From_the_Lab

Feed Forward II

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The letter H!ello and welcome back to the Lab. As advertised, this week marks the return of Feedback Week. Today's column will feature emails and reader decks from Internet-goers just like you. And if you scroll all the way down (restrain yourselves, though) you'll see the results of the contest poll I held a fortnight ago.

I was pondering the notion of feedback for this column, and it came to me that you all might want some from my own person. Although technically, since I'm doing the original feeding, I can't feed back. Call it feeding forward. Either way, I'd just like to take some quick (or not so quick) paragraphs to bare my soul for a bit.


Next week will mark three years here in the Lab. I've written more than 150 columns. I've never talked about my longevity at this position, mostly because I felt addressing it would be off-topic, or at least grossly self-indulgent. But trust me when I say it's been in the back of my mind for over a thousand days.

This has been...

For three years, I've...

Sorry, y'all. I had to take some shaky breaths during those ellipses. What I mean to say is: This experience has basically been three parts insane, two parts dream fulfilling, and one part spiritually transcendent. (In other words, all the parts are the same.) To go from typing innocent emails to Mark Gottlieb and Chris Millar, to having the universe offer me a writing opportunity out of thin air, to grappling with following those excellent Magical writers, to typing these columns in mortal disbelief every single week, to seeing my name appear in association with those who create the game I love dearly, to receiving actual fan mail from readers and seeing everything come full circle... it's pretty astounding.


Three years of furious 3 a.m. Gatherer compiling, spending my Sundays zonked out in front of my computer screen making deck lists. Writing this column has not exactly been a walk in the park; nevertheless, this responsibility has slid comfortably in line next to the rest of my life. I marveled each week at how I could lock into column-writing mode. Along the way I've made important self-discoveries. The column entered my life at a pivotal moment, and instantly magnified it, marking the year 2008 as a personal turning point. At my lowest moments, I would call up my archive and gawk at it.

Happily, I've received something close to acclaim from a great deal of emailers, and I appreciate it. I have spent the last three years in a perpetual state of hilarity, feeling I've either hoodwinked the world or actually have some sort of talent for coming up with combos. Either way, I'm riding this wave as long as I think I can.

This experience has been oddly spiritual in ways. If you follow your passion blindly, almost without knowing you are doing it, the universe will respond. For me, it was an email from Kelly Digges, which might as well have said, "We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."

When I was setting up the nitty-gritty of the column, I was asked what card art I wanted in the background of my author pic. Oddly, it was at that moment that I realized what an opportunity I had in front of me. I was going to carry on my real life like nothing had changed, when all the while I suddenly had my own Batcave in a corner of cyberspace. I chose Dolmen Gate based on these reasons—based on everything I've been talking about. Dolmen Gate isn't necessarily a favorite mechanical card of mine, but that art. Looking at that photo now, it's a snapshot of myself three years ago, just before I was about to enter into this world. I snapped the photo, took a deep breath, and plunged through the gate into this experience, trusting that any external downers would be vanquished along the way. I think that's where the "prevent all combat damage part" comes in. These things make sense.


So from the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who has ever read my column, whether for enjoyment or even for something to hate on. I intend on continuing this journey until the next rung of this ethereal ladder presents itself.

And Now For Reader Decks

There, that's off my chest. Now to devote the rest of this article to some kooky reader decks that have flown into my inbox lately! Sifting through the mailbag is a decent way to spend some time. Today's first deck comes from Kyle Mueting, who decided to build and send me a blue-red Scrambleverse deck. Scrambleverse is the latest attempt at a big red "what the fire truck?!" card for the core set. Previous years have seen Warp World (originally a denizen of the classic Ravnica set) and Wild Evocation (a decent attempt I suppose, completely validated by its artistic portrayal of a mutated badger wearing a hoodie). If I had my way, Grip of Chaos would follow Scrambleverse. That enchantment is off-the-walls crazy.


But back to Scrambleverse. Kyle realized there was a recent method to breaking the symmetry of this card, and others like it: Homeward Path. Ramp up to the Scrambleverse, then lay down the Path as your land for the turn and yank back everything that scrambled away from you. Kyle loaded his deck with cards that like being on the wrong side, like Bronze Bombshell and Rust Elemental. Bazaar Trader plays backup for these cards, and has nice synergy with Mark of Mutiny (so you gain control of the boosted creature for good).

After some card filtering, mana acceleration, and board defense, Kyle came up with the following list. Points for the music reference as well!

Scramble On


Next up is another fun creation from a rock-solid Johnny contributor over the years. Nate Hannon wisely decided that this week was the perfect week (perhaps the only feasible week) to build around, um, Feedback. Yeah, the card Feedback. Gotta hand it not only to his strategic thinking, but to the Johnny skills that enabled him to pull it off.


Nate's emails are always clear and give me a sense of his thought process while building, so I'll give him this spotlighted section:

One major obstacle to building around Feedback is the fact that your opponent isn't guaranteed to have enchantments. To remedy this situation, I added Enchanted Evening and Puca's Mischief. The former will let you put Feedback on any of your opponent's permanents, while the latter will let you exchange an enchantment for one of your opponent's permanents. Puca's Mischief also works well with most Auras, since they do the same thing regardless of who controls them. In addition to Feedback itself, I added in some copies of Pacifism and Faith's Fetters to serve as early defense. There are also plenty of ways to abuse Enchanted Evening. Does your opponent have a planeswalker or a huge creature? You can copy or steal it at a significant discount, or just sacrifice an extra land to Teferi's Care to get rid of it.

Since we already have an enchantment theme, I threw in Idyllic Tutor and a toolbox of enchantments. Does your opponent have the audacity to actually run enchantment removal? Find a Greater Auramancy or two. Are you being overrun by an army of creatures? Teferi's Moat may be able to help. Are your Feedbacks taking too long to kill your opponent? Use Paradox Haze to make them work twice as fast, or just attack with an army courtesy of Sigil of the Empty Throne or Opalescence (the latter also blows up land in conjunction with Enchanted Evening.

Here's Nate's deck:


Let's move on to today's last deck, which comes from the most prolific member of my inbox. Darth Parallax gets some kind of award for sending me not only abstract deck emails, but informing me of intriguing life mysteries, such as Graham's Number (that email came with a colorless Gleemax Commander deck) and the idea that science and magic may not be too far apart (with links to the appropriate articles / Harry Potter fanfiction.)

There are too many specimens to decide on, but I'll go with his nutty musings on Knowledge Pool, Sundial of the Infinite, Time, and Fate. Yep... two slap-me-silly cards working together with mystic forces beyond our control (or are they?).

Here's DP:

The Plan:

Step 1: Cast Telling Time.
Step 2: Use the stacking and drawing effects to set up Knowledge Pool, so that when you're opponent next casts a spell, they get your Sundial of the Infinite instead.
Step 3: Initiate a Mindslaver Lock. of some sort.
Step 4: Opponent accuses you of being a cheater, because there's NO WAY you could have been sure you would get that to work right.
Step 5: Tell him the truth. You weren't
Step 6: He doesn't believe you, and walks away wondering if you actually have the power to manipulate Time and bend Fate to your will.
Step 7: Submit a decklist including as many cards that reference Time in some way that you can think of that aren't Time Vault, which is a lazy way to do this and therefore a poor choice for From the Lab.


On top of that, I crafted a little story for this deck: Some new student at Tolarian Academy accidentally breaks the time-space continuum. The rest of the story becomes incomprehensible due to the inherent nature of the premise. :)

Poll Results

Which of these two contests do you want Noel to run?
Pick-a-Word Contest 225 58.1%
Collector Number Contest 162 41.9%
Total 387 100.0%


Pick-a-Word wins! As more of a word guy than a numbers guy, I was rooting for this one to win. Perhaps in the future I'll hold the Collector Number contest.


The rules for this contest are, once again:

Pick a word, from three to five letters long. Build a deck about that word, using only cards beginning with one of the word's letters. (So, if my word is WATER, I can only use cards whose title begins with W, A, T, E, or R.) Basic lands CAN still be used. (So I could still use Islands.) All the letters in your must be represented in your deck, and the deck you build has to have something to do with the word you chose."

That last sentence is important. Build the word in deck form. Justify each card choice with a flavorful jump as to why it pertains to the chosen word. Give the deck a gameplan that mirrors how that word achieves what it achieves, if that's not cryptic enough for you. This is probably the purest conceptual contest I've run.

Decks should be 60 cards and are due September 1. In the past I've given you all a month of time, but this time I think some creative time restriction is in order (and it prevents me from putting the contest on the back burner and watching it boil madly.)

Thanks for reading, and until next time.

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