Legends of the Deep

Posted in Serious Fun on September 15, 2009

By Kelly Digges

As you stumble into the derelict dockside tavern, a gust of sea wind knocks the door out of your hand and slams it against the wall. The crowd of sailors all turn to see the source of the noise, and you pull your hood closer around your face, pull the door shut, and find a seat in the corner. You've already attracted too much attention to yourself.

You don't plan to stay here long. You'll book passage aboard a boat sailing up along the coast, then head inland, where you've heard that an ancient ruin complex was recently uncovered by a rockslide in the Makindi Trenches.

Near where you're sitting, a salty old sea-dog is regaling a table of rough-looking sailors with a tale of past adventure. You find yourself listening to his story with increasing interest.

"... So the big-shot explorer got that huge stone head aboard his ship, and the whole fleet pulled anchor and got underway. It was easy as you please, and he and his bunch had only been on the island for a couple of hours. Smooth sailing, right? I couldn't figure out why he'd brought nine ships for an easy run like this.

"Then things started turning sour. A storm blew up. The sea got choppy, and the skies grew dark and foggy. Then, through the mist, we heard one of the other ships sound the alarm, and sounds of yelling and fighting from that direction. Then another ship started ringing its bell, and another, and then the water next to our ship started to froth, and something reared up—something big.

"Well, we'd fought sea serpents before. The bosun sounded the alarm, and the quartermaster started handing out pikes. But it just kept rising, going up and up, and then all at once, it crashed down onto the deck and wrapped clean around the boat. We saw the head come around the other side again—only it wasn't a head. This wasn't any serpent—it was a tentacle."

At this, the listeners titter and chuckle. One man claps the old sailor on the back and walks away, shaking his head.

"A tentacle!" the man insists again. "Yeah, I know how it sounds. But that's what it was. The sails billowed, the boat creaked—we were held fast. We stabbed it and stabbed it, but nothing happened. Then the storm died down. The sails went limp, the fog started to lift. Everything was still. We saw the other boats, all held like we were. Except for one—the flagship, with the big explorer and his precious cargo still aboard, adrift on its own in the middle of the fleet.

"The leader of the hunters he'd brought with him watched it all unfold. 'I told him this would happen,' she said. 'There were warning glyphs all around that thing, old merfolk words for big, and ocean, and angry. But he wouldn't listen. Just had to have his prize.'

"Then the ocean ... moved, like there was something huge coming up, pushing all that water out of the way. A great mountain of water rose up amongst the fleet, right under the flagship. I saw the ship silhouetted against the sky, that damned explorer leaning off the bow like a maniac, looking down to see whatever was swallowing him whole. There was a flash of light, the sun behind him, and then down went the ship, into the belly of the beast.

"The mountain of water fell, and all those tentacles unwound and slipped back into the depths. Just like that, the thing was gone. The boats were all half-crushed, taking on water, but we managed to limp back to port."

The other listeners aren't laughing anymore, faces pale, eyes nervous.

"That was my last voyage," says the man. "Never set foot on so much as a raft after that."

He reaches for his drink, and the spell is broken. You come to your senses, watch as the other listeners rise, one by one, and walk away. Their demeanor says it all—just another tall tale from another worn-out sailor.

Maybe so.

But maybe you won't catch a boat after all. Maybe you'll check around town, see if there's a guide here who can travel with you amongst the enormous trees of the Turntimber. Maybe you'll go overland, and stay off the sea.

Just in case.

* * *

As you've probably guessed, the tale of an enormous eight-tentacled monster lurking beneath the seas of Zendikar isn't just myth or superstition. It—or rather he—is quite real, and your unwary opponents may soon feel the crushing grasp of his tentacles.

Lorthos, the Tidemaker

Feast your eyes on Magic's first-ever legendary Octopus. (Thank you, Mistform Ultimus, you may sit down. I see you. You do not count.) In fact, according to my exhaustive research, His Tideliness is only Magic's second Octopus ever. (Note that Kraken is a whole separate creature type, and only some of them look octopoid. Obsessive fantasy taxonomists, take note!)

Anyway, Lorthos has to carry that legendary Octopus banner all on his own. Fortunately, he's got eight arms. So can he step—er, writhe—up to the plate?

Let's see ... he's an eight-mana 8/8, and whenever he attacks, you can pay to Sleep eight permanents. He's an Octopus all right, and he's definitely one-of-a-kind, worthy of tavern stories and tall tales—a legend of the deep.

    Time and Tide

Now that Lorthos has reported for duty, what are we going to do with him? Besides tap a lot of permanents, I mean.

At eight mana, the octopus of the hour doesn't come cheap. And if you're going to be tapping things down—which I for one really, really want to—Lorthos is probably going to hit the battlefield the natural way, for all eight mana, because without eight mana handy, he's "just" an 8/8.

Maybe that means you throw some mana acceleration into a deck with him—Ur-Golem's Eye, or Gilded Lotus, or a Heartbeat of Spring / Mana Flare sort of thing. My favorite of that bunch in a mono-blue deck is Gauntlet of Power, even if the +1/+1 does muck up the aesthetics of Lorthos's octo-riffic stat line.

Or maybe that just means that Lorthos is a late-game sort of treat, the kind you slam down when people are out of steam and going into top-deck mode. That means all you need to do is survive that long. A tall order, sure, but there are all sorts of ways to do it. A healthy dose of board sweepers like Evacuation or Zendikar's Day of Judgment will keep the armies from piling up too high, some spot removal like Path to Exile can deal with whatever does come your way, and cards like Hissing Miasma and Ghostly Prison can make you a less enticing target.

When he does come down, like any heavy hitter, Lorthos is going to want some support. Lightning Greaves makes its usual appearance here, giving Lorthos shroud and haste for no additional. And hey, if through some weird quirk you actually have another eight mana handy, your Octopus in Boots can get his Sleep action going right away. Even if not, you still get in with 8 damage and protect Mr. The Tidemaker from spot removal. There are plenty of options for granting Lorthos shroud, from the straightforward Diplomatic Immunity to the hilarious play of Steely Resolve ... naming Octopus.

But what's cooler than Lorthos having shroud? I'd say it's Lorthos having shroud and being unblockable. Hello, Protective Bubble! You've graduated from subjecting me to a humiliating Lorwyn draft defeat at the hands of Wanderwine Prophets, and now you're in the big leagues. The thematically appropriate Bubble makes sure that Lorthos can do what he's meant to do: just keep swing, swing, swinging, no matter what's in his way. The Bubble's Equipment counterpart, Whispersilk Cloak, can also help give you a sneaky, shroudy Octopus, and Shield of Kaldra or Indestructibility can give you an unbreakable one.

    Crazy Eights

If you get to swing even once with this weighty, eight-y Octopus—and have mana to pay for his triggered ability—your opponents had better watch out. Eight targets is a lot, but it won't be everything on the board by any means. Savor that decision. Enjoy the looks on your opponents' faces as your hands inch closer to their permanents.

Maybe you'll opt to tap down the blockers of whoever you've aimed your Octopus at, before they get a chance to block him—if he's still blockable, that is (how gauche!). Most likely you'll choose to tap down the biggest threats on the board, whoever controls them. If you're feeling mean, you might just lock one player out of the game more or less entirely.

And remember, whatever permanents you tap, the next time Lorthos swings, they'll still be tapped. That means that on your next turn, if all's going well, you'll be able to make the decision all over again. Maybe you'll choose to keep those same eight permanents tapped for another trip around the table. Maybe you'll keep the same basic set, but rotate in whatever new threat has popped up that trumps one of your choices. Or maybe you'll choose eight different permanents entirely; even though the first group will untap this round, in the meantime, sixteen permanents will be tapped, all because of you.

(Quick rules note: Even though you pay mana for it, Lorthos's ability is a triggered ability, not an activated ability—it says "whenever," which is a dead giveaway. The downside of this is that you can't copy it with Rings of Brighthearth; the upside, though, is that Damping Matrix or Pithing Needle can't stop it.)

    Eight Mana Out

As I was brainstorming cards that would go well with Lorthos, a colleague of mine pointed out that as a legendary creature, Lorthos is begging for Elder Dragon Highlander treatment. He'll find a fine home in plenty of 60-card decks—no worries there. But this 100-card singleton deck with cards from all over the Magic timeline lets me show off some of the basic things you can do with Lorthos, no matter what sort of card pool you use.

Lorthos, the Tidemaker

Download Arena Decklist

To appease the mighty Octopus, I paid homage to him in little themes throughout the deck—a light nautical motif in cards such as Deep-Sea Kraken, Siren's Call, and Inundate, a tap-'em-down mechanical theme with Somnophore, Sleep, and Wall of Frost, and even both at once, on Giant Oyster and Brine Elemental. Speaking of Brine Elemental, the deck does include the "Pickles" combo with Vesuvan Shapeshifter, which can tap down the whole table forever. I do like to have at least one win-the-game combo buried in my EDH decks, because when it does happen it'll be cool, and it won't come up often enough to get annoying.

Anyway, that's just a quick sketch—and the exact deck list doesn't really matter. The thing that really matters is, well, actually eight things: eight writhing, grasping tentacles poised to wrap themselves around your opponents ... and squeeze.

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