I used to be a much more competitive Magic player than I am currently. I used to own cards. I had a numerous playsets of foil chase rares like Tarmogoyf and Polluted Delta. Then something changed. I just didn’t have the desire to play that seriously anymore. I sold my off all my cards over time, watching them slowly dribbling away until there was very little left in my collection. I still drafted at my local shop and attended pre-releases, but that was more of an excuse to see friends.
It wasn’t until my first draft of triple Innistrad that I encountered Burning Vengeance. I was flipping through a pick mid-way through the first pack and when I saw it I became excited. I tried to draft around it very unsuccessfully, ending up with a mediocre B/R Vampire aggro deck with triple Rakish Heir being one of the few highlights. I’ve tried to draft around Vengeance numerous times since, and these decks typically sit at the “insane” or “crap-tacular” ends of the spectrum with little in between. This isn’t an article about limited, however. I imagine most drafters will know that you’ll want to be red/blue and pick flashback cards highly if you’re wanting to get the most out of Vengeance. This article is about constructed.
I rarely have pet cards. I can only really think of three off the top of my head. The first one was Coretapper. This is a legacy of my time as a casual player, mucking around with terrible, terrible decks. I still have a soft spot for him. I picture him strutting into a club, his metal body buffed to a blinding shine, querying in a deep, bass “Where my cores at?“. The second was Oona, Queen on the Fae, who I played in my Standard and Block Faeries decks as a singleton. On my way to winning a twenty-two man Scottish PTQ I remember my deck being described as “The most random Faeries list ever” by my five colour elemental opponent. This was as Oona was steaming in there for his last few points of life. I even got to Eyeblights Ending his only blocker in my upkeep for full smug points.
Burning Vengeance is my new pet card and probably my favourite of all time.
I proxied up a list for Vengeance after that first draft and tried out some practice draws. It was quite rough, but there was potential hidden amongst that stacks of discarded limited commons defaced with a sharpie. Here’s what I started with:
My practice draws led me to the conclusion that Grim Lavamancer wasn’t right for the deck. I just never wanted to cast him, and the fact that he ate cards out of my graveyard made it extremely hard to fire off those late-game Ancestral Recalls that I was hankering after. I paid the Standard metagame some half-hearted attention and continued to show up to draft and talk nonsense. I tuned the deck as I went along adding bits and pieces until I ended up with this:
4 x Snapcaster Mage
4 x Dream Twist
4 x Visions of Beyond
3 x Galvanic Blast
4 x Think Twice
4 x Desperate Ravings
4 x Mana Leak
1 x Memory’s Journey
4 x Burning Vengeance
4 x Dissipate
3 x Slagstorm
1 x Runic Repetition
It’s worth talking about the general strategy of the deck for a moment. This isn’t a combo deck. Vengeance is a draw-go deck. Only eight of your spells are sorcery speed and you should be very careful about when you choose to play them. Often against opposing control decks it’s best to run out Vengeances early into their counter-magic, but in the majority of situations your turn will be spend drawing a card, playing a land, and shipping the turn. Oh, and looking smug. Don’t forget to look smug. People hate control players for a reason.
The deck has no creatures. Let’s be honest, Snapcaster Mage isn’t a creature in this deck. He’s just a means to get flashback on cards that don’t have it printed on them. This must have been some oversight on the part of R&D. I blame Aaron Forsythe, Mark Rosewater and that other guy personally. Sure, he attacks for two and blocks on the odd occasion, but it’s not as if we’re giving opposing decks a bevy of targets for all their otherwise dead removal spells.
I’ve always been a big fan of the Alan Comer school of deckbuilding. The basic idea is that for every two cantrips you play, you can cut a land. With twelve early card drawing spells we can cheat on the lands a little. This can cause some problems in the early game against aggressive strategies as you fumble to draw mana, but against control you will have plenty of time to mess around with your draw spells.
On first brush, Dream Twist seems like a terrible card, but it’s simply fantastic in this deck. First, it “draws” you into action by keeping your graveyard stocked with flashback cards. Second, it’s flashback cost is nice and cheap. Third, it’s a threat. Against control decks you’ll play a much longer game, and Dream Twist gives you a different angle of attack. There are some other fringe benefits to the card, like providing fuel for Tiago in a pinch.
I chose Visions over other considerations like Ponder or Gitaxian Probe due to the fact that it’s an instant. When playing Vengeance you rarely tap out in your turn and being able to cantrip at instant speed with Snapcaster is great utility. Nevermind that you occasionally get to Ancestral Recall deep into a game. There will be a temptation to hold Visions for maximum value, but you really need to burn through them to fix your draws. You can always Snapcaster them back or re-cur them with Memory’s Journey later.
The reason I chose Blast over a more complementary card like Geistflame is simply because it kills more things. Certainly, Geistflame interacts more favourably with Burning Vengeance, but being able to kill a larger population of creatures for the same mana cost won out in the end. I wouldn’t fault those of you out there for choosing to play Shock over Galvanic Blast in an attempt to limit the number of syllables you have to speak in any given day, but remember, you can always just say “Blast you“. Besides, “Blast your man” sounds funnier. At least to me, but then again I’m easily amused.
The standard counter-magic tag team.
Think Twice is a real no brainer in this deck, but Desperate Ravings is the real sauce. The awesome sauce. I was all over Ravings well before professional snake-oil salesman Patrick Chapin had even decided to “innovate” it at all. Is his nick-name self applied? I find that whole thing mildly embarassing. Woah, shot off on a tangent there. Anyway, Desperate Ravings is the real reason this deck gets to play fast and loose with it’s land counts. Just remember to be careful with your Ravings and only cast them when you have to. If you’ve got a Dissipate in hand that you’re relying on, don’t pull the trigger. Save it until later.
You really haven’t lived a full and rich life until you’ve cast a Snapcaster Ultimatum. Snapcaster Ultimatum goes something like this: 1UU Instant – Put a 2/1 into play, draw three cards, deal two damage to target creature or player, deal two damage to target creature or player. I would go more of the top (hey, it’s possible that’s only two Burning Vengeances), but you get the idea. Get excited about flashing back Brainstorm all you want, Eternal players, this is the real broken-ness.
This small two card package allows you to go infinite. You flashback Memory’s Journey shuffling in Runic Repetition and up to two other cards, then eventually cast Runic Repetition targetting the Memory’s Journey, then use Journey to shuffle the Repetition back into your deck. You don’t go infinite the traditional sense that you can perform a functionally never-ending loop in a single turn, but it means that you’ll never run out of action. This gives you a fantastic late-game against opposing control decks as you can recur your threats like Vengeance or Dream Twist (this is due to the fact that you can cast two Runic Repetitions per cycle through Memory’s Journey).
Fringe benefits of Memory’s Journey include protecting your graveyard from attack from cards like Surgical Extraction and Nihil Spellbomb, as well as messing with opposing Snapcasters and other graveyard shenanigans like Unburial Rites or Buried Ruin.
Sometimes you have to sweep the board, and they (R&D again) wouldn’t let me play with Firespout anymore. I have used the alternate ability of Slagstorm to burn out some control players. Always bear this option in mind.
These are only rough guides, so feel free to experiment with different configurations.
vs Control decks
vs G/W Tokens
vs Wolf Run
I took the deck to small local tournament, and managed to go 4-0 without too much difficultly. I defeated U/G Aggro Control (similar to Ali Antrazi’s), Wolf Run and two blue-based control decks, only dropping a single game to a Thrun when I foolishly kept a one land with a few cantrips that stubbornly refused to develop.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for sharing,