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By: spg, spg
Oct 29 2009 1:09am
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Explorations #47 - The Greatest Quest

Hey everybody!  Everyone seemed to enjoy last week's article, written by my fiance Kathryn on the topic of how to get your girlfriend to play Magic.  In fact, everyone seemed to enjoy it better than the articles that I write!  I'll keep working on trying to convince her to take over the weekly Explorations =)  In all seriousness I thought her article was great, and I'm glad you guys liked it.  We've talked about some unique and different ideas for articles we could write together - so stay tuned.  This week I've got a cool combo deck to talk about!

Once, a long time ago when Magic was young, Richard Garfield created a card called Time Walk:

Being able to take an extra turn turned out to be extremely powerful.  Nowadays that sort of effect costs 3UU instead of just 1U.

Here's another cool card from the olden days that let you take extra turns:

I always loved the design of this card.  As a small child I loved the idea of some lost, ancient artifact machinery with the ability to store the essence of time itself.

After a while, people figured out that they could use another early favorite to exploit the turn granting aspects of Time Vault.

Untap, Twiddle Time Vault, take another turn, hope to draw another Twiddle and do it all again.  Speaking of Twiddle, what the HELL is that art supposed to be?  I've been staring at it for the last five minutes and I think I'm more confused than I was when I started.

As time went by, Wizards did NOT like the fact that people were exploiting Time Vault for extra turns.  So they issued errata for the card, which looked something like this:

Time Vault
Time Vault comes into play tapped.
Time Vault doesn't untap during your untap step.
Skip your next turn: Untap Time Vault and put a time counter on it.
T, Remove all time counters from Time Vault: Take an extra turn after this one. Play this ability if only there's a time counter on Time Vault.

See all of that business about time counters?  That's to make it so you can't use Twiddle effects for extra turns.  Sure you can cheat untap your Time Vault, but it won't get any time counters when you do.  This means you won't be able to tap the Vault for extra turns.

Even in this weakened state, Time Vault was part of a degenerate combo in Vintage.  People played it alongside the weird Ravnica rare Flame Fusillade:

Flame Fusillade

See what you can do with a combo of these two?  Time Vault allows you to untap it whenever you want, just by paying out your next turn.  So you use the Flame Fusillade ability to do a damage to your opponent, and then skip your next turn to untap the Time Vault.  Repeat this process until your opponent is toast.  Sure you're probably twenty or so turns in the hole, but your opponent is dead!

The DCI didn't like this either, so here's what they did to Time Vault:

Time Vault
Time Vault comes into play tapped.
Time Vault doesn't untap during your untap step.
At the beginning of your upkeep, you may untap Time Vault. If you do, put a time counter on it and you skip your next turn.
T, Remove all time counters from Time Vault: Take an extra turn after this one. Play this ability only if there's a time counter on Time Vault.

Look at that wall of text!  What a mess!  Wizards, what did you do to my elegant Time Vault?  It's obvious that at this point Wizards was pissed off at all of the Time Vault shenanigans going on, and just wanted to put an end to it once and for all.  It's almost as if Wizards wished they could have just changed the oracle wording to something like this:


I kid, I kid!  PS: Thanks to Katastrophe for making that mockup for me!

Anyways, that last update basically removed Time Vault from competitive Vintage play - adding a whole ton of text that ensured you'd never do anything degenerate with it.

Eventually enough time passed and Wizards decided to remove the power level errata on Time Vault, returning the card closer to its original functionality.  Here's the oracle text as of today:

Time Vault
Time Vault enters the battlefield tapped.
Time Vault doesn't untap during your untap step.
If you would begin your turn while Time Vault is tapped, you may skip that turn instead. If you do, untap Time Vault.
T: Take an extra turn after this one.

No more "at the beginning of your upkeep", no more "put a time counter on Time Vault", no more "only if there's a time counter on Time Vault".  This update re-enabled a whole bunch of combos in Vintage, and Time Vault currently reigns as the top deck along with these two guys:

Tezzeret the Seeker Mana Drain

Not only does Tezzeret tutor up your combo, but he's also able to untap the Time Vault himself in order to generate infinite turns.  Tezzeret also serves as a win condition in that deck, turning all of your jewelry into 5/5 beaters.

So why am I talking about Time Vault so much?  Well, today I want to talk about a deck based on this sweet land from Zendikar:

Magosi, the Waterveil

Does this one look familiar?  It's pretty close to a land version of the  second revision of Time Vault presented above.  The main difference is that Magosi has a bounce clause that returns the land to your hand whenever you use it.  I guess that's to make extra sure that players don't abuse Magosi in order to take infinite turns.  So today I'm going to make a deck that abuses Magosi in order to take infinite turns.

Here's piece two of the combo:

Rings of Brighthearth

Rings of Brighthearth is an artifact that makes many degenerate combos possible, including an infinite turn engine alongside Magosi.  Here's what you do:

  1. Pay U and tap Magosi, the Waterveil to add an eon counter.  Skip your next turn.
  2. Somehow untap Magosi, the Waterveil.
  3. Tap Magosi, the Waterveil, remove the eon counter, return it to your hand.  Take an extra turn.  Pay 2 and use Rings of Brighthearth to double your extra turn.

At this point you've skipped your next turn, but generated two extra turns.  This means you're one turn up.  If you're able to repeat this process each turn, then you will be able to take turns forever.

So there's one missing component in the above combo: we need a way to untap Magosi, the Waterveil each turn.  There are lots of cards from Magic's history that untap lands, and many different options here.  I'm going to talk about two ways right here:

Deserted Temple Garruk Wildspeaker

Each of these options has its advantages.  Deserted Temple fits in a land slot, produces mana, and can untap Magosi each turn for just a single mana.  Garruk Wildspeaker costs four to play and moves us into green, but untaps Magosi for free (along with another land) and is a generally useful card.  Who knows when you're going to need a few beast tokens, right?  You could also use something like Ley Druid if you want to be truly old school.

So let's assume that we're going with Deserted Temple.  I'm going to describe the complete combo.  The preconditions are that Magosi, Rings of Brighthearth, and Deserted Temple are in play.

  1. Pay U and tap Magosi, the Waterveil to add an eon counter.  Skip your next turn.
  2. Pay 1 and use Deserted Temple to untap Magosi, the Waterveil.
  3. Tap Magosi, the Waterveil, remove the eon counter, return it to your hand.  Take an extra turn.  Pay 2 and use Rings of Brighthearth to double your extra turn.
  4. Replay Magosi, the Waterveil.
  5. Pass the turn, take an extra turn.

Pretty cool, huh?  A tight little infinite turn combo that relies on three cards, two of which are mana-producing lands.

The main problem here is that you can't do very much with these extra turns.  Sure you get to untap and draw a card with each of them, but activating Magosi bounces the land back to your hand - this means that you need to use up your land drop each turn to keep the combo going.  Kind of a bummer, but nothing that we can't work around.  Let's go ahead and brainstorm a list of cards that we could use to win in this situation.

Jace Beleren
Garruk's planeswalking buddy.  Any of the planeswalkers are great when you're taking infinite turns, since it's possible to use their abilities every turn and without investing any mana.  If we use Jace as a win condition, then every five turns we'll be able to effectively mill our opponent for twenty-five cards: five from the +2 loyalty ability and twenty from the -10 loyalty ability.  Unless our opponent is playing a crazy huge deck, we should be able to win over ten turns or so.

Hedron Crab
Hedron Crab was really awesome at the last Pro Tour in Extended Dredge decks, and can also be used as a win condition for our wacky Magosi deck.  Since we're going to be playing Magosi every single turn, we can mill our opponent for three each turn.  Assuming a 60 card deck from our opponent, we'll be able to win in somewhere between fifteen and twenty turns.

Hedron Crab also has some additional utility.  This guy can block any 1 power creatures our opponent may have, and could chump block something huge in order to buy us time.  The downside is that cards like Doom Blade and Terminate take the Crab down easily.

Darksteel Reactor
Now we're talking.  I love Darksteel Reactor and always look for chances to play this awesome card.  I love pretty much any card that says "you win the game" on it, and this one seems custom made for a Magosi combo deck.  It wins over twenty turns, is indestructible, and doesn't lock us into any color.

Goblin Bomb
Back in the early days I was scared to death of this card, and I can't really imagine why.  If you're feeling lucky, then you could run this one and hope for the best!  "do 20 damage" is almost as cool as "you win the game".

One bummer is that Goblin Bomb costs $3.50 and I'm not sure why.  I guess casual players must be into it?

Bitterblossom is probably the most powerful card that fits into our win condition requirements.  It comes down early, acts as a Forcefield in the early game, and then provides evasive damage in the late game.
Darksteel Reactor

The main bummer is that you need to pay life to get your win condition going - so there are some situations where it's just not viable.  Even if you take some early aggro damage and then assemble your infinite turn combo... you may just not have enough life to take your opponent down with Bitterblossom.

Test of Endurance + Marble Chalice / Recumbent Bliss / Skullmead Cauldron
Speaking of powerful cards, this win condition involves Marble Chalice - which is basically as non-powerful as it gets.  Match any of these zero-mana life gainers with Test of Endurance and you can win once you've accumulated fifty life - so somewhere between thirty and fifty turns depending on when you start your combo.

Onyx Goblet
Here's the antithesis of Marble Chalice.  If we can get this guy into play then we can just ping away for twenty or so turns until our opponent goes down.

Aether Figment
If you manage to get an unblockable creature into play before heading into your infinite turn loop, then you can just get in there for one damage each turn until your opponent is dead.  If you're beating with an un-kicked Aether Figment, then just hope your opponent doesn't have Sun Droplet!

Other options for unblockable creatures in Extended include Jhessian Infiltrator, Phantom Warrior, Dimir Infiltrator, Ghastlord of Fugue, and Inkfathom Infiltrator.

Corpulent Corpse Nihilith Shadowmage Infiltrator Errant Ephemeron
Some evasive win conditions.

Corpulent Corpse, Nihilith, Shadowmage Infiltrator, Errant Ephemeron
So it's not necessary for our finishing creature to be completely unblockable, we could use something with fear or flying instead.  You just don't want to end up in the situation where your win condition can't get through your opponent's defense.  It would really suck to have infinite turns and an Errant Ephemeron if your opponent has something like Wall of Denial.

Prodigal Sorcerer
Feel free to use Tim if you want to take your opponent down old-school style.

So there's a decent variety of different ways to take down your opponent with infinite turns and not much mana.  Next I'm going to brainstorm a list of other potentially strong and cool options to round out the deck.

Azusa, Lost but Seeking
It's a bummer that we have to use up our land drop each turn replaying Magosi...  but Azusa lets us get around that limitation and go crazy with our long term mana development.  On a side note, Azusa, Lost but Seeking is my current personal favorite magic card name.

Gilder Bairn
Might be a cool way to double the eon counters on Magosi?

Doubling Season
Definitely a cool way to double the eon counters on Magosi.

Moment's Peace
This is a great way to buy some time to assemble our combo.  If we're running Deserted Temple, then we're in Classic anyways, so this one is in the card pool.

Stone-Seeder Hierophant
Another way to untap Magosi, also allows you to untap an additional land.  Fragile as a 1/1 though.

Azusa, Lost but Seeking
Oracle of Mul Daya
Sort of like Azusa, Lost but Seeking.  Adds some different utility, costs a bit more to get going.

Krosan Restorer
A much improved version of Ley Druid, who was never really very good to begin with.

Fabricate or Enlightened Tutor
Searches up Rings of Brighthearth and Darksteel Reactor.

Expedition Map / Sylvan Scrying
Searches up Deserted Temple or Magosi, the Waterveil.

Dosan the Falling Leaf
Shuts our opponent completely down from interacting during our infinite turns.

Alright, with those ideas I'm going to throw together my first shot at a list.  There are a ton of different ways to build something like this, but I'm going to go with green and blue.

This deck is kind of crazy, but it's such a fun idea that I wanted to try out a whole bunch of different stuff.  It's a blue-green deck with some control elements (Remand and Cryptic Command) and tutoring (Fabricate and Sylvan Scrying).  I'm running both Garruk Wildspeaker and Deserted Temple to untap Magosi.  Hedron Crab, Jace Beleren, Darksteel Reactor, and Aether Figment serve as win conditions.  (Meloku, the Clouded Mirror) is in here as an alternate win condition.  There are also some singleton artifacts, which I can search up with spare copies of Fabricate.

One thing you'll notice is that this deck is pretty expensive.  Don't worry, after playing some test games I'll be creating a budget version!  I'll also be tuning it up based on what works and what doesn't.

Game 1 vs Naya Beatdown

My opponent starts off with Jungle Shrine and then double Taiga into Jund Hackblade.  I get Magosi, the Waterveil, Deserted Temple and then Simic Signet.  He tries to bring Naya Hushblade into play, but I use Cryptic Command to counter it and bounce his Hackblade.  Rip-Clan Crasher gets in there for two, but I spend a productive turn on Fabricate to tutor up Darksteel Reactor.

Jund Hackblade comes back into play, but I prevent a bunch of damage with Moment's Peace.  I bring my Reactor into play and he casts Garruk Wildspeaker and Behemoth Sledge.  By this point I've assembled the whole combo and my opponent concedes as I demonstrate my ability to take infinite turns.

Analysis:  Pretty much a perfect game number one for this deck.  I played a little control, stalled up the red zone, tutored up a win condition, and then landed my infinite turn combo.  Not bad!

Game 2 vs GW Enchantress

I use my sweet new Misty Rainforest to search up Tropical Island and play Sensei's Divining Top.  My opponent plays Temple Garden and then Yavimaya Enchantress, which I take care of with Remand.  I use Sylvan Scrying to search up Magosi, and my opponent successfully resolves (Yavimawa Enchantress).

He tries to bring a second Yavimaya Enchantress into play, but I have another Remand.  I'm able to setup my draw with Remand thanks to Sensei's Divining Top.  I cast Rings of Brighthearth and my opponent plays out Pentarch Ward and then Aether Web on his Enchantress - which swings in as a 5/5.

I Fabricate up Darksteel Reactor and then put my win condition into play.  My opponent resolves another Yavimaya Enchantress and powers up with Blanchwood Armor, but I use and then flashback Moment's Peace to buy myself plenty of time to combo off.

Analysis:  Another solid showing for this deck, pretty much as drawn up.  One interaction that's pretty fun in this deck is between Remand and Sensei's Divining Top.  It's pretty cool to use Remand to stall my opponent for the turn, stack my deck, and draw a specific card that I need.

Yavimaya Enchantress

Game 3 vs RW Weathered Aggro

Weathered Wayfarer

I start off with Misty Rainforest.  My opponent plays out Weathered Wayfarer and starts cracking fetchlands and using his Wayfarer to get a pretty significant card advantage.  I play out Simic Signet and then Darksteel Reactor, while my opponent plays out another Weathered Wayfarer and gets through for some damage.

I bring Garruk Wildspeaker into play and create a Beast token.  Grab the Reins steals my token temporarily and takes down my Planeswalker.  Bummer!  I use Remand to stall Paladin en-Vec since I need to draw into combo pieces - my opponent comes back with Hand of Honor.  I Cryptic Command to stop the re-cast of Paladin en-Vec, and my opponent drops Boseiju, Who Shelters All.

Garruk #2 hits the table on my side and I generate another beast token.  Another Grab the Reins is cast to grab my beast token and send it to my head.  My opponent's plan is to finish off Garruk with double Weathered Wayfarer, but I have Moment's Peace to keep my Planeswalker alive.

I draw into Magosi, the Waterveil and I'm able to combo off with both Deserted Temple and Garruk Wildspeaker in play to untap.  I've got both Darksteel Reactor and Aether Figment as win conditions.

Analysis:  Another solid showing for this deck.  I'm such a huge fan of Moment's Peace.  It's really just a green Time Walk with flashback in a ton of different situations.  It's so awesome to buy time against any sort of aggro strategy.  Of course it's not so good against control, but you can't have it all.

Quick Intermission

I want to step aside for a minute and make a few general statements about the realities of playing this deck, and then try out some updates to the list.

First of all, just to get it out there, performing the infinite turn combo with the current MTGO interface is kind of a pain.  You really need to perform a lot of action each turn to get it right, and there's a lot of room for error.  Thankfully most people seem to be cool with you asking, "Hey man there's my infinite turn combo and a way for me to win.  Do you have anything that can stop it?"

On a tactical level, make SURE that if you're planning on comboing off this turn that you don't just casually play a land from your hand without thinking about it.  If you only have one land-untapper in play then it's necessary to be able to replay Magosi AFTER gaining your extra turn and BEFORE actually ending your current turn.  This is because Magosi comes into play tapped, and you'll need it to be untapped if you're going to combo off with just one way to untap lands.  If you have a Deserted Temple AND Garruk in play, then this isn't an issue.  Two Deserted Temples also removes this restriction, assuming you have enough mana.

I'm going to make a few tweaks to the deck after playing in these test games.  First off I'm going to try replacing Azusa, Lost but Seeking with more copies of Wall of Roots.  While I love the idea of Azusa in theory, in practice it seems like I want an aggro-stopper that can accelerate my combo development more.

Out:  2 Azusa, Lost but Seeking
In:  2 Wall of Roots

In addition to this, I don't think that I'm using my copies of Fabricate to the best of their ability.  Sure they're in there mostly as redundancy for Rings of Brighthearth, but I also wanted to implement a basic toolbox of enchantments to tutor up.  My 'toolbox' ended up being Darksteel Reactor, Simic Signet, and Sensei's Divining Top.  I'm going to remove Aether Figment and Meloku the Clouded Mirror to make room for a few more artifacts.  I had Meloku in my hand in all three of these test games, and never once wanted to cast him.

Out:  1 Aether Figment, 1 Meloku the Clouded Mirror
In:  1 Ensnaring Bridge, 1 Nevinyrral's Disk

Ensnaring Bridge is a great include since we're not really relying on the combat zone at all anymore, and is one of the main things we want to stop our opponent from having access to.  Nevinyrral's Disk is, quite simply, an answer to pretty much everything.

I'm also going to remove two basic lands and replace them with artifact lands, so that we can tutor those up if necessary.

Out:  1 Island, 1 Forest
In:  1 Seat of the Synod, 1 Tree of Tales

This brings us to version 2 of the deck.

Time to test this tweaked version out.

Game 4 vs GR Cloudpost

I start off with Hedron Crab and then double Misty Rainforest to mill away a whole bunch of cards.  Looking at what's being milled into my opponent's graveyard, I see a bunch of different stuff for Cloudpost (Vesuva, Blaze, Oblivion Stone, Sylvan Scrying)...  so I have a pretty good idea what my opponent is playing.  He brings Darksteel Ingot into play.

My opponent tries to cast Reap and Sow two turns in a row, but I have double Cryptic Command.  I'm making sure to counter these spells since my opponent is stuck on basic lands and storage lands - and I want to keep him off the Cloudpost/Vesuva engine required for the giant spells in his deck.  While countering these spells, I manage to bring double Wall of Roots into play.

I bring another Hedron Crab into play, he plays Harmonize and Sensei's Divining Top.  I use another Cryptic Command on a Sylvan Scrying (sticking with my strategy), but he follows up with Oblivion Stone - which he uses to take out all of my permanents.  I play Garruk, Magosi, and then beat down with a Beast token during infinite turns.

Analysis:  The surprising thing with this game is that I was able to mill my opponent down to twenty cards in his library with just a Hedron Crab and a few fetchlands.  I had a second Hedron Crab towards the end, but that was just for one landfall.  If only there was a way to construct a millstone deck that guarantees the sick Hedron Crab draw.

Budget Version

Alright so this deck is running well, but it's super expensive.  I want to cut down the price on this one significantly, so here we go.

Out:  4 Cryptic Command, 3 Garruk Wildspeaker, 1 Nevinyrral's Disk, 2 Jace Beleren, 4 Misty Rainforest, 4 Tropical Island

This cuts out of the big money cards from the deck, which removes around $160 from the total cost.  So what are we going to replace them with?

Cryptic Command is a tough replacement, since it's a card that pretty much does it all.  Some cheaper options in this slot include the original Counterspell, Rune Snag, and Dismiss.  I'll go with Counterspell since it's old school.

In:  4 Counterspell

Garruk Wildspeaker is another tough replacement since he serves as early defense, a win condition, and a land untapper for Magosi.  I'm going to try out Krosan Restorer here, since I used to love Ley Druid for some reason.

In:  2 Krosan Restorer

Rounding out the list of tough-to-replace cards is the Planeswalker Jace Beleren.  I haven't drawn this one in any of my test games, but I really need to up the number of win conditions in this deck a bit - so I'm going to the full playset of Hedron Crab.

In:  2 Hedron Crab

Now that there's no more Garruk as land tapping redundancy, I'm going to go up to the full playset of Sylvan Scrying since 2/3rds of my combo pieces are lands.

In:  2 Sylvan Scrying

Now I'm going to finish off the manabase.

In:  4 Terramorphic Expanse, 2 Island, 2 Forest

... which brings us to the budget version:

This version is a tad on the expensive side when compared to other budget decks I've made in the past... but I'm going to let it slide for two reasons.  First of all the total cost is only about $21 according to the latest prices at mtgotraders.com - and that's not bad if you're looking for a new deck to pick up and play.  Also lots of the cards in here are staples that you'll want to play in a lot of different casual Classic decks (Remand, Sylvan Scrying, Sensei's Divining Top, Counterspell, etc) moving forward so I feel this is a solid deck to build your collection.

If you want to play a version that's even lower on the budget, then you could try something like this:

Out:  4 Moment's Peace, 4 Counterspell, 4 Wall of Roots, 4 Remand, 1 (Seat of Synod), 1 Tree of Tales
In:  4 Fog, 4 Dismiss, 2 Krosan Restorer, 2 Llanowar Elves, 4 Rune Snag, 1 Island, 1 Forest 

I'm going to take the top budget version in for a few test games.  Here we go!

Game 5 vs Trinket Mage/Auriok Salvagers/Artifacts

I start off with Deserted Temple and then Sensei's Divining Top.  My opponent plays out a ton of different lands alongside Conjurer's Bauble, Thought Courier, and Wayfarer's Bauble.  I use Terramorphic Expanse to grab an Island and then cast Hedron Crab and Wall of Roots.  He plays his own Sensei's Divining Top and then I use Counterspell to prevent Auriok Salvagers from coming into play.

I cast Krosan Restorer along with Rings of Brighthearth, which brings me pretty close to my combo.  He uses Trinket Mage to search up Engineered Explosives, and I'm getting happier every turn that I didn't let the Auriok Salvagers resolve.  He plays the Explosives for three, which takes out my Restorer and Rings of Brighthearth - unfortunately I have no way to stop this.

I Fabricate up another copy of Rings of Brighthearth, which I'm able to resolve.  My opponent tries to cast Wrath of God, but I have Remand.  I use Sylvan Scrying to search up Magosi, which is the last piece of my combo.  My opponent re-casts Wrath of God, but I have Counterspell this time.  My opponent concedes in the face of infinite turns plus Hedron Crab.
Auriok Salvagers

Analysis:  If my opponent had been able to resolve Auriok Salvagers in this game, then I would have been completely blown out.  I wouldn't have had a chance of winning.  If he had been able to recur Engineered Explosives, then my deck would have had just about zero ways to win.  It's really important to be able to identify which cards are key to your opponent's strategy in the matchup, and deal with them as best you can.

Game 6 vs Mono Blue Artifact Control Static Orb/Howling Mine

I start off with turn one Island -> Hedron Crab and then turn two Hedron Crab -> Island -> Sensei's Divining Top.  Pretty sweet start!  My opponent plays out a bunch of Islands and Seat of the Synod into Icy Manipulator, which I Remand two turns in a row.  I cast out Rings of Brighthearth and he responds with Master of Etherium.  I'm milling away a ton of cards and get Ensnaring Bridge to stop the Master of Etherium.

I'm getting close to a mill victory when my opponent casts Tinker.  I use Counterspell, but he has Counterspell of his own.  I have to say, I was expecting a lot worse than the Static Orb he searched up.  I was expecting Inkwell LeviathanBlinkmoth Well comes into play and my opponent starts tapping Static Orb so that he gets a full untap and I don't.  Unfortunately for him this comes online way too late.  I Sylvan Scrying up a Terramorphic Expanse and landfall mill my way to a win.

Analysis:  If you had asked me before I wrote this article, if I'd ever win a game via just straight up, fair Hedron Crab milling - I would have probably said no.  But there, it just happened.  If you're up against a deck that has trouble dealing with on-board threats, then a couple of early Hedron Crabs may just be able to go all the way!

Icy Manipulator Blinkmoth Well Static Orb Howling Mine
Pretty cool combo!

 I'm a big fan of the deck that I just played against.  Blinkmoth Well plus Icy Manipulator plus cards like Howling Mine and Static Orb that are maximally useful when you can control when they're tapped.  Awesome deck, I want to try it out someday!

That's a Wrap

Alright that wraps it up for this one.  Hopefully you guys had some fun reading about this crazy infinite turn deck that's only made possible thanks to a fun new Zendikar rare.  If casual combo decks are your thing, then I'd definitely recommend shuffling this one up.  Not only do you get to play with some fun cards and take infinite turns, but you get to use Hedron Crab as a win condition!  It doesn't get much better than that, does it?  Join me next week for another Zendikar-fueled deck, this time in Standard.

Thanks for reading!

Steve Gargolinski
article archive
th1ckasabr1ck on MTGO


I did indeed enjoy this by Paul Leicht at Thu, 10/29/2009 - 03:37
Paul Leicht's picture

I did indeed enjoy this article! Quite an interesting combination of a johnny and spike deck. It does win and with an infinite combo engine (hate, hate!!) but does so in a style that I like. The one thing you didn't mention or didn't run across that would hose you would be recursive Wasteland/Stripmine.

counter counter counter by Anonymous (not verified) at Thu, 10/29/2009 - 06:51
Anonymous's picture

anything that relies on that many counterspells isnt very casual imo, whether its a combo lock or dromar actually winning the game in the end, the counterspells control the game to allow that, and that's really not very timmy or johnny, it's just spike pretending to be.

Counterspells by spg at Thu, 10/29/2009 - 08:12
spg's picture

I get what you're saying, but to be fair there are only 4 Counterspells in the deck, 8 if you count Remand. It's not like it's a Buehler Blue list with 25 counters.

I'll try to come up with something more johnny next time!

Sorry Steve just skipped to by bingobongo at Thu, 10/29/2009 - 07:18
bingobongo's picture

Sorry Steve just skipped to the bottom when i found you had written it and not Kathryn...

Only Joking

Great deck idea, would never be able to play it myself, it would just confuse the hell out of me.
if it not beatdown i snookered

Definitely not casual, tho cool by MechtaK at Thu, 10/29/2009 - 07:43
MechtaK's picture

I would put this in the "not casual" category. I already played a commander game this week with this combo, and everyone just quit when the elements started to hit the board. Noone in their right minds considers a game that has infinite turns is casual. Frankly, any deck whose sole purpose is to keep your opponent from playing is not exactly in the casual category, I refer to these decks as "masturbatory". Might as well play a solo game against yourself, that's essentially what you're doing anyhow.

I don't think this is really by spg at Thu, 10/29/2009 - 08:19
spg's picture

I don't think this is really true. While I know that this type of deck is not for everybody, there's plenty of interaction with your opponent. It's not like a storm combo deck where you just go off and ignore everything around you - this one has Walls, some planeswalkers, Moment's Peace, Counterspells, etc. There's a decent amount of interaction with your opponent.

I get what you're saying though, my next deck is very different!

Very Interactive by Katastrophe at Thu, 10/29/2009 - 15:40
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Storm Combo: Draw, go. Draw, go. Draw, I win next turn.

Painter-Grindstone: Draw, go. Draw, go. Draw, I win.

Hulk-Flash: I win. Don't bother I have FoW.

Charbelcher: Draw, go. Draw, I win! (Or self-destruct.)

Steve's Deck: Play part one of a four card combo, go. Wait, during your turn, disarm one of your plays. Next turn play part 2/4. Then play Fog during your attack. And so on.

Steve's deck goes back and forth. A combo victory can be plenty casual, especially if it's four pieces. Steve plays a good game with fun stuff like Remand + Top, planeswalkers, and Hedron Crab + fetches. This is what the casual room SHOULD be about!

my favorite new card by whiffy at Thu, 10/29/2009 - 13:23
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this deck is super casual. it revolves around a 4!!!! card combo to go the distance. it only has 4 hard counterspells. and it is in the format with the largest pool of cards to disrupt.

If your deck cant stall or have a chance to win against a 4 card combo then your deck is probabl;y pretty bad and u should re-evaluate either the deck or if you should be playing in the new players room or a different format.

that being said this is my interpertation of casual and i know other wont agree just like i diodnt but i had to throw my 2 cents out there.

like the idea there steve and its the first way i have seen to abuse the new card.

keep them coming.

ps. i would love to play my casual decks in cas/cas but i cant because i choose to actually play with my cards. sigh. if it cant compete in tournys then it cant compete as almost everybody crys foul when i pop a fetch land for a dual. i mean how good can baneslayer angel be in classic? yet people see a 36 dollar tag and whine(even though i payed 13 for them) -end rant

So this begs the question by bingobongo at Thu, 10/29/2009 - 14:05
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So this begs the question asked I guess many times here on PUREMTGO

What is Casual and what is not?

I think in the end no decks are really casual because everybody wants to win, so whatever the concoction made be it using baneslayer, elves, Steves combo deck here or just a good old fashioned terror/Painter combo in the end it comes to budget and reading the plays but in the end you still want to win. No one likes to lose every game.

Bad players can have good cards but it's doesn't make them great players.

I think what Whiffy was by Paul Leicht at Thu, 10/29/2009 - 14:19
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I think what Whiffy was saying is that while some Decks are clearly not Casual others are borderline. Obviously a bad player playing a good deck is more prone to lose than a good player playing a good deck. :) But a bad player playing a great deck can just win. It doesn't always take skill to be lucky. And the old saying "Rather be lucky than good!" comes to mind here.

Imho Steve's deck is very casual being low on hard counters even with an infinite turn engine (which I find very annoying to play against). It is easy to disrupt if you gun for it (sideboarding helps here). On the other hand casual gaming varies from person to person and so according to the Ferrett does not really exist. But it does because people think it does. Some people manage a concensus on what it means and others don't.

Well tuned tier 1 decks that win in the first few turns of the game are never considered to be casual even by the best pros. They might be looked down upon if an answering deck exists that crushes that deck but that is a different story.

Combo decks that go off before they can be disrupted and or need to be hardcountered to stop them are not casual.

Decks with concentrated amounts of counters and or land/hand disruption can be considered not casual.

With all that said, given the right state of mind, playing against any of the above can be rewarding if you are tuning your deck to beat them. Not an easy task and perhaps best left for the TP room but not always a noncasual one.

I think the biggest point to be made is that if you make the rules of your table when you sit down and advertise them well you should have few complaints. I find that a lot of players whom I play who enjoy casual games also will rise to the occasion if they know the challenge is noncasual.

Casual by spg at Thu, 10/29/2009 - 14:32
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My main goal with Explorations is to write about decks that are interesting in some way and give players ideas for strategies that they might want to try out on their own. While four card, infinite turn combos are not everyone's cup of tea... There's definitely a section of the playerbase that loves shuffling up these types of decks. I try to switch it up big time from week to week though, to keep things interesting. If you didn't like this week's strategy then check out next week when the decks will be totally different/

I just wrote a long post here about the whole casual thing, but but something timed out and it didn't end up posting =( So I'm going to write a piece on this topic and include it in my next article.

Definitely Casual by Katastrophe at Thu, 10/29/2009 - 16:09
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I love this deck. I wanted to play Magosi as soon as it was spoiled. I'm definitely building this because I already own the Magosis and everything expensive except the planeswalkers. Something to keep in mind while playing this deck is that you can just play Magosi as printed and not abuse it. That's perfectly fine, especially with the flashback Fog.

I replied to an earlier post about the casual thing. Really, I think that one guy just flipped out when he saw the infinite turn combo. If he had read the play-by-plays more carefully he'd realize that what you're basically doing is playing a 'real' game of Magic followed by an "I win" combo at the end. This is not a prison deck. And it's an impractical combo at that. This is totally casual, don't worry. Don't stop making decklists like these because they might ruin someone's commander game.

Bonus points for using so many staples in the decklist. That should either make it easier to build, or give people a good reason to build (at least most) of it. Also, lots of overlap here with 8-post, which is another deck that's cheap to build, fun, and already built by many people.

Question regarding Magosi... by mysticknight232 (not verified) at Thu, 10/29/2009 - 16:34
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You mentioned a couple cards that could double the counters on Magosi. How would this help? When you tap it and remove a counter, i assume you can only remove one counter...is this not true? Can you remove infinite amount of counters thus gaining one turn per counter? i just feel like i'm missing something about why multiple counters would matter. Thanks!

Question regarding Magosi... by mysticknight232 (not verified) at Thu, 10/29/2009 - 16:35
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You mentioned a couple cards that could double the counters on Magosi? How would this help? When you tap it and remove a counter, i assume you can only remove one counter...is this not true? Can you remove infinite amount of counters thus gaining one turn per counter? i just feel like i'm missing something about why multiple counters would matter. Thanks!

You are right, this was a by spg at Thu, 10/29/2009 - 16:56
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You are right, this was a mistake on my part. When you use Magosi, it needs to return to your hand... so having more than one counter doesn't help you at all. My bad!

Lol by Romann (not verified) at Thu, 10/29/2009 - 17:19
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The "CLICK HERE TO VIEW IF YOU'RE COOL, SINCE IT'S A LITTLE RISKY" part made my laugh out loud. Thx for saving my day ! :)

Good article too.

I believe you mean by Anonymous (not verified) at Thu, 10/29/2009 - 20:12
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I believe you mean risque...

I also found it cute.

Great Article by Windcoarse at Thu, 10/29/2009 - 21:38
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I'm always impressed with the steps you take to present your ideas. You have an article that is neatly designed, well supported with playtesting, and that reaches a great deal of its target audience. Unless every casual deck you write up consists of only playing critters and turning them sideways then your likely to at the very least irritate someone, but the important thing is that you reach the largest part of your target audience possible and in that matter I think you have played your hand the best you can.

This IS a casual deck write-up. There is nothing about your decklist that screams competitive, therefore it is casual. A deck that doesn't try to win somehow or doesn't play great cards isn't a casual deck, its a bad deck(well ok, its probably a casual bad deck, but not the only type of deck that can be called casual.) Granted your win condition is a combo but that doesn't matter. This deck isn't tier one, its tier fun(that was lame, sorry about that.) There's nothing wrong with that. You have decks designed to have their first and only function to be winning as often as humanly possible, and decks designed to do something their creator finds entertaining first and to win second. Usually if the deck isn't competitive, its casual. Basically, if the deck is not designed to win in a competitive environment it is casual by default. Competitive is easier to define than casual since you can pretty much just look at any competitive metagame and find out what decks are competiting in any given format. Since there is no easy way to measure casual on its own you define it through contrast of competitive magic.

If everyone has their own unique definition of casual, then casual has no meaning and no one has the right to point at a deck and say, "That's not casual, it doesn't belong in this game." Their accusation is pointless in this scenario. Under those rules a ravager affinity deck in Mirrodin block is perfectly casual if the owner says so. Also, under those rules nothing is casual, not even Johnnies favorite extended enchantress deck because Timmy thinks that Oblivion Ring is grossly unfair(come on it kills like EVERYTHING in his WHOLE deck.) If thats the way casual works then casual means absolutely nothing, you can't assign an objective value to the concept so it is worthless. I don't think thats the case however. Most people intuitively know ravager affinity was not casual, and most people probably know their buddies enchantress deck is.

The problematic mentality that some players of any game bring to the table is that their opponent should play in a way to help them win. I know that sounds ridiculous but think about it. In fighting games new players usually point out some move or ability a character has that is "cheap." If you use that move against them then you are being unfair by not giving them a chance to win that they can perceive. This is ludicrous. Unless you are cheating you have the same shot at winning that they do because you got to make the same choices they did. It's up to each player to secure their own win, and take credit for their wins and losses. In firt person shooters you see the same thing, this gun is cheap, that tactic is cheap etc. etc.

Well in Magic it's not throws or rocket launchers that are "cheap," it's counters, sweepers and resource denial that people find cheap when they need an excuse for why they can't win. They find these things cheap for pretty much the same reason, they have difficulties playing around them or they simply would rather not have to. Fortunately for the player playing the hated tactic, the dissaproving player didn't make the game, Wizards made the game. You can play by his rules if you want to but the only rules you HAVE to play by ethically are wizards rules and any other rules you have agreed to play by. So if someone doesn't want to ever play against combo, then they should go ahead and put that info forward before the game is played. This way if someone comes into their room and rips out a combo deck they have a legitimate gripe. It's not fair however for someone to walk into a room and expect everyone else there to play by their own rules, as it is the rules of the game that supersede personal "rules."

I think your articles showcase what casual can be in the hands of a good player. I could care less if your next casual deck won off the back of Armageddon. If it was inspired or interesting, I'd actually like to see it. Until a card comes out that is so broken that it can make any pile of 54 cards following it competitive by its inclusion, I think any ideas you have are pretty much fair game.

If you build a deck in your journeys that is so dominant in the casual room that you crush everyone, then maybe the deck is more competitive than you think and you should see if you can expand it onto the competitive scene as a rogue deck or a new archtype. Until then though, keep up the good (casual) work.

hey oh by whiffy at Thu, 10/29/2009 - 21:52
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loved the analysis, maybe the best thought and well written i have ever seen.

"I think your articles showcase what casual can be in the hands of a good player. I could care less if your next casual deck won off the back of Armageddon. If it was inspired or interesting, I'd actually like to see it. Until a card comes out that is so broken that it can make any pile of 54 cards following it competitive by its inclusion, I think any ideas you have are pretty much fair game."

that card exists and it is tarmogoyf. it is even played in a well placed metagame deck in vintage.

GOYF!!! by Windcoarse at Thu, 10/29/2009 - 22:34
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Goyf is so disturbing because he is so far ahead of the curve for a threat of his caliber. He requires so little resources to put into play for what he does it was almost like you started the game with a couple land already in play when you looked at the board with him on it. The respone to every deck critique during the Standard season he was in? "Needs more Goyf." "MOAR GOYF!!!!!" "-4 anything, +4 Goyf" He was simply a card that cheated our conceptions of what a 2 cc creature would do.

He's obviously a very strong card in vintage, but thats already a set full of broken stuff. I wouldn't say he makes every deck hes in automatically competitive in every format, but he was a card I honestly felt needed to be banned while he was fresh in standard. You pretty much just ran Goyf if you wanted your deck to be really good. How would wizards have sold future sight packs if they did that though? Skullclamp was an insta-ban because anyone who ran critters ran skullclamp. Skullclamp was also an uncommon everyone owned and not a set seller. Well, anyone who owned 4 goyf splashed four goyf. I don't care if his deck was purple, he ran goyf if he wanted to win. Best response to opponents Goyf? Well, play an aura on your Goyf of course. Don't own goyf? Go buy future sight, or a goyf that a store owner ripped from his own supply to meet the demand. You make a good point, Goyf is truly the perfect example of a card that was practically competitive all by itself. It also should have never, ever been printed.

However, it should be noted that Tarmogoyf was stolen from a super-secret Yu-Gi-Oh! R&D lab and then genetically engineered to look like a magic card, so he doesn't really count. :-)

Great Post by spg at Thu, 10/29/2009 - 22:41
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Awesome post man, thanks for writing it.

Totally Agree by Katastrophe at Mon, 11/02/2009 - 01:42
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Can I give your comment red mana? :)

If anyone "tl;dr" and skipped it, at least read the paragraph that begins with "The problematic mentality that some players of any game bring to the table is that their opponent should play in a way to help them win."

I will add though that some players are not after the win. In David Sirlin's famous Street Fighter example there's nothing else to do but try to win. So the scrubs making up their own rules in that game are doing it so that they don't have to adapt to something. But In Magic you could be trying to do something expressive, without trying too hard to win. Like play an artist deck or something. But to that I have to say: learn to play around it. Learn to block, learn how to hold back, learn how to build a deck with a curve and more than 18 lands. (See what I did there?) Basically don't concede or yell at me if I play Counterspell.