As someone born and raised in Northern Canada, I can respect the Temur. The constant cold, wind, and snow can make a harsh life where only the strong and resilient thrive. Whether you are a seasoned Temur warrior tracking down prey in a blustery windstorm, or a ten-year old Canadian walking through meter-deep snow drifts to the bus stop in -40 degree weather, the harsh conditions demanded the best. It is comparable to living in Boston right now.
Yasova Dragonclaw is someone I can get behind. Picture her with her shovel and government-issued polar bear, and she would make a great Canadian. I'm betting she'd be a lacrosse fan too.
Besides being someone who can wear fur without PETA protesting, Yasova Dragonclaw, the card, offers up a lot of things to love.
- She works well in a two-color deck. The best part of her hybrid-costed ability is that you can use both colors or opt to simply be a two-color deck. Gruul or Simic are both options when considering where Yasova fits in a deck.
- You don't need to attack with Yasova Dragonclaw. Simply pay the three mana and get an Act of Treason on each turn. Not that you can't attack, though. A 4/2 creature with trample punches through many defenses, and with a little help, Yasova can survive through many of the attacks. And if you intend to use her ability, you'll likely be giving her the help she needs.
When I decided to build with Yasova, I worked through a list of things that I believed I would need in a deck that tries to take full advantage of Yasova and what she brings to the (kitchen) table. Yasova Dragonclaw is a khan who knows how to get respect and admiration, and she becomes better and more powerful as she takes advantage of those who follow her.
While Yasova use her abilities without any help to take most of the early creatures that hit the battlefield, when things start to get interesting she needs a little help. I knew I would want to be able to take 6/6 creatures away from opponents. To do that, I'd be looking at ways to get Yasova's power to at least 7. I'd also want to keep that power around. Using Become Immense only helps steal one creature, but using Dragon Mantle and other permanents lets Yasova Dragonclaw scale up to whatever size she needs to be. After going through my collection, the cards I considered for this role included: Dragon Mantle, Dragon Grip, Crown of Flames, Rancor, Exoskeletal Armor, Madcap Skills, Blanchwood Armor, and Boar Umbra.
Of these, I opted for Exoskeletal Armor. I'd like to use Dragon Mantle, but spending three mana to make Yasova big enough to steal a 6/6, then spending three more mana to borrow a creature seems very expensive. Exoskeletal Armor provides a boost based on the number of creatures in graveyards. Since I don't intend to return the creatures drawn to my side by Yasova's cult of personality, there should be plenty of creatures in graveyards. This should make Exoskeletal Armor a safe bet to bring Yasova up to 7 power, and probably a whole lot more.
A 4/2 creature is going to die. Whether it is direct damage or combat damage, a creature with only 2 toughness can't last. While Yasova Dragonclaw offers all sorts of interesting options, none of them involve protecting herself. Her ability, trample, and 2 toughness all do very little to protect her from all the ways to rid the battlefield of a creature. There are plenty of ways to increase the durability of your creatures, and specifically Yasova. Giving them hexproof or shroud can stop most direct damage or targeted kill spells. Making a creature indestructible is another option. Protection from a color or two often works wonders. Simply making them bigger can solve many problems as well. A creature with 4 toughness faces far fewer spells than a creature with only 2.
I'd like to tell you I went on some long search through Magic's history to find the card that works best to protect Yasova, but when I saw Boar Umbra from the previous list, I figured I had the card. Not only would Boar Umbra beef her up to take more of my opponent's creatures, but the card could protect her from the Mortifys and Dreadbores that show up far too often to ruin my fun. I wouldn't want Yasova to suffer through that and Boar Umbra can at least demand my opponents use two spells to take her out of the fight.
The worst part of every Act of Treason happens when you pass the card back to the owner. That creature you worked so hard to borrow has somehow managed to survive the attack you intended to be lethal, and now you will likely see it coming your way next turn! People tend to get cranky when you borrow their creatures. They see it as somehow appropriate to now attack you with that same creature, as though that was "fair." As though anyone is interested in "fairness" in their games! I prefer to avoid returning the creatures I borrow for that reason. The best is when I can keep the creature forever. There is a joy to using a players' own creatures to kill them. If I can't keep the creature forever, though, no one should get to use it!
Rather than look for ways to kill their creatures before returning them, I prefer to sacrifice them. Sacrifices tend to get around all sorts of restrictions some creatures have. Sacrifices also tend to provide the sacrificer with some kind of benefit. And really, if you've gone through all that work to borrow someone's creature for a turn, shouldn't you get something extra for your trouble? All the owner did was cast the creature. You determined that it was a valuable creature and you devised a way to use it, probably with a more inventive plan than the owner had. You deserve the extra benefit. Let's also remember that this is Yasova's silver tongue that brings these creatures to our side. If the creatures are too stupid to stay with the winning team, then sacrificing them is probably the best thing you could do for them.
In the end I chose Goblin Bombardment. At only two mana, it's less expensive than the others. It also doesn't have any additional requirements to sacrifice a creature, such as tapping the card or paying mana. I like Ashnod's Altar as well since I can usually find a use for two extra mana, but enchantments tend to be a little harder to kill in my metagame, so I went that way. If you find you have a good use for two mana on your second main phase, Ashnod's Altar is a great option. Be aware that it is often used as a combo piece in decks that try to create infinite loops, so if you are playing with strangers, the Altar may encourage your opponents to gang-tackle you quickly.
When your intention is to spend three mana at the start of each of your combat steps, if you hope to do anything else you should have a way to ramp your mana. When you are running green, this category offers an embarrassment of riches. Spells that find lands, creatures that find lands, creatures that tap for mana—all are valid options.
While I looked at Yavimaya Elder, Kodama's Reach and Veteran Explorers as options, I opted for a couple Rattleclaw Mystics and two Sakura-Tribe Elders to fulfill the complement of cards. I generally prefer to use creatures to either get land or tap for mana, and the Rattleclaw Mystic provides the colors I need. I also included two Tribe Elders since the mass removal spells are getting more commonplace in the group and I don't want to be too reliant on a creature that needs to stay on the battlefield to be effective. Zealous Persecution shouldn't destroy your mana base.
Artifacts and Enchantments
Perhaps in your group, artifacts and/or enchantments are not a common hazard, but in my group they riddle the kitchen table like lawyers around an ambulance or flies on…. Well, let's just say they are in every game. I have espoused in the past a willingness to rely on others to eliminate the problem. If you aren't including ways to deal with artifacts and enchantments, you'll have extra slots for killing opponents. This was well and good until it became obvious that not enough other players in the group were packing hate. If no one is taking out the permanents, it won't take long for everyone to start relying on them. It has reached a point where I know I'll have excellent targets for my artifact destruction, so I include it in every deck.
When I'm running green and red in a deck, I tend to go with Hull Breach. It gives me all kinds of options and I can usually find a couple of targets without much difficulty. However, this time, I'm opting for Reclamation Sage. I love getting a bonus creature and Reclamation Sage was giving me a nice little 2/1 body. Nothing special, but it would work for this deck, particularly with some of the cards coming up.
I started filling up the remaining slots with creatures that would nicely fill out the curve for the deck, then realized that I wanted to try out Feldon of the Third Path, and this deck had the room to make that happen. With Sakura-Tribe Elder and Reclamation Sage already in the deck, ready to add several land and destroy multiple artifacts and enchantments, there was a good base for Feldon. With the sac effects in the game, the tokens that Feldon makes can be sacrificed at the end of the turn for added effect. With Feldon in mind I added Spore Frog and Hornet Queen. The Spore Frog becomes a repeatable Fog with Feldon, and Hornet Queen will give me more flying deathtouching Insects than I know what to do with.
Huntmaster of the Fells should work fairly well. With Yasova and Feldon doing their thing, there will be plenty of turns that don't involve casting a spell. I'll be relying on my friends to cast two spells and flip the Huntmaster back.
Wilderness Elemental is a solid pick in my play group. All of us are nonbasic land junkies, so I expect the Wilderness Elemental to be at least a 6/3 at all times. This is less painful than Ruination while making my opponents wish they weren't playing nonbasic lands.
Finally, Savageborn Hydra is a straight-up beatstick. There are bound to be games where Feldon brings a Sakura-Tribe Elder token into play again and again. With so many lands on the battlefield, Savageborn Hydra should be the biggest double striking creature you've seen in a long time.
For more flavor, adding in Snow-Covered lands and Shambling Strider can bring an Arctic feel and give it all a more Temur/Boston style.
Finally, I want to encourage all of you to watch for the March 3 release of Flex, the first novel of former Serious Fun writer Ferrett Steinmetz. The Ferrett edited most of my early writing and made several suggestions that have vastly improved what you read every week. I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of Flex and I can't recommend it enough. Without giving too much away, it is a magical world in a modern day setting, where those who use magic suffer the repercussions. Get out next week and support a great member of the Magic community and pick up your copy of Flex!