ello all and welcome back to the Lab. This week carries no theme for me to dive into, so I've got to do some quick riffing off the top of my head. It's not like I'm short of material lately. The unprecendented three-month stretch of new Magic cards that just wrapped up has provided a comfy pile of cards to fall back on for a while. My brain was addicted to this constant exposure to new cards for a while there; guess I've got to go cold turkey until Innistrad shows up this September. (And what's this about Dark Ascension early next year? Looks like this upcoming year of Magic will be, let's say, tainted. In a good way, I hope.)
So what shall be today's subject matter, then? I'll tell you. Something completely unexpected. Uncharted waters. Something... Un.
It was all inspired by an email I received in response to last week's column. Not a deck list or combo idea, but a suggestion by Nathan No Last Name to the Evil Empire deck from last week. That deck sought to combine the trio of Empirical artifacts and potentially go infinite. Nathan made an awesome suggestion:
You should totally have included _____ (from Unhinged). You can change its name to whatever piece you're missing, and you're already running Mycosynth Lattice to make it an artifact.
I gaped at my computer screen. Looking back, it makes perfect sense for me. Besides the obvious interaction, _____ is surely one of my favorite cards ever. (I really should lock myself in a penthouse apartment for three months and emerge with a steady Top 50 list one of these days.) I'm extremely fascinated with names, on a conceptual basis, and a card that has both no name and every name highly intrigues me.
Mister No Name has been covered in this column before, by the skilled Mark Gottlieb about seven years previous. A whole article was dedicated to The Little Shapeshifter That Could, and you should read every column Gottlieb put out during his run, including that one. Just a friendly reading recommendation.
I thought I'd see what hijinks Underscore Man could get up to in recent times. I landed on Mitotic Manipulation and my heart soared. From there I decided to fully frame today's article in a silver border, building around various Unhinged cards. I've always wanted to do an Un-column, but I didn't want to reach back to Unhinged until I could invent a suitable excuse to do so. (Mission accomplished!)
I still live in hope that one day Mark Rosewater will decide that Un-sets can totally exist in today's Magical landscape.
Thus, I'm Unstable today. Actually, make that every day. Mentally. I just hide it well.
So, back to that Mitotic Manipulation deck I teased above. Of course the card I choose to link with Awkward Pause comes from a Gottlieb-designed set. Mitotic Manipulation is a card I'd considered for a while, and at first I thought Horizontal Line was perfect. After all, you can activate its ability "anytime." Surely that means you can activate it in the midst of spells resolving, right? This is Un-Land, after all.
Well, you can't. According to the Unhinged FAQ(TIWDAWCC), that's just too silly, even though you can activate Identity Master "anywhere," including from outside your actual deck. I was all pumped up to change It's name mid-Manipulation. Drat.
Still, A Magic Card can still help us make use of Mitotic Manipulation. You just have to change the name before you cast the Manipulation, and cross your fingers. Hopefully you changed the name to one of the many colossal beatstick cards in the deck.
Another recent card that deals with names is Doubling Chant. Since that ushers in green, I added a bunch of Elves, including Elvish Archdruid. That way, you can actually ramp into your fatties if the Doopliss antics don't work out. Doubling your Elves isn't too bad either.
Colossal Chant / Moniker Manipulation
While browsing Unhinged in Gatherer in search of cards to break, I stumbled upon Staying Power and knew instantly that I had found a deck. Containing what else, I wasn't sure... until the very next card in the set, alphabetically speaking: Stone-Cold Basilisk. That's an ouch moment. Once your opponent reads Stone-Cold Basilisk with Staying Power on the battlefield, that's it. He or she is stoned forever. You don't even need a win condition, since your opponent is helpless for the rest of the game.
It's such a brutal combo that I have no idea how to build the rest of the deck. I started by protecting and tutoring for Staying Power with Sterling Grove. Then I added other fetchable enchantments that Staying Power likes. Wellspring is basically a cheaper Annex, and Gelid Shackles can cause permanent defender.
I couldn't not play Wild Mongrel in the deck (check Staying Power's artwork), and threw in Steppe Lynx as a soon-to-be-terrifyingly-large one-drop. Chameleon Colossus acts as a large finisher as well.
Finally, there were some diabolical white cards with power that I wanted to Stay. Droning Bureaucrats becomes that much more frustrating, and Angel's Grace should invoke despair, and/or tears. "You...can't...lose?"
There's a certain joke that I reluctantly avoided during this section. (Hint: Stone-Cold Basilisk.) After a typical stab at self-deprecating humor devolved into chaos (hilarious chaos) in last week's forums, I think I've got to mind the "line" for at least a fortnight. Then it's back to my usual nonsense.
Now for a deck that might not even work. It seems unfair to saddle Fraction Jackson with a potentially frowned-upon deck idea, so I'll build around him twice. The first deck sees Fraction Jackson doing what seems normal for a man with powers like his: controlling the world of fractions. Not too much to tell here. I immediately understood that Assquatch would have to be a secondary building piece, along with the other Donkeys. If you're in Un-World, Changelings are Donkeys too! I added white as the last third color, for Cheap Ass and Save Life.
There we go. Now onto my perhaps taboo idea, which involves Fraction Jackson returning lots of creatures with a power of 1 and a toughness of 2. You know, ½ creatures.
Does that make sense? Cards are interpreted via their Oracle text, and in said text the line dividing the 1 and 2 is diagonally tilted, just like the line between the power and toughness of creatures. That was the idea-sparking moment.
So what ½ creatures would love to be returned to my hand over and over? Probably ones that could get back to the graveyard in due time. Probably ones that could produce lots of mana. Llanowar Druid, you just won the lottery. Use the Druid to untap your Forests every turn for mucho green mana. But why stop there? Why not use Umbral Mantle to untap Fraction Jackson, so he can return the Druid repeatedly (for .) Then cast the Druid, give it Lightning Greaves, and sacrifice it immediately. If you have six Forests, you can make Fraction Jackson infinitely powered up (like a real superhero.) If you have seven or more, tack on infinite mana. And howww might I be finding these Equipment? Stoneforge Mystic. Who's a ½. Yeah.
While I have Umbral Mantle in a deck, I might as well pair it with a ½ who loves wielding it: Viridian Joiner. That's a second (and easier) way to make infinite mana. Feed it into either Selesnya Guildmage (infinite 1/1 tokens!) or Timberwatch Elf + Umbral Mantle (infinite power.)
Fauna Shaman might not be a ½, but it can ditch chaff for any creature you need, including the previously mentioned singletons. Shinen of Life's Roar can definitely come in handy when you've got a huge creature with no opening to rumble through. Behemoth Sledge accomplishes this differently: just rumble over everything. Blinding Mage can keep creatures off your back while you set up.
Burn, Baby, Burn
Now to my favorite deck of the column. I've said on previous occasions that my favorite decks don't set out to deplete my opponents' life total or deck size, but their sanity levels. When my opponent is screaming for the madness to end, that's when I grin like a maniac. The best part about this deck is that it makes that sentence a bit too literal.
Check out Red-Hot Hottie. Silly, no doubt, and a slight inconvenience, but ultimately harmless, right?
Wrong. One word: PROLIFERATE. I am going to proliferate as many third-degree-burn counters as I can. I want my opponent screaming until they choke up a lung or two.
If I give Red-Hot Hottie the Power of Fire, she can deliver third-degree-burn counters at will. The key here is that the damage doesn't have to be combat. The goal of the deck is simple: Ping as many different creatures as you can. Then proliferate them. At the end of every turn, your opponent is going to have to scream to keep those creatures alive. Sure, he or she could opt not to, but then you basically sweep the opposing side of the board.
Smokebraider, Mulldrifter, and the rest of the Elemental gang join in here. I wanted more synergy with proliferate and Power of Fire, so I turned to some wither Elementals. Kulrath Knight makes the third-degree-burn counters even zestier, denying their bearers the ability to enter combat at all. Stigma Lasher ensures that it's all downhill for your opponent, and Tideforce Elemental is versatile and can untap more than usual.
As a big finisher, I used Hateflayer, but only when the screaming plan isn't panning out. Seriously. When your opponent finally croaks a concession, the hoarse tone should make you tingle a bit.
Tips on playing the deck: Wear earplugs, and play in a very public place.
Until next time!