Hello again, all!
I'd just like a moment to wish all of you undergoing the evil torture known as Summer exams good luck. At least you can look forward to the holidays once you get these out of the way!
Now, if you've been reading Judge Bill's column like a good little MTG player, you'll have been alerted to the excellent life-gain combo of Transcendence + Martyrs' Tomb. Remember, don't call it infinite life or he'll come round your house and beat you senseless with a copy of the Comprehensive Rulebook! If you're looking for a full explanation then look at the 7th May edition of Judge Bill's Court, but basically you put lots and lots of life on the stack, then Disenchant the Transcendence before the life kills you.
I did a little research, and there's nothing in Type II that can replace the clunky Martyrs' Tomb. All variants either require mana as well, allow you pay the life once only or are situational. Evidently nothing can replace Transcendence, but there are more efficient alternatives to Disenchant.
In my defense, I was already planning a Breaking Stupid Rares article on Transcendence after a challenge from a 'James Undisclosed'. However, after seeing a Game Over combo, and in Type II no less, I felt obliged to create a deck that can support it. Here are the cards:
By the way, what are your opinions on having piccies in my articles? It saves you having to have another window open to look up the key components, but I don't know if you guys think it messes up the flow. If you care either way, let me know.
Anyway, nice combo, shame about the mana. Wizards undoubtedly foresaw that there'd be a way to break this card, so they made Transcendence unplayable except for in mono-White. Or so they thought…
I've decided to work around this drawback by playing a third colour. Hey, stop banging your head on the table in frustration. Just listen to my justification. White doesn't do mana. Black doesn't do mana. (Except for Black mana, and that won't help with the WWW in Transcendence's cost) Now Green, that does do mana. With a single Birds of Paradise, 2 Plains and 3 arbitrary mana-producers you can play either of the key enchantments. With a GW setup, you could theoretically have both pieces in play on turn 4 with a little mana to spare.
The next problem facing a combo deck is that of 'Oh no, for some strange reason my 7 card hand doesn't include 1 of each of my combo components.' With a 2-piece combo, the chance of getting both in your opening hand is 6%, and that's assuming you're playing 4 of each. Them's bad odds. So, you cannot rely on drawing them early, instead you have to make your deck work for you.
Sterling Grove fits this deck in so many ways. It will find one of your missing combo parts for you. The cost is a low WG, well fitting the mana available. It will stop your opponent destroying either part before you can find the other. And most importantly, I like the artwork. Play 4.
Another way to get to those enchantments quickly is to use some drawing power. Green, White and Black have approximately 0 direct drawing cards, so we need to get creative. Don't worry; I'm not adding Blue as well! Instead, some event-based card drawing works well. I'm talking about Verduran Enchantress, who gets you a free card every time you play an enchantment. Add some Armadillo Cloak for added defensive muscle, life reparations and even a cantrip.
We also need a way to stay alive in the early going. Step forward, Heroes' Reunion. A lot of people insult the general strategy of life gain, but it means you can afford to let a lot of damage past without having to sacrifice your vital mana-producers as chump blockers. Speaking of mana-producers, pack the full complement of Birds of Paradise and City of Brass. Nothing else comes close.
What you need now is the last part of the combo. That's right, you need a way to remove the Transcendence, otherwise all that lovely life is going to be the death of you. In Judge Bill's example Disenchant is quoted, but that's really just the default enchantment remover. You're paying 1W to remove an enchantment or an artifact, so there must be a more efficient card that does the trick. There are 3 contenders in my mind. Aura Blast costs 1W and gives you a card, which is good. However, you'll probably only use it to remove Transcendence, and then you won't need to draw quickly any longer.
Next up is Aura Mutation. The cost is GW, and when you use it to remove Transcendence you gain 6 1/1 creature tokens. That's excellent value, but it shares a very serious flaw with Aura Blast - counters. When you have barrels of life on the stack, and whip out your Aura Blast/Mutation, Mr. Blue Mage will just smirk and reveal the Counterspell he's been keeping in his hand. You die.
The 3rd option gets around this flaw nicely, by removing the enchantment in a way that your opponent can't prevent it. The solution is to make removing Transcendence a cost rather than a result, and the solution's name is Thaumatog. I certainly never thought Thaumatog would solve anything, but there you go.
Once you announce the decision to sacrifice Transcendence to Thaumatog your opponent has to just sit there and wonder how to deal an unbounded amount of damage. In an emergency you can always pump up Thaumatog's toughness by sacrificing excess lands too. Play a few Insist to draw out your opponent's counters and possibly even add to your drawing power.
Now comes the fun part - winning. You may have too much life to lose, but you still haven't won. There's always the possibility of decking yourself too. And besides, launching a broadside of Birds of Paradise may be amusing, but it's not going to win the game. This deck will need a variety of win conditions, because each colour has a unique way of dealing with your creatures.
Sabertooth Nishoba has protection from both Blue and Red, as well as Trample. Do note that after the combo hits, all your creatures effectively have as much toughness as you want, as you can pay some of your 10 bazillion life total to the Martyrs' Tomb again. Sabertooth Nishoba, however, is weak to Black creature removal, so throw in Mystic Enforcer. The last one I'll add is Phyrexian Colossus. He gets past protection, has 8 for power, deals colourless damage, and can't be chump-blocked. The 8 life upkeep suddenly isn't a factor any more.
By the way, when Judgement hits, (I refuse to spell it Judgment!) there'll be a much simpler way to win for a guy who has more life than he can count. It also works great with Sterling Grove and Verduran Enchantress. You've probably seen it already, but I won't spoil it for those who are purposefully avoiding the early set lists.
Well, that's it. Your strategy is pretty simple:
1) Play yourself a comfortable mana base
2) Use Armadillo Cloak and Heroes' Reunion to repair any damage sustained.
3) Find your enchantments and Thaumatog as quickly as possible
4) Play the combo, giving yourself a ridiculous amount of life and making your creatures immune to damage.
5) Sit there mockingly until the appropriate fatty turns up.
Before I present the decklist, a word on quantities. Martyrs' Tomb and Transcendence probably look a bit silly having 4 of each, considering that drawing more than 1 is pointless. However, if you don't get that one card then you'll lose, it's that simple. Having 1 each of the 3 fatties may also look strange, but think of it this way. Instead of having 3 Mystic Enforcers, I have 3 Big Fatties, allowing for diversity against different decks. Sure you lose a little consistency, but you can afford to wait for your monster as long as you like once the combo hits.
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Verduran Enchantress
1 Phyrexian Colossus
1 Mystic Enforcer
1 Sabertooth Nishoba
4 Martyrs' Tomb
4 Sterling Grove
3 Heroes' Reunion
3 Armadillo Cloak
4 City of Brass
As a final point on finesse, what to choose for your life total after using the combo? If your judge or mate lets you get away with it, go for 1/0. This is the closest you can get to expressing the concept of infinity using just numbers. Otherwise, I recommend 999 factorial, or even 9^(9^9). Ten billion is for wimps.
As usual, I love hearing from you dudes. BSR challenges, deck fixes, comments on my articles, anything! You know where the address is. 'til next time.
That is all.