elcome to another edition of House of Cards! Before I begin this week's deck-stivities with arguably the worst coinage ever (oops, too late.), I'd like to spend a little time discussing something near and dear to all of our hearts. No, not our bicuspid valves. I'm talking about baseball.
Ah, baseball. Will your laidback rhythms ever cease to be the source of frustration? Will your adorable jargon, your dingers, taters, and back-to-back jacks, ever cease to confuse? Instead of using baseball as my framing device for last week's article, I should've used something with more universal appeal, like superhero comics or Dungeons and Dragons. Ah, well. Next time.
As many of you are well aware, the Lorwyn preview season is almost upon us. Crafty acrosticians might have already gotten a sneak peek at the newest (and perhaps exciting-est) way to pump your opponents' Tarmogoyfs. While we're in this sort of calm before the preview storm, I thought I'd take the opportunity to reminisce about some past previews I've done. Join me as I travel back in time, all the way to Future Sight.
Medium Double-Double Helix
It shouldn't come as a shock to those of you who like Magic, but card previews are fun to do. I not only get to lord my limited insider knowledge over everybody, but I have the privilege of being the first person in, like, the whole wide world to build decks and write about the card I'm previewing. It's definitely nice as a change of pace, and in fact it can be much more relaxing than writing a normal column. Rather than sifting through the chaff of what's "been done" to find the, uh, wheat of innovation like I do (or try to do) every week, I can just build whatever deck I want to, because, almost by definition, it will not have been built and discussed before.
One odd thing about this process, however, is that the decks are essentially D.O.A., built for a format that will never exist. There aren't a lot of people who like to play Ravnica-Mishra Standard, for instance. Often, some of the best cards to combine with my preview card are in the same set, which means that either I don't know about them or can't write about them. The only problem with this is that I can blow all of my material in one shot if I'm not careful. I can't very well rebuild the same deck, but with more new cards. This usually means I'll steer clear of that card for a little while so things don't get too repetitive. The point is, I've steered clear long enough. It's time to, uh, crash straight through the guard rail of creativity and go plummeting down the cliffs of inspiration.
In a way, my preview cards are like my children. I hope they go on to do something special with their lives, like win a tournament for a Guillaume Wafo-Tapa or a Kenji Tsumura. Who wants to wake up one day and find copies of their children lying in a $1 rare bin or, worse, being sold by a robot for a third of a ticket? That would be horrible.
So it's a bit bittersweet that I'm writing about one of old previews in an article devoted to what some heartless card-evaluators are calling "reject rares." The card is Spellweaver Volute
. It enchants an instant in your graveyard, for goodness' sake. It's still the only card to do so. When you play a sorcery, you get to play the enchanted instant without paying its mana cost. Ideally, you would use cheap and replayable sorceries alongside expensive and powerful instants. In my preview, I used things like Hammer of Bogardan
with Searing Wind
, or Life from the Loam
with Hunting Pack
. Today, I'm going to use something a bit different, something from Future Sight
The future is full of replayable sorceries. First of all, we've got the whole cycle of re-suspenders, like Arc Blade and Reality Strobe. Next, we've got one of the cheapest and most easily replayed sorceries ever made in Mystic Speculation. It's blue, which is handy, and its super-low buyback cost means that it can realistically be played multiple times per turn. Even outside of a Spellweaver Volute deck, it works well with the next Future Sight card I'm going to include: the potentially-powerful Riddle of Lightning.
To get the most bang for your buck with the Riddle, you could always use Autochthon Wurm or Draco. However, I'm going to use Greater Gargadon, because it might actually hit the board (where it goes nicely with a free Soulblast) and it does fun things while suspended (especially with Word of Seizing).
Besides the ones I've mentioned, the other instants I'm using are Quicken, Dead // Gone, Odds // Ends, Careful Consideration, Sulfurous Blast, and a single Evacuation. Normally, making use of Spellweaver Volute effectively forces you to play your instants at "sorcery speed", which isn't always ideal. Sometimes you'll want to play something on your opponent's turn. That's what the Quickens are for. They allow you to play a Mystic Speculation during your opponent's combat phase, for example, which is where the Ends half of Odds // Ends is most useful. I used Odds // Ends, and to a lesser extent, Dead // Gone, because they can be played cheaply but have high mana costs for the purposes of Riddle of Lightning.
There were a few other things I toyed with, but eventually dismissed due to a lack of space and/or synergy, including a Magus of the Bazaar + Squee, Goblin Nabob engine, Pull from Eternity, and other replayable sorceries like Haze of Rage and Thunderblade Charge.
One other potentially abusable thing about Spellweaver Volute is that it triggers whenever you play a sorcery, which means that you get your free instant while your sorcery is lingering on the stack. This is good in any number of situations, but here are two. The first is when you play your sorcery while you are enchanting a Twincast. I decided to use Glimpse the Unthinkable, Psychic Drain, and Skyscribing as my main fork-ables, largely because they can be easily tied into the next "combo": Spin into Myth + Tunnel Vision. It's not guaranteed to work by any means, but if your opponent is playing some one-of creatures, you can play Tunnel Vision to mill their entire deck minus one.
Like the last deck, this one uses Mystic Speculation to trigger Spellweaver Volute. Demonic Collusion is another sorcery that can be bought back, for an appropriately steep price, while Nightmare Void can be dredged back and replayed at least once a turn. Clutch of the Undercity does double duty as a powerful instant and a makeshift sorcery. With transmute, it's effectively a seven-mana Damnation, or Foresee, or Nightmare Void.
The Rights and Wrongs of Flourishing
Before settling on Spellweaver Volute and Gibbering Descent for the last round of previews, I mulled over a couple of other cards that Scott Johns ran by me. One of those cards was Rites of Flourishing, a bona fide "engine" combining a suddenly symmetrical Exploration with a still-symmetrical Howling Mine.
It's not completely off the radar nowadays. It turns out that it works well with Walk the Aeons
and some other stuff, allowing you to take infinite turns. You can read about variations of the deck here
Since I'm a self-proclaimed Johnny-Timmy, I'm going to skip the unnecessary complications and just make a lot of really, really big creatures. There are a few critters that care about the number of lands you control. In Standard alone, you've got Allosaurus Rider, Molimo, Maro-Sorcerer, land-animator Jolrael, Empress of Beasts, and Baru, Fist of Krosa (whose grandeur ability makes X/X Wurm tokens, where X is the number of lands you control).
Rites of Flourishing was also on the mind of reader Mark M., who suggested that I pair it with Abundance, a card that lets you modulate the flow of spells and land from your library to your hand. Mark also suggested using Root Maze to slow down your opponent's progress. It was much better when I had Ghost Quarter and Crucible of Worlds in the deck, but it's still all right. You get so much benefit from just playing lands, whether they are tapped or not, that it's almost never symmetrical anyway.
Another card that is good with Abundance is Fa'adiyah Seer. Listed among the official rulings for the card (check Gatherer) is this little tidbit:
If the draw is replaced by another effect, none of the rest of Fa'adiyah Seer
's ability applies, even if the draw is replaced by another draw (such as with Enduring Renewal
Abundance also replaces draws, so the Seer ends up being a two-mana Archivist with a bonus.
Now, what to call this thing. Rites of Flour-ishing? A-bun-dance? God help me, I'm calling it:
Here's a different take on the concept, cutting Rites of Flourishing but keeping Abundance. It's almost entirely creatures, so when you choose to draw a nonland card courtesy of Abundance, you will almost always draw a creature. This led to the inclusion of Heartwood Storyteller, which led to the inclusion of a ton of creatures with flash. You might be drawing cards during your opponent's turn, and you might as well play them right then and there. Primordial Sage is also extra good when you can be sure that the creatures will keep flowing. The one Angel of Salvation is in there because she's a maniac.
A couple weeks ago, I got a fun email from Chris Campbell, a Johnny willing to put his money where his mouth is. It started like this:
"I thought you might like a rundown on how Johnnys around the world are taking comboland to Spike's playground for the smackdown. Or something. Unfortunately this Johnny didn't win. Still this deck is wicked to play, give it a try if you fancy."
He took the following deck to a PTQ in Bristol, home of the Chicken of Bristol. It (the deck, not the chicken) uses Demonic Collusion, another card I almost previewed. It's not from Future Sight, which kind of ruins the theme I had going. Oh, well. The deck is cool. Here it is:
Chris Campbell’s Nether Sliver
To paraphrase Chris, as I am prone to do, you use Hivestone to turn Nether Traitor into a Sliver, you use Basal Sliver to give your Nether Traitor the ability to be sacrificed for two black mana, and you use a second Nether Traitor to complete the circuit. Sacrifice the first one to make and bring back the first one by paying . This leaves you with one each time through. Repeat until you get to the recommended 1,000,000 mana. Then fire off a large Disintegrate.
It that doesn't work for whatever reason (maybe you have no red mana or your opponent is playing with Imperial Mask), you can fetch Stronghold Overseer with Demonic Collusion and use all that black mana to pump your Nether Traitor to lethal levels.
As Chris says, "This causes confused looks and head scratching. This has gone off for me on turn four. I went 2-1-2 beating UW aggro and UB relic control, drawing with UB relic control, and beaten by Pickles and Blink Riders. Mono-blue Pickles won overall. But still, good times." Awesome stuff! I think all games get better when your opponents have confused looks. Except solitaire. Then it's just embarrassing.
Until next time, have fun extending metaphors.