Non-Dragons of Tarkir

Posted in From the Lab on March 23, 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.

Greetings, Labbies! With the release of Dragons of Tarkir coming up this Friday, it's time to dig in and see what Johnny goodness this set has in store. While Dragons are obviously the main feature of the new Tarkir timeline, there are also some interesting new developments brought about by Sarkhan's temporal meddling. One in particular that caught my eye was Living Lore. This odd bundle of animated scrolls has a trio of unique abilities that combine to create one of the more memorable cards of this set.

Living Lore | Art by Jason Felix

Give Me a Dozen

Obviously you want to exile an expensive spell with Living Lore, but there are two different directions you could go from there. The first is to exile Blinkmoth Infusion and give yourself a 14/14 for just four mana. Hit it with something like Fatal Frenzy, and you can end the game in one attack. The other route is to use the Avatar's third ability to cast the exiled spell for free. That's certainly a tempting option, but what spell could be better than a 14/14 creature? Well, how about this one?

Not only does Enter the Infinite make Living Lore a 12/12, it's also one of the most powerful sorcery cards ever printed. However, it also comes with a certain amount of risk. With your entire library in your hand save one card, you need to have a way to win the game quickly. Fortunately, the whole "entire library in your hand" thing makes that a lot easier.

I wanted a way to win without waiting for the following turn, so I included a set of cards that allow you to finish off your opponent even if you have no mana available. The first step is to exile Simian Spirit Guide from your hand. That'll give you an initial red mana to work with. You can use that mana to cast Rite of Flame, turning one red mana into two. After that, a second Rite of Flame will add more red to your mana pool, giving you a total of four mana to work with. That four mana can be used to cast Spiraling Embers, dealing forty-something damage straight to your opponent's life total.

Of course, you can't do any of this without putting Enter the Infinite into your graveyard. Entomb is by far the best card for the job, so I'll be throwing in the full four copies. Blue also has a few tools that this deck can take advantage of. I decided to use both Thirst for Knowledge and Fact or Fiction. Although not as reliable as Entomb, they are more versatile, and can be used to help get other cards you need into your hand.

I also wanted to include a backup for Living Lore. Spelltwine was one option, but that requires your opponent to have an instant or sorcery in his or her graveyard, and I didn't want to rely on that. Instead, I turned to Sins of the Past. It costs the same amount of mana as Spelltwine, and the deck already uses black for Entomb anyway.

Since the deck may need up to six mana to cast Enter the Infinite, you'll need a way to stall until then. Go for the Throat can help, taking out the creatures that most threaten your life total. You can also use Mana Leak and Counterspell to stop such threats before they even enter the battlefield. Those two can also be used to protect Living Lore, and counter other counterspells that would stop you from resolving Enter the Infinite.

Infinite Lore

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Persistence Pays Off

Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit is one of my favorite cards in Dragons of Tarkir. I love bolster as a mechanic, partly because I just enjoy +1/+1 counters in general and partly because of the interesting game play brought about by always strengthening the weakest creature. However, Anafenza is part of a very small subset of cards that have the bolster action tied to a repeatable triggered ability. This massively amps up her combo potential.

The first thing I thought of when I read Anafenza was the persist mechanic. When a card like Kitchen Finks dies, it will return to the battlefield with a -1/-1 counter on it. Then Anafenza's ability will trigger, and since Kitchen Finks has only 1 toughness, you'll put the +1/+1 counter on it. The two counters will cancel each other out and disappear, leaving you with an unencumbered Kitchen Finks, ready to die and come back again. If you have a way to sacrifice the creature repeatedly, you can gain an unlimited amount of life.

If this all sounds eerily familiar, it's probably because sacrificing Kitchen Finks was until recently the centerpiece of one of the most powerful decks in Modern. Melira, Sylvok Outcast allows the Finks to return to the battlefield free of -1/-1 counters, allowing Viscera Seer to sacrifice the creature over and over again.

I love redundancy in my combo decks, and Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit provides a second two-mana creature to enable a persist combo deck. With that kind of incentive, I couldn't resist. Since it's based on a combo from a Modern deck, I decided to keep this deck Modern-legal as well.

Anafenza and Melira are the combo enablers, but any persist creature will do the job. I wanted to stay primarily in green and white, so I Included both Kitchen Finks and Safehold Elite. For a way to sacrifice them, I turned to an old combo staple: Blasting Station. It will hit your opponent for 1 damage each time you sacrifice a creature, and when that creature comes back it'll untap to do it again. It can also be used to take out problematic creatures like Hushwing Gryff.

Since most of the combo pieces are inexpensive creatures, Chord of Calling seems like an excellent way of making sure you can get the cards you need onto the battlefield. It also allows the deck to employ single copies of a few creatures that you can search for if necessary.

The first of these is Viscera Seer. If you don't have a Blasting Station, the Seer will still allow you to gain infinite life with Kitchen Finks, and the scry 1 ability will allow you to dig through your deck until you find the Station.

You can also search for Murderous Redcap, which can provide a lethal solution in combination with Viscera Seer if Blasting Station is unavailable. It also allows the deck to function in the face of cards like Stony Silence.

Finally, Maw of the Obzedat serves two purposes. First of all, it's a backup for Blasting Station that can still kill your opponent, unlike Viscera Seer. Second, it lets you work around cards like Leyline of Sanctity by winning through combat instead of direct damage. Although it costs more mana than something like Bloodthrone Vampire, the Maw doesn't have to wait until your next untap step. It also pumps up all of your creatures at once, making it much harder for your opponent to survive by blocking.

Birds of Paradise makes more expensive cards like Chord of Calling and Maw of the Obzedat much easier to handle, while also making sure you have access to all the colors of mana you need. It also gives you a flying attacker if you go the Maw of the Obzedat route.

Abrupt Decay deals with most early threats as well as many artifacts and enchantments that would stop the combo from functioning. Meanwhile, Path to Exile can be used to deal with larger creatures that Abrupt Decay can't hit. Finally, Gavony Township can be used to get rid of any initial -1/-1 counters on your persist creatures. If one of them dies before you get Melira or Anafenza on the battlefield, you'll need to remove that counter before you can start the combo. The Township can also turn your normal creatures into huge threats over time, giving you a way to win if your combo is shut down.

Kin & Out

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Catching Up

That's all I have for this first look at Dragons of Tarkir, but I'll be back next week with more new ideas using the new cards. I'll also be finally getting around to something I've been putting off for a long time. Tune in next time to check out what I've been up to. See ya!

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