From Pre-made to Awesome #2

Welcome back to ‘Premade to Awesome’ here on MTGO Academy! Last time we analyzed our chosen deck Flames of the Dragon. As I laid out in the rules, it is now time to play 3 matches before making our first changes to the deck. This will give us an idea of how the deck works on the tables and if our thoughts about it were right. So let’s head over to Play \ Constructed Queues \ Just for Fun and join a Standard match. Here’s the deck we’ll be starting out with:

First Set

In Round 1 I went against a W/B Orzhov deck. I won the dice roll and kept a very slow starting hand. Luckily my opponent had to mulligan to 4 cards.


On the draw I found a Staff of the Flame Magus. Great, I now hold 2 of the cards I suspected to be the weakest of the deck. She played a Tithe Drinker next turn which was answered by my Aeronaut Tinkerer. I was pretty happy that I could easily block his 2/1 with my 2/3. Then he buffed his creature with Paragon of Open Graves and attacked. I decided to sacrifice my Tinkerer in order to prevent a lot of life-link action. Maybe I should have waited for my Wall of Frost to hit the board.

Anyway: The next couple of turns nothing happened until I drew a Juggernaut which I played and equipped with Rogue’s Gloves. I got two attacks in and drew lands. She then played Gift of Orzhova on his Paragon. This allowed me to sacrifice the stupid staff for my Shrapnel Blast to kill the creature and the enchantment with it. After that, she conceded.

Match 2 was much closer. Both of us started with 7 cards and went on to develop our boards. In a pretty slow fashion.


Her defender might have blocked my Bronze Sable but an airborne Tinkerer showed the power of evasion. Her deck then got steam when she played a Tithe Drinker and an Ajani’s Pridemate.


She started to pump up the cat but luckily my Wall of Frost and my Tyrant’s Machine were able to lock his creatures down. I sacrificed an Ornithopter when she played Shrike Harpy. After playing Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts, she spontaneously decided to concede the match.

Result Round 1: 2-0 WIN

In Round 2 Game 1 my opponent conceded on Turn 3 after he got mana screwed.


In Game 2 she surprised me by playing totally different colors. But with her first spell it became clear what she was up to…


Slivers are always fun to play. Sliver Hive mitigates some of the mana problems you typically run into when playing a 5-color deck. And if your enemy’s deck doesn’t sport a ton of removal – like mine – your little slivers can become quite nasty pretty quick. My deck couldn’t match her speed and when she played Bow of Nylea and Leeching Sliver the game was over.


In Game 3 I was pretty happy to play Welkin Tern on Turn 2. Happiness turned sour when she summoned Striking Sliver and Galerider Sliver, stopping me from attacking and blocking. Two turns later I played the Juggernaut to get some damage in. Because what are the odds that she plays Battle Sliver on her next turn? I don’t know, but that’s what she did.


My Juggernaut suicided itself and my enemy added insult to injury by playing Door of Destinies. I received 30 damage and lost the game and match.

Result Round 2: 1-2 LOSE

Match 3 revealed a problem with the 3-drops of the deck. Wall of Frost and Krenko’s Enforcer both cost double colored mana. Since the deck doesn’t have any mana fixing, I found myself unable to cast the goblin on Turn 3.


On Turn 5 I finally managed to play one of the iconic creatures of the deck: Hoarding Dragon. I decided to exile a Juggernaut so I would have another big threat when the dragon got killed. Now both of us summoned some other big creatures, and she used two cards to kill my dragon.


We traded a Nemesis of Mortals with a Glacial Crasher. I played the Juggernaut but it fell prey to a Reclamation Sage. I then did something stupid and sacrificed it for a Shrapnel Blast on his Nemesis. In response she made it monstrous and hit me for 10. She then buffed his Sage with Nighthowler making it a 16/15 and finished the game.

In Game 2 both of us had a pretty standard start.


It always feels good to play Juggernaut on Turn 4 when your opponent has nothing on the board. But all hopes on winning shatter when she plays a 6/6 Nighthowler in response. My Juggernaut got killed and my Tyrant’s Machine was demolished by a Putrefy. My deck had no other answers to a creature as big as his Nighthowler so after 2 more turns I lost.

Result Round 3: 0-2 LOSE

Analysis and first set of changes

Well, going 1-2 with a premade deck is not too bad, I guess. Let’s analyze what went well and what went badly and then get to the first round of changes.

So what I noticed is that this deck is awfully slow. In the last article I stated that Flames of the Dragon is an aggressive deck and I still think it is. But it has problems getting threats on the board fast enough. I never drew the Ornithopter-Ensoul Artifact combination. In fact I had Wall of Frost in almost every game and I also sat on a Krenko’s Enforcer without the mana to play him. Other cards like Tyrant’s Machine or Brawler’s Plate are very clumsy too and don’t put pressure on your opponent right away. I really want to develop the aggressiveness of the deck by getting rid of those cards. Remember that we can only change 5 cards at a time so we have to choose wisely.

The first cards to go are pretty easy. I remove the 2 copies of Wall of Frost. I expected them to be one of the worst cards in the deck and that turned out to be true. Getting a 0/7 defender on Turn 3 instead of a 2/3 flyer is awful if you want to be aggressive.

(I) Wall of Frost -2

The next cards to go are the Krenko’s Enforcers. Yes, they are aggressive and therefore much better than the walls. But they have a mana cost of 1RR. Since we only have blue cards to play at Turn 2, we are looking for Islands on our starting hand. That puts the goblins into a difficult spot where we are often not able to cast them on Turn 3. They also have no synergy with our artifacts which goes against the main theme of the deck that we identified in the last article.

(II) Krenko’s Enforcer -2

So those are our first 4 cards to go. But what to put in? Since we got rid of creatures, but our deck really relies on creatures to pressure the opponent, it is natural that we will fill the deck with other, better creatures. So let’s put in 2 enchantments!

Ensoul Artifact is no creature but in this deck it might as well be. I never drew one in the 3 matches but I am still fond of this card. If you can play it on Turn 2, it is wrecking. And it doesn’t lose much of its value throughout the game.

(III) Ensoul Artifact +2

Since the optimal time to play this card is Turn 2 we need enchanting material that is available from the start. We have two options here. Ornithopter and Darksteel Citadel. The Citadel is nice because it is indestructible. But it has no evasion. Also if we play Ensoul Artifact on Turn 2 on our Citadel, we won’t be able to attack with it since we needed to tap it for mana. It will also hinder the development of our board since we want to attack with the citadel. Therefore we lose a mana source early in the game. So I think the ‘thopter is the better choice here. We can increase our copies of it to 4 which is nice. 4 copies of Ornithopter and 4 copies of Ensoul Artifact give us the maximum potential to get a 5/5 flyer on Turn 2. This also lets us experiment with this victory route for next time.

(IV) Ornithopter +2

That leaves us one card to change. After some hesitation, I decided to make a probably controversial change. I think Siege Dragon has to go. Yes, I never drew it in the games. But if I would have I would never have been able to cast it. With 7 mana and no mana ramp in the deck, it is nearly impossible to bring this dragon onto the battlefield. And while he is pretty big and could finish a game on his own, he has no synergy with our artifacts. So there he goes.

(V) Siege Dragon -1

But since this is still Flames of the Dragon, of course we need to include another flying lizard. Luckily we already know of a dragon that is not only cheaper but also synergizes well with our artifact theme.

(VI) Hoarding Dragon +1

Okay, great. That’s it for our first round of changes. The deck looks like this now:

I think with these changes we can make more aggressive plays on the early turns. This should give us an advantage in the middle to late game where our direct damage spells may finally be able to close out a game. It still stands below 3$ at the Academy_Sellbots, so easily within our maximum of 20 dollars. So let’s head back to the tables!

Second set of matches

In Round 1 1 I went against a BW deck which had control elements with Wall of Essence but also small aggressive creatures like Archetype of Courage. That’s exactly what you want to avoid when building your first decks. Don’t put conflicting themes into them. They will hinder you more than it helps.

In Game 1 she got mana screwed while I drew cards with Rogue’s Gloves. I started to bash him with an Ensouled Ornithopter which felt very satisfying. She conceded when I played a Hoarding Dragon.


In Game 2 I got an interesting starting hand, which I decided to keep. That’s the beauty of artifacts. You cannot get color screwed.


I equipped the Brawler’s Plate to the Bronze Sable and got some damage in until he played Archetype of Courage. The first strike stopped me for a while until I drew Ensoul Artifact which I promptly cast on the Sacred Armory. Equipped with the plate I had a neat 7/7 trample creature.


He delayed his end for a couple of turns with extort and a Gray Merchant of Asphodel but eventually yielded.

Round 1 Results: 2-0 WIN

In Round 2 I went against a Young Pyromancer deck. My starting hands in both games were equally bad with no castable 2- or 3-mana creatures after a mulligan. I probably should have mulliganned to 5, hoping for a better hand. Anyway he played Purphoros, God of the Forge on Turn 3 in Game 1 and on Turn 4 in Game 2. Normally that would be the point where Shrapnel Blast shines in this deck. But the god being indestructible thwarted that plan somewhat. So not much to be done here.


Round 2 Results: 0-2 LOSE

The first game of Round 3 wasn’t very exciting. He couldn’t play much and I whittled down his health with Tinkerers, Juggernauts, and Welkin Terns.


Game 2 was pretty back and forth but when he played a buffed Phytotitan, I would have needed a Shrapnel Blast. I drew a Lava Axe which was basically a dead card in this situation. That put the Axes on my “has-to-go”-list for later changes.


Game 3 had the same situation as above but on Turn 3. He played a Sungrace Pegasus and buffed it with Marked by Honor. I would have needed either Hoarding Dragon or Shrapnel Blast to deal with it. I drew neither. Instead I sat on 2 Glacial Crashers which I couldn’t cast. Yeah, that really sucked.


Round 3 Results: 1-2 LOSE

Analysis and second set of matches

Okay, those games revealed some more flaws in this deck. For one, it doesn’t have enough removal. One Shrapnel Blast is not enough. Secondly the Glacial Crashers are neat but since they cost 2 blue mana they let me down when I needed them most. And thirdly the deck still doesn’t get aggressive fast enough. Maybe I just had bad draws but with cards like Staff of the Mind Magus still around, the deck simply has too many bad cards. So let’s go into the second set of changes and see if we can get more bang out of the deck.

The first cards to go are the two staves. They simply suck and despite them being a 1-of in the deck I drew them every game. They are like a curse!

(I) Staff of the Mind Magus -1
(II) Staff of the Flame Magus -1

I already feel much better. The next thing I want to throw out is the Tyrant’s Machine. It is just too expensive for its effect. I’d rather have Icy Manipulator but that thing is probably not coming back to standard any time soon.

(III) Tyrant’s Machine -1

The last two things to go are the Lava Axes. They will be replaced with Shrapnel Blasts. The axes are too expensive and too narrow in their scope. The blasts allow the deck to finish off the opponent or kill his key creatures. Even the possibility of having a Shrapnel Blast in hand can force your opponent to play differently. An alternative would be Lightning Strike. But it deals 2 less damage and the Shrapnel Blast supports the artifact theme of the deck. Just imagine blowing up your Ornithopter to kill the enemy Garruk, Apex Predator. Hilarious!

(IV) Lava Axe -2
(V) Shrapnel Blast +2

That leaves 3 spots open that we can fill. First I thought about adding 2 or 3 copies of Divination. They fit nicely in our 3-mana spot where we only have 5 cards. The deck is also in serious need of a way to draw cards. If you don’t get an optimal starting hand to build early aggression you want to topdeck a Shrapnel Blast or an Ensoul Artifact to get back into the game. Divination would help with that. Nevertheless, I decided to put in 2 copies of Rogue’s Gloves into the deck instead. The gloves may be slower but they are an artifact and can therefore become a 5/5 creature. Playing them on Turn 2 also enables our Aeronaut Tinkerer of which I also add a copy to help our 3-mana spot. (Editor’s Note: In addition, you can Ensoul them and then equip them with another set of Rogue’s Gloves, which makes me laugh. – PlanetWalls)

(VI) Rogue’s Gloves +2
(VII) Aeronaut Tinkerer +1

Okay that’s our second set of changes! So the deck now looks like this:

Finally we got rid of all the cards that hinder our aggressive theme. I expect the deck to do much better now since it is more unlikely to get dead draws. Having regular access to Rogue’s Gloves should help with getting threats into our hand and onto the board. The deck now contains 13 artifacts (excluding the Juggernauts) that can be turned into 5/5 creatures or 5 direct damage. One thing that bothers me is that the deck doesn’t contain any artifact “bomb”. What I mean with that, is a card that you can tutor with the Hoarding Dragon and which is so scary that your opponent really doesn’t want to kill your dragon. I already have a few ideas for that though.


The test games revealed some serious flaws in the deck. It happened to be not fast enough for early board dominance. But neither did it have a good late game with only Siege Dragon as a winning condition. With the 10 changes we made to the deck it should be better suited to get control of the board on Turns 2 to 4 and then dominate the game from there. So please tell me your opinions. Did I make the right choices? Do you think I should have included other cards? Are you a fan of life-gain staves? Use the comment section or write me directly under my nick Gurkengelee on MTGO.

  1. Hey,

    nice article. I like the approach and the conclusions you draw. Only question I have is whether 3 test matches are enough to justify changes. You take all previous test matches in consideration, which is good, but for single changes you’d maybe need more testing than just 3 matches.

    For this set it didn’t seem necessary since all the changes were things you speculated to be bad from the beginning. But for the next set of changes, maybe go for 5 matches, if you have the time, to solidify your choices and convince yourself that it wasn’t just bad draw or a bad match up for a particular card.

    Keep it up :)

  2. If the limit is really 20$,I guess you could include a couple of scuttling doom engine, this should give you a better late game, and a good target for sharpnel blast!
    It does cost ~1tix/ea, but i guess it’s capable of improving the deck quite a bit.

    Probably the Crasher’s could then go or something. And then, that would mean that you could probably lower the islands and mountains count since you increased the artifacts and blue almost disappeared? Means you could go for 4 darksteel citadels, making the chance of having fun with Ensoul artifact a bit bigger!

    Well, just random ideas ^^ seen way worse budget decks in any case, and looks funny somehow ^^

  3. Hey Edward,

    thanks for the inpu! Of course more matches would provide more information. But since I only change 5 cards at a time, I think that 3 matches are enough to give a general idea about what I want in and out of the deck. It could also be quite boring to read my summary of 5 matches. But if it turns out I don’t get enough information in 3 games I will change it to 5.


    thanks for the suggestions. I already had an eye on the Doom Engine and yes I think the crashers can go in exchange. On the other hand Soul of New Phyrexia is also in the budget range. I’ll have to make up my mind which of the two it should be. Changing lands is also a good idea but it may be hard to stick to the 5 card limit. Especially since I only have two rounds of changes left for this deck.


  4. True, I didn’t think about the Soul.
    If the plan is to keep the Shrapnel blasts around, i think i’d still prefer the upside of potentially doing a sudden 11 dmg to the face of the opponent than getting the indestructibility factor, but I guess I could also be convinced otherwise!

    Are the lands so important to change? While duals and scry lands are always an advantage (esp. scry imo), I don’t think you really need the fixing (most of your mana base is either colorless or one mana symbol) and they easily bump the price, so it may be harder to keep the budget low with it!

    Good luck with it in any case, I like the concept of the column and I am curious to see the end result ^^

  5. Note: sorry, didn’t realize you were referring to the citadels, and not bilands or such things ^^
    Well, if they can’t fit, they’re not a high priority anyway I guess :)