Hearts of Darkness

Posted in From the Lab on February 17, 2011

By Noel deCordova

Hello and welcome back to the Lab. Today I'm excited to dive into some juicy Mirrodin Besieged cards. It's a pastime I truly enjoy for all new sets. Someday when I'm rich and can fill my Olympic-sized swimming pool with Magic cards, I can actually literalize that statement. But it is a swimming pool, so they would all have to be Islands.

Now, I'm not sure how relevant this is to the Multiverse, but the most extremely loved/hated pseudo-holiday ever has come and gone. Valentine's Day is of course ridiculous. It's either "Celebrate Being In Love Day!" or "Curse My Aching Loneliness Day." Since I'm sure the Phyrexians don't give a darn about flowers, chocolates, or love at all, I'm going to have to follow their lead today. They probably celebrated Monday by torturing innocent elf children or something.

Plus, since there are so many potential build around cards in Mirrodin Besieged, I figured I'd split some weeks by Mirran cards and some by Phyrexian cards. Just an easy organizational fix. So this week we're on the Phyrexian front line, viewing their latest nightmarish creations from a tactical deck-building point of view. Let's get cracking.

    A Massive Massacre

Let's begin with the big bad Massacre Wurm. Holy crow. Upon reading this monster, my eyebrows were raised so high they got lost in my hair. Boasting two absolute wrecking balls of abilities (with a modest 6/5 build to go with them), Massacre Wurm is pretty sweet.

Some Wurm purists could be frazzled by Massacre Wurm's black mana. After all, aren't most Wurms green? Not so fast. Although green does sire the most Wurms, there is a smattering of Wurms in all the other colors, including black. Just last year we met Skeletal Wurm from Rise of the Eldrazi. Massacre Wurm even shares its power and toughness with another old black Wurm, Carrion Wurm.

Alright, enough waxing on Wurms. Massacre Wurm's two abilities are interesting in the way that they intersect. Separated, each one is awesome (getting a kicked Marsh Casualities as an "enters the battlefield" ability rules, and as a standalone ability, a loss of 2 life for each dead opposing creatures is great as well.) Combined, obviously, you could completely swing the game with a single Massacre Wurm. Let's say you're staring down a board of Myr tokens. Enter the Massacre. Suddenly you have an unopposed 6/5 and your opponent has just lost a ton of life.

Being the crazy guy I am, I decided to make a deck that could instantly win with just one Massacre Wurm. This means your opponent will have to have at least ten creatures with toughness at most 2. A difficult task? Hardly. Say hi to Hunted Phantasm.

That's five down. Cast another Hunted Phantasm, and that's ten. A Massacre Wurm after that will win the game. And for redundancies sake, let's add Clone. Now it's easier to find another Hunted Phantasm—just copy the original one. And even without Goblin tokens of any sort, CloneMassacre Wurm itself, and try to videotape your opponent crying.

You know what else is great with enters the battlefield effects? Blink effects. Turn to Mist specifically does a great job here, allowing numerous -2/-2 miniature plagues to continually infest your opponent's team.

You know what else is great with Hunted Phantasm? Blood Seeker. With the Vampire out on turn two, a turn three Hunted Phantasm is a simultaneous loss of 5 life.

The rest of the deck is support cards, as our strategy revolves around giving your opponent 5 power worth of creatures. This seems like the perfect moment for Turn the Tide. My favorite find for this deck was Netherborn Phalanx. Not only is it great with Hunted Phantasm, it can also transmute for either Massacre Wurm itself or Beseech the Queen, which can find ... pretty much anything.


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Obviously, sculpt that to your liking. I figured Sea Gate Oracle would be welcome, and Æthersnipe can be evoked early, cast later, and found by Netherborn Phalanx.

    Nesting Ghouls

I've got to make a nesting doll joke with Nested Ghoul. I've just got to. Fortunately the card itself helps me out a bit, as little Zombie tokens can jump from the big Zombie ... non-token. But can the Zombie tokens jump into and from each other? Not quite ... but now we have one of those great moments where an increasingly stupid joke provides the inspiration for an infinite combo. Why do you think I try?

Anyway, Nested Ghoul makes a 2/2 Zombie token each time it is dealt damage. Since its toughness is a mere 2, this damage would have to be pretty selective. Namely, a value of 1. This is a bummer, because even doing 1 damage twice somehow (various methods) would destroy the Nested Ghoul, leaving behind only two Zombies.

This will not do. I want infinite nesting Zombies! So I turned to a new piece of Equipment that should wind up one of my favorite Equipment ever: Darksteel Plate. I loved this effect when it was Shield of Kaldra, and love it even more now that it's cheaper. Suit up your Nested Ghoul with the Darksteel Plate and deal as many instances of damage to it as you can. The neat thing about indestructibility is it doesn't prevent damage. (If it did, this combo wouldn't work.) Instead, it just nullifies the lethal damage rule.

I bet you're still enticed about my quick mention of infinity. Hmm ... Zombie tokens jumping in and out ... what does that have to do with anything?

Ask Blasting Station. That gunnery is the end of probably a billion infinite damage combos. Here's how this works. Have a Nested Ghoul equipped with a Darksteel Plate. Tap Blasting Station and sacrifice some other creature to deal 1 damage to Nested Ghoul. You get a 2/2, and the Station untaps. Repeat, sacrificing the new 2/2. The Nested Ghoul will never die to damage, and you can do this infinitely.

Of course, we'll need to capitalize on this. Deathgreeter gains you infinite life. Fecundity draws you infinite cards. Mana Echoes gains you infinite mana. And Deathbringer Thoctar, Hissing Iguanar, and Scavenger Drake can deal infinite damage.

Nest of Death

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I balanced the weird combo cards with some classic spells (Mogg Fanatic, Hunting Moa) and gave it an almost equal game plan, which featured Deathbringer Thoctar as the all-star. Naturally, both game plans coincide. Hissing Iguanar takes advantage of both a win condition and a synergistic piece with the graveyard shenanigans. Darksteel Plate can fend off opposing attackers once equipped to a random creature. The Hunting Moa works well with the Thoctar. Fecundity can get out of control.

I love synergy decks!

    Shifty Praetors

I like the idea behind the Phyrexian's five pseudo-lieutenants known as praetors. It makes me think fondly on the days of Phyrexia's yore, back when the only praetor around was Gix. Gix was the Trent Reznor of flavor text back in the day ("Grief is as useless as love." "All bonds are parasitic. Only rulership is pure.") The name Gix even showed up on some cards, most notably Priest of Gix. So, secretly, Priests of Norn is a nigh-perfect parallel card. Weird. If only the abilities matched up somehow.

Anyway, the reason I'm riffing on praetors at all is because Praetor's Counsel left my jaw open and drooling ever since I read it in the Visual Spoiler. This spell can return your entire graveyard to your hand, an effect that seems preposterous until the maximum hand size rule kicks in at the end ... except Praetor's Council also offers unlimited hand size for the rest of the game. Fairly, it's quite expensive, but nothing a dedicated green deck can't handle.

However, while brainstorming for ideal combining cards with Praetor's Counsel, I came up with the idea of a mill deck, using spells to mill itself in preparation for a giant Praetor's Counsel. But that didn't work out as I'd hoped. So I went back to the drawing board and thought out of the box a bit.

Then I remembered Morality Shift.

A totally wonky card, Morality Shift straight up exchanges your library and your graveyard. Useful on various levels, it gains another dimension when you follow it up with Praetor's Counsel. After the dust settles, you'll have basically picked up your library and put it entirely in your hand.

The deck starts working with early land-fetching spells and tutors to find both the big sorceries. If you only have a Morality Shift, but find a Battlefield Scrounger, you can use the Scrounger to feed your now tiny library three cards at a time. From there you can find a Lord of Extinction and stomp all over your opponent's life, or just find the Praetor's Council and get everything into your hand.

Once your grip is loaded, you'll need to somehow refuel your deck from your hand. I'll turn to the black and green members of the Beacon cycle (from Fifth Dawn) and the recent Black Sun's Zenith to solve that problem. I'm a big fan of the Zeniths as a cycle. They hit on a very conceptual level. Either make a bunch of Insect tokens and swarm or have the Black Sun shine on your opponent's team, then slowly Beacon of Unrest them to your side and swarm. And a fun alternate is to take advantage of your huge hand with appropriately the hugest spells, the black and green epics!! Neverending Torment can ravage your opponent's mind over and over, with each blow devastating.

Shifting Psalms

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The deck is braintwisting at times. Giant piles of cards are jumping around the library, graveyard, and hand! Accelerate as fast as possible, settle with a giant Black Sun's Zenith, and then start going crazy!

Well, that was fun. Until next time!

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