Playing With Matches

Posted in From the Lab on April 2, 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.

Sometimes a card just sticks in the back of your mind, waiting for the right deck to come along and free it from obscurity. Death Match is a card that's been floating in the back of my consciousness for years, ever since a friend first introduced me to the card, mentioning he has an old casual deck built around it. I had half forgotten about it after all this time, but seeing it in another friend's trade binder brought it back into the light. I promptly traded for it, and started working on putting together a combo with the card.

Death Match Doesn't Kill Creatures

The key to abusing Death Match is to make a creature enter the battlefield repeatedly, triggering the enchantment until all your opponent's creatures are dead. There are a surprisingly large number of ways to do this, but as long as I'm taking advantage of old enchantments, I figured I'd turn to a powerful combo enabler I haven't used in a while: Enduring Renewal.

Death Match
Enduring Renewal

So long as Enduring Renewal is on the battlefield, any creature you control that dies will be immediately returned to your hand. This can easily create an infinite loop with any creature that can be cast without spending any mana, or creatures like Wild Cantor and Burning-Tree Emissary that can give you their mana cost back.

In the end, I settled on Shifting Wall and Phyrexian Marauder. Not only can these creatures be cast for free, they die immediately upon entering the battlefield, triggering Death Match before being put back in your hand. This way, you can easily eliminate your opponent's entire board.

Shifting Wall
Phyrexian Marauder

Creatures Kill Creatures

Well, the opponent's creatures are dead, now what? If you used Phyrexian Marauder for the combo you can put some mana into X and attack with it, but then you won't be able to kill any new creatures that show up. Hmm... what if you make sure no more creatures will show up?

By casting Living Plane or Nature's Revolt, you turn all lands into creatures. Then you can kill all your opponent's lands with the Death Match combo, preventing him or her from being able to disrupt you. Conveniently, this also solves the problem of killing your opponent, as you can just attack with your new land creatures.

Living Plane
Nature's Revolt

Birds of Paradise and Sylvan Caryatid can make sure you get the colors of mana you need, while also letting you cast your enchantments a turn earlier. They can also trigger Death Match if your opponent has a creature you need to get rid of.

Since all three enchantments in the combo cost four mana, Dimir House Guard can be used to search for any of them. Like the mana creatures, it can also be used to trigger Death Match if necessary.

Enduring Death

Download Arena Decklist

Attack of the Defenders

Axebane Guardian is a card that's garnered some attention due to its ability to produce multiple mana of any color, which can be used to activate one of any number of untap abilities to produce an infinite amount of mana. This kind of combo is something I've done before, however, and I wanted to explore in a different direction.

Axebane Guardian isn't the only card to care about the number of creatures you control with defender. In fact, there was an entire subtheme devoted to defenders in Rise of the Eldrazi. This set also gave us Axebane Guardian's predecessor, Overgrown Battlement. This little Wall is the driving force behind many casual defender decks, and I have a feeling the popularity of the strategy among casual players may have helped spur the creation of Axebane Guardian and Doorkeeper, even in a set without a large number of defenders.

Axebane Guardian
Overgrown Battlement

With both Axebane Guardian and Overgrown Battlement to work with, you can potentially create a huge amount of mana. With enough defenders on the battlefield, I figured you could easily make twenty-one mana. Then you can go for the kill by casting Banefire or Demonfire for twenty.

It takes a lot of creatures to ramp up the mana production that much, however. Tinder Wall can help, boosting the defender count before sacrificing itself for two red mana, perhaps just enough to push you over the edge. Shield Sphere is another defender that can be cast early, making Overgrown Battlement able to produce multiple mana immediately.

Tinder Wall

Wall Drawing

Wall of Blossoms and Carven Caryatid let you draw a card when they enter the battlefield, helping make sure you don't run out of defenders to cast. Bonded Fetch can also keep the creatures coming, allowing you to discard any unneeded lands or X-spells in exchange for something new.

While getting to ten defenders with two Overgrown Battlements or Axebane Guardians on the field isn't as hard as it might seem with the amount of card draw and mana production in the deck, I wanted to include something to make twenty mana happen a bit sooner. Triton Tactics fits the bill perfectly, untapping up to two mana-producing defenders for just one blue, letting you make twice as much mana. That way, you can go for the kill with only five defenders, including two mana-producers, or one mana-producer and ten defenders.


Download Arena Decklist

Death Match Death Match

Well, one of these decks seems particularly suited to this kind of contest, but we'll do it anyway. After all, it's possible that the Firewalls will manage to defend against the Onslaught enchantment's onslaught. There's only one way to find out, of course, so let's take this party down to the arena and find out.

Game 1

Firewalls started things off with a Tinder Wall, and Enduring Death cast Birds of Paradise. Overgrown Battlement came down on turn two, as did Sylvan Caryatid on the other side. Carven Caryatid and Wall of Blossoms drew a couple cards, and Enduring Death cast Death Match.

Firewalls cast a pair of Bonded Fetches to draw and discard cards, while also killing the opposing Birds of Paradise. Another Death Match hit the battlefield, and the Bonded Fetches drew more cards, failing to find anything of import.

Enduring Death cast Enduring Renewal, then used Phyrexian Marauder to annihilate the Walls. On the following turn, Living Plane eliminated the lands as well, and Firewalls conceded.

Enduring Renewal
Living Plane

Game 2

Each side started off with a land, and Wall of Blossoms came down on turn two to draw a card. Enduring Death cast Sylvan Caryatid, and Firewalls played a second Wall of Blossoms. Enduring Death transmuted Dimir House Guard for Death Match, and Firewalls cast Axebane Guardian.

Enduring Death cast Death Match, and Firewalls cast Carven Caryatid and Overgrown Battlement. Enduring Death cast Living Plane and passed the turn. Firewalls cast Carven Caryatid, then used Overgrown Battlement to cast Wall of Blossoms. Axebane Guardian made seven mana, and Triton Tactics untapped both creatures, enabling a Demonfire for well over twenty.

Triton Tactics

Game 3

Enduring Death led with a land, and Firewalls cast a Tinder Wall. Another land came down for Enduring Death, and Firewalls cast a second Tinder Wall. Enduring Death used the transmute ability on Dimir House Guard to find Death Match, and Firewalls cast Overgrown Battlement. Enduring Death used another House Guard to find Enduring Renewal.

Firewalls cast Overgrown Battlement and Shield Sphere, then tapped Overgrown Battlement for five mana, casting two Wall of Blossoms and another Tinder Wall. Death Match hit the board, and Firewalls cast another Shield Sphere.

Enduring Death cast a second copy of Death Match and passed the turn. Firewalls played a land, and Enduring Death cast Sylvan Caryatid, targeting an Overgrown Battlement with both Death Match triggers. Firewalls cast Triton Tactics on the Wall, leaving it alive with 1 toughness left.

Firewalls cast Bonded Fetch, drawing and discarding a land, and Enduring Death cast Nature's Revolt. Bonded Fetch drew another card, and Firewalls cast Axebane Guardian. Enduring Death played another land and passed the turn, and Bonded Fetch filtered through another land.

Enduring Death cast another Sylvan Caryatid, targeting Axebane Guardian and Bonded Fetch with the two triggers. Triton Tactics saved them both, and allowed Firewalls to activate the Fetch again. Finally, Firewalls managed to find a burn spell, and after throwing down a Shield Sphere, cast a hellbent Demonfire for forty-five.

Shield Sphere

Time Machine Time

Here in the future, Journey into Nyx is looking pretty sweet, and I get to share a little piece of the set with you next week. Make sure to tune in then and join me as we go traveling through time. Until then, may you have a bit of fun with your matches. See ya!

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