elcome back to the Lab! I hope you all had fun at the Dragon's Maze Prerelease. I know I did. I mean I know I will. I will have had done that now. Man, time travel is confusing.
Anyway, Dragon's Maze has a few cards that imitate old tournament staples in various ways, some more obviously than others. Today I'll be combining the old with the new in a pair of interesting decks that seek to cast a huge number of spells in one turn.
When it Rains, it Pours
First, I'll be taking a look at a classic combo deck: Storm. For those who weren't around for it, storm is a keyword ability that appears on instants and sorceries. When you cast a spell with storm, you copy it for each spell cast before it that turn. One of the simplest storm cards is Grapeshot. For each spell cast that turn, you get to deal 1 damage to something. Unfortunately, that means that to kill your opponent, Grapeshot would need to be the twentieth spell cast. Not exactly impossible, but there's an easier way.
Pyromancer's Swath | Art by Hideaki Takamura
With Pyromancer's Swath on the battlefield, every copy of Grapeshot deals 3 damage instead of 1. That means you only have to have a total of seven spells to win the game. Of course, the enchantment does have the drawback of forcing you to discard your hand, meaning you can't cast it until the turn you're going to win. That shouldn't be a problem, however, especially since you need the extra spell for storm anyway.
What you may not have noticed is that there is a new version of Pyromancer's Swath in Dragon's Maze.
Most of you are probably a bit confused at this point. "What? I looked through the whole image gallery! There's nothing about instants and sorceries dealing extra damage in there!" Well, technically you're right. What there is, however, is Blaze Commando.
With Blaze Commando on the battlefield, each time an instant or sorcery you control deals damage, you get two 1/1 Soldier tokens with haste. That means that if you hit your opponent with seven copies of Grapeshot, you'll also get fourteen hasty Soldiers for a total of 21 damage, just like Pyromancer's Swath.
The keystone of any Storm deck is the rituals. Spells like Lotus Petal, Rite of Flame, Desperate Ritual, and Seething Song let you chain spells together to build up your storm count, while also giving you extra mana with which to cast Blaze Commando and Grapeshot. Pyretic Ritual is also an option, but I didn't include it since the other choices are all slightly better.
Manamorphose gives you an extra spell on the storm count, draws a card, and gives you the white mana necessary to cast Blaze Commando. Although you can potentially use the extra card from Manamorphose to reach the amount of spells or mana you need, it's a risky play, and it's usually better to wait until you can guarantee you don't fizzle out if you can afford to do so.
Ignite Memories can serve as a backup for Grapeshot. Although it costs more mana, it also has the potential to deal far more damage. The difficulty with Ignite Memories lies in the fact that you can never be sure it's actually going to kill your opponent. If you cast it only to discover your opponent has a hand full of land, you're going to be in trouble.
Ponder and Preordain let you find the cards you need to set up your combo, digging through your deck for only one mana each. This deck frequently puts you in a position where you just need one more card to win the game, whether that be a ritual, a Grapeshot, or something else entirely. Whatever you need, these cards can help you find it.
Peer Through Depths is more expensive and more limited than Ponder and Preordain, but it does let you look at five cards rather than two or three. It's a great way to find that last ritual you need to go off, and if you just need another spell to tick up your storm counter, Peer Through Depths is almost certain to find one.
Past in Flames isn't the kind of spell you can tap out for, but if you use it judiciously, you can recast all your rituals and even a draw spell or two, making it easy to get the mana and the storm count you need to kill your opponent.
One of the most highly anticipated cards in Dragon's Maze is Beck & Call. Ok, mainly just Beck. This new take on combo favorite Glimpse of Nature allows you to have eight copies of the effect in your deck, making your combo significantly more consistent. Although the classic build of this combo involves a lot of Elves and little card named Heritage Druid, I thought I would take it in a different direction: Kobolds!
The Kobolds are three nearly identical cards from Legends. All of them are 0/1 red creatures for zero mana. In fact, the only things that are different about them are the name, art, and flavor text. Since these creatures are free, you can draw a card for free whenever you cast one if you've cast Beck or Glimpse of Nature that turn. One direction to go with this is to use Cloudstone Curio to draw as many cards as you want, making the Kobolds bounce each other indefinitely. However, there are a lot of ways to combo with Cloudstone Curio. Significantly less common are combos that allow you to cast half your deck in one turn.
If you can cast two copies in any combination of Beck and/or Glimpse of Nature, you get to draw two cards for every creature you cast. If your deck is more than half creatures, you have a good chance of getting through the whole thing this way.
Of course, having a deck that's half creatures isn't good enough. You need to be able to cast those creatures. Kobolds are nice because they're free. You don't need any mana to cast them and draw cards. But wait, there are more creatures that cost 0. In fact, there are a lot more.
Memnite and Ornithopter are the two that many player will know since they are the only two that have been printed in the last decade. Phyrexian Walker is a slightly tougher version of Ornithopter, and Shield Sphere is even tougher than that, albeit with a drawback that makes it able to block only a certain number of times before dying. Fortunately, we're not planning on doing any blocking in this deck. After that, the well of free creatures runs a bit dry, but there are still a couple more options that you can use in a pinch. Phyrexian Marauder and Shifting Wall both cost X. Since X can be 0, you can still cast these guys for free; they just won't stick around. Even though they will die as soon as they enter the battlefield, you'll still get to draw cards from Beck and Glimpse of Nature, which is the important part anyway.
So, now that you've drawn your whole deck and dumped a bunch of creatures onto the battlefield, how do you win? Well, the easiest way I can think of is Goblin Bombardment. With twenty creatures on the battlefield, you can sacrifice them all to kill your opponent instantly.
Lotus Petals can give you the mana you need to cast Goblin Bombardment after drawing your deck and, along with Manamorphose, they can help you get the colors you need to cast Beck and Glimpse of Nature as well. Manamorphose also replaces itself and is essentially a free spell, helping make sure you don't fizzle out in the middle of your chain by failing to draw a creature.
With Manamorphose and Lotus Petal to help out, the amount of mana you're getting from your lands is more important than the color. Since you also should only need to use your lands once, I've chosen to include a few members of a land cycle from Invasion. Geothermal Crevice, Irrigation Ditch, and Sulfur Vent all sacrifice themselves to produce two mana in two different colors, giving you twice the normal amount at the cost of forcing you to wait a turn, since they enter the battlefield tapped. All of these lands make the red or green mana necessary to cast Manamorphose, and Irrigation Ditch conveniently makes exactly the mana you need to cast Beck.
An important note with this deck is that if you're brave and have some extra mana, you can try to go off with only one copy of either Beck or Glimpse of Nature in hand. You'll often be able to chain a few creatures together and draw into a second one. If you can cast it immediately, you can cast another free creature and kick the chain off for real, churning through your entire library.
Now it's time to toss these competitors into the arena and see who comes out on top. Neither of these decks are really fighters, so this will be more like a race. Or a Rubik's Cube speed run or something. Regardless, let's turn on the spotlights and see which super spell combo will take home the gold.
Storm Commando started off with a Sulfur Vent, and Chain Gang played an Irrigation Ditch. A Second Sulfur Vent set things up for the storm deck, but Chain Gang attempted to go off immediately, sacrificing Irrigation Ditch for mana. Manamorphose drew a card, keeping the colors the same, and Beck set up the chain.
Two Shifting Walls cycled themselves away, and five free creatures hit play one by one. Chain Gang played two Lotus Petals, sacrificed them for mana, and cast another Manamorphose to draw a card. A second Beck set things up to really start rolling, but the Crimson Kobolds that followed failed to find another creature. Chain Gang was forced to play Geothermal Crevice and pass the turn.
Storm Commando passed the turn with no play, and Chain Gang played Sulfur Vent and passed back. Storm Commando sacrificed a Sulfur Vent and cast Ponder. Storm Commando sacrificed the second Sulfur Vent as well; Seething Song made five mana and Desperate Ritual added one more. Past in Flames gave everything flashback and Desperate Ritual made a third mana, allowing Seething Song to make two more. Pyromancer's Swath hit the board, and the Grapeshot that followed hit for 24 damage.
Chain Gang led with Geothermal Crevice, and Storm Commando played Sulfur Falls. Sulfur Vent came down for the Kobolds, and Storm Commando played another Sulfur Falls before casting Preordain. Chain Gang sacrificed Geothermal Crevice and cast Glimpse of Nature.
A chain of eight free creatures led to a Lotus Petal, which, in addition to the Sulfur Vent, allowed Chain Gang to cast Beck. The creatures kept on coming, and with only a few cards left in the library, a Lotus Petal made the red mana to cast Goblin Bombardment. Storm Commando was hit in the face with Kobolds until death.
Sulfur Falls started things off for Storm Commando and Chain Gang led with Geothermal Crevice. Storm Commando cast Ponder, then played a Sulfur Vent. Chain Gang played a Shield Sphere to avoid discarding it and passed the turn. Storm Commando paid 2 life for Steam Vents and cast Preordain.
A Rite of Flame turned one red mana into two, and a second copy turned one of those into three. Seething Song turned that three into five, and Past in Flames gave everything flashback. Sulfur Vents was sacrificed to cast Ponder and Manamorphose turned one of the red mana to white. Rite of Flame made two extra mana, and the second copy made one more. Seething Song added an extra two, and the Storm deck cast Blaze Commando. The Grapeshot that followed made twenty-four 1/1 Soldiers with haste, ending the game decisively.
I hope you all enjoyed this speedy combo edition of From the Lab. Join me again next week, when I'll be taking a look at some of the more slow-and-steady combos from Dragon's Maze. Until then, may your combos never fizzle out before your opponent is good and dead. See ya!
Mike Cannon signed on to write From the Lab at the end of 2012. An ardent casual player and lover of bizarre synergies, he'll be bringing you a selection of crazy combo decks every Monday.