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Peasant Magic with B. Siems

At War With the Rhystics
January 22nd

"With all your power
With all your power
With all your power
What would you do?"
-The Flaming Lips, The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song
 
"Jamuraan mages have developed a new type of spellcasting: rhystic magic. Rhystic spells are simple and quick, but they sacrifice stability for speed; Jamuraa’s abundant mama sources make rhystic magic easy to wield but also easy for another mage to disrupt." -from the Prophecy play guide to the preconstructed deck Turnaround.
 
"Jamuraan wizards are linked together by magic, a bond that only the wicked dare exploit." -flavor text from the card Rhystic Syphon.
 
"Simple and quick power? Exploitation? Sign me up!" -Yours truly.
 
Today’s article will center on rhystic cards and how to use them, with a special emphasis reserved for the Peasant Magic format. Also, there will be more Flaming Lips references than necessary. Everybody needs a gimmick.
 
Do You Realize?
For the uninitiated, rhystic is a mechanic from the Prophecy set. Rhystic cards are the evolutionary descendants of the blue Ice Age enchantment Mystic Remora. I already hear you asking "But Brock, why are we obsessing on a mechanic from a set printed seven years ago?" The answer is simple; to my knowledge, the rhystic mechanic hasn’t really ever been pursued by PEZ afficionados. To me this just seems like a damn shame. I believe that rhystic has a lot to offer casual duelists in general and my fellow cheapasses in particular.
 
Any given Rhystic card has a beneficial effect for its caster unless another player pays to cancel the effect. This drawback is balanced out nicely by the fact that the casting cost of rhystic cards are generally one or two mana less than a standard non-rhystic spell of comparison. For example, the black sorcery Rhystic Syphon is a Consume Spirit variant that sucks five life from an opponent, which can be totally shut down if he pays 3. However, the Syphon’s mana cost is cheaper than the Consume, which would take seven mana to cause that same 5 damage/life gain and therefore a bargain if your opponent is incapable of or simply chooses not to stop it.
 
As a variation of the theme, other rhystic cards have their effects merely weakened it your opponent pays up, rather than completely negated. A good example here is red’s Rhystic Lightning, a Lighting Bolt variant that will deal 4 damage to a target unless that player pays 2, in which case it deals 2 damage instead. And if all of this isn’t nightmarish enough, even the creatures get in on the act!

(As an aside: If you’re still confused by my simplistic explanation on rhystic, check out http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=magic/products/prophecyrhystic for a concise summary of the mechanic.)
 

The Observer
Now that I’ve established what rhystic is, let’s take a brief look at the cards themselves. I’m going to give you a *ahem* "spoiler" list of all the rhystic cards in Prophecy, covering all three rarities and a brief overall assessment of each color’s strengths and weaknesses.
 
Green: Gentle reader, get in touch with your inner-Wakefield and chant with me: "Green got shafted again!" It’s true. Jamie’s color of choice received only two rhystic spells to play with, neither one being especially awe inspiring. They’re simple workhorses but certainly not going to provide the core of a deck.
 
Vintara Elephant: 4G (common)
Creature-Elephant
Trample
3: Vintara Elephant loses rample until end of turn. Any player may play this ability.
4/3
 
Wild Might: 1G (common)
Instant
Target creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn. That creature gets an additional +4/+4 until end of turn unless any player pays 2.
 
Red: Not much to say here, as red plays to its strength of direct damage. If I remember correctly, Rhystic Lightning saw a bit of play in Limited tournaments. Task Mage Assembly was and still is an excuse to go hog wild sniping at creatures in multiplayer.
 
Rhystic Lightning: 2R (common)
Instant
Rhystic Lightning deals 4 damage to target creature or player unless that creature’s controller or that player pays 2. If he or she does, Rhystic Lightning deals 2 damage to the creature or player.
 
Task Mage Assembly: 2R (rare)
Enchantment
When there are no creatures in play, sacrifice Task Mage Assembly.
2: Task Mage Assembly deals 1 damage to target creature. Any player may play this ability but only any time he or she could play a sorcery.
 
Zerapa Minotaur: 2RR (common)
Creature-Minotaur
First strike
2: Zerapa Minotaur loses first strike until end of turn. Any player may play this ability.
3/3
 
Black: Rhystic magic in black is a mixed bag, hitting all of the color’s classic themes fairly well but occasionally making a grown man weep. (Oh Flay, if only you costed 2 mana less... *sigh*) The creatures are meant to make that whole "blocking in combat" thing a damned it you do, damned if you don’t proposition. Unfortunately the creatures have no natural evasion abilities, making them easy to avoid.
 
Death Charmer: 2B (common)
Creature-Mercenary
Whenever Death Charmer deals combat damage to a creature, that creature’s controller loses 2 life unless he or she pays 2.
2/2
 
Endbringer’s Revel: 2B (uncommon)
Enchantment
Return target creature card from a graveyard to its owner’s hand. Any player may play this ability but only any time he or she could play a sorcery.
 
Flay: 3B (common)
Sorcery
Target player discards a card at random. Then that player discards another card at random unless he or she pays 1.
 
Nakaya Shade: 1B (uncommon)
Creature-Shade
B: Nakaya Shade gets +1/+1 until end of turn unless any player pays 2.
1/1
 
Plague Fiend: 1B (common)
Creature-Insect
Whenever Plague Fiend deals combat damage to a creature, destroy that creature unless its controller pays 2.
1/1
 
Rhystic Syphon: 3BB (uncommon)
Sorcery
Unless target player pays 3, he or she loses 5 life and you gain 5 life.
 
Rhystic Tutor: 2B (rare)
Sorcery
Unless any player pays 2, search your library for a card, put that card into your hand, then shuffle your library.
 
Soul Strings: XB (common)
Sorcery
Return two target creature cards from your graveyard to your hand unless any player pays X.
 
Wall of Vipers: 2B (uncommon)
Creature-Wall
(Walls can’t attack.)
3: Destroy Wall of Vipers and target creature it’s blocking.
Any player may play this ability.
2/4
 
White: Here rhystic focuses on defense and protection, and does a pretty good job of it. There’s the core of an "aggressive defense" deck here. Imagine an opponent having to work to get past the semi-invulnerable Glittering kitties (all the while being covered by Rhystic Shields and Excises) only to be stalled out by a Rhystic Circle even if a creature should get through. It quickly becomes a choice between two evils: Will your opponent choose to horde his mana every turn, short-circuiting everything you have in play at the risk of crippling his own offense? Or does he ignore paying the rhystic costs altogether so as to concentrate on pushing through against a deck capable of soaking up damage like a sponge.
 
Excise: XW (common)
Instant
Remove target attacking creature from the game unless its controller pays X.
 
Glittering Lion: 2W (uncommon)
Creature-Cat
Prevent all damage that would be dealt to Glittering Lion.
3: Until end of turn, Glittering Lion loses "Prevent all damage that would be dealt to Glittering Lion." Any player may play this ability.
2/2
 
Glittering Lynx: W (common)
Creature-Cat
Prevent all damage that would be dealt to Glittering Lynx.
2: Until end of turn, Glittering Lion loses "Prevent all damage that would be dealt to Glittering Lynx." Any player may play this ability.
1/1
 
Rhystic Circle: 2WW (common)
Enchantment
1: Any player may pay 1. If no one does, the next time a source of your choice would deal damage to you this turn, prevent that damage.
 
Rhystic Shield: 1W (common)
Instant
Creatures you control get +0/+1 until end of turn. They get an additional +0/+2 until end of turn unless any player pays 2.
 
Samite Sanctuary: 2W (rare)
Enchantment
2: Prevent the next 1 damage that would be dealt to target creature this turn. Any player may play this ability.
 
Soul Charmer: 2W (common)
Creature-Rebel
Whenever Soul Charmer deals combat damage to a creature, you gain 2 life unless that creature’s controller pays 2.
2/2
 
Blue: Since blue has historically had this ability in small doses, it’s no surprise that it gets the lion’s share of Prophecy’s rhystic spells. It’s also the strongest set of rhystic cards. This particular subset gives us all of blue’s classic themes: card drawing, counterspells, creature-stall mechanisms and cheap aggressive flyers.
 
If the rhystic spells in white provide the means for an aggressively defensive deck, then blue rhystic points towards an "defensively aggressive" deck of flyers backed up with Rethinks and Withdraws to keep enemy blockers at bay. Once again, opponents are faced with the choice of negating everything you’ve got or running up against a big stall of overwhelming odds. Incidentally, many of these cards were once employed in that very strategy back in the days when Prophecy was Standard legal. Ribbon Snake, Withdraw, Rethink and both of the Spiketails all saw play in various builds of the "Blue Skies" popular in the summer of 2000.
 
Excavation: 1B (uncommon)
Enchantment
1, Sacrifice a land: Draw a card. Any player may play this ability.
 
Quicksilver Wall: 2B (uncommon)
Creature-Wall
(Walls can’t attack.)
4: Return Quicksilver Wall to its owners hand.
Any player may play this ability.
1/6
 
Rethink: 2B (common)
Instant
Counter target spell unless its controller pays X, where X is its converted mana cost.
 
Rhystic Deluge: 2B (common)
Enchantment
B: Tap target creature unless its controller pays 1.
 
Rhystic Scrying: 2BB (uncommon)
Sorcery
Draw three cards. Then, if any player pays 2, discard three cards.
 
Rhystic Study: 2B (common)
Enchantment
Whenever an opponent plays a spell, you may draw a card unless that player pays 1.
 
Ribbon Snake: 1BB (common)
Creature-Snake
Flying
2: Ribbon Snake loses flying until end of turn.
Any player may play this ability.
2/3
 
Shrouded Serpent: 4BBB (rare)
Creature-Serpent
Whenever Shrouded Serpent attacks, defending player may pay 4.
If he or she doesn t, Shrouded Serpent is unblockable this turn.
4/4
 
Spiketail Drake: 3BB (uncommon)
Creature-Drake
Flying
Sacrifice Spiketail Drake: Counter target spell unless its controller pays 3.
3/3
 
Spiketail Hatchling: 1B (common)
Creature-Drake
Flying
Sacrifice Spiketail Hatchling: Counter target spell unless its controller pays 1.
 
Sunken Field: 1B (uncommon)
Enchant Land
Enchanted land has "Tap: Counter target spell unless its controller pays 1."
 
Withdraw: BB (common)
Instant
Return target creature to its owner’s hand. Then return another target creature to its owner’s hand unless its controller pays 1.
 
Lands: And finally, I present to you the poor man’s City of Brass.
 
Rhystic Cave (uncommon)
Land
Tap: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool unless any player pays 1.
 
Pompeii Am Gotterdammerung
 
At last, the decks. Wayne Coyne is going to love...
 
THE YEAH YEAH YEAH SONG
(Peasant Magic format legal)
 
WHITE
4 Diving Griffin
3 Excise
3 Glittering Lion (uncommon)
4 Glittering Lynx
2 Rhystic Circle
3 Rhystic Shield
 
BLUE
1 Excavation (uncommon)
3 Rethink
2 Rhystic Deluge
1 Rhystic Study
4 Ribbon Snake
1 Spiketail Drake (uncommon)
4 Spiketail Hatchling
3 Withdraw
 
LANDS
11 Islands
11 Plains
 
SIDEBOARD
3 Daze
4 Dismantling Blow
1 Excise
1 Rethink
2 Rhystic Circle
2 Rhystic Deluge
1 Rhystic Shield
1 Withdraw
 
The first of two rhystic-centered decks presented for your pleasure, the Prophecy-centric "Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" is a blending of the "aggressive defense/defensively aggressive" strategies mentioned above, locking your opponent into a war of attrition. Sure, it’s possible for him to short circuit half of the deck...provided he can afford to hold that much mana in reserve turn after turn, which in my experience with rhystic decks, has never been a sure thing.
 
The path to victory comes from sending an army of cheap flyers in over an opponent’s head. You don’t need all of your creatures to get through, just as long as a flyer or three provides a steady, constant pounding on your opponent’s head. Meanwhile, defense is provided by your rhystic spells clearing the battlefield (Excise & Withdraw), stalling the enemy’s approach (Rhystic Deluge) and providing bomber escort to your air force. (Rethink and Rhystic Shield.)
 
"Yeah Yeah" has a nice array of defensive measures in both maindeck and sideboard, which is more than I can say for my second deck...
 
THE SOUND OF FAILURE
("Pre-con" version. Vintage legal, I suppose...)
 
BLUE
3 Rethink
3 Rhystic Deluge
2 Rhystic Scrying (uncommon)
3 Ribbon Snake
1 Spiketail Drake (uncommon)
4 Spiketail Hatchling
2 Withdraw
 
WHITE
1 Excise
3 Glittering Lynx
1 Glittering Lion (uncommon)
1 Rhystic Shield
 
BLACK
1 Death Charmer
3 Plague Fiend
1 Rhystic Syphon (uncommon)
2 Rhystic Tutor (rare)
 
GREEN
1 Vintara Elephant
 
RED
2 Rhystic Lightning
2 Zerapa Minotaur
 
24 LANDS
4 Rhystic Cave (uncommon)
7 Island
5 Plain
4 Swamp
3 Mountain
1 Forest
 
SIDEBOARD
3 Rhystic Circle
3 Rhystic Shield
1 Rhystic Syphon (uncommon)
3 Wild Might
1 Rethink
2 Withdraw
2 Excise
 
"The Sound of Failure" was built so that I could scratch an itch: A casual dueling deck wherein I could squeeze in as many rhystic cards as possible. Once again blue and white form the core of our deck, with (theoretically) the rest of the Magic rainbow adding additional support in a deck strategy that is (again, theoretically) similar to "Yeah Yeah’s."
 
And though it has never been played and just barely playtested, I can say with near certainty that I believe that, in its present state, "Failure" will live up to it’s name. The deck’s manabase is a complete mess! Without the Rhystic Caves, the deck would be completely nonfunctional. As it is, when you can get a Cave or two into play, they make the deck shine...provided that your opponent doesn’t pay to shut ‘em down. I do plan to actually play this deck someday, so expect further refinements to come in the future.
 
Vein of Stars
I’ve barely scratched the surface on the potential of rhystic. If you’re still undecided about including some of these cards into your deck, here are three things to consider.
 
1) As mentioned at the start of this article, rhystic cards have a casting cost less than a standard non-rhystic spell of comparison.
 
2) The majority of rhystic cards have single-colored mana symbol in their casting costs, making them splashable in decks that wouldn’t otherwise run them.
 
3) Rhystic cards provide cheap, powerful spell effects in the early game to mid game. In a worse case scenario for a rhystic user, they become a drain on an opponent’s resources in the mid to late game, which is nothing to sneeze at. Careful and skilled play of rhystic spells allows them to retain their power even well into the late game.
 
In conclusion, no one ever summed up rhystic better than a zephyr mage named Alexi: "I'll rain down on you with the power of magic itself. Then we’ll see who prevails." - Alexi, zephyr mage. (-flavor text from the card Rhystic Deluge.)
 
No one ever summed it up better than you, Alexi.
 
As always, feel free to e-mail me at whatever@hcinet.net.
 
B. Siems

 

 

 

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