Monday 6 November 2017

Oketra's Monument .dec

Oketra's MonumentI have had multiple goes at making a good Monument deck for cube and am still not happy with what I have created. While the decks have all performed fairly well they don't quite feel right. They all have a massive identity crisis! My first go was very much trying to make a white weenie deck just also using Monument and some cards that go quite well with it. The more I played the deck however the more it felt like it should be a midrange combo build and not and aggro build. As a white aggressor you simply cannot hope to win games if you spend all of an early turn deploying a card like the Monument. The issue with moving towards a more midrange approach to a build is a reduction in your synergies. You want as many white dorks as possible to go with your Monument and so every Cast Out, Council's Judgement or other non-creature spell you play the worse it becomes. If you don't play such cards you will just find yourself cold to a Jitte or other random tedious card you can't handle. Only decks with very quick clocks can afford to ignore what opponents might be up to! This issue is doubly lame in white as it is a colour with the lease access to card advantage. Even in the lists with loads of creatures I was finding that I ran out of gas more often than I would like. Unlike the constructed versions of this list the cube does not have four copies of Wall of Omens to help this list along (indeed my first build didn't even run the Wall as it was trying to be a white weenie deck!). Constructed builds also get to abuse Squadron Hawk (again) which we cannot do in singleton cube.

Wall of OmensAnother related problem I was finding with the deck was that I wanted to hold my dorks whenever I had things like Monument so as to get more value from them but that meant falling even further behind. In practice it wound up being a balancing act based on hand and opponent as to what you held. It did mean that I wanted one and two mana non-creature cards far far more than three or greater. When I had three or more mana I wanted to be all about the creatures and free tokens. Prior to that is the window to setup, disrupt and so forth. In that respect this list would love to have black from Thoughtsieze and the like. It would be the most suitable way to start most games. Splashing another colour for one drops however is a bit rough. I like the purity of the mono white and so far have stuck to that in my attempts. I think however my next build will be a blue white list as many have been in constructed as I think that offers more of the tools the deck wants in creature form. Like I say, it is not that the mono white lists haven't performed well, they have done so and have gotten better with every revision. They just don't feel quite right, like they are short a few key cards. Below is an amalgamation of my last two attempts at the deck. I shall talk about what is good, what is less good and what other options there are for the deck after. Then I shall suggest my design for an UW version at the end.

Mother of Runes24 Spells

Mox Diamond

Mother of Runes
Gideon's Lawkeeper
Thraben Inspector

Student of Warfare

Path to Exile
Land Tax

Selfless Spirit
Kor Skyfisher
Wall of Omens
Bygone BishopWhitemane Lion

Spirit Bonds
Unexpectedly Absent

Oketra's Monument
Bygone Bishop
Recruiter of the Guard

Blade Splicer
Hallowed Spiritkeeper

Restoration Angel
Ranger of Eos
Celestial Crusader

Angel of Invention

16 lands

Westvale Abbey
Shefet Dunes
14 Plains

Spirit BondsFirst up I need to address Spirit Bonds. Yes, the card is pretty weak. Unlike Monument it increases the cost of your dorks to make 1/1s rather than reducing it. It is very slow and clunky indeed. The issue is in singleton you need redundancy. Spirit Bonds is the closest thing to a second Monument. You could run a Tutor but it is pretty weak, it is a poor second version because they have huge tempo or value costs and they don't cover you against removal. The Spirit Bonds has enough overlap with what you are trying to do and is sufficiently playable that I think you have to run it. Without it you are playing too many cards that work with Monument that for those times you don't even see it your deck is just a random pile of junk. The one big thing in Spirit Bonds favour is that it makes fliers. Ultimately I have won most of my games with this list as a result of the tokens specifically generated off this card. Yes, a Lingering Souls would have been much better. Many other finishers would be better and would have won those games that the Spirit Bonds won for me and probably quicker. The point is that the Bonds are both a win condition and an engine card, the Monument is just an engine. The Monument tokens have mostly been chumps!

Mox DiamondNext up, the Land Tax, Mox Diamond and Path to Exile Package. The latter just helps empower the Tax and is a premium cheap removal spell that improves the deck significantly in power level. The Mox hurts your card count which is a problem but you are a slow and mana hungry deck. Getting as much mana online as quickly as possible is a big deal for this deck and you really need some good ways to do this. Diamond has always been one of white's best ways of ramping. The Land Tax helps you carry on making lands, helps cover the card disadvantage of Mox and gives significant deck thinning for the latter parts of the game where you need to draw action to keep up the momentum. While none of these are creatures they are all going on before you can start to setup your engine. They all work well together and help to cover the weaknesses of your deck. I wouldn't want to cut any of them, indeed I want to run a Smuggler's Copter to further abuse the Land Tax! If you have the Tax and the Mox online then you can use cards like Kor Skyfisher to generate bonus mana which is super tasty too. Not something I have got to enjoy since de-powering my cube. The old Skyfisher Mox Pearl opener was one of the best starts going for aggro white decks.

Thraben InspectorOne drop dorks don't gain you maximum benefit from Monument but they do help out with Spirit Bonds a bit more and mana curve is still a relevant thing! I found that mostly you wanted relevant utility and value dorks. That sadly is not the widest pool of cards when exclusively looking at white cheaper white ones! Wall of Omens and Thraben Inspector are ideal, nicely cheap and ultimately no card cost. The Wall is rather the better of the two but we make do with what we have. The self bounce guys are great as well. Skyfisher is the best being the most useful body but Whitemane Lion is worth playing too. The new dwarf is probably a bit deep! Stonecloaker would be my third in line for this role, perhaps it is even better than the Lion. These cards are great with your EtB effect dorks as well as turning into a recursive W - make a 1/1 when you have a Monument in play. The issue with both cards is that they are rarely playable in a productive way that early in the game. Your curve might look nice enough but if you shift these cards into the for slot say it starts to look a bit top heavy!

Restoration AngelSelfless Spirit, Mother of Runes and Gideon's Lawkeeper are all pretty much lock ins for this list as well being the premium cheap utility dorks white has to offer. I would probably go a bit deeper on this with the Kithkin Lawkeeper (Goldmeadow Harrier?), Ication Javelineers!? The pool gets thin quickly and while tappers are great they are mana hungry and don't scale with each other all that well. The other cards I would so far consider staples in the mono white build of this are the Recruiter of the Guard and Bygone Bishop. Both are ultimately just more ways of drawing more gas in white. Recruiter gives really nice utility and the Bishop has a surprisingly relevant body. As mentioned this deck tends to win with fliers and Bishop get usually safely get in alongside any spirit tokens floating about. You tend to have enough stuff that you can swing in the air while holding off the ground at the same time.

A lot of the high powered stuff is actually filler. Restoration Angel and Flickerwisp are only OK with Monument. They are both high power stand alone cards and they have a bit more utility than usual with a number of EtB trigger dorks and the potential to milk the Spirit Bonds a bit harder and although that is getting super mana intense it is something I have done.

Celestial CrusaderCelestial Crusader and Angel of Invention are both attempts to transport Glorious Anthem effects onto creatures. Angel has been strong although I found I was mostly putting the +1/+1 counters on it for a bigger air force. Both are great with Recruiter and while they are more vulnerable than other global buff cards your Mother and Selfless Spirit do a reasonable amount to protect them. The Crusader was quite a mixed bag, mostly good but sometimes dodgy. I was lucky not to face down many other white creatures as he really is a global buff! The flash made for a nice combat trick element to the card or just the ability to hold off until EoT so that your opponent was unaware of how massive your next swing will be. Relying on buffs that can cost as much as 5 mana and that can be taken down by most one mana spot removal however still makes me a little wary.

Earlier versions of the deck used Honor the Pure and Dictate of Heliod but these have even more issues. Not only do they not do anything on their own they also don't trigger your token generators. You increase the demands on your synergies by playing them while also reducing your total number of synergy cards. What I actually found is that you don't really need the pump effects to win with this deck. Because it is a token deck I was defaulting to assuming I needed global pump to push through. The reality was much more the case of nibbling down with fliers while having an impenetrable board and ongoing value. Dictate of Heliod is not far off an Overrun which is a quick finisher, this list however does not really need or look for those quick wins. Angel and Crusader are nice perks but they are not the auto includes you might think for a token deck that needs to keep a high creature count.

Westvale AbbeyWhat turned out to be the best was to empower my tokens and create win conditions were land based ones. Westvale Abbey was super easy to turn on and is a real game winner. A pretty free way of putting your tokens to good use and getting a win. I like it a lot but this deck is surprisingly colour intense when you have Monument out so you do have to go easy on colourless lands. I think two max is probably wise. If the deck was able to get access to green Gavony Township would be pretty strong. I would be temped to run a Thornscape Familiar if I had green, I even considered Pearl Medallion as that effect is so nice in this list. Medallion plus Spirit Bonds would be better than Monument alone and Medallion/Thornscape plus Monument wouldn't be overkill either. Thornscape is obviously preferable so as to keep that all important dork count high. Once you open that green door you get a lot of extra options and I think blue is more the direction you want to go with how the deck works so I will be looking to explore that route first. Without green in the deck I settled for the tamer Shefet Dunes which was still very much better than a basic plains. Windbrisk Heights would also be a fine enough addition and would allow for a fuller top end. I wanted to play Angel of Sanctions as a coverall answer and decent all round dork but was already concerned about being too slow and pricey. Had I run the Heights I would have probably ended up with a second five drop.

Ranger of EosRanger of Eos, Hallowed Spiritkeeper and Blade Splicer are the real filler cards in this list. Ranger is just a bad Recruiter of the Guard and one of the few ways of getting value that I could find on white dorks with EtB effects. Blade Splicer is just in because it works well with the flicker effects which are themselves really only filler cards. Spiritkeeper is nice with global buffs, high creature counts and a desire to win with fliers. All are also reasonably high power cards but I would play more Wall of Omens over any and all of them! Without the Crusader and Angel in this list the Spiritkeeper would fall off a bit. Without the flicker cards the Blade Splicer would offer much less. The Ranger is why I am running Student of Warfare although in hindsight it should have been Figure of Destiny. It is good to have a mana sink target with Ranger. Had I not had him I would have had a less mana intense one drop, Mardu Woe-Reaper, Soldier of the Pantheon or even just not had a one drop dork and run something else entirely. Generic 2/1s are not very exciting in this deck at all. Kytheon gets a pass as he is a way of running a planeswalker without cutting down on your dork count. Judege's Familiar is an obvious omission from this white list as it is one of the better utility dorks on offer. Brain fart on my part overlooking it as a mono white playable.

Palace JailerOther cards I considered for some of the builds include Palace Jailer, both Thalias, Mentor of the Meek and then just some of the obvious good white cards like Cast Out and Council's Judgement. I think I ran a Glory-Bound Initiate as curve filler in one and Gust Walker would probably have been better, neither would have been exciting. Mentor has seen some play in other Monument lists in modern and in some ways is better than Bygone Bishop. The issue is that he sucks with Spirit Bonds just needing too much mana. While Mentor is the better card (although still not great) the Bonds are more important in the deck. Less mana intense alternatives to Mentor do exist while that is not so much the case for Spirit Bonds.

Palace Jailer is another one of those big swing cards. When it works out the card is bats. When it doesn't it is a total liability. As this deck is slow and clunky and win more I wanted to avoid cards that intensify those things rather than mitigate them. In certain matchups however it is going to be your best card. If you can find room for some looting, filtering or other way of putting a dead card to use then it is a card I would absolutely want in this deck. I was even considering things like Banisher Priest and Leonin Relic Warder as ways of improving my removal without crimping my creature count but they are all in the same kind of risky group of cards. Hanwier Militia Captain is a card I missed for my previous lists but would certainly be something I will try, it looks like it fits nicely. Most constructed lists seem to play Dusk // Dawn which I should probably try but am unconvinced as to how useful it will be. My issue when running out of gas is not because my stuff is dead and in the bin, it is just because what I have done isn't enough to win a game with, I need to get more in play, not kill their big things and get the things out of my bin which are not even there!

SkullclampWhat I think is actually the correct route to building a mono white version of this list is to incorporate Skullclamp and Stoneforge Mystic (and very likely no other equipment). With those two combined you can rely quite heavily on the card advantage from the Clamp. This frees you up to cut some of the more forced value things in the list like Ranger of Eos, wildly increases the power level of the deck all while lowering the curve and providing another top rate two drop value utility dork. You would have sufficient card advantage then to scrimp more on creature count a little. You could shave off a bit of filler stuff and run a bit more interactive non-creature cards. You could even afford to pack an Enlightened Tutor which would greatly increase the consistency of your Monument starts and ability to carry on as long as needed with the endless gas from Clamp. You would want to tone it down a little on Anthems/Lords for the Clamp route but despite their seeming counter-synergy you can run both and have it all work out as required. Clamp feels like one of the better uses for the tokens produced by Monument. Restoration Specialist then starts to become a somewhat appealing two drop utility dork adding a nice amount of safety to your engine cards. Before trying to further refine the mono white build I am going to try out a white blue option as per the list below. The blue dorks give far better card draw options as well as some nice disruptive ones. It gives you more useful options on things to be getting on with earlier in the game if needed too. The value the blue offers makes Skullclamp less important but I can't see it being bad in the list.

UW Version
Judge's Familiar
24 Spells

Mother of Runes
Gideon's Lawkeeper
Thraben Inspector
Judges Familiar

Swords to Plowshares

Jeskai Barricade
Stormscape Familiar
Arcane Denial
Spirit Bonds

Wall of Omens
Selfless Spirit
Spell QuellerKor Skyfisher
Porcelain Legionnair

Oketra's Monument
Trophy Mage
Bygone Bishop
Spell Queller

Reflector Mage
Recruiter of the Guard

Ephara, God of the Polis
Grand Arbiter Augustin IV
Sawtooth Loon

Sky Hussar
Sky Hussar
16 Lands

This deck looks mad! Sawtooth Loon?! I look forward to this being vastly greater than the sum of it's parts. While designing this deck I found a wealth of potentially interesting cards that I couldn't find a way to squeeze in (of which some are listed below). Suffice it to say this deck premise has an incredibly vast array of options. I am going to need to do a whole lot more builds and games to fully refine it which I doubt I will do to exhaustion! The fun is largely in the trying and the discovery, for me at least. Being fully satisfied with how to build something in a given meta is a bit like completing the computer game, it loses a bit of its appeal. Obviously that comes from someone who no longer competes. Mastering a deck and meta has a bit more longevity if you are going to be taking that deck along to events, sadly there are not really competitive cube events as yet. I might be arsed to travel to one of those!

Drogskol Captain
Aven Wind Guide
Genesis Chamber
Anointer Priest
Hana, Ship's Navigator

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