CASUAL FRIDAYS #90: The Birth Of The Apocalyptic Whirlpool

The Whirlpool creatures are bad. Not bad like Michael-Jackson-wants-people-to-think-he’s-cool bad, just bad. And that’s good.

There are just some amazing cards in Apocalypse. 6/6 growing, color-changing regenerators! New Disks! New Mines! Better Desert Twisters! Damage reflectors, colorless-X Drain Lifes, tools to play dragons for two at instant speed, yet more ways to abuse infinite squirrels, and undying artifacts that let you plow anything repeatedly!

This article won’t talk about any of those.

Instead, I want to talk about a technically bad mechanic in Apocalypse. No, not the envoys – I’m still too aghast at how horrific those things are to talk about them. (I saw someone else playing with Brass Herald in a sealed deck again. Everyone, I must insist you cease this activity immediately. Envoys are bad cards, and Brass Herald is the worst. You could put this overgrown tuba in a sliver deck and it would still reek. STOP THE MADNESS!) I’m talking about the whirlpool creatures, which are only slightly more palatable:

Whirlpool Rider, Common, 1/1 Creature – Merfolk for U, When Whirlpool Rider comes into play, shuffle your hand into your library, then draw that many cards.

Whirlpool Drake, Uncommon, 2/2 Creature – Drake for 3U, Flying, When Whirlpool Drake comes into play, shuffle the cards from your hand into your library, then draw that many cards. When Whirlpool Drake is put into a graveyard from play, shuffle the cards from your hand into your library, then draw that many cards.

Whirlpool Warrior, Rare, 2/2 Creature – Merfolk for 2U, When Whirlpool Warrior comes into play, shuffle the cards from your hand into your library, then draw that many cards. R, Sacrifice Whirlpool Warrior: Each player shuffles the cards from his or her hand into his or her library, then draws that many cards.

I’m about to embark on an adventure. I cannot order any of you to come with me; you must volunteer for this duty. If you go on this mission with me, I cannot guarantee your safety, or that of your families or pets. In fact, it is quite possible that none of us will survive.

We are going to build a viable multiplayer deck that uses four of each of these three whirlpool creatures.

Oh yes we are.

This is not a Break this Card contest – that’s coming at the end of the article. But I do welcome feedback from my loyal readers. (Those of you readers who are less loyal can go jump off a cliff. Where were you when we were trying to break Oath of Mages, dammit?) In fact, I might tie the two efforts together. Give me a few paragraphs to think about it.



There are several ways we could try to go here – no, I’m sorry; I can’t keep up that pretense with a straight face. There may be, if we’re supernaturally lucky, one way we can go here. But I thought about lots of different ways, all of which failed miserably. Let me take you on a tour of these dead ends:

First, I thought about black discard-draw games. Stuff like Chains of Mephistopheles, maybe Megrim. The problem is, two of your three whirlpool creatures affect YOU, not your opponents, so none of that is going to work. In the same boat are any decks based on life-games, like Underworld Dreams, Phyrexian Tyranny, Breathstealer’s Crypt, Zur’s Weirding, and so on. You’ll just look silly kicking your own ass with those cool old-school cards.

You could try to offset the cards you lose by drawing more cards at instant speed after playing a whirlpool creature. Starting with six cards, put Drake on the stack (five cards), cast and resolve Whispers of the Muse with buyback (six cards), and shuffle… You see the problem? You lose the Whispers, as well as the new card. Why not just play Whispers of the Muse WITHOUT the stupid whirlpool crap and keep the card?

Okay, how about cards that help you when you put cards back in your library, or when you shuffle your library? Any ideas there?… Hmmmm… I don’t know about you, but I’m hearing crickets at twilight.

In the absence of any good strategy around this dynamic, we might at least find something to recur the Whirlpool Drake so that after we lose it, and then shuffle and redraw to whatever X purpose, we can at least get it back and do X again, whatever the heck it is. Gaea’s Blessing is the best card for this. Maybe blue-green, since green will help us keep our hand size large…Oh, wait, we already decided card-drawing doesn’t help.

Another green-based strategy would be stuffing permanents or cards back on top of opponents’ libraries, so that the Warrior’s shuffle-redraw effect hurts them a wee bit more. We’d use Stunted Growth, Fallow Earth, Plow Under… Man, is THAT lame. Only one whirlpool creature makes it work; and you’re only hitting one opponent. And you’re not even really HITTING the opponent; you’re kinda tapping them on the shoulder and asking politely,”Would you mind if my deck sucked?”

The Whirlpool Warrior, the only one of the three that can claim a true multiplayer effect, splashes red. Well, we have Wheel of Fortune, Windfall, and Winds of Change, which after all are the cards the Warrior’s ability is based on. We can start with one or more of those:

4x Whirlpool Warrior

4x Whirlpool Drake

4x Whirlpool Rider

Rx Wheel of Fortune

Rx Windfall

4x Veiled Crocodile

So, blue-red. We’ve seen worse color combinations. And maybe blue-red-green, if we decide Gaea’s Blessing is worth it, after all.

Notice I slipped Veiled Crocodile in there when no one was looking. That should work pretty well.

What we really need is an annoying permanent that will continually put things back in players’ hands. The things would have to be things that we could work around having in our hands (since the Rider and Drake hit us alone), but would probably mess up opponents if they had them bouncing back to their hands.

Like lands.

Storm Cauldron, anyone?

3x Storm Cauldron

4x Fire Diamond

2x Utopia Tree

I love this card’s effect on the game. With so many activated abilities in Invasion block, you’re sure to mess with at least a couple of opponents’ decks. And even those who can normally work around it will still have to cope with those instances where you have the Warrior available with a Fire Diamond or Bird open, they tap out… And you sack the Warrior (once you have priority, of course… Their spell will still hit the stack) in response, sending all of their lands careening into their library.

The alternate mana sources, of course, are to insulate yourself a bit from the Cauldron’s effect. I chose Trees over the technically superior Birds of Paradise because (1) there are many, many Type II cards out there (and many groups play heavily with more recent cards) that ping for one, and the Birds are always a good target for those; (2) it’s not like you need the extra colors on turn one for a fantastic three-drop on turn two; (3) this deck will have enough rares by the time I’m done with it, and the least I can do is pick inexpensive, alternative rares where I can.

You know, at this point I really want to ditch the Drake and Rider and just make it all work with the Warrior. I honestly think we could snatch victory from the jaws of defeat… But I won’t do that to you. I’m just not that kind of person. You brave men and women committed to this kamikaze mission, dammit, and I’ll be there to go down in flames with you.

We’ve got twenty-four cards, and only crocodiles and merfolk to ride to victory. And we still need to put those Riders and Drakes to decent use. We’ll need to resort to one or two cheap-but-powerful kill spells, and some green deck manipulation, like Abundance, both to help us get the card we need and to counteract the Storm Cauldron. With the ten or non-mana slots we have left, I don’t mind using less than four copies of certain cards; we’ll be shuffling and redrawing enough that we have a decent chance of catching the card we need, when we need it:

2x Aluren

2x Shocker

4x Blood Oath

1x Elfhame Sanctuary

1x Abundance

1x Gaea’s Blessing

Cards that I wish I had room for: Compost, Oath of Scholars, and that cute little Mystic Snake/Sunken Hope combo that everyone’s talking about nowadays. Another little bit of fun I wouldn’t mind is putting a Quicksilver Dagger (or Hermetic Study) on the Shocker. But we’re just plain out of slots.

As for your mana base, you can probably keep red mana (beyond the Fire Diamond) to a minimum – four Shivan Oases should work fine. Distribute the rest pretty equally between blue and green; you do want to be able to meet those GG casting costs in Aluren and Abundance.

Sunder/Blood Oath decks are, of course, technically superior to this one. (So are about 99% of the decks I could slap together from random piles of Homelands commons.) But of course that’s not the point. Storm Cauldron is purely more fun, and the synergy with Whirlpool Warrior gives opponents laughable strategic conundrums that Sunder is simply too efficient to allow.

Will I actually put this deck together? Tell you what. If I stumble upon four Whirlpool Warriors (they ARE rare), then yes, I should have the cards to pull it off. And I’ll let folks know how it does if I do so.

But in the meantime, I wouldn’t mind hearing from readers on what designs they might build around a whirlpool mechanic. We’ve certainly got lots of deck history with Wheel of Fortune out there; what ideas do YOU feel translate best into a red-blue deck…or something completely different?



While you’re all swirling around in an endless whirlpool, I’ll also throw a new Break this Card contest at you. Out of Apocalypse, the most intriguing prospects are, as usual, not the definitively bad rares, as much as the curiously mediocre ones:

Ice Cave and Last Stand will generate largely predictable five-color decks, and I got enough of five-color decks with Coalition Victory. Powerstone Minefield will walk the same path as most Caltrops decks; we all know most of those tricks. The volvers, of course, win the way any decent but unspectacular creature wins: Getting rid of blockers.

And thus we are left with Guided Passage, which fortunately is an interesting card in its own right:

Guided Passage, Sorcery for URG, Reveal the cards in your library. An opponent chooses from among them a creature card, a land card, and a non-creature, non-land card. You put the chosen cards into your hand. Then shuffle your library.

There was a good analysis of this card’s tournament prospects by a non-featured writer, here on Star City, a week or so back. (I would remember his name, but since he hasn’t bothered to respond to the email I sent him as one of his readers, he can go sing for publicity.) The essence of his argument was, you’ll probably play this in a deck with Birds of Paradise, and with more than one copy of Guided Passage. So the best you can hope for in a Guided Passage engine is a third-turn Passage which yields you another Forest (you needed one to play that BoP), another Birds of Paradise (you needed one to play this third turn), and another Guided Passage.

In short, in tournament environments, Guided Passage is probably no more than a moderately efficient deck thinner, and an unhelpful card finder.

But in casual play, we have more leeway with our deck. We might not play four copies of Guided Passage. (In fact, I will relax my normal”four-copy” contest parameter this time around.) And our lands can be, well, better than Forests, or even Invasion block duals.

So I’m curious to see what people come up with. Here are the contest parameters:

To be acknowledged as a valid entry, your deck submission must include:

  • your real name;

  • an email address where I can send a response/acknowledgement;

  • a tourney-legal deck (your choice on Type I, Extended, Type II, or Invasion block) with AT LEAST ONE copy of Guided Passage in it; and

  • the phrase”Break this Card” in the email subject line.

In addition, to be valid I must get your entry by MIDNIGHT C.S.T., THURSDAY, JUNE 28.

To have a viable chance of winning, your deck submission should probably:

  • use Guided Passage as a path to victory – in this case, it should at least reliably find you the three cards you need as a path to victory;

  • show a measure of both creativity and a shot at success in a typical multiplayer game;

  • stay close to or at the 60-card guideline that I employ in my own decks, and which (more importantly) keeps me sane in these contests; and;

  • include a short (250 words is the suggested maximum) description of how you expect the deck to work.

And if you manage to turn the whirlpool deck into a Guided Passage deck…? Well, I make no guarantees. I might be horribly impressed, and give you the prize. Or I might be disgusted beyond all belief, and refuse to acknowledge you. You make the call.

The winning prize if we hit less than fifty entries will be a signed Guided Passage. If we hit fifty entries, I’ll provide signed Guided Passage to a runner-up as well, and the winner will also get a classy Apocalypse rare (I’m thinking Spiritmonger, but am open to reasonable requests) with some scribble on it. If we hit a hundred entries, I’ll provide the Passages to three decks, Spiritmonger-class rares to two of them, and a foil top-notch rare from the set (like, say, Mystic Snake… But I need to get my hands on one, so I reserve the right to substitute a foil of similar value…no, don’t worry, I won’t stick you with a foil Guided Passage!…).

Send entries to [email protected]. Again, the deadline is June 28. Multiple decks are allowed per email, and each deck will count toward the fifty and hundred barriers. Ladies and gentlemen, start those deck engines!

COMING SOON: All the silliness on this site about multiplayer politics can only get more boring. Next week, IN SIX WORDS OR LESS, I will summarize both sides of the argument, demonstrate that The Ferrett and I are actually in lockstep position, and conclude that the entire argument must therefore be a ruse for us to crack jokes about each other in public.

Also, I’ll tell you the one about the ferret, two snakes, and a rubber band.


Anthony Alongi

[email protected]