Decorating the Christmas tree

It’s almost Christmas and you know what that is all about: magic, trees and surprises. In the nature of this special holiday I have exactly these three aspects of it wrapped into a present. The deck I want to discuss is all about decorated trees, just like Christmas, but I’m slowly going to unwrap this present for you.

The wrapping

This deck is like a present, so I’m not going to tell what it is, we have to unwrap it first, starting with e start the outside of the package. This package is all wrapped up in green and red, the Christmas colours, so Forests and Mountains. The deck is mostly green and only needs a little red, but it also has some non-basic lands, i.e. 3 Skarrg, the Rage Pits and 3 Mosswort Bridge. This might indicate that there are creatures that want a little boost and trample and that the deck can easily gather 10 points of power among the creatures it plays, but I’m not going to tell…

3 Mosswort Bridge
3 Skarrg, the Rage Pits
10 Forest
5 Mountain

The box

Now we get to the shell of the deck. The core. The basis. But we still don’t know exactly what’s in there. We see 4 Arbor Elf, 4 Magus of the Candelabra, 4 Utopia Sprawl and 4 Overgrowth. Apparently this deck wants to ramp quickly by untapping a Forest enchanted with either Utopia Sprawl and/or Overgrowth. Talking about decorated trees…

4 Arbor Elf
4 Magus of the Candelabra

4 Utopia Sprawl
4 Overgrowth

3 Mossworth Bridge
3 Skarrg, the Rage Pits
10 Forest
5 Mountain

The present

We open the box and what do we see there? It is a playset of Tooth and Nail! Now we know what all the mana ramp cards are for: playing an entwined Tooth and Nail and busting out two big creatures. If there are big creatures in the deck of course.

But there is more. 4 Rhythm of the Wild and a Tuktuk Rubblefort give all my creatures haste. That could be really strong with an entwined Tooth and Nail bringing two big beasts into play. There are big creatures in there, right?

Ok, 1 Eternal Witness is probably there to be able to recycle a Tooth and Nail. 4 Harmonize can help find Tooth and Nail, Rhythm of the Wild or more Utopia Sprawls/Overgrowths if needed. 1 Greater Good is probably there for the same purpose. But these are only really good with big creatures. Come on, bring the beatsticks! Free the fatties!

The real treat

On the bottom of the box comes the thing everyone was waiting for. First up we see a God-Eternal Rhonas to double the power of the coming army. We see an Etali, Primal Storm, able to steal some thunder and/or creatures from your opponents, while being a sturdy 6/6 itself. Unfortunately it doesn’t have evasion itself, but a Skarrg, the Rage Pits can help with this.

Next up is a Flameblast Dragon, able to soar the sky and when it attacks, it can shoot a Fireball at any target. The multitude of ramp in the deck can really help to take out a big blocker on the other side of the table or to burn on of your opponents out of the game.

The all star line-up continues with a Sylvan Primordial. It can block pesky flyers coming your way and take out permanents that hinder you when it comes into play. It can even take out lands, which can be good early in the game, when you are the only one with enough mana to play things. I would not recommend this though, it often makes you a premium target in the next game or even the entire evening. Land destruction is not fun.

Finishing big

However sweet these biggies are, they are little compared with a single Ghalta, Primal Hunger and Worldspine Wurm. In most cases, these are the creatures you want to bring out with your Tooth and Nail. But wait, there’s more!

In a multiplayer game there are more than just one opponent, so you want the power to end all your opponents quickly. Enter Caller of the Pack. This creature makes copies of itself whenever it attacks for each opponent minus the opponent that you attack with Caller of the Pack. At the end of the turn the tokens disappear, but when you have Greater Good out, you can sacrifice them for some extra cards before they leave play. If you want to be really fancy, you can pair the Caller with Pandemonium, attack and deal a lot of damage just with the tokens. Dropping a Pandemonium will often make you target number one at the table, I found out.

All combined it makes this nice deck for the holidays. It comes out of the gate really fast with the mana ramping and beats hard with all the big creatures in the deck that get haste from the Rhythm of the Wild. It is really fun to beat down your opponents with a Ghalta, Primal Hunger and Worldspine Wurm on turn four. Share the beats this Christmas and see you at the next sixty!

RG Mother Mayhem
4 Arbor Elves
4 Magus of the Candelabra
1 Eternal Witness
1 Tuktuk Rubblefort
1 God-Eternal Rhonas
1 Etali, Primal Storm
1 Flameblast Dragon
2 Caller of the Pack
1 Sylvan Primordial
1 Worldspine Wurm
1 Ghalta, Primal Hunger
4 Utopia Sprawl
4 Overgrowth
4 Rhythm of the Wild
4 Harmonize
1 Greater Good
4 Tooth and Nail

3 Mosswort Bridge
3 Skarrg, the Rage Pits
10 Forest
5 Mountain

Blaming the Nectarpot he’s black

Why would anyone do that? Kazandu Nectarpot is obviously green! There is no reason why one could ever call it black. Unless…

Kazandu Nectarpot was one of the cards that interested me a lot when opening my Zendikar Rising Bundle. The card itself is not that special – gaining a life when a land comes into play, we’ve seen that before, Jaddi Offshoot. It was the frame that appealed to me. Of course, just an attractive and awesome new frame does not make a card good.

From gaining to draining

No, it was another card in the set that got my synergy alarms ringing. Marauding Blight-Priest makes your opponents lose a life when you gain a life. In case you missed it, the Nectarpot lets you gain a life when a land enters the battlefield under your control. So with both cards out, every land entering the battlefield under your control drains a life from all your opponents. Do this twenty times and you are twenty life up. More importantly, your opponents are twenty life down and in a regular game of Magic, they are dead.

Getting twenty land into play is not an easy job, but that is only one way to trigger the Blight-Priest with the Nectarpot. Earlier I mentioned the cousin of the Nectarpot Jaddi Offshoot. With both out every land that comes into play under your control triggers the Priest twice, thus cutting the number of lands you have to get into play by half, so ten lands. But that is still too much for my taste.

The land is the life

The Nectarpot and the Offshoot already reward me for playing Magic with their landfall ability, but I want more of this. Essence Warden lets me gain life when creatures come into play, providing another way to trigger the Blight-Priest. With the Warden out, the Blight-Priest can even trigger itself. When you have an Essence Warden out and you play the Marauding Blight-Priest, the life gain trigger from Essence Warden goes on the stack when the Marauding Blight-Priest enters the battlefield. The life gained by the Blight-Priest will trigger itself.

Now we have the Essence Warden to gain life when creatures come into play and Kazandu Nectarpot and Jaddi Offshoot to gain life when lands come into play. If only there was a card that would make creatures when lands come into play… Wait, there is and it is even reprinted in Zendikar Rising! Sporemound does exactly that and therefor deserves a spot in the deck.

With life and limb

A card I’ve always wanted to play but never found a home for is Life and Limb. It turns all your Forests into Saprolings and vice versa. When you play a Forest with Life and Limb out, you get a trigger of the Essence Warden, the Kazandu Nectarpot and/or the Jaddi Offshoot. Marauding Blight-Priest sees all these triggers as different instances, draining your opponents for every one. And when there’s also a Sporemound out, the Forest you play lets the Sporemound make a Saproling that is also a Forest and thus a land, triggering the fungus again. This results in an endless loop, probably draining your opponents to death.

We only need to have some cards that look for lands and put them into play for this festival of triggers. In an earlier article I discussed a landfall deck, so maybe we can find some useful tools there. My weapons of choice would be Khalni Heart Expedition, because of the tricks it can pull off and Cultivate for the card advantage.

The deck hinges quite heavily on Marauding Blight-Priest and your opponents will quickly recognise that. If it gets removed, destroyed or otherwise is put into your graveyard, you want to get it back. Zendikar Rising offers us a solution to this with Bala Ged Recovery, which can also come down as a land, which is always welcome in a deck playing landfall.

The land giveth and the land removeth

The deck runs a small but efficient removal suite with Doom Blade and Putrefy. With these you can easily remove pesky critters bothering you before your synergies will synergise (a.k.a. your combo’s can go off). But they can serve another purpose as well: if in the unlikely event there are both a Sporemound and a Life and Limb on the table, you play a land, but don’t have a Marauding Blight-Priest out, you can get an infinite – correction: arbitrarily large – number of saprolings, but in response to gazillionth trigger, you can destroy your own Sporemound and thereby end the loop.

Mana matters

The mana base is fairly simple. The deck consists of only a few cards that require black, so with twelve Forests and six Swamps you are likely to get the colours you need when you need them. Three Terramorphic Expanse can look for a Swamp if you don’t draw them and synergise with all the landfall cards in the deck. Two Golgari Rot Farm also helps to get both green and black mana and bounces a land to your hand, that can later be replayed to get landfall triggers.

GB Marauding the Nectarpot
4 Essence Warden
4 Jaddi Offshoot
4 Kazandu Nectarpot
4 Marauding Blight-Priest
3 Sporemound
4 Khalni Heart Expedition
4 Cultivate
3 Putrefy
2 Life and Limb
3 Terramorphic Expanse
2 Golgari Rot Farm
12 Forest
6 Swamp

Kazandu Nectarpot is not black, so there is no use in blaming him he is. The Marauding Blight-Priest is and when you drain your opponents to zero, they should blame him for being black. Or just start a new game with a new deck. In any case, let me know what you think of the deck. I’ll see you at the next sixty!

Break the cycle

The card selected for this week’s entry seems pretty innocuous. Maybe even… bad. Sure, it returns a creature or a land from graveyard to your hand for a colourless and a black. It’s even a sorcery. Kind of “Mweh”. Why bother playing this card?

But wait? It doesn’t say “Choose one”, but “Choose one or both”! Almost missed that! That makes Grim Discovery from “Mweh” to “Okay”. That is, if you can fully use this card, so having both a creature and a land in your graveyard to return to your hand. How to do this? The answer is simple and elegant: cycling. Allow me to explain.

I think the cycling mechanic is very refined. It gives you the opportunity to replace a card for a new card by paying a certain cost and discarding it. If you don’t need it, replace it! Ready to be returned to your hand with Grisly Salvage. That is the synergy I am looking for, this is the direction my cycling deck is going to take!

Cycling to the grave

Inspired by a deck of former writer Anthony Alongi (you can find it here:, but he mentions the deck in several of his articles) I built a black and red cycling deck able to control a multiplayer game. So without further ado:

RB Gravecycling
4 Drannith Stinger
4 Monstrous Carabid
2 Twisted Abomination
1 Drakuseth, Maw of Flames
1 Kaervek the Merciless

4 Grim Discovery 1B
4 Shadow of the Grave
2 Terminate
3 Sweltering Suns
2 Slagstorm
2 Faith of the Devoted
3 Chain Reaction
1 Fires of Invention
4 Barren Moor
4 Forgotten Cave
4 Temple of Malice
3 Canyon Slough
2 Blood Crypt
1 Bloodstained Mire
5 Swamp
4 Mountain

Discovery Channel

With all the cycling cards in the deck, Grim Discovery can be used in its full potential. Shadow of the Grave serves a similar purpose as the Discovery and can even return other cards you’ve cycled to your hand. Only problem is that you need to play the Shadow directly after you’ve cycled. Cycling is already pretty mana intensive (that’s why there are quite a lot of lands in the deck).

Monstrous Carabid and Twisted Abomination are basically just cycling fodder, just as Forgotten Cave and Barren Moor. The Carabid, Moor and Cave all cycle for just one mana and the Abomination can cycle for another land. All the cycling in the deck uses a lot of mana, so the lower the cycling cost, the better. As a bonus these cards are all easily retrieved with the Discovery or Shadow so you can cycle them again.

I already mentioned Barren Moor and Forgotten Cave, but there’s also Canyon Slough. Of course can Canyon Slough tap for both red and black mana and be found with Twisted Abomination or Bloodstained Mire, it is mainly in the deck to be cycled.

The only exception to this rule is Drannith Stinger. The ability to ping all your opponents every time you cycle a card is key in the deck. The fact that it can cycle itself for one mana is icing on the cake, but in most cases you want to have this one out on the battlefield.

This is a grindy deck that tries to slowly whittle away your opponents life totals. Drannith Stinger pings each time you cycle a card and Faith of the Devoted can drain two life from all your opponents if you cycle a card and pay one colourless mana.

Slagstorm, Chain Reaction and Sweltering Suns can sweep the board if it gets a little crowded. If necessary, Sweltering Suns can also cycle itself, but the sweep it provides is usually more important. In multiplayer games it can happen that there is one pesky creature you just have to get rid off. In those cases Terminate is your best friend.

Cycling your way to victory

It is nice to have a deck that can win games and to that end, you need finishers. That’s why there’s one Drakuseth, Maw of Flames in the deck. It is a nice finisher and can deal extra damage when it attacks. Kaervek the Merciless damages opponents when they play spells, but also attracts a lot of attention.

There is one card that needs some extra explanation. Fires of Invention might be the engine for a lot of broken decks, since it lets you play cards without paying their mana costs if their converted mana cost is lower that the amount of lands you control. The only restriction is that you can only play spells during your turn with a maximum of two. But this deck doesn’t mind that. It wants to cycle cards, preferably in you opponents turn and the Fires still lets you do that. The spells you need to play can still be played, only during your turn, but you don’t have to pay mana. Cycling is pretty mana hungry, so it’s good the Fires leaves your mana open to cycle.

Sit back and not relax

The deck plays 24 cards with cycling, giving the opportunity to go through the deck with lightning speed. You’ll always (well, almost always) have what you need or at least ways to find what you need. Because of this you don’t have to do a lot during your turn. Pay close attention to what your opponents do and if they start looking your way, sweep the board. Do nothing if the situation doesn’t ask for it.

The deck is modern legal and not very expensive. Because of the cycling it is really consistent and you see a lot of the deck. It is really fun to play and you don’t really need all the rares. The sweepers can be replaced with Infest and/or Pyroclasm and the rare lands can be easily replaced with basic lands. If you want more cycling you can play Smoldering Crater and/or Polluted Mire. And always remember: let your opponents do all the hard work and reset when necessary.

Let me know if you like this deck or if you know of a card that should be in this deck. See you at the next sixty!

All good things come in swarms

Zendikar Rising is upon us and I’m stoked for the new set and what it offers casual players. I think there are a lot of cool cards to brew around and it seems that landfall based decks are getting quite some fuel. I loved landfall as a mechanic from the first time I saw it, because it rewards you for playing the game i.e. playing lands. One of my favorite cards from the original Zendikar set was Rampaging Baloths.

It’s so scute!

Getting a 4/4 Beast every time a land hits the battlefield is very strong. I have a deck with it that I will discuss at a later time, but for now my attention goes out to a card that is quite similar to the Baloths and that card is Scute Swarm.

Scute Swarm might not make 4/4’s, but it puts a 1/1 insect token into play whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control. When you control six lands and a land enters the battlefield under your control, it even makes a copy of itself. Things can get out of hand really quickly from then on and that is exactly what I want to do with a deck based around the Swarm.

The Swarm is a cool card to play around, but it should be said that a 1/1 is very fragile and dies to all sorts of things. Since the deck is all about the Swarm and copying itself with landfall, it’s better to play it when you already have six lands out and is able to copy itself right away. The focus of the deck is therefore to drop the Swarm, get six lands shortly after and then start copying the Swarm and finally win by swarming your opponents.

The Swarm is green, most land search is in green, so green is a good place to start. Scute Swarm costs three mana, but we don’t really want to just ramp up to three mana, so no Llanowar Elves and the like. The Swarm needs six lands in play to be really interesting, so we need to have spells that look for a land and put it directly into play, also ensuring landfall triggers later in the game.

Go fetch

A cheap way manawise to get lands directly into play is by playing fetch lands, also because it triggers landfall twice. If you have them, play Wooded Foothills, Windswept Heath, Verdant Catacombs and/ or Misty Rainforest, since they look for Forests and puts them into play untapped. However, they are quite pricey and that is not the way I want to go here. If you don’t have them, use a number of Terramorphic Expanse and/or Evolving Wilds. Maybe even the Shards of Alara Panorama’s, but I’m not a real fan of those.

The spells in the deck are mostly to search for lands and put them into play. Search for Tomorrow, Rampant Growth and Cultivate help you do this.

Search for Tomorrow can be suspended on the first turn when you don’t have a lot of other things to do.

Rampant Growth is ‘just’ puts a land on the battlefield for two mana…

… and Cultivate puts a land into play and in your hand, so you can make your land drop for the turn if you didn’t draw a land.

Khalni Heart Expedition is an enchantment for a colourless and a green mana that lets you put an expedition counter on it when a land enters the battlefield under your control. When it has three counters, you can sacrifice it to put two lands into play. You can drop it early, load it up with counters and sacrifice it when you need extra landdrops. This can be done in your opponents turn if you need extra insects or even extra Scute Swarms as surprise blockers for example. Harrow too can give you extra lands (and thus creatures) whenever you need them.

The more, the better

Having a lot of lands and triggering landfall is nice, but to win a multiplayer game you need something more. Most importantly you want to stay alive early. The Swarm is only 1/1 and makes only 1/1’s. Sure, it can make a lot of them once you have six lands, but that might take some time. Migratory Greathorn can beef up the Scute Swarm with its mutate ability. As a bonus, when you play it for its mutate cost, you may search for a basic land and put it into play, providing the oh so wanted landfall for this deck. Make sure you mutate the Greathorn on top of the Swarm. Once you have enough lands, the Swarm/Greathorn will copy itself with the the power and toughness of the Greathorn. More is better!

Ancient Greenwarden is a pretty beefy creature at 5/7 for four colourless and two green mana. It also has reach, so looks like a perfect blocker. It also further abuses the landfall synergies with the ability to play fetch lands from your graveyard and giving an extra trigger to all the landfall triggers. Six mana is a lot, but with all the landfall enablers, you will have enough lands on the battlefield in no time.

Since survival is key, two Kazandu NectarpoTs are in the deck to gain some life early in the game, so you can survive some early attacks if you don’t have a legion of Scute Swarms at your disposal.

Getting everything into place

This deck needs quite something to search for at least the Swarms and preferably some more of your creatures. Adventure Awaits lets you look at the top five cards and choose a creature. Just the right thing to find what your looking for and even better, if there isn’t anything in the top five cards you’re looking for, you may draw a card. That is a good deal for a colourless and a green.

It can happen that you lose some of the pieces you need to amass a huge Scute army. Bala Ged Recovery can help to get an essential card back from your graveyard and if you don’t need that, you can just play it as a land.

Scuty pie
2 Kazandu Nectarpot
4 Scute Swarm
4 Migratory Greathorn
2 Ancient Greenwarden

4 Adventure Awaits
4 Khalni Heart Expedition
4 Rampant Growth
2 Bala Ged Recovery
//Bala Ged Sanctuary
4 Cultivate
4 Harrow
4 Search for Tomorrow
3 Evolving Wilds
3 Terramorphic Expanse
15 Forest

If this deck does not swarm kitchen tables with self-copying insects, I don’t know what will. If you have suggestions to improve the deck or just any comments, let me know. See you at the next sixty!

Turning metal into gold

Let me tell you a little secret about Magic: drawing cards is good. Every new card you draw presents you with new options. You might draw an answer for that annoying fattie of one of your opponents. Maybe you draw a threat yourself, maybe you draw that land you didn’t draw earlier. Most deck are based on using your cards as efficient as possible and you can only accomplish that by having more options than your opponents i.e. getting to your good cards.

Forbidden Alchemy doesn’t draw cards. It just looks at the top four cards of your library and then dumps them into the graveyard, except for one. You ‘draw’ a card at the expense of another. That is not card advantage, that is a cantrip. Cantrips are very useful, but you can get better in blue. Ok, you can do it twice for the cost of six colourless and a black. So for ten mana (of which one needs to be black) you can ‘draw’ two cards. And it dumps cards in the graveyard, how can that be good?

Why Forbidden Alchemy is good

All that being said, Forbidden Alchemy is a good card. When you play it, you’re not ‘just’ drawing a card, you can pick the best card out of the top four cards of your library. The rest (useful or not, but we’ll get to that) goes to your graveyard. And when you have the mana, you can do that again. Forbidden Alchemy is exactly that what the name means: it makes ordinary metal (the top cards of your deck) into gold (a card you need at that moment). It doesn’t Explain the ‘Forbidden’ part, but it sounds a lot cooler than just ‘Alchemy’.

Forbidden Alchemy is in essence a Swiss pocket knife of a magic card: it gets you the things you need when you need them. You want to build a deck with the Alchemy to exploit this. Maybe something like this.

Dimir Alchemy
3 Trinket Mage
3 Nightveil
3 Gurmag Angler

1 Ghastly Demise
4 Accumulated Knowledge
4 Mana Leak
3 Doom Blade
3 Think Twice
2 Counterspell
4 Forbidden Alchemy
2 Mystical Teachings
1 Recoil
1 Elixir of Immortality
1 Executioner’s Capsule
1 Sylvok Lifestaff
1 Traveler’s Amulet

4 Dismal
2 Dimir Aqueduct
1 Evolving Wilds
10 Island
6 Swamp

This deck is based on a pauper Forbidden Alchemy deck. I upgraded some cards, but still the deck is quite cheap to play. And even though I’m not really a control player, I find this deck very fun to play. Let me explain why.


The deck plays blue and blue means counterspells. Not necessarily fun, but definitely necessary to control what your opponents are throwing at you. Remember that when you play multiplayer, counterspells stop just one spell of one of your opponents. Use them only for spells you can’t handle otherwise and are a real threat for you. Hopefully the rest of your spells can deal with other threats that slip through.

Mana Leak is almost a hard counter and if not, it gains you some tempo. The original Counterspell is always a hard counter, but the double blue in the mana cost demands quite a lot of the mana base. Since this mana base can’t get two blue consistently on turn two, Mana Leak is just as good to counter something with little mana.

Black offers a wide variety of creature removal, but just plain old Doom Blades will do the trick, but really any two mana creature removal spell will do, even old school Terror. As long as it can destroy a creature.

For more creature removal, there is one Ghastly Demise in the deck. With Forbidden Alchemy it is likely you have the ‘yard full of cards (if not, something isn’t right), which makes the Demise very efficient removal.

Recoil is a very strong addition to the deck: it returns a permanent to its owner’s hand and makes them discard a card. This can deal with non-creature permanents if necessary.

The deck is based around having the right cards in hand at the right time with the help of Forbidden Alchemy. You need at least four of those to make the deck work. Accumulated Knowledge and Think Twice draw you even more cards. As an added bonus both don’t mind to wind up in the graveyard because of the Alchemy: Accumulated Knowledge lets you draw an extra card if you play the next copy and Think Twice can be cast from your graveyard. And since most of the deck consists of instants, Mystical Teachings can also help get the right cards when you need them.


A deck cannot win just by denying your opponents threats, you need some creatures to be able to win. Gurmag Angler can be played on the cheap with a lot of used up cards in your graveyard and Nightveil Predator brings some evasion with flying and hexproof. The deathtouch makes it a frightening blocker as well.

The Trinket Mages deserve some explanation. Sure, the are just 1/1’s for three mana, but they can also search for a cheap artifact. It gives access to some more removal in the form of Executioner’s Capsule, some lifegain in the form of Sylvok Lifestaff, some land searching and deck thinning with Traveler’s Amulet, but it can also find Elixir of Immortality. That card makes sure that when you have played quite some removal, you can shuffle all the cards in your graveyard back into your library, making sure you keep drawing removal cards. The five life you gain by activating it is also usefull if your life total gets a little low.


In a control deck it is important to hit your land drops. You always want to have mana open to be able to do something, be it countering or destroying. Ten Islands and six Swamps form the basis. Dismal Backwaters can gain some life and make both of the colours you need. One Evolving Wilds thins your deck a little and two Dimir Aqueduct make sure you can make 25 mana with 23 lands and also gives both of the needed colours.


Forbidden Alchemy truly turns all the cards in your hand into gold. With it and all the support there’s always an answer in your hand and that makes it very difficult for opponents to execute their plans. On top of that, it is very satisfying to know whatever they may do, you have something to stop it.

Next week I want to spend some attention to a card from Zendikar Rising that I really want to brew with. Stay tuned to see which card it is. See you at the next sixty!

Hell’s Legion

Remember that time I wanted to build a deck around Assemble the Legion? And that I was thinking about building it around Hellrider and spells that made you attack multiple times a turn? And that it was only last time I posted a deck? I still wanted to write about it, because it is quite a different approach then the other deck. All good things come come in twos, so here we go.

The card that made me want to go this way in the first place was Hellrider, a 3/3 for four with haste. Not really special in itself. But it also has this line of text: “whenever a creature you control attacks, Hellrider deals 1 damage to defending player”. This makes Hellrider a lot more interesting! If I combine the Hellrider with the armies of soldier tokens that Assemble the Legion can pop out, that will be a lot of damage done to opponents. Going wide is the way to go here.

So the Assemble the Legion makes a lot of attackers and the Hellrider does damage when they attack. Assemble the Legion only makes 1/1 creatures, so that would be two damage per creature that attacks (one damage from the Hellrider to the defending opponent and one from the creature attacking). In this case it takes quite a lot of time and soldiers to fight through opposing life totals. Luckily there are several ways to accomplish this and can be found in red and white!

There is another card that does something similar. Chance for Glory doesn’t give you an extra attack phase right away, but it gives you a whole extra turn! Sure, you must win that turn or else you’ll lose, but if you can squeeze in several attack phases with any amount of Hellriders on the board, that shouldn’t be too difficult. And did I say your creatures become indestructible?

The first way is making your creatures multiple times in a turn. For example, a card like Waves of Aggression untaps all your creatures and gives an extra combat phase in which the soldiers and the Hellrider can do extra damage. It has retrace to boot, so you can use the card multiple times by discarding a land and paying the mana cost. World at War almost does the same, but instead of retrace it has rebound, making sure you also have an extra attack phase in the turn after you played it.

The second way of making your creatures do more damage is by simply making them bigger. Glory of Warfare is especially interesting, since in your turn (in which you are planning to attack anyway) it makes your creatures stronger in power and when it’s not your turn, it increases the toughness of your creatures, making them better blockers, although I’m not sure that happens often.

Since you’ll be attacking with lots of creatures, there are some bound to do some combat damage. In that case, Five-Alarm Fire accumulates a lot of counters that can be spent on extra damage. ‘Cause more is better, right?

Of course your opponents are not just going to let you win, so you need something to defend yourself. Solar Flare clears the board of creatures. With Assemble the Legion in your deck, you don’t mind. Next upkeep your legions will be supplemented while your opponents have an empty board. There are also four copies of Journey to Nowhere if you don’t have a Blaze.

The deck needs some ramp, because the curve is quite high and you want to be able to cast Assemble the Legion relatively early. Boros Signet gives you the right colours, Mind Stone gives colourless mana, but can be used to draw a card and Hedron Archive serves a similar purpose.

Since you want to be able to cast your expensive cards, you need a solid foundation of land. 23 is the number with a rather even distribution of white and red mana. Forgotten Cave and Secluded Steppe can help sift through the deck, looking for the cards you need.

RW Hell’s Legion
4 Hellrider

4 Journey to Nowhere
1 Chance for Glory
1 Five-Alarm Fire
4 Solar Blaze
2 Glory of Warfare
4 Assemble the Legion
2 Waves of Aggression
2 World at War
Boros Signet
Mind Stone
Hedron Archive

3 Forgotten Cave
3 Secluded Steppe
3 Wind-Scarred Crag
7 Plains
7 Mountain

So this was another approach to a deck based around Assemble the Legion. Which one do you like most? Or maybe you have an altogether different approach. Let me know with a comment or a mail. See you at the next sixty!

Soldiers assemble!

Some cards demand certain cards to be played with. Fetchlands with shock duals in Modern for example. It’s not really a combo, but they work very well together. Or the classic Survival of the Fittest/Recurring Nightmare combo. Once you’ve seen the synergy of those cards, you cannot unsee it. Not all cards have that. In fact, most cards don’t have that. And then there is this category of cards that do have obvious partners, but are more fun without those. I realise this is more of a personal problem, so let me explain:

I really want to make a deck with Assemble the Legion. In fact, I already did, but it was not a very fun deck to play against and, if I’m honest, not very fun to play with. It played sort of combo control with Cataclysm and Razia’s Purification for control and Impact Tremors and Purphuros, God of the Forge as win cons. The idea was to ramp to Assemble the Legion, play a sweeper the turn after and win by spewing an army of tokens each upkeep while my opponents needed to build up everything, including their mana base. Effective? Yes. Fun? Not so much.

However, I still wanted to make a deck with Assemble the Legion. It is exactly what the card’s name is: each upkeep you assemble a small army that gets bigger over time. I find that making lots of creatures (aka going wide) is a good way to win a game of multiplayer Magic. Maybe I need to take it in a different direction?

The Boros guild is basically the army of Ravnica and Assemble the Legion makes us go wide with soldiers, that might be a fun theme to work with. And since it’s multiplayer we’re building for, maybe we can make our army of soldiers bigger. That will be hard to punch through. But how are we going to do this? For this I included some cards from the original Theros block that ask to be targeted by spells.

Akroan Crusader is a soldier for one red mana to play and every time you target it with a spell, it makes another soldier with haste. This can work within our soldier making theme and introduces another theme we can work with: heroic. That would open possibilities that can further enhance the going big theme.

Phalanx Leader is another soldier I wanted to work with for quite some time. With double white in its casting cost it is pretty color intensive, but if you target it with a spell, it gives your whole army of creatures a +1/+1 counter. A 1/1 (or an army of them) is not that threatening, but if you can make them into 2/2’s, 3/3’s, 4/4’s or even bigger, that is quite threatening, so in it goes.

Anax and Cymede is another nice heroic target. It also grows your army, but only until the end of the turn, but it also gives trample, which can help punch damage through.

Fabled Hero is a sturdy beatstick with double strike. With all the pumping other heroic creatures give, you rarely make use of the heroic on the Hero. Still, it serves as a strong game ending threat if opponents don’t deal with it.

The heroic ability needs you to have spells to target your heroic creatures and preferably a spell that can do that multiple times. Gird for Battle targets two creatures and can target two creatures at the same time. If those creatures are Akroan Crusader and Phalanx Leader, you end up with with a 3/3 Phalanx Leader (getting a +1/+1 counter from the Gird for Battle and itself), a 3/3 Akroan Crusader (also getting a counter from the Phalanx Leader and the Gird for Battle) and a 2/2 soldier with haste (getting only a counter from Phalanx Leader).

Crown of Flames is not in the deck because of its firebreathing ability. It is nice, but more often you’ll just want to target a heroic creature with it and then bounce it again to do it all over. The deck can play rather quick and there is a real possibility you run out of spells to target your creatures with. The Crown helps out in these situation, giving you staying power.

Something I want to try out is combining heroic with radiance, the Boros mechanic from the original Ravnica: City of Guilds block. Yes, you target only one creature, but all creatures with the same color are affected. Imagine you target Anax and Cymede with a Bathe in Light. Both your red and white creatures get protection of the color of your choice and all your creatures get the heroic bonus of Anax and Cymede. Bathe in Light not only gives creatures protection, it’s also an instant, so you can surprise your opponents with it. Be careful however: if one of your opponents play red or white creatures, they also get protection!)

So Bathe in Light is in and I also want to try Rally the Righteous. It is also an instant with radiance and can be used in a surprise attack, giving all your creatures of the right color +2/+0 until the end of the turn and it untaps all your attacking creatures. This way you are not open to a counterattack of one of your opponents.

Even though the deck is not really about Assemble the Legion, if you get it, you want to be able to play it. At five mana it is expensive compared to the rest of the deck, so I want to play some ramp. For this I play Boros Signet and Mind Stone. The Signet makes the colors you play and the Mind Stone can make a colorless mana can draw you a card by sacrificing it if you need it.

For the manabase you want somewhat more white than red. I play 3 Wind-Scarred Crag to be able to produce both red and white. The cycling of the 3 Forgotten Cave and 3 Secluded Steppe helps to sift through your deck if you don’t need the mana. 7 Plains and 6 Mountains are the basic lands that you need for this deck, resulting in this:

RW Heroic Assembly
4 Akroan Crusader
4 Phalanx Leader
2 Anax and Cymede
2 Fabled Hero
4 Crown of Flames
4 Gird for Battle
3 Bathe in Light
2 Rally the Righteous
3 Assemble the Legion
4 Boros Signet
4 Mind Stone

3 Forgotten Cave
3 Secluded Steppe
3 Wind-Scarred Crag
7 Plains

This wasn’t really what I expected to end up with. Somewhere there was a plan to combine Assemble the Legion with Hellrider and spells like Waves of Aggression and Fury of the Horde to get extra attacks and damage from the Hellrider and Glory of Warfare to pump the tokens. Well, maybe some other time, Heroic Assembly seems really fun as well.

What do you think? Should I go for the other idea to work on? Let me know and in the meantime: see you at the next sixty!

How to harden your scales Simic style?

This week’s article is about Hardened Scales, so a big part of the theme is +1/+1 counters. Who would’ve guessed? Hardened Scales is an enchantment that can come down as quickly as turn one and every time a counter is placed on a creature you control, it gets an extra counter. Pretty simple and not necessarily powerful, unless you build your deck around it. Let’s do it Simic style!

There are several paths to take here. Colours that work well with +1/+1 counters are green, white, and black can do some nice things with counters. Blue doesn’t really do things with counters (the +1/+1 kind, not the spells that counter spells, mind you), but in combination with green, you get a plethora of possibilities. The Simic guild from Ravnica has a main theme of placing, adding, multiplying, and redistributing of counters. That is exactly what I want to do with a deck playing Hardened Scales, so we’re in green and blue.

GU Cytoplast Evolve
4 Cloudfin Raptor
1 Experiment One
3 Wildwood Scourge
4 Skyrider Elf
2 Zameck Guildmage
1 Dream Stalker
3 Champion of Lambholt
3 Renegade Krasis
3 Cytoplast Root-Kin
2 Zegana, Utopian Speaker
4 Hardened Scales
3 Vapor Snag
4 Incubation//Incongruity

4 Breeding Pool
3 Hinterland Harbor
1 Flooded Grove
1 Misty Rainforest
8 Forest
6 Island

Cloudfin Raptor is my first go-to card: it is cheap, it has flying and starts accumulating counters quickly. Four go in.

Experiment One can also come down turn one and gets counters really easy. It doesn’t have evasion, but its second ability gives some resiliency. I could play four as well, but I only have one and I wanted to try out another creature that seems even more perfect for this deck in my eyes.

That creature is Wildwood Scourge. The Scourge fits anywhere in my mana curve, except turn one. It comes into play with at least one +1/+1 counter on it, but the best part is that it gets a counter when another creature gets one. This can go out of hand really quickly.

Skyrider Elf might look very innocuous, but it comes into play with two counters on it and like the Raptor it has flying, so more difficult to block. It doesn’t grow out of itself, but the rest of my creature suite should be able to help grow it anyways.

Renegade Krasis for example can make all my creatures with +1/+1 counters grow when it evolves. The Krasis is a little bit hard to evolve, since most of my creatures are smaller than the Krasis, but I have some tricks for that. And when it evolves, it floods my creatures with counters, especially when there is a Hardened Scales out. 

The first creature in the deck to be able to evolve the Krasis is Cytoplast Root-Kin. It is a 0/0 for four, but it has graft 4, so it comes into play as a 4/4. When it comes into play, it also gives all my creatures with a +1/+1 counter on it an extra counter and for two colorless mana I can transfer a counter from a creature to the Root-Kin. This works really nice with the Wildwood Scourge. The Scourge gets an extra counter when a creature I control gets one, so if I transfer a counter from the Scourge to the Root-Kin, the Scourge gets that counter back, because the Root-Kin is a non-hydra creature. With the Root-Kin you can also remove counters from Renegade Krasis, which makes the Krasis easier to evolve.

Picture this scenario: I have a Cloudfin Raptor, a Skyrider Elf and a Renegade Krasis. Only the Elf has two counters on it. Then I play Cytoplast Root-kin. It enters the battlefield with four counters and thus is bigger than both the Raptor and the Krasis. First I put the ability of the Root-Kin on the stack giving each creature with a counter an extra one. Then I first put the evolve-trigger of the Krasis on the stack and then of the Raptor. First the Raptor evolves to a 1/ 2 and after that the Krasis evolves to a 4/ 3. Because the Krasis evolves, it puts a counter on each other creature with a counter. The Raptor becomes 2/ 3, the Elf 3/ 3 and the Root-Kin 5/ 5. Then the ability of the Root-Kin resolves, making the Raptor 3/ 4, the Elf 4/4 and the Krasis 5/ 4.

I have one more trick to evolve the Krasis and that is one copy of Dream Stalker. The Stalker has a toughness of 5 and that is enough to evolve creatures most of the time. Just bounce itself back to your hand to repeat this and grow your creatures even further.

Big creatures are really nice, but most of them can easily be chump blocked and I didn’t collect all those counters for nothing. I need evasion and Champion of Lambholt is a good option for that. Creatures with a power lower than the Champion’s cannot block and the Champion grows with every creature you play! With all the tricks in the deck to grow the amount of counters, it can grow really quickly. And did I mention it works with Dream Stalker as well?

Next I play two copies of Zegana, Utopian Speaker. The card draw is nice, but it is mainly in the deck, because it gives creatures with a +1/+1 counter trample. That makes it a whole lot easier to punch through all that +1/+1 counter damage.

I have a lot of synergy going on, but I do want to draw all the different pieces. Two copies of Zameck Guildmage help me to transfer counters into new cards and late in the game, it can help ensure my newly played creatures enter the battlefield with an extra counter.

This deck is all about counters, so I definitely want an early Hardened Scales. As an enchantment it is not very easy to get rid of and it helps my creatures get even bigger with the extra counters.

In Incubation//Incongruity I get two very important things for the deck: creature selection and removal. I already described the importance of all my creatures, but I lack some interaction. The Incongruity half gives me the chance to deal with my opponent’s annoying creatures. The three copies of Vapor Snag are also supposed for that purpose and if necessary, I can even bounce one of my own creatures to save it from removal or to get extra triggers.

I went with 23 lands, because I want enough mana to make my early drops, but late in the game I want to be able to do multiple things (play a threat and remove opposing creatures or draw cards with Zameck Guildmage). 23 seems right for this.

It is quite a quirky deck and that is exactly why I love it. It is also pretty skill intensive with all the different triggers that can go off at the same time, but that makes it challenging to play and I like that. If you like that too, let me know. And I’m always open for suggestions that can make this deck even weirder.

See you at the next sixty!