Decks Inspired by a Word Chain Puzzle

Editor's Note: Due to a scheduling snafu, this was originally to have run last week. This week it's a double dose of Abe, and you'll find his thoughts on a few new cards this Thursday, on schedule as usual.

I am always up for a deck-building challenge! Today, I want to offer you a challenge, show you a few decks I made based on that challenge that aren’t that hot, and then see what you can come up with for yourself.

Do you know what a word chain is? To form a word chain, take a phrase, and combine its last word with the first of a next phrase. They have to have the identical word. So, for example:

Wall of Tears
  • Go West
  • West Side Story
  • Story of Our Lives

When you write it in one phrase, you combine the identical words to: Go West Side Story of Our Lives

Creating these word chains is fun! However, let’s amp up the fun a notch. After all, this is a Magic article, and this is a Magic website. So, let’s give this an obvious spin and create Magic Word Chains. For example:

This becomes: Wall of Tears of Rage Weaver of Lies

Now, it seems to be an easy thing to turn this into a deck-building challenge, so here we go.

You must build a deck using just one word chain to include all of your nonbasic cards. I’d recommend sticking to a sixty-card deck, but if you are ambitious, good luck with a Commander list!

A Few Rules

General's Regalia
  1. It can be plural if you want. So, you could link Wall of Torches with Torch Fiend. I am giving you a bone.
  2. I’ll even throw you another bone. You may link a possessive word with its non-possessive word. You can link Goblin General with General's Regalia. This is the last bone you receive—everything else is a restriction.
  3. You may not link words if the word is in a different form, such as adverb with “-ly” added. You may link neither Control of the Court with Courtly Provocateur, for example, nor Flash Flood with Flooded Woodlands.
  4. You may not link if the word is part of another word—or even if it’s hyphenated. You can link neither Moonring Mirror with Mirror-Sigil Sergeant nor Grizzly Bears with Bearscape.
  5. You can link two words if they have different definitions of that word. If one means a general as in a leader and the other as in something generic, that’s fine. (They are called homonyms.) However, you may not link heteronyms. These are words that are spelled the same but that are pronounced differently and are different words. So, you could not link bow, as in a weapon that is fired, with bow, as in to take a bow. These are different words, with different pronunciations, and therefore, they cannot be chained together. (If you want to be technical and not allow homonyms either, that’s rough, but be my guest).

I would recommend sticking to Magic card names that begin and end in nouns. This is more common that you think—a lot of cards use a noun as a verb in the cards. Take the card Cemetery Reaper. Both are nouns. Each can be found in other card names. Look for cards such as Magma Phoenix and Phantom Warrior.

Okay, by now, I hope this project sounds like a lot of fun! Let’s look at some decks I built around it.

Now, to give you these decklists, I will first show my chain and how it developed. And then, I will give you the actual decklist with cards and lands and such.

W/U Control

Wall of Swords
Here is my first chain:

I began with Control Magic because I felt that would easily be able to scale up and down. Surely there are a lot of cards that begin with “Magic,” right? Nope! However, as I went into the other direction, I encountered Mind Control, and that was a deck right there. I initially wanted this deck to be U/B, and I looked at Syphon Mind to match it, but the only card to link that to was Rhystic Syphon, which sucks, and I couldn’t go anywhere from “Rhystic.” I slid into white with Peace of Mind. I ended up with a list that is much more white than blue. I even managed to sneak in a nonbasic land of some value. I included cards that are not super-great to keep the chain going. I can play these cards in any number I want as long as every nonbasic in my deck is in this chain. I thought about including Azorius Herald as my final card, but I went with the card-advantage potential of the Benalish Heralds instead.

Now let’s look at the actual deck:

There we are with a nice sixty-card deck for you, built entirely with cards from a chain. Now that you see how the chain works, let’s build two more decks.

Golgari Reanimator

Gaea's Touch

I began with Pulse of the Tangle to go in two directions. I went down into Tangle, the Fog spell, and then into Tangle Golem for a nice green-aligned artifact creature. From there, I gave myself some serious beef, ending in Kozilek itself. I was really happy I had turned Pulse of the Tangle into that. As soon as I saw Golem Artisan as a potential match with Tangle Golem, I knew I could run the Artisan of Koz into its daddy. That was set.

I had some issues flowing it back the other direction. There is no question that Death Pulse is a nice match for Pulse of the Tangle because my initial card, Maelstrom Pulse, could not be matched out. However, I had built a nice chain with the split card Life // Death. That sounds great, but the only two reasonable matches for that in-color were Stream of Life and Drain Life. I went with Drain Life, naturally, and then with Essence Drain. But that stopped me. Stream of Life took me to Wandering Stream and then shut me down. So, I thought that Life // Death was clever and powerful, but it didn’t take me all of the way home. On the other hand, using Touch of Death chained to a nice beater in Child of Gaea and some acceleration for my fatties in Gaea's Touch. To me, that was a stronger addition to my deck—the Artisan is my only reanimation spell. If I’m hard casting Koz and Artisan, I need something to aid me.

This chain also reminded me of a loophole I did not mention earlier. A one-word card can be linked if it can link with two adjacent cards like normal. After all, Tangle’s name is the first word of a card that links with Pulse of the Tangle, and “Tangle” is the last word of a card that links with Tangle Golem. Both work!

Since this deck does not have a lot of black, I increased the number of Forests to enable me to better use Gaea's Touch. The deck plays oddly. Note that if I had moved to the Life // Death, Drain Life, Essence Drain version, it would seem a lot more like a control deck than a reanimation deck. Plus, I could increase my Death Pulse count to make Pulse of the Tangle become more reliable. You can consider that a side possibility.

Anyway, that was a fun little deck. Here is my final one of the day.

Five-Color Blue

I wanted to build a chain off a land that could make any color. City of Brass has difficulties started off, so I went with Rupture Spire:

Rupture Spire

That went in an odd direction. I wanted this to be a good-stuff deck, and it ended with a bunch of black. Yes, there is a token red card with Hearth Kami. Our green is Familiar Ground and Ground Seal, both amazingly powerful cards in multiplayer (insert obligatory sarcastic smiley here). It’s almost an Esper deck with solid white, blue, and black, but yucky off-color cards link them. I spent about half an hour trying to make this to work. I wanted to link Owl Familiar with Familiar's Ruse, which would have been great for a deck with those two “Owl”s already in it. But nothing begins with “Ruse.”

Cairn Wanderer
I’m calling this a dead experiment.

Let’s go in a different direction and see if I can find a better chain.

Now that’s better. I found out that I still got to “Blade” with Assassin's Blade, and we kept it to just the Esper colors this time. That’s more reasonable. I wanted Spirit Away from Cloud Spirit, but it doesn’t have anything to connect to. Spirit Mirror is great, but it moves to Mirror Golem, Golem Artisan, and so on. Or it stops at something like Mirror Entity. So, I went with Spirit Cairn because it ends with Wanderer's Twig, which is very good in this three-color deck.

The deck has a healthy amount of flying, which amps the power of Pride of the Clouds. That Spirit Cairn pumps out flying dorks to assist even more. The Portal entries of Serpent Assassin and Assassin's Blade might be less powerful than one would normally expect, but they will suffice. The deck has stuff from the 1-drops through to the 5-drops, and it can play things in all stages of the game. It’s not a bad evolution from Rupture Spire, and it’s a much better take than my earlier one.




I hope you enjoyed looking at this puzzle. I have three adequate entries here. How well can you do? Take a look at the word chain and see what you can make. Then, post it in the comments, and we can all see each other’s work. Who can make the best deck? And can somebody make a feasible Commander deck?

See you next week,
Abe Sargent