House_of_Cards

Chris presents three decks built around reject rares and serves up a reader challenge.

Dare to Be Rarely Good

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The letter H!i there, Johnnies! There is much work to be done today, tough, gruelling work building decks around cards that nobody loves – reject rares, they are often called. This week, I'm going to feature one such card from each of the last three expansions – Dissension, Coldsnap, and Time Spiral.

Let's get started, shall we?

Elves 1, Rats 0

By now, everyone knows about the ol' Thrumming Stone + Relentless Rats combo. Approximately eight billion people have emailed me about it, and Brian David-Marshall wrote about the combo and provided a decklist shortly after the Coldsnap release.

Much more exciting to me is the combo sent in by ohpo. Maybe I found it more interesting because the combo is blue-green, my favourite colour combination. Maybe it was because ohpo put the combo in a deck that was legal in Standard Tribal Wars. And maybe, just maybe, I got pumped up about ohpo's deck because it was full of my favourite forestfolk, Elves! Oh yeah, here's the combo:

Whenever you play a green creature spell, both the ripple ability granted by Thrumming Stone and Momir Vig's Worldly Tutor ability will trigger. Put the ripple on the stack first, followed by Momir's Worldly Tutoring, which will resolve first. Search out a copy of the creature you just played and put it on top of your library. Let the ripple resolve. Play the creature you just searched up. Shampoo your hair. I mean, lather, rinse, and repeat. Basically, every time you play a creature spell, you can also play every copy of that creature that is still in your library.

Since the combo is fairly expensive and requires green creatures, it just makes sense to play with Elves. Llanowar Elves, Coiling Oracle, and Wood Elves can help you ramp up to five mana. While not an Elf itself, Yavimaya Dryad acts as Wood Elves 5–8, and its ability to give your opponent a Forest works well with the Forestwalk granted by Elvish Champion. The only major changes I made to ohpo's deck were to add Primordial Sage and Tidespout Tyrant to help out in the late game. It is no coincidence that both of these creatures get much better when all of your spells have ripple. They also work quite well with Momir, even when he's all by his lonesome.

100% Relentless Rat Free – Standard Tribal Wars

Bond, Contaminated Bond

Most people look at a new set and get excited about the cards like Simic Sky Swallower, Adarkar Valkyrie, and Dark Confidant. Other people, the oddballs, the excessively optimistic, the Johnnies, see the new set and decide that now is the time to build a deck around Contaminated Bond. You might not believe that someone would actually do this, but that's precisely what Evan Landers did when Dissension was released. He noted that there was some nice synergy between Nettling Curse and reject rare War's Toll. As Evan explains:

“The main combo is between War's Toll, Nettling Curse, Contaminated Bond, and Hissing Miasma. If you activate Nettling Curse while War's Toll is in play, all of their creatures have to attack. When all of their creatures attack, the Contaminated Bonds, Nettling Curses, and Hissing Miasmas will all activate, resulting in massive life-loss for your opponent. Darkness, Sudden Spoiling, Will-o'-the-Wisp, Aetherflame Wall, and Kher Keep can prevent most of the damage to you. Tendrils of Corruption acts as a way to off creatures that can't be used to your advantage, and provides a life buffer. Feebleness can shrink creatures to prevent more damage.”

Sudden Spoiling has many uses beyond simply negating damage. The affected creatures become 0/2 and, just as importantly, lose all abilities. What this means is that, in conjunction with Tendrils of Corruption, you can use it to destroy creatures with Protection from Black, regenerating creatures, and untargetable creatures. It also allows you to put your Auras (Contaminated Bond and Nettling Curse) on to untargetables like Simic Sky Swallower or Silhana Ledgewalker.

Black Fog – Standard Legal

The only potential problem I see is if your opponent is not playing with creatures, since you will have many dead cards. Adding Hunted Horror and/or Hunted Dragon is not a very appealing option, since the whole point of the deck is to kill with Nettling Curse and Hissing Miasma and a 6/6 Dragon with Haste kinda makes those cards irrelevant. If you wanted to play this in Extended, you could always add Forbidden Orchard. Going further back in time, you might look at one of my old favourites, Infernal Genesis.

Yank from Forever

There's nothing I like more than having someone change my opinion about a card. I like having my eyes opened, my mind expanded, my creative juices, uh, shaken, stirred, and garnished with a little pink umbrella of unexpected enlightenment.

Robby Bullis, otherwise known as Redland Jack, called my attention to Pull from Eternity. To me, this card seemed extraordinarily narrow. Sure, it helped out a lot against one of Time Spiral's main mechanics (suspend), but when has a narrow hoser ever been fun to build decks around? I don't recall the Johnnies of the world drooling over Stabilizer, or Ishi-Ishi, Akki Crackshot, for example. Luckily, Pull from Eternity is not quite as focussed as either of those cards, as Robby demonstrated. I'm not going to talk about the combo he sent me (not this week, anyway), but that's where the inspiration for the next deck came from. Here are just a few things you can do with Pull from Eternity:

Reuse flashback spells. When you play a spell with flashback from your graveyard, you have to remove it from the game once it has resolved. Pull from Eternity allows you to bring back, say, Call of the Herd for one last hurrah.

Turn Flickers into Mortifies. While by no means efficient, if you can remove a creature from play temporarily with a spell or effect (Liberate, Astral Slide, Parallax Wave, Voyager Staff), you can then use Pull from Eternity to put that creature into its owner's graveyard. Spending two cards to “kill” a creature isn't that exciting, really, even if it is in a very unusual way. However, what if you recouped all of those spent cards in the process? What if you removed the creature with… Vanish into Memory! When you play the latest You Make the Card winner, you get to draw cards equal to the power of the creature you removed from the game. If one of those cards happens to be Pull from Eternity, you can play it on the removed creature and put it into its owner's graveyard. Normally, you would have to discard cards equal to the creature's toughness at the beginning of your next upkeep. The neat thing is that this is only the case if you return the creature to play, which you will obviously not be able to do.

I feel sorry for creatures that can “Flicker” themselves, like Hikari, Twilight Guardian and the Ghost Dad himself, Ghost Council of Orzhova, since they get owned by a one-mana white spell that they will never see coming.

Pull from Eternity as Entomb. This is the big one, the idea that got me really excited. Imagine you had a way to remove cards in your hand from the game. Something like Shining Shoal, or better yet, Sunscour. Now, play your spell, pitching Akroma, Angel of Wrath or Chronosavant or both. Then, play Pull from Eternity to put that creature into your graveyard. If it's Chronosavant, it can reanimate itself. If it's Akroma, you can resurrect her with, say, Resurrection. Note that this reanimation strategy can be fuelled by Vanish into Memory.

Meanwhile, if you read the coverage for Pro Tour – Kobe, you'd know that the breakout card of the tournament was Momentary Blink. The card is incredibly versatile despite having such a seemingly inconsequential effect. All it does is remove a creature you control from the game and return it to play immediately. What does that mean? What does it do? Here's a brief list of things you can do with a Momentary Blink:

Untap a creature. When you play Chronosavant from your graveyard, it comes into play tapped. You also skip your next turn. These two things are not complementary. Instead of being completely wide open for attacks during your skipped turn, why not ambush your opponent's creatures by Blinking out your tapped Chronosavant and Blinking in an untapped one?

Reuse comes-into-play or leaves play abilities. Take a 187 creature like Cloudchaser Kestrel. Blink it out Momentarily. Destroy two enchantments. Imagine getting double (or triple!) use out of Belfry Spirit, Vedalken Dismisser, or Angel of Despair! Just don't Blink out your Court Hussars or Azorius Heralds – you will have to sacrifice them.

Dodge creature removal. You can Blink out your creatures in response to targeted removal like Putrefy or Dark Banishing. When it comes back into play, it won't be the same creature that the spell was aimed at and, as a result, the spell will “fizzle.”

Shake off Auras. Say someone plays a Faith's Fetters on your Akroma. Blink out the creature and the Aura falls right off!

Restock lost counters. Triskelion and Triskelavus, the Spikes, and all of the Graft creatures come into play with +1/+1 counters that you can use for a variety of different purposes. Right before these counters run out, you can Blink the creature and it will come back into play with its counters replenished.

Remove unwanted counters. Other counters are less friendly. Wall of Roots shrinks with the addition of -0/-1 counters, but you can reverse the shrinkage with some, er, Blinkage. (Many apologies for that). Besides that, we all know that the best way to combat a Giant Oyster wielding Serrated Arrows is to Blink out the affected creature. Bye-bye -1/-1 counters!

One thing you can't do is Blink out a creature and then use Pull from Eternity to put that creature in the graveyard. There is no window to play spells in between the time the creature is removed from play and then returned to play. The only real interaction between the two cards is due to Pull from Eternity's ability to get one extra use out of a flashback spell.

After putting all of these things together, here's the deck I ended up making:

You are formally invited …

Out of sheer curiosity (and nothing more), which card gets your Johnny-sense tingling the most?
Dralnu, Lich Lord 2762 31.4%
Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder 1814 20.6%
Saffi Eriksdotter 1486 16.9%
Barbed Shocker 1332 15.2%
Chronatog Totem 769 8.8%
Chronosavant 625 7.1%
Total 8788 100.0%

Wow, I was not really expecting that. Dralnu, Lich Lord got the most votes, and it wasn't particularly close. Judging by the reaction in the forums and in my inbox, I thought that Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder was a shoo-in to win.

In case anyone was wondering why I ran that poll last week, the reason is that I am hosting a deckbuilding challenge and I need you (yes, you!) to participate. For those who don't know, UnCon, an unconventional online convention, is taking place this week. Along with the WizOs, I'd like to invite you to my House Party. It's BYOD (Bring Your Own Deck). The catch is that the deck will have to feature Dralnu, Lich Lord, because that's what you decided!

Step 1. Build a deck around Dralnu, Lich Lord. Please use four copies. Do not, for example, put a single copy of Dralnu into a Psychatog deck and expect to win the contest. Also, it doesn't matter if it's for Vintage, Legacy, Extended, Standard, Tribal Wars, or even Vanguard. The only formats that I will have to rule out are, of course, Singleton and its variants.

Step 2. Go to this forum thread, read the contest rules and submission guidelines, and then post your deck. DO NOT send your deck to me.

Once all of the submissions have been posted, there will be a poll to narrow down the entries to a manageable number. Then, once the finalists have been chosen democratically, we will toss democracy unceremoniously out the window, and I will choose a winner. I want to see how creative you can be. If you can make a deck that looks playable, too, then you will have a better chance to win. There will be points for style.

Until next time, enter to win!

Chris Millar

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