House_of_Cards

Looking into several of the newest build-around-me cards that also happen to be common.

House of Commons

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The letter W!elcome to a very special episode of House of Cards. As you might've guessed from the title of today's column, I'm going to talk quite extensively about Canadian politics. To aid in my discussion, I'm going to rely heavily on Wikipedia. In case you're new to the internet, Wikipedia (a portmanteau, combining the words wiki and pedia) is like an online version of the Funk and Wagnall's Encyclopedia you haven't looked through in the past twenty years. The only difference is that Wikipedia gathers much less dust, which is great if you have allergies. It is a widely considered to be a trusted authority on all matters of great importance, like the population numbers of African elephants, the structure of governments, and the name of the voice-actor who played Teela in the animated version of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe from 1983.

"The House of Commons is the elected lower house of the bicameral government in the United Kingdom and Canada. In the UK and Canada, the Commons holds much more legislative power than the upper house (the House of Lords or the Canadian Senate). The leader of the majority party in the House of Commons usually becomes the prime minister."

Maybe I'll stop there. I've already bored myself to tears, and I had my tear glands removed in 1997 because I thought that'd make me seem more stoic. Luckily, House of Commons has more than one meaning. This column is called House of Cards. Some Magic cards are commons. Put the two together and you've got an excellent excuse to examine some of the non-rare, non-uncommon, build-around-me cards from Planar Chaos.

A Non-Basic Enchantment

The first of the scarcity-challenged cards that I'm going to look at has been referred to by some magical pundits as a "blue Vindicate." While that description is slightly hyperbolic, it also makes the card sound vaguely like a "fragrance for men" or an energy drink. The card, of course, is Reality Acid. It's like Vindicate in the sense that it can "destroy" a permanent for three mana. It's much worse than Vindicate because you have to wait three turns for it take effect. If you try to douse Akroma, Angel of Wrath in Reality Acid, you will probably die before the acid eats her away. Wait ... why am I talking about this card again?

What makes Reality Acid interesting (even exciting!) is twofold. One, unlike some of the other cards with vanishing, like Deadly Grub or Chronozoa, Reality Acid's ability can trigger even if there are time counters still on it. And two, its ability doesn't trigger when it's put into a graveyard from play, but rather when it leaves play! This is a huge advantage, since it means that you can force your opponent to sacrifice a permanent if you can bounce Reality Acid back to your hand. If only there was a way for a blue deck to do that ...

Fortunately, there isn't a way, but many, many ways. Dream Stalker, Drake Familiar, and Tolarian Sentinel all spring to mind. If you play with other enchantments (say, Mark of Eviction), Cloudstone Curio will be very strong. All of these cards go well with permanents with comes-into-play abilities, so I added Sage of Epityr, Mogg War Marshal (which is great with Cloudstone Curio), Stalking Yeti, Firemaw Kavu, and Galvanic Arc. Drift of Phantasms acts as Reality Acids 5-8, and it can also fetch Cloudstone Curio.

There are literally millions of other cards you can use. Guildpact is full of creatures that would be worth trying out, like Izzet Chronarch, Steamcore Weird, and Ogre Savant. Time Spiral provides us with Avalanche Riders (which would complement a Reality Acid-as-land destruction strategy) and Subterranean Shambler. Planar Chaos adds a number of fine options including Stingscourger, Hammerheim Deadeye, and Volcano Hellion.

Of course, you don't have to use red at all if you don't want to. Maybe you're a Taurus, a raging bull, and the colour red sets you off. Maybe you'd prefer the soothing sounds of nature, the tranquility of the green cards. Since all of the deck's core cards are blue or colourless (Reality Acid, Drift of Phantasms, Dream Stalker, Tolarian Sentinel, and Cloudstone Curio), you can easily swap red for green. I'm pretty excited about some of the green cards from Planar Chaos, like Ana Battlemage and Citanul Woodreaders (both of which can fetched with Drift of Phantasms). Deadwood Treefolk, thus named because it has the foulest mouth among all of Dominaria's creatures, is similar to Firemaw Kavu in that it has abilities that trigger both when it comes into play and when it leaves play. This makes him pretty ridiculous in the late game, especially alongside Tolarian Sentinel. (As a side note: Deadwood Treefolk + Astral Slide = Best Friends Forever.)

Besides Coiling Oracle, I didn't put any more snakes in the deck, even though Mystic Snake, Patagia Viper would be excellent inclusions. Yavimaya Dryad and Wood Elves would also be good, as would Riftwing Cloudskate. Even Crookclaw Transmuter could be interesting with all the low-power, high-toughness creatures in the deck.

Come on baby and rescue me

As I'm sure I've said a kazillion times, one of my favourite cards (of all time!) is Man-o'-War from Visions. (How a jellyfish can stuff a dragon back into the aether from whence it came is a question best left to philosophers and theologians.) I've used this card a ton, not only as a great "tempo" creature in aggressive decks, but also as a key cog in decks that are built to abuse the comes-into-play abilities of creatures like Scrivener (returning Memory Lapse) and Auramancer (returning Standstill).

Well, Johnnies, you can forget about Man-o'-War now. Heavy metal is dead. Besides, there's a hep new cat in town and I ain't lyin'. Robby Bullis (a.k.a. Redland Jack), who seems to be producing as many decks for my column as I am, sent me a very interesting deck built around Whitemane Lion and its unlikely sidekick, Locket of Yesterdays. With a Lion in the graveyard (put there, perhaps, by an Icatian Crier), and a Locket in play, you can play a second Lion for W and have it bounce itself. Admittedly, this will get you nowhere fast (although bouncing is fun, just ask my personal cheques). To get, uh, somewhere slow, all you have to do is add Stormfront Riders which will let you make a Soldier token for each W you spend. With Soul Warden in play, you can gain one life for every W spent, and any creature enchanted with Mantle of Leadership will gain +2/+2.

Mane-o'-War – Standard Legal

Robby's version was more focussed on producing token creatures, with both Jötun Owl Keeper and Twilight Drover joining Icatian Crier and Stormfront Riders to pump out little white men. He also used single copies of Leyline of the Meek, Gauntlet of Power, and Hour of Reckoning, as well as a few copies of Sky Hussar (who can be a card-drawing machine in the presence of all those tokens). Those are all fine cards and complement the deck's strategy, but I wanted to up the creature count (Celestial Crusader and Crovax, Ascendent Hero perform similar functions). As always, feel free to build the deck any way you see fit. There are certainly many options. Stonecloaker, Aven Riftwatcher, Conclave Phalanx, Jedit's Dragoons, Belfry Spirit, and Tivadar of Thorn are all worth consideration. That's without leaving white! Red gives you, among other things, Pandemonium. The colour I'd most like to add would be green, which gives you Congregation at Dawn (to fetch Whitemane Lion), Loxodon Hierarch, Primordial Sage, Herd Gnarr, Juniper Order Ranger, and some other cards that I'll be writing about in a future column.

Charms? Cool!

I'm a sucker for utility cards, I have to admit. At least, I like cards with multiple uses. Sorry, Savannah Lions. Of the many hundreds of cards I've used to build decks for this column, I'd hazard a guess that the ones that crop up most frequently are cards like Sakura-Tribe Elder, Clutch of the Undercity, and Stinkweed Imp. The Elder not only fixes and accelerates your mana, but its presence on the board can also buy you a turn or two early in the game. I've used Clutch of the Undercity primarily for its transmute ability, but it's also a decent removal spell (or kill condition) when you find yourself in a pinch or in a pickle. Ol' Stinky, meanwhile, has a number of abilities that combine to make him an excellent defender (flying, the "basilisk" ability), but it gets played largely because it lets you fill up your graveyard (due to dredge), which powers up everything from Living End, to Retether, to Ichorid.

The poster boys for multi-use Magic cards are the various Charms that have appeared in cycles throughout Magic's history. Planar Chaos brings with a new cycle of such cards, the most exciting of which is Fury Charm. For 1R, it can destroy an artifact (making it strictly better than Shatter), it can give a creature +1/+1 and trample (making it strictly redder than Vitality Charm), and it can remove two time counters from a permanent or suspended card. The last one is the key. It seems to point you toward a deck with, say, cards with suspend. Interestingly, many of the cards with cheap suspend costs (like Keldon Halberdier, Durkwood Baloth, Pardic Dragon, and Greater Gargadon) are creatures with high power but no evasion, creatures that might like to be given +1/+1 and trample. Evolution Charm is also useful with these creatures, since it can also grant evasion (in this case, flying). It's also the most generally useful of all the Charms, since it can fix your mana or act as a Raise Dead.

To help out Fury Charm, I added Jhoira's Timebug for some of that mid-combat or end-of-turn unsuspend-action. Aetherflame Wall and Savage Twister are there to help keep you alive while you wait on your creatures. Djinn Illuminatus is fun with the Charms and Intet, the Dreamer is better with trample, so I included one of each, largely for kicks. I also added a single copy of Hypergenesis, which is great to fire off at instant speed, especially with all the enormous (but pricey) creatures in the deck.

Modals, Inc. – Standard Legal

Another way to go would be to focus on the Gruul creatures. While they have big bodies, few of them have evasion. Gruul Guildmage, Burning-Tree Shaman, Rumbling Slum, as well as trickier creatures like Feral Animist and Skarrgan Skybreaker, would all benefit from either the red or green Charm. Add some Greater Gargadons, and some Wheel of Fates, perhaps, and season to taste.

Until next time, make fun more common!

Chris Millar

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