Friday Night Alchemy
My eyes open. I’m in pain. I’m lying on cobblestones. Tall, endless buildings tower over me as the sun attempts to blind me. I’ve had lessons of this place.
She sent us to Ravnica.
I suppose there are worse planes.
I wonder where everyone else is. I wonder if they are still here. Still alive.
Traffic bustles around me, disregarding the sudden presence of a body slammed into the road. Of course, I don’t know how long I’ve been here. All of the citizens are rushing towards their destinations, seemingly in a panic. Is it a holiday on this stupid plane? Probably.
I pick myself up and blend into the crowd. Blending is actually rather difficult. My clothes are so elaborate, especially compared to those of these filthy peasants around me, that I’m actually probably sticking out instead of blending.
I’m not even sure where I’m going. I’ll know when I’m supposed to know. Trust me.
The mana is flowing through me, at least more than it was when I was laying in cracked slabs of mineral just a moment ago. I walk along an elaborate walkway, peering over the edge to view the extravagant layers of city below me. At least, what this population feels worth of being called a city. To me, they are only ruins that haven’t been ruined yet. But they will be ruined. If things go how I feel they will.
If the others are alive.
You see, the fools inhabiting most planes would view someone as powerful as I, as powerful as we, as gods if they were even to believe in such entities. We might be able to sway their opinions. This? This is simply a training mission. I could wipe away an entire block with the flick of a finger, but I’m not here to do that. In fact, I don’t even know why I’m here. We get sent to planes and operations unfold in front of us. We act accordingly once the situation presents itself. We always win. We always win.
The magic on this plane has the capability of being extremely powerful, a force to awe at. We are aware of the capabilities. Our first lesson showed us that peasants, fools, blowhards and ordinary criminals can still muster enough strength to be bothersome. Our numbers were reduced after that first day thanks to such that lesson. She led them. It was different then. She’s hasn’t led them since. She was just making a point.
She is powerful, more powerful than any of us.
Small and disgusting beings begin to tug at my robes, hands outstretched and speaking some gibberish that I’m not familiar with. I kick them away. I kick one too hard and he stumbles backwards, attempting to be the master of his balance and fails. His screams of gibberish resonate as he plummets down into the lower levels as he belongs. I can’t believe they let such sickening beings walk about at this level of the city.
That creature’s demise, of course, has led to chaos around me. Each citizen has turned towards me, yelling at how cruel I am. I silence them all and rush towards the huge archway, hoping my task confronts me.
Kicking that grunt off the ledge was foolish. I don’t like calling attention to myself, especially within minutes of arriving at a plane. I don’t want the members of the police guild to come and slow me up. I should probably know the names of the guilds better than I do.
I pass through the arch and plaster my back against the inner wall. I pause for a moment, observing my surroundings, and sneak into the shadows. Everything is elegant. I must be in area inhabited by the wealthy guild. I try to remember how they operate.
Something about keeping debtors in debt, even after death.
I feel choked here. There isn’t much out of place, and any actions will be noticeable.
I stumble into someone, falling to the ground. He falls to the ground as well. I say nothing and continue on my way. He yells at me.
“Halt!” He is an old man, dressed in rags that were once fine clothing. His command is raspy. I can hear the dust pour out of his lungs as he speaks. I turn to him. He’s not dead, but he might be if I breathe on him too hard. I pay him no mind and continue on in the shadows.
“Halt!” he repeats. I continue to ignore him.
I stop. Why am I stopped? I don’t want to stop.
My eyes are slammed shut. I don’t want my eyes to be closed. I want to see.
I become enraged, frozen where I stand. My fury does not free me. I have underestimated this fleshy skeleton.
“Why do you not halt?” he asks me.
I cannot move any muscles besides those enabling me to speak. I might as well speak.
“Because you have no idea who I am,” I sneer, “And if you did, you would have never put me in such a position. Free me, old man, and I won’t kill you.”
“Won’t kill me?” he repeats, laughing as he does. “I wish to be freed from this life. You would be too kind to kill me. So, I think I might keep you like this for a minute. Since I have you here, who are you?”
My insides continue to boil at his comments. He has no clue the power I have over him. His spell will be over shortly, and he will be sorry.
“That is of no concern to you,” I reply.
“Surely, it must be. You made yourself out to be this plane’s savior just a moment ago.”
My eyes open.
I see his tattered old police garbs, disintegrating as he moves. This ancient vest parts and reveals a black sun tattooed to his chest. He is a slave. I’ve been captured by a slave. How embarrassing. I hope the others don’t find me like this.
“Free me,” I command.
“I don’t have much of a debt to pay off. Perhaps you are worth my time. Perhaps you will be my chance at freedom. I’m going to focus my concentration on you. No more speaking.”
My mouth locks shut and my eyes close again.
The operation has presented itself.
I hope you enjoyed that quick little story. I was feeling creative today, and I wanted to spice up the column a bit. I’ll be revisiting this story from time to time, especially on weeks where I can’t make it to FNM. I finished in 7th place this week with this deck I invented myself.
Planeswalkers, as you know, are some of the most powerful cards, if not kept in check. Various ultimates can make a game unwinnable for an opponent. A Tamiyo emblem and a counterspell make a game nearly impossible to win. Of course, planeswalkers are not always meant to be blown up after they reach an ultimate. The smaller minus ability can also be incredibly powerful: Liliana of the Veil’s -2, Garruk, Primal Hunter’s -3 Domri Rade’s -2 can turn the tide of a game and put your opponent on their heels.
A lot of people don’t know how to handle a resolved planeswalker other than casting an Oblivion Ring. Creature decks that cannot immediately kill a planewalker are usually in a tough spot. That is why this week’s deck was built around planewalkers entirely.
I felt ready for aggressive decks between Azorius Charms, Sphinx’s Revelations and Supreme Verdicts in the main deck. After sideboarding, all of the spells that also happened to give me life and Witchbane Orbs would make life difficult for all of the Mono Red decks running around Jupiter. I feel very strongly that any deck you bring to Friday Night Magic in our area must be prepared to survive against those type of decks, and I most definitely built this list with that deck in mind.
One aspect a lot of players, especially newer players, don’t realize is that planewalkers actually gain you life. Your opponent must spend attacks, an extremely valuable resource in aggressive decks, to get your summoned friends off of the table. Aggressive decks spend all of their resources early and well, aggressively, to kill you dead as soon as they can. Preventing them from killing you dead makes life difficult for them.
Planewalkers also make your opponents make correct choices, something that I really like to do. Multiple out on the field at once can really tax an opponent, and they often do not make the correct choices. Any time I had more than two walkers out at once, all ticking up and putting pressure on my opponent, they struggled with which to kill first, if it all. The super-friends helped to protect each other. Tamiyo tapping creatures while Garruk bashes the small ones in the face makes a Sorin ticking up ominous.
Liliana of the Veil is one of my favorite planeswalkers ever. She can be devastating to an opponent that has no way to deal with her. She works especially well with other planeswalkers out on the battlefield. People really do not like discarding cards, and they often struggle with making the right decision. Many decks struggle with a Liliana. I was extremely thankful that I never walked into a Loxodon Smitter during FNM, but I most likely would have played around that possibility.
Garruk Relentless is especially good in this deck. On more than one occasion, I would cast him and make a wolf. Follow up with Sorin, making a vampire, and fighting something profitably. This allowed me to just cash in Garruk for a tutored Obzedat, Ghost Council if I felt it the correct thing to do. Sorin, Lord of Innistrad also proved to be worth his weight in gold. I was able to hide behind him while setting up a Supreme Verdict for maximum value or a large Revelation. He, of course, works especially well with Lingering Souls.
This deck actually relied upon Lingering Souls a lot more than I intended. After playing during many matches before FNM and the matches during, I realized that Lingering Souls is actually the win condition of this deck. I originally had Nephalia Drownyards in the deck, but I took them out at the last minute for colored mana, a decision I felt wise. I knew that I would need my colors as efficiently as possible with this deck, and I never had an issue. Lingering Souls just puts opponents on a clock after a Supreme Verdict. The first half of the card buys time until Supreme Verdict can be cast, and the second half of the card is the business end, leaving mana for Azorious Chram or a Liliana of the Veil. Any time I had 4 soul tokens, I would immediately cash Sorin in for an emblem. Games were almost unlosable at that point.
I love me some Tamiyo, the Moon Sage, and I wasn’t really looking to ultimate her very often because of the lack of cards to abuse her ultimate with. Rather, I wanted to use her as a tempo-oriented, multiple Divination being. She worked quite well for this. I ended any game, win or loss, with a fistful of cards because of Revelations or cashing her in for 4 cards.
Jace, Architect of Thought has been forgotten as of late, but I really enjoyed casting him. Farseeking into him disables aggressive decks drastically. With all of the 2/2s running around standard turning into 1/2s, you are in good position. While hiding behind other planeswalkers, you may also utilize him for at least two Fact or Fictions before you put him into the graveyard.
Vraska the Unseen was a lovely singleton. I feel that her day will be coming shortly, but it’s not quite here yet. She isn’t a 3 or 4 of, but has potential. I wanted a way to deal with opposing walkers and Oblivion Rings, and I was drawing most of my deck often enough that I felt that she deserved one spot in the list.
This deck has a huge weakness to Falkenrath Aristocrat. A huge one. Everytime it was cast against me, I lost. Supreme Verdict doesn’t do much against a regenerating creature, and I couldn’t fight it with Garruk profitably. I didn’t even have any Azorius Charm plus Thought Scour shenanigans to deal with it. For those wishing to play a similar list, the deck needs Tragic Slips or the like. Aristocrat isn’t exactly a fringe card, but it also isn’t played in every aggressive list.
The only other deck that would be slightly troublesome to this deck would be one running Restoration Angel and Runechanter’s Pike, but nobody really plays that deck anyway. We do have access to Rest in Peace to shut down the Pike part, and Angel only kills Liliana and Garruk after being flashed in.
Know which walker will win you the game. In the first round I played Mario Ramos, and it was very clear he was playing a Grixis control list. After a Farseek resolved, I stared at a hand of Sorin, Liliana, Jace and Tamiyo. I knew that he would not have an answer to Tamiyo if it resolved, so I threw away my other planeswalkers into his obvious counterspells. I had knowledge that he was most likely playing Duskmantle Seer, and Tamiyo could keep that thing from killing me while I flipped cards to myself and gained life. The Sorin and Liliana were countered, and the Tamiyo did stick, and I won the game. Many players will counter the first spell they see when holding a counterspell, and I don’t blame him for countering my walkers, but many players run out their most important card into an obvious counter just so they can use up all of their mana.
I highly recommend a list such as this that can deal with Falkenrath Aristocrat. I’m sure it has other weaknesses, but that was the one that I had the hardest time with this week. Until next week, whether it’s the kitchen table or the feature match, have fun and keep brewing.