Rarely Good: The College Years

Posted in Feature on April 4, 2007

By Chris Millar

What's that smell? Why, it's the fragrance of underutilized Planar Chaos rares!

Welcome to my underground lair!

Okay, admittedly, I don't even have an underground lair, but that just sounds so much cooler than, "Welcome to my basement apartment!" Now, you might think that living in a dank, pee-pee-soaked heck-hole smack dab in the middle of one of Canada's most self-absorbed metropolises would be great for an aspiring writer-type person. I mean, didn't some famous guy once write something really important in a situation somewhat similar to this? I'm pretty sure that's true.

"What's that stench?" I wondered when I got home from work. My first thought was that it might be the Toronto Maple Leafs. It turns out that they're many blocks away, and it seems unlikely that the smell would travel that far. No, it was skunks. Skunks. Why did it have to be skunks? I joke about a lot of things, but I never joke about skunks. Sure, they're probably the most adorable, garbage-eating mammal that you'll find in my backyard (sorry, raccoons), and according to Warner Bros. they're very loving creatures, but they're also the only animal that makes me soil myself on sight from an acute fear of being made to smell bad.

Luckily, the smell seems to be dissipating a bit. Now the only problem I have is how to make the transition from this seemingly unrelated anecdote about my personal life to an examination of three Planar Chaos rares that seem to be stinkin' up the joint?

Yeah, I couldn't think of a connection either.

Wild Pair Beats Wild Three-of-a-Kind

These days, it seems like everyone but me is having fun with Wild Pair. The Ferrett went and declared it the most powerful multiplayer card in Planar Chaos, while Building on a Budget columnist Ben Bleiweiss built a nifty Wild Pair deck on a budget. Limited players have been enjoying the interaction between Wild Pair and self-bouncing creatures like Dream Stalker and Whitemane Lion since at least Pro Tour–Geneva. Even now, the best deck scientists in the country are working around the clock to determine if Wild Pair is going to be a player in upcoming Standard and Block Constructed events. Now, you might be asking, "So how does it make any sense at all that you're including it in an article purportedly about rares of dubious quality?"


Hey, look! An eagle!

As I was saying, when it was time to build cool Wild Pair decks, I was caught napping, came late to the party, and was beaten to the punch. And I really wanted some of that punch. Since I have a horseshoe comfortably lodged in my posterior, I didn't miss out on the punch after all. That's because Danish deck designer Christian M. sent me a deck that finally provided an answer to the eternal question: "What do you get when you cross Wild Pair with Elf-Ball?" I always thought the answer was "lowbrow humour," but apparently I was wrong. You get a cool deck with elves in it, which, to my mind, is a redundant phrase. Aren't all elf decks cool? Or is it just me?

The key card is the Draghetto urlante, the common household Shrieking Drake. Its interaction with Wild Pair is similar to that of Whitemane Lion. You can play it to trigger Wild Pair, find a guy with a combined power and toughness of two, and then return the Drake to your hand in order to replay it. The Drake doesn't have flash, but it costs half as much. As I alluded to above, its 1/1 nature makes it ideal for searching out little elves. As Christian explains, "The idea of the deck is to play and replay Shrieking Drake as many times as possible, fetching as many creatures as possible to make Gaea's Cradle and Priest of Titania make as much mana as possible. Then you find your Cloud of Faeries and Wirewood Symbiotes to produce even more insane amounts of mana. When you've got enough mana, wrap it all up in a Fireball and give it to your opponent."

If there's an amount of mana I like, it's an insane amount. With that much mana, you can do just about anything. Christian tried out a bunch of win conditions, including Stroke of Genius, Brain Freeze, and good, ol' fashioned Overrun, before settling on Fireball. I've always had a soft spot for Tribal Unity, myself. It's especially amusing when you use it to attack for lethal with a lone faerie.

Christian also notes, "One thing to remember when playing this deck is to use your last Cloud of Faeries to untap City of Brass in order to play Fireball, unless of course you've got an untapped Quirion Elves set to red."

Au Pair

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The only thing I might want to add is Corcordant Crossroads or Lightning Greaves, which would allow you to use your mana elves right away, making the deck a little more explosive.

The Sheep, the Thaumaturge, and the Wardrobe

With all of the higher-profile "timeshifted" cards appearing in other colours, some have said that blue got the shaft in Planar Chaos. While not every card can be as damnable as Damnation or as groundbreaking as Groundbreaker or as silly-sounding as Shivan Wumpus, blue certainly did get some goodies. I mean, is there any awesomer phantasm than Gossamer Phantasm?

You know who really made out like a bandit with blue's Planar Chaos timeshiftees?


I would never have figured this out if Pedro T. hadn't sent me a cool deck featuring the deal-making wizard and some of his timeshifted allies. It featured some combos I'd seen before and some I hadn't, and wrapped them all up in an elegant little package. The two most important of the timeshiftees are Serendib Sorcerer and Ovinize, offspring of Sorceress Queen and Humble, respectively. Each of them conveniently sets a creature's power to zero. When Spawnbroker comes into play, it allows you trade one of your creatures for one of your opponent's creatures as long as your creature's power is greater than or equal to the opposing creature's power. As you might guess, this is much easier to do when your opponent has a zero-power creature. Like, say, an Ovinized Akroma, Angel of Wrath. At the end of the turn, the sheepifying ray will wear off and you'll have one of the most powerful creatures ever printed. Your hapless opponent will be stuck with your Spawnbroker. At best. Contrary to the 'broker's flavour text, it should be pretty obvious to everyone who got the short end of the stick in that deal. The deal won't get any better if the creature you swapped was Bronze Bombshell.

If your opponent has no creatures at all, you can choose to be generous and play out a Hunted Lammasu. Here, have a horror!

The other important card is Merfolk Thaumaturgist, who traded in his bushy red beard for gills and fins, but still practices the ancient art of thaumaturgism (whatever that is). The merfolk is a real team player, sort of like a Steve Nash of the sea. He makes Court Hussar a better offensive threat, he makes Bronze Bombshell better on D. He turns into a deadly assassin with either Serendib Sorcerer or Ovinize. Those pesky 2/0 or 1/0 creatures don't last too long. Hey, I didn't make the rules.

Momentary Blink does its usual thing, allowing your critters to dodge spot removal or reuse their comes-into-play abilities. Telling Time and Compulsive Research help you find everything you need, while Academy Ruins lets you keep trading your Bombshells away after they done blowed up good.


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Roilin' Roilin' Roilin'

Roiling Horror

If you looked up the term "win-more card" in some sort of Magic glossary, you'd no doubt be faced with a picture of Roiling Horror, the common household "strange manifestation of negative emotion." Suspending the Horror isn't a bad option if you've got tons of time because your opponent isn't putting any pressure on you. It's the kind of uncounterable win condition that I would've liked to have had in some of my games on MTGO against decks with 32 counterspells and four Confiscates. As a creature, though, it's much harder to make work. First of all, your life total has to be higher than your opponents or your Roiling Horror will just scurry off to the grumper without even stopping by to say hi. Second of all, your life total is very easy for your opponent to manipulate. On a number of occasions, I had my Roiling Horrors collapse in a heap when I took a Cackling Flames to the head. Needless to say, I was the one manifesting negative emotions.

Still, I wanted to take ol' Roily out for a spin. There were a bunch of other Planar Chaos cards that I wanted to try out, and most of them happened to be black. Very black. Like Magus of the Coffers and the new "punisher" spells, Dash Hopes and Temporal Extortion. I didn't end up dashing too many hopes, but I did extort plenty of extra turns, which I used to play Roiling Horrors that promptly kicked the bucket. The other, slightly-less-black card that I wanted to use was Circle of Affliction. It turned out to be good against swarms of 1/1s, and I laughed heartily at my opponent's stormed-up Grapeshot before I ran out of mana and died, but it's not so good against, say, Giant Solifuge. Here's where I ended up before moving on to another idea:

Roil Call

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It has often been said that life-gain is bad because it prevents you from losing instead of helping you to win. Hmm. Now, I wonder what would happen if we combined a win-more card like Roiling Horror with a bunch of win-less cards? Surely, they would have to balance each other out and leave me with a win-some deck.

I wanted more bodies, because I'm the kind of goofball that likes equipping my team with elephant weapons. That meant Aven Riftwatcher, Blind Hunter, Orzhov Guildmage, and the new king of life-gain, Martyr of Sands. I turned to the whiter half of the dark side and included Proclamation of Rebirth to go with the Martyr. At least I can say that I'm setting up my win condition and not just prolonging the game for eternity.

Faith's Fetters and Chastise provide more life-gain while handling problem permanents. Their mana cost, being four, means that they can be fetched with Dimir House Guard. I also included a single copy of Ivory Mask, which has worked wonders against the creatureless or near-creatureless burn decks I've been facing online. It's also fine against decks that just have a bit of burn, because you don't have to worry so much about your Roiling Horror suddenly biting the dust. I had much more success with this deck:

Roil Call 2

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Until next time, win more!

Chris Millar

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