Locked in Orb-it

Posted in From the Lab on September 17, 2008

By Noel deCordova

Welcome back to the Lab, faithful Johnnies old and new! This week I am fortunate to have a preview from Shards of Alara, which so far is shaping up to a set unlike any other. I mean, with bombastic effects (seen on exhibit A: Sarkhan Vol) and interesting and potentially abuseable new keywords (check out the nifty Mycoloth Mark Rosewater previewed on Monday), I can't wait to start fiendishly experimenting!

Perhaps the most "out there" idea Shards of Alara has spoiled so far are the colored artifacts, unveiled by Kelly Digges last week with Sphinx Sovereign and today in Doug Beyer's dual preview of Ethersworn Canonist and Master of Etherium.

However, we've yet to see a noncreature colored artifact... until today!

Click here to see Mindlock Orb in all its censoring glory:

Mindlock Orb

Mindlock Orb is the less feathery and more strict version of Aven Mindcensor, from Future Sight. Rather than confining your opponent to the top four cards of his or her library, Mindlock Orb takes things a step further, denying any attempt to search a library while it's in play. Another obvious ancestor is Shadow of Doubt, which never really took off due to its "one turn only" effect. With Mindlock Orb, you can hose Psychogenic Probe all day long!


Mindlock Orb is a really reactive card. As others have discussed with Shadow of Doubt, there are a limited amount of ways that you can directly harm your opponent. One good way to build around Mindlock Orb is to not play spells that search your own library (duh). Apart from that, Mindlock Orb is a mean, mean card if your opponent's deck is dependent on tutors or land searchers. For this reason, Mindlock Orb seems to work well as a Wish target, or a random singleton in a similarly focused deck.

However, there are some proactive ways to use Mindlock Orb, and this first one might be the most evil of the lot:

    Mindlock Orb + Maralen of the Mornsong

This combo has been previously explored with Aven Mindcensor, but it's no less devastating here. Playing the Mindlock Orb a turn after Maralen hits the board is a truly frightening prospect... for your opponent, that is. Basically how this works is that Maralen replaces all draw steps with a Grim Tutor, and Mindlock Orb replaces all tutor effects with a blatant "No." Now Maralen might as well read, "Players can't draw cards. At the beginning of each player's draw step, that player loses 3 life."

Fortunately, you've come prepared and packed cards like Telling Time and Advice from the Fae to ensure that your card flow is not permanently halted. (Similar cards like Fathom Trawl, Fact or Fiction, and Truth or Tale work too.) Augury Adept seems to work the best here, gaining you some life to offset Maralen while keeping your grip intact. Sapling of Colfenor does the same thing to some weird extent.

Something that's been fun with Maralen since Morningtide came out is pairing her with the kinship creatures. If you manage to land a matching creature type on top of your library, it will be there for a while, since you can't draw cards. Since I've named a bunch of Wizards already, and because your opponent can't lose enough life for my tastes, I'll go with Nightshade Schemers.


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Some quick and dirty explanation: Turtleshell Changeling is there for its Wizard-ness and its interaction with the Sapling of Colfenor. Advice from the Fae is in over Fathom Trawl because it is cheaper and can gain you more life from Augury Adept. And finally, in the early game Vendilion Clique can cycle and beat, but under Maralen of the Mornsong it's a pseudo-Distress with legs.

    Mindlock Orb + Arcum Dagsson

Sweet! While under the influence of the Mindlock Orb, nice old Arcum Dagsson turns from kind spellshaper to kill-counting robot assassin. "Tap to destroy target artifact creature" is an ability worthy of the Terminator. Or is that the Transformers? I don't really know these things; pick your own dang sci-fi reference. What I do know is that before Mindlock Orb hits, you can search it up by sacrificing one of your lonely artifact creatures. Once it's online, Mindlock Orb takes away Arcum's polymorphing ability, making him a deadly Myr-durer. Of course, the tried and true method of making your opponent's creatures artifacts is the almighty Mycosynth Lattice.

That's where things began spiraling. Because the Lattice led me right back to colored artifacts, in the form of Master of Etherium, which was previewed today. (If you haven't seen it yet, make sure to head over to Savor the Flavor so you know what I'm talking about!) A */*, where * is the number of permanents you control? Sign me up! Master of Etherium also acts as a Glorious Anthem (Ethem?) for those lonely artifact creatures I was talking about before. Your Silver and Sacromite Myrs become steely soldiers while still remaining fodder for Arcum, who can trot out Mycosynth Lattice early on. A Cloud Key set to artifacts can help you accelerate as well.

If there is one ingredient that goes well with synergy, it's more synergy. At first, March of the Machines seems pretty self destructive with Mycosynth Lattuce (together they turn all lands into 0/0 artifact creatures, which immediately die.) However, with Master of Etherium in this mix, your lands will survive as 1/1 artifact creatures, while sending all your opponent's lands to the graveyard the same as it normally would. At that point, victory shouldn't be too far away. The March will also breath life into the Lattice and the Mindlock Orb itself. Beat down with Mindlock Orb? Yes please; now it controls and aggresses at the same time!

The deck really wants the Master of Etherium to stick on the board, so I added a set of Thirst for Knowledge to find it. It's an already great draw spell that just seems unfair here. Academy Ruins is especially good here also, and I added some fun singletons here and there, including a few cards from the Shards of AlaraVisual Spoiler.

Lock and Key

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    Mindlock Orb + Ghost Quarter

Maybe I was wrong before. This combo could be the most evil of them all. Of course, the experienced From the Lab reader will know that Chris Millar has covered this basic combo before. In that article, Chris used Shadow of Doubt on an Isochron Scepter with Ghost Quarter and Crucible of Worlds to lock down his opponent. Now that Mindlock Orb has arrived, the Shadow on a stick can hit the showers. I'm still going to use the Crucible of Worlds to recur not only the Quarter, but other lands that I plan to pitch to my numerous retrace spells.

Since I plan on using green in the deck, the normal list of land-searchers won't cut it due to the Orb. Edge of Autumn makes it due to its early game acceleration and its late game cycling. It even puts lands into the graveyard for Crucible of Worlds and its gnarled cousin Tilling Treefolk. While slightly unorthodox, Abundance is another way of finding lands under the Orb. And once your graveyard is filled with lands for the Crucible to recur, you can choose nonland for Abundance and not have to worry about missing a drop.

We've already got blue and green; why not add red? There's always room for red, especially when it comes in the form of Flame Jab, one of the better retrace spells, and Boldwyr Heavyweights, which is just ridiculous with Mindlock Orb in play.

An 8/8 trampler for four mana with no drawback? The Orb makes it so your opponent can't search up any Shriekmaws for your happy giants. When your Worm Harvests don't work out as finishers, summon up these heavy hitters as a backup plan. Or, you know, don't bother with the worms in the first place. One possible game with this deck could go:

Turn one: Flooded Grove, go.

Turn one: Island, Edge of Autumn for a Mountain, go.

Turn three: Fire-Lit Thicket, Mindlock Orb, go.

Turn four: Boldwyr Heavyweights, go.

My opponent would probably have thought I said "gg" (good game) instead of "go" that last time, because that's a big guy for turn four. Regardless, beating for 8 early is great fun. Other games go more of the control route, and while I talked about the Worms last week, they can win the game just as handily here. And when you've got neither of your win conditions available, simply recur the Ghost Quarter to lock your opponent out of one color, and then the game.

Worms and Weights

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    A Word About Reader Mail

I am delighted to say that reader mail is up and running. I've already received a couple of ideas, and I'm excited about feedback. So if you've got combos or synergies with Shards of Alara, forgotten ideas from past sets, or thoughts about the column, send away!

That's a wrap for this week's From the Lab. Until next time, have fun searching your library... while you can.

For more information about Shards of Alara, check out the Shards of Alara product section and Doug Beyer and Jenna Helland's A Planeswalker's Guide to Alara. And don't miss the Prerelease September 27 and 28!

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