Won't You Take Me To Monkeytown?

Posted in Feature on March 21, 2007

By Chris Millar

Going ape with a certain Planar Chaos uncommon.

Howdy, all, and welcome to my house of cards. I trust everyone had a lovely weekend celebrating St. Patrick's Day. Being 1/512th Irish, it's perhaps my favourite March non-holiday. When else can you wear an emerald-sequined top hat and imbibe frosty beverages containing a near-lethal dose of green dye? I mean, without looking like you just bombed an audition for your community theatre's production of Alice in Wonderland?

In keeping with the St. Patrick's Day theme of green everything, I considered building a series of mono-green decks, but it turned out that Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar beat me to the punch. (Seriously, check out Jay's article from Monday.)

Rumour has it that St. Patrick's main claim to fame is that he banished all the snakes from Ireland. How, you ask? Well, if The Simpsons has taught us anything, it's that the way to deal with an out-of-control snake population is to let loose a pack of gorillas with a predilection for snake meat.

"Now," I hear you asking, "where am I supposed to get all these asp-munching apes, Mr. Millar? They don't grow on trees, you know."


Er, actually, they do. But more importantly, they spring forth, burly-protector-style, from what The Ferrett deemed the funnest most fun multiplayer card in Planar Chaos:


As you probably already know, the term Pongify is derived from the foreign-sounding word pongo, which is of course the name of the movie critic from Spaceballs. I don't quite get the connection, but maybe Matt will explain it later in the week.

The Ape of Things to Come

The inspiration for the this week's article came from, uh, Robby B., who has supplied me with enough Johnny-tastic deck goodness that he should probably have his own column at this point. Basically, Robby combined Pongify with Stuffy Doll. You see, since ol' Stuffy is indestructible, he can just shrug off the evil monkey-fying ray and you'll still get an Ape token. Sure, that's a lot of trouble to go to just to make a single Ape, but Robby wasn't going to settle for just one monkey. With the aid of Izzet powerhouse Djinn Illuminatus, Robby could replicate his way out of The Forbidden Zone and straight into Ape City. Diabolical, to be sure, but I decided to go one step further, right to the Eye of the Storm.

Now, normally I wouldn't use Eye of the Storm (for reasons I will outline a little later), but I will make an exception in this case. The deck is a sort of mono-blue control deck, with a small red splash. The only difference is that the deck eschews Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir and instead wins with infinity-plus-one hasty Apes. Seething Song accelerates you to Stuffy Doll, Djinn Illuminatus, or Eye of the Storm, and the lone Surge of Zeal will ensure that you can win the turn you make your legions of angry Apes.

I tried to limit the avenues to victory as much as possible, which is the reason I excluded cards like Pyroclasm. Sure, you can win with Stuffy alone, but that'll take a while, and, yeah, you can just attack with the Djinn seven times. Other than that, though, you're stuck doing battle with monkeys. And they're not even flying monkeys.

Game 1: Less than 12 Monkeys

Um, so things didn't get off to a fantastic start. Apparently, I misclicked during mulligan time and kept a hand with Dreadship Reef as the only mana source. Then I didn't draw another land for the next five turns. Then I got run over by elves. Salt, meet wound.

Total Monkey Count: 0

Game 2: Too Much Monkey Business

Now this is more like it! My opponent was playing a R/W/b Sliver deck, and quickly began stomping me with Cautery, Sinew, and Essence Sliver. I bought a turn with a Remand before trying to stop the bleeding with Stuffy Doll. Unfortunately, Two-Headed Sliver put an end to that plan by making my lonesome Doll unable to block. Turn six, I played a Seething Song and Eye of the Storm and passed the turn. My opponent took the opportunity to bash me down to five life, but didn't manage to do anything to make Eye of the Storm backfire horribly, which is always nice. On my seventh turn, I "went off," playing multiple Telling Times and Seething Songs before finding a Pongify. I proceeded to turn all of the Slivers into Apes, nailed Stuffy for an Ape of my own, and played Rewind on a Sleight of Hand (Rewind on Eye of the Storm pretty much ensures that you'll never run out of mana). Before I could finish the click-fest in fine style, my opponent conceded. That's totally understandable. I was actually taking a long time to go through all of the actions since the F-keys on my laptop are about the size of pin-heads. I apologized for doing so, but it was too late. Ah, well. We'll always have this screen shot:

Total Monkey Count: 5

A Monkey! A Monkey! My Kingdom for a Monkey!

Now, winning with Eye of the Storm is fun. Like, once. The problem is that there is way too much time between the point when victory becomes inevitable and the point when you actually achieve victory. I've played enough times against decks that hope to get Exhaustion on Eye of the Storm and thus prevent you untapping ever again. The win condition is usually something excruciatingly slow, like decking you with forty-five Predicts, and they usually only start down this long and winding road after they've bounced all of your permanents. You know, to be on the safe side.

But, hey, whatever floats your boat. I'm no connoisseur of boat-floating, but I know what I like. And that's making a ton of monkey tokens all in one shot. I suddenly remembered an email I received from Carados. It went a little something like this:

"Ink-Treader Nephilim, Swords to Monkeyshares (Pongify), then Brand. Seriously, turning everything into monkeys, then gaining control of them = FUN!"

Ink-Treader Nephilim

Now there's an Ink-Treader Nephilim combo I can get behind! Unfortunately, Brand isn't available on MTGO – where all the best screen shots are found – so I figured I'd try the next best thing (which is actually nowhere near as good): Peer Pressure. I wouldn't have thought that Apes were vulnerable to peer pressure, but I guess that explains how all those poor chimps end up smoking cigarettes. Or not.

To supplement Ink-Treader Nephilim, I decided to use Radiate. To make sure that there are a ton of creatures in play, I opted for Nature's Revolt. Now you can turn Pongify into Ape-ageddon. Yeah, it'll take a lot of mana to cast Pongify, Peer Pressure, and Radiate in the same turn, but consider what we're doing and how ridiculous it is. Something this dumb takes time. Ape City wasn't built in a day.

To buy the necessary time, I've included Moment's Peace and Isochron Scepter (a "combo" which led to a number of concessions all by itself). If you don't want to wait around for the ten or so mana you'll need to turn everything into Apes all at once, you can just put Pongify on a stick and turn lands into Apes at a much slower rate.

I'm sure there's a better way to build this deck, but here's what I ended up with after a little fiddling:

Game 1: Planet of the Apes

Before I could start my first game with this deck, I was messaged by Fox Murdoch, Johnny extraordinaire and star of The A-Team or The X-Files or some other letter-noun combination. He asked me what I was up to and I said, "Just trying to make some monkeys." Without missing a beat, he replied, "Pongify and Ink-Treader Nephilim?" Sheesh. Is it that obvious?

Fox was playing a B/R Rebels and Friends deck. I managed to hold off his little beaters with a couple copies of Moment's Peace, all the while drawing extra cards with Think Twice on a stick. Eventually, I found an Ink-Treader and a Nature's Revolt. After playing out both cards on consecutive turns, I made a pretty huge blunder. At the beginning of my combat step, Fox played a Midnight Charm on my Ink-Treader, trying to tap it and, consequently, tap all of our other creatures and lands as well. I had the Pongify in hand, but I jumped the gun and played it way too early. Overeager to make make hay while the monkey shines, to monkey-strike while the monkey-iron was hot, I Pongified my Ink-Treader before its Midnight Charm-induced triggered ability resolved. As a result, we all got our monkeys and then they all became tapped by the "radiated" Midnight Charm. D'oh. After that, Fox just untapped all of his Apes and proceeded to crush me. See for yourself:

Total Monkey Count: 24

Game 2: Battle for the Planet of the Apes

My opponent led off this game with a suspended Lotus Bloom and an Island, and followed those with a second-turn Calciform Pools: a sure sign of another one of Timmy's oh-so-cute Dragon theme-decks. The game was rather slow to develop. My poor opponent couldn't catch a break and kept drawing land after land, while I drew cards and gradually set up my unnecessarily complicated monkey-combo.

Once I finally had all the pieces on the board and in hand, I decided to get greedy. After playing Nature's Revolt, I could've Pongified my Ink-Treader right there and then, but I also had Peer Pressure in my hand. I figured giving my opponent one more draw step couldn't hurt. Well, it did hurt, because that last draw gave him the Dragonstorm he needed to go off. I wanted to go out swinging, so in response to a Rite of Flame, I pulled the trigger on the Pongify. It was too little, too late. My opponent floated mana, played Dragonstorm, and I took fifteen to the dome from three Bogardan Hellkites.

The lesson: Don't be greedy! Make Apes now, so you don't die to a bunch of dragons later. I believe that was Confucius.

Total Monkey Count: 19

Game 3: Conquest of the Planet of the Apes

This game started off pretty slowly as well, with my opponent playing some elves, a Wirewood Symbiote, and a Utopia Tree. Things got a little troublesome when a Spectral Force hit the other side of the table. Moment's Peace helped me survive until I could nail ol' Brocolli Head with a Pongify.

Things got even worse when my opponent played Opposition. (Why, oh, why did I cut Teferi's Response and Spellbane Centaur from the deck?) I was behind on creatures, behind on land, and it was becoming pretty obvious that I was behind on winning.

Cue the blaze of glory.

I had played Nature's Revolt on an earlier turn, so when my opponent tried to tap down my lands during my upkeep, I fired off the Pongify + Radiate combo, turning just about everything in play into an Ape. Er, then my opponent tapped all of my permanents with his Ape + Opposition combo and beat me to a pulp the next turn.

Hey, if you're gonna lose, you might as well lose to monkeys. That's what I always say.

Total Monkey Count: 27

Okay, so in a few short games I made seventy monkeys. I would've made more, too, if it wasn't for those meddling kids. Sure, the monkeys revolted and ended up destroying their maker, but what did you expect?

Until next time, have a barrel of fun.

Chris Millar

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