by Steve ‘DDT’ Giannopoulos
I was looking over a few bulk rares and my mind wandered off. What makes these cards unplayable? Some are over-costed, inefficient, require other cards to work or just plain don’t do much. One such card I came across was:
Wasn’t Volatile Rig bad enough DDT?
It made me wonder what would allow me to trigger its extra turn ability. You would definitely need 4 of almost everything in your deck while generating some kind of card advantage or advancing your board position. Now creatures were good since they attack and stuff, but I wanted this deck to be a little quirky. Then it hit me:
What if indeed?
The only thing more discouraging about a bad card is when it requires another bad card to work. I originally thought of trying to make a more stable version of the Laboratory Maniac/Mirror-Mad Phantasm/Seance build.
It was going to be Bant-colored and be able to win without the ‘combo’.
For those of you that are unfamiliar with the combo:
1) Resolve a Seance
2) You get a Mirror-Mad Phantasm in the grave
3) On your opponent’s upkeep: make a copy of Mirror-Mad with Seance and mill yourself. Of course, you only play 1 copy of the card and the original is now exiled. You will flip card after card until you have none left in your library.
4) On your upkeep exile a Laboratory Maniac from your graveyard to put a Spirit copy of him in play.
5) On your draw step … Win the game!
Obviously the Moon and the stars need to properly align with your Zodiac sign and… well, you get the point! Tough to come up with a consistent decklist.
Obviously there is a step 6
6) If your opponent responds by bouncing/destroying the Maniac, simply Flashback a Think Twice (just like in the good old Innistrad draft days!)
I long thought of the possibilities, one of which involved the deck being a UWG dek with a Lingering Souls and Jarad’s Orders black splash. I know, I know… daydreaming again!
The deck took a new direction keeping the maniac element with another self-mill concept. You don’t want to play cards that just randomly mill with no other benefit as they clearly do nothing (aside from their specific function). You probably want cantrips (cards that draw you other cards) while having a minimal effect on the board/game state (ie: Thought Scour).
One such card that I wanted to try was Ground Seal. There is some graveyard abuse in this format and this card stops some of it. It won’t prevent Gravecrawlers from being recast. it definitely won’t stop reanimator decks from simply casting their creatures. It also will not do anything versus Flashback. That’s ok.
It does however stop Snapcaster Mage/Angel of Serenity shenanigans, reanimation tricks and Deathrite Shaman from potentially screwing you over. That’s actually kind of nice bonus considering the current meta.
Obviously, the deck was going towards the enchantment route and it needed to contain the aggressive decks. I then included this little gem:
Ghostly Prison’s descendant?
Then it just piled on:
Nice little elements of control and mana-fixing.
I needed a better way to win than just rely on chaining Search the Cities or Oblivion Ring’ing my Search the City to then Detention Sphere them or vice-versa. I did a quick gatherer search:
Standard cards that are enchantments
You will probably notice something interesting on this list. If you are rather impatient you can just scroll down
I think we’ve all been the victims of ‘Chronic Flooding’ at one point in our Magic the Gathering experience.
I think you know where that’s going: you will be enchanting your own lands. What?
That’s right! You need to mill yourself and it’s actually a card that boosts the rest of your other cards in a way. Multiples on the same land are fine since they will stack. It’s something you can get with Search the City and get an almost immediate effect. It’s a repeatable effect and technically costs nothing to activate ( note: having thought about splashing nephalia drownyards in an awkward way to mill oneself. It also bolsters our Sphere of Safety.
Another way to look at it is that your Search the City is like a Verduran/Argothian Enchantress only slower and clunkier with a potentially insane ‘Time Walk‘ upside. It’s definitely an odd comparison but not an unreasonable one at all. You do get great value off of each cantrip once it’s in play. You almost guarantee that if you have a Sphere of Safety under it and play another Sphere, your opponent will almost never be attacking you. Well that’s the plan at least.
Without further ado, here’s the list!
4 Abundant Growth
4 Search the City
4 Sphere of Safety
4 Ground Seal
4 Oblivion Ring
4 Detention Sphere
4 Think Twice
4 Chronic Flooding
4 Sunpetal Grove
4 Temple Garden
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Hallowed Fountain
3 Supreme Verdict
3 Geist of St Traft
3 Centaur Healer
3 Rhox Faithmender
3 Etheral Armor
The sideboard was rather difficult to properly construct. In the end, I wanted a ‘aggro’ Geist plan with Etheral Armor and something like invisible stalker. I settled for just Geist of St Traft because I wanted more help versus red decks that could just burn you without necessarily attacking too much. I concluded that some lifegain was in order. In comes Rhox Faithmender and Centaur Healer!
Making sideboards everywhere!
Our little rhinoceros friend started making some sideboard appearance a month or so ago in the Blue/White Flash deck. He became rather insane with a Runechanter’s Pike on him and multiple copies of him made aggro decks cry a little. For those of you that are not 100% sure: Yes, the double lifegain stacks.
So you start off by gaining say 1 life when he deals damage, then it’s multiplied by two then doubled again if you have another copy. He is rather insane in decks that run Sphinx’s Revelation as well ( and no, you don’t draw twice the number of cards). His 5 toughness is rather good, making him a great ‘wall’ against things like Loxodon Smiter, Geralf’s Messenger,Ravager of the Fells, Centaur Healer sand the like. It’s sometimes pretty wrong if comboed with Thragtusk (like it really needed other cards to make it good, LOL).
The Invisible Stalkers were dropped when Supreme Verdict went from making the maindeck to a maybe 3-4 of in the side. The reason being that the sideboard also had a full set of Rancors and was purely a full aggressive side in plan. (Although some further playtesting may cause the deck to revert back to that state). It basically would grab the best elements from the bant aura deck and make it into the 15 cards sideboard.
Well, something like that. It was more random brainstorming until we saw that the numbers didn’t exactly seem right and maybe Rancor could just be another creature like Wolfir Avenger or the like. Most control decks will usually side out their sorcery speed removal against you since you probably won’t cast Laboratory Maniac until the last or before last possible second. With the # of early cantrips it is not unreasonable for us to find an early game Geist of St Traft and simply blow them out of the water early on before they can draw an answer (that they probably sided out).
Against the even more controlish decks we can play the long game and get our maniacs in multiples via Search the City. They only need to be cast and not actually resolve (ie: successfully cast) for you to grab the other card under Search the City. It kind of makes their counterspells less effective (as if the multiple aggressive decks playing Cavern of Souls didn’t already do that). If you are playing versus an Esper Control deck and they are trying to mill you out with Nephalia Drownyard when nothing is happening, try not to thank them too soon.You should also hope that they don’t make you mill a Laboratory Maniac since that will probably cause them to reconsider that plan. You should also try to max out your Detention Spheres on their Lingering Souls tokens and hope they flashback it so that you can achieve full value with you Spheres.
Sphere of Safety is the card you will always want to get against all the non-red aggressive decks as it will prevent you from getting swarmed and allow you to put your O Rings and Spheres on the creatures that will deal you the most damage instead of actually having to deal with everything. Your opponent will probably suspect that you run maindeck Supreme Verdicts, so you should try and use that to your advantage as much as possible. It will be especially suspicious when you do not commit any creatures to the battlefield. I think my favorite part of Sphere is that it renders heavyweight Thundermaw Hellkite slightly less impressive. It pretty much almost takes away his haste ability, giving you an actual turn of respite. It also allows you to slow things down and take care of him at sorcery speed (read: Oblivion Ring/Detention Sphere).
Your opponents may also try and play around counters you don’t have. Make sure to ask them what creature type their Cavern of Souls are set to and act disappointed regardless of their answer. It’s sometimes useless when playing a known deck, but this thing is anything but run of the mill. Also try to hold off on playing the Chronic Floodings until you actually have a Laboratory Maniac in hand or you can get more via Search the City.
Fun fact: Search the City triggers on you playing a land which is why there are 4 of each land and no random number of Plains. Every non-basic gives you white mana, so you should be ok. There is no Blood Moon or Magus of the Moon effect in Standard after all.
Well, not yet anyhow
Whew! Imagine those things in Standard! Although you might be seeing them at your local FNM’s when Modern becomes a sanctionable format, you needn’t worry about that otherwise.
The basic strategy here is to cast Laboratory Maniac at the very last possible second only when you really need him. It is not uncommon to be able to cast 2 of them and the win by flashing back a Think Twice on an empty library. Against counterspells you can simply cast the Think Twice from your graveyard and even if it’s countered you will grave one from Search the City and cast that one to win! You will also note that Chronic Flooding will probably dump a Think Twice in your ‘yard which gives you another possible way to dig for your Think Twice.
Against decks which most likely don’t have an instant answer, you don’t really need Think Twice (but probably will have some in your graveyard). You can just cast Lab Maniac and then a cantrip like Ground Seal to ‘Seal the Deal’. Worst/best scenario: you don’t even need to resolve a draw spell. Just pop a Search the City to take an extra turn and win on your draw step! Well, one can dream right?
Oh snap! It’s Magical Christmas Land! I knew it!
The cards seem to flow well together and like I stated earlier, cutting Supreme Verdict may end up being my biggest regret. It’s just that super Propaganda/Ghostly Prison promises sooo much more. Most current deck usually win by turning their dudes sideways and if we can prevent that from happening, well we’re half way there.
Search the City also ‘slow mills’ you for 5. It’s likely you will want to spam as many of these as possible to get the ball rolling. If you have any in hand, try to play it before you play something that’s under one that’s already in play. You might end up getting double value!
Disclaimer: You probably won’t…
I think I could have used this paper for something less silly.
You can notice that I considered splashing red for Huntmaster of the Fells when I was considering playing Farseek. It’s probably possible if this list ever gets properly tweaked but it seemed really rough to include in the deck. It’s more ideal than a Thragtusk since it comes down a turn earlier and allows you to properly play out your fifth turn. It allows you to cast either Search the City or Sphere of Safety.
You need to be careful about decks that are packing Oblivion Rings and Detention Spheres of their own sometimes, since your only real answers to those are your Oblivion Rings. Remember : you can’t Detention Sphere a Detention Sphere. You probably want to keep that in mind if you don’t have an Oblivion Ring in hand. It can suck if they can double up removal especially on Chronic Flooding. It’s probably their best target. Anything else, like Search the City can be good for you since it can later on still allow you to ‘mill 5’ if you exile their Sphere/Ring. In doing so, it also allows you to see 5 more cards. Don’t play cantrips later on when you don’t really need to if you think you can bring back an exile City (you might be rewarded for your patience).
During the holiday season yoou may be ‘searching the city’ for gifts for your loved ones, but I urge you to Search the City for a little bit of Magic. You may be pleasantly surprised.