Posted in From the Lab on January 22, 2014

Welcome back the Lab, my fellow practitioners of the mad sciences! We're gearing up for Born of the Gods this week by dishing out some more sweet previews. My card for today is a bit confusing at first glance, but once you figure out the connection, it becomes one mean card-advantage machine. Without further ado, I present Meletis Astronomer.

Figure it out yet? If the title of this article wasn't a big enough clue, the connection is Auras. An Aura spell will target Meletis Astronomer, triggering its ability, which will allow you to find another Aura to cast. With enough in the deck, this can lead to a never-ending chain of as many Auras as you can cast.

The closest corollary to Meletis Astronomer in my mind is Kor Spiritdancer. Like the Astronomer, the Spiritdancer will give you a card whenever you cast an Aura spell. Beyond that, however, each has its advantages and disadvantages.

[atuocard]Kor Spiritdancer[/autocard] has one of two advantages, depending on how you use it. If you target the Kor, it gets +2/+2 for each Aura you put on it. If you target another creature, the ability will trigger anyway, something that Meletis Astronomer can't say.

However, Meletis Astronomer has a big advantage of its own. You get to look at three cards instead of just drawing one, making it highly possible to continue chaining Auras together turn after turn until you win the game. This lends itself to a deck stuffed with as many inexpensive Auras as possible, so that's where I started off.

Spiritdancing with the Stars

To ensure you have access to either Kor Spiritdancer or Meletis Astronomer every game, I've included four copies of each, as well as two of Worldly Tutor to search for one or the other. Worldly Tutor can be cast on turn one, thus allowing you to cast the creature on turn two and keeping you on track for a turn-four win.

As we've seen from various tournament decks in the past, hexproof is a big part of making an Aura deck work. Since neither of these creatures have the ability, you'll need enchantments that grant it. [atuocard]Canopy Cover[/autocard] and Alpha Authority were the two I selected. They also each give some form of evasion. Canopy Cover gives sort-of-flying, and Alpha Authority's Stalking Tiger ability combines quite nicely with Rancor.

Speaking of Rancor, that's going in as well. Although the fact that it returns from your graveyard hopefully won't be relevant, it also gives 2 extra power for one mana, which is a pretty sweet deal as is. Interestingly, blue has a similar Aura, albeit at a much lower power level. Essence Flare also gives +2/+0 for one mana, and since its drawback only reduces toughness, it should be of minimal relevance most of the time.

Essence Flare, of course, is a riff on Unstable Mutation, another powerful Aura worthy of inclusion. In the early days, putting an Unstable Mutation or two on Merfolk of the Pearl Trident was some sweet tech, and although the creatures have gotten much better in recent years, the enchantment remains excellent.

Even Unstable Mutation doesn't rival the pumping power of Ethereal Armor, however. Although it's markedly less effective in a deck without many enchantments, here it can easily give a creature an extra 5 or 6 power, making it much easier to trample over and murder your opponent.

Aqueous Form is a new treat from Theros that makes it effortless to slip past blockers. It even lets you scry 1 at the same time, which can help keep the Auras flowing, especially if you're using Kor Spiritdancer rather than Meletis Astronomer. With this and either Canopy Cover or Alpha Authority, you can build your own Invisible Stalker while keeping your creatures' awesome abilities.

Spirit Link makes it nearly impossible for your opponent to try and race you, even if you don't have a way to get past blockers. Attacking for 7 is downright average in this deck, but gaining 7 life a turn is something most aggro decks can't handle.

Aggro Astronomy

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Getting Crazy

This wouldn't be From the Lab if I didn't take things completely over the top. I figured there had to be a way to use Meletis Astronomer as a part of an infinite-combo engine. I eventually managed to cobble together something, but it was even more complex than I anticipated. Let's get started.

My basis for this combo is getting the same Aura over and over again with Meletis Astronomer. You'll need two copies, since when the Astronomer's ability triggers, the Aura you used to target it will still be on the stack. Now, the problem is getting those Auras in the top three cards of the library repeatedly.

Getting things on the bottom of the library is much easier than getting things on the top, so why not make them the same thing? By using a card like Paradigm Shift or Leveler, you can eliminate your library entirely. Then you can cast Wheel of Sun and Moon, and suddenly every card that goes to your graveyard is put right back into your library instead.

Now you'll need a way to sacrifice an Aura for value. After exploring a number of options, I settled on Briar Shield, which if cast and sacrificed repeatedly will make Meletis Astronomer arbitrarily large.

Now the hitch is getting the mana to cast Briar Shield over and over again. Using Ajani's Chosen or Sigil of the Empty Throne along with Phyrexian Altar is an option, but I just used the Altar last week, so I figured I'd go another route this time. Instead, I've opted for another old infinite-mana standby, Devoted Druid. Instead of Ajani's Chosen and Sigil of the Empty Throne, Oath of the Ancient Wood and Celestial Ancient generate the fuel, giving the Druid a +1/+1 counter each time you cast Briar Shield.

Finally, Aqueous Form appears here as well, as a way to allow your arbitrarily large Meletis Astronomer to punch through enemy lines. After all, what use is a creature with 10,000 power if your opponent can stop it with a 1/1?

So, here's how you get the combo to go off. For starters, you'll need either Celestial Ancient or Oath of the Ancient Wood on the battlefield, along with Devoted Druid and Meletis Astronomer. In your hand, you'll need two copies of Briar Shield, one Aqueous Form, and either Leveler or Paradigm Shift. You'll also need Wheel of Sun and Moon either on the battlefield or in your hand. Keeping it in hand can be better if you don't want Paradigm Shift to be put back in your library.

Casting Leveler gets rid of your library straight away, while casting Paradigm Shift requires you to draw any cards that were in your graveyard until there are two or fewer remaining. Now we start the loop. Tap Devoted Druid to cast Briar Shield on Meletis Astronomer. The heroic ability won't find anything since the other Shield is in your hand, but that's fine. Put a +1/+1 counter on Devoted Druid with Oath of the Ancient Wood or Celestial Ancient.

Put a -1/-1 counter on Devoted Druid to untap it. The two counters cancel each other out and vanish. Sacrifice Briar Shield to give Meletis Astronomer +3/+3 until end of turn. Briar Shield goes on the bottom of your library. Tap Devoted Druid to cast the other Briar Shield. Heroic triggers, and since there are three or fewer cards in your library, you can grab Briar Shield from the bottom. Devoted Druid gets another counter, letting you untap it.

Now you repeat the process ad nauseam, sacrificing the Shield to give Meletis Astronomer +3/+3 over and over again until it's incredibly large. Cast Aqueous Form to make the Astronomer unblockable, and attack for a billion.

Meletis Madman

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Popularity Contest

As we finish up Born of the Gods previews this week and prepare to reveal the entire set, I have a challenge for all of you. Look through all the new cards and pick out the one that gets your Johnny senses tingling the most. Is there a card that you think is just waiting to be broken, or a crazy interaction you found? Send me your picks through email or on Twitter via the links below. I'll take the cards with the most votes and build decks around them for a future article.

Until next time, may you stop to get lost in the endless possibilities of our universe. See ya!

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