Planeswalk This Way,
Part 2

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The letter H!ello and welcome back to From the Lab! Today, as I revealed two weeks ago during the first half of this column, is the second part of the results for the Planeswalker Contest. Confused on what I'm talking about? Don't fret; check out Part 1 to get an idea.

Since last time we covered Chandra Ablaze. Sorin Markov, Elspeth, Knight-Errant, Ajani Vengeant, Nicol Bolas, and Ajani Goldmane, today we hit the rest. Or, at least most of the rest. I didn't really want to bring this up last time, but I sadly don't have a proper entry for Nissa Revane or Chandra Nalaar. The very few who decided to build around these 'walkers either didn't heed the Contest's rules, and or built a pseudo-competitive Standard deck around them. Since neither fits the Contest's loose criteria, I couldn't publish them as part of the contest. Sorry, Nissa and Chandra fans!

Kay, let's begin!

Here's a very flavorful opening paragraph from Alex Durrant, who opted to build around the Shards of Alara 'walker:

Tezzeret was a lower class seeker with a Thirst for Knowledge. Angered by the status quo, he decided to Muddle the Mixture of the way classes were treated in Esper. What he truly desired was to discover the Fact or Fiction of the legendary Codex. Using only his Intuition and sheer Force of Will, Tezzeret Punished the Ignorance of the protectors of the Codex. Unfortunately his entire plan was Nixed, as the Codex was completely blank. In a Daze, he ended up in Grixis, fighting for his life and taking a momentary Path to Exile as Nicol Bolas' servant.

As you can see, this is a typically powerful casual Tezzeret deck, which goes for numerous artifact-related combos, such as Power Artifact + Grim Monolith, the Stations from Fifth Dawn, Tinker + Inkwell Leviathan, Thopter Foundry + Sword of the Meek, and Rings of Brighthearth + this deck.

Out of the handful of Liliana submissions, I particularly liked Ian K's email. Ian actually went 100% by the guideline "building from what you have." Here's his flavor-packed explanatory paragraph:

Thematically, things get pretty specific. Liliana made a Grave Pact with some unknown demons - Demonic Collusion if you will - (Woebringer and Archdemon of Unx are the token demons in the deck), to ascend her power (Bloodchief) and maintain her youth (that's where the lifegain comes in, prolonging youth). Since then, she has Murderously Betrayed the demons by killing one using the power of the chain veil (unfortunately no artifact with "Veil" in the name exists, so I settled for Helm of Kaldra), and she's showing her Greed by trying to avoid their deal, which has so far shown its signs of suffering.

Ian goes on:

This deck plays both to Liliana's mechanics and to her flavor in very specific ways. Most of the cards mimic one of her mechanics in some way: Augur, and rats (and Demonic Collusion) for discard, Living End, Balthor and other recursion matches the Ultimate, etc. In general the deck aims to sacrifice a bunch of guys to do cool things like ruin the opponent's hand or board of creatures, then search for ways to bring all them critters back. There's a significant amount of lifegain to counteract the self-inflicted life loss (Seal, Betrayal, Greed) and some other mechanically oddball cards that are thrown in for fun, like Bloodchief Ascension (Winning mid-way between resolving Living End would be SOOO COOL!), and Syphon Life plays to the graveyard theme while giving you both a way out of stalemates, and something to do with your extra lands. Spot removal is... well, always welcome.

Remember, when this Contest began, Jace, the Mind Sculptor was not on player's radars quite yet, and it was thus void from the Contest. Not to worry, though, Jace lovers! John Cyrus's awesome submission for Jace Beleren fit all the criteria and was fun to read about. Here's his flavor paragraph:

Thematically, this deck is all about Jace. Even as an Apprentice, Jace was a Prodigy; he was also Curious and Supremely Inquisitive, and obsessed with Accumulating Knowledge (which he often did by studying Spellbooks). He was also a Daring Apprentice and a bit of a Smart Ass. Jace makes great use of Trickery; he is Adept at Bending his opponent's Will, and making him or her forget things (Memory Lapse) and putting a lock on his or her mind (Meishin, the Mind Cage). Although often very analytical, he sometimes lets his Intuition take over. Jace is a Vexing opponent, made all the more so by his Condescending manner based on his Overwhelming Intellect. Now, other planeswalkers are Sowing Temptation for Jace to turn to the side of evil.

Mechanically, it's in many ways like a typical mono-blue control deck, but it has a strong Wizard tribal theme and aims to win through milling. There is also a heavy emphasis on card drawing. Jushi Apprentice can get you scary numbers of cards, especially when assisted by Accumulated Knowledge (which is obviously synergistic with Intuition), Curiosity (which can be quite effective on Smart Ass, depending on circumstances), Overwhelming Intellect, and the Jaces. Spellbook can help you hold onto those cards (especially if you're aiming to flip Jushi Apprentice), and if you can maintain a full hand, Meishin shuts opposing creatures down. Meanwhile, the counterspells keep your opponent frustrated, as do Daring Apprentice and (especially) Voidmage Prodigy. When it comes time to end the game, Jace's ultimate is devastating to opponents' libraries, and Supreme Inquisitor can finish them off.

Well done! I loved the use of Accumulated Knowledge: in my mind, it's probably the most flavorful card that a blue planeswalker could use, as what else do they do but accumulate knowledge of various planes and spells?

Wait, wait. I thought we already had a Nicol Bolas deck last time? You're right, but, well, it's Bolas. If he wants two decks, he gets two decks. And EbonRose's submission was just awesome. Read on ....

The following is an excerpt from 'How to Make Slaves & Dominate People: A Guide to Planar Conquest' by Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker:

Once one has decided to seize the Reins of Power of a given plane, one must proceed with patience. The first step is to sow Disharmony amongst the rabble, warp the middle class with potent Propaganda, and Threaten the mighty. Consider instigating Acts of Treason by the loyal, as this act's moral impact can be staggering, setting Endless Whispers about spies and traitors loose on the streets.

Particularly stubborn elements may require additional effort. If the trouble is coming from a particular race, you could unleash an Engineered Plague upon them, perhaps even unto their Extinction. To target a geographical region, I am rather fond of agitating a Fault Line to cause an Earthquake, and better yet if the area is volcanically active. The Molten Disaster of Volcanic Fallout can erase even the most stubborn of cities. Such loss will generally push a people to their Breaking Point, grief and madness crippling them, ensuring their Damnation.

Once power is assumed, you must begin acting like a ruler immediately to consolidate your position. Start releasing new Imperial Edicts, the more Cruel and Diabolic the better. If you ever hope to Dominate a plane, you must crush their will to fight utterly. And you must also remember to do whatever it takes, be it magic, artifice, or, at the end of the day, getting your hands dirty yourself.

EbonRose says on the deck's strategy:

The main inspiration for this deck was to not bring anything to the table, instead planning on using my enemy's creatures against them. There are numerous "until of end of turn" control effects, which are always good for smacking the other guy with his own fatty, and there are a few permanent control spells in case you need consistent blocking.

Hopefully blocking won't be too much of an issue for us though. The deck controls the enemy population through a combination of small-scale sweepers and Edict spells. If you're clever about when and what creatures you take control of, you can at least heavily influence what creature your opponent sacrifices, if not remove all choice. And the Propagandas should keep them being able to overwhelm you with a horde attack.

I also put in a few things to do with your opponent's creatures while you have them. Telim'Tor's Edict will net you a card, but Helm of Possession is the really neat trick. Take one of their guys for the turn, then sac it to take control of another of their guys forever.

By the time you could draw and play Nicol Bols, Planeswalker, he should have little trouble locking down what remains of your opponent's board. I also put in one copy of old school Nicol Bolas in case you need your own fatty to finish the game.

Next to Sorin Markov, Garruk was the most popular planeswalker of choice amongst my inbox. In the end I could only pick one, and I settled on the one I felt was the most creative, humorous, and loyal to the contest. Here's Gene Guth's unique opening paragraph:

'Savages,' he thought, as he hacked through the thorny Overgrowth. 'Why were they staring at me with such Rancor in their eyes, and damn these bugs!' (Beacon of Creation) Duke Charpella once more swung his machete. "This is my land now! I can do what I want."

A Primal Bellow erupted from far away, a Decree of Savagery that seemed to be amplified by the buzzing of the insects surrounding him. The Beast Attacked in a flash. The Predator's Strike disemboweled the Duke, just as he inhaled a gnat with his last breath. The creature's claws didn't stop there, however, and the cries of Charpella's retinue fell on dead ears. Though the duke's heart ceased beating, the Pulse of the Tangle of life surrounding his body seemed to surge as the powerful figure of Garruk Wildspeaker entered the clearing. No words were wasted as he smashed the noble's medallion, moved on, and continued the hunt."

Poor, stupid Duke Charpella. No one messes with Garruk's forest!

Here's the rest of Gene's dedicated description:

When creating this deck, I tried to envision an environment where someone like Garruk would thrive. I came up with a bug infested, primordial forest. There are no woodland civilizations here, unless you count thorns as a sentient species. I tried to use cards with evocative names, eschewing more powerful versions of cards (hello Kodama's Reach) if they had irrelevant names. Primal, Savage, Wild, Predator, Rancor, Attack, Strike, Pulse, Vast, Bellow, Feral; that's Garruk!

The land is teeming with growth, taking advantage of Garruk's land untapping. I included a few lands Garruk had visited in the past, that like to be untapped. Interestingly, I found space for some land tutoring from Garruk's webcomic, "The Wild Son." I would never have included cards with names like Crop Rotation, Nature's Lore, and Sylvan Scrying before I read the comic. They fit in nicely with Garruk's upbringing.

To invoke Garruk's second ability, I wanted to include only mid-sized beasts, hence the Mold Shambler for non-creature removal and the Ursapine for a mana dump. I included the Feral Hydra for its name/early threat/mana dump flexibility. I also wanted to use as many token beasts as I could. Beast Attack and Savage Conception can even use ten mana in one turn for when I have it. It's great to use Garruk's first bility to get ten mana, and be ready to use Garruk's ultimate the next turn, with two beast tokens created and ready to pounce. Pulse of the Tangle is very evocative, and produces a 3/3 beast token. (I can't picture ever getting it back to my hand.) Wirewood Savage is perfect in name and ability. When a beast comes into play indeed!

To capture the feel of Garruk's ultimate ability, I used a few aptly named creature pumpers. To take advantage of his ultimate, I added some bugs. I'm picturing the biting fly varieties. Your opponent will need more than bug spray to take on Garruk!

Excellent work, I must say.

To cap off today's article and this Contest, here's Ross McBeath's delightfully primitive take on Sarkhan Vol, Jund's resident dragonmaster.

Who would dare to hunt the dragons? Sarkhan is oozing with blinding anger, with temporary insanity, with infinite rage. But he hatches his natural side. Soon he will be braiding fire into a lightning bolt, a molten slagheap, and a storm of dragons roosting. And once he grabs the reigns on your creatures, then it's written in the stars and the storms: he will form a garden of doom, of dragons and the slimy shadows of a forgotten foe, their blood bolted, their faults aligned, their fealty dominated, sacrificed on the altar of decimation. Destruction is a language everybody understands.

In order to speak the language of destruction, Sarkhan Vol or his dominion must grab the reigns of an opposing creature and sacrifice that creature to the Ooze Garden. This creates a permanent tool of death; a constant reminder of your opponent's destruction; a warning to anyone that draws blades against the hellkites of the sky.

The truth is, rage courses in every heart, yearning to betray its rational prison. The world requires no pretense of compassion, no false mask of civilization; just hunger, heat, and need. And the dragon, my dear dragon, is the purest expression of life's savage splendor.

Passionate! Let's see Ross's decklist.

Well, that wraps up the Planeswalker Contest once and for all. I hope everyone enjoyed this combination of Johnnyness and Vorthosity. Stay tuned, for I've got some more contest ideas a-brewin'. Until next week!

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