top me if you've heard this one: Welcome to Echo Week! To be honest, I was a little unsure about what I was going to do for the theme this week. My first instinct was to just rerun my article from last week – har har – but apparently that wouldn't have resulted in a similar echoing in my bank account. My second instinct was to yodel my article from the Swiss Alps, but apparently I don't live anywhere near the Swiss Alps and I don't know how to yodel. Once I work out these kinks, expect a belated Echo Week podcast from me. Until then, I'll have to come up with something else.
Now, I can hear you saying, "Why don't you just build a few decks with some of the most recent Echoers instead?" Well, I'm going to, uh, echo that sentiment.
Passing the Torch
One thing I've noticed, as I write more and more columns, is that I've lost track of how many times I've told certain anecdotes, or shared certain nuggets of information, or even if I've shared them at all. I'm sure it's an inevitable by-product of writing a weekly column, but it does have me feeling like I'm on the brink of senility. What I'm trying to say is that I like me a Man-o'-War. Have I mentioned that anywhere before? Besides every third article?
Given my (unrequited) love for the betentacled bouncer, it should come as no surprise that I have a similar fondness for a certain 2/2 goblin warrior from Planar Chaos
. As Matt Cavotta explained recently, the Stingscourger
manages to do its, uh, stingscourging with the aid of a Man-o'-War
on a stick. Now, of all the silly weapons employed by goblins throughout the years – like rocks, kites, flamesticks, and something called a charbelcher – fighting off your enemies with a marine invertebrate nailed to a twig has got to be the most absurd. On second thought, maybe it's not such an incongruous pairing, since goblins and jellyfish do have one thing in common: They both lack a brain.
Now, the question becomes: How can you make Stingscourger really sting?
I don't know, how about Kaervek the Merciless? Kaervek has never been a very friendly fellow. He has a tendency to spite, purge, and/or torch things without a modicum of compassion, an iota of kindness, or a shred of clemency. Naturally, this hasn't endeared him to many. Fortunately, he and Stingscourger have really hit it off. Maybe it's their mutual love of jellyfish-based melee weapons, or maybe it's the fact that Kaervek likes to punish people for playing spells and Stingscourger likes to make people play the same spell a second time. More spells equals more punishment. All of the red bounce spells from Planar Chaos go well with Kaervek for just this reason.
To play, or not to play; that is certainly a question (although it would be more obvious if there was a question mark at the end there). It's the kind of question you ask when you're staring down Mr. the Merciless. Obviously, you can't wait forever to play spells (he is a 5/4 beater, after all), but why not make the choice as excruciating as possible?
To play: There's nothing like a suspended Mindstab to encourage your opponent to play spells. A Nightmare Void sitting in the bin provides another incentive for your opponent to empty his grip, as does Sudden Impact. Worst of all, you don't want to be holding back cards when the Bust half of Boom/Bust hits the stack.
Not to play: Kaervek the Merciless is a bit of spell-deterrent, as is the one-shot Kaervek, Parallectric Feedback. Your opponent might refrain from committing creatures to the board if you're charging up your Magmatic Core, or if you've just transmuted a Dimir House Guard for a Sulfurous Blast or even a Subterranean Shambler.
If you leave the cozy confines of Standard, you might want to encourage your opponent to play spells with cards like Impatience, Planeswalker's Fury, Blood Oath, and Desecration Elemental, while at the same time discouraging them with cards like Oppression and Pyrostatic Pillar. Heck, you can do both with something like Thought Prison.
All Dogs Go To Heaven (Except, I Guess, Hellhounds)
One of the most combotastic-a-licious of Planar Chaos
's echo creatures is Volcano Hellion
. Any card that features the text "an amount of damage of your choice" has got to be abusable. The most obvious combo is with Stuffy Doll
. What's more natural than a team-up between a lava-spewing tentacle with tentacles and an indestructible puppet? Nothing I can think of. As long as your life total is greater than or equal to your opponent's life total, and Stuffy Doll
has recovered from its summoning sickness (always a concern this time of year), you've got yourself an instant win. Just have Stuffy ping itself, then play Volcano Hellion
and choose to deal damage equal to your opponent's life total. Of course, this combo is so cool that many people have already sent it to me and I've already used it in a column
My next big plan was to use Volcano Hellion alongside Darien, King of Kjeldor. This would allow you take advantage of the fact that Volcano Hellion also deals the chosen amount of damage to you. With Darien around, you can hit a creature and yourself for, say, 16 damage, and you'll get sixteen fresh recruits out of the deal. Add Soul Warden (to regain the life lost) and Benalish Commander (to take advantage of the army you'll suddenly have), and you'll end up with a deck remarkably similar to another one I've already written about.
Luckily, Volcano Hellion still has a few tricks up its sleeve. Or at least it would, if it could find some suitable shirts at Dominaria's Big and Tentacled Clothing Store. You see, Stuffy Doll and Darien aren't the only magical critters that get better when you shoot yourself and others with loogies of molten rock. Let's not forget a certain puppy dog from Mercadian Masques: Blood Hound. Whenever you are dealt damage (by, say, a Volcano Hellion), the mage's best friend gets very cross and grows in proportion to the damage you've received. So, say you fry your opponent's last available creature with the Hellion, you can then swing in with your super-pumped Blood Hound for what should be close to lethal damage. If you can't get through (or even if you can), you can Fling your cantankerous canine directly at your opponent's head. It's just like the Stuffy Doll combo, except it requires an attack phase and a very angry pet. Okay, it's not really the same at all, but how often do you really get to fling a dog at your enemy's melon?
What is remarkably similar to the Stuffy-Hellion combo (or Volcano-Doll combo, if you prefer) is the combination of Volcano Hellion
and Mogg Maniac
. Since Lava Hounds
also works very well with Blood Hound
, I figured I'd build a Hound theme deck.
The Angel's Graces are a nifty piece of tech sent to me by reader John Wetmiller. As he said, "Playing Volcano Hellion knowing you have an Angel's Grace ready to go allows you to be stylish. Say... Impersonate Dr. Evil with a pinkie raised to the corner of your mouth and say 'I choose one ... meeellion ... damage! Mwahahahaha!'" Since you can't lose the game and damage can only lower your life total to one, you can really choose to deal any amount of damage.
This deck (and the next one) isn't quite legal in offline Tribal Wars, but you can definitely tweak it so that it is.
Working the Bugs Out
During my long sojourn, hunting for (and Gatherer-ing) Volcano Hellion
combos, I stumbled upon a couple of six-legged freaks that seem like they wouldn't mind having liquid-hot magma spat upon them. I'm talking, of course, about Broodhatch Nantuko
and Bennie Smith's beloved Saber Ants
. This is similar to the combo with Darien, King of Kjeldor, in that you will end up with a number of token creatures equal to the amount of damage you choose to do with Volcano Hellion
. You can even substitute Essence Warden
for Soul Warden
. The beauty of this combo is that since both the Nantuko and the Saber Ants
are insects, you can regenerate them if you have a Swarmyard
. So you can blast your bugs with the Hellion, make a huge amount of tokens, gain the life back with Essence Warden
, and still keep your bugs around for another go! If you also have Gleancrawler
, you can neglect to pay the echo cost of the Hellion and do it all over again the following turn. In the absence of either of your little flea-factories, you can suit up one of your other insects with Druid's Call
and have your Hellion magically turn lava into squirrels, which is truly a neat trick.
Now, what can you do with all of these insect tokens? You could make an enormous Ulasht, the Hate Seed, for one. You could also power up a Stag Beetle. Of course, you could also do something a little unorthodox like, uh, win the game by attacking with your swarm and pumping them up with the very on-theme Echoing Courage. Mana Echoes is more on-theme goodness. Acridian is an insect with echo, so including it was like a goblin and a jellyfish: a complete no-brainer. Marker Beetles is a card I've always liked, and it combines with Gleancrawler to form an incredibly slow card-drawing engine.
Hmm. All I could think of was the subheading. I can't remember what I was going to talk about in this section, although I think it had to do with a nifty combo that can take out any number of players as long as you have the highest life total. Ah, well. It'll come to me eventually.
Until next time, until next time, have fun with echo.