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Cryptolith, Amirite?

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Now, the full Shadows over Innistrad spoiler is out—and they saved some goodies until the last few days. Some of the cards are so unusual that I have no read on how good they are (Accursed Witch, you know what you did). In this little bit before the new set oozes into Standard, looking at my favorite last-minute reveal: Cryptolith Rite.

Anything worth Brewing Is worth Brewing Rite

Cryptolith Rite is a fascinating card that has a major chance to fuel ridiculous dreams for a while. By a while, I mean “the next six months” because it turns Dragons of Tarkir's Secure the Wastes into a near-doubling of mana that chains into the next Secure the Wastes or some other X spell. While it's easy to go to Magical Christmas Land with those thoughts, tokens is already a decent strategy—it's not as though Secure the Wastes is a dead card without Cryptolith Rite—so if most of the cards are independently playable, it's okay to play a dream-big card like Cryptolith Rite for the situations in which it will get out of hand.

The synergies here might be stretched thin from overambition, but enough cards are independently good that I hope they’ll compensate. A few of them hold the idea together. Secure the Wastes was the impetus to build with Cryptolith Rite in the way existing creatures can make mana to make a large Secure the Wastes that, in turn, will make more mana. Hangarback Walker and Cryptolith Rite have the same relationship: A large Hangarback Walker's death will create a load of Thopters that can pay into a subsequent massive Hangarback Walker. Endless One scales similarly if not as dramatically. Fall of the Titans is the ultimate payoff for all the mana, with the potential for huge amounts of damage. It also can be surged easily by Cryptolith Rite, Blisterpod (Standard's Wild Cantor impersonator), or a 0-mana Endless One.

Oath of Gideon is not amazing in a vacuum, but it makes tokens and improves Planeswalkers. In this case, all the Planeswalkers the Oath improves are token-making Planeswalkers. Nissa, Voice of Zendikar is loved by token decks everywhere, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar makes and pumps tokens just like Nissa, and Arlinn Kord can do those things and more; the trample off her nighttime +1 ability looks saucy with an Endless One. The emblem that gives creatures haste is also every kind of amazing with Cryptolith Rite, although, at that point, the damage-dealing is probably more relevant. I went light on the Gideons and Arlinns to be easier on the mana base, which might be strained by being three colors (although creatures tapping for mana of any color via Cryptolith Rite helps out). But I wouldn't be surprised if either Planeswalker should be a four-of, particularly Arlinn with her five abilities.

There's another archetype whose flagship card is interested in a load of mana:

The Zombie synergies are straightforward—there aren't that many Zombies in the upcoming Standard, so playing some non-Zombies that make Zombies, like Liliana, Heretical Healer, and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, makes sense even if Relentless Dead can't return them to the battlefield with its second triggered ability. Baloth Null can recur anything, Liliana, Defiant Necromancer can recur nonlegendary creatures, and Risen Executioner can recur itself in a pinch. Although there's no traditional removal, Shambling Goblin, Fleshbag Marauder, and the deathtouch of Sidisi, Undead Vizier all threaten creatures, and Relentless Dead ready to block with enough mana to recur Fleshbag Marauder can make midrange decks think twice.

Where Cryptolith Rite fits in is mainly in threatening more mana for Relentless Dead, although recasting Risen Executioner regardless of how many creatures are in the graveyard, recurring Baloth Null and having enough mana to recast whatever the Null brings back, and potentially putting a load of +1/+1 counters on Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet are also good. There should be enough mana to move Stoneforge Masterwork around as well, which looks great with Relentless Dead's menace or Kalitas's lifelink (and while Kalitas isn't a Zombie, he shares Warrior with Fleshbag Marauder and Risen Executioner). Cryptolith Rite also lets the smaller creatures like Shambling Goblin matter a little more; Shambling Goblin into Cryptolith Rite into Kalitas into Sidisi, Undead Vizier is plenty good for the first four turns.

The contours of a Zombie deck will be determined by the metagame, of course. But if Zombies are sufficiently reusable to grab a place in Standard, there might be an option to go big with Cryptolith Rite—and even having that option is unusual for the archetype.

Conclusion

It's possible Cryptolith Rite breaks Standard; it's possible Cryptolith Rite never comes within one hundred feet of Standard. But to have a card this unique and high-ceiling at the end of spoiler season is rare, and I'm glad to have it. Did anything catch your eye that hasn't received hype?


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