Free Bears

Posted in From the Lab on February 9, 2015

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.

What's up, labbies? It's time for Manifest Week, so today we're going to be jamming face-down creatures onto the battlefield until there's no more room on the table. I already explored manifest a little in a previous article, but that was only the beginning. Now it's time to really dig in and start figuring out how to make entire armies out of 2/2s.

Wildcall | Art by Adam Paquette

To Hell and Back Again

The most promising manifest card in my mind was Sultai Emissary. Triggered abilities are often the key to creating infinite loops. They can usually be triggered multiple times in succession, without requiring any mana. The only catch is finding a way to keep meeting the trigger condition.

Sultai Emissary's trigger is pretty simple. It needs to die. The hard part is bringing it back from the graveyard so you can trigger it again. I explored a few different methods to accomplish this. The first idea I tried was Mortuary, which would allow the Emissary to manifest itself. Unfortunately, you have to spend the mana to turn Sultai Emissary face up before you sacrifice it again, and you don't get to keep the manifest creature.

In the end, I settled on Hell's Caretaker. It fulfills two parts of the combo, allowing you to both sacrifice the Emissary and bring it back from the graveyard. All it takes is one Sultai Emissary and one other creature. It doesn't really matter what the second one is. If you can untap Hell's Caretaker each time, you can sacrifice the creature to put Sultai Emissary on the battlefield. Then you can sacrifice the Emissary to return the other creature, triggering the manifest ability. Repeating the process allows you to manifest the top card of your library each time, giving you an army of 40 to 50 creatures.

Now, you'll still need a way to untap Hell's Caretaker each time you activate its ability. Intruder Alarm is a classic way to accomplish this, but it's not the only one. Thornbite Staff will work as well, although you'll have to equip it to the Caretaker first. Including both provides some redundancy, but you'll still need a way to get your hands on Sultai Emissary and Hell's Caretaker. You'll also need another random creature either on the battlefield or in your graveyard.

Buried Alive can help simplify things a bit. You can use it to search for both Sultai Emissary and Hell's Caretaker. Of course, the Caretaker needs to be on the battlefield, not in the graveyard. To that end, I added Cadaver Imp and Entomber Exarch. Once you've put both the Emissary and the Caretaker in your graveyard, either of these can return the Caretaker to your hand so you can cast it. They also give you a creature to sacrifice to activate Hell's Caretaker the first time.


Corpse Connoisseur serves as some cheap backup for Buried Alive. You can cast it to search for Hell's Caretaker, then block with it or sacrifice it to the Caretaker to get it in the graveyard. Using its unearth ability will allow you to go grab a Sultai Emissary and kick the combo off. Finally, I added in Hero's Downfall to help buy some time while you get things put together.

Hell's Emissary

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Mastery of the Complicated

Alright, now this second deck is where things start to get a bit messy. I set out to make a deck that could go infinite with Mastery of the Unseen, and I succeeded. However, the path to that deck was a bit longer and more complex than I had imagined.

Now…there only one thing that needs to happen for Mastery of the Unseen[/autocard[ to go infinite. You need to make 3W every time you manifest a card. My initial thought was using [autocard]Training Grounds or Heartstone, but those only work on creatures. Turning Mastery of the Unseen into a creature is certainly possible, but that seemed a bit overly complicated. As it turned out, the other way wasn't much better.

After deciding that I was just going to make all four mana each time, I started looking for ways to make white mana. I didn't find any that satisfied me, so I decided I was just going to have to convert mana to white. Mycosynth was an option, but I decided to go with Skyshroud Elf due to its cheaper mana cost. I also included Farrelite Priest as a backup. You have to sacrifice it at the end of your turn if you use it too much, but by that point you should have a lethal army on the battlefield.

I considered a few different options for making the four mana. Genesis Chamber and Ashnod's Altar was one, but that requires two copies of Genesis Chamber if you want to keep your manifest creatures. Earthcraft in combination with Auras like Dawn's Reflection would work, but that still requires three or more cards. Eventually, I settled on Mana Echoes. Although it takes a few activations to become self-sustaining, it makes plenty of colorless mana all by itself. Or at least it would in any other combo. Unfortunately, face-down creatures have no creature types, so Mana Echoes won't give you any mana. Adding in Xenograft solves this, allowing you to turn your honorary Grizzly Bears into actual Bears.


So here's how it works. On the battlefield, you'll need Mastery of the Unseen, Mana Echoes, Xenograft, and either Farrelite Priest or Skyshroud Elf. Activate the Mastery to manifest the top card of your library. Mana Echoes will give you two mana, counting the face-down creature as well as the Skyshroud Elf or Farrelite Priest. Activate the Mastery again, either using that mana or waiting until your next turn. This time you'll get three mana. Now you need to spend one more in order to activate Mastery of the Unseen one more time. Mana Echoes will give you four colorless mana, and you can filter one through your creature to turn it into white mana. From that point on, the combo builds on itself; with Mana Echoes providing more than enough mana to keep activating Mastery of the Unseen.

To help put the combo together, I've included several ways to search your library. Skyshroud Elf has a backup, so you shouldn't have to worry too much about drawing that. The other pieces all happen to be enchantments, making this much easier. Enlightened Tutor and Idyllic Tutor are the go-to options here. However, I've also included Plea for Guidance, which can search for two of the pieces at once.

To help keep you alive long enough to put this unwieldy combo together, I've included a full play set of Path to Exile as well as two copies of Banishing Light. The latter can also be searched up with any of the enchantment Tutors in case of emergency.


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The Pre-Contest Contest

It seems like it's about time I issued another deck-building challenge. After all, you can't expect me to work this hard every week. However, I can't seem to decide what this latest challenge should be, so I'm going to leave that up to you guys. Here are your choices:

Well, there you have it, folks. It's up to you to decide what challenge you want to accept. Voting will close in one week, and be sure to check back two weeks from now to see which option won! If you're extra confident that your choice will be the winner, you can even start brewing up a deck now. I'm excited to see what you fine laboratorians will come up with. See ya!

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