ey there, and welcome to the latest addition in the From the Lab series! I guess that would technically make this a sequel, right? I mean, one of about five hundred, but still. Actually, since columns usually have nothing specifically in common with each other, they're more like installments. Kind of like the James Bond movies ... minus the last two. (Okay, I loved Casino Royale, but Quantum? Not so much.)
I kind of figured this would be the week to throw around some movie references, seeing as sequels are usually a hot topic. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are great (The Godfather Part II, Terminator 2), some are not great (Transformers 2, Jaws: The Revenge), and some are so bad they're great again (Troll 2) Some are out so quickly that you forgot about the first one (the Saw franchise) while some are apparently released twenty years after the first one (2010 alone has Predators, Piranha 3D, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, and Tron: Legacy!)
As far as Magic is concerned, 2010 has some strong sequel elements as well. Archenemy was a great sequel to last year's Planechase (and I hope I'm not the only one yearning for a trilogy). And in a week we'll begin previews for Scars of Mirrodin, the awaited sequel block to 2003s Mirrodin. That should be an exciting time, so get pumped.
But back to today's column! How am I going to tackle Sequel Week? I considered writing a second sequel to my famous (-ish) Bob from Accounting saga, but decided Bob wasn't up for a trilogy.
Ultimately, the answer came in the form of three different emails that begged for a second look at Magic 2011s Leylines. I thought I'd exhausted the Leyline combos a couple weeks ago, but these readers found cool uses for the blue, green, and white members of the enchantment cycle, so I hereby initiate this week as ...
Leylines: The New Batch!
Name that movie.
We'll start today with Leyline of Vitality, a card I ranked as low as number nine on my Top Ten Opening Hand Card list a couple weeks ago. I mean, I could get behind the quasi-Essence Warden effect (even if it only worked with my own creatures), but a global +0/+1 just didn't seem Leyline-y enough to me. "Why would I want to buff only toughness in the early game?" I pondered.
Fortunately, a reader by the name of Jonathan Sheets learned the art of long distance mind-reading, heard my pondering from miles away, and answered in a fun email which began with this killer line:
"If there ever was a creature that could use a +0/+1 for free, it's our good friend Force of Savagery."
Holy Freyalise! If you land the Leyline of Vitality in your opening hand, you can proceed to an 8/1 Force of Savagery on turn three!
I had nearly forgotten about the low-logging Future Sight rare. The last time I used it was about two years ago alongside his best-friend-forever Incandescent Soulstoke. Jonathan used the Elemental lord as well, and even threw in Pandemonium, in case things weren't quick enough. Here's his list and commentary. I made one minor change to the deck, subbing out the singletons, Hostility and Vigor, and replacing them with the underplayed and clever Walker of the Grove.
It's a basic Elemental deck, with some Vitality and Pandemonium thrown in there. Jonathan observes,
"Zektar Shrine Expedition is great with Pandemonium and Momentous Fall. Since it doesn't cost any mana to activate, you get to leave mana open to cast Momentous Fall. Or you can run out Pandemonium and then immediately get some use out of it."
Even the nonbasic lands play important roles. Mosswort Bridge can cheat out anything with a Force of Savagery and the Soulstoke in play. Teetering Peaks won me a few games in testing, pushing the limits of Momentous Fall and Ooze Garden (which, by the way, was my other addition.) And as Jonathan says,
"Kher Keep seems like it would be hilariously effective with a few Leylines out."
Anticipation: This Time, it's Personal
Giving all your spells flash before the game has even begun is, as I have expressed, absurdly powerful. It also makes for an open-faced sandwich of combo opportunities, as anything even remotely useful gets amplified under a Leyline of Anticipation.
Biting into this sandwich was reader Chris Woodiel, who discovered a neat way to shut off your opponent's combat phase: The long forgotten Arboria. Chris explains,
"Normally, Arboria doesn't see much play time, at least with the people I know. When combined with the blue Leyline, it becomes "creatures can't attack you", and might completely lock down your opponent on spells."
Sweet! The goal is to land both enchantments on the battlefield, and then do nothing on your turns for the rest of the game. In this way, your opponent won't get the chance to attack you again. Meanwhile, at the end of your opponent's turn, just flash out all the spells you would have played normally. Of course, everything hinges on your Arboria, so your opponent will try to Naturalize it. As Chris mentioned,
"With a Sterling Grove on the battlefield, that's pretty hard to do."
Sterling Grove (and Idyllic Tutor) can also search up your key enchantments, which include your primary win condition, Luminarch Ascension. With no damage coming your way, the Ascension will soon be in Angel mode, and you can pump out the 4/4 flyers. Of course, Arboria also prevents you from attacking (if your opponent wises up and does nothing as well.) Flickerwisp (one of my pet cards, and it is amazing with flash) can temporarily exile the Arboria, leaving the skies clear for your Angels to cruise in.
The Antsy Angels of Arboria
Cultivate and Æthersnipe are both excellent with flash. The white Leyline can prevent burn from stealing victories away, and it helps the Ascension get online. Overall, a nifty take on Arboria!
The Burn Sanctity
Speaking of Leyline of Sanctity, let's breeze right into our next section, which is focused on the Johnny capabilities of the new and improved Ivory Mask. And after a day of thinking about it, I concluded that there aren't any combolicious things to be done with such a narrow card. Sure, it hoses burn decks (as I said before) and is generally useful, but not as an offensive weapon.
Or so I thought.
Folks, this is one of the wacky ones. It finds company amongst decks tailored to win in the most ridiculous fashion possible. The idea comes from an email by Adam Applebaum, and reads as follows.
"Use Leyline of Sanctity with Hive Mind and lots of player targeted burn. As Hive Mind is compulsory, your opponent will be forced to target themselves."
In a twist of irony, it's a burn deck ... with Leyline of Sanctity! I think this is hilarious. Why burn your opponent yourself when you can force him to burn himself to death! Hive Mind forces your opponent to copy your burn spells (such as Lava Axe). Since the Leyline prevents you from being the target of spells you don't control (and you don't control the Lava Axe copy, even though your Hive Mind made it) your opponent will have to target the only other player: himself.
The game plan is to begin by charging up your Quest for Pure Flame. This is done by multiple board-sweepers that also hit players (Earthquake, Volcanic Fallout, and Electrolyze). Once you've stabilized the board, you may safely drop your enchantments. Then go for the throat with Lava Axes and Searing Blazes. The Blazes will deal 9 damage when Quested (6 damage from the Blaze you control, and 3 from the Hive Mind copy.) The Axes will deal 15!
Overall, this is a fun burn-deck that utilizes Quest for Pure Flame (something I hadn't done in a deck yet) and Hive Mind. Your Leyline will randomly hose some decks, and while playing it I'd never been more pleased to draw Lava Axe.
Okay, folks, the contest results are in! I was pleased to see each of the three contest ideas had almost equal support. This ensures me that I could safely run the collector number and pick-a-word contests at a later date.
For now, though, I officially announce the Build Around contest! It's easily the most straightforward contest I've done. Here are the rules:
- Build a sixty-card deck using either Dragon Appeasement, Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs, or Wild Evocation. The deck must use one of those three cards as a main strategy point.
- Decks do not have to be Standard Legal. Feel free to use cards from any set.
- Send decks to me through email only. You should get your deck in by Thursday, September 30th. That's about a month of time, and it should be enough.
- And that's it! Have fun! I will answer questions brought up through email only.
Until next week!