elcome back to the Lab! This week, as promised, I shall deliver the rest of the results for the Pick-a-Word Build-Around Contest! Confused parties should consult Part 1, or any recent Lab article with a plug about this contest. Excited parties (you're out there, right?) should finish reading this sentence.
Great. I take it you're all excited. Let's dive into these wordy decks!
Mahdi Fozi wrote in with a cool Spies deck, along with the only line of explanation necessary:
Basically you win by gathering information on your opponent while drawing tons of cards and dealing damage with your unblockable creatures.
Sounds like espionage to me!
Matt Higgs, who made Part 1 with his Blitz deck, built an equally awesome Piety deck:
Honor, servitude and temperance. These are qualities of all clergy, both grand and meek. Whatever higher light they serve, clerics and monks adhere to a series of penitent axioms that dictate their every action. Discipline, fervor, and purity surround them like a clear mist; not a moment goes by without a liturgical thought or a holy deed.
Their piety sets them apart from the laypeople that pass by, observing an old order to which they have eternally pledged themselves. Race, class, and station do not matter; only one's solemn vows and zealous devotion.
PIETY is a deck based around those combatants who are pure of heart and mind; faith and selflessness are their armor, conviction and intolerance are their weapons. The deck itself utilizes stalwart clerics, monks and knights who yearn to defend the planeswalker who has called them. Meditate on the decklist and sling with purpose!
4 Emeria, the Sky Ruin (Emeria, a land of reverence for Kor and other Zendikar denizens. Emeria is a place where even those who seem lost can find their way back.)
4 Icatian Priest (A devoted servant to his country and his fellow man, he goes to great lengths to help another.)
3 Temple Acolyte (A faithful follower and keeper of the sacred places of worship, an acolyte gives well wishes and holy blessings to all those who call on his aid.)
4 Youthful Knight (An eager, zealous knight who strikes hard and with conviction.)
2 Pride Guardian (A defender of the faith, he only makes others stronger by doing so.)
4 Paladin en-Vec (A champion against evil and malice, the paladin strikes fear into the heart of the unclean.)
1 Iona, Shield of Emeria (The undisputed archangel of Emeria; all who revere purity must venerate her as her most vehement proponent.)
3 Pacifism (Many monks prefer to avoid combat at all; however, when called upon to fight, they use their inner strength and self-control to restrain the weapons and shields of the enemy.)
1 Evangelize (Converts are the freshest and most enthralled of recruits. Intense devotion can reap a mighty crop.)
2 Inner Sanctum (The holy place is meant for the faint of heart; although impervious, staying trapped within weakens resolve and shelters those who seek its comfort for too long.)
1 Invincible Hymn (An almighty cry for divine aid converts knowledge into life-force.)
3 Path to Exile (Synods and monasteries are no strangers to exile; an infidel among them or a heathen can be sent to the farthest ends of the Multiverse with but a single gesture.)
3 Pearl Medallion (A trinket of affinity, this attunes its wearer to the nature of purity at its core.)
2 Excommunicate (More common than utter exile, excommunication can weigh heavily on the soul of the damned.)
1 Peace of Mind (Meditation reaps rewards; what is lost in time and research is made up for in wisdom and respite.)
1 Pure Intentions (The holiest hearts can repel the darkest of assaults.)
1 Pariah's Shield (A pavise to be borne only by the truly strong, it sometimes feels as if the burden of mankind imbues the very heft of the shield. Also, on a non-flavor note, combos well with Inner Sanctum.)
Altogether, that gives us:
I enjoyed thinking about the Æther deck submitted by Brian Thomas:
Æther (according to Wikipedia) is the material that fills the region of the universe above the terrestrial sphere. What is that? Some people call it Dark Matter, some call it Void, some call it the Fifth Element; it basically boils down to being that "stuff" between worlds.
I was planning on having a small Beast subtheme to get good use out of Æther Charge. With all the reusable bounce available, I was hoping to get some cheap beasts I could cast and bounce to kill someone 4 damage at a time.
Courtesy of one Brown Biggers, there is now a Bacon theme deck in Magic. But Mr. Biggers went a restrictive step further, which launched his submission into this article:
I chose BACON, because few simple words incite such a reaction amongst the nerd community. It's salty, savory, and despite being bad for you will flip you out of bed faster than anything - which leads me to the mechanic.
This deck is designed to flip enormous spells off the top of your deck as quickly as possible. Bituminous Blast sizzles you into combo pieces. Ok, that's cascade, but sizzle makes more sense for theme and is more fun to say. Noxious Revival is the stinky, overcooked but still quite delicious leftovers from breakfast that make it to your lunchtime BLT. Nemesis of Reason? Can you think of a food that is worse for you, yet you can't stop eating? Then the Omen Machine and Crystal Ball allow you to line up the perfect slices and get them onto the plate like the Omen of your impending 235 LDLs. Butcher Orgg delivers the choicest cuts. Chandra and the Ancient Hellkite are there to make sure that everything is cooked well, Bolas and Blatant Thievery are there in case there's more on the plate across from you. Bamboozle and Ornate Kanzashi for when the roomie brings the applewood, and you're stuck with the store brand.
In addition, if this deck doesn't hold up under its own merit, I added another challenge. Just as each card's title begins with a letter in BACON, so does the first letter of each expansion containing the cards mentioned. From Betrayers of Kamigawa through the Core Sets to New Phyrexia, they're all there.
4 Badlands (Alpha/Beta)
4 Bloodstained Mire (Onslaught)
1 Nemesis of Reason (Alara Reborn)
1 Ancient Hellkite (Core 2011)
4 Butcher Orgg (Onslaught)
4 Noxious Revival (New Phyrexia)
4 Bamboozle (Odyssey)
4 Crystal Ball (Core 2011)
2 Nevinyrral's Disk (Alpha/Beta)
4 Bituminous Blast (Alara Reborn)
1 Chandra Nalaar (Core 2010)
1 Ornate Kanzashi (Betrayers of Kamigawa)
4 Omen Machine (New Phyrexia)
4 Blatant Thievery (Onslaught)
1 Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker (Conflux)
In decklist form, that gives us:
Steven Black went with Smoke as his chosen word:
Smoke is a deck that starts off by using enchantment cards like Onslaught and Smoke to limit an opponent's blocking options. The deck is packed with ways of getting around you being only able to untap one creature per round yourself, such as the manlands created by Koth of the Hammer as well as the coup de grace in Seize the Day, which untaps a creature and allows an additional combat phase. Removal is Scent of Cinder and Strangling Soot. Scent of Cinder and Strangling Soot are good against most of an opponent's early creatures, allowing you to get in your early damage and the smoke deck should kill things by choking them. If things stall, Kulrath Knight and Everlasting Torment can lockdown or minimize an opponent's creatures with -1/-1 counters. One of the most dangerous creatures in the deck is Kiln Fiend which should be untapped with Smoke's effect, as the deck's sorceries pump its damage. Finally we have the source of the smoke, Obsidian Fireheart, which has set the land itself on fire.
Flavor-wise all the deck's creatures are Elementals, and mostly cinders from Shadowmoor, as they fit the smoke theme best. Another place that features a lot of smoke imagery is the forge, such as those of the Vulshoks, where Koth of the Hammer originates on Mirrodin. Kiln is the place within a forge that contains the flame and has a smokestack leading the smoke outside. The card Smokestack is a good way to get rid of Smoke if it becomes a problem for us such as against a vigilance-heavy deck.
Kirby served up a flavorful Feast of a deck, saying only: "I just want to create a bunch of tokens with this deck, and then spend them on devour creatures."
Griffin Guernsey typed up this comedic entry based around the word Party, complete with prime party animal Animar, Soul of Elements:
For one, Animar's power level has always amazed me. A steadily growing juggernaut that enables even more beefcakes to be played more rapidly AND has protection from two of the more destructive colors? Sounds great. He also fit the theme of a party (as more people attend, the more popular the party gets) and RUG just seems like party colors anyway.
Animar is a party animal. Tattermunge Maniac is a maniac on the dance floor. Rip-Clan Crasher crashes down the door to get to the punch bowl. There are your typical raging ragers. Avarax brought a few friends along (crazy things go on between him and Animar by the way). Tattermunge Witch is the cranky chaperone. Pestermite is the annoying party prankster (read the flavor text). Yavimaya Kavu is the shared spirit of everyone at the party! Æther Adept is the bouncer (get it?). There's Reflecting Pool, because it's a pool party, duh.
The flavor/game plan of the deck as a whole is that everyone starts to party as soon as they get in the door (thus the haste).
There were some jokesters. Ryan Printz was among them with his Inconceivable deck. Young kiddos are hereby advised to watch The Princess Bride as soon as humanly possible. Everyone else, read on:
The battle of wits has begun! It ends when you decide, and find out if you are right... or are wrong. It's so simple. All you have to do is divine from what you know of me: Am I the sort of man who would choose a card that I do not have or one I do? Now, a clever man would choose one he does not have, because he would know that only a great fool would agree with what he was told. You are not a great fool, so you can clearly not declare that I have the card. But did I know that you were not a great fool? Did I count on it? If so, you clearly cannot declare that I do not have that card.
Use your dizzying intellect to confound your opponents! Challenge them to a game of wits with your Liar's Pendulum; Condescend their pitiful attempts to derail your masterful plans; give your opponent the barest glimpse of your genius, and slip them poison as they stop in awe; avert your enemy's thoughts from your true goals even as your prodigious mind brainstorms your next move. Your cunning is beyond measure, and shall provide you with answers when you have need.
You will weave an Illusion so great that the very earth will attack your opponents, fool enough to challenge you with death on the line, causing them to utter unwittingly – INCONCEIVABLE!
This is a word, folks. And Andrew Lawson chose it for this contest. Daring, but did he pull it off? Obviously, yes:
The word I chose was SYZYGY. In case you or your readers haven't heard of the word, the Wiktionary definition of syzygy is: A kind of unity, namely an alignment of three celestial bodies (for example, the Sun, Earth, and Moon) such that one body is directly between the other two, such as occurs at an eclipse.
I could think of three main ways in which this idea could be applied to Magic:
- Cards with a celestial theme in their name or art.
- Aligning several bodies in a particular conformation sounds a lot like assembling pieces of a combo.
- Actually altering the alignment of the cards themselves tapping and untapping.
Here is the decklist I came up with based on these themes. I'll explain the individual card choices in more detail below.
Yosei, the Morning Star - Fits all three categories. It not only has Star in its name, it can also be used as a combo piece to make your opponent skip all future untap steps.
Sun Titan - Fits categories 1 and 2 as it has Sun in its name and is involved in several combos in the deck.
Saffi Eriksdotter - Fits category 2 only, but is one of the most important combo pieces. Can be fetched by Green Sun's Zenith and recurred with Sun Titan or Yomiji, Who Bars the Way.
Yomiji, Who Bars the Way - Fits category 2 only, combos with Yosei, the Morning Star and Saffi Eriksdotter.
Sunblast Angel - Primarily fits in categories 1 and 3. However, does play a role in some of the combos in the deck.
Sunstrike Legionnaire - Same as Sunblast Angel as it definitely fits categories 1 and 3 but can also be used in some of the less effective combos.
Soul Warden - Primarily used as a combo piece (category 2).
Zodiac animals - Primarily fit in category 1. Rather than choose all of the green zodiac creatures I chose the one with the highest power for each type of landwalk. The appropriate one(s) can be fetched with Green Sun's Zenith.
Glissa Sunseeker - Primarily fits in category 1. Magic bullet that can be found with Green Sun's Zenith.
Starved Rusalka - Primarily fits in category 2. An alternative sacrifice outlet to Greater Good which can be fetched with Green Sun's Zenith.
Greater Good - Primarily fits in category 2 as it is a key component in many of the combos.
Glare of Subdual - Primarily fits in category 3, although it is useful in some of the combos and the objects which emit most photons in our universe are suns / stars.
Guardian Zendikon - Probably unnecessary but to my mind the spherical zendikons look a lot like miniature planets, so category 1 but for art rather than name. Also useful as a speed bump to help ensure you get your combos online.
Green Sun's Zenith - Categories 1 and 2. The targets have been discussed above.
Sunlance and Sunscour - Primarily fit in category 1. Much needed removal used to deal with early threats to ensure one or more of the combos can be assembled.
Second Sunrise - Primarily fits in category 1 (and to a limited extent in category 2).
Sphere of the Suns - Primarily fits in category 1. Mana acceleration as most of the combos require a 6 or more CMC component.
Sunpetal Grove and Sungrass Prairie - Both conveniently fit in category 1.
Snow-covered lands - Used to ensure the basic lands fulfill the naming requirement even though the rules said this wasn't necessary.
Some of the combos:
Yomiji + Yosei + Yosei / Yomiji + Yosei + Sac outlet - Play and sacrifice Yosei every turn to ensure you opponent never gets another untap step. Cost of combo each turn can be reduced by adding Saffi, so that Yosei is returned to the battlefield after dying and Saffi returns to your hand.
Saffi + Sun Titan + Greater Good - Sacrifice Saffi targeting Sun Titan, then sacrifice Sun Titan to Greater Good. Return Sun Titan to play and use its ETB ability to return Saffi. Allows you to draw your deck. Add Soul Warden to gain 2 life for each loop (alternatively use Starved Rusalka as sac outlet w/ Soul Warden to gain 3 life for each spent). Add Sunstrike Legionnaire / Glare of Subdual to tap down opponents' creatures at instant speed.
Sunblast Angel + Saffi + Sacrifice outlet - Allows you to destroy all attacking creatures (which don't have vigilance) before combat damage. Saffi can be recurred with Yomiji / Sun Titan.
Second Sunrise + Sunblast Angel + Sac outlet + Glare/Sunstrike - Tap all your opponent's creatures with Glare if you have it. Sac all your creatures including Sunblast Angel but excepting Sunstrike Legionnaire to sac outlet. Play Second Sunrise, stack triggers so that you can tap your opponent's creatures w/ Sunstrike Legionnaire before destroying all tapped creatures to effectively turn Second Sunrise into a one-sided Wrath.
Conveniently, most of these combos are three-card combos and so fit especially well with the definition of syzygy as alignment of three celestial bodies!
Well, that wraps up what I'd call a tremendous success of a contest! Between bizarre flavor-ramblings and some restful weeks of Lab geeking, I conclude that I should hold another contest soon! I'm mulling over some ideas. If you've got a cool contest idea, hit me up via email! Either way, until next time.