Long before Vesperlark Reanimator was even a glimmer of a possibility, and even before Delver Grow hit the table, my first foray into Modern was a Blue/Black Control deck built around Disciple of Deceit.

Unfortunately, I never wrote down my original deck list; as far as I recall, it looked a little something like this:

Inspired Control (2015)


Deck by Ben Iverach-Brereton

“Whenever Disciple of Deceit becomes untapped, you may discard a nonland card. If you do, search your library for a card with the same mana value as that card, reveal it, put it into your hand, then shuffle.”

Born of the Gods introduced the “Inspired” mechanic – an ability that triggers whenever the permanent becomes untapped. It’s never been all that powerful, and according to Mark Rosewater, it was never especially popular. Maybe I’m weird, but I always found it fascinating; at its most basic, it means you can attack with a creature and get a benefit on your next upkeep. The fun puzzle of it is finding ways to trigger it earlier, or even more than once a turn.

Step 1: Tap Safely

The danger with inspired creatures is that they aren’t inherently bigger or more deadly than anything else. Attacking with them can easily backfire if your opponent has blockers, since you aren’t only down a creature, but you also lose out on the untap trigger. One of the best ways to tap a creature without getting it into combat is Springleaf Drum, though once Kaladesh came out that also expanded into crewing vehicles.

Even with all the cool new vehicles in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, it’s still the original Smuggler’s Copter that stands (hovers?) above them all. It does everything, and for very little mana. Its ability to filter your draws can get you out of a surprising number of jams, and it’s big enough to pressure most planeswalkers and opponents. Most importantly, it has Crew 1. This means a single creature can tap to crew it.

Lately we’ve been seeing an influx of inspired enablers: cards that tap your creatures as part of their cost, meaning they get around summoning sickness. Larder Zombie, Skaab Wrangler and Siege Zombie got me thinking about my old deck and how I might update it, but it wasn’t until Moonsnare Prototype came out that I finally decided to sit down and start tinkering again.

The Prototype gives this deck a backup Springleaf Drum if I want it, and it comes with an optional Griptide to boot. Giving any deck copies four through eight of a key card is usually pretty significant, and this could be a huge boon. That said, it does come with a small catch: it doesn’t produce coloured mana. This can potentially break up an early sequence of: Land, Drum, go. Land one-drop, two-drop, which is probably one of the best starts you can have with a Springleaf Drum. Is it a deal breaker? Maybe not, but it definitely restricts what you can easily cast.

It’s worth mentioning Holdout Settlement while we’re on the subject of Springleaf Drum. When I first saw this land, I was ecstatic: here was a Drum for zero mana! How could it possibly go wrong?

Well, as it turns out I greatly miscalculated. While it’s true that Holdout Settlement (and its nearly-identical Desert reprint) can be used to tap your creatures, it’s a far cry from Springleaf Drum. First and foremost, it doesn’t ramp you the way the Drum does, which is the Drum’s biggest strength. What’s more, it replaces your usual land drop with a source of colourless mana; this means if you don’t have a creature in play to “crew” your land, it becomes that much more difficult to cast one. This is especially true of your creatures have demanding mana costs, like Disciple of Deceit.

A list that’s looking to tap its creatures outside of combat might benefit from one or two copies of Holdout Settlement, but no more than that.

Step 2: Untap Early

You can’t always wait until your next turn to reap the benefits of tapping your creatures. Sometimes you need to respond to removal against them, or want to tap them again before your turn for extra triggers. Thankfully, there are tools for that.

The original version of this deck used Teardrop Kami to great effect. In addition to its sweet art, this tiny spirit can happily sit in play until needed, then untap something without the need to spend additional mana. As a one-drop it’s also a cheap creature that can crew a Smuggler’s Copter or Springleaf Drum in a pinch, which is a nice bonus.

In later versions, I backed up the Kami with copies of Cerulean Wisps. This cantrip is a bit riskier than most, since its target can get removed before it resolves, but when it works it can generate a lot of value out of nowhere. The drawback to Teardrop Kami is that opponents can see it coming, but you can pop a Cerulean Wisps when they least expect it, potentially transmuting a card into a surprise counterspell with Disciple of Deceit, or effectively drawing two cards for one mana with the help of Pain Seer.

In the years since building this list, several other options have cropped up. My top picks are probably Vizier of Tumbling Sands and Stinging Lionfish, though I’m honestly not sure how well either of them would ultimately be. They seem fun, at least.

The tech I’m particularly excited to try out isn’t actually new, though. It’s just new to me.

Aura of Dominion is a quirky do-nothing enchantment from Champions of Kamigawa that also has the potential to push this deck into overdrive. For a single mana you tap an untapped creature you control to untap the enchanted creature. Normally this would just be a way to have a big attacker also serve as a blocker, but the observant among you may have noticed that this card does not say you have to tap another untapped creature to pay its cost. If you want, you can tap the enchanted creature just to untap it when the ability resolves. For one mana you get to twiddle that creature as often as you like.

If you’re able to toss Aura of Dominion on a Pain Seer in particular, you can generate an awful lot of card advantage in a real hurry!

Step 3: Win?

The original game plan for this deck was to cast a Wake Thrasher, untap a bunch of permanents to make it huge, then sneak it past any blockers with the help of Artful Dodge.

I also included Siren of the Silent Song as a thematic backup plan, but found it to be surprisingly effective. With a little bit of support, the Siren was able to shred my opponent’s hand, then keep them soft locked as I repeatedly untapped it on their draw step. It sure would be good with that Aura of Dominion

(Mana) Value Over Time

One of the key strengths if this deck is its ability to search up answers on the fly. With Disciple of Deceit and a way to untap it, you have access to most of your deck, as long as it’s mostly the same mana value. That’s the primary reason why this deck’s mana curve ends at three. Well, that and it makes revealing cards with Pain Seer less painful.

When I first built this deck, the mana value of split cards was treated differently: whenever an effect checked the cost of one of these cards, you would get two results, one for each half. That meant that a card like Far // Away had a mana value of two and and mana value of three. This meant you could potentially cascade into a split card, or recast one with Goblin Dark-Dwellers. Notably, it also meant that discarding Far // Away to Disciple of Deceit gave you the option of finding either a two-drop or a three-drop.

This meant I could use the split card as a sort of ‘bridge’ between the spells of my deck: I could discard a card that cost two to get Far // Away, then discard the Far // Away to get a card that cost three. Unfortunately, the cascade mechanic ruined things for the rest of us, and the rule for split cards changed: now, the new mana value of a split card is the combined total of each half in all zones except the stack. Sadly, it means that discarding Far // Away these days only lets you find spells that cost five.

On the plus side, Zendikar Rising opened up a new opportunity in a similar vein. One of the problems with Disciple of Deceit was that it could never find lands, even if you discarded a zero mana spell. This was probably for the best, since it prevented cards like Tormod’s Crypt from becoming a free Tolaria West, but it did mean that if you needed a third land drop, the Disciple couldn’t save you.

That’s not the case anymore, thanks to modal double-faced cards (or MDFCs). Zendikar Rising gave us spells with lands on the back face. These cards are treated as whatever their front face is in all zones except the stack and battlefield. This results in some interesting corner cases (Goblin Charbelcher and Oops All Spells players immediately took notice). For me, this means I get to include lands that have different mana values… and that aren’t considered lands until I play them! With a Malakir Rebirth and a Jwari Disruption in the deck, I get to discard any one or two cost spell for a land when I need one. I could even add Agadeem’s Awakening or Glasspool Mimic if I wanted to discard three cost spells. These spells are a bit slow, since they come into play tapped, but the added flexibility is very nice.

Thinking Twice about Think Twice

One of the mainstays of this deck has been the interaction between Disciple of Deceit and Think Twice; being able to discard a card as a tutour and still get value out of it later gives provides a lot of hidden card advantage. These days Think Twice is a bit slow for Modern (and probably was when I was building this the first time, if I’m being totally honest), but I’m hard pressed to find a better alternative.

If I wanted to double down on it, I could potentially add Siphon Insight into the mix. It’s effectively four more copies of Think Twice, but with the twist of taking cards from the opponent’s deck instead of your own. This would give the list a whole new avenue of attack, which is intriguing. The downside would be that whatever you steal probably wouldn’t help you with any of the inspired cards; most people don’t run untap effects in their deck after all. Plus it doesn’t put cards in your hand, so you wouldn’t have anything extra to discard to Disciple of Deceit.

Another option would be to replace Think Twice with Frantic Inventory. I was impressed with this card draw spell in Standard and Historic, and got a feel for how best to play it. I know that the first copy will always be a let down unless you can get another one into the graveyard first. From there, the Inventory is basically nothing but gravy, drawing two or three cards for only two mana. We’ve recently established that that’s a pretty good deal.

As far as how this would fit with the play pattern of Inspired Control, it’s easy to see the value in discarding the first Frantic Inventory to Disciple of Deceit. It’s especially nice since you could search for a second copy right away. The trouble is that after that, you’d be hard-pressed to discard any more Inventories. That’s a pretty good problem to have, but it does make the deck a little less agile; you can always pitch a Think Twice to find a Mana Leak if you need to, and you’ll never feel like you’ve lost any value.

Perhaps the biggest sticking point against Frantic Inventory is that it demands you run a full playset to get your mana’s worth. With all of the other cards this deck is trying to include, I’m just not sure there’s enough room for it.

Inspired Control (2022)


Deck by Ben Iverach-Brereton

I decided I should put together a new list rather than just sit around thinking about it. This is what I came up with; it’s far from optimized, but it’s a good start. Shuffling it up, it feels like a polished up version of what I built all those years ago, which has got me excited. I know it’ll be a while before I get a chance to properly test it, and I’m sure I’ll find all sorts of flaws after the first few games, but that’s how you iron out the details for any deck. Between this, Vesperlark Reanimator, and Delver Grow, I’ll sure have a lot of options on Modern night!

Getting Inspired

Over the years, I’ve had a lot of ideas on how to build Inspired Control. Some of the honourable mentions include:

I’ve seen a few Magda Dwarf lists that do very similar things to my Inspired Control deck, so a Grixis version of this deck could be really good. Springleaf Drum makes splashing a third colour a bit easier, too, so it’s definitely worth considering.

I could also see an artifact-based deck with Moonsnare Prototype and Emry, Lurker of the Loch (even though she doesn’t trigger from untapping, the deck’s various twiddle effects would let you activate her ability several times a turn, which is pretty good). Alternatively, you could shift your focus to Wake Thrasher, and try to piece together a big combo finish. Even switching gears and going deep into the madness mechanic could work; it would certainly result in a very different list.

Regardless, it’s nice to revisit an old list like this. I’m not sure which direction Inspired Control will ultimately take me, but the journey is sure to be worth it.

One Response

  1. Jim Hopkins

    Your original deck list shows 8 Teardrop Kami. What was that other slot supposed to be a playset of?


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