Fear All Throwbacks!

Posted in Feature on December 13, 2006

By Chris Millar

Welcome to Easter Egg Week! It's the only week imaginable that could kick things off with a feature article talking about severed baby-heads and surfing. Sigh. There goes all of my material.

Not your typical Easter bunny

Without the severed baby-head angle, what's a casual deckbuilding column to do? The theme deck options are kind of limited. My first thought was to throw Kezzerdrix, Vizzerdrix, Jackalope Herd, and Ebon Praetor into a reanimator deck. My second thought was to build a deck around a number of Magic's “Eggs,” but French National Champion Sylvain Lauriol kinda beat me to the punch with his hilarious “egg theme deck” that many of the French players used at the recent Magic World Championships.

Basically, “Easter” and “Egg” decks have been done to death, and I'm not about to, er, resurrect them.

Completely stumped, I finally decided to consult my Muse. Most Muses are pretty girls who get your creative juices flowing, and mine is no different. What sets my Muse apart, however, is that she's green, costs five mana, and is Seedborn.

Ah, Seedborn Muse. Is there anything you can't untap? A combination of two of my favourite cards (Awakening and, uh, Foot Soldiers), the Muse is one of those Johnny cards that is so open-ended that it's hard to know where to start. It combos with practically everything. If it untaps, we can combo with it.

It being Easter Egg Week and all, I figured that there had to be some secret, hidden Seedborn Muse combos out there that I could write about. Maybe there are even some combos featuring cards with sneaky and not-so-sneaky references to some old favourites. And hell, if that doesn't work, I'll just drop some references to your favourite movie. You know, as a change of pace.

Are you egg-cited yet?

You Say You Want an Evolution

Seedborn Muse
As I hope I proved with my preview of Paradox Haze, having extra “phases” is always a good thing. I'm still waiting for the card that gives you twice as many declare blockers steps. Seedborn Muse gives you an extra untap step, which is the most valuable step of all. You can attack and block with the same creatures. You can play spells on your own turn and still have mana available during your opponent's turn. This is true if you put Seedborn Muse in any deck. Surely there must be something that is particularly good with ol' Seedy.

For reasons that elude me, my mind almost immediately turned to the Simic Guild, and their Evolution Vat in particular. I suspect that part of the reason is that, like Seedborn Muse, the Vat is also a hybridization of two different cards: Dragon Blood and Icy Manipulator (with a little counter-doubling action thrown in for good measure).

As Mark Rosewater wrote on Monday, Magic is a game of discovery. My attraction to the game comes from those little moments when I find out that a card is much more useful than I previously thought. I've had these moments with everything from Reweave and Sanguine Praetor to Aura Barbs and Pull from Eternity.

Evolution Vat was another such card. My first impression of it wasn't that good. In my mind, I imagined that the creatures would be taking a turn off to spend some time dunked in the Vat's neon green goo. You'd essentially skip a turn to evolve your little guy into something monstrous. Of course, that's only half the story. The fact that it taps the creature is practically irrelevant when you're using it on your own creatures. Think of it as an on-board combat trick like Ghost Warden. You can use the Vat on an attacking creature which will usually be tapped anyway. You can also use it during your opponent's end of turn, right before you're about to untap.

Evolution Vat
Where do we go from here? I have a couple ideas. The first is to use Phantom Wurm. With a body like Arnold and a Denzel face (if Arnold was a Craw Wurm and Denzel was one of the Judgment Phantoms), the new Wurm on the block is great when it can play offense and defense thanks to Seedborn Muse. It's even greater when you can replenish its lost counters (or just make it freakin' enormous) with Evolution Vat. The second card I want to use is Spectral Force. It has the same drawback as Spectral Bears (when you attack with it, it doesn't untap during your next untap step unless your opponent controls a black permanent) and it's built like a Force of Nature, from the 8/8 in the bottom right corner, to the trample in the text box, to the poofy Green afro in the artwork. The drawback is completely negated if you have a Seedborn Muse in play, and if you don't, you might as well dunk the Spectral Force in the Evolution Vat while it's temporarily out of commission.

Hmm. All three creatures have something in common: they're all Spirits. This can only mean one thing – Spirit Tribal! Who would've thought that we could still build Spirit decks after Kamigawa block rotated out of Standard?

We're going to need a few more Spirits to complete the deck, so I decided to use Drift of Phantasms (which can also be transmuted for Evolution Vat) and Carven Caryatid. Another Spirit that I wanted to include is Ethereal Usher. Not only can it be used to find Phantom Wurm, but it can also give it some much-needed evasion. Since we're in U/G, I wanted to use the six mana Experiment Kraj as well.

The last couple cards are Triskelavus (a reference to both Tetravus and Triskelion that works really well with Evolution Vat) and Leafdrake Roost, which doesn't really reference anything but loves to be in play alongside Seedborn Muse.

Vat's the Spirit – Standard Tribal Wars

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Sliver and Onions

Slivers are a veritable who's who (or what's what) of old card references. Some of them are near-exact remakes of famous creatures from Magic's past, right up to and including the Sliver's name. Psionic Sliver is a Psionic Entity and Fungus Sliver is a Fungusaur. Others are a little more subtle. Quilled Sliver is the Sliver-fied version of Crossbow Infantry. Instead of shooting arrows from a crossbow, this little guy flings quills from its spine, which makes sense if you've ever tried to pull a crossbow trigger with a one-fingered claw. Awkward.

Pulmonic Sliver threw me for a loop initially. Pulmonic means “of or relating to the lungs,” and you can see that this Sliver gets airborne via the inflatable sacs on its body. Where did the inspiration for this self-inflating, large-lunged monster come from? The answer is obviously Tempest's Avenging Angel.

Other Slivers, meanwhile, have adopted the traits of one enchantment or another. Watcher Sliver is like Castle. Harmonic Sliver manages to squeeze the two banes of my existence (Slivers and Aura Shards) into a single card. Bravo! Meanwhile, Telekinetic Sliver is as fun as Opposition but half as consistent. That sounds like a recipe for … something that I probably wouldn't want to eat. Flavour-text fans will recognize that Opaline Sliver is a direct descendant of Mirage's Reparations.

There are many options when it comes to making a Sliver deck these days, since the jagged little freaks are much Johnnier than ever before. In the end, I decided to go with green and white as my main colours, with a small blue splash for Psionic Sliver. Normally, the ability that Psionic Sliver grants to other Slivers results in self-destruction. Luckily, there are a few ways to get around that. The first is by pumping your Slivers' toughness. This is easy enough to do with some combination of Watcher Slivers and Might Slivers. The other way is to use the much-beloved reject rare, Light of Sanction. Since it prevents damage to creatures you control by sources you control (and you control the Slivers), you'll be able to starting Shock-ing things with impunity. With Seedborn Muse around, you can take advantage of this lack of punity during both your turn and your opponent's turn.

There's No Place Like Homage

As we all know, Time Spiral is the nostalgia block. Magic players have fond memories of the strangest cards, and I am no exception. Of all the cards in all the world, why did I have to take a shine to Errant Doomsayers? The answer is that it's a subtle tweak on one of the least loved cards out of one of the least loved sets: Aysen Bureaucrats from Homelands. The reason this is card is special to me (aww …) is that my friend has a page full of them in one of his binders. What do you do with a heaping (steaming?) pile of Bureaucrats? You get everyone who's ever been a part of your playgroup to sign and personalize one. I'd show you what they look like, but, you know, it's a family site. I believe I put my John Hancock on the Fifth Edition version, a card that always makes me chuckle because the Bureaucrat on the right looks like Lorne Greene and Dr. Zaius had a baby.

Aysen Bureaucrats
Enough with the daydreaming, we have decks to build! So far, this one has Seedborn Muse and Errant Doomsayers in it. To double up on the creature tappers, I decided to use Squall Drifter. Icatian Crier was the next card to go in. It's a Spellshaper that turns any card in your hand into a Raise the Alarm, or, more accurately, into half an Icatian Town. Sarpadian Empires, Vol. VII: The Search for More Money provides you with another way to slowly amass an army of disgruntled Citizens. Since all of the token creatures are white, I thought I'd use Gaze of Justice, an “allusion-fest” if ever there was one. The Gaze works especially well with Icatian Crier, because with just one activation you'll have the necessary three creatures. For the same reason, I added a pair of Belfry Spirits. Since all of the these creatures are 1/1's, Pendelhaven Elder seemed like an obvious add. Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree also fit right in, since we're in G/W and the tokens are very “Pendelhaven”-able.

Now what? So far we can produce a swarm of 1/1's, pump them up, and lock down opposing creatures with the Doomsayers, and we can effectively do it twice each turn with the aid of Seedborn Muse. There are many green and white creatures with cool tap abilities, but I wanted to use Pentarch Paladin. Like wicked witches, Paladins have traditionally had one representative for each of the four cardinal points: Northern Paladin, Southern Paladin, Eastern Paladin, and Western Paladin. Pentarch Paladin can go in any direction he pleases, and he's got flanking to boot.

Now, I'm not going to be cruel and pair the Paladin with Cloudchaser Kestrel. Since the Paladin can destroy permanents of the colour of your choice, and the Kestrel can turn any permanent white, all you have to do is choose “white” when the Paladin comes into play and you can start destroying anything you want for the low, low price of just . If that's not bad enough, you'll notice that neither of the two cards specifies that the permanents must be non-lands. Mono-white land destruction? I'm too much of a softie to even attempt it.

Still, the deck is packed with more synergy than Starlight Mansion. Seedborn Muse helps out every other card in the deck, so it will never be “dead.” The same goes for Pendelhaven Elder. Except for the Muses and the Paladins, all of the creatures are 1/1s. You'll want to stall for a while, either with the tappers or chump-blocking tokens, until you can start to take control of the game with Seedborn Muse and Pentarch Paladin or Witch Hunter.

Some fun one-ofs that you might want to consider include Sacred Mesa, Darien, King of Kjeldor, and Triskelavus for their 1/1-making abilities. Another card that might be worth trying out is Elvish Piper. It's a 1/1 with a tap ability, so it fits in with both Pendelhaven Elder and Seedborn Muse.

You could probably tweak this to be legal in Standard Tribal Wars as well. I'd start with Seedborn Muse and Pendelhaven Elder and add more Belfry Spirits, Ghost Wardens, and Twilight Drovers. That would give you sixteen of the twenty Spirits. I'll leave the rest up to you.

Until next time, get cracking!

See you in January!

Chris Millar

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