Sardonic Sneakings

Posted in From the Lab on February 16, 2012

By Noel deCordova

Welcome back to the Lab, from wherever you came from today, be it a former cyber setting or the crisp outside world. If the latter, I have some slight inquiries: What's it like there, and how often do you hallucinate? It's all in my head of course, but lately, when I walk around places I can see a faint blue mist, slithering around obscure corners or just hanging midair, blurring in and out. Could just be the climate lately, I suppose. Cloudy with a chance of lunacy.

Anyway, that takes care of the introductory randomness. Today I'm excited to finally talk about some exciting cards and decks that arise to my attention from Dark Ascension. Over the course of the coming weeks I'll do my utmost to wring all the combo juices out of the set (with occasional help via emails from readers... like you, potentially!).

With so much awesomeness to work with, I might not even get to everything. And due to the resounding blankness of the non-theme week, I'm not sure where to really start! After painstakingly sorting out the cards that deserve certain weeks for study, I've arranged all my non-theme weeks. Well, the first three, at least. One would think I'm just as organized in real world matters... sigh. Really, what is this "real world" anyway?

Oh, what's with today's title? I couldn't think of one, so I went with "Sardonic sneak," which is an anagram for "Dark Ascension." I preferred it with the "-ings" ending, though, so I guess I'm actually stealth-saying: "Sing, Dark Ascension."

    Misfortunate Musings

Lots of cards in Dark Ascension strike me as interesting to build around. Some of these cards smile knowingly at me from the screen. Others burst through the e-particles and shake me by the shoulders. Still others inspire me to take a sudden action, like pump a fist or giggle.

Curse of Misfortunes | Art by Terese Nielson

As a fan of the Curse subtype in Innistrad, Curse of Misfortunes inspired the latter reaction. (Fist pump; not giggle fit.) I wanted to make a Curse deck earlier, but there just weren't enough of them to work with. Now with Dark Ascension providing a glut of new Curses, I think it's time to have a go at building this deck. Curse of Thirst becomes the perfect win condition, and with Curse of Misfortunes finding a new Curse every upkeep, your opponent will soon bend to his or her many afflictions.

I figured a full set of Curse of Death's Hold would be necessary as a measure of defense. Bitterheart Witch is a pretty excellent blocker and Curse finder, so in she goes.

I decided to run a handful of singleton Curses to support Misfortunes, including two heavyweights from Dark Ascension, Curse of Echoes and Curse of Bloodletting. Curse of Echoes is a nutty variant on Hive Mind, while Curse of Bloodletting can rapidly speed up the Thirsting process.

Curse of Exhaustion is another fascinating new one. It makes perfect sense as an opponent-only Rule of Law (slowing them down considerably), and it injects white into the deck. Not a bad thing, considering Mesa Enchantress. With all the enchantments in the deck, an early Enchantress can really speed things up. White also gives me access to Faith's Fetters (good stabilizing card), Idyllic Tutor (ooo...), and Seal of Cleansing (solely there to destroy Witchbane Orb.)


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Brainspoil finds helpful things, and Paradox Haze is for funzies. Just clearing that up.


Alright, the next card I want to examine is Feed the Pack, a fun Wolf-making enchantment. I've had a couple of emails concerning this card, and I definitely want to address the ridiculous potential quantity of Wolf tokens that can be made with it.

Feed the Pack | Art by Steve Prescott

Gavin NoLastName suggested Tree of Redemption. Ooo...that's an idea kernel I can get behind. Use the Tree's trippy trans-toughness trick to make it a 0/20, and sacrifice it for 20 2/2 Wolf tokens! Lester Hawkes upped the ante with his suggestion: "Feed the Pack plus Tree of Redemption plus Parallel Lives. Some ramping and utility, and you could be attacking with 80 power by turn six. Standard legal even." Yep, that's crazy.

Although Lester does hint at a Standard version of this deck, I dipped into some older sets to smooth out some kinks. Overgrown Battlement in particular attracted my attention. Imagine: A turn two Battlement into a turn three Tree into a turn four Feed the Pack, hug the Tree, then feed it to those twenty 2/2 Wolves that show up. Slip a Parallel Lives in beforehand for extra mayhem. Ahh... Parallel Lives. Like the Tree itself, it's a green Innistrad rare I didn't get around to showing off that much. I'm making up for it with this deck.

I searched for other creatures to insert into the deck. Fortunately, high toughness and defender usually come hand in hand. Wall of Blossoms and Carven Caryatid hold the early fort down and draw some cards, and Thallid Shell-Dweller is a cheap 5-toughness creature that also produces Saproling tokens for Parallel Lives to double.

I decided to splash a bit of white. Sterling Grove not only protects your enchantments but searches for them as well, and Oblivion Ring is a decent catch-all solution to problems.

While looking for some final additions, I narrowed the crop down to two creatures. Deadwood Treefolk has a toughness of 6 and brings back helpful cards from the graveyard, like fallen Trees. And Jaddi Lifestrider was one of those cards I had never previously used but fit perfectly. Clocking in at 2/8, with a life-gaining ability (which the Tree likes) based on tapping quantities of creatures (which this deck can produce in swelling increments), it just seemed a superb choice.

Wave of Wolves

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While I have the Tree close in my deck building sights, I think I'll take a brief aside to tap my lip over some interesting Redemptive strategies sent in via reader mail. Mark Schofield emailed me recently with his take on breaking the Tree. The goal of his deck is to "get the Tree out as soon as possible, activate it, and then give it to your opponent. Once your opponent controls it, bind them to it with Creature Bond, then destroy them both using Beast Within." Ouch! That's a roundabout (and awesome) way to deal 20 to the dome. Here's Mark's list.

Unhealthy Attachment

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Mark used various blue methods of giving away the Tree, and of course Beast Within to deliver the killing blow (as well as solving any permanent problems mid-game.) If this idea strikes your fancy, you could riff on it with Banewasp Affliction, the Creature Bond of Modern times.

    Super Silver Storage

Proceeding directly away from Tree of Redemption, the wandering planeswalker stumbles onto the Helvault, that mysterious lynchpin of Innistrad's storyline. Seriously, the art confirms their close proximity. So I suppose I should cap off today's article with a look at this legendary exiling machine.

Helvault | Art by Jaime Jones

With enough mana, a single Helvault can take over a game, storing creatures from all loyalties in its silver depths. Silver Myr and Everflowing Chalice give the deck a mana boost to reach the magic number seven, which turns the Helvault onto full power. Even at middling power, the Helvault can still wreak havoc. If I take control of my opponent's creatures, I have the option of storing them in the Helvault for only one mana. To repeatedly steal, I turned to Vedalken Shackles and Beguiler of Wills (who makes her Lab debut in style).

The deck basically plays as a mono-blue controlling deck, ideally winning through creature manipulation. Epochrasite is just the robotic combat clogger the deck needed, endlessly stalling while you can land a Helvault or the Shackles.

However, there is one wacky-ish trick to be pulled here. Let's say you have a bunch of creatures locked in the Helvault. When the time is right, start the festivities by sacrificing the Helvault to Throne of Geth. Then, in response to the Helvault's destruction trigger, cast... Gather Specimens. And get everything. (The Throne works with many counter-related cards in the deck, like Everflowing Chalice, Serum Tank, and Inkmoth Nexus).

Vaulting Wills

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Well, that's it for this week. Until next time.

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