The very first decks I tried to build when ONE was announced featured these two cards extensively:
I couldn’t pull that off last month, so I just went to the face instead. In doing that, however, I saw a few players experimenting with this fascinating artifact:
The decks I saw were using cards like Syncopate, Silver Scrutiny, and White Sun’s Twilight to take advantage of the mana reduction from Apparatus. I thought it was cute but felt the cards that best worked with Apparatus were a risk without it. After getting bored experimenting in the Standard best of 1 queues, I started tinkering with the idea that you might be able to use Mindsplice to deliver on the promise of Prologue and Auxiliary.
My initial builds were monoblue and not very successful. Building monocolored decks is a deckbuilding axiom I tend to start with; if you don’t need a second color, why bother complicating your manabase? The deck maxed out on cantrips like Prologue, Auxiliary, and Impulse and used Consuming Tide as a pseudo “wrath” effect. The deck simply didn’t cut it against the aggro decks a Bo1 queue incentivizes players to play, so it was back to the drawing board.
There I experimented with the blue-white lists I had seen others experimenting with. I even started with the spells that had “X” in the mana cost. Unfortunately, I soon proved my theory: they were bad without Mindsplice on the battlefield. White Sun’s Twilight was a “win more” card whereby Depopulate did a better job of keeping you alive so that if you survived to cast WST you weren’t going to lose anyway. Silver Scrutiny underperformed being a dud at 5 mana, when you could cast it as an instant, and while it was great if Mindsplice was on 8 counters it didn’t do much to get going. Syncopate taught me a lesson: an “X” spell is okay if it can be relevant early. ‘Pate suffered from Counterspell’s biggest weakness: sometimes your opponent has resolved a thing that will kill you before you draw it. I threw out the “big spells” version and after a week of tinkering I congregated around this decklist:
4 Union of the Third Path (BRO) 31
12 Island (SLD) 64
4 Mindsplice Apparatus (ONE) 63
4 Flow of Knowledge (BRO) 49
4 Experimental Augury (ONE) 49
3 Witness the Future (VOW) 90
4 Impulse (DMU) 55
1 Fateful Absence (MID) 18
1 Prologue to Phyresis (ONE) 65
4 Sunset Revelry (MID) 38
4 Idyllic Beachfront (DMU) 249
4 Raffine's Tower (SNC) 254
4 Spara's Headquarters (SNC) 257
4 Depopulate (SNC) 10
3 March of Otherworldly Light (NEO) 28
Instead of using Mindsplice to empower “big” spells with “X” in their casting cost, you use it to power lots of small spells with “1” in their casting costs. I found this to work better because Mindsplice begins making an impact immediately after you cast it. Instead of a turn in which you can Silver Scrutiny for one additional card, you can instead chain Impulse into Auxiliary into Witness and develop a powerful board state, even if your opponent immediately kills the Apparatus the following turn.
The manabase: lets start here because it looks…odd. I love playing monocolored decks because they make mana choices easy, but that wasn’t a winning strategy here. Adding white meant using dual lands and I admit that using only enters-the-battlefield-tapped style dual lands is odd when other options exist. What gives? I needed to make room for the engine that powers the deck, and to do that I needed all my lands to be Islands. I’m talking about, of course…
Flow of Knowledge: where Silver Scrutiny falters, Flow of Knowledge shines. To cast it for “max potential” as an instant it costs the same as Silver Scrutiny: five mana. It gets fantastic with Mindsplice when it becomes U: draw a million cards. As an instant it also allows you to fight other control decks: when they unassumingly tap out to flash back a draw spell, you fire it off to refill your hand. It gets more powerful with time as you hit each land drop, and it’s the key to filtering your deck to just the spells you want to draw by allowing you to burn through the rest. Finally, it combos with Union of the Third Path to put games against creature decks away. This looks like a “Mindsplice Apparatus” deck; it is actually a Flow of Knowledge deck.
The White Spells: this is the half of your deck you’re seeking against red decks. These cards keep you alive early by killing creatures and keep you alive late by recouping life lost and keeping you out of range of any “reach” your opponent has, be it red instants or Invoke Despair. The March of Otherworldly Light is the card that made it after lessons learned from Syncopate: an X-spell to play well both early and once you’ve got Mindsplice, but which isn’t dead if you draw it after an opponent plays their stuff. The 4th March is instead a Fateful Absence so you have at least one solution to a Liliana of the Veil before it goes ultimate.
Witness the Future: I mean…it wouldn’t be a Bill Stark deck without this, would it? You do, however, need this card to actually win. Speaking of which…
The Cantrips: Prologue, Augury, and Impulse are the early juice to get you your land drops. Prologue and Augury are also your win condition! That’s right, your Baron Harkonnen is not a flying 5/6 but a 1U instant; to win you need to resolve your singleton Prologue at least once so you can proliferate your way to the dubya with Auguries that are recycled by Witness the Future.
(Note: I completed Mythic just as MoM was dropping, and so cards from that set aren’t represented as they weren’t available for testing until the last 2 days I was grinding to Mythic.)
Playing the Deck
At its heart this is a blue-white control strategy that happens to close the game with a unique win condition. That means your game plan plays out like control decks stretching back to the Weissman THE DECK days: use removal to survive the early turns, don’t miss land drops, then kill your opponent by overwhelming them with card advantage, powered in part because of your colossal mana advantage thanks to Mindsplice.
Because I spent the month playing best of 1 in Standard, the deck has a certain bend towards beating Monored. Sunset Revelry maindeck as well as the 3 March/1 Absence split is a nod towards this. In a reasonable metagame, Revelry would be a sideboard card while the March/Absence split would be more balanced. Keep that in mind as you’re tinkering with the list now that MoM is here.
A game’s pacing usually goes something like this:
- Interact in the early turns to dig towards lands and manage the things your opponent is doing that matter to you.
- Resolve a Mindsplice or a Flow of Knowledge to start putting yourself ahead, the former by enabling you to play more spells per turn, the latter to give you the gas you need to get things done.
- Use your growing advantage to whittle your deck down to just the cards you want, while not missing land drops, and resolve Prologue to Phyresis at some point.
- Set up turns and Witness loop cycles that see you put back Witnesses, Experimental Auguries, and up to one spell you need to draw from your deck to stay alive.
- End the game in installments of UUUU: UUU to cast 3 Auguries to +1 poison counters on your opponent while digging to more Auguries/Witnesses, then the last U to Witness to shuffle it all back in and do it once more.
Despite biasing against it, the monored matchup is still a coin toss. It got some powerful tools in MOM, but also some traps: far too many red mages give you time to get ahead by attacking Invasion of Regatha. Control decks with Counterspells are trouble if they pay attention to what they need to counter (Witness), and the one thing that made me consider a 2/1 Witness the Future/Devious Cover Up split to help with this. Any deck with creatures that doesn’t have counterspells or burn is heavily in your favor, and I didn’t lose to the occasional Monoblue Tempo deck I saw pre-MOM as well.
Tips and Tricks
- Experimental Augury does a lot of work in this deck. In addition to helping you find your lands and eventually winning the game, it:
- Quickly speeds up Mindsplice via Proliferate; often it’s right to use Augury first before casting other spells on your first turn with Mindsplice because it reduces each spell following it by 1, making it “free” to cast.
- Add counters to opponent’s sagas to turn them into surprise creatures before you untap and Depopulate. (Looking at you Mirror Breaker!)
- Sneak counters on Wedding Announcement to reduce the number of creatures your opponent gets with it.
- Add counters to Reckoner Bankbuster to prevent it from creating a 1/1 and treasure.
- Adding counters to Battles when the opponent isn’t expecting it, upsetting their combat math.
- There were a few neat plays that happened while playtesting that I’ll share now:
- A Vraska player used its ultimate to put me on 9 poison counters, threatening to kill me the following turn. I proceeded to take them from 0 poison to 10 on my turn totally out of the blue.
- Poisoned my opponent to death on upkeep in manual mode with about a million Sheoldred triggers on the stack, all of which were lethal.
- Dumped excess cards to pay the mana cost on March so I could untap and get full value on Revelry whilst manascrewed against Monored.
- You will hit a state in the game where casting Flow of Knowledge is lethal. Pay attention to your land count and avoid this. It’s also wrong to recycle it late-game as it’s a worthless card once it has done its job.
- The “choose cards to discard” interface is still rough on mobile, meaning casting Flow on your iPhone is sometimes painful.
- Cast Mindsplice Apparatus on your turn when necessary to protect from Graveyard Trespasser flipping.
- Farewell and Abrade are the main ways your Mindsplices get taken out maindeck. Slowroll extras against Farewell, run extras out against Abrade. Be aware The Eternal Wanderer is a problem for Mindsplice.
- Be intentional about your land drops; you get punished for not having WW, so you must carefully plot your land drops out around that fact.
This deck is a blast to play, but I did notice a bug that keeps coming up with it. There was a consistent repro: when your beatdown opponents start getting looped, they begin to lag and use up all of their time outs. Not sure what might be causing that, but like I said it’s a pretty consistent repro.
Until next month, may your dinner not be as salty as all those beatdown players I whooped this April.