elcome, one and all, to another edition, installment, and update (all at once!) of From the Lab. As usual, I'll be bringing casual wackiness to the various Magic players who roam the Internet. Today is a very special day for me personally. As faithful readers may know by now, I am not too keen on the menace called "non-theme weeks," and technically we're amidst one right now. However, for the second time in the total history of this column, From the Lab has directly landed on that pseudo-holiday, April Fool's Day.
I'm sure we're all familiar with the first of April, so I'll spare the lemon-laced description of today's legacy: This is a column about Magic, and thus I must turn the cogwheels in my brain to find some way to connect these two topics. Oh, I know! Tying together the very common, "Remember that classic prank you pulled on...." memories that are fun to dig out on April Fool's Day with the lighthearted spirit of the holiday means talking about decks that somehow fool your opponent. And, since I really couldn't resist, a fool-themed deck makes the grade today as well.
To amp up the foolhardy atmosphere a bit, I offer a small but hopefully worthy challenge. This article will wind up having four sections: the intro and the three deck descriptions. Starting now, one sentence in each section will be blatantly untrue; an April Fool. If you can catch them all, I'll personally send you an autographed playset of Fool's Tomes. This seems like a fun way to get into the spirit, and besides, you're all paying attention now, aren't you? Prying onto my every word, hoping to catch my April Fool before it catches you? I don't blame you: catching my sister filling my sink basin with lighter fluid two years ago was a life-altering moment. Why should a seemingly harmless Magic article be any different?
While you're all preoccupied with this challenge, I'm going to lay out different aspects of April's Fools Day in these three sections. This one will deal with my personal favorite part of any day celebrating foolishness: devising a diabolical prank and laughing about it at the expense of others. What's not to like about that? To keep with the theme, today's first deck is about putting one over on your opponent.
If you have an ample amount of time and haven't read the long archives of From the Lab (nee House of Cards) I'd suggest reading the majority of Mark Gottlieb's work. There is definitely a reason for his wombat-crazed cult to exist, as any sort of Johnny will appreciate the decks he wrote about. One of them instantly sprung to mind when I was brainstorming "tricky" decks. Since it's almost perfectly an "April Fool's!" moment within a deck list, I thought I'd update it with the cards printed since 2004. To give credit where credit is due, the following deck idea was sent to Mark by a Chris Young.
At the time of this particular deck list, Darksteel Colossus was the latest hotness. It was the fatty to end all fatties and was the dream behind every pack of Darksteel. To update the list a bit, I'm going to go with what some are calling the "new Colossus": Inkwell Leviathan. Playing this deck begins before the game even starts, as you psychologically trick your opponent into thinking you're running a deck with the 7/11 boomstick. To do this, every now and then give a hint to your physical opponent (sorry, Magic Online players, this will be a bit harder for you) that you're running a deck with Inkwell Leviathan. One of Gottlieb's best suggestions was a deck box with an appropriately cheesy name. In this case, I recommend "Inkwell, Think Well," or "It's No Inkwhelp."
During the actual game, when you've assembled enough mana (oh wait, mana was last week) play an innocent Thought Dissector. It's a random artifact with the tiniest text since Ice Cauldron. That's what your opponent will think, anyway. After that, you counter stuff and hang around until you can drop Puca's Mischief. Mark's article used old-school methods such as Juxtapose and Legerdemain, which are perfectly fine, but relied on your opponent playing an artifact to work properly. To your opponent, giving away Thought Dissector isn't that suspicious, since you're potentially getting a freaking Rafiq of the Many for it.
Now here's where your pre-game Leviathan-hinting matters. If you played your part with enough guile to fool (and spread jealousy on) your opponent, he or she will undoubtedly use any spare mana available to try to snag that oh-so-juicy Esper-tinged behemoth. Immediately, cast your Extended-legal Long-Term Plans and dig through your library to find Leveler (!!!) and put that third from the top. Assuming there isn't another Thought Dissector within the top two cards, you've just set the game up for the best gotcha moment ever. "Looking for Inkwell Leviathan? APRIL FOOL!"
I should note that Telemin Performance, a recent spell from Conflux, performs a similar function to Thought Dissector. However, as there isn't really a feasible way to get your opponent to cast a spell they might not even have in their deck (barring Panoptic Mirror + Mindslaver, or Mind Theft....), I went with the original master of subterfuge in Thought Dissector. Puca's Mischief allows you to trade your early Walls (which solidly keep you alive from quicker decks) for your opponent's stuff to mess with him or her. Counterspells are probably the meanest April Fool's ever ("I cast a Rakka Ma-" "APRIL FOOL!") but they're technically on theme. Long-Term Plans is sort of clumsy, and is nowhere near as efficient as Enlightened Tutor was in the older list, but it can find any card in the deck and is generally underused, so I'll happily run it.
As you may have inferred, the Mindslaver is for when your opponent just doesn't cooperate, at which point you can just take matters into your own hands. If anyone out there likes the idea of the "trick deck" and has some sparkling new creative energy for a different one, I'd love to hear about it.
Building around one word is a deckbuilding restraint that has always enamored me. For some reason I love the idea of a deck being the literal Magic existence of one word, and the long and hard hours of Gatherer searching pay off when it can reasonably perform like a regular deck.
The second part of April Fool's Day that I think exists is: the Fool himself. Who is he, and how did he become a holiday icon? While we're at it, we should carefully counsel the Easter Bunny on his marketing image. I've told him a thousand times already: Rabbits don't lay eggs. I even built him a deck using all the Odyssey mana Eggs with Vizzerdrix as a win condition to convince him!
Oh well, even if we never know who this mysterious Fool is, he'll at least have a deck built around him. At first, I started the search by card name only, which led to less than fruitful results. After expanding the lens to include flavor text, I was finally ready with a deck.
Your game plan is to get Rhox War Monk on the field as soon as you can. The lack of mana fixing and card drawing really hurts the chances of this, but since when does a Fool go into a battle having thoroughly planned ahead? Uktabi Orangutan is a monkeyfied Viridian Shaman whose flavor text actually names the reclusive Fool. The relatively bare four drop slot is covered by the white Hill Giant, Shu Elite Infantry, and the potentially late-game-swarming Snake Basket. Crystal Seer can restructure your immediate library. Foxfire is a pseudo-Fog effect which doubles as the only card draw we can muster. Here's our resulting Foolish deck:
Casual Theme Deck
It might look ugly, or even unwieldy, but getting Fool's Tome + Thought Reflection going is worth the price of admission at least. Between the blocking creatures and the Foxfires, a giant Snake Basket could take the game.
The best part about April Fool's Day pranks is that you set them up knowing your intended victim will walk right into them. We're all guilty of pulling pranks on others and rightfully having them pulled on us. To that end, I thought I'd take a paragraph or two to talk about various pranks you can pull in Magic. There's no real dec list, as this is more of a collection of ideas to get your minds whirring.
Onslaught block introduced a humble little mechanic that went on to become a fan favorite (at least this fan's): morph. At its core it's a tricky mechanic, so a fun April Fool's Day deck might be a deck with all morphs, including quadruple Zoetic Caverns. The deck would probably be rooted in white, as Karona's Zealot, Daru Mender, and Wingbeat Warrior are perfect morphs that turn the tables on your opponent. Meanwhile, you could bait your opponent with semi-useless morphs like Scornful Egotist and Coral Trickster (which is on-theme). Ixidor, Reality Sculptor and his family tree (Dream Chisel, Ixidron) would be welcome as well.
Shifting to another deck idea, Higure, the Still Wind is a very April Fool's Day kind of card. Of course, it has the archetypal Ninja abilities (ninjutsu, unblockability) but it tops the fruitcake with a nifty Ninja searching ability. As of Lorwyn block, changelings have inserted themselves into nearly every creature-type discussion, and the same applies here. Tutoring up a Chameleon Colossus would be a nice "Surprise!" moment, especially when it becomes an 8/8 (or better) unblockable Ninja. Best of all, a Cairn Wanderer can pick up ninjutsu from fallen Ninjas!
There are of course standalone cards that conjure images of April Fool's Day. Ætherplasm is a big one in my mind. If your opponent foolishly dares attacking into it (although you could offer some persuasion in the form of Incite War and similar cards) his innocent Woolly Thoctar could suddenly get swallowed up by an Isleback Spawn. Flash Foliage is a similar card with a lot more surprise factor.
Water Gun Balloon Game is a wacky card from Unhinged that is based around a classic prank. Use it alongside buyback spells and other recursive spells to start pumping out the Giant Teddy Bears. Before Lorwyn, the weirdest thing you could do with Water Gun Balloon Game was play Meteor Crater to actually add pink mana to your mana pool. Now, since these Teddy Bears are also Giants, you can pump all of them with Sunrise Sovereign, roast a creature with Crush Underfoot, and sweep the rest of the board with Thundercloud Shaman. This has got to be the most bizarre cross-block synergy I've seen.
Art-wise, Jester's Scepter is just what I'd expect a town fool to wave around in his hand. Storyline-wise, since the goblins on the plane of Jund seem to want nothing more than to get deep fried to a crisp by a Voracious Dragon, I hereby name them April Fools; although, I'm pretty sure the Goblin tokens on Dragon Fodder don't care about the month so much as the day. Flavor text–wise, any nugget of wisdom spouted by Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician qualifies.
Until next time, folks!