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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
May 13 2007 2:08pm
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Hulk Flash - Maybe Soon, Maybe Never

At the moment, the paper Magic world is gearing up for Grand Prix Columbus, which will be a Legacy-format tournament.   The format was reasonably well defined – then Wizards made a minor change to one card’s wording and a new deck was born. Right now, the paper Magic sites are full of articles on whether the deck is totally broken, or whether it can be contained.
Did I mention that it wins, not just on turn one, but during it’s opponent’s upkeep?
The heart of the deck exists in online Classic.   It would be dominating Classic right now, but the rules changes to implement the deck have not yet been made. Remember that I said Wizards changed a single card’s wording. That hasn’t been fixed in MODO – at least not yet. There is a very slim chance it may never get fixed – that Wizards will reimpose the erratum because the cards is too busted – but Wizards has said that they won’t do that.
Here’s the card:
The picture shows the original, Mirage era wording for Flash. Back when Mirage was originally released, the rules of Magic were a bit different – and a lot less clearly defined. Back then, people “understood” how cards worked – and if there were questions, then Bethmo, the Wizards rules expert, would provide an official ruling. The rules database had tons of rulings, describing card interactions one by one.

The original rules didn’t have “the stack,” and priority was not always clearly spelled out. Instead, casting a spell opened an “interrupt window,” and interrupt windows could have their own interrupt windows, and so on.
Anyway, back in the days when Mirage was in print on paper, people understood how Flash worked. You cast Flash, chose a creature card, paid the rest of the cost and put it into play.   
Eventually, Wizards released Sixth Edition, which had its own set of reprint cards – and a new, cleaner, redefined set of rules. The Stack, priority, a functional explanation for interaction of continuous abilities, and the End Step were all released along with Sixth Edition.
A few cards wordings were incompatible with the new rules. Counterspell, and similar spells, had been “Interrupts.” Simple fix: they became Instants. Other cards didn’t work as worded, and a few worked too well.
Flash was in this category.
Flash’ original wording, under Sixth  Edition rules, put the creature into play, then killed it if you did not pay the additional mana cost. So, for example, if you play Gravedigger, for example, the Gravedigger would come into play, but die immediately unless you paid the additional 1B. However, since the Gravedigger did come into play, you got a creature back from the graveyard regardless of whether you paid or not.
This created two problems.
First, it allowed blue to duplicate a ton of other spells, simply by Flashing out the correct creature.   Need a Stone Rain? Flash out (Avalanche Riders.) Need a Terror? Flash out a Nekrataal.   Worst of all, need to put a totally broken enchantment like Yawgmoth’s Bargain into play? Flash out Academy Rector. 
Bargain and Rector are both Urza’s block cards, and not yet available online. If you are an online only player, just take my word for the fact that these cards are broken. 
Wizards changed the wording of Flash. The new wording was – and is, if you play online – ““Choose a creature card in your hand. You may pay its mana cost reduced by up to 2. If you do, put that card into play. If you don't, put that card into your graveyard.” [Oracle Feb. 1, 2003]
With that wording, the creature only comes into play if the additional cost is paid. If you fail to pay, all you have done is, in effect, discarded the creature card. The comes into play effects do not trigger. 
However, Wizards recently updated the official list of card wordings to include Future Sight cards. As part of that process, Wizards changed the wording of a few older cards, to prevent problems with newer cards, correct typos and so forth. They also, as part of that process, changed Flash back to its original wording. Wizards has been doing that with a lot of the old cards that had wording changes because of powerful combinations – they now believe that having the cards read as printed, where possible, is more important than power concerns, especially since these cards are no longer legal in Standard or Extended.) 
Why does all this matter? Well, consider this card:
Protean Hulk
Okay, imagine we are playing a Classic game. I win the die roll. I elect to draw first. 

Before the game begins, I reveal Gemstone Caverns and put it into play.
During your upkeep, I remove Simian Spirit Guide from the game for one red mana, tap Gemstone Caverns for blue and cast Flash. I Flash out Protean Hulk. I choose not to pay the additional GG3, so the Hulk dies.
Hulk’s goes-to-graveyard effects trigger, and I search for four copies of Disciple of the Vault, four Ornithopters and an Arcbound Ravager. I sacrifice the Ornithopters to the Ravagers, then the Ravager to itself. Five artifact have just gone to the graveyard, so each Disciple triggers five times. You lose 20 life, and the game.
That all happened before you got to draw a card. 
Now you know why the Legacy world is up in arms over this. 
Actually, the Legacy world began talking about this combo, but did not use Ornithopters and Ravagers. They used Phyrexian Marauders and Shifting Walls (a not-yet-on-MODO card that is very similar to the Marauders.) Since the Marauders were put into play by the Hulk’s ability, the X is zero, making the Marauders 0/0 creatures that die to state based effects. This means that the creatures die immediately, and the Disciples trigger automatically, without any chance of allowing an opponent to respond. These decks also ran a combination of seven Phyrexian Marauders and Shifting Walls, so that even if the player had drawn a Disciple (meaning it was not in the library to be found via Hulk), then the Hulk player could still force the opponent to lose 21 life.
So, let’s see how you can recreate this online.   The Ravagers / Marauders / Ornithopter combination does work. It also requires at least 22 cards: 4 Flash, 4 Protean Hulk, 4 Disciples, 2 Ravagers, 4 Ornithopters, 4 Marauders.   That means devoting over a third of the deck to the combo - a fairly large percentage. Let’s see if we can cut that number down.
The Legacy decks have a few combos built around cards that don’t exist yet online. We can’t do that, either. Flashing in a Protean Hulk gives us a free 6 casting cost worth of creatures. Let’s see what we can do with that on MODO.
My first thought was for the old Tooth and Nail standard: 
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker Sky Hussar
Infinite 4/3 fliers should win the game. Or it would, if this worked. However, Protean Hulk fetches a total mana cost of six, not power. 
I’m would also be worried about a combo that can just lose if you opponent has a Shock, Swords to Plowshares or Repeal.  If they get rid of Kiki while the copy effect is on the stack, it’s game over.
We could also use this Standard legal combo:
Crypt Champion Saffi Eriksdotter Essence Warden
That generates infinite life. However, we cannot squeeze in the Essence Warden without going over the Protean Hulk's budget.  However, you can get a mini-combo going. Crypt Champion comes into play, but sunce you did not pay red mana to cast it, it will die. With the trigger on the stack, you sacrifice Saffi targeting Crypt Champion. Champion then dies, and Saffi brings it back. It’s return a creature effect then brings back Saffi. This repeats, say, twenty times, but you eventually wind up with Saffi in play.   This combo does not actually win the game, however Future Sight, available at the end of the month, also gives us this interesting card.
pic=Bitter Ordeal
If Saffi and Crypt Champion go to the graveyard thirty times each (okay, Champion 30 times, Saffi 29 times), then Gravestorm means you remove 59 cards from your opponent’s deck. Unless you are facing Battle of Wits, that should deck the opponent.
(If you are facing Battle of Wits, repeat the Saffi Champion trick 125 times – jst don’t time out.)
That combo requires fewer cards, but it also requires that you combo in your main phase, so that you can follow it up with Bitter Ordeal - a sorcery.  That also requires 3UB for Flash and Ordeal. Maybe that’s not so great.
Here’s another option, and this one allows you to defend the combo.
Cephalid Illusionist Outrider en-Kor
This combo allows you to target the Illusionist repeatedly with the en-Kor ability. This mills your entire library into the graveyard. Among the cards you will want to mill will be four copies of this cards:
Milling them puts them into play.
And here are the kill cards:
Dread Return
Sutured Ghoul Dragon Breath
Since you will have at least four Protean Hulks in the graveyard, you can remove them all and the Ghoul will be a hasty 24/24 trampler. If you play spare copies of the Illusionist and Outrider en-Kor (to protect against drawing them), then the Ghoul is even bigger.
The main advantage to this version is that you have some defense against removal. If you dump your entire library in the graveyard, build a huge Ghoul, and that Ghoul is killed, you lose. Swords to Plowshares, Snapback, Fog, Condemn – an awful lot of cheap spells could ruin your day. However, after milling, you will have six creatures in play. You have to sacrifice three of them to Dread Return, but you can sacrifice the rest to flash back this card:
Cabal Therapy
If you ,ill away your library, the Therapies will be in your graveyard. Sacrificing a couple Narcomebas to Therapies should clean their hand quite well – and add a point or two to the Ghoul once you return it.
Cabal Therapy is the second best discard spell ever printed. We also want to play the best – Duress. Both of these allow you to check the opponents hand for answers, and strip some out, before firing off a combo. 
We will have another gift from Future Sight to help protect the combo. Here’s one of that set’s  best cards:
pic=Pact of Negation
Of course we won’t be able to pay the cost on turn three if we cast Flash on turn two – but the whole point it that we will win on turn two, so turn three will never happen. Pact of Negation is a combo player’s dream, and it will go into every combo deck from Dragonstorm on down.
Here’s the deck so far:
4 Duress
4 Pact of Negation
3 Cabal Therapy
Next, we need some help in actually drawing the combo. We need two cards to get this started: Flash and Protean Hulk. Mystical Tutor can help us draw Flash. Vampiric Tutor can help use draw either one. Both of these tutors just put the card on top of the library, however. It would be faster if we has a tutor that put a card in hand. Future Sight gives us another present:
pic=(Summoner’s Pact)
Once again, the Pact says you lose the game if you don’t pay the next turn, but since there should never be a next turn, that does not matter. 
Worldly Tutor is also a possibility, but Vampiric Tutor and Summoner’s Pact should be enough, and adding green messes up the mana base. 
Although it is not a tutor, we will also be running four copies of this amazing card:
You can do so many things with Brainstorm. It digs three cards deep. If you combine it with an Onslaught fetchland (e.g. Windswept Heath), it let’s you draw three cards, bury the two worst cards in your hand and draw new cards.   Finally, if you draw critical parts of the combo – for example, both Illusionists – then Brainstorm lets you put them back in your deck, so Protean Hulk can find one.
Brainstorm is my favorite online blue card – and one I put in every deck that can run it.  
Finally, we need an answer against problem cards – things that could stop the combo. The best options are probably Chain of Vapor or Rushing River.  Chain is cheaper – and that’s what I would play.
Here’s the deck so far:
4 Duress
4 Pact of Negation
3 Cabal Therapy
1 Chain of Vapor
4 Brainstorm
4 Vampiric Tutor
4 Flash
3 Summoner’s Pact
3 Mystical Tutor
3 Impulse
1 Dragon Breath
4 Protean Hulk
2 Cephalid Illusionist
2 Outrider en-Kor
4 Narcomeba
1 Sutured Ghoul
That leaves just the mana – although “just the mana” is an understatement. The mana can make or break a deck like this.  I am also noticing that we have already got a lot of cards - we will have to trim this.
The first choice is whether to aim for the fast mana.  The Phyrexian Marauder version can go off during the opponent’s upkeep, so it wants four Gemstone Caverns and four Simian Spirit Guides to improve the odds of that happening.  The Illusionist version cannot go off on the oppoenent's turn – it only wins if it can attack with the Ghoul. However, Simian Spirit Guide can increase the odds of having the mana to go off turn one. The same thing is true of Chrome Mox and Gemstone Caverns:  all of those allow extra mana on turn one.  However, we probably don't have the space to include them all.
PLaytesting is necessary to refine the mana.  I haven't tested online versions, because I’m short a bunch of rares – like the Vampiric Tutors, the Illusionist - and all the Future Sight cards, of course. 
The remainder of the mana should be four Watery Graves and a bunch of fetchlands: four Polluted Deltas, four Flooded Strand and four Bloodstained Mires. If people are playing Ghost Quarters in Classic, then an Island and a Swamp might not hurt. Round out the list with a Gemstone Mine or two – but you do not need much. The deck should never need more than two mana – three if you need to cast a Duress before the Flash, or Tutor during upkeep.
Defensive Hulk Flash for Classic
4 Pact of Negation
3 Duress
3 Cabal Therapy
1 Chain of Vapor
4 Brainstorm
4 Flash
4 Vampiric Tutor
3 Summoner’s Pact
2 Mystical Tutor
1 Dragon Breath
4 Protean Hulk
3 Narcomeba
1 Cephalid Illusionist
1 Outrider en-Kor
1 Sutured Ghoul
4 Chrome Mox
2 Simian Spirit Guide
3 Watery Grave
1 Hallowed Fountain (in case you need to hardcast the Outrider)
4 Polluted Delta
4 Flooded Strand
2 Bloodstained Mire
And a version that can go off on upkeep:
Turn One Hulk Flash for Classic
4 Pact of Negation
4 Duress
1 Chain of Vapor
4 Brainstorm
4 Flash
4 Vampiric Tutor
4 Summoner’s Pact
2 Mystical Tutor
4 Protean Hulk
4 Phyrexian Mauruader
4 Disciple of the Vault
1 Arcbound Ravager
1 Ornithopter
2 Chrome Mox
4 Simian Spirit Guide
4 Watery Grave
4 Gemstone Cavern
4 Polluted Delta
4 Flooded Strand
2 Bloodstained Mire
1 Gemstone Mine
I have not played enough competitive Classic to know what to include in the sideboards.
The deck, in either the Illusionist or Marauder variation, is fast, consistent and dangerous. It is not unstoppable. Even in Legacy, the deck is probably not dangerous enough to be banned. Probably not – but even if it is, I doubt they would ban it online. 
Paper magic has Force of Will, which is an answer to the Disciple decks, even if they are trying to go off during upkeep. It also has Simian Spirit Guide and both Pyroblast and Red Elemental Blast. MODO does not. However, MODO does have the other ubiquitous answer to this deck:
Leyline of the Void
With Leyline in play, Protean Hulk does not go to the graveyard, and does not trigger. It is MODO’s only answer to a turn one combo-on-upkeep.
If the opponent has one blue available, they could either Force Spike the Flash, or Stifle the leaves-play trigger on the Protean Hulk. The later is more dangerous, because you will need another flash and another Protean Hulk to combo again.
The other one mana answers to the combo (Condemn, etc.) should be in the graveyard when you combo, thanks to Cabal Therapy. If you are unlucky, however, an Ebony Charm might remove the Ghoul.  About the only threat that the Disciple version faces, when the opponent has one white mana available, is that you combo for 21 (which happens if you have a Disciple in hand), and the opponent casts Swords to Plowshares on one of their own creatures to gain two life.  
If you let the opponent get to two mana, that opponent has a lot more options. Fortunately, several of those options only work on one version or the other. The only ones that works on both are Counterspell(and similar cards) and some creatures.
Meddling Mage naming Flash is a problem. You have Chain of Vapor – but you need to draw it while keeping the parts of the combo you search for in the deck. Samurai of the Pale Curtain is just like Leyline of the Void, in that it stops the Hulk from going to the graveyard.   You could also sideboard in Massacre, which kills both of those, but you still have to draw or tutor for it; meanwhile, the opponent is killing you. The purpose of cards like Meddling Mage is not to shut off the combo forever – just long enough for everything else in the deck to kill you.
The Sutured Ghoul version of the deck wins by attacking. Thanks to the Cephalid Illusionist and Cabal Therapy, cards like Swords and Condemn should be in the graveyard, but permanents that can stop attacks, like Peace Talks and Solitary Confinement, could be problems. (Moments Peace) is also a problem, if they have three mana open, since then they can flash it back.
The Disciple of the Vault version wins by Disciple triggers. Those are triggered, so any cards that prevent the opponent from being targeted can shut that down. This includes True Believer, Ivory Mask (good luck getting that in play early enough to matter), Gilded Light and even Solitary Confinement.
The hate cards are around, but the opponents still have to draw them. Hulk flash should be great in Classic, once the Future Sight cards are available, and once Flash is fixed to work as it should. Odds are pretty good that all that is being coded together, and that the combo will work shortly after the Future Sight release events. 
If you play Classic, start getting ready.
“one million words” on MODO


by DJ (Unregistered) (not verified) at Wed, 05/16/2007 - 11:17
DJ (Unregistered)'s picture

Edit: the 60th card appears to be the crucial Dread Return.

And my last post should read "...less mana sources".

To speak to the sideboarding, this deck is going to be all about dealing with permanents. Leyline is at the top of the heap, but also Chalice, True Believer, Samurai Of The Pale Curtain, and the like. I would pack a ton of bounce options primarily. Past that, some anti-control cards will be important, and the mirror will be something to consider, since this thing is going to be all over the place.


by DJ (Unregistered) (not verified) at Wed, 05/16/2007 - 09:25
DJ (Unregistered)'s picture

A few questions...

First, for the "Defensive" list, what is the 60th card? And in the "Turn One" list, I count 66 cards, which has to be a mistake, as diluting the deck that much would drastically cut into how often you find the combo early.

Next, I'm interested as to why a faster list would run so mana sources. 25 seems a bit high, almost even for control lists. It seems to me that lsee mana sources, and more draw/tutoring would work better here. (Street Wraith? the additional two Mystical Tutor?)

Just a few thoughts.


dangerlinto's picture

Maybe you need to look harder...

by runeliger at Sun, 05/13/2007 - 15:27
runeliger's picture

Lol...... Yet another Hulk Flash article. I believe this is the 1000th article attributed to Hulk Flash (if you use Flores' count)

Anyway, it's pretty much known throughout the world, but I'm sure there's some people here who probably haven't heard about it.

Good article anyway.

by LeagueGeek at Mon, 05/14/2007 - 12:50
LeagueGeek's picture

I haven't seen anyone discussing online options, though. I liked it for that. :)

by MysticLancer at Mon, 05/14/2007 - 13:26
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Nice article Pete, I always enjoy them. It was definitely nice to see the online side and how the combo works in general. Good Job!

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