Mardu or Die

Posted in From the Lab on November 17, 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.

What's up, guys? Come on in, have a seat, grab some grub. You'll need the energy, because today we're running with the Mardu Horde. This clan reveres the speed of dragons, so we gotta go fast if we want to keep up. I've learned a lot from these guys, and if you hurry, I might have time to share a few new ideas with you on the way.

Mardu Ascendancy | Art by Jason Chan

Take a Breath

As with most of the clans, the card that most intrigues me from Mardu is their Ascendancy. Getting a free Goblin every time one of your creatures attacks is pretty good, and that's just the kind of repeatable effect that a combo deck can abuse. As soon as I started thinking about ways to take advantage of the free creatures my mind landed on Breath of Fury. Provided you can keep getting your creatures through for damage, Breath of Fury will give you an extra combat phase for each creature you have. Since Mardu Ascendancy gives you an extra creature for each combat phase you have, the two are the perfect pair.

Here's how it works. Let's say you have a Lightning Mauler and a token from Mardu Ascendancy on the battlefield. I choose Lightning Mauler because giving haste is critical to making this combo work. Now, you cast Breath of Fury on that Goblin token. Attack with the Goblin and Lightning Mauler, getting another Goblin from Mardu Ascendancy, which you should pair with Lightning Mauler. When Breath of Fury triggers, attach it to the new Goblin token and go to your next combat phase. Although the new Goblin token just entered the battlefield, Lightning Mauler is giving it haste, so you can repeat the process. Keep doing it until your opponent is dead.

Obviously this whole thing doesn't work if your opponent can block your attackers. Bedlam can provide a permanent solution to that problem, preventing anything from blocking ever again. Order // Chaos is another option, which doubles as removal to keep your opponent from killing you while you get the pieces together.

I like a lot of redundancy in my combo decks, so I've added Hellraiser Goblin to substitute for Lightning Mauler. Brimaz can also substitute for Mardu Ascendancy. However, the real discovery was Goblin Rabblemaster, which can create the necessary token each combat and doesn't require another card to give them haste.

There's not really a substitute for Breath of Fury, so I added Enlightened Tutor to search for it instead. The Tutor can also get Bedlam, Mardu Ascendancy, or the singleton Fervor I added in just for this purpose.

Breath of Ascendancy

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Smashing More Than Helms

Zurgo Helmsmasher was the first card I saw from Khans of Tarkir, and I was immediately sold on the set. I like attacking for a lot of damage, and Zurgo does that better than any other khan. Now for a Johnny deck, two of his four abilities stand out. First he's indestructible on your turn. There are plenty of ways to take advantage of indestructible creatures, and the fact that it only works on your turn isn't much of a drawback. The other interesting ability is the one that gives Zurgo a +1/+1 counter any time a creature he dealt damage to dies.

While both abilities have potential, this is Mardu Week, so I decided that in keeping with the spirit of the clan I'd go with the one that involves attacking. Zurgo's indestructibility is pretty easy to take advantage of. Like many players, my first thought was casting a spell like Day of Judgment on my turn to clear the way for Zurgo to attack. Then I thought of a better idea. Getting rid of creatures is great, but why not just get rid of everything?

By equipping Zurgo with Worldslayer, you make it so that when he deals combat damage to an opponent, the entire battlefield will be obliterated. In all likelihood Zurgo and his sword will be the only permanents left standing. That leaves you free and clear to keep attacking until your opponent is dead.

To make sure Zurgo can get through for damage that first time, Prowler's Helm will make him unblockable. In addition, you'll want to protect Zurgo from removal spells on your opponent's turn. Swiftfoot Boots is a great card for that.

To help find Worldslayer, I've included a few ways to search for Equipment. Stonehewer Giant is the best, as it will put the five-mana Equipment straight onto the battlefield and attach it to Zurgo immediately. The Giant can even go get Swiftfoot Boots and attach it in response to a removal spell from your opponent.

Stoneforge Mystic won't equip Worldslayer for free, but it can cheat it onto the battlefield for two mana. Coming in third is Steelshaper's Gift. While it doesn't help you get Worldslayer attached, it does search for any Equipment for just one mana, which makes it very effective for getting the other Equipment like Prowler's Helm and Swiftfoot Boots.

Of course, Zurgo isn't the only creature that can wield the power of Worldslayer. Tajic, Blade of the Legion also does an admirable job, and can come down a turn earlier than Zurgo. However, Tajic is more likely to need a Prowler's Helm, as he doesn't have Zurgo's power to kill any creature that blocks him.

To make sure your opponent doesn't murder you before you slay the world, I've included Path to Exile as a strong defensive measure. It can also be used offensively if your opponent has only one creature to block with. Finally, it seems that many of the key cards in this deck require five mana to cast. To help you get there sooner, I've added in Boros Signet and Orzhov Signet. They can be cast as soon as turn two, and if cast later have a net cost of only one mana since you can activate them right away.

Zurgo Worldsmasher

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A Wild Contest Has Appeared!

It seems like it's about time I held another contest for you guys, this week I started brainstorming ideas for something to challenge you all with. Then it occurred to me that it's also been a while since I did a more Vorthosian article. I strongly lean toward the more mechanical side of things, so that's a side of the Johnny world I often neglect. Therefore, I'm passing the job off to you guys.

Here's what you need to do. Pick your favorite film or TV show and build a deck that represents it. You can choose cards to represent certain characters, or you can try to make the deck play out in a way reminiscent of the film's plot. It's up to you how you choose to make the connection. Now, let's get down to the nitty gritty.

  • All decks should be sent to mtgcannon@gmail.com
  • Decks should be formatted with only a number before the card name (3 Zap, not x3 Zap) and cards should not be separated by type.
  • Give the deck a name, and give me yours as well. It can be a username or pseudonym if you'd like to remain anonymous.
  • Since this is all about your ideas, make sure you include an explanation of what you're trying to represent and why you chose each card.

That's it! I'll leave the contest open for two weeks, so get those mental gears turning and send in your ideas. See ya!

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