Embracing the Chaos - Hidden Gems, Part 1 of 2
Week Seven of the Armada Games EDH League was not interesting enough to do a full report on. Due to the impending Release events many of our regular players decided to catch some sleep before showing up for the midnight drafts. We had only eight players which is still certainly enough for some fun but the games themselves weren't worth the 3000 or so words I'd normally write on them. I'll give you the short version.
The first enchantment is Awakening Zone which benefits Nate the most since he's all about ramping out anyway. His first turn involves Forest Sol Ring and Fierce Empath with which he fetches Primeval Titan. I play the League's first Scars card Geth Lord of the Vault and use it once to regrow Aaron's Bone Shredder and along the way get a pretty big Kresh going.
Nate is getting a little insane over on his side with Spearbreaker Behemoth and Contested Cliffs controlling the other creatures so I tap out to play Woodfall Primus to get the Cliffs. When I do he Grabs the Reins on Kresh and Flings it at me for 29.
Keith makes the smart play by killing me on my next turn since I'm low-hanging fruit at this point. I walk away to play a casual game with some of the guys and I hear that Aaron and Keith gang up to keep Nate in check eventually eliminating him and fighting over the table which Aaron eventually wins.
In game 2 I'm again seated with Nate plus Taliah (Scion of the Ur-Dragon) and Anthony (Wort Boggart Auntie). The first enchantment here is a less-rampy Onslaught but Taliah starts with Leyline of the Void in play and ends up regrowing it and casting it twice more during the very short game.
Nate once again uses his General to ramp out and on turn 7 with Mana Reflection in play casts Genesis Wave for 25. He uses the land he gets to cast Regrowth get it back and cast it again for nine. Among his cards is Bear Umbra and Aggravated Assault. Kresh and Fling might make a difference here if he chooses to attack other people first and there's blocking but he has Ravenous Baloth and Kresh isn't big enough to hurt him enough to have to sacrifice enough attackers to stay alive since he has about 130 in power on the table. Total game time: twenty minutes.
“I wanted to see if I could make it work” is the first thing he says which I find one of the silliest things for an EDH player to say when you're just plopping cards into play. Of course you can make it work. The challenge isn't in breaking the format since the format is really already broken. The challenge is not breaking the format. The same Genesis Wave an hour later probably makes me say “Whoa cool!” At the 20-minute point it just makes me say “good for you.” Your mileage is welcome to vary.
Of course the brevity of that game gives me the opportunity to discuss something that I've been thinking about for while so it's all upside for you. This started as a small 25-card deal which blossomed into something quite a bit larger so we'll be presenting it in two parts.
One of the things EDH deckbuilders must accept is that there are more cards that would be good for their decks than they have room for. Picking exactly which 60-ish non-lands you'll be playing can be an exercise in agony. Let me add some to that agony by giving you 99 more ideas that you might not have already considered. This list doesn't include Scars of Mirrodin cards since I started making notes on it quite a while back.
Aether Shockwave: I can't imagine the first mode getting used much but the second one seems pretty useful. You really don't even need a Spirit to make it worthwhile but you probably have a few and don't realize it (since there are 328 of them).
Aether Snap: I saw Armada Games owner Aaron Fortino play this once but I think he didn't like it so much because it's a sorcery and its primary function—getting rid of EDH's omnipresent tokens—can be had as an instant in Consume the Meek. Still it's a planeswalker killer and castrates a fair number of really good creatures. Sorry sports fans it doesn't remove poison counters from players.
Aetherplasm: Getting expensive guys into play for free is always very very good. You don't even need to make the big swingy block to do it but Darksteel Colossus or Emrakul for 2UU is insane. There's a condition that needs to be met first which might just mean you don't get attacked which is also great. Of course pair with stuff that makes dudes attack like Fumiko the Lowblood.
Arena of the Ancients: Everyone has at least one legendary creature. If your General has vigilance or if he's mostly there for the colors then you get more value out of him than the other players. Obviously this is suboptimal with Radha Heir to Keld or Hanna Ship's Navigator.
Assert Authority: Exiling a spell after countering it is way better and given that the folks that tend to play counterspells also play a fair number of artifacts I'm simply surprised I haven't ever seen this.
Augury Adept: Life gain and card draw in one neat little package. I'm really surprised everyone has missed this guy up to this point.
Aura Flux: Everyone plays great enchantments and no one plays enough enchantment removal. Most players will pay once or twice for their good stuff then realize how much it's slowing them down and then let them go. The good news is they've slowed themselves down to do something they were eventually going to do anyway.
Avarice Totem: Completely techy when it came out; I haven't seen it played in ages. You activate the ability in response to itself and fun things happen. If you control Avarice Totem and another permanent you can use its ability and target the permanent you control. You can then use this card's ability again and target a permanent your opponent controls. The second usage resolves first and you get your opponent's permanent in exchange for this one. The first usage then resolves and swaps your other permanent for the Totem so you get it back. The net effect is that you can swap any non-land permanent you have for anyone else's if you can activate this ability twice. The opponent does get the chance to use the Totem in between the resolutions of your two usages if they have the mana so you have to be a little careful but what better way to start Embracing the Chaos?
Ayumi the Last Visitor (and Livonya Silone): Academy Ruins Boseiju Eye of Ugin Flagstones of Trokair Gaea's Cradle Kor Haven Mikokoro Minamo Miren Urborg Tomb of Yawgmoth Volrath's Stronghold and Yavimaya Hollow all see regular play. I'd imagine games that don't have a legendary land appear are in the minority. Ayumi seems better because she's only one color.
Battlefield Scrounger: This guy was a staple in my early Phelddagrif decks because of his ability to get all my good spells back. You can only use him once per turn but you can sure use him on other players' turns as well. I'm actually not sure why I'm not still playing him.
Bullwhip: One of everyone's favorite cards from Stronghold (at least back in Stronghold times) this weenie-killer will also prod bigger creatures into action creating favorable situations for you or anyone you want to make an alliance with.
Cannibalize: Because creatures are likely to die anyway it's worthwhile to me to be able to exile one of them at the cost of the two +1/+1 counters. Black is pretty good at killing them a little less good at keeping them dead.
Carpet of Flowers: There is so much blue getting played you're likely to get an extreme amount of value out of this especially if you cast it early. It's not the kind of thing anyone Disenchants since it doesn't actually kill them. It's not Lurking Predators after all.
Cauldron Dance: Holy screwing up combat math Batman! Plus in black you're always going to end up reanimating whatever you sacrifice. This works for your combats as well as your opponents' so don't be shy about attacking. Bouncing back “enters the battlefield” trigger creatures and swinging with giant monsters seems like it's full of the sauce.
Citanul Flute: We all like tutoring. How about reusable tutoring for exactly what you want? Sure it's a little pricey but it's another one of those cards that don't get blown up unless you really abuse it.
Compost: I've been playing it recently and it's nearly always exceeded my expectations. Lots of people play black and lots of black cards go to the graveyard. It's one of those cards that other people might hesitate to destroy holding their limited enchantment removal for “better” ones. In the times when there hasn't been a black player at the table I just hold it to discard to the eventual Greater Good activation.
Damping Engine: This is a card that I've been curious about for quite a while and haven't tried out. Since this article is about cards you might want to think about I figured I'd toss it in. The major potential downside I see is that you might be giving someone a sacrifice outlet that helps them more than it hurts them. You might need to play it with It That Betrays.
Decimate: People avoid playing this because they're worried they'll never have all the targets they need. There has rarely been an EDH game that's gone past turn 5 that this will be the case. Occasionally you might need to target something of your own but having to do that is well worth the value you get out of this one card nearly every time you play it. Remember that it's only countered if all the targets are invalid on resolution.
Deepfire Elemental: Maybe it's just that people don't play red that much or maybe it's just that his ability is really expensive but in a game where the mana flows like wine at a Canaan wedding reusable destruction is tops.
Delirium: First it keeps a fatty off your back. It can simply be used as a one-creature Fog. Second it turns what was intended for you back on the controller. Third tapping is part of the resolution not cost so you can do it after the opponent has declared his attack. The only downside is that you can't do it to Player A on Player B's turn. Small downside really. A similar card Backlash can be cast any time but the targeting restriction is an untapped creature so it's easily countered. Add infect for more lolz.
Din of the Fireherd: At worst you get one creature and one land off of someone plus a 5/5 dude of your own. At best you can wipe his board of creatures. In more casual games I'd be careful about wrecking someone's mana base but it's certainly a possibility here.
Doomgape: There has to be a way to grab some value out of this guy. He's in green/black so you can definitely work him in with a reanimation strategy and you probably want to anyway since he'll be sacrificing creatures for you. Too bad he's an Elemental and not a Beast.
Dreamscape Artist: Most of the original Spellshapers—there are 56 of them—(with a few exceptions like Jaya Ballard and Mageta the Lion) are kind of blah. Dreamscape Artist has real possibilities. You're going to have to play it with recursion to get value but that's hardly difficult.
Dust Elemental: He has flash which is awesome he's 6/6 for four which is even more awesome and he can save your other guys from Wrath or targeted destruction which is supremely awesome. Then there are the shenanigans that go with enters-the-battlefield triggers. I like especially the idea of pairing him with green mana ramp creatures (Wood Elves and the like) to get a fast start or maybe Reveillark to do all the evil things Reveillark can do.
Eater of the Dead: Cards from The Dark generally don't make lists other than “Cards You've Never Heard Of” but this guy while not as good as he was before he was (rightly) fixed can still be part of your anti-graveyard strategy. In the world of Sun Titans you need some of that defense.
Everlasting Torment: This got play in Standard but seems like no one has thought of its power in EDH especially where there are plenty of indestructible dudes. Add in the “no life gain” clause and you have a little three-mana powerhouse.
Evincar's Justice: Buyback is good in formats where you have a fair amount of mana and reusable creature destruction is at a premium in the format. The damage to the players is likely secondary to wiping the weenies.
False Prophet: Another card that I had in early versions of Phelddagrif as a giant rattlesnake. Sure you can't then use your recursion on your guys but neither can they. Since you know this guy is coming (would that make you the False Prophet Prophet?) you can prepare.
Fertilid: Getting more lands into play is a proven way to do the big splashy stuff EDH is known for. Fertilid provides a creature-based opportunity to help do that. Strictly speaking he's slightly worse than Wood Elves but with so many ways to get +1 counters on guys it seems like you could end up fetching quite a few lands.
Fight to the Death: Sometimes the splash is all about timing. Playing Fight to the Death during a combat you're not involved in will certainly be big. Alternately you can just use it to get your guys to kill guys who are just better. Add to Avatar of Hope Ironfist Crusher Palace Guard Thoughtweft Trio or Wall of Glare to do a one-sided Wrath. Pair with ‘becomes blocked' stuff like Curtain of Light or Dazzling Beauty and you don't even need creatures!
Giant Oyster: A classic from the ancient days and reprinted in Time Spiral I love this card for the flavor of its mechanic. I'm not suggesting that it's going to stay around long enough to drown an Eldrazi or anything but it can deal with small annoying things or keep some larger guys out of your way for a while.
Goblin Flectomancer: It's not as tricky as Twincast or Reverberate because it's out there in their face but it has to be an effective deterrent against a great number of things. In the worst case they're going to have to kill it before they do whatever broken thing they want to do so you can sacrifice it to retarget the spell that's going to kill it to something of theirs.
Goblin Grenadiers: You can attack one opponent and blow up stuff from another. A great political card especially since you don't even need to deal combat damage to the non-blocker. This guy can kill Emrakul and is certainly worth it for being able to take out the Unholy Trinity of Lands (Academy Ruins Volrath's Stronghold and Gaea's Cradle). In the Armada Games League it'll get you a point if you take out Maze of Ith Mystifying Maze or Maze of Shadows.
Hand of Justice: It's a bit of a commitment to a creature strategy but white weenies/tokens aren't too difficult to generate and it has no restrictions on its target. It's the more expensive white version of Avatar of Woe (except for the easier-to-cast and fear parts).
Hide/Seek: Obviously you need to either be playing Oros the Avenger or a five-color General to play this but the mini-Cap that nets you life is worthwhile. I would pay good money to see someone tuck Darksteel Forge in response to “that guy” thinking he's going to safely Disk/O-Stone everyone else's stuff away.
Khabal Ghoul: Okay it's an Arabian Nights card so most folks don't have access to it but it's like Kresh the Younger. I'm totally putting him into a deck now.
Krosan Vorine: I came across this guy when I was searching for Beasts to go into my Karrthus deck and he seems the right medicine to cure you of small annoying creatures that don't attack like Merfolk Looter and its ilk or small guys that hurt when they attack like Rootwater Thief.
Lammastide Weave: We've already covered that people like to tutor. I like to watch them tutor and be able to mill it away gaining some life and a card in the process.
Leafdrake Roost: The original cost is a little high but this has even more value if your environment is full of board sweepers. And I'm sure there's something that it can do combo-ing with some kind of Candelabra of Tawnos/Argothian Elder things.
Lifeforce: Black has some nasty spells that cripple the green mage and just some nasty spells in general so this seems like some reasonable defense. Being able to counter that Profane Command—or render the guy unable to cast it—is a game-changer.
Molten Disaster: I've recently seen Fault Line played to some great effect although being an instant has a great deal to do with that and this card reminds me of that one. The extra one mana to make it effectively uncounterable (short of Mindbreak Trap and its cousins) puts it in the box of being a great board sweeper and a great finisher.
Mystic Remora: I've heard people talk about the possibility of playing it and I think it might see some play in Vintage but I've never seen it on an EDH table. People tend to not pay one for your Rhystic Study so why the hell are they going to pay four for the Remora? Mid- to late-game its value seems to increase since you'll have fewer cards in hand (and therefore be less likely to discard) and can pay the upkeep more easily.
Nature's Wrath: I have previously admitted to an anti-blue bias. For the mono-green player this card seems like a must. It doesn't directly kill anyone but it sure slows them down—and it's not like black or blue has too much enchantment removal.
Nemesis Trap: I was going to do Broken Visage just to have a Homelands card but Nemesis Trap is strictly better. Remember that you can pay the Trap cost if a white creature is attacking but you don't have to Exile that white creature you can target anything. Favorite target: Primeval Titan.
Night Dealings: It's a little tricky to manage but if you know your deck well enough this recurring Tutor can be amazing. Some time back someone at Armada played it (I think it was Patrick in his Endrek Sahr deck) and it turned out really well. It's a better card for more control-oriented black decks than the beatdowny ones.
There's the first half of Hidden Gems (I wonder if I'm going to get a Cease-and-Desist from the Motley Fool folks?). Next week we'll look at the second half which will include more crazy ways to help you Embrace the Chaos!