How They Brew It - Three's a Crowd

Michael Celani • August 8, 2023

Next on Untrue Crime: it was just another night on the job for 22-year-old train conductor Oliviér McToot -- or so you'd think. McToot seemed to be on top of the world; only a couple days from retirement, traveling to meet his wife and new son, and sporting a fresh ten-million-dollar life insurance policy, his train seemed to be driving right towards a fairy-tale ending.

But sometimes you find out your story is written by Dostoevsky instead of Disney, because that fateful Friday was when a steward found him sleeping at the wheel -- sleeping with a knife in his back, a bullet in his chest, a rope around his neck, a vial of poison in his grasp, piranha bites on his legs, a crossbow bolt in his ear, a huge bump on the head from the impact of an anvil dropped via pulley from above, and he was also on fire. It wasn't the first time investigators have seen the calling card of the notorious assassin Tabby Reigns, "The Killer." But who could have ordered this seemingly ordinary man murdered? Tonight on the Case of Trained Killer T. Reigns The Killer's Train Killing, an Untrue Crime investigative report.

Murder on the Capenna Express

Good evening. I'm Chief Inspector Michael Celani, and -- I want to stress that I don't want to alarm anyone here -- there's been a murder. My first deduction is that the culprit is still among us, at the scene of the crime. You might doubt me, but think about it: the train hasn't made any stops since departure, and now it won't be able to since the victim was the conductor. There's nobody around here that knows how to pilot a train anymore, and therein lies the true crime. By my logic, this locomotive will keep driving in circles until its automatic anti-hijacking security protocols engage, which detonates a self-destruct charge planted in each car, killing everyone immediately. I have only twenty three hours, thirty seven minutes, five seconds, and thirteen days to solve the murder before we become its next victims. I said don't be alarmed!

Luckily, I am traveling with two world-renowned detectives: Wernog, Rider's Chaplain, the man that figured out the identity of the Zodiac Killer but won't tell me, and forensics expert Bjorna, Nightfall Alchemist, who invented fingerprints. Together, they'll take the clues and crack them to goad the true culprits into revealing themselves. With their skills, and my considerable brainpower, we can put together how this crime was carried out -- and demonstrate it to our opponents.

Cracking the Clues

Obviously, a killing this sophisticated required substantial planning. Normally, it would be too complicated to conceptualize, but with a thorough investigation, we've identified all the pieces of the puzzle and have constructed a working theory of how this dastardly crime happened. That's because whenever Wernog, Rider's Chaplain enters or leaves the battlefield, he investigates at least once. There were a lot of clues, and they all pointed to a strategy that involves doing anything with them besides spending two mana to draw a single card. Let's walk through it, step-by-step:

  • First, the killer needed to prepare a trap in the conductor's room, where everything had to be set up just right, but he needed cards to pull it off, and with limited time to set the scene he needed a more efficient way to draw them then spending mana on each clue individually.
    • Enlisting the aid of Sage of Lat-Nam was crucial, since it turns artifacts into card draw without needing to spend any mana.
    • Evidence suggests that the perpetrator engaged the victim in both a Deadly Dispute and a Reckoner's Bargain before the murder, which traded off one Clue for two cards and an incidental bonus on top of that.
    • As Clues piled up, Reprocess and Monumental Corruption became vastly above-rate compared to cracking them manually, and they ended up drawing tens of cards in a single spell.
    • And each time any token entered the battlefield, the perpetrator used Idol of Oblivion to keep his hand flush.
  • But card draw wasn't enough for our culprit to win; all it did was keep land drops going and protection spells in hand. No, he needed specific combo pieces, and for that he turned to Goblin Engineer, Oswald Fiddlebender, and Reshape, all of which trade in useless Clues for deadly weapons. He'd also activate Wishclaw Talisman and sacrifice it in response to its ability to tutor for any card without giving away anything to his enemies.
  • While he was setting up the crime scene, his partner Juri, Master of the Revue kept watch over the area and repelled anyone who would interfere. Anyone who became too dangerous found themself subject to getting dispatched, blasted away, or dragonspark... reactored?
  • With the trap prepared, the perpetrator just needed a chance to spring it. He used a combination of Disciple of the Vault, Reckless Fireweaver, and Underhanded Designs to wear down the victim and leave him unable to stop his deadly machine for fear of a crackback.
  • The final blow was struck with the Clues themselves, which woke up thanks to a well-timed, overloaded Rise and Shine.
  • Our killer was savvy to leave himself a perfect alibi, with all the additional artifact tokens created by Third Path Iconoclast, Myrsmith, and Loyal Apprentice saying that they know where everyone on the train was at all times. Of course, those artifact creatures could be sacrificed with the same outlets the Clues could, thanks to his careful preparations.
  • And now that we have all the Clues, it's time for us to put them to use. A forceful accusation from Bjorna, Nightfall Alchemist is enough to get any potential perp to sweat. They'll lash out and potentially get themselves into even more trouble, assuming they weren't total wimps that fall over at the slightest breeze.

Collecting Evidence

Yes, Wernog, Rider's Chaplain has been in and out of my office many times, dumping enough investigative followups on my desk for me to get lead poisoning. With all that evidence, I've conclusively determined that this crime was, indeed, the work of an incredibly wanted hitman-for-hire: Tabby Reigns, "The Killer," known for offing each of his victims with a complicated Rube Goldberg machine of a murder weapon. We've been on the prowl for him for years, but he's always stayed four steps ahead of us. He must still be on the train, so now's our one chance to identify him, but we need hard evidence. To get those clues, I expect to see Wernog blinking in and out of my office again and again. By the way, if you're wondering where my "office" is on this train, it's the bathroom. That's why it's constantly occupied.

  • Because Wernog triggers both when he enters and leaves the battlefield, any blink spell you hold in your hand while he's on the field reads as investigating at least twice. Ephemerate is the clear gold standard here, but Cloudshift, Momentary Blink, Planar Incision, and Scrollshift are also straightforward and worth the mana.
  • Displace, Ghostly Flicker, and Illusionist's Stratagem each let you blink multiple creatures, which is relevant when you want to save one creature from instant-speed removal while still enjoying the benefit of flickering Wernog.
  • Eerie Interlude and Lae'zel's Acrobatics are both excellent blink spells on defense, as they protect your whole board from terrifying wipes, like Farewell.
    • Disorder in the Court, comparatively, is much more expensive, but it fills a similar niche and rewards you with extra Clues to compensate. You can also use it to remove enemy tokens or hose their pump spells, since it doesn't require you to target creatures you control.
  • If something you wanted to stay alive has already gone to heaven, bring it back and investigate its cause of death by casting Against All Odds.
  • On the permanent side, you can sacrifice Voyager Staff for a one-time slow flicker that will discourage your opponents from interacting with you while its out, or try Distinguished Conjurer and Mistmeadow Witch for a repeatable flicker effect.
  • And eke out just a little more card draw by putting extra page counters on Tome of Legends, or buff up your defenses or even a Thopter by putting extra counters on them with Noble Heritage.

Unmasking the Villain

Who killed Oliviér McToot? What's the true identity of Tabby Reigns, "The Killer"? All the evidence is here in front of me. Maybe I just need to page back up and look again. There must be some pattern in the cards I've seen so far, something that points to who he is. Perhaps there's a clue in his pseudonym? The title of the article? Dammit, what could be hiding in plain sight? All the clues, they just don't add up! It's like there isn't even an equation, it's just two on the clues, over and over, pay two this, pay two that, all I see is two! Two... two... No, it couldn't be!

It was Lurrus all along! Every permanent in the deck costs two or less to cast, including both Wernog, Rider's Chaplain and Bjorna, Nightfall Alchemist. All three of them must be working together, with him as their companion. A deck helmed by a trio of serial killers, two right under my nose; no wonder we could never catch her! And of course all of her murders have the same MO, the convoluted murder machine, because it literally is the same murder machine! But why Oliviér? What's the motive?

Of course! This train is a government transport carrying a highly classified experimental alien device found in Antarctica that can travel through time, a point of information that makes complete sense and I didn't just pull out of my ass at the last second to tie the motive to how the deck wins. With Time Sieve, all you'd need to do is find a way to generate five artifacts a turn and nobody else ever gets to play again. If that doesn't cause them to immediately concede, you could then kill everyone with something like a Reckless Fireweaver at your leisure, and since Lurrus can replay cards like Barbed Spike and Nimblewright Schematic again and again, and the deck contains so many ways to generate additional tokens, five artifacts a turn is all but guaranteed. It's all for Time Sieve, and I was the one that told them about it! They've probably already time traveled themselves off the train, and left me with this knowledge in my final weeks just to taunt me! Curse you, Lurrus!

Cold Case

Yes, this case shook the small town of Kill Devil Hills, who had lost its only interesting resident, to its core. To this day, nobody knows who Tabby "The Killer" Reigns is, but what we do know is that we can tell you this story thanks to a serendipitous bug in the train's anti-hijacking system. Instead of self-destructing after two weeks of lost contact, the system malfunctioned, causing its intended behavior to fail. The passengers were spared the certain doom that would come after two weeks, as the train instead took only fifty-three seconds to initiate its self-destruct, luckily in full view of our studio headquarters instead of its projected location of the middle of nowhere.

If you enjoy How They Brew It, please check out the Discord and my other projects at my website! You can vote on which deck you want to see next, or make suggestions yourself, as well as talk with other... what do I call fans of this series? Brewers? Howies? The They in How They Brew It? Eh, whatever.

Three's a Crowd (Bjorna & Wernog EDH)

View on Archidekt

Commanders (2)
Sideboard (1)
Creatures (18)
Sorceries (7)
Instants (21)
Artifacts (13)
Enchantments (5)
Lands (34)

Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer

View this decklist on Moxfield

Newly appointed member of the FDIC and insured up to $150,000 per account, Michael Celani is the member of your playgroup that makes you go "oh no, it's that guy again." He's made a Twitter account @GamesfreakSA as well as other mistakes, and his decks have been featured on places like MTGMuddstah. You can join his Discord at and vote on which decks you want to see next. In addition to writing, he has a job, other hobbies, and friends.