’day, Johnnies and preview-seeking interlopers. It’s Day Three of Week One of Set Sixty-Something Previews. That’s Lorwyn, by the way. I figured it out from the banner.
On Monday, Rei Nakazawa started things off by showing you Gaddock Teeg, the most powerful Tribal Unity hoser ever printed, while Mark Rosewater gave you Timber Protector a Treefolk “lord” whose flavour text—”Life’s a birch.”—heralds a new golden age of italicized puns. Okay, that’s not its real flavour text, but a guy can dream, can’t he? Then on Tuesday, The Ferrett previewed the least merciful black fatty since Kaervek the Merciless. There’s not a shred of mercy between the two of them. Finally, on Wednesday, that overly silly casual magician at House of Cards previewed...
Oh, wait that’s me and that’s now. At the risk of sounding overenthusiastic about my card, I will say that it’s the most versatile and open-ended card I’ve ever previewed, more so than even Paradox Haze. It’s as nonlinear as a Spirograph sketch. Not only can it do a million different things, but many of those things are outright ridiculous. While I was brainstorming deck ideas, I lost track of the number of times I said, “Wait... Can you...? Oh, my God.” I don’t know why I was keeping track of this particular statistic in the first place, but trust me when I say that you will probably experience a few of those moments yourselves as you discover some new card to pair with it. What’s the card, you ask?
Click here to see for yourselves:
The Lorwyn FAQ entry for Rings of Brighthearth
Copying an activated ability works just like copying a spell. The copy of the ability is put onto the stack (it's not "played"). It copies all decisions made when the original ability was played, including mode, targets, and the value of X. If an effect of the copy refers to something used to pay its costs, it sees what was used to pay the costs of the original ability.
The source of the copy is the same as the source of the original ability. If the ability refers to a card or permanent by name (such as "Regenerate Drudge Skeletons"), the copy will refer to the same card or permanent.
You may copy a planeswalker's ability. Doing so won't affect the planeswalker's loyalty because raising or lowering its loyalty is part of the cost of the ability, not part of its effect.
I wouldn’t be surprised if your jaws didn’t drop. Mine didn’t. When I first saw Rings of Brighthearth, I thought, “It’s Mirari for activated abilities,” without actually thinking about what that meant. In terms of playability, however, Rings has a few advantages over Mirari. For one, it’s significantly cheaper to cast and use its copying ability. Mirari was always best in decks that could generate a lot of mana with cards like Cabal Coffers or Mirari’s Wake. Rings of Brighthearth is much less demanding.
Unlike the legendary Mirari, you can have more than one Rings of Brighthearth on the table at once, enabling you to copy the same ability multiple times in a single turn. Another advantage of the Rings is that you can play the permanent with the activated ability you wish to copy before you play Rings, whereas any instants or sorceries you play before you play Mirari are basically un-copiable. On top of all this, Rings of Brighthearth interacts with about a thousand more cards. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
What Is an Activated Ability?
The easiest way to find out something like this is to take a gander at our mutual friend, the Comprehensive Rules. There’s a whole section for activated abilities, and the first part gives you all you need to know to successfully identify one:
403.1. An activated ability is written as “[cost]: [effect].” The activation cost is everything before the colon (:). An ability’s activation cost must be paid by the player who is playing it.
Just look for that colon. Once you’ve found your activated ability you can start copying. How? As my editor and personal rules guru Kelly Digges told me, “Basically, Rings of Brighthearth lets you do everything after the colon twice while doing everything before the colon only once.”
Let me tell you, there are some pretty nasty things to the left of the colon, things you don’t want to have to go through twice if you don’t have to. The activated abilities of a permanent are much more likely than a spell to have steep additional costs, whether it’s discarding a card, sacrificing a creature, paying life, revealing cards in your hand, or removing cards from the top of your library. Tap five untapped Donkeys you control. Pay five-seventeenths of your life, rounded sideways. Remove the best card in your hand from the game. It doesn’t matter. As long as you can pay the cost once, you can get the effect twice.
Who’s Got Activated Abilities?
To put it bluntly: every-dang-body. Permanents of all major types can have an activated ability. Artifacts like the all-powerful Glasses of Urza have them. So do enchantments like Tooth and Claw or Witch’s Mist, planeswalkers like Liliana Vess, creatures like Living Inferno or Dimir Guildmage, and lands like Kher Keep or Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion. There’s even an instant that has an activated ability while it’s on the stack (Lightning Storm). Some activated abilities have been keyworded, like the following:
Cycling (and, by extension, landcycling and creaturetypecycling)
If Rings of Brighthearth only allowed you to double up on those abilities—tutor for two cards with a transmuted Dimir House Guard, draw two cards with a cycled Tranquil Thicket, etc.—it would be pretty sweet. Luckily, it does so much more.
Rather than simply present you with a list of things Rings of Brighthearth can do, I figured I’d build some sample decks and show you that way. In keeping with Lorwyn‘s main theme, the decks will be tribal or at least tribalesque. With Rings of Brighthearth’s wide-ranging applications in mind, I will try to jam as many different abilities as I can into these decks. They’ll be far from tuned, but there should be plenty of ideas to hopefully spark some of your own.
Why don’t we start with a red deck? A Goblin-y deck? Don’t worry. All the “bad” Goblins, the mean ones that everybody is sick of, have static abilities (Goblin Warchief) or triggered abilities (Goblin Lackey, Goblin Piledriver) or activated abilities that practically copy themselves (Goblin Sharpshooter), so I won’t be using them. In fact, this will be a Goblin deck in spirit more than in practice, with only 13 actual Goblin cards.
What are Goblins best known for? No, besides winning. I’m going to say their out-of-control breeding. They’re like rabbits. Very ugly rabbits. So while you only have 13 Goblins, you can use those cards along with the others in the deck to create many more. Starting with a Mogg War Marshal, you can use Goblin Warrens and Rings of Brighthearth to make a whopping six tokens per activation. Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician, meanwhile, turns Mountains into Goblins at a rate of two for two. Make even more Goblins by using Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker to copy Mogg War Marshal, Siege-Gang Commander, or Goblin Marshal. With all those Goblins on your side, Arms Dealer, Sparksmith, and Skirk Fire Marshal allow you to lay waste to your opponent’s creatures and, heck, your opponent. You can tie it all together with copiable Moggcatcher activations.
Besides Goblins, there are plenty of other red cards well-known for their resource-chomping abilities. Grim Lavamancer eats cards in your graveyard when you activate him, Arc-Slogger chows down on your library in ten-card chunks, and Spellshapers like Jaya Ballard, Task Mage nibble away at your hand. By copying these abilities with Rings of Brighthearth, you can stretch these limited resources twice as far.
What gets me are the lands. As I mentioned, you can cycle a land like Forgotten Cave to draw two cards while you have Rings of Brighthearth on the table. Uncounterable Inspirations for ? Sign me up. Add me to that mailing list. You can also produce two Kobold tokens with Kher Keep, put additional charge counters on your storage lands like Fungal Reaches, give your Goblins an extra +4/+0 with Goblin Burrows, or deal 4 damage with Keldon Necropolis. Those are cool things, to be sure, but it wasn’t until I was looking through a visual spoiler of Time Spiral that I realized Rings of Brighthearth lets you copy fetchlands! Sacrifice your Terramorphic Expanse, pay two mana, and go get two basic lands. It gets even better with the Onslaught versions like Wooded Foothills. You can basically turn all your fetchlands into improved Krosan Verges, and you can turn Krosan Verges into something that doesn’t even have a name yet (but fetches four lands).
Even sicker: You can activate a Strip Mine, Wasteland, or Ghost Quarter by sacrificing it, copy the ability with Rings of Brighthearth, and take out two lands. Yikes. I don’t know whether Wasteland + Rings is better than Wasteland + Crucible of Worlds. What I do know is that if you play all three cards together, you can annoy the hell out of some magicians.
I rounded things out with some fun one-ofs that have good activated abilities like Magus of the Scroll, Kamahl, Pit Fighter, Pyromancy, Slate of Ancestry, Aggravated Assault, and Dragon Roost.
On to blue. This isn’t really a Homarid theme deck, or a Spirit deck, or a Wizard deck, or, heck, a Spellshaper deck, but it has elements of all four. Use Wayfarer’s Bauble, Dreamscape Artist, and Thawing Glaciers to ramp up your mana, Waterfront Bouncer, Barrin, Master Wizard, Tradewind Rider, Heidar, Rimewind Master, and Alexi, Zephyr Mage to control your opponent’s permanents, and Jushi Apprentice, Arcanis the Omnipotent, and Myojin of Seeing Winds to draw cards. The Myojin has one of the most powerful activated abilities ever seen on a creature, but once the divinity counter has been used up you’re stuck with a ten-mana Hill Giant. Well, with Rings of Brighthearth and Homarid Spawning Bed, you can turn that 3/3 into twenty 1/1s for five measly mana. Some of those tokens can be used to power up Barrin or Tradewind Rider, clearing out any blockers while the rest of your Camarids swing in for the win.
One thing Rings of Brighthearth can’t do is copy mana abilities. Who cares! With cards like Skyshroud Ranger, Budoka Gardener, and Argothian Elder (untapping “Karoos”) combining with Greenseeker, Weathered Wayfarer, and the forestcycling Elvish Aberration, you can ramp up your mana in no time. With all those lands and a Rings of Brighthearth in play, Budoka Gardener can make double the normal amount of Elementals and Baru, Fist of Krosa can make twice as many Wurms. Find the creatures you need with Skyshroud Poacher, Captain Sisay, or Citanul Flute, then stomp your opponent flat with a double Overrun courtesy of Kamahl, Fist of Krosa or Garruk Wildspeaker.
Ignoring mana cost and, well, everything else, arguably the best activated abilities in Standard are attached to white creatures. Mangara of Corondor can remove permanents from the game, Pentarch Paladin can destroy them, and Adarkar Valkyrie can save your creatures from certain death. I combined those guys with a short Rebel chain (Amrou Scout, Defiant Vanguard, Ramosian Revivalist) and plenty of self-sacrificing creatures for the Valkyrie to return (Martyr of Sands, Children of Korlis, Ronom Unicorn, Augur il-Vec, and the vanishing Aven Riftwatcher) and arrived here.
The snow mana base allows you take advantage of the excellent abilities of both Scrying Sheets and Mouth of Ronom, both of which can be copied by Rings of Brighthearth.
Finally, we come to black. Remember that short list of keyworded activated abilities that I provided? Well, this deck uses almost all of them: transmute (Netherborn Phalanx), transfigure (Fleshwrither), cycling (Undead Gladiator), swampcycling (Twisted Abomination), Channel (Ghost-Lit Stalker), and grandeur (Korlash, natch). Apologies to forecast, but you’re just not on any black cards. The basic idea here is to use all of black’s trademark land-fetching (Korlash, Heir to Blackblade, Corpse Harvester, and Twisted Abomination, with an assist from Lord of the Undead) to power up your Korlashes and give you enough mana to get double use out of your late-game monsters like Visara the Dreadful, Gravespawn Sovereign, and Helldozer. You should also be able to fill up your graveyard with creatures via spellshaping, cycling, and sacrificing, and fill up your opponent’s graveyard with Garza’s Assassin, Visara the Dreadful, Murderous Betrayal, and Liliana Vess activations, which will make Liliana’s eventual one-sided Twilight’s Call all the more devastating.
The two most powerful activated abilities are actually so powerful that copying them is redundant. At least in a duel. For all you multiplayer enthusiasts, I’d like to point out that Goblin Bomb and Door to Nothingness have activated abilities which you can copy with Rings of Brighthearth. For decks containing the former, I’d recommend Clockspinning and Krark’s Thumb. For decks containing the latter, I’d suggest starting with Arcum Dagsson, Mishra, Artificer Prodigy, and oodles of artifact mana.
Until next time, sleeve up your Stifles.