In these experiments, we transform from the usual one-deck approach, thinking twice about some ancient lore and trying not to neglect some flippin’ equipment.
There are still some more cool combo-ready cards in the Shadows over Innistrad queue, but this week, I want to take a look at a couple cards I experienced at my prerelease event this past weekend—one card I used to win games and one I lost to—and explore a bit of synergy with them.
This double-faced Equipment was in my Sealed pool, and it wasn’t the strongest card I had, but it was one of my favorites. The minigame of trying to make the Leonin Scimitar transform into a Vulshok Battlegear (plus first strike!) was pretty fun. I had about five double-faced creatures in my deck, and I think I was able to transform it into the Blade every game I played it. The transformed equip cost of 3 is pretty steep, but we are able to forego that the first time since it’s already attached to something.
My favorite thing to put it on was Uninvited Geist—hitting with the 3/3 skulk (given +1/+1 by the Heirloom) might be slightly tricky, but we’ll then have a 6/6 unblockable creature. It reminds me of the Limited combo from previous Innistrad of Invisible Stalker and Butcher's Cleaver—even though it’s nowhere near as good.
For this deck, though, we won’t use Uninvited Geist because it’s just a bit too slow for me to focus on. I wouldn’t mind playing blue as one of my colors for the Geist, but black and red both offer cheaper options with Village Messenger, Reckless Waif, and Heir of Falkenrath.
Heir of Falkenrath led me down a path of madness, resulting in Elusive Tormentor and Medicine Bag to help cast Fiery Temper, Reckless Wurm, and Ichor Slick. I made sure one of those was a sorcery and to include another artifact to help hit delirium for Kindly Stranger, which provides another way to transform and thus trigger an attached Heirloom.
I wish there were a way to fit more Neglected Heirlooms into the deck, but even something like Masterwork of Ingenuity doesn’t do the job. It can copy the Leonin Scimitar side, but it will never be able to transform. Or the Masterwork could copy the Ashmouth Blade, but we don’t get the upfront “free” equip cost, which is kind of the point. I guess a 1-mana Equipment that gives +3/+3 and first strike and equips for 3 is reasonable, but we’ll have to already have a transformed Heirloom to make that work, and even then, it’s not as good as the original Heirloom, which attached for 1.
I wish I could more strictly build around Neglected Heirloom, but it’s not worth searching for, and copying it doesn’t really work—all those reasons are why I ultimately included the madness subtheme parallel to transformation.
The Heirloom ? Casual | Andrew Wilson
- Creatures (22)
- 4 Village Messenger
- 2 Reckless Waif
- 4 Heir of Falkenrath
- 3 Kindly Stranger
- 2 Screeching Bat
- 2 Elusive Tormentor
- 4 Reckless Wurm
- 1 Ravenous Demon
So, I didn’t have a Sage of Ancient Lore in my card pool. Rather, I was crushed by one in one of my games at the prerelease. My opponent had a Sage, but that wasn’t the worst part. After being able to transform it, he copied the Werewolf of Ancient Hunger with Altered Ego, adding a +1/+1 counter. I actually managed to defeat the Altered Ego version by double-blocking and dealing 9 damage to it. It was an 11/11, but when my opponent cast a spell after combat, he shrunk his own Werewolf down to a 9/9, and I informed him that it died. I knew he’d have to choose between not playing any cards and letting his Werewolf die—I wasn’t sure if he’d realize the choice he had, but he didn’t, and he inadvertently chose for it to die. He was a competent player, though, and the original Werewolf was plenty sufficient for him to end the game a turn or two later.
Maro and Overbeing of Myth now seem to pale in comparison to a Werewolf of Ancient Hunger. They don’t have the steeper setup cost of being on the night face of a Werewolf card, but doubling the player’s hand size in power and toughness is pretty huge, and the Werewolf comes built in with trample. Vigilance is also there just to make sure we all know it’s serious.
The key to a card like this is ensuring we keep a large hand size—if we even just have five cards in our hand, we’ll have a 10/10. We want to be able to keep casting spells, though, and we don’t want to run our hand out of cards, so that’s kind of a conundrum. Of course, playing card-advantage spells or cards that replace themselves can keep our hand stocked. Playing lands will reduce our hand size, but once we hit five, we may not need any more.
Think Twice and Accumulated Knowledge are both 2-mana instants that can end up being worth more cards than they cost, and as instants, we can cast them during our opponent’s turn. In that way, we can take our own turn after casting the Sage off in order to let it hit its scary side. Confound is around to protect our only creature, and it makes sure our hand size doesn’t drop while doing so.
Cultivate and a couple copies of Kodama's Reach provide six copies of acceleration that is also card advantage: We trade one card in our hand for a replacement card in our hand in addition to putting a land directly onto the battlefield. And at 3 mana, they ramp perfectly, bringing us from 3 mana on turn three to 5 mana on turn four so we can cast the Sage a turn early.
Exclude, Repulse, and Choking Tethers are all around to defend us until we find a Sage, and once we have our creature, we can use those spells to circumvent blockers and push our damage through. (Though I suppose trample can do the job as well.)
Gush can increase our hand size considerably, most likely for a game-winning thrust. (Many people know that attacking with one or more creatures is swinging, but not as many are aware that attacking with a vigilance creature is thrusting.) We can cast Gush for no mana, increasing our hand size by three (minus one Gush, plus two draws, plus two Islands). With an ancient-hungry Werewolf, those cards represent 6 damage.
Finally, we have Mystic Confluence and Confirm Suspicions, which give us plenty more versatility and card advantage. Outside of these more expensive spells, we may be tempted to cast a bunch of stuff all the time, though we need to be careful with our transformed Werewolf. If we fall for our own trap and cast two spells, we’ll get our Sage back and will have to take another turn off. Taking a turn off isn’t as much the issue, though—we don’t want to miss a turn of attacking for double. However, we can avoid this issue by ignoring the instantaneousness of some of our spells, casting one at sorcery speed and saving one for our opponent’s turn.
The Ancient ? Casual | Andrew Wilson
- Creatures (4)
- 4 Sage of Ancient Lore
- Spells (32)
- 4 Think Twice
- 4 Accumulated Knowledge
- 4 Confound
- 4 Cultivate
- 4 Exclude
- 2 Kodama's Reach
- 2 Repulse
- 2 Choking Tethers
- 2 Gush
- 2 Confirm Suspicions
- 2 Mystic Confluence
So if you’re nostalgic for the Ashmouth, if you’ve ever wanted a double-Maro, or if you just like transforming cards, give one of these decks a try.
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