Big Time

Posted in The Week That Was on April 13, 2012

By Brian David-Marshall

I'm on my way, I'm making it
I've got to make it show, yeah
So much larger than life
I'm going to watch it growing

—Peter Gabriel, "Big Time"

What does a Spider token gotta do to tussle with the creatures that keep getting unrolled each day in these Avacyn Restored previews? How is a Spirit token going to get past the likes of Gisela or Sigarda? What does a lowly townsfolk do against a stampeding Craterhoof Behemoth and his cohorts? These Avacyn Restored creatures are big and domineering once they hit the board. What can the decks with smaller, more abundant creatures do to compete with the Beasts, Angels, and Demons throwing their weight around in the coming weeks?

I love the token generation available in the first two sets of this block and have tried playing with virtually every token generator from Lingering Souls to Spider Spawning in Constructed decks. I have gathered townsfolk and displayed increasing devotion, spawned spiders and haunted at midnight, and kept bloodlines going and been politically active on behalf of the mayor's office. (Yes, that last one was quite a stretch, but I do think Mayor of Avabruck is a card that could do big things in a sixty-card deck!)

If any of those Spiders, Humans, Spirits, Wolves, or Vampires are looking to get big, then they need look no further than my preview card this week.

While the casting cost of this card gives me serious pause for Constructed Magic—sixty card Constructed Magic, I mean—I can't help but think about the possibilities for it. As my token preamble indicates, I am thinking about what happens when you put a handful of creatures into play at the same time. If you played three creatures one at a time with this card in play, you would have one creature with three counters, one creature with two, and the last one would get a counter when it came into play as well. If those three creatures came into play at the same time—say off of a small Spider Spawning—they would all see each other as they entered the battlefield and each token would get a hefty +3/+3 bonus. Good luck getting through my team of 4/5 Spiders.

Cathars' Crusade | Art by Karl Kopinski

Lingering Souls is the most obvious card to pair with Cathars' Crusade, since you can play it out early to buy time, and then after you have cast the Crusade you can flash it back for two 3/3 flying Spirits. And you can keep on going! Another Lingering Souls would turn those first two tokens into 5/5 fliers with two 3/3 fliers waiting for takeoff. Again, I know five mana is pretty steep, but the return is worth enough that you will probably find me in the Tournament Practice room with various attempts at a deck built around this card for weeks after the set is out on Magic Online.

Cathars' Crusade reminds me of cards like Beastmaster Ascension, Eldrazi Monument, and Coat of Arms—all of which have seen Constructed play. Green-white tokens is the first version I have been musing over all week. I figure I have to play with mana accelerators like Avacyn's Pilgrim, Birds of Paradise, and Llanowar Elves. What is nice about that is once you have ramped into your turn-three Cathars' Crusade with two accelerators you can then grow them to 4/4s—or in the case of your Bird of Paradise a 3/4—with one activation from Elspeth Tirel making three 4/4 tokens. Geist-Honored Monk accomplishes the same thing here, putting 15 points of power and toughness into play for just those two cards—and more if you control more creatures when the Monk enters the battlefield.

Anytime you are talking about a creature deck you worry about getting blown out by Day of Judgment. Sticking the Crusade on turn three or four and then losing your creatures to a Day or Slagstorm is mitigated when you know you can drop 12 or 15 points of power into play for one card like Elspeth Tirel or Geist-Honored Monk. How about a White Sun's Zenith for two, putting 8 points of power into play at the end of the next turn? I will give Spider Spawning a try in just about any deck that can support it and more than a few that can't. Spawning is a fine backup plan—and emergency backup plan for the backup plan with flashback—for some of the Frites decks that have been floating around, and I have been eager to give it a try. You also get to flashback your Lingering Souls as a pair of 3/3 that can close out the game in short order.

White-black tokens is always a deck people are eager to see come back and there are abundant tools to use with your Crusade, from the previously mentioned Lingering Souls, planeswalker, and Monk to cards like Sorin, Lord of Innistrad and Grave Titan. You don't get the ability to ramp in that deck, though, so I like the green-white idea a lot better. But in either deck, how do you feel about attacking with a Hero of Bladehold under Cathars' Crusade?

Kessig Cagebreakers | Art by Wayne England

I am not sure if the five-mana casting cost is a hump that can be overcome in a mana-leaking (my newest safe-for-basic-cable expletive of choice) Standard format, but it could fill the void in token decks left by the recently Block-banned Intangible Virtue come Pro Tour Avacyn Restored, and perhaps wind its way toward Standard if and when a certain pesky blue card is revealed to be in or out of Magic 2013. As much as I would like to attack with Hero with this in play, it pales in comparison with how badly I want to see someone playing Cathars' Crusade in tandem with Kessig Cagebreakers. Five creatures in the graveyard when you attack—assuming you have no other creatures in play—is going to give you an additional 30 points of power and toughness spread across your five Wolves and the Cagebreakers themselves.

It is not hard to set up with the likes of Mulch to fix your mana and Tracker's Instincts to find your Cagebreakers—both cards also stocking your 'yard with the good stuff you need to make this happen. It could be a case of "winning more" but I can't wait to at least give it a try.

I had a chance to watch the Magic panel this past weekend at PAX East and I was sitting in the audience with Rashad Miller as the preview for Sigarda, Host of Herons flashed on the screen. Rashad's eyes lit up and he began to muse about using the Angel as a new commander to build around. I have also been thinking about playing a green-white Commander deck—and Sigarda would be as fine a legend as many to build around—that generates tokens. The idea for the deck started after playing Feed the Pack in a draft and making four tokens at the end of the turn I played it. I mentioned wanting to try it out in Commander, where you will be able to play with the likes of Doubling Season and Parallel Lives and some hefty green fatties that will give you a pretty nice token output.

"So you have a bunch of 2/2 Wolf tokens; so what?" was the reply I got from a fellow Commander player less impressed with Feed the Pack than I was.

Things start to look a little different when you add Cathars' Crusade into that mix. Suddenly your Feed the Pack is making five 7/7 wolves. A turn later you play your Craterhoof Behemoth and all your guys get +1/+1 from the Behemoth entering play, then everything gets a +6/+6 bonus from the Behemoth's trigger when he enters the battlefield. You basically have 81 points of trampling damage to spread around the table—and that is without any other creatures being in play when all that machinery starts rumbling to life.

I think I am going to build this deck. It seems like a fun haymakery deck to build and play. You get to add any number of fat green creatures—you can just season this part to your own taste—as well as white token makers like Decree of Justice and White Sun's Zenith. Enlightened Tutor and Idyllic Tutor help you find your crucial enchantment. Of course, green has no shortage of ways to get the creatures you want into your hand, so your end-game Behemoth should be a snap.

I wonder if I can play a Spider Spawning in this deck if I find a different Commander...

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