No Fear!

Posted in Feature on February 18, 2004

By Adrian Sullivan

Leviathans are cool, no doubt. One dictionary says that Leviathans are “the largest and most massive things of its kind”. In last week’s poll, I asked for everyone to vote on which card you’d like me to look at. You guys went with the big one:

Eater of Days

Eater of Days is one of those cards that you look at and wonder what on earth you can do with it. The card is certainly large and massive. Mere creatures tend to have problems answering 9/8 Flying Tramplers. Wizards didn’t want people using this card to have an easy time with it though. Eater of Days is as vulnerable as a 9/8 Flying Trampler can get. Not only is it an artifact and a creature, but the card also has that little part about “You skip your next two turns”.

Time StretchA sobering drawback…

The first time that I read the card I thought to myself that it wasn’t too terrible a drawback. Your opponent would get two turns in a row. That is pretty bad, but certainly not something that can’t be overcome with a wee bit of effort. It wasn’t until someone pointed out the obvious to me that I realized the full extent of Eater of the Days drawback: skipping two of your turns means that your opponent gets three turns in a row. You are giving your opponent a free Time Stretch. Usually if you get off a Time Stretch, you win the game. To paraphrase former Pro Tour Player and Wizards R&D Member Pat Chapin from an article on Grand Prix Cleveland ‘02: “Time Stretch […] should just say ‘Win the Game’”.

That’s pretty stiff stuff.

So, how on earth can this thing get any use?

The First and Most Obvious Answer

Maybe the most obvious answer that doesn’t include Stifle involves simply winning the game yourself before your opponent gets to start taking 3 turns in a row. For that to work, Eater of Days can’t be your only workhorse. For the most part, you’ve got to be beating them down with other stuff too.

Haste is the first easy answer. If Eater of Days gets to get in even one attack phase, it’s going to hit for a wallop. If that wallop is enough to kill them, that’s golden. If it isn’t, you probably will lose the game.

No biggie, right?

There are only a few really good haste-making cards. Certainly, you can run cards like Battle Rampart, but that won’t get you very far. Far better are running these four: Anger, Reckless Charge, Lightning Greaves, and Fires of Yavimaya. There are more than a couple of cards that are a lot like Battle Rampart. Things like Whip Sergeant, Need for Speed, or Flowstone Strike will give haste too. Overall though, these don’t have the staying power. Even with haste, an Eater of Days won’t be able to get the job done all by himself. Whatever card you use has to be usable with the rest of the beatdown that your deck can supply, or you might as well not be playing the Eater at all. Eater of Days is here in all of these decks to be that knock-out punch that wins the game after you’ve gotten them low.

Lightning Greaves and Fires of Yavimaya are basically very similar cards, and they accomplish pretty similar tasks. These cards are there to reward you for playing with Big Guys. If you look at the coverage of Pro Tour Chicago back in 2000, you see tons of Big Guys being played by all of the Pros. In a deck like that, Eater of Days is going to do just fine in finishing the fine work started by his buddies Blastoderm and Saproling Burst. Lightning Greaves is very similar, except that you don’t have to suddenly be married to any particular colors. Anything that can supply a good beatdown can do the job now.

The big scare here is simple. What if something happens to the card that gives you haste or to the Eater itself? Suddenly, you haven’t won the game, and suddenly your opponent not only isn’t dead, but gets a free Time Stretch. Not good.

Reckless Charge is a bit different than some of the other cards. While it does add some small amount of cost to the Eater, it gives another 3 damage to boot and as a spell can’t be destroyed. Using Reckless Charge in an already aggressive Red deck, you can pile on some early damage very rapidly – dealing 5 on turn 2 is pretty easy! In later turns, an opponent can be killed from only 10 to 12 life, even if they have a flying blocker. Combine that with other creatures that you could have on the attack and it’s pretty likely that you could even try to kill them from a life total of 13 to 15. Using an older card poll here, the focus would have to be on a large number of little red goblins and Jackal Pup. Anything that gets in that early damage is crucial. Then, from the air, 12 damage for 5 mana. Hopefully the game should end as soon as you get to that 5 mana mark.

Anger is the last card that I’ll hit to pair with the Eater. Obviously for the Anger to work it is going to want to be in the graveyard. There are certainly plenty of ways to get it there. Most of the time this is going to mean becoming a Black/Red deck, though maybe with a couple of other colors. Entomb is one way to get the card to work. Another is to load your deck with discard outlets. No matter how you do it, you want to be a big beatdown machine. You want to be able to get a Mountain in play to make the Anger work. You want to make sure that if the Eater comes into play, they die.

Here’s a quick Red/Black/Green deck that uses the Madness mechanic to both create some big beats and also get an Anger in the yard. It also includes Entomb for a bit more guaranteed Anger. The inspiration for this deck comes from an opponent I played two years ago in the State Championship tournament. (I think it was Ryan Dutter, my apologies if it was not.)

Red/Black/Green Madness

Download Arena Decklist

One of the ideas I really like about this deck that isn’t true of some of the other ways that Eater of Days could be built is that you have something to do with Eater of Days if you don’t want to cast it. A Zombie Infestation or a Wild Mongrel both won’t mind being pumped up. It may not be much to be half of a 2/2 Zombie or to be a +1/+1, but that little bit is certainly a lot more than a card that simply sits there. There will definitely be times that the Eater is too situational, and this deck has compensation for that built right in.

Being Tricksy

A simple attack is fine and dandy, but sneakiness is also nice. Thankfully, there are some other good ways to dodge or dull the drawback of the Eater.

Stifle is probably one of the best ways going and certainly should always be considered when looking at the Eater. For only a single extra mana, you can Stifle the triggered ability of Eater of Days and leave yourself with a 9/8 Flying Trampler. That is a pretty good deal for only . One of the problems that comes with the Stifle plan though is figuring out what kind of deck you are going to be running that is going to find some other use for Stifle.

If you can go far enough back, Illusionary Mask is probably the most ‘Tricksy’ card you could play to make Eater of Days good. It is a little hard to find Illusionary Masks lying about these days, of course. What the Mask lets you do, however, is pretty nifty. By playing the Eater of Days facedown with the Mask, the Eater’s come-into-play ability won’t be set off. When the Eater is revealed, you have a full-fledged 9/8, with none of the drawbacks! Huzzah! I’d love to play this little ability in 5-color, if I could only find enough Illusionary Masks to make it work.

But there’s other ways to try and duplicate this approach. Volrath’s Shapeshifter is another good way to dodge the drawback. With this little guy on the table, all you have to do is get an Eater on top of your graveyard. Conveniently, the Shapeshifter lets you discard cards to get him there. Again, like the Mask, you get to have your big Eater, but you get to dodge the drawback.


RAH!

One hysterical (if unlikely) way to make use of Eater is with Cauldron Dance. If you can get an Eater into the grave and have an Eater in your hand, for the low, low price of only , you can have two Eater of Days in play and on the attack! That is a hefty 18 trampling damage. With any luck, that will be enough to kill them… otherwise you’re in for a whopping 5 turns without doing anything.

Final Fortune is the last card I’m going to look at in conjunction with the Eater of Days. Final Fortune gives you an extra turn, with the unfortunate drawback of losing the game at the end of that turn. With Eater of Days, you get to have two wrongs make a right! By skipping your next two turns with Eater of Days, you also skip the turn that would have caused you to lose the game. Without another Final Fortune your opponent will get to take one free turn, but there is something amusing about getting to have the problems of both of the cards at least mostly cancel each other out.

Playing it Raw

Sometimes, you can find yourself in some dire need. If there isn’t a good play at all, sometimes that best play is to just put the puppy into play and hope that it takes everything. A recent article on Star City looked a bit at playing cards like Eater of Days in your draft deck. The basic hope is that, if you drop down a 9/8 Flying Trampler, maybe the opponent just doesn’t have anything that will cope with it. Maybe their first turn will be to lay down a creature and have to take another turn. Maybe that will happen on their second turn. And maybe that will happen on their third turn. To me, that is a lot of maybes.

In any deck that runs the Eater, you’ll have to make this call at some point. Do I just cast it and see what happens? Here is my advice: don’t do it unless you can’t see any other hope of winning. Two turns extra is a lot of turns; there is a reason that Time Stretch costs 10 mana. Don’t give it to them for free if you can avoid it.

Wrapping up: Where Are We Going?

This week’s Single Card Strategies gave the readers a bit of say. One of the things that I want to be doing is giving everyone that is reading this column some choices about what they get to read. The readers decided what was going to be the topic of this week’s column by voting in the poll. Similarly, reading through the forum responses to that column, I learned a lot, but I want to know more.

It seems as though a large number of people in the forums didn’t find what they were looking for in the column. If you enjoy this kind of series, I want to know what you are looking for. I get enough e-mail that I won’t be able to get back to everyone that does write me with their ideas or thoughts about where the column should go or how it should be improved, but I will certainly read everything that is written to me and weigh it for consideration. There are a lot of ways that this column can grow and change, but one of the things that is most important to me is that the readers have a voice in that change.

A lot of people seemed to think that Flamebreak was too “obviously” good a card and they wanted something that maybe they hadn’t thought about. On the other hand, maybe you liked the exploration of the card. If so, write me and let me know. There are a lot of other things that I’d love to hear about as well. Here are some of the things I’d like to know:

  • Is the card’s rarity important? Would you prefer a column that deals more with commons and uncommons?
  • Is exploring a ‘good’ card useful or not?
  • How important are decklists to you?
  • Do you care about how the card affects tournament formats? Which ones?
  • Do you have any other suggestions?

Maybe you even have some ideas about future cards that could be covered. If you have an idea for a cool card that is being overlooked, let me know. I’ll be happy to mention your idea if I run a column on it, and I’ll also be more than happy to let everyone know who came up with the idea.

In short, this isn’t just my column. It is yours too. I know that I’m interested in making it as fun for everyone as possible.

Thanks!

Adrian Sullivan
adrianlsullivan@yahoo.com

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