The Johnny Gems of Magic 2015

Posted in From the Lab on July 9, 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.

The Prerelease for Magic 2015 is coming up in just a few days now, and I for one am very excited to get my hands on some of the new cards. There are quite a few that I have my eye on, and today I'll be taking advantage of a few of them in some sweet combo decks.

A Thinly Veiled Reference

The first card I want to take a look at is The Chain Veil. This is the first card we've seen whose sole purpose is to interact with Planeswalkers. Getting an extra loyalty ability every turn seems incredible. Although not as efficient at stacking up counters as something like Contagion Engine, The Chain Veil lets you double up on the effect as well, and can even allow you to activate two different abilities in the same turn.

The Chain Veil can also form an infinite combo with some Planeswalkers. No doubt a number of players have already discovered this, but the basic idea is that any combination of + abilities that can produce four mana and untap an artifact can be used to add an unlimited number of loyalty counters to your Planeswalkers.

There are a few options for each spot, and as it happens,M15 comes with one pre-installed. Nissa, Worldwaker has a +1 ability that untaps four Forests, giving you the ability to produce the four mana needed to activate The Chain Veil each time.

Tezzeret the Seeker can untap The Chain Veil with his +1 ability, forming the second part of the combo. In fact, he can do both halves by himself if you have an artifact that can produce four mana, but most of the time, Nissa is going to be an easier option. Tezzeret can also search for The Chain Veil with his -X ability. Unfortunately, he only enters the battlefield with four loyalty, so you'll need to either add one first or have a second Tezzeret in your hand.

There's another reason I chose these two Planeswalkers over any others and that's the fact that they have abilities that allow you to end the game on the spot once you've built up enough counters. The -7 ability on Nissa, Worldwaker gives you a huge army of 4/4 land creatures. Unfortunately, those creatures can't attack right away, but Tezzeret can solve that. Remove seven loyalty from him as well, and you can search your library for Akroma's Memorial, giving the land creatures haste along with a slew of other abilities.

Simic Signet allows you to skip ahead to four mana on turn three and gives you blue mana despite the preponderance of Forests in the deck necessary to effectively use Nissa's ability. Everflowing Chalice also accelerates your mana, and can even be used to go infinite with just Tezzeret if you can kick it four times.

Impulse and Fact or Fiction help you find the pieces you need, digging into your library four or five cards at a time. The fact that they are instants is also important, as I've included Mana Leak and Rune Snag as a way to buy time and protect the combo. You can leave mana open to counter a spell and still cast a draw spell if your opponent doesn't cast anything you need to worry about.

The Veil Unchained

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Reverse Insecticide

Another card that caught my eye is Hornet Nest. While using something like Heat Ray to make a large number of tokens with flying and deathtouch is already pretty good, I wanted to take things even further. By making Hornet Nest indestructible, it won't die to lethal damage. Add in a way to repeatedly deal damage to it and you have a way to create an unlimited number of tokens.

Making the nest indestructible is easy. There are plenty of options, but Mortal's Resolve and Withstand Death are the easiest to cast. Dealing damage to Hornet Nest each time is a bit harder. Pandemonium does a good job of it, allowing each token you make to deal damage to the Hornet Nest. That allows you to make an unlimited number of token creatures as soon as you deal some damage to the Nest to start the loop. Playing another creature will do.

Goblin Bombardment and Blasting Station can work alongside Pandemonium to kill your opponent immediately instead of having to attack, or can replace it by allowing you to sacrifice each token to make another. In the latter case, Hissing Iguanar can provide the win condition, dealing damage to your opponent each time a creature dies.

Hornet Nest isn't the first time this kind of effect has been done, and that adds some redundancy to the deck. Broodhatch Nantuko and Saber Ants can substitute for the Nest just fine, since deathtouch doesn't really matter when you're making a few million creatures. Having other creatures is also key to starting off the combo. You'll need to deal the first damage to Hornet Nest or one of the other options by triggering Pandemonium or sacrificing a creature to Blasting Station or Goblin Bombardment.

Hornet Bombardment

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Don't Let a Good Format Go to Waste

Although I usually focus on casual decks here on From the Lab, there's certainly a place for Johnny decks in other formats as well. Waste Not is the latest Megrim variant, and since I've already explored casual decks built around that kind of strategy, I decided I'd see what I could do with the card in a more restrictive environment: Standard.

The key card that brought everything together for me was Whispering Madness. The traditional problem with discard decks is that once your opponent runs out of cards, there's not much you can do. Win conditions like Megrim no longer function, as your opponent can usually play the drawn card each turn. With Whispering Madness, you'll never run into that problem. Even if your opponent is out of cards, he or she will draw equal to the number of cards in your hand. Cast Whispering Madness with cipher and those will be discarded, triggering Waste Not several more times.

If cipher is going to be a major part of the deck, you'll need creatures to carry it. Triton Shorestalker is an excellent option as an unblockable creature for just one mana. There isn't another one-mana equivalent available, but Flitterstep Eidolon only costs two, which shouldn't be too large a setback. At three mana, you gain access to Deathcult Rogue, which in addition to its near unblockability boasts an extra power and toughness to end games more quickly.

Since you can't rely on drawing Whispering Madness and Waste Not every game, I've added cards that support both angles. Thoughtseize is an obvious choice, allowing you to choose between a Zombie token and a card with Waste Not on the battlefield. Duress also seems much better when it has "draw a card" attached, and Black Cat can provide a bit of defense while continuing to rip apart your opponent's hand.

To take advantage of the unblockable creatures, Call of the Nightwing gives you a constant stream of flying tokens that can be used to help you survive against attackers or kill your opponent more quickly. Undercity Plague adds to the discard angle by stripping a card each turn until your opponent has none left. It also forces your opponent to sacrifice a permanent and lose 1 life. Finally, Hero's Downfall is an all-purpose removal spell that can deal with anything your discard missed.

Whispering Waste

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Magic 2015 certainly seems to have a lot more truly interesting cards than most core sets, and I've only started examining all the new cards. Today, I looked mostly at some of the more obvious combo options, but next week I'll be digging a bit deeper into the set to find some more subtle options that most players haven't yet discovered. Join me then to see what secrets M15 has in store. See ya!

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