2 Rarely 2 Good

Posted in Feature on January 24, 2007

By Chris Millar

Hello and welcome to the Magic: The Gathering wordcast. I'm your host, Chris Millar. On today's show, we're going to open up our binders and yank out the jank. Then we're going to put said jank right into our decks. Be warned! This process is not for the faint of heart. In order to find out how to best use a card, in order to separate the hidden gems from the cards that should just stay hidden, you have to be bold. You need to risk embarrassment, and to do that you need guts. You need what I have recently dubbed "jank confidence." Because how will you know if a card is as bad (or as good) as people say if you don't play it?

Wurmcalling to the Faraway Towns

Our foray into the wild and wurmy world of under-loved rares begins with a deck courtesy of Evan Landers, a Johnny who you may remember had the intestinal fortitude to build and play a deck focused on Dissension "stand-out" Nettling Curse.

Evan writes: "I thought you might be interested in a deck that makes infinite Wurm tokens."

I usually prefer finite Wurm tokens, but go on ...

"After building the first one, I saw so many possible variations on the combo that I ended up making three decks all using the combo in different ways. The main combo in all three of these decks is Wurmcalling, Spellweaver Helix, and Rude Awakening."

Rude Awakening

You'll want to imprint both Wurmcalling and Rude Awakening on to your Spellweaver Helix. Once you do that, every time you play Rude Awakening, you will get a free 0/0 Wurm! "Blammo!" as the kids say. Even better, whenever you play a Wurmcalling (preferably with buyback), you get a free Rude Awakening. Use it to untap all of your lands so you can replay Wurmcalling (once again, with buyback). As long as you have five lands (or four, if one of them is a Simic Growth Chamber), you can make as many 1/1 Wurm tokens as you like. "Then," as Evan says, "after playing Wurmcalling so many times you can bounce all of your opponent's permanents back to their hand [with Temporal Fissure] and swing in for the win on the next turn."

Thought Courier, Compulsive Research, and Fabricate all help you assemble your combo, while Greenseeker both ensures that you can make all of your land drops and allows you to dump Helix-able sorceries into your graveyard. I added the Researches (Evan had more "Looters") and a set of Revives to up the sorcery count. Revive allows you to get back spent Rude Awakenings or Wurmcallings, and if you manage to get one on a Helix, with a second copy in hand and a third in the graveyard, you can endlessly replay them (as long as you have ) and, by extension, endlessly replay the other spell on the Helix.

Wurmweaver Helix

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If making a ton of Wurms and bouncing all of your opponent's permanents doesn't turn your crank, you could very easily splash red for Grapeshot or Demonfire. Other ideas to consider include adding Train of Thought to allow you to draw your deck (once you can make infinite mana), where even a single copy of Walk the Aeons would deny your opponent a chance to stop your infinite Wurm tokens.

Spinning Fate

Well, folks, we kicked things off with a deck that can make an arbitrarily large number of arbitrarily large wurms. For my second act, I'd like to turn things over to two of the more industrious Johnnies I know, Mssrs. AJ Impy and Redland Jack. Since I already used the "kick-off" metaphor, why don't we call this section the third-quarter jump-ball?

Barbed Shocker

I was going to tie their use of Barbed Shocker into my recurring "reject rare" theme, but I was, uh, shocked to discover that the Time Spiral Insect is not actually a rare. Luckily, both gentlemen also used Wheel of Fate, which, while no Wheel of Fortune (or Wheel of Fish, for that matter), is at least a card of appropriate rarity. I'll start with AJ Impy's Wheel of Fate deck, since his email had an earlier timestamp. It's always fun to build mono-colour decks that use strategies normally outside of the colour's range - green burn decks, blue land destruction decks, that sort of thing. AJ's deck is basically a red milling deck. He's got the usual suspects (Book Burning, Dragon Mage, and Wheel of Fate), as well as a few unusual ones. Did you know that Barbed Shocker's ability triggers when it deals damage, not just combat damage? This means that you can give the spindly fellow a Viridian Longbow and cause your opponent to dump their hand (and pick up a new one) with a simple pinging. You can also get double use out of your Barbed Shockers by equipping them with a Fireshieker. The 'shrieker is also very nice when attached to a Dragon Mage. Izzet Guildmage can be used to copy Book Burning, Wheel of Fate, and Volcanic Hammer, while Djinn Illuminatus can replicate everything but the Wheels. To get a quick Dragon Mage (or Djinn), AJ uses a combination of Chrome Mox, Seething Song, and the Vesuva-Cloudpost "engine." The latter allows for massive spell replication if you have a Djinn on the board.

Wheeled Warriors

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If you don't limit yourself to the Magic Online card pool, you could add the original Shocker, who works just as well with a Viridian Longbow as his Barbed counterpart.

Since great minds think alike, Redland Jack (also known as Robby Bullis) happened to send me a deck with Barbed Shocker and Wheel of Fate at around the same time. He wrote: "I've been fine-tuning a few decks (which, admittedly, is kind of like fine-tuning my 1995 Ford Taurus), and I figured I would kick them out the door before Planar Chaos comes out and makes them obsolete."

Brass Gnat

Boy, I never thought I'd hear the words "1995 Ford Taurus" and "obsolete" in the same sentence. A 1991 Ford Tempo I'd understand. Those things were like Flintstone cars after about five days. Another surprising juxtaposition of words could be found in a subsequent sentence, which included both "Brass Gnat" and "holding down the fort." In case you were wondering how (or, more likely, why) you'd go about defending yourself with a creature so wimpy, the answer is Swarmyard. Brass Gnat is an Insect. More importantly, both the suspend-aiding Jhoira's Timebug and the previously discussed Barbed Shocker are insects. The deck has two basic paths to victory. The first is by decking, with Wheel of Fate combining with Barbed Shocker beats (Robby uses Fire Whip instead of Viridian Longbow, since his deck is Standard legal). The second way to win is with a huge, Mirari'd, Furnace of Rath'd Conflagrate. With a Conflagrate in the graveyard, you can pay a measly two mana and dump your hand (which you can fill with Wheel of Fate and company) to nail your opponent for at least eight. Double that with Mirari, and double it again for each Furnace of Rath you have in play. With the help of Jhoira's Timebug, you can even set off multiple Wheel of Fates in one turn, stocking and re-stocking your hand, flashing back Conflagrates each time. This takes surprisingly little mana.

The colour red isn't known for its ability to manipulate the library or draw cards, so you have to get creative. Robby uses Orcish Librarian, Bottled Cloister, Wheel of Fate, and a Fire Whip'd Barbed Shocker (you can ping yourself for a new hand) to get to the cards he needs.

Editions of You

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Robby sent me not one but two Wheel of Fate decks. As with the previous deck, "[t]he idea here is pretty simple. You want to hold the ground with your insects, draw a ton of cards all at once, and then Conflagrate for the win. With Ignorant Bliss + Wheel of Fate or Magus of the Jar you can keep the cards instead of discarding them. With Plagiarize + Wheel of Fate you get to draw 14 cards and eliminate your opponent's hand. Since it can be beneficial to get the cards on your opponent's turn (so that you won't have to discard the cards before you can untap), Clockspinning can be useful, and Jhoira's Timebug serves double duty as a Swarmyard blocker and a Wheel of Fate enhancer."

For Your Pleasure

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As always, I present these decks as points of departure. You can mix and match the pieces as you see fit. Keep some, toss the others, add your own twists and tweaks based on your personal card pool. Orcish Librarian seems like it could be really good in AJ's deck (and would give you an excuse to put the Magewright's Stones back in), and Izzet Guildmage would probably fit right in to Redland Jack's decks. You definitely don't have to play with Brass Gnat, and you double-definitely don't have to name the decks after Roxy Music albums. One card that would definitely be good in the last deck is Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind, who can send a Searing Flesh to the dome each time you draw seven. Another card that might be worth including in all three decks (and the next one, too) is Timecrafting from Planar Chaos.

Look Who's Stalking

Wurmcalling, Wheel of Fate… What is this, Time Spiral Rares that Start with "W" Week? For those of you who are excited about that wonderful theme, I'm sad to report that it is not even a theme week, and that I won't be doing Word of Seizing next (although I did strongly consider it). To prove that I'm not just sponging off of my readership, I put together a deck using a curmudgeonly creature with a little gold symbol: Stalking Vengeance.

As I've mentioned in previous columns, I'm not immune to that uniquely Johnny ailment known as the "bombo." For those who don't know, a "bombo" is a combo that doesn't actually work. Basically, it's the 1991 Ford Tempo of Johnny's repertoire. The saddest part about coming up with a bombo is the point when you realize that all of your time and energy, all of your pure delight at having discovered some neat new trick, has been for nothing. I'm just glad that I wasn't being filmed while I tried for an embarrassingly long time to get a Quicken + Sins of the Past deck to work. I couldn't figure out why I wasn't able to click on (and play) the Sway of the Stars in my graveyard. Eventually, I realized that I'd already spent my Quicken window on the Sins of the Past, and, despite confessing to this multiple times in a public forum, I can only assume that my shame will stay hidden forever.

I told you that story so I could tell you this one. My first attempt at a Stalking Vengeance deck was equally disastrous. Not long after Dissension hit Magic Online, I was perusing the spoiler of that set, hoping to find inspiration. After staring at Stalking Vengeance like it was a Magic Eye illusion, a light-bulb went on just above my head. (It was getting dark and I was having trouble reading the screen.) I whipped up a deck faster than you can say "read the friendly card," and only three or four turns into my very first game, I made the following sequence of plays:

Mountain. Seething Song. Through the Breach, sneaking Stalking Vengeance into play. Attack with Stalking Vengeance. Pump it up with a five-point Blazing Shoal (removing a second Through the Breach). Hit my opponent for ten. At end of turn, sacrifice my 10/5 Stalking Vengeance. Scratch my head and wonder why my opponent didn't die.

You see … the thing is … how should I put it? Stalking Vengeance only triggers when another creature you control is put into a graveyard from play. It does absolutely nothing other than make a would-be Johnny cry when you, say, sacrifice it to Through the Breach's delayed trigger.

Stalking Vengeance

My second attempt went slightly better, since at least I knew how the card worked (always key). The idea came from Marcus S. and involved pairing Stalking Vengeance with a bunch of zero-power "Walls" (like Drift of Phantasms, Glacial Wall, and Wall of Stone). The concept makes no sense at all until you add Mannichi, the Fevered Dream. With a slew of Walls and Stalking Vengeance on the board, you can use Mannichi to flip-flop each creature's power and toughness. This has no effect on Stalking Vengeance, but it turns the Walls into 5/0, 7/0, or 8/0 creatures, at which point they promptly die and deal 5, 7, or 8 damage to your opponent in a very vengeful manner. While I absolutely loved the idea for the deck, unfortunately, I could never make it work.

Will the third time be a charm? All signs point to "indubitably."

To maximize the damage-dealing capabilities of Stalking Vengeance, you'll want a lot of your creatures to go to the graveyard. First, though, you'll need a lot of creatures in play. To accomplish either of these goals, I hit upon the oft-forgotten member of the no-mana suspend cycle: Living End. An update of Living Death, this card forces each player (including you!) to sacrifice all of his creatures. That sounds like something that might be decent if you've got Stalking Vengeance and friends in play. The other thing Living End does is return all creatures from all graveyards to play. Basically, each player swaps the creatures he has in play for the creatures in his graveyard. If you can fill up your graveyard with creatures (say, by using Dredge cards like Stinkweed Imp and Darkblast), a Living End can put Stalking Vengeance and many friends into play in one shot. Once they're there, you can either send some of your creatures back to the grumper from whence they came by sacrificing them to Dread Return, or you can just wait until your next upkeep and let all of your other creatures die then and there. Oh, did I mention that the deck is full of red echo creatures, like Flamecore Elemental, Firemaw Kavu, and Tectonic Fiend? Well, now you know. The Kavu is especially good with Stalking Vengeance, since you can use the little "trick" (have the Kavu target itself with its comes-into-play ability) to destroy it, which will trigger its leaves play ability as well as that of any Stalking Vengeances you have in play. The more Stalking Vengeances, the better.

Echo Base

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You can tweak this deck any number of ways, like five ways or nine ways. Pandemonium might be fun, since it seems like it would work well with Living End. It's also nice with Stalking Vengeance, allowing your creatures to deal damage on the way in and on the way out. You could include other sacrifice outlets (Lyzolda, the Blood Witch, Plagued Rusalka, or Scorching Rusalka) or other high-power creatures with a short lifespan (say, Phyrexian Soulgorger). Creatures with comes-into-play abilities (like Stalking Yeti) are always nice to recycle with Living End. Planar Chaos has plenty to add to the deck, including echo cards like Volcanic Hellion and Hammerheim Deadeye, or any of the red creatures with Vanishing. Heck, you could even try to work in Wheel of Fate.

Until next time, have fun with jank!

Chris Millar

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