It’s Everyone Else’s Fault

Posted in Feature on June 7, 2005

By Mark L. Gottlieb

It appears my friend Anthony Alongi had some choice words for me in his last column. He doesn't specifically mention me by name, but I was able to decode his clever clues. So let me get this straight, Anthony: Just because I completely ignored your email message and trampled all over your theme the day before your column was posted, thus making you look like an unoriginal chump when, in fact, I'm the poacher—that I'm somehow at fault?

OK, Alongi. Sure. If everyone cooperates and pays attention to what everyone else requests, how is anyone supposed to steal anything from anyone else? This is America, buddy. Go back to your commune where no one shares and everyone hoards their own ideas for themselves, you pinko.

And while I can't dispute the facts of the case, I can dispute the blame. Let's be clear: I cannot be held responsible for my own actions. It's clearly society's fault. It's lots of other people's faults too. To wit:

Scott Johns. Oh, yeah. It's his fault. He puts deadline pressure on me every week. Can you believe that? Every week! That'll break a guy down. Heck, “being under a lot of stress” was the primary reason Anakin Skywalker turned to the dark side and became Darth Vader! (It must've been; they mentioned it twice.) Well, I didn't snap nearly that badly. I think I should be commended for how not evil I turned.

Mark Rosewater: As you all know, whenever anything happens at Wizards of the Coast, Mark Rosewater is directly responsible for it.

Fyngo: This is the leprechaun whose voice I hear sometimes, and he's always… oh, wait… he says he's not at fault on this one. He says I should make it clear that he had nothing to do with this, and that he doesn't actually exist. Please ignore this paragraph.

Anthony Alongi: First of all, he has some kind of ludicrous expectation that I'm supposed to open, read, and remember every email he sends out. And he sends them out once every month or so. C'mon, man! How am I supposed to hold up under that kind of avalanche! Secondly, if he didn't want his theme stolen, he clearly shouldn't have warned us not to steal it. Tempting fate, man. Tempting fate.

Donald Trump: If he didn't create such a classy entertainment product with such a delightful, not-at-all soul grating catchphrase, I wouldn't be in this pickle right now.

B.L. Zebub: The devil made me do it.

I could go on and on. I'm pretty sure my third-grade gym teacher bears some responsibility here, as do George W. Bush, Angelina Jolie, and that guy who was just revealed to be Deep Throat. Especially that guy. But I don't want to dwell on these negative influences in my life who make me do bad things. I'd rather just move on with my column. My nice, original column. Today I'll be premiering some multiplayer formats I invented by examining the valence diagrams of elements picked at random from the periodic table…. gets beaned by snowball

Ow… crazy Minnesotans… OK, let's do something else…

Real Good Times

Two weeks ago, I put out a call for wacky decks and combos that use Saviors of Kamigawa cards. The response was inundating. I had so many emails to read through that I was really under a lot of stress. Some of the ideas were very bizarre. Some of the ideas were very popular. This week, I'm going to cover the popular ones.

One idea that, not surprisingly, came up over and over was the new 3-card infinite mana engine… where none of the cards cost more than 3 mana… none of them are rare... and they're all in Standard. The combo?

Enchant the Elder with Freed from the Real. Tap it for . Use the Leafcaller to convert to . Untap the Elder. You're back where you started, except you have in your mana pool, and you can continue doing this forever.

Hold on—it gets even better! Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro is a redundant Fyndhorn Elder. She'll do the same thing as the Elder (she taps for ), she can't be Shocked, she's not rare either, and she moves the infinite mana combo to Kamigawa Block formats. David Danek, Isaac Jamison, Robert Anderson, Kent Ketter, and Guillaume Tardieu all sent me some version of this combo.

Scott and Jamie Hennessey sent me a different Freed from the Real combo that uses the enchantment along with Sakura-Tribe Scout, Sasaya's Essence (or Heartbeat of Spring), and Meloku the Clouded Mirror to go infinite. Put Freed from the Real on the Scout and you can generate infinite Illusion tokens by tapping an Island for , bouncing it with Meloku, and putting it back into play with the untap-happy Scout.

Lars Lüdicke included both combos in the deck he sent me! His deck and Isaac's deck were the primary influences on the deck I built. Surprisingly, I opted to only go for one combo even though two were available. I'm getting a little tired of Meloku (he's ridiculous, I get it) and I saw no reason to give my opponent access to Heartbeat of Spring this time out. Instead, I concentrated on searching and redundancies to try to get the main combo up and running as soon as possible. Commune with Nature or Enshrined Memories can help find one of the necessary creatures, Sensei's Divining Top does its thing, Fabricate can fetch a Goblin Cannon (you need something to do with all that infinite mana, right?), and Petals of Insight lets you find whatever you want. Before you assemble the combo, Petals digs up that last necessary piece. After you assemble the combo and you have a billion mana, a single Petals will let you spin through your entire deck until you find a Goblin Cannon.

Freed from the Leafcaller

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This deck is easily converted into a Lite (rare-free) deck. Just remove the single Enshrined Memories (which isn't that important to the deck anyway) and make the mana base more mundane.

Following the Rule

Another inordinately popular combo was Erayo, Soratami Ascendant (or, more specifically, Erayo's Essence) and Rule of Law (or, reaching back to Extended, Arcane Laboratory). It's a 2-card Standard combo that completely locks your opponent out of ever playing another spell again.

Erayo, Soratami Ascendant Flipped
(Breaking down the two halves: Rule of Law says each player can play only one spell a turn. Erayo's Essence says that the first spell your opponent plays each turn is countered. Hmmm….)

Rocky Thomas, David, Mike, Pharaoh Magnetic, Robert McClenahan, Daniel, Cory Arnold, and James Edwards all made this suggestion. A couple of them, along with Gabriel Andrews, also noted that two Sensei's Divining Tops would allow Erayo to flip easily: Use a Top to put itself on top of your library. Put the second Top on top of your library to draw the Top you know is on top. Play it. Cycle. 4 colorless mana = 4 spells = flipped Erayo.

Some of the contributors suggested Eternal Dominion as a victory condition once the lockdown is established, but after trying it out, I found it to be too expensive. Instead, I went with another suggestion: Ebony Owl Netsuke. It pairs up with Howling Mine to mimic old-school prison: Your opponent's hand fills up with unplayable cards, and the Owl will do the rest. Your opponent can struggle against the tide by dropping lands or playing an automatically-countered spell each turn just to get rid of it, but a second Howling Mine or a Blood Clock will speed the pain. Other benefits of this plan are that both the Mine and the Netsuke are cheap spells that you can include in your 4-spell turn, and the Mine helps you find the cards you need fast. Sure, it's dangerous to give your opponent access to such potent early-game card drawing, but you're gambling that it'll help you more.

When going for the 4-spell turn, it's OK if Erayo herself is part of the sequence as long as she's not spell #4 (she can be #1, 2, or 3, though). It's also OK if spell #4 is an Unsummon targeting Erayo (necessary if there are no other creatures on the table)—she'll flip into an enchantment before Unsummon resolves, so the Unsummon will be countered. Here's where to be careful: Don't play Rule of Law before Erayo flips, or she'll be stuck as a Moonfolk forever! At best, you can play Rule of Law as card #4 of the turn. This is one combo where the order you play out the pieces matters.

Rule of Erayo

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Of course, denying your opponent any new spells for the rest of the game doesn't necessarily mean that you win. A single annoying creature on the board can spell doom unless you get rid of it. In particular, Aether Vial is nearly impossible for the deck to beat, so Pithing Needle might be a good addition.

Other possibilities for the deck include Wayfarer's Bauble and low-cost counterspells such as Mana Leak. Rewind can also be good: Your opponent plays a spell, you Rewind it, you untap all your lands, and now you're just 2 instants away from flipping Erayo.

Misery Loves Company

Gnat Miser
A surprisingly popular inclusion among many of the deck submitters has been the Misers. I haven't been particularly impressed with Gnat Miser and Locust Miser, because I don't think they do too much. Sure, if you pop out a Gnat Miser on turn 1 when you're playing first, it might make your opponent discard a card… if he hasn't mulliganed and has no 1-drop of his own. Compare it to Ravenous Rats, which will always make your opponent discard a card. Locust Miser seems like an even worse deal: By the time it's the end of my opponent's turn following the turn I play a creature, dropping my opponent down to 5 cards in hand shouldn't be a burden for him. Lots of decks will have empty hands by then. Still, enamored by the possibilities, Michael Mathias, Aaron Reading, Adrien, Ben Schofield, Nafthali Weiss, Ben Rinauto, and Hunter Soltis all sent me decks—of quite varied types—that used these critters. Some included Kiki-Jiki. Adrien's deck was disruption and land destruction using Crack the Earth. But Ben Schofield's deck really got my attention, because he wanted to put Gnat Miser in the Soul Foundry. Yeah. I can go along with that.

Locust Miser
Ben's deck splashed blue for Zur's Weirding, Secretkeeper, and Counsel of the Soratami, but I decided to stick to monoblack. Ben's deck took advantage of cards that recur if you have more cards in your hand than your opponent does, but I decided… wait, that's a really good idea. I'll do that too. When my opponent is under the burden of a couple of Misers, Exile into Darkness is going to keep popping back into my hand and Akuta will always be ready for an encore.

Howling Mine, once again, seemed to fit well with the theme. If my opponent can't keep the cards he's drawing, but I can, then I've broken the symmetry. Once it's late enough in the game, my opponent will probably just be able to play whatever he draws, but that's when Underworld Dreams starts to really hurt. And given your opponent's smaller hand size and the distinct possibility of multiple Underworld Dreams in play, Pain's Reward seems like a surprisingly painless way to draw 4 cards. (Depending on how many Underworld Dreams are out, you may be better off letting your opponent win the bidding—if he doesn't just let you have it for 0, that is.)

For even more lockdown fun, pop Ravenous Rats into a Soul Foundry and crank them out during your opponent's draw step.

Miser Foundry

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Is this deck particularly good? Nah. Pithing Needle shuts it down like a piano falling on a jack-in-the-box. But when the deck wins, it wins in a very fun way. Ben's parting comment to me, after explaining his deck, was “But mostly I just want to get out 7 Misers.” Agreed. Below are a couple of screen shots from the Magic Online Beta server of me livin' the dream!

Gnat Miser #7 comes out to play at the end of my opponent's turn...

...and now it's the beginning of my upkeep. Where did my opponent's hand go?

Until next week, have fun with infinite, miserly lockdown.

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