Dead or Alive?

Posted in From the Lab on September 23, 2013

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.

Hello, and welcome to Dead or Alive?, where the only thing crazier than the combos is the host! Today's contestants come to us all the way from the plane of Theros. First up, it's Ashen Rider! Say hello, Ash!

Ash: Hi.

Ashen Rider | Art by Chris Rahn

A man of few words. I like it! It says here Ash that you're an Archon, a sort of magical arbiter of justice, is that correct?

Ash: Yes.

Wonderful, wonderful! Ash's specialty is exiling permanents. He'll get rid of one as soon as you summon him to battle, and if he falls in battle, he gets rid of a second as his final act. What a great guy!

Our second contestant is Gift of Immortality! Why don't you say hi to all the folks back home, Morty?

Gift of Immortality | Art by Matt Stewart

Morty: Hey Mike, it's a real honor to be here. I'd just like to thank my best friend Indestructibility for encouraging me to come on your show. Thanks, Bill!

So Morty, it says here that you're an Aura. Would you mind explaining to our audience what you do?

Morty: Sure, no problem! You see, if you have a creature you really like, you can cast me to protect it. If the creature dies, I'll bring it back from the graveyard for you, then follow myself to make sure it stays protected.

Excellent! I'm sure that comes in handy on the battlefield.

Morty: It sure does, Mike.

All right! Let's get started. We're going to put each of you through a series of scenarios that will have you popping in and out of graveyards like mad. Your job is to guess whether the other contestant is dead or alive, just like the name of the show. Got it?

Ashen Rider
Gift of Immortality

Ash: Yes.

Morty: Sounds good, Mike.

Wonderful! Now, we'll start off the scenarios with Ash, which means Morty, you're guessing.

Morty: Right!

Ash: Okay.

All right, now Morty, Ash and two Archon of Justices end up Buried Alive, when an Apprentice Necromancer brings him back from the grave. After a turn, is he dead or alive?

Buried Alive
Apprentice Necromancer

Morty: Well, the necromancer reanimated him, so I'm going to say alive.

Oh! I'm sorry, that's incorrect. Although Ash was indeed reanimated, the necromancer was only an apprentice, so the spell would wear off after a short time.

Morty: Aw, man!

Now, you've used up your extra life, so one more wrong answer and your round is over. Hope you have better luck this time, because here comes question number two! For this scenario, we're going to bring in Ash's brother, Rider. Why don't you say hello to our lovely studio audience, Rider?

Rider: Hi.

Yes, I see the family resemblance. Okay, now Ash 'n Rider are chilling in the graveyard when a Tireless Tribe dies because of a Recurring Nightmare. Don't ask me how, but this makes Ash suddenly come back to life. Then Ash has the same nightmare, bringing back his brother. So, Morty? Dead or alive?

Tireless Tribe
Recurring Nightmare

Morty: Ash is dead. It's Rider who's alive.

Correct! That's one point to Morty, and you are still hanging on. All right, time for question number three. Rider, do you mind if we borrow you again for this one?

Rider: No.

Excellent! In this scenario, Rider is in the graveyard, while Ash is on the battlefield. Hell's Caretaker is a bit of a fickle guy, and decides he wants the other brother instead, so he forces them to switch places. Certainly not a bad thing for the Planeswalker in charge, who gets to exile two permanents. Soon, the Caretaker changes his mind again, and switches the two brothers a second time. Morty, is Ash dead or alive?

Hell's Caretaker

Morty: Let's see... Ash started out on the battlefield, then switched with Rider, putting him in the graveyard. He then switched again, putting him back on the battlefield. Ash is alive.

That's right! Chalk up one more point for Morty! You certainly seem to be getting into the groove now! Think you can keep it going?

Morty: Well I need to set a high bar for Ash here, so I certainly hope so.

Let's see if you can raise that bar to three points! Here comes number four. Ash has been Entombed by his Planeswalker, then a few turns later, he's forced to follow in the Footsteps of the Goryo. Then the Soldier on the opposite side of the battlefield attacks. Morty, dead or alive?

Footsteps of the Goryo

Morty: Hmm.... I know that Footsteps of the Goryo only lasts for a short time, but this time you didn't say the turn had ended, so I'm going to go with alive.

Oh! Such a shame! The correct answer was dead. Footsteps of the Goryo can only be cast on your turn, and the opponent's Soldier could only have attacked if we had moved to his or her turn, so the reanimation effect would have expired. Sorry Morty, but that was your last life, and this round is over. Let's pull up a review for the folks at home.


Download Arena Decklist

All right Ash, it's your turn to rack up some points. Morty managed to get two points before losing both his lives. Think you can do better?

Ash: Yes.

Great! Let's get started. Now, all of Morty's scenarios are going to assume that two things are already on the battlefield. First we have Torpor Orb, a handy little device that makes sure creatures can't trigger abilities by entering the battlefield.

Ash: I don't like that.

I'm sure you don't. The second standby is Spawning Pit, a great tool for making your creatures go from alive to dead in the blink of an eye. Now, let's bring on the first scenario.

Torpor Orb
Spawning Pit


Uh oh, that sound mean this is a double duty round! After the scenario is laid out, you'll be given not one, but two questions, each of them worth one point, so make sure you listen closely. A Wormfang Manta enters the field, and Morty comes along to protect it. Then the Manta is sacrificed to the Spawning Pit. On the next turn, is the Manta dead or alive?

Wormfang Manta

Ash: Alive.

Correct! Morty does a great job of making sure that Manta doesn't meet an untimely end. That's one point already! If you get this next one right, you'll be tied with Morty! For your second question, is Morty dead or alive?

Ash: He's dead.

Sorry, that's incorrect! Remember that although Morty does go to the graveyard, he comes back at the end of the turn to ensure continuing protection for your chosen creature. That's one life down, and one to go. Be careful now!

On to the next question. Morty once again is hanging with Wormfang Manta, when an Enlightened Tutor finds a Conjurer's Closet, which soon enters the battlefield. Morty's Planeswalker uses the Closet on the Manta, flickering it out of play briefly. Is Morty dead or alive?

Enlightened Tutor
Conjurer's Closet

Ash: Dead.

That's right! Unfortunately for Morty, he doesn't come along for the ride when a creature is exiled, and he is forced to go to the graveyard all alone. That's one more point for Ash, and our two contestants are now tied for the lead! Ash, if you get this one right, you'll pull into first place.

Ash: Yes.

Okay! Here we go. Morty's Planeswalker Ponders for a moment before casting Nevermaker, a strange Elemental from the plane of Lorwyn. Morty comes along to ensure the creature's protection. The next turn, the opposing Planeswalker casts Doom Blade on the Nevermaker. A Counterspell stops it, but a second Doom Blade kills the Elemental. Now, is Morty dead or alive?


Ash: Morty comes back to protect the creature, so he's alive.

Wow, a whole sentence! Unfortunately, that's incorrect. Morty doesn't come back until the end of the turn, so at this point he's still dead. That's your last life, so this round is over! Once again let's take a look at the recap for this round.


Download Arena Decklist

We've got a real treat tonight folks! Ash and Morty are tied at two points apiece, which means it's time for the arena round! Our two contestants will fight it out in the pits to determine who will be tonight's winner. Ash, are you ready?

Ash: Yes.

Excellent! Morty, how about you?

Morty: Ready whenever you are, Mike!

All right! Let's get started!

Game 1

Morty started things off with a Plains, and Ash copied the move on his turn. Morty then played an Island and cast Torpor Orb. Ash played Isolated Chapel and passed the turn. Morty played an Island and passed back. Ash played a Swamp and cast Recurring Nightmare, which Morty hit with a Counterspell. Morty cast Enlightened Tutor during the end step to get Ancient Den.

Morty played the Ancient Den, cast a second Torpor Orb, and ended the turn. Ash played another land, cast Hell's Caretaker, and ended his turn. Morty cast Nevermaker and passed back. Ash played a fifth land and cast Archon of Justice, and Morty cast Ponder to look at the top three cards. He played a Hallowed Fountain for his turn, then enchanted the Nevermaker with Gift of Immortality.

He ended his turn, and Ash cast a second Archon of Justice. With the threat of a nearly unkillable Nevermaker on the other side of the battlefield, Ash passed the turn. Morty attacked for 2, and Ash took the damage. Morty then cast Conjurer's Closet and ended the turn, flickering Nevermaker to put an Archon of Justice on top of Ash's library. Ash attacked for 4 with the remaining Archon, which went unblocked, then cast the second again before ending his turn.

Morty simply drew his card and passed the turn, flickering Nevermaker again to put Archon of Justice back on top of Ash's library. Ash attacked with the first Archon again for 4 damage, then once again recast the second before ending the turn. Morty played a land and passed the turn, once again bouncing an Archon.

The remaining Archon dropped Morty to 8, and the second returned to the battlefield once again before the end of the turn. Morty once again passed the turn with no play, bouncing the Archon to ensure Ash wouldn't see any new cards. Ash dropped Morty to 4, recast Archon of Justice, and passed the turn.

Morty flickered Nevermaker once again, but this time when Archon of Justice attacked, the Elemental was forced to block. Ash cast the second Archon again and ended his turn. Morty played a seventh land and cast Wormfang Manta. Torpor Orb prevented the Manta's ability from triggering, and when Conjurer's Closet flickered the creature at end of turn, Morty received an extra turn from its leaves-the-battlefield ability. With Morty's unlimited number of extra turns, Ash conceded.

Torpor Orb
Wormfang Manta

Game 2

Ash played a Swamp and cast Entomb to put Ashen Rider in the graveyard. Morty played an Island and cast Ponder before passing back. Ash played Isolated Chapel and passed the turn, and Morty only played another Island. Ash played a land and cast Recurring Nightmare, but Morty hit it with a Counterspell.

On his turn, Morty paid 2 life to put Hallowed Fountain on the battlefield untapped before passing. Ash played a Plains and cast Hell's Caretaker, and Morty cast Enlightened Tutor at the end of the turn to search up Torpor Orb. He played a land and cast the Orb on his turn. Ash cast a second Hell's Caretaker and ended his turn, and Morty cast a second Enlightened Tutor, this time getting Spawning Pit. Ash passed the turn, and Morty cast Nevermaker before passing back.

During his upkeep, Ash sacrificed one Hell's Caretaker to the other to bring back Ashen Rider. He then cast Buried Alive to put two more Ashen Riders and an Archon of Justice in the graveyard before ending the turn. Morty cast Spawning Pit and enchanted Nevermaker with Gift of Immortality. He sacrificed Nevermaker to put Ashen Rider on top of Ash's library before ending the turn, with both Nevermaker and its Aura back on the battlefield. Faced with Morty's ability to put any permanent Ash tried to cast back on top of his library, Ash conceded.

Gift of Immortality

Well folks, it looks like tonight's winner is Morty! Come on down here, Morty, and let's see what you've won. Voice-Over Guy, take it away.

Voice-Over Guy: And tonight's prize is... A new bow! With this fine shortbow from Nylea, you can gain life, add counters, and even mow down blockers like a Gorgon! With four unique settings to choose from, you'll be prepared for nearly any situation. Nylea! From the makers of Theros. Retail value: !

That's all we have for tonight folks, but tune in next week when Morty goes up against last week's winner, Necrosavant! Until then, stay smart, and stay alive! See ya!

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