Not only will New Phyrexia be released soon, but Magic: The Gathering Commander and Magic 2012 will be hot on its heels. I might actually drown in the wealth of creative infinity that's no doubt about to be unlocked. Gotta say though, it's probably about time. Writing this column for as long as I have has basically forever bonded my mind with the Magic timeline, and I recognize certain ebbs and flows by now. So this point in time (being on the cusp of whatever wonders exist in those three sets) is sort of the calm before the storm.
I thought to myself, "What sort of column slides right into these 'calm' weeks?" After deliberation, I landed on the ever-popular mailbag column. Not only is it overwhelming proof that I read every single letter sent to me (which I do), but opening the mailblag basically gives me a week-long vacation from deck-building for a week. Win/win! I get some very interesting mail, so I'd say it's time to reveal it to the Johnny world.
While I'm on the subject of mail, I'd like to bring up an unfortunate habit I have: I rarely answer mail. I would love to have the time to do so, but the mere fact that I am a human being and thus have responsibilities here and there means I must devote time to real-life matters. So if I never answered that letter that you begged and pleaded for me to answer, it's never personal.
Alright, that's out of the way. Let's dive in!
Of course, the goal of any From the Lab column is to above everything else, provide creative decks. That's goal number one. I like to think I achieve this goal every week. Even with the whole 'mail' gimmick, this week is no different goal-wise.
Last week I received a doozy of a creative deck from Will Cooper, who's broke into this column a couple times before. His letter was well written and thoroughly explained—general traits of letters that tend to make my column. Also, it's a classic Johnny seven-card combo deck... in Standard.
Intrigued? (You know you are. Brainwashing is great, huh?) Then read further.
There are those who say that seven-card combos are far too unwieldy to ever win games. There are also those who would say that Archmage Ascension is basically impossible to make good use of.
Those people are wrong.
Here's the deck I played at Friday Night Magic on April Fools' Day (purely by happy coincidence):
Do you see the infinite combo? You can take a minute to look for it. I'll wait.
*tick tock tick tock*
Okay, time's up. Here's the main combo:
Control a Riddlesmith, a Piston Sledge, an active Archmage Ascension, a Semblance Anvil with an artifact imprinted on it, an Ichor Wellspring, and a Perilous Myr. Sacrifice the Myr and the Wellspring to the Sledge. Deal 2 damage to your opponent and draw a card. Use the Ascension to "draw" another Wellspring. Cast it (for free due to the Anvil) and use the Riddlesmith trigger with the Ascension to find and discard Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, which shuffles everything back into your library. When it enters the battlefield, use the Ascension to find the Perilous Myr again, and cast it (again for free). Repeat until your opponent is dead.
If your opponent has Leyline of Sanctity, or if your Perilous Myr has been hit by Revoke Existence, you can use Everflowing Chalice instead of Perilous Myr, and generate enough mana to cast Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.
Seven-card combos are a bit easier when three of the pieces help you find the others. I've actually been in a position where I had only two of the combo pieces on the board (Archmage Ascension and Semblance Anvil) and no cards in hand at the start of my turn, and I was still able to pull everything I needed out of my deck, put two Piston Sledges on Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, and swing for 21 in the air.
As I was building this deck, I realized something:
- The deck already includes proliferate in order to help activate Archmage Ascension.
- The deck is monocolored, so we're unlikely to be color-screwed even if a few of our lands only produce colorless mana.
- Piston Sledge is extremely effective on infect creatures.
- Therefore, this deck really wants Inkmoth Nexus.
The 3P strategy (poison, proliferation, and Piston Sledge) actually turns out to be the most common way to win with this deck.
Depending on what you draw, you can go in two very different directions and have a decent chance of winning either way ... and if one angle of attack fails, you can probably switch to the other without too much loss.
All in all, this is a really fun quirky deck that also has a surprisingly good shot at winning.
Know why this is the first deck to enter your membranes today? Well, I planned it that way. Why? Because Will's email could double as the gold standard. The deck was properly explained and, even better, properly built. Will understands the concept of synergy, which is a concept to be mastered for any rogue out-of-the-box deckbuilder.
Another concept that Will understands is building a deck around what I like to call a "Maximum Potential Moment." The seven-card combo above is this deck's MPM. All of my decks have MPMs. The trick is to weave them into your deck while building it to be cohesive, fun, and, dare I say it, playable. Thereby, a successful synergy deck will play with the very essence of Johnny, with the MPM lurking in the beyond as the deck's shining moment.
Next we have an email from Darth Parallax, who often sends me emails that are too insane to print in the column. (Keep 'em up, DP.) A while back, I ran a poll on Treasure Mage, and what the artifacts it can fetch should be called, if Trinket Mage finds "cogs." The people spoke (half a tenth of a million people total, by the way!) and voted for "bombs." Darth Parallax was unhappy:
I must submit this on behalf of Vorthoses. 'Bombs' should not have won the poll. It was clearly chosen by the disproportionate number of Johnnies in your audience. Now, I know, 'From the Lab' is all ABOUT Johnnies, but 'bomb' to a Johnny is just 'any huge thing that wins the game' and could be applied to any Tutors' fetch list. Trinket Mage has always fetched cogs because it was so evocative from a Flavor standpoint! A little wizard mechanist, playing with his tinker toys of mass destruction, putting together cogs INTO a bomb. I posit that the original feedback you thought you were getting from your inbox, as you mentioned in the column you linked to, is the appropriate path, and that Treasure Mage fetches 'gears'. However, I also appreciate a certain kind of flavor in 'Relics' as seen in Zendikar and From the Vault: Relics. it just doesn't seem as Mirrodin-ish as 'gears' though.
I enjoy a good Johnny Combo as much as the next guy, (see My Infinite Universes of Madness), but when one of my psychographics conflicts with another, I usually tip my hat to Vorthos to make a decision. In fact, I stand by the statement that Infinite Universes of Madness.dec is at least as much Vorthos as Johnny, if not more so.
It's funny. I'm a closet Vorthos as well (don't worry, though—Johnny reigns supreme), but I didn't mind that "bombs" had won the poll (since it was your collective decision). And while it'd be pretty cool to have one of these names catch fire like "cogs" did, I realize that people will call their six-mana artifacts whatever they damn please. Still, DP's enthusiasm compels me to ask: Is "bombs" truly right for Treasure Mage? I won't be holding another poll, but sound off in the forums.
Next, I'm a sucker for those great interactions in Magic that just result in something strange. Examples include the "Fetterball" and flipping Skill Borrower with Jushi Apprentice on top of your library. Isak Wessman found a cool one:
Do you see it? Do you see the insanity?
With Sol Ring on the battlefield, you play march of the machines. Now it's a 1/1 artifact creature. Then you play the Transmuters second ability on it. So it's blue, and no longer an artifact. but since it's no longer an artifact, March of the Machines stops affecting it, so it's no longer a creature! Then cast Moonlace on it to make it colorless, so now it's not even blue!
What you are left with is: A Sol Ring. Not an artifact, not a creature, not a color, not ANYTHING! It's typeless.
I don't know how this can be used in any way, but a typeless permanent has to be useful for something, right?
Okay, can I officially trademark "Do you see it?
Finally, we have a deck from Daniel Haas, who decided that A Little Mercy (the playtest name of Dissipation Field) wasn't quite broken enough. My first attempt with the Field resulted in a really interesting Naya-influenced deck (yup) and while that was fun, Daniel's idea was pretty awesome:
I'd been knocking around Dissipation Field in my head for a while, feeling like it was worth playing but unsure how. Then, I noticed that the bouncing was something that I might want... and the wheels began to turn.
The idea is to give your opponent Dissipation Field with either Bazaar Trader or Puca's Mischief. Then, suddenly, your Ball Lightnings, Hell's Thunders, and Hellspark Elementals get to come back home when they're done instead of being tossed away! Before you hand over the field, these guys can get tossed in like any aggro deck, but afterwards you get to recur them every turn.
I threw in singletons of other cards that seemed nice with the bounce effect. Imagine casting Deathforge Shaman every turn, or even a lowly Sparkmage Apprentice. Electropotence lets your little Hellsparks hit harder. Hedge-Mage clears out blockers.
I also threw in Deep-Slumber Titan both because he's adorable and because with all the damage flying around he's sure to wake up. I also went for the Distant Memories tutor suite, since you can either find your combo pieces or just get more gas for your aggro.
And if you're facing an opponent that's more aggressive than you, fear not! You can always sideboard into Bazaar Trader's night job: stealing your opponent's stuff! Grab some more Dominuses (Domini? Dominoes?) and they can steal things for your trader to trade back to you, or you can just untap your titan for 7 damage! I decided that the Immortal Coil didn't need to be shuffled off in this deck, but you could also do that...
Hopefully by the end of it all, your opponent will be begging for A Little Mercy...and then you can give it to them!
I LOVE IT. Here's Daniel's deck.
Well, that's it for this week. I hope you all learned something today. Until next time!