The Aspect of Death
Golgari week may still be seven days away, but given that the guild serves as Ravnica’s recyclers, it didn’t seem right to start them off with something fresh. Instead, I brought a corpse, and next week, we can worry about reanimating it.
What little play this incarnation of death does see is mostly as the head of a linear combo deck in competitive one-on-one scenes.
Just Add Spirits
Now, there’s nothing wrong with reanimating three hundred metric tons of ectoplasm, but doing so early on and killing the table isn’t exactly my idea of a good time. Instead, I want to let people find their Akroma's Vengeances and survive, but that doesn’t mean Iname isn’t getting us anywhere.
Surviving the Apocalypse
So, how does one go about escaping the Wrath of God? My first reaction was to keep the ghosts of Christmas past around for another year . . .
. . . but at that point, we’re back to uninteractive combo. The real goal here is to generate good things without completely invalidating the board wipes.
Step 1: Recur
Nether Shadow’s been around since the beginning, and in its lifetime, it has inspired a slew of copycats, many of which work so well with Iname that they don’t even need to be revived manually. Play a land for Bloodghast, kill a creature for Nether Traitor, cast a Spirit for Kemuri-Onna, or do absolutely nothing for Krovikan Horror; they’ll come rushing back like the memories of your first Magic deck. On top of those, we could make use Kamigawa block’s premier Spirit-centric mechanic:
Regardless of the methodology, a Day of Judgment will leave us with plenty of gas to recover our board position.
Step 2: Roll with the Punches
Sure, all of your incorporeal friends are about to hit the bin. Who says that’s a bad thing? Unlike most decks that cover the table in creatures, this one’s not token-based, so Harvester of Souls has room to shine, and even a simple Blood Artist can makes ends meet with enough souls to throw around. Heck, at this rate, we might as well start killing them off ourselves!
Step 3: Leave ’em Dead
But as cool as recruiting our own Dead Men of Dunharrow may be, it’s not the only way to take advantage of a graveyard full of ghosts.
Step 4: ???
Conspiracy has its own section because it’s too weird to categorize with anything else. Also, letting all of these Spirit-centric cards affect a Disciple of Bolas or Sheoldred, Whispering One is just about the best thing ever.
Hyperbole may cause nausea, dizziness, or the end of life as we know it. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.
Step 5: Profit!
Now let’s get down to disgorging graveyards onto our friends’ kitchen tables. Here’s the list:
"A-S-P-E-C-T, Find out How It’s So Deadly"
Yes, if you have them lying around, you should probably be including your black fetch lands to help Bloodghast, but otherwise, that’s $110 that would be better spent on making yourself another deck. The benefit’s not even big enough to warrant running Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse in their absence seeing as they bring the Swamp in tapped and all.
But enough about fetch lands; let’s play a game.
A Matter of Life and Death
In a rare spot of good luck, I managed to find some truly casual Commander players online even though I couldn’t work out timing with offline friends. And like last week, the names (or in this case, screen names) have been eschewed in order to protect the innocent.
I clicked my way over to the virtual table of three, and our commanders came out.
Trostani won the die roll, and we were off to the races . . . And by “the races,” I mean three thrilling installments of “land, go.” The second turn left Gerrard lagging behind as Trostani constructed a Journeyer's Kite and I fashioned myself a nice Mind Stone. Soon thereafter, my Kemuri-Onna took a Forest that didn’t look like it would be missed as Trostani blasted off with Kodama's Reach and Solemn Simulacrum. Gerrard dropped a Kabira Vindicator, Trostani borrowed Ashnod's Altar, and I played my sixth mana source. Iname time!
I wasn’t sure if I would run into any graveyard hate, but I figured the Umbra Stalker in my hand killing in two hits would be enough, so I took this selection of spirit animals.
|Bloodghast||Nether Shadow||Nether Traitor||Krovikan Horror||Thief of Hope|
|He Who Hungers||Kami of Lunacy||Crawling Filth||Pus Kami||Plagued Rusalka|
|Sewerdreg||Kyoki, Sanity's Eclipse||Revenant||Kuro, Pitlord|
This setup gave me the creatures that come back on their own, plenty of fuel for Umbra Stalker, Revenant in case a single-target reanimation spell reared its head, and a bunch of soulshift creatures to make sure that a mass reanimation spell would have a lasting impact.
After taking a minute to process what Iname had grabbed, Gerrard plopped down a Gauntlet of Power and immediately shipped the turn to Trostani, who took the end step to sacrifice Solemn Simulacrum to Ashnod's Altar and activate Journeyer's Kite for, you guessed it, a Plains. After untapping, Trostani dropped her commander along with Academy Rector, which was immediately sacrificed to find Mana Reflection.
Well, if my opponents were determined to generate ludicrous amounts of mana, it was time to add up some big numbers for myself. 23/23 Umbra Stalker, away!
Gerrard didn’t seem to like the idea of being smacked for 23, so he leveled Kabira Vindicator and then summoned a creature that even my 23/23 wasn’t going to tangle with.
Trostani proceeded to have the most anticlimactic turn one could imagine, given the 27 mana she had available and passed after casting a solitary Sol Ring. Untap, upkeep, draw.
Ho boy, that’s a big game. Given that there was no way I was going to make Trostani too expensive to be recast, I opted to sacrifice the Stalker before combat in case of Condemn, but instead, I was met with Path to Exile. Now for the age-old question: Should I find a Swamp or sacrifice the Stalker to High Market so as to keep it in my graveyard? Given that I’d still have access to the Agent and four new cards once it ate my commander, I opted for the sacrificial option.
Talk about being rewarded! Not only would Volrath's Stronghold eventually allow me to reassemble the dynamic duo, Cabal Coffers would also solve my mana woes. Of course, Gerrard had Strip Mine, so patience would serve me well.
While I sat around scheming, Gerrard took the initiative and summoned up an Adarkar Valkyrie to join Akroma and the (now level three) Kabira Vindicator. Then, Akroma leapt across the table to knock Trostani down to 34 life.
I drew Grimoire of the Dead, but since casting it would paint an enormous target on my head, I instead put down Volrath's Stronghold and Dreamstone Hedron. Gerrard seemed only too happy to oblige in keeping me under the radar and plopped down a Yosei, the Morning Star before fully leveling the Vindicator and coming at me with his 9/9 Akroma and at Trostani with the 7/8 Adarkar Valkyrie, which promptly met with Swords to Plowshares. I dropped to 36 life.
Trostani main-phased Return to Dust to hit both my Ashnod's Altar and Gerrard’s Gauntlet of Power and then passed, still threatless. Volrath's Stronghold put Umbra Stalker on top of my library, and it came down as a 26/26, then Gerrard opted to keep Wasteland for mana now that Gauntlet was out of the equation. Gerrard continued the beats, dropping me to 28 and Trostani to 25 before casting his namesake and a Thraben Doomsayer. Trostani ripped a Parallel lives to continue having no action, and I sent Disciple of Bolas back to the top. Go time.
Twenty-five cards and life later, I cast a Falkenrath Noble and discarded down to seven, keeping Gerrard’s life-gain from becoming too crazy. “Which seven?” you ask:
|Cabal Coffers||Deserted Temple||Mind's Eye||Attrition|
|Grimoire of the Dead||Victimize||Twilight's Call|
After playing Divine Sacrament, Gerrard attacked me along with Akroma and tapped down Disciple of Bolas, so I chumped the Weatherlight crew member with Falkenrath Noble, and Yosei knocked Trostani down to 17. After Trostani finally got on the board with Sun Titan, I decided it was time to rid myself of Akroma with a freshly drawn Reiver Demon, but Trostani responded with a Rootborn Defenses to save her board. Yosei’s death trigger knocked out the Demon and four of my mana sources, from which I floated mana with which to cast Mind's Eye and Attrition. At this point, Trostani sacrificed Krosan Verge and used Journeyer's Kite during her upkeep . . . and then promptly drew the last basic out of the sixty-four cards remaining in her deck.
That might be okay if she’d been running four basics—or ten—but twenty-four was another matter entirely. Talk about mana flood!
Image from Hortica Insurance & Employee Benefits
I skipped my untap step thanks to Yosei and played my land for the turn, my sole untapped mana source. Gerrard kicked a Marshal's Anthem twice to bring back Yosei and Akroma and then used Lightning Greaves to attack with both.
Trick or Treat?
That’s 24 black mana . . .
. . . and twenty-four creatures.
A few blocks and Attrition activations later, and after each of Blood Artist, Falkenrath Noble, and Harvester of Souls had triggered eight times, I was up to a comfortable 53 life and Gerrard was down to 33. Yosei once again deprived me of my untap step.
Then, Trostani issued an Austere Command to get rid of creatures big and small, earning each of my opponents 21 points of life drain from Innistrad’s Vampires. Iname: 97; Gerrard: 10; Trostani: 3. One Mimic Vatted Akroma attack later, and I got to untap.
And that’s the game, folks.
This deck may seem a little bit sacrifice-happy, but there really aren’t many outlets. The state of affairs in this game resulted from drawing 80% of my cards. Still, it might make things more fun to ditch the ones without mana costs; if you go that route, let me know how it works out!
That’s it for this week, but before we visit the other half of the circle of life and death, I’d like to hear your opinions on the article style.