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Building decks with a bit of a kick to them, Johnny-style.

The Birds and the Trees

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The letter W!elcome to Kicker Week! It's the week where you get to put a little extra in and get a little extra out. What I'm trying to say is that I'm taking donations and/or bribes. For a few extra dollars, I'll build you some extra-special decks and try to crack some extra-painful jokes. Like I always say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and I sound like a rusty mouse over here. It's a robotic mouse, presumably.

No takers? Well, I guess I'll build some just plain special decks, then. Let's kick it.

That's Ent-ertainment!

When I'm not playing Magic on Magic Online, I can usually be found playing my (mostly multiplayer) casual games around kitchen tables in what is called, in the parlance of our times, Real Life. Around the tables that I frequent, spells with kicker are commonplace. Given the kinds of tough questions posed in casual games, as well as the largely undefined metagame, the versatility of the kicker cards make them excellent tools for the casual mage. The most popular kicker utility spells in my group are probably Orim's Thunder, Jilt, Probe, Rushing River, and Dismantling Blow, in that order. Agonizing Demise should probably be in that list too, but I can't recall a game in which one was played. Between them, you can answer just about threat, if only temporarily. Of all the cards in Magic that allow you to really turn the tables on your opponent (with Turn the Tables not being one of them, to no one's surprise), two of the top three are in that list. Besides Homelands dream-crusher extraordinaire Broken Visage, I have been wrecked unexpectedly by Orim's Thunder and Jilt more than any other cards. For some reason, I just never see them coming. I should know by now. If I play a Verdant Force using mana from Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary, it's time for a Jilt. The same goes for a Shivan Dragon by way of Dragonspeaker Shaman. If, on the other hand, I'm attacking with a Loxodon Warhammer-wielding elf, you can safely bet that Orim's Thunder will clap, probably sarcastically, as I add two more cards to the bin.

Those five cards are followed closely in popularity by the cycle of Planeshift Battlemages, which appear most often in my friend Greg's Battlemage / Volver / Honden / Domain / Sunburst / Sanctuary deck(s). These guys aren't that intimidating on the board, being as they are mere Gray Ogres, but they sure solve a lot of problems. Just take a look at the list of "Stasis-infused Sol'Kanars" from Aaron's article last Friday: Akroma, Angel of Wrath, Platinum Angel, Kokusho, the Evening Star, Darksteel Colossus, and Simic Sky Swallower. These are tough-to-handle creatures that casual players love, hate, love-to-hate, hate-to-love, and perhaps even love-to-love and hate-to-hate. Well, Sunscape Battlemage answers three of the five, the two angels and Kokusho. Stormscape Battlemage hits both angels. Heck, even Thornscape Battlemage can handle Big Platz. Nightscape Battlemage can deal with a Colossus temporarily. There is probably no better feeling than the one you get after Orim's Thundering a Platinum Angel and nuking Akroma along with it. The only one immune from all Battle-magic is shroud-having Simic Sky Swallower, and what kind of jerk would play one of those?

Of course, bouncing Darksteel Colossus isn't a perfect solution by any means. Perhaps a better solution comes from the latest member of Team Battlemage, Planar Chaos's Ana Battlemage (not to be confused with the nonexistent Anaba Battlemage). The newest kid on the block still allows you to kick it twice and kick it old school. For 2 ManaBlue Mana, you get some of that vintage blue discard. In this case, you get the equivalent of a Fugue, or partial Amnesia. Better still, at least for dealing with our colossal friend, you get a Backlash for 1 ManaBlack Mana. How does 11 to the dome sound, indestructible-boy?

Now, you can't always count on your opponent playing some huge monster for you to Backlash. So why don't we make one for them? We'll need one part Sheltering Ancient, one part Scryb Ranger, and, for all I know, some gumption, moxie, and/or elbow grease. The Ancient pumps up some poor sap who just sits around getting bigger until finally turning on its maker. Since Ana Battlemage can only target untapped creatures, that's where Scryb Ranger comes in.

Sheltering Ancient, besides being Johnny-tacular, is also a Treefolk. Well, it just so happens that the lord and master of all Treefolk is also in Standard and, quite conveniently, has kicker. Verdeloth the Ancient pumps up both Treefolk and Saprolings, and has a kicker cost that allows you to put X saproling tokens into play. The other Treefolk in standard are all fairly solid. Heartwood Storyteller is obviously best in a creature-heavy deck, and with the kicker creatures doing spell impersonations, this deck seems like a good fit. Deadwood Treefolk is also quite spell-like, and Scarwood Treefolk allows you to employ a rope-a-dope strategy alongside Scryb Ranger. Verdeloth's Best Friend Forever, though, has got to be Gauntlet of Power. If you can untap with a Gauntlet in play and a Verdeloth in hand, you will soon be able to flood the board with giant monsters. The deck isn't quite legal in Tribal Wars, but it can easily be tweaked:

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! No, I Was Right the First Time. It's a Bird.

Luckily enough, for all you Johnnies who like to build decks along tribal lines, Verdeloth the Ancient isn't the only "lord" with kicker. There is another! It's neither a bird nor a plane, though it should be the former. Kangee, Aerie Keeper, brainchild of some guy you may have heard of by the name of Rosewater, was to be the heir to Soraya the Falconer's leather-bound throne. Things didn't quite work out as planned, however:

"And in Invasion design, I made that cool bird lord. And then, in development, came the hate. I don't know what the team had against this card (which is odd as I was part of the team) but it was torpedoed like few cards have ever been torpedoed."

Poor Kangee! You really have to be unpopular when you're a measly bird and you're the target of torpedoes. Seems like overkill to me. And he's not even an aquatic bird! That makes it even worse. It's like shooting moon-lasers into the ocean because you don't like shrimp.

"In the end, I was embarrassed as the bird lord I had promised for years finally was printed, and it sucked. Big time. I would later make up for it in the Onslaught block with a number of actually playable bird cards."

Kangee? Sucked? Big time? Sure, it'll cost you seven mana just to make him marginally better than a Wind Drake, and, yeah, practically every removal spell ever made shoots him dead. "Caw, caw," an explosion of feathers, and all that jazz.

I'm not big on besmirching anyone's name, even one as ridiculous as Kangee. So my question is this: "If Kangee sucks so much, how can he part of one of my favourite decks of all time? A deck which I named Keeper, to distinguish it from other decks in Magic history and to show how integral Kangee was to its success?"

This was the deck that earned me a reputation for being the guy whose turns took forever. At the beginning of my upkeep, make a run to the store for more snacks. Or make that pressing phone call. For a while there, I was like the human Shahrazad. When my turn began, subgames would break out because there was time. Hey, what can I say? I like land-fetching and card-drawing and sitting in an impregnable fortress. Who doesn't? If you have a problem with my eventful turn, I invite you to prepare me a sandwich while you wait.

Of course, things have changed. I fetch a little less land than before, and I no longer use Kangee to pump my Ordered Migration tokens. Nowadays, the bird lord who is neither a bird nor a lord has some new friends. Some are from the Azorius guild, like Pride of the Clouds and Dovescape. Others are from the snowy wastes of Coldsnapland, where the umlauts roam free and giants have many pet owls for some reason.

Like the previous deck, the basic goal of this one is to make bird tokens and use Kangee as a quasi-Overrun. The tokens come from Pride of the Clouds, Jotun Owl Keeper, Battle Screech, and Dovescape. Note that Battle Screech is even better when it's countered by Dovescape. Time Spiral timeshiftee Stormscape Familiar reduces the cost of most of your spells. Sawtooth Loon and Keeper of the Nine Gales allow you to reuse your birds' comes-into-play abilities, like those of Sage Owl, Aven Riftwatcher, and Aven Cloudchaser. Seaside Haven lets you recycle your old birds so you can hopefully draw into new ones.

Bog Me Up, Bog Me Down

No jokes, this deck came to me in a dream. What that says about me and my dreams is not important. What is important is that the deck contains arguably one of the Johnniest cards with kicker ever made: Bog Down.

Hey, I said it was arguable, not that it could be successfully argued. Now you're probably asking yourself (or me, I guess) why a tweaked Mind Rot is a Johnny card and how I could possibly build a deck around it. Well, the answer is simple: Lhurgoyfs, Lhurgoyves, Lhurgofu, whatever you want to call them. In particular, the latest in a long line of Hans-killers, Tarmogoyf. Just imagine this scenario:

Turn one: Dryad Arbor.
Turn two: Vault of Whispers, Tarmogoyf.
Turn three: Forest, Bog Down with kicker, sacrificing Dryad Arbor and Vault of Whispers.

Now you've got a creature, an artifact, a land, and a sorcery in your graveyard, making your Tarmogoyf a 4/5 beater. Your opponent probably discarded an instant, a copy of Bound in Silence, and, uh, a planeswalker card, making your Tarmogoyf an 8/9. Not bad for turn three. A cycled Edge of Autumn is another card that will pump up a Tarmogoyf, lickety-split. The same goes for Seal of Doom.

Filling up graveyards with Bog Downs will also pump up Terravore, and with a little luck, Mortivore and the original Lhurgoyf. Since we're in black and green, we might as well use some dredge cards to fill up the bin, like my old pals Stinkweed Imp and Darkblast. With a 'goyf in play and a dredger in the 'yard, you can use Edge of Autumn or a cycling land as a combat trick. Cycle, dredge, pump. You might try to fit some Street Wraiths in there for the same reason. Here's the deck:

Until next time, kick back and relax.

Chris Millar

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