Prismatic in the Fifth Dawn Era

Posted in Feature on July 26, 2004

By Doug Beyer

Senior creative designer on Magic's creative team and lover of writing and worldbuilding. Doug blogs about Magic flavor and story at http://dougbeyermtg.tumblr.com/

I play Prismatic because it's wacky. Prismatic's deck construction requirements (see my earlier articles if you need background on what Prismatic's about) enforce a state of wackiness. The most powerful cards in Magic Online share the stack with spells you may not have ever heard of. Huge effects turn the battlefield upside down, and themes and mechanics from across years of Magic sets leap together into a mishmash of combos and synergies not predictable by those playing sane, shuffleable, one- or two-color decks.

And now it's Fifth Dawn's turn. Two weeks ago we welcomed Fifth Dawn to Magic Online. For a lot of people that means it's time to draft. But not for me. I've been waiting for Fifth Dawn, the most droolworthy set for Prismatic since Invasion block, since I first saw the set over a year ago. Can I tell you what kinds of dreams I've been having?

Sunburst. Scry. Cogs. The Bringers. Good dreams.

Regular, sane people – Prismatic muggles that they are – yeah, I said it! – have been trying to figure out how to integrate these head-scratcher Fifth Dawn mechanics into regular, sane Standard and Block decks. "Those Bringers are powerful, sure, but what's this about a deck with all five colors in it? Who does that? Maybe you could pull it off, yadda yadda, but you'd have to devote so much of your deck to color fixing, yadda yadda, can't beat Affinity even with a good draw, yadda yadda, auto-loss to a land-destruction sideboard, yadda yadda. They seem like cool fatties; it's too bad they just don't cut it. Better leave them to casual players."

Daaaaamn right!

So since I am the resident WotC Prismatic freak – and since I've been telling my coworker Scott Johns I wanted the chance to write about Fifth Dawn since before Darksteel released – it is my honor and privilege to present the lineup of goodies that Fifth Dawn has brought to the format. And let me tell you, it's quite the lineup.

Extollin'

Cromat, move over. Sliver Overlord, please have a seat. Atogatog, *scoff noise*. Bringer of the Blue Dawn, welcome to Magic Online. Please commence to bringin'. The Bringers of the all five Dawns are so full of monster charm that they make me talk funny, droppin' the letter "g" from present participles and makin' a fool of myself. They hit the table like a truckload of bricks and then hit your opponent the same way, havin' trample just for kicks. And then during every upkeep it's your freakin' birthday. Seriously. There's a little card that reads,

Dear Planeswalker Master,

Here.

Love,
Your Bringer of Choice

Then there's this tantalizingly shakable box tied with a bow. And the Bringers don't give bad gifts. There's no socks here. No $5 gift certificates to flair-intensive restaurants. No, it's good stuff. Every turn.

And they cost 5. Five. Woo-berg (aka "WUBRG" or, if you prefer, ). A drop in the bucket. Except when you want to tutor for them with Fierce Empath, in which case it works perfectly because they cost 9 or whatever. Who cares what they really say in the upper right: they cost 5. Have you ever cast Cromat or Last Stand in Prismatic? Sure. When? Turn 5 or so, and it was like your second spell of the game. You went turn 2, cycle a landcycler, turn 3, Harrow. Now it's turn 5 and you have a Bringer in hand, so you drop a truckload of bricks on the table, set your opponent's "I'm Dead" alarm clock to go off in four turns, and write "My Birthday" on every day of the calendar.

Okay fine, so maybe your opponent has a Roar of the Wurm token over there ready to block, or a bunch of morph guys that are probably lethally flippable, so you can't attack with your Bringer. Who cares. Time is on your side when you've got a month of birthdays coming up. Sit back. Tutor for anything. Make an army. Recycle spellbombs. Fill your hand! Bide time! Bide it I say!

Or perhaps most fun of all, pick one of your opponent's facedown guys and send it at his head. What do you care? Tomorrow it's your birthday too!

I think that's about enough extollin'. You understand that the Bringers are insane. You understand they're all undercosted for their size, their five-color cost is what most Prismatic decks strive to have ready by turn 5 anyway, they're all card advantage, they combo with everything, blah blah blah trade room.

Still, there are some specific combos that are worth investigating. Bringer of the White Dawn's artifact specificity can keep it from being devastating in Prismatic, but there are still a surprising number of things to do with him. All you need is a saccable cog, a suicidal Solemn Simulacrum or (heaven forbid) something gross like a Mindslaver to make it worthwhile. Bringer of the White Dawn can also serve as a Reya-style reanimator for artifact fatties such as Bosh, Memnarch or the hated Sundering Titan, or a Skeleton Shard-style reanimator for utility robots such as Bottle Gnomes or Goblin Replica. Remember that a 5/5 trampler is going to be trouble for your opponent all by itself; if you manage to do any recursion at all, you're already 2-for-1'ing your opponent's Dark Banishing or (even better) trampling over into your opponent's board with an Aether Spellbomb ready to bounce Mr. White out of danger if necessary.

Bringer of the Bringer of the Blue Dawn, Bringer of the Green Dawn and Bringer of the Red Dawn Dawns are less combo-riffic but obviously solid. Blue and Green are engines on their own, and Red turns your opponent's defenses against him. I've wistfully pondered recurring Lifespark Spellbomb with Bringer of the White Dawn, then stealing my opponent's lands and attacking him with them with Mr. Red (and then of course sacrificing them to Sadistic Hypnotist, and adding a counter to Lightning Coils, after combat — just call me Johnny Prismatic).

But the true hero of Prismatic, Bringerwise, is Bringer of the Black Dawn. Have Mr. Black tutor up Beacon of Immortality—you double your life total and then shuffle it right back into your deck, so that Mr. Black can tutor it up for you again next turn. Once your life total hits ridiculous levels, feel free to search for something else and you won't feel the life loss from the Vampiric Tutor effect for a long time. All the other Beacons, especially Beacon of Destruction, will allow you to pull off this tutor-'n'-shuffle trick, too. There is of course the good play of tutoring for a second Bringer—such as Mr. Blue—during Mr. Black's first upkeep. But my favorite spell to get with the 5/5 Vampiric Tutor is Rush of Knowledge. You got a nine-mana creature onto the table fair and square (well, sort of) so you're justified in being able to draw nine cards at this point, right?

Scrytown

Serum Visions

We Prismatic players routinely run cards like Opt or Worldly Counsel or Tainted Pact to help smooth out our draws. We run landcyclers and regular-cyclers. We run card-drawing and land-searching. We need all that stuff; our libraries are haystacks crammed with multi-colored needles.

How does scry help? Let's be Aristotelian, and proceed from examples to principles. Magma Jet is like Shock, except you get to double-Opt the top of your library afterwards. Serum Visions is similar to Sleight of Hand, except you dig an extra card deeper into your library for the same cost. Ferocious Charge is like Giant Growth, except you get to push either more land or more spells to the top of your library while you're making your Diligent Farmhand 5/5. See what I'm talking about here? Limited players have been raving about how scry makes their 40-carders more consistent. Well, the same goes for us and our 250-carders. You advance your position with the spell istself, and then you set up your future when you visit Scrytown. It's a slam dunk, as Aristotle would say.

And don't whine about how most of the scry spells cost a little more than their non-scry counterparts. I've logged my hours in the Casual room. I've seen you. I know you spend half your day sacrificing Krosan Verges and cycling Elvish Aberrations and entwining Journey of Discovery. You have the mana. The more pressing problem in Prismatic is usually getting enough bang for your buck. When your opponent has already killed your artifact or drawn a card or Raise Deaded a guy by casting his 2/2, don't just Shock it. Shock it and get your library ready to win the game.

Scry can feel even more unfair when you combine it with card drawing. Dig two cards deep, find the Terror you need and put it on top, and then cycle Tranquil Thicket to draw into it.

Trinkets

Wait, there's more? Fifth Dawn has something else that's randomly great for Prismatic? Listen, here's a secret — this article is too easy to write.

The Fifth Dawn cog theme—all those cards that care about, or are, artifacts with converted mana cost of or less—brings us Prismatic players a new way to tutor, a new way to fix mana, and a new way to get repeated card advantage. If it added a new way to attack with an enormous trampler or something, then it'd have brought us sort of everything we care about! But then three out of four ain't bad for one mechanic, and did I already mention those Bringers in this set?

The seventy-two-point headline for Prismatic players is just one of the cogs all by itself: Wayfarer's Bauble. If you don't already have four, then your first mission after reading this article is procuring four of this common. It accelerates your mana. It is extremely efficient in terms of cost. It doesn't do weird things like coming into play tapped, so if you draw it late you can immediately trade it in for the land of your choice. And best of all for many decks, it isn't green. It's a colorless way for a Prismatic deck to let green be one of its 20-card "splash colors" – that is, you can run Wayfarer's Bauble, Solemn Simulacrum, Chromatic Spheres and Darksteel Ingots and get away with relegating green to be one of your colors that is mostly split cards, landcyclers, and late-game splashables.

Let's move on to the most important cog enabler creature for Prismatic: Trinket Mage. When you cast a creature in Prismatic, it had better either beat down hard or do something handy just by showing up to the party. After all, creatures have to compete for deck-space even in a 250-card format, and Jens and Krosan Tusker and Exalted Angel and Flametongue Kavu and Arcanis the Omnipotent are likely already filling the ranks. Trinket Mage is of the handy variety, and it's cheap to boot; all those tricks you've used him for in limited, and then some, are fully exploitable in Prismatic. Your Trinket Mage toolbox, a set of singleton artifacts to tutor for with the little Wizard, should look something like this:

Engineered Explosives

That may seem like a lot of artifact slots for a deck that needs 20 of each color in it, but remember that five of them contribute to your land count, not your spell count. The Spellbombs are great quick removal or a cheap "cycle" if you'd just prefer a new card. Wayfarer's Bauble should already be in your deck in multiples. Chromatic Sphere is slightly faster but less permanent mana fixing, and a cheap cycle if you're already color-happy. Bonesplitter is suprisingly useful in a format that often has a lone 2/2 whacking away until the opposition can find another Wrath variant; when you need it, it's as good as a hasty, hard-to-remove additional beatdown creature. If you're on the receiving end of things, Engineered Explosives is that removal you're looking for, a flexible new Void that we can tutor for with a three-mana 2/2. Lastly, Scrabbling Claws is that happiest of answers to the Buried Alives and Quiet Speculations of the world—and, of course, again, a cheap cycle for a card.

In other formats, Welding Jar might be good addition to a trinket toolbox (say, to protect your Crystal Shard, you evil, evil person), but I don't see them as adding much value to a format that so emphasizes colored cards. You might try Viridian Longbow if you run plenty of creatures to wield it, but my recommendation is that there's too much Wrathing and too few "pingable" creatures in Prismatic that it probably won't be worth the slot either. Lastly, Conjurer's Bauble doesn't function as graveyard removal on your opponent, it's generally unhelpful for recursion of your own cards in a 250-card deck, and it's already redundant with other parts of your toolbox for drawing a card, so I would leave it on the sidelines as well. If you manage to imprint Trinket Mage on Soul Foundry or something, and run out of cog targets to tutor up, then first of all, my hat's off to you, sir—and second, you have my permission to shake your fist in rage at this author. But then again you're probably too busy looking for your absent copy of Conjurer's Bauble to realize that your opponent conceded over a minute ago.

The other cog-enabling cards, Leonin Salvagers, Leonin Squire and Salvaging Station, are probably too dependent on drawing a cog to go with them to be worth the slots in Prismatic. If you're running Trinket Mage and a trinket toolbox, I wouldn't blame you for adding a single Leonin Salvagers and Salvaging Station to tutor for, however. Recurring an Aether Spellbomb or Wayfarer's Bauble is indeed powerful. Don't forget Bringer of the White Dawn as a cog enabler.

A Burst o' Sun

Etched Oracle

Sunburst cards have it tough in Prismatic, but there are still some absolute gems in that category. Their main strike against them is that they're all artifacts, which means two things: they don't count toward your color totals, and they die to artifact removal. Neither is a deal breaker however. The other concern is what other cards could do more for a similar cost; Prismatic has a very large environment of cards from which to draw, and those 250 card slots can fill up surprisingly quickly with great cards. The most interesting sunburst cards as I see it are Engineered Explosives, Clearwater Goblet, and Etched Oracle.

I've already mentioned Engineered Explosives—it has the remarkable quality of being both flexible removal and a cog (also known as "tutorable with Trinket Mage"), so I expect to see a lot of it in Prismatic. It is probably not as good as Pernicious Deed, but better than Void, and in a control deck I may want more than four Deedlike cards anyway.

A properly charged-up Clearwater Goblet can give you a runaway life buffer that can give you a lot of time to assemble what you need to win. It competes with Mind's Eye for a five-mana artifact, but the Goblet could be complementary to other lifegain strategies or life-for-other-resources strategies that your deck might also be running.

I like most of the sunburst creatures—consider them. But keep in mind that many of them may fail to compete with other monsters for similar cost. Suntouched Myr has to compete with Call of the Herd. Skyreach Manta has to compete with Exalted Angel or Crosis. And they all have the "dies to Viridian Shaman or Dismantling Blow or Hull Breach" problem of all artifact creatures.

That said, I have become very fond of Etched Oracle. He is almost always the full 4/4 for 4 mana in Prismatic—competitive even with the amazing Ravenous Baloth—and he almost always Ancestral Recalls me while his four combat damage is on the stack. I don't mind a creature that dies to Thornscape Battlemage's white kicker ability so much if he's going to fill my hand while doing so.

Other Goodies

Apart from the Bringers, scry, cogs and sunburst, Fifth Dawn still has more toys for Prismatic players. Joiner Adept is a beatdown creature that does a terrific amount of mana smoothing, allowing you to cast awkward spells like Vindicate or Crosis's Charm early, or triple-colored-mana monsters like Visara the Dreadful late. And Dawn's Reflection is the Fertile Ground for the late game; it launches you from turn four (also known in Prismatic as "the Solemn Simulacrum turn") into turn six (aka "the Rith the Awakener turn") and turns around any color woes you were having.

You may be tired of hearing how great Eternal Witness is in tournament formats. But this little Regrowth on legs will suddenly make obsolete all the Anarchists, Scriveners and Gravediggers you've ever seen in Prismatic games, at least in green-heavy decks. It simultaneously makes graveyard removal even more important than it already was.

Last but not least, I would be remiss—and who wants to be remiss?—if I didn't touch on All Suns' Dawn. Can I tell you how much I've wanted to Quiet Speculation for, oh I don't know, Grizzly Fate, Firebolt, and Chainer's Edict, and then cast All Suns' Dawn to get all three of them and the Quiet Speculation back into my hand? Or imprint All Suns' Dawn on Panoptic Mirror in a Prismatic game? I haven't been able to yet. But it's not from lack of trying.

From the Front Lines

I'll leave you today with some stories from the front lines of Prismatic games, plays that range from fun tricks to massive over-the-top kills.

Fifth Dawn and Prismatic—those two crazy kids who were always meant for each other—are now finally hitched. Fire up Magic Online and celebrate!

P.S. For the curious, here's the Prismatic/Singleton deck (a la Doctor Wombat) that I've been playing recently. And here's my more competitive IOwnLotsOfBringers.dec, taking full advantage of the collection of a Wizards employee.

And by request, here are the full decklists right here in the article. Warning: these are really long lists, especially the Singleton one!

IOwnLotsOfBringers.dec

Other (1)
1 AEther Spellbomb
250 Cards

Doug's Different-Every-Time Prismatic Deck

Other (2)
1 AEther Spellbomb 1 Fire/Ice
250 Cards

--Doug Beyer

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