Going Big

Posted in From the Lab on May 11, 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.

Greeting, my fellow scientists! Today is one of those uncomfortable gaps between theme weeks when I'm left to figure out what to write about on my own. It's always a bit harder coming up with ideas from scratch, but it also opens the door to some odd decks that wouldn't quite fit anywhere else. For my inspiration this week, I decided to take a look at one of the more overlooked rares in Dragons of Tarkir. We didn't have too much time to explore the set before diving into Modern Masters madness, so there are still a few cards on my list of potential Johnny deck prospects. And by list I mean half a dozen yellow sticky notes scattered around my workspace.

Corpseweft | Art by Nils Hamm

There's Always a Bigger Zombie

Corpseweft was one of the first cards from Dragons of Tarkir to grab my attention. I enjoy screwing around with the graveyard, and the kind of virtually unlimited scaling that Corpseweft provides can always be abused in some way. In this case, if you manage to somehow get a huge pile of creatures in your graveyard, you can get an absurdly large Zombie for a total of five mana.

However, I wanted to take things a bit further. One interesting aspect of Corpseweft is that the Zombie token isn't as big as the number of cards you exiled. It's twice as big. This gave me an idea. If you could somehow turn that Zombie token into an equivalent number of creatures in your graveyard, you'd be able to make a new Zombie twice as big. Keep doing that, and you can end up with a truly monstrous creature.

The key card here is Altar of Dementia. When you sacrifice your Zombie token, the Altar will let you mill cards equal to the token's power. That should give you enough ammo to make a new Zombie. Of course, there's one problem with this. If less than half the cards you mill are creatures, your new Zombie will be smaller than the last one. You can offset this problem by including more creatures and fewer spells and lands, but you can't make your deck entirely creatures.

Or can you?

You need to have lands in the deck, but once you've drawn what you need, Mana Severance can get rid of the rest. That would eliminate the vast majority of noncreature cards, making it much easier to hit creatures with Altar of Dementia. You still won't hit all creatures of course, at the very least you'll have the other copies of Corpseweft and Mana Severance in there somewhere, and using no other noncreature cards would make things a bit difficult. Fortunately, there's a solution for that as well. Selective Memory allows you to exile any number of nonland cards from your library, keeping only the ones you actually want. Combined with Mana Severance, it can leave you with a library consisting entirely of creature cards.

At that point, it's not difficult to win the game. You'll need at least one creature in the graveyard to get you started, but that's not too hard with Altar of Dementia allowing you to sacrifice whatever you have on the battlefield. Let's assume you have four creature cards in your graveyard. Exile them with Corpseweft and get an 8/8 Zombie. Sacrifice that Zombie to the Altar and mill eight creatures. Exile them to make a new Zombie, this one a 16/16. Repeat the process again, and you'll get a 32/32. One more time will give you a 64/64, at which point you can target your opponent with Ashnod's Altar and get rid of his entire library.

Unfortunately, there's a bit of a hiccup in this plan. Over the course of this example, I've exiled a grand total of 60 creature cards. That's an entire Magic deck. You can win the game with fewer, but no matter how you slice it you'll still need almost as many creature cards in your library as there are cards in your opponent's. There's a way to make that work, of course.

You just need to have an enormous deck.

In order to make the math a bit easier and provide plenty of room for error, I decided to build a 250-card deck with somewhere around 100 creatures in it. That leaves room for 100 lands and about 50 noncreature spells. Most of those will be ways to search your massive library for the cards you need.

Battle of Wits | Art by Jason Chan

An Assortment of Options

Let's start with the tutors. Enlightened Tutor gets either Altar of Dementia or Corpseweft, while Mystical Tutor and Personal Tutor can scrounge up Selective Memory or Mana Severance. Diabolic Tutor and Intuition cost a bit more mana, but they can get any card in the combo. I've also included Fabricate and Tezzeret the Seeker. While they only get Altar of Dementia, as far as the combo goes, they can also search up a number of supplementary cards and silver bullets.

The main supplementary card is Rings of Brighthearth. If you want to get a second enormous Zombie token without exiling more creature cards, you can certainly do that. However, the main purpose of the rings is to allow you to more easily get rid of your opponent's library. By using the Rings on Altar of Dementia's ability, you can double up on that final push, allowing you to deal with larger decks as well as situations where you have fewer creature cards to work with.

Tormod's Crypt is the first of the deck's silver bullets. Since you'll be dumping your opponent's entire deck into his or her graveyard, you need to make sure there's nothing in there that would stop you from winning the game. The legendary Eldrazi creatures are one example. Normally they would be difficult for a mill deck to deal with, but this deck works a bit differently. Altar of Dementia will be putting the entire library into the graveyard all at once, so any Eldrazi in the deck will all trigger at the same time. Sacrifice Tormod's Crypt in response, and your opponent's entire library, Eldrazi included, will be exiled. Game over.

Another option for dealing with cards like this is Runed Servitor. Sacrifice it to Ashnod's Altar, and your opponent will be required to draw a card from an empty library, which means you win. Of course, you have to draw a card as well, but one Darksteel Colossus in the deck will ensure you won't accidentally turn the game into a draw. If you have the bad fortune to draw the colossus, Phantasmagorian will let you discard it.

Rounding out the silver bullets, Hex Parasite and Phyrexian Revoker deal with Planeswalkers, Spellskite protects your more valuable creatures, and Battle of Wits can let you straight up win the game if you don't think plan A is going to cut it.

A Sacrificial Army

This deck takes a while to get going, so I wanted the creatures to turn this into some semblance of a control deck. I have an absurd number of cards to talk about here, so let's get started. First off, counterspells. Daring Apprentice, Voidmage Prodigy, Glen Elendra Archmage, Stratus Dancer, and Voidmage Apprentice are all single-use options that will deal with whatever your opponent throws at you.

Early in the game, you can take advantage of soft counterspells. Those that your opponent can get around with enough mana. Since these sit on the battlefield, they also serve as a deterrent, slowing your opponent down if he or she wants to play around them. Spiketail Hatchling, Spiketail Drakeling, and Wizard Replica all fall into this category. Later in the game, repeatable effects are king, even if they're more expensive. For that you have Ertai, Wizard Adept; Stronghold Machinist; and Stronghold Biologist.

Inevitably, some things are going to get through the wall of counterspells. When that happens, it's time for some removal. Banisher Priest and Fiend Hunter have no restrictions, but may be a temporary solution. For a more permanent answer, you have Big Game Hunter, Hidden Dragonslayer, Bone Shredder, Shriekmaw, and Nekrataal.

A control deck also needs a bit of card draw. For that, I included Baleful Strix, Wall of Omens, Court Hussar, Gurmag Drowner, Mentor of the Meek, and Sea Gate Oracle. Although most of these creatures only replace themselves, they still help keep the deck running later in the game.

Alright, I think I've covered everything…although it's a bit difficult to be sure. Here's the deck in its entirety.

101 Corpses

Download Arena Decklist

Modern Time

That's it for now, but I'll be back next week with a look at a pair of interesting Johnny decks that are actually Modern legal. If you're interested in trying out a wacky new deck at one of your local Modern tournaments, tune in then to see what I've cooked up.

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