Darts: Avacyn Restored

Posted in From the Lab on May 3, 2012

By Noel deCordova

Hello and welcome back to the Lab. Although it might be May, as I write this I'm still swallowed by the gloom of April. No wait—that's just my own bitterness seeping though. Nothing personal, April. You're chill.

A new Magic set is just the remedy I need. After a fun weekend of absorbing the new set through my computer screen, I'm ready to tackle this set, which has its fair share of Johnny angles. Whenever I stumble upon a card that seems extremely compelling, with shreds of infinity dangling from its sides like damp kite strings, I try to actualize its potential. Thus, today I bring back the friendly "Darts" title. Last used as the front half of a palindrome with wacky Innistrad cards, I figured I'd transform it into a recurring article subtype.

It's always tricky to survey a full list of new cards and juggle the possible theme weeks that loom on the horizon. Thus, this week I've chosen cards that I don't anticipate as being part of a possible theme week. Miracle and soulbond, fear not. Your spotlight time approaches. For now, let's dive into some sturdy and silly ideas and decks.

    Lovely Bloodflow

Let's begin with one of Avacyn Restored's aforementioned Johnny delights, the twisted cravings of Exquisite Blood. On the surface, this card appears to capture all that is vampiric—the juicy longing of life drainage. Whenever your opponent would lose any life, Exquisite Blood will see to it that you gain that much life.

Exquisite Blood | Art by Cynthia Sheppard

As anyone familiar with gory black enchantments has undoubtedly figured out by now, there are infinite loops of bloody fun to be found here. Take a gander at Sanguine Bond. Yep, that's the literal reverse effect of Exquisite Blood. Meaning, if both enchantments are out on your side of the battlefield, your opponent is suddenly walking the high wire. Even the most minor slip of life totals will result in an infinite dance. The enchantments will consistently trigger each other until your opponent dies. This combo is fun to envision in flavor terms: "So... I play with your blood until you die, at which point I continue playing with your blood. My deepest vampiric fantasies come true!"

I knew this combo would want a surrounding deck skeleton that controlled the game until the win. Finding my enchantments wasn't a problem for Idyllic Tutor, which can find a bunch of other helpful cards. Oblivion Ring and Pillory of the Sleepless lock down problems, and once the Blood + Bond are out, the Pillory can even trigger your opponent's death.

I noticed while building this deck that both of my key enchantments have a converted mana cost of 5. Thus, I added a singleton Brainspoil out of my love for the transmute mechanic. Other spells to be found in this manner include Rout (a useful and sometimes instantaneous board sweeper) and Privileged Position, which can protect your other enchantments.

The final additions were mana acceleration (Orzhov Signet works) and some other methods of altering life totals. Sign in Blood was perfect, as I have no problem casting it on myself to dig into my deck, and late game it can set off the win. Bottle Gnomes was the final fun addition, warding off some creatures and allowing me to win instantly upon dropping the final missing enchantment. Even some of the lands chip in. Orzhova, the Church of Deals appears as a singleton, and Leechridden Swamp is even more stylish from my point of view. Not only is it a Swamp and thus able to be found by Marsh Flats, but its life leeching requirement lines up perfectly!


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    Surge Splurge

Ahh... the ten-mana sorcery. The various representatives of this small sect of Magic cards have put in their time over the years as incredibly game-changing spells, from Storm Herd's massive life-bent Pegasus swarm to Time Stretch's whopping turn-taking to Decree of Annihilation's atomic strike. Newcomer Primal Surge is the latest to join the party, and by gum, it packs quite a potential punch. The phrase "repeat this process" is always ripe for fantastic shenanigans.

Primal Surge | Art by David Rapoza

While wondering how to use this card, a reader by the name of Throat Wolfe sent me a Standard-tuned deck that's designed to ramp up to ten, cast Primal Surge, and win on the spot. Through what other means? The wildly lovable Laboratory Maniac, of course! Here's Throat:

Step 1: Get 10 mana.
Step 2: Play Primal Surge.
Step 3: Put your entire deck onto the battlefield, since Primal Surge is the only non-permanent in the deck.
Step 4: Draw a card from Abundant Growth's enter-the-battlefield ability, and then win with Laboratory Maniac.

The deck is Standard, mostly because I found it fun to make a one-card-kill within those constraints.

Most of the deck is taken up by cards that help you get the necessary mana to cast your game winner. I fit a little Myr theme in there. They can theoretically make infinite mana with Myr Galvanizer, but your most likely route to ten mana is Caged Sun, which will usually get you there next turn. Warden of the Wall is both defense and ramp. Rune-Scarred Demon is mostly for getting Primal Surge. Avacyn and Asceticism make sure your combo is not stopped at the final step.

Wow! I love the use of Rune-Scarred Demon here as a Tutor in permanent form. And Abundant Growth is the cheeky draw effect that triggers a Maniacal victory. I made one trivial change to Throat's deck, hopefully for the better. His initial list had twenty-five lands, and with all the ramp present in the deck I felt comfortable shaving a land for a Steel Hellkite, a threat destroyer which will happily drink the infinite Galvanizer mana. It's also a spicy Prototype Portal target.

Primal Mania

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    Break Griffin

The exile zone has become increasingly relevant in recent years. In accordance with the modern trends of Magic, it received a sleek makeover some years ago. No longer the mouthy "removed from the game" zone, it's now basically an ethereal graveyard. Some of my favorite cards interact with this zone of mystery, like Pull from Eternity and Mirror of Fate. I'm willing to add Misthollow Griffin to that list. Dripping with elegance, the card is in my view the ideal mythic rare, both bizarre and balanced.

Misthollow Griffin | Art by Jaime Jones

I knew exactly what I wanted to do with Misthollow Griffin, but I might as well share an email from Nate Hannon, who also found this zany combo. In his words:

There are many ways to abuse the Griffin's ability, but perhaps the most powerful is to use Food Chain. Each time you cast and then sacrifice the Griffin, you net one mana. Once you have enough mana, you can cast a giant Maga, Traitor to Mortals to end the game.

It's all about Food Chain. Nowadays it seems like a Birthing Pod prototype, but the Chain has seen its share of play in the past, and the Griffin revitalizes it as an infinite combo piece. As Nate stated, Maga, Traitor to Mortals can go right for your opponent's dome. As a Plan B, Verdeloth the Ancient sure likes to create Saproling tokens.

Since this can happen FAST (turn three at its most blistering speeds thanks to Birds of Paradise), I added lots of card draw. Nate recommended Wall of Blossoms and Mulldrifter, card drawing creatures that can be dumped into the Food Chain if needed. The mighty Soul of the Harvest (move over, Primordial Sage) cranks things up even more. If the Soul recognizes a Griffin Chain, it'll find your singleton win conditions!

I wanted to toy with the exile zone a little more, so I added a full set of Extract. Target yourself to put the Griffin on deck, or target your opponent to snipe a critical component of his or her deck. And I thought Scavenging Ooze could be fun. It randomly hoses decks, and if your Griffin happens to die, the Ooze can save it!

Drift of Phantasms is a fine wall, and can also find Food Chain or Maga. Finally, Alchemist's Refuge is completely astounding. Seriously. Do I even have to explain it?

Fun with Food

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Keep sending me crazy ideas, y'all. Until next time.

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