Setting It Up

Posted in From the Lab on December 9, 2013

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.

Two weeks ago, I asked you all to help me narrow down which sets to pull from for this article. The choices were widely varied, with over one third of all expansions receiving at least one vote. My assistant Shmigor has tallied them all up, and the winner is...

What? A five-way tie? Fallen Empires? There must be some mistake. Shmigor, are you sure you did this right? You haven't been messing with the discombobulater again, have you? Alright, fine. We'll just have a tiebreaker vote, and in two weeks... Christmas? Isn't that that thing where people try to plant trees indoors and let a fat chimney sweep eat all their cookies? Okay, okay. We'll do it live! Five decks, coming up!

Fallen Empires

Fallen Empires was a tough one to work with. I combed through the set for ideas until I came across a card called Fungal Bloom. Fungal Bloom essentially turns mana into spore counters. This brought to mind Utopia Mycon, which essentially turns spore counters into mana. Unfortunately, neither of them does it efficiently enough to keep a loop going.

Fungal Bloom
Utopia Mycon

Doubling can help, but it doesn't quite get there on its own. With the enchantment on the battlefield, six mana turns into six spore counters, which turn into four Saprolings, which turn into four mana. With a second Doubling Season on the battlefield you'd have more than enough, so I'll include Primal Vigor, the variant from Commander (2013 Edition).

I also remembered another card that could close that loop. Sporoloth Ancient. With the Ancient on the board, you only need two spore counters to make a Saproling rather than three. Since two spore counters is exactly what Fungal Bloom will give you with a Doubling Season out, the loop wraps up quite nicely. The only problem is, you're not really getting anything out of it.

Primal Vigor
Sporoloth Ancient

Leyline of Vitality can be put onto the battlefield for free if it's in your opening hand, and it turns this infinite loop into infinite life. Once you have an arbitrarily large amount of life, you can just chill for a while until you draw another Doubling Season, at which point you can make a few million Saproling tokens to win the game.

I'll also include some backups and cards that help you find the pieces. Phyrexian Altar can substitute for Utopia Mycon, and Commune with the Gods can grab any one of the combo pieces if you find them in the top five. Worldly Tutor lets you search your library for anything you're missing. With that in mind, I added in a single copy of Essence Warden as a substitute for the Leyline that you can grab with Worldly Tutor.

Fungal Doom

Download Arena Decklist


Fallen Empires wasn't the only relatively unloved old set that made the Top 5. Homelands also brought in some votes, some out of spite, and at least one from someone who genuinely likes the set. It certainly provided an interesting challenge.

The first card I considered was Black Carriage. When enchanted with Presence of Gond, you could make an infinite loop of tokens, using something like Blood Artist to take advantage. However, by this point I had already used infinite token loops for two different decks (the second of which you'll see later on), so I wanted to do something different. Therefore I turned to Mystic Decree.

Mystic Decree

Mystic Decree makes all creatures lose flying and islandwalk. A rather odd pair of abilities, but one that has reoccurred surprisingly often in Magic as a way to represent that only creatures who can traverse water can get to you. In fact, this is not the first time flying and islandwalk were paired up. The first time was in Alpha, on a card which just so happens to combine quite nicely with Mystic Decree.

Island Sanctuary allows you to skip drawing a card in order to stop creatures from attacking you for a turn. Since your protection is being on an island, however, creatures with either flying or islandwalk can still get to you. With Mystic Decree on the battlefield, nobody has flying or islandwalk, so you can't be attacked at all.

Island Sanctuary

There's still the small problem of not being able to draw cards ever again. There are a number of ways to solve that, but I ended up settling on Font of Mythos. It will make your opponent draw out his or her deck much faster, and since your Island Sanctuary allows you to skip any number of draws during your draw step, you can choose to stop drawing cards entirely if you get through your deck first.

Greater Auramancy can protect your enchantments from removal, helping you keep the combo going in the face of any disruption your opponent might have. Also in the area of working with enchantments, Idyllic Tutor and Enlightened Tutor can search up the pieces you need.

Font of Mythos
Greater Auramancy

Idyllic Tutor can't find Font of Mythos, and the Font doesn't fall under the protection of Greater Auramancy. Therefore, I've also included an enchantment option. Thought Reflection costs an additional three blue mana, draws fewer cards, and doesn't accelerate your opponent's demise. However, it is a good tool to tutor up if you're worried about your Font being Shattered. Just remember to apply the replacement effect from Thought Reflection first, and you'll have two draws to skip or not skip with Island Sanctuary as you choose.

Dissolve and Mana Leak help you stop your opponent from killing you or your combo with spells. Along with Supreme Verdict, they can also protect you while you get everything set up. Finally, Fact or Fiction gives you extra cards while digging deep to help find the combo pieces.

Home Islands

Download Arena Decklist

Champions of Kamigawa

Champions of Kamigawa was a fairly unpopular block that has gained a sort of cult following in the years since its release. It is often regarded as having few good cards, coming as it did after the overpowered Mirrodin block. However, as I combed through the set list, I was surprised at how many cards there were even in this one set that are regarded as being incredibly powerful in one format or another.

Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker is the obvious frontrunner, continuing to see play in Modern in the face of some of the better cards in the deck being banned. Azami, Lady of Scrolls; Kokusho, the Evening Star; and Azusa, Lost but Seeking are often found terrorizing Commander games, and Boseiju, Who Shelters All is a staple of spell-based combo decks in every format. Gifts Ungiven has also been a cross-format deck centerpiece, often presenting a catch-22 with two combo pieces and the two cards to return them from the graveyard.

Kokusho, the Evening Star
Gifts Ungiven

However, I wanted to do something a bit more unusual. The card I decided to use is Kiku, Night's Flower. This card immediately brought back memories of casting Wrack with Madness on an opponent's Phyrexian Obliterator, and I knew I had my deck.

When you target an opponent's Phyrexian Obliterator with Kiku or Kiku's Shadow, your opponent will be forced to sacrifice five permanents. This usually means the Obliterator and four others. Do this a time or two, and your opponent will be miles behind, leaving you free to crash in with your own creature.

Kiku, Night's Flower
Phyrexian Obliterator

First we need the opponent to have a Phyrexian Obliterator. Donate accomplishes this easily enough, while Legerdemain and Spawnbroker give you a creature in return. In addition, Phyrexian Obliterator isn't the only creature you can use for this. The card it's based on, Phyrexian Negator, can do the job just as well for less mana. Phyrexian Totem can also work, although you'll have to have the mana to do it all in one turn. Your opponent certainly isn't going to activate it for you. Last of all, Lim-Dûl's Vault is a great way to dig through your deck for the cards you need.

Stop Hitting Yourself

Download Arena Decklist


Johnnies have a tendency to like things that your average Magic player doesn't. Continuing the theme, Eventide was not a particularly popular set upon release. It had a lot of different things going on, and although it was a continuation of the themes of Shadowmoor, the color combinations you cared about were completely reversed. Eventide does have a number of very interesting cards in it, however, and as I looked through the set I found several that I've taken advantage of in previous articles.

The card I decided to focus on today was Endless Horizons. On the surface, this is just a nice card-drawing tool that gives you a land every turn in addition to your normal draw. Looking deeper, it can function as a Mana Severance, getting rid of all the lands in your library, without the drawback of not being able to get more mana later on.

Endless Horizons
Mana Severance

Once you have no lands in your library, Goblin Charbelcher is an easy way to kill your opponent outright. It will deal damage to your opponent equal to the total number of cards left in your library—likely far more than twenty. Even if your opponent survives, you can simply activate the Charbelcher again on your next turn, and you get to arrange the cards in your library in whatever order you want. Now the only question is what sort of deck to put this in.

In the end, I decided to do a control shell. This gives you more time to find your combo, with the help of Enlightened Tutor. Staff of Nin also gives you more cards, whether to win the game or to hold off your opponent's assault until you do.

Goblin Charbelcher

Day of Judgment and Wrath of God can keep the creatures off your back, wiping out an entire army in a single blow. Since this deck contains no creatures, you won't be affected at all. Path to Exile and Swords to Plowshares can clean up any stragglers, and Oblivion Ring is great for dealing with Planeswalkers and other noncreature threats. Mana Tithe brings an unexpected counterspell to the table. Although it's easy to play around once you know it's there, most opponent won't be expecting this sort of thing from a deck without blue.

Endless Belching

Download Arena Decklist

Time Spiral

This is actually the first deck I worked on, but as my personal favorite, I wanted to save it for last. Time Spiral block was a Johnny paradise. With an astounding number of mechanics along with a plethora of references to older cards, it is the most complex block in the history of the game. Fortunately, complexity is our thing. I've used quite a number of cards from Time Spiral in this column, but for this article I needed to do something new. As I scrolled through the list, I saw Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician, and a very silly idea sprung into my head.

Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician

Ib Halfheart lets you sacrifice two Mountains to get two Goblins. Usually not such a great trade. However, what if those Goblins were also Mountains? Then you'd have an infinite loop on your hands. Unfortunately, Goblins can't be Mountains, can they?

Of course they can.

First, use Conspiracy (also printed in Time Spiral) to turn all Goblins into Saprolings. Next, Life and Limb (from Time Spiral block, if not the set itself) makes all Saprolings Forests as well. Finally, Prismatic Omen makes all your lands Mountains, including the former Goblin tokens.

Life and Limb

Now you have an infinite loop of creating and sacrificing Saproling Mountains. To kill your opponent, I'll turn to another card that was printed in Time Spiral: Pandemonium. Each token that enters the battlefield will allow you to deal 1 damage to your opponent. Repeat until dead. I'll also include Blood Artist as a backup.

Prismatic Omen

With this many combo pieces, you'll definitely be in need of a few tutors. Time Spiral's Demonic Collusion can do the job, and you can ditch two unwanted cards to put it back your hand, ready to be cast again. I'll also include the cheaper Diabolic Tutor to help out. Finally, Coalition Relic will make sure you have the colors of mana you need and help you get things rolling along faster.

Ib Halfheart, Saproling Mountain

Download Arena Decklist

Tearing it Down

Well, that's all I have for today. You all certainly gave me more work that I anticipated. Thanks to everyone who voted, and join me when I return in January to kick off the new year in style. Until then, feel free to keep filling my inbox with your deck ideas through the email link at the bottom of the page, and keep on comboing out. See ya!

Latest From the Lab Articles


June 1, 2015

A Long Story by, Mike Cannon

Hello, Labbies! Welcome to a very special edition of From the Lab. In honor of the upcoming set, Magic Origins, we here at DailyMTG are using this week to tell some of our own origin stor...

Learn More

From the Lab

May 18, 2015

An Odder Modern by, Mike Cannon

Welcome, laboratorians! It's Modern Week here on DailyMTG, and that means I'll be doing things a little differently than normal. While my articles usually focus on casual play, today I'll...

Learn More



From the Lab Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All