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Learning to Cheat and Prosper with Chainer, Nightmare Adept


I like to break Magic's rules. It's a fun way to use my creative powers to try and game the, errr... game and it's a good way to get ahead. We're not talking palming extra cards or shuffle tracking, we're talking about playing cards in a way other than how the designers of the cards intended. It feels like cheating to use a card that has limitations in an unlimited fashion and I'm going to continue to call it cheating because it makes it feel way more fun to me to "break" the game. If you don't want to conjure images of actual Magic cheaters, call it breaking parity or getting ahead or whatever you want. What we're doing is generating additional value via unintended uses of a card or exploitation of a loophole and I found a dandy loophole this week. In fact, I think I found a new "Simic" deck.

I like to joke that my current favorite "Simic" deck is Teysa Karlov because while Teysa Karlov is not at all in Simic colors, I do double almost everything I do and if that's not Simic, I don't know what is. Sure it's cool to activate Vorel of the Hull Clade and double the counters on your Spike Weaver, but it's also cool to sac a token to Viscera Seer with Teysa and Grave Pact out and if I can call parity breaking "cheating" I can call a Teysa deck a Simic deck. It's all about how the deck makes me feel and Teysa makes me feel like it's 2016 and I'm untapping Arcanis with Murkfiend Liege. A deck doesn't have to be Simic colors to make me feel like I'm doing Simic things, but I really didn't expect the feel of a Simic deck from a Rakdos deck. But I think I can break Chainer, Nightmare Adept wide open.

Chainer, Nightmare Adept

This isn't the first Chainer to come along but it is the most recent and it got me thinking brewy thoughts right off the bat. In order to figure out if any of what I wanted to do was even possible, I consulted the oracle. There's quite a bit in the rulings section already because the card is more complex than I thought at first glance. It turns out some of the things on the card that seem absolute are actually not.

This is useful because they can Relic you in response and you can just pick another target. If they get really frisky and decide to Bojuka Bog you or something, you can wait and recast something that's not even in the yard when this ability resolves. That's extra useful to know.

Once each turn, not once on each of your turns. If we plan to use Vedalken Orrery (I don't) this could matter. I think the next point is juicier, though.

This, we can use. Bouncing Chainer, reanimating Chainer, re-casting Chainer from the command zone - we have a lot of potential ways to use an ability multiple times in a turn that we were clearly not expected to use multiple times. Breaking parity in this manner feels like cheating and I can't wait to do it.

Putting creatures into play seems like something we will want to do in ways other than casting them, especially since our hand might be kind of light part of the time given how inclined we are to discard cards. Being able to bring stuff back from the graveyard or put stuff into play will likely be a factor, especially if we're going to use Chainer's first ability a lot. Haste may or may not matter.

If this is going to feel like a Simic deck, we want to double things. Since we don't have access to Doubling Season or Hardened Scales or Mana Reflection, we're going to have to double things with Red and Black enchantments or artifacts. Fortunately, Panharmonicon leaps instantly to mind. If we're going to abuse Panharmonicon, we want to be casting creatures using Chainer's ability that will have ETB effects. Looping Gray Merchant of Asphodel or Avalanche Riders seems like fun, and the latter even has a way to get itself back in your 'yard. We can even dust off a few 75% classic creatures like Mindclaw Shaman. If the mana cost on these seems high, don't worry, I fully plan to cast Dockside Extortionist early and often; I hear that's good with Panharmonicon.

Being able to sac Chainer to recast him and use his ability again, provided we can come up with the cards and mana to do that, is going to require sac outlets, but Red and Black have those in spades and we can always enlist the help of artifacts like Ashnod's Altar. I like lots of Altar effects since they give us mana and let us get rid of creatures we borrowed. I plan to use Captivating Crew, Molten Primordial and a card that we don't often use because it requires us to sac a creature to activate - Helm of Possession. This is the perfect Helm of Possession deck because we have ways to replay the creatures we sac to use Helm and we can even sac a creature we threatened to steal another one permanently. Helm is a very, very 75% card but I tend to eschew it in favor of cards like Vedalken Shackles which are more straightforward to use. In this deck, though, Helm is an all-star.

How do we get Helm reliably? Glad I pretended you asked. My plan is to use the same Goblins shell that I used for my Xantcha deck last year. Goblins accomplish a lot of things. Goblin Welder and Goblin Engineer find me artifacts I want like Helm of Possession and Ashnod's Altar. Goblin Matron can find Goblins for me to use to sac to activate Chainer than recast from the yard later. I can comfortably play both Grenzos in the deck because they're both quite good. Goblins are nice and affordable mana-wise and their synergy keeps them from getting out-scaled as your opponents play bigger and better creatures. Goblin Recruiter, Moggcatcher and Goblin Matron again help you find the creatures you need for the next part of your plan and quite a few Goblin creatures are very good with Panharmonicon. Casting Goblin Matron, triggering Panharmonicon, grabbing two Goblins, pitching one to recast Matron and casting the other one for value will make this deck take off. They didn't intend for us to keep bouncing Chainer with Cloudstone Curio when we cast a one mana Goblin or using Chainer while he had one Illusionists' Bracers, but we're going to do all of that. A Goblin sub-theme is very appropriate in this deck and we're going to leverage it quite a bit.

Now that the creative juices are flowing, what is this crazy deck going to look like?

As far as first drafts go, this is the most I have been excited for a deck in 2019. Maybe I'm a Rakdos player at heart since I was basically this excited for Xantcha. I don't know. What I do know is that I built a very similar deck to Xantcha and while I don't get to do any cool Mindslaver shenanigans, this should steal a lot of their stuff.

The deck is very mana-hungry and I hope the mana rocks I added, cards like Dockside Extortionist and Treasure Nabber and the low mana cost of a lot of my creatures will be enough. We won't need a ton of mana unless we get a good loop with Chainer established, a Captivating Crew chain going or want to cast something like Insurrection, so I think the mana curve is actually pretty good.

I knew going in that I wanted Goblins and I was delighted to find Goblins for the deck that were excellent and almost seemed tailor-made. Wort, Boggart Auntie wasn't designed with Chainer in mind, but bringing back a Goblin creature you pitched to Chainer every turn is solid. Sensation Gorger helps you more than them when your hand is empty and theirs are full of counters and you can even make sure you nail the kinship trigger with Volrath's Stronghold and Goblin Recruiter. Squee was made to be pitched to Chainer. I didn't manage to include Gray Merchant but once you steal all of their creatures, sac them and ping them with Sling-Gang Lieutenant, you might not care.

I have a way to tutor for Kiki-Jiki but not Zealous Conscripts so I don't have a problem there, but if you find yourself bored by the Godo and Helm combo, take one of both pieces out. I like Helm of the Host because it's a Panharmonicon deck but Godo can go. I don't think there's anything inherently not 75% about Godo-Helm but I also got bored with the combo quickly in my Brudiclad deck, so your mileage may vary. Both combos are fine but the deck is also fine without them, so, season to taste.

We can probably just kill people with Goblins if we have to, especially if you can helm up a Krenko or something, but I like the idea of grinding value for long enough to dig to an Insurrection, loop something to get enough value to be harder to kill or kill them with their own creatures. The good thing about having creature-based combos is that they're hard to disrupt with removal, we have enough sac outlets to keep them from exiling them from play and we can use them for their non-combo abilities while we wait to find the other piece because we can easily sac them and replay them with Chainer. It's not "wasted" to jam a turn five Zealous Conscripts just to snag something of theirs even with no Kiki in sight.

I'm going to build and test this list because it's really exciting to me, and if I come up with any refinements, as is my custom for my br Simic decks, I'll write a follow-up. I think this list is one of the more 75% decks I have come up with in a long time and I'm excited to unleash it on people. Goblins are fun, the synergy is very strong and some of them feel like they were built to interact with Chainer.

That's all for me this week. Join me next week where I'll be looking more at Commander 2019 for inspiration and thinking about how Throne of Eldraine will give us a ton of Legendary creatures to choose from. Until next time!

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