I have had a terrible vision of the future of Standard…a vision of total, absolute control. Cipher has seen virtually no tournament play, not because it’s a bad ability. Simply put, no one has broken it yet. Most of the cards are dreadfully overcosted, but once in play the results will speak for themselves. The logical starting point is, of course, using the opponent’s strengths against them.
It’s simple: right now, everyone’s looking at Jund and Naya Midrange and Aggro-Red as the decks to beat. It’s a lot of slugging matches, a lot of early game plays shut down with Searing Spear and Pillar of Flame. However, the lesson taught so often at tournament has been ‘there will always be more and bigger creatures’. It’s a simple matter to use Mayor of Avabruck to get humans beyond their reach, and Thalia to make casting spells a pain. Boros Charm and a few other spells can make removal a tricky proposition, so I asked myself, why focus on removal to deal with creature-based decks? Better yet, what in the hell does this have to do with Cipher in tournament? Well, two simple cards: Invisible Stalker, and Hands of Binding. Those two cards in combination are capable of of locking down two creatures indefinitely- without the addition of anything else. Throw on Mental Vapors, and that’s two cards on the first turn, and a card every turn afterwards. That’s one little creature…messing up their game in a big way.
While the temptation would be to go black/blue/green and use Hexproof and unblockable creatures to whittle away at the enemy, I can’t quite develop a build that comfortably and reliably gets the Stalker or anything else into play. I’m still toying with it though- Elusive Krasis seems like a likely candidate for the deck. He’s unblockable, anything I play will get him bigger, and he makes a great blocker who’s hard to burn. The problem seems to be getting the ratios right, and making the deck work fast enough to keep up with most Boros and Jund decks. So, instead of trying to outpace them, I thought to myself, why not just slow them down?
Here’s my build, Budget Azorious:
The basic idea is to drop something every turn, and lock down the board until you can start to take advantage of Hands of Binding. Once that happens, you can nickel and dime them to death. Redirect is surprisingly useful to force the use of their own removal on their permanents, and the Extort on Blind Obedience adds to the pinging. All the creatures sync well with Champion of the Parish, and there’s enough draw to keep pace, mostly. I still need to playtest it, and decide whether to add Last Thoughts. While this deck by no means breaks the mechanic, it’s a cheap, easy way to get started.