You may be aware of this, but Shard of Alara previews are heading into their final lap. I'm excited about the little bit of the set we've seen so far. I'm super psyched that cycling has returned, and playing Titanic Ultimatum for the win may be my new goal in life. While last week I previewed Mindlock Orb, the library hoser extraordinaire, this week I again have no preview. I don't mind, though, with today's preview over at Savor the Flavor being all kinds of awesome. Sharing window space with that sweet behemoth would be like sharing space in a clown car and frankly, I'm no clown.
For all those kind folks who pay attention, two weeks ago I built a Riftmarked Knight deck in an ode to Time Spiral block. That deck had cool interactions with suspend and time counters, which were the main themes of the whole block. For today, since I'm short of Shards material (for now) I'm going to write about three of Coldsnap's hidden gems. The lost set, found in a suspiciously ice-cold, pale drawer (okay, a fridge), will be undergoing the rotation process soon, and I figured I'd give it a proper sendoff by building some decks with it. Instead of using the main themes of the set like last time, I think I'll pick a couple of interesting cards that get a lot more interesting-er with cards from the Lorwyn and Shadowmoor blocks.
'Baile Me Out
If I wanted someone to guard borders, I'd ask Kinsbaile Borderguard. Not only does the Kithkin patrol provide good offense and defense, but it's a lot more Kinsbailian than the regular Border Guard. That, and I'm drawn to the plucky short guys. What can I say? I know my own kind.
I've been sitting on a nifty combo with Kinsbaile Borderguard for a while. You see, when the Borderguard first came out, I noticed its lack of counter distinction. Any type of counter will work, not just +1/+1 counters. After some frantic Gatherer searching, I fell on Temporal Distortion. Hourglass counters? Why not, I thought, and after saddling the Borderguard up with Freed from the Real, I had a weird tap-counter-Kithkin deck.
Little did I know that Shadowmoor would provide some great tools for the Borderguard: -1/-1 counters, and Fate Transfer. (Coldsnap's coming, don't get your icicles in a bundle!) The former provides a way to send Kinsbaile Borderguard to your graveyard proactively, while the latter is a sick combo with anything that comes into play with counters of any sort. A great example of this is Voracious Hatchling. When you Fate Transfer its -1/-1 counters to the Borderguard, you'll get a potential three new Kithkin tokens and a 6/6 lifelinking beastie.
Now to introduce Coldsnap's contributions. From Subzero, Dominaria, here's Woolly Razorback! Once all the ice counters have thawed from the mammoth, uh, mammoth, you're free to swing with it as you will. Speed up the process with Fate Transfer to beat for 7 as soon as possible. Otherwise it's just stuck blocking and beating Jay Leno in Most Extravagant Chin Contests. A particularly good find was Ursine Fylgja, which starts off with four transferable healing counters, and can regrow them later if needed.
Rimefeather Owl is another addition. Basically, it's the Temporal Distortion / Freed from the Real combo in one card. Pay to put an ice counter on Kinsbaile Borderguard. Then do it again. When the Borderguard eventually kicks the icy bucket (death by frostbite) it'll create tons of little Kithkin, which are more fodder for ice counters, which makes Rimefeather Owl even bigger. See how this all works?
Jötun Owl Keeper, possibly chasing after his prized feathered ward, makes it into the deck as well. The Owl Keeper is great here for many reasons. It creates age counters that can be Fate Transferred to the Borderguard. It creates tokens (more on this later). And finally, it's a prime target for Graceful Reprieve, which has been paired with Kinsbaile Borderguard from day one.
Leech Bonder is a slower but more creature-like version of Fate Transfer. To get it tapped, use the accelerating Springleaf Drum or the versatile Mothdust Changeling. Scarscale Ritual can do something similar early on for some card advantage.
Since Kinsbaile Borderguard will probably be dying quite a bit in this deck, some recursion would be perfect. Graceful Reprieve is fine, but for something a bit more permanent, I went with Order of Whiteclay. The previously mentioned one-drops can tap down the Order, and the boys from Whiteclay can recur Owl Keepers, Borderguards, Aven Riftwatchers, and Vexing Sphinxes to your liking. The latter two are fine Fate Transfer targets. With the Sphinx, either take the counters off for quick beats, or put age counters on for mucho card-drawing.
I've been saying this for nearly every white or blue deck I've built since Shadowmoor, and it definitely holds true here: Mirrorweave is an excellent addition, since there are plenty of tokens to be created and some good targets for the mass cloning. Woolly Razorback is one, since your other creatures probably don't have ice counters on them. The same principle goes for Voracious Hatchling. Hey, even Kinsbaile Borderguard itself is a good target!
As you've probably noticed, they were some cards I just couldn't find room for, notably the Mothdust Changeling and Scarscale Ritual. For some reason, I really wanted to fit the latter in, as well as Bloodied Ghost. The Ghost can help defuse the Voracious Hatchling and is a ripe Fate Transfer target. Plus, it reminds me of Dr. Malcolm Crowe from The Sixth Sense. Add them if you want.
Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Thrum
The following deck is much more than the thrum of its parts. What, didn't like that one? I'm marching to the beat of my own thrum here, buddy. Building up to a Thrumbling Crescendo. Not feeling these puns? Good, because truthfully I'm not either. We'll just separate from them like ripples on a blank shore.
Now that puns, references, and bad mockeries of Urza's Saga rares (seriously, if you thought that was bad, I spared you from Rumbling Slum—go ahead, look it up) are behind us, I'll get to Thrumming Stone, the crazy artifact I've been hinting at this whole time. Apparently I'm amused by the word "thrum." Ha. Thrummmmmmm.
How do Lorwyn and Shadowmoor blocks make Thrumming Stone better? Well, Lorwyn block in particular has lots of cards that deal with the top of your library. Clash and kinship are the mechanics in question here, and fortunately they mesh with ripple in a good way. Both mechanics act like scry, which can hopefully set you up if you have a matching card in hand.
Yeah, so this interaction isn't that exciting. I can tell by your lack of applesauce—er, applause. The biggest hitters here, though, are the Harbingers!
No, you cannot pop all your respective Flamekin Harbingers into play at once. However, by playing a Harbinger, you can set up a ripple for a beefy creature in your hand in advance. This idea is so open-ended that you could build a viable Thrum / Harbinger deck for each Lorwyn tribe. I picked Elves and Faeries out from the other tribes because they're both powerful and fun to play with.
I'm not going to use Faeries because they see enough of the limelight as it is. Here's how I'd go around building a rippling Faerie deck, though. Imagine flashing in Faerie Harbinger and setting up a Glen Elendra Liege on top. Next turn, you'd draw the Liege, ripple some Ponders to check out the top of your library, then play the Glen Elendra Liege with possible ripple copies. With all the pesky Faeries you're probably running, you'd probably be swinging for a lot that turn and next.
If you're sick of Faeries, consider building around Elves. Four Elvish Harbingers can find many of your key elves and, if rippling, provide a crazy quick mana boost. Gilt-Leaf Seer and Farhaven Elf can stack your deck and suck lands out of your deck, respectively. Devoted Druid helps accelerate into Thrumming Stone along with the Harbingers.
Two green reject rares from recent sets improve greatly when rippled. The first is Talara's Battalion. Although you still need to play a green spell for the first one, rippling into numerous 4/3 tramplers for two mana always seems great. With all the mana in this deck, you should be able to cast the first green spell with no problems. Manamorphose helps out here, but that's also great to ripple. If you nail all four copies, you've got eight mana for tapping two lands. Take that, Mana Seism!
The other forgotten rare is Gilt-Leaf Archdruid. If you haven't noticed, most of the Elves I mentioned two paragraphs ago are also Druids. Getting two or three Druids for the price of one greatly helps you activate the super land-grab ability, plus you'll be drawing a boatload of cards. Treefolk Harbinger is another Forest-finding Druid, and the fun-to-ripple Regal Force should put you far ahead in cards and beatsticks.
The Graveborn Identity
Apparently in Ice Age–era Dominaria, random apostrophes in first names are popular among death-crazed orcs. To continue the trend, I now wish to be known as No'el deCordova for the rest of this article. As for the "being a death-crazed orc" part, it's nothing a little plastic surgery couldn't fix. Or not.
Sporting the same three colors as the Jund shard in Shards of Alara, Sek'Kuar, Deathkeeper seems like an appropriate card to build around. Some of the main mechanics from Lorwyn and Shadowmoor help a Sek'Kuar deck function a lot better. For instance, persist creatues such as Murderous Redcap and Kitchen Finks. Greater Gargadon and Nantuko Husk can sacrifice your creatures for various effects. With your dying creatures coming back immediately, you'll have another opportunity for another 3/1 Graveborn token. Quillspike can eat all your -1/-1 counters, making your persist creatures virtually unkillable.
Evoke is another cheap way of accumulating Graveborn tokens. Evoking a Shriekmaw can clear the path for a fresh 3/1 to attack freely. Applying to both evoke and persist guys is the forgotten No Rest for the Wicked. Sacrifice all of your spent persist creatures, make a bunch of 3/1 tokens, then sacrifice No Rest for the Wicked to make more next turn.
To accumulate the mana for an early Sek'Kuar, I chose another forgotten gem from Tenth Edition. Joiner Adept fixes your mana like it's her job (news flash: it is). Fertilid, meanwhile, accelerates your mana by slowly killing itself, something the Deathkeeper greatly enjoys.
The Jund variations of the dual and fetch lands that Jacob Van Lunen previewed two weeks ago would fit in perfectly here, as would Sprouting Thrinax. The latter seems tailor-made for this deck. When Shards of Alara is released, I'll be itching to test out the Thrinax, as well as all the Johnny-riffic cards in the set!
Until next week, have fun with Coldsnap!