There are those who think that clash is too random. They've done studies on clash, you know. Apparently, 20% of the time, it works every time. Some of you might say that that doesn't make sense, or, worse, is completely inaccurate. I won't argue with you. How could I? For starters, I pulled that statistic right out of my Shimmering Grotto. On top of that, even if the number was accurate, it would only apply to "naked" clashes, those clashes that follow the usual script: I'll show you mine, you show me yours, and if mine's bigger, you take a Lightning Bolt to the head or whatever. Then we both get to decide where to put our clashified information. Since I'm building Constructed decks, and casually focused ones at that, I have the ability to use as much or as little library manipulation as I want, making clash victory ever more likely.
Of course, half the fun of clashing is the drama inherent in the reveal, so there's no need to get too manipulative if you're just out for a good time. But if you're gonna go to all the trouble of clashing with your opponent (you know, doing all that number-crunching), you might as well win the darn things for the love of Pete. That's what I always say, although I usually say it in much stronger, Pete-free language. Let's see what we can come up with.
Are You Portending What I'm Portending?
In Standard alone there are several different ways to manipulate or simply look at the top card of your library. Perhaps the most obvious way is by scrying, courtesy of Future Sight cards such as Foresee, Cryptic Annelid, and Mystic Speculation. Then we've got cards like Sage Owl, Inkfathom Divers, Discombobulate, and Ponder, which allow you to reorganize the top three or four cards of our library. Aven Windreader and Magus of the Future let you see what you've got on top, while cards like Academy Ruins, Reclaim, and Footbottom Feast can stack the top of your library with cards from your graveyard. There are a few ways beyond the ones I've listed, but I will get to those later.
As I combed over the Lorwyn spoiler, one subset of clash cards stood out immediately: the blue and red ones. They're predominantly control cards. You've got removal (Lash Out, and to a lesser extent, Whirlpool Whelm) and a pair of counterspells (Broken Ambitions and Scattering Stroke). Combine that with Ponder and Foresee and you've got the beginnings of a counter-burn style deck. Molten Disaster is a powerful sweeper and an alternate win condition, as well as a mana sink for successfully clashed Scattering Strokes.
As a finisher, I wanted to use another card that reaps the benefits of all the library manipulation: Intet, the Dreamer. Like all the gold Dragons from Planar Chaos (and the Invasion Dragons before them), Intet has a nifty ability that triggers when she deals combat damage to an opponent. In Intet's case, you get to pay and remove the top card of your library from the game. You can play this card without paying its mana cost as long as Intet is in play. This way, you can get a "free" card whenever you attack. You might say she's a flyer full of discounts. He doesn't work all that well with Molten Disaster, though (or any X spell, for that matter—X will always be zero for cards removed this way), and she requires a large investment considering you can get a similar deal from, say, Thieving Magpie. However, the main appeal of Intet—the hook, the dream, if you will—is the potential to get huge savings on some high-powered spell. You know, like Time Stretch. If you can pull this off, you can take your two extra turns with your 6/6 flyer, connecting each time (I presume, if you hit the first time), for a total of 18 damage. All you have to do is figure out some way to do the final 2, with Lash Out, Molten Disaster, and Triskelavus being the likeliest (only) candidates for this job.
For a Few Forces More
When it comes to clashing, the only thing that does it more than my wardrobe is an Elf deck. Of all the tribes in Lorwyn, it makes sense that the snooty, know-it-all Elves would be the most clash-ist. Besides the alluring Nath's Elite and basilisk-esque Gilt-Leaf Ambush, there's Fistful of Force and Woodland Guidance as potential non-Elf clashers. Sure, the Goblins have access to Adder-Staff Boggart and Dripping Dead—er, I mean, Bog Hoodlums—as well as Lash Out and Weed Strangle as in-colour utility spells. And, yes, Treefolk have noogie-master Oaken Brawler and Sentry Oak and some nice in-colour clash-enhancers. Okay, so apparently Elves have no special relationship with clash and I'm just fixing the facts in order to build another Elf deck. If you're feeling litigious, you know what to do.
The good news is that the Elf cards with clash have some excellent support cards. Nath's Elite is like a Taunting Elf crossed with a Juggernaut. One can only assume they attended some expensive private school specializing in taunting. Your opponents are going to be blocking the Elite whether they like it or not, so why don't we make them like it as little as possible? What can you use to make this kind of creature especially Nath-ty? How about something like Venom, Gaze of the Gorgon, or the latest in a short line of unpleasant green tricks, Lace with Moonglove. What's a Moonglove? Is it what a Moonraker wears while he's Moongardening? I don't know, but it seems plausible. All I know is that it sounds like one of MaGo's trademarked doomsday devices, and its effect on your opponent's creatures is just as devastating.
Besides that new twist on an old combo, there are other ways to wreak havoc with Nath's Elite, from a simple combat trick like Fistful of Force to more permanent pump like Epic Proportions, Imperious Perfect, and Immaculate Magistrate. Elvish Harbinger not only finds and accelerates you to Nath's Elite, but it can also be used to set up potentially successful clash if you've already got Elites in hand (tutor for Allosaurus Rider for the best odds). Likewise, Gilt-Leaf Seer helps you win clashes while smoothing your draws.
The threat of deathtouch—either from Gilt-Leaf Ambush, Lace with Moonglove, Thornweald Archers, or the pack of Wren's Run Packmaster—ought to make attacking an unappealing option for you opponent. This just makes Nath's Elite more effective.
Rebels Without an Intervening "If" Clause
Considering that there have been only 20 cards with the clash ability ever printed in the history of the world, we have a relatively high number of build-around-clash cards to go with them: Sylvan Echoes, Entangling Trap, and Rebellion of the Flamekin. Of these, Sylvan Echoes seems like the most difficult to use, since it not only depends on frequent clashing to be truly worthwhile, but you have to actually win those clashes as well. The other two enchantments are much less demanding. Sure, you will need to come out on top in your clashes for them to reach their maximum potential. Even if you don't win, though, you still get a pretty nice reward for the clash alone. Entangling Trap taps down a creature, but it has the potential to lock it down for a whole extra turn. Rebellion of the Flamekin, meanwhile, gives you a 3/1 Elemental Shaman token for a single mana, but the token has haste if you won the clash. Winning the clashes is nice, but it's like icing on the cake as long as you are clashing enough. For this reason, I'm going to use these two enchantments instead of Sylvan Echoes.
Most of the clash cards we've seen so far have been one-shots. You play your spell, you clash, end of story. To get the most out of these enchantments, you'll want to clash as much as possible. Both Springjack Knight and Sentry Oak allow you to do so once each turn. The Knight triggers a clash whenever he attacks, and the Oak does the same at the beginning of combat. Conveniently, they share a colour with Entangling Trap and they even form a bit of a combo. If you win the Sentry Oak's clash, it seems likely that you will also win the Springjack Knight's. Depending on your opponent's blocking options, you can choose which creature would benefit most from the double strike. For max damage, you can crack for 10 with a double striking Oak. To keep your Knight alive against a one- or two-power creature, let him have the double strike all to himself. Entangling Trap can dramatically narrow your opponent's range of choices.
To increase your chances of clashing successfully, there are a number of tools you can use. For this deck, I decided on Flamekin Harbinger, which can fetch Rebellion of the Flamekin (it's a tribal enchantment — Elemental) or put a relatively expensive card like Hostility or Purity on top of your library. It can also fetch the forgotten Elemental, Coldsnap's Squall Drifter, as well as Nova Chaser. If you can increase your odds of winning a clash, Nova Chaser can hit for the full 20 with Springjack Knight. The other way to make the necessary adjustments to your library is to use the conveniently "timeshifted" Orcish Librarian. New Benalia offers some help in this regard as well.
Lash Out is basically a no-brainer. Pollen Lullaby is decent as well, a white Tangle if your clash is a success. I want to use Dolmen Gate because it allows me to attack with my Springjack Knights and Nova Chasers without worrying about losing them in combat. The Gate provides some strong incentives to attack with everybody each turn, and Pollen Lullaby helps to neutralize possible counterattacks.
There are other ways to clash every turn, but you might have to leave Standard to do so. Putting Lash Out or Pollen Lullaby on an Isochron Scepter seems pretty exciting, and if you're going to do that, you might try Judge Unworthy and Magma Jet as well.
Until next time, don't cut clash.