ello and welcome back to the Lab. By now, Return to Ravnica has been fully cemented in Magic's timeline, thanks to last weekend's Prerelease. As I type, the event hasn't yet occurred, but I'm sure I had fun this weekend. I think I'm sure. Wait... when am I???
Ack, sorry. Nothing can discombobulate like a good time loop. Since moving to Mondays, I've been experiencing strange foggy patches that occasionally smear my thoughts. Sometimes I wonder if I've left a part of myself behind, stranded in the past. And if so, what's presently replaced it? And what's my relationship with my own future?
Bah. I suppose the real question is: Why am I babbling on about this twaddle? Well, to nibble at my word count, for one. And... that's it really. Okay, for serious: Return to Ravnica is, in my esteemed view, a mostly successful Magical release that follows in Scars of Mirrodin's footsteps as an example of the well-executed sequel set. It's interesting to note how the examined guilds have endured and evolved with time (cue the connective glance at my above blathering). I find enjoyment in nearly all of the set's mechanics (sorry, unleash, but you're boring) and am twittering with glee at the upcoming five new mechanics in Gatecrash, the next set. (As of yet, I don't tweet. Should I? Why?)
With a vast amount of new cards headed to tabletops (both wooden and electronic) across the Multiverse, pondering where to begin can conjure some queasiness. A helpful way to conquer non-theme weeks is to anticipate upcoming theme weeks and avoid cards that fall into those spectrums. So today's docket details some interesting Standard lists using cards from Return to Ravnica, as well as some unfinished business with my preview cards from the last fortnight.
Nivmagus Elemental | Art by Mike Bierek
New Nivmagus Nuances
Nivmagus Elemental was a tricky card to preview, and as is the case with bizarre cards, some strategies concerning it managed to slip through the cracks of my mind. Happily, these deck ideas often resurface in my inbox, through the written messages of readers (like you!). The biggest pocket of synergy with Nivmagus Elemental that I sailed right by? The Pacts, a cycle of free spells that provide a big boost, yet contain a hefty toll. Many readers pointed out that a deck full of Pacts could lead to an early and sizable Nivmagus.
Robert Richey sent in a fun-looking decklist that's chock full of interactions. Running seven Pacts allows Robert to throw in other cards that like Pacts, like Djinn Illuminatus (hmm... infinite 4/4 Giants... with a Fervor for the win), Hive Mind (often an instantly lethal companion to a Pact), and Sundial of the Infinite (a quirky method of dodging a Pact). He also gets crazy points for running singleton weirdos Eye of the Storm and Galvanoth.
Search the City | Art by Jack Wang
On the other hand, Search the City didn't muster nearly as much reader interest, which is to be expected from a tightly sewn, finicky, and harder-to-use Time Warp. Will Houser emailed me with his similarly tuned thoughts on the enchantment, yet doggedly pursued a deck that makes use of my preview cards, wrapping them up in an exciting red-blue list.
He wrote: "Think Twice, Faithless Looting, and Desperate Ravings already provide lots of card draw. Search the City sends them into overdrive, even more so with Goblin Electromancer almost halving most of their costs. Burning Vengeance was the star of a popular rogue deck recently and returns here with support from Guttersnipe. Nivmagus Elemental is a cheap threat that the opponent will find tricky to block but must answer. Finally, Search the City risks blowing out the opponent if all five cards get played; not bad for what I'm pretending is five mana for drawing five cards. Oh, and this is accidentally a Standard deck."
Wild Beastmaster | Art by Kev Walker
Humans, and Other Beasts
All righty. Now it's time for some on-purpose Standard decks. From the limited window of previews that's been opened so far, I settled on Wild Beastmaster as an intriguing build-around. I knew I needed a bunch of other creatures to attack alongside the Beastmaster, and I was also looking for methods of boosting the power of creatures.
In the end I went with a green and blue Human aggro deck. Hamlet Captain can trigger before a Beastmaster to buff it a bit. Mayor of Avabruck pumps all your Humans statically, and, if flipped, Howlpack Alpha can create more creatures to attack with. And Elder of Laurels can give a Beastmaster a giant boost, soon to be translated onto your swinging forces.
Other Humans made the list. Invisible Stalker is threatening with all the pump effects, and Champion of Lambholt is just too crazy not to include. Tandem Lookout is one of my favorite soulbonders, as it can keep the cards flowing to your hand. I never got around to using Captain of the Mists this spring, so I threw in two copies of the tap master.
As for the noncreature cards, Rancor was a must. Giving +2/+0 to a Beastmaster can lead to massive combat damage. And Downpour can clear the way!
Chromatic Lantern | Art by Jung Park
I Love Lantern
Today's last deck begins with Chromatic Lantern. The artifact can light up your lands with Joiner Adept-style color-waves. It also enables a Standard deck that's mildly hilarious. In short: A mono-green Door to Nothingness deck. With Lost in the Woods protection.
Dawntreader Elk, Borderline Ranger, and Gatecreeper Vine can all accelerate your land base while acting as occasional chump blockers. With twenty-four Forests, Lost in the Woods can be effective and Terrifying Presence supplements your defense. Tree of Redemption holds off bigger threats, and Acidic Slime can solve problems. Inching to ten mana is the real challenge, but in case the Door plan fails, you can always beat opponents with Worldspine Wurm!
Lost in Nothingness
Until next time.