Tipping Over Eights

Posted in From the Lab on April 23, 2009

By Noel deCordova

Hello there, folks, and welcome back to From the Lab. As always, I'm here to attempt to please the Johnny sections of your brains. Personally, my Johnny section, once the dominant power in my Magical cranium, has been pushed by an energized Vorthos armada, which can't help but drool over the current state of flavor that has come with the giant wave of Alara Reborn previews. The fact that I think of my brain as a giant Risk board with different Magic player psychographics battling for supremacy is probably evidence of this Vorthos insurgence. Or madness.

Seriously though, Alara Reborn, in both gameplay and setting, has me all atwitter. (Though, sadly, not a-Twitter: for now, we'll leave the humorous pseudo-blog posts and double secret preview cards to Kelly Digges and Monty Ashley!) Before you start getting annoyed with this introduction and scroll down to unveil the latest craziness from the last set in the Shards of Alara Block, I should warn you: scrolling will ...probably not have any effect on your health at all. Also, I don't have a preview card today. However, my new column neighbor Mike Flores is previewing a saucy little one that even has my mind whirring. Also, the insanity that is Time Sieve received lots of extra feedback from readers, so I'll take a paragraph to splash some more combos onto the turn-taking trinket.

R.J. Riley, who had previously reminded me of Thousand-Year Elixir in regards to the Master Transmuter preview, came up big again in spoiler season. I had mentioned Second Sunrise as a throwaway idea, and R.J. came up with Panoptic Mirror, which, if you have four other artifacts in play, allows you to sacrifice the Sieve and those four in response to a Second Sunrise copy during your upkeep. You wind up with infinite turns as an end result! DracoSuave mentioned Artificer's Intuition as an easy way to collect all four Myr Servitors for the Time Servants deck. William Reese suggested Mishra, Artificer Prodigy, a card I completely blanked out on. With the legendary brother of Urza, it becomes easier to double up on artifacts to hit that magic number five.

I sent myself a mental email about two days after the article went up, as I had discovered another neat pocket of synergy. Pentavus has the potential to spit out little Pentavites, diminishing itself in the process. With graft cards such as Vigean Graftmage or similar cards like Battlegrowth, play Pentavus with six +1/+1 counters on it instead of five. Even if you have to use a one shot effect, it's fine for now.

Next turn, pay five colorless mana to create five 1/1 artifact creature tokens, and promptly sacrifice them all to Time Sieve to take another turn. At the end of the current turn, pay more and tap your Isochron Scepter. What's imprinted on it? Otherworldly Journey. The white Arcane spell from Kamigawa (I call it Spirit Blink) will restore your Pentavus with its original five +1/+1 counters, and as a bonus, one extra. On your fresh new turn, repeat the cycle, spending seven mana in all. Since you're casting Pentavus in the first place, this shouldn't be too big of a problem.

But how to win? Hmm ... a win condition in a deck that's playing around with artifacts and +1/+1 counters .... I got nothing. Well, except Arcbound Crusher, who in this deck will live up to its name. Even without the engine, you can give it pseudo-vigilance with Vigean Graftmage or use it as a card-drawing engine with Sage of Fables. Alternately, just bounce any opposing blockers and cruise in with Pentavus. That might mean a long cruise, but hey, since when is that a negative?


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Sadistic Glee is another way to go infinite with Pentavus if you can't find Otherworldly Journey on a stick. When the five Pentavites hit the black nets, they'll redeem their creator with the right amount of +1/+1 counters, just like the Arcane blink spell would. Mikokoro, Center of the Sea is cute. It helps search for a Crusher during your infinite turns, and your opponent's steadily increasing grip won't bother you at all.

Wow, I think that's the first time a deck list wormed its way into an introduction! Since I've basically begun the wackiness, let's have another section, for tradition's sake.

    Defiantly Finite

As I was saying before Time Sieve took over, Alara Reborn seems flavorful, fun, and frothy. And if you don't think that's a proper adjective, take a look at the bombastic Lord of Extinction. Something's definitely frothing from its mouth, and I'm pretty sure I don't want to know what it is.

But I digress. Today's column from here on in is about Conflux, and some of the missed or overlooked combos that lie within its ranks. Many of these combos have the potential to go infinite, which, if you were wondering, is what you get when you tip over an eight sideways. Like cow tipping, eight tipping is one of my favorite pastimes, and like waitress tipping, I feel obligated to take part in it. But the real question is: Was Mr. Pink from Reservoir Dogs a Johnny? I'd have to get that question answered before I start throwing around "if, then" statements.

Some of these combos, however, are also worth taking a look at besides the infinite possibilities. For example, take the inspiration for today's second deck, Rakka Mar. After noting Rakka's creature type and Elemental-making abilities, my mind flipped right to Thornbite Staff, which is no stranger to nigh-infinite combos. (See: Lightning Crafter, Moonglove Changeling) If the 3/1 token that Rakka just made were to somehow meet its end, she would untap, ready for more. At the cost of , of course. And we need to kill off our own Elementals somehow. How about sacrificing them to Seething Pathblazer, creating an engine: ": +2/+0"? It's only now that I think of the infinitizer, Phyrexian Altar, as it's good to think about other, less obvious paths. (Thermopod is also an acceptable answer.) Rockslide Elemental is the most synergistic win condition, as an Elemental itself.

With all the dying Elementals on the board, my thoughts turned to one of my definite favorites from Alara Reborn. Kelly Digges blew the lid off of this sucker: Deathbringer Thoctar. It's got the same first ability as Rockslide Elemental, which is what reminded me of it, but it shares its second ability with another Mirrodin counter-hoarder (like Pentavus): Triskelion. If you don't have another sacrifice engine on the board, the Thoctar can ping Rakka's Elementals to grow itself, other Rockslide Elementals or duplicates, and generate other pings (this time directed toward your opponent's board) from Hissing Iguanar.

Sparkspitter does exactly what it was named to do here. Various devour creatures like Thunder-Thrash Elder and Caldera Hellion could be sprinkled throughout. Since they produce more +1/+1 counters, I figured an amazing play would be to Fate Transfer them onto a Deathbringer Thoctar. The perfect reprint, Terminate, rounds out the deck in a much-appreciated return to Standard and Extended. This deck probably suffers from PALBAIC syndrome, which if you don't recall, stands for Plays A Lot Better Alongside Its Contemporaries. This is in regards to Deathbringer Thoctar, which may only increase it's potential here. Other cards can definitely be added to the deck, so have fun with it!

Thocca Tar

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Another take on this deck could shift the Elementals in favor of Goblins. Goblin Assault and Siege-Gang Commander seem like perfect Goblins for this deck, which would probably use Voracious Dragon as a fiery burn spell / win condition. Murderous Redcaps would also enter (they were in the above list at one point, before I replaced them with the Shaman-tastic Vithian Stingers). Kelly outlined a ton of fun things to do with Deathbringer Thoctar in his column on Tuesday, and I'm sure I'll revisit the Rockskelion (as I've dubbed it) at some point. Here, it's just another nugget of synergy.

    Light/Dark Phoenix

Just to clarify for various confused looks and head scratches that may occur in the near future: I started off this section wanting to go infinite with Worldheart Phoenix. What does that even mean? I don't know. I couldn't even tell you how exactly I proposed to do that when I started out. Would it be infinite damage? Infinite +1/+1 counters? Somehow ... infinite mana?

All I really knew was that I was mesmerized by the latest in a long line of red birds that like to rise from the grave. This prestigious pedigree of Phoenixes began in Legends with Firestorm Phoenix, and since then we've seen Phoenixes hailing from Shiv, Bogardan, and Skarrg. Worldheart Phoenix, I suppose, hails from the heart of the world of Alara, if I am correctly valuing its name. Accordingly, in order for it to be reborn (with a bit of a power boost to boot) all five colors of mana must be tapped into.

So what were my first thoughts? Since I was desperately trying to go infinite with Worldheart Phoenix for some bizarre reason, I turned to the only semi-recurrable method of adding to my mana pool I could think of: Composite Golem. OK, so now the Phoenix is back in play, and the Golem is ... in the graveyard. I've seen better engines run on Dr. Pepper.

My brain screamed, "Cemetery Puca!" but at this point I ignored it. I can understand where I was coming from, though (my, I'm schizophrenic today): paying just one more, would turn the Puca into a Composite Golem, which would lead to ... nowhere. Great.

My last try came from a relative unknown from Kamigawa block: Oathkeeper, Takeno's Daisho. As long as it was equipped to a Samuraified Composite Golem (which would be achieved through Conspiracy), when I sacrificed the Golem for , it would come back. I could then sacrifice the Worldheart Phoenix that had just been played from the grave to Ashnod's Altar for 2 mana, and use that to reequip Oathkeeper to the Golem. A sixth combo piece (Pandemonium?) could capitalize on my antics.

I almost built that deck, but then I discovered one of the oddest combinations of Magic cards I'd seen in a while. Nothing game-breaking, or earth-shattering. It's just that the game, to my knowledge, never meant for this interaction to exist.

You see, earlier I was looking for ways to reduce Worldheart Phoenix's graveyard cost, but most of the cost reducers in existence only lessened the colorless mana load. It was bad news for a requirement, if not for one, incredibly random card: Edgewalker.

Imagine Worldheart Phoenix was a Worldheart Cleric. Incredibly, it would then require to play. What??? This is the sort of absurdity that speaks to me. And with Conspiracy, it's not just a pipe dream. Just name Clerics with Conspiracy to make it work.

How do we make this work proactively? I honestly have no idea. Perhaps Bloom Tender could be in play to tap for after the Phoenix/Cleric came back, at which point the useless could flow through a Gemstone Array to make , at which point you could sacrifice the Phoenix/Cleric to any winning effect. Of course, you'd need Intruder Alarm to untap the Bloom Tender, making Gemstone Array irrelevant, while the whole time I'm playing Orzhov Pontiffs for to mini-Infest things, and... yep, I'm trying to go infinite again. There's no deck list, as this section is made up of two deck skeletons, but if you think you have a good way to use an Edgewalking Phoenix, go on through the door I've opened! I'm sure even pulling it off would be well worth it.

Don't be afraid to try tipping some eights! See you all next week!

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