Posted in From the Lab on November 10, 2011

By Noel deCordova

My mind's hopping all over the place lately. I can't seem to aim its frenetic beam into one place of focus. By "I," I mean it, of course. And by it, I mean the mind. See what I mean? Argh. NeverI.

This is what you get for tuning in every week, you know. I reserve the right to slobber forth my internal froth at times. The occasional moments where this whole façade slips, and the random takes over, fueled by stress and deadlines. As for those who might have stumbled into "my diabolical laboratory" from the blistering cold, well, apparently you have no idea what's going on. The skinny is that I usually build three-ish decks of potent combinations and gibber all the while. Usually I'm bound to the most recent release for material, and am occasionally shackled to a theme week.

Vedalken Shackles | Art by Mark Zug

With no such cuffs winking from my wrists this week, I am faced with a barren wasteland of a white Microsoft Word page, with only these words trekking onward so far. They're searching for an ancient sentence of great power, said by mystics of old to be hidden somewhere in this infinite blank. Legend foretells of its mighty article-ending ability. Using my words as delegates, I have embarked upon this quest.

What is this mythic sentence? Well, if I don't quit this insane narrative, you'll never find out, because you've clicked away in annoyance. I'll shut up now, and get on with my decks... the first of which comes at popular request, and stems from last week's prompt. I wrote about a fun morph combo deck that I actually play in real life, but due to a self-imposed restriction (I do things like that) I couldn't reveal the true list. In addition, my list is linked thematically to a film. My hints were pretty bald, and many got it right: It's an Inception theme deck. (Although, a side of applesauce to the lone left-field guess of Being John Malkovich.)

For reference, here's the combo again. You control Ixidor, Reality Sculptor; four morphs; and six lands, and your opponent has a creature. Have Ixidor flip up Chromeshell Crab, and exchange your face-down creature for his or her creature.

When I first uncovered this combo, I was jolted by the barbed surprise it contains. You see, at this point, your opponent controls a creature while remaining clueless of its identity. What does it mean for her to look at it? Is she reminded of an idea long since buried, or is it a planted ruse? Either way, I use Ixidor to flip up the Unstable Hulk, and your opponent therefore breaks into her own mind. (Oh, and I use two Weaver of Lies to gain infinite turns. Read last week's article for clearer details.)

The genesis of this combo gave off vivid waves, and I recalled pondering similar depths while watching the film Inception. It's a mental behemoth of a movie, equal parts daring and dazzling. I had only smiled at the concept of a theme deck before, but this combo gave me a great reason to attempt one.

Dream Is Collapsing

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Some choices are obvious, like Sleep, Dream Fracture, and Think Twice. Lonely Sandbar is the beach from the opening scene. Sensei's Divining Top is certainly fun to spin once I've achieved infinite turns (Will it topple?).

Sensei's Divining Top | Art by Michael Sutfin

Others require more explanation. Opportunity represents Saito, as he provides Cobb's one chance to get back home. Cobb and Ariadne are the Hada Spy Patrol, the victory condition (and look—three levels!). Everflowing Chalice provides the "kicks". Echo Tracer and Weaver of Lies are tougher to justify as part of the theme. I've made the patchwork call that they're Arthur and Eames, respectively. The legendary Ixidor, Reality Sculptor acts as Christopher Nolan himself, pulling the strings of his masterpiece.

Finally, the lone Dreamborn Muse is Mal, haunting the deck much as she haunts Cobb. It's there to actively antagonize me; if she's out when I go off, I'll get decked! And her thought-provoking flavor text offers an interesting interpretation of the film.

It's one of my prouder moments in deck building, if I may say so. Pulling it off fills me with joy.

    First Sub-Headline

Really? It's been a while since a deck wormed its way into the intro. Gotta mark those occasions, I guess. But that header's not really that informative. Let's try again.

    Second Sub-Headline

Come on!!!!!

    The Most Tangled Knot

There we go. That gimmick was bursting through its restraints, so I had to finally release it. Anyway, Lumberknot. It's awesome. Not news, right? Algae Gharial was a former go-to for taking advantage of infinite death, but Lumberknot one-ups it. A fat Gharial could be chump-blocked all day long; a Lumberknot can pick up a Behemoth Sledge and thump your opponent directly.

How should I assemble a combo machine of infinite death, preferably using an intriguing card from Innistrad? Hmm... Mentor of the Meek gives me that feeling of sliding into lunacy, so I'll start with that. If I set up a way to have creatures with power 2 or less enter the battlefield over and over, I could draw lots of cards. But... what if those draws provided tokens themselves, automatically? Ridiculous notion, right? Nah.

My favorite cycle of all time is the Words enchantments from Onslaught. From ability to implied flavor, this cycle sunk into me and has remained ever since. There are so many possible interactions, of course, but the one I'll pick for this situation is Words of Wilding. By paying , I can skip a draw to make a 2/2 Bear. Mentor of the Meek triggers and demands for another draw. I smell the makings of an engine, but I'll need an altar of some sort. Ashnod steps in with her famed contribution to Johnnyness. Now I can sacrifice the Bear for in response to the Mentor's trigger, to pay for the draw and the subsequent Bearifying of the draw. A couple eons of this and my Lumberknot becomes beefy enough to swing for the win.

The deck's other cards provide synergy. Sakura-Tribe Elder finds a land, is Meek, and pumps up Lumberknot. Llanowar Augur provides early weenie defense and another trample outlet for its Knotty friend. The aforementioned Behemoth Sledge is one of a small assortment of weapons in the deck. Mortarpod is pretty darn solid and triggers Mentor of the Meek, as does Skinwing (which provides additional evasion for Lumberknot). Finding these Equipment is none other than... Steelshaper Apprentice? I wanted to avoid using the stupendously busted Stoneforge Mystic, and the Apprentice actually fits into this deck better, since it and the Mentor make for an unwieldy card draw machine. A singleton Congregation at Dawn can find combo pieces or other creatures I haven't yet mentioned.

Meek Making

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    Another Contest!?

I've decided to run another contest, for a multitude of reasons. You all seem to like them, judging by the amount of participation, and I know I like them for nebulous reasons of my own. For instance, this week I would have loved to plug in a barrage of reader decks and swivel over to my other, piling responsibilities.

Just like the last time I announced one, I will present a choice between two contest ideas, and if either of them strikes your fancy, you might vote in the poll below. The first contest contestant (...) is coming off two consecutive defeats: the Collector Number contest! As I have previously described it: "Pick two collector numbers. (The collector numbers can be found near the bottom of each Magic card.) Build a deck using only those two collector numbers. For special notice, use only one collector number."

The other idea riffs off my Inception deck in a general sort of way: Build a theme or tribute deck. You can choose any film, book, album, game, story, person, or whatever to build around. However, I must stress: These decks ideally work when there's an ironclad resemblance to the source material within the deck's game play. Translate what the deck does and work backwards from there.

I'm curious to see which will win your attention. However, with one deck left for me to build, I thought I'd anticipate a possible (if not probable) result and actually build a collector number deck. This way I will have provided two examples of each contest. I know by doing so I'd basically use up a number, but oh well. This number's card pool was diverse and strange enough that I wound up with two decks, which is sometimes the case with weird restrictions like this. If you've been paying rapt attention during my time here in the Lab, you should be able to guess my number in a snap.

Red-Green 117

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I had access to strong removal spells in Char and Comet Storm, and powerful green cards like Plow Under and Creakwood Liege. I ushered in a land animation subtheme with Living Terrain, Vastwood Zendikon, and perfect fit Natural Emergence. The Liege and Myr Turbine pump out tokens for Thunder-Thrash Elder to devour, and Genesis is its enduring self.

Next, I paired my strong red cards with a different color:

Black-Red 117

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This deck is red and black quick beats. Mortician Beetle can grow alongside sacrifice outlets like Vampire Aristocrat; Braids, Cabal Minion (who bugs my opponent as well); Lyzolda, the Blood Witch (who provides extra cards / damage), and Malfegor, who probably just wins games. Creakwood Liege crosses over through its hybrid mana cost and provides the tokens to axe. With all the death going on, Skirsdag High Priest might actually make a Demon or two.

Well, that about wraps it up. Until next time! (Ah, the legendary sentence!)

    Poll Time

Once again, the choice is yours. I will run either a Collector Number Contest, where each card in a deck must have one of two collector numbers (or, for extra points, just one), or a Theme Deck Contest, where each deck represents something specific from fact or fiction.

Which contest should I run?Collector Number ContestTheme Deck Contest

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