Primer Draft: Full English Breakfast

Beyond Dominia: The Type One Magic Mill: Primer Draft: Full English Breakfast

By Gzeiger (Gzeiger) on Tuesday, March 26, 2002 - 03:20 am:

The Full English Breakfast deck is a take-off of the Survival deck discussed in JP Meyer’s primer ( This may not be the deck of choice in an abstract metagame where everybody plays control, but if you understand the rules interactions and are willing to put in the time to learn the deck, I think it can compete solidly in the sorts of tournaments that most of us encounter in real life. Make no mistake, this deck posts losing matchups against Keeper and OSE, but in its defense it’s one of only a handful of creature-based decks to post a winning record against Oath, and I would choose it over Keeper in a heartbeat against a field full of strong aggro decks, especially Stompy. Just as important, this deck is far and away the most fun of the tier-2 decks to play, and it avoids many of the problems of other aggro decks in dealing with creature hosers.

The basic idea of this deck is to abuse Volrath’s Shapeshifter to the maximum extent possible. To my knowledge, several cards in this deck have never seen competitive play in any other form, Shapeshifter included, so I will include their text for reference here.

Volrath’s Shapeshifter – 1UU
Creature – Shapeshifter
As long as the top card of your graveyard is a creature card, ~this~ is a copy of that card that has "{2}: discard a card from your hand." ; {2}: Discard a card from your hand.

Survival of the Fittest allows you both to find any creature in your deck at instant speed and to put it on top of your graveyard. The Shapeshifter can become anything you want at any time you want, leading to abuse with certain fat creatures whose drawback was supposed to be mana cost or a come-into-play ability (which doesn’t trigger if the Shifter itself isn’t coming into play). Most noteworthy is

Phyrexian Dreadnought –1
Trample. ; If ~this~ would come into play, sacrifice any number of creatures with total power 12 or greater instead. If you do, put ~this~ into play. If you don't, put it into its owner's graveyard.

The basic “combo” in this deck is to first make the Shifter into a Flowstone Hellion, then play it’s ability (0: +1/-1 until end of turn) about 8 times before turning the Shifter into a Dreadnought. When all that resolves, the Shifter is a 20/4 trampling creature, and it can attack the turn it comes into play, if you do things right, because Flowstone Hellion has haste.

Like all Survival decks, this one can also abuse the interaction between Survival and Squee, Goblin Nabob to get a free Demonic Tutor every turn, thus rapidly overwhelming an opponent who allows Survival onto the table. Without digging into the entire Survival archetype since the dawn of time, the Full English Breakfast deck has very little history to call its own. It appeared at the end of Extended season immediately prior to the banning of Survival in that format, and consequently only two reports exist where the deck was actually played at a high level (and even then not pro-level).

This particular Survival build grew out of a deck constructed by Paul Barclay. The original deck had to deal with an environment heavy in the old Trix decks with Necropotence and all (but after the banning of Dark Ritual and Mana Vault), and brought its designer to the semi-finals of the PTQ, finally losing to Trix. That version played cards like Elvish Lyrist in the main deck to fight Trix, as well as a Sliver Queen and no less than three Tradewind Riders to deal with other popular decks in that format.

Paul’s tournament report is still archived at Neutral Ground ( and remains perhaps the funniest piece of Magic writing ever to grace the web.

A slightly modified version qualified Scott Wills for PT: Tokyo 2000. Scott’s changes included the addition of Palinchron so that Shapeshifters could be played more cheaply, and the inclusion of Land Grant to improve the mana (avoiding the City of Brass in the earlier version). His tournament report was published on the old Mindripper site, but fortunately still exists for historical interest (

In Type 1, we have access to a few new toys, though not many (mostly in the form of mana acceleration and search). More importantly, the other decks in the format dictate a few changes to the deck. Tradewind Rider, for example, is far less useful. Uktabi Orangutan and Elvish Lyrist or Monk Realist also don’t make the main deck in this format, although it’s essential to be on your toes when sideboarding. Cards like Powder Keg, Moat, Dystopia and even random things like Pariah and Worship can show up after boarding, and you need to know when to expect them.

There are three new creatures, too, printed since the original decklist referenced above. These will be discussed later. The short story is that the deck has become so powerful that it should win 80% of the games where Survival resolves. The downside is that against a good control player you probably can’t expect to resolve your enchantment more than half the time, and that may be optimistic. Duress is included because it’s just about the least mana-intensive way of fighting through counters, second only to Force of Will. Between the two, and combined with the mana acceleration available, you have a decent chance of getting Survival onto the table. Once that happens, the usual play is to fetch Squee with it, followed by Flowstone Hellion, Volrath’s Shapeshifter and Phyrexian Dreadnought. Often things don’t work out so well, and it’s necessary to Survival for mana – Birds and Walls – before attempting to kill. Against a control deck, it’s often advisable to attempt further disruption first.

Here’s my current decklist (it’s quite playable without the Moxes, though – a stronger red component is then desireable to support Red Elemental Blast and probably additional copies of Dwarven Miner). Please note I do not claim this list to be optimal; it’s still very much in its formative stages.

Full English Breakfast 2002

4 City of Brass
4 Tropical Island
4 Land Grant
4 Bayou
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Ruby
1 Black Lotus

Magical spells:
4 Survival of the Fittest
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Regrowth
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Demonic Tutor
4 Duress
4 Mana Drain

Fantastic creatures:
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Wall of Roots
4 Volrath’s Shapeshifter
1 Squee, Goblin Nabob
1 Quirion Ranger
2 Phyrexian Dreadnought
1 Flowstone Hellion
1 Reya Dawnbringer
1 Mystic Snake
1 Meddling Mage
1 Hypnox
1 Morphling

4 Oath of Ghouls
1 Uktabi Orangutan
1 Gorilla Shaman
1 Dwarven Miner
1 Bone Shredder (or Flametongue Kavu)
1 Shard Phoenix
1 Monk Realist
1 Rootwater Thief
1 Bottle Gnomes
1 Masticore
1 Ophidian
1 Meddling Mage

To explain the deck choices card by card (the interesting ones anyway):

Regrowth, Vampiric Tutor, Demonic Tutor – these cards exist functionally as extra copies of Survival. The fundamental challenge is to get that enchantment onto the table, and these cards help you do it. Regrowth has the backup function of retrieving a needed creature in a desperate situation where too many have gone to the grave.

4 Duress, 4 Mana Drain – used to force Survival into play. The downside to these cards, as well as the search cards above, is that they mess up the Shifters. Any time you have to counter with a Shifter in play, it reverts to a 0/1 blue guy, and will die if it has received damage this turn. Duress provides an excellent excuse to play more black mana in order to better support the tutors. Force of Will was played for a long time in Mana Drain’s slot because of the need for colored mana early on, but is unfortunately problematic, requiring the deck to play more blue cards than it might otherwise want to.

4 Wall of Roots – these are played over Llanowar Elves because they are good blockers and have the unique ability to generate two mana each turn (one on your turn, one on the opponent’s) rather than just one, as well as making mana the turn they come into play.

4 Birds of Paradise – the secret weakness of the whole deck. Birds are necessary because they provide cheap mana acceleration as well as smoothing out the mana of weird colors that is sometimes needed for a sideboard card like Monk Realist or Dwarven Miner. Unfortunately, they are very vulnerable, and they are a creature which the Shapeshifter is only too willing to copy.

A Survival player who gets too greedy and tries to pull off the one-turn kill described above, playing eight or more Hellion-pumps and then pitching a Dreadnought, will find that after a Lightning Bolt (or Shock, or to be really embarrassing Flare or Psychic Purge) puts a Bird in the graveyard, those pumps suddenly become fatal to the Shifter. Note that one +1/-1 pump should be allowed to resolve before Bolting the Bird. The Shifter will then immediately be a 1/0 and be put into the graveyard for having zero toughness. If all the pumps are still on the stack, the Survival player can find the second Dreadnought before anything bad happens.

4 Volrath’s Shapeshifter – the key card in the deck. This card is never bad to draw, and can be used as counter bait. Remember that it has the ability to discard a card even without Survival, so it can become something large and frightening to apply pressure while the Survival fight continues. As an added bonus, it’s a blue card you can pitch to Force of Will and a creature you can pitch to Survival. Note that it copies the graveyard creatures exactly – color, mana cost, abilities, everything (the rules appendix in Barclay’s report is well worth reading) – including come-into-play abilities if the Shifter itself is coming into play. It does not copy abilities that are worded “as this comes into play.” This means there’s no way to make Meddling Mage’s ability work for the Shifter, and there’s no good way to play the Spike creatures in this deck because they will always kill Shifters.

Notice, too, that cards discarded to Survival go to the grave as a cost, allowing the Shifter to change forms without anybody getting a chance to react. Hence the Shifter, once in play, is immune to nearly all removal. It can become untargetable (Morphling), any color or no color, almost any mana cost up to 11 so a Keg can’t hit it, after boarding it can even regenerate from a Disk (Masticore), and it can become ridiculously large to deal with burn.

1 Squee, Goblin Nabob – the drawing engine of the deck. Often if Survival resolves a Shapeshifter will get pitched to Squee, who gets pitched to replace the Shifter in your hand. This sets up the kill on the following turn because you’re guaranteed to have a creature in hand to go search for the Hellion and Dreadnought. Be careful of his interaction with Shifters – when you Survival him away, your Shifter becomes a 1/1, and more interestingly, a Legend. That means if you have two Shifters, they both go straight to the grave because the Legend rule asks only how long they have had a particular name, not how long they’ve been in play. Both have been a legend named Squee, Goblin Nabob since the time you discarded Squee, so they both die.

1 Quirion Ranger – he mostly just makes mana, but he’s very good at it. Any turn you would miss a land drop, he can return a tapped dual land to your hand to be played again, and simultaneously untap a Bird to generate more mana from it. He can also do other funny tricks, like messing with land totals before a Balance resolves, or making sure you have a blocker available.

2 Phyrexian Dreadnought – a large creature with no drawback. The Dreadnought received errata some time ago to correct an abusive interaction with Pandemonium – its drawback now occurs before it actually enters play, which means before a Shifter becomes a copy of it. Even a Shifter which comes into play as a copy of the Dreadnought will not incur its drawback. Two copies are played to deal with situations where a creature goes to the graveyard on top of one of them. With only a single copy in the deck this can be a big problem, but if you have the option to Survival for a second copy it’s no big deal.

Play of the week: a few days ago I actually played a Dreadnought as a spell from my hand. One Dreadnought was already in my graveyard, and I had a Shifter copying it. My opponent had put a Pariah on the Shift-Dreadnought, thus preventing it from killing him. Fortunately I was able to play the second Dreadnought, sacrificing the one with Pariah and leaving me a 12/12 trampler.

1 Flowstone Hellion – as Barclay said, as long as this card is in your deck you always have the option to deal 20 points of damage in one turn. Still I would side it out against a good Sligh player because it isn’t really useable when they have the option of killing a Bird. In that situation, as discussed above, the Hellion didn’t contribute anything more than getting the Shifter killed too.

1 Reya Dawnbringer – used in a pinch to recycle an important creature that met an untimely demise, especially one of the utility creatures from the sideboard. Reya’s Legendary status will also be a problem if there are multiple Shifters in play, but that rarely happens. During your upkeep, remember that a Shifter can return Reya to play because as soon as Reya is in play the Shifter is no longer a legend.

1 Mystic Snake – the first of the new cards I feel is worthy of the deck. It’s a bit expensive, but it’s a counterspell that can’t be Duressed, doesn’t go to the graveyard to wreak havoc on the shapeshifter, can be pitched to find a better creature if needed, and more, it can be cast through Abeyance! Too bad it doesn’t allow you to play Shifters at instant speed.

1 Meddling Mage – the second newcomer, he’s here primarily so I can have a blue card for Force of Will. His effect is potentially powerful though, and if you know your opponent’s deck it definitely has the potential to win games. Note that a Shifter which comes into play as a copy of Meddling Mage does not get to name a card – the card is named as part of the effect that puts the Mage into play (usually the resolution of the spell Meddling Mage), and the Shifter doesn’t copy it until it is already in play. So the Shifter has the text “The named card can’t be played” but it doesn’t get to name a card so nothing is actually prohibited.

1 Hypnox – the last, and most abusive, of the new arrivals. If Hypnox is in your graveyard and you play a Shapeshifter, you just played a Hypnox from your hand. Against a deck with either red or blue, my first play after resolving Survival is almost always to go get Hypnox, discard it to get the Shifter, and then play the Shifter. They’ll never get their cards back either because the Shifter will swiftly become a Dreadnought, who doesn’t have a leaves-play ability.

1 Morphling – this should be self-explanatory. It’s good enough to win games on its own, and if you have mana to burn it can also be used to make your Shifter-Dreadnoughts flying and/or untargetable before they untap. In a real pinch you can use his pump ability too (like if the Hellion got buried too deep in the graveyard).

The decision to exclude Time Walk is a difficult one, and may well be incorrect. However, the inability of the deck to search for this card makes it weaker compared to a creature card that is automatically accessible in nearly every game via Survival. Furthermore, Time Walk is potentially a dead card in this deck (a rare thing) because once again of the requirement not to mess up the graveyard for the Shapeshifter. Also, because an active Shapeshifter should almost always be able to kill a player in a single turn, there isn’t much for Time Walk to do other than get an extra land drop. In this case I’d rather have a Llanowar Elf (which didn’t make the cut anyway).

The off-color Moxes and Black Lotus are also a more difficult call. Because they don’t produce green mana, they destabilize the deck considerably and weaken the power of Survival. Often this deck can kill a player as soon as it hits a certain amount of mana (two blue, four green and one) from a position with only Survival and two random creatures in hand. The mana requirement is reduced as the combo is assembled over several turns, but can be accelerated in a trimmed down version where every mana source can make green mana. I have chosen to include the other Moxes because

Last, the sideboard:
4 Oath of Ghouls – almost as good as Survival to resolve against a control deck, this card allows you an endless supply of creatures to make a nuisance of yourself. Combined with annoying utility creatures like the Shaman, Miner, Monk Realist and Rootwater Thief, control decks will have a hard time if this hits the table. When it does, your play style should change dramatically. The deck transforms into a bad beatdown deck with a tremendously powerful drawing engine that can quickly deplete the control deck’s resources. A bottomless well of Shifters will eventually see you topdeck into something useful that they can turn into, and if you’re fortunate enough to resolve a Survival besides, the game should be in the bag.

1 Uktabi Orangutan – blows up large artifacts (notably Keg and Disk)

1 Gorilla Shaman – blows up small artifacts (notably Moxes)

1 Dwarven Miner – blows up lands, notably Library of Alexandria. Note that Strip Mine and Wasteland cause the same problem for Shifters as dead Birds – clogging your grave with lands interferes with their copying. Miner should be used to remove opposing Wastelands before committing the Dreadnought if you plan to combo-kill.

1 Bone Shredder – used to deal with problematic creatures like Dwarven Miner and Spike Weaver. Flametongue Kavu can be used instead if your environment contains many black creatures or protection from black creatures that need to be killed. Usually these are less of a concern, though, and the better mana cost of the Shredder makes it the creature of choice.

1 Shard Phoenix – randomly useful in a surprising number of ways, mostly involving Sacred Mesa or Elvish Lyrist. Also useful against some versions of Suicide Black because Carnophage, Sarcomancy and Phyrexian Negator are all vulnerable.

1 Monk Realist – some enchantments are game over if not dealt with. Moat is a big one, although Reya helps fight that. Worship is even bigger, although Shard Phoenix helps that.

1 Rootwater Thief – brought in against combo and some control decks to remove their limited victory conditions. This is often your only defense against a good combo deck like Academy, but unfortunately it’s not as strong against Replenish-based combo or Trix variants. Happily Trix is very bad, and can be combated with Elvish Lyrist if needed, and Replenish is often a bit too slow. Carrion Beetles exist to combat that threat if it’s common in your area.

1 Bottle Gnomes – against Sligh. Spike Feeder can’t be used because it interacts poorly with Shifters.

1 Masticore – the universal weenie-muncher

1 Gilded Drake – mostly to combat scrubbishness, this guy can remove troublesome enemy creatures. The Drake has a better mana cost than any other removal creature available.

1 Peacekeeper – Stompy decks can be extremely fast, and without a Spike Weaver they can be a problem. Unfortunately green is a bit light on creature removal, boasting only Berserk, Desert Twister and Unyaro Beesting. Only Berserk is playable, and it won’t kill a Peacekeeper. When you’re ready to win the game, playing a Phyrexian Dreadnought will allow you to remove the Peacekeeper in preparation for your own attack, or if he’s really a Shifter you can simply change forms.

Playing the deck

Although Type 1 has a practically unlimited number of reasonably viable deck types that you might expect at any given tournament, there are really only five archetypes for purposes of playing this deck: Control, Combo, Suicide, Sligh and Other.

The Other category is not just scrubby bad decks, although most of these do belong in this category. This includes many good decks like Stompy and Deck Parfait that simply don’t have the proper tools to fight this deck. As a general rule, anything that doesn’t fall into one of the other defined archetype categories is either an auto-win or something extremely dangerous that I haven’t thought of and haven’t played against yet. Once you know the opponent has no countermagic and no burn, just race for the kill. Aggressive decks that aren’t Sligh or Suicide have very little way to deal with a Shapeshifter who can be Morphling or Dreadnought at will.

Humorous anecdote –The following excerpt is from a game played against a Stompy deck over IRC a few days ago, and is fairly representative of this matchup.

23:04:36 - Quirion Ranger is attacking.
23:04:36 - Rogue Elephant is attacking.
23:04:44 - Wall of Roots now has 3 counters. (+1)
23:04:45 - Birds of Paradise is tapped.
23:04:46 - gzeiger says:'discard with Shapeshifter's ability'
23:04:49 - Magimaster says:'k'
23:04:51 - gzeiger buries Phyrexian Dreadnought.
23:04:58 - Magimaster says:'in response'
23:05:10 - Magimaster says:'shit I lost'

Sligh has many of the characteristics of the Other decks on face, but it has three important tools that those decks lack. Despite its creatures being worse than Stompy or White Weenie, these tools transform an auto-win into a potentially difficult matchup. First is mana denial – Birds get burnt very quickly, and Moxes fall prey to Gorilla Shamen. Coupled with a mana base that was already light on lands, and facing five Wastelands, it will be difficult to get the engine going. Don’t be afraid to Force a Lightning Bolt if it means keeping your mana on the table, and remember you can Survival for a Quirion Ranger to partially answer Wastes. When given a choice, play Walls instead of Birds, because these serve a defensive role and also are more difficult to destroy.

The second tool is the ability to burn you out. This puts you on a much shorter clock than your typical green deck, because simply finding a blocker isn’t enough. Bottle Gnomes from the sideboard help a little, but I think if you expect a lot of Sligh you should be prepared to board into a more traditional Survival deck, with multiple Spike Feeders.

The third and most interesting tool is the ability to kill an active Shifter with burn. Bad players will count their burn spells, realize they don’t add to twelve, and pitch them at your head. Good burn players will realize that any burn spell at all will kill the Shifter once it turns into the Bird that’s about to be put in your graveyard. Great players will remember that if they burn the Shifter first, then the Bird, the Shifter will die as a state-based effect before you have a chance to do any Survival tricks to save it. Ideally you could get a Shifter into play after all the Birds are dead (the boarded Shard Phoenix can help with this) so that you can control the form it takes. In the real world, of course, most people (even in the Top 8 at PTQs – see Barclay’s report) won’t realize they have this trick available, but you need to be aware of and prepared for it. Note that Wasteland creates the same problem for you that a Bird does – it can put a land on top of your graveyard and thus return the Shifter to its normal form. Many decks have the capability to do this, but Sligh can take better advantage of it than most. Never play tricks with Flowstone Hellion while there’s a Wasteland on the table.

The Suicide black matchup is only slightly unfavorable, but gets significantly worse without the off-color Moxes. This matchup revolves around Duress and, to a lesser degree, Hymn to Tourach. If they can knock the Survival out of your hand, they’ll probably win. If you can cast it, the matchup starts to look a lot more like Stompy. Carnophage is decent, but it’s no Phyrexian Dreadnought. Don’t be afraid to Force of Will that first Duress if you’ll be able to play Survival next turn, because black has no way to remove it. Watch out for tricks with Diabolic Edict – even if they can’t make you sac the Shifter, they can make you put a Bird in the grave, which is often just as bad. Beware of sideboarded Dystopias, and don’t ever leave out the Monk Realist.

Combo decks in Type 1 come in many forms, but the most common are Academy and Pandeburst. These are the worst possible matchups for a normal Survival deck, but they have the fortuitous attribute of rolling over to anything with Force of Will. Aggressive use of countermagic and Duress aimed at the combo pieces (or card drawing in Academy) should stall them enough for you to race. This is a dangerous matchup, because an incorrect play can cause you to lose in a single turn, but it should be relatively favorable if countermagic is deployed skillfully. Unless you have information from a Duress, or know their deck inside and out, it’s often advisable to hold mana for a Drain and attempt to win in a single turn. If you don’t have a Drain, of course, then you are in a bit of trouble, and should try to accelerate your own combo kill as much as possible.

Finally, the Control deck. This comes in a variety of forms in Type 1, and they are all slightly different, but they come down to the same general principles. However, because control decks, as a general rule, are at the top of the Type 1 field and are likely to be encountered most frequently in a competitive environment, I will take the time to investigate each.

The basic control deck is mono-blue Forbiddian. Because it has no effective removal (Disk costing a ridiculous amount of mana, and Powder Keg being relatively dysfunctional against Shapeshifters), this game is as good as won if a Survival hits the board. Unfortunately a deck that plays this many counterspells isn’t going to let it onto the table without a fight. Happily you have mana acceleration on your side, which always gives the control deck fits. And you have enough threats to possibly attempt to bleed away their counters. Survival, Shapeshifter, Duress, Mana Drain and Force of Will all demand a counter, which gives you 20 threats against 14-16 counters. This makes for a favorable matchup unless the control deck is able to turn the mana situation around with cheap spells like Annul and Misdirection. That’s where Duress really shines. After boarding you have 4 additional game-breaking threats in Oath of Ghouls, and the game should be quite winnable. Notice what a woefully inadequate defense Morphling presents against Phyrexian Dreadnought.

The next iteration of control is OSE – adding black and sometimes red to make a much more aggressive deck. OSE has fewer counterspells, but a great many more answers to your threats. The addition of Duress makes it much more difficult to bait counters until a Survival can resolve, and Diabolic Edict and sometimes Fire/Ice (remember the vulnerability of the Birds) can stop a Shifter on the table. Mind Twist and Yawgmoth’s Will are potent threats waiting to lock up the game if you’re careless, and The Abyss can keep your mana in check. Still the deck has no effective removal for Survival, so the ultimate struggle is just to get it into play. Ultimately, no matter what answer they have, there’s always something unfair your Shifters can turn into.

Any control deck that isn’t mono-blue is going to have something interesting up its sleeve when you swoop in for the kill, and this is the reason for the inclusion of Hypnox. Rather than pitching Squee directly for a Shifter, go get Hypnox first, then pitch him to get the Shifter. Now when you play the Shifter, it comes into play as a copy of Hypnox, and you played it from your hand. Note that the ability only triggers if you’re actually playing the Shifter, not if it’s merely changing forms. This is very important against decks with black or red, because they have a decent chance of killing a Shifter that’s trying for a Dreadnought kill. Still, if you find yourself in a situation where the opponent is tapped out, don’t miss your chance to resolve the Shifter just because you want to wait for Hypnox. It might be prudent, though, to spend your mana to get Hypnox instead of Squee if that choice presents itself.

The next interesting version is Oath of Druids. Splashing green for creature control, often in place of black, makes for better games against beatdown decks but often not against this one. They can generate a quick Morphling off of Oath, but Phyrexian Dreadnought beats Morphling in a fight. The real threat is the Spike Weaver, who can hold off the Dreadnought for some time. Bone Shredder can be brought in to deal with this problem; alternately you can often wait it out. Most Type 1 Oath decks, because of the restriction of Enlightened Tutor, lack the ability to recur their Weaver with any regularity (it requires two copies of Oath in play to get it back the same turn it dies), so you’ll eventually get your attack in. A potentially more serious problem, if you play things wrong, is Crater Hellion or Shard Phoenix. Remember the Shifter dies to either of those cards if there’s a Birds of Paradise in play. Consequently, unless you know there’s no 187 creature in the Oath deck, it may be better to assemble the combo (Shifter/Hellion/Dreadnought) in your hand and try to kill in one turn. If the Shifter gets countered, that’s why you have 3 more. The Hypnox trick is also useful here.

Oath should be the easiest of the control decks to beat because it suffers from most of the problems of mono-blue but typically only plays 8 counters and so is easy to overwhelm.

Keeper, with four or five colors of broken goodness and 8-10 Counterspells (Force of Will, Mana Drain, and one or two Misdirection or Counterspell to taste), should be the most difficult. It has access to all the tricks mentioned above except Oath of Druids, including that amazing burn spell Fire/Ice, Diabolic Edict, counterspells, a variety of broken toys, and Red Elemental Blasts from the board. In addition, it actually has removal for Survival in the form of Dismantling Blow and sometimes Vindicate (and often Aura Fracture in the board). The Abyss is also there as a general annoyance, as in OSE. Four or Five Wastelands in the maindeck also allow them to mess with your Shifter. On the up side, they don’t have any of these answers in tremendous quantity. In fact they are all one-ofs with the exception of the countermagic and Blasts.

The main struggle is still to get Survival to resolve. Try to bait away counters if you can, or play it on the first turn with a Mox. Once that happens, try the Hypnox trick. It may or may not work, but it’s probably worth trying even just to force a Wasteland off the board (they will waste in response to playing the Shifter so it doesn’t come into play as Hypnox), since this makes your Shifter more stable afterward. As with Sligh, because of the presence of Fire/Ice and Diabolic Edict, in general you should avoid using Flowstone Hellion, as it can get the Shifter killed. Just remember that you have many big creatures in the deck that nobody wants to deal with. Two Dreadnoughts, Morphling, Hypnox and Reya Dawnbringer give your Shifter lots of options no matter how many times something crappy goes to the graveyard.

On the whole, this matchup is extremely demanding of the Survival player, because the Keeper deck’s answers are essentially random, but there are a lot of them and they are all reasonably effective. Unlike other decks, the Keeper’s resources cannot be readily anticipated except with Duress, and consequently it’s nearly impossible to play around them. Rest assured that your deck does contain a suitable way to play around all of them, but a good Keeper player is unlikely to give you the time you need to find that optimal solution. The situation is even more difficult if you manage to resolve a Shifter but not a Survival.

I’m somewhat hampered in saying more about this matchup (a lot more needs to be said) because I haven’t been able to find very many games against good control players with developed decks. If anybody’s willing to drop in to #bdchat to play me I’d appreciate it.

By Gzeiger (Gzeiger) on Tuesday, March 26, 2002 - 03:35 am:

Is the site broken again?

By Gzeiger (Gzeiger) on Tuesday, March 26, 2002 - 03:35 am:

No, it's just ETP :p

By Gzeiger (Gzeiger) on Tuesday, March 26, 2002 - 03:48 am:

It was just observed on IRC that Laquatus's Champion would be preferable to the slightly silly Bottle Gnomes against Sligh.

The Ophidian in the board is also unduly janky, and should probably be an Elvish Lyrist.

By Kirika (Kirika) on Tuesday, March 26, 2002 - 12:24 pm:

I've been playing FEB for some time in Extended and I made a type 1 version for some fun, ended up playing my fun version online. Land Grant is interesting I might have to try it.

I find that the Mana Drain / Force of Will version actually is better mana wise then the Duress version. You do actually have enough Blue cards. You want UU to cast shape shifter and Mana Drain yet you want as much G as possible to Survival. Yet you want B reasonably early to Duress. In Keeper it was calculated that you needed 4 Underground, 4 City, UP and 1 Underground River, 1 Mox to be able to Turn 1 Duress consistantly. You can not work that much black into Survival with out Sacrificing Green or Blue

Hypox would definately be an interesting addition.

I like to include Verdant Force because it gets around Abyss and Sligh and Suicide have absolute fits with it. Combo killing Sligh can be a bad idea because they can burn Shifter in response to pumps or burn a Bird.

I agree with Gzeiger, you do need a Lyrist for certain nasty enchantments such as Back to Basics.

FEB is definately my favorite fun deck. Its so much more fun then playing Keeper but its winning ability is rather lousy against control.

By Lord of the Goats (Goat) on Tuesday, March 26, 2002 - 02:44 pm:

i've been playing feb for quite some time now. i really don't see myself including a quirion ranger or guilded drake at all with out at least 1 tradewind rider. that said, i see that tradewind isn't terribly effective in type 1 and would consider cutting the quirion (and i don't see the drake in your list but you did mention it).

also, you said moat was bad....? i don't see how. "you can always turn the shapeshifter into something unfair" and morph can essentially grant any creature in the deck flying.

i am also quite bothered by the lack of force of will, although i have not tried duress. anyway, good primer it's always nice to see feb again.

By Gzeiger (Gzeiger) on Tuesday, March 26, 2002 - 04:23 pm:

Kirika - this deck hasn't been legal in Extended for quite some time. Do you mean prior to Survival's banning, or do you just play a Shifter combo deck?

The black was actually added not to support Duress in the beginning, but to be able to play the black tutors in order to have Survival more reliably. I agree that Force of Will and Mana Drain are a better set of cards to have in theory, but if it means going some games without Survival...

And ignore the above comment about Laquatus's Champion - I just read the card and it doesn't do what I thought it did.

By Redman, Relentless Leader of Scrubs (Redman) on Tuesday, March 26, 2002 - 04:50 pm:

Awesome...I was actualy thinking of building this deck , and was about to post for inormation, this certainly will be helpful. :)

By Wu Affiliate (Wu) on Saturday, March 30, 2002 - 02:35 am:

23:04:36 - Quirion Ranger is attacking.
23:04:36 - Rogue Elephant is attacking.
23:04:44 - Wall of Roots now has 3 counters. (+1)
23:04:45 - Birds of Paradise is tapped.
23:04:46 - gzeiger says:'discard with Shapeshifter's ability'
23:04:49 - Magimaster says:'k'
23:04:51 - gzeiger buries Phyrexian Dreadnought.
23:04:58 - Magimaster says:'in response'
23:05:10 - Magimaster says:'shit I lost'

thats is just classic, i like the deck and will be trying it out with some changes of course :)

By Magimaster (Magimaster) on Saturday, March 30, 2002 - 03:39 am:

I remember that game!

Wall of Roots = Speedbump

By Lord of the Goats (Goat) on Saturday, March 30, 2002 - 07:42 pm:

"1 Meddling Mage – the second newcomer, he’s here primarily so I can have a blue card for Force of Will."

you don't run force of will. you also mention forcing bolts in the sligh section... and duress in the sui section.

"I have chosen to include the other Moxes because"

you mean to end the sentence like that?

"1 Shard Phoenix – randomly useful in a surprising number of ways, mostly involving Sacred Mesa or Elvish Lyrist."

don't mesa tokens have flying? i forget, but i think they do. you also imply using it to kill your birds (i think, i'm tired) in the sligh section. the pheonix only kills nonflying stuff if i remember correctly

i stopped at the control section. also, what to take out usually gives me trouble when first playing a deck so some explainations could be helpful.

By Lord of the Goats (Goat) on Saturday, March 30, 2002 - 08:04 pm:

....and you use fow in the combo section too.

are the birds really that necessary? since they really are a pain in the ass, i'm going to start testing without them (already did actually).

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