Playing for Hours

Posted in From the Lab on April 9, 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.

Hello laboratorians! We're kicking off Journey into Nyx previews this week, and I've got a pretty sweet one to share with you all. It's easily my favorite creature with heroic so far, taking the mechanic to a new and ridiculous level. Check out Sage of Hours.

How's that for a heroic creature, huh?

Sage of Hours has the ordinary heroic trigger, getting a +1/+1 counter whenever you cast a spell that targets it. What makes it unique is that second ability. Whenever you accrue five counters, you can remove them all to take an extra turn. Now, there is some downside here. You have to remove all the counters no matter what, so if you have seven or eight counters you have to either waste a couple or wait until you hit ten to get a second extra turn.

However, there's a pretty big upside as well, one that I'll be taking advantage of extensively: The counters don't have to be from the heroic trigger. As long as you get five counters on the Sage, you get an extra turn. It doesn't really matter how they got there.

Counting Counters

My immediate thought was Increasing Savagery. It puts five counters on all by itself. Well, technically six with the heroic trigger, but the extra one isn't as relevant since you'll be removing them all to take an extra turn. You can also cast it from your graveyard to put ten counters on a creature, enough for two extra turns.

The next way of stacking up counters I thought of was Varolz, the Scar-Striped. The combination with Death's Shadow is fairly well-known at this point. Although Death's Shadow will die immediately when you cast it, you can scavenge it to put thirteen +1/+1 counters on a creature, since its ability only works while it's on the battlefield. With Sage of Hours, that means two extra turns. If you can scavenge two, you'll get a grand total of five turns out of the deal.

Phyrexian Soulgorger is another creature that can be scavenged for a huge amount of power. It won't hit the graveyard until your upkeep, giving you a turn to block with it, and if you do need it right away, Varolz has a handy built-in sacrifice outlet. Although the Soulgorger will usually only give you one extra turn, the three extra counters matter when combined with Death's Shadow, giving you four turns instead of three.

If you don't have Varolz, the Flesh half of Flesh & Blood gives you a one-time use of the ability for five mana. Another way to take advantage of the combo is The Mimeoplasm. By making it a copy of Sage of Hours with counters equal to Death's Shadow, you can have it ready to go as soon as it enters the battlefield.

Impulse, Grisly Salvage, and Commune with the Gods help you find the creatures you need while filling up your graveyard at the same time. You can easily grab The Mimeoplasm while putting the creatures you need in your graveyard, or pick Sage of Hours or Varolz while throwing away a few big creatures to scavenge. Finally, Putrefy is a catch-all to help deal with any troublesome creatures or artifacts you might come across.

Time Scavenger

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Counters and Counters

Like any card with counters, Sage of Hours also led me to consider proliferate as a possibility. With Contagion Engine on the battlefield, you can pay four mana to add two counters to the Sage, provided it already has at least one. Tezzeret's Gambit is a decent card-drawing spell, and also allows you to proliferate when you cast it. Similarly, Fuel for the Cause gives you a card you already want with a proliferate rider.

Unfortunately, proliferate doesn't do anything until you get that first counter on. The card that came to mind was Shielding Plax. Not only does it trigger heroic, it helps protect the Sage from removal, and replaces itself with a new card as well. I briefly considered including other cards along these lines, such as Alpha Authority and Canopy Cover, but then I remembered that triggering heroic once isn't good enough. Since you have to remove all the counters to take an extra turn, you'll need to trigger heroic again each time.

A cheap spell with buyback seemed like the best option, and Time Spiral gave us one that's perfect for the job. Clockspinning will not only trigger heroic, it will add an additional counter as well. Since the heroic trigger resolves before the spell does, Clockspinning will always give the Sage two counters, even the first time you cast it.

Fact or Fiction gives you additional card-drawing power that can be cast at instant speed, allowing you to leave mana open for counterspells. It lets you look at five cards to get what you want, making it much easier to find Sage of Hours. Speaking of Counterspell, that's in here to. Since the deck is mono-blue, Counterspell's often restrictive cost is effortless, and it's easily one of the best options for stopping unwanted spells.

The use of buyback in the deck reminded me of Capsize, an incredibly powerful late-game control card, letting you repeatedly bounce any permanent for six mana. Once you start taking extra turns, you can clear your opponent's permanent's away and attack with Sage of Hours to win the game.

Clocking Out

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The Hour of Battle

It's time to take this fight to the arena and see whose turn it is... to win. Will Varolz be able to scavenge up a victory, or will the counter counter deck counteract his plan? Let's go find out.

Sage of Hours | Art by Matt Stewart

Game 1

Each side started things off with a land, and Time Scavenger cast Grisly Salvage on turn two, finding Sage of Hours. Clocking Out simply cast Sage of Hours from its hand, and Time Scavenger followed suit the next turn. Clocking Out paid 2 life to cast Tezzeret's Gambit, drawing two cards.

Time Scavenger cast Commune with the Gods, choosing not to take anything, then Grisly Salvage, taking a land. Clocking Out merely played a land and passed the turn. Time Scavenger also played a land and passed.

Clocking Out cast Clockspinning with buyback during the end step, putting two counters on Sage of Hours. Clocked then played an Island and passed the turn. Time Scavenger cast Putrefy during the end step, targeting the opposing Sage of Hours. Clocking Out countered it with Fuel for the Cause, adding another counter. Time Scavenger then cast Grisly Salvage, finding Varolz, the Scar-Striped.

Time Scavenger cast Varolz, then scavenged Phyrexian Soulgorger for eight counters. Sage of Hours attacked for 9, then all the counters were removed to get an extra turn. On the next turn, both copies of Death's Shadow were scavenged and Sage of Hours attacked for 27, forcing the opposing Sage to block. Removing the counters then stacked up five extra turns. Time Scavenger cast Increasing Savagery from the graveyard using flashback, putting eleven counters on the Sage, which attacked for the win.

Game 2

Each deck opened with two lands, until Clocking Out cycled a Lonely Sandbar at the end of Time Scavenger's second turn. Time Scavenger cast Impulse in response, getting a Grisly Salvage. Clocking Out played a land and ended the turn, and Time Scavenger did the same. Clocking Out played a fourth Island before passing the turn again.

Time Scavenger cast Grisly Salvage during the end step, getting Sage of Hours. Time Scavenger then cast a main-phase Impulse, which found a land. Time Scavenger ended the turn, and Clocking Out cast Fact or Fiction, getting Clockspinning and Capsize. Clocking Out played a Lonely Sandbar and passed the turn.

Time Scavenger cast Impulse, getting Grisly Salvage, then cast the Grisly Salvage, finding a land and playing it. Clocking Out paid 2 life to cast Tezzeret's Gambit and passed the turn. Time Scavenger cast Varolz, the Scar-Striped, which was hit with Counterspell. Time Scavenger then cast Sage of Hours and ended the turn.

Clocking Out passed the turn with no play. Time Scavenger cast Grisly Salvage, getting a land. Varolz hit the battlefield, and a Death's Shadow was cast before immediately going to the graveyard.

Clocking Out cast Fact or Fiction during the end step, getting another Fact or Fiction and a Lonely Sandbar. Lonely Sandbar came into play, and Clocking Out ended the turn. Time Scavenger attempted to scavenge a Death's Shadow onto Sage of Hours, but Clocking Out cast Capsize with buyback on the creature in response. With Capsize on the stack, Time Scavenger sacrificed the Sage to Varolz, putting it in the graveyard.

With Clocking Out tapped out, Time Scavenger cast The Mimeoplasm, exiling Sage of Hours to copy it and Death's Shadow for thirteen counters. Time Scavenger removed the counters to take two extra turns. On the first extra turn, Time Scavenger cast the Death's Shadow to put it in the graveyard, scavenged it onto The Mimeoplasm, then scavenged a Phyrexian Soulgorger for another eight counters. The Mimeoplasm attacked for 22 to win the game.

Next Time

Even one extra turn can be deadly, but Sage of Hours can give you far more than that with the right deck around it. It's sure to be one of the more popular heroic cards, at least with the casual crowd, and it certainly has the biggest effect we've seen so far.

Although Sage of Hours is definitely a sweet card, the fun isn't over just yet. I'll be back next week with another brand-new card to preview. My next card combines an old mechanic with a new one to create a unique combo enabler. It's incredibly versatile, but it does require a little help to reach its full potential. To check it out, and to see what new decks I brew up around it, check back here next Wednesday. Until then, may you have all the time in the world. See ya!

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