I was looking through my deck stock binder today. I have this thick binder with all of the cards that I might use some day. You know; four Howling Mines, four Winter Orbs, painlands, dual lands, Mana Drains, Living Death, and so forth. It’s just a bunch of rares that I might use, and therefore do not want to trade.
It seems simple – except there are cards in here that I either haven’t used in years, or I’ve never used. Maybe, I remember an old deck that I never played but was a lot of fun, or I’ll want to keep cards with a neat picture or whatever. It’s really bizarre, and I’m always adding and deleting cards from the binder.
So I was perusing my binder. I haven’t built too many decks recently. I’m also waiting for my three Mirrodin boxes to arrive – and of course, I can’t wait. Some of these Mirrodin cards really bring back memories. Maybe, just maybe, there is a spot for them in some old deck.
And then I come across some old Mirage cards in my deck stock. The light switch flips on, and I realize that I have a fun, old, underused deck just waiting for me. And it can be remodeled and repainted for a new era.
Everybody has their own different tastes when it comes to deckbuilding. For me, I really love refurbishing old decks. I can then play these decks around the table. They may not be the most streamlined deck possible, but they are rooted in an older, successful deck, so they have an advantage. Plus, they are a lot of fun.
The Mirage card that tweaked my memory is Tombstone Stairwell. Take a second to click on that link, because I recognize that most of you will not remember what Tombstone Stairwell does. There are a couple of things to note. First of all, although the Stairwell is old, you can see that StarCityGames prices it pretty low… So you can pick these up cheaply. That’s important.
Secondly, the rulings are important. You can stack the Cumulative Upkeep and Tombspawn creation in any order. Simply put the Upkeep on the stack first, then the spawning. You can get the tokens. Now, they’ll die if you choose to forgo paying the upkeep, but you’ll have them for a second or two if you have something to do with them….
The third thing to note is a bit of errata. Although the original didn’t consider artifact creatures as worthy of sending Tombspawn, the new version does. Therefore, you can play with artifact creatures, which is a very good thing, as you will see.
Now, there are a few crazy other things about the Stairwell. It is an Enchant World, so there can be only one such enchantment in play at a time. If someone else plays an Enchant World, then this one goes. Therefore, you can never have two out – and in the rare event that someone plays a The Abyss or Concordant Crossroads, you’ll have to sacrifice it. Additionally, its cumulative upkeep requires a black mana, so you’ll need a black-heavy deck for this to work in.
Now, I am sure that they didn’t look at Tombstone Stairwell when they printed Dross Harvester… But with the Dross Harvester, obscene things can be done. The Harvester has a lot going for it. While the Stairwell is a four-drop, the Harvester comes down on turn 3. That means its ability will occur as soon as the Stairwell begins. It also means you have a three-drop available: Swing, block, whatever.
But the real talent in the Harvester lies in its ability to gain two life per creature that dies. That’s great, because the creatures the Stairwell makes are all 2/2 guys who will therefore deal two. You can recover from your opponent’s attack very quickly. So, while you swing with a bunch of speedy zombies, you will also be gaining enough life that your opponent will not be able to effectively counter your attack.
Now, how do you get creatures in your graveyard quickly at the beginning of the game? Meet your two-drop: Mr. Mesmeric Orb.
The Orb should send two cards to your graveyard in turn 3, and at least three cards on turn 4, and at least four cards by turn 5. If you played a Tombstone Stairwell on turn four, then during your upkeep, you would have at least nine cards from the Orb. Note that the Orb causes you to mill cards when you untap – before you put upkeep abilities on the stack.
So, you can slowly begin milling your library, and using those creatures milled to fuel your Tombstone. All the while, your Dross Harvester keeps you alive by giving you life from the dying Tombspawn.
I have my three key cards. What else do I want?
I would like to have some graveyard removal. If I can nuke my opponent’s graveyard, then I am all set. The best card for this is, of course, Tormod’s Crypt, so I’d like some Crypts. If I can’t muster up a Harvester, or if it gets killed, then I need some way of keeping myself alive.
I’m also going to need a lot of creatures; cheap creatures that I can play as defense but will also stock the Stairwell.
And lastly, I want another winning condition besides attacking… And the Mesmeric Orb gives it to me. I can deck my opponent, or burn them out, using two sacrifice effects from Tempest – Goblin Bombardment and Altar of Dementia.
With a Goblin Bombardment out, each Tombspawn can be sacrificed for an additional point of damage. Both the Bombardment and the Altar are playable on the second turn, in case I don’t get a Mesmeric Orb. The Bombardment can also help keep opposing creatures off the board. You can also sacrifice creatures to gain life to the Harvester.
The Altar of Dementia has several of the same advantages, but must be used more carefully. Early, the Altar can be used on yourself to further stock your graveyard. Then, after several turns under the Orb, and with a lot of Tombspawn tokens, you can deck your opponent. This provides an alternate means of death; you don’t want to autolose to Worship and a Protection creature, or Wellwisher, a gazillion elves, and Steely Resolve.
There’s no need to play many of these cards. Two of each should suffice. The Altar might help out in a pinch if you can’t get the Mesmeric Orb, and the Bombardment can help the race if you don’t get a Dross Harvester.
Remember, under a Stairwell, your opponent gets to attack first, and you have to survive the initial assault.
Here is the deck so far:
Are you seeing what I am seeing? A lot of the key cards are artifacts…
That tweaks my Mirrodin memory even more. Our creatures will need to be largely defensive… But black and red do not have many defensive creatures. So, what about artifacts?
We need one-drops. How about Brass Man and Steel Wall? Both have high toughnesses and cost one mana. The Altar uses power of the creature, so the Steel Wall won’t end up milling your opponent. It will still get a creature in your yard for the Stairwell, however.
And with all of this milling, some of our key artifacts may end up in the yard. With a lot of artifacts available, wouldn’t it be nice if we could change that extra Tormod’s Crypt into a Mesmeric Orb? Or that low power Steel Wall into a higher power artifact creature so more cards can get milled? Or to bring back… I think the point is made.
We need Goblin Welders. Another one-drop, another creature to feed the Stairwell, and a versatile tool to add to our deck.
Another interesting creature to think about might be the Phyrexian Dreadnought. It costs one mana, and you have to sacrifice twelve power worth of creatures to play it. Play it after an attack and sacrifice some tokens to it. Have just one in your deck so you won’t get saddled by it too often, but you can Welder for it if you need to.
Here is where we are at currently with our creature additions:
With the Welders, we can probably take out a Tormod’s Crypt in order to make room. That puts us at thirty-two cards. We need some more creatures.
The obvious choice is Ashen Ghoul. Since we are loading our graveyard with creatures anyway, let’s see if we can’t retrieve even more resources from our efforts. The Ghouls can play either defense or offense. Toss them in front of creatures with abandon, because they come right back. Use the Welders to move artifact creatures from the bottom of the graveyard to the top so that Ghouls can come back.
To finish up, I want a few single cards to use with Welders and such. Firstly, I’d want a big artifact flyer to finish things off or hold the ground. I’d also want to Welder it into play from a Steel Wall or something to make a bigger mill off an Altar of Dementia. The new Clockwork Dragon from Mirrodin should suffice.
Secondly, I’d want a nice little trick. Myr Retriever seems to fit nicely. Kill it, and you get an artifact back. Sac it to a Welder and you get an artifact in play and another in the hand. Continue to use stupid Welder tricks to your heart’s content.
The last non-land that I’d add is the highly useful Memory Jar. You can use it to load up your graveyard with goodies, play a few critical spells, and Welder it back into play.
There are other cards that you might want to consider; Entomb and Trash for Treasure come to mind. You might want Deadapult instead of Goblin Bombardment, but I like the mana-free requirement of the Bombardment. Plus, you can pitch your Goblins and artifacts as well. Krovikan Horror or Nether Shadow might also warrant inclusion. Masticore would allow you to discard cards to fill your graveyard while also playing excellent defense.
Anyway, here is the final decklist:
4 Tombstone Stairwell
4 Dross Harvester
4 Mesmeric Orb
2 Goblin Bombardment
2 Altar of Dementia
3 Tormod’s Crypt
4 Ashen Ghoul
4 Brass Man
4 Steel Wall
4 Goblin Welder
1 Phyrexian Dreadnought
1 Myr Retriever
1 Clockwork Dragon
1 Memory Jar
2 Great Furnace
2 Vault of Whispers
4 Badlands (Or Sulfurous Springs)
I added four of the new artifact lands as fodder for Welders; they are a nice target for a Retriever as well. Toss in some of the pain or dual lands and you have a mana base with twenty-one lands – a good amount for this deck, seeing as no card over four mana ever needs to be played.
I think that it’s a lot of fun to try and combine old cards with new cards to create a new strategy. Mirrodin and Tombstone Stairwell? Who would have thought it? We have cards from Arabian Nights (the Brass Man) through Mirrodin, with stops in Ice Age, The Dark, Mirage, Tempest and Urza’s Legacy.
I hope that you enjoy the cards from the new set, and that adding them to your current Magic collection will spark ideas to last you years. Who knows? Maybe someday, in five or six years, you’ll find a card or two in the newest release that will lead you back to some obscure Mirrodin card in search of a new deck idea.