Deckbuilders, Start Your Engines

Posted in Serious Fun on February 10, 2009

By Kelly Digges

Kelly Digges has had many roles at Wizards over the years, including creative text writer, R&D editor, website copyeditor, lead website editor, Serious Fun column author, and design/development team member on multiple sets.

It's weird, but in a way I feel like I've hardly talked about Conflux at all. Last week I told you all about my experiences at the Prerelease, which means I got to spend lots of time talking about the cards I opened (or got smashed by) and not much time talking about all the other cards in the set. The two weeks before that were week 1 and week 2 of Conflux previews, which, while they're obviously about Conflux, were focused on two particular cards. I didn't make it to a Launch Party this past weekend, but I did play some Limited with Conflux in the mix.

I've already gotten the chance to tell you all about Blood Tyrant and Meglonoth, and I've regaled you with tales of Progenitus and Inkwell Leviathan. Since then, lots of other cards have caught my eye, tickled my fancy, or proven their worth. I'm not really one for an old-fashioned set review, but let's cruise through the set and see what's to see, shall we?

The Nuts

There are some cards in this set that I probably don't need to tell you are great. Apocalypse Hydra? I recommend paying lots of mana for it. Meglonoth? As I said when I previewed it, attacking and blocking seem good.

Apocalypse Hydra

Speaking of Apocalypse Hydra, the two other "exploding X" spells in ConfluxBanefire and Martial Coup—are cards to watch out for. Banefire is "just" a really solid spell that can knock an opponent out of the game in a way that's really hard to do anything about (Time Stop, I guess?).

Martial Coup

Martial Coup is the one that really excites me, though. One of the reasons plain old Wrath of God is so good, especially in multiplayer, is that you know it's coming. You can stockpile creatures in your hand to rebuild after the Finger of God flicks the board clean. Martial Coup, though, goes a step further; the replacement creatures are right there in the spell. Don't think of it as losing your old team, but as gaining a new one.

Maelstrom Archangel is another card that caught my eye. I will definitely be building decks that can support its mana cost, and the ability to slam down any nonland card for free when this hits is just ridiculous—and bear in mind, in multiplayer it's going to be easier to find somebody to run this into. Also: 5/5 flyers are pretty good. Once I get my hands on one, Maelstrom Archangel definitely has a place in the Dramatic Entrance deck I'm working on. I'm also thinking about fellow columnist Brian David-Marshall's big dream of playing the Archangel early off of acceleration, hitting it with Crimson Wisps, and immediately swinging to pull something ridiculous out of my hand (in his version, Violent Ultimatum).

Path to Exile is silly-good spot removal—again, you probably already knew this. My gentle side says that when you take someone's creature away, it's kind of neat to give them something in return that makes it easier to play replacement creatures. My analytical side says that I'm still way ahead on the bargain, so my gentle side can go ahead and say whatever it wants. Pick any creature you can target—bam, it's gone, a leaf on the wind. Not bad for one mana!

Ethersworn Adjudicator is an absurd machine gun if it sticks, as I discovered in a recent Limited game. "Sail in for 4 ... Go ahead. Attacking? No, I didn't think so. Untap the Adjudicator, blow something up ...." It has fake vigilance and it taps to play Mortify. Now, it's also an artifact creature, which makes it pretty vulnerable. That, I don't mind—I like to play those big, must-answer creatures. If my opponents can't kill this, well, as a friend of mine once said, "Pew pew pew!" (That's the sound of a laser being fired over and over again, you see.) If they can kill it, then they do so and get on with the game—instead of, saying, killing me to get rid of it. And of course, my deck could have Sanctum Gargoyle, Protomatter Powder, or Sharuum the Hegemon to get this back.

Ethersworn Adjudicator
Sanctum Gargoyle

Progenitus, as I attested last week, is crazy good if you can get him into play. At that's far from guaranteed, but there are so many ways to get up to that mana—or cheat around it entirely, like Maelstrom Archangel. A friend of mine started a group on Facebook called "I've been killed by Progenitus." I don't plan on joining it, but I'll be happy to aid them in recruitment—very happy.

And while we're on the subject of ridiculous mythic rare beatings:

Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker

Nicol Bolas. 'Nuff said. My Grixis deck will finally have its planeswalker!

Domain Event

One of the major themes of Conflux—and the theme of this week here on this very web site—is domain. I mentioned when I previewed Titanic Ultimatum that I was a huge fan of Tromp the Domains back in Time Spiral Limited. I especially enjoyed tossing in an extra basic land or two just to pump up domain. That's definitely going to be a temptation in two- and three-color decks with Conflux; the Naya intro pack is even a domain deck. But more than that, I'm interested in building the Constructed version of the greedy five-color deck I've been enjoying in Limited with Conflux in the mix.

Exploding Borders is my favorite domain card. It goes and gets your third or fourth or fifth land type, and along the way it takes a generous chunk out of somebody's face. And don't forget: you can redirect the damage to a planeswalker a player controls, so don't get too attached to Chandra over there, Sparky.

I have a weakness for Saprolings, so Spore Burst caught my eye. The two copies in my Prerelease deck served me very well last week, routinely turning into nine or ten Saprolings. I'd probably want to put this in some kind of specifically Saproling / domain deck, with Tromp the Domains being another natural addition. I especially want to pair this with Utopia Mycon or Psychotrope Thallid, and it's pretty good with Pallid Mycoderm or Deathspore Thallid too. Utopia Mycon is potentially hilarious—pay to make five Saprolings, and the Mold of Paradise lets you sacrifice those five Saprolings for , either right away (which is a little weird, since you have all five basic land types anyway) or next turn, letting you double up your five colors of mana to potentially pay for—well, you know.

Spore Burst
Utopia Mycon

Shard Convergence is another card for that sets my inner deck-builder atwitter. At its best, it ensures a steady progression from four mana with green available to eight mana with all five colors in the mix. And note that it doesn't say "basic," so if you're playing with Ravnica "shock lands" such as Godless Shrine (as I often do), or even original dual lands like Taiga (as I haven't since I traded away my Volcanic Island for Rock Hydra many years ago), you can go get those and have really fixed mana. I'm planning on building a Progenitus deck for Elder Dragon Highlander—and maybe even tracking down a ten-pack of original duals—and Shard Convergence will definitely have a place there.

Shard Convergence

Manaforce Mace, once you're at domain, puts a huge chunk of power and toughness on the table that sticks around when your creatures die. Matca Rioters is just huge. Drag Down is great spot removal (or a combat trick, if you're facing something really big). Wandering Goblins is awkward to use, but wow can it get big if you have mana up for multiple activations. I definitely think there's a deck in there—and I might go digging for Invasion domain cards and Fifth Dawn sunburst cards to go in there too.

Manaforce Mace
Suntouched Myr

I already mentioned some of the ridiculous top-end spells. On the budgetier side of things, there are some ridiculous uncommons and one more rare that offer huge rewards for having all five colors of mana: Fusion Elemental, Paragon of the Amesha, Fleshformer, Dragonsoul Knight, and Worldheart Phoenix. Dragonsoul Knight is an enormous flyer if you can pay the price, and Worldheart Phoenix is very hard to kill for good. The activation creatures have the added benefit that you can run them out early and wait for the rest of your mana to show up. If I build a domain deck that starts looking clunky, I'll check out these cards as a way to smooth it out.

Dragonsoul Knight
Worldheart Phoenix

Hidden Gems

Sometimes it's not immediately obvious what you'll want to use a particular card for. Maybe it looks strong but just needs a place; maybe it looks awful but you've got that sneaking suspicion there's something there. One of the reasons I like Limited is that it gives me the chance to try out a lot of cards and see them in action, and the small amount of Conflux Limited I've played thus far has really gotten my brain working.

Obelisk of Alara

Obelisk of Alara is a great example. I really wasn't sure about the card; sure, everything it can do is great, but it can only do one at a time—and all those colors! Then I was soundly schooled by it in a Winston draft, and I changed my tune. An opponent sitting there with all five colors and an untapped Obelisk of Alara is a terrifying sight—the +4/+4 means you're very hard-pressed to safely attack or block, the -2/-2 means your small utility creatures' days are numbered, and gaining 5 life a turn is potentially huge. It all gets even better if you have Fatestitcher or Filigree Sages to untap the Obelisk and double up. Definitely a card I'll try in a domain deck.

Speaking of gaining 5 life a turn, man, am I excited about Wall of Reverence. I wasn't sold at first—a 1/6 that cares about power? But then, like Obelisk of Alara, I faced it from across the table, this time in Pack Wars. That 1/6 flying body shut down one of my attackers, even with Manaforce Mace, and once the Wall had a Kranioceros or Bull Cerodon buddy, it was basically impossible for me to race. In multiplayer, making it pointless to attack you plus gaining lots of life is a potent combination. Wall of Reverence plays nice with both Naya's 5-power theme and Bant's exalted keyword. It's also a pretty hilarious combo with Shards of Alara's Cradle of Vitality, letting you gain tons of life and double one creature's power every turn. Hey, that sounds fun ....

Wall of Reverence
Cradle of Vitality

I suffered the indignity of a Telemin Performance at the Prerelease, and it almost did me in. Granted, my opponent was pretty lucky to hit Inkwell Leviathan, but still. Against that obnoxious creatureless (or near creatureless) deck—you know the one I mean—Telemin Performance is a potentially devastating mill spell. It's also a great follow-up to something like Excommunicate. But even failing all that, there's probably going to be some deck at any multiplayer table where this stands a chance of grabbing something.

Telemin Performance

Soul's Majesty draws cards for green mana, in a very green way. That's plenty to make me like it. There's some inherent risk, sure, but I look forward to seeing how many cards I can draw with this. Perhaps this goes in the same deck as Cradle of Vitality?

Soul's Majesty

Vagrant Plowbeasts is ridiculous. It's already in my Naya deck, because regenerating fatties on the cheap can totally dominate a game. This is another one I've been across from, and the thought process is hilarious. "Well, I guess I could triple-block and—hm, no, regenerate. But if I Fiery Fall the Plowbeasts first, I can—dang it!" The result is a lot of chump-blocking, and if there's trample backing up the Plowbeasts, that doesn't work, either.

Vagrant Plowbeasts

I mentioned last week how excited I am about Skyward Eye Prophets. I've seen it in action more now—still excited. So many cards! I have this impulse to put it in a deck with Coiling Oracle and lots of "bounce lands" like Azorius Chancery ....

Skyward Eye Prophets
Coiling Oracle

I dismissed Cumber Stone at first—I mean, come on, how much is -1/-0 really going to matter? But the answer turns out to be quite a lot, sometimes. Most of those beefy Naya "5 power matters" creatures wind up with a disappointing 4 power once the Stone is out. And any deck that wants to make and attack with lots of 1/1 tokens is going to find out the hard way that zero is a lot less than 1. And speaking of 1/1s, this is begging to go in a deck with Godhead of Awe, isn't it?

Cumber Stone

I Want a New Deck

It's safe to say that Conflux has my gears turning. And I didn't even mention the Mesa Enchantress / Sigil of the Empty Throne deck I'm working on, or the additions I'm making to my shard decks and two-color decks, or what a great combat trick Gluttonous Slime is, or combining Mirror-Sigil Sergeant with Paradox Haze ....

Uh, sorry, let me wipe the drool off my chin here.

So that's me. What about you? Did you spot on any cards at the Prerelease or Launch Party, or on the official spoiler, that beg to go in a deck? What's your favorite card in Conflux? Let me know!

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