Embracing the Chaos: Dreams of Intet
I promised that I'd build Intet and I finally had time to come through on that promise. It turned out to be even more appealing and powerful than I thought it would leading to interesting games where the giant splashy nature of EDH was exposed.
Here's the decklist:
Artisan of Kozilek
Avenger of Zendikar
Djinn of Wishes
Dominus of Fealty
Emrakul the Aeons Torn
Kozilek Butcher of Truth
Momir Vig Simic Visionary
Mul Daya Channelers
Oracle of Mul Daya
Ulamog the Infinite Gyre
Jace the Mind Sculptor
Maze of Ith
Simic Growth Chamber
Temple of the False God
Clearly I wanted “top of the library matters” to be the theme of the deck. I also wanted to add a tokens subtheme especially so I could Mass Polymorph and Proteus Staff them into awesomeness since both of those cards are significantly better if you know what's coming up next.
After I played I took out Ulasht the Hate Seed for Avenger of Zendikar since it was obvious I wasn't committed enough to the token theme but I am putting lots of land into play. I also took out Kaboom! which is thoroughly janky for Dominus of Fealty which is thoroughly jankier. Now I have to consider a sacrifice outlet like Goblin Bombardment Greater Good or Altar of Dementia but I frequently play those cards. I was hoping to stretch in different directions with this deck. That said good cards are good cards and Greater Good is appropriately named. And who am I kidding? I'm eventually going to cave and put in the GGs.
Early in development I had both Kazuul Tyrant of the Cliffs and Word of Seizing in the deck but took them out due to the double red in their cost. The most difficult cut was Rapacious One and I'm going to re-evaluate the list to see if there's anything I'd really like to drop for it. Token-generators and cards that give you more than one-for-one value are not simply good in EDH they're necessary. Because you're playing against more than one opponent cards that trade one-for-one mean you're constantly falling behind.
The Armada Games EDH League has gotten a little competitive lately (there are now at least three players with Sasaya Orochi Ascendant as the General and all of them combo out with some speed) so there is a suite of cards that went in just because of how rough it's gotten: The Eldrazi. Especially Emrakul Jester's Cap and Vicious Shadows.
VShad is a card we've already discussed a number of times in this column and one that I'm not a huge fan of playing but I like to give myself a little protection against more broken decks. Since it's a “may” I can just use it as a rattlesnake (I would definitely consider not using it in an otherwise friendly game) or to eat other people's enchantment removal. It's a card that gets you targeted but probably worth the risk. One of the major kill combos the Sasaya decks are running is Kamahl Fist of Krosa + Masticore. They generate piles of mana perhaps using an Early Harvest as well and then blow up everyone's lands in addition to their creatures. I'll concede that creatures exist to be killed but (again as we've discussed previously) wiping out mana bases falls into the Uncool category. When you're playing Combo you deserve to get Capped.
To the unrepentant Combo players I say it's not my cup of tea but whatevs. What irritates me is the player with Sasaya using the Kamahl/Masticore kill saying that he's not playing Combo. The whole deck is dedicated to getting out these two cards so I'd say that pretty much qualifies as Combo. Again there's no moral judgment but if you're going to make a choice — any choice — then be adult enough to own that choice. I'll have a great deal more respect for you if you don't equivocate.
Back to the deck I'll reinforce my idea that for EDH and probably for most multiplayer formats things that get additional land into play for you are better than ramping up with artifact mana especially in many EDH groups where mass land destruction is discouraged. Artifacts (other than Darksteel Ingot) are just going to get blown up and your nice mana position is suddenly not so nice. I may have gone slightly overboard with Growth Spasm Hunting Wilds Rampant Growth Recross the Paths and Skyshroud Claim (plus Primeval Titan) but in the five games I've played so far with the deck having mana has never been an issue.
On the flip side I may have under-supplied myself with top-of-deck control given that's the main theme. Top Crystal Ball Scroll Rack and Jace might need to be supplemented with a touch more like the very obvious Future Sight which I initially resisted because it's so obvious. Again I was hoping to do a few different things here but I realized while playing that one of the weaker areas in the deck is card draw. You might not commonly think of Future Sight as card drawing but it most certainly is so it would fill two bills here. I'm likely to slip it in and take out Spitting Image before the next time but if you have a better idea feel free to comment. Speaking of which if you have any cards to suggest please do but please also tell me what you'd take out to put it in.
This week's shout-out goes to my friend Justin Norris—he of the original Virginia EDH group and recent visitor to Florida and the Armada EDH League. Justin runs an Intet deck and while he was here he asked Armada's resident altered art expert Kristy Dunn to do an Intet for him. I had forgotten about it until Aaron returned to me the cards Kristy had done for me (some of them featured last week) and the Intet was in the stack. I looked at the great job she did combined with the coolness of the card itself so I decided to build and play it. Thanks to Justin for putting the idea in my head. You'll get back your Intet soon. And when I say soon I mean someday. You know eventually.
As a sidebar I mentioned last week that I wouldn't consider the altered cards Sanctioned-event legal and the reason is two-fold: the lack of a discreet border on the cards and the obscuring of the Type line. While there are guidelines on what constitutes a legal altered-art card there is intentionally not a completely objective measure. There is always going to be some Head Judge discretion worked in because unfortunately the only reasonable way for us to do a 100% objective measure is to say “no alterations at all” which would mean not even having artist-signed cards. We'd simply rather not go there and we'd rather not write a convoluted highly-detailed policy for something that has such a small impact on tournament play.
Onto the games! After last week's stopping of the play-by-play when things got a little crazy I figured I'd try it out for the whole session this week and only write an overview. If the play-by-play is a feature that you absolutely don't want to live without in this column tell me. Otherwise I'm considering at least for the remainder of this league doing the overview style. I'll note that I play a little better when I'm not writing down every single thing that happens since I have the chance to think about the board positions a little better and I don't get distracted from the big picture by the little details.
Before we start the league I've already played two games and gotten comfortable with the way the deck works. It's a great deal more coherent than I thought it was. I already knew that Djinn of Wishes and Scroll Rack with Emrakul is kind of crazy but I underestimated how tight the deck could be. It probably could still use a few tweaks but I liked what I was seeing.
I'm seated with Nate (Radha) Torin (Sasaya) and Aaron (Teneb). Torin is the only one of the three Sasaya players who actually showed up at all. He says that he's not playing the Kamahl version so we take him at his word.
As I mentioned before the League has gotten a little rougher along the competitive axis and some rivalries and bad blood have developed. I'm not quite sure what to do about the latter. Friendly rivalries are fine but other than suggesting that we're just playing a game and that there's really nothing to get so upset about I'm at a loss.
Strangely enough it's some of the little things that get people angry. “You blew up my combo piece last week so here comes an Alpha Strike” or simply “You killed me last time and even though you're not the threat right now I'm killing you this time.” I don't really care how people choose to play their own cards but I do care when their snarkiness and downright unpleasantness creates a foul mood for everyone else. This is a friendly league and I want to keep it that way. Quite honestly if it means removing the prize structure (as small as it is) I'd rather do that than have our Thursdays descend into any kind of ugliness. For the most part the players are pretty friendly —but a few bad apples will definitely spoil the bunch since bad attitudes will keep players from showing up at all.
The first enchantment in this game is Dual Nature which puts the dampener on the Generals. This hurts Nate most of all since his deck is basically designed to use Radha to ramp into a bunch of Beasts and overrun on turn 5 or so. He confesses it's even worse than it might be since he kept a hand with only one green source (we mulligan before the enchantment is announced) counting on Radha for the second green.
Dual Nature doesn't actually hurt Torin although he doesn't initially realize it. He can't simply drop Sasaya and wait to fill his hand with land but once the condition is met he can cast her. Dual Nature is a triggered ability so he can cast his General put the trigger on the stack and then active Sasaya. When the token comes into play Sasaya is already flipped and has a different name.
Aaron makes a tactical decision on his first turn. He's put Pithing Needle into his deck specifically for the Sasaya decks (assuming there were going to be three of them floating around). He thinks that Torin isn't going to figure out the Sasaya trick so he instead Pithing Needles Spinerock Knoll which Nate has dropped. About four turns in Torin does figure it out and asks for confirmation which we give him. It's still a while before he plays it.
I get some early ramp with Cultivate and Armillary Sphere —but despite Dual Nature the beginning is a little slow for everyone. Torin New Frontiers for three which sure helps everyone. On turn 7 I decide that even though there is the risk of getting Legendary Creatures my five tokens and one Mul Daya Channelers is worthy of a Mass Polymorph. I unfortunately do get two Legends —Emrakul and Momir Vig —but I also get Primeval Titan Frost Titan Djinn of Wishes and (very importantly for the defense) Stormtide Leviathan who I will later discover is good with Cold-Eyed Selkie.
A turn after that Aaron gets a four-for-one when casting Angel of Despair taking out my Titan and Nate's Paleoloth (since the tokens go away when the original does).
When the enchantment flips to Cream of the Crop I consider a new card I might put into the deck. It will become pretty insane for me in this game. I have a pretty good board position as does Aaron. Torin has a Killer Bees and Nate is still slowed by not being able to cast Radha. Torin then casts Sasaya flips her and kills Nate with the 50/51 Killer Bees. There are some words exchanged between the two of them since Nate feels a little picked on and Torin…I'm actually not sure what's going on but it sounds very much like a vendetta of some kind the result of something from a previous game.
This is exactly the kind of garbage I was talking about earlier. There are some things I think are worth getting frustrated over (like if no one had had fliers and Torin had rolled a die to see who he would kill would have irked me even if it wasn't me) —but if you're going to get upset every time someone attacks you in a game of Magic you're going to spend your life angry. Get over it.
The rest of the game is pretty much mine. With Dual Nature gone I finally get Intet going. I get Ulamog off of him the first time I attack. My board is Intet Cold-Eyed Selkie Djinn of Wishes Renegade Doppleganger (who I've alternately loved and hated when I've had him) Emrakul Artisan of Kozilek Ulamog Frost Titan and Primeval Titan. Torin falls quickly and I make sure that I don't Chasm myself (with an Annihilator value of twelve on board) in killing Aaron. In the middle of the process the enchantment changes to Goblin Bombardment which gets a raised eyebrow at Michael from both me and Aaron (to which he responds “What???”). I could probably really point farm at this point but that seems downright d**kish. I make the decision at that point to carry along some replacements for the Eldrazi when playing casual games especially for Emrakul (probably Darksteel Colossus).
I'm seated with Todd (Rith) Tory (who won his table with Kresh but now wants to play Angus MacKenzie) and Torin who was the non-winner who scored the most points.
The game gets going quickly. Todd starts with two Hideaways and on turn 5 I cast Intet after Recross the Paths the previous turn. I blindly use Intet's ability and get Primeval Titan and on the next turn get Stormtide Leviathan. Tory Routs to keep some sanity to the game but I hard-cast Ulamog the turn after. Todd has a Swords to Plowshares handy or it could have gotten really bad.
The second enchantment is Purgatory and I realize that I might be able to do some real shenanigans with it. I Chord of Calling for Djinn of Wishes and then hard-cast Artisan to get back Stormtide Leviathan keeping Todd and his army of Rith tokens in check. Todd casts Seedborn Muse and Ant Queen the next turn so the Leviathan is keeping everyone alive at this point. When the Djinn gets killed Purgatory gets him back. It's definitely worth the two life and four mana.
The third enchantment is Amok and Todd already has a Persisted Woodfall Primus in play. Fortunately he only has two cards in his hand and no sacrifice outlet (but I know he plays Greater Good) so we're not hosed yet. Eternal Witness gets me back the Djinn which I no-look into Emrakul. Todd Regrows his Swords and takes out the Djinn before it gets dumb (since I now have Crystal Ball). Torin has cast Myr Matrix but hasn't built much of a board because he's been using the tokens to chump block. He Hurricanes away all the fliers at some point as well.
The game is a little swingy with Tory doing some Wrathing and Fogging Todd and I playing some dudes Torin building up his land and life totals are getting low. The last enchantment is Inheritance which seems fine. It's a card that I wouldn't play but its ability is extra potential card draw so I'm okay with it. It's a little wonky as a world enchantment since we can all draw off of the same creature going to the yard.
The game ends rather abruptly but unfortunately not quickly as Torin takes about twenty minutes to combo out. He eventually casts Early Harvest Restock Avenger of Zendikar Skullclamp Verdeloth the Ancient Concordant Crossroads and Overrun attacking with 190 Saprolings Tory being tapped out and unable to cast the Holy Day in his hand.
There was a time in this game when he had only eight or nine permanents in play and I could have attacked him with Emrakul and felt like it would have been mean. I'm on the fence about whether in the future I would choose the friendlier play or do what I could to neuter the guy I know will eventually try combo out. It seems like the latter would be a violation of my own “give everyone a chance to play” principle — but at the same time it would prevent the pain of watching someone play by themselves for twenty minutes. I could argue that the game had already gone on for ninety minutes so he had had a chance to play but that sounds as much like rationalization than anything else. I guess that's what we would call a dilemma.
Torin wins the table by virtue of the three kills and Todd finishes a point ahead of me for second place.
Intet was indeed a dream to play with and I'll continue playing it and reworking it. It has a fair amount of potential to be a strong deck (without going over the top) that Embraces the Chaos on a regular basis. You'll definitely see it again next week.