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The Next Ironroot Chef: Battle Squandered Resources


Our journey for to find the next Ironroot Chef continues. This week, Emma LaBelle faces off against Ironroot Chef Mike Linnemann in a battle that will be sure to leave you hungry for more.

It’s time to see what these two chefs have brought to the table—and if our judges liked the taste.

Squandered Resources

This is Battle Squandered Resources.

Emma LaBelle

You, a headstrong and talented young Planeswalker, have decided to learn the spell Squandered Resources. You look at the picture in your spellbook of the forlorn figure struggling in the desert, having traded his life and everything he had for sand. “What a fool,” you think to yourself. “He should have filled his deck with spells to replenish his lands. Just think of the power he could have had!”

You do think about it, and soon you are building your own version of the Squandered Resources deck. You include plenty of ways to keep your mana base replenished:

There! You’ll be branding yourself a renegade by using forbidden spells like Fastbond and Channel, but it’s worth it. However, you are a little worried about your life total, between Fastbond, Channel, and the time it will take for your mana engine to come online. Imagine dying to a burn spell just before your moment of triumph! You realize that if you want to operate at peak mana-production efficiency, you’ll need healing magic to buy yourself time:

Excellent! Now you’ll have all the life you’ll need. In fact . . . you could potentially generate quite a bit more life than that. And as crafty mages like you know, life can be a powerful magical resource.

Volcano Hellion
You stay up late that night, working on your deck, researching spells that grow more powerful the more life you are willing to give up. In the morning, you have gathered the following spells for your deck:

This deck is greedy, you admit. Carrying out your plans will require a delicate balancing act of resource management and Acceptable Losses. You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few rukh eggs, and you can’t be the greatest mage of your generation (when did you start referring to yourself as that?) without a few calculated sacrifices.

And the more sacrifices I’m willing to make, the more powerful I will become, you think to yourself as you recruit some Atogs for your army. No one loves sacrifice more than an Atog.


Then you hire the Atogatog to be your general. You like the idea of feeding him his smaller brothers when they have outlived their usefulness. You also like the idea of getting access to all five colors of mana.

You bring your deck to the battlefield and begin to wage war on your enemies. Some of them die quickly, but those who can survive until you’ve discarded your entire hand to feed Frenetic Ogre come back to beat you easily. Of course! Card-draw! You’re going to need to put more cards in your hand if this deck is ever going to work. You consider the standard enchantment, Phyrexian Arena, but you realize that for a deck that hungers like this one, it’s just not powerful enough. Your Greed gets the better of you, and you beg an audience with Kothophed, Soul Hoarder. He laughs at you for a little longer than is comfortable and then makes the following deck suggestions.


Before you leave, Kothophed taps you on the shoulder. You turn and find yourself staring at a Contract from Below. You didn’t realize this game was being played for ante . . . no matter. It won’t be a problem as long as you keep winning.

And you do keep winning—for now. But oh, what a toll it takes on your library, which shrinks at an alarming rate. You eye your graveyard suspiciously. Surely there is potential to be found there! You go to the Golgari—they’re recyclers, so they must have something you can use. Their creatures are powerful, but summoning them only compounds the swelling of your graveyard.

You go to the Phyrexians next. They install your deck with technology that both thrills and terrifies you, and their prices are steep. And still, your library dwindles.

Phyrexian Etchings

As you play your deck, you feel that you’re on the Brink of Madness. The sheer power you hold in your hands gives you Heightened Awareness, but every battle is an exhausting exercise in Attrition, a Psychic Vortex. You pour your life into casting a giant Minion of the Wastes and then struggle to shield yourself from harm with Bone Mask. You discard a full hand to Malfegor and decimate your opponent’s army, but it leaves you with nothing to feed the Zombie Infestation you had planned to send in for the kill. How long can this go on? This deck does so much, and so little at the same time! You suddenly realize that Diminishing Returns is more than just the name of a spell, and that you are now Reaping the Rewards of your arrogance, your Narcissism. Now, there is no way out but forward. You Plunge into Darkness, looking for answers, but you realize with horror that your library is nearly gone.

Shimatsu the Bloodcloaked
Over the next few desperate minutes, you sacrifice every one of your creatures to refill your hand, you pay a dangerous amount of your remaining life to dump your hand full of lands onto the battlefield, and then you sacrifice nearly all of those lands to summon the dread demon Shimatsu the Bloodcloaked, only for your opponent to draw just the spell he needs to banish the fiend to exile. It is not long before your side of the battlefield is empty. Now there is nothing standing between you and his gathering army.

Even your remaining lands seem to have been spiritually bled dry. Dust Bowl, Scorched Ruins, Wasteland, Blasted Landscape . . . how did it come to this?

The image of the parched sorcerer who traded his life for sand, crawling in the Desert, flashes in your mind as you reach for your library and realize that there is only one card left. You swallow, prepare for death, and draw your last spell.

There, standing before you, his mouth slacking open in a grin . . . is a Laboratory Maniac. “Welcome,” he whispers, embracing you. “You’ve made it.”

Battle Squandered Resources ? Ironroot Chef Commander | Emma LaBelle

Specific Cards: Greed (Sixth Edition), Channel (From the Vault: Exiled), Island (Shards of Alara #237), Swamps (Shards of Alara #239), Mountains (Shards of Alara #242), Forests (Time Spiral #299), Plains (Zendikar #232)

Ironroot Chef Mike Linnemann — “Quieting Your Color”

I found the Netflix TV show Daredevil to be the most exciting piece of media I watched in 2015. The characters multidimensional and intriguing, and they force you to interact with them on a visceral level—not unlike art, if I may add.

My favorite scene was when Wilson Fisk interacted with a solid white painting called “Rabbit in a Snowstorm.” You learn why this white painting brings to him visceral impact, and it’s far from innocent or kind. Much is packed into white on canvas.

Wilson Fisk in Netflix’s Daredevil, standing in front of “Rabbit in a Snowstorm”

The show continues the emotion of color by having the gallery director explain a painting to the blind protagonist by calling it the typical red and orange feelings of fire, love, passion, lust, and more. That idea of placing emotion into a painting, using a monochromatic palette, is how I’m approaching this Ironroot Chef challenge of Squandered Resources—and then denying my opponent from using his or her color.

Simplifying color in art always creates an impact. One artist, Yves Klein, used one color, IKB 191 or International Klein Blue, to the maximum effect, using only the color he created in different applications. I saw his work at a local museum, and I really slowed down my visit because I looked at application, technical prowess, and modification of medium instead of focusing on color. It’s brilliant conceptual work.

Thinking about monochromatic work—that is, colors around a color and not just a singular one—I saw it in Romas Kukalis’s Squandered Resources to be not only a painting of reds, but it’s also a waste of the rest of his palette. Waste is not to spend unwisely, but rather to throw away the color that isn’t needed. And things not working for us we don’t need. We surely don’t want others to have it either.

Squandered Resources by Romas Kukalis

Below, you will see each choice, each artwork is quiet in its choice of color, often just shades or tones of colors. (Adding black or white makes a shade or tone.) This is the construction of the deck. The deck is not an attack on colors—no, it retains its color, but visually, it wishes to be shades and hues and wishes to crush anything that has not its color (i.e. not us).

It is still a deck that plans to defeat an opponent, it just does so frantically, as quickly as one can to request an angel, a savior, to attack a threat and willing to sacrifice everything, land, and his or her future, for safety. I would obviously want this to be a mono-colored deck, but the ingredient is B/G with a red palette. So my deck follows the B/G colors with a variety of monochromatic colored artworks—tones of black and green, sans the special ingredient.

The deck plays out such that you will race to hit 5 mana to cast the special ingredient Desolation Angel with Squandered Resources in play. With that in play, you pay the kicker cost with sacrificed lands, with or without the Deserted Temple to gain another white source.

Desolation Angel
Squandered Resources

Cards of Note

Sinkhole buys you time against your opponent, forcing him or her to choose from fewer colors.

Crypt Ghast and Nirkana Revenant are both enablers to your plan of making an Armageddon of land and color. They help the theme of making only my colors because they only help me and they stay pure by only bolstering their own color: black.

Xathrid Gorgon not only is the saturation of black, evil, and selfish magic; it also then creates stone creatures, colorless artifact statues.

Bane of the Living’s hate is obvious, wishing to revert back to its morphed origin and yet compliant to a point in saving you from harm.

Garruk, Apex Predator as line art is a singleton inclusion because the deck is not sure to even invite a hunter whom you truly wish to never meet. If he must be summoned, you hope you can squander enough resources to summon him for a purpose, as he will allow you to create hordes of beasts while protecting you from enemy Planeswalkers. He becomes doubly important if you Angel doesn’t listen to your cries for help.

You may ask, why is Desolation Angel here? Brom has all the color.

That card is not mere shades or tones—that is correct. While the background is a beautiful landscape—hues of purple and pink—this card is different because one award-winning artwork was desired, needed even, to be the win condition, a beautiful addition, and fitting of a deck that wishes to sacrifice everything to its only out, an Angel both good and evil, forced to be devoted to its master, you, the Planewalker. (It was a Spectrum-included artwork and won a number of other science-fiction and fantasy art awards.) It must be included as a special ingredient, a beautiful destroyer of opponents’ resources both in land and in life total. It needs to be beckoned for its power and deliver when it arrives.

You may also ask why I did not fully attack color with Circles of Protection or make use of devotion. I must tell you, none of those painting are quiet in their artwork, only working in visceral, emotional shades and tones. They’re busy and multicolored in all cases and don’t fit the theme.

Basic lands should be Vance Kovac’s Time Spiral Forest (seen in the multiple artworks above), John Avon’s Unhinged Swamp, and Jung Park’s Zendikar Plains, shown below.

The Vote

Below, you can read the judges’ scoring to see how Nate and Stybs cast their ballots. However, this is your chance to score the winner of Battle Squandered Resources.

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The Judging

Nate Holt

Nathan Holt @walktheplanes

Nate’s the host of Walking the Planes, a documentary series about Magic: The Gathering with a healthy dose of sketch comedy (for value).

We've arrived at a new plateau in our search for The Next Ironroot Chef. These chefs are among the cream of the crop.

Emma LaBelle

You focused much of your deck on "combo enablers" that cater to the rules text of Squandered Resources. I typically consider rules text to be the least flavorful part of a Magic card, but in this case, you pull it off decently. Squandered Resources is, in many ways, an Ironroot Chef's dream ingredient. Its rules text plays so well with the art, card name, and flavor text, and in finding complementary cards; the overall theme of Squandered Resources really pops.

This deck is masochistic as hell—Hatred, Narcissism, Necropotence, Plunge into Darkness. How much can we hurt ourselves to achieve our perverse, twisted dreams? Let's squander our resources as aggressively as we can. Let's throw away everything to get more of the drug that fuels us—lands—only to abuse it right away. Let's make deals with the goddamn Phyrexians of all people. It's a type of hell that would make Sartre blush. It's maniacal. It's scary.

Creativity: 2

Boldness: 3

Adherence to the Theme: 3

Ironroot Chef Mike Linneman

I am not surprised to see you focusing on art. It is your forte, and today you showed us why. Squandered Resources has a red color palette, despite being a black and green card. I was initially disappointed that you didn't tackle that juxtaposition head on—red art on nonred cards. But you chose artwork that hits on SR's themes of barrenness and destruction extremely well. The gluttony of cheap mana emerged as a subtheme. Revenant and Crypt Ghast are at the party when it happens—the fiery red burning of the land that sticks out like a sore thumb in an otherwise chilly visual scene. An eruption of dark forces that fills your side of the battlefield with an enormous power before an angel of desolation destroys the entire world. Tragic and cataclysmic.

Creativity: 3

Boldness: 3

Adherence to the Theme: 2

Adam Styborski

Adam Styborski @the_stybs

Adam is a casual player at heart and weekly columnist for MagicTheGathering.com. He also travels the country for Pro Tour and Grand Prix coverage, and he shares his Pauper Cube everywhere.

Competitor Emma LaBelle

Spoils of the Vault

There isn't a competitor who hasn't fallen to the challenge at least once, and even the Ironroot Chefs have taken losses through their many battles. You have a high bar set, but I feel you've fallen prey to one of the traps of the competitors before.

You played up the theme of Squandered Resources well. Sacrificing everything for what you want only to be left with nothing is the ultimate folly of desire, and your deck is filled with foolish trades. What I don't like is how widely you stretched it. I love the care and attention you paid to the theme, but leaving Squandered Resources as just a one-of is something I genuinely dislike. Piling things up just dilutes the taste.

I was the ingredient to be a bigger part of dishes, and like others (Including chefs themselves!), I wished you'd included more focus on the ingredient. Cooking is like writing: Sometimes, you need to cut out some flair to focus on what you want to share.

Creativity: 2

Boldness: 3

Adherence to the Theme: 3

Ironroot Chef Mike Linnemann

Bane of the Living

Is there anything you can't loop back to your mainstay passion? Your deck and description are Mike through and through, and I appreciate the generous flavoring of the ingredient. You didn't skimp on quantity to produce quality.

However, I found a disconnect between your pride and art knowledge joy and the flavor of Squandered Resources. The lesson of power begetting emptiness is lost in your flourish and focus on colors. While I appreciate anecdotes about which art has won which awards and nominations, I wanted to see a larger turn on the futility of grasping for victory at any cost.

There's flavor here for sure, but it was adrift from the theme for me.

Creativity: 3

Boldness: 3

Adherence to the Theme: 1

Voting closes midnight Thursday, and the first winner will be announced this Friday, January 22. Follow @IronrootChef on Twitter for the final score and victory announcement and to share your ideas for secret ingredients. Chairman Holt will continue to use your suggestions to challenge our chefs to the core.

And if you think you have what it takes to challenge the chefs, send an email to IronrootChef AT gmail DOT com with all of your flavorful qualifications. We’re looking for new Ironroot Chefs and competitors, and you could be the next to take a shot at impressing the judges.

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