ello and welcome to the Lab. This week continues the smorgasbord of coverage, with the focus hovering over Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 for now. Some exciting Magic 2013 previews escaped their tethers last week, and it seems their cohorts will be similarly released to the public eye next week. I know I'm pumped to continue learning about the latest core set.
Odric, Master Tactician | Art by Michael Komarck
For now, though, this week is geared around the aforementioned video game, which represents a new introductory gateway to Magic's splendorous realms of fun. I'm sure it's quite enjoyable, but in terms of this particular column, I wasn't sure how to angle things. After some research, I discovered that a focal point of the game's pre-built decks are the five legendary creatures of Magic 2013. With that shred of info to cling to, I trained my deck building reticles on those five cards for this week.
The return of legendary creatures to the core set certainly makes sense for a video game tie-in, and on a wider scale, they're sure to resonate with the curious folk who open them in booster packs. Let's see what I could muster with these legends. Some decks are straightforward and others have, well, that infinite glint.
Odric, Master Tactician starts off the festivities this week. His eye-popping combat ability allows you to totally dictate your opponent's blocking plans, provided you attacked with three other creatures as well. I was a fan of Master Warcraft back in the day, and the effect resonates more effectively on a 3/4 first striker.
When building, I knew the deck wanted to be aggressive and stuffed with bodies, so Odric could activate. Spectral Procession was a good start. Then I wondered what strategy benefited from attacking with multiple creatures. Battle cry was the decisive answer. In came Accorder Paladin and the fluttery Signal Pest, as well as flagship battle crier Hero of Bladehold.
I also wanted Odric to set up certain blocking situations, in which I could swoop in and wreck my opponent. Gaze of the Gorgon is such a card. Odric can force a gang block on one of your creatures, and a Gaze will wipe out the blockers! Midnight Charm is another tricky spell in this vein, and Profane Command completes the multifaceted trio of black spells.
Typhoid Rats is a snippy little card and Blind Creeper beats well for a two-drop. And for some silly singletons, I went with Skirsdag High Priest (Odric can orchestrate a morbid combat) and the weird Jangling Automaton (so they have untapped blockers to mess with!)
Onto Talrand, Sky Summoner. Talrand is a pretty straightforward kernel of a card. Simply play a bunch of instants or sorceries, make a bunch of Drakes, swing for a bunch of damage, repeat a bunch of times.
Talrand, Sky Summoner | Art by Svetlin Velinov
I don't want to step on Adam Styborski's toes if I can help it (he previewed this 2/2 flying token machine last week.) Adam built a fun blue-red deck, so I'll avoid that color duo. Instead, let's go green. Rampant Growth and Deep Reconnaissance can increase my land base so I can cast more spells! Primal Command is ultra versatile and able to fetch Talrand. Wrap in Vigor is a neat trick that can protect Talrand and his Drakes. Finally, the singleton Parallel Evolution can double your Drake army!
As for the blue spells, they start out cold and lean (the flashbacking Think Twice, the kickable Into the Roil) and veer into cold and mean territory (Remand and Condescend stop your opponent's spells in their tracks). Even Snapcaster Mage is here. Hey, despite its grossly pushed numbers, it's a cool creature, and I've been looking for a casual Lab deck for it on the sly.
To wash out that harsh blue taste, rinse with some mellow blue spells. Oona's Grace is a fun retrace spell, meaning it can be played again and again. And a Talrand deck just wouldn't feel right without his Invocation.
Let's move onto Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis. That's a surprising shout-out to a former shard of Alara, but I guess it shouldn't be, since that set kindly donated exalted to Magic 2013. My question is, how did Nefarox acquire such a Bantian ability? Regardless of the answer, this Demon will eat you in a hurry.
Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis | Art by Aleksi Bricolt
When thinking about Nefarox, I couldn't help but think about the "loner" sect of Avacyn Restored. Cards like Homicidal Seclusion and Demonic Rising facilitate a solo creature strategy, and Nefarox seems to gel with that. A Homicidal Nefarox will swoop in as a 9/7 lifelinking, Cruel Edict-ing monster!
Besides Nefarox, the other creatures function well on their own. Demonic Taskmaster beats hard for a three-drop. Korlash, Heir to Blackblade is a gem, able to accelerate my lands via shedding extra copies of himself. Sounds like a loner to me! (I know my own kind.)
The rest of the deck is control. Doom Blade kills stuff and, if outnumbered, Mutilate can wipe the board. (Although I'm playing four Cathedral of War as an extra buffer, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth can Swamp-ify them. While I'm at it, two copies of Spawning Pool can't hurt.) Brainspoil is further removal and when transmuted it becomes either of the five-drop enchantments (or Beacon of Unrest, a nice recurring weapon). Finally, Lightning Greaves and Phyrexian Arena speed up different aspects of my game plan (finding my big vigilantes and beating down with them.)
Ah, Krenko, Mob Boss. Something about this guy is instantly appealing. It's either his name or his ability. Or both. Krenko needs only a few other Goblins around him to cultivate a fully fledged army of them, with him in the cigar-clouded center.
Krenko, Mob Boss | Art by Karl Kopinski
Goblins are traditionally quick off the ground, but Krenko enables some particularly blistering draws. How about a turn-two Krenko's Command into a turn-three Goblin Chieftain (attack for 6) into a turn-four hasty Krenko, who spits out four more Goblins (attack for 14?). Factor in the rest of the deck's speedy squad (highlights: Mogg War Marshal for more tokens, Goblin Bushwhacker for more oomph, Goblin Matron to find Krenko or the Chieftain) and the damage should pour.
And yes, Krenko is broken with Intruder Alarm, because that card is completely busted, like my printer. I'm a bit sick of it, to be honest. Between Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Splinter Twin, these blue-red "win now" decks have definitely circulated the Magical trenches by now. Instead, I used Crab Umbra. This totem armor card can protect Krenko and untap him!
Flashy by Nature
Finally, Yeva, Nature's Herald. I'm a big fan of the flash mechanic, as previously expressed in this column through my love for Leyline of Anticipation and Shimmer Myr. Yeva is set to join these beloved ranks.
Yeva, Nature's Herald | Art by Eric Deschamps
I wondered if I could devise an infinite combo around green creatures. That way, I could wait until my pieces were set up, then go off at the end of my opponent's turn by first flashing out Yeva, then the combo. The green creature I landed on was the innocent-looking Quirion Sentinel. Odd, but with the proper pieces, full of infinite potential.
The first piece is Emerald Medallion. This way, the Sentinel will cost . Hmm... that means it'll generate enough mana to cast it again. The second piece is Cloudstone Curio. Ahhhh. Now I can cast one Sentinel and bounce another to my hand, and then cast it via the first Sentinel's mana ability, and bounce the other... et cetera. Essence Warden can give you infinite life, Wirewood Hivemaster can make infinite 1/1 tokens to swing with, and the super-awesome Champion of Lambholt enables a swing for the win. Fabricate can help you find your artifacts and Elvish Visionary seems nuts with the Curio and Medallion around.
Hope you enjoyed. Next week I preview another Magic 2013 card! Until then.