March 16, 2015

Two's Company


Welcome, Laboratorians! A few weeks ago, I issued a challenge to you all: asking you to come up with an interesting Johnny deck that only uses cards with a converted mana cost of 2 or less. This turned out to be one of the most popular challenges in recent memory, and I received many more decklists than I have room to highlight here. Although it was difficult to narrow the field so much, I've chosen just a few of my favorite decks to show off today.

Training Grounds | Art by James Ryman

Putting the Uber in Zubera

Our first deck comes from Adam, who decided to take a trip back to Kamigawa to pick up a few Zuberas. These two-mana creatures have an effect when they die that scales according to the number of Zuberas that have died that turn. Now, including the entire cycle in one deck is already a recipe for some fun turns, but Adam took it even further.

By using Goblin Bombardment to sacrifice all of your Zuberas before any of the triggers resolve, you can make sure every trigger accounts for every Zubera. If you had one of each on the battlefield, you would gain 10 life, draw five cards, force your opponent to discard five cards, deal 5 damage to target creature or player, and make five 1/1 Spirit tokens.

That alone might be enough to win the game, but it only gets better from there. Using Rally the Ancestors or Wake the Dead, you can bring back all your Zuberas for a turn. That allows you to sacrifice them all again, giving you another pile of awesome triggers.

Adam's Rally the Zuberas

Guildmages in Training

I received a few different submissions built around Izzet Guildmage, most of which used the classic Lava Spike/Desperate Ritual combo. However, Jack's Izzet Guildmage deck was a bit different. Instead of splicing Desperate Ritual onto Lava Spike to make three mana, he instead turned to Training Grounds.

With Training Grounds on the battlefield, Izzet Guildmage's abilities only cost one mana. That means when you copy Manamorphose, you'll end up with one extra mana and an additional card. Keep copying the same Manamorphose while it's still on the stack, and you can draw your entire library while making around 50 mana. Now you can cast Lightning Bolt, copy it a few dozen times, and win the game.

Nivix Guildmage serves as a sort of backup for its older brother. Although it can't create infinite mana with Manamorphose, it can draw an unlimited number of cards, allowing you to find the Izzet Guildmage you need for the full combo. Lightning Bolt also has backup in the form of Colossal Might, which can turn a Guildmage lethal if your opponent is using something like Leyline of Sanctity.


Another popular centerpiece was Puresteel Paladin. This card-drawing engine has a lot of potential, and was the star of the first Modern deck I ever built. Most Puresteel Paladin decks seem to fall into two categories. Either they use cheap power-pumping Equipment to suit up a creature like Kor Duelist, or they chain together free Equipment to build up a high storm count for something like Grapeshot.

Rob's deck takes a different path, something in between the two usual approaches. Instead of using free Equipment, this deck makes the Equipment free using Etherium Sculptor and Phantasmal Image. That lets you chain one spell into another for as long as you keep drawing them. You can even use Phantasmal Image as another Puresteel Paladin to help keep the Equipment flowing.

However, rather than ending the game with Grapeshot, Rob decided to make an enormous unblockable creature. I wasn't at all surprised to see Cranial Plating helping toward that goal. However, I was quite surprised to see Leering Emblem. It's a card I haven't even thought about in years, and it fits perfectly in this deck. Provided you cast it relatively early, it can give your creature an insane amount of power. Better yet, it can be transferred to another creature halfway through the Equipment chain to give you two lethal threats. After that, a pair of Prowler's Helms provide the evasion necessary to dodge any blockers your opponent might have.

Land Ho!

Jack and Rob weren't the only ones who wanted to draw a ridiculous number of cards. However, CKY took a very different approach. While most of the decks in this article require a few different cards to work, CKY's deck only needs one: Treasure Hunt.

Boasting an impressive 52 lands, this deck is sure to draw quite a few cards with Treasure Hunt. You also have a pretty decent chance of hitting another copy of the spell as your nonland card. In fact, there's only one other nonland card in the deck. Once you find a copy of Zombie Infestation, you can discard all the cards you just drew with Treasure Hunt to make Zombie tokens. Given a favorable Treasure Hunt, you should be able to put enough power onto the board to make it difficult for your opponent to gain a foothold.

Can't Touch This

This next deck comes from Nathan Barrett, and uses a pair of two-mana enchantments to make you essentially untouchable for the rest of the game. Energy Field prevents all damage that would be dealt to you, but sacrifices itself whenever a card is put into your graveyard. Rest in Peace prevents cards from going to your graveyard, sending them to exile instead. With both on the battlefield, you can play normally while being completely immune to damage.

Wheel of Sun and Moon is a solid backup for Rest in Peace, and also keeps you from running out of cards in your library. Nathan also included Greater Auramancy and Sterling Grove to protect the combo pieces from removal. Helix Pinnacle provides a win condition, allowing you to slowly pour in mana over the course of several turns to eventually win the game. As an enchantment, it can be searched up with Sterling Grove and Enlightened Tutor, just like the other combo pieces.

Curses and Scales

One idea I definitely did not expect to see in multiples was Curse of Stalked Prey and Hardened Scales. However, it seems that great minds think alike, as I received two or three decks that took advantage of this potent combo. My favorite came from Kevin McHenry, who kicked it up a notch by including several proliferate cards and an unblockable subtheme.

Stromkirk Noble and Falkenrath Exterminator become fairly impressive when getting an extra counter each turn, either through Hardened Scales or Curse of Stalked Prey. Unblockable creatures like Invisible Stalker and Jhessian Infiltrator become a real threat with Curse of Stalked Prey making them bigger every turn, and Thrummingbird can increase the hurt even further. Zameck Guildmage can give your creatures an initial counter, or turn existing counters into extra cards.

Kevin McHenry's Prolifer2

A Knack for Token-Making

The last deck I'll be looking at today was submitted by Christian Harper. Christian decided to create a new take on the classic Priest of Gix combo decks. Since Cloudstone Curio isn't allowed under the rules of this challenge, he had to get a bit more inventive.

Although Priest of Gix doesn't comply with the restriction, Burning-Tree Emissary does, giving you a creature that pays for itself. In order to repeatedly return the Emissary to hand, Christian decided to cast Banishing Knack on Nettle Sentinel. The Sentinel can tap to return the Emissary, and will untap again as soon as you cast it.

With those three pieces, you have a way to cast Burning-Tree Emissary as many times as you like. However, that on its own doesn't really do anything. The deck still needed a win condition. For that, Christian turned to Genesis Chamber. Every time the Emissary enters the battlefield, Genesis Chamber will give you a free Myr token. With the combo in place, you can create a Myr army one trillion strong, ready to annihilate your opponent at the soonest opportunity.

Stop…Dragon Time

I hope you all enjoyed this little peek into the minds of your fellow readers, even if I wasn't able to show off your deck idea this time. Although this particular challenge may be over, I'm always accepting new deck ideas, at With any luck, you might even see your idea appear here in this column.

Although this little detour has been a blast, next week it'll be time to get back to Dragons of Tarkir. With the Prerelease for the set fast approaching, it's the perfect time to go digging for diamonds in the card image gallery. There are bound to be a few Johnny gems that haven't been uncovered yet. Be sure to check back on Monday to see what I've found. See ya!

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