Bungle in the Jungle

Posted in From the Lab on November 5, 2008

By Noel deCordova

Bob's eyes twitched. Then they twitched again. His carefully tucked in shirt that he had methodically picked out that morning was unfortunately stained with dirt, grass, and – yep, some coffee there on the left. The grimy wrinkles of the shirt smoothed out as he shifted, slowly coming to terms with his current state, which if you could guess, was pretty darn unenviable.

Bob then stood up and rubbed his head. Even if he had attempted to simultaneously pat his stomach at that point for some reason, it wouldn't have worsened his situation. Unbeknownst to him, instead of the comfortable accounting office that he thought he was in, Bob was deep in the intimidating jungles of Naya.

Details of Bob's discovery that he was not in fact still at the office, but in a mesmerizing cat-ridden jungle were amusing to say the least. Suffice to say, he screamed for a bit, threw his papers around, ran in circles for a little bit longer, screamed some more, tried to climb a tree (this one was slightly puzzling), and then just reverted to his standby of screaming. He was pretty good at it by now.

Once Bob had calmed down, he began to assess his situation. Unfortunately Bob was never in Boy Scouts, instead opting for Accounting Scouts (and Screaming Scouts, probably). He initiated his first primal instinct (Dig Out Your Cell) but before he could slide a hotkey, tons of squirming green roots popped out of the ground like plant Whack-A-Moles and grabbed the phone out of his hand, naturalizing it to techno-bits. The spinning vines proceeded to all but strip-search him of any other technology, confiscating his shiniest pen, his calculator, and his Game Boy Color, which not even his boss on earth had discovered on him. After they slunk back into the ground, poor Bob performed a hilarious hopping sort of run, as though he were dancing over hot coals, to get away from the vine-infested dirt.

This is where Bob's second primal instinct kicked in: Drink From Potentially Lethal Body Of Water. A small pond was ahead of him, and, although the pond wasn't filled with red Gatorade, somehow he managed to quench his thirst. Just as Bob was beginning to relax, a loud thump sounded behind him. He turned around to see nothing but the pond-side clearing he had wandered to. Another loud boom sounded, which, for the record, was louder than a jet plane, a dozen alarm clocks, and Metallica's Death Magnetic combined. Out from across the clearing, a monstrous creature made a Mighty Emergence and stared directly at Bob, who reacted with surprising valor.

Just kidding. He did scream, though.

Freaks, The Mighty

Mighty Emergence, I'll admit, didn't really jump out from the spoiler when I was combing it for cards to discuss for Naya Week, which, by the way, we're in the middle of in case you didn't know. It seems a bit redundant, in the sense that when you play a fat creature, two +1/+1 counters don't make that much of a difference because, well, it's a fat creature. It's going to be big any way you slice it. For those reasons, I dub it a reject uncommon, and although it's a bit restrictive, it's interesting and fun enough to qualify as a build-around-me card.

I was electronically approached by Tim Nyberg a couple of weeks ago in an email, in which he came up with a cool combo with Mighty Emergence but was worried that someone else had come up with it before him. No worries, Tim, I heard it from you first! In Tim's words, "Ooze Garden + Mighty Emergence + (any creature with stats 5/x). Play your creature, it gets +2/+2, and is now a 7/x. Sacrifice to Ooze Garden, replace with a 7/7 creature that gets +2/+2 (counters) and is now 9/9." An engine that makes the big bigger? Sign me up! Tim also mentions that trample would be a nice touch to your beefy Oozes, so Bramblewood Paragon gets the start. With the Paragon and Emergence in play, any 5-power Warrior you play will get three +1/+1 counters!

Two interesting Warriors that I wanted to point out as good complements to Ooze Garden are Wren's Run Packmaster and Rhys the Redeemed. Firstly, the Packmaster has long been overshadowed by its fellow Wren's Run clan member, the Wren's Run Vanquisher, and it was time for the 5/5's due. Not only is it an automatic Mighty Emergence trigger, but it can repeatedly spawn Wolves, which become endless fodder for the Ooze Garden. The same can be said for Rhys's first ability, but the Redeemed one's second ability excites me even more because it allows the duplication of all the Ooze tokens you've already made. Assuming all these tokens had a power of 5 or greater when the pseudo Doubling Season hit, they'd all get a couple +1/+1 counters and thus trample from the Bramblewood Paragon!

Mighty Emergence

One of the coolest interactions, though, is that from Nameless Inversion. On the surface, yes, it's great removal, but it's a sweet (although one-shot) combo with Ooze Garden. Let's say you've got lots of mana at your disposal, Nameless Inversion in hand, and Ooze Garden and a 5/5 Ooze token in play. If you cast the Inversion on the Ooze, it becomes a creature that is blatantly not an Ooze any longer, because of the creature type deletion from the Inversion. Meaning, you can then sacrifice the now 8/2 Nothing to the Ooze Garden and wind up with a bigger Ooze. And if Mighty Emergence is in play, it becomes even biggerer. This trick is really, really fun to pull off to clinch the last couple of damage points.

The Treefolk duo of Canker Abomination and Dauntless Dourbark are both cheap for 5-power oaks. When played the turn after a Mighty Emergence, a Canker won't be so sore from -1/-1 counters. Hunting Triad proved to be the glue that held the deck together, both by making lots of juicy Elf Warrior tokens, and by boosting a creature to Mighty levels. I also wanted to add Drumhunter in the spirit of Naya week for some good old card drawing based on creature power.

Ooze the beatdown?

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What about Bob?

Bob stared at the giant creature in front of him and began to quake. The old fear, the fear that he had restrained in himself for months, began to stir up once again as the release of his worst enemy. Not even the creature, which seemed pretty bored to be truthful, scared him as much as the return of his fear did.

He had been to therapy classes, trying to recover after the incident at work. Around six weeks later his arm healed, along with his mind. Or so it seemed. Apparently his confidence, although gradually improving, was as fragile as a Mulldrifter with a mannequin counter. The weeks of mentally rebuilding himself were rapidly eroding as the gargantuan decided to just get it over with and began moving toward him.

Just as he was about to scream again, a feeling of vivacity strangely chose to wash over him. He suddenly felt invigorated to such a degree that he could outrace any Energizer Bunny out there. The oncoming monster somehow didn't seem as proficient as before, and as it got closer, its eye widened like eyes tend to do when their owner is suddenly surprised. The beast half-heartedly swiped at Bob, all of a sudden unsure of its quarry.

Bob, blissfully unaware of his own body movement, grabbed the giant claw of the gargantuan and, using some newfound power he didn't have before (odd, there was no mutated spider nest underneath him) picked up and flung the beast halfway across Naya. His arms blazed with fervor, and as Bob threw the beast he exhaled air full of verve, vim, and a bit of vigor. The beast, meanwhile, landed in a dense forest, leaving a gigantic, fiery crater.

Back at Bob's end, the accountant was staring at his hands in disbelief, when he heard a voice say, "Psst!"

"Who's there?" Bob replied, still a little shaken by his epic fight. He turned toward a nearby bush.

"Your destiny..." the voice said mysteriously.

"This better not be one of those knock-knock jokes," quipped Bob, transitioning to the brash action hero role.

The mysterious voice ignored this. "Aren't you curious how that just happened?" it asked mysteriously. When Bob scratched his head in reply, it mysteriously went on, "Tell me something. You drank from the pond, in an effort to replenish your liveliness. Isn't it obvious what happened?"


The voice paused for effect. "Someone paid ."

Activate Floridly

Cradle of Vitality

I've had Cradle of Vitality marked on my white board to use for a while now, and I was carefully guarding some cool combos I'd come up and biding my time until Naya Week. That is, until my nefarious plans were foiled by Bill Stark in his Latest Developments column about a month ago. Not only were Spike Feeder and Kitchen Finks mentioned, but my most secret tech of all was also publicly revealed: Goldenglow Moth. Fortunately, there are still enough unknowns to create a kooky but straightforward white deck in Standard that wants to abuse the Cradle as much as possible.

The first main one is Sunseed Nurturer, who has been dubbed by many as the worst of the Naya mini-cycle, looking up at contemporaries Drumhunter and Exuberant Firestoker. However, it's great alongside Cradle of Vitality. With all the life you're gaining with the fine folks mentioned last paragraph, you're bound to have a 5-powered creature, which is when the Nurturer kicks in with more +1/+1 counter production.

Inspired by Doug Beyer's recent behind-the-scenes look at the Brothers Ajani, I went with two copies of both. Ajani Vengeant transforms the great Lightning Helix () into the broken Crazy Helix (): Lightning Bolt something, Healing Salve yourself, and put three +1/+1 counters on something, while Ajani Goldmane's every ability is great in this deck. Gaining 2 life will pump something up, giving your creatures +1/+1 counters (especially persisted Kitchen Finks) and vigilance (especially Goldenglow Moth) is key, and his ‘ultimate' ability will probably wind up huge.

Finally, as an appropriate removal-esque card, Recumbent Bliss can lock down a problem creature while also slowly pumping up your team. Soul's Grace seemed too perfect, and Boon Reflection does what all boon reflectors do best. I'm not sure what that is on the whole, but here? Tons of life and counters.


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Bob's Saga Continues

Bob didn't know what to make of destiny and mana, the latter of which he was clueless about. Actually, make that the latter and the former. He decided to keep the voice talking while sneaking over to the bush. Maybe he would throw the voice's owner too. A malevolent thought, to be sure, but throwing things was suddenly Bob's favorite activity, even more so than screaming.

A face, complete with pale eyes and leafy figures, popped out of the undergrowth and thoroughly shocked Bob, worse than the time he thought he had lost his copy of Office Space. "Who are you?" he choked out.

The face stretched to show elfin teeth. "I'm Mayael the Anima, of course. I brought you here."

"How?" asked Bob, instantly utilizing his third primal instinct: Check For Hidden Camera.

Mayael shrugged. "You were within the top five cards. It's not the outer appearance that determines your power, but your heart."

Mayael Pile

Mayael the Anima

To cap off this Standard focused look at Naya, here's a rousing nigh-Highlander deck based around Mayael the Anima. I would have kept the Mayael limit to one along with every other card, but with few cards in Standard (one of which, Citanul Flute, I wound up using) that can fetch the plucky Elf, I decided to max out to four.

Exuberant Firestoker joins the rest of its cycle here, being easy on the mana to find with the Flute. Another mini-cycle that made the deck was the big-creature cyclers, like Jungle Weaver. Go ahead and cycle them early; there's an abundance of fatties to pop into play with Mayael the Anima. Remember, where this deck lacks stone-set combos, it contains fun in spades.


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"You must face your innermost demons before I send you back, Bob. That last skeleton in your closet."

Bob thought it over. Since arriving in Naya he had gained confidence and strength from the Cradle and passed his first test in the earlier fight. He knew his fear would continue to plague him if he didn't vanquish it now. "Okay," he said clearly.

Mayael the Anima nodded. She spread her arms and chanted. Bob closed his eyes, and even before he opened them, he knew his nemesis was here. The Orgg stood before him, tusks dripping, but Bob knew no urge to scream. His healed arm throbbed. With a truly resounding roar, Bob charged into battle.

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