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Ancient Silverback Died for Your Sins - B. Siems
October 2014

Ancient Silverback Died for Your Sins (or “Don’t be alarmed, ladies and gentlemen, those chains are made of Darksteel… Oh, $#*&! RUN!”)


POSTSCRIPT: Who puts a postscript at the very beginning of an article? This guy! As the actual article is about a deck made from Magic 2015, it seems appropriate. (Timing is everything.) I’m assuming we’re all aware of the upcoming changes planned for Standard and the number of blocks & sets released yearly, but if not Mark Rosewater explains it here. The short version is that starting in the fall of 2015, there will still be four Magic sets released per year, but now Standard will be composed of two blocks each year. In order to make this work, there will be no core sets after the release of Magic 2016.


That’s right, I said no more core sets.


In Rosewater’s own words: “At least once a year, we get a bunch of R&D people into a room and have the following discussion: Who exactly is the core set for? If it's for beginners, why do we only put it out during one point of the year? Is that the one time we expect new players to start? And why do we keep adding new cards and bringing back mechanics? The beginners don't need any of that and it only leads to making the set more complicated.”


Rosewater continues. “If it's for the experienced players, why do we keep the overall complexity so low? Why do we only use returning mechanics and only one at a time? Why do we strictly limit what the set can do? The experienced players don't need any of that and it only leads to making the set less engaging. The core set has an identity problem. It's trying to make two different audiences happy at the same time and it's led to us making a set full of very odd compromises.”


I have two problems with this. Putting aside that I personally have liked the direction the core sets have taken in the last few years -the mixture of new cards and reprints- there is the matter of tradition. Magic: the Gathering without a regular core set feels a lot like Batman without Robin, salt without pepper, or pornography without naked breasts; sure, you can have one without the other, but why would you want to? I understand that younger/less experienced players and future newcomers won’t miss the core set, but for at least this graybeard, it does feel like something fundamental to the game is going away forever. [SIDE NOTE: Alpha was the original core set. Just sayin’.]


More important than my personal feels, though, is the fact that nowhere in the article does Rosewater actually address what they will actually do about getting new players to the game. Now, I can make an educated guess at what Wizards might do to create more Magic junkies. I would assume that they would rely on things like the Toolbuilder deck kits and Booster battle packs to push the game (And why not? When you’ve got your product in every Wal-Mart on the planet…) but will that be enough? I’m also skeptical that they would use the yearly “fifth set” (which generally gets used for multi-player formats i.e. Conspiracy) for something like a newbie-oriented core set, as Portal just didn’t work the first three times they tried it. Of course, it’s not like I have any better ideas either. Aw, screw it! Who wants color pie?


Anyway, on to the real article! Speaking of core sets, the original genesis of this article comes from a discovery I (re)made while sorting throughAncient Silverback my collection of Magic 2015 cards, which is that reprinted cards change rarity all of the time. I knew this, or course; it’s been a matter of Magical fact ever since Revised Edition, but it never really sunk in until I noticed that both Ancient Silverback…


Ancient Silverback: 4GG

Creature – Ape

G: Regenerate Ancient Silverback



…and Restock…


Restock: 3GG


Return two target cards from your graveyard to your hand. Exile Restock.


…had been downgraded to uncommon from rare. At that moment, my nostalgia for the cards of my relative youth slammed head first into the concrete wall of modern day reality. Feeling the rage build up inside my bitter, faded soul, I lifted my head towards the dark, rainy nighttime sky and cried out “A 6/5 green regenerator and a double Regrowth are no longer considered the nut high? I WILL HAVE MY REVENGE!”


Or perhaps I exaggerate. Regardless, I was soon in touch with my inner Wakefield. I abandoned my original plan for this article (of making a red Pauper deck) to start work on building a deck that would prove that Wizards was wrong to send that pair of cards to the minors. It’s time to show the world that no one disses a simian senior citizen who’s well stocked on supplies.


APE’S DESTINY (Standard legal. Uncommons marked with one asterisk, rares with two.)


23 GREEN CREATURESCharging Rhino

1 Ancient Silverback* (originally printed as a rare)

2 Centaur Courser

1 Charging Rhino (originally an uncommon)

4 Elvish Mystic

1 Garruk’s Packleader*

2 Invasive Species

1 Living Totem

1 Reclamation Sage*

2 Roaring Primadox*

3 Runeclaw Bear

4 Satyr Wayfinder

1 Shaman of Spring



4 Gather Courage* (originally a common)

1 Hunt the Weak

1 Ranger’s Guile

1 Restock* (originally a rare)

2 Titanic Growth

3 Verdant Haven

1 Vineweft



1 Juggernaut* (originally a rare)



1 Meteorite*



18 Forest

4 Radiant Fountain



4 Hunter’s Ambush

4 Naturalize

3 Plummet

1 Terra Stomper** (this guy is just plain rare. Deal with it. If you can’t, sub another Plummet for it)

3 Tormod’s Crypt*


“Ape’s Destiny” is a deck that serves up a green Stompy main course, with a side order of multi-purpose recursion. It’s a good, hearty meal served up at a budget price; the deck has been built working under the constraints of Aristocratic Magic. “What’s that?” I hear you ask. “Click on the link here,” I might retort. [SIDE NOTE TO YE POJO EDITOR: Yes Bill, I did submit an article to another website. And yes, I am sorry about cheating on you behind your back. But really, I always thought we had an open relationship anyway. I mean, I just assumed that you were seeing a website-with-benefits on the side…but perhaps I digress.]


The main functions of a typical Stompy deck is to A) generate large amounts of green mana very quickly and B) use said mana to cast large beasties to kill with. This strategy usually works for green, but when it doesn’t –like say, if your creatures get all stalled out or locked down on the battlefield- it can be an exercise in frustration. Therefore, “Ape’s Destiny” is also tacking on a third function, C) take advantage of Magic 2015’s green “bounce” creatures to return, reuse and recycle your permanents to avoid just such a stall-out.


I will now explain the overall game plan byRuneclaw Bear breaking it down into a number of subsets of cards, the very first of which is Things to Kill With, of which our preferred weapon is, of course, the Ancient Silverback. But the other guys aren’t slouches, either. F’rinstance, we have a pair of 3/3 for 2G vanilla Centaur Coursers and a trio of 2/2, two mana Runeclaw Bears to engage the enemy in the early game.


The second wave to storm the battlefield consists of a single copy each of Charging Rhino (a 4/4 for 3GG who can’t be blocked by more than one creature), Garruk’s Packleader (a 4/4 for 4G which nets you a card every time one of your creatures with a power of 3 or more hits the battlefield) and Juggernaut, a 5/3 that attacks each turn but can’t be blocked by walls. (And yet another fine example of a rare downgraded to uncommon status.)


The more observant among us might have noticed that (with the exception of the Bears) all of those guys cost 3-plus mana. Fortunately, we have ways to mana-ramp our way to victory, starting with a full playset of the G costing Elvish Mystic. Supplementing the elves is a quartet of Satyr Wayfinders (when he hits the ground, take a land card from the top four of your library and put it in your hand, then discard the other three) and three Verdant Havens (an enchant land that gives us two live and lets said land add an additional mana of any color to your mana pool. My advice? Pick “green.”)


Now what we’ve discussed Plans A and B, let’s talk about C, the bounce and recast part. Starting off with Invasive Species (a Centaur Courser variant which makes you return a permanent you control to your hand when he shows up) and Roaring Primadox (a 4/4 for 3G which bounces one of your creatures every upkeep.) There’s only a pair of each in this deck, but since it was meant to be a secondary motif, I’m fine with thRoaring Primadoxat. And you will be, too, once you see these guys interact with the likes of Living Totem (a Convokable dude who puts a +1/+1 counter on another creature when he hits play), Reclamation Sage (literally a Naturalize on legs), Shaman of Spring (Cast. Draw yourself a card. Bounce. Repeat), Meteorite (a five Lotus with a one-shot Shock effect) and Radiant Fountain (gain 2 life when this enters play.)


In the spell department, the deck is focused on powering up your creatures, with the sideboard coming in to help you compete with a more control-focused kind of deck. The lone copy of Restock is there to retrieve key cards that may have been sacked by your opponent or by the Satyr.


One final thought: though she doesn’t know it, the deck is named “Ape’s Destiny” in honor of my kid sister. (And she probably won’t know it, either. Even though she grew up with my geek ass, she herself has no such tendencies.) Back when she was just a wee little one, she happened to see me with my collection of assorted Magic decks, one of which was the Urza’s Destiny pre-con “Fiendish Nature.”  For the uninitiated, that deck had a big pic of the Ancient Silverback plastered over the front of the box. My sis, in a flash of genius-inspired kid logic, took one look at the box and pronounced “Ah! Ape’s Destiny!” And then she left the room to play with her Barbies or something, I don’t recall. Either way, the name has stuck in my head ever since.


Until next time, I remain…


B. Siems

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