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Crackdown Smackdown

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Crackdown Construct
Dedicated readers of this column will be aware that I love to win with cards that say “You win the game” because it’s a lot more interesting than trying to attack or deck yourself and you get to play some offbeat cards that your opponents might not see coming. It’s a less boring way to play Magic and I’m constantly looking for new cards that win you the game on the spot and new ways to build around old ones. I think I may have found both.

Everyone is really focusing on the return of Splinter Twin to Standard with the printing of Felidar Guardian, an unassuming creature until you remember that Saheeli Rai exists and you can copycat the copy cat ad nauseum. I thought people might toy with another potential combo in the same deck because it takes up a small number of slots since the combo is between a creature and a land you’re already running in the deck. The land? Wandering Fumarole — a manland that happens to tap for Blue and Red, both colors you’ll need to cast Saheeli Rai. The creature? I’m sure you’ve guessed by now — Crackdown Construct.

No one is excited about Construct in Standard right now but that’s not to say there’s no merit to comboing with it in other formats. After all, we have the infrastructure to really take advantage of a gigantic creature in Commander. We have ways to make it get through unblockably, ways to make it deal damage as though it weren’t blocked, dozens of cards to activate besides just Fumarole and we have ways to win with a huge Construct besides just attacking one player. In fact, something about Crackdown Construct made me remember my first encounter with creatures that grew this way and my first encounter with a “You win the game” card. The year? I don’t remember the year. Like, 2004 probably. The format? Extended. The deck? Annoying. The deck was annoying.

Using Daru Spiritualist’s triggered ability and an arbitrarily large but finite number of activations from an en-Kor creature that could target Spiritualist for 0 mana, you made a Spiritualist with an arbitrarily large but finite toughness, then sacrificed the Spiritualist to Worthy Cause to gain an arbitrarily large but finite amount of life. I remember this deck for a lot of reasons.

  • I lost to it. I was playing a Mystic Snake/Equilibrium deck in Extended, though, and I deserved it. I lost to lots of things that day.
  • I lost to Test of Endurance, which was amazing.
  • It was designed to counter the Aluren deck which (iirc) generated an infinitely-large Carrion Feeder.
  • Judges ruled you couldn’t say you did your loop infinitely. First of all, the turn would technically never end and the game would end in a draw if you did. Secondly, if you gained infinite life with Worthy Cause, could your opponent kill you with an infinitely large Carrion Feeder? Is infinity minus infinity 0 or is it infinity, still? The judges wanted a game of Magic, not a debate about the nature of infinity and ruled you could gain 47 quadrillion life or whatever so the Aluren player could kill you.

Aetherflux Reservoir
I liked the idea of gaining that much life and winning with Test of Endurance an awful lot. I continue to try and do that to this day, and playing in a format where we start with 40 life and a 1-drop Baneslayer Angel makes that possible a lot more often than you’d think. Could we add Crackdown Construct to an already existing shell of Daru Spiritualist, en-Kor creatures and ways to gain a ton of life and recreate that old Extended deck experience? If you said no, would reminding you that Aetherflux Reservoir is a card now and we can shotgun blast everyone at the table 50 damage at a time like a mad scientist with a death ray? I don’t know what Aetherflux is, but I know your opponents stop twitching if you spray them with enough of it. Finally, since we’re loathe to run tutors when we don’t have to, is there enough redundancy to make sure we draw cards for the combo? I think so.

Redundancy is important in all decks and doubly so in 75% decks. It’s not just about not wanting to run too many tutors, we can also use redundancy to combat disruption. If you Vampiric Tutor for a combo piece only to have it milled with Phenax (you played Vamp Tutor in Phenax in this scenario and I realize that it’s your fault, but work with me) or watch your creature take a walk down the Path to Exile instead of the path to an arbitrarily large but finite number of copies of itself, you’ll appreciate having spares. I think there is a ton of redundancy here. In the role of “Creature we want to make super large” we have Crackdown Construct, Daru Spiritualist, Angelic Protector and Task Force, which is quite a bit of redundancy since all of these creatures can help us go off with our wacky combo. It’s not just Worthy Cause helping us gain the life, either — we have access to a ton of cards. I decided I wanted to run Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim as our commander (Brion Stoutarm was a contender until I decided I wanted to combo with more than just Crackdown Construct and didn’t want to have to bother with cards like About Face) and she does a fine job of being Worthy Cause on a stick but we also have access to Animal Boneyard, Diamond Valley, Disciple of Griselbrand, Life Chisel, Miren, the Moaning Well, and we’ll probably run Starlit Sanctum since we’ll have some Clerics and Daru Spiritualist is a Cleric also. We have a laundry list of en-Kor cards to use and Crackdown Construct makes it even easier, letting us go infinite with something as simple as Lightning Greaves and another creature (You can’t keep equipping Lightning Greaves to the same creature; the Greaves give the creature Shroud. They work a little too well sometimes.) Finally, we have Test of Endurance, Felidar Sovereign and Aetherflux Reservoir as win conditions on top of being really tough to kill by basic damage. That said, we’re still vulnerable to Commander damage, milling, poison counters and someone knocking a beer over on the table and splashing everyone’s cards and that’s why I said no drinks on the playing surface, Brad, are you serious right now?

I am opting not to run a Cleric tribal deck here. Instead, I think running a rebels subtheme is a fun way to pretend it’s the early 2000s again. This also helps us find Outrider en-Kor and Task Force, 2 cards that can help us win. Our combo is convoluted and ridiculous, so having a little help with some of the pieces seems OK since we still have to come by the rest of the combo honestly. Rebels are great for flavor and Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero was good enough to be banned so it’s probably good enough to jam in our stupid deck. This deck IS stupid, but it’s what we’re about so let’s keep being about it, shall we? What does a deck with all of these goofy cards in it look like? It looks like fun, that’s what. Here’s the list I came up with.

Ayli?s WWE Crackdown Smackdown featuring Lin Sivvi ? Commander | Jason Alt


Worthy Cause
So, I’m not sure if this is a pile. If you struggle to win with this, I might consider a few changes.

First of all, I took out the Sanguine Bond / Exquisite Blood combo as well as Vizkopa Guildmage. Having another combo is fine for playing the deck but I built this deck to showcase the combos we came up with. I probably cut Life Chisel in play-testing, for example, and find room for Exquisite Blood. However, we are all aware of this combo and I wanted to show off something new. If I played this deck, that combo likely makes its way back in at some point. More than one way to win never killed anyone. Except, you know, your opponents. Sanguine Bond is still in here to chip away at them when you gain life or just kill them when you Worthy Cause.

The mana base is probably janky. I don’t care a ton about mana bases in general because people build their own way and usually ignore mana bases from articles. One reader told me that he always checks, though, to see if there were any interesting utility lands the author included and I’ve built my mana bases in these articles with deference to that ever since. You’ll want to play Miren, the Moaning Well for sure. It’s up to you if you want to play Scoured Barrens. Build the way you want, but remember that you want lands that are part of the combo. I included Rogue's Passage in case you need to take a Crackdown Construct directly to their dome. Diamond Valley costs as much as the rest of the deck, just about, but I included it so you know that I know it goes in the deck. Just bear all that in mind when you look at my mana bases.

Our creatures suck as creatures. This is basically a combo deck, so our creatures are in here for their abilities. We won’t be attacking much, but that’s fine. We are playing a goofy combo deck, but it’s buried in a regular-looking Ayli deck and they won’t know what we’re up to with our Ramosian Sergeants and Lancers en-Kor until it’s too late, hopefully. This deck may end up never working because it’s too hard to get it together and having creatures that can’t really attack or block may not be good enough. I could also see this being about the consistency we want since I built in a lot of redundancy for our combo pieces. We may need more card drawing, but we can easily get that in black at the expense of life, something we have in spades.

What do we think? Should I leave this deck in the annals of history where it belongs or is Crackdown Construct enough of an impetus to try and dust it off? Did I include the right number of cards in the deck (I didn’t last week)? Want to fight about something, or agree with me aggressively, or talk about who’s going to win the Super Bowl (who cares), or talk about your own brews? Hit me up in the comments section. Thanks for reading. Until next time!


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