Before I get into the meat of this article, I want to take a moment to apologize to my Star City readers. At the beginning of the Extended PTQ season I wrote an article about a black/green Reanimator deck, and at the end of the article I promised that my next article would feature another Extended Reanimator build. No article came. It's not that I'm a lazy Magic writer, I have a good excuse. Okay, maybe I am a lazy Magic writer, but I still have a good excuse.
I have a new son: Allen James ("A.J.") Dougherty. He and his sixteen-month old brother Ryan have been keeping my wife and I quite busy. Allen's getting old enough now that I can finally steal away some time to work on Magic. [Congrats, Rob! - Knut]
I have a Standard deck for this article, but first, here is the Extended deck I had promised for those of you who play Extended outside of the PTQ seasons:
Old School Benzo
4 Cabal Therapy
4 Vampiric Tutor
4 Zombie Infestation
1 Sickening Dreams
4 Buried Alive
4 Akroma Angel of Wrath
4 Squee Goblin Nabob
4 Chrome Mox
4 City of Traitors
The popularity of Tog and Red Deck Wins early in the PTQ season got me excited about going back to a Zombie Infestation build of Reanimator. Neither of those decks like to see Zombie Infestation hit the table, especially if a Squee is involved in making the Zombies.
In addition to that metagame edge, Old School Benzo's mono-Black build allowed it to take full advantage of the power of 4 Duress, 4 Cabal Therapy and the speed of 4 Chrome Mox and 4 City of Traitors.
Sadly, I didn't get a chance to write about it and see how the deck would have done in the field at large, but I did give the deck to one friend (Mike Cannistraro) for a PTQ on the 31st of January. The metagame had shifted to be a bit less favorable by then, but Mike still managed Top 8 with the deck.
Okay, on to Standard. The deck I built for this article is certainly not all new. While testing it in Magic Online tournaments, some of my opponents said that they had seen or heard of similar decks. The deck is off of most players' radar however, and given that I went 13-3 with it, I think it's pretty safe to say most players don't know (or haven't considered) a good build of it.
4 Weathered Wayfarer
4 Dark Supplicant
4 Planar Guide
4 Daru Spiritualist
4 Shared Triumph
4 Lightning Greaves
4 Cabal Archon
4 Rotlung Reanimator
4 Doubtless One
1 Scion of Darkness
4 City of Brass
4 Starlit Sanctum
1 Barren Moor
I know what you're thinking."A sixty-two card Cleric deck!? The kids are too much for him; Rob's finally gone off the deep end." Okay, I admit it may look that way, but this deck is actually good. No, really. Five PT top 8's, four of which were Constructed, remember. You're going to have to trust me on this one.
The most obvious angle the deck has is the infinite life combo. The pieces to said combo are Daru Spiritualist, any other creature, Lightning Greaves, and a Starlit Sanctum. You equip the Spiritualist with the Greaves, his ability gives him +0/+2. Move the Greaves to the other creature and back to the Spiritualist, continuing to pump up his toughness. Rinse and repeat a few million times, then sacrifice the Spiritualist with the Starlit Sanctum and gain life equal to his mindbogglingly large toughness.
I will be the first to admit that gaining infinite life is not nearly as good as doing infinite damage. After all, your opponent is not dead. Most opponents, however, will count your library, realize you have more cards than them, and scoop to save themselves from a long slow decking. Hence the reason for the sixty-two card deck. The size of your deck is the"kill" in the infinite life combo. Having a sixty-two card deck allows you to search out a land (like the Starlit Sanctum) with a Weathered Wayfarer and still have a larger Library than your opponent.
Those of you who've read the articles on my Elvish Succession deck will know I'm a big fan of combo decks. There are two ways you can go with a combo deck. The most common way is the"all out combo" deck. In one of these decks the whole idea is to get the combo off, and in fact, those decks usually can only win by getting off the combo. Illusions-Donate and Mind's Desire are examples of"all out combo" decks.
The other type of combo deck is the"combo on the side" deck. These decks tend not to be as good at getting their combo off, but are quite capable of winning the game without going off. Martyrdom, as well as Elvish Succession, are examples of"combo on the side" decks.
Because"combo on the side" decks often go the entire game without getting off their combos, it's important that the pieces of the combo not be dead weight on their own. They should be useful in achieving the deck's other, more conventional victory paths.
This is very much true for the combo pieces in Martyrdom. Starlit Sanctum is a fantastic weapon in a Cleric deck. Lighting Greaves are great for tempo, keeping your creatures alive, coming out aggressively after a Wrath of God effects, and has great synergy with Dark Supplicant (more on that in a bit). Daru Spiritualist is definitely the lamest combo piece on its own, but even he is surprisingly good in this Shock, Pyrite Spellbomb, Electrostatic Bolt heavy environment.
Besides the infinite life combo, there are some great mini combos (perhaps better called good card synergies) in Martyrdom;
Lightning Greaves with Daru Spiritualist allows you to give all of your Clerics infinite toughness on your main phase. Without the Sanctum you're not getting infinite life, but this little party trick does allow you to send your hoard of little fanatics in an alpha strike without fear of any of them getting squashed by a large blocker.
Lighting Greaves is also great with Dark Supplicant for giving your opponent a surprise smash up side the head with Scion of Darkness. Last thing he knew, you had two 1/1's in play, then down comes the boots and a Dark Supplicant and presto! You've got yourself a 6/6 untargetable, trampling, hasted, graveyard creature-stealing monstrosity.
Dark Supplicant with Rotlung Reanimator allows you to trade three Clerics for three Zombies and get a free Scion of Darkness. What a deal.
When Martyrdom isn't doing any of it's goofy tricks, it plays out as a weenie beatdown deck. You play out Clerics, pump them up with Shared Triumph, get some damage in, then finish your opponent off by throwing Clerics at them with Cabal Archons or Starlit Sanctums. This straight forward beatdown approach is surprisingly effective against most decks.
These guys are amazing. A 1/1 Cleric for one mana is fine for this deck, but the Wayfarer's special ability makes him a mandatory four-of. In addition to allowing you to get around mana screw or find that missing Swamp, the Wayfarer can complete your combo by fetching Starlit Sanctum. After sideboarding, I often use him to get the Unholy Grotto, much to the dismay of opposing control decks.
As silly as the Scion of Darkness thing sounds, it's actually very good.
Most of the time the Guide is just a 1/1 Cleric for one mana. In the mid-to-late game, he becomes fantastic Wrath of God protection, a way to kill tokens, and a nice answer to Platinum Angel.
While he's not great for beatdown, the Spiritualist is key to the combo and very useful against Red. He comes out quickly if your opponent isn't trying to kill you with damage.
This is the card that makes the beatdown game a very viable option for this deck. I've considered swapping these out for Glorious Anthem so that my Zombies and Scion would get the bonus as well, but thus far I've liked the low casting cost and single White mana requirement of the Triumph.
The Greaves are great in any deck that is trying to beat up it's opponent with creatures. As I mentioned earlier, in addition to being a combo piece, they help with Wrath of God effect recovery and are fun with the Supplicant.
While you don't have to have four of these in your deck, they are a great finisher. I sometimes will sideboard out one or two of these guys if I have a ton of cards I want to sideboard in, but I'm never happy about it.
The Rotlung is perfect for this deck. When you're on the aggro plan you can swing in with your team and get Zombie replacements for the Clerics you loose in combat. They also provide protection against Wrath of God effects. Lord help your opponent if you ever get more than one in play.
The Doubtless One seemed like the obvious high end of the curve. To be quite honest, they have only been okay. I often sideboard them out, because my opponents are either good at controlling my mana or have mass creature kill. If you wanted to change the main deck I would recommend starting here.
Scion of Darkness
I briefly considered running two of this guy for those occasional times when you would like to fetch more than one of the big guys, but it's just not worth the slot. One is the perfect number.
City of Brass
I'll sometimes sideboard down to three Cities against aggro opponents.
The lack of colored mana is a pain, but this land is great in a Cleric deck with or without the combo. I've beaten many a White control with the extra damage from throwing Clerics at them each time they Wrath.
This is for card drawing with Weathered Wayfarer. I wanted more cycling lands for this purpose, but they are just too bad for the all-important tempo of the early game.
I bring this in against a deck with lots of Wraths. It tends to end the game in a hurry. I'm happy with one, but I don't think I'd add more.
Dark Banishing / Terror
I would love to have some creature kill in the main deck to help feed the Scion, but couldn't find the room. These are mostly coming in against Red, with the Banishing also coming in against Affinity.
Wow, are these guys great against any kind of control deck. They are also passable against Affinity, to ensure your Vengeance goes through. Be sure to sideboard in the Unholy Grotto whenever you bring these guys in.
The Grotto is great against control, especially in combination with Interrogator. Wayfarer for it at the first opportunity.
These are for the Affinity match-up. If you happen to have a Rotlung in play it really adds insult to injury.
I've only tested this deck on Magic Online, and you can't go infinite Online because they have yet to work any kind of iterative loop function into the game. You have to manually target the Greaves each time (what a pain). I find I can gain about two hundred life before the danger of running out of time becomes to great. One of the three match losses the deck got would have been a win if I could have truly gained infinite life (or arbitrarily large, since infinity if frowned upon by the rules), and most of the thirteen match wins would have come a lot faster.
If you're going to play this deck Online you will need to go into"Settings" and under"Display" disable"Show enchanted permanent on top." This will make your Greaves appear over your creature instead of the other way around, so you can click on it faster.
In the games when you activate your Greaves, and the Greaves and Daru Spiritualist abilities go on the stack, right click on the stack and hit"Always yield to X ability." This will prevent you from having to click"OK" twice each time you move the Greaves. With all of these settings in place and a little practice, you should be able to gain 200 life (which is usually enough) in 3-5 minutes.
Or, you could just play the deck in real life and say"I'll move the Greaves around and pump all my clerics toughness up by 10,000,000,000. Then I'll sack this guy and gain 10,000,000,001 life." That sounds a lot easier. I should try that.