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By: CottonRhetoric, Cotton Rhetoric
Sep 30 2015 12:00pm
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Today's wondrous giveaway: If you post in the article comment section a casual deck putting 4 Signal The Clans to good effect, I will give you... 4 foil Signal The Clans. Winner announced on Saturday.

And congratulations to Flippers_Giraffe, who won last week's contest!

Task Mage Assembly

It looks kind of bad at first sight! It looks like a card rendered pointless by its own symmetry. But much like other "symmetrical" cards such as Balance and Land Tax, this card isn't nearly as fair as it looks.

Option A: Prevent your creatures from being targeted. Any creature of yours with shroud, hexproof, or (don't forget) protection from red will be immune to the Task Mage Assembly. And therefore, only your opponent's creatures will be susceptible, making the card entirely one-sided. Some outliers:

Gigapede  Ascended Lawmage Soltari Priest

    Valakut Fireboar

Option B: Creatures with high toughness. Your opponent can in theory kill your Valakut Fireboar... but he'd need 14 mana to do so.  (Remember that Task Mage can only be activated as a sorcery, meaning the boar isn't vulnerable while he's a 7/1.) Even a creature with 4 toughness would require 8 mana, which is a tall order in most matchups. 

Option C: Creatures that want to be damaged. Most of these happen to be creatures who would die quickly anyway, like Mogg Maniac or Spitemare, meaning we usually shouldn't consider them. But Deep-Slumber Titan has fantastic synergy with the Assembly.

Option D: Creatures with first (or double) strike. Again, remember that the Assembly is sorcery-speed only, but if your opponent has a 4/4 in play, and you have a 3/1 first strike, and you send one damage to the 4/4... you are probably not getting blocked this turn.  Just don't forget to pick a first striker with either higher toughness or some form of protection, though, as a regular 3/1 would get killed very quickly when it is your opponent's turn. I almost considered putting Spitting Slug in one of my Assembly decks. He didn't make it, but it was the closest he came in the twenty years I've been playing. Sorry, Slug.

Now that we've broken the symmetry part of the Assembly, what other synergies can we get going with it?

1. Euthanists (named after Orzhov Euthanist, who, although not the first card to have this ability, has the catchiest name). Black has the lion's share of this ability, from the cheap Fatal Blow through the reusable Witch's Mist. Did you know that green has access to it, with Mortal Wound? In the right build, you could even make use of Death Pits of Rath, although you would really need to make sure your own creatures aren't taking damage. The Assembly kills itself when the battlefield is empty!

Fatal Blow  Mortal Wound  Death Pits of Rath

2. Opportunists (named after Opportunist, who is a bit under the curve these days). Needle Drop could be useful if you have other ways of dealing damage early on. Crushing Pain hits the larger creatures, and also goes well with first strikers. And although I have always wanted to flip Initiate of Blood into Goka the Unjust, this deck probably isn't the optimal place to do it. If you drop him when the Assembly is already out, he is probably going to die before he even loses summoning sickness.

3. Toughness lowering (which lacks a catchy name). Blood Lust is about the only spell to just make a creature's toughness smaller without killing it. It's worth considering since it serves a dual purpose, pumping up your unblocked attackers (and/or boosting your first strikers in combat). But also remember spells that make a creature's toughness immediately equal to one. Any one of these plus a 2-mana Assembly activation will auto-kill a creature. My favorites:

Diminish  Humble  Snakeform

Vhati il-Dal (and to a lesser extent Serendib Sorcerer) can do this repeatedly, but his own low toughness makes him a little too vulnerable to safely pair with the Assembly. Too bad!  Maybe they'll put that ability on a noncreature artifact one day.

4. Redundancy. What if you don't draw your Assembly? What if you do but it gets destroyed? You don't want to just stare at the Orzhov Euthanists in your hand; have some other ways to deal damage.  Kumano, Master Yamabushi does a good impression of the Assembly (but be careful of casting him next to an Assembly, if your opponent is at or near 8 mana).  Pyrohemia could work well in some builds. And if all you need is to deal one damage, for the sake of those Euthanists for example, you could use Plague Spitter, Volcanic Spray, or Honden of Infinite Rage. It all depends on your deck!

Kumano, Master Yamabushi  Plague Spitter  Honden of Infinite Rage

Let's get to some lists already.


Deck 1 Black-Red

This is a good fit while we're still on the topic of Euthanists, because that is the complete focal point of this deck.


So the game plan is pretty clear. We have 13 cards capable of dealing repeatable damage, some targeted, some universal. We have 9 Euthanists, some repeatable and some single use. And then there are a few big beaters, like Deep-Slumber Titan and Valakut Fireboar. As mentioned above, the Fireboar is (basically) immune to the sorcery-speed Assembly. And if it sounds risky to send a 7/1 into battle anyway, remember that we can repeatedly kill whatever creatures come our way. He will almost always be attacking into an empty field. He's safe unless your opponent drops a Caltrops (which did happen to me once).

In a deck with these high-toughness creatures, a Cuombajj Witches basically functions as a Fireslinger in most board states. And its own higher toughness makes it a bit less vulnerable than most Tims. Certainly less vulnerable than any 2-mana Tim. (The only safer one would be a Suq'Ata Firewalker at three mana... but more on him later.) And anyway, even if your opponent does spend the six mana needed to kill your Cuombajj Witches... in how many situations is that not a Time Walk for you?

This deck does well against other aggro decks. It's admittedly weak against creatureless control decks, but to be honest, you don't see tons of those in the casual room.


Deck 2 Green-Red

This deck takes a different approach, without using a single Euthanist effect (not even Mortal Wound). It started by selecting creatures with untargetability, first strike, and/or high toughness. So in this case:

Sylvan Caryatid  Mirri, Cat Warrior  Marisi's Twinclaws

From there I started adding other synergies, until a came across a realization. What if, instead of making this deck's secondary focus a redundant theme (as I did in the previous deck), I made it a complementary one? What if I made this an Assault Formation deck, too?


This card isn't anything new to me; I featured a deck based around it last July. But that deck went the more expected route, with a lot of defenders and toughness-matters cards. Other than the Formations themselves and some land, it doesn't have a single card in common with this deck. In fact, this deck only has four defenders in the whole thing (and they're all Sylvan Caryatids)!

Rather, this deck is content to focus more on the toughness half of the Formation's abilities, and run cards like Sporecap Spider. Plus, consider how much damage the Twinclaws would deal if you activate the Formation's +0/+1 ability even a single time. Or, if you don't want to, I'll just tell you: it's 10, instead of the 4 it usually deals.

The last things to add were some removal and some stat boosters. I chose Conclave Naturalists over Naturalize because the Assembly does want creatures out at all times. And I chose auras instead of equipment so as to better pair with Commune with the Gods (certainly a helpful enabler when both halves of our deck rely on enchantments, which themselves rely on creatures).



And for the grand finale,


Deck 3 Blue-Red

Suq'Ata Firewalker

I mentioned Suq-Ata Firewalker earlier. This card that was designed as an anti-Sligh tool, meant to block a Mogg Conscripts while killing a Ball Lightning and laughing at a Fireslinger, is now going to function as a murderer of sheep. (We are going to run him next to Ovinize.) Anyone who is skimming this article just missed out on some great prose.

But why would we run the two-mana Ovinize instead of the one-mana Diminish? Because, taking a note from the green-red deck, we're going to diversify our goals a little bit. We're going to once again capitalize off the high-toughness subtheme, but this time with thaumaturgy effects:

Dwarven Thaumaturgist  Merfolk Thaumaturgist  Mannichi, the Fevered Dream

So we want that enemy power to be 0!

They don't have any sort of protection the way the Firewalker does, but what are you going to do, run About Face? It seems quite wasteful to spend two cards on killing a single creature. Rather, let's just modify our plan to cast a Thaumaturgist OR an Assembly—not both at once. Easy enough. (We should also be wary of dropping a Mannichi next to an 0/1 Firewalker. Just sayin'!)

So we're running some thaumaturgists.  What creatures are worth... thaumaturging? Take your pick, but staying in blue-red, my favorites are:

Hunted Phantasm  Ydwen Efreet  Dream Prowler

Remember that the Ydwen Efreet only has a drawback if you try to block with him. On offense, he's unaffected. And if Dream Prowler will be attacking alone, let's upgrade him with advanced technology that wasn't around in his day, like Cathedral of War.



See you next week!


2 Reveillark 1 by Paul Leicht at Thu, 10/01/2015 - 00:34
Paul Leicht's picture

2 Reveillark
1 Archaeomancer
1 Scrivener
4 Signal the Clans
2 Karmic Guide
1 Gravedigger
1 Anarchist
2 Eternal Witness
2 Izzet Chronarch
1 Barrin, Master Wizard
2 Windswept Heath
2 Wooded Foothills
4 Stormbind
1 Knollspine Invocation
1 Gamble
1 Blast of Genius
3 Kindle the Carnage
3 Living Death
1 Worldspine Wurm
1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
1 Autochthon Wurm
1 Congregation at Dawn
1 Firemind's Foresight
1 Mystical Teachings
1 Worldly Tutor
1 Misty Rainforest
3 Tropical Island
2 Taiga
2 Savannah
2 Bayou
1 Reflecting Pool
3 Reflecting Pool
2 Vivid Grove
1 Vivid Creek
2 Vivid Crag

My take on the challenge.

Btw this time I liked the 1st list best. :D

Based on last week's contest by Cauchy at Thu, 10/01/2015 - 16:00
Cauchy's picture

Based on last week's contest I will keep it to one simple mechanic so that the judge will not miss anything?

So same idea as Telir but with a toolbox limited to one mechanic.
Fetch creatures with Signal, Natural Order, and Chord of Calling. Return the fetch card from the graveyard and repeat the process. At some point fetch a Craterhoof and finish the game. Use Krosan against graveyard hate and use Echoing Truth to stall opponent or more likely bounce your own creatures.

3 Joraga Treespeaker
4 Eternal Witness
4 Den protector
4 Phyrexian Metamorph
2 Anarchist
2 Archaemancer
4 Signal the Clans
1 Natural Order
3 Chord of Calling
3 Craterhoof Behemoth
3 Krosan Grip
1 Regrowth
2 Echoing Truth

1 Gaea's Cradle
1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
4 Stomping Ground
4 Breeding Pool
4 Stem Vents
8 Forest
1 Wooded Foothills
1 Cascade Bluffs

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm another by CottonRhetoric at Sat, 10/03/2015 - 00:54
CottonRhetoric's picture

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm another tough choice. Paul's deck has some neat tricks, but I think I'm giving the edge to Cauchy this week! Cauchy, email me at cottonrhetoric at gmail dotcom to arrange a good time for the trade. I'm free most weekdays in the 4:30 to 9pm EST range.

Thanks for the win. I liked by Cauchy at Sat, 10/03/2015 - 02:50
Cauchy's picture

Thanks for the win. I liked Paul's deck as well.

Let the prize pool carry over to next week. I am confident that I will win the next one too ;) even if more people decide to join! .... jinx? or Hubris?

Congrats and gl :p by Paul Leicht at Sat, 10/03/2015 - 07:39
Paul Leicht's picture

Congrats and gl :p

As you wish!Be warned that by CottonRhetoric at Sat, 10/03/2015 - 09:50
CottonRhetoric's picture

As you wish!

Be warned that next week is the last contest I'm running. On the one hand I like playing Santa Claus but on the other hand it's annoying to rearrange my schedule to give somebody 8 cents' worth of cards.

I will be happy to by Cauchy at Sat, 10/03/2015 - 10:06
Cauchy's picture

I will be happy to participate also without the prizes..... as long as Telir is also in for it ;) Maybe you could keep a highscore list instead counting the number of wins. Top of the list is the most casual player :)

I don't compete for prizes or by Paul Leicht at Sat, 10/03/2015 - 10:17
Paul Leicht's picture

I don't compete for prizes or glory but merely because Everest!

Everest? Maybe others could by Cauchy at Sat, 10/03/2015 - 10:37
Cauchy's picture


Maybe others could be lured in with with Fame and Glory. Even if you are immune to it :)

The famous line people give by Paul Leicht at Sat, 10/03/2015 - 10:52
Paul Leicht's picture

The famous line people give when asked why they climbed such an arduous and unrewarding summit (not that the view sucks or anything but it kills more people than get to its top) is because it was there. That's how I feel about deck building challenges. That is not to say I am good at it. Just am drawn to the effort.

Hmmmmmm both of you write by CottonRhetoric at Sat, 10/03/2015 - 16:50
CottonRhetoric's picture

Hmmmmmm both of you write articles on here. After my article next week, do one of you want to take over and be the one to hold the contests?