Why I’m excited for Venser (and you should be too).

I mean, first of all, it’s freaking Venser.

Remember how good the original Venser was a few years back? Of course, the new Venser has little to do with his previous Legendary incarnation, aside from representing the same character. However, this version may have even more of an impact on Standard than the Shaper Savant.

Venser, the Sojourner was the first major card spoiled from Scars of Mirrodin. Being a huge fan of the first Venser (shocking, I know), I was super excited to see what his planeswalker self would be capable of. However, to be honest, I was sort of let down at first.

A Sorcery-speed Momentary Blink? Hm, okay, what else?

Make my creatures unblockable? What creatures? Baneslayer? Celestial Colonnade? They don’t really need it, being that they have Flying.

What’s his ultimate? Exile stuff. Seems spicy, but so does every other planeswalker’s ultimate ability. To be playable, his non-ultimate abilities need to have an impact in case he never reaches his ultimate.

So, with my initial impression out of the way (“he’s okay, but really needs to be built around to be any good”), I moved on to other Scars of Mirrodin spoilers, which were pouring forth at an alarming rate. Elspeth Tirel, Koth (KOTH!), Mox Opalman, Elspeth seems so good!Geez, how am I gonna deal with this Koth guy? Should I just play red?

But when I stopped for a little while, for whatever reason, Venser kept scratching around on the inside of my skull.

So I took a (figurative) page out of Patrick Chapin’s book (Next Level Magic, which you can buy here!) and took another look at Venser from a different perspective: What would make this card good?

I sketched out a list based on an amalgamation of Next Level Bant and U/W Sun Titan Control, trying to get the most possible advantage out of Venser while not relying too much on him. (Looking back, I was definitely overcompensating for Memoricide and therefore wanted to diversify my threats.)

2 Preordain
2 Condemn
4 Mana Leak
1 Journey to Nowhere
4 Wall Omens
4 Sea Gate Oracle
3 Jace Beleren
2 Tumble Magnet
3 Day of Judgment
1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Sphinx of Lost Truths
3 Venser, the Sojourner
1 Elspeth Tirel
1 Baneslayer Angel
2 Sun Titan

4 Celestial Colonnade
4 Glacial Fortress
6 Island
5 Plains
1 Arid Mesa
1 Scalding Tarn
4 Tectonic Edge

Here is the (entirely unedited) e-mail I sent to Bigheadjoe (my co-host on my podcast, Yo! MTG Taps!—but you knew that already, right?) in the wee hours of the morning on September 10:


○ Condemn, Mana Leak, DoJ, Journey, Tumble Magnet – disruption
○ Preordain – card quality + cantrip
○ Wall, Oracle, Beleren – cantrips, blink targets
○ Sun Titan – gets back all the cantrip permanents, also gets back Journey and Tumble Magnet (if destroyed or discarded to SoLT or something). Sick blink target.
○ Sphinx of Lost Truths – can throw just about any of that stuff into the ‘yard & then I can just get it back w/ Sun Titan. Another blink target.
○ Venser – can blink almost everything to good effect (Wall, Oracle, Sphinx); resets Beleren and Magnet too.
○ Elspeth T. & JTMS – to assist & be alternate win conditions (considering how many cards I’m drawing, I’ll see them fairly often, but don’t need them to win)
○ BSA – because the only relevant ability she lacks is vigilance, and with Venser in play, she has it 🙂 Another win condition.

The interesting thing is I built the deck around Venser, but he’s not the win condition, so the deck is inherently strong against Memoricide (a lot of diversity).

There are a whopping 14 win conditions!:
Titan x2
Sphinx x2
Venser x3
Elspeth x1
JTMS x1
BSA x1
Colonnade x4

Tumble Magnet + Walls and Oracles force over-extension into DoJ or Elspeth’s ultimate. I can DoJ on turn 4, then on 5 do any number of things: SoLT, BSA, Elspeth; with a Condemn in hand, I can play Venser, blink-untap a land, and if a haste creature tries to attack the unprotected Venser, I have mana up for Condemn. Turn 6 a Sun Titan starts bringing back whatever creatures of mine that I may have wrathed away on turn 4.

Venser can also move the Journey to more relevant creatures if I want, and can blink himself to dodge Elspeth’s ultimate. Tirel also destroys Journey and Magnet, but Titan brings them both back. With a Venser in play, on turn 6 I can play Titan, get back a Wall or an oracle, blink the Titan, get back another Wall or Oracle. Plenty of protection for Venser and meanwhile filling my hand with spells for if/when I can use his ultimate. Tectonic Edge w/ Sun Titan & Venser is just sickening. Kill 2 nonbasics a turn. Then start exiling lands with Venser’s ultimate.

I’ve got a confession to make: I have yet to actually try this list, although I still feel it may have potential (I think it’s at least worth trying). Side note: If anyone actually does give this a try, I’d really love to hear your feedback.

So, that was 3 weeks ago, and since then I’ve come to the realization that Venser doesn’t actually need to be built around. Sure, you want to have targets for his blink ability, but the great thing about Venser is how well he already fits into the synergies of U/W Control! The most recent iterations of classic U/W are already playing cards that have a natural affinity for Venser’s blink ability: Wall of Omens; Sun Titan. Give your Baneslayer (or Wurmcoil Engine) faux-Vigilance, or save it from the Day of Judgment you’re about to cast. Move your Journey to Nowhere onto a more relevant target. Untap a land to keep counter-magic or removal mana open.

It only takes three activations to put him on his ultimate. Forget about the minus ability (although it’s there if you can capitalize on it). If you can protect Venser for just three of your opponent’s turns—not such a tall order if you consider the type of cards you’re likely already playing—you’ll be exiling permanents every time you cast a spell (whether that spell resolves or not).

Here’s a rough list, which I’ll be testing a bit this weekend:

2 Condemn
4 Preordain

3 Sea Gate Oracle
4 Wall of Omens

1 Negate
4 Mana Leak
1 Deprive
1 Stoic Rebuttal
2 Journey to Nowhere

4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
3 Day of Judgment
2 Venser, the Sojourner

2 Sun Titan
1 Wurmcoil Engine

4 Tectonic Edge
4 Celestial Colonnade
4 Glacial Fortress
6 Plains
8 Island

No sideboard as of yet, but I’d expect to play the usual suspects: some number of Flashfreeze and/or Celestial Purge, and possibly Oust (for Fauna Shaman and other problem creatures that don’t tend to attack and thus are not susceptible to Condemn).

Other cards to consider (main or side, probably main) are Into the Roil and Ratchet Bomb. Into the Roil seems like it would be particularly strong in an unknown metagame as a nice catch-all. Ratchet Bomb is retrievable with Sun Titan and seems like just the type of card that you might want to reuse.

Whether you like Venser or not, Scars of Mirrodin has brought with it a TON of options, in addition to pushing some huge players out of the format (remember Bloodbraid Elf?). Now is a great time to not only look at the new cards but to also take a look back at the cards that might not have been as practical in a format like AlaraM10Zendikar Standard. There may be some hidden gems amongst the cards we all passed over while trying to fight against a turn-two Putrid Leech. I know a certain Dragonmaster who’s been eyeballing a modern-day Ophidian for its new-Standard potential…

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10 responses to “Why I’m excited for Venser (and you should be too).

  1. interesting list and nice product placement 😉
    love how stoic rebuttal is a strictly better cancel 😛
    i am eager to try out venser, i will however wait a little until he decreases in value! i would consider playing mystifying maze as a one of! tried 4 preordain in a uw deck yesterday and loved it! i played ratchet bom as a two of in the main and do not know how to feel about it, yet. 7 counterspells sounds good to me! i d play baneslayer over wurmcoil right now (think it is better against possible monument decks).
    again, nice article! hope you ll start posting on a regular basis….
    btw: i ll pass u on the floresrewards leaderboard soon^^

    • Thanks 😛

      While Maze certainly goes with the “blink” theme (and I’m certainly not opposed to using it), it’s been a little underwhelming in my experience. However, it may be a good choice if equipment decks start popping up. Making your opponent re-equip has the potential to keep their mana tied up.

      Monument is one of those cards that I think I need Into the Roil for; or maybe Revoke Existence, although the fact that it’s Sorcery-speed might be too significant. Hopefully Day of Judgment can keep the board clear enough that Monument won’t be effective. I’ll be testing against a Monument deck this weekend, so I’ll see.

      And yeah, I’ve given up on trying to stay in the top slot on FloresRewards (I was tied for 1st at one point). 🙂

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  3. I’ve been testing a similar list and it’s been going pretty well against most of the big names in the meta (U/W, Turboland, Relic combo, Pyromancer, Runeflare, URG Shaman/good stuff, some metalcraft variants… haven’t tested against Valakut but will be doing that this week). Here’s the list, it’s pretty similar to what you have in terms of general concept.

    4 Wall of Omens
    2 Sun Titan
    2 Sunblast Angel

    4 Mana Leak
    2 Stoic Rebuttal
    2 Deprive
    1 Negate
    2 Condemn
    3 Day of Judgment
    3 Ratchet Bomb
    4 Preordain

    2 Jace Beleren
    1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
    2 Gideon Jura
    2 Venser, the Sojourner

    4 Celestial Colonnade
    4 Glacial Fortress
    2 Seachrome Coast
    4 Tectonic Edge
    3 Sejiri Refuge
    4 Island
    2 Plains
    1 Arid Mesa
    1 Misty Rainforest

    Ratchet Bomb may seem to have limited synergy with Venser, but it’s too good to not include. It completely hoses Avenger of Zendikar and the new Relic deck that is cheap enough to see some serious popularity in the coming weeks. And it’s 2 CMC.

    Sunblast Angel is fun with Gideon and Venser, and ends up being a one-sided partial wrath the rest of the time since none of our attacking creatures tap (except Gideon). I think it might err on the side of gimmicky, and might be brought out for something better depending on how the meta looks. It’s almost completely dead against UW, Pyromancer, and other odd combo decks.

    I like the SoLT inclusion in the deck. That might go in Sunblast Angel’s spot. Maybe -2 Sunblast, +1 SoLT +1 BSA? I don’t know if I want BSA maindeck in this post-M11 world. But then again, I have enough counter magic to hope that the opposing Titan never hits the board.

    One other thing I had in my original list were one-ofs Halimar Depths and Kabira Crossroads. Blinking those in a pinch is nice, but ideally the lifegain is inconsequential and the Depths effect was really because I don’t own a set of Jace 2.0s. Hopefully I can find a couple more to borrow this week.

    I need to work on a sideboard plan, here’s what I’m thinking right now:

    2 Leyline of Sanctity
    2 Luminarch Ascension
    1 Baneslayer Angel
    1 Sphinx of Jwar Isle
    1 Ratchet Bomb
    2 Condemn
    3 Flashfreeze
    1 Negate
    2 Journey to Nowhere

    Leyline of Sanctity: Valakut, some types of RDW depending on how that develops.
    Luminarch Ascension: UW, Pyromancer, any other non-interactive ramp decks
    Baneslayer Angel: Midrange decks, not really sure if she’s needed
    Sphinx of Jwar Isle: Alternate finisher in the mirror? I think taking out the Sunblast Angels for a single Sphinx and more counter magic will be good. Also not that bad for Valakut, but I’d really like them to not go off in the first place.
    Ratchet Bomb: Avenger of Zendikar, Memnite decks, anything else relying heavily on <=3 CMC permanents to win the game.
    Condemn: Vengevine? I think I might put something else in here.
    Flashfreeze: Valakut, anything else that gets frozen.
    Negate: UW, Valakut, Eldrazi Green, really just a catch all.
    Journey to Nowhere: Lots of stuff. Venser synergy is kind of nice but not quite nice enough to main.

    So yeah, that's my long-winded rundown of my build. Besides adding more Jace 2.0, any changes you would make? I can get pretty much everything else besides the big guy.

    • I actually think Celestial Purge might be better SB than Condemn. I have more than enough Wrath effects to keep Vengevines sidelined until I get Titans online and I think Purge will help against a bunch of stuff (RDW, Pyromancer, MBC/MBA, maybe some wacky Infect deck).

  4. This is kind of funny. I’ve been trying to convince everyone in my local area about Venser’s badassery. I consider him to be the most powerful planeswalker in the set. His uses number almost too many to keep track of. I noticed your mind seems to be in the same place as mine (Into the Roil, just about the same number of counters, etc.). I posted my own list today (including a Sunblast Angel, because she’s far better than for what a lot of people give her credit): http://stiflejoyco.wordpress.com .

  5. No one seems to pay any attention to Venser’s synergy with Glimmerpoint Stag. Since Venser forces it come down in the end step you can exile one of your opponent’s permanents and not have it return to their control until the end of their turn, it’s awesome.

    I love my Venser deck and it has quickly become my favorite deck I think the majority of pros just don’t have any imagination.

  6. @affinityforislands, great post! i have been working on something very similar to this and BFeingersh deck!
    ***************************************************************
    here is mine -> http://magic.tcgplayer.com/db/deck.asp?deck_id=698450
    if you feel like commenting there also cool!

    2 Gideon Jura
    2 Jace Beleren
    2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
    2 Venser, the Sojourner
    1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
    2 Sun Titan
    2 Sunblast Angel
    4 Wall of Omens
    1 Cancel
    1 Stoic Rebuttal
    2 Negate
    3 Mana Leak
    2 Into the Roil
    2 Condemn
    3 Day of Judgment
    3 Preordain
    4 Journey to Nowhere
    4 Celestial Colonnade
    4 Glacial Fortress
    2 Tectonic Edge
    6 Island
    6 Plains
    SIDEBOARD
    3 Celestial Purge
    1 Day of Judgment
    2 Flashfreeze
    3 Leyline of Sanctity
    1 Nihil Spellbomb
    4 Revoke Existence
    1 Tectonic Edge
    ***************************************************************
    Explaining the not already explained by affinityforislandsor BFeingersh
    – Gideon = sleep or prepare for Sunblast
    – 1 xcel and 1 SRebuttal because they are the same but not really…(memoricide anyone?)
    – Mana Leak…I;m still considering changing to Negate…
    – Negate! come on people! in a deck so heavy on crowd control, Negate is a cheap must! IMHO…
    – Into the roil rules thanks affinityforislandsor for bringing it to my playmat(thou i don’t really use a playmat…)
    – condemn…oust…more into the roil?
    SIDEBOARD
    – leyline. Hexmage, red mages, discard (anyone plays that? lol) bla bla
    – additional DoJ on case its a super heavy rush kill deck (myrs?)
    – NIhil Spellbomb*vengeeeevine)
    ***************************************************************
    Now some of my thoughts! not critics or pushing ideas, just the way i have been testing it and bla bla bla
    ***************************************************************
    @affinityforislands ->
    – I don’t like Sea gate oracle that much, i think preoprdain and the Jaces do a lot of work. And ‘sides their CIT, thy are completely useless, not like WOM or STitan.. thoughts?
    – Elspeth? I haven’t tested her in the deck…does it work well? I mean the life is useless most of the time, the tokens barely scratch anything by when you cast it, and the ultimate…well that is cools but it can backfire if he is playing tokens, i decided to go more counters and 2 into the roil for non creature…Thou after reading BFeingersh I most likely add 2 Ratchet bombs to the sidedeck and one for main deck.
    – SOLT…haven’t tested it…thou I’m thinking it works great…
    – 4 tectonic edge? overkill? IMHO. thoughts?
    ***************************************************************
    @ BFeingersh ->
    – I had 4 wurmcoil, then 2, then 1, then none. I think it doesn’t work well with the synergy of the deck. thoughts?
    – 4 tectonic Edge? again? I need opinion in this! 2 seem to work well for me… 1 other in Side deck?

  7. Venser has quickly become my favorite planeswalker in Standard. I run a really odd U/W control that places top 4 frequently. Last FNM with my most recent incarnation of the deck I only lost to Caw Blade (late Game) and I demolished some well played aggro decks. Venser works better with frost titan and contaigen engine than sun titan and ratchet bomb. I’ve been waiting for the Zendicar block to rotate out so I can show off Venser as one of the biggest threats in standard, without being over shaddowed by Big Jace.

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