i there, folks! I'll give an obligatory welcome back to my maniacal laboratory before delving into my subject matter today, which for once is clearly spelled out in the title. Usually I have some sort of joke or play on words that relates my topic in some way, but since my topic today is serious business, I went with the relatively up-front choice.
So what's so "serious business" about today? It's simple: Every September, Wizards of the Coast lets loose a new block on the kids. (Yeah, I just said that.) This year, the new block (and this shouldn't be news, since we're currently in the middle of the whopping third preview week for it) is Zendikar, with all the adventuring antics it represents. (Speaking of preview cards, if you came here today hoping for a crazy, combo-y, Johnny-tastic one, check last week's article, and the week before that, as I don't have a preview card this week.)
But as a new block rotates in amongst much hubbub and excitement, a tired and forgotten block that once lived through those very golden days rotates out. Of course, in casual play (which is what I cover), nothing rotates format wise. I'm talking about the rotation of general attention. What I'm basically getting down to is: as Zendikar block becomes all the rage, the Lorwyn and Shadowmoor blocks seem to age.
Have we forgotten the joys and wonders from these sets? For some, perhaps, which is why today I'm taking the time to deliver two hopefully cool decks based around forgotten and rejected rares from this mega-block (which spanned Lorwyn, Morningtide, Shadowmoor, and Eventide.) Along the way, I'll throw in some ideas that didn't make the cut in terms of actual deck lists, but were neat enough to share with the masses. Let's proceed, in chronological order
Lore of Lorwyn
Lorwyn introduced many new "lords" to the game, such as Merrow Reejerey and Imperious Perfect. (For clarification, when I say "lord," I mean it in the broader sense of a creature that gives a benefit to its own type (or sometimes to a different type, such as Airdrop Condor)). Lost in the shuffle of creature types was Shapesharer, which so far is the only creature to meet the criteria of a Shapeshifter lord. Often, this was irrelevant when playing with the block, as all the Shapeshifters happened to be every other type thanks to changeling. I'd like to see, however, a Shapeshifter deck using older Shapeshifters, with Shapesharer leading the charge.
Naya loves it some 5-power creatures. Colfenor's Urn loves it some 4-toughness creatures. Put them together and throw some funky trigger like Where Ancients Tread (ooo!), and you might have the beginnings of something. Maybe Leotaus of the Wild and Woolly variations could make appearances.
On to our first decklist, which actually started with a build-around session concerning a Shadowmoor rare and wound up being a kooky tribal-combo deck. I knew I wanted to make at least one tribal deck for this article, and it turned out to be Clerics. At this point you may have guessed the Morningtide rare I built around: Battletide Alchemist. This Cleric lord is like a permanent bond of reinforcement when other Clerics are around. You may not have guessed the Shadowmoor rare I began this thought process with, though: Order of Whiteclay.
I decided, upon taking a last look at Order of Whiteclay, that I wanted to go infinite with it. It had some of the trademarks of a "going infinite' card, such as bringing creatures back to the battlefield from the graveyard with a possibly repeatable ability. How could I repeat a slightly difficult cost of ", ", though?
My answer began with Cathodion. I looked for any creature with a converted mana cost 3 or less that could sacrifice itself for mana. Basal Sliver could, but it was the wrong color, and I was playing with Clerics, not Slivers! I widened my search to graveyards in general, and found the Mirrodin uncommon combo piece. If I somehow got this Construct to the graveyard, I'd get 3 colorless mana.
To filter colorless mana into white mana, I enlisted Farrelite Priest. Sure, it kills itself after lots of use, but Order of Whiteclay can always bring it back. Now we just need a way to tap the Whiteclay clerics and sacrifice the Cathodion, and if possible at the same time. This answer was probably the least Clerical answer I could have found, but it works (and is hilarious.)
Rakdos Riteknife. If Order of Whiteclay is wielding this scary blade, it can tap and kill your Cathodion, making three mana, two of which can turn into white mana through the Priest, and used to bring back the Cathodion for round two. You're back at square one, except you have a blood counter on the Riteknife, and thus your Order is now a 2/3. Do this until your Order is a 117/3, and swing for the win!
How do I get around blockers? How about a new Cleric I've been dying to use, Jhessian Balmgiver? It's like Samite Archer, but with less arrows and more, um, balm. Plus, this moves me into blue, so I can use the recurrable Drift of Phantasms to find everything! Imagine transmuting for a Cathodion and recurring the Phantasms via the Order to stall!
I need a way to tap down my Order of Whiteclay pre-combo, though. Field Surgeon is a free way, brings yet more damage prevention, and is yet another Cleric! How about Samite-Censer Bearer as an annoying recurable Cleric? Or Samite Guardian? Or Dedicated Martyr? (The other Martyr, the one of Sands, is overused and underfun.) And as stated, Battletide Alchemist weaves everything together. I even threw in a copy of another Cleric lord, Ancestor's Prophet. It also taps Order of Whiteclay for free! I was going to use a generic removal spell like Path to Exile, but I realized that Whipgrass Entangler exists, and I'm pretty sure its never been used. No longer!
I basically covered this one with Order of Whiteclay, so I'll keep this section brief. I have one other idea that's been gnawing at me, and it basically involves playing with Cemetery Puca. I'm pretty sure this card is just slightly broken, but I haven't found a way to make it truly ridiculous. My weird idea was using it to double up on other creatures that also have abilities that trigger when creatures hit the graveyard. Making the Puca a copy of Dross Harvester (potentially abusable) or Soulcatcher (nice, the counters will stay even after a change) could be cool. I'm still musing on how a deck containing all three would work.
Now We're Eventide
Huzzah! Eventide happens to be my favorite of the four sets I talked about today. As such, I have a lot of miniature thoughts on cards from it.
My first idea almost made it into a deck list today, but just missed the cut. I was thinking about something cool to do with Mindwrack Liege in the Standard format. The trouble is, the blue and red Liege costs a hefty six mana, meaning any discount you may have received would be minimal at that point in the game. I was all excited to ramp into it off of a Smokebraider, but was crushed to see that it was a Horror!
Instead, I went with a cooler approach. Play a turn-two Merfolk Looter and follow it up with a turn-three Skill Borrower (easily one of my favorite cards from Shards of Alara block, but that's an article to write a year from now!) On turn four, miraculously have a Mindwrack Liege on top of your library, and put the Borrower's borrowed ability on the stack for . In response, tap the Looter to draw and discard. The Liege is now in your hand. Even though you now have a new top card of your library, the borrowed Liege ability is still on the stack, so it resolves. Plop the newly drawn Liege onto the battlefield off of its own borrowed ability!
Here's another Eventide idea. It involves chroma, a keyword that I wish had made it onto more cards. (It's just so cool!) I would love to build an all-red chroma deck featuring four copies each of Outrage Shaman and Heartleash Cinder, and at least make good use of Fiery Bombardment. Here's another disbelief-suspending turn sequence for you. Turn two, cast the Bombardment. Turn three, cast a morph creature face down. Turn four, flip up Blistering Firecat, attack for 7, and then postcombat sacrifice it to the Bombardment for 3 more damage.
Another creature to use alongside the Bombardment is Dominus of Fealty. Sure, the Spirit Avatar has a mighty five red symbols, but it can also steal opposing creatures. Before you have to give them back, go ahead and sacrifice them to the Bombardment. The enchantment doesn't require the creature to have red symbols; it can be a Witch-Maw Nephilim for all it cares. Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker treads a similar path, making copies of your own creatures for Bombarding (and having three red symbols in a pinch.)
Okay, onto my final deck. It involves the awkward-looking Ward of Bones, which truly is a "grotesque presence." It's expensive, but unlike similar cards such as Damping Engine, it only affects your opponent. The goal with Ward of Bones is obviously to play it in a creatureless deck, dropping it after your opponent has laid down some creatures. Once you do that, he or she won't be able to cast any more creatures! My goal is to do this not only with creatures, but with lands as well.
This means I'll want to be sacrificing lands. The depletion counter lands from Mercadian Masques come to mind. Again with the imaginary turn sequences. Turn one, Sandstone Needle. Turn two, Hickory Woodlot. Turn three, Forbidden Orchard, tap the depletion lands for some four-mana artifact that will win the game (we'll get to that later.) Turn four, any land, tap everything for six mana. Your depletion lands are sacrificed, your opponent has a 1/1 Spirit token, and you use that six mana to drop Ward of Bones. You now have two lands to your opponent's three and zero creatures to his or her one. This means that your opponent is locked out of playing any lands or creatures for the rest of the game! However, to keep this up, you can't either. That's why your third-turn mystery win condition can operate itself and win the game for you. It can be something like Darksteel Reactor, or Millstone, or even an Isochron Scepter with something juicy imprinted on it. Since we have to deal with those 1/1 Spirit tokens, as well as the enchantments my opponent could very well be playing, I took care choosing my instants.
That deck's a bit rough, so if you feel some smoothing is required, go ahead and change it. Howling Gale deals with Orchard tokens as well as life totals. Lammastide Weave is pseudo-milling as well as life gain. Incinerate and Flame Jab are burn, the latter being effective when you can't play lands. Serum Powder is a free mulligan and helps accelerate mana. Crop Rotation and Reap and Sow are admirable in that they both kill your own lands while finding depletion lands. This deck is definitely weird, but hopefully it'll work one time. And when it does, it'll be great.
Until next week!