Another Year Older, Part II

Posted in From the Lab on July 30, 2009

By Noel deCordova

Hey all, and welcome back to the lab! As the title can tell you, the second half of the results for the Birthday Contest will be revealed today! Once again, for those just dropping in on this fun Johnny activity, the skinny on the contest itself can be found in this link. Meanwhile, the first half of these fun results appeared two weeks ago; just follow this link to find them.

All right, now that everyone's caught up on the basics, let's dive into the final eight decks. If you recall, six of these are part of an internal Top Ten List, while the other two are just quirky decks that I liked enough for them to make the article.

In fact, let's start with one of these quirkier decks, and then head into the Top 10 list. Sound good?

    The Decks

While grading the 238 submissions, I laughed at the many odd combinations of cards that some were stuck with. Next to these crazy six-card grab bags, though, were some birthday dates that, due to weekends or holidays, only yielded three or four cards. These particular decks were, obviously, easier to build, as the restriction level was lesser. However, I couldn't just discount these submissions based on this level; that wouldn't be fair.

Out of the couple of these decks, I particularly liked Adam Simpson's deck for December 24.

Cards:Jackal Pup, Repentant Blacksmith, Twincast, Decree of Justice

Adam Simpson's TwinTokens

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Here's Adam's deck description:

Great stuff for a RW weenie deck, except that darn Twincast. It will sure be fun to play on Decree of Justice – but it will be hard to cast both! My solution? Windbrisk Heights! Once Twincast is hidden away, you can use it to double Lightning Helix or Roar of the Kha for some extra damage. You can make 4 tokens off of a retraced Cenn's Enlistment, make 6 tokens with Spectral Procession, or however many tokens you can off the Decree! If you get stuck with those Twincasts in your hand, feed them to Gathan Raiders. You can even feed Cenn's Enlistment to the morpher without losing much steam. For mana I provided Reflecting Pools, because I need other ways to play Twincast. To round it out I put in Balefire Liege and Glory of Warfare for some extra oomph.

    The Top Ten Birthday Decks: Number 6

A quick aside on the Top 6: Each of these six decks is in my eyes exceptional enough to actually win this contest. In the end, only one could win. If your creation made this list, clap yourself on the back for me, because your submission contained enough synergy and charisma to win me over.

Here we go. At number 6 is Kenyon Colloran's deck for June 11, which uses the required cards in great interactive ways.

Cards:Phyrexian Scuta, Myr Moonvessel, Wormfang Newt, Skyship Weatherlight, Bargain

Kenyon Colloran's Birthday Deck

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Kenyon had this to say:

The first thing that jumped out at me was the synergy between Phyrexian Scuta and Bargain. Life gain and life payment naturally go together well, so I thought a bunch of cards that hit those themes would work well. And since I had Skyship Weatherlight I could put a lot of one of artifacts in the deck to facilitate that. Then I looked for ways to utilize Wormfang Newt and found a great combo, Shelldock Isle. With Skyship Weatherlight I can turn on my isles as soon as I play the Weatherlight. And after that I can play newts that remove the Shelldocks [after using them] so if the Newts die I get another free card. The artifact lands are added to increase the number of cards I can grab with Weatherlight so that I can leave some business spells in the deck for my Isles.

Nice! I love the Shelldock Isle + Wormfang Newt find!

    The Top Ten Birthday Decks: Number 5

Everything about Joost Linthorst's deck for February 13 makes it an excellent example of a successful birthday deck, because he found great linking cards between his required cards. I liked it enough that I felt it could dodge the 60-card limit (he was only 1 over!).

Cards:Crovax the Cursed, Grandmother Sengir, Cursed Scroll, Rebirth, Dark Heart of the Wood, Forest, Derelor

Joost Linthorst's Birthday Deck

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Joost explained what cards link together and had a bit of general strategy:

Crovax the Cursed: With Dryad Arbor and Plague of Vermin

Grandmother Sengir: With Plague of Vermin and Scryb Ranger

Sakura-Tribe Scout:Accelerates and works with Scryb Ranger and Life from the Loam

Derelor: I only used one and added the least amount of black cards possible.

Scryb Ranger: With Cursed Scroll, Sakura-Tribe Scout, Dryad Arbor (for a combat trick) and Grandmother Sengir.

Rebirth: Neutralizes early damage, works with Plague of Vermin, eliminates Overgrown Tomb's life loss

Life from the Loam: With Dark Heart of the Wood, Dryad Arbor, and Cursed Scroll

Dark Heart of the Wood: With Plague of Vermin and Life from the Loam

Plague of Vermin: With Grandmother Sengir, Rebirth, Dark Heart of the Wood

Cursed Scroll: With Forests. You can always name Forest. With Scryb Ranger and Life from the Loam you make sure you have a lot of Forests in your hand so your chances increase.

Use your Forests and Dryad Arbors in nice ways:



Looks like Joost found the perfect card for his deck in Plague of Vermin! Plus, I love land-oriented decks.

    The Top Ten Birthday Decks: Number 4

Doug Johnson's deck for September 5 could use some tuning in terms of things like numbers and land choices, but his deck description made me laugh and he sufficiently analyzed the contest's needs, including finding a perfect linking card.

Cards:Night Soil, Nessian Courser, Timesifter, Sage of Lat-Nam, Thallid

Doug Johnson's Birthday Deck

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Read Doug's thoughts:

My cards, except for the Nessian Courser (which is a fine 3/3 body), present me with two sub-themes to marry in a pretty clear blue/green world.

Timesifter / Sage of Lat-Nam: Artifact that gives turns? Woo hoo! A creature that does stuff to artifacts? Which also gives me a way to control Timesifter? YAH!

Sub-theme 1 – Timesifter: Take an extra turn FTW, but what if I don't have the right card? Well I'll blow it with the Sage, but what is a lot better is to know when I'm going to win this coin toss, so for that I bring in Lantern of Insight that can also be sacced to the Sage. So that's a start.

Sub-theme 2 – Saprolings (Thallid and Night Soil): Generating Saprolings is fun, they become another awesome engine for winning here. It's obvious how to use Night Soil (although I only put 3 in because it's not necessary to get it early, just some time). Same for Thallid itself. It just generates fuel for my Saproling-powered win-engine.

We'll get to the engine in just a moment while I lead you down my fuel plant. I'm going to start with Sporesower Thallid to increase the efficiency of my Saproling engine, putting an extra token makes my engine that must faster. And then I'll throw in Savage Thallid to make it a bit more robust, while also giving me a somewhat higher CMC for my Timesifter to hit. Then among my favorite new cards comes Mycoloth, oh King of Fungi! What you take you give back times two!

So now I have fuel, but I lack drive. In my opinion one of the most interesting things you can do with saprolings that happens to also work very well with Timesifter is draw cards.

Psychotrope Thallid enters stage left.

Since I now have instant speed draw, I watch what's on top of our decks with Wizened Snitches and draw into higher converted mana costs with my Saproling-eating Psychotrope Thallid. If that looks like it's not going to be happy I blow the turn sifter (errr ... I mean TIMEsifter) with the Sages. Also throwing in Saproling Cluster works well with the Psychotrope, allowing me to tear through poor late draws (turning Psychotrope into "(2): Discard a card and draw a card.")

Since I wanted to bring my themes together I need a key to marry these into a cohesive deck. Preferably a devastating finisher to strike fear into my opponents' hearts while simultaneous making them admit that this deck is just plain-old cool, and that reminded me of another new bound-to-be-classic, Lorescale Coatl! I'm drawing like mad, so this lets me make double duty of my fuel and of draws I get if I have to kill my sifter (or those I get from extra turns!).

Finally I throw in a Fists of Ironwood which, while some prefer Rancor, gives me more Saprofuel and still lets me trample with those giant creatures I end up making. I've also included a couple of Shielding Plaxrd to give me more draw and protect my more key creatures (hey, I admit, it's creature heavy, but I like it that way.)

This is a great skeleton, though I wish Doug had thought to include artifact lands or artifacts that generate Saprolings (such as Sarpadian Empires, Vol. VII), as the Sage of Lat-Nam winds up feeling a bit left out here. Still, this is a fine creative list that could evolve in multiple ways.

Time to take a break from the Top 10 and talk about another deck that warmed my heart in a weirder way. Those who have followed these results will remember the humorous Aliens vs. Predator theme deck created by Steven Wolf. I picked that deck to make the results because of its sheer dedication to a mad scheme.

What I didn't tell you was that there was another deck that fit this criterion. Ray Matabichos, of Linz, Austria, decided that, since he was making a deck around his birthday of December 26, he should rightfully swing for victory with a 26/12 creature, or perhaps a 12/26 one. Fortunately, one of his cards was the perfect candidate for this task, and just like that, Ray was on a mission.

Cards:Jamuraan Lion, Shaman en-Kor, Primal Rage, Mistform Ultimus, Morphling

Ray Matabichos's Murmurs about Superman in a World Made of Bant

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Pack a lunch and read what Ray has to say:

I began the deck building with the Coatls. Why? I needed (or wanted) at least another (big) creature, for the Primal Rages. I had 2 Thornlings and 1 Mageta the Lion in the first version, too. (Because of the same mana costs as Morphling in the other two colors and because Thornling is a green Morphling and Mageta is a Lion as Jamuraan Lion is – not in creature type, but name and flavor text. The Thornlings became lands number 25 and 26 – it's a "control" deck, so it needs much mana – and the Mageta became a ... oh, wait!)

Just before I read of the contest, I had a match with my rogue green-blue +1/+1 counters deck, and it won mostly because of a 9/9 Lorescale Coatl, powered out by, oomph, the draw step and – an Ocular Haloed Vigean Hydropon. Enter Ocular Halo. I soon noticed that Morphling plus Ocular Halo is very nice, and the Coatl grows much faster (as with Hydropon). In my first match I had a 26/26 Coatl and a 22/22 Coatl in the eleventh turn. I noticed that I simply could win with a 26/26 or a 12/12 Coatl with trample, thanks to the Primal Rages. (26th of Dec.!)

No, I didn't want to win with a Coatl! (That also lets me play no more card drawing engines like Jace, Elvish Visionary or the like. Ocular Halo is all I need.) It's nice to have a 26/26 creature with trample, and with flying, thanks to Elspeth, that is indestructible, thanks to Elspeth. But I realized, and it was like an illumination, that I CAN win with a 26/12 creature – Morphling itself! I only needed a 16/16 Morphling, powered up by Elspeth's second +1 or Garruk's ultimate to 19/19, then I need only seven mana to make Morphling a 12/26 creature (American birthday) or a 26/12 creature (Austrian birthday – we write 26/12/81 instead of 12/26/81) – and there is no sweeter imagination than winning a casual Magic game on my birthday with a 26/12 Morphling, the Superman itself. Indestructible, with flying and trample. With an opposing creature which can't block thanks to Jamuraan Lion. With damage redirected to Morphling (or a huge Coatl) thanks to the little Shaman en-Kor. (The Lion and the Shaman are also good chump blockers in the first few turns.) Absolutely insane – but I love insanity!

A 16/16 or 19/19 Morphling? Enter Shape of the Wiitigo. (From another rogue deck, my 4C Witch-Maw Nephilim deck. Wiitigo is nice there.) Two of them make Morphling 15/15. With a little attacking/blocking at the right timing he is 16/16 or 19/19. I had in the aforementioned game a 26/12 Morphling on turn eleven, ah, yes, besides a 26/26 and a 22/22 Coatl. (It was goldfishing, with no opponent, but it really functions.) I drew two Shapes out of seven cards in a single turn with the Ocular Morphling engine.

Garruk serves mostly as a mana producer, as I really need much blue mana. Sometimes I need 3/3 beasts, sometimes I want to overrun my opponent with a 16/16 Morphling, wait, 19/19, wait, 26/12 – like Primal Rage numbers 3 to 6. (More than 1 Primal Rage is not too good, so I decided to go with 2. I need it later in the game and I have Garruk.)

Mistform Ultimus? Sorry Mistform, it's not a Mistform deck, but I need you! There's no cooler thing than opening with Murmuring Bosk revealing a Mistform Ultimus. What the heck, a deck?

Exploration and Counterspell were the last two additions. They came in for Mageta and Clarion Ultimatum. I noticed in the first "match" that as soon as I have an Oculared Morphling, I need mana and don't want to play expensive spells. I want cheaper things, or nothing. Cheap is Exploration, which lets me play two lands per turn (when I draw seven cards a turn, I want to play something, and I need mana). I don't need Exploration early, so one is good, but when I play it on the first turn and Garruk on the second, I'm not in trouble. (And a turn seven win with 26/12 Superman is possible, without Coatls.)

Apart from Ray's crazy ambition, I particularly liked his deck name. In fact, it was my second favorite deck name out of the few I received. (My favorite? Ian Relihan's deck, built around

, was called Little Girl in the Big City.)
    The Top Ten Birthday Decks: Number 3

Apart from wacky ideas and deck lists, I was hoping this contest would "discover" some combos made from forgotten cards. In this aspect, my hopes were made real. I had fun reading about numerous infinite combos. One, brought up by Tyler Robinson, was a combo that won through infinite spanks from the Rod of Spanking. Another was a deck created by Stephen House, and its only goal was to assemble about fifty pieces in order to play an infinite number of Elvish Pioneers, use all the land to activate Planeswalker's Mirth a bunch of times, and capitalize with Cradle of Vitality, pumping the Pioneers, of course!

Apart from infinite combos, simpler two- or three-carders came to light. Brett Wright's deck for June 10 won points for using many of these combos, thinking his lands and numbers through, and having a very difficult card pool.

Cards:Auramancer, Baron Sengir, Myr Quadropod, Path of Anger's Flame, Anger, Updraft

Brett Wright's Birthday Deck

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Brett's combo checklist:

1. Using Auramancer enchanted with Flickerform. You can use the Seals to destroy permanents or discard enchantments to Knollspine Invocation to deal damage to creatures/players, then recurse the enchantments by Flickering Auramancer.

2. Baron Sengir enchanted with Farrel's Mantle gives you a tough choice of destroying an opponent's creature and growing the vampire, or dealing damage to the player. Myr Quadropod also works well with the Mantle.

3. Dizzying Gaze, in conjunction with Updraft, means that you can kill your opponents' blockers before swinging in (again growing the Baron), or you can just use the Updraft to make your Myr Quadropod (with Farrel's Mantle, preferably) unblockable.

4. If all else fails, you try and build up to a massive late game Rise of the Hobgoblins followed by a Path of Anger's Flame with Anger in the graveyard for a mass of 3/1 haste guys.

    The Top Ten Birthday Decks: Numbers 2 and 1

Nate Hannon, known as goblinrecruiter on the forums, is a steady contributor to Johnnyness everywhere. When I read his September 20 deck list and explanation, I was very impressed.

Cards: Ali from Cairo; Bushi Tenderfoot; Stalking Yeti; Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir; Wildfire Emissary

Nate Hannon's Birthday Deck

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Nate says:

All of my cards are interesting creatures, but the common thread linking them is not immediately obvious.

Bushi Tenderfoot likes to deal damage to creatures. Stalking Yeti makes creatures deal damage to it. A natural (and sufficiently Johnnyish) starting point for this deck is to flip Bushi Tenderfoot by letting it kill Stalking Yeti. Unfortunately, there are many obstacles to doing this, not the least of which is the Yeti's "an opponent controls" clause. To get around this, I added Confusion in the Ranks (which is thematically appropriate given many of my birthday parties). If you use Confusion in the Ranks to give your opponent Bushi Tenderfoot, then play Stalking Yeti, you can stack the triggers so that you swap the Yeti for one of your opponent's creatures, then have it fight the Tenderfoot. If the Tenderfoot wins, you can then play another creature and take back the newly flipped Kenzo. (You can't swap the Yeti and Tenderfoot directly, since the Tenderfoot will be an illegal target for the Yeti trigger if you swap it first, and the Yeti won't be in play to exchange if you kill it off first.) Of course, the Tenderfoot needs a little help in order to win the fight, so I added several pump spells that can either help it kill the Yeti or pump its power after it's flipped.

Teferi is a double-edged sword here: he prevents your opponent from disrupting the combo, but he's not a creature you want to have your opponent steal with Confusion in the Ranks. Elspeth comes to the rescue. As a planeswalker, she's immune to Confusion in the Ranks, and is equally happy to make a token (stealing back Kenzo, Teferi, or whatever other creature your opponent took) or provide you with another pump spell. Plus, her ultimate is crazy with Ali from Cairo.

Even if you can't pull off the full combo, there are synergies built in. For example, you may be able to flip Bushi Tenderfoot just by killing an attacking or blocking creature with the aid of a pump spell. With Confusion in the Ranks in play (even with no Bushi Tenderfoot in sight), Stalking Yeti can sometimes be a three-for-one. Wildfire Emissary isn't particularly synergistic with the combo, but can help to facilitate the Plan B of straight creature beatdown.

The only thing holding Nate's great submission from first place was Wildfire Emissary, being the one birthday card that couldn't find a home. This is in opposition to number one, which was the only one that truly needs each card to show up to win. On top of this, with a birthday of July 15, Josh Cain also had one of the most difficult card pools to work with. When you see it, try to figure out what could be built, and then read Josh's interpretation.

Cards:Index, Metallic Sliver, City of Shadows, Rolling Stones, Lightning Surge

Josh Cain's Birthday Deck

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Here is how it works: During the early game, play some slivers. The Gemhides fix the mana for the deck's four colors, and the Metallics are just really easy to play. The Screeching Slivers allow you to start milling yourself, which gives you card advantage through the tons of flashback/retrace in the deck. (Index helps this by seeing and selecting what you will mill.) Many of the flashback cards load you up with token creatures, and you can use all of these to charge up City of Shadows to tons of mana over time. This mana is used to get out a gigantic Shifting Wall, and then smash face with Rolling Stones. (If either of these last two cards accidentally get milled, you can Regrowth them back.)

It's an odd game plan, but I think it would be fun in a convoluted sort of way. Go Sliver-

Congratulations Josh! And thanks to everyone who participated in this contest. I hope it was fun and provided you with two weeks of overflowing Johnnyness. See you next week.

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