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September 14, 2010


Ertai’s Meddling: Power of Prophecy (m11)

by Dredd77

Welcome back to another edition of Ertai’s Meddling, a semi-regular feature which sees us take a preconstructed deck and use it as the basis for deckbuilding a new, enhanced version. For those unfamiliar with the series, the rules of Ertai’s Meddling are simple:

For many, the ‘Intro Packs’ are the first exposure they have to a deck of their own, and the next step is to modify and improve that deck. The designers of each precon deck are well aware of this, and kindly leave us lots of opportunities to tweak them.

Today we’ll be looking at Power of Prophecy, M11’s Blue/White deck featuring the ultra-efficient Conundrum Sphinx. When we reviewed and playtested the deck, we found that it had some strengths, but that there were some vulnerabilities as well:

The trick, then, is to preserve those elements of the deck that work, while cutting and replacing those that do not. We’ll be building two versions of the deck- the first will preserve the original colour scheme, and the second will be a mono-Blue construction which will augment the deck’s dominant colour.

Lastly, let’s take a look at the deck as originally constructed, so we know what we have to work with:

Deck One

In this first U/W revision, we’ll want to stick relatively closely to the formula the deck presents us with. Unlike Green’s role in Reign of Vampirism, both colours have something to offer here.

One of the primary concerns with the deck was the threadbare library manipulation. Ordinarily it’s nice but not central unless the deck runs a combo, but here the presence of the Conundrum Sphinx compels us to offer it greater support- both first to find the Sphinx, and then once it’s out to accrue maximum card advantage. But if we want to add some cards in, first we’re going to need to tighten the belt and make some cuts.

Although this deck is unusually beater-heavy for a U/W construction, we’re still going to snip Mighty Leap and Safe Passage. Combat tricks have their place, but they are conditional and often owe their continued use to the power of the ‘best-case scenario.’ What we’re looking for here to really harness the power of prophecy is consistency- cards that always have a use whenever you draw them, and earn their place in the deck.

Furthermore, we’re also going to snip the two Negates. Although I’m an ardent believer in countermagic, a lonely pair like this doesn’t seem especially critical to the deck. By their nature they are reactive, and Power as mentioned above really wants to be aggressive.

Next, go ahead and strip out the pair of Jace’s Ingenuities. Although we’re losing some card draw, we should more than make up for it with card quality through the filtering that Scry will provide us. In a less aggressive deck I might have kept these by cutting the Sleeps instead, but Power of Prophecy really wants to get stuck in to your opponent.  

The last casualty is Solemn Offering. Again, a useful card but not one that suits our purpose. We’re better off tuning up the aggressiveness of the deck rather than waiting for our opponent to play some Artifact or Enchantment that’s vaguely menacing to give us a target. Out it comes.

On the creature side, we’re leaving the deck more or less alone, cutting only some of the more egregious offenders: Armored Cancrix, Harbor Serpent, the two Maritime Guards and the Scroll Thief. These are all critters that have a built-in aversion to combat, and have no place here. The Cancrix and Guards suffer from asymmetrical power/toughness that favours defense; the Harbor Serpent has a bit of a leash on him with the Islands restriction; and that Scroll Thief has a splendid ability but lacks the evasion needed to make consistent use of it.

Summing up, we have the following cut list:


This should give us plenty of room to maximise the deck’s main theme of library manipulation and creature beatings.

Our first act will be to stuff in two more Crystal Balls. Although this might seem excessive, they are relatively inexpensive, aren’t redundant in multiple, and cheap to cast. Useful at any point in the game, they’ll not only optimise our card advantage with the Conundrum Sphinx, they’ll also greatly increase our chances of finding the Sphinx as well.

Still, there’s always room for a little more manipulation, especially with the delightful keyword Scry M11 lets us play with. To that end, one more Foresee and another pair of Augury Owls will have us ripping through our deck to find the spell we need, when we need it.

Because we’re a combat deck, let’s go ahead and up the removal while we’re at it by adding another Condemn and three more Pacifisms. I like both spells, but have opted for an imbalance in favour of Pacifism because it’s more proactive (in other words, it doesn’t rely on the actions of your opponent like Condemn does). As aggressive as we’d like to be with this deck, we’re actually somewhat more worried about getting rid of defenders rather than attackers.

As for our beaters, we’ll replace the Scroll Thief with a Cloud Elemental, and the expensive Cancrix and Harbor Serpent with a pair of Serra Angels.

Once we’re done tinkering, our add list looks like so:

So voila! Blue/White aggro with a generous stripe of library manipulation! With the fixes above in place, you should not only be seeing a lot more of your Conundrum Sphinx, but should be getting a lot more out of it as well! If you’re ahead in the game or the board is stalled, try to hold on to a Scry card if feasible if you’ve not drawn your Sphinx yet. That way, once it hits the board, you can cast the Scry card and get the most out of the Sphinx while your opponent lamely guesses some Land card over and over!

Deck Two

For our next version, we’ll be dropping the White altogether and making it a mono-Blue “Skies” deck. This is a bit of a gamble, as when you think of mono-coloured aggressive decks, Blue isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind. But it can be done!

We’ll start first with the cuts. Obviously, all White spells are out. Still, there are a few more that can go from Blue: Jace’s Ingenuities and Negates. The Jace’s Ingenuities are alright, but I’m looking to cut out variance and add consistency here, and cutting these will help that. Same with the Negates- counters are great, but they’re too reactive for the objective we’re after.

Some of the changes will mirror the deck above, as they work for this version as well. We’re still going to add a Crystal Ball, for instance, and a third Foresee. We’re not going as far in with the Crystal Balls because we don’t need to fix colours- one of the luxuries of a mono-coloured deck- and thus can ease up just a touch on the Scry.

Unlike the previous deck, though, we’ll be throwing another Mind Control into the mix, which acts as a lovely two-for-one all on its own (removes a thread from their side of the board, and adds one to yours).

Lastly, we’ll want a solid dose of removal, though it’s hard to come by in Blue. Working with what we’ve got, we’ll be adding in three Ice Cages and a playset of Unsummons. Don’t be afraid to be aggressive with these if it means you can get in a few more points of damage- more should be coming in subsequent draws to replace the ones you use.

For the Creatures, we’ll be cutting the expected: Armored Cancix, Blinding Mage, Maritime Guard and Scroll Thief all are out. And since we’re focused on offense just a touch more in this mono-Blue variant, we’re going to take out that Wall of Frost as well.

In return, though, we gain quite a bit! A brace of Aether Adepts and Augury Owls should give us the card draw and tempo we need to get in good position early on. We’re keeping the Harbour Serpent this time, as his drawback is much less of a concern now without Plains cluttering things up.

Taken together, here’s the cut list…

…as well as the add list:

Thank you again for journeying with us on our trek through Power of Preophecy! For those of you who’ve asked for a full decklist after our changes are made, you’ve been heard! We’re currently looking into options with WordPress for such a display. In the meantime, we hope you’ve enjoyed reading this as much as we did tinkering with it, and we’d love to hear back from you. What would you have kept? What might you have done differently?

Let us know!

REVISED (17 SEP): Sharp-eyed reader Mart caught an oversight on this piece:

your mono-blue list needs some housekeeping. you don’t remove the solemn offering or the plains. i’m assuming you just -1 the solemn offering, but are you really suggesting +10 islands, -9 plains?

Shame on us, and thanks to Mart! Accounting for the Solemn Offering and an Island we’d have nicked out of the deck (since we can run a bit leaner with mono-Blue), that leaves two additional slots open to fill on the mono-Blue deck. We’ll leave this to your own meta needs- if your opponents are quick off the starter’s block, round out the removal with an Ice Cage, for example, or against a more deliberative opponent toss back the two Jace’s Ingenuities. The choice is yours!

Finally, in the last ‘cards removed’ graphic, we left the ‘n’ off of Condemn. For all these sins, we apologise to anyone who spent more than a moment scratching their head and wondering what we were up to!

33 Comments Post a comment
  1. troacctid
    Sep 14 2010

    With 4x Unsummon 4x AEther Adept 3x Ice Cage, I’d be slinging Scroll Thieves like they’re going out of style.

    I like Scroll Thief. =D

    Also, a Warlord’s Axe or two might not be unwelcome here (the second deck). The deck is full of Owls and Adepts and other such little dudes who would love to pick up a nice big axe. More so if you were to go with the Scroll Thief plan, which is a lot scarier when he’s a 4/4.

    • Sep 14 2010

      I’m not a huge fan of them without evasiveness- Thieving Magpie was a classic- but I deinitely see your point as to presenting the ‘option’ of threats… they block the little guy, you get in for damage/they block the big guy, you get a card…

      I hadn’t considered the Axe, but it’s a solid option to give some of those utility critters a better sense of purpose. Good suggestion!

    • Alex
      Sep 14 2010

      I think I’d like Scroll Thieves in here as well. Instead of the Warlord’s axe, however, I would throw in a couple of Whispersilk Cloaks. They would allow the Scroll Thieves to connect netting you a card as well as protecting your bigger beaters (the Sphinx, Stormtide, etc.)

  2. Sep 14 2010

    Thanks a lot for the tweaking! As it was your review that made me initially buy the Power of Prophecy deck, I shall be grateful for the added inspiration 🙂

    Due to my metagame being stuffed with artifacts and Grave Pact-like effects, I just can’t afford losing cards like Solemn Offering. These constraints also make the (not present in the set) Oblivion Ring my first choice removal …

    However, when it comes to blue combat tricks, I’ve fallen in love with Diminish. In case there’s no Butcher of Malakir on the board, this creates a frustrating moment on the other side of the table.

    As for Scroll Thief … combining 4 of them with a playset of Blinding Mages has really helped improve my hand quality.

  3. Hireling
    Sep 14 2010

    Hi Ertai,

    I’ve noticed that you have an aversion to cards of a reactive nature (at least in these precon tweaks). Why then did you settle on keeping Condemn and adding another? I’m not denying that it’s a great form of creature removal, but it’s reactive in nature and also grants our opponent life.

    Other than that quibble, I like the direction you took this precon. I have made the changes I could and will be playing it a bit this week.

    I also like the mono blue list. That many Aether Adepts and Unsummons is likely to give someone fits!

    I’m really enjoying this column. Keep ’em coming!


  4. Sep 14 2010

    Great feedback so far! This is one of the things I enjoy about doing the Meddlings… there’s a lot of different ways you can go with the deck and still have a solidly playable design… We can go aggressive and use it as-is or add in the Axes… or more combo/control with deck interactions and card advantage (Spidersilk Net + Scroll Thief). Keep ’em coming!

    @web8970: Sounds like you’re having to be very careful about sacrifices and killing your opponent’s creatures lest you lose your own… I don’t know if you play Green, but for a lark have you considered the Tajuru Preserver? Might be fun just to see the look on their faces…

    @Hireling: Intriguing observation! It’s not *precisely* ‘reactive’ cards I aver, but rather *conditional* ones. In my mind one of the primary tasks of building effective decks is to minimise variance, which is the enemy of consistency. I can *consistently* cast a Pacifism, while Condemn is conditional. But it’s just one consideration amongst many, and I have to balance the odds.

    I regard the variance of Condemn in the number I choose to play. In other words, if I play it as a 4-of, odds are that I will be having it at least once per game. I don’t really want Condemn when things are going my way, because if they are I’m doing all the attacking and my opponent is back-footed. It won’t give me consistent value every time it’s drawn, and I may even find myself winning games with it in my hand (if drawn especially late and things are going according to plan).

    That said, it’s still great removal, so is it still worth including? Definitely- I’m going to get attacked at *some* point most every game, and if I have it, great. If not, c’est la guerre. So that’s why I have it as a 2-of instead. I won’t have it all the time, but it won’t overlap itself all that much either (overlap = having 2 or more in hand). So it won’t ‘back up’ in my spellcasting queue and take up a slot of something else I might rather have at the moment.

    Like that Pacifism.

    Does that make sense?

    • Hireling
      Sep 14 2010

      Thanks for explaining your deck building and card choice in more detail and explaining the difference between “reactive” and “conditional” in this case. 🙂

    • Sep 15 2010

      “Sounds like you’re having to be very careful about sacrifices and killing your opponent’s creatures lest you lose your own…”

      Exactly, that’s why evasion is crucial for me. Actually I’m heavily into UW (leaving out counterspells by house rules), but a tap into G for that Preserver played at the right time might really make us re-evaluate the current board situation 🙂
      Thanks for the hint!

      • Sep 15 2010

        Sure thing! If you go end up ‘going Green,’ with a meta that seems to play a lot of Black the poor PReserver will more or less have a target on his head that reads “Doom Blade Here.”

        Vines of Vastwood would be a fun way of protecting him with a ‘counter’ that would still be in keeping with the letter of the house rules.

        ANyway, sounds like a lot of fun. Keep us posted if you eventually do try that out, be interesting to hear how it went over in Grave-Pact-Land!

  5. Sep 15 2010

    Cool article, but it would be cool if you could spin them on a couple of games to see how good (or bad) were the changes you made.

    • Hireling
      Sep 16 2010

      Hi Darking,

      I was able to get in half a dozen games with the “meddled” version of this precon during my lunch hour today. I have to say, it hits pretty hard and has some powerful options. I faced off against a player who had some very well tuned decks and went 3-3. The big tide turners were Sleep and Mind Control. Scry was invaluable in churning through useless cards once I had a good board position, or to gain a better one.

      Prophecy Meddled has some problems against decks that gain a lot of life or have dedicated creature removal. I faced my opponents nasty vampire deck and he was nuking my creatures, taking them and gaining life all over the place. I was really missing traditional blue denial when I saw a couple of his heavies hit the table.

      I have to agree with Mart below. This is a great column for the simplicity and focus that it offers to some of us who get overwhelmed with card choice.

      Thanks again.

      • mart
        Sep 16 2010


        I’m gonna meddle my copy of PoP tonight and have a go at my son’s meddled Reign of Vampirism. I’m guessing I’ll suffer a fate similar to yours. Those Vampires will mess you up if you can’t get deal with them right away!

        Also re: precon decks… Now I’ve started wondering whether I should even buy boosters and try for rares anymore. I enjoy Draft, but the days of trying to assemble expensive netdecks are over for me for now.

        • Sep 16 2010

          If you’re looking for individual cards, buying boosters is the very worst way to go. That said, if you love draft but are looking to economise (aren’t we all?), you might consider making a draft cube for you and your mates. I made one recently- it’s a Standard cube- and the most expensive thing about it were the sleeves! It’s quite easy and cheap to do with cards you already have lying about, and a lot of fun as well.

  6. Reparadocs
    Sep 15 2010

    I love what youve done with the strengths and weaknesses cards. That’s a pretty cool idea. By happy coincidence, my little brother happens to have this deck. I really do disgree about Solemn Offering it really works in this deck. ALso, great choice with the crystal balls, I was thinking the exact same thing. Another thing I have always hated in INtro packs or most precons are that they must have one or both rares out to work, that’s their entire strategy. If wizards fixes this I would buy tons more precons. Have you had a chance to look into the SOM previews on Their unveiling spoilers on a myr precon deck I really am considering buying. I would enjoy your input especially on that precon

    • Sep 19 2010

      We’re looking forward to the SOM precons with great anticipation, and will be snatching up all five the very moment they’re for sale. Watch for the review to come rolling through almost immediately after that, and the Myr one might be a great place to start!

      I take your point on the Rares… it wasn’t always like that, there have been through time a lot of them that were very solid on their own, and if the Rare came through it was a bonus. The last few sets of precons have been somewhat underwhelming in that regard…

  7. Sep 16 2010

    i love these meddlings and have started using the precon decks much more lately as a result. it allows me to narrow down to specifics of the interactions and strategies rather than being overwhelmed by card choice in the standard-legal sets.

    that said, your mono-blue list needs some housekeeping. you don’t remove the solemn offering or the plains. i’m assuming you just -1 the solemn offering, but are you really suggesting +10 islands, -9 plains?

    • Sep 17 2010

      Great catch, mart, and thanks! We’ve actually added an update to the bottom of this article.

      I opted to trim the lands down to an even 40%. Although individual results may vary, it’s a safe threshold to avoid mana screw while getting a feel for the underpinnings of the deck. Going much lower than that is a matter of personal preference, but not one we usually slip past (unless it’s with RDW).

  8. Matty Matt
    Sep 17 2010

    For a novice who doesn’t have a lot of money to throw around, this series helps me a lot. For about $5 plus the additional cost of Power of Prophecy, I can have a respectable deck. Great job on this Ertai. The cloud elemental seems like a nice addition. Its a relatively cheap way to be able to block flying creatures, while attacking with your own.

  9. Hireling
    Sep 22 2010

    Just wanted to report back. I’ve played quite a few games with the meddled PoP and it’s a blast. The play style is very engaging. I want to tweak it further to make it more competitive, but I’m having so much fun with the simplicity of it in its current form. I’ve taken down green beaters, red/green burn, pure black and pure white weenie decks (Sleep FTW), and even a nasty blue/black denial deck.

    That being said, is there any chance we’ll ever see a column dedicated to taking these precon tweaks in a competitive constructed direction? I’d love to see what Scry could do with some real power cards and combos.

    • Sep 22 2010

      Glad to hear it!

      Chances are at some point we’ll we weaving some of that in. I’d like as we progress to have at the very least a list of cards from other sets that would make good fits. You just can’t cover a mono-Green Stampede reworking without mentioning Leatherback Baloth, despite it being an ineligible card under the Meddling guidelines.

  10. Hireling
    Sep 25 2010

    Well, I faced my first creature free deck. Even with Scry, having 6 dead draws (8 if you count Aether Adepts) really hurt me. I might throw in some War Priests to get rid of nasty enchantments and possibly some counter magic to keep my creatures from getting nuked or bounced en mass. After the beatings I took it’s so tempting to gut this deck and make it into a mono blue skies deck with tons of counters, but I like the stripe of white. Maybe some a couple of Silence would help.

    • Sep 26 2010

      Without knowing what you’re up against directly it’s hard to offer counsel, but since most casual players don’t fiddle with sideboards the trick might be to slightly tilt your deck in a way to protect it from what you’re up against while keeping it viable. Is this non-creature deck playing tempo games with bounce? Using Mind Control and the like to steal what you’ve cast? The Sphinx of Jwar Isle with its Shroud comes to mind, so do a few White instants that grant protection against a colour (ie Emerge Unscathed). These are decent options because they’re not dedicated against this one joker’s deck, they’re useful even in creature matchups. Just a couple thoughts!

      • Hireling
        Sep 26 2010

        The deck puts out Underworld Dreams and then makes me draw like crazy while bouncing critters back to my hand 1 or more at a time. There’s a very nasty card (I think it’s an artifact) that makes me put my hand at the bottom of my deck and draw that many cards. So U.D. is doing 14-21 dmg depending on how many he has out. It’s very frustrating.

        • troacctid
          Sep 26 2010

          Sounds like that deck gets owned by Venser’s Journal. XD

    • Sep 26 2010

      Oh, and Silence is an option. My jury is still out on the card, but Smi77y at has heralded it as his ‘secret tech’ option in Naya Shaman, and has sing its praises mightily.

  11. Hireling
    Sep 28 2010

    I decided to run the mono blue version of this deck. I noticed a neat interaction between Ice Cage and Mind Control. You can take a creature out of action for a while with Ice Cage but the act of casting Mind Control on it gets rid of Ice Cage. It’s like putting one of your opponents big baddies in stasis until you get around to stealing it.

  12. KonsK
    Nov 4 2010

    I just picked up Power of Prophecy, and I would like to make a deck like one of these (probably the second one, or maybe both!). Great work, I like very much these “Meddlings”.
    I would like to add a rare or two into one of these decks, do you recommend me anyone? I already have a second Conundrum Sphinx I would like to add…
    Also, wouldn’t some counterspells be useful in both decks? I love “Negate”, already saved me two times!

    • Nov 5 2010

      Thanks for the comments! As you may see through the articles, I’m not a huge fan of inconsistent play in decks, and that includes a one-of or two-of counterpell. Don’t get me wrong, I love countermagic, but if you’re wanting to go the denial/control route, best to pack in multiples. “MIser’s copies” of most anything typically just add to a deck’s inconsistency. Note that “toolbox” decks will often use singletons, but that’s their actual strategy.

      A blue rare? I’d definitely add the Sphinx- he’s a fantastic bargain in a colour not usually known for creature bargains, and the decks are optimised for him. If you want to go wide, try other Sphinxes as well. The Sphinx of Magosi is very solid card draw, and I’ve long been a fan of the Sphinx of Jwar Isle (which also synergizes well with the Conundrum Sphinx, as you’ll always know what that top card is).

  13. mart
    Nov 4 2010

    following up on what KonsK asked and something Ertai posted earlier…

    i think a mention of some better (non-ertai eligible) cards that would work well would be a great idea! WotC already does something similar on the strategy sheet they include with the intro decks, but it seems like they’re just trying to whet your appetite so you go crack packs, than giving you any actual advice on what would be a good fit.

    • Nov 5 2010

      Thanks for the input! You’ll be pleased to know that the upcoming Meddling will mix in off-set cards as well- more to follow!

  14. Helmuth
    Jan 20 2011

    This is what I was able to do with the power of prophecy with the cards that I actually have.

    What do you think about it? Added some more card drawing and a leviathan and an Frost Titan. My girl is playing this deck, and she beats me almost every time… 😦

  15. Oscar
    Feb 8 2011

    Hi i was thinking about changing the deck quite a bit. I recently started playing MTG with my friends so i’m looking for a non tournament deck atm.

    My biggest concern is a friend playing green/black deck based on elves and tokens if I don’t draw the Leviathan fast enough and have enough mana i’m screwed.

    Besides i think i’d like to make this deck into one where the main focus is to get Leviathan protect it (with Whispersilk cloth, counter spells) and destroy the enemy with islandwalking/flying creatures. Therefore i was thinking about something like :
    16 Islands
    9 Plains
    2x Harbout Serpent
    2x Wall of frost
    2x Stormtide Leviathan
    2x Aether Adept
    2x Cloud Elemental
    2x Water or Air Servants
    2x Whispersilk Cloack
    2x Diminish
    4x Cancel
    4x Negate
    1x Call to Mind
    2x Safe Passage
    2x Sleep
    2x Mind Control
    2x Ice Cage
    2x Arrest

    Though i’m still unsure about this since i’m tottaly new to the game.
    I believe scrying would be quite usefull in order to obtain the leviathan and the needed mana for it’s cost but then again i dont know what to drop.

    Maby changing the wall of frost for 2x Crystal ball or Foresee. Or dropping cancels/negates though i really don’t like the idea of not having them. If anyone has some suggestions please post them I’ll be gratefull for any advice.


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