Inspired Deck Building

Posted in The Week That Was on 2014年 1月 17日

I am flat-out excited about playing with this week's preview card and the mechanic featured on the card. The mechanic is perfectly named to capture the eagerness with which I dove into Gatherer upon seeing this card and knowing that there would be more cards that play in this same sandbox. Let's not waste any more time preambling about the subject at hand and take a look at the newest tool in the deck builder's toolbox.

I love playing around with untapping creatures. Shadowmoor was one of my favorite sets for just that reason and Triton Tactics is just about my number-one combat trick of all time. I can already tell that inspired is going to be shortlisted for my favorite mechanics of the new year. Let's take a quick refresher of how this works courtesy of Kelly Digges.


Creatures with inspired abilities represent the divine inspiration that comes from the world of dreams.

A creature's inspired ability triggers every time the creature becomes untapped. That's normally at the start of your turn, but an inspired ability triggers no matter how or when the creature untaps. The simplest way to get these creatures tapped is to attack with them, but this set also contains many cards that let you tap your creatures in other ways.

If multiple inspired abilities you control go on the stack at the same time, you get to decide in what order to put them on the stack. (The last one you add to the stack will resolve first, as usual.) Inspired abilities that trigger during the untap step are all put onto the stack as the upkeep step begins, at the same time as "at the beginning of your upkeep" triggers. You put your inspired triggers and upkeep triggers on the stack all at once, in any order you wish.

So what can we do with this card? Let's just take it at first glance and look at it in Limited, when you will playing with cards from both Theros and Born of the Gods. In the following scenario, you have played a turn-three Two-Headed Cerberus and a Felhide Spiritbinder on the following turn. At the start of turn five you will not be able to untap your Felhide Spiritbinder, barring some misplay by your opponent. Your opponent chooses not to block either of your attackers and you play an Island. Can your opponent even risk an attack in? Can you imagine what happens with a Triton Tactics here?

You get to untap both your creatures and with that get a trigger from the Felhide Spiritbinder that lets you pay 1 ManaRed Mana and get a copy of your Cerberus or any creature your opponent controls. You get to untap two creatures and a virtual third creature. With a Spiritbinder in play, Tactics gets upgraded from "certified blowout" to the "bloodbath waiting to happen" category. Without even leaving the Draft environment you can add Savage Surge to the list of cards that become terrifying with the threat of suddenly untapping a 5/6 Minotaur Shaman and a token copy of the best other creature on the board.

What about combiinng both godly mechanics from across the two sets? Just untapping your Felhide Spiritbinder for your turn becomes a harrowing experience for your opponent. For just a meager two mana, you get an extra hasty attacker, but what happens if you are copying one of your devotion creatures? Just in red/black you can put a copy of Fanatic of Mogis or Gray Merchant of Asphodel as an additional attacker, but one that also triggers upon entering the battlefield—on top of having already taken a chunk of your opponent's life total when you played the original. If you open a Felhide Spiritbinder in your first pack of Born of the Gods/Theros drafting, you are going to want to have creature like these, which have an impact on the game when they—or their token doppelgangers—enter the battlefield, at the top of your wish list as you open the subsequent packs.

Mogis's Marauders—assuming you have enough black mana symbols on the board to make it worthwhile—is a fine card to copy as you untap, giving you a couple of hard-to-answer all-in attacks, thanks to its intimidating ability.

What if we combined all the factors on this card into the equation—and this could apply to Limited or Block Constructed at this point—and mobilized the Minotaur tribe? Remember the earlier scenario where our three-drop was just a Two-Headed Cerberus? How about swapping that out for a Rageblood Shaman? We drop that on turn three and Spiritbinder on four. On turn five, we get to untap and copy a Rageblood Shaman for two mana and, if we play a land and a Minotaur Skullcleaver, we can muster 11 points of trampling Minotaurs that turn.

In the immortal words of Marshall Sutcliffe, "Gross!"

Kragma Warcaller also plays nicely in this deck, with a copy of the gold uncommon giving all your Minotaurs +4/+0 when attacking. Honestly, I am pretty happy if I untap and copy a Minotaur Skullcleaver. When you add in the added bonus from Fanatic of Mogis I would not be the least bit surprised to see a tribal Minotaur deck when Pro Tour Journey to Nyx rolls around.

Looking back further into the card pool, there are a number of cards that will play well with Felhide Spiritbinder—not surprisingly, you find yourself looking to the Izzet guild for ways to experiment with this card and its new mechanic. Ral Zarek has been hanging out on the sidelines of Standard since he was printed and it seems likely that Born of the Gods will inspire some deck builders to give him a whirl, with creatures like the Minotaur Shaman who is front and center today.

In addition to Ral Zarek's tap/untap +1 ability, you also get the aforementioned Triton Tactics and the almost-never-played Puppet Strings as a recurring way to tap and/or untap your creatures with inspired. Assuming you are playing with Spiritbinder what are the creatures you want to copy with its ability?

Dinrova Horror seems like a terrifying target for a Grixis Commander deck to start copying but will probably be priced out of competitive play in sixty-card formats. Similarly expensive but certainly tantalizing is the Foundry Champion. Gray Merchant, Fanatic of Mogis, and Mogis's Marauders probably remain on the top of the list in Standard. Burning-Tree Emissary is an interesting option—assuming you can find something useful to do with the two mana you get back when the copy enters the battlefield.

Creatures that make it difficult for your opponent to muster any kind of defense serve a dual purpose. Goblin Shortcutter, Leonin Snarecaster, and Banisher Priest are all going to give your opponent fits when you untap and make a copy of them. One of the reasons I like these cards in combination is that first time you cast them, you allow for your Felhide Spiritmender to be able to attack without fear of blockers and to be in the horizontal position in order to untap to do it all over on the next turn.

The further you go back into the card pool, the more exciting the options are for copying a creature. Looking back through the Modern card pool, you find "fun" stuff like Fulminator Mage and Anathemancer, which punish your opponents for playing nonbasic lands—you also get Avalanche Riders, which punishes them for having lands, for that matter. Just because you exile the token creature at the end of the turn doesn't mean you need to adhere to the letter of the law. Creatures that let you sacrifice them for a useful ability are always going to be prime targets for this ability. Think Augur of Skulls, Mogg Fanatic, or Ember Hauler as prime examples.

I cannot wait to play with Felhide Spiritmender in drafts, Block Constructed, Standard, and Commander. And I look forward to see what other inspiring creations are lurking in the wings, waiting to be Born of the Gods at my Prerelease.

 Player of the Month: December (#MTGPoM)

Pro Tour Hall of Famer William "Huey" Jensen is the December Player of the Month, based on his two Grand Prix Top 4 finishes during the month. He edged out Seth Manfield, who made the Top 8 of the same two Grand Prix but finished one rung lower in each of the brackets. Leading up to and continuing on after his Hall of Fame induction, Jensen has been playing Magic at the rate of players half his age. He played in more matches of December Magic than multiple permutations of Hall of Famers played in the entire year.

With his win in December, each member of the so-called Peach Garden Oath Brothers—Reid Duke in September and Owen Turtenwald in November—has won the title and all three seem certain to be included in more of these discussions in the coming months.

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