Speculating in Futures

Posted in Feature on May 9, 2007

By Chris Millar

Welcome Johnnies, Timmies, Spikes, Melvins, Vorthoses, Reginalds, Archibalds, and/or Jugheads! Phew! That’s a lot of you to keep track of. I’m glad I’m not in marketing.

In my civilian life, I happen to like all fictitious Magic players equally. When I’m wearing my House of Cards hat, however, I’m obliged to like Johnnies more than others. Many apologies to all you slighted Reggies and Archies out there. If you existed, I would feel your pain.

The cool thing is that if you get on Johnny’s good side, you’ll never run out of ideas. All you have to do (at least if you’re me, though it seems unlikely that you are) is check your inbox. That’s what I just did, and I’d like to present to you the fruits of my labours.

They Might Be an Arbitrarily Large Number of Giants

Pact of the Titan
These days, it’s almost too easy to live above your means. You can get just about anything on credit, from food and drinks to furniture to really strange stuff like Magic singles. With the release of Future Sight, you can add Counterspellspell, Reverse Damage, Dark Banishing, a narrower Eladamri’s Call, and red Durkwood Boars tokens to the list of things you buy now and pay for later. I’m referring, of course, to the Pact cycle (Action Pact, Jam Pact, Pact Lunch, Vacuum Pact, and Pact House), a collection of spells for which you don’t have to pay a single mana for a whole turn (or at least until your next upkeep)! That sounds like quite a deal, even if it means eventually (possibly) paying five mana to counter a spell. Most of the Pacts are reactive utility cards, which doesn’t make them bad, just a little tricky to build around. Of the five, Pact of the Titan seems to have the most potential, so it should come as no surprise that that’s where I’m going to begin.

Dom Camus (a.k.a. bateleur in forums here and abroad) liked the idea of getting a free 4/4, but he preferred the idea of getting a million 4/4s for the exact same price. How? With a little help from our once-bottled Izzet pal, Djinn Illuminatus. You see, the crusty ol’ Djinn has a penchant for spell-replicating, but has a bit of trouble accepting the fact that he can only keep copying until the mana runs out. Luckily, that will never happen as long as you’re copying Pact of the Titan. Unlike Ancestral Visions and Wheel of Fate, which have a nonexistent mana cost, and therefore can’t be replicated, the Pacts have an existent mana cost. It just so happens to be zero. That means you can keep making Giants until you bored and/or tired of clicking.

Oh, yeah, about that whole “If you don’t pay later, you lose the game” clause: Dom had a plan for that too and it’s sort of like hoping to win the lottery in order to pay off your debts. Or faking your death to accomplish said goal. In order to avoid losing the game, all you to do is call upon an Angel’s Grace during the upkeep of your would-be demise.

So far we’ve got Pact of the Titan, Angel’s Grace, and Djinn Illuminatus. To get the Djinn onboard as quickly as possible, Dom used Lotus Bloom. Not only is it both handy and dandy mana acceleration, but, like Pact of the Titan, it has a converted mana cost of zero, which means you can transmute for it with Tolaria West. Ah, Tolaria West! A fine tutor as well as my favourite silent-movie actress. Furthermore, with a set of Dizzy Spells to fetch Angel’s Grace, you can transmute for almost all of the key combo pieces, and if you just want to dig, you can go find Mystic Speculation. If you don’t want to wait around for turn to win, you can do what Seth Plog advised me to do and add Pandemonium to the deck.

Dom called the deck Clash of the Titans, presumably because he’s a huge Ray Harryhausen fan. Personally, I would have called it Clash of the Titans because I’m a huge Harry Hamlin fan (not really). You could park a car in that guy’s chin dimple.

If you play this deck, don’t make the same mistake I did. Pact of the Titan says you have to put a Giant creature token into play. Forget about dinky little Pro Player cards, dice, or beads. I’ve been using refrigerator boxes. Perhaps I’m being too literal. All I know is that I’m running out of room in my apartment. It’s a good thing I don’t have to pay for these fridges until 2009.

One thing Dom noted was that the deck, “can sometimes summon a 4/4 creature on turn one. Plains, Pact of the Titan, then Angel’s Grace the following turn. In fact if you’re incredibly lucky you could summon four 4/4s on turn one!” This is a fine tactic to keep in mind if it seems unlikely that you will be able to make a Djinn stick.

Time Is on Your Side

Throughout Time Spiral block, we’ve seen increasingly strange things happen to the space-time continuum. Creatures from the past have been thrust into the present, like Mishra, Artificer Prodigy. Mirri, Cat Warrior from another present have found themselves suddenly in the present-present, Mirri the Cursed. And most outrageously of all, one of the famous monsters from Magic History has gone through dynamic temporal transformations, resulting in a thrice-over change in her hair colour, from lovely plum (Akroma, Angel of Wrath) to fire-engine red (Akroma, Angel of Fury) to, uh, pewter (Akroma’s Memorial). Talk about a bad, uh, die job.

Not content to let everyone else muck about with space-time, reader Alex Churchill flexed some Johnny muscle, time-crafted a deck, and wrote: “Hello! I thought you might like to see this “time counters” deck I’ve created since the prerelease, using some Future Sight cards. It can do some pretty funky things: for example, pay for a Wrath of God every turn, or prevent me from being attacked again for the rest of the game.”

The first combo is Myojin of Cleansing Fire and Clockspinning. An oldie but a goodie. Play Myojin of Cleansing Fire from your hand, use Clockspinning to add a second divinity counter, reset the board and reset the clock. The second combo involves Chronomantic Escape and some number of Clockspinnings, Paradox Hazes, Jhoira’s Timebugs, and/or other Chronomantic Escapes. As someone who once tried to “abuse” Moment of Silence in a pre-Isochron Scepter world (with, I believe, Scrivener and Erratic Portal), seeing this combo was like reuniting with an old friend. A cranky old friend who annoys everyone else at the table, but a friend nonetheless.

To protect himself early on while sticking with the time-counter theme, Alex used Epochrasites, which “are an awesome ground-staller, as savvy opponents won’t want to attack into them, especially when I have a Timebug ready to accelerate their return.” They remind me a little bit of Sakura-Tribe Elder, except instead of being incredibly annoying for your opponent before accelerating your mana, Epochrasite is incredibly annoying for your opponent before becoming even more annoying.

Your main path to victory will be your Errant Ephemerons and Arc Blades, with Riftwing Cloudskates, Reality Strobes, Myojin, and Chronomantic Escapes all helping to buy time. I made some room for a pair of Lost Auramancers as well, which act as Paradox Hazes numbers five and six.

The Myojin is the only card preventing the deck from being legal in Standard. If you wanted to add more Extended-legal cards, I might try some Temporal Fissures. With all of your self-suspenders like Reality Strobe firing off every turn thanks to Paradox Haze and company, I’m sure you could build up a sizable storm count. As a side note: I apologize for using the word “sizable” just now. My embarrassment is sizable.

Throw Your Hands Up and Sprout

When it comes to combos, it doesn’t take much to excite me. Sometimes the coolest deck ideas don’t require a ton of explanation. For example, here’s an email I received at almost the exact moment a certain common from Future Sight was revealed:

Dear Chris Millar,
Sprout Swarm/Mana Echoes.
Two cards. Infinite mana, infinite creatures.
Pandemonium, Blasting Station, or even just a good old-fashioned Fireball to the head.
--Nathan S.

Sprout Swarm
That’s a good one, Nathan. Like Gibbering Descent, the card I previewed a few weeks ago, Sprout Swarm is an example of the so-called “mix-and-match” cards. Take a little convoke from column A and some buyback from column B, and you’ve got a self-synergistic card that also plays well with others. In case it’s not obvious, Sprout Swarm makes green Saproling tokens (thank god they’re not Giant Saprolings), tokens that can then be effectively used as mana when you “convoke out” the Sprout Swarm you just bought back. Now, by itself you are only making “one mana” per iteration, so you will eventually run out of that particular resource. What Mana Echoes does, provided you have somewhere in the neighbourhood of three Saprolings already in play, is make Sprout Swarm pay for itself. You’ll get four mana for having four creatures that share the Saproling type, and you can tap the newest token to pay for the next Sprout Swarm. That’s low-balling it, too. There’s a good chance you won’t even need many Saprolings to kick-start your engine.

In order to ensure that you have enough fungus on the table, I’ve included some Thallids (Utopia Mycon, Thallid Shell-Dweller, Vitaspore Thallid, Psychotrope Thallid), some Thelonite Hermits, and a set of Scatter the Seeds. Once you get Sprout Swarm and Mana Echoes going, you’ll need to win the game somehow. If you made an arbitrarily large number of Saprolings at the end of your opponent’s turn, you can just attack for the win on your turn. If you made them on your turn, you can sacrifice half of them to Vitaspore Thallid to give the other half haste and attack for the win. You could also use Psychotrope Thallid to draw your entire deck, ultimately killing your opponent with Pandemonium, Blasting Station, Whetwheel, or a good not-so-old-fashioned Ghitu Fire to the head. If that’s not enough, you could also try Grapeshot or Ignite Memories, since you’re also able to play “infinite” spells. I included an Essence Warden (fetchable with Summoner’s Pact), so you can also send your life total into the stratosphere.

For those more interested in playing fair with Sprout Swarm, you’ve got a little Doubling Season + Muraganda Petroglyphs. Ah, Muraganda Petroglyphs! A fine token-pumper, as well as my second-favourite silent-movie actress.

Until next time, have fun guesstimating.

Chris Millar

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