Something Old, New, Borrowed, and Colourless

Posted in Feature on April 3, 2008

By Chris Millar

Welcome to the first week of Shadowmoor previews! I hope you've been enjoying them so far. Since I have a Timmy streak a million miles wide, I know I'll be able to find room for a Mossbridge Troll in my green Elder Dragon Highlander decks. Probably alongside Defense of the Heart and, I don't know, Hearthcage Giant. If you're looking for something a little more Johnny-licious, and the current crop of preview cards haven't whetted your appetite, you'll have to wait until next week to satisfy your unnatural hunger. Until then, relax, rest your scrolling finger (or tune into Swimming with Sharks), and let's see if we can't make some more hay while the Lorwyn sun shines.

I usually like to have some unifying theme to my articles, even when it's not required, so consider these decks Ideas I Stole From Mark Gottlieb's magicthegathering.combosMorningtide Edition. "Stole" is probably too harsh a term. "Pirated" or "ninja'd" would no doubt conjure images of Mistform Ultimus, something I'm usually up for avoiding. I'd use "purloined" but that sounds too, uh, suggestive. The thesaurus turns up "defalcate," my new favourite word of all-time, but that one probably doesn't apply in this context. How about I say "extrapolated" instead?

Like a Phoenix Goblin From the Ashes

Ashes of the Fallen
There are plenty of reasons to like Magic. It's a game of resource management, for one. Who doesn't get excited about that? It's also a game of discovery. You find something, you make a connection, you feel smart. As the years go by, and more and more cards are printed, it increasingly becomes a game of rediscovery. Cards that you've long since forgotten, cards that "served their purpose," become relevant again and open up doors to whole new worlds of deckbuilding. One such card is Ashes of the Fallen, which I used last week to power up Sunflare Shaman. As part of the Kamigawa block, Ashes of the Fallen obviously enables soulshift shenanigans by turning all the creature cards in your graveyard into recoupable Spirits. I've also used in decks with Oathkeeper, Takeno's Daisho and Haakon, Stromgald Scourge, naming Samurai and Knight, respectively.

It wasn't until MaGo pointed out that it could be used with Scarblade Elite (turning all of your binned creatures into Assassins) that I realized how many other cards from Lorwyn block could be combined with it. It shouldn't have been much of a surprise, I suppose, since Ashes of the Fallen's text box contains the magic words "choose a creature type" and Lorwyn is a tribal block. As far as I can tell, Ashes of the Fallen works well with two basic types of tribal cards: those that simply count the number of creature cards of a certain type in your graveyard (Sunflare Shaman, Elvish Eulogist, Soulless One), and those that let you do something with those creature cards (Scarblade Elite, Haakon, Stromgald Scourge, Scarred Vinebreeder, Everbark Shaman, Thelon of Havenwood, all of the Kamigawa soulshifters).

One card I haven't yet mentioned, and the focus of the next deck, is Wort, Boggart Auntie (and, I guess, Boggart Birth Rite). Both of these cards allow you to return Goblin cards from your graveyard to you hand, which not only encompasses the usual array of self-sacrificing gobbos, but also includes various tribal spells like Nameless Inversion, Tarfire, and Warren Weirding. Obviously, if you have Ashes of the Fallen in play naming Goblins, Wort (or Boggart Birth Rite) will allow you to return any creature you want. It didn't take me long to realize that this is long way to go for what is essentially the same effect as Oversold Cemetery, but since when does a Johnny do anything the easy way? I'm writing this article while wearing mittens, for example.

Creatures that can sacrifice themselves (Shriekmaw, Thrull Surgeon, Blistering Firecat, among others) are obviously going to be good, as are creatures that like to be sacrificed (Mogg War Marshal, meet Earthblighter). I was really hoping to find something to recur each turn that would have a devastating effect, like, say, take an extra turn, but the best I could come up with was Pardic Miner. It's a Solfatara on legs, which, in a way, is like a Time Walk. A mini-Time Walk. As a one-shot, it's not terribly exciting, but if you can replay it turn after turn, and combine it with a little bit of land destruction, it can "lock" your opponent out of playing lands and, as a result, from playing spells. That is the hope and the reason I included the Earthblighters. You can also use Shirei, Shizo's Caretaker and/or Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, Mirror-Breaker with Pardic Miner to achieve the pseudo-land lock. I'm not normally a huge fan of land destruction decks (though they have their place, to be sure), but this one is so dumb and unnecessarily complicated that I simply can't not enjoy it. It also happens to be a "fine" home for Mike Flores's preview card.

Auntie Land

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In Through the Out Door (of Destinies)

Door of Destinies
The next batch of decks was, as mentioned, also inspired by MaGo's latest combo feature article. In it, he pointed out the synergy between Shrieking Drake's replayability and Door of Destinies (naming Drake, obviously) which charges itself up as a result. You can certainly build a Drake deck from these humble beginnings (I'd probably add Silver Drake for some redundancy), but there are many other options. Any creature that can return itself to your hand somehow is a great way to charge up your Doors. Here are a few sample decks. The first one uses both Whitemane Lion and Fleetfoot Panther to power up your Cat-loving Door of Destinies. This turns Nacatl War-Pride into a real wrecking ball, while at the same time making Skyhunter Skirmisher into, um, an airborne wrecking ball. With enough mana, Whitemane Lion can also ramp up your storm count for a Hunting Pack (note that it makes Cat Beasts now) and allow you to pump your guys one-by-one with Leonin Battlemage.

Out of the Bag

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Of course, there is more than one way to skin a cat or make a Cat theme deck. This one uses red instead of green, in order to take advantage of the many Firecats of Magic, including the Blistering Firecat, Pardic Firecat, and Savage Firecat varieties. More importantly, it's got Firecat Blitz, which is truly devastating when all of your Cats get anything more than +1/+1 (which isn't too hard to pull off).


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Finally, this deck employs the only non-Beast creature type that got two gating creatures in Planeshift: the Kavu. With both Horned Kavu and Sparkcaster able to return themselves (as well as your other Kavu with nice comes-into-play abilities like Flametongue Kavu and Kavu Howler) to your hand, you can charge up your Doors in no time. Kavu Monarch will also get a boost from repeated Kavu-casting, and the trample it bestows upon your scaly army will be much appreciated once it has been pumped up by the Doors.

Straight Is the Gate

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Of course, that's not all! Shockingly (or not), Door of Destinies works with other tribes too! There are a few other gating creatures worth pairing with Door of Destinies. With all of the different ways to make huge swarms of Zombie tokens, Lava Zombie (as well as other Zombies that return from the grave like Undead Gladiator) could profitably power up your Doors. Tombstone Stairwell, anyone? Even though Steel Leaf Paladin is probably too expensive to play and replay, you could easily build an Elf deck around the bouncing capabilities of Wirewood Symbiote. Venser, Shaper Savant and Riptide Laboratory not only combine for an annoying soft-lock, but they can be used to pile counter upon counter on to a Door of Destinies. Glen Elendra Pranksters, Wydwen, the Biting Gale, and Surgespanner can either aid Wizard decks or decks based around their respective races (Faeries and Merfolk). Blinking Spirit, Glitterfang, and the Onna cycle (Haru-Onna and company) would also be great with Door of Destinies. An evoked, self-bouncing Aethersnipe can turn into +1/+1 for all of your Elementals. At the same time, Ninjas (Human or Rat), many of the Viashino, and several Illusions (Dream Stalker, Riftwing Cloudskate, and Fleeting Image) have built-in mechanisms that return them to your hand. There are many, many possibilities, as you can see. If you'd prefer to take a stroll down Silly Street, Man-o'-War could facilitate a nice little Jellyfish deck, although Avizoa and Glowing Anemone are the only other creatures of that type besides the changelings and our friend Mistform Ultimus. The same goes for Stampeding Serow or Stampeding Wildebeests and that Antelope deck you've always wanted to build.

Notions Eleven Through Thirteen

I'd like to cap things off with a deck that uses both of the artifacts that I've looked at this week. The deck was inspired by a reader, Petey v.S., who pointed out the loop you can create with this unlikely trio: Horde of Notions, Composite Golem, and Conspiracy. In case it's not readily apparent, you set Conspiracy to Elementals, which makes all of your creatures in the relevant zones (in play, your hand, your library, and your graveyard) into Elementals. This means you can now play Composite Golem from your graveyard by activating Horde of Notions' ability. Once your Golem is back in play, you can sacrifice it to add to your mana pool, which is just enough to reactivate your Horde of Notions and start the cycle all over again. To reduce the overall cost of the combo, I swapped Conspiracy for Ashes of the Fallen. It's much cheaper due to its relative narrowness, but it also necessitates a move out of Standard.

Horde of Notions
Composite Golem

You will still need some way to kill your opponent after all of this, but since the loop provides you with infinite creatures coming into play, infinite creatures going to the graveyard, infinite artifacts coming / going, and infinite (Elemental) spells being played, you have a lot of potential kill mechanisms to choose from. I went with Pandemonium, because I apparently don't like to go a week without mentioning it; Grapeshot, because you can almost play it and a Diabolic Tutor using the mana from Composite Golem (you will need another black mana, of course); and Door of Destinies (even though, sadly, you’ll have to set it to “Golem” to get counters for playing and replaying Composite Golem.

I decided to keep the deck two colours, with Tolaria West transmuting for Crystal Quarry as my primary way to hardcast Horde of Notions (outside of Composite Golem). Also note that a Fool's Demise on Composite Golem provides some redundancy to the combo and actually requires fewer cards if you're looking to kill with Pandemonium or Grapeshot.

Notions’ Prey

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Until next time, have fun rediscovering!

Chris Millar

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