Your Flavor Questions Answered

Posted in My Favorite Flavor on November 17, 2015

By Cassie LaBelle

Cassie LaBelle is a freelance writer. When she's not at her keyboard dreaming up stories, you can find her playing with his cats, listening to records, or building yet another Magic deck.

My favorite part of being a Vorthos is talking with other Magic players who love this game's flavor as much as I do. Don't get me wrong—reading the latest Uncharted Realms as soon as it goes up is a must, and I love pawing through a fresh booster pack in search of some neat flavor text or a spectacular interaction. But none of that matters if I can't geek out with other people who also want to know what a blue-aligned Phyrexian faction can do with a green-aligned character on their side (see Ezuri, Claw of Progress) or if Lavinia is doing a good job holding down the fort on Ravnica while Jace hangs out on Zendikar.

When I started writing My Favorite Flavor, I knew that I wanted reader interaction to be a big part of the column. Today, I'm here to give you my flavor-based deck building advice. Have a question you'd like answered in a future article or a deck you'd like me to take a look at? Email me anytime at

Is using Sanctum of Ugin in a deck full of Eldrazi flavorfully incorrect?

—Anthony Osmond

Good question, Anthony! Let's start by taking a look at what Sanctum of Ugin actually represents. We know that the Eye of Ugin was built as a trap by Ugin, Sorin, and Nahiri. They used it to get all the titans to appear in the same place so they would be imprisoned by the hedron network. That's why Eye of Ugin is a card that appears to help the Eldrazi—you can't resist playing a land that searches up your titans and makes them cheaper to cast, right?

In Revelation at the Eye, we learned that the Sanctum of Ugin is the Eye of Ugin in its current, damaged state. It still draws the Eldrazi, but it's not quite as efficient—probably because Ugin is still tinkering with the mechanisms that make it work.

Is it okay to use Sanctum of Ugin in a deck full of Eldrazi titans? Absolutely! The Eldrazi have full run of Zendikar at this point, and I doubt they'd shy away from using any perceived advantage out of fear of Ugin. Without the hedrons in alignment and the rest of the trap in place, the Sanctum of Ugin is basically just a way to get an Eldrazi titan to show up wherever you want. I would caution you from running more than one copy of the land, though—it may not be legendary, but it's clearly referring to a single location. I'd also suggest that if Ugin, the Spirit Dragon is in play, the ability should not be used. No way is Ugin going to summon an Eldrazi titan into his sanctum until he's good and ready.

I've just started putting together a Yisan, the Wanderer Bard Commander deck themed around Dungeons & Dragons. (He's a bard, and Zendikar has the other adventurers—it's perfect!) Flavor has been a perfect guide for picking lands and Equipment, but it's been harder finding green spells that seem more like heroes than monsters. Do you have any advice?

—Daniel Vida

The original Zendikar block has quite a few options for us, Daniel. The first time around, the Ally mechanic was meant to mimic the idea of an adventuring party in search of treasure, so there are quite a few creatures that fit your criteria. Joraga Bard, Oran-Rief Survivalist, Tajuru Archer, Graypelt Hunter, Harabaz Druid, Vastwood Animist, and Turntimber Ranger all look like they're ready to join up with Yisan and descend into Zendikar's deepest dungeons. The Ally mechanic plays well with Yisan's ability to search for specific party members whenever they're needed. Fighting a Dragon? Well, if you have enough Allies in play, Yisan can summon Tajuru Archer to help with the task.

If you want to look beyond Zendikar but stick with a Dungeons & Dragons theme, you might want to consider having a few creatures in your deck that act as representations for each D&D class. This is easier if you open yourself up to more colors, but I understand wanting to have Yisan, the Wanderer Bard as your commander. Magus of the Vineyard and Ivy Seer are interesting green Wizards. Sylvan Hierophant is a perfect Cleric. Dosan the Falling Leaf and Iwamori of the Open Fist are fantastic Monks. Silhana Ledgewalker is the perfect embodiment of a D&D Rogue. It might be hard to find a copy, but Meng Huo, Barbarian King from Portal Three Kingdoms is actually a mono-green Barbarian.

Lastly, don't forget to include a copy of Midsummer Revel. It's not a proper Bard deck unless you've got verse counters running around!

I am currently working on an alchemy-themed deck for casual play with my friends. I have been searching for cards that would fit the deck's theme, such asAlchemist's Vial andAlchemist's Apprentice. What suggestions do you have for building a deck with an alchemy theme?

—Stephen Samuelson

Magic has quite a few alchemists—most are in white and blue, but Sedraxis Alchemist is black, and Alchemist's Refuge dips into green. There's no unifying mechanical flavor there, though. Galvanic Alchemist and Aphetto Alchemist untap creatures. Battletide Alchemist and Cho-Arrim Alchemist prevent damage. Sedraxis Alchemist bounces permanents. We're going to have to go deeper. Let's take a quick look at the history of alchemy and see if we can figure out a direction for our deck.

Before chemistry was a science—heck, before science was a widely-used method for understanding the natural world—medieval alchemists mixed chemicals and fluids in an attempt to transform and perfect physical objects. While alchemy was used to make all kinds of things, its primary goal was to discover a way to transmute common metals into gold. Whoever uncovered that secret, after all, would become the richest and most powerful person in the Western world. This was considered a reasonable pursuit back in the seventeenth century—Sir Isaac Newton, a titan in the worlds of physics and mathematics, spent most of his life as an alchemist.

In 21st-century fantasy media, "alchemy" often describes all kinds of magical chemistry and transmutation. Alchemists generally work in labs. They combine ingredients—sometimes supernatural, sometimes mundane—in order to make potions. Some of the potions might help in transmutation, but others could be for health, power, destruction, or anything else.

So. If we want to build a deck about alchemy, there are two aspects we need to get across: potion-making and metallic transmutation.

If you're an alchemist who has it all figured out, you can turn anything into gold. Gild is a fun card that allows you to do this defensively. Aurification is even better. Sculpting Steel and Transmute Artifact are both great ways to turn one kind of metal into another as well. And don't forget to craft yourself some lab assistants—Alloy Myr, Iron Myr, Copper Myr, and the like are solid additions. Alchemists were always trying to turn lead into gold, so casting Gild on Leaden Myr is a big flavor win.

This is where your opponent picks up their cards and begins to clap slowly.

Magic has a lot of great potion-related cards, too. Thousand-Year Elixir, Æther Vial, Angelheart Vial, Alabaster Potion, Sleeping Potion, Vial of Dragonfire, Vial of Poison, Elixir of Immortality, Elixir of Vitality, Moonglove Extract, Puffer Extract, Healing Salve, and Sunfire Balm are all cards that showcase potions your alchemists might have made.

If you're interested in recreating a lab-style atmosphere for your alchemists to operate in, you'll probably want to base your deck in blue and red. While the members of the Izzet League aren't strictly alchemists, they're certainly a great visual manifestation of what alchemy is all about. Muddle the Mixture, Chemister's Trick, Mercurial Chemister, Blast of Genius, Epic Experiment, and Goblin Electromancer seem like they would be right at home in your alchemical deck.

Mechanically, I'd lean toward trying to create a deck that could play and recur as many interesting vials and potions as possible while eventually hoping to win with some kind of unstoppable metallic artifact. Transmuting lead into gold might not win you a game of Magic, but transmuting your Worn Powerstone into, say, a Blightsteel Colossus sure would. And it's the spirit of this exercise that matters, right?

I want to build a deck based on a character I've created. My character is a scientist hailing from Innistrad who is very curious about how spells interact with the body. He has spent a lot of time capturing specimens and experimenting on them. At some point, he decides that he can only complete his research by experimenting on himself. A bit difficult when most experiments ended in death, but he finds a solution: become a lich. In the middle of his ritual, however, he is confronted by his enemies. They kill him, but not before his ritual succeeds and his spark ignites. So he's an undead lich Planeswalker.

What color identity should my lich have? Can you give me some ideas for my deck?

—Joshua Wilkerson

I think you've got either a blue-black or a blue-black-red character on your hands, Joshua. The blue is easy—your character is a scientist who runs methodical experiments...or, at least, whatever passes for methodical experiments in his corner of Nephalia. The black side of him seems pretty obvious, too. If you're death-obsessed and power-hungry enough to sacrifice your soul for the sake of immortality—even if scientific curiosity is part of your reasoning—there's black mana in you. I don't think you can have a non-black lich.

Is your lich red as well? Based on what you've told me here, I think he is. He certainly approaches his work with a great deal of passion, and his decision to lich-ify himself sounds like it was somewhat impulsive. If you view him as too methodical or you feel as though his motivations are somewhat colder, though, you could certainly play him as straight blue-black.

If you want to play as a lich-walker, don't forget to include a couple of lich-related cards. Lich's Tomb and Lich's Mirror are both fun, but I prefer Nefarious Lich—it allows you to turn the cards in your graveyard into the source of your life late in the game, which feels suitably on-flavor for an Innistrad-based lich.

Liches seem to be solitary sorts—you don't see a lot of ads for lich-only get-togethers—but if you do want to hang out with others of your kind, consider Dralnu, Lich Lord. I feel like your character would appreciate Dralnu's ingenuity and survive-at-all-costs mentality.

Since we've established that liches like graveyards and your character hails from Innistrad, why not base your deck around Innistrad's flashback theme and "stitcher" mechanic? Your scientist seems interested in how bodies are affected by different scientific processes...that sounds like a job for Makeshift Mauler, Stitched Drake, and Armored Skaab to me. Think Twice and Forbidden Alchemy also seem like great on-flavor additions that highlight your character's scientific background.

As for the red side of much does your character hate the people who tried to end his life? Burning Vengeance is an on-theme and mechanically appropriate card that you can use to showcase this side of his personality. How much did he have to give up in order to extend his life? Past in Flames might help tell that part of the story.

Does your character work alone, or is his lab filled with servants? Laboratory Maniac, Stitcher's Apprentice, and Deranged Assistant are all great cards to consider if your lich is the sort of scientist who surrounds himself with other curious minds.

Otherwise, I'd focus the deck on self-mill. Your library is the closest thing to a physical manifestation of your consciousness in a game of Magic, and the idea of sacrificing this in order to improve your board state and create more powerful creatures fits into your theme of a scientist who experiments on himself for the sake of progress.

Until next week,

—Chas Andres

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