If you’ve been reading my Rants of Valakut, you’ll know that I don’t usually make competitive decks. I’m much more inclined to build something silly or unconventional. Well, today, for a very special Rant of Valakut, I’m going to be delving into the most competitive format in the history of Magic: Minimaster.

Minimaster, or Pack Wars, is a quick and furious format. Each player builds a small deck using two of each basic land and a sealed booster pack. (Some players have begun to play with three of each basic land instead, but I still prefer two; it reduces the odds of a player ‘flooding out’ by drawing nothing but lands!) Players shuffle up their decks and draw their opening hands of seven cards. Keeping with its cutthroat nature, players don’t look at the contents of their decks beforehand, and no one is allowed to mulligan. It’s truly intense!

(one of the many possible Minimaster snap keeps)

You may wonder how you can play Magic with so small a deck; surely running out of cards is a real problem! Have no fear. To compensate for the small deck size, each player can, once per game, shuffle their graveyard into their library. Deciding when to use this free “Feldon’s Cane” can be difficult; do you shuffle your removal spells back into your deck early on, or do you wait until the last possible moment? It’s tough choices like this that really test a player’s skill, far more than you see in more casual formats like Modern or Vintage.

The biggest challenge in Minimaster, however, is clearly deck building. A serious, competitive format like this requires players to put a lot of time and thought into what cards they randomly open in their booster pack.

With that daunting task in mind, let’s look at the deck lists from the finals of the most recent Minimaster Grand Prix in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada:

Phantasmal Control

Phantasmal Control plays a dangerous game by only including a handful of creatures. Phantasmal Image, its namesake card, can be used aggressively, but if you can wait long enough to copy your opponent’s biggest threat your patience will be greatly rewarded.

The overall game plan of this deck is to control the board through early interaction, such as Magma Jet, Aethertow and Soul Manipulation, then surprise your opponent with a sudden blocker in the form of Spire Monitor. Once the Drake hits the table, enchanting it with Madcap Skills ensures a quick end to the game before your opponent can draw into an answer.

Also, the deck has Golgari Germination in it for some reason.


Stony Skies

Stony Skies takes a more aggressive line, running a large number of evasive creatures. Kor Skyfisher and Talon Trooper provide early pressure, setting things up for Sedraxis Specter and Tower Gargoyle to finish things off.

Penumbra Spider helps to stabilize the board if the deck gets behind, and Revive will ensure that there are spiders to block for days. Meanwhile, Thunderous Wrath helps to tie everything together, providing both removal and a way to finish off an opponent at low health in case they are able to muster multiple blockers. The Wrath is important enough to the overall gameplan of the deck that there is even a copy of Mystical Teachings included just to find it!

The real kicker in this deck, however, is its mana denial plan. Between Molten Rain and Stony Silence (to disable pesky Signets…), you can slow your opponent down long enough for your creatures to fly in and finish them off.


So how did things go in the finals?

As you may know, Minimaster matches are a best-of-one series, which obviously puts a lot of extra pressure on winning that first game. Only the most stalwart players can handle this, and the finalists of the 2017 Minimaster Grand Prix were no exception. The competition was fierce this year, starting off on Day 1 with a 2-player round robin event. The finalists were both awarded byes on Day 1, which all but guaranteed them a spot in the finals. By the end of Day 2 it all came down to two players. One match. One game to determine the grand champion.

Stony Skies was on the play with  a bit of a slow start. Unable to find a Plains in the first few turns, she was unable to deploy her early threats. While Phantasmal Control appreciated the delay in action, he was looking a bit concerned, too. With no early creatures of his own to defend, and his only interaction being a Soul Manipulation to counter Stony Skies’ fourth turn play, things were also looking grim.

Turn three saw Stony Skies opt to play Night Terrors, exiling Phantasmal Control’s Soul Manipulation. Thankfully for Phantasmal Control, he was able to draw a Magma Jet as an answer to Stony Skies’ follow-up play of Sedraxis Specter. Stony Skies found another threat, and quickly played out an Explore and Kor Skyfisher, bouncing her extra land and drawing deeper into her deck.

Phantasmal Control drew his Phantasmal Image but declined to play it, deciding instead to keep up Aethertow instead. This allowed him to put Stony Skies’ Kor Skyfisher back on top of her library, effectively undoing her last turn. Redrawing the Skyfisher, Stony Skies replayed it and, bouncing her Plains and replaying it, but was also able to cast her Tower Gargoyle.

Finally seeing a large enough creature to copy, Phantasmal Control played his illusion, making his own Tower Gargoyle. An aggressive attack on Phantasmal Control’s next turn saw the Gargoyle block its clone, killing both creatures in the process. Setting up for a later turn, Stony Skies cast Mystical Teachings to find her Thunderous Wrath, but would need to wait to draw her second Mountain before she could cast it.

Stony Skies attacked with her Kor Skyfisher, only to have it blocked by a Spire Monitor that Phantasmal Control flashed in. Unable to save her flying soldier, the Skyfisher died. Now alone on the battlefield, Spire Monitor was enchanted with Madcap Skills and started attacking.

With both players at three cards in hand, Phantasmal Control cast Delirium Skeins, forcing everyone to discard their cards, including the Thunderous Wrath and Bone Splinters Stony Skies needed to kill the enchanted Spire Monitor. After a few short turns, unable even to draw enough creatures to block the Menacing Drake, Stony Skies passed the turn to Phantasmal Control who attacked in with his Spire Monitor for lethal damage.

It was, as all Minimaster games are, a tough match for both players, but in the end there could be only one master of the mini decks. Will Phantasmal Control, or a similar deck, do as well at the next Minimaster tournament, or is it true that ‘control is dead’? Only time will tell!

As for you, dear readers, I hope you all find yourselves brave enough to try the cutthroat, hyper-competitive world of Minimaster. With the lessons you have learned here, I’m sure your deck building skills will be that much sharper, and you will be ready for the next Minimaster Grand Prix.

Whenever that happens to be.

I’m sure someone will send out a memo for it.

That’s how that works, right?

. . .

Well, on behalf of the Mana Base, I hope you have a happy April 1st.





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