Predatory Laboratory

Posted in From the Lab on August 4, 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.

Hello Laboratorians! It's Predator Week here on DailyMTG, and today I'll be looking at the topic from a few different angles, with a sweet combo deck for each. The inspiration for this particular theme week was Garruk, Apex Predator. This burly bloke is the face of Magic 2015, and this is just the latest in a long line of appearances he's made over the years.

Prime Time

Of all the many versions of Garruk, the one that stood out the most to me was Garruk, Primal Hunter. His -3 ability is a callback to one of my favorite cards for Commander, Soul's Majesty. As it happens, there's a card in M15 that combines perfectly with the two spells. Chasm Skulker gets a +1/+1 counter whenever you draw a card, meaning Garruk's ability will not only give you a bunch of cards, it will double the creature's power as well. Even if your opponent can kill the giant creature, it will explode into an army of Squid tokens. You'll also have a new handful of cards to work with.

Although it doesn't have the ability to make a pile of creatures when it dies, Lorescale Coatl shares Chasm Skulker's counter-gaining ability. With four copies of each in the deck, it shouldn't be hard to find one to cast on turn three most of the time.

Maro is another card that grows larger as your hand size does. It has the advantage of entering the battlefield large, even if you cast it after drawing cards. The downside is that as you play cards it will shrink back down again, and unless you have something like Reliquary Tower on the battlefield, it can't stay larger than 7/7 for very long. However, it is great at giving you a larger number of cards with Soul's Majesty the first time you cast it, whereas Chasm Skulker may only have 2 or 3 power early on.

Psychosis Crawler costs one more mana than Maro, but for that extra mana you get a very powerful ability. Each time you draw a card, the Crawler will make your opponents lose a life. You can win the game without even attacking.

Prime Speaker Zegana is another Soul's Majesty variant that also comes with an enormous creature. Although your other threats will likely surpass her as soon as the draw trigger resolves, getting a large creature for just one extra mana over Garruk, Primal Hunter and Soul's Majesty is a pretty good deal.

Brainstorm can add three counters to Chasm Skulker and Lorescale Coatl instantly, cutting down the wait time before they're large enough to justify using Garruk's -3 ability. Although it won't affect its power, Brainstorm also triggers the life loss ability on Psychosis Crawler three times, giving you a free Sizzle to go with your draw spell.

Voidslime is a multipurpose counterspell that can hit pretty much anything that uses the stack. No matter how your opponent tries to disrupt your plan, Voidslime can take care of it. If the problem is already on the battlefield, Beast Within can make it go away, or at least turn into a 3/3. With how large your creatures are going to be, that 3/3 might as well be a 0/1. A 7/7 Maro will have no problem killing it in combat.

Garruk's Majesty

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Preying on Spells

Taking the predator theme more literally, I was reminded of Lurking Predators. Like Soul's Majesty, it's a card I always use in green Commander decks, and it's also a card I've never used in a combo before. Lurking Predators definitely seems like a card that's not hard to break, as if getting a free creature every once in a while wasn't bad enough on its own.

The first thing you need to do is make sure there's always a creature on top of your deck. Rearranging your library in some way could accomplish this, but I figured it would be easier to just keep putting the same creature back on top. A quick Gatherer search led me to Sunscape Apprentice and Civic Guildmage.

Both Mirage and Invasion contained a cycle of creatures with two activated abilities in two different colors. Each ability was present on two different cards in the cycle. Although the abilities representing four of the five colors changed from one cycle to the next, the blue one stayed the same. Odd, perhaps, but quite fortunate for our purposes. Although I chose to use the two white creatures here due to the fact that the deck already contains green to activate the other ability, Shadow Guildmage and Nightscape Apprentice would also work.

Now the question is what creatures to repeatedly put onto the battlefield. Since Lurking Predators only triggers whenever an opponent casts a spell, you need to make sure that whatever you're getting from your creature is better than the spell that triggered it.

...or do you?

By using Mystic Snake and Draining Whelk, every time your opponent casts a spell you'll put a creature onto the battlefield that counters it. So long as you can keep putting the creature on top of your library with Civic Guildmage and Sunscape Apprentice, you can counter every spell your opponent casts.

I'll add in Banishing Light and Oblivion Ring to deal with anything your opponent casts before the lock is set up, and Idyllic Tutor will make sure you can find Lurking Predators. Ponder and Preordain will generally smooth out your draws. They can also help you find multiple copies of Civic Guildmage and Sunscape Apprentice to counter multiple spells in the same turn.

Lurking Lockdown

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Too Much of a Good Thing

The other concept that popped into my head when contemplating Predator Week was a certain type of deck. A deck that preys on other decks that function in a specific way. For example, a deck filled with cards like Leonin Arbiter and Mindlock Orb would make things very difficult for decks that operate by finding specific cards in the library.

Although there are many different types of decks out there, the most common win condition is attacking with creatures, and often a number of them. I decided to build a deck that would prey on creature decks, particularly those that cast a large number of creatures over the course of a game.

The first card that came to mind was Tainted Æther. It forces a pretty big sacrifice in exchange for every creature that enters the battlefield, and can make it extremely difficult for creature-focused decks to build up an effective board position.

Blood Seeker and Suture Priest have a much smaller impact, but one that can build up over the course of a game. Losing 1 life for each creature isn't bad, but with eight total copies in the deck your opponent could start losing 3 or more life every time something enters the battlefield.

What if you made that happen yourself? If creatures entering the battlefield is bad for your opponent, why not give them some? Genesis Chamber will give your opponent a free Myr whenever he or she plays a creature, and Forbidden Orchard can provide a Spirit token every turn. Acorn Catapult allows you to deal damage to your opponent or a creature in order to give away a Squirrel token.

Although these cards work quite nicely with Blood Seeker and Suture Priest, they don't do much with Tainted Æther. Your opponent can simply sacrifice the token to the trigger. Nothing gained, but nothing lost, either. That led me to Curse of Death's Hold. If the token dies before the trigger resolves, your opponent will be forced to sacrifice something else instead. Illness in the Ranks will also do the job. Although it doesn't affect your opponent's other creatures, it only costs a single mana to cast.

If the free creatures are dying as soon as they enter the battlefield, you can take advantage of that as well. Blood Artist will drain 1 life from your opponent every time you give him or her a token, and Dingus Staff will deal 2 damage.

Massacre Wurm also takes 2 life whenever something dies, and has the added ability to make that happen on its own. If you don't have Illness in the Ranks or Curse of Death's Hold, the Wurm can kill all the tokens you've been giving away immediately. If you do have the Curse, -3/-3 is enough to take out many other creatures as well. Finally, Crib Swap can exile anything you can't otherwise deal with, and has the added bonus of giving your opponent yet another free token.

Tainted Tokens

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Annihilation Station

Next week, we'll be leading up to the release of From the Vault: Annihilation with a rather destructive theme week. I've already received a number of deck submissions, but there's always room for more. Today is the last day to send me a list where you blow up all the things, so get crackin' and send those decks to You can also send me a link on Twitter through @MTGCannon. Whether you sent in a deck or not, be sure to join me next week when I show off a few of my favorite submissions. See ya!

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