Amaze Your Partner! Astound Your Opponents!
Ah, yes, our friend the Cognivore. With a name like that, it sounds like something from a circus poster in a bygone era. 101 Ponderous Pachyderms! Lydia, the Lovely Lady Lion-Tamer! And the One and Only Cognivore!
(All right, I confess. I live in Wisconsin not too far away from Baraboo, the home of Circus World Museum, my second favorite museum.* I try to go there at least once a year.)
The real inspiration for this deck came from a local player, Andy. He was playing a deck at a recent PTQ that was sort of built around Cognivore and a whole mess of instants. (I honestly don't remember if this was his Sealed deck or if he drafted it later - it was too many weeks ago now.) It was a five-color deck. Now, remember, this is Odyssey we're talking about - not a set known for its amazing color fixers. I was watching him and trying to figure out what the heck he was doing - until he dropped the Cognivore.
I would never have had the guts to try that out... But it was really funny to watch.
It did get me to thinking, though. Last time, in our casual game, I played B/G with fairly good success; I had to play something different. Cognivores would certainly be that. Getting them into play could be a challenge, but it would be fun to pull off. It doesn't hurt that Lhurgoyfs are generally better in multiplayer games - the more graveyards, the merrier. Or at least bigger. And I figured that if I played at least some blue, I could probably come up with a few instants to play. Besides, if I added red and white (also good colors for instants), I could play with Lightning Angels.
And the obligatory brief note of explanation for those of you who aren't familiar with me: This is an article about casual play. Pete and I play regular partners games with our friends, John and Cathy. It's Type I, and partners are selected randomly at the start of the evening. I often build a larger-than-sixty card deck just to give me sufficient variety throughout the evening, and we often have sideboards of more than fifteen cards for the same reason. (That's also why there might be two or three of a card instead of four; many fours are predictable - lots of twos or threes means variety. Variety is good when you play the same deck with the same people for hours.)
2 Flametongue Kavu
4 Lightning Angel
4 Accumulated Knowledge
3 Blazing Salvo
3 Dismantling Blow
2 Lashknife Barrier
3 Lightning Bolt
3 Orim's Thunder
3 Prophetic Bolt
2 Suffocating Blast
2 Swords to Plowshares
4 Tsabo's Web
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Sol Ring
2 Thran Dynamo
4 Volcanic Island
Chainflinger - Being able to ping players or creatures is good, and I felt that odds were pretty good that I would be able to get to Threshold occasionally with this deck.
Cognivore - Our Hero. He is terribly expensive and I would really dread seeing the usual Tormod's Crypt out. With four players, I thought it likely that someone else would be playing some instants. It would be very depressing, though, to spend eight mana to put a flying 2/2 into play.
Flametongue Kavu - Four damage to a creature is pretty solid. In a four-person game, there are almost certainly going to be creature targets out there.
Ancestral Knowledge - It draws cards, it's an instant, and it is broken. It was perfect for this deck... But Pete got it first. Sigh.
Blazing Salvo - I like this card in multiplayer. You need to play it in a format that offers lots of creature targets. While it doesn't offer you the choice of where the damage goes (like Lightning Bolt), it is still an instant burn spell that costs R. I would accept either the three damage to the creature or five to the player, and the choice an opponent made might tell me a little bit about what they think of their hand.
Counterspell - I was playing blue. This really doesn't require any further explanation. I ran three only for the sake of having a variety of other cards.
Disenchant - People frequently run artifacts and/or enchantments. Whenever I play white, I like to put some of these in. (Despite what Pete might have thought, I had this deck designed before I proofed his first Light of Day/Darkest Hour article. I was just hoping we would not be opponents. If he thought I had deliberately built my deck to hurt his, it could be a very long drive home.) (PRJ's note: Like the time I built a Reanimator deck, and she dropped Phyrexian Furnace turn one, game one. It was the only time she played four maindeck before or since. Oh, and it seemed like Cathy had about forty-three Tormod's Crypts that evening. That time, we had chosen partners in advance...) (ILJ's note: It was only three Phyrexian Furnace, sided down to two, and I was drawing them like mad. We had also been playing some 5-color at the time where the Furnaces could be very useful.)
Lashknife Barrier - I'm not running a lot of creatures and this might help save them at times. It also serves as card drawing.
Lightning Bolt - Red. Instant. Three damage. Cool.
Prophetic Bolt - I loved this card in IBC; I love it just as much in multiplayer. Four damage is pretty good, and I thought the Impulse effect was very useful. And it's an instant. What more could a girl and her Cognivore want?
Suffocating Blast - I just don't think this card can work consistently well in constructed, but in our multiplayer games it is always good. There is always a creature out on the table somewhere and a potential two-for-one really is an advantage.
Swords to Plowshares - What if I run into something that sneaks past my few counters and doesn't die to the burn? (And Swords is an instant!)
Tsabo's Web - We have had too many games where everyone went on defense (which can mean they go on forever) because people are playing with Maze of Ith. A cantrip that can deal with the pesky Maze? Why sure, I'll play that. (Besides, it was my turn to provide the ammo in our ongoing war against the Maze.)
Black Lotus, Moxen, Sol Ring, Thran Dynamo - Cognivore (remember him?) costs eight mana. Acceleration is good. Thran Dynamo does four damage to something if I need to blow it up with Orim's Thunder. (And I took out the Mox Pearl so Pete could use it.)
Possible Sideboard Cards:
Absorb - If I needed more countering ability, I had these along.
Captain's Maneuver - I figured I could throw this in if someone else were running red or anything else that dealt huge amounts of damage.
Exclude - This is often good in our multiplayer games. It is very rare that both my opponents are running creatureless decks.
Glacial Wall - Just in case someone was running ridiculous numbers of small creatures.
Illuminate - This was a last-minute grab. Damage to a creature with potential card drawing and/or damage to an opponent. If I could get to enough mana to drop a Cognivore, I could probably drop an Illuminate with a kicker or two.
Meddling Mage - This is a calculated risk with the sorts of decks we play. If people are playing theme decks, there might be a lot of one-off cards. On the other hand, if someone is playing something that would totally destroy me or my partner, this could be a way to save on counterspells. I did side these in.
Molten Influence - A red counterspell that doubles as burn? Okay, I had to try this out. (I sided in two, but never saw them, so I still don't know whether I like it or not.)
We diced off randomly for partners, and it was Pete and me. So far, so good. From what I had read of his plans for his deck, I thought it should work out well with mine. John was happy too; he sounded as though he had really hated playing against Cathy's deck.
Pete, as I mentioned above, was playing a Darkest Hour/Light of Day deck (which he describes in his own article.) John was playing a B/G Zombies deck - lots of cheap zombies, Lord of the Undead, Aluren, Pestilence, and one of his favorite cards, No Mercy. Cathy was playing a U/W deck with some counters and a lot of ways to steal other people's creatures - Dominating Licid, Overtaker, Old Man of the Sea, Preacher, Legacy's Allure - as well as some counterspells.
Have you ever had a card in a deck that just loved you? It just would not stay out of your hand no matter what you did?** My Cognivores loved me almost as much as my dogs. I only had two of them and was afraid that I would hardly ever see them. Nothing doing. Three games into the evening I sided one of them out, and I could still topdeck the remaining one like mad.
The first game was a rout for us. Pete got the lock out fairly quickly - a good thing, because John had Aluren in play and was dropping Zombies right and left. I was kept busy countering and burning all the creature-takers that I possibly could as well as John's Quagmire Druids. Then Cathy got Aura Shards and broke the lock...
The next game was all about control. Pete had sided out all of his creatures (Well, he missed a couple that gradually got sided out over the next few games.) which was a bit of a concern because I was only running eleven myself, and it would really hurt us if something like the Cognivore got stolen... But I started out with a Cognivore in hand, and Pete quickly got his lock out again. I dropped a Flametongue to burn out a Dominating Licid; Pete got the Distorting Lens and I started beating. Cathy made a couple attempts to steal the Kavu, but I foiled that. A few turns later I asked Pete,"How many instants have you got in your graveyard?" He had eight; I had seven. Cathy had a Tormod's Crypt in play. She blew up Pete's graveyard. Cognivore came into play as a 9/9, became a 10/10 shortly thereafter when I countered an attempt to take him, and just a few turns later we won. The following game was pretty much the same. (That's when I sided out the second Cognivore.)
Some days the cards just smile on you. John was running Trench Wurms among his endless supply of Zombies. Three games into the evening, we found that he was indeed running Badlands along with the Swamps and Forests. I had just dropped a Lightning Angel on my last turn, and had only four lands in play. He blew up my Volcanic Island. I topdecked another. He blew it up, too. Fortunately my three remaining lands were all basics - one Island, one Mountain, and one Plains. With Pete's help, I fended off a couple attempts to steal my Angel, and finally drew a new fourth land - a basic Island. A few turns later, a second Lightning Angel joined the first. (It didn't help our opponents that Cathy was really mana screwed in that game. She was stuck on only two land for the longest time.) This was also the only game in which I drew an Illuminate. Illuminate is not very impressive without huge amounts of mana.
Only one Cognivore in the Deck and four Chainflingers by now - and who kept showing up in my hand? The Cognivore. The Chainflingers, the few times they deigned to make an appearance, were a beating because it was very easy for me to get to Threshold, but that also made them a prime target for stealing and destruction.
Considering the decks, none of my instants were dead cards in my hand and I was able to ration them fairly well.
Blazing Salvo was good for a quick five points of damage to an opponent a couple times, but I sided them out for the Molten Influences because I thought extra potential counters might be nice. As I mentioned above, those never showed.
Lashknife Barrier was very good. Later on in the evening, Pete switched to his Elf deck. In the first game, he dropped an amazing number of elves, including two Deranged Hermits. John ripped a Pestilence off the top of his deck and played it, activating it twice. It killed everything Pete had in play, but also killed off all his Zombies because it killed his Lords of the Undead. I was left with the only creature on the board - a Meddling Mage, calling Trench Wurm. (We knew by this time that John was running Gaea's Cradle, as was Pete. Pete's Cradle was on the table; John had a Trench Wurm in his hand.) Thanks to the Lashknife Barrier, it survived and beat for a while. Up until this time, I had been being beaten down by Zombies, so John and I were both at eight life. He continued to Pestilence when he had the mana, bringing us both down to four. Then I cast Prophetic Bolt. Pete's Masticore finished off Cathy.
The last game of the evening was almost silly. Pete dropped a few Elves, but good ones - Llanowar, Priest of Titania - along with the Gaea's Cradle. I concentrated on killing many Trench Wurms, Cathy was mana screwed again, and Pete dropped an early Masticore and used it to shoot everything on the board as needed. At that point, all I needed to do was sit back and counter attempts to steal the Masticore, or burn out things occasionally.
The only bad thing about playing the Cognivore this particular evening was making sure I could deal with him if I had him on the table. I had one game when, thanks to the Black Lotus, I could have dropped it very early. I chose not to until I had some sort of counter back up and/or Swords to Plowshares in hand. It would not have been as much fun to have been sitting across from it as it was to be sitting behind it.
Always keep 'em guessing.
* - My first favorite - the Smithsonian Institution. All of it.
** - I had that experience with the Rebel Informer in my Counter Rebels deck for months. The one card in the deck I could not cast, and in thirty-plus games in a row he was invariably either in my opening hand or within the top three cards of my library.