With Fiethsing (MSW-053) // Fiethsing [J-ruler] (MSW-053J) & Moojdart (MSW-042) // Moojdart [J-ruler] (MSW-042J) and Violet, Atomic Automaton (ADW-030) // Violet, Atomic Automaton [J-Ruler] (ADW-030J) as the talk of the town, it’s difficult to find anything nearly as efficient as those decks to make a stand in the meta today. But before we had all the fancy toys of the Saga cluster, one card dominated almost an entire format – a card called Kaguya, Sealed God of the Moon (DBV-095). For 2 will, not only could you counter your opponent’s spells, but you would develop the board at the same with with a 7/7 and put considerable pressure on your opponent by denying their play and developing your own.
While a 7/7 for 2 is a bit less meaningful today than it used to be, countering key cards like Mariabella, Sincere Engineer // Heart-to-Heart Talk (ROL-013), Lykeion, the Magic Academy (EDL-062), or Pricia, Seeker of Friends // Pricia’s Big Show (ROL-018) are still absolutely crucial to not losing games. If there’s one deck in the format that truly embodies what control stands for, a real “Call Stone, Pass” deck that aims to stop your opponent from playing as many cards as possible, then you need look no further than Olivia, Thunder Empress (ADW-039) // Olivia, Thunder Empress [J-Ruler] (ADW-039J).
First, let’s take a look at a sample deck list. There’s a lot of room for experimenting and flexibility with Olivia, so don’t be afraid to try a few games and change it up for what works for you!
The key to victory when playing against decks that frequent the top of the tables is to keep them from getting set up early, and nothing does that better than Olivia. This list has 16 ways to either counter a spell, ability, or search for a card that can, and thanks to Melfee, Traveling Sorceress (ROL-017) and Olivia’s God’s Art to search Dolly, Olivia’s Electric Dolphin (ADW-032) and produce a Blue will, you will consistently be able to have the extra will that you need and in the right attributes to counter almost any turn 1 or turn 2 play.
Necronomicon Barrier (ADW-066) is my favored pseudo-counter over things like Witch with a Pointy Hat (ADW-060), The Witch of the Fallen Kingdom (ADW-072), or even Academy Guard of Lykeion (EDL-039), for a few reasons. I think it is most effective at dealing with a wider variety of decks and is especially potent against what I believe are the top 2, Violet and Fieth/Mooj. It can also, unlike other similar cards, be played off of Lykeion.
Unfortunately, while we look and feel like a more counter-spell heavy variant of the Tag decks, we are lacking perhaps their most important tool – Welser, Master of the Six Sages // His Last Lecture (MSW-064). There are times where our counterspells will be countered, and tragically, our opponent will be allowed to resolve cards.
But all is not lost, for Olivia has some of the best removal in the history of Force of Will. Pulsing Thunder (ADW-089) is an excellent answer to almost any bad situation, and deals with overextended Lykeions, Pricia popoff turns, or anyone cheeky enough to play Wolfgang, Guide of the Demonic World (ADW-075) // Wolfgang, Guide of the Demonic World [J-Ruler] (ADW-075J). Surging Lightning (ADW-041) is arguably the best 1 mana removal ever printed, and with Olivia, we can take out even J-Rulers with Barrier without blinking. Don’t be afraid to fire off Surging Lightning for tempo early – while it could be good to save it for a threatening win condition, or a Black Witch, removing an opponent’s Lykeion before they can get value on your turn is important to keeping the number of spells your opponent resolves to a minimum.
Without 3 mulligans, we don’t get the same level of consistency as they-who-will-not-be-named, but at the end of the day, Lykeion is still one of the best cards in New Frontiers. The idea is to get one or more Lykeion, the Magic Academy (EDL-062) into play by abusing Melfee, Traveling Sorceress (ROL-017) and (even more so) Pricia, Seeker of Friends // Pricia’s Big Show (ROL-018). A typical turn 2 play could consist of something like:
* Before your Draw Phase, play Pricia’s Big Show (ROL-018) to manipulate your Main Deck, adding a counter to Pricia’s Big Show, and setting the count of chants played this turn to 1
* During your Main Phase play Melfee, Traveling Sorceress (ROL-017), producing two Green Will, drawing a card, and setting the count of chants played this turn to 2
* Now play another Pricia’s Big Show (ROL-018), manipulating your Main Deck, adding another counter to Pricia’s Big Show, and setting the count of chants played this turn to 3
* The other will produced by Melfee could be another Green Will (to play yet another Pricia’s Big Show), but could also be a Black Will to have an answer against Welser, Master of the Six Sages // His Last Lecture (MSW-064) in the form of Necronomicon Barrier (ADW-066), or could even be a Blue Will to be able to play Dolly, Olivia’s Electric Dolphin (ADW-032) or Fish Drive (ADW-034)
* Because you already played 3 chants this turn, you can now play Lykeion for free, and interact with even more of your opponent’s plays during their turn.
Eventually, we do need to win the game. And with Pricia, Seeker of Friends (ROL-018), there are a lot of options to choose from, as we’ve seen from the multiple variations of Lyekion decks that have graced the top cut of the GPs we’ve seen so far. In the spirit of Olivia, the list I’ve chosen to show you today runs Tera Thunderfish (ADW-042) as a finisher. After getting Pricia to 3 Big Show activations, you can cast Pricia herself at the end of your opponent’s turn to search out all 4 Pricias (2800) into a Tera Thunderfish (1600) for a lethal attack of 4400. Simple, elegant, and it doesn’t use a lot of precious deck space.
“But Ryan,” you say, “what if they have blockers? Or what if they are Almerius (MSW-002) // Almerius [J-ruler] (MSW-002J)? Isn’t only 4400 damage cutting it very close?” All great points, dear reader, and I applaud you for paying attention. As we mentioned above, we will typically be attempting to cancel our opponent’s early turns very aggressively – this means using our God’s Art to create mana with Dolly early, and also getting into play things like Sparkle Fish (ADW-091) and Fiola, Spirit of Oblivion (MSW-037). That early tempo lead will help get us in some chip damage and soften up our opponent, but of course, that isn’t always reliable.
Thus, we have a backup plan – Fish Drive (ADW-034). With Fish Drive making 6 100/100 tokens, in combination with Tera Thunderfish (ADW-042), we could hit our opponent with an additional 4200 FLYING damage, for only 1 mana! And I can promise you, one Force of Will lover to another, that there have been few moments as satisfying in my time playing this game as being able to say “Fish Drive for lethal?”.