Seven Days in Exile

Posted in From the Lab on August 20, 2009

By Noel deCordova

Day 1

'Lo, and welcome to a special "Exiled" version of From the Lab! To keep with the thematic spirit, I've gone and actually exiled myself in the African jungle, away from all human contact for this week. Nothing but me, my computer, my solar-powered generator, and the open fields for a whole seven days.

I figured since I probably won't self-exile myself into the wilderness for a while after this, I'd keep a day-to-day journal on my banishment. After all, since I'm gathering some exhilarating research on exile for Magic purposes by studying it in the wild, I might as well have a visual outlet to document my slow descent into madness. Or something.

As today is just the beginning of my journey, things aren't that exciting. I walked until the last line of civilization was blurred by the horizon, ate an apple, and set up camp. I hope the next six days of this aren't as boring as this.

Day 2

While walking today, I took lots of notes on different cards with exile throughout Magic's history.

Swords to Plowshares is one of the most iconic pieces of removal in the game, and easily one of the more recognizable cards dealing with exile. Its modern-day twin sister Path to Exile might just vault up to that level in time.

Many mechanics throughout the game dealt with exile more as just another zone to put spent cards into. Flashback and unearth do this by bringing back a spell or creature for one more go, and then "removing them" from the game. Other mechanics, like imprint and suspend, actually exiled cards proactively for positive purpose.


Elephant Ambush
Errant Ephemeron

Finally, there was the famous cycle of spells that did something completely new to the game, and exiled themselves afterwards. This, of course, was the Wish cycle from Judgment (and Glittering Wish from Future Sight). One thing to note is that "outside the game" no longer applies to the exiled zone. Meaning, Burning Wish cannot find another Burning Wish and finish with a Grapeshot for 117 damage anymore. (For more on this, read the Magic 2010 rules changes article.) Still, the Wish cycle is an important part of Magic exile history.

I could have gone on, but I knew I had to stop and rest. As of now, I'm sitting in the shade of a pleasant little tree and marveling at the sunset. From the weathered map of this terrain I found, I should be entering a creek soon, with a pond and rivers and that sort of thing.

I'm thinking too much about Magic. I should be relishing the pure nature of this trip, but I need to focus on a good Exile Week column. Still, too much Magic, I could have trouble distinguishing reality from imagination ....

Ha ha ha ha! Silly me, that only happens in weird schizophrenia movies. I'll be fine.

What was that?

I swear I heard something. A dark shape is moving in the grass ...

Aaaah! A Silvercoat Lion!

It's looking at me, eyes intent .... Wait. That's not a Silvercoat Lion, that's just a ...

A small lion. A small real lion cub. Not a Magic one, of course, that would be preposterous.

I must have stumbled into some jungle-like area, complete with lion's dens and such. Better divert my path away from the oasis. I'll get there a day late; better that than getting mauled by an angry mother lion.

Still, I actually thought it was a Silvercoat Lion ... I've got to snap out of it.

Day 3

Good day today. No weird interactions, but I did get in a brainstorm on an exile-related combo deck!

Mirror of Fate is easily the most Johnnytastic new card to come out of Magic 2010. What combo-seeking person can resist the tantalizing drawback "Exile all the cards from your library"? Add the stacking of seven previously exiled cards (making you wonder how they were exiled in the first place) to your library, and a sacrifice cost besides, and it's safe to say this card was made for Johnny.

There's a certain card that many have been clamoring for me to mention alongside the fateful Mirror. It's very similar, in that it's also an artifact that costs . More importantly, it also carries the same drawback of exiling your own library. That's right, Leveler.



Imagine playing a Mirror of Fate, and Leveler a turn later. Normally casting Leveler would result in a Game Over screen during your next draw step, but the Mirror can retrieve seven of these exiled cards and make a new mini-library, while your 10/10 bashes for brutal amounts of damage.

How best to build around this pair? What cards are the most optimal to return with Mirror of Fate? I suppose there's multiple answers, but for a stroke of coolness, it might be hard to beat Dan Marks's suggestion:

The goal of this deck, I hope, is fairly clear: Drop a Mirror of Fate, then a Leveler, exiling your library. Bring the library back with the Mirror before the draw step, stacking it in the order below. After cascading, you'll hit Demonic Dread into Mass Hysteria for the immediate victory, with another Mirror on bottom for safety (Gives you seven extra turns to not mill yourself if the creatures on the board aren't enough for the win):

1. Enigma Sphinx
2. Enlisted Wurm
3. Bituminous Blast
4. Bloodbraid Elf
5. Demonic Dread
6. Mass Hysteria
7. Mirror of Fate

If it's not clear yet, after you cast the Leveler, you retrieve the above seven cards and stack them in that order. When you draw the Enigma Sphinx, you will wind up cascading through your whole deck, culminating in a Mass Hysteria to send 23 damage in creatures your opponents' way. If something should go wrong, a final Mirror rests under everything to, as Dan put it, "give you seven extra turns to not mill yourself."


Enigma Sphinx
Mass Hysteria

Dan's version of the deck included 2 of each of the cascade cards and Mass Hysteria, plus some tutors and board sweepers. But I was worried that some of the key cards would get trapped in my hand when I cast Leveler. To remedy this problem, I turned to Forsaken City, the truly forgotten "mana of any color" land. Usually the exiling clause of this City drives deck builders away, but here you can safely exile an Enlisted Wurm or a Bituminous Blast while fixing your mana. Mirror of Fate doesn't care where the cards were exiled from anyway.

Here's Dan's deck plus the Cities. I also changed his 4 Fabricates to 4 Brainspoils, since his board-sweeping method of choice was the five-cost Hallowed Burial. Might as well have flexibility! I also added Thought Lashes and Path to Exiles for some thematic defense. The Paths are straight removal, but Thought Lash plays curiously with Mirror of Fate. If you have a Mirror on the board, you won't need to worry about mass exiling, meaning you can reduce more damage than you would normally. Plus, it's another way to exile your library. Just decline to pay the cumulative upkeep while you have at least seven lands in play, then activate the Mirror before drawing. Stack it as above, play Enigma Sphinx, and go to town!

Cascade of Fate

Download Arena Decklist


Day 4

I've made it to the oasis area. It's remarkable, with trees and a medium-sized body of water, with a green, rocky island in the middle. Come to think of it, it looks just like Shelldock Isle. Uncannily like it. Have I ... stumbled onto it? Am I actually on Shelldock Isle?

While I sort out reality from imagination, here's a cool Shelldock Isle deck sent to me by Will Cooper. Ever since the Wormfang Newt + hideaway land combo from a couple weeks ago, I've enjoyed a newfound liking of Shelldock Isle, and this deck suggestion hit me the right way:

It occurred to me not too long ago that the second ability of Relentless Rats can be used in a very unusual way. The obvious way is, of course, "put a bunch of rats into play that all make each other bigger" or (marginally less obvious) to build a deck with Thrumming Stone so that you can get a ton of creatures on the board all at once. However, if you use something like Haunting Echoes or Thought Hemorrhage on yourself (just to take the Standard-legal examples), then you can get your deck pretty darn small if it contains enough Relentless Rats. We need a deck that wants our library to be small, but not empty. We also will probably end up with a fairly land-heavy library after clearing the Rats out, given that we're removing a bunch of nonland cards. Fortunately, Shadowmoor provided us with a land that also likes your deck to be small: Shelldock Isle.


Shelldock Isle
Relentless Rats

Cool! We've already seen the Relentless Rats + Cranial Extraction combo in From the Lab history (astute readers will remember Mark Gottlieb discussing a similar idea) but the creation of Shelldock Isle gives us an easy out for a win condition. Fortunately, Will's deck was chock full of bombs. Here's his deck, unchanged due to smarts and vast open-endedness.

Pied Piper

Download Arena Decklist


Will wrote:

You can help get yourself into Shelldock Isle range by getting a Relentless Rats into your graveyard (by, for example, discarding it to Magus of the Bazaar or playing and chump-blocking with it) and playing Extirpate or Haunting Echoes. Brainspoil, Tolaria West, and the Maguses can help thin your deck as well. By clearing your deck of Rats, you also increase the odds that any new Shelldock Isles will hit something game-breaking.


Coalition Victory

I also like the optional plans throughout the list, including Thrumming Stones for some RippleRats, a convoluted Coalition Victory win, or Progenitus beatdown. Shelldock Isle helps get any of these in play. My only question: No room for Newts?

Day 5

I've stayed on Shelldock Isle for two days now, roaming, but never approaching the middle island. Since my sanity's probably declining in this exile, that island might become ... dangerous. I don't know why. I just know.

I'm also seeing Magic creatures everywhere. I know they aren't really there, but it's hard to rationalize a Horned Turtle biting my right arm off. I was relaxing, when bam! A Horned Turtle's sitting there gobbling up my arm to the elbow, like a lobstrosity from The Dark Tower on steroids. This never happened to Les Stroud.

I've decided to go home early. Enough of this exile. But on the way back, I'm going to use the video record mode on my Mac to record all the Magic creatures I see, so everyone will know I wasn't lying.

Day 6

I met Rhys the Exiled today. He was in the fields that I was traveling through on my way back to civilization. He and I greeted each other, and he sparked a sweet deck idea: himself alongside Sanguine Bond! The vampiric Magic 2010 enchantment works just fine with Rhys the Exiled. As long as you play Elves on the early turns, you'll curve right into Sanguine Bond and a Rhys attack.

Rhys also suggested his partner in chime, Wellwisher, and Elvish Eulogist. I happily obliged, though he was curious on why I was filming it.

Exile into Elfblood

Download Arena Decklist


Day 7

Well, I've returned home, to find it was all an illusion after all. My right arm never left my body, there was no Silvercoat Lion, and video evidence proves that the "Rhys the Exiled" I met was really a traveling Magic player named Trey Shieldhex who was also trying the "exile yourself" experiment. Weird! I guess I didn't go loony after all. Well, bye, same time next week!

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