Bolster Your Weapon

Posted in From the Lab on January 19, 2015

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.

Greetings, fellow laboratorians, and welcome to Bolster Week! Well, ok…it's not actually Bolster Week, but I couldn't wait to start messing around with this new mechanic. I absolutely love +1/+1 counters, and bolster can give you loads of them. Now, counters by themselves are already a pretty decent win condition, but today I'll be showing off decks that turn those counters into something even better.

Sage of Mastodons

My first deck this week wasn't actually my idea. In fact, the origin of it involves staying up until 2 a.m. playing Super Smash Bros. Melee with some friends. I've always thought being tired better opens the brain to creative ideas. And in this case, one friend pointed out that the five counters Sandsteppe Mastodon gives you when it enters the battlefield is the same number you need to take an extra turn with Sage of Hours.

I don't know how I didn't see this sooner. After all, Sage of Hours was one of my preview cards for Journey into Nyx. The combination is just too perfect. As soon as my mental gears started turning, I hit upon Conjurer's Closet as a way to get an unlimited number of extra turns. However, when building the deck, I had an even better idea. Instead of hiding in the Closet, I turned to another preview card from a year earlier: Progenitor Mimic. With the Mimic copying Sandsteppe Mastodon, you'll get a new creature every turn instead of just using the same one over and over again. Progenitor Mimic also makes for an excellent win condition, since along with your unlimited turns you'll be assembling an endless army of 5/5s.

The downside here is that Sandsteppe Mastodon costs seven mana, so you'll need a way to get there without losing the game. Since I'm in blue anyway, I decided to put the combo into a more controlling deck. Mana Leak can stop important spells early in the game to buy you time. Later on, Dissolve can counter spells even if your opponent has mana open, and will let you scry to dig for your combo pieces as well. Condescend is a hybrid of the two. It can sometimes require more mana to counter a spell, but it also allows you to scry 2 instead of 1.

Temporal Spring is an old card, but a good one. If there's a big creature attacking you, you can set it back two turns. If your opponent is struggling to hit his land drops, you can slow him down even further. You can temporarily get rid of any permanent that's causing you trouble, and make your opponent effectively skip his draw step as well. You can even keep a counterspell ready the next turn if you want to deal with it permanently.

Brainstorm is the classic way to make sure the cards you have in hand are the ones you want. It gets massively more powerful if you have a way to shuffle away the cards you just put on top, and this deck will be playing Misty Rainforest anyway. Stepping up to two mana gives you Impulse, which can dig deep into your library and give you whichever card you need most. Finally, Fact or Fiction is another classic control tool that can get you a nice bit of card advantage. Your opponent gets to have some say in what you get, but the final decision it yours.

Sandsteppe Sage

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Saprolings in General

Bolster is a mechanic usually seen with relatively small numbers, with Sandsteppe Mastodon being a notable exception. However, there is one card that takes bolster to a whole new level. Dragonscale General's bolster ability is limited only by the number of tapped creatures you can put onto the battlefield.

The obvious way to abuse this card is to turn those counters into more tapped creatures. There are a few ways you could accomplish this. I ended up going with Ghave, Guru of Spores. He can remove +1/+1 counters and turn them into creatures for just one mana each, and he comes with five to get you started.

Now we have a way to turn counters into creatures, but they're still untapped. Dragonscale General doesn't like that. In addition, you'll still have to have one mana for every counter you put on Ghave. Earthcraft solves both of these problems. Every creature you put onto the battlefield untaps a land to pay for the next one, allowing you to convert all your +1/+1 counters to Saprolings free of charge. You can also tap your creatures at will to make sure you get maximum value from Dragonscale General.

Arbor Elf, Birds of Paradise, and Sylvan Caryatid help you get Dragonscale General and Ghave onto the battlefield a turn earlier, and they give you more tapped creatures for the General's ability as well.

Eladamri's Call can search for whichever creature you don't have and put it right into your hand. If you don't have either, Congregation at Dawn can get both for you. Enlightened Tutor makes sure you have access to Earthcraft, and I've included two copies of Banishing Light that you can search for if you need them.

Dragonscale Guru

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Stormy Season

My third and final deck for today doesn't use bolster, but the idea came to me while I was doing research for Dragonscale General, and I had to take advantage of it. When looking for cards that turn +1/+1 counters into creatures, I stumbled upon Sekki, Seasons' Guide. While it didn't really fit into the previous deck, one part of the wording stuck out. Or rather, the lack of one part of the wording did. Nowhere in Sekki's second ability does it say the phrase, "if you do." What this means is that Sekki doesn't care whether you actually remove +1/+1 counters or not, it will give you your Spirit tokens and prevent the damage either way.

Normally, this wouldn't matter much, since as soon as those counters are gone Sekki will be put into the graveyard for having 0 toughness. However, all it takes is +1/+1 and Sekki can stick around making tokens forever.

Since Sekki costs eight mana, Gauntlet of Power seemed like a great way to get that +1/+1, doubling the mana your Forests produce at the same time. Unfortunately the tokens aren't green, so they'll remain 1/1s. Caged Sun will also do the job, but it does cost one more mana than the Gauntlet.

Now you'll need a way to deal damage to Sekki. Pandemonium and Warstorm Surge are the perfect cards for the job. Every time a Spirit token enters the battlefield, you can make it deal 1 damage to Sekki, giving you another Spirit token. To start things off, just cast the enchantment first and make Sekki deal damage to itself when it enters the battlefield. To end the loop, just aim the last of the damage at your opponent's life total. Now you have as many creature tokens as you can handle, ready to overrun your opponent the following turn.

Since Sekki is the only card without a substitute, I included Worldly Tutor to help you find it. Then it occurred to me that the least expensive of the combo pieces is Pandemonium at four mana. Gauntlet of Power will accelerate you into Sekki, but I wanted something to accelerate into Gauntlet of Power. Since the Gauntlet only works on basic lands, I made sure to use cards that can get you more Forests.

Sakura-Tribe Elder is the best one, since it can also trigger Warstorm Surge and Pandemonium if you draw it later in the game. Nature's Lore is great as well since it puts the land onto the battlefield untapped. After that, I'll turn to the simple staple of Rampant Growth, which has appeared in no less than seven core sets over the years.

Sekki the Invincible

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Set Your Time Machine to January 26

That's all for this week, but I'll be back next week with a very special edition of From the Lab. Although I've had free reign for the last two articles, it's time to bring it in for a theme week, and this theme happens to fit in perfectly with. . .Well, you'll just have to wait and find out. See ya!

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