Yes, it's Living Weapon week here on the site. This mechanic has been scurrying around my mind in far more abstract executions for years, and I'm glad that the self-equipping Equipment has finally come to be. There were some early pioneers (we'll get to those later in the column), but the Phyrexia bent to these cards makes these weapons seem incredibly eerie. Perhaps the Phyrexians have discovered the secret behind artificial intelligence: Germs. Does the living weapon mechanic conceptually ask whether our own human technologies are invisibly fueled by our own germs? What are germs, anyway? What's going on in the microscopic universes hidden from our strength of sight? All excellent questions. I'd say the would-be new Father of Machines is best suited to handle these qualms, but he's currently half insane, as all the great philosophers probably were. Looks like we'll never know.
Before we get to the meat and sinew of this column, I'd like to quickly address the welcome overflow of feedback from last week. I'm delighted that the column seemed to hit home for many of you. As I mentioned, I felt the inception of the deck was so hilarious and unwieldy that a change of pace coupled with some screenshots of Magic Online would place it more on its own pedestal. On the whole, readers were divided on the use of screenshots. Some thought they enhanced the deck by providing proof of its potential, while others were just turned off.
I definitely had fun realizing the "maximum potential" moments of last week's deck, but mostly I choose to provide screenshots because the combos of that deck were very visually stimulating. Imagine if I had screenshots of a simple infinite-mana combo (off the top of my head... 2 Myr Galvanizers and a Palladium Myr, which feed into something like Myr Matrix for a long surge of infinite Myr tokens). Pretty awesome play, in my book, but not the most exciting or original screenshot. A board full of animated Contested War Zones on my side of the battlefield, though? That meets my standards of ridiculousness and hilarity for screenshots (which apparently are quite high).
So the point is, don't expect screenshots every week. From the Lab has thrived for a long time based on a whimsical, deck-to-deck, speculative, curious, and overall creative manner, and has never needed to rely on screenshots. Therefore, neither will I. However, I'm not rigid enough to cast Phyrexian Revoker naming screenshots or anything. If I make another kooky and visually stimulating combo in the future (the chances seem relatively high...), I'll include a screenshot or two. At the end of the day, my goal is entertain through the game of Magic while expressing myself creatively. As always, I'd love reader feedback on my ideas and executions.
But enough dallying. There are living weapons ready to take a giant leap for weaponkind. Rock out to your favorite "Gear up!" montage, then continue on to my first examination table.
Night of the Living Weapons
I'm not sure which of the five living weapon cards will prove to be the most iconic, the one that represents the mechanic. Perhaps Bonehoard for pure rarity and power, but there's something to be said for the simplicity of Skinwing. Not only is it a colorless flying 2/2 for four (criteria for a more than solid Limited card, in my book), its inflated equip cost shows how much of a burden it is for any of your creatures to step into that mass of flapping wings.
With such high equip costs for Skinwing and Strandwalker, I decided to begin my travels with Brass Squire. Once known as Auriok Windwalker, this helpful little guy can suit up your living weapon cards in a pinch. Now if your Skinwing loses its Germ token and six mana is hard to come by, a Brass Squire can fix that situation.
While building around living weapon, I made it one of my goals to do something unique with the Germ tokens. Mainly, I wished them to survive without their metal shells to reside in. A global toughness raiser would be ideal. Veteran Armorer is perfect. He's a tasty two-drop to sink Equipment into and turns your 0/0s into 0/1s. Plus, he's clearly experienced in the ways of living weapon... 'cause he's a Veteran and an Armorer! Another way to keep the Germs alive is with a simple Anthem effect (referring here to Glorious Anthem). This effect fits nicely into a weenie strategy anyway, so it's a good add.
A recent sect of white weenies that cared about Equipment was the Kor of Zendikar block. This tribe introduced some intriguing riffs on Equipment, such as the underrated Kor Outfitter and the cool lord Armament Master. The Outfitter is a one-shot Brass Squire, but it's cheap and can be abused with Kor Skyfisher. Another Kor that can say the same is Stoneforge Mystic, which is far better known—and justifiably so, because it's far more blatantly broken. Search up one of your living weapon cards, pop it onto the battlefield, then instaquip it with Kor Outfitter or the Squire.
Speaking of Bonehoard, this new colorless Lhurgoyf is pretty astonishing. To fill up your graveyard (and your opponents) with creatures, turn to fellow living weapon Mortarpod as a slow but steady sacrifice outlet. Speaking of Mortarpod, it helps to have some expendable creatures out to load in the pod. Tokens will do, specifically Kor tokens (courtesy of either Conqueror's Pledge or Nomad's Assembly.) Overall, a straightforward deck with inner synergy... innergy.
Germs and Worms
That deck fulfilled my goal to be unique with the Germ tokens by allowing them to survive their post-equipped days. Now I just want to make as many Germ tokens as I can. Why? Because they're the first "cute" black tokens. Each color has their respective "cute" token—a seemingly harmless token with 0 power (represented on the actual token cards that are in some booster packs). Blue is represented by the Homunculi of Esper. White has the Goats from Eventide's Springjack Shepherd and Springjack Pasture. Green has the Plants of Khalni Garden. Red was difficult to select, since there aren't any 0-power red tokens. I went with the 1/1 Elemental token from Shadowmoor (the kind that Elemental Mastery makes). Colorless even has a representative: the Eldrazi Spawn!
My plan began with Veteran Armorer again (keeping Germs alive is a priority). Then I went full caboodle with Doubling Season. Now whenever you cast a Flayer Husk, you'll get two Germ tokens, and choose which one to equip the Husk to. Meanwhile, without an Armorer (or a Leyline of Vitality) around, the doubled token will die instantly.
From there, I added my second-favorite token card (behind the Season). Rhys the Redeemed has vaulted to this position due to its replication of Parallel Evolution, a pretty important card for me during my early days of Magicing. Rhys himself can make Elf Warrior tokens in his spare time, and he's cheap and hybrid.
I knew I was going to need more ways to buff my tokens, so I turned to a card that seemed perfect for my budding deck skeleton (love those moments). Creakwood Liege both pumped up my green tokens and my Germs! On top of that, the Liege spits out black and green Worm tokens that could be doubled by the Season or Rhys!
The deck filled itself out from there. One fun add was Martyred Rusalka as a forgotten way to keep creatures off your back, especially with lots of token fodder to choose from.
And now, into the WABAC machine. The thought of referring to the original Mirrodin block as a place far in the past still astounds me. It seems just yesterday that Equipment and indestructible permanents were just being introduced. There were a lot of Equipment that resonated with me, the highest-impact one being Worldslayer, on account of that jaw-dropping artwork (and ability, sheesh). My friend Wes always said he preferred the wicked bite of Sword of Kaldra.
Fans of this mysterious Avatar know exactly where I'm going with this. In the three sets of Mirrodin block, one by one, a new legendary Equipment was released bearing the name Kaldra. The Sword of Kaldra came first and was quickly followed by a Shield of Kaldra, which foretold of a mystical Helm of Kaldra. Sure enough, Helm of Kaldra completed the trio and caused Timmy/Johnnies everywhere to spill beverages and generally freak out. In many ways, then, the Kaldra armory was the first "living weapon," as all together they created a 9/9 powerhouse.
Of course, I'll be building around this interaction. Pass over Helm of Kaldra again, as that's the key piece. Ignoring the dominance of the token, this is an ability that lets you pay one colorless mana for a creature token. Repeatedly. Yes, it's legendary, so you can't build up a bunch of Kaldras (quiet, Mirror Gallery, or I swear I'll break you). You can, however, sacrifice a Kaldra token to Ashnod's Altar for two colorless mana and go infinite. Just so I can tie the themes of infinite mana and Equipment together, let's make the linking card the interesting Kusari-Gama. Sink the mana into the pseudo-Firebreathing ability infinite times. Other infinite mana sinks include Dawnglare Invoker (endless stalling sounds nice) and Staff of Domination. Another fun trick is Blade of the Bloodchief. Pay for two Kaldras which kill each other, giving a Bladed creature two +1/+1 counters. And yes, people. Tokens go to the graveyard. Mirror Entity is yet another infinite mana sink and is a Vampire for the Blade!
Well, that was fun. Thanks for the cool mechanic, Phyrexia! Until next week.