Guildmages for Ages

Posted in From the Lab on January 28, 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.

Hey there, labbies! I hope you all had a great time at the Gatecrash Prerelease! Although I'm currently speaking to you from the past, I know I had a blast representing the Boros Legion, and I undoubtedly slaughtered many opponents with the righteous fury of Ravnica's army. Gatecrash won't be hitting shelves until Friday, but it's never too early to start brewing up some fun decks. Today, I'll be looking at two of the Guildmages from the set that have been creating a bit of a buzz. Duskmantle Guildmage was quickly seized upon by rabid Johnnies who noticed that if you activate its first ability twice before using the 0 ability on Jace, Memory Adept, your opponent will lose 20 life. Vizkopa Guildmage was also a clear combo card, sharing its second ability with predecessor Sanguine Bond, and similarly combining with Exquisite Blood for an instant win as soon as your opponent loses life or you gain it.

Duskmantle Guildmage
Vizkopa Guildmage

Mill for the Kill

Duskmantle Guildmage is a rather interesting card. It effectively converts milling into life loss, meaning you only have to mill twenty cards to win rather than roughly fifty, so long as you activate the Guildmage's first ability each turn. If you can activate it twice, you only have to mill ten cards, leading to an instant win with Jace, Memory Adept or Glimpse the Unthinkable.

Jace, Memory Adept
Glimpse the Unthinkable

This combo requires six to eight mana, so we'll include a bit of mana acceleration to help get you there. Dimir Keyrune seems especially appropriate, and its ability to turn into a creature can come in handy, both to attack for 2 if your opponent still has a bit of life left after Duskmantle Guildmage goes to work, and for another reason we'll come to in a moment. Lotus Blossom is another great option, allowing you to store up mana until the one critical turn where you need all if it at once. We'll also need a backup plan. In this case, milling out your opponent entirely seems like a solid Plan B, since it fits in perfectly with the combo win condition.

Dimir Keyrune
Lotus Blossom

Mind Funeral, although a bit more expensive at three mana, will generally get through around ten cards on average, giving you another chance to win immediately or just a solid way to help whittle your opponent's library down to nothing. Hedron Crab doesn't require any mana to use, making it easier to activate the Guildmage in the same turn. It also gives you another creature, which you can use to conspire Memory Sluice. If you have two creatures on the board, Memory Sluice allows you to mill a whopping eight cards for a single mana, and, if not, four cards is only one short of Tome Scour anyway. Speaking of Tome Scour, that's in here as well. Drawing two of them gives you a makeshift Glimpse the Unthinkable, and although it costs you two cards instead of one, if you're going for the Guildmage win, it won't matter because your opponent will be very much dead.

Duskmantle Mill Kill

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Blood Money

The Orzhov love to make deals. They hate to make fair ones. Most of the time, a deal with the Orzhov will seem fair at first. That is, until they hit you with the fine print. Vizkopa Guildmage forces your opponent to make a very bad deal with you. Every time you gain life this turn, he or she loses that much life. One for one. Seems fair, right? It gets even worse with Exquisite Blood on the board. Now whenever your opponent loses life, you gain than much life, causing your opponent lose that much life, which makes you gain that much life, which... You get the idea. The chain continues until your opponent loses the game.

Vizkopa Guildmage
Exquisite Blood

Sanguine Bond gives you some redundancy for Vizkopa Guildmage, and we'll also include Gut Shot and Midnight Charm to start the chain once the pieces are in place. The nice thing about Vizkopa Guildmage and Sanguine Bond, however, is that you don't even need Exquisite Blood to win the game with them. All you have to do is gain 20 life.

Sanguine Bond
Gut Shot

There have been quite a few cards throughout Magic's history that allow you to gain a large chunk of life. The first one that came to mind was Beacon of Immortality, but that stops working as soon as your life total drops below your opponent's. My next thoughts were Invincible Hymn and Heroes Remembered. Both cost a lot of mana, and although Heroes Remembered can be suspended for just one mana, ten turns is a long time to wait, especially if you don't have it on the first turn. Then I remembered that black had lifegain as well, in the form of Drain Life effects. Draining 10 life works just as well as gaining 20 life here, and Sorin's Vengeance does exactly that. I still wanted another card that can let you win the game without Exquisite Blood, but I couldn't think of anything else that cost less than eight mana. Then I remembered what is quite possibly the best lifegain card ever. It's not a white card, or a black one. In fact, it's not green, either.

The most powerful lifegaining card of all time... is blue.

Illusions of Grandeur

In its day, Illusions of Grandeur was part of a devastating combo with Donate, allowing you to gain 20 life, then saddle your opponent with the drawback of losing 20 life as soon as you can no longer pay the cumulative upkeep cost. In this deck, Illusions of Grandeur doesn't have a drawback. It may as well be a four-mana blue sorcery that says "You gain 20 life," because as soon as that happens, the game is over.

The final piece is a pair of mana rocks to help you get your combo together as quickly as possible. Sphere of the Suns helps fix your mana, making sure you have the blue for Illusions of Grandeur and the white for Vizkopa Guildmage. Worn Powerstone won't fix your colors, but it does give you twice as much mana, allowing you to cast Exquisite Blood or Sanguine Bond on turn four, even if you miss your land drop. It also puts you well on your way to getting the seven mana needed for Sorin's Vengeance.

Sphere of the Suns
Worn Powerstone

Vizkopa Life & Death

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Guild Feud

Orzhov vs. Dimir. Which of Gatecrash's black-aligned guilds will come out on top, and which Guildmage will taste the bitterness of defeat? Let's toss them into the arena and find out.

Game 1

Vizkopa started off with a Godless Shrine, and Duskmantle played a Bad River. The Orzhov cast the first spell of the game with a Sphere of the Suns, and the guild of shadows sacrificed Bad River to get a Watery Grave, then returned it to hand with a Dimir Aqueduct, discarding an Evolving Wilds at end of turn. Vizkopa just played a land and passed, and the Dimir deck summoned its Keyrune. Sanguine Bond hit the board, as did Duskmantle Guildmage and another Keyrune. Duskmantle was too late, however, as Vizkopa cast Exquisite Blood and started the chain of death with a Gut Shot.

Bad River
Watery Grave

Game 2

Duskmantle started off strong by summoning a Hedron Crab, and Vizkopa led with a Swamp. A Dimir Aqueduct bounced the Swamp, and Hedron Crab happily milled away three cards. The Orzhov cast Sphere of the Suns, and Hedron Crab milled another three when Duskmantle played a Swamp. The Guildmage hit the battlefield for the Dimir team, and Vizkopa played and sacrificed a Crystal Vein in order to cast Sanguine Bond. Duskmantle cast a Keyrune and a Hedron Crab, and milled six with the land for the turn. Once again, however, the Dimir deck was just a little too slow, as Vizkopa cast Illusions of Grandeur to win the game.

Hedron Crab
Crystal Vein

Save the Best for... First?

Next week is the first of the Gatecrash guild theme weeks, and we'll be kicking things off with the Boros Legion. Although the army of fiery justice may not seem like a Johnny paradise, I've put together a pair of fun red and white combo decks in the spirit of Boros. Be sure to stop by the Lab next Monday to check them out. Also, don't forget that Gatecrash goes on sale this Friday, and if my area is any indication, you might want to reserve a box at your local game store, because they're disappearing fast.

Until next time, may your guilds never be without their mages. See ya!

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