House_of_Cards

Common knowledge is rarely applied to uncommon situations.

Gold, Silver, and Black

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The letter W!elcome to my humble abode! It's made of cards, as you can see, so the "humble" part kind of goes without saying. Cards are not the most durable building material of all time.

While you can't really build a house with cards, you can certainly build a deck, which is, coincidentally, what I'm going to do now. Right after I spritz myself with my experimental chunky-style perfume. (It really puts me in the deckbuilding mood.)

It's not a theme week, but I decided that this week's column would have a tacked-on, completely arbitrary theme that I came up with at the last minute. I'm going to build decks around three different cards: one rare, one uncommon, and one common. Before I do that, however, I'm going to kick things off with arguably the worst play on words of all time. Here goes.

Akroma, Is Statue?

It's been awhile since Akroma Week. If you can remember back that far, roughly a dozen moons ago, you'll no doubt recall that it was a theme beloved by all, a unanimous hit, an unqualified success. People just couldn't get enough of Akroma and Akroma-related combos. Not content to trot out old favourites like Akroma, Angel of Wrath + Explosive Vegetation (the Illusions-Donate of Onslaught block), I MacGyver'd some Akromas from simple household materials like Magic cards. Back in those days, you could fashion angels of wrath from iron Orgg and discarded Incarnations, or from plaster of Opalescence. But the times, they done changed.

Little did I know that there was a one-card combo coming down the pipeline that would accomplish the exact same thing. Call it fate, call it sheer dumb luck, either way it seems like I was slightly ahead of my time. With the addition of Akroma's Memorial to Johnny's bag of tricks, you need to jump through about 19 fewer hoops to turn a humble Vizzerdrix into the mighty Akroma, Angel of Wrath.

The existence of a Memorial suggests that, in the future, Akroma will be dead. Perhaps she'll just have her jersey retired. I don't know. For that kind of information, you'll have to ask a Vorthos Spike. I'm sure you could find one of those at your local hardware store. In any case, someone erected a statue of the Angel of Wrath and/or Fury in the square outside Akroma Stadium. It's a lovely statue and it gives all of your creatures all of Akroma's snappy rules text. You just have to come up with the reminder text yourself.

I was somewhat disappointed to learn that Akroma's Memorial didn't end up being part of a cycle. To remedy this unfortunate situation, from now on I'm going to refer to Gruul War Plow as Iwamori's Memorial, Bubble Matrix will be Cho-Manno's Memorial, Ankh of Mishra will be christened Zo-Zu's Memorial, Charcoal Diamond will be known as Riven Turnbull's Memorial, and a blank piece of paper will be Sir Shandlar of Eberyn's Memorial. Could you ask for a better tribute?

Akroma's Memorial has a mana cost that chronic dictionary users might call "exorbitant." Those less familiar with the usefulness of dictionaries might say that it has an "absorbent" mana cost, but I won't (will) hold it against them. No matter what you call it, seven is a lot of mana to pay. For that much mana, I need the card to win me the game roughly 130% of the time all by itself. Akroma's Memorial just can't do that, unless you do something crazy like turn it into a creature with a card like March of the Machines. But who would want to do that?

Uh, I would.

Now, imagine you have Akroma's Memorial and March of the Machines in play. Not only are you randomly hosing your Artifact Land-playing opponent, but you also have a 7/7 version of Akroma, Angel of Wrath that dies to Disenchant, Naturalize, Creeping Mold, and the ever-resourceful Scavenger Folk. Yikes! That's a bit of a weakness. If only your pewter Akroma figurine couldn't be destroyed. If only it was undestroyable. Well, that's an easy fix. Just add Darksteel Forge! For a measly  ManaBlue Mana, you can have a 7/7 Akroma and a 9/9 Akroma, both of which are indestructible. Of course, twenty mana is a lot. It's surprisingly more than seven. If you're going to pay that much you should win 400% of the time. While my Timmy-half generally approves of such unbridled overkill, my Spike-half knows that this plan is just not feasible. Luckily, my Johnny-half came up with a way to cheat all of these expensive artifacts into play, while my Melvin-half complained that I can't be divided into four halves.

What I decided to do was to use Magus of the Bazaar, Thirst for Knowledge, and Mindless Automaton to fill up my graveyard with high-cost artifacts like Darksteel Forge, Mycosynth Lattice, Planar Portal, Summoning Station, Aladdin's Ring, and a single Akroma's Memorial. At some point I would play March of the Machines and randomly hose the guy playing Affinity. With everything in place, I would bust out a Roar of Reclamation to return all of those artifacts to play. March makes them creatures and Akroma's Memorial makes them Akromas and attacking makes you win the game (hopefully). Just make sure you don't have two or more Memorials in the grumper before you fire off the Roar of Reclamation. That pesky "Legend rule" will thwart all of your well-laid plans.

I'm particularly fond of combining Akroma's Memorial with Summoning Station, which allows you to pump out little Pincher Tokens of Wrath every turn. Meanwhile, Epochrasite is an early speed-bump that becomes a 4/4 when you return it with Roar of Reclamation. Just in case you don't feel comfortable relying on the Roar plan, I added the famed Urza-tron to the deck. Serum Visions and the transmutable Tolaria West should help with the required 'tron assembly, and once put together you ought to be able to hardcast your pricey trinkets.

Asking 2 ManaBlue Mana Aura Best Offer

Akroma's Memorial gives all of your creatures seven keyword abilities. The next card I'm going to look at gives one of your creatures one of those abilities. The card is Arcanum Wings, and it's notable for being twice as expensive as one of the worst cards with a zebra in the artwork ever made: Flight. Why the price-hike? Is it because of the name-brand label? Who wants to be the lamoid zebra wearing plain old Flight, when all the cool kids are decked out in Arcanum Wings? I'm sure that at least partially explains the cost increase. The main reason, though, is that funky little keyword: aura swap. The name is a little confusing, so allow me to explain: aura swap is an activated ability that allows you to trade (or "swap," if you will) an Arcanum Wings that's in play for an "aura" in your hand. You could trade it for a Flight if you want, but you're better off trading it for something a little more impressive, something a little more expensive, something with a few more syllables, something like Flight of Fancy. There are plenty of such auras in Standard that you don't even have to turn to such behemoth-makers as Mythic Proportions. This is precisely what Evan Landers did before he sent me his Standard legal green-blue Aura toolbox deck.

It's always nice to get your auras at a discount, and Evan traded his designer Wings for a pair of fungal fat-pants like Verdant Embrace and some, uh, life-saving pants like Fool's Demise (a nice thing to trade for in response to removal). I added some other high-priced auras like Shape of the Wiitigo and Take Possession. As Evan says, "Besides the tried and true combo of Simic Guildmage + Shielding Plax, this deck contains many interesting Aura combos." Quiet Disrepair and Fool's Demise will allow you steal artifact or enchantment creatures. Reality Acid does much the same thing without being so limited. Paradox Haze speeds up your Reality Acids, doubles the saproling production of Verdant Embrace, and doubles your life-gain with Quiet Disrepair. Verduran Enchantress draws you cards and Dowsing Shaman regrows your spent auras.

I made a few extra modifications to Evan's deck. The deck is less focused than it could be, but I wanted to jam as many ideas into it as I could to give everyone a glimpse of the various paths you could go down. The first thing I did was add Zur's Weirding, which combines with Quiet Disrepair's life-gain to deny your opponent any further draws. I then added some Bramble Elementals, which turn into fungus factories with any auras, and evasive fungus factories with Arcanum Wings. I also liked Mark Gottlieb's Arcanum Wings + Shape of the Wiitigo + Cloudstone Curio combo from Monday, and since I was already using two-thirds of those cards, I shoehorned a Curio into the deck as well.

There's a lot going on here, but that just makes it easier to make the concept your own.

What on Earth is an Ignus?

I would've called him Philip Firefingers myself. I guess I still can. While I don't know how Grinning Ignus got its name (at least the Ignus part), I know what it is: a storm enabler and the first cog in some kind of mana engine. Noel deCordova agrees with me, or more accurately, I agree with him. After scouring the spoiler and finding no inspiration from Future Sight's non-Legendary rares, Noel wrote: "I guess I inhaled too much exhaust from Ben Bleiweiss's evil rare-grubbing robot Boab that day, because not all combos need rares, right?" That's right. Combos like this unlikely tag-team certainly don't:

 

A snow creature teaming up with Philip Firefingers? This will not end well...for your opponent. As Noel explains, "With those two in play (the centaur tapped) pay 2 ManaRed Mana and return ol' Iggy to your hand. You make 2 ManaRed Mana. The centaur lets you pay less for creatures, so pay Red Mana (to play Iggy) and you're back at the beginning! One red mana = two colourless mana."

With all of this mana, and with such a high spell count for the turn, you can use any number of win conditions. Noel chose Lightning Serpent (which also benefits from the Omenreader's cost-reducing), Molten Disaster (which can also be used to sweep the board in a pinch), and Empty the Warrens. Gauntlet of Power (set to red) facilitates the replaying of the Ignus, powers up your Goblin tokens, and puts your X spells in lethal-range in the absence of the Ignus engine. Haze of Rage is another nice mana sink, especially if you have an army of Goblins in play.

In this week's feature article, one of the many Magos mentioned that you could use Ocular Halo to turn your centaur sideways without risking it in an attack. Noel used Utopia Vow to similar ends. You can also tap an Omenreader to convoke out one of the Chord of Callings. Might I recommend searching for Grinning Ignus?

Finally, Noel takes care of perhaps the most important detail of all: the deck's name: "Traditionally, a deck like this had a Ball somewhere in its name (a nod to Fireball.) ElfBall. GoblinBall. AtogBall (Don't ask.) So without further ado," here's the deck:

As with the previous deck, this one is infinitely modifiable. So have fun with it. Don't let the Ignii be the only ones grinning.

Until next time, have fun with rares, uncommons, or commons.

Chris Millar

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