That's All, Evokes!

Posted in Feature on March 20, 2008

By Chris Millar

Howdy, all. Welcome to the Penultimate Pre-Preview Week Week! It promises to be a great time for those who prefer their preview cards to be a fortnight away, as well as for those who like the word "penultimate." There's something for everybody. It also happens to be the last non-theme week before Shadowmoor officially hits the columnsphere, so in order to keep things focused I thought I'd spend this week looking at a "cycle" of Morningtide cards that have thus far been given short shrift, the short end of the stick, and, presumably, other things that aren't as long as they could be. The "cycle" I'm talking about, and the reason I've got the word "cycle" in quotation marks, is that it's made up of seven cards, one of each of the five colours, plus an extra blue card and white card thrown in for good measure. That's right, it's the new evoke Elementals!

Unlike their Lorwyn brethren, which have nifty abilities that trigger when they come into play, the Morningtide evoke squad provide exciting benefits when they leave play. This makes them act similarly when evoked, but differently when you just need to play the dude. As a result, they are a little trickier to use, which partially accounts for the fact that they haven't been nearly as ubiquitous as Shriekmaw, Mulldrifter, and company. The other thing to note is that, on the whole, the new evoke abilities are a little more specialized. Everyone likes to draw two cards, but not everyone needs access to a white Jugan, the Rising Star. Of course, that is not to say that the Morningtide crew haven't made an impact. For starters, Reveillark has hit it big on the tournament scene as part of a mind-boggling combo that I barely understand, although I heartily approve of any combo that can kill an opponent with a Merrow Witsniper. Meanwhile, Offalsnout—which, I swear, is going to be the name of my puppy, if I ever get a puppy—has shown up in numerous sideboards as a foil for Bridge from Below–powered dredge decks. While I'm sure those cards offer all kinds of deck building possibilities (well, Reveillark, at least), I'm going to let them ride the pine this time out. The other five will provide grist for the Millar. I've always thought this column could use more grist and more references to myself in the third-person.

Let's get at her.

I Never Meadowboon I Didn't Like

Why not start at the start, with the W of the WUBRG mnemonic? Besides the aforementioned Reveillark, white in Morningtide was given us a second evoke Elemental, the near-puppy Meadowboon. Right off the bat, Meadowboon has an uphill battle to climb, or something, due to the fact that it occupies the same spot in the mana curve and performs nearly the same function as planeswalker Ajani Goldmane. If you need to put +1/+1 counters on your team, it's hard to turn down the plan B of gaining 2 life per turn and then making Serra Avatars. As with almost any pair of comparable cards, however, each one has its advantages and disadvantages. Outside of the most convoluted scenarios, Ajani will never attack for 3, fight alongside another copy of himself, or use his Titania's Boon ability multiple times in a single turn. These are all things that Meadowboon can do. Also, note that Meadowboon targets a player. While this is probably not that relevant in duels (just don't play him with True Believer!), it can help out a teammate in various multiplayer formats. Heck, there's nothing stopping you from using Meadowboon and Ajani as long as you have a big sack of beads or a roll of pennies. We've already had Planeswalker Week, though, so I'll skip our leonin friend this time around.

To get Meadowboon's ability trigger, you have to make it leave play somehow. This is, of course, much different than having it trigger when it is put into a graveyard from play. Not only will you get the bonus when Meadowboon dies in combat or at the hands of a Scarblade Elite, say, but you will also reap the benefits when it returns to your hand (with Whitemane Lion, say), when it "Flickers" out (with, um, Flicker), when it's removed from the game (with, I don't know, Cold Storage), or when it's shuffled back into your library (try Oblation). For this deck, I'm going to use the under-underappreciated Momentary Blink.

Now, Meadowboon gets better with every creature you add to the board, and two of the best ways get a slew of creatures into play are Cloudgoat Ranger (another nice Blink target) and Militia's Pride. To these two Kithkin Soldier-makers, I added another: Kinsbaile Borderguard. The Borderguard loves the +1/+1 counters that Meadowboon provides, and together they make a mockery of most board-sweeping effects, replacing themselves with a bunch of 2/2s if you put their abilities on the stack in the right order.

In order to boost the Borderguards after the fact, I've included a set of Cenn's Tacticians and every white reinforce card except for Burrenton Bombardier. Mosquito Guard isn't terribly exciting, but it makes Serra Zealot look like a Human Chump, it can reinforce a Borderguard (or whoever), and as a one-drop it makes it more likely that your Borderguards will come into play with more counters. It could very well be Goldmeadow Stalwart or even Wizened Cenn. Meanwhile, Swell of Courage can act as a white Howl from Beyond for any of your creatures (especially nice on Kinsbaile Borderguard), but it's also a pretty spicy card to play out from under a Windbrisk Heights. A Graceful Reprieve acts as Momentary Blink number five, but it's also nice with the Borderguard, as Mark Gottlieb pointed out on Monday. Safe Haven is another sneaky way to save your guys from removal spells and/or trigger Meadowboon's ability.

Boon Doggle

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Other than Kithkin, I think Elves are the most likely tribe to pair with Meadowboon, due to the out-of-control breeding habits of certain Hunting Triads, Gilt-Leaf Ambushers, and Lys Alana Huntmasters. You could even merge both Elves and Kithkin, letting Kithkin Mourncaller do its duty as the "bridge." Incremental Growth might replace Swell of Courage, while Vigor would make a nice teammate for Kinsbaile Borderguard. Meadowboon could also find a home in some kind of Rogue deck, with Marsh Flitters, Bitterblossoms, and Weirding Shamans.

Upsetting the Balance of Power

Next up is Slithermuse. Sure it lacks the reliability and evasion of its Elemental cousin, Mulldrifter, but the upside of an evoked Slithermuse is considerably greater. Its leaves-play ability mimics Eighth Edition's Balance of Power, allowing you to draw anywhere from zero to infinite cards. It's high risk, high reward, but that's what you should expect if you're getting your ideas from a snake.

To get the most out of Slithermuse, you'll want to maximize the difference between the number of cards in your hand and the number of cards in your opponent's hand. That's obvious enough. There are plenty of ways to do this. You can discard your hand to Aquamoeba, for one thing. You can bounce a bunch of your opponent's permanents with Waterspout Elemental, for another. You can also do both of these things at once with cards like Linessa, Zephyr Mage and Turbulent Dreams. And that's precisely what I'm going to do. Of course, that'll let you draw a lot cards with Slithermuse, presumably, but you still need to win the game somehow. Dreamborn Muse is one possibility, since it also gets better as the gap between hand sizes widens. Plus it adds to any potential Muse theme. Instead, I'm going to go with Adamaro, First to Desire, the only "Maro" that cares about the number of cards in your opponent's hand. He's like a reusable Sudden Impact. Outside of the bounce, you can attempt to fill your opponent's hand with Shah of Naar Isle, which will not always work, but in that case you just got a 6/6 trampler on the cheap. You can also break your own Standstill, which is always fun when you have Black Vise–type effects in play. Synod Sanctum and Supreme Exemplar provide additional ways to make Slithermuse leave play. With Academy Ruins, you can bring your Sanctums back again and again.

Slithery Stocker

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There are many different ways you can take this deck. Add more bounce, like Riftwing Cloudskate, Aether Spellbomb, Crystal Shard, or Sunken Hope. Add more Synod Sanctums and, perhaps, Trinket Mages. Go all out with the Sudden Impact effects. Push the discard theme and add madness or flashback cards. Try another colour. Insidious Dreams is probably worth testing out, if you wanted to add black.

Risen from the Grove

Walker of the Grove
The last batch of decks was inspired by an email from Connor, a House of Cards reader and Cube Draft enthusiast that I had the privilege of meeting while I was in New York attending the Magic World Championships. I suggested that he ship me some combo ideas and, recently, he did just that. Of his combo, he writes:

The interaction is between Pandemonium and Evoke. Now, Pandemonium is probably one of the most overused Casual Combo Cards, but nonetheless, I feel that this interaction is strong enough that it warrants further investigation. The card that opened my eyes originally to this beautiful pairing was the equally beautiful Walker of the Grove from the somewhat recent Morningtide expansion. When evoked, it will not only deal the seven from the Walker, but the four from the token it spawns (however it goes about doing that). I do not need to tell you that This Is Awesome. From there, the deck builds itself.

After an abbreviated attempt at a list, he continued:

Okay, maybe the deck doesn't build itself, but it has the makings of AWESOME. My favorite interaction has to be with Aethersnipe which, when triggers are ordered right, can be a Fanning the Flames for 4 with buyback (normally costing 7RR) for 1UU.

Unfortunately, for this deck I left out the Aethersnipes, but I did include the Spitebellows that Connor used (that's six on the way in and six to a creature on the way out). Incandescent Soulstoke is a great way to cheat expensive Elementals like Walker of the Grove (and Living Hive) into play, and the mandatory end-of-turn sacrifice ensures that they will leave play as well. Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker is great with both comes-into-play effects and leaves-play effects for the same reason. You can evoke your guys for cheap and copy them while their self-sacrifice trigger is on the stack to get double the leaves-play effect for a fraction of the price. Flamekin Harbinger, Sakura-Tribe Elder, and Eternal Witness are also fine creatures to copy. Greater Good provides another way to make your Morningtide evokers leave play while simultaneously drawing you lots of cards. Here's where I ended up, and, yes, I should probably have some Nova Chasers in there. As always, season to taste.

Super Grover

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On the other hand, you can pair Walker of the Grove with Angelic Chorus. Instead of dealing damage equal to its power (which will total 11 when evoked), you will gain life equal to its toughness (which is also 11). This makes Walker of the Grove into a super-charged Loxodon Hierarch, for some intents and purposes. By adding white, you gain access to some other ways to abuse the Walker's leaves-play ability (like Galepowder Mage) or simply cheat it into play (like Saffi Eriksdotter). Galepowder Mage is also excellent with Epochrasite, it can restock a Fertilid's lost counter, or get a face-up Krosan Cloudscraper into play without the unnecessary unmorphing rigmarole. Saltskitter will keep blinking in and out of play without the aid of a flying Kithkin, provided that you can keep play creatures. To take advantage of the extraordinary life-gain, there are plenty of options. Ajani Goldmane will let you (eventually) make huge tokens, Roiling Horror would be ideal if not for the necessary commitment to black, and Hoarder's Greed will allow you to draw a ton of cards as long as you can win some clashes. I opted for the latter, since it's very splashable and, heck, I don't think I've ever used it before and this seems like as good a place as any.

Chorus Line

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Until next time, don't leave play till the last minute.

Chris Millar

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