ello and welcome back to the Lab. Summer has finally sent its warm rays scattering across the nation, filling my mind with a certain joy. My physical presence, on the other hand, doesn't respond to the sun that well. Just another difference between us. Yes, us. We're torn on what to accomplish this summer. My body wants to go to a food festival; I want to go to a music festival. My body wants to get back into tip-top shape; I want to spend hours indoors with Magic: The Gathering Commander (previews for which are next week!) and Magic 2012. My body wants a girlfriend; I... okay, we don't disagree on everything.
I'd say I have a pretty open mind. Flexible, open to various ways of accomplishing problems and tackling open-ended situations. And that's my slightly egotistical interlude into today's pseudo-theme. (Curse you, non-theme weeks!) There are a couple cards from New Phyrexia that fit into various decks and strategies that I've been waiting to examine under some bright laboratory lights. Some of these decks have been assembled (both fully and partly) by some of the other open minds out there on the Internet.
Oh, and there's an extra special morsel waiting at this column's end. Don't skip ahead, though. As a wise man once screeched, "If you don't eat yer meat, you can't have any pudding. How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?"
Hmm... music and food references in one sentence! Maybe my two halves are finally at peace.
The Karnivorous Karnival
Or liberated. It's all the same to Karn, one of the most anticipated planeswalker characters ever. Way, way back in the day, Karn showed up on his first Magic card as Karn, Silver Golem, boasting a curious combat ability and a talent for artifice. Apart from that card, he's been strewn throughout numerous artworks and flavor texts over the years. I was elated when Karn was first hinted at, and then completely revealed, as part of the modern creative plan.
Karn Liberated is a testament to the sheer power of the silver golem. Being colorless, Karn is the first planeswalker that can slide into every deck, and he packs a punch. Exiling any problem permanent is a great weapon to have for any deck. Those three dynamic, rules-shattering words in his ultimate, however, will be Karn's new legacy: Restart the game. And not only that... but you get some previously exiled permanent cards out on the battlefield like quasi-Leylines.
This is flat-out bonkers. I've been a fan of such strategies before, mimicking the effect with Sway of the Stars (or, to a lesser extent, Decree of Annihilation) while a Greater Gargadon was moments from fading into reality. Karn Liberated is basically both cards at once, being both the game changer and the method to cheat something(s) onto the battlefield.
What cards would one want on the first turn of a game? Let's go with cards that just straight-up win the game. Use Karn's +4 ability on yourself twice, bumping him to the magic 14. Meanwhile, you've exiled Serra Avatar and Mayael's Aria. When you wipe the slate clean with Karn, you'll get those permanents and promptly win the game on the first upkeep, since Serra Avatar will be a 20-power creature.
Another hilarious one was summed up in an email to me by DailyMTG editor Kelly Digges like so: "Exile Barren Glory (and no other non-Aura permanent cards) to get Karn up to 14. Restart the game. Mulligan to zero (!). Win." So to recap, winning with Barren Glory is actually the second-funniest thing about that combo. The first is obviously mulliganing to zero on purpose.
Running four copies of Karn Liberated in the first place allows for another neat trick: exile another copy of him from your hand! When you restart, you wind up starting with another Karn Liberated, which is pretty gross. If you target your opponent with the second +4 ability (exiling a Karn from your hand with the first one), you could slowly exile your opponent's entire library, one card at a time. Or win with his or her permanents. Either way, it's just another trick in Karn's bag.
Here's a Karn Liberated deck that seeks to win via any of the routes outlined above, especially the Barren Glory one. I added blue as a primary color to filter through the deck, discarding useless Mayael's Arias and such with cards like Compulsive Research and Sift (preferably the Stronghold one!). Tezzeret's Gambit is another card drawer that can proliferate Karn, or the storage counter lands (always nice to ramp into Karn). Overall there should be enough instants to exile along with Barren Glory (since you need another nonland permanent). And as another instant win: Blightsteel Colossus. It had to be done.
There are tons of other builds for a Karn Liberated deck, I'm very aware. But that's the beauty of open-ended cards (or Magic in general really): any deck can come together around a card in its own unique way.
Another card that viciously shook me when I scanned it into my brain was Torpor Orb. Cards like this (and the also-recent Tajuru Preserver) basically see an effect and say, "...Nah. Not happening." Unlike the Preserver, though, Torpor Orb has a lot of proactive deckbuilding in its little corner of infinity. (Have I mentioned yet that Magic is a game of infinity almost by definition? I'm trying to meet a weekly quota.)
A kind reader named Alex Churchill sent in a fun deck skeleton for Torpor Orb that featured, well, incredibly huge creatures at insane discounts. Of course, these creatures usually carry heavy drawbacks, but not with the Orb around! Perhaps the most famed of these creatures is Phyrexian Dreadnought. Yeah, a 12/12 trampler for seems okay.
Other cards grow from the same vine. Lord of Tresserhorn becomes a 10/4 regenerator for four. Eater of Days becomes a 9/8 flying trampler for four. The entire Hunted clan loses its familial drawback (giving hope even to Hunted Horror, which becomes a 7/7 trampler for a mere two mana). And there are plenty of others.
As Alex also mentioned, "A few things to find the Orb might be a good plan too—Enlightened Tutor, for example. And some Stifle and Trickbind would let you cast some of these silly things even if you don't draw an Orb. I've cast Eater of Days + Stifle before, and it is rather fun."
That is certainly great thinking. So in case your Orb gets Shattered, go for the Stifling back-up plan.
Omen Machine is an intriguing take on such casual wonkies as Possessed Portal (the Machine's first ability, at any rate) and Gate to the Æther (its second ability, more or less). I was initially baffled on how to use it, when reader Kurtis S. sent me a really interesting deck based around it. Unlike the last two decks today, this one happens to be in Standard (and despite this, is pretty cool. Okay, I kid). Kurtis's email began with some background info on the deck; apparently his friend dubbed it the worst rare in the set, and Kurtis sprang into action like any dedicated Johnny would. He followed up with the deck, then the description. I'll loyally mimic that sequence here.
Favorite Game Winner: With Liliana Vess on the field cast Omen Machine. Use Liliana's -2 ability and put Emrakul on top of your deck. Pass the turn, and when you draw next you get to CAST Emrakul. Since you cast Emrakul you get a second turn afterwards. Just to be really cruel, use Liliana's -2 ability again to pull World at War to the top of your deck and pass the turn.
At the start of your free turn you free-cast World at War and swing with Emrakul for annihilator 6 and 15 damage twice. As if swinging once wasn't enough...
Obviously the deck can finish with crazy power, but how about getting there?
Favorite Opening Hand: 1-2 Ornithopter, 1 Kuldotha Rebirth, and 1 Blackcleave Cliffs. Nothing screams scary like dropping 4 creatures on turn 1. I prefer Ornithopter over Memnite for the aerial defense vs. Squadron Hawks personally but I'll leave it at 2 and 2 for game 1.
Earliest Trouble Maker: Platinum Angel + Swords. Platinum Angel has always held a spot close to my heart. Now I can cast it as early as turn 3 thanks to Geosurge. Another card to help Geosurge into place sooner is Priest of Urabrask. To make it easier to grab the land you need for Geosurge you can tap 1 Swamp, 1 Mountain, and 1 Leaden Myr to cast Priest of Urabrask. Then all you need is one more Mountain untapped to use the extra 3 mana granted from Urabrask to cast Geosurge. Geosurge produces 7 red mana which is the perfect amount for the lovely turn 3 Platinum Angel!
To help Platinum Angel live a little bit longer I've also included Apostle's Blessing to help grant it protection from a color of your choice/artifacts, until hopefully you can draw a sword or Liliana Vess.
Love this delightful red/black concoction. Also... quick thought. Does Geosurge have more red symbols on it than any other card?
Extra Special Morsel
That's three decks, so normally I'd go, but I'll quickly plug something before I'm on my way. You see, I'm apparently a Magical celebrity of sorts. Now I get to do cool celebrity things, like guest on podcasts. Head over to Horde of Notions, a fun podcast on which I was recently featured, if you wish to hear my boring voice drone on about Magic for a bit!