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Breaking the Mold

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The letter W!elcome, Johnnies. It's not every day that a particular card inspires a whole bunch of readers to build crazy decks. Often when that happens, the decks end up being riffs on the same basic concept. I'm looking at you, Ink-Treader Nephilim. So it's even rarer when a card inspires crazy decks that are both wild and wildly different. The card I'm going to look at today is one such card. It's flying pretty far under the radar right now, so you won't have to pay an arm and a leg for a playset. Just a leg will do.

Throughout the years, there have been many cards that turned lands into creatures. Nature's Revolt, Rude Awakening, and Living Lands prove that sometimes even Gaea herself wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and wants to take out her frustrations on whoever happens to be nearby. Much rarer, so rare as to be non-existent, are cards that turn creatures into lands. Perhaps the closest thing we've got is Citanul Hierophants, which turns all of your creatures into Llanowar Elves. Since turning creatures into lands is rare and strange, it might be wise to take a look the Planar Chaos FAQ entry for Life and Limb. Looking at FAQs is something I do on a regular basis, and it often helps me figure out what I should do, or more importantly, not do with a particular card. Here it is:

* Each Forest and Saproling will have the card types creature and land, and the subtypes Forest and Saproling. Each subtype maintains its correlation to the proper type: Forest is not a creature type and Saproling is not a land type.

* When Life and Limb leaves play, the effect ends and the permanents go back to what they were (unless another effect grants these card types and/or subtypes to the affected permanents).

* Forests that come into play while Life and Limb is in play will come into play as creatures. They'll have summoning sickness.

* Saprolings that are in play while Life and Limb is in play have the ability "{T}: Add {G} to your mana pool." Although they're Forests, they are not basic lands.

* With Life and Limb in play, Mistform Ultimus will be a legendary 1/1 green land creature that has land type Forest and has all creature types.

The important thing to note is that your forests will have summoning sickness, so you won't be able to tap them for mana the turn they come into play. It's also nice to see Mistform Ultimus get its comeuppance. A Mutant Ninja Forest is not very cool.

Fungal in the Jungle

The genesis of this column came from an email I got from Brendan, wielder of silly kitchen utensils, known in the forums as SporkMaster5000. The email began, "I'm writing to you about an awesome card from Planar Chaos: Life and Limb. As soon as I saw it, I thought, "Stupid things will come from this card." And by "stupid," Brendan meant extremely cool and (potentially) ridiculously powerful. The rest of his email was a laundry list of cards of that interact well with Life and Limb. Here's a dramatic re-enactment of the list. The names of the participants have not been changed, in order to give you lots of ideas.

1. Supply (of Supply//Demand fame). The simplest way to turn Life and Limb on its head, Supply becomes like a one-sided New Frontiers. The first Supply gives you X tokens, the second one gives you (at least) 2X tokens, since you can tap the first batch of Saprolings for mana, the third one gives you 3X tokens, and so on. You really get to put the algae back into algebra. Of course, Supply isn't the only gold card that makes swarms of mobile mold-men. Invasion block had a "cycle" of cards that combined green's love of tokens with the four other colours' love of dealing with opponent's permanents. Aether Mutation, Aura Mutation, Artifact Mutation, and Death Mutation are all pretty decent (at least the first three), but they get pretty ridiculous when they also act as mana-acceleration.

2. Beacon of Creation. As Brendan says, "Oh, if only it made Saprolings!" Even though it doesn't make the right kind of tokens, it still works very well in conjunction with Life and Limb and other cards that make Saprolings since the tokens count as Forests. Waiting in the Weeds is another such card.

3. Saproling Symbiosis. Brendan puts it best, "This is possibly the greatest one of all. Play it, recur it, play it again. All of your lands count as creatures, so you don't even need any other Saproling production before you play it." Once you do, you can start growing your Saprolings exponentially, doubling them each time you can play Saproling Symbiosis. Panoptic Mirror, Eternal Witness, Restock, Recollect, and Revive will allow you to keep replaying Symbiosis.

4. Crop Rotation, Harrow, and Gaea's Balance. "Not as degenerate as using Saprolings to make more Saprolings, but saccing a token to either fetch any land or two basics is a pretty sweet deal. Gaea's Balance lets you sac five tokens for one of each dual and a forest. Awesome? Yes." Agreed. I like the idea of blocking with a Saproling, putting damage on the stack, and then sacrificing the token to Harrow.

5. Mass haste. As I mentioned above, all of your Forests will be creatures when they come into play, and as a result they will all be down with the "summoning sickness." If you have something in play that gives all of your creatures haste, like Concordant Crossroads, Mass Hysteria, Fires of Yavimaya, Fervor, or a binned Anger, you will be able to tap your Forest/Saprolings the turn they come into play. This enables some extremely explosive turns, involving, say, multiple Saproling Symbiosis's followed by, in Brendan's words, a "Fireball for a lot."

6. Gruul Guildmage. Since all of your Saproling tokens count as Forests (and, therefore, as lands), the Guildmage can turn them all into four-mana Shocks. Something to keep in mind is that any card that lets you sacrifice lands will allow you to sacrifice Saprolings as well once you have a Life and Limb in play. Among these are cards that let you sacrifice Forests, including Dark Heart of the Wood (for life), Heartwood Giant (for damage), Goblin Clearcutter and Orcish Lumberjack (for mana), and Foratog (for atog-pumping).

7. Earth Surge. Pairing Life and Limb with Earth Surge was also suggested to me by Nafthali Weiss, and it's definitely a marriage made in leaven. It gives all lands +2/+2, and since your Saprolings become lands with Life and Limb, it pumps them, too. Another way to pump your lands (out of Pyroclasm range, say) is Coat of Arms. Most mass land-animators, like the aforementioned Nature's Revolt and Rude Awakening, don't give your lands a creature type, so they are unaffected by Coat of Arms. Not the case with Life and Limb.

8. */*s. There are a number of creatures whose power, toughness, or both are determined by the number of Forests (or lands) you have in play. Brendan mentioned several of them, including Traproot Kami, Uktabi Wildcats, Treefolk Seedlings, Coiling Woodwurm, Allosaurus Rider, and Molimo, Maro-Sorcerer. Many of these creatures are excellent even without the added boost from all of your Saprolings. Other cards that fit in include auras like Blanchwood Armor and Aspect of Wolf, an old-school "favourite" like People of the Woods, and Tangle Golem, whose affinity for Forests is matched only by his love of fungus.

9. Budoka Gardener. Similar to the previous group of cards, Budoka Gardener loves it when there are tons of lands in play. It needs ten to flip, but with Life and Limb you can count your saproling tokens towards that total. Once flipped, the Gardener can begin to make X/X Elementals, where X is equal to the number of Forests and Saproling tokens you control.

10. Fruition, Joyous Respite. The former gains you life equal to the number of Forests in play, while the latter gains you life equal to the number of lands you control. With Life and Limb turning all Saprolings into lands, you will be able to gain more life than you can shake a shiitake at.

As Brendan acknowledged, that's just the tip of the ol' iceberg. There are many, many more cards to consider for your Life and Limb decks - cards like Gaea's Cradle, Vernal Bloom, Patron of the Orochi, Crash Landing, Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary, and Doubling Season. That's just off the top of my head, which is where I like to keep most of my ideas. Right next to the gray hairs.

Using several of these ideas is a slightly tweaked version of the decklist Brendan sent me. Compared to the next two decks, this one's pretty straightforward, but still enormously fun. You just make zillions of tokens, pump them with some combination of Thelonite Hermit, Verdeloth the Ancient, Nemata, Grove Guardian, and Tolsimir Wolfblood, and overload your opponent's defenses with your army of animated athlete's foot.

Play that Fungi Music

The next deck comes from AJ Impy, a.k.a. AJ Richardson, who took Life and Limb and, uh, branched out into even weirder territory. As he writes, "I was looking through the Planar Chaos cardlist looking for things to break when Life and Limb grabbed me by the shoulders and violently shook me." Ouch! "It makes Saprolings into Forests and vice versa, but that's merely the starting point. Throw in a Conspiracy or an Artificial Evolution, and all your creatures can be lands!"

With this idea as a starting point, AJ asked himself, "How can this be put to good, or at least insanely amusing, use?" Well, here's what he came up with, in list form:

1. Since all of your creatures will become 1/1 Forest saprolings, "Vesuva becomes an uncounterable free Clone." Yes, you are just cloning 1/1's … for now. Keep reading.

2. The second thing AJ notes is that his land/creatures "gain unfair immunity to a wide range of global effects and mass bounce. Thanks to that lovely 'nonland' clause, Engineered Explosives become remarkably one-sided, Granulate can't touch our artifact creatures, Culling Scales goes looking elsewhere to destroy the weak, Oblivion Stone and Plague Boiler just don't want to know. Leyline of Singularity lets us have as many duplicates as we want." Although O-Stone and Plague Boiler will also take out Life and Limb when they blow, you will still get to keep your creatures due to some rule that probably exists.

3. "Magus of the Candelabra can untap himself as well as a bunch of lands."

4. "It should be noted this also makes our creatures into 1/1s, but this, too, can be to our advantage. After all, 1/1 is strictly better than 0/0, so all the Judgment Spirits, Darksteel Arcbounds and Simic Grafters will have a field day. If you want to get really silly, Spinal Parasite would jump at the chance to be a 1/1." Basically, the creatures will be 1/1s, but they'll still come into play with the same amount of counters they normally would. Phantom Wurm is particularly saucy here, since it will still prevent all damage dealt to it even when it runs out counters to remove. Normally, it will be a 0/0 at this point and be forced into the grumper because of those pesky state-based effects, but Life and Limb gives it a base power and toughness of 1/1.

Here's a variation on AJ's decklist. It's pretty rough, but it's chock full of neat ideas that you can massage into something more to your liking.

Conspiracy of Leaves

Got Mold?

Meanwhile, another wacky Magician by the name of Dom (a.k.a. Bateleur) was not content to merely make an absurd amount of tokens or do whatever it is that AJ did. His deck has no Forests and no way to make Saproling tokens. Forget the Thelonite Hermits, Dom's deck is all about the Recluses. He writes, "Just wanted to send you a quick email because I bet you're thinking what I'm thinking: It's really about time they banned Kavu Recluse in Extended. I think everyone agrees that Gray Ogre is fair and balanced, but reprinting it and then adding 'Tap: Destroy target land' really was a little over the top. Of course, I can see why R&D didn't spot this terrible mistake, because the deck didn't become viable until they printed Life and Limb in Planar Chaos..."

Admittedly, I had to look up Kavu Recluse. I'm pretty sure that it's primary use up til now was either as a limited mana-fixer or as something to put into the spokes of your ten-speed to make it sound like a Harley. It's like a poor man's Gaea's Liege, with horns instead of antlers. The ability to destroy lands was nowhere to be seen, however. Dom explains, "The basic idea is to use Life and Limb in a deck with no Forests and no Saprolings. What could be more natural? And then to use Unnatural Selection (what could be less natural?) to turn other people's creatures into Saprolings. Engineered Plague is only in there to stop their Saprolings getting too frisky. Or their Forests. The Kavu Recluse gets round the problem of those annoying opponents who play lands which aren't Forests."

Once you get Life and Limb, Unnatural Selection, and Engineered Plague (set to Saproling) on the board, you can start destroying creatures at will. Turn them into Saprolings, and they'll become 1/1s that get -1/-1. I'm no math major, but that makes them dead. This also completely wrecks people playing with lots of Forests, and as Dom says, if they aren't, you can bring your Recluse out of hiding and turn it into a land-destruction machine.

Dom continues, "Because the deck pretty much requires Sterling Grove to function properly I've added a toolbox of entertaining Enchantments in some of the deck's spare slots. Obviously there are more sensible choices for these slots, but trying too hard to optimize this deck first turns it into a Honden deck. Then you end up adding a Life from the Loam plus cycling engine and before you know it, you're boring opponents to death."

I am in complete agreement. As far as I'm concerned, destroying even a single land with Kavu freakin' Recluse will make the whole thing worthwhile.

Until next time, have fun with fungus, but spore me the details.

Chris Millar

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