Click, Click, Click

Posted in From the Lab on December 17, 2008

By Noel deCordova

Don't you hate that feeling? That odious little sensation you get when you've just planted yourself on the couch in an innocent quest for some decent TV, and all that's on at the time is reruns? It's just the same old shtick instead of exciting new things. And on particularly horrible occasions, even the new stuff is rerun worthy. Being a week-to-week "fan" of Heroes for three years has educated me on these particular occasions, believe me.

However, the great game of Magic that we celebrate nearly every day is thankfully not equipped with this negative feeling. Magic is the perfect "rerun" game: Certain decks and strategies almost never get old, and forgotten or overlooked cards can instantly make the leap to tournament powerhouse. (I'm looking at you, Protean Hulk and Grindstone!) Some of my favorite kitchen table Magic moments are when I whip out a card ability from times past, and receive a tableful of head scratches. This was apparent about a month ago when I was playing some precon-Two-Headed Giant (a neat format I was introduced to where all four players just use slightly modified precons) and my teammate windmill-slammed Konda, Lord of Eiganjo into play. One opponent (piloting a super-withered Death March from Eventide) rolled his eyes at us. "Indestructible? Come on." After I assured him that wither could, in fact, maul the mad monarch, he laughed and said, "That's a neat ability." (For any interested, a timely Indomitable Will on Konda helped him survive a Noxious Hatchling attack, so we had the last laugh there.)

So when I uncovered the shocking truth that this week was Rerun Week, I was aghast. Why? Simple. How could it be Rerun Week if we haven't even had Run Week yet? It's true that I've been saving a few choice ditties for that Wednesday to come along. Well, I probably have to come up with something original. The whole 'let's just rerun my article from last week' Eureka moment didn't exactly fly with the guys up high (I promise I'll never say that again). The fact that that same joke was already laid on you way back in Echo Week represents my utter desperation with this topic. Not to worry, however! Since this isn't the typical visit to the lab, I'm going to let fly with a smorgasbord of different stuff here and there: theme decks, lists, and the results and consequences of a couple of polls I ran a while back.

    Born to Run

Okay, I guess this 'Run before Rerun' really threw my OCD addled mind for a loop. Before I venture into all things physically exhilarating, let's talk about that elegant Johnny/Vorthos creation: the theme deck. These decks are not so much by the book, 24 land and 36 spells, win the game kind of decks. No, these decks are works of art, masterpieces of the casual environment. Usually they are centered around one chosen object or word. This clever restriction, in my mind, is one of the most unique forms of deckbuilding. In this case, the question is, "Can I make a viable deck themed around the verb 'run'?"

What I wound up with was an odd, mostly red, and aggressive theme deck that splashes a bit of green. Two distinct themes sprouted up from the cards at hand. Some of my attackers don't like it when they are snuffed out by removal and vengefully punish my opponent (Mudbutton Torchrunner, Lava Runner.) The other quirky theme was that my other creatures make blocking very difficult while in the war zone. Duct Crawler and Viashino Runner have built-in blocking restrictions (I like to think that Duct Crawler outruns blockers, or at least outscuttles them.) Goblin Rimerunner automatically ups the ante, especially when you really want to connect with Akki Lavarunner. Once transformed into Tok-Tok, Volcano Born, all your hard-to-block guys get a +1 power boost a la Glorious Anthem. Radha, Heir to Keld makes it in on flavor text (and total BA-ness) and can accelerate you into more dudes or combat tricks. Speaking of battle trickiness, Outmaneuver just fits perfectly in this sort of deck. For a 'finisher', I considered Overrun, but its hefty mana cost was too green. That was last week. The simple answer in a 'Run' theme deck is, eloquently, Run, the oft-forgotten second side to Hit // Run.

Run To The Hills

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    '08, It's Been Great

Since this is the last snippet of original content from the lab this year (holiday vacations are filled in with yearly 'Best-Of' columns for those unaware), I figured I'd talk a little about the sets of 2008 I didn't talk about this year. And, by "sets of 2008 I didn't talk about this year" I mean Morningtide. My Shadowmoor requirements were met in my two guest columns during Chris Millar's reign, and Eventide enjoyed two experiment-riddled weeks early in September. Since I've just now developed an insane desire for Top Ten lists, here are my Top Ten Offbeat Cards from Morningtide!

10. Stonybrook Schoolmaster

I wanted to get at least one card from each rarity level on here, and after ruminating on Shard Volley and Everbark Shaman, I settled on the Master of the Stonybrook School. Around the casual area, it's often an automatic four-of in Merfolk decks, it's crazy alongside Drowner of Secrets, and it combos with Intruder Alarm.

9. Swell of Courage

This card is here for its genuine versatility. Do you want an Overrun effect, or would you rather have one beefed up creature? I like how the former would usually be chosen in a traditional white weenie deck, but in an exalted deck, the latter (hopefully targeting Rafiq of the Many) would get the nod instead.

8. Stomping Slabs

Ah, I had to mention this bizarre card that potentially says, "Put the top seven cards from the top of your library on the bottom of your library." That kind of uselessness gets a laugh from me, and hey, 7 damage is a ton on the third turn.

7. Reach of Branches

One of my favorite decks that Chris Millar built this year was the 'Jolly Branches' deck way back in Shaman Week. There's no doubting the awesomeness of repeatable 2/5 Treefolk Shaman tokens, but when you've busted Greenseeker in half, that's the whole cake, icing and all.

6. Shared Animosity

I'm currently on the rebound from my recent Shared Animosity kick, but I can take a couple seconds of splurging. In fast creature decks, Shared Animosity is often a three mana Coat of Arms, thus enabling quick wins. A speedy red Elemental deck (packing Nova Chaser) could end the game lickety-split.

5. Gilt-Leaf Archdruid

And...Seton, Krosan Protector has a new best buddy! If you didn't say, "Wow!" when you saw that last ability, I have a bridge to sell you. (Wait, what?) At a time when Magic players were grappling with the concept of planeswalkers and 'ultimate' abilities, a lowly Druid shows up with the zaniest ultimate of them all. Neat!

4. Scapeshift

I talked about Scapeshift in my second full-time column, in which I described breaking the green sorcery as, "...trying to remember a dream." Through a mix of thinning your deck, finding lots of non-basic lands at once, making land/graveyard fueled decks hum, and dizzying artwork, I love this card. It's no shocker that former House of Cards arch-villain Mark Gottlieb designed it.

3. Countryside Crusher

Don't be too flabbergasted to see this so-called Spike card on this Johnniest of lists. Unless my knowledge has been exploited, I don't think the Crusher got much play in the tourney-bound 'Demigod Red' decks. Well, more for the Johnny masses! Whether it's Scouting Trek or Lodestone Bauble, Terravore or Worm Harvest, lots of kitchen table cards play nicely with the Giant.

2. Diviner's Wand

Whaaaaaaaat? Diviner's Wand? Get outta here! Seriously, the Wand needs some deckbuilding love. In my opinion, it's an amazing piece of equipment, but it quickly developed 'Luigi Syndrome' by watching fellow Morningtide weapons Obsidian Battle-Axe and Thornbite Staff get the spotlight. I'm sure there are some spells in Magic that allow you to draw lots of cards in one shot (Mind Spring) or have something to do with Wizards (Aracnis the Omnipotent, Azami, Lord of Scrolls). Somewhere.

1. Maralen of the Mornsong

Maralen's pretty much the undeniable Johnny Queen of Morningtide, with a ridiculously tempting drawback and a castable mana cost. Not much new can be said about her, but I'll say this: I can't wait to Chord of Calling her into play against the Elves! Extended deck.

    RE: Run Deck

Yep, a deck actually built around the popular prefix. Before everyone's on me about loopholes, here's how I selected potential cards. The name had to fit this formula: 'Re' + Word (usually a verb) + (anything that makes sense). This means that Reroute is in and Reaper King is out. Can it be done? We'll see.


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Yep, an all spell deck. Hey, there aren't that many creatures that fit my formula. To bend around this, I went with Reanimate, which can conveniently bring back some of my opponent's creatures to fight for me. To get some beaters in the opposing scrapheap, I turned to various counterspells and removal spells. Eleven bits of burn can kill creatures big and small. Remove Soul and Rethink can straight up counter stuff. Remand, Repulse, and the potentially awesome Recantation can help you stay alive. Relearn can bring back nearly every spell in the deck for a, heh, repeat play. And hey, we're in Grixis colors, might as well cycle Resounding Scream for once.

    The Poll Results

This was sort of an experiment to see how I fared with each shard. As I unveil the poll winners by shard, I'll reveal my personal pick, to conveniently create some suspense. It's like American Idol, but with Magic. And thus, far cooler.

For Bant Week, my personal favorite deck was Eternal Exaltation, named after the in-deck Pull From Eternity and the 'exalted' mechanic. Which did you pick?

Which was your favorite Bant Week deck?
Look At Me, I'm Abusing Ramp;D!29634.2%
Stoicus Quietus28733.2%
Eternal Exaltation28232.6%

Look at Me, I'm Abusing Ramp;D!

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For Grixis Week, I really liked Manausea. I'm a sucker for 30+ land decks. However, the winner was:

Which was your favorite Grixis Week deck?
Skeleton Crew26737.0%

Skeleton Crew

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Despite me shirking the rules of the Highlander format, I still loved the Mayael the Anima deck from Naya Week. Another disagreement:

Which was your favorite Naya Week deck?
Ooze the Beatdown?27637.4%

Ooze: The Beatdown

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I liked Skill Session from Esper Week. Flipping Skill Borrower really struck a Johnny chord within me, but apparently I was wrong again.

Which was your favorite Esper Week deck?
The Sphinx Jinx39147.9%
From the Astrolabe23528.8%
Skill Session19123.4%

The Sphinx Jinx

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On to Jund Week. I finally guess right, ironically on my favorite shard! Like I did, many readers appreciated the devouring of Thrulls:

Which was your favorite Jund Week deck?
Breeder Feeder47649.5%

Breeder Feeder

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    The Lite Rerunner

I've done a 're' deck. I've done a 'run' deck. I guess that means a combination of the two is in order. This isn't a theme deck, though. Instead, my 'reprints in Standard' sense was tingling. Some have been foretold in Future Sight (Boldwyr Intimidators, Mistmeadow Skulk), some were smart choices for a set's theme (Elvish Warrior, Reflecting Pool), and, as usual, most come from the frequent core-sets (Composite Golem, Warp World.) This deck, while certainly capable of winning, is more for inducing head scratches:

"Wait...that's not Standard legal!"

"Um, actually, it is. Corrupt for 7?"

Reprint Mayhem

Main Deck

60 cards

10 Island
10 Swamp
4 Terramorphic Expanse (Time Spiral version)

24 lands
4 Merfolk Looter (Exodus version)
4 Bottle Gnomes (Tempest version)

8 creatures
4 Corrupt (Urza's Saga version)
4 Flow of Ideas (Ravnica version)
4 Infest (Onslaught version)
4 Cancel (Time Spiral version)
4 Torture (Homelands version)
4 Mind Stone (Ravnica version)
4 Elsewhere Flask (Weatherlight version)

28 other spells

Sadly, Elsewhere Flask is the only non-reprint card in the deck, but it's absolutely crucial, so consider the deck 56 out of 60 reruns. The goal is pretty straightforward: counter things, kill opposing things, and draw cards to start out. Cancel, Infest, and Merfolk Looter adequately fill the shoes of traditional blue/black control. Once you have control, either unleash a monster Flow of Ideas or win the game with numerous Corrupts to the dome. Here Elsewhere Flask shines, allowing both spells to be reasonably played. The main goal of the deck is, however, to have your opponent "catch" you playing non-Standard cards in a Standard game.

See you all in 2009!

"I am reminded of the fable of the silver egg. Its owner cracks it open to see what jewels it holds, only to discover a simple yellow yolk." -Karn, silver golem

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