Gimmicky cards are my jam. Althoough tournament Magic can be a serious game, I do like to take breaks from trying to come up with combos and just have some fun with some built-in nonsense from time to time. Like a lot of less competitive-minded players, I built a deck around the Bubbling Cauldron / Festering Newt / Bogbrew Witch trifecta, and I enjoyed the heck out of every game I lost.
I lost a lot of them.
Recently we have seen cards printed that reference others cards that don't yet exist, and often they have tutor effects to find those cards. Renowned Weaponsmith was one that had me potentially interested, as tapping for two mana is a big effect, and if Vial of Dragonfire were playable, I was going to be building around it. We know how that worked out: it wasn't playable.
My feelings when I saw Vial of Dragonfire.
Dark Intimations was a slightly different case, offering a strong suggestion instead of a brazen naming, but overall being underwhelming to me. Not to worry, though: the real kicker was still to come in Amonkhet with Gate to the Afterlife. A card that was really close to playable on its own, I was very excited to see what God-Pharaoh's Gift would bring us. My friends and I made guesses as to what it would do, reasoning that it would probably be bad, given the number of places from which we could tutor it onto the battlefield.
I'm not usually glad to be so wrong, but this was definitely one of those times. I have a soft spot for reanimation strategies, and this one being so flexible and unique in almost every way really appealed to me right off the bat. Over time it has become my favorite card in Hour of Devastation and I expect that to remain true. I wrote about some possible ways to use it in my Brew Blitz, but I barely scratched the surface. Without question, I have seen and been sent more deck ideas involving God-Pharaoh's Gift than any other card in a long time. What is it about this one artifact that has set so many brewers ablaze?
- It's an artifact. Colorless is important, and we can fit the Gift into decks of any color combination without hurting the manabase.
- Gate to the Afterlife gives it recursion. There's a card some people like to play called Abrade; perhaps you've heard of it? Maybe you also know Dissenter's Deliverance? The presence of both of these cards in maindecks makes a deck based around one artifact a risky proposition. Fortunately we can not only find Gift with the Gate, we can also bring it back.
- The creature gains haste and sticks around. It would have been very easy to have the 4/4 Zombie token enter the battlefield without haste, or to have it exiled at end of turn. That Wizards chose to do neither of those tells me that this card is pushed to some degree. It also makes it less likely that we spent seven mana (or two and a card) for nothing.
- Enters-the-battlefield triggers. Creatures have to be hyper-efficient to see any tournament play, and one way they can achieve that is by immediately affecting the battlefield when they enter it. Getting 4/4 copies of the exiled creatures lets us get additional value out of those triggers when the card could easily just have made blank 4/4 Zombie tokens.
- The tokens are hefty – The difference between a 2/2 and a 4/4 is not trivial. It might seem small, but cutting a clock in half while also being larger than most other things is key. We also get to make tokens of creatures that are "meant" to be small but that get much better by virtue of being 4/4: double strikers, creatures with effects based on their power, Electrostatic Pummeler…
- It's just so much fun. Having played some of these decks online and watched people play them in person, the entire concept is an absolute blast. Whether you're trying to fill your graveyard with Slither Blades and Benthic Infiltrators or you're going off with Combat Celebrant, the deck goes zero to 60 in a hurry and just plows right on through.
A Gift…of a Tree. A Thrown Tree.
I couldn't start anywhere else. Combining two different fun decks to make one monstrosity of fun-flavored fun is sure to get my attention. Just take a look at this beauty:
- 4 Combustible Gearhulk
- 2 Noxious Gearhulk
- 2 Heart-Piercer Manticore
- 4 Tree of Perdition
- 1 Razaketh, the Foulblooded
This is not my list, but was sent to me by fellow judge Andrew Quinn. One of his local players came up with the concept, and this is the shell they put it in. The plan, in case you are missing it, is to make a Tree of Perdition with God-Pharaoh's Gift and then set the opponent's life total to four.
My first thought was that white seemed both out of place and unnecessary, until I realised that this deck has no copies of Gate to the Afterlife. Although that does explain the inclusion of white for Refurbish, and although it makes sense given the current build with only thirteen creatures, I would much prefer to trim that third color and add more creatures and the Gate. Adding four Gate to the Afterlife in place of the four Refurbish would also let us cut one God-Pharaoh's Gift.
As much as I would love to cast Madcap Experiment in Standard, a deck with thirteen artifacts scares the living daylights out of me. Let's replace that with Insolent Neonate, using the extra God-Pharaoh's Gift slot for the fourth copy. Four Fling is too many, and eight total spells that need you to have cards in hand to be any good is definitely a concern. I could see a home for one or two copies of Hazoret the Fervent in here, but that won't really solve the issue of having enough creatures in the graveyard for Gate to the Afterlife to do its thing.
Bloodrage Brawler is a possibility, as is Hollow One. Both provide beefy bodies for a (potentially) low cost while also either enabling a discard or playing well with it. Some number of cycling creatures could also be useful, not least of which would be Archfiend of Ifnir. This deck could make a lot of use of that card. Horror of the Broken Lands is a possibility as well, though the lack of any evasion is a concern.
The sideboard is clearly not complete, and with the idea to take white out of the deck, we'd need to replace the Anguished Unmaking. Unlicensed Disintegration seems fine there. I also want as many copies of Flaying Tendrils as I can fit, and maybe something like Ruthless Sniper to shore up the aggro matchups. Collective Brutality is going to do a lot of work here and might need to have more copies available.
The Gift...of Puppets
Andrew is not just a relayer of fun-as-heck decklists, no indeed. He also dabbles in the sweet science of the brew himself, handing this fine number to a friend who almost ran the gauntlet at a Game Day.
- 2 Metalwork Colossus
- 4 Angel of Invention
- 4 Champion of Wits
- 2 Marionette Master
- 2 Mausoleum Wanderer
- 4 Minister of Inquiries
- 4 Thraben Inspector
Andrew didn't send along a sideboard, but I don't need one to know that I need to play this. Preferably right now. I'll be right back.
Okay, can confirm. This deck is a lot of fun, possibly too much. It goes big and it goes there very quickly. If you can get a Metalwork Colossus in the graveyard along with a Marionette Master, you are a huge favorite to win. Activate the ability of the Colossus, hold priority, and activate it again...tons of damage.
The lack of maindeck removal is a worry, and I considered adding Fairgrounds Warden to help there. I understand the desire to cut Cataclysmic Gearhulk as it can remove artifacts from the battlefield, thus denying you your win condition when you find a Master. I cannot imagine not having some form of sweeper in the deck, though, even if that sweeper cannot remove a Hazoret the Fervent.
I am not convinced, with all the self-mill and card draw we have, that four Refurbish is necessary to find a way to get God-Pharaoh's Gift onto the battlefield. I also can easily justify cutting an Angel of Invention. My plan would be to replace them with a maindeck Fairgrounds Warden and two Cataclysmic Gearhulk. The Gearhulk has the added benefit of being another artifact to sacrifice to the Colossus, which is not nothing.
It might be possible to build this deck with more artifacts, like Filigree Familiar and perhaps Pilgrim's Eye, but they seem worse in general than the non-artifact options. I wouldn't hate another way to generate Clues either, but the options there are far from desirable in a deck that isn't looking to cast many things. The deck feels like it might be missing just that once piece, but I can't quite put my finger on it. More testing is required, which sounds like a great plan. Be right back again...
The Gift...of Cycling
I want to end this bonus visit to the LAB with my take on a list that has been floating around for a while. Hour of Devastation did more than give us The Gift...of the God-Pharaoh ("Gate it in, man"), it also increased the number of one-mana cycling creatures to which we have access. It also gave us a very fun potential game-winner in Cunning Survivor.
- 4 Hollow One
- 3 Archfiend of Ifnir
- 4 Champion of Wits
- 2 Cunning Survivor
- 3 Curator of Mysteries
- 3 Horror of the Broken Lands
- 2 Ruthless Sniper
- 4 Striped Riverwinder
- 3 Vile Manifestation
The plan here should be obvious: cycle a lot, cast Gate to the Afterlife, and win the game. We have resilient cycling threats like Striped Riverwinder, we have creatures that trigger from cycling like Horror of the Broken Lands and Cunning Survivor, and we have the ability to just go huge on turn 3 with a bunch of Hollow Ones out of nowhere. I have not really played much with this particular brew, but the theory is solid and the variety of threats makes us a little more resilient should we ever see control decks rise up again.
You will draw a lot of cards with this deck, hence the singleton God-Pharaoh's Gift. A second might not go astray (it's not legendary, remember...) but the first one will often just win the game. It's important to note that Cunning Survivor, Horror of the Broken Lands, and Vile Manifestation all give you a boost to base stats and do not set them, which is what makes them so good with the Gift. Something like Apocalypse Demon might seem to be a good fit with a deck that can fill the graveyard this quickly, but it is not the card you want to reanimate with the Gift, as it will remain a 4/4 regardless.
That's all we have for this week, folks. As always, thanks for stopping by. I will be back Monday with your regularly scheduled brewfest, but as of now I am not sure what we will be writing about. If you have an idea floating around, let me know! I would be happy to try to flesh it out. Until next time...Brew On!