Obligatory Johnny Week column? Done. Now I can go on to my personal favorite article of the year, which contains what I believe is one of the craziest yet most scarily proficient multi-card combos that I've ever made. The Progenitus combo received praise through email, which I was more than happy to receive. Even the great flavor-savoring Doug Beyer took time out of his schedule to shoot me an electronic pat on the back. Thanks, Doug!
Elsewhere, I talked about my frequent diagnosis of PALBAIC, and the crazy things one could do with Master Transmuter post-Conflux. That deck turned out to be pretty decent as well, so there you have it. It also featured one of my most-remembered deck names (bestowed in slight tribute to the song "Sludgefest" by Dinosaur Jr.).
This article originally ran on February 4, 2009.
Therefore, upon the release of Conflux and its Visual and Sortable Spoilers this past weekend, I came up with the theme of revisiting old ideas. Cool little interactions that form a solid deck nucleus are everywhere in Magic's coves of deck-building. Some new cards from Conflux happen to help these deck nucleuses out, and some bend the deck to the side in a wackier way. Think of it as adding shiny, never-before-seen eggs to a Magic omelet. (Clearly, not Worldheart Phoenix eggs. I don't like it when my omelet comes back to life, personally.)
Before we start combining the past with the future, let's talk about Conflux (the set) in a broader context. Namely, the Prerelease! In an unfortunate turn of events, I was not able to attend, and so I glumly sat around my quarters and pretended I was at the Prerelease. It was awesome: I opened three foil copies of Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker, came up big at a Conflux Booster Draft by somehow getting a playset of Path to Exiles, and got Rakka Mar's autograph. Yes, the real Rakka Mar. No, I did not call the fire department in time.
Jesting aside, I hope everyone who actually came out for a Prerelease last weekend (I swear, I'll make it for Alara Reborn) had a fantastic time. I'm curious if any of my fellow Johnnies might have discovered something crazy with Conflux, so post your awesome Limited combos in the forums to spread the casual love!
Master of Puppet Conjurers
I did have the honor of previewing the beautifully textured Master Transmuter two weeks ago, when Conflux previews were still in the swing of things. While I felt I covered many of the fun bases in that article, I was still suffering from an irking acronym I like to call PALBAIC, which is short for Plays A Lot Better Alongside Its Contemporaries. In logical terms, Master Transmuter is quite good alongside other Conflux cards, particularly other artifacts that like coming into play. Or leaving play. Perhaps Conflux brings some artifact tutors to the Standard table, like artifact creatures that can miraculously find Master Transmuter. Or, dodging the bouncing tricks of the Transmuter, maybe Conflux just has a Darksteel Colossus-esque fatty, a hard-to-deal-with artifact beatstick. All of those things would be quite welcome, you know. The poor old Master Transmuter can't bounce Sundering Titans all day, can she?
As you may have picked up on, the answer to that question would have to be no—thanks to the fruits of the new set. Fun fact: Master Transmuter and Sludge Strider received the Conflux class "Attached at the Hip" award. The synergy the two creatures share is amazing. Not only will you reap the benefits of whatever artifact you are bouncing with Master Transmuter, an extra colorless mana will drain your opponent for one. Sounds meager, but over time (and especially with the ability attached to a 3/3 body) Sludge Strider can make things sticky for your opponent.
Sphinx Summoner is probably the best possible tutor for specifically artifact creatures ever printed. Well, that would be because it's the only tutor for specifically artifact creatures ever printed. Regardless, it can find numerous things in the deck, namely Master Transmuter, and being a 3/3 flyer ain't so bad. Just ask Shinen of Flight's Wings. Or not.
Parasitic Strix seems like a decent new artifact creature to bounce over and over. If you have Sludge Strider in play, you can drain your opponent of 3 life on its way in, and when Transmuted, another 3.
I also got an abnormally large amount of suggestions by email in response to the Master Transmuter preview. Alexander MacQuitty informed me of the Tidehollow Sculler interaction, which is pretty diabolical. As Alexander states, "With Master Transmuter in play, playing a Tidehollow Sculler and then bouncing it and putting it back into play with its ability on the stack means that you strip two cards from your opponent's hand ....Odds are, they don't have more than two removal spells in hand, so your Sculler will probably get away with the second card." Repeatable Hymn to Tourachs for sounds great to me.
Two artifacts that I completely dropped the ball on with regards to Master Transmuter were Rings of Brighthearth and Thousand-Year Elixir, which were suggested by Tyler C. (who also suggested abusing Jace while I was at it) and R.J. Riley, respectively. Rings of Brighthearth is pretty awesome alongside Master Transmuter, allowing for double the artifact "Elvish Piper." R.J., meanwhile, was intent on telling me how ashamed he was of me for not thinking of the Elixir, which is similarly synergistic. (I humbly ask for forgiveness, R.J.!) R.J. also suggested Metallurgeon as both a neat creature with an activated ability and a good way to protect Master Transmuter. Along these same lines, Secret Service stalwart and long-time Johnny Fox M. suggested Welding Jar, which in his words, "makes all your artifacts cost U, and nothing else."
I took all these suggestions, threw them in a blender, and hit frappe. All of these ingredients do in fact blend (Leviathan smoke; don't breathe this!) into a decent deck. I added some reactants of my own: Wall of Junk seems great alongside Sludge Strider, as it plays some great defense while slowly squeezing the life out of your opponent. I really wanted to use one of the new Scepters, so I went with the cycle's best: Scepter of Fugue. Alongside the Tidehollow Sculler interaction above, your opponent should be nervous about how many cards he can hold, while Rings of Brighthearth can copy the ability for more discard. Plus, it's an early black permanent for Parasitic Strix! Keeping with the Conflux spirit, the reprinted Unsummon is generally useful. Finally, I loved the Jace Beleren suggestion that Tyler brought up, but Tezzeret the Seeker is arguably just as abusable and is on-theme.
If you'll notice, I wound up excluding Thousand-Year Elixir altogether, as there wasn't room for two three-mana artifacts that do essentially the same thing in the deck. If you decide Rings of Brighthearth is a weak link, a straight up swap would be a good first step for revisions.
While Inkwell Leviathan can rightfully be seen as Standard's new Darksteel Colossus in nearly all aspects (an expensive fatty who doesn't die easily), it's missing the Iron Giant's graveyard ability that prevents reanimation of any sort. That little line of text got slapped on Progenitus instead, where it only served as the icing on a five-headed cake. Progenitus is sure to be one of the first cards thought of when Conflux is brought in conversation, or least it certainly will around my playgroup. Being the first card with the deliciously ambiguous / awesome "protection from everything" is always something to put on your resume, but it's the whopping ten mana symbols that I want to look at.
When the cycle of Ultimatums were first premiered back in September during the Shards of Alara spoiler season, my thoughts turned to one card and one card only: Charmed Pendant. Sure enough, I built the unearth / Charmed Pendant deck, featuring special guest Cruel Ultimatum. Now, Conflux certainly brings some more unearth shenanigans to the table (Shambling Remains, the tremendous Extractor Demon) but I'm sticking with a new deck core here: Tapping Charmed Pendant, revealing and ditching Progenitus (which then gets looped back into your deck), and washing your mana pool with ten mana, two for each color.
That's neat and all, but what then? Here's the answer. Filigree Sages caught my eye from the day it was first shown to the public. Apparently, I'm the target audience for cards like this (I reacted the same way to Flamekin Spitfire back in the fall of 2007), as I immediately thought, "BORKEN!!" and tried to break it. Once the shock had worn off, I knew it wasn't nearly as overpowered as I thought it was, but I still wanted to use it in some sort of infinite combo.
Here, the Sages provide that great option: untapping Charmed Pendant over and over again. Since you will be getting from a revealed Progentius, you'll be ready for a second go-'round with seven mana of nearly every color combination you can think of (a is the only colored requirement for Filigree Sages.)
How should we build around this? I first thought about play Congregation at Dawn to pop three copies of Progenitus on top of my library and, after numerous Pendant and Sage activations, winding up with twenty-one mana of all colors. The problem with that is the legendary Hydra shuffles back into your library, rather than go on the bottom as I had originally thought, and a shuffle would screw up your Congregation (a bad thing). Next, I thought about using Leveler alongside creature tutor effects such as Weird Harvest, so that I'd have all my Progenituses in hand, while my library was sent to the void. Then a silly effect like Leashling (yup, Leashling) could put a Progenitus on top of my library. Thus, when the Hydra got shuffled back into my library, it'd still be on top, creating infinite mana with the Pendant and the Filigree Sages.
I'm an ambitious person, but even I wouldn't go that far. (Well, I might.) And finding a slightly feasible use for Leashling really tempts me to build that deck, but why spend tons of turns finding your combo pieces when you could play just one spell to instantly create that game state? Boy, if that day ever came, it'd be scary. A surefire Doomsday.
With the Charmed Pendant and Filigree Sages online, and four Progenituses in your deck, cast Doomsday. Most of the rest of your library will wither into dust, leaving behind a key five cards: The four Hydras, and one Obelisk of Alara. Since you can stack your new depleted library whichever way you choose, put the Obelisk on top, so you draw it. Now channel Progenitus's cost numerous times.
How to win from there, using your infinite mana? A bombastic way would be to play and use Obelisk of Alara and the Sages untapping to gain infinite life, kill all other creatures on the board, give one of your creatures infinitely large power and toughness, and then burn your opponent for infinite damage. It'd also be flavorful, since you're using Progenitus (the supposed Soul of the World) alongside the official Obelisk of Alara. So yes, I'll throw some Obelisks in there. Keep in mind that many other win conditions are out there, such as Whetwheel, Granite Shard, or just a new-fashioned Banefire.
Drift of Phantasms can find Bonded Fetch, Unmake / Infest, Doomsday, and Fabricate, the latter of which can find Charmed Pendant, Filigree Sages, and Obelisk of Alara. That worked out nicely. The Fetches are there in case you get stuck with Progenituses in you hand early on. Just discard them: they go back into your library anyway. In a pinch, many cards have mostly colored symbols in their mana costs for Charmed Pendant, like Doomsday and Unmake.
Next week marks the first theme week on magicthegathering.com post-Conflux! Join me, won't you?