When I sat down and started brainstorming about what articles to run in the Best Of slots, the first name that came to mind was Mark Gottlieb. The next ten names that came to mind were also Mark Gottlieb, which made this article a perfect fit.
In all seriousness, Gottlieb's writing is top-notch, and I knew right away that I wanted one of his magicthegathering.combos articles to fill this slot. (The Grand Creature Type Update, while also a favorite, doesn't make for quite as compelling a read.) I picked this article over the Planar Chaos and Lorwyn editions because I think it's clever enough, challenging enough, and bewildering enough to benefit greatly from a second read-through.
It's interesting to note, by the way, that when Mark originally sent this article to me, all of the speaking parts were labeled simply "MaGo."
¬–Kelly Digges, editor of magicthegathering.com
This article originally ran May 21, 2007
Rules Manager Mago: Huh. That sounded like a hole being punched in the space-time continuum. Weird. Well, whatever that was, I'm sure it'll work itself out. Hold on a sec—all this thought about space-time continua reminds me that I wanted to learn about advanced temporal physics. Where'd I put The Big Book of Chronodynamics? Ah, here it is. Chapter One: Constructing Personal Wormholes. A relativistic quantum state—
Rules Manager Mago: Holy wombats! What the—
Professor Mago: Mago! You'll have done it! It takes you a decade, but you successfully invent time travel!
Rules Manager Mago: I am so awesome!
Professor Mago: I agree! After ten years of nonstop research, prototypes, unlucky test subjects, and catastrophic temporal disasters, you complete the time machine! And I've taken it on its inaugural voyage back to the exact date you embarked on this project to tell you one thing: DO NOT INVENT THE TIME MACHINE!
Rules Manager Mago: Sorry, pal, but I don't think your warning is going to work.
Professor Mago: What makes you so sure?
Rules Manager Mago: The fact that you're standing next to the time machine I'm going to invent.
Professor Mago: Oh. Right. Man, this is just like the time I predicted that the combo of Darksteel Garrison & Dryad Arbor would lead Keira Knightley to the title at Pro Tour—Vladivostok. While fortified, Dryad Arbor is an indestructible 1/1 creature that can pump itself up whenever it attacks! How could you go wrong?
Rules Manager Mago: But that's not what will have happened?
Professor Mago: Nope. Scarlett Johansson rode the Tarox Bladewing & Weird Harvest combo to victory, narrowly edging Keira in Game 5 of the finals. If you search up four copies of Tarox with Weird Harvest, you can attack for 32 next turn by playing one Tarox, attacking, and pitching the other three to its grandeur ability.
Rules Manager Mago: Um, I know that. Why are you explaining everything in such deta—Joyride!
Professor Mago: Stupid punk. You'd think I'd remember that I was going to steal my own time machine and jump to 2057. Eh, it doesn't matter. He'll be back pretty soo—
Rules Manager Mago: I'm back! Dude, the future is fantastic! There are giant billboards of me all over the place, the capital of Earth is called Mago City, I had a Mago Mac for lunch at Mago King, and I marched in the Mago Day Parade! The Mago Certified™ retro combo of the day they were broadcasting over the MagoNet was Shapeshifter's Marrow & Tunnel Vision.
Professor Mago: Wow, I remember thinking that one up eight years ago. If you know a creature in your opponent's deck that you want your Shapeshifter's Marrow to turn into, you name it with Tunnel Vision. Tunnel Vision will leave the named card on top of your opponent's deck, ready to be revealed, tossed into the graveyard, and copied by Shapeshifter's Marrow.
Dr. Galactic President Mago: Wow, I remember thinking that one up forty-eight years ago. I like it almost as much as Centaur Omenreader & Ocular Halo. Grant the Omenreader a tap ability, and you can get the cost reduction on creature spells without needing to risk the Omenreader in combat. Ocular Halo is particularly good because the more creatures you draw, the more you can play on the cheap.
Professor Mago: Oh, right, the geezer shows up. Hey me, why did I bring myself back from 2057?
Rules Manager Mago: He insisted.
Dr. Galactic President Mago: You bet your quarg I did. And let's consider that we have my totalitarian reign to thank for the Magoriffic world you were so enamored with a couple of minutes ago. Now, let's get down to business. Are we on time this time, or did you screw up again?
Rules Manager Mago: Lay off—It's my first time machine. No one's bleeding or screaming, so I guess we're good.
Galactic President Mago: Hey again. This has been one hell of a day, huh? The funny thing is that my spleen doesn't even hurt anymore. Chinchilla saliva—who knew? Well, we should... What are you all staring at? Oh zorpple, I'm early.
Dr. Galactic President Mago: Look how old I looked ten years ago!
Galactic President Mago: As you know, being Galactic President is stressful! And let's remember that I don't have a medical degree yet, so, unlike you, I can't perform plastic surgery on myself in my spare time. I have to be content with my dual hobbies of hatching Byzantine schemes to solidify my authoritarian control across the Milky Way and devising tricky combos like Skeevy Ooflotak & Bore to Tears.
Rules Manager Mago: Huh?
Galactic President Mago: Oh, right, that won't make any sense until The Lagoon is released. What is this, 2007? I meant Gathan Raiders & Oblivion Crown. As long as you're pitching cards from your hand to make the Raiders bigger, you might as well keep doing it—and ensuring that you can go hellbent whenever you want.
Rules Manager Mago: So you're a doctor?
Dr. Galactic President Mago: Yup. For the past ten years, I've juggled the dual tasks of tightening my iron grip on all local star systems and taking night classes at med school.
Rules Manager Mago: Why?
Dr. Galactic President Mago: Well, in a couple of minutes—
Galactic President Mago (1): ARRRRRGGHHHH!!! Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow! Ow! Someone help me! HELP ME!!!!
Galactic President Mago (2): Schlox, did I really sound like that? What a crybaby.
Rules Manager Mago: What happened?!
Galactic President Mago (1): That megalomaniacal nutjob shot me!
Rules Manager Mago: Who? Who shot you?
Galactic President Mago (1): You! I mean me! I mean us!
Imperial Emperor Mago: Will someone treat this whiny wimp? I didn't rescue him from the hands of his blithering assailant and drag him back here just to have a gabfest about what a jerk we all are.
Dr. Galactic President Mago: I'm on it! He's taken a spleen-piercing bullet to the spleen. I need 40 cc's of chinchilla saliva, stat!
Rules Manager Mago: Looks like he's got things under control. But I'm confused: Why will I have shot myself?
Professor Mago: I remember this story. Galactic President Mago is about to tell us that Reverend Mago shot him out of revenge for stranding him in Antarctica for ten years. It kind of caused him to lose his mind.
Rules Manager Mago: Um...
Imperial Emperor Mago: Er...
Galactic President Mago (2): Yeah, yeah. Reverend Mago shot me out of revenge for stranding him in Antarctica for ten years. It kind of caused me to lose my mind. Look, Professor, just don't do that. It makes everything take longer.
Rules Manager Mago: Does anyone remember any good Future Sight combos while we're waiting for the surgery to finish up?
Imperial Emperor Mago:
Jhoira of the Ghitu & Aeon Chronicler was good times. For just , you get to suspend the Chronicler with four time counters on it. You'd have to pay to do that normally. That's a lot of extra cards early in the game! In the same camp are playing Delay on your own Aeon Chronicler to send it back to suspend-land, or letting Jhoira suspend your Greater Gargadon to start it with a lot fewer time counters.
Rules Manager Mago: Wow, 2057 was so cool! I'm almost sorry to be back home!
Galactic President Mago (1.5): Yeah, well, I think you'll—What's with all the screaming? Oh, groz, we need to jump back a few minutes earlier. Get back inside, you herdburglar.
Professor Mago: Saw that coming.
Galactic President Mago (2): I always liked the Bridge from Below & Leyline of the Void combo. Now your stuff will go to the graveyard, netting you Zombie tokens, but your opponent's stuff will never go to the graveyard, meaning the Bridge won't be removed from the game.
Professor Mago: Right. If you add in a Nether Traitor and a sacrifice outlet, like Nantuko Husk or Altar of Dementia, you can start to recur. Sac the Traitor, get a Zombie, sac the Zombie, pay to return the Traitor to play, repeat. You get two sacrifices for each you spend.
Rules Manager Mago: How about Pact of the Titan & Djinn Illuminatus? You can replicate the Pact for , so you can get a bazillion 4/4 Giant tokens for free. Pandemonium provides an instant kill; Angel's Grace lets you skip the upkeep payments and win next turn.
Imperial Emperor Mago: Real original, kid. Didn't the world-renowned Chris Millar, inventor of chunky-style perfume, write about that combo sixty years ago?
Rules Manager Mago: Did he mention how good Gibbering Descent is with Pacts?
Dryad Arbor & Utopia Sprawl & Freed from the Real is an infinite mana combo. Utopia Sprawl can enchant the Arbor because it's a Forest, and Freed from the Real can enchant it because it's a creature. Tap the Arbor for , get an extra from the Sprawl, spend the to untap the Arbor, and repeat.
Professor Mago: Good one. Do you have any others?
Reverend Mago: My favorite is the bloodthirsty combo of Fatal Attraction & Stuffy Doll. At the beginning of your upkeep, Fatal Attraction will deal 4 damage to Stuffy Doll, which will deal 4 damage to whichever of your enemies you want to get hideous revenge on!
Imperial Emperor Mago: Oh, grokflab. He's the psychopath that shot the Galactic President!
Reverend Mago: Not yet I didn't! First I have to steal a time machine so I can travel to 2047!
Rules Manager Mago: Doesn't he realize, simply by the fact that you're standing here, that his plan will fail?
Imperial Emperor Mago: That's the delight of insanity. You don't have to realize anything. Besides, getting shot was great for me. It focused my insanity into a thirst for universal domination, plus it went a long way toward getting me the sympathy vote. Before I abolished voting, of course. It wasn't as big a factor as the mind control, but every little bit helps.
Dr. Galactic President Mago: Success! Galactic President Mago is good as new.
Galactic President Mago (1): Yeah, I feel pretty good. Me, you're a jurfin' genius!
Galactic President Mago (2): I had complete confidence in you, Dr. Mago. Especially since you already patched me up a few hours ago.
Rules Manager Mago: Could one of you leave? I'm getting dizzy.
Imperial Emperor Mago: We'll settle this the way we settle every dispute in the Milky Mago galaxy: Combo-off!
Galactic President Mago:
Epochrasite & Aether Vial! If you play the Vial on turn 1, you can start pumping out 4/4 Epochrasites on turn 3. They'll come into play with counters on them because you didn't play them from your hand—you put them directly into play with the Aether Vial.
Galactic President Mago (1):
Tombstalker & Golgari Grave-Troll! If you can discard the Grave-Troll on turn 1, you can dredge it back on turn 2. That puts six cards into your graveyard and sets you up perfectly to play the Tombstalker on turn 2, thanks to the delve ability.
Imperial Emperor Mago: A 5/5 creature with flying on turn two beats a 4/4 creature without flying on turn 3. Galactic President Mago wins!
Professor Mago: Yeah, but the other one has to leave or we create a temporal paradox. And those give me a nasty headache.
Galactic President Mago (1): OK. What am I supposed to do when I leave?
Galactic President Mago (2): Well, what I just did was jump to 2027, grab Potentate Mago, strand him in Antarctica, and then come back here. So you should probably do what I've already will have done.
Galactic President Mago (1): Got it.
Imperial Emperor Mago: Hi everyone. I'm going to distract you so my handsome colleague, the Imperial Emperor, can steal that time machine, travel to 2028, infect the residents of Earth with an alien microbe that he discovered while serving as the Imperial Head Judge of Pro Tour—Gxhfhx'xvx, jump back here, and distract all of you so he can do all that stuff I just said.
Professor Mago: What could you possibly say that would distract all of us?
Imperial Emperor Mago: How about the combo of Grove of the Burnwillows & Kavu Predator? The Predator gets a +1/+1 counter for each of your opponents each time you tap the Grove for colored mana!
Rules Manager Mago: Cool!
Professor Mago: Neat!
Galactic President Mago: I'm totally distracted!
Dr. Galactic President Mago: Whaaaa?
Imperial Emperor Mago: Thanks, buddy!
Rules Manager Mago: So, alien microbes...
Imperial Emperor Mago: Yeah. They take eight years to gestate, and they hate the cold, so that's why Potentate Mago had to be stashed in Antarctica for a decade. I didn't know he'd throw such a hissy fit about it, though.
Rules Manager Mago: Are they dangerous?
Imperial Emperor Mago: Only to the extent that they make their hosts susceptible to mind control when exposed to infra-periwinkle radiation. And I happen to have the only infra-periwinkle radiation ray on Earth.
Professor Mago: Everyone laughed at me when I made that thing! I better dig it out of the closet...
Rules Manager Mago: Mind control hardly seems sporting.
Imperial Emperor Mago: You think you get to be Imperial Emperor by shaking hands and kissing babies? You're a promising supervillain, kid, but just wait for the psychosis, paranoia, and obsession to settle in. Getting shot by none other than yourself, spending a decade in Antarctica, and finding out your wife is smuggling tiger-lilies, if you know what I mean—
Rules Manager Mago: I don't.
Imperial Emperor Mago: You don't want to. Anyway, let's just say that sanity is a romantic notion that, by this point, is as distant a memory as the existence of Jupiter, underpants, and the Muraganda Petroglyphs & Downdraft combo.
Rules Manager Mago: With that combo, you can attack with a creature that has no abilities other than flying, like Wind Drake or Air Elemental. After blockers are declared, you can use Downdraft's ability to remove flying from the creature, which gives it +2/+2. It'll probably be unblocked by that point, but even if it's blocked it's a good deal. Why wouldn't that work anymore?
Professor Mago: A few years back, when I was still the Magic Rules Manager, I issued errata on all creatures that didn't have first strike or double strike. I gave them all "strike." How else could they deal combat damage at all? It was supposed to just be an April Fool's joke, but it made so much sense that the change was kept permanently. That made Muraganda Petroglyphs pretty useless, however, which was especially unfortunate when it was reprinted in the Muragandan Masques set.
Rules Manager Mago: I really am insane, aren't I? Well, I guess you should all be getting back to your own times...
Galactic President Mago (2): I thought I'd have figured it out by now.
Dr. Galactic President Mago: No, you weren't as smart as you think you were.
Imperial Emperor Mago: C'mon, kid. Think.
Rules Manager Mago: Oh, right, the plot hole. I've got to bring Reverend Mago back here so he can steal the time machine so he can shoot Galactic President Mago. When is he?
Imperial Emperor Mago: He's in 2067. After I shot me, I jumped twenty years into the future, figuring the heat would have died down by then. To my surprise, I found me—or, rather, I found me—and, being very much alive thanks to my own heroics, I hijacked the time machine, jumped twenty years into the past, grabbed myself before the wound could become fatal, and came back here.
Rules Manager Mago: Of course! I guess I'll be right back.
Rules Manager Mago: See, no problem.
Professor Mago: Glad you could join the party.
Rules Manager Mago: I've been hiding in the closet with Reverend Mago since before anyone else showed up. I would have come out, but since I clearly never did, I didn't.
Imperial Emperor Mago: See why you go insane?
Rules Manager Mago: I suppose it's not much of a mystery. Well, we're down to one time machine. Professor, do you want to drop everyone else off and then take the time machine back home with you?
Galactic President Mago (2): That's what he's going to have done, alright. In real time, I dismantle that thing about five minutes after I complete it in 2017.
Professor Mago: That seems like a waste of ten years of chronophysics research.
Imperial Emperor Mago: Trust me, it's worth it. When the Pheromone Reactor Explosion of 2062 happens, you'll be very happy to be the ruler of the known galaxy.
Rules Manager Mago: Any last words of advice?
Professor Mago: Try Arcanum Wings & Shape of the Wiitigo & Cloudstone Curio. Aura swap the Wings for the Shape, and the creature gets six +1/+1 counters. Then replay the Wings and use the Curio's ability to bounce the Shape back to your hand. The counters stay on the creature, and you're ready to aura swap all over again!
Galactic President Mago (2):
Aven Mindcensor & Weird Harvest. You get to search your whole deck for X creatures, but your opponents only get to search the top four cards of their library! It's even funnier if X is greater than four! New Frontiers works well with the Mindcensor too.
Dr. Galactic President Mago:
Sprout Swarm & Intruder Alarm. To get this going, you need four creatures and one land, or three creatures and three land, or two creatures and six land, or so on. Use convoke to play Sprout Swarm with buyback. When the new Saproling comes into play, all creatures untap. Do it again, and again... once you have five creatures, you can go infinite!
Imperial Emperor Mago:
Obliterate & Nihilith. This one's easy: Suspend Nihilith. Then play Obliterate. All the permanents going to your opponent's graveyard will knock the time counters off Nihilith, and you'll get a hasty 4/4 creature with fear on an empty board. Well, I guess some enchantments might stick around, but it's not like they're going to get in the way.
Rules Manager Mago: Great! Thanks everyone. It was great to meet me, and I'll think of you all fondly as I delve deeper and deeper into the abyss of my own mind. Now, I think I have a book I need to read, so... I'll see you all in the mirror.
Professor Mago: Bye!
Galactic President Mago (2): So long!
Dr. Galactic President Mago: Take care!
Imperial Emperor Mago: All hail the great me!
Special thanks to cooljeanius, Joe-Schmoe, Screech, and the rest of the Cult of Mago.