Back in a Flash

Posted in From the Lab on December 15, 2011

By Noel deCordova

Hello all and welcome back to the Lab for this final installment (as far as 2011 is concerned) of wacky decks and questionable humor. I've got to say, I'm looking forward to my upcoming break from Magical mayhem. It'll be nice to relax and gear up for 2012's campaign, which should involve all sorts of awesome new additions to the massive, infinitely limbed tree that is Magic. I like to imagine that branches aren't actually added to it, but rather that we're all climbing it at our own paces and discovering the new ones, bit by bit.

Last week, I went over 2011's contributions to the grand spellscape in a bombastic awards-show-styled article that I was a bit nervous about, to be honest. Happily, I received many emails from readers who enjoyed my lists within lists and summation of the Magical year from my point of view. Therefore, List-o-Mania is hereby a staple article for the end of the year! Woo! (I guess I get elated when making official-ish announcements.)

So lengthy was that article, though, that I couldn't find room to paste the results of a poll I ran a couple weeks ago. The chosen contest will be revealed today, and you all have the holidays to build for it! Clearly, I've become a master of timing when it comes to this column (my real-life time management skills were sacrificed for this cause long ago).

But before that (or you could scroll down, but whatever) I must attend to the demands of Flashback Week. I've carefully avoided most of the new flashback spells from Innistrad in preparation for this week (although Past in Flames was way too cool for me to not froth about a couple months ago). Now that the day is here, I can finally gush about the nuttiness that is Army of the Damned (among other flashback spells).

    Will Fight For Brains

Army of the Damned | Art by Ryan Pancoast

We should all know by now to never enter cabins in the middle of the woods and expect to walk out with nary a scratch. Looking at the art for Army of the Damned, it's clear you won't be walking out at all. With all the references to classic horror culture strewn throughout Innistrad, I at first thought this to be a nod to The Evil Dead. It doesn't quite fit, though, since that movie involves possessed girls and really ornery trees, not zombies. Therefore, I submit Desperate Ravings as the actual The Evil Dead reference. From a slight distance, the depicted girl's eyes look as zonked out as those of the demonized lasses in the film. Plus, this tangent is valid since Desperate Ravings has flashback! (Hey, you. Yeah, you—the kid who hasn't seen The Evil Dead. Get on that.)

All in all, a whopping twenty-six 2/2 Zombie tokens can explode out of Army of the Damned. That's a lot. It's too tempting, really, to wait until turn eight (and ten). I want to figure out how to line up thirteen tapped 2/2 Zombies on my side of the battlefield as quick as possible.

The first step was famed sorcery magnet Spellweaver Helix. If I could get the Army and another, easily cast sorcery into my graveyard, the Helix could imprint them both. After some Gathering, I came up with Quiet Speculation.

This was when I realized how fast I could do this. Try this turn sequence on for size:

Turn One: land, Chrome Mox, Quiet Speculation for Army of the Damned and two Deep Analysis.

Turn Two: land, Spellweaver Helix, imprint the Army and one Analysis.

Turn Three: land, flashback the other Analysis, Remand any incoming counterspell, cast Army of the Damned for free.

Turn Four: attack for 26 damage!

I filled in the rest of the deck with supporting cards. Careful Study can ditch Armies if they start to clog up my hand (and it's a sorcery). Silent Departure is a useful bullet for Quiet Speculation, and Fabricate can find a Helix.

I wanted another way to potentially free-cast Army of the Damned in case the Helix plan failed. Enter Djinn of Wishes. With Ponder and Halimar Depths rearranging the top of my library, a Djinn could wish out my Zombie horde. If all else fails, Dreadship Reef and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth can allow me to hard-cast the Army. But plans A and B are much more delightful.

What Was That Noise?

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    Creeping... Birth?

Creeping Renaissance | Art by Tomasz Jedruszek

Creeping Renaissance combines green's recursive traits with its tendency to care about types, like its ancestors Nature's Spiral and Holistic Wisdom. Since Creeping Renaissance itself has flashback, it doubles down on that leafy prism of flavor. It's a nifty card, but I wonder at its potential. For each permanent type, a deck building avenue emerges. I'll give planeswalkers a pass, as Ken Nagle's bizarre (-ly awesome) Progenitus Commander list from last week's Daily Decks prominently features this route.

Let's say I choose lands as my returning permanent type. If I could find a way to load my graveyard with lands, a Creeping Renaissance could swell my hand with them. These lines of thought lead me to Seismic Assault, a victory condition in many similar decks. With ten lands in my graveyard, I could cast Creeping Renaissance to nab them all, and subsequently discard them all for 20 points of damage. Similarly, with only five lands in my hand, I could discard them all to the Assault to deal 10 damage to my opponent's dome, Creep them all back, and repeat for a further 10.

To stuff my graveyard with lands, I turned to Countryside Crusher. This Giant gets huge as he eats your lands from your library. However, I can't get stuck at three mana, so I added mana acceleration in the form of Sakura-Tribe Elder and Yavimaya Elder. Once the deck hits five mana, it can basically function fine (perhaps seven if flashing back the Renaissance becomes a dire need).

If there's an open window for the Crusher to attack, you can ditch the Seismic Assault plan and cast Scouting Trek. Stack all your lands on top, and the Crusher will eat them all and rumble in for the win! Other ways to get lands into your graveyard include the retrace spells. Discard your lands to cast stuff like Flame Jab (a stylish bit removal) and Worm Harvest (I smell synergy!)

To pursue the five-lands-in-hand plan, I turned to various cards. The aforementioned Yavimaya Elder can account for two, and the versatile Journey of Discovery can as well. I'm glad to use Realms Uncharted, as it straddles both the hand and the graveyard. Plus, it can search for non-basic lands, like Kessig Wolf Run (which can give a big Crusher trample!) I also figured this was an excellent opportunity for sweep to prove its usefulness as a mechanic. Perhaps I have a soft spot for the Saviors of Kamigawa mechanic, but I always felt it was unfairly maligned. Barrel Down Sokenzan is a worthy spot of burn that can potentially return five Mountains to my hand and set up the kill.

The final additions were Life from the Loam (a useful spell for this deck), Goblin Razerunners as a fun singleton, and a package of nonbasics for Realms Uncharted.


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    Cackle Clones

Cackling Counterpart | Art by David Rapoza

Today's final flashback-focused card is Cackling Counterpart. Apart from being extremely open-ended as far as deck building goes, I really have nothing negative to say about it. In fact, I have some borderline positive things to say about it! As an instant, this card can copy your creatures whenever you need to, which chalks up points for variance and versatility.

Although Cackling Counterpart can flash itself back, I for some reason wanted more ways to recur it, and so I turned to Runic Repetition, a quirky new companion piece to the flashback pie. Adding Repetitions would probably lead to more flashback cards entering the deck (a worthy notion for this week) but I was wondering about something else. Namely, what creature would I be copying a bunch of times? To narrow my focus, I looked at creatures that cared about flashback cards, or instants and sorceries in general. A smidgen of spell recursion, the obligatory slant towards the latest set... after minutes of Gathering, I landed on Charmbreaker Devils.

Snee-hee-hee. Now that's a firecracker card. Returning spells randomly from my graveyard to my hand is something I can laugh at anyway, but to double in size for each spell cast? And returning a Cackling Counterpart each turn to copy them? Welcome to super bonkers land.

Charmbreaker Devils | Art by Dan Scott

All sorts of red and blue flashback cards made the deck, like Desperate Ravings (more randomness!), Rolling Temblor (to clear out small armies), and Devil's Play (a powerful and ranging burn spell). I also thought tricks like Distortion Strike and Assault Strobe would make the Devils even more insane.

Other creatures to copy include Gelectrode (very effective in this sort of deck), Kiln Fiend (fitting early pressure), and Solemn Simulacrum (a generally helpful guy). Dreamscape Artist helps accelerate while discarding spells to be recurred later.

As always, there are so many routes to go down. Feel free to sprawl.


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It feels right to end the year on a blue-red deck. Mmmmm.

As promised, here are the contest results! Decks are due on January 5, so you all have the break to build.

Which contest should I run?
Theme Deck Contest236467.8%
Collector Number Contest112532.2%

The Theme Week Contest it is! To recap:

Build a theme or tribute deck. You can choose any film, book, album, game, story, person, or whatever to build around. However, I must stress: These decks ideally work when there's an ironclad resemblance to the source material within the deck's game play. Translate what the deck does and work backwards from there.

Finally, I have another bonus gift for y'all this week: A link to an 8track mix of music from this year that I enjoyed. Music is basically Magic for your ears, so I'm not sure this stocking stuffer's out of place. Feel free to ignore the link if you wish.

See you all in 2012!

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