Legendary Leaders

Posted in From the Lab on February 16, 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.

Hello, my fellow mad scientists! It's time for another edition of From the Lab, and since today is Presidents Day, I'll be building a few decks based on some of Magic's legendary leaders. There have been hundreds of legendary creatures throughout the game's history, so I decided to restrict myself a bit further. Each of today's decks is built around a legend who is the ruler of a nation, or whatever that plane's version of a nation is.

Reaper King | Art by Jim Murray

Smiling is Good PR

The first leader I'll be looking at is Alesha, Who Smiles at Death. She rules over the Mardu Horde with an iron fist and a steel blade. Seeing her charge into battle is enough to make warriors who were out of the fight rise up and enter the fray once more. Of course, not all warriors are equal in their abilities.

The idea that made me want to use this deck came from an email sent by Nafthali Weiss. While I loved Alesha the moment I saw her, my early ideas were based around Commander, and thus stuck to Mardu colors. Nafthali went looking in all five colors, and pointed out a few cards I hadn't considered.

The first of these is Gigantomancer. While normally inhibited by its 8-mana casting cost, Gigantomancer is incredibly good when you can sneak it onto the battlefield for two mana. In fact, With Alesha on the battlefield and Gigantomancer in your graveyard, you can attack for a total of 14 damage on turn four. That seems like a pretty good game plan to me.

Trostani's Summoner is an often overlooked uncommon that can put a huge amount of power onto the battlefield, albeit at the hefty price of seven mana. Fortunately, Alesha can fix that, giving you 10 power spread across four creatures for the low price of two mana.

Nafthali also suggested Prime Speaker Zegana, which seems like a great way to make sure the creatures keep flowing after you've cheated something onto the battlefield. Even if you only have Alesha, getting a 4/4 and drawing four cards doesn't seem like too bad a deal.

Duplicant is a great way to remove any creatures that stand in your way. Raving Dead will often do the job as well, since your opponent won't want to give up half of his or her life total. For pure damage, Arcbound Overseer isn't bad. You also have the opportunity to transfer all its counters if it dies when you have a Duplicant on the battlefield. Sekki, Seasons' Guide fulfills a similar purpose, giving you a huge amount of power that's a bit more difficult to get rid of than your average creature. Hornet Queen gives you an insect air force that doesn't go down without a fight, making it easy to get some damage in.

Many of these creatures have abilities that trigger when they enter the battlefield. Therefore, I wanted a way to keep triggering them turn after turn. Progenitor Mimic seemed like a great option since it can be returned from the graveyard with Alesha. Once it copies something, it will make a new clone every upkeep, making it hard for your opponent to keep up. Carrion Feeder gets the job done a different way. Instead of making copies, you can keep sacrificing the original and bringing it back with Alesha every turn.

Since you need to have Alesha in hand for this to work, I wanted to include one card to search for her. Fortunately, green has the perfect solution. Time of Need is a card I first used when developing a very early prototype of the Goryo's Vengeance/Emrakul, the Æons Torn deck shortly before the release of Rise of the Eldrazi. If you only need to search for legendary creatures, this card is basically a green Demonic Tutor, and it's the perfect way to go grab a copy of Alesha on turn two.

The last thing you'll need is a way to get all the good creatures in your graveyard. Entomb fits perfectly into the curve, allowing you to cast Time of Need on turn two, Alesha on turn three, and bring back whatever you searched for on turn four. Darkblast can work as well if your opponent has a creature on the battlefield. It won't always put a good target in the graveyard, but it can keep giving you cards to work with throughout the game.

Stealing another trick from the Goryo's Vengeance deck, I also included Thoughtseize. Normally, you'd use this to get rid of your opponent's most important card, and it can certainly still do that here. However, it can also allow you to discard an important creature into your graveyard in order to return it with Alesha. Finally, I also added in Buried Alive. Although it doesn't curve out with Alesha quite as nicely, it does allow you to get three creatures at once later in the game, ensuring you won't run out of targets for Alesha's ability.

Death's a Sucker for a Pretty Smile

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The King's Army

Working with Alesha got me thinking about another ruler who has a close relationship with death: Reaper King. One of the most powerful tribal lords in the game, Reaper King is held back only by the strength and size of his army. Unfortunately, there aren't too many Scarecrows in Magic, and most of them are...well, let's just say they're not incredibly impressive. However, there's no way a little thing like that is going to stop me from building a deck around this guy. Hail to the king, baby.

The first obstacle that needs to be dealt with is Reaper King's impressive mana cost. Fortunately, the card's peculiar status of being a five-colored artifact creature provided a couple great options to work with. Because Reaper King is both a green creature and an artifact, he can be put straight onto the battlefield with either Natural Order or Tinker. I'm not sure either of these classically overpowered cards ever expected to be cheating in a Scarecrow.

Now, Tinker is a pretty obvious choices since most of the Scarecrows available are artifacts. However, Natural Order might seem a bit harder to work with. After all, you need a green creature to sacrifice as well. The first card I decided to use was Joraga Treespeaker, due to its impressive mana-producing abilities. However, once I began looking through the available Scarecrows, I realized that adding other green creatures wasn't necessary.

Painter's Servant has the ability to turn itself green along with everything else. That means it can be sacrificed to either Tinker or Natural Order. Scuttlemutt can pull off this color-changing trick as well, and can also provide you with a bit of mana if you need it. That gives you a total of twelve green creatures that can be sacrificed to Natural Order, which should be plenty.

Painter's Servant and Scuttlemutt are two ways to trigger Reaper King's ability, but that didn't seem like nearly enough. Scarecrone was an obvious choice, as its two abilities in combination allow you to trigger Reaper King every turn while drawing cards at the same time. Then it occurred to me that a card I used in the previous deck would be perfect here. Progenitor Mimic can copy any Scarecrow, and keep copying it every turn. That amount of destruction will likely prove impossible for your opponent to fight through.

Of course, I couldn't make a Reaper King deck without the most famous way to abuse the card. Rite of Replication allows you to make five copies of a creature when kicked. At first glance, it may seem that this gives you five Reaper King triggers along with five copies of one of your Scarecrows. It can certainly do that, but it can also do something much better. If you instead copy Reaper King itself, each King will trigger for each other. Of course, the legendary rule will eliminate all but one, but immediately afterward, 25 copies of Reaper King's ability will be put onto the stack. That should be more than enough to wipe out every permanent your opponent has on the battlefield.

Fear the Reaper

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Time to Step Down

That's all I've got for you today, but be sure to check back next week, when I'll be sharing the results of last week's poll and issuing a challenge for all you creative deck builders out there. Until then, make sure to send any feedback, deck ideas, or any other comments you have to MTGCannon@gmail.com. See ya!

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