Antonino De Rosa showed up with a unique deck at GP Memphis and used it to take down 100 packs at a huge side event. Antonino has an impressive Magic resume—his successes include 4 Grand Prix wins, a U.S. Nationals title, and a Pro Tour Top 8—so let’s pay attention to his peculiar deck choice.

Waste Not/Dark Deal by Antonino de Rosa

Game Plan and Card Choices

A close to ideal, yet realistic draw of this deck would go like this:

Turn 1: Dismal Backwater.

Turn 2: Fetchland, Waste Not.

Turn 3: Swamp, Dark Deal. Your opponent discards 6 cards. Let’s say 2 lands, 2 spells, and 2 creatures, so you get BBBB in your mana pool, two 2/2 Zombies, and two cards. Among the cards that you drew from Dark Deal is a Thoughtseize and a Gurmag Angler, so you cast those and pass the turn with a near-insurmountable advantage.

Although Waste Not can set up some broken draws, it wasn’t in the deck to begin with. “Some of us going from the island to Miami, mainly me and Ken Ho, wanted to build a super delve deck with Tasigur and Gurmag Angler,” Antonino said when I contacted him. “Then, while looking through Gatherer, we saw Waste Not. I didn’t even know that was a Magic card, and we went from there.”

So, in other words, the delve cards form the core of the deck. As Standard doesn’t contain Mishra’s Bauble or Gitaxian Probe, you have to resort to Dark Deal and Rakshasa’s Secret to fuel delve. And once you already have those cards in the deck, the addition of Waste Not is natural. But it’s important to remember that Waste Not is only there to generate some additional value—the true backbone of the deck is formed by the delve cards and delve enablers.

Playtest Results and Observations

I played several matches with this deck on Magic Online, queueing up several 2-mans and 8-mans. My combined record was 5-5. That’s decent, but not great, and my overall feeling was that the deck is not strong enough for a premier event. However, it’s competitive enough to stand a chance at an FNM.

The deck is a lot of fun to play. In one game, I almost decked myself on turn 4! There is no other deck in Standard that can come close to that. I also enjoyed some of the funky tricks that the deck offers. For example, playing Sign in Blood on the opponent followed by Rakshasa’s Secret. That’s just filthy when you have three Waste Not on the battlefield.

The main deck was able to beat midrange decks, but it had a hard time against aggro or control. Aggro decks empty their hand too quickly, and control decks have too much countermagic. Antonino’s assessments of the matchups was similar: “The deck is real good vs. Sultai and Abzan. It’s OK vs Red/White and Jeskai, but can’t ever beat U/B Control, U/W Heroic, and Mono-Red. I tried a lot of stuff to get the other matchups plausible, but didn’t have any success.”

Looking for Improvements

After playing with the deck for a while, I found three main problems:

  1. Discard quickly becomes useless: The deck contains a lot of discard spells, but they become useless when the opponent is in topdeck mode. The same holds for Waste Not.
  2. Too many delve spells: Delve cards have diminishing returns. Even though the deck can fill up the graveyard relatively quickly, the third Treasure Cruise or Gurmag Angler usually comes at full retail. I felt that the deck contained 1-2 delve cards too many.
  3. Too much card draw, not enough action: Between Sign in Blood, Dark Deal, and Treasure Cruise, the deck spends a lot of time drawing extra cards, but you don’t always get somewhere. The deck doesn’t really play anything to affect the board beyond Gurmag Angler or Tasigur.

For the first problem, I haven’t found a good solution. I explored options like Void Snare and Master of the Feast to ensure that opponents retain a full hand, but these cards were pretty awkward any time I was trying to play a fair game. Void Snare without a follow-up discard spell is a waste of a card, and Master of the Feast falls too easily to Chained to the Rocks and Abzan Charm.

For the second and third problem, I do have a solution of sorts: cut 2 Treasure Cruise and 1 Sign in Blood and add 2 Torrent Elemental and 1 Empty the Pits. The addition of Empty the Pits was also suggested by Antonino, as the card had over-performed for him. Torrent Elemental has synergy with the delve theme and can help a lot when you play a long, grindy game against U/B Control. You can even cast it off of their Ashiok!

Finally, I made a few sideboard changes. As the plan against hyper-aggressive decks is to take out Waste Not/Dark Deal and become a delve control deck, it is important to ensure there are enough cards to bring in. Hence, I added 2 Jorubai Murk Lurker. I also swapped out a few Negate for Stubborn Denial because the deck can turn on ferocious reliably enough. Here’s the updated list:

Waste Not/Dark Deal by Frank Karsten

I’ll be back later this week with a more detailed primer on Mono-Black Humans. Meanwhile, mind the Zombie Fish!

Videos (Paul Cheon)