Summer Not

Posted in Feature on July 5, 2006

By Chris Millar

Whew, is it still Summer? My armpits tell me it is, but I thought I'd get a second opinion. I hope everyone had a good weekend. I know I did. When I wasn't talking to my armpits, I was celebrating Canada's birthday. The party was fantastic: I came second in the maple syrup chugging contest, third in the canoe race, and my Pierre Elliot Trudeau chainsaw-sculpture earned me the Most Improved Chainsaw Sculptor Award (which is very prestigious where I come from). Later on, I tried to sculpt some Magic decks with a chainsaw, with much less success. Eventually, I used Magic Online instead. Here's what I came up with.

The Swamp's the Thing

To decide which one of them would be in Tenth Edition, Auriok Champion and Paladin en-Vec recently had a steel-cage match (to the death!), with Aaron Forsythe and Matt Place in the roles of Miss Elizabeth and Mr. Fuji. Okay, the winner wasn't really decided by a steel cage match, it was more like a show of hands. But to the death! If there's one thing I'm not big on, it's doing something to the death. I'm actually rather small on that. To prevent any further feuding between the Auriok and the en-Vec families, I decided to step in and play mediator. When I asked them to name something that would heal this rift, “group hugs” was the number one answer.

Both of these creatures are at their best if your opponent is playing with Black (and/or Red) creatures. What if your opponent is playing Green? Or White, or Blue? We'll just turn them into Black creatures! How? Two ways: Nightcreep on a stick (Isochron Scepter) and Darkest Hour. I'm going to borrow from the nefarious Doctor Wombat, who suggested pairing Nightcreep with Crusading Knight in his Dissension combo article. Curmudgeonly old people might want to play Angry Mob as well. With every land in play a Swamp, and every creature Black, Crusading Knight is basically unblockable and usually in the 6/6 to 8/8 range by the time you get the combo online. For even more Swamp-punishing action, look no further than Karma. If anything is going to get you, it's Karma + Instant (Nightcreep).

Reminiscent of the old-school Blanket of Night-Karma combo, Nightcreep (on a stick!) and Karma has the advantage of being completely one-sided. When the Karma trigger goes on the stack during your opponent's upkeep, take that opportunity to turn all lands in play into Swamps. When the Karma trigger resolves, it will see that your opponent has a whole bunch of Swamps and cause bad things to happen to him. Even if you don't have a Karma on the table, Nightcreep (on a stick!) can play Contamination and make it difficult for your opponent to play anything on his or her turn (provided they aren't playing Black, naturally).

Stern Judge can also punish your opponents for having Swamps, but you will have to be a little more careful with him since he causes each player to lose life for each Swamp they control, and Nightcreep will ensure that you too have Swamps.

I added a single copy of Major Teroh as a reset button. In conjunction with Nightcreep (or Darkest Hour), he will be able to remove from the game every creature in play. This will affect your creatures too, but sometimes it will be necessary. You will have to respond to Major Teroh's ability with Nightcreep (or float White mana), since you won't be able to use Teroh once all of your lands become Swamps. You might want to replace Teroh with Northern Paladin, who can't sweep the board clean, but has a repeatable ability. I filled the rest of the deck up with lands (very useful) and some other Instants to put on the Scepter.

You can do other fun things with Nightcreep. If I thought I'd reliably hit eight mana with this deck, I would've made room for some Corrupts, which would be the last thing your opponent would expect from what is essentially a mono-White deck. Another possible way to build the deck would be to go GW and use Llanowar Knight, Nantuko Blightcutter, Phantom Centaur, Mystic Enforcer, and Pygmy Kavu to take advantage of the Black permanents that your opponents will have.

The Hats in the Walls

As long as the deck ideas are a-flowin', I'm as happy as a pig in whatever it is that pigs are happy in. Probably Homelands boosters. Unfortunately, I have some sad news. After this week's article, I will have only one idea left. If next week isn't “The Only Thing You Can Think Of” Week, then I'm in big trouble.

Fertile Imagination
This next deck was born of the fertile imaginings of my “fertile” imagination. As luck would have it, I was trying to build a Fertile Imagination deck. As a token producer, Fertile Imagination is a classic example of the concept of high-risk/high-reward. You might get eight Saprolings on turn 3 or 4, or you might whiff completely and get no Saprolings at all. Nobody likes to whiff completely, so I tried a few things to make sure that this wouldn't happen. First off, I monkeyed around a bit with Head Games, with Howling Mine and Seizan, Perverter of Truth to keep my opponent's hand full. If you followed Head Games (filling your opponent's hand up with land) with Fertile Imagination, you could get fourteen tokens. It seemed like a long way to go, though, even for that many 1/1s.

The other, less spectacular but more consistent, thing to do is pair Fertile Imagination with Blue's bounce cards, like Aether Burst. Unless you have an extraordinarily short memory, you will have a good idea of what card-type to name after you've Boomeranged a few things back to your opponent's hand. I went with Aether Burst because it gets progressively better for the same amount of mana. Also, it doesn't require , unlike Turbulent Dreams or Boomerang. If you're opponents aren't playing with creatures, then you are at a disadvantage, but it's a risk I'm willing to take. The other bounce card I want to use is Aether Mutation. It fits the colour scheme and seems very Simic, what with the Mutation and all. It also makes tokens, just like Fertile Imagination. This will prove useful when you have Scion of the Wild on the board. Aether Mutating your opponent's last blocker while pumping up your Scion by five or six is about as swingy as it gets, since you get a bunch of 1/1 blockers out of the deal as well.

They're just a bunch of 1/1s, however, and that's where Vigean Hydropon comes in. Turn 3 Hydropon, turn 4 Fertile Imagination will likely leave you with eight-power worth of Saproling tokens. The Simic-aligned Trygon Predator also made the deck, since it gives you some outs against Enchantment or Artifact-based decks. It also helps out Fertile Imagination, in a way, by making your opponent hold on to his or her Artifacts and Enchantments until they can deal with the Predator.

Moldervine Cloak is a questionable inclusion, in my mind, since it doesn't necessarily fit in with the deck's themes. I put it in the deck anyway, because you can randomly win games on the back of a turn 2 Gaea's Skyfolk, turn 3 Moldervine Cloak. More importantly, the idea of putting a Cloak on Cephalid Constable gets me excited in exactly the way you'd think a vine-covered chief-of-the-Squid-police would get a person excited.

Make no bones about it …

Skeletal Vampire
Skeletons are a fun tribe. Like the other two tribes I've covered, Assassins and Centaurs, Skeletons have a mere five members. (By the way, after reading Aaron's preview card last week, it looks like I made my Assassins deck a week too soon). Luckily, we live in GAS – the Golden Age of Skeletons. Dimir House Guard and Golgari Grave-Troll were pretty awesome Skeletons, but Guildpact's Skeletal Vampire tops them both. As a tribe, they have a few issues, though. Skeletons don't have a mana-curve, exactly. It's more like a staircase. They have a drop at two, three, four, five, and six-mana. It's a little more complicated than that, since you will rarely want to play your guys out if you don't also have Regeneration mana up. In that way, Drudge Skeletons is more like a three-drop and Restless Bones is more like a five-drop. The other thing to consider is that you will rarely want to play Golgari Grave-Troll on turn 5, unless you've managed to get him into the graveyard for some hardcore Dredging in the first four turns. As a result, Skeletons are a little slower than they might appear at first glance. To get you through to the late game (when your most powerful Skeletons will come online) and to ensure that you make all the necessary land drops, I turned to Last Gasp, Putrefy, and Phyrexian Arena.

My deck is a borderline Golgari theme deck, with Grave-Trolls, Putrefy, Vigor Mortis, the relevant lands, and the key card, Plague Boiler. Since every Skeleton ever printed has Regeneration (Ha! I caught you trying to sneak in there, Mistform Ultimus! And Carrionette. And Skeletal Snake and Crocodile.) … since almost every Skeleton ever printed has Regeneration, they really don't mind if you sweep the board. That's no skin off their backs.

It seems like a bit of a waste to have four Dimir House Guards, and not much of a tool box of Transmute targets to go with it. One of the challenges of building Tribal Wars decks is finding room for all the cards you want to put in since the bulk of your deck will be creatures and land. As it stands, the House Guard can fetch either Vigor Mortis, Mortivore, or Persecute. I've won a few games by Dredging a Skeletal Vampire early on and reanimating it on turn 4. Mortivore is another regenerator who benefits from both Dredge and from Plague Boilers board-clearing. Persecute can be devastating against certain slower, mono-coloured tribes (like, er, Skeletons), so I threw in a copy. Other options include Cranial Extraction, Nightmare Void, Eradicate, Splinter, or even Seek the Horizon. Here's the deck:

Snake Mountain – Standard Tribal Wars

Download Arena Decklist

It can still be tough to find a game of Standard Tribal Wars on MTGO, so if you're at all interested, give it a whirl. I've been having a lot of fun, roughly twenty-two hundred pounds of it. I've faced off (not to the death!) against a number of interesting decks, including R/B/w Ogres, mono-Red Warriors, a sort of “Shaman-Ball” deck with Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro powering up huge Demonfires, and a very cool Elf deck that used Elves to produce the mana necessary to get the Warp World / Anarchist engine going. I'm really looking forward to seeing what Coldsnap brings to the format. Will some of the almost-legal tribes get what they need? The Orb of Insight suggests that they just might. (Faeries, sharpen your, uh, Faerie weapons!)

Just a quick note before I go: I'm a little behind in my email, so if you've sent me something and haven't heard back, rest assured that I've read your message. As always, I love it when people send me their decks and deck ideas. If you've got some crazy concoction that you'd like to share, and you want to see your name in lights in my column (or at least, in Times New Roman, size 12), I'd love to hear from you.

Until next time, show me “waffles”!

Chris Millar

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