In this experiment, we charge up our artifacts and stretch out our advantage to massive degree.
Honestly, I just don’t think Astral Cornucopia is a good card. It’s a pretty cool piece of art, and making a bunch of mana is always a cool effect. It has a unique mana cost and has a lot of potential, but ultimately, it’s just not very good.
Manalith, which is already an upgrade from Obelisk of Esper and its Obelisk companions. However, we still have to compare it to cards like Darksteel Ingot and Coalition Relic. The upside the Cornucopia offers is that it scales into infinity—by casting it for 6 instead of 3, it can tap for 2 mana instead of 1. That’s pretty miserable compared to Gilded Lotus. Now, Gilded Lotus is an extremely powerful card already, so perhaps direct comparison isn’t fair, but even Dreamstone Hedron (which I happen to love but that isn’t frequently played) makes 3 mana and has an additional draw-three-cards option. The colored mana can be relevant, but the Cornucopia just isn’t impressing me.
Then again, Astral Cornucopia offers something else. We can pay 9 in order to have an effect identical to Gilded Lotus’s. Okay, so that’s not particularly good either. How about 12 mana to tap for 4? As far as I can think of, there’s no card that taps for 4 colored mana. And for 15, we can make a Cornucopia that taps for 5. It just goes on from there. Then again, for that same 15, we could have cast Mox Lotus, which taps for infinite and can make colored mana just as well.
Maybe the scalability isn’t a great selling point for Astral Cornucopia: “For amounts of mana that players often don’t reach in a game of Magic, we can make a card that taps for one-third the amount of mana we paid.” So to my mind, there are two ways to play Astral Cornucopia effectively.
Cabal Coffers’s and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx’s)—but probably only once and may or may not win that turn. In such a deck, we may gain all the mana we need on one turn but not have much of anything to do with it. Perhaps we are able to go to infinite life in the same turn but then return to mortal levels of mana and resources in the following turns, struggling to find a route to victory despite our glimpse of omnipotence. In that deck, we could spend part of our infinite-mana turn casting an Astral Cornucopia for, for example, 3,000,000, leaving us with the ability to tap our one permanent for 1,000,000 mana on subsequent turns. (A Mox Lotus would still be better, but we have to draw our silver-bordered line somewhere.)
The other method for making Astral Cornucopia useful is to play it as a Manalith, and then proliferate from there. Scars of Mirrodin block’s Steady Progress, Volt Charge, and other proliferators can take our lowly Manalith and eventually turn it into a Gilded Lotus, and it only gains more potential from there.
Therefore, for today, that’s the game plan. Everflowing Chalice from Worldwake is a very similar card to Astral Cornucopia, with the obvious disadvantage of tapping for colorless—but it also has the distinct advantage of hitting a much higher degree of mana efficiency. But in a lot of ways, and for the purposes of our deck today, Everflowing Chalice and Astral Cornucopia play very similarly.
Steady Progress and Volt Charge are the core commons of proliferation. Fuel for the Cause could be useful as well, but I’ve never been a fan of counterspells that weren’t Dismiss or Rewind. Grim Affliction and Spread the Sickness are options, but I’m feeling Izzet today, and Spread the Sickness costs 5 while I feel that Grim Affliction is overall weaker than Volt Charge.
Moving on from commons, Tezzeret's Gambit is a great draw spell that might cost us a couple points of life now and then, but only when we let it. And our most consistent form of proliferation will be the repeatable Thrummingbird, enhancing our countered-up permanents every time it flies over.
Viral Drake gives our deck just a touch of poison and can proliferate multiple times without having to break through any pesky Giant Spiders. In addition, once we build up our Chalices and Cornucopias, our Viral Drake can complete a feedback loop that will allow us to tap for a ton of mana and spend that to further increase the amount of mana we have access to. Let’s just hope we have ways to put that mana to use.
Finally, I’ve included one copy of Power Conduit. Power Conduit has the downside of not actually proliferating—instead, we have to lose 1 counter to gain 1 somewhere else. If we have a creature that’s about to die with a counter, for example, we can turn it into another type of counter we desire. Contrariwise, we can take an excess charge counter off one of our mana producers in order to pump one of our creatures. Perhaps we’ll even find another way to use this later on.
What Else to Proliferate Onto
Arcbound Worker is just a 1/1 for 1 essentially, but with Steady Progress, not only are we able to draw a card, but he immediately becomes a 2/2. Every time we proliferate, our Worker grows.
Arcbound Stinger and Arcbound Slith are other low-cost creatures that can become big as our deck does its thing. If you’re not a fan of artifact creatures, consider a Simic deck with some of the same concepts. I think graft, from Dissension, does a better job with proliferate, but evolve from Gatecrash certainly generates +1/+1 counters as well, and they proliferate all the same. I’d probably end up with a mix of both Simic keywords.
One good thing about our Arcbound friends is their modular superpower—if one dies, all its built-up power can be transferred. As a final artifact creature and synergy powerhouse, we have Chimeric Mass. It operates on many of the same principles as our Astral Cornucopia: It can be cast for X, meaning the more we have access to, the bigger the effect we get; and it uses counters, so it can start small but become large over time.
This means we can cast a Mass on turn one with plans to make it huge, but if we draw it late, we can use our proliferated-up mana artifacts to make a big one all at once—like some kind of robot Hydra with garbage for arms.
What Else to Do with All This Mana
Everflowing Chalice and an Astral Cornucopia each with 6 to 8 counters on it. Maybe I’m dreaming big. I don’t know. Maybe that’s small.
But in the event we do have that much mana, a Chimeric Mass will be nice, but we’ll need a couple more things to close out the game. Something like a Stroke of Genius would be good here. We could use a ton of mana to draw a ton of cards and then use that mana to cast that ton of cards. Maybe that’s even the right way to go, but I’ve included a couple different things.
Time Stretch is a 10-mana spell that grants additional turns. Additional turns are always nice, especially in a deck built to attack. If we play a couple creatures and a couple mana artifacts, proliferate three or four times, and then cast Time Stretch, we should be in a good position to kill our opponent with a couple attacks.
Urza's Rage is an uncounterable 3-mana burn spell. That’s not too exciting, but it’s nothing to laugh about, and it will give us some early plays to keep us in the game while our deck does its work. However, given enough mana, Urza's Rage is a 12-mana spell that deals 10 damage, allowing us to close out a game—and it’s still uncounterable in addition to its kicker-granted unpreventable-damage clause. The versatility is key.
Decree of Silence is a pretty potent card that can lock up the game. The opponent’s next three spells are countered. And in a pinch, it’s an uncounterable Dismiss for (that cycling is pretty sweet). The opponent can still attack and use activated abilities and the like, but in a lot of ways, the Decree acts as a Time Stretch, allowing us virtual extra turns in the form of the opponent not being able to do anything. However, the Decree isn’t here just for that. It also plays with counters.
Unfortunately, unlike all our other permanents, on which we want as many counters as we can gain, more counters on the Decree means it dries up and disappears faster. That means we actually want to remove its counters. Hence the earlier addition of Power Conduit. Power Conduit can take away Decree of Silence’s depletion counters and turn them into +1/+1 or charge counters for our other stuff. I wanted this deck to revolve a bit more around that synergy, but neither Power Conduit nor Decree of Silence is great here as a four-of, as they don’t directly work with the rest of the deck in the ways the other cards do. Still, I think their inclusions are pretty sweet.
- Spells (23)
- 2 Steady Progress
- 3 Urza's Rage
- 3 Volt Charge
- 1 Thoughtcast
- 1 Time Stretch
- 3 Tezzeret's Gambit
- 1 Decree of Silence
- 1 Power Conduit
- 2 Astral Cornucopia
- 2 Chimeric Mass
- 4 Everflowing Chalice
For a deck built starting with Astral Cornucopia, it sure didn’t end up with a lot of copies of the inspirational card, but sometimes, there are just better options. If you’ve never combined proliferate and modular, or if you just want to take a shot with Urza's Rage and Decree of Silence, this could have maybe been a deck you possibly like.
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