MORE copies of existing good cards. Sphinx-Bone Wand is going to be the primary win condition, and 2x seems best for this; we want to draw one a game, but we want to be sure that it's not hiding near the bottom of the deck.

The other space goes to Serum Visions, a nice little engine for the deck that will help pump that new Sphinx-Bone Wand as well.

I have no other changes; the sideboard seems to me to be quite well-chosen, and the deckbuilder knows what he's going to go up against in his local casual environment a lot better than we do.

KrazyCaley's Recommended Build (60)

Instants (11)

4x Negate

4x Condescend

3x Telling Time

Artifacts (6)

2x Sphinx-Bone Wand

4x Everflowing Chalice

Land (24)

20x Island

4x Halimar Depths

Sorceries (9)

3x Mystic Speculation

4x Serum Visions

2x Time Stretch

Creatures (10)

4x Delver of Secrets  Flip

3x Djinn of Wishes

3x Snapcaster Mage

Sideboard (15)

3x Commandeer

3x Dissipate

2x Echoing Truth

3x Pithing Needle

1x Snapcaster Mage

3x Surgical Extraction

That's what I think. Help our deckbuilder in the comments below if you have better ideas compared to me, which you always do, you clever, clever group of website users.

This article is a follow-up to The Apprentice's Workshop - Episode 12 The next article in this series is The Apprentice's Workshop - Episode 14 (Epic Four Deck Edition)

RussischerZar says... #1

Again I learned a lot from reading this. Thanks a lot for doing this, Caley! :)

March 15, 2013 7:19 p.m.

RussischerZar says... #2

Although I'm kind of sad that you removed the Training Grounds :/

March 15, 2013 7:20 p.m.

KrazyCaley says... #3

In the words of LeVar Burton, "don't take my word for it," or at least, don't view me as infallible. It's your deck, after all, and you like a card after thinking things out, you should stick with that card. My view is that Everflowing Chalice is a better way of accomplishing the same thing, basically, but your mileage may vary, of course.

March 15, 2013 7:26 p.m.

http404error says... #4

For non-green mono-color ramp, I find that Wayfarer's Bauble serves me well. I have a lot of copies of it, especially in blue decks.

March 16, 2013 3:06 p.m.

KrazyCaley says... #5

@http404error - I use Wayfarer's Bauble in a few decks myself, especially in multicolor decks that don't have blue, or in decks I built before Everflowing Chalice existed. For mono-color decks where I don't need a lot OF that color, I tend to prefer Everflowing Chalice these days, though.

March 16, 2013 6:08 p.m.

If our pilot wants a generalized answer, he can also consider Capsize as a repeatable spell (for the Sphinx-Bone Wands) that has the potential to buy a ton of time over a casual game.

March 17, 2013 3:01 p.m.

RussischerZar says... #7

The problem is that it's not legal for modern :)

March 17, 2013 4:24 p.m.

Right. My bad, missed that on the first read through.

March 17, 2013 7:26 p.m.

jokercrow says... #9

I think this deck was a good example of a deck that can use 15 different cards since the player can almost always choose his next card. That way, he can choose the card that fits the best the situation.

I agree with KrazyCaley about Training Grounds , it was the first card I wanted to remove. You probably know better than us if it's really useful by probably having played the deck a lot, but at first sight, since the ability of Djinn of Wishes cost less than Djinn himself, and because he is the only one using the Grounds, it seems more like a useless card.

March 27, 2013 10:49 a.m.

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