owdy, Johnnies, and welcome to the first edition of From the Lab! I'll be your host one last time, before noted combination enthusiast Noel deCordova takes over full-time next week. Along with the new name, the column will be swapping places with Building on a Budget, because, as far as I can tell, we could all use a little Johnny craziness to get us over the mid-week hump. Check back Wednesday for more mad, silly, potentially dangerous science (that's really Magic).
From the Lab. I know what you're thinking, and the answer is, "No, it's not an advice column for dogs, by dogs." As much as I like Labrador Retrievers, I just don't think they, or their canine brethren, have the chops to write about Magic. I could be wrong, however.
I have to say, it's nice to finally upgrade this old House of Cards to a proper laboratory. I mean, who ever heard of mad science and bizarre experiments being conducted in a house (outside of my fridge)? Mad vacuuming, sure. Mad dinner parties, obviously. But mad science? That requires a less-inviting space, decorated with unlabeled jars containing mysterious fluids, open flames, strange devices crackling with electricity, and adequate living space for a grotesque assistant. It's safety-first around here, so I wouldn't recommend making room for any of these things in your home.
Seeing as how this is my last weekly column, I thought I would do something different. One of my favorite columns to write was one of my first. I called it Attempting the Absurd because I, uh, attempted the absurd. Sometimes I don't know how I come up with these titles. In that article, I did unnecessarily complicated and just plain unnecessary things like try to win the game with Infectious Host, deal 20 damage in one shot with the unlikely, but awesome, Final Punishment + Booby Trap combo (which, as Clayton Z. recently pointed out by email, got a million times better with Jace Beleren), and send Hunted Phantasm + Brightstone Ritual fueled Fireballs towards my opponent's melon. All notable achievements that I have since put on my résumé, though, inexplicably, I am still looking for work.
With all that in mind, I decided to try something similar this week. But what?
The Plague's the Thing
Not long ago, I attended a wedding for my friend Todd, because that's what people are doing nowadays and I didn't want to be left out. There, I got to talking with my friend Greg, a guy who can't say no to life-gain and who also happens to enjoy thwarting my well-laid plans with the unluckliest of tricks (I'm looking at you, Razor Barrier!). We talked about our lives, our careers, his new baby, and how the "married life" was treating him... for about five seconds. We quickly turned our attention to more important things, like making 500 Rat tokens and 400/400 creatures.
When you absolutely need to gain 600 life.
It starts with Boon Reflection
, naturally. Well, "naturally" if you're Greg. It isn't a game of Magic
if he doesn't need a calculator to track his life total. The bulk of the life-gain is provided by Dawnglow Infusion
, with Kitchen Finks
and Faith's Fetters
doing the rest of the heavy lifting. The latter are already powerful tempo cards, buying you many turns, but they get silly when they gain you sixteen or more life.
Greg regaled me with tales of being at 800 life, cackling all the while. That much life is all well and good, but how do you win? I've already hinted at the answer. The Rat tokens are provided by Shadowmoor's Plague of Vermin, which might be my favorite multiplayer card of all time. With a healthy life-cushion from your doubled and quadrupled Dawnglow Infusions, you can freely trade almost all of it for 1/1 black Rat creature tokens. The other win condition is Roiling Horror from Planar Chaos. While Ageless Entity is a more reliable beater, it has to hit play before you gain all the life, which makes it a little more difficult to get it to 400/400. Roiling Horror, meanwhile, can come down at any point after you gain a ton of life, which allows you to build up that cushion and wait it out until you draw one. Convenient. Greg continued laughing evilly, claiming the deck was "just dumb," but it sounded like so much fun that I had to try it for myself.
Obviously, there are lots of cards that could fit into this deck (Oracle of Nectars, Beacon of Immortality, Heroes Remembered, etc.). Borrowing a little from my evil twin, who built a similar deck but didn't talk much about it, here's a revamped version of Greg's deck:
Game 1 vs. queebles with Gargadon.dec:
My first game with the deck ended with a concession once I hit 66 life, so I'll talk a bit about my second game instead. For the first few turns, I did little more than accelerate my mana with Kamigawa all-stars Sakura-Tribe Elder and Kodama's Reach. My opponent had a suspended Greater Gargadon and, at this point, decided to go "all-in," sacrificing all but one permanent to get the hasty Beast in play and knock me to 11. I took 9, untapped, and played Mana Reflection before dropping Faith's Fetters on the 9/7. My opponent could only play a Festering Goblin. A Dawnglow Infusion took me back up to 46 and a Faith's Fetters on the Goblin made it an even 50. With only a handful of permanents on the other side of the board, I decided to just go for it and make 38 Rats. Rather than suffer the indignity of dying to a horde of 1/1's, my opponent paid all 20 of his life to Plague of Vermin.
Someone call an exterminator!!!
Game 2 vs. Pennydreadful with Blue-White Merfolk:
This game took a million years, but I guess that tends to happen when both players are playing decks with lots of life-gain. At one point, the life totals were 98 to 59 in my favor, thanks to a monster Dawnglow Infusion and my opponent's Judge of Currents. Eventually, I managed to sweep the board with Austere Command, clearing out all the Merfolk and allowing me to regain the Mana Reflection and Boon Reflection that had been trapped beneath a pair of Oblivion Rings. A couple Dawnglow Infusions later and I was up over 200 life, setting the stage for this:
My opponent untapped and bluffed a Wrath of God, but thankfully didn't have it:
Ratastrophe strikes for Pennydreadful.
Game 3 vs. rgp2373 with Proteus Staff-Darksteel Colossus:
There was a lot of back and forth in this one, as I answered my opponent's first two Proteus Staves with Faith's Fetters and Indrik Stomphowler. A Mana Leak on an Isochron Scepter set me back, but I eventually had enough mana to play Austere Command and leave my opponent with only a handful of land. I basically spent the next several turns gaining life while my opponent held off my Stomphowler with Pest tokens. With triple Boon Reflection and double Dawnglow Infusion, my life total was well out of reach by the time my opponent turned a Pest into a Darksteel Colossus. It's not everyday you get to put Darksteel Colossus on chump-blocking duty, but, then, it's not everyday you have a creature that's almost forty times as powerful:
A Horror that definitely knows how to roil.
How Many Auras Can Dance on the Head of a King?
For my next trick, I'd like to refer you to a recent Ask Wizards question:
Q: In the spirit of "What would a 1/1 colorless Sliver be if every other Sliver were on the field?" I was wondering what would Reaper King be if it was enchanted with every two-color Aura (Runes of the Deus, Clout of the Dominus) from Shadowmoor and Eventide?
The answer, in short, is Reaper King would be really powerful. Surely, though, getting all ten of the "God Auras" on a Reaper King is impossible, right? Well, we'll see about that. After all, to attain the impossible, one must attempt the absurd. And, once again, this is just dumb (but in a good way).
To pull off this unlikely feat, I figured that Retether would be necessary, as Monty Ashley suggested. Without it or something similar, you would have to put the shroud-granting Clout of the Dominus on last. I also thought that I would use cards like Thirst for Knowledge and Urzatron-powered Read the Runes to fill the graveyard. The Urza lands (Urza's Power Plant, Urza's Mine, and Urza's Tower) are probably unnecessary here, but they do allow you to do everything in one turn. With nine mana, you can play a Body Double (copying a binned Reaper King) and Retether back-to-back. As long as one of those Auras is Clout of the Dominus, you can win right then and there with a hasty Reaper King. Here's the deck I built, which, keep in mind, is focused on getting all ten Auras on Reaper King and nothing more:
Game 1 vs. kasmir with Domain:
This game just goes to prove that you need Retether to pull this off. Otherwise, you have to hold back or you will just win too soon. In my second game with the deck, I played turn-three and turn-four Coalition Relics into a turn-five Reaper King. My opponent was playing a classic Domain deck and matched my early-game mana-ramping with Sakura-Tribe Elder, Harrow, and an Allied Strategies for four cards. On my sixth turn, I looked at my hand, shrugged, and, with my heart in my throat, played Runes of the Deus (pause) and then Clout of the Dominus on my Reaper King. With a 10/10 double-striking Scarecrow, and no opposing creatures to get in the way, I simply attacked for 20:
Game 2 vs. VampireWarrior with Black-Green Elves:
We both kept sketchy opening hands, so little happened in the first few turns. My opponent played a pair of Grafted Wargears, but had no creatures, while I just played lands and fired off a pair of massive Read the Runes. Thornweald Archer grabbed both of the Wargears and smacked me for 8, but I had Faith's Fetters to buy me some time. I had a graveyard full of Auras at this point, all but Fists of the Demigod and Steel of the Godhead, in fact. Under little pressure, I decided to just go for it anyway when a Body Double turned up during my draw step:
It's good to be the King!
I played many more games, but this ended up being as close as I could get to piling all ten Auras on a Reaper King. While 23/23 isn't quite 27/27, it's still pretty impressive if you ask me. Ultimately, I failed at my task, but with a few more games and a few tweaks to the deck, I might be able to pull it off. How can you know if something this dumb is possible, if you don't even attempt it? Maybe a Johnny's reach should exceed his or her grasp.
So Long, and I Graciously Accept All the Seafood!
Thanks to the fine folks who make this game we all love; to Ted Knutson, The Ferrett, and Pete Hoefling, who encouraged my early attempts at Magic writing and allowed me, for the first time, to exchange a bunch of words for money; to Scott Johns, Ted, Kelly Digges, and the web teams past and present, for making me look good and for turning my boring old Word documents into something cool; to House of Cards alums Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar and Mark Gottlieb for setting the bar high and for providing excellent models, advice, and their stamp of approval; to Mark, Scott, and Aaron Forsythe, for getting me here in the first place; to alextfish, for keeping my spirits up; to Justin, Greg, Will, Todd, Rob O., and Rob B., for being an awesome gaming group; to Laura, Alison, and the rest of my friends and family, for trying to read my articles without the aid of a Magic-to-English dictionary; to the awesome communities of Magic players at pdcmagic.com and edh.truespace.ca (one last plug!), for keeping those awesome formats thriving; and, of course, to all the creative people who sent me decks and combos the past two and a half years. I couldn't have done it without any of you.