Meloku the Clouded Mirror

Posted in Feature on December 1, 2004

By Adrian Sullivan

This last week I've been pretty sick, but not so sick that I couldn't find time to draft a bit. When it comes to Magic, it is always a good idea to stay versatile. Playing in a draft or sealed deck can sometimes give you great ideas for a new deck. Conversely, playing a game of Standard or Extended can sometimes fuel the fire for your limited skills. For those of us in the writing game, all of the above can help us with ideas of what we will next right about.

I had already had Meloku the Clouded Mirror floating in the back of my mind because of States – I'd seen a couple of the top Blue/Green decks running Meloku the Clouded Mirror to great effect. In this most recent draft, I picked up what seems like my third Meloku the Clouded Mirror in as many drafts. The card kept finding its way into my draft decks, so I'm not too surprised that it has also lodged itself into my noggin.

Meloku the Clouded Mirror

As you can see, Meloku the Clouded Mirror is actually a very efficient Wizard. In general, as a constructed format becomes more focused, you'll see much less of the purely dedicated point-and-click kill (like Terror). And, thanks to that impressive 4 toughness, he can survive most singular burn spells that you could expect to have thrown at him. Since you are already in Blue, it isn't unreasonable to have a counterspell of some kind to stop someone's second burn spell from being a successful finishing blow.

Five mana is also an incredibly cheap cost for such a potentially potent finisher. Deranged Hermit or Siege-Gang Commander can create a group of creatures immediately for the same cost, but these only get out once. If they are dealt with, you won't be able to make any more. In addition, in a very late game, a Meloku the Clouded Mirror can actually create a huge amount of creatures, and the fact that they fly is nothing to sneeze at either.

Just by plopping him on the table, Meloku the Clouded Mirror is a powerhouse. But we can do better than simply putting Meloku the Clouded Mirror into play…

Mana makes the world go round

Mana is almost always one of the first factors to look at. Generally, we can go through the same assumptions: having access to quicker mana generally makes a card work far more efficiently and obviously more quickly as well. While it could simply be suggested that you use cards like Birds of Paradise or Talismans, there are reasons that this isn't the best option.

Meloku the Clouded Mirror, like all of the Moonfolk, activates his ability by returning land to your hand. So, whatever we decide to do to go about abusing Meloku the Clouded Mirror's ability, we are going to have to overcome this primary drawback of (potentially) constantly returning land to our hand. With an active Meloku the Clouded Mirror, we can pretty much expect that we'll always have a land in our hand. The best solutions are the ones that simply get around the restriction of playing only a single land in a turn.

Exploration

Exploration is one of the simplest and best solutions here. Even a single Exploration doubles your land-laying power immediately. With enough land, you can easily lay a Meloku the Clouded Mirror by turn 3, and activate his ability quite regularly without stunting your mana development.

From creatures, Budoka Gardener can accomplish the same task as an Exploration (and is easier to your hands on as well), but it does suffer from several weaknesses. It comes into play a turn later, for one, and then takes yet another turn to get rolling. Being a 1-toughness creature is no picnic either, so it might not be likely to survive, but it does have a lot of use as a potential attacker or blocker if you don't need its ability any longer. Azusa, Lost but Seeking is another creature, further hindered by being a Legend, but far quicker in getting the mana going.

One of the notable things about all of these methods is running out of land in your hand. By using Meloku the Clouded Mirror to return a land to your hand, you can replay that land and essentially receive a “free” 1/1 spirit. If you run both an Azusa and Explorations or Gardener, being able to lay out something like 4 lands a turn is not that uncommon. Sometimes, this can even be used for some rather impressive mana-production. While a full Urzatron (the Tower, the Power Plant, and the Mine) can be hard to produce, once produced, you can play, return to your hand, and relay it for a little bit of extra mana. For a real explosion, think what you can accomplish with a Gaea's Cradle.

Gaea's Cradle

A Meloku the Clouded Mirror, a Gardener, a Cradle, and 4 other land can turn into a lot of mana in a heartbeat. The four other land can turn into 4 Illusions, tap the Cradle for 6 mana, and make a 5th Illusion (5 mana remains), replay the Cradle, tap it for 7 mana and make a 6th Illusion (11 mana remains), tap the Gardener to replay the Cradle again and make 8 mana. Now you have 19 mana in your pool to burn with! Of course, you might have a spell to do something with that Cradle mana…

Both Manabond (mentioned extensively during the examination of Psychic Vortex) and Fastbond can both be used to great effect with Meloku the Clouded Mirror as well. Manabond is a great “all-in” effect, effectively nullifying the fear you can have with activating Meloku the Clouded Mirror super-aggressively by making mana-stunting not an issue. Of course, you do lose out on anything else you could be casting. Fastbond let's you keep your options in return for the ability to activate the Meloku the Clouded Mirror as many times as you choose, provided you have the life to keep relaying the land. On the other hand, you can truly explode with a Gaea's Cradle with very low life loss.

And on each land lives a Flying Man

Splintering Wind
I like to think of Meloku the Clouded Mirror as turning all of your lands into a potential Flying Men. Having access to all of these Flying Men immediately changes the combat math on both sides of the table. Back in the day, I used to run Splintering Wind for both its pinging and blocking ability. The drawback to Splintering Wind ended up being pretty minimal compared with being able to have a card that often amounted to a Forcefield in green. Meloku the Clouded Mirror as a creator of chump blockers is very similar: the drawback is often minimal, and at the same time, simply the threat of your land turning into illusions can keep off most potential attackers. Better yet, since these Illusions are fliers, you can often transition into attacking very quickly. There are a number of cards that can really help this transition nicely.

Opposition– There might be no card finer for pairing with Meloku the Clouded Mirror than Opposition. Even if you do return a huge amount of your land to your hand and cripple your mana, your opponent will quickly be crippled as well. Barring cards like Starstorm and Slice and Dice, you can expect that you'll be able to keep them wrapped up very quickly.

Kyren Negotiations – Similar to Opposition, the Negotiations allows you to turn your Illusions into potentially immediate damage. Simply make as many Illusions as you intend to, and if they do happen to die as chump blockers, they still get to do a point of damage before they go. On the following turns, there is no need to risk yourself by attacking with them. Again simply sit back in a defensive posture and then tap them for a point of damage either before they die from chump-blocking or at the end of your opponent's turn.

Stampede Driver and Dawnstrider– Both of these cards serve the same purposes quite nicely. Turn that excess land in your hand into a key to winning a race, either aggressively or defensively. Meloku the Clouded Mirror and Dawnstrider is the equivalent of an infinite supply of fogs. Stampede Driver can quickly turn all of your little Illusionary Flying Men into an army of slightly pumped up Flying Men.

Coat of Arms – Simply because of the incredibly cheap cost of creature production, it can very quickly become completely insane to have Coat of Arms and Meloku the Clouded Mirror out. Don't expect the game to last more than a turn or two after these two cards are out together.

An army of free men

As a creature producer, Meloku the Clouded Mirror is a rare mass-producer that doesn't actually cost any cards to use. Most of the time, cards like this are either far less efficient, or they require something like a discard of a card. You do give up having a land in play, but this isn't the same thing as say a Goblin Trenches, which actually requires you to completely sacrifice your land rather than simply return it to your hand.

This means that you have a lot of cheap creature labor. Anything that requires that you sacrifice creatures or permanents is going to have a lot of free food to work with. Most of the cards that require a sacrifice of a permanent of some kind tend to be a bit more powerful. They are designed under the presumption that you already had to spend a fair amount of mana (and an actual loss of a card) to get your effect. Meloku the Clouded Mirror kind of sidesteps that.

Want incredibly efficient mass discard? Sacrifice a couple of Illusions to a Sadistic Hypnotist. Solid reusable creature kill? Check out a Stronghold Assassin or Attrition. Hate all of that non-basic land your opponents are always playing? Try out a Shivan Harvest. Want to feed your Smokestack, Ertai the Corrupted, or Lord of the Pit? Meloku the Clouded Mirror can give you all the creatures you need.

If losing all of those creatures is your plan, a card like Fecundity might seem right up your alley. Especially when used with cards like Ashnod's Altar or Phyrexian Altar, you can easily start off a chain reaction of card drawing and mana that could get you into something to further abuse Meloku the Clouded Mirror with. Remember, most good Meloku the Clouded Mirror decks are going to run Green cards to help increase their ability to put land into play, so a Fecundity can easily be a very efficient card drawing engine. For a more straightforward approach, simply use a card like Slate of Ancestry.

A bit of sneakiness

Scorched Earth
Of course, there are a ton of truly insidious little tricks (and rather mundane ones) that can be accomplished with Meloku the Clouded Mirror and the cards that support him. Here are just a few examples:

The ol' Infinite Men/Infinite Mana – It's always fun to get infinite mana. A card like Budoka Gardener already is very playable, but combine it with Meloku the Clouded Mirror and Intruder Alarm, and you have infinite creatures in play. If one of your land taps for more than one mana, well, then you have infinite mana. Both of those things are usually “good”.

Hasty Men – In a sense, using an Anger requires a bit of guile, or simply a few cards in hand. If you don't have another way to get an Anger into the grave, by activating a Meloku the Clouded Mirror on your own turn you can easily get too many cards and be forced to discard some. Once you do have an Anger in the grave, the threat of a mass of Hasty, Flying Illusions can be pretty intense.

Land? A Hand?Meloku the Clouded Mirror can easily turn your hand into a mittful of land, and oftentimes you can't empty it quickly enough, or you don't want to. With Scorched Earth, you can turn all of those lands in your hand into the fuel to destroy every single one of your opponent's lands. With Volrath's Dungeon, you can quickly empty out your opponent of their hand, and force them to draw those same tired cards over again for the next many turns.

Stronghold Lockout – Meloku can feed any of the Spellshapers from Masques Block, but it can be especially fun to turn those lands into potential counterspells with Stronghold Machinist and Stronghold Biologist. Discard a land to counter either a creature or non-creature spell! Combine this with an Arcane Laboratory and lose your friends.

Power-Jushi Jushi Apprentice is already a very potent card, but combine it with any of the Moonfolk… Not only will you have a bunch of nice Illusions to defend the fort with, but Jushi will flip in no time flat.

Of course, there are a huge number of potential uses for Meloku the Clouded Mirror. Pretty much any card that requires a discard effect (like Seismic Assault or Wild Mongrel), and pretty much any card that needs a healthy abundance of creatures can be easily exploited by Meloku the Clouded Mirror.

Wrapping Up

Meloku the Clouded Mirror naturally lends itself to creating my favorite color combination, Blue/Green. Generally, Meloku the Clouded Mirror ends up lending itself to a more controlling approach, and so here is an attempt at a Standard deck with that in mind.

This deck uses a few decent early defenses (especially against Artifacts) with Viridian Shaman, the Tel-Jilad Chosen, and Condescend. It also helps speed itself up with Budoka Gardener, Azusa (with Time of Need to find it), and the Sakura-Tribe Elder. Time of Need also made the inclusion of a second Keiga, the Tide Star seem more reasonable (casting a second Keiga can be really mean against the right opponents). Thought Courier and Eternal Witness help keep things running smoothly until a Meloku the Clouded Mirror can begin to take over. Other than Azusa and the Gardener, the only real nod to trying to do anything specifically comborific with Meloku the Clouded Mirror is the single Intruder Alarm, just to enjoy the potentially abusive Meloku the Clouded Mirror/Alarm/Gardener combo that I brought up earlier.

In general, this deck is just made to survive against most decks, and then be able to truly make use of Meloku the Clouded Mirror as a potent finisher with the help of Azusa or a Gardener. While a lot less splashy than an Extended Opposition/Static Orb/Meloku the Clouded Mirror deck or a Gaea's Cradle/Meloku the Clouded Mirror/Cloud of Faeries explosive combo deck, I like the idea of a simple control deck that isn't based off of a bunch of hard counters. Decks like this have always made me smile, so I might be a bit biased there, though.

I hope you have a great week. Until next time!

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