Endless Tapping

Posted in From the Lab on July 23, 2014

By Mike Cannon

Mike Cannon started writing From the Lab at the end of 2012 after two years with GatheringMagic. He is an ardent casual player and loves finding uses for bad cards.

Welcome, Laboratorians! It's Convoke Week here on DailyMTG, so I've prepared a few interesting brews that take the mechanic to a whole new level. Convoke isn't exactly a Johnny-oriented mechanic, but that's certainly never stopped me before. It just means I have to work a little harder to exploit it.

The Costs They are A-Changin'

While refreshing my memory on all of the convoke cards printed to date, one in particular stood out as potentially abusable: Sprout Swarm. While convoke may not have Johnny tendencies, buyback certainly does, and I've taken advantage of the mechanic a number of times.

The best part about Sprout Swarm is that it gets progressively easier to cast each turn as you build up an army of tokens. Even in the same turn, it effectively costs one less since you can use the token from the previous Sprout Swarm to pay for the next. In fact, that's where the idea for the deck came from. What if we took that aspect of the spell and cranked it up to 11?

By using cards like Parallel Lives, you can double the number of Saprolings you get from Sprout Swarm. With two copies on the battlefield, you'll get four tokens instead of one. Add a third, and Sprout Swarm now makes eight tokens. Tap five for convoke and you can cast Sprout Swarm with buyback without spending any mana, making another eight tokens. That allows you to make an arbitrarily large number of Saprolings at the end of your opponent's turn, ready to untap and attack for a few million damage.

Drawing three copies of Parallel Lives would be problematic, but fortunately we have access to some equivalents. Doubling Season is the card that started the trend, while Primal Vigor is the new, fixed version that premiered in Commander (2013 Edition). Any three of them will work just fine.

However, we also have some other options for going infinite with Sprout Swarm. Instead of increasing the number of tokens, what about decreasing the cost of the spell? With Helm of Awakening or Emerald Medallion reducing the cost of Sprout Swarm by one, you can use two doubling enchantments instead of three, and the cost of the enchantments will be reduced as well.

Memory Crystal provides a greater discount, but only reduces the buyback cost. However, if you get a Memory Crystal and two other cost reducers, you don't even need a doubling enchantment. Sprout Swarm with buyback will only cost one mana, so the single token can tap to pay for the next copy.

To help accelerate out the doubling enchantments I've added Utopia Sprawl, which can be cast on the first turn to give you an extra mana for the rest of the game. There's still one problem with the deck, and that's the fact that you can only play four copies of Sprout Swarm. Splashing blue for Mystical Tutor and Mystical Teachings solves that problem by giving you several ways to find the critical card.

The Infinite Swarm

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Fall In!

Return to the Ranks is the other card that seemed like it could be taken to extreme levels. Unfortunately, the fact that it looks at converted mana cost rather than power, like Reveillark, makes things much more difficult. I did eventually manage to cobble together a way to make it work, but it's a bit complicated.

All right, here's what you need: two copies of Doomed Traveler, two copies of Mogg War Marshal, Saffi Eriksdotter, Eternal Witness, Return to the Ranks, and a sacrifice outlet. I've chosen Martyr's Cause for its ability to protect you from damage while you get the combo set up. To make things a bit easier, any of the creatures save Eternal Witness can be in your graveyard to start out, since you'll be getting them back with Return to the Ranks anyway.

Here's the plan: Sacrifice the Doomed Travelers and Mogg War Marshals to Martyr's Cause, getting four Goblins and two Spirits. Sacrifice Saffi Eriksdotter targeting Eternal Witness. Tap the six tokens and Eternal Witness for convoke, casting Return to the Ranks for five without spending any mana. Return the Travelers, Marshals, and Saffi. Then sacrifice Eternal Witness, which will return to the battlefield. Eternal Witness's ability will bring Return to the Ranks back to your hand. Now you're right back where you started, except you have six extra tapped tokens on the battlefield.

Since the combo requires approximately a million pieces to work, I'll toss in a healthy suite of tutors to give you a chance of putting it together. Buried Alive is the best choice, as it searches up three of the creatures you need for just three mana. Gamble is another good option, since many of the cards in the combo can be discarded without repercussion. Eladamri's Call is a very cheap way to grab Eternal Witness or another creature you need, and Rhystic Tutor can grab any card so long as you wait for the opportune moment.

New Recruits

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I'll be honest, this deck looks like a bit of a mess. However, it performed surprisingly well in my test games. It doesn't work every time, but for the number of pieces involved in the combo it's surprisingly easy to get things to come together. Buried Alive plays a big part in this, and the fact that Martyr's Cause can sacrifice creatures you don't need on the battlefield, such as Doomed Traveler, goes a long way toward helping you stay alive.

Look Ma, No Lands!

After exploring some possible infinite combos using convoke, I wanted to try something different. Convoke cards can be cast for free as long as you have creatures, and some creatures can be cast for free. Why not make a deck that doesn't use lands at all?

Unfortunately, I hit a bit of a roadblock. Almost all convoke spells have colored mana costs, which means you need creatures of the same color. The only color that has free creatures is red (And before you rush in and yell "Dryad Arbor!" remember I said no lands) and red is severely lacking in convoke cards, since the mechanic was originally part of the Selesnya guild in Ravnica.

Then I remembered Chief Engineer. If you could produce the two mana to cast that, you could use convoke for the rest of your spells, provided they're all artifacts. In the end, I decided on a hybrid approach, using Chief Engineer for convoke and some affinity cards that can be cast for free on their own.

To get started, we'll need an array of spells that don't cost any mana, including some way to make mana. Ornithopter and Memnite are obvious choices for their ability to tap for convoke, and I'll even go further back and add Phyrexian Walker to the mix.

Mox Opal can make mana for free provided you have three artifacts. That shouldn't be too hard in this deck. Lotus Petal, Lotus Bloom, and Simian Spirit Guide can all provide a one-time mana boost that can allow you to get something like Chief Engineer on the battlefield.

You can also use that one mana to cast Springleaf Drum or equip Paradise Mantle. Either of them will give you a persistent mana source, although they become mostly irrelevant if you have Chief Engineer.

Frogmite and Myr Enforcer are effectively more free creatures, although you'll have to build up your board a bit before you can cast them. In testing, I've cast Myr Enforcer as soon as turn one, so it's by no means difficult to get the seven artifacts required.

Although a first-turn Myr Enforcer is a pretty good start, the deck will need a more reliable win condition. Cranial Plating has been a staple of affinity decks since it was first printed, and it does a fine job here as well, although you'll need to produce actual mana to be able to equip it.

Steel Overseer and Master of Etherium round out the deck, pumping up all your creatures to make them more effective in combat. Steel Overseer is better at boosting the team, but Master of Etherium give you the additional benefit of a giant creature to attack with.

Free Robots

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Appetite for Destruction

We're still about a month away from the release of From the Vault: Annihilation, but that gives you all plenty of time to come up with deck ideas for my latest contest. I want to see some sweet Johnny decks that blow up all the things. Whether destroying all permanents but yours, winning through death triggers, or something else entirely, I want to see how you can annihilate your opponents by destroying the world. You have two weeks to get your deck ideas in, and after the end of the entry period I'll highlight a few of my favorite decks here on From the Lab. I might even have to throw in a few of my own if the ideas already whirling around in my head just from writing this aren't in any of the submissions I receive.

Get building folks, and be sure to come back next week for more combo-licious action. See ya!

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