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Annihilating your opponent's creature base in untraditional ways.

Wrathless Wrath

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The letter L!ast week, my column was about mistakes. The message I was trying to get across was “Don't sweat the small stuff.” If you notice an error, well, now you know about it. Isn't that the only person who really needs to know? You know to ignore it, or what the right thing to do is.

Why do I bring this up again? Because that column had three mistakes in it, and I got a ton of mail about it.

Error #1:
In my signoff, I said to “have fun making mistakkes.” See, the word “mistake” itself had a mistake in it. Get it? That's the kind of unfunny metahumor that cracks me up. It also flies right over the head of those people whose metahumor tuner is not aligned to my wavelength. So I got a bunch of email about it.

Error #2:
In my description of the perfect game for the Aggravated Assault-Nature's Will deck, I noted that you want to play a Sakura-Tribe Elder on turn 2, then play Nature's Will and sacrifice the Elder on turn 3. Well, that doesn't work! Nature's Will costs 4 mana. However, either of these plans work instead: 1) Sacrifice the Elder on turn 2 instead of turn 3. That way you do have 4 mana on the third turn. 2) Don't play Nature's Will on turn 3—play Aggravated Assault on turn 3 (it costs 2 ManaRed Mana) and Nature's Will and Shock on turn 4. That works too. When you find a mistake, the next step should be to find the solution to the mistake (which is vastly more useful).

Error #3:
For some reason, Aggravated Assault is not in Gatherer. I don't know why, and in fact I didn't even know about the problem until the article went up. (The web team tells me that there are some minor issues with Gatherer since the Betrayers release and that it's still being worked on.) Anyway, it doesn't come up in the Autocard window. So a ton of people assumed that the card didn't exist—I got the name wrong, or I made it up. That's pretty keen. If you think I'm making up cards to put into my decks (and, presumably, making up readers who send me these decks since this idea didn't come from me)… that shows you've been paying attention! This time, however, you can trust me. Aggravated Assault does exist. You can find it in the Onslaught spoiler. You can find it in Magic Online, which I use as a card-sorting and deckbuilding tool more often than I use Gatherer. Just to prove it, here it is.

Since we don't have the capability to mock up fake cards, you know that's the truth.

Captain Obvious Pops in for Tea

There's one email I've gotten so often since Betrayers of Kamigawa was released that I have to mention it. It's the combo of Heartless Hidetsugu and Overblaze. I'd list the people who sent it in, but that would exceed my word count. Hidetsugu deals damage to each player equal to half that player's life. Overblaze doubles all damage. Double half = whole, so everybody dies. But wait! Hidetsugu rounds down. Anyone who has an even life total will get dealt half that damage twice. Anyone who has an odd life total will get dealt not quite half that damage twice. Your opponent can be at 1,000,000 and you can be at 1, but get the combo off and you win.

Why haven't I mentioned this here? Is it because it's too obvious? Nope. It's because it's written up in the Betrayers of Kamigawa Player's Guide. Why would I write about something that's already been written about? Oh, wait—it's also written up in the Dark Devotion theme deck. In fact, the Dark Devotion theme deck contains the Heartless Hidetsugu-Overblaze combo! You'll pardon me for not jumping on the combos that exist in the theme decks.

<begin shamelessly shilling> For those of you who don't pick up the Fat Pack (which contains the Player's Guide), you're missing out. The Player's Guide has exclusive story and development articles, combos (it also premiered the Raging Goblin-Blazing Shoal x2-Myojin of Infinite Rage x2 combo), and full pictures & text of every single card in the set. <restore dignity> No, seriously, it's cool. I honestly have the Betrayers Players' Guide open in front of me as I'm typing this.

Mr. Clifford Rider, Masterless Samurai

How about an all-Betrayers combo that isn't in the theme decks? Both Adam Zittel and Jeb S. Galicia found a way to achieve total lockdown of your opponent's creatures… in red, not white. Pop Neko-Te on a Ronin Cliffrider and attack. When the Cliffrider attacks, you may have it deal 1 damage to each of your opponent's creatures. (I'm going to suggest you go ahead and do that.) Neko-Te sees all those creatures the Cliffrider damaged, taps them, and refuses to let them be untapped on your opponent's next turn. Now your opponent can block the Cliffrider with… oops. No untapped creatures left. Next turn—and this may sound nuts, but trust me—attack with the Cliffrider again.

Adam went a step farther. It's never enough to just tap down all opposing creatures when you can lock your opponent's lands too. Toss in Nature's Revolt to give yourself a bunch more attackers and to severely shut down your opponent's game.

I put a deck together based around the combo. There's nothing about the Cliffrider-Neko-Te party that Godo, Bandit Warlord doesn't like, and in a green-red Samurai deck, Isao has got to tag along. Some more Samurai, an Oathkeeper, and more stuff that like it when you attack and we're all set.

An interesting consideration is the Talisman of Impulse inclusion. Those could easily be Rampant Growths or Wayfarer's Baubles. The more lands you have, the happier Nature's Revolt is. On the other hand, the more lands you fish out of your deck, the fewer there are to draw, and this deck has its share of 5- and 6-mana spells. I don't know which is better; what you include in your version is up to you.

IMPossible

You know what would be really nasty in the Cliffrider deck? Maddening Imp. Why just tap down your opponnent's creatures forever when you can blow them all up? I'd love to take all the credit for that brilliant idea, so I will.

OK, I was really thinking about Maddening Imp because Travis Martin sent me a Maddening Imp deck. It's old-school (nothing more recent than Onslaught), so for all I know, it came out of a Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar House of Cards deck from two years ago. The key combo is Maddening Imp-Deluge, which acts almost like a Plague Wind. On your opponent's turn, use Maddening Imp's ability. Then play Deluge to tap all non-flying creatures. When your opponent fails to attack with his non-flying, non-Wall creatures, those creatures will be destroyed.

Since you can't build an Imp deck with just one Imp, Travis made it tribal, then threw in the Unnatural Selection-Peer Pressure combo to steal whatever creatures the Maddening Imp trick left standing. And when in doubt, the deck can just go beatdown.

Unnatural Selection (for now, at least) interacts with Maddening Imp to destroy Walls as well. In the sweep through Oracle that changed things that cared about Walls to things that cared about whether a creature has “defender,” the Imp seems to have been overlooked. So Kaijin of the Vanishing Touch is very vulnerable to the Imp. And you can Unnaturally Select your opponent's Walls into Singing-Trees so that the Imp nails them too.

Impwrath

Main Deck

60 cards

Island
Polluted Delta
11  Swamp
Tainted Isle

24 lands

Foul Imp
Maddening Imp
Ravenous Skirge
Tethered Skirge

16 creatures

Deluge
Lurking Skirge
Peer Pressure
Terror
Unnatural Selection
Urza's Incubator

20 other spells


What? No room for Chimney Imp?

Back to Betraying

And now I'm going to loop back to the mistake theme. One of the most frequent mistakes I would get sent when Champions of Kamigawa was new was the Myojin bombo. It's very easy to confuse “playing a creature from your hand” with “putting a creature into play from your hand.” The former means you paid its mana cost and put it on the stack. The latter means you snuck it into play somehow, like with Zombify or Elvish Piper.

The Myojin only get divinity counters if you play them for real. I used to get tons of combos suggesting popping Myojin of Life's Web into play somehow, then removing its counter to pop Myojin of Cleansing Fire and/or Myojin of Infinite Rage into play, then removing their counters to blow up the world. But if you use Myojin of Life's Web to put other Myojin into play, you haven't played them, so they don't have any divinity counters. They're just vanilla creatures. Ever since I wrote about this in The Return of the Attack of the Bombos, those email have stopped.

Which is too bad, because now it works.

That Which Was Taken can add divinity counters (yes, the very same ones) onto your Myojin. Which means you can get out an Elvish Piper, use it to make Myojin of Life's Web magically appear, put a divinity counter on the Myojin, then remove that divinity counter to put any number of other creatures from your hand into play. If some of those other creatures happen to be other Myojin, putting divinity counters on them too isn't such a bad idea!

A word about the confusing nature of counter abilities. Look at Sensei Golden-Tail. Its counter-adding ability specifies that the target creature gets bushido 1 and is a Samurai. Since that's all wrapped up in the same ability, it's true forever after the ability resolves. Sensei Golden-Tail can leave play and it's still true. The counter can leave the creature and it's still true. This is not the case, however, for That Which Was Taken. This artifact has two separate abilities. One adds counters. The other grants an ability to creatures with that type of counter. If That Which Was Taken leaves play, the divinity counters it spread around are suddenly meaningless. An Elvish Piper with a divinity counter is a regular Elvish Piper—it's not indestructible if there isn't anything in play that says “Each permanent with a divinity counter on it is indestructible.” The Myojin are an exception. Each one defines what having a divinity counter on it means, so they'll still be indestructible even if That Which Was Taken leaves play.

What's superfun is to add multiple divinity counters to the same Myojin. Say your Myojin of Cleansing Fire has three divinity counters on it. You can remove a counter to destroy all other creatures and still have it be indestructible twice over. Dare your opponent to play any new creatures.

Until next week, have fun annihilating your opponent's creature base in untraditional ways.
Mark

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