One Commanding Turn

Posted in From the Lab on November 10, 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.

A game of Magic is often long and complex, with numerous interactions and frequent changes in the balance of power. Eventually one player comes out on top, but often only by a narrow margin.

The decks I'll be looking at today work a bit differently.

These decks don't slowly gain an advantage over the opponent. They don't spend their turns casting creatures and Planeswalkers, trying to gain board position. Instead, they focus on one critical turn. One turn where everything happens, and suddenly the game is over.

Now, this kind of thing is common among infinite combo decks, and this column is certainly no stranger to infinite combos. However, these decks don't fit that description. Instead of making several small things happen over and over again, they make one big thing happen all at once. Usually something big enough to win the game on the spot.

The Land is Falling!

Titania, Protector of Argoth is one of the cards that most intrigued me from Commander (2014 Edition). Getting a free creature every time you sacrifice a land is already pretty good, but getting one with 5 power? That's just silly. It seems to me that if you can cast Titania and immediately sacrifice several lands, you could easily win the game with an attack the following turn.

The first thing you'll need is some lands that put themselves in the graveyard. With Khans of Tarkir still fresh in my mind, the easy answer was fetch lands. Although paying 1 life so many times can certainly add up, it's usually worth it to have the lands enter the battlefield untapped.

Crucible of Worlds is an obvious choice for this deck, allowing you to replay the lands you sacrifice, only to sacrifice them again. Life from the Loam performs a similar function. It's less efficient, but the dredge ability could give you access to more lands if you don't have any already in the graveyard.

Playing the same lands again makes sure you never run out, but it still only gives you one per turn. That's not fast enough for me. Fortunately, there are plenty of cards that are eager to help. Exploration is the best option, giving you an extra land drop every turn for the rest of the game. If you have Crucible of Worlds on the battlefield, you can guarantee that you hit every single one of those land drops

For a one-time burst of lands, it doesn't get any better than Summer Bloom. Casting it lets you play a grand total of four lands in a single turn. With the Crucible, you can even play the same land four times if you like. Before you cast Titania, it can get you to five mana instantly. Afterward, it allows you to trigger her ability four times, immediately putting a 20 power on the battlefield.

Although the fetch lands were included to trigger Titania, they're also rather good at triggering landfall. Rampaging Baloths and Avenger of Zendikar are already perfect fits for the deck and provide a alternative win conditions, so you don't have to rely on drawing Titania.

Khalni Heart Expedition also works quite well with landfall. Although it doesn't help you sacrifice lands, it does accelerate you straight to five mana and beyond. Those extra lands can help you cast your creatures without sacrificing all the fetch lands you already have on the battlefield. Similarly, Lotus Cobra can produce an alarming amount of mana very early in the game, allowing you to cast Titania as soon as turn three with no other assistance.

Argothian Exploration

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There's Always a Catch

Giving your opponent free things is rarely a good idea. In multiplayer games it can sometimes buy you favor, but just as often it can come back to bite you later in the game. In duels, there's no reason to give your opponent unnecessary presents.

Unless those gifts are secretly weapons in disguise.

This deck seeks to spoil the opponent to death by handing out numerous free creatures. With the help of some old cards and some brand-new ones, those creatures can lead to instant death.

The first step is providing the free dudes. Forbidden Orchard is still the best way to do this, allowing you to give away a Spirit every turn. I'll also include Expedition Map to search for the Orchard, making you less reliant on drawing it. Varchild's War-Riders has an even higher creature output, but it's also vulnerable to removal spells. If it does survive, your opponent will soon be buried under an ever-increasing pile of free stuff.

The main problem with giving your opponent creatures is that those creatures can attack you. I wanted a way to mitigate that. Caltrops would be an easy solution, but it would also give your opponent a way to kill off the creatures you've so generously provided. Instead, I decided to use Urza's Armor. Although the mana cost isn't cheap, it prevents any damage those 1/1s would deal to you without killing them.

Now for the second part of the plan: winning the game. The card that inspired me to try this kind of deck again is Incite Rebellion. In addition to wiping out every creature on the other side of the battlefield, it can deal quite a bit of damage to your opponent. Giving your opponent twenty creatures doesn't seem like a viable plan, however, so Incite Rebellion will need a little help.

For that, I'll turn to the card that makes this kind of deck work: Repercussion. Now your opponent is taking all the damage dealt to his or her creatures, plus the original damage from Incite Rebellion. This means that just four creatures will allow you to hit your opponent for a total of 20 damage. That's much more doable.

It's always good to have backup, so I'll include some for both pieces. Idyllic Tutor can search for Repercussion if you don't draw it, and Blasphemous Act can pump out even more damage than Incite Rebellion, dealing 13 to every creature on the battlefield. To help you cast the deck's expensive spells more easily, Ruby Medallion will reduce their cost by one each time. In addition, Worn Powerstone gives you two mana straight up, making Urza's Armor something you can cast on turn four without too much trouble.

Serious Repercussions

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Time to Wake Up

When I saw Wake the Dead, I knew I had to do something with it. Awesome power, weird restrictions, it's a Johnny dream come true. I mean, obviously it's meant to be used to give you some surprise blockers, but when have I ever cared about how something was meant to be used?

The first idea that came to mind was slamming four copies of Bogardan Hellkite onto the battlefield for an immediate 20 damage. Not bad for six mana. That does require getting all four copies of the card into your graveyard, which might be a tall order. Buried Alive will get three out of the four by itself. If you have Entomb as well, that can go grab the last one.

There's still a problem, however. If you draw a Hellkite, you need a way to discard it. Faithless Looting can handle that pretty efficiently, and can dig for the other cards you need as well. Demonic Collusion gives you a way to discard cards thanks to its buyback cost, and it can search your library for Wake the Dead at the same time.

It was at this point that I was overlooking something. Bogardan Hellkite isn't the best creature to bring back with Wake the Dead. It certainly works, but there's another option that can more than kill your opponent with just two copies. Flayer of the Hatebound triggers whenever it or another creature enters the battlefield from the graveyard. Put two of them on the battlefield at the same time, and each will trigger twice, dealing a total of 16 damage to your opponent. Obviously that's not lethal yet, but wait. Wake the Dead doesn't exile the creatures at the end of the turn, it sacrifices them. That means both undying abilities will trigger and bring the Flayers back. Now they enter one at a time, but you'll still get three triggers out of the deal. With the +1/+1 counter from undying, that's an additional 15 damage.

Now the deck can go off alarmingly fast. All you need to do is cast Buried Alive on turn three and follow up with Wake the Dead during your opponent's combat phase next turn. By the time the turn is over, you will have won the game.

However, not every game will go so well, so I'm including some defense as well. Hero's Downfall can deal with one problematic creature or Planeswalker, and Damnation can wipe them all out. Since this deck doesn't usually have creatures on the battlefield, it won't affect you at all.

I'm also including some backup for Wake the Dead. Feldon of the Third Path won't kill your opponent all at once, but he can get there with just two activations. Make a hasty copy of a Bogardan Hellkite in your graveyard, and you can get in a total of 10 damage. Since nothing happens to the creature card in your graveyard, you can do the same thing again next turn.

Sleeping Dragons

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Either a Newspaper or a Bleeding Zebra

Next week, I'll be taking a look at my personal favorite clan in Khans of Tarkir. Now, I'm not going to just tell you what clan that is. That wouldn't be any fun. However, the answer is already here, right in front of you. You just have to figure out the question.

See ya!

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