March 30, 2015

Artifacts of Another Age

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Welcome back to From the Lab, folks. With Dragons of Tarkir just hitting store shelves on Friday, there are still plenty of interesting cards I haven't had the chance to use yet. Today I'll be digging a bit deeper into the set, as well as taking a look at a combo I've been meaning to talk about for a while now.



Ancestral Statue | Art by Tomasz Jedruszek


Statues Can Bounce?


While looking through the cards in Dragons of Tarkir, I was immediately drawn to Ancestral Statue. Its ability is not a new thing. Similar effects have appeared numerous times on cards like Kor Skyfisher, Dream Stalker, Emancipation Angel, and more. However, putting this ability on an artifact creature is a new twist with some interesting implications.


Ancestral Statue has no colored mana in its cost. This is important because there are quite a few cards that reduce the cost of a spell by one or more colorless mana. With enough of these on the battlefield, Ancestral Statue can cost nothing at all.



Now you can cast Ancestral Statue, then use its ability to bounce itself back to your hand, allowing you to cast it again. This doesn't do much of anything by itself, but there are plenty of cards that can take advantage of this effect. In fact, Dragons of Tarkir has the perfect card to turn this bouncing statue into a real win condition. Impact Tremors will deal 1 damage to your opponent each time the statue enters the battlefield. Cast the Statue 20 times, and you win the game.


Genesis Chamber also works quite well in this combo, giving you an arbitrarily large number of Myr tokens. It also allows you to win the game even if you can't quite reduce the cost of the Statue all the way to zero. Even if Ancestral Statue still costs one mana to cast, you can turn each one mana you have into a Myr token. With Impact Tremors on the battlefield, you'll get 2 damage out of the deal as well. That should end the game pretty quickly.


I wanted one more win condition in the deck, so I turned to Arcbound Crusher. Most of the cards that reduce Ancestral Statue's cost should reduce the Crusher's cost as well, making it easy to get onto the battlefield. Once you get the loop going, you'll have an insanely large creature with trample. Modular can even help protect you from being blown out by a removal spell, provided you have another artifact creature on the battlefield at the time.



Now, I've skipped over a rather important part here. You'll still need a way to reduce the cost of Ancestral Statue to zero. I've enlisted a number of cards to help out with that. The best of the bunch is Urza's Incubator, which will do half the job by itself. The downside is that it won't reduce the cost of anything else in the deck. I considered using Heartless Summoning as well, but the -1/-1 part ruins Genesis Chamber and Arcbound Crusher, which proved more difficult to replace than Heartless Summoning itself.


Instead, I added Cloud Key and Helm of Awakening. Cloud Key can reduce the cost of all the many artifacts in the deck, while Helm of Awakening just makes everything cost one less mana. It does benefit your opponent as well, but when you're about to go infinite that part shouldn't really matter.



Etherium Sculptor and Mistform Warchief are more vulnerable to being destroyed, but since you need to reduce Ancestral Statue's cost by a whopping four mana, you'll need all the help you can get. Etherium Sculptor has the benefit of reducing the costs of many other cards in the deck, as well as making a fine target for modular if Arcbound Crusher is killed. Mistform Warchief is mostly just backup, but it could block a 2/2 now and then.


Every part of this deck has multiple redundant cards doing the job, which makes it remarkably consistent. Well, every part except one. To make sure you always have access to Ancestral Statue, I added in four copies of Fabricate to search for it. If you already have a Statue in hand, Fabricate can get something like Urza's Incubator or Genesis Chamber instead. It's basically a wild card that can find whichever combo piece you're missing.






Unintended Consequences


My next combo comes from Paul Seitz, who sent me an e-mail back in mid-December about an interesting interaction he noticed. I've been meaning to talk about this one for a while now, but between various theme weeks, preview weeks, and challenges, it never seemed like the right time. Well, now I'm fixing that.



Paul noticed something rather interesting about the card Assault Suit. While the card's most flashy ability is the one that allows you to pass it around between players, Paul noticed that Assault Suit gives the equipped creature another unique ability. It can't be sacrificed.


Now when I read the card, I thought about the ability the same way the designers did. This prevents your opponents from sacrificing your creature during the turn they have control of it. However, Paul looked at it from a different angle. There have been other cards in the past that prevent you from sacrificing creatures, such as Tajuru Preserver and Sigarda, Host of Herons. However, those only effect spells and abilities your opponents control. Angel of Jubilation works on your own spells and abilities, but it only prevents you from sacrificing creatures as part of a cost, not as part of an effect.



Since Assault Suit has none of these restrictions, you can use it to dodge all sorts of negative abilities. Vanishing, echo, and cumulative upkeep can all be stopped in their tracks by Assault Suit, as can any other abilities that would have you sacrificing your own creature.


I started out with one of Paul's suggestions: Desecration Elemental. Provided you have no other creatures on the battlefield, you can keep that Elemental around as long as you want. Or at least for the two turns it'll take to kill your opponent. Next I turned to one of my favorite cards from back in the day. Cosmic Larva has a steep drawback, but it can also dish out an impressive amount of damage if left unchecked. Although it's missing one power compared to Desecration Elemental, it knocks one mana off the cost as well.



Phyrexian Soulgorger is another beefy creature with a big drawback. It also has 10 power when equipped with Assault Suit, and only costs three mana to cast. Unfortunately it can't get through blockers like the other two can, but with your opponent throwing a creature under the bus every turn, it shouldn't take long to win the game.


Volcano Hellion doubles as a large creature and a pretty effective removal spell, provided you have a bit of life to spare. Just equip Assault Suit for one turn, and the Hellion will be free to stick around forever.



To make sure you have access to one or more copies of Assault Suit every game, I added in Stoneforge Mystic and Steelshaper's Gift. Stoneforge Mystic also helps with the Suit's hefty mana cost. Worn Powerstone and Boros Signet help make sure you have enough mana to cast a big creature and equip it with Assault Suit immediately, avoiding any drawback. Finally, Banishing Light can get rid of any problematic permanents you might run into. It's a nice catch-all that can deal with almost anything that comes your way.






The Dragons Are Coming


That's all I've got for you today, but join me next time when I'll finally be taking a look at the real stars of Dragons of Tarkir: The Dragons. If you're a fan of big, face-smashing flying lizards, check back on Monday to see what scaly goodness I've come up with. See ya!






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