THE HUMBLE CLONE
Hello fellow Magic fans! It’s finally time to talk about some of my favourite creatures in the multiverse: the humble Clone! Clones are generally costed at around four mana, though sometimes they are over costed with an upside (Progenitor Mimic), and sometimes heavily under costed with a downside (Phantasmal Image). They have seen fringe play in standard for years, generally in sideboards against decks with huge threats that can really only be dealt with by having your own copy. Some recent examples of this were Clever Impersonator, which had the upside of entering as any non-land permanent on the battlefield. This was a great counter to a resolved Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. Your opponent resolves an Ugin and exiles the field with a negative four loyalty for example, leaving only an Ugin on board. For four mana you can make an Ugin of your own on your turn, uptick and bolt theirs, and you’re left with an Ugin sitting comfortably on nine Loyalty and your opponent with and empty field facing the biggest threat in the game!
Altered Ego was the next of the bunch. For X2UG you could make a copy of any creature on the battlefield which was unable to be countered. This card scaled nicely through the game as the more mana you had the more you could scale your clone to be bigger than your opponents or your own best threat. If your opponent had a 4/4, you could pay four to have the same size creature, or eight to make it an 8/8. The idea behind this card was great! However, in practice being a gold card it really limited the decks it could fit into and basically saw no play outside of crazy brews, or in the sideboard occasionally versus control decks.
Wizards have been constantly tweaking the Clones, trying to find new and innovative ways for us to play with them. Their power level keeps creeping up and I always find myself looking at clones trying to find fun ways to put them into competitive decks. The newest clone, Vizier of Many Faces, immediately got my attention when it was spoiled. At face value it’s just like your regular Clone, except that you have a chance to buy it back as a token through the embalm mechanic, giving you a second chance to utilise the card and some card advantage because of this. It is also a valuable mechanic, making it work well around cards like Essence Scatter. They can counter it on the way in but it’s much harder to counter from the graveyard.
This got me thinking recently (as it always does) about how to best utilise this great card in a deck that may be great in Standard Format. My first port of call was to see what good creatures I could put in my deck that I would want more than four copies of. I was drawn to Ixalan and to dinosaurs as there were some big boys there for a brewer to get excited about!
Regisaur Alpha and Carnage Tyrant seemed like two great cards to copy. Copying Alpha gave a lot of power for a little cost over several bodies, and making a second Hexproof 7/6 trample for four mana seemed very reasonable. I eventually added Saheeli Rai as well, as her negative two ability made copies of creatures. I was getting my Clone on and getting it on well! You could easily represent at least 14 hasty damage on turn four out of nowhere with Saheeli sitting on the field on turn three (with a mana dork).
Looking at enter the battlefield effects was key, and basically the deck just ended up being a good value deck after removing the dinosaur synergy in favour of cards like Rogue Refiner. This led to Regisaur being a one piece combo with less of a dinosaur tribal synergy. It had evolved into a bastardised version of Temur Energy and I stopped playing the list.
A DECKBUILDER’S PROCESS
With my heart shattered at the fact I had basically ended up brewing a worse version of Temur Energy, I thought I’d need to look elsewhere. However, I had not given up on Vizier just yet. I thought some more. Outside of simply bringing back the Vizier I was not taking advantage of all the card had to offer. I took a look inside what Vizier of Many Faces offered as a card in full.
- Can Clone any creature currently on the battlefield.
- Can be brought back from the graveyard.
- Comes from the graveyard as a token copy.
- Comes from the graveyard as a Zombie in addition to its other types.
These four things became the basis of how I intended to structure my next brew. I wanted to try to utilise all of the synergies.
Good enter the battlefield triggers were going to be essential. In blue I had access to a three drop called Champion of Wits. This card drew me cards and allowed me to discard to the graveyard. Making a copy of this seemed like a good engine. I thought that putting Saheeli Rai into this list would also be good again for my idea of making as many clones as possible. We started off in Izzet.
BACK FROM THE GRAVE
Along the same lines as Champion of Wits, I was looking for a spell that helped me dump cards to the graveyard but also gave me advantage. Cathartic Reunion immediately sprung to mind as I had used it previously in many graveyard matters decks.
- It was red ✔
- it filled my graveyard ✔ and
- it drew me cards. ✔
If I was to willingly discard cards to my yard, I wanted to take advantage of as much embalm and eternalize as possible. Vizier of the Anointed was a card I remembered playing in draft and loving! It would enter the battlefield and tutor an embalm or eternalize a creature to the graveyard. It was in blue, ✔ so I put it on the list. As I delved deeper I could not stay just in blue/red, however. The embalm and eternalize cards in those two colours did not offer the highest impact outside of the ones currently mentioned. The premium spells were in white. So I decided to continue my journey.
White creatures such as Angel of Sanctions gave me non-traditional removal that worked well with the theme. Now I needed cheap creatures. Anointer Priest helped me gain life and soaked up early damage. Sacred Cat was included in conjunction with the Priest. It was also a cheap first target for the Vizier of the Anointed to look for that early draw of his second ability. My deck was filling up fast.
If I’m going to play white, and I’m making token creatures, I have to play four copies of Anointed Procession, that’s a no-brainer. This would be the linchpin of the deck. The Cathartics and the Champions would loot me into the Processions as well.
ZOMBIE IN ADDITION TO OTHER TYPES
Thinking on this for some time showed me that there were some black cards that worked with zombie matters. Most notably Scarab God, and to a lesser extent Liliana, Death’s Majesty. There was already an Anointed Procession Scarab God list out and I wanted to avoid what happened with Temur Clones. I wanted to keep the deck focused on embalm. I also didn’t want to destabilise the mana base to oblivion.
Then a friend suggested a card to me I had totally forgotten existed, Embalmer’s Tools. I could tap a zombie to mill a player which I may want to utilise for myself, potentially filling my yard with embalm creatures. Otherwise, once the board is set up, I could mill my opponent out as an alternate win condition to damage. It also makes embalm and eternalize cost 1 less from the yard which could be extremely useful.
I took the deck into some practice rooms and ironed out the wrinkles. I tried it first with some removal such as Fumigate, Abrade, and Cast Out in the mainboard, but found the deck was playing out as if it didn’t require these cards in most situations pre-board. Full combo seemed to be the way to go game one. I have entered two competitive leagues with this list and both times have gone 4-1, beating a variety of the tier one standard lists. Here is my current list!
OTHER NOTES ON THE LIST
I know what you’re thinking… two black lands in the board. After playing a lot of matches versus Scarab God decks, I have found it incredibly important to have black mana for the activation after you have your own God, and don’t like them clogging up the mainboard. The black mana is vital to those match ups. Another notable card I haven’t mentioned yet is Aven Wind Guide. This creature is a very effective way to get your team in for the win, as it gives all of your tokens flying and vigilance. The single Sunscourge Champion is just a handy little Vizier of the Anointed target that can gain you valuable additional life.
The two-of Embalmer’s Tools have been amazing in drawn out match ups, as well to be brought in versus control decks; most notably against Approach of the Second Sun to mill it away just in time!
I hope this article has given you some insight into how I personally approach brewing decks and can help you when trying to build competitive brews of your own. Brews are a constant evolution, as are all competitive magic decks. Staying up to date with meta is the key to victory. Finding holes in the competitive scene is a hard task, but its always worth it to attack from many angles. In my opinion, this process greatly assists in your ability to be a great magic player in general, whether you’re playing a brew or a tier 1 list. It’s all about understanding the cards, and recognising where AND when certain cards will be good and bad in any given competitive Magic meta, then building decks that complement them.
Happy brewing and good luck!