Hold the Line – Evolving a MTG Event Deck with Mark Pinder

Hold the Line – Evolving a MTG Event Deck with Mark Pinder


Well I don’t write an article for almost a year and then the writing bug hits so within a week I am working on my second article.

Last year I met Cecile, after a few  months we are living together and she wants to take an interest in my life, she joins me at Magic a few times and then she decides this looks like a nice hobby to share, so asks me to get her a deck so I can teach her to play. We actually took advantage of Wizards of the Coast recent invention, the event deck. I am a big fan of event decks as can be seen here. At this point I decided that actually the mono white “Hold the Line” event deck would make a good early choice on how to learn to play with and develop her skills.

This is the original deck list

24 Plains
4 Accorder Paladin
1 Champion of the Parish
4 Doomed Traveler
1 Elite Inquisitor
2 Elite Vanguard
4 Fiend Hunter
4 Gideon’s Lawkeeper
2 Mirran Crusader
4 Bonds of Faith
2 Butcher’s Cleaver
2 Honor of the Pure
4 Oblivion Ring
2 Silver-Inlaid Dagger


4 Celestial Purge
4 Leonin Relic-Warder
1 Nevermore
3 Nihil Spellbomb
3 Suture Priest


So what happened to the original cards in the deck ? This is our journey with the deck.

The Main Deck

Elite Inquisitor

Well I have never really rated this card and with only one in the deck it got cut rather quickly. In fact this card was traded away at the local club for something else the deck needed.

Elite Vanguard

This card stayed in the deck for some time and being uncommon it was easy to get a couple more copies to help put on early pressure. However, as better cards became available when Dark Ascension came along these got cut.

Gideon’s Lawkeeper

This card stayed in the deck for a long time and was a very useful card. The card was even in the sideboard for a while. Eventually though we decided we wanted to be more aggressive with the deck.

Bonds of Faith

Unfortunately for this useful little card its life expectancy was short due to a local metagame full of humans in various guises.

Butcher’s Cleaver

Guess what, a life gain card and this card  pretty much stayed around until Christmas.

Silver-Inlaid Dagger

This card was a very early cut as Honor of the Pure is such a better fit to the deck.

And now the main deck cards that have remained in the deck.

Accorder Paladin

Cecile really likes this card, although we have reduced the number of copies down from four to two.

Champion of the Parish

Originally we cut this card, as a one of it never seemed to be that effective. Then came the revelation moment, I was running black white tokens and I dropped it turn one and just kept getting bigger, it was an absolute house. Of course this just happened to be against Cecile and she remembered “I have one of those, right ?”. And of course all the creatures in the deck are human so it just works like a dream.

Not long after I am hearing those fateful words “Mark, can you get me more of these?”. Now one my players recently commented it is awesome I have a magic playing girlfriend, he wasn’t best pleased a couple of hours later when paired against her and she went Champion of the Parish turn one, Accorder Paladin turn two, Mirran Crusader turn three and double Honor of the Pure turn four.

How do I feel about having a Magic playing girlfriend, it would be awesome if she could stop beating me at FNM and maybe it would be nice to have some white cards left in my trade binder occasionally!

Doomed Traveler

Awesome one drop, one of my favourite cards in the format and never even considered removing them from the deck. Cecile loves them to as they get so big really quick. Ooer matron, take them away!

Fiend Hunter

So many times I have heard the words “play Fiend Hunter”  followed by a rustling of cards as her opponent scoops. The card works really well with Honor of the Pure though it can be a bit shaky against the removal from black decks but generally the Mirran Crusaders have won the battles. Speaking of which …..

Mirran Crusader

The MVP of the deck, this card is pretty much the offensive weapon the deck is built around, sure the early beats from Champion of the Parish and Doomed Traveller are key, but the Mirran Crusader just dodges so much removal and beats hard. Was the first card we went to four of in the deck. I let Cecile have my English ones as I went out and acquired some lovely pimped foreign ones.

Honor of the Pure

This card never gets cut or side boarded, without doubt it is key to the decks success.

Oblivion Ring

This card answers pretty much anything and is also one of Cecile’s favourites.

The Sideboard

Celestial Purge

Still has a big part in the sideboard and has an important part to play in the deck.

Leonin Relic-Warder

Like in most places Tempered Steel decks are hardly seen and to be fair very few players locally can afford all the “Swords”, with this in mind we were able to reduce the number needed.


We expanded the number of these as it is a catch all answer to so many decks.

Nihil Spellbomb

Graveyard hate is useful but the matches where it is relevant are actually pretty good matches, control draw spells find they are daggering for answers before being blown out of the water and Zombies is one of the best matchups for the deck.

Suture Priest

This card has been awesome as so many local decks are running tokens, the life loss from this card can be devastating to them.

— An aside —

So how was our journey rebuilding the deck, this is where a new player has to be honest with themselves and decide how committed to the game they are or are going to be. Magic can be an expensive past time, do you want to have a nice deck that you can play winning a few matches along the way or do you have serious aspiration’s of dominating your FNM scene.

Cecile was very much of a mind she wanted to win and compete. This put us on a much more interesting path and one that was also going to be more expensive, Honor of the Pure has been printed three times and was also a “Buy a Box” promo so there are plenty in circulation driving the price down, relatively speaking you can say the same about Mirran Crusader as it has also been in two event decks, sorry make that three event decks now.

We were in December so with Christmas approaching disposable income for the pair of us wasn’t brilliant. Luckily I was heading to a PTQ with friends and was able to do some wheeling and dealing on behalf of Cecile, cards were traded with other players and I also found the local dealers buy list to generate some store credit assisted by “bulking in” some rares.

This is where a player can be really cute, see what the dealers actually want or need, normally commons are not worth much if any money, but if they are a “Legacy” staple then actually they could just be what the doctor ordered, all those last pick “Spell Pierces” can suddenly become quite attractive when your folder is empty and there is a “Legacy Dual Land” event taking place the following day. Then there is the “Bulking in” option, seriously check into this once you have a few cards, ten pence per rare may not seem much but how easy is it going to be find someone to take those six Arcane Melee off your hands.

I discovered my personal trade folder was crammed with cards from the past six months that hadn’t moved from the binder, all that drafting and sealed pools suddenly were replaced with some cool playable cards. Now not every beginning player will have oodles of disposable income or a partner who can help, it just means that your goals have to be set over a more realistic time scale.

My first thoughts were to add a second colour as “Gavony Township” and “Moorland Haunt” appealed to me but Cecile was adamant “White” was her colour and at that point I didn’t press the matter as the deck is unlikely to lose to colour screw so be a bit easier to play. Seriously, if you are lucky enough to have a partner who plays, do not force the issue and let them grow into the game, eventually the ideas you have for them will come as their suggestions.

— An aside —

Hero of Bladehold

This is an obvious slam dunk of a card in this deck, this card either breaks the opponent in one foul swoop or even worse being dropped after a wrath effect you throw down another enormous threat for the opponent to deal with. Hero of Bladehold on the opposing side is akin to juggling hand grenades for a hobby. The good thing about Hero is that buckets of them are about as they were a Pre Release card or was it Release event card, I don’t rightly remember but the principal is still the same to help drive down its price.

Angelic Destiny

There are times in Magic when you regret being so helpful. I bought Cecile her first copy as a Christmas present, well it was a stocking filler but as it wasn’t jewellery, a hand bag  or shoes it came as a surprise. The biggest surprise though was yet to come, Angelic destiny on Mirran Crusader, queue a puzzled look, “Swing”, ”MARK ! Don’t spoil it, you know I hate you picking up your cards and sulking”, “Cecile, that’s a seven / six flying double strike creature. I’ve no flying blockers and am only on 14 !”, “Ohhh I win !”. Realisation dawns then how good the card is, you know I mentioned earlier how cool it can be having a Magic playing girlfriend, well here comes the collateral damage of the situation “Mark, do we have any more of those ??”. Cecile still has my foil Angelic Destiny in her deck and must find a non foil one for her at some point.

Ghost Quarter

This was one of the most confusing things I did to Cecile, a colourless land that doesn’t do a lot. Well, to you and I it probably does do a lot, to a new player in a play group of predominately school kids with low disposable income it doesn’t have that many good targets like Kessig Wolf Run or Gavony Township. Somehow though she always seem to draw it when playing me to remove my Vault of the Archangel.

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

This card when coupled with Champion of the Parish is just awful for so many decks. Yes, it affects Oblivion Ring, Angelic Destiny and Honor of the Pure. However, it kicks so many other decks in the teeth it is unreal. Never mind Cavern of Souls, when you are on the draw and this card comes down those mana leaks for the Mirran Crusader are dead in your hand.

Grand Abolisher

This was one of the most confusing conversations I have ever had with Cecile about Magic, there I was going off to Leeds for the day to attend the Modern PTQ and Cecile says she wants another card for her deck. This is the dreaded conversation for me and I wonder what bulk rare card has she seen now that she is convinced will push her deck over the top. Imagine my surprise when she says “Grand Abolisher”, hang on a minute, that’s actually a good card and has plenty of synergy with the deck. I am more than a little bit confused though still as she hasn’t really ever taken much interest in deck construction and pretty much leaving me to it.

When I get home with two copies for her and her fourth Champion of the Parish the secret is revealed. Cecile had recently made a trip to her home country, taking her deck with her just in case she got chance of playing and to this end she’d been looking into FNM options in the “Magic in the Philippines” group on Facebook. Whilst she hadn’t been close enough to go a shop she had along the way picked up a new friend called “Jan, Jay it appears is Jan Ang, the current Philippines National Champion.  Jan had looked over out little deck, been really impressed and then suggested a couple of options, better still Cecile also had the optimum plays written down for her deck and some sideboard strategies listed against popular decks/archetypes.

Moral of the story, don’t think because you are a new player that people will ignore you, in fact many players get a buzz that you asked them for help over all the other choices you could have done. If you are a new player reading this article, already you have made some great strides by researching into the game further but start to network with the game in general.

Sideboard Options

Angel of Jubilation

Cecile saw this card on the spoiler for Avacyn Restored, she immediately liked it and wanted it, in fact so much so when I was browsing the local shops folders she had the card out in seconds and buying it. Cecile had her play set weeks before I had got mine which was a first. This card made the sideboard from Cecile’s own choice and was a turning point for her.

Usually Cecile will say I want to put his card in, should I and I will answer “Why do you want to put it in ? What it is better than ?”. Usually I don’t get an answer and the card stays put it in the folder, this time I got a speech about some mysterious cards that her opponent paid life for which were different colours to their deck, aha she knows about Phyrexian mana, apparently someone won’t be casting Dismember anytime soon on her Hero of Bladehold.

Day of Judgment

Cecile has a love hate relationship with this card, she had it main deck for a time but it always seemed to be in her hand when she had the better board position, never when she actually needed it. However, Cecile steadfastly refuses to bring it out of her sideboard just in case.

So where are we now, below is deck list we have at the moment.

21 Plains
2 Ghost Quarter
2 Accorder Paladin
4 Champion of the Parish
4 Doomed Traveler
2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
3 Grand Abolisher
4 Fiend Hunter
3 Hero of Bladehold
4 Mirran Crusader
4 Honor of the Pure
4 Oblivion Ring
3 Angelic Destiny


2 Celestial Purge
2 Leonin Relic-Warder
3 Nevermore
2 Angel of Jubilation
3 Suture Priest
3 Day of Judgment

It’s still at its heart the Hold the Line deck as many core cards still remain, some of those cards like Mirran Crusader have been maxed out to four of and the flavour is very much mono white humans. Every week now Cecile is looking at her cards and tweaking the deck or sideboard, I have hardly that much influence over the deck these days, occasionally she will ask “Mark, I need a new card to make the deck better”.

Final Thoughts

However, you are probably thinking how successful have we been with our little creation over the past six months.

Our friend Sam borrowed the deck and went on to win the Doncaster Dark Ascension Game Day.

The following day Cecile narrowly lost in the semi finals of the Grimsby Dark Ascension Game Day.

Cecile now regularly has a winning record at our local events.

Cecile has WON at least one FNM at the club, narrowly lost out on tie breakers for other wins.

So take heart, whilst it may be a long road to your first tournament win, that goal is far from an impossible dream.

Thank you for reading,

Mark Pinder


Ps . As regular readers will know I have a penchant for pimping and blinging out my decks with foreign and foil cards, in extreme cases a foil foreign card. Cecile has now started on that dark path, as at Grand Prix Manchester, although she didn’t play in the main event,  she did hit the trade stalls and she is the proud owner of a foil Mirran Crusader.

If you are on Facebook (and who isn’t!) then you might be interested in the UK & Ireland MTG Cards For Trade & Sale Facebook group. Its now the largest trading space set up by our very own mtgUK for trading mtg cards online with other UK Magic players.

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Mark Pinder
I have competed twice at GB nationals in 2010/2008, was Runner Up at Senior Nationals 2010, Won a Grand Prix Trial which took me to Paris 2009. My love of the game was such that I did previously win a writing competition on MTG Twincast which led to me being a Feature Writer for around a year until the Sponsor sold up but still did the occasional article. There is also a verb "To Pinder"colloquially used in northern magic communities which means "to gain life", I was a solid fan of Martyr of Sands/Proclamation of Rebirth combo and many players have heard those fateful words, Sacrifice Martyr of Sands, gain 21 life against me to see the game go out of their reach with lethal damage available to them next turn.