Posted in Serious Fun on September 6, 2011

I'd like to share the "Word of the Day" today: serendipitous. Here is the definition, according to

  1. come upon or found by accident; fortuitous: serendipitous scientific discoveries.
  2. of, pertaining to, or suggesting serendipity.
  3. good; beneficial; favorable: a serendipitous occurrence for our preview.

That last example isn't an exact quote from the site, but it is an accurate statement for today. Hence our word for the moment.

You see, I'm a tokens kind of guy. Managing multiples on mostly corporeal critters is something I enjoy regularly. Rhys the Redeemed is my favorite legendary pick for Commander. Doubling Season is one of my favorite cards, and it inspired me to write up a little soft set of puzzles (and corresponding solutions). Anything that makes token strategies stronger (like Caged Sun), creates tokens of things on the battlefield (like Spitting Image), or just loves tokens altogether (like Twilight Drover) makes me happy.

Today's trip to Innistrad shares something that feeds all those things and more. One feature of tokens that's often overlooked is the sameness of them. All those white Soldier tokens are just 1/1 dudes. All those green Wolf tokens are 2/2s. What if the same thing that helps tokens get better also homogenized creatures too?

It's essential for you to click to see this:

Essence of the Wild | Art by Terese Nielsen

Essence of the Wild isn't your average creature. While it hints at Mirror Entity and Humility in some ways, it's an entirely different card—a weird, wonderfully awesome card. Welcome to another day in Innistrad.

    The Same Difference

Let's be honest for a moment: this newfangled Avatar is a little goofy. It has a few interactions that should be cleared out upfront.

  • Every creature that enters the battlefield under your control does so as a copy of Essence of the Wild. (Hooray tokens!)
  • Because every new creature is a copy of Essence of the Wild, your creatures with abilities of all shapes and sizes (from Sylvan Ranger to Fauna Shaman to Adaptive Automaton) won't have them.
  • Each creature that enters the battlefield is a redundant back up to the original; killing the original Essence of the Wild doesn't stop more creatures from becoming it so long as at least a single copy remains.

This is a bit of a mixed bag, then. All your subsequent creatures are 6/6s that make all of your subsequent creatures 6/6s, but they don't have any other abilities working for you. A restriction like that can be interesting, though...

Bazaar Dudes

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Let me sing to you that this deck has got it going on. It's a Birthing Pod deck, which means we're planning to chain up through creatures for fun (and likely profit). We start with some cheaper mana-getters, like Birds of Paradise and Borderland Ranger, then chain up through Solemn Simulacrum and Urabrask the Hidden. What happens after that can be something curious:

  • If we're loaded down with a hand of more small critters, we can pop out Essence of the Wild and start making one- to three-mana 6/6 creatures. (Including using Beast Within on one of your own lands!)
  • If we're pressing the advantage, we can chain up through Essence to grab Thorn Elemental. Boom, headshot!
  • If we're not in a position to attack, we can grab Bazaar Trader and Bronze Bombshell. Sprinkle Noxious Revival as needed.

What makes me really smile about shoving the Bazaar Trader / Bronze Bombshell combo into a Birthing Pod deck are the multiplayer possibilities that open up to it. Need to help a teammate with mana? Here, have a Birds of Paradise. Your friend with the weenie deck wants to cast creatures with oomph? Try this Essence of the Wild!

Of course, if you only play multiplayer you'll want to change this deck up a bit. Yavimaya Elder can replace Borderland Ranger (but can be given to allies as well), and Hornet Queen can replace Thorn Elemental. For some convoluted, Noel deCordova–style interactions, try adding Ensnaring Bridge to your deck, then giving Essence of the Wild to opponents: there will be good odds that they won't be able to cast new creatures that can attack you. The possibilities are wild!

We'll Do It Live!

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It's time to flip out and loop an undead army as Avatars. Fauna Shaman is our tutor, turning usual graveyard suspects Bloodghast and Reassembling Skeleton into Essence of the Wild. Sakura-Tribe Elder and Borderland Ranger keep the mana flowing to let us cast our Avatar. Then, the fun starts. Once Essence of the Wild is down, rebuying a Skeleton or Bloodghast nets us a 6/6 instead—that can come back again as it reverts to its return-from-the-graveyard base case upon death.

Greater Good partners here: play a land or pay , get a 6/6, go up three cards. Wash, rinse, repeat as necessary. For extra fun, play a Khalni Garden to double up on a 6/6 set. Innistrad's Moan of the Unhallowed nets a pair of tokens too, letting you drop a little early defense then flashback to get to 6/6's later on.

Putting the icing on our cake of transformation is the new Garruk Relentless. Most of our small critters let him transform and live (thanks to his second ability), then we can churn out a stream of 6/6s thanks to his back-face plus-loyalty ability. (And failing a transformation, we get to do it anyway!)

Double-Faced Card Rules

But if we really wanted to stream 6/6's out, we can do that too.

Fast Times at Avatar High

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Now this is a way to lay the sixes down! It's a "token" deck, obviously, and it's filled with requisite representatives of such decks. Rhys the Redeemed, Cenn's Enlistment, Imperious Perfect, Selesnya Evangel, and more make an appearance. The "slick" interaction of Cream of the Crop turns token making into scry time, and Elspeth and Garruk headline the main event.

Or so your opponent thinks.

Chord of Calling is usually scary in token decks, so Fierce Empath plays back up to let us grab Essence of the Wild. Once that's out all sorts of silly things happen. Every token enters the battlefield as a 6/6, making Cream of the Crop even more absurd. Mercy Killing lets you convert one 6/6 into six 6/6s. Fists of Ironwood gives one 6/6 trample with a bonus two more 6/6s stapled on. Even Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree is fearsome with you're paying four mana for a 6/6 instead.

And here is a good time to point out that creatures you cast before Essence of the Wild stay as they are; your Imperious Perfects, Selesnya Evangels, and Rhys himself will continue to provide the same token enlightenment you've come to expect!

    The One That You Wanted

I hope Essence of the Wild gives you a few wild ideas to follow up. I have a feeling that sooner, rather than later, it will find its way into more of my decks that I thought. Now, let's do some catching up: two weeks ago we had a creature type poll:

Which horror trope creature type are you looking forward to in Innistrad most?
Ghosts (Sprits)13213.6%
Victims (Humans)12412.8%

While some of you pointed out (correctly) that Humans weren't all going to be victims, it's clear they're getting the short end of the supernatural stick. What's astounding, however, is that Werewolf creatures are king! This poll went out before the big reveal at PAX, meaning you didn't have the awesome transform information. I'm super-excited to see howl my Werewolf friends will play out!

Terror of Kruin Pass | Art by David Rapoza

Last week's poll was a bit more for levity.

If you thought you were going to run into Reaper from the Abyss, which would your first thought be?
Turn around and meet the hater!19246.6%

Some of you caught the reference, but turning around to face Reaper from the Abyss head-on is a pretty gutsy move. I approve!

This week we'll ask something a little more serious:

Do you invite friends you've just introduced to Magic to attend Prereleases and Launch Parties?Yes, alwaysYes, sometimesNo

I find Prerelease events, like those coming up for Innistrad, to be a great time to introduce new Magic friends to one of the oldest Magic traditions: playing in events. Not everyone can attend every event, but making the time to meet and greet more than just a few local friends is only asking for a good time!

And having a good time is an excellent segue to a call I'm placing to players like you: give me your stories. I'd like to hear how your local groups meets, what you play, how that started, and what works (or doesn't) about it. If you're attending an Innistrad Prerelease or Launch Party, what did you think? How did that go?

It's not as much stories about individual cards I'm looking for (although those are just fine too!), but the players you meet and experiences you create. Many of the requests I get through feedback are related to building play groups and keeping the fun alive. I've shared many of the things that work for me, and it's time to share more of the things that work for you.

So take a few notes, ask your friends what they think, and begin sending the stories in. Magic only gets better with more!

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