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Luke: "But it's not impossible. I used to bull's-eye womp rats in my T-16 back home, and they're not much bigger than two meters!"
Wedge: "Yeah, and were the womp rats shooting at you with turbolaser cannons?"
Welcome to Wedge Week! Wedge Antilles has been a favorite Star Wars character of mine for a while, so I was excited when I realized I would get to spend an article talking about Wedge's exploits in the expanded Star Wars universe. My problem is that Wedge doesn't have a big connection to Magic, per se. As far as I can tell, there is no Magic in a galaxy far, far away.
However, when I look at Wedge, his traits strongly suggest a particular wedge of Magic colors. His participation with the Rebel Alliance suggests a military leaning, along with a sense of morality. The Rebels are fighting to overthrow a tyrannical leader. This is all very Boros, so I associate Wedge with white and red. The expanded universe shows Wedge to be a little more self-serving. He tracks down enemies and kills them as acts of vengeance. He initially joins the Alliance as a way to stay close to a woman he is interested in. This streak of self-serving suggests black. Wedge fits nicely with the RWB Mardu Horde!
When you start trying to build a deck using the wedge colors, you start to see the limitations, assuming you want to run all three colors. Setting up a deck that simply put Boros, Rakdos, and Orzhov together in one deck is easy enough, but I wanted the three-color wedge to have its own personality. I hope Khans of Tarkir defines those personalities.
I started out by looking at the creatures that were available in the Mardu three-color combination. Oros, the Avenger was the old-school original from Planar Chaos. I've built decks that included Oros, but those decks were primarily white and splashed red and black for damage and removal. If you are running creatures that don't have white in their casting cost, you are only doing yourself a disservice including Oros.
When I started to build, the idea was to build around Tariel. Everyone uses Kaalia in their builds, but I thought Tariel would make a far more interesting challenge. Tariel costs seven mana, so you need ways to get her to the battlefield quickly. You also want to protect her. You don't want to get her on the battlefield and have her killed immediately, leaving you to find another copy and pay seven more mana. This led me to find ways to get her on the field faster and give her protection.
Tariel, Reckoner of Souls | Art by Wayne Reynolds
Mother of Runes and Adarkar Valkyrie offer up the protection. "Mom" gives Tariel, Reckoner of Souls actual protection from the color of whatever is targeting her, while the Valkyrie brings her back from the graveyard when she does get killed. Both cards can be used to protect other creatures as well, and I like that versatility. With the Valkyrie out, graveyard recursion decks are far less likely to take a big chance since they can lose their creatures to Adarkar Valkyrie's ability as well. I've used Mom in plenty of white decks and have always been happy with her work. I love the Valkyrie's ability but I haven't had one in my collection until recently, so I was looking for a place where it would fit. This deck offers a nice home.
Explosive out of the Blocks
Getting Tariel on the field faster means finding ways to cheat the card onto the battlefield, or getting more mana. I opted for both. Darksteel Ingot ups the one-land-per-turn limit, giving me mana of any color, which is something any deck with more than two colors should be looking at adding. The indestructible part is appealing as well. In multiplayer games, Weathered Wayfarer is a nice bonus. I can usually rely on someone ramping up by loading extra lands into play, making it easy to activate the Wayfarer every turn. Weathered Wayfarer allows me to find my basics and thin my deck out a little, and I'm all for that.
Kaalia of the Vast is a reluctant inclusion. The card does exactly what I'm looking for with a seven-mana creature: she brings it out much earlier for much less. With Tariel being a 4/7, she is likely to survive any attack that involves teaming with Kaalia. We weren't likely going to be able to use her ability the turn she entered the battlefield, so attacking right away seems a very nice option. Kaalia also brings out many of the other cards in this deck, including Adarkar Valkyrie, Desecration Demon, and Angel of Finality. So why the reluctance to put her in the deck?
Kaalia draws attention to herself. Kaalia can be a massive powerhouse, dropping huge creatures onto the battlefield quickly and with little fuss. Just looking at the list of possible Demon, Angel, and Dragon candidates shows just how poorly I'm using her. Given that opponents will not know what to expect, they will likely expect the worst and come at me. My deck is slower and a little more fun, so I'm not sure how well I'll be able to handle that kind of attention. The second problem with Kaalia is that she tends to take over decks. You'll see other Angels and Demons in the list. When I had a choice between two cards, the creature type turned the tide. I don't want this to be a Kaalia deck that happens to run Tariel. This is supposed to be a Tariel deck that utilizes Kaalia. This may be a card I'll have to learn to live without, but for now, it seems ridiculous to exclude it.
Cruising the Cemetery
If Tariel is going to find creatures in graveyards, we'll need to put them there. Desecration Demon does a good job of it. Admittedly, the creatures players will choose to sacrifice will start out small, so I'm hoping to force bigger creatures or utility creatures into getting sacrificed. Being a Demon also means that Kaalia can bring it onto the battlefield quickly.
Intrepid Hero is the other creature that will put some beef into graveyards for Tariel. With a cheap cost, it can come out early and either discourage opponents from playing their bigger creatures or draw some removal away from Tariel and other targets in the deck.
Hero's Downfall and Razia's Purification are the noncreature spells that also help things along. Hero's Downfall was chosen as it also targets Planeswalkers. Razia's Purification is essentially mass removal that you should be able to bounce back from much faster than anyone else, especially with Tariel pulling creatures out of opponents' graveyards.
Using Weighted Dice
One of Tariel's downsides is the random nature of the effect. By the time you get seven mana and can tap her to get a creature, there are bound to be creatures in there you just don't care about. You want to thin the herd so there is only one "random" card to choose from in the graveyard, or at least weight the dice so the numbers you want to see come up more often. Angel of Finality can help with this. You play Angel of Finality, emptying all the small creatures from the graveyard of the player playing white. Once empty, you tap your Intrepid Hero to take out Akroma, Angel of Wrath. The graveyard is empty except for the single white Angel who, with a little coaxing from Tariel, is now fighting for your team.
Crypt Champion is an option that is a little off the beaten path, but it works out quite well. You get back your Capashen Unicorn and Intrepid Hero, and your opponents get a couple of smaller creatures as well. Unfortunately for them, the odds of you hitting the Frost Titans in their graveyard with Tariel improved now that the little creatures you didn't want are gone.
Suffer the Past is a card made for Tariel. Get rid of X creatures you wouldn't want to get with Tariel, leaving only the cream to "randomly" select. Most of the time you'll have plenty of mana available to deal with even the most chock-full graveyards. While I prefer creatures in this deck so I can get full value with the Adarkar Valkyrie, this card is just perfection. It also doesn't hurt as way to really spoil the graveyard-recursion deck's day.
A friend suggested Underworld Cerberus for the deck. While I didn't include it, you might consider it. Considering this deck is using graveyard recursion, it doesn't tend to target cards in graveyards. Tariel doesn't target, so she gets around the limitations applied by the Cerberus. This big-bodied Hound must be dealt with quickly or many graveyard-recursion decks will come to a screeching halt. I just wasn't sure if I wanted to add another six-mana creature to a list that was heading toward being very top heavy.
Capashen Unicorn is a card that shows up in a lot of my decks. I always want a way to deal with artifacts and enchantments, since my metagame is filled with enchantments, and the Unicorn often fits the bill. It destroys on command and, just sitting out there, everyone knows you can take down a potential problem. So oftentimes, the problem cards sit in my opponents' hands until they can solve the Unicorn. In this deck, I wanted a creature here since Adarkar Valkyrie can bring it back.
The Diabolic Tutor was in because of the one-of and two-of nature of the deck. Under normal circumstances, I'm going to want Tariel when I hit seven mana. I'm going to want Kaalia when I hit four mana. There are several key cards that I should probably have more copies of than are currently in the deck. Diabolic Tutor acts as the extra copy of every one of those cards. I suspect that as the deck gets more play and becomes more streamlined, the Diabolic Tutor will get dropped from the list, but until then, it finds what I need when I need it.
Thousand-Year Elixir is there to get a second use from many creature abilities. Using Tariel or Intrepid Hero twice in a turn just seems like a great idea. It may turn out that there just aren't as many targets as I think there will be, then these will have to come out. If the targets are there, I'm going to love this card!
In the end, we have a deck that plays well and is well positioned to benefit from the cards we are going to be seeing in the next few weeks. I hope the Mardu bring us even more goodies that leave us wondering what to cut. For now, this deck is something even Wedge Antilles could get behind.
As you may have noticed, graveyard recursion is big in my group right now. When I get a card that works in my deck, while limiting the cards in my opponents' graveyards, I'm a happy guy![Return]