ello and welcome back to the Lab! Everything's still the same here, just a different day. Most of my machinery made it through the 72-hour backwards time shift, but there's some empty particle patches, which means my Time Scanner is either faulty or just ran out of battery power. Mechanical stuff is materializing around me as I type. The hardest part was figuring out how to get the Time Scanner to scan itself. I eventually had one of my Roomba minions point its laser end at a mirror. The beam bounced off and scanned the Scanner... and the robot, and they both promptly vanished. They haven't manifested yet, though. The mirror might have reflected my programmed scan, so I might have accidentally sent the pair 72 hours forward in time, to Sunday. Drat, now I need a new Time Scanner and I'm down a minion (and a mirror).
Essence Scatter | Art by Jon Foster
Anyway, that's probably enough frantic rambling. Like I said, everything's still the same here. That includes the part where I build decks that are designed to make you tap your lip and possibly say, "I can do that?" This might be an old-hat explanation for some, but it's always important to recognize the new hatters. Hatters in general, really. Particularly the mad ones, like myself.
So what's on the docket for today, my first Monday in the Lab? (I am extremely aware of the sluggish stigma that Mondays carry, by the way. I hope to sufficiently jolt your creative energy banks each week to specifically combat this lethargic affliction. If that doesn't work... coffee it up?)
Right, the docket. Well, Magic 2013 was recently revealed in its entirety. That's a good place to start, I suppose! I definitely want to get to some deck ideas that I mentioned in last week's introductory words, since they're just too juicy to resist. From there, I'll tackle some fresh cards from the new core set. Right-o. Let's get to it.
One deck idea I mentioned last week was relatively high concept: a 35+ land deck featuring Boundless Realms, a home-run card if you're asking me. From ability to art to flavor text, this card reeks of classic Magic. The niftiest nuance is that, in such a land-saturated deck, a Realms will thin your deck substantially, increasing the chances of a victory card cropping up at the top.
Since it costs seven, the first Boundless Realms will get you seven more lands. The second, a whopping fourteen! I love the aesthetics of a ton of lands hitting the battlefield at the same time. Imagine any landfall effect at that point, such as Rampaging Baloths. So many 4/4s!
The other victory conditions range from a simple Banefire (with the X way over 5) to Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, which can rain molten rock over your opponent. Search for Tomorrow and Explosive Vegetation can ramp into a Boundless Realms. Finally, some cards flow well in a land-heavy deck. Abundance can control your draws and potentially skip over gluts of land and Nantuko Cultivator is a fun way to shed a hand full of lands.
A Tuned Instrument
So far, one of my favorite aspects of Magic 2013 is the extent of references to other cards and planes within the Multiverse. To achieve this, some cards utilize that mysteriously vital part of a card, the name. Serra Avenger and Serra Avatar perfectly skim the legendary Angel while being powerful enough to sow seeds of wonderment, for example. Akroma's Memorial works tremendously to convey its tribute as well.
Staff of Nin | Art by Dan Scott
My favorite random shout-out has to be Staff of Nin, though. The artifact references one of my favorite recent legendary creatures, Nin, the Pain Artist. Accordingly, it offers both draw and damage effects.
While pondering it, I suddenly remembered Treasure Mage, and the deck-building lights went on. I considered multiple avenues, and in the end went with a toolbox of sorts for the blue tutor. Spine of Ish Sah is a great problem solver and Contagion Engine can wipe away opposing forces. The singleton Mindslaver can mess with your opponent as well. Other treasures include Steel Hellkite, Wurmcoil Engine, and Blightsteel Colossus, which can beat down for the win.
To support these big machines, I went with a Grand Architect strategy. The Architect can ramp into whatever Treasure Mage finds. Other blue creatures to utilize include Merfolk Looter and Æther Adept. The fiddly Nephalia Smuggler also makes an appearance, as it can flicker my Wizards. After realizing that some of my artifacts would benefit from a brief exile (especially the Spine), I threw in two copies of Ghostly Flicker.
One of the weirdest cards in Magic 2013 has to be Touch of the Eternal. It's an expensive enchantment that bonds your life total to your permanent total, an effect that encapsulates its one-with-the-universe flavor. In terms of battlefield value, it seems tricky to engineer a situation where this card helps you. You can't just drop it on turn seven unless you want to roughly halve your life.
Thraben Doomsayer | Art by John Stanko
Instead, I went with a permanent-amassing tactic, using token generators and some land acceleration. The deck quickly identified itself as a medley of these effects, with its variance making up for its meandering focus. Sakura-Tribe Elder is great, and Awakening Zone can pump out permanents that can be colorless mana in a pinch.
I looked for token producers that were both permanents and easy on my mana. Thallid Shell-Dweller is an early wall that slowly grows Saprolings. Thraben Doomsayer can build an army of followers as well, and Emeria Angel soars with her Bird tokens.
The higher-end token makers can flood the battlefield with permanents. Increasing Devotion, although not a permanent, can make fifteen of them! The loping Mycoloth can make even more! And Martial Coup is an important reset button in case things get out of hand.
A trio of Planeswalkers provide the deck's big guns. Garruk Wildspeaker is a triple threat, as he accelerates mana, makes Beast tokens, and totes an Overrun as well! Elspeth, Knight-Errant also makes tokens, and her ultimate can indefinitely shield your tokens from harm. Ajani, Caller of the Pride pulls his weight as well. He can amp up your creatures with +1/+1 counters (Mycoloth sure appreciates them), and if the Touch sets your life total sky-high, he can call a wave of Cat tokens to your side. Next upkeep, the Touch will double your life!
Some fun singletons round out the deck. Rhys the Redeemed has a free pass into any green/white token strategy, and Tree of Redemption seems essential in any life-total-altering deck. With some timely Tree hugging, you can beef out its toughness.
I'll close with another card I teased last week. Worldfire is nothing short of epic. And broken. It brings the game to a dead heat. (Get your groans out now.)
Two strategies come instantly to mind. The first is suspend cards. A well-timed Rift Bolt can go off post-Worldfire and kill your opponent. Greater Gargadon accomplishes this as well.
Worldfire | Art by Izzy
The other way, though, involves a pet card of mine: Spellweaver Helix. Get Worldfire and some sorcery speed burn in your graveyard, and then cast another copy of that burn spell. The Helix will trigger and cast Worldfire. Even though the Helix will be exiled along with every other card, the burn spell will still be on the stack, waiting to resolve. Once it does, simply aim at your opponent for the sudden win.
I loaded the deck with one-drops, which flourish in a post-Worldfire existence. Faithless Looting can get Worldfire into your graveyard for a future Helix. Flame Jab, Forked Bolt, and Pillar of Flame do their job as removal spells, and later they can help trigger the Helix plan. Incendiary Command offers a bunch of helpful tools as well.
Ramping up to nine mana isn't easy, so I used my friend Koth of the Hammer, who helps the deck in many ways. A turn-four Koth followed by a turn-five Mountain can jump you up to ten mana (perfect for suspending a Rift Bolt and then letting fly with Worldfire.) His emblem, meanwhile, seems amazing post-Worldfire.
Hope you enjoyed. Until next time!