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By: AJ_Impy, AJ Richardson
Jun 03 2009 11:41pm
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Welcome, esteemed readers. Alara Reborn is now in full swing, and as ever, there are some real gems for the taking, whatever your psychographic. The standout mechanic is one that heads into potentially dangerous territory, namely giving players free stuff. Why dangerous? Well, let me put it this way:

Force of Will Rewind Mind's Desire

Free stuff, whichever form it takes, is usually very powerful indeed. Cascade is ingenious in that it is self-limiting: Because you can only net cheaper spells, the more expensive ones tend to be more random but potentially more spectacular, and the cheaper ones tend to be more definite in what they can fetch. The latter options have been put to good use on the tournament circuit, with Cascade Swans doing well in Standard and Cascade Hypergenesis generating debate in Extended. Given that there is no Seismic Assault or manaless suspend spells in the Kaleidoscope format, we're going to have to look elsewhere to break it. How about making Glittering Wish, the format's sole banned card, look weak?

Freedetermined

The secret to this deck is in a curious little card which resembles a wish but under normal circumstances is far weaker, a split card whose other half is equal parts Ancestral Recall and Feral Lightning, although which depends on your opponent. Forcing your opponent to choose between 'draw 3' and up to 9 power of pure-proof tokens is something best done early on in the game, but fortunately, a quirk of the split card rules means we can do this as early as turn 3, for less investment than sticking it on an Isochron Scepter. That's not all: By filling the entire rest of the deck with Cascade spells, we can guarantee that every single spell we play will force our opponent to give us board advantage or card advantage, up until we run out of Research/Development in our deck, either by drawing them or cascading them. That's when we switch to the other side of the card.

Research/Development

 

We have a deck designed to always give us a 2-mana card, no matter what spell we play. Research says we can stick in four of whatever effect we want to guarantee hitting, and the very next spell we play will tutor up that effect. The same quirk of split cards that enables us to Development when we hit Research also applies here, letting us seed our deck with Bound/Determined to restock our cards or give counterspell decks pause, and Crime/Punishment to yoink a discarded or killed creature, or in rare cases wipe out tokens and lands that are creatures or artifacts. We can also use genuine 2-mana cards, kiling midrange decks with a Terminate a turn or thwarting red-based aggro with a constant stream of Vedalken Outlander. As with wishes, We can choose a spell and be sure of it being cast. Being able to adapt to our opponent in a reliable way on the fly is pure gold, and I'm sure there are players amongst you, the readership, who can think of even more broken sideboard options to exploit.

Crime/Punishment Vedalken Outlander Terminate Bound/Determined

  

As for the deck itself, our primary win condition is hitting the opponent in the face with cascade creatures, boosted by Ardent Plea and Violent Outburst. The deck is resilient, capable of drawing or cascading into a lot of cards, with the added flexibility of being able to alter matchups on the fly virtually unmatched in the format. One weakness that springs to mind is a lack of a sweeper effect, but cascading a Bituminous Blast into a Terminate, especially if you go through a couple of other cascades en route, can make that feel like less of a problem.
 

Cascading Wish
5-color Kaleidoscope deck exploiting Research
Creatures
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Enigma Sphinx
4 Enlisted Wurm
12 cards

Other Spells
4 Ardent Plea
4 Bituminous Blast
4 Captured Sunlight
4 Deny Reality
4 Research/Development
4 Violent Outburst
24 cards
 
Lands
4 Exotic Orchard
4 Gemstone Mine
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Pillar of the Paruns
4 Rupture Spire
4 Sacred Foundry
24 cards

Research/Development

 

This free stuff you're giving me isn't good enough, I want more, better free stuff!

No, it isn't the rallying-cry of the message boards during Customer Appreciation Week, it's a deck that aims to supplement the free spells we get from Cascade with other means of not paying full price. We do this with creatures that get us extra permanents in play, spells that let us play other spells for free and a bit of acceleration to be able to cast them. The addition of Trace of Abundance has made mana ramp decks a more viable proposition, as well as hindering the efforts of Ghost Quarter and Fulminator Mage-powered ponza builds. Coupled with Coiling Oracle, we can ensure that every cascade puts us further ahead on mana than our opponent, or adds to our defensive clock with the excellent Kitchen Finks. But how do we turn the inherent advantage of Cascade into something truly obscene?

Maelstrom Archangel Brilliant Ultimatum Enigma Sphinx

Here we have our Cascade-enablers: Dropping a turn 4 or 5 Maelstrom Archangel and using it to cast Brilliant Ultimatum, Enigma Sphinx or Enlisted Wurm for free, especially if we can follow it with hardcast Cascade spells as well, quickly degenerates into an enviable board position. Revealing 3 or more high cost cascade spells with the lovechild of Mind's Desire and Fact or Fiction is truly an unpleasant place for your opponent to be in, knowing that whatever he gives you, you're going to get more. Enigma Sphinx's Long-Term Plans ability means that if it dies, it's perfectly placed for a Brilliant Ultimatum pile. The cheaper cascade spells will have been thinning the low-cost spells out of your deck, meaning your chances of a truly backbreaking selection or cascade are more likely. 
 

Cheap at twice the price
5-color Kaleidoscope free spell deck
Creatures
2 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Maelstrom Archangel
4 Enigma Sphinx
4 Enlisted Wurm
4 Coiling Oracle
4 Kitchen Finks
22 cards

Other Spells
4 Trace of Abundance
4 Bituminous Blast
2 Captured Sunlight
4 Brilliant Ultimatum
14 cards
 
Lands
4 Exotic Orchard
4 Gemstone Mine
4 Savage Lands
4 Pillar of the Paruns
4 Rupture Spire
4 Arcane Sanctum
24 cards

 
Enlisted Wurm

 

What a load of Bolas

Over the past few years, Wizards have been hyping one of their poster children more than most. It started in the novels, with Nicol Bolas cropping up in Madara, before his reintroduction into Standard during Time Spiral, and subsequent new art in From the Vault: Dragons. With Alara, he was foreshadowed with the chilling 'There is always a greater power' on Cruel Ultimatum, with each other spell in the cycle showcasing a planeswalker. The big reveal came with Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker in Conflux, but that wasn't the end of it. Now, Alara Reborn brings us Slave of Bolas, yet another powerful and swingy red, black and blue spell. The thought occurred to me, why not take all these thematically tied, powerful elements at the core of a Mana Ramp deck?

Nicol Bolas Slave of Bolas Cruel Ultimatum Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker

Slave of Bolas is itself fairly unique in the format. There are precisely six effects in Kaleidoscope that let you take control of an opponent's creature in play: Two of them are Planeswalkers (Bolas and Sarkhan Vol), two are legends (Merieke Ri Berit and Sliver Overlord) with the remaining one a part of the Spirit Avatar cycle, namely Dominus of Fealty. There are a couple, such as Debtors' Knell and Crime/Punishment that can filch from the opposing graveyard, but essentially, this is the first card that lets you nick stuff without having to activate or wait for something in play. The effect is reminiscent of Grab the Reins or Agonizing Demise, throwing something belonging to your opponent at their head. Of the established spells, Cruel Ultimatum has been called up to eleven-for-one card advantage, but enough has been said about the Cruel Edict-Fugue-Raise Dead-Ancestral Recall-Stolen Grain fusion card this past year. Nicol Bolas himself is an evasive 7/7 that destroys hands: If you can cast him, if he lives, he's a decent finisher. Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker, on the other hand, is one of those cards that causes your opponent's screen to shake when he hits the virtual table. Vindicate, Vindicate, annihilate over the course of three turns, a couple of Persuasions thrown in for fun, whatever you do with him your opponent isn't going to like. But we can't build a deck just around a bunch of high-end finishers. What helps us thematically whist building up to giving our opponent a choice of Bolas to be defeated by?

Sedraxis Specter Terminate Bituminous Blast
Hit/Run Void Grixis Charm

We'll need a ton of removal, with Sedraxis Specter acting as a mini-Bolas to get our opponent used to the idea of discarding to a powerful red-black-blue flier. Our removal suite encompasses damage, sacrifice, destruction and toughness negation, in each case adding a little extra such as damage, discard, optional bounce or another spell. Trace of Abundance is our main ramp card here, looking to get us towards our 5, 7 and 8-mana Bolas-themed backbreakers. I was tempted to squeeze in Elder Mastery, but powerful as it is, it'd best go elsewhere in another deck, perhaps on Slippery Bogle and Uril, the Miststalker or similar Trollshrouded options.
 

Never mind the Bolas
Nicol Bolas-Themed Kaleidoscope control deck
Creatures
4 Sedraxis Specter
2 Nicol Bolas
6 cards

Other Spells
4 Void
4 Bituminous Blast
4 Slave of Bolas
4 Hit/Run
4 Terminate
4 Trace of Abundance
2 Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker
2 Cruel Ultimatum
2 Grixis Charm
30 cards
 
Lands
2 Watery Grave
2 Blood Crypt
4 Exotic Orchard
4 Gemstone Mine
4 Crumbling Necropolis
4 Pillar of the Paruns
4 Rupture Spire
24 cards

 
Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker

 

With that rather Vorthosian diversion, it's time to bring another article to a close. I hope you've enjoyed reading this one, and until next time, may you always have the lands you need but never the lands you don't.

8 Comments

Planeswalkers aren't by Anonymous (not verified) at Thu, 06/04/2009 - 03:43
Anonymous's picture

Planeswalkers aren't creatures

Nicol Bolas is by Anonymous (not verified) at Thu, 06/04/2009 - 04:26
Anonymous's picture

both a creature and a planeswalker.

Another way for a cascade by Lord Erman at Thu, 06/04/2009 - 04:26
Lord Erman's picture
5

Another way for a cascade centric deck is to use Maelstrom Nexus. You can use Trace of Abundance to generate more mana and to fix mana, use Supply/Demand to fetch Nexus and then cast spells like Cruel Ultimatum or Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker as your first spell of the turn which could get you an Enlisted Wurm which then could get you a Bloodbraid Elf which then could get you.... you get the idea. That would be fun too.

As a true Vorthos I liked the Nicol Bolas deck a lot but it definately needs at least one copy of Elder Mastery just to make the deck "feel right".

LE

I've tried the Nexus in a few by AJ_Impy at Thu, 06/04/2009 - 06:55
AJ_Impy's picture

I've tried the Nexus in a few decks, although it suffers a bit for not having any effect on the turn it is cast (Although you can get it into play with Lost Auramancers before you cast a spell). It's brilliant alongside Fist of Suns: Getting a 5-mana Progenitus to cascade is hilarious.

fun stuff by Max Fisher (not verified) at Thu, 06/04/2009 - 11:15
Max Fisher's picture

Can I vote on your decks here for that contest? Nice Job.

Thanks. :) I might have a by AJ_Impy at Thu, 06/04/2009 - 15:30
AJ_Impy's picture

Thanks. :) I might have a candidate up for the budget contest, so hold that thought.

I think using cascade with by GregAndThenSome (not verified) at Thu, 06/04/2009 - 22:28
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I think using cascade with split cards is clever enough. Using Research to dump slit cards into your library to cascade into? I love it! I don't care if the deck is any good, it has made me chuckle.

I *like* that first deck. by Reaper9889 at Thu, 06/11/2009 - 12:39
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5

I *like* that first deck. I've been playing a similary deck lately.

Things that proberly should be in it:
4 Lorescale Coatl - t4 attack with a 7 power creature is nice and easy (and slightly unfair). For some reason ppl like giving you cards :)
1 Wheel of Sun and Moon - so you do not run out of things to devolpe -
1 Reborn hope in SB - to get a Research // devolpement back if you hit Wheel of Sun and Moon as the last.

Something to stop agro, like Firespout would proberly also be an idea.