Creature Calendar

Posted in From the Lab on January 8, 2014

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.

Welcome back, laboratorians! It's good to be back from that holiday hiatus, and I've come with a pair of decks to celebrate the new year. Since this is my first article of 2014, I decided I should do something with that number. My first thought was to create a combo that deals exactly 2,014 damage. I figured getting a number that large would take some multiplication, so I did some quick calculations (by which I mean a Google search) to determine the prime factors of 2,014. Turns out they are 2, 19, and 53. Not exactly easy numbers to work with.

I did look at a few ways to pursue this angle: 19 is the maximum amount of life you can pay at the start of a game without dying, and fifty-three is the number of cards in your deck after you draw your opening seven. Although I found ways to take advantage of each of these numbers, combining them in a way that made sense was another matter entirely. Short on time and continuing to hit dead ends, I decided to go another route.

  • Flaming Animals

Rather than deal 2,014 damage, I chose to pursue making a 20/14 creature. There's a power-toughness differential of 6 there, so it would be easiest to start out with a creature that matches that. The best choice turned out to be 7/1. With a 7/1 creature, I can give it +13/+13 to make it into a 20/14. There are also two different 7/1 creatures in Magic. Well, sort of.

Blistering Firecat is the obvious one. Although it only survives one turn, you can keep it hidden as a morph until you're ready. Then you only have to pay two mana to get it ready for action. The other 7/1 is Valakut Fireboar. While technically a 1/7, the Fireboar switches its power and toughness when it attacks, turning it into a 7/1. Since the power and toughness boost is symmetrical, we won't have to worry about the layers system throwing a wrench into things.


The other piece to the puzzle is finding a way to give the creature +13/+13. I also refused to be satisfied with a method that didn't make sense. There had to be a reason for the creature getting +13/+13 rather than any other number.

A number of possibilities crossed my mind. You could copy the Firecat with The Mimeoplasm, using Death's Shadow or Krosan Cloudscraper to provide thirteen +1/+1 counters. You could also deal 13 damage to the creature with Shivan Meteor, and have Vigor turn that into thirteen counters. However, I chose to go with something a bit more unique.

Inner Calm, Outer Strength has a mouthful of a name, and works best when you have a handful of cards. It can certainly give a creature +13/+13 with enough card draw, but that's not good enough. I want it to be exactly thirteen every time. I started looking for ways to make that happen. If you have a full hand, you need to draw six cards to reach thirteen. Thirteen is also one less than double your maximum hand size. The latter turned out to be the key to making this deck work.

Thought Reflection is a card I've often taken advantage of in Commander as a way to pump up my card-drawing capabilities. Here, it serves as half of the method I'll be using to assemble a hand of fourteen cards. The second half is Memory Jar. With both on the battlefield, you can sacrifice Memory Jar to exile your hand and draw fourteen cards. Reforge the Soul works as well, although it requires a mana commitment on the winning turn.


There are a couple pieces to the puzzle still left unsolved. Fourteen cards isn't thirteen, and we've neglected to figure out how to get Inner Calm, Outer Strength. Why not hit two birds with one stone? You can use Long-Term Plans or Mystical Tutor to search out Inner Calm, Outer Strength and put it at the top of your library. Then when you sacrifice Memory Jar, you'll draw the pump spell among your fourteen cards. After casting the spell, you'll be left with thirteen, making your Firewhatever a 20/14.


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  • I've Got a Date

For my second deck, I decided to keep going with the calendar theme. Today is the eighth day of January, which in American notation is 1/8. As it so happens, there is exactly one 1/8 creature in Magic. Wall of Shards is a unique card that forces your opponent to gain life as its cumulative upkeep cost. There aren't many cards that make your opponent gain life against his or her will, so I figured I'd take advantage of that aspect of the card.

Most cards that turn gaining life into a drawback are worded specifically so that this kind of thing doesn't work. False Cure doesn't have this preventative measure, but it would require the Wall's cumulative upkeep to get all the way up to 20. The next things I looked at were various Lich variants. Many of these cards turn gaining life into something else, most often drawing cards. Although I could take advantage of one of those, I was reminded of another card that prevents you from losing at 0 life. One that would work quite well with Wall of Shards.

Transcendence essentially reverses your life total. You lose the game at 20 instead of 0, and every time your life total would go down it ends up rising instead. Transcendence has no effect on lifegain, however, and that's where Wall of Shards comes in.

If you give Transcendence to your opponent with Donate, you might just win the game immediately if your opponent is still at 20. If not, Wall of Shards can quickly take care of that, protecting your own life total while rocketing your opponent toward imminent death.

[card]Transcendence[/card] [card]Donate[/card]

Since the combo already puts us in blue and white, I elected to go with a WU Control shell, taking advantage of some old and new cards for the archetype. Render Silent and Dissolve are the counterspells I went with this time. The first makes sure you don't need to have two counterspells ready in one turn, and the second can help you dig for your combo pieces.

Speaking of digging for your combo, I've included a number of cards for that purpose. Impulse has a long history of cutting through libraries at breakneck speed, finding the perfect card for every situation. Modern variants have been toned down quite a bit, and for good reason.

[card]Render Silent[/card] [card]Impulse[/card]

Fact or Fiction is a classic card-advantage machine, at minimum giving you three cards for four mana at instant speed. Since it actually looks five cards down in your library, you have an even better chance of finding what you need. With your opponent likely at a loss to figure out what your deck is trying to do, you can often get some unexpected value out of the pile split.

Preordain is a relatively recent addition to the world of card selection, but one that has proven itself to be extremely powerful. It dominated Standard in its time, and was so problematic in Modern that it was banned from the format. Although you only get to look at two cards, you can do anything you want with them. Leave them on top, put them on bottom, or one of each. You even get to draw a card once you're done, making this a potent package for one mana.

[card]Fact or Fiction[/card] [card]Preordain[/card]

To make sure opposing creatures aren't too much of a problem, I've included some removal spells. Supreme Verdict is a powerful sweeper that can clear the board on turn four even in the face of a counterspell. The real star, however, is Swords to Plowshares. Not only does it exile a problematic creature, it also makes your opponent gain life. With Transcendence under your opponent's control, it can easily become a one-mana way to win the game.


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  • Time War

The time has come for our two decks to enter the arena. In this battle for the new year, who will be victorious? Will 1/8 rule the day, or will 2014 set a precedent for years to come? Let's go find out.

Game 1

2014 kicked things off by cracking a Scalding Tarn, and 1/8 looked into the future with Preordain. 2014 used a Misty Rainforest to grab another land before passing the turn. 1/8 cast Impulse, then passed back. 2014 made some Long-Term Plans, and 1/8 ended the turn after playing a land.

2014 played a creature face-down before passing the turn. 1/8 cast another Impulse during the end step, then played a land and passed back. 2014 attacked for 2 with the face-down creature, then cast a second one, ending the turn. 1/8 cast Fact or Fiction during the end step, getting Wall of Shards and a land.

1/8 cast Supreme Verdict to kill the two face-down creatures, then passed the turn. 2014 cast another face-down creature and passed back. 1/8 cast two copies of Wall of Shards before passing the turn, and 2014 cast Coalition Relic, putting a charge counter on it. The Walls brought 2014 up to 17, and 1/8 cast Preordain before ending the turn.

2014 cast Memory Jar, then put a new charge counter on the Relic and passed the turn. The Walls gave 2014 another 4 life, and 1/8 simply played a land and ended the turn. 2014 sacrificed Memory Jar, then played a land and cast Thought Reflection. 1/8 countered it with Render Silent, and 2014 passed the turn. The Walls brought 2014 up to 27 life, and 1/8 cast Transcendence. One Donate later, the game was over.

Game 2

Both sides played lands and passed until 1/8 cast Preordain on turn two. 2014 responded with a face-down creature, and 1/8 simply played a land and passed back. 2014 attacked with the 2/2, then played a second face-down creature before ending the turn. 1/8 cast Impulse during the end step, then played a land and passed.

2014 attacked with both creatures, then passed back. 1/8 cast Fact or Fiction during the end step, picking up a land, Preordain, and Wall of Shards. 1/8 cast two copies of Wall of Shards, then ended the turn. 2014 played a land and passed the turn.

The Walls brought 2014 up to 9, the latter having paid a total of 13 life already to various lands. 1/8 cast Preordain, then ended the turn. 2014 lost 3 more life by fetching an untapped Steam Vents, then cast Thought Reflection. 1/8 countered it with Render Silent, and 2014 passed the turn.

2014 went up to 10, and 1/8 ended the turn after just playing a land. 2014 took 2 from a Breeding Pool and cast another Thought Reflection. This one resolved, and 2014 passed the turn. 1/8 gave away 6 life with the Walls, then cast Impulse and passed the turn.

2014 cast Reforge the Soul, drawing fourteen cards. Blistering Firecat turned face-up, and Inner Calm, Outer Strength attempted to turn it into a 20/14. Unfortunately, Render Silent put a stop to that, and 2014 ended the turn. The Walls brought 2014 up to 20 life, and Transcendence and Donate once again took the game.

  • Ready to be Born

I hoped you liked this quirky take on some new decks for 2014. Although I'm all out of time for today, don't stray too far, because I'll be back next week championing a sweet preview card form Born of the Gods. This card can be the heart and soul of some impressive combo decks, and I have two such decks just waiting to show it off. See you then!


Mike CannonMike Cannon
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Mike Cannon signed on to write From the Lab at the end of 2012. An ardent casual player and lover of bizarre synergies, he'll be bringing you a selection of crazy combo decks every Monday.

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