Posted in Building on a Budget on October 12, 2011

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

Heartless Summoning is one of the most interesting cards introduced with Innistrad. This is the type of "build-around" card that I can really get behind. All my creatures cost less to cast? Yes, please! There are a lot of ways that you can abuse this powerful enchantment. Today, I'd like to talk about some of my favorite interactions and explain how they can be used most effectively.

Heartless Summoning

Perhaps the most exciting interaction available is that between Glissa, the Traitor and Heartless Summoning. With these two cards in play you can turn a card as simple as Perilous Myr into a veritable machine gun. Here's how it works: Heartless Summoning makes Perilous Myr cost zero to cast. You cast the Perilous Myr, it dies because it's getting -1/-1, its trigger kills one of your opponent's creatures, Glissa, the Traitor triggers, and you return the Perilous Myr to your hand. Glissa can take down bigger threats all by herself thanks to the potent combination of first strike and deathtouch. In doing so, Glissa refills your hand with artifacts that you've already found use for.

Glissa, the Traitor
Perilous Myr

Inkmoth Nexus is one of the best cards in the new Standard. Combining Sylvok Replica with Glissa, the Traitor makes it very difficult for an opponent to go all-in on a Kessig Wolf Run + Inkmoth Nexus. Just leave open one green mana. It's okay to take a poison counter or two; just kill an Inkmoth Nexus on their end step. Glissa is quite strong against virtually every creature in the format. She has the ability to dominate any creature-centric game where she's able to stick.

Inkmoth Nexus

Heartless Summoning goes very well with Molten-Tail Masticore, one of my favorite creatures of all time. I'm not sure when or how it happened, but Molten-Tail Masticore is very easy to acquire these days. This is a very powerful spell and I wouldn't be surprised if it got harder to find in the not-to-distant future. Being able to cast Molten-Tail Masticore for means you'll be able to leave open regeneration mana much sooner. Once you have the Masticore on the battlefield, you can casually dome your opponent and attack when you have an opening.

Molten-Tail Masticore
Shimmer Myr

Glissa may be the talk of the town, but my favorite card to include in a Heartless Summoning deck is Shimmer Myr. Shimmer Myr only cost one mana when you have a Heartless Summoning on the table, and it allows you to cast powerful spells like Steel Hellkite and Molten-Tail Masticore on your opponent's end step. This makes the game very difficult for most opponents. How can your opponent be happy about attacking when you have mana open and cards in hand if you have access to fatties at instant speed? Steel Hellkite is the most impressive end-of-turn play available. Sometimes your opponent might use Sun Titan to return a few Phantasmal Images copying the Sun Titan. You can flash out Steel Hellkite, untap, and attack with it. Six mana later, your opponent won't have any Sun Titans.

Steel Hellkite
Sun Titan

Speaking of Sun Titan, it seems like it's the go-to endgame of control decks as of late. Control decks use Forbidden Alchemy to fill their graveyard with Sun Titans and Phantasmal Images. They close the game by casting a Sun Titan or Unburial Rites targeting Sun Titan. This is very difficult to maneuver around without a board sweeper like Day of Judgment. If they happened to use Unburial Rites, then you need to have another Day of Judgment in hand, just to deal with that one card.

Sever the Bloodline | Art by Clint Cearley

However, there is an answer to this incredible endgame. Sever the Bloodline exiles all the Sun Titans on the battlefield, including the Phantasmal Images copying Sun Titan. Your opponent won't be able to reanimate the Sun Titan because it won't be in his or her graveyard.

Sever the Bloodline

Sever the Bloodline is also very strong against other creature decks. Most decks will get into stalled board positions due to cards like Perilous Myr, Wall of Tanglecord, Glissa, the Traitor, and Viridian Emissary. This will force other creature decks to continue casting creatures. In doing so, your opponent will probably play multiple copies of the same creature. This turns Sever the Bloodline into a very impressive threat. It's also worth noting just how strong the card is against token-based strategies. Having Sever the Bloodline and Perilous Myr / Glissa, the Traitor will make it very difficult for a token deck to have a chance. The flashback ability of Sever the Bloodline makes it especially potent.

Wall of Tanglecord and Perilous Myr do a good job of creating an impenetrable wall in the early turns when you might be under a lot of pressure against red decks or Human strategies. Perilous Myr's usefulness compounds as the game progresses and you eventually find a copy of Glissa, the Traitor.

Wall of Tanglecord
Viridian Emissary

Viridian Emissary also helps the decks ability to operate in the early game. Players won't want to attack into a creature that's just going to trade and generate card advantage. Viridian Emissary allows this deck to operate without drawing its namesake enchantment.

Rune-Scarred Demon is an excellent endgame. It finds the perfect card for whatever situation you may have found yourself in. Glissa, the Traitor and Steel Hellkite are searched for most often, but Sever the Bloodline is another common choice.

Rune-Scarred Demon
Sylvok Replica

Sylvok Replica lets this deck put Puresteel Paladin and Tempered Steel strategies on their heels, especially when Glissa, the Traitor is involved.

Once we put the deck together it looks like this:

Heartless Control

Download Arena Decklist

This is more of a "traditional" take on Heartless Summoning. The deck plays well and it has a lot of angles. Shimmer Myr makes the game very difficult for your opponent, especially because you have Steel Hellkite in your deck. The deck plays a lot of rares and mythic rares, but all of them are fairly easy to acquire.

Heartless Summoning | Art by Anthony Palumbo

When playing solitaire games with the deck I began thinking about the possibility of making a more combo Heartless Summoning deck. Myr Welder is a very fun card, and I'm convinced there's a way to make it playable at the very least.

Myr Welder

First I needed a combo. I remembered a Limited game where I had assembled two Myr Galvanizers with a Palladium Myr and produced infinite mana. This seemed like a good place to start. Even if the deck isn't competitive in its initial form, it will still help us understand what types of absurdity are possible in the new Standard format.

Myr Reservoir is a card that I haven't experimented with for about a year now. With Heartless Summoning on the battlefield it shouldn't be difficult to either empty your hand or reanimate a Myr every turn with this card. Myr Reservoir's mana may only be used to cast Myr spells or pay for Myr abilities. Myr Welder can exile a Molten-Tail Masticore, and you can start using the Reservoir to pay for damage or regeneration.

Myr Reservoir

Myr Welder is especially strong here. I can use the imprint ability to build whatever combo piece I'm missing. Things get even more exciting when we take into account the game-ending power of a Myr Welder that imprints a Molten-Tail Masticore. Having 4 toughness is also nice. Myr Welder conveniently dodges shock even when we have a Heartless Summoning on the battlefield.

Shimmer Myr really, um, shimmers in this deck. With a Heartless Summoning on the battlefield you shouldn't worry about having enough mana to play out your entire combo on your opponent's end step. Shimmer Myr also gives the deck an incredible secondary game plan. When you have Shimmer Myr and Myr Reservoir, you can essentially have an unkillable army of Myr. If one dies you can simply return it to your hand and recast it on your opponent's end step. This type of play gets really absurd when you have multiple copies of Myr Reservoir on the battlefield. "Oh, you cast a Grave Titan? I'll make infinite mana and kill you with this Heavy Arbalest."

Forbidden Alchemy | Art by David Rapoza

Forbidden Alchemy is another amazing spell for this type of deck. It helps fill our graveyard with Myr and Masticores that we can either recur with Myr Reservoir or copy with Myr Welder. A lot of the time you'll have the ability to create infinite mana, but you won't have a Molten-Tail Masticore or Heavy Arbalest to dump the mana into and kill your opponent. Forbidden Alchemy is an excellent way to dig for that win condition. Because you have infinite colorless mana you can just pay a single blue mana for the initial casting and a single black mana for the flashback cost. Digging through eight cards will usually find you a win condition, or another copy of Forbidden Alchemy at the very least.

Forbidden Alchemy

Ponder helps us find our namesake enchantment and other combo pieces. Preordain may have been better, but Ponder is still one of the best one-mana card selection tools ever printed.

Now I just needed some win conditions. Heavy Arbalest is the only card that outright kills an opponent when you combo off. A lot of the time people build combo decks that need to wait a turn to win after they've assembled their combo. This is usually a big mistake. Giving an opponent any additional opportunity to interact is a recipe for disaster. Heavy Arbalest can even be a strong spell in this deck without a combo. Myr Galvanizer can help untap a creature mana times and creates a pseudo machine gun.

Heavy Arbalest

Here's how the combo works, for clarification. You have two Myr Galvanizers out alongside a Palladium Myr. You tap the Palladium Myr for mana and use one of the mana to untap all other Myr with your Myr Galvanizer, including the Palladium Myr. You tap the Palladium Myr for mana again and use the other Myr Galvanizer to untap all other Myr, including the first Myr Galvanizer. Each time you repeat the process you will net one colorless mana.

Once you've established that you can create as much mana as you want, you can equip your Palladium Myr with Heavy Arbalest and use the untap abilities on your Myr Galvanizers to deal your opponent an arbitrarily large amount of damage. Myr Welder can serve as a proxy for any missing combo piece. It's also important to note that Myr Welder doesn't need an untap step after using its ability in order for you to combo off. The untap ability of Myr Galvanizer will allow you to combo off the same turn you use your Myr Welder's imprint ability.

Molten-Tail Masticore makes another appearance as a win condition and an excellent way to abuse our Myr Welders.

Here's the final list.

Heartless Combo

Download Arena Decklist

This deck's inconsistencies prevent it from being a tournament powerhouse at this point in time. However, it's nice to know that infinite combos still exist in the current Standard metagame. The deck is surprisingly strong when it works properly. Shimmer Myr makes the game pretty hellish for opponents. I've had a pair of Myr Reservoirs on the battlefield alongside a Heartless Summoning; I was able to use Shimmer Myr to immediately recast any Myr that died. Eventually, I put together my combo and finished off my opponent.

The deck might have potential if someone takes a lot of time to work on it, but Ancient Grudge is still a very real card, and you're going to have a hard time bringing this to a tournament as long as people are playing with that.

Ancient Grudge

The deck is a lot of fun, and it could make for some good times in the casual room or at the kitchen table (provided your friends are okay with combo decks).

I hope you all enjoyed this exploration of Heartless Summoning. Shoot me an email or hit the forums with ideas, suggestions, or comments.

Happy brewing!

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