Mana Vortex

Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.

- Herman Melville

My White Whale.

Febrary 2013: "At some point every year I spend a few moments to try to break Mana Vortex, still with no success."

June 2014"When will someone manage to build the Mana Vortex deck? It must be possible somehow."

August 2014"It's a casual community, and if you build a random Mana Vortex or Aisling Leprechaun deck, the high fives will be plentiful."

May 2015: "As for the maindeck, the most glaring omission is The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale. Turns out that they are kind of expensive. But if I get me a Tabernacle or four, I could use them for a future Mana Vortex deck, so it isn't a complete silver bullet acquisition."

January 2015: "Heiner, you fox. Yep, a Mana Vortex deck."

So Heiner Litz finally did it. And in May 2015, he published his Magnum Opus on Mana Vortex over at Eternal Central.

Eternal Central, May 2015

Heiner showed that the card could do something, and he became the Mana Vortex guy. After discussing many different archetypes in the article, his eventual version was a mono-blue prison deck with Howling Mines and Relic Barriers.

Call me Captain Ahab. Heiner provided a compass those eight years ago, but this wasn't the end of my journey. There was more to Mana Vortex. But it is a hard card in a hard format full of hard decks. It was the kind of obsession that would take years to satisfy. Because if I wanted to build my Mana Vortex prison, access to Power 9 would just be step one. If I wanted to explore the restricted list, my mana base would consist almost entirely of dual lands I didn't own yet. Many of the core cards in the deck would be reserved list rares from Legends, nigh unplayable in most any other pile but still laughably rare and expensive. And I would need to pick up multiple Tabernacles if I really wanted to start brewing.

The years went by, and eventually I found myself with full Power. Then the restricted list, then forty duals, and then one copy of each Legends rare. And last year, I landed a deal with Henk to overcome the biggest hurdle in building Mana Vortex; access to multiple Tabernacles.

Ok, let's go.

No more excuses. The only thing left before I could really start brewing was a playset of Land Equilibrium. I had one in my Legends binder.

Second one came in a letter from three-time Shark winner Elof "The Mighty" Gottfridsson.

And the last two was acquired from Kalle Nord when we met in Voorthuizen for Dwarven Warriors 6 last month.

Land Equilibrium. I tried to write a post about it last year, but got a bit mixed up in nostalgia. As luck would have it, its price tag had moved to a slightly more sensible place than a year or two ago, and one could even consider it almost affordable these days. Affordable as them Legends rares goes at least. 

The goal with the Mana Vortex deck is to eliminate all lands and then stop people from playing new lands. After denying any possibility to develop the board, we'll eventually starve people out with a Black Vise or something. In terms of horsemen, the deck is The Famine. 

"I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine.”" Dude even got a scale, much Equilibrium flavor.

As we want lots of non-land mana sources, and our strategy works excellent with Draw7-spells, this is a deck where we really want to play the full Power 9.

"The best thing with having full Power, is that you have full Power." - Martin Beer, 2012

But here is where I diverge a bit from the Litz School of 2015. If I'm playing stupid cards (Mana Vortex, Land Equilibrium, Tabernacle) that I want to make playable using broken cards (full Power), I want to go for all them broken cards. My plan isn't mono-blue, getting some fair advantage with role players like Relic Barrier and Transmute Artifact. For a pile like this, I'm digging deep into the restricted list.

Not a deck for Gentlemen.

And as this is a no-budget prison deck, my goal isn't to make people slightly annoyed. My goal is to make magic a zero-sum fun game where I take all the fun for myself.

Ah, Legends. You really never wanted people to actually play Magic.

There are more good cards from Legends that were left in the binder. One I would surely play next time is In The Eye of Chaos.

This one fully shuts down pesky Disenchants and Counterspells in the mid- to late-game.

Another one that might be playable - at least from the sideboard - is Mana Matrix.

This could well be the one deck where Mana Matrix is actually good.

And because we're here to suck up all the fun and have it for ourselves, let's add some more spells that screw with our opponent's mana.

Disenchants kill Moxen, and are necessary to have any game against Blood Moon. Also, Geddon+Tabernacle is a hilarious play if you want people to stop playing Magic.

At this point we've maxed out on the number of spells we can fit in the deck. So it looks like we're building a core UW Power deck that don't play Mana Drain, Braingeyser, nor Swords to Plowshares main. OK.

The mana in a pile that plays 4-5 colors while simultaneously not wanting to have any lands in play can get a bit rough, but hitting our colored sources gets a bit easier as we don't play Mishra's Factory.

12-year old me would approve.

 Now all that's left is to tweak the sideboard.

We want to be able to counter Blood Moon and not randomly die to Underworld Dreams or Hypnotic Specter. The rest is mostly boilerplate. The last card in the sideboard is Tabernacle #3.

The Famine. We have a deck.

As luck would have it, I had the most perfect opportunity to test out the deck. The Plague 2 was coming up in Drammen, and with 50+ players it would be the largest Norwegian oldschool tournament yet. It was also a perfect flavor fit for a deck like this.

Everyone got a playmat!

Going in, I knew that I could be up against a strong field. There are not that many free wins around these parts of the woods. So my goal was 2-4 in the swiss. While I thought the deck could do stuff, it was still all theory crafting. I hadn't jammed a single practice game before heading to Drammen. But when you sleeve up this many broken cards, pure variance will almost surely land you a win or two, regardless of the quality of the last 20-ish cards in the deck.





Ok, so this pile somehow worked and I went 5-1 in the swiss. Part of that record was due to the fact that draws were settled with Chaos Orb flips, and I'm pretty good at flipping Chaos Orbs. But still, deece. 

Perhaps my favorite board state of the day: Eureka vs Kismet.

I eventually met my demise in a ridiculously long and complicated match against Jimmie in the quarterfinals. We both made a few loose plays in the end there (long day with lots of alcohol), but in particular I made a big misplay casting my Hurkyl's Recall at a very bad moment in game 3 where I think I would have just won if I had waited a couple of turns (he had no lands but all the moxen, and I could have followed up Hurkyl's with Nether Void if I had just waited a little). Still, it was a really good and fun game, and in a sense it was kinda neat that it was my sub-par play that ended the run rather than the deck itself.

And got this rad Theodor Kittelsen style face mask to survive until next year's Plague.

Post-tournament, there are a few changes I would make. The Tabernacles aren't actually that important, as I play both Moat and multiple The Abyss. One should suffice maindeck, and probably one more in the board. Hurkyl's Recall is wildly good however, and I should probably get at least one, maybe two, in the maindeck. Nether Void was also really solid, so I wouldn't mind upping that one to two copies. Sideboard was kinda fine, but Golgothian Sylex is unnecessary, and the other numbers could be tweaked. I'd like to find room for two In the Eye of Chaos in the sb, and maybe Dust to Dust.

One slightly larger change that could be made to the deck is adding green for Dark Heart of the Woods. If we go big on green duals, Dark Heart has excellent synergy with Land Equilibrium. It might make the mana base a bit too tight, but definitly think it's worth exploring. Thanks for the tip Henk!

As I type this, Winc0n and the Oldschool Magic World Championship is going down in Genoa, Italy. This marks the second time ever I miss a Shark tournament, and the first time I miss out on the Oldschool World Championship. Instead I'm home in Oslo, taking care of one daughter with the flue and another with chickenpox. Fixing some shelves, cooking some food. It's a different way of living compared to five or six years ago, back in the Fishliver Oil Cup days. I don't mind, and I feel happy to be where I'm more needed. But still, can't deny that I kinda miss Italy and the guys right about now. And the pesto, my god the pesto!

Hope all of you who made it to Genoa have a blast, and congrats in advance to our upcoming World Champion! Cin cin ragazzi!


  1. Amazing! This is a Mana Vortex deck I can sink my teeth into! Thanks for sharing! Kudos to helping out the family! All the best,

  2. Great read as always! Really liked this one as Mana Vortex and In The Eye Of Chaos are such great yet underrated cards. Certainly given me something to think about regarding future decks.

    Good luck with the little ones; I have a daughter turning three soon so I know how it is. Last week was a "magsjuk" week at the preschool and we had to pick the little one up early on Friday because she had a fever. Seems it's every two weeks there is a new ailment in this household...

  3. This is an awesome article Magnus! =D After missing both WinCon and some tournament in Sarnen due to a parallel wedding (damn) and COVID, this inspired me to test some weird shit for the next Torinoob in December. Do you have any tips for a deck playing Berserk?

  4. Thanks guys!
    I haven't explored Berserk that much yet (it's certainly on my to-do list; I simply haven't owned a set), but one cool place to start brewing could be the old Atog Smash style lists; check out deck number two here:

    Another thing that could be fun is to try and explore Berserk's synergy with regenerators; maybe some sort of Troll list could be interesting?

  5. Excellent article as usual! I usually read everything and never comment but upon learning that berserk is a destroy and not sacrifice I just had to comment. What the actual hell! Very well kept secret!

  6. This deck looks very very promising! Have you thought about including smoke since you are already on red for the wheel?

    We all missed you at Winc0n. The tournament went well and the new venue is definitely an upgrade. I'll work on a report soon 🦈

  7. Secret wording tech indeed Fluffy ;) The challenge is, I suppose, that creatures with regeneration tend to be kinda small, and if a creature has power 3 or less, we might as well use Giant Growth... But there could be something in terms of a green robot disco, with Clay Statues and Juggernauts and Berserks...

    @Lorenzo: Smoke is fun, and on flavor, but double red is kinda hard and creatures swarms tend to be enough to handle with regardless, what with Moats and Abysses and Tabernacles ;) Looking forward to reading your report!


  8. Great read and was great meeting you again mate! The combo was actually fastbond plus dark heart as it allows you to drop multiple lands, play a threat and sac the lands again. It was played by Matt Harper from the brothers in one of the ODOL’s.

    Still great result and to bad we didn’t got the chance to turn a juzam against it’s former lord while my former lands try to kill it 😂

    1. Thanks Henk, that sounds like a really cool list! Hopefully we'll get more chances for Tabernacles vs Juzam showdowns in the future :) /Mg

  9. As always a brilliant read! As a person who plays old school but started to late to have the most powerful cards I would be thrilled if there would someday in the future be a in depth article about possible brews without the “top dollar cards”. See this as a friendly request. PS. I love mono decks DS.

  10. Thanks for the prominent feature . Deck looks interesting and I now want to get back to brewing. Heiner

    1. Thanks a lot Heiner, that's high praise!


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