It's Not Easy Being Mean

Posted in From the Lab on January 29, 2014

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.

Born of the Gods is almost upon us, and the time has come to start brewing up some sweet decks with all the new cards. With the full Card Image Gallery up, I began combing through for cards to combo with for this week's article.

I didn't even make it through white.

  • Labyrinths are A-maze-ing

Spirit of the Labyrinth was the first card that caught my eye. This creature has a unique and potentially very powerful effect, preventing players from drawing more than one card each turn. I immediately started thinking of ways to abuse this effect.

The first card that came to mind was Anvil of Bogardan. At the beginning of your draw step, the Anvil will make you draw another card, then discard one. Since this ability happens after you've drawn your normal card for the turn, it can lock an opponent out of the game with a little help.

Spirit of the Labyrinth will prevent your opponent from drawing the second card. However, he or she will still be forced to discard a card. If you can empty your opponent's hand, he or she will never be able to keep a card in hand for more than the split second while the Anvil's trigger is on the stack.


Now, how to empty your opponent's hand? A Windfall would almost get there, but since it has to be cast on your turn, your opponent would still get to draw one card. It would also empty your own hand. Wheel and Deal solves both of those problems. It only affects your opponent, so you get to keep your cards, and it can be cast on your opponent's turn, when he or she has already used up the one draw allowed by Spirit of the Labyrinth.

I love redundancy in my combo decks, and as it happens, both pieces of this combo can be replaced by other cards. Notion Thief can substitute for Spirit of the Labyrinth, preventing your opponent from drawing extra cards by giving them to you instead. That's a pretty sweet deal if you ask me.


Teferi's Puzzle Box can be swapped in for Anvil of Bogardan, with a few differences. On one hand, you don't need to empty your opponent's hand for it to work. The Puzzle Box will do that for you. On the other hand, it affects you as well as your opponent, meaning that if you have Spirit of the Labyrinth out, your hand will be emptied as well.

Fortunately, there's a solution to this. Since the Puzzle Box trigger has to go on the stack like anything else, you can still cast instants. You can also cast creatures with flash, such as Notion Thief.

Venser, Shaper Savant is another creature with flash that can be put to work here. If your opponent is losing his or her hand every turn with Teferi's Puzzle Box, returning something to his or her hand will get rid of it permanently, making Venser an incredibly powerful tool for defending yourself after you get the combo going.


Cyclonic Rift plays in the same space, with the additional utility of overload, letting you wipe away your opponent's entire battlefield. Mana Leak can be used to keep things under control early in the game, although it doesn't serve much purpose after your opponent has no hand.

Fabricate allows you to tutor up one of the artifacts, and Fact or Fiction and Impulse can help you dig for the other combo pieces. All of these spells put cards directly into your hand rather than drawing them, so they dodge Spirit of the Labyrinth quite nicely.


Download Arena Decklist

  • Bond... Sun Bond

Sunbond is a rather unassuming card at first glance. I mean, sure, it could make a creature pretty big in a dedicated life-gain deck, but it costs four mana. On top of that, it's an Aura, making it a risky proposition for not enough reward.

But what if the reward was... infinite?

That's exactly what you get when you put Sunbond on Spike Feeder. Remove a counter to gain 2 life, and Spike Feeder gets two more +1/+1 counters. Repeat the process any number of times to make your life total absurdly high and Spike Feeder ridiculously large.

With your life total at a few million, it shouldn't be hard to stay alive. Unfortunately, you still need to win the game. An enormous Spike Feeder can help with that, but without trample, your opponent can continue blocking it for as long as he or she has creatures.

Unfortunately, the best colors for solving this problem are all the ones we're not playing. Red has Fling, black has Rite of Consumption, and blue has loads of ways to make a creature unblockable. However, a quick search turned up something I wasn't expecting: Trailblazer.

Back in the early days of Magic, when the color pie hadn't been fully fleshed out, effects ended up in some weird colors. Fortunately for us, one of these oddities put a spell that makes a creature unblockable in green.

Although the ability to make Spike Feeder infinitely large is unique to Sunbond, Archangel of Thune can also be used with the Spike to gain an arbitrarily large amount of life. While Spike Feeder won't grow larger on each iteration, the Archangel will, still leaving you with an enormous creature to win the game with.

Mother of Runes can be used to protect your combo creatures and can even make them harder to block if you don't have Trailblazer in hand. Meanwhile, Eladamri's Call and Idyllic Tutor ensure you can find whatever piece of the combo you're missing.

[card]Archangel of Thune[/card] [card]Mother of Runes[/card]

Day of Judgment may seem odd in a creature-based combo deck, but while you can cast your creatures at any time and win the game, an opponent planning on attacking doesn't have that luxury. Against a creature deck, you can wait to cast your combo pieces until after you've dealt with the majority of your opponent's threats.

Path to Exile and Oblivion Ring help deal with any other problems you might encounter, and the latter can also be searched up with Idyllic Tutor, making it more likely you have an answer available to whatever threat you're facing.

Deadly Spikes

Download Arena Decklist


  • Cards and Counters

Our two competitors have assembled in the arena, and the first-round bell is about to ring. Will the Feeder get lost in a labyrinthine puzzle box, or will the Spirit find itself impaled on a giant Spike? Let's go find out.

Game 1

Mean-Spirited started things off with a land, and Deadly Spikes paid 2 life for Temple Garden to cast Birds of Paradise before passing the turn. Mean-Spirited cast Impulse, getting Notion Thief, and Deadly Spikes simply played a land before ending the turn.

Mean-Spirited cast Spirit of the Labyrinth and passed the turn. Deadly Spikes played another land and passed back. The Spirit attacked for 3, dropping Deadly Spikes to 15. During Deadly Spike's draw step, Mean-Spirited cast Wheel and Deal, emptying Deadly Spike's hand. Deadly Spikes ended the turn. Mean-Spirited attacked for 3 again, then cast Anvil of Bogardan and passed the turn.

Deadly Spikes failed to find a Path to Exile, and after casting Notion Thief to assist with the beatdown, Mean-Spirited quickly won the game.

Game 2

Both sides played lands for two turns, then Deadly Spikes cast Spike Feeder. Mean-Spirited countered it with Mana Leak, then cast Spirit of the Labyrinth. Deadly Spikes killed the Spirit with Day of Judgment and passed the turn. Mean-Spirited played a land and passed back.

Deadly Spikes cast Archangel of Thune and ended the turn. Mean-Spirited cast Notion Thief during the end step, then untapped and cast Fabricate for Teferi's Puzzle Box. Deadly Spikes attacked for 3 with Archangel of Thune, then cast another Day of Judgment to destroy Notion Thief.

Mean-Spirited cast Impulse, finding Spirit of the Labyrinth and casting it. Deadly Spikes got rid of the Spirit with Path to Exile, then cast Idyllic Tutor to get Oblivion Ring and passed the turn. Mean-Spirited cast another Impulse, this time finding Notion Thief. Deadly Spikes had no play, and Notion Thief flashed in during the end step.

Mean-Spirited cast Teferi's Puzzle Box and passed the turn. Deadly Spikes lost its hand, and Mean-Spirited drew four cards. Notion Thief was soon joined by a second Thief and Venser, the Sojourner, and Deadly Spikes was killed a few turns later.

[card]Venser, the Sojourner[/card]

  • Commune with the Players

I haven't received many submissions yet for my latest solicitation, so the doors are going to stay open for another week. Send me your favorite combo-licious Born of the Gods card through twitter or email via the links below. I'll take a few of the cards with the most votes and use them in a future article. Until then, may you always be in good spirits. See ya!


Mike CannonMike Cannon
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Mike Cannon signed on to write From the Lab at the end of 2012. An ardent casual player and lover of bizarre synergies, he'll be bringing you a selection of crazy combo decks every Monday.

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