June 23, 2015

If Only it Cost Less

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I was listening to an episode of the podcast The Mana Pool when Worldwake cards were being previewed. The Mana Pool regularly looks at many of the cards as they are released and gives their opinion of the cards. One of the cards in the set was Eye of Ugin, a legendary Land that made your Eldrazi spells cost two less to cast. As they looked at other cards in the set, someone would invariably ask "but how good would it be if it cost two less?" The gag was funny at first, then less so, then funny again as it became an absurdity. I would start to crack up, just knowing it was coming. Even today, the guys still use that line when looking at recent cards.

All of us do this, particularly with cards that have been around for a while. "It looks awesome, but it needs to cost one less!" Whether it's accurate or not, we catch ourselves second-guessing R&D, and reducing the mana cost or other costs relating to the card.

Take a card like Minion Reflector, for example. Ignoring the costs for a minute, it basically says "if you put a nontoken creature onto the battlefield, you get a copy of that creature, with haste, for one turn." Another Eldrazi, another Titan, another Primordial, another enter the battlefield trigger. This is awesome!

It isn't until you look at the costs that you aren't quite as sure any more. Five mana means it won't see play until later, and you aren't likely casting another spell that turn. To use it means that all your creatures have two mana added to their cost. To get that second Primordial, you'll need nine mana in one turn! If you play everything on curve, you'll play Minion Reflector on turn five, and then on turn six you'll play a four mana creature, then spend two more to make a copy of the creature. Still not bad, but this is going to need some serious help to really rock. If only it cost one less.

Mana

The cost comes in at only four mana. For Flameshadow Conjuring, this means either that I can cast it on turn four without any help, or cast it on turn eight, then follow up with a three mana creature and copy it. Minion Reflector would be waiting on turn four and on turn eight would let you cast a one mana creature.

The danger with Flameshadow Conjuring is that you are likely only casting that card on the turn you play it. Most of the cards you are going to be excited to copy are larger creatures that will have to wait until the next turn, so you are spending a turn hoping no one destroys your Conjuring before you even get a chance to use it.

The big difference with the cost is the ability. Adding a single mana to the cost of a creature is far more manageable than two. On top of that, you are only paying the mana cost once, where you hope you'll be paying the activation cost many times. The smaller activation cost is essential when looking at just how good this card can be.

Haste

When looking at cards like Flameshadow Conjuring, it is easy to forget the hasty part of things when looking at everything else the card can do. In a way, Flameshadow Conjuring now gives all your creatures haste.

Flameshadow Conjuring | Art by Seb McKinnon

A big part of Magic games is trying to anticipate what your opponents will play. Haste creatures can put a real crimp into your planning, but thankfully they don't appear too often. With Flameshadow Conjuring, this is flipped on its head for your opponents. Play Boltwing Marauder, pay the extra red mana, and your token version can be attacking hastily through the air for 7 damage. A copy of Icefall Regent means that your opponent has two creatures tapped and the copy is flying in for 4 damage. A hasty Wingmate Roc gains you life and gives you a permanent replacement!

Synergies

So what works well with Flameshadow Conjuring? What decks do you want to build around Flameshadow Conjuring, or how will you fit it into an existing build?

The biggest group has to be the creatures with effects that trigger upon entering the battlefield. You can start small, making copies of Sakura-Tribe Elder and Elvish Visionary to improve your mana base and bring your hand size up to the maximum. As the mana base grows, the cards can get a little bigger. Cards like Thragtusk or Wurmcoil Engine—which replace themselves with a new creature—work really well, as the replacement stays on past the end of the turn. I personally love Broodmate Dragon for this reason. Paying one extra red mana gives you four Dragons for a turn, then you lose only one of them at the end of the turn!

A special mention should be given to Allies here. Any Ally deck running red needs to look at Flameshadow Conjuring. A second Ally entering the battlefield every time you cast one Ally can really pile up the +1/+1 counters and other activated abilities!

Allies

The deck was originally designed to get Allies onto the battlefield, then if things started to look bad, use a mass removal spell, and bring all your Allies back right away with a Cauldron of Souls. With Flameshadow Conjuring, each Ally brings that many more activations and it can be absolutely deadly on a turn with Rout and as few as five red mana available. This may prove to be a win-more card, but think of the stories!

Modular creatures are another great option. Arcbound Ravager will let you sacrifice the Arcbound Ravager copy, adding a +1/+1 counter to the original, then move the token from the sacrificed copy to the original. For one red mana, your Ravager has two more +1/+1 counters! You do need to take some care with the token versions of these modular creatures. Modular creatures only move their counters when they die. Flameshadow Conjuring exiles the copies at the end of the turn, so you'll need to be sure you have a way to destroy them before the end of the turn or you'll lose a big part of the benefit.

Populate is another option, but I'm not so sure you want to go this route. On the plus side, Flameshadow Conjuring can give you a token copy of some of your biggest, most powerful creatures. You can then populate that token to get the benefit again. On the down side, copying the token also copies the "exile it at the beginning of the next end step," so you'll only get the extra copies for one turn as well. On top of that, populate is exclusively green and/or white, so you'll need to have enough mana to cast the creature, a red mana to make a token copy with Flameshadow Conjuring, then enough white and/or green mana to populate it. This may prove to be more trouble than it's worth, but I wanted you to consider it as an option.

Flicker effects are a real friend here as well. Mistmeadow Witch and Momentary Blink can bring that expensive Primordial back into play for a minimal cost. It is great to get Molten Primordial's ability again with flicker effects, and you can also use Flameshadow Conjuring again, as it allows you to make a copy whenever that creature enters the battlefield. Stealing two creatures from each opponent for the cost of the flicker and one red mana seems like a great plan! Brago, King Eternal can let you bring multiple copies onto the battlefield at once. Admittedly, your combat phase will have already passed, but cards like Luminate Primordial or Cloud of Faeries (which would actually add a mana to your mana pool!) are probably good enough to use even after combat.

This isn't a perfectly tuned deck by any means, but you can see how flicker—particularly with Brago, King Eternal—can make your games insane. If all your creatures flicker after one of Brago's attacks, you can pay an extra red for each creature and get another enter the battlefield trigger. This can quickly become ridiculous!

And yes, creatures paired with Deadeye Navigator now read: "1UR: Exile this creature, then return it to the battlefield under your control, and return a token copy of that creature to the battlefield under your control too."

Twice as Good

There is one card in particular that I am excited to get a chance to pair with Flameshadow Conjuring: Pandemonium. That one red mana now lets you double the damage you are doing to everyone with Pandemonium. A card like Force of Savagery lets you pay three mana for an 8/0 creature that does 8 damage with Pandemonium. While it doesn't survive on the battlefield, it is there long enough for Flameshadow Conjuring to copy it and do 8 more damage. 16 damage for four mana seems like a good plan. Not as good as the 24 damage for two mana with a Phyrexian Dreadnought, but respectable nonetheless.

While I've listed several creatures that are essentially useless without Pandemonium, plenty of creatures that are also good in combat can enjoy the benefit Flameshadow Conjuring offers.

Sedris is Entertaining

COMMANDER: Sedris, the Traitor King

Flameshadow Conjuring works well in my Sedris, the Traitor King deck. Sedris gives most of my creatures a second chance to attack and a second "enters the battlefield" trigger. Unearth doubles the opportunities for Flameshadow Conjuring to further enhance your fun. Cards like Triskelion, Murderous Redcap, and Myr Battlesphere only get better when you can play them and activate Flameshadow Conjuring, then unearth them and play Flameshadow Conjuring again.

All of this doesn't even cover what you can do with this card in Standard. Formidable becomes even easier to reach! The options for a card like Flameshadow Conjuring are almost endless. I'm looking forward to adding Flameshadow Conjuring to many of my decks. Good things happen when cards cost less!

Bruce Richard

@manaburned

mtgseriousfun@gmail.com



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