Rare and Last Minute Finds...

Posted in Learning Curve on July 16, 2003

By Brian David-Marshall

Brian David-Marshall is a New York–based game designer who has been involved with Magic since 1994, when he started organizing tournaments and ran a Manhattan game store. Since then, he has been a judge, a player, and one of the longest-tenured columnists on DailyMTG.com, as he enters his second decade writing for the site. He is also the Pro Tour Historian and one of the commentators for the Pro Tour.

Even as Seventh Edition's rotation out of Standard looms on the horizon players still stumble across hidden treasures that have barely been dusted off during the set's stay in the format. Stronghold Assassin recently popped his head up in Black-Green Cemetery decks - mostly as a foil to the omni-present Blue-Green Madness decks-and he will be popping it back down in just a few short weeks.

Black-Green Cemetery

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Stronghold Assassin
Oversold Cemetery

Oversold Cemetery decks have made quite a push in recent days. Versions of the deck won Canadian Nationals and placed highly in the Dutch Nationals. The deck loses very little other than the Stronghold Assassin and the soon to be lamented Llanowar Elves. Caretakers of the Cemetery decks will easily replace the Elves with Vine Trellis but what will fill the role of the Assassin? For the answer to that we need to look to another Green-Black deck - The Rock and his Millions.

The Rock and his Millions

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The deck's name referred to the Phyrexian Plaguelord and Deranged Hermit - a pretty powerful combo. The deck's name was shortened to merely 'The Rock' when the Deranged Hermits drifted out of the deck. Eventually most Rock players realized that Pernicious Deed dealt with everything that you wanted the Plaguelord to take care of more effectively and for less mana and even the Rock was no longer in the Rock.

There is no Pernicious Deed in Standard however and the Plaguelord plugs perfectly into the slot currently occupied by the Assassin. With Wirewood Herald you have a renewable source of fodder to eat away at your opponent's army-doubly so once you account for the Cemetery.

The Faceless Butcher will become one of the deck's most powerful weapons. Imagine a situation where your opponent has a Bird of Paradise and a Hunted Wumpus while you have a Phyrexian Plaguelord in play. If you play the Faceless Butcher you can stack its abilities in such a way that you would devastate your opponent. When the Butcher comes into play you can put it's come into play ability on the stack and respond by sacrificing it to your Plaguelord and giving the Bird -1/-1. Then the leave play ability of the Butcher will go on the stack and resolve before the come into play ability. Since there will be no creature removed by the Butcher to return that part will fizzle and when the come into play portion removes the Wumpus it will be for good.

Not bad and with an Oversold Cemetery in play you can do that every turn provided you have four creatures in your yard-something that should not be a problem with the Plaguelord working for your team. The Rock also works quite nicely with the Mesmeric Fiend. If you stack the come into play ability as with the Butcher you can give a creature -1/-1 and remove a card from your opponent's hand form the game-permanently.

Caller of the Claw
Speaking of stupid stack tricks… With Caller of the Claw you can always take down a 2/2 with only the Plaguelord and the Caller. Simply play the caller and put its come into play ability on the stack and respond by sacrificing it to your Plaguelord. When its come into play ability resolves it will count itself and you will get a token, which you can then use to finish off the 2/2. Again you can do this over and over again with a Cemetery.

Of course, if you don't have Caller of the Claw in hand you can always find one with Wirewood Herald. With just a Plaguelord and a Wirewood Herald you can now shoot down anything 4/4 and smaller. Now if you do the same stack trick with Caller of the Claw you can activate Plaguelord four times-once for herald, once for the caller, and-if you stack it right-twice more with the tokens.

The Phyrexian Plaguelord also gives you an aura of invincibility if your opponent is playing steal creature effects. Whether it is the currently in vogue Threaten or the casual play stylings of a Spinal Embrace, your creatures are in no danger of being stolen when the Plaguelord is on the watch. Chromeshell Crab, Blatant Thievery or even Ray of Command - your opponent will find nothing but frustration as those cards sit useless in their hands.

Almost any creature with useful leave play abilities becomes much better with the Plaguelord. We have already looked at the Wirewood Herald. Players looking for a Standard replacement for the soon to be departed Engineered Plague may find it in Death's-Head Buzzard. Screeching Buzzard is an unlikely candidate for Constructed play but even that he is a consideration is another example of the power of the Plaguelord.

Obviously any creature that shows up with friends is a sure bet with the Rock. He has already seen great success with the Deranged Hermit and I expect to see him tried out with a variety of creature generators from the unwieldy Nut Collector to the much more likely Squirrel Nest.

Heck, you don't have to go Black-Green. Siege-Gang Commander and Petravark can also be exploited. He has always been one of my favorite cards and I am excited to be able to dust off my foil copies and begin having some fun. Here is a quick look at an Eighth Edition version of Josh Rider's deck:

Black-Green Cemetery

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Next week: A card that I have a special affinity for…

Brian may be reached at brian@fightlikeapes.com.

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