Rolebuilding – Divergent Experiments

(Knowledge Pool | Art by Mike Bierek)

Dipping Our Toes In

Welcome back to Rolebuilding, where I combine my twin hobbies of Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons to develop EDH decks and recommendations that I hope will get your creative juices flowing. Typically, I take a role from the world of D&D and use that to inform the deckbuilding process, but today we’ll mix it up. We’ll analyze a unique user-submitted deck and look at how we could use it for a roleplaying adventure. Once we explore the deck’s strategy, we’ll look at two different character roles the deck could be tweaked to influence.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the deck.

A Relaxing Summer by the Pool

Commander (1)
The Real Commander (1)
Pool Replicators (8)
Tutors & Cheaters (13)
Ramp (12)
Card Advantage & Selection (5)
Lock Pieces (4)
Cheap Instant Tech (10)
Removal (4)
Finishers (3)
Recursion (3)
Lands (36)


Deck Goals and Strategy

This is a Knowledge Pool deck. Most decks that include this card utilize a chaos theme, but this is decidedly a control deck. Before we dive into the roleplaying, let’s talk about the deck’s strategy. This deck is built to do a few specific things:

  1. Ramp up to six mana.
  2. Play Knowledge Pool.
  3. Create copies of Knowledge Pool so that there are multiple Pools on the battlefield.
  4. Play our opponents’ spells and control what our opponents’ play by funneling their spells into the appropriate Pool(s).
  5. Win with something we’ve found in our opponents’ decks, our own finisher(s), or by hard-locking our opponents out of the game.

Even though the deck’s strategy is very linear, due to the varying nature of our opponents’ decks and what the Pool can capture, this deck has near-infinite variability (and replayability). We will win as often with Johnny’s Expropriate as we will with a handful of tokens and Marta’s Craterhoof Behemoth. Blending our opponents’ strategies with our own cards will be fun, so let’s figure out how to effectively do that.

The central strategy of the deck, captured in numbers 3 and 4 above, revolves around the interaction Knowledge Pool has with copies of itself.

We’ll use cards like Copy Artifact, Mirrormade, Sculpting Steel, and Mythos of Illuna to create these copies. We have eight of these effects in all and a host of tutors to help find them. Hopefully after our first Knowledge Pool lands, it will have a clone imprinted so that we can use to make another one.

Why make copies of Knowledge Pool? It allows us to control which spells our opponents can play. It’s important to understand the fine print here, so let’s look at the Gatherer entry for this card:

“If multiple Knowledge Pools are on the battlefield, keep track of which cards are exiled by each of them. Whenever a player casts a spell from their hand, if all Knowledge Pools are controlled by the same player, that player chooses the order in which the triggered abilities are put onto the stack. The last one put onto the stack will be the first to resolve…[it] will exile the original spell, then the player who cast that spell may cast one of the nonland cards exiled by the Knowledge Pool that generated that triggered ability. The abilities of other Knowledge Pools will do nothing when they resolve, as the original spell will already have been exiled.”

Tl:dr, if I have multiple Pools in play, I get to choose which Pool each of my opponents’ spells enter, and thus decide which Pool they get to play from. I also get to choose which Pool I play from each time I cast a spell.


Cannonball!

Once we create two or more Pools, we have a soft lock. If our opponent casts Omniscience, Bane of Progress, or another bomb, we can put that in Pool #2. If they cast two more cheap instants in an effort to recover their bomb, we can put those into Pool #1. Ideally we’ll have an instant spell available as a safety net to clear any really valuable spells (or artifact removal) out of the Pool(s) if they get too jammed up.

We’ve crammed a lot of cheap instants into the deck so that we can use them to swipe valuable spells in response to an opponent’s play. This also lets us power out our valuable spells by pushing them through the Pools. Sometimes after dropping Knowledge Pool, we won’t have mana available to nab the good stuff that our opponents exiled, which is why spells like Pact of the Titan, Pact of Negation, and Intervention Pact are critical pieces. When your opponents are working together to cast a Vandalblast, you can use one of these to sneak it out of the Pool first. As an added bonus, the Pacts’ “lose the game later” clause makes them undesirable for your opponents to target when playing into the Pool.

The most satisfying way to win is with our opponents’ spells. Alternatively, we’ve included the Felidar Guardian and Saheeli Rai combo to finish out the game. Both of these cards are useful on their own: all three of Saheeli’s abilities help advance our strategy, and the Guardian allows us to reset a Pool.

We can also win by creating a harder lock, combining Knowledge Pool with Lavinia, Azorius Renegade, Teferi, Time Raveler, or the latest, most devastating installment, Drannith Magistrate. The Magistrate, combined with even one Pool, means your opponents can’t cast any spells, not even their commander.

I won’t talk much about the commander for this deck as it’s really more a support piece than anything. Golos, Tireless Pilgrim helps us ramp from five to the all-important six mana level reliably. We won’t use his ability very often, but if we need to, it does avoid Knowledge Pool triggers which is a nice bonus.

The rest of the deck is filled with ramp, card draw/selection, recursion, and tutors. One thing to note here is how low to the ground these vegetables are. We want two-CMC-and-lower spells, preferably at instant speed, because once Knowledge Pool is in play, every spell in our deck becomes “Pay (CMC): Play an opponent’s spell” and we want to be playing as many as possible. For example, we want Lotus Bloom instead of Worn Powerstone, and we want Brainstorm instead of Ponder.

Now that we’ve walked through the goals and strategy of the deck, let’s look at some possible roles we could build from this.


Rolebuild 1 – The Artificer

The first D&D character role that comes to mind for me is the Artificer. Knowledge Pool is an artifact, and this is a fairly artifact-heavy deck. According to Eberron: Rising From the Last War, “Artificers use tools to channel arcane power, crafting magical objects.” Artificers harness arcane power as a form of science, and “…their ability to infuse mundane items with magic, [sic] allows Eberron’s most miraculous projects to continue.” Only the most powerful artificers would be capable of creating something like Knowledge Pool, but the principle is there.

Artificers are innovators and researchers. Eberron continues, “Artificers who wish to make their mark must innovate, creating something fresh, rather than iterating on familiar designs.” The experimental process is part of this deck’s DNA. As we infuse spells into the artifact and cast another one from its supply, we’re creating lots of new combinations by using our opponents’ spells to interact with our own deck and offering up our spells for others to use.

Rolebuilding this deck from an artificer’s point of view, we’ll need more artifact tech and payoffs. The EDHREC page for artifacts will be quite helpful here. We still want to stay low to the ground so we can play inexpensively into Knowledge Pool, but let’s swap out some instants like Entomb and Spoils of the Vault for more artifice.

I’d also want to find some more artifacts that capture the infusion flavor. I think Imprint is a good representative mechanic for this, so we should consider cards like Prototype Portal. Versatile removal like Engineered Explosives will be helpful and Mirage Mirror can mimic whatever opponents’ goodies we manage to swipe from the Pools. Soul-Guide Lantern is another solid option here.

By reducing our count of instants, we’re reducing the deck’s flexibility, so we’ll need to add Vedalken Orrery and Alchemist’s Refuge so that we can play our cheap artifacts in response to an opponent grabbing a good spell from the Pool.

We can swap out some of our mana dorks for flexible mana rocks like Lotus Petal, Everflowing Chalice, and Astral Cornucopia that can be cast for free. Mox Tantalite is not a card I’d normally recommend, but in this case it works pretty well at playing us into Knowledge Pool (like Lotus Bloom) while being an undesirable target for an opponent. Of course, if you have other Moxen laying around, add those first!

With all these extra artifacts, we’ll want a few payoffs. Mirrodin Beseiged adds another win condition once we hit our soft lock, and Darksteel Forge could be the final nail in the coffin with a few Pools on the field. We have plenty of ways of cheating Darksteel Forge into play like Goblin Welder, Refurbish, and Master Transmuter. The Welder and Transmuter dodge the Knowledge Pool trigger so we don’t need to worry about giving away our most valuable artifacts. If we go real artifact heavy, Mystic Forge also helps us dodge our own Pools while providing card selection.


Rolebuild 2 – The Wizard

Another role that intrigues me for this deck is the Wizard. In the 5th Edition Player’s Handbook, the magical schools of Abjuration and Enchantment both reflect the goals of our deck: “The School of Abjuration emphasizes magic that blocks, banishes, or protects.” It is the school of spells like Counterspell, Banishment, and Forbiddance, all of which synergize with our lock strategy. Enchantment mages “…have honed [their] ability to magically entrance and beguile other people and monsters.” They use spells like Charm Person and Dominate Monster to convince enemies to fight for them. Here, we’re using our opponents’ monsters and trying to lock them out of the game.

This rolebuild would lean into the spells and try to find more instants to use in response to our opponents’ Pool interactions. We’ll want a few more pieces to help us get at our opponents’ most valuable spells, signifying that they are charmed by us. We’ll need to cut some sorcery-speed pieces that aren’t critical to the core strategy like Gaea’s Blessing, Gitaxian Probe, and Goblin Engineer to make room.

We want instants that still do something even if our Knowledge Pool setup has not gone as planned. Cards like Angel’s Grace help buy us time and can’t be responded to when we really want something out of a Pool. I like Brand because it can get us back any of our pieces that opponents have taken from the Pool, and it can be cycled if we don’t need it. Cantrips like Cremate are another good angle as they can throw off an opponent’s strategy and replace themselves if we’re playing normal Magic. If we’re playing Pool Magic™, they are cheap entrants to the Pool that can help us dig through our deck. Cards like Demonic Consultation are great flavor if you’re playing a morally gray Wizard.

We don’t want to play traditional Control Magic effects because, in the world of Knowledge Pool, our opponents’ best spells are generally not on the battlefield under their control. Our opponents will hold on to their best stuff, so we need to help them share those spells with the Pool. Sen Triplets is a dastardly card on its own, but imagine the satisfaction of stealing the spell that our opponent has been holding on to while desperately hoping the Pool will be destroyed soon. We cast it, put it into the Pool, then use one of our cheap instants to play it on our turn. Mindclaw Shaman is another quicker, albeit narrower version of this effect. Ashiok, Dream Render helps us pull off our locks and protect our Pools from enemy tutors. It also shuts down graveyard shenanigans, which is a weak point for Knowledge Pool.

God-Pharaoh’s Statue is a good finisher for either this role or for the Artificer. It drains our opponents and makes it nearly impossible for them to keep up with our Knowledge Pool economy of cheap instants.


Put Your Left Foot In, Take My Right Hand Out

Thanks for following me on this Rolebuilding experiment. Next time we’ll return to the more traditional setup, but I hope this was an enjoyable deviation.

Shoutout to Shawn Lassiter (@kcbrkypr on Twitter) for creating and submitting such a fun deck for this article. As someone who has played against this deck several times, I can attest to both its creativity and its power. It’s fun to pilot and also fun to play against as it generates goofy, challenging situations where you really need to think through all possible lines of play. Ofttimes it takes collaborating with the rest of the table just to get a piece of artifact removal out of a Pool so one of you can destroy it.

If you’d like to submit a suggestion for a future Rolebuilding article, you can contact me @GRiehm on Twitter. Maybe your favorite paladin would like an EDH deck built in her honor, or that halfling barbarian you played a year ago needs to flail his way into the history of the internet. Tell me a bit about the character and any cards or Commanders you’d suggest considering. I’d love to hear about your creations!

What did you think of this Rolebuilding experiment? How would you tailor it to a engaging character you’d like to roleplay? Are there any roles I didn’t cover above where you might use this for inspiration? Let me know in the comments below!

Grant is a father, writer, and digital marketer who lives in the frozen tundra of the northland. He enjoys playing with his kids, all flavors of Dungeons & Dragons, and thinking about going outside. He’s been playing Magic: The Gathering since 2013 and enjoys Commander, Standard, and Limited formats.