Transcending the Impasse

Posted in Serious Fun on April 6, 2010

Welcome to the second week of Rise of the Eldrazi previews! Last week showed us some pretty amazing things: Sarkhan the Mad; Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre; Khalni Hydra; Gideon Jura; and Kargan Dragonlord are all cards that tip the scales in term of epic awesomeness. Big and bold is how I like both the flavor of my coffee and my fatties.

Let's take a second look at Kargan Dragonlord:

This is the kind of "leveler"—creature with level up, that is—I can really get behind. It doesn't matter if I'm just getting a creature on the board or going for broke with yet another angry red Dragon; I know I can be thrilled to see this pop up in any solidly red deck. I won't prattle on any more (as Mr. Flores has already covered the Dragonlord's strengths) other than to note that as an EDH fanatic I love creatures that fit extremely well into a monocolored deck. This is a "no-brainer" in terms of being a great inclusion for decks that pack red.

But not every leveler is like Kargan Dragonlord (or Lighthouse Chronoloist, or Enclave Cryptologist if you've been listening to MtGCast) requires colored mana to pile on the level counters. I'm a fan of flexibility, and nothing is easier than using any available mana to bring your leveler up to peak performance. When you play EDH and use a three-or-more colored general flexibility is sometimes a precious thing to have. Nothing frustrates me more than having something awesome in hand but being utterly incapable of casting it. Despite all of our best efforts, every mana base will fall victim to "sufficient randomization" now and then: shuffling sometimes just puts everything you want on the bottom of your library. That's kind of the point.

Here is a creature that will transcend whatever mana issues you are having:

I was going to place an exclamatory here, like "Woah!" or "Awesome!", but it takes a little time to read the Master and absorb just what it's all about.

And that's fine by me.

    On Face Smashing

Transcendent Master is just one of many levelers coming in Rise of the Eldrazi but I suspect it's one of the more clever fun ones. It strikes me as most Clerics do: simple and unassuming until a critical threshold of accumulated spiritual power is reached, and then woe to those who would oppose its vindication. Consider an Eldrazi such as Artisan of Kozilek: a 10/9 that will almost assuredly come swinging every turn. Once our humble cleric transcends his mortal form, his power to oppose these monstrous entities is undeniable. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Steve Belledin

Let's consider how Transcendent Master looks on the outside; what your fellow players will see. It starts out as a white version of Trained Armodon: a vanilla (a creature without any abilities) 3/3 for . It won't break any scales in terms of raw power, but if a 3/3 is good enough for Garruk Wildspeaker it's certainly good enough for us. Moving up in levels yields a 6/6 with lifelink. Tough and durable, no doubt, but still solidly simple. Unlike, say, Dragons, Demons, Angels, or Beasts, this is mostly just a beater—no flying or trample to be used offensively. It's moving to the greatest level that will be intimidating to opponents: a 9/9 with lifelink that's indestructible. Solid beats, for sure, but what about that other thing that happens in combat? You know—blocking?

It's easy to forget that sometimes the best defense is, well, defense, when we spend a lot of time focusing on killing critters and swinging over, past, or through whatever else it out there. I'll admit it: I'm an offense-oriented guy. In fact, I'm that guy who makes fearsomely powerful dudes (or just an absurdly large Kresh the Bloodbraided) and sends them into your face. It probably has a lot to do with two facts:

  1. I love the fatties. The bigger the better.
  2. Smashing life totals down with creatures is something I enjoy.

But this isn't the case for everyone, and sometimes it's really fun to mess with your opponents' plans (in a nice way). A 9/9 indestructible creature that gains you life in combat feels like a perfectly normal way to wreak havoc on otherwise sound offensive plans. In fact I would bet that this creature, even as a 6/6, can really shake a few assumptions up, even in an otherwise innocuous deck. Let's look at putting it into a weenie deck:

Glory in Battle

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Knights riding into battle with their venerable cleric tailing along. Gallantly, bravely, they rush into the opposing hordes—but fall. Yet behind the lines of gleaming armor lies the most dangerous of the enemy's adversaries: the monumental power of the cleric.

It's cheerfully flavorful and oddly striking. With the lines of Knights and their combat-friendly first strike standing in front of the Cleric, you'll certainly have the time for Transcendent Master to level up significantly. Alternatively, it doesn't slow you down if the knights can crash through the opposing castle's (or planeswalker's) defenders. It's a strangely unfamiliar balance to a deck type that usually falls against sufficiently mustered defenses. More importantly it presents some interesting opportunities in multiplayer games. A white weenie deck was one of the first decks I made (and it's still one I tinker around with some time to time), and the Transcendent Master is just the kind of long-game tough stuff I'm looking forward to throwing in.

As I touched upon, however, the fact the Transcendent Master asks only for colorless mana. This provides a great outlet for whatever mana you have lying around, which is especially useful in color-demanding decks, like everyone's favorite EDH Cleric general: Lady Evangela (go ahead and check what she does). All right ... so she doesn't have the flashiest ability, though it's still very handy to have, but she does pack a powerful set of colors to work with. She's also the only Cleric general that would let you use Wandering Mage (another go-look-it-up blast from the past).

Lady Evangela

Download Arena Decklist
99 Cards

It looks like a smattering of Clerics tossed with a side of randomness, but there's some subtle stuff going on. While the Clerics will be providing the mainstay of offense and support, it'll take teamwork and faith to push through. Things like Pemmin's Aura, Chainer's Edict, and Sword of Light and Shadow certainly help things along. Whipgrass Entangler and Ghostly Prison should provide some deterrence against being attacked while Shaman en-Kor and Eight-and-a-Half-Tails will make other avenues of damage difficult for your opponents to achieve. Doubtless One and our hero of the day Transcendent Master provide some seriously big numbers in the power and toughness departments for offensive purposes. Leonin Abunas and Fountain Watch will protect the helper tools you'll probably want to throw onto Beloved Chaplain (which shares a similarity with Progenitus in being immune to other creatures) and any other Cleric you have standing around. These proponents of peace can become frightening men-at-arms!

Transcendent Master really shines in a deck like this: early or late, you're glad to plop it down, as it ultimately provides the means to the end (of the game).

    Getting Decked

Speaking of decks, last week I asked for some of your ideas on how to use Khalni Hydra. There were a number of really sharp entries, each with their own endearing characteristics (the Blasting Station and Channel deck from @mtgcolorpie was pretty ridiculous) but one jumped out to me as an awesome use of the new Hydra. @earthdyedred sent in this little number:

Going Bounce

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Sorcery (4)
4 Pack Hunt
Enchantment (8)
4 Muraganda Petroglyphs 4 Seed the Land
Other (4)
4 Aether Mutation
60 Cards

This is what he had to say:

So there are a few ways to get Hydras out. Khalni Garden and Seed the Land are affinity wannabes (as each land makes a creature and gives basically two mana toward the Hydra). The morph package makes a bunch of surprise tokens (except for Willbender, who's surprise enough). Patagia Viper and Æther Mutation provide ridiculous value. Muraganda Petroglyphs lets all the tokens beef up. And Pack Hunt either gets you either more token makers or all your Hydras once one is out.

I like what's going on with Æther Mutation, though I think one interaction was overlooked in the rundown: bouncing Khalni Hydra gives you the eight green creature (tokens) required to replay it for free. Swing with Khalni Hydra, bounce with Æther Mutation, then replay the Hydra for free, leaving you with at least 16 untapped defensive power for your opponent to handle. It will make your opponents green with envy!

And with that taken care of I come to another challenge: Show me, and in turn potentially everyone else, how you plan to use Transcendent Master. Bonus credit for any other Rise of Eldrazi cards from the Visual Spoiler that make sense to use (I'm not looking for a deck just crammed with new stuff). Like last week I'll need your deck by the evening of this Thursday (4/8) Eastern Standard Time. Let's see you transcend the barrier into Rise of the Eldrazi!

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