"I keep such music in my brain
No din this side of DEATH can quell;
GLORY exulting over pain,
And beauty, garlanded in hell." –Siegfried Sassoon, 1918, "Secret Music"
First off, let me just say how thrilled I am to be the newest member of Binary21, joining Mike Mason, Scott Forster and Will Rieffer. They’re all frighteningly smart cookies and come up with decks that mix weirdness with winning impressively. It’s like me, but more like three of me and with that whole "winning" thing. Wow! Lucky me!
(Does a little Pee Wee Herman dance)
The real question is whether they’ll listen to my half-baked ideas at all or just let me be the annoying parrot on their shoulders squawking to the wind. They have already kicked me out of the club twice for a) drinking beer instead of playing Magic AND drinking beer, b) not liking Megrim. Unstable ground from the beginning? Little do they know that if they kick me out I’ll just keep bugging them until they pay attention to me.
Still, it is probably not the brightest idea to start my Binary21 career focusing on the card Death or Glory for Type II play. I mean, my goodness, I have the team’s reputation to protect. But, well, it’s early and I can’t think of a witty response as to why I’m doing it.
I’m focusing on Death or Glory in Type II. So there.
DEATH OR GLORY: AN INTRODUCTION ("So you want to buy a DoG?")
Here is the card:
Death or Glory
Separate all creature cards in your graveyard into two face-up piles. Remove the pile of an opponent’s choice from the game and return the other to play.
First, a note on the name: I am absolutely convinced this card should be called "Life or Death." That is, I certainly agree with the "death" part… Removing creatures from the game means that those suckers will never be coming back. Break out the eulogies. But "glory"? Aren’t they just coming back to life? I mean, Glorious Anthem pumps up your creatures, making them feel a little better about themselves; Death or Glory just throws them back on the board to fend for themselves. Not too glorious, if you ask me. What, we’re going to start renaming Raise Dead to Glory Be To You? Hrmph.
Anyway, it’s a card that has captured my attention for some time. Ever since Darwin Kastle wrote a little ditty about his wacky U/W DoG Type II deck. Before then, I had completely overlooked it as a card that can be both powerful and fun. This deck looked cool to me, so I loaded that sucker into Apprentice to play around a bit. Then I made a few decks. Then, dear God, even more decks.
I am now convinced. Death or Glory is potentially powerful and undeniably fun.
Death or Glory brings your dead critters en masse back to play. Not all of them… But then again, Fact or Fiction doesn’t give you five cards, either. Combined with a creature rush, come-into-play effects, or just huge fat creatures, Death or Glory can turn a losing game into a winning one. And we all like winning games – even us online-rogue-Friday-Night-Magic-type players.
DEATH OR GLORY: TWO COMPARISONS ("Comparing the breeds")
Two cards deserve to be put in the same police lineup as our little DoG. Both happen to be in Invasion, interestingly enough.
What? That’s not interesting to you?
Creature – Angel Legend
Flying. At the beginning of your upkeep, you may return target creature card from your graveyard to play.
A beacon of hope for a battered army.
I think it’s important to look at DoG and Reya side-by-side (hey, neat – Reya’s taller by a full inch!), because they’re pretty much the only white cards bringing your creatures back to life – or GLORY! as it were.
I… can’t… help it… must… comment…
Notice Reya’s flavor text? She’s not bringing GLORY to the army; she’s bringing hope. What’s glorious about coming back to get your butt kicked? Granted, I can’t get behind a card entitled "Death or Hope," because it just doesn’t roll off the tongue. But Life or Death! Come ON, people!!!
This is what happens when I spend too much time focusing on one card.
Anyway, both cards are also similar in that they only benefit you – that is, they both ignore creatures in your opponent’s graveyard and happily focus on yours and yours alone.
Reya has some advantages:
- She is a creature, and thus a win condition all by her lonesome. DoG, on the other hand, sets up a win condition and is thus a support card.
- As a creature, she has enough toughness to block Blastoderm and enough power to be a serious threat, plus has evasion in the form of flying.
- She also will eventually bring every creature in your graveyard back to GLORY – er, life. There will be no permanent death for your critters under Reya’s rule, whereas DoG will kick out half the partiers to keep the party going.
- I have no problem with her name.
DoG has some advantages too:
- It costs five mana, which is just on the high side of a reasonable tournament-quality card. When on earth are you EVER going to reliably cast Reya?
- Cast Death or Glory once and you suddenly have some of your creatures back into play. Cast Reya and you get one measly critter back a full turn later. You will continue to get more as she stays in play, but at that point you will have already won or she will be dead. I mean, jeez… You had nine mana to cast her in the first place!
- As a sorcery, nothing but Counterspell can kill DoG before it does its job.
- As I’ve already alluded to, having more creatures in your graveyard actually makes DoG a better spell. Under Reya, the creatures in your graveyard are more concerned with quality than quantity.
- Reya is a legend, so will only show up on the board once at a time. Thus, having four of Reya in a deck is bound to create some frustrating draws. DoG can be played repeatedly; Four copies are welcome.
The length of the list tells the story. As with most cards, there are times when Reya is a good fit for a deck. As a general rule, though, I like DoG better even if it is a support card and removes a few creatures from the game. The cost of Reya is the truly prohibitive thing, meaning that if she is to come out to play in a reasonable timeframe, you need to bring her from the graveyard herself. I’m just not that tricky, much as I like to think otherwise.
However, they aren’t mutually exclusive by any stretch of the imagination. Especially since they are both in the same color, it’s easy to envision a deck that uses both, dumping Reya into the graveyard to unleash her and her hope-producing skills later as more dead pile up.
Okay! DoG is still Top Dog around here, in my book! Bring on the next contender!
Hm. Twilight’s Call. It’s a little harder to argue the merits of DoG over the Call.
You may play Twilight’s Call any time you could play an instant if you pay 2 more to play it. Each player returns all creature cards from his or her graveyard to play.
Twilight falls. We rise. –Necropolis inscription
Both spells are sorceries, and both potentially put multiple creatures from your graveyard back into play. Let’s see how they match up…
- Twilight’s Call has some definite advantages:
The Call can be played as an instant, although not very often. Still, the possibility of playing it as an instant gives you an automatically better chance against slow control decks. It also means Twilight’s Call can have a profound impact on combat, something DoG will never do. DoG is always going to be cast on your main phase when your opponent is most expecting it.
- Under the Call, you get every single creature from your graveyard back to play. Aren’t you lucky?!? DoG, meanwhile, is sure to remove not only a pile of your creatures from the game, but the pile your opponent chooses.
- There are a lot of ways for black to get creatures into the graveyard. In fact, black LOVES sacrificing creatures or discarding them or just generally crapping on their minions. For white, it’s a bit of an exercise to fill up the graveyard.
- It has great flavor text, whereas DoG has no flavor text whatsoever.
Those three first advantages are huge, don’t get me wrong. Those three and that whole flavor-text thing are enough to persuade me to possibly take a long, hard look at Twilight’s Call in the future. For now, though, let’s look at the ways in which DoG has an advantage:
- First and foremost, Twilight’s Call helps your opponent. This can be a scary proposition against a lot of decks. Do you really want to bring that Blastoderm, Lin Sivvi or Troublesome Spirit you just fought so hard to kill back to GLORY – er, life? Meanwhile DoG loves cards like Wrath of God that clear the board because half of your side will be coming back soon.
- DoG costs five mana to the Call’s six. This is actually less of a big deal than it appears since Twilight’s Call is in black and so currently has access to Dark Ritual. Without mana acceleration, however, DoG obviously comes out a turn faster (and three turns faster if you’re using Call as an instant).
- Twilight’s Call has two black mana in its cost, while DoG has a single white. Thus, DoG is splashable in other colors and is generally easier to cast in multicolor decks. Because of its cost, a deck with Twilight’s Call is automatically committing heavily to black.
- Did I mention Twilight’s Call helps your opponent?
Good enough for me.
Okay, so there are some clear reasons to use Death or Glory above some of the other potential graveyard recursers in Type II (And I’m hoping no one challenges me on that whole "consistent logic" thing… I admit it, okay? Twilight’s Call is a keen card). I could, if I felt like writing Homer’s Iliad, do a similar analysis with Strands of Night, Ashen Powder, Search for Survivors, Phyrexian Delver, Rooting Kavu, Midnight Ritual, Call of the Wild, and Haunted Crossroads. All have interesting twists on effects similar to DoG… But I think for now, I am comfortable enough in Death or Glory’s merits to consider building decks around it.
DEATH OR GLORY: RULES FOR DECKBUILDING ("Housebreaking your DoG")
After, oh, a dozen decks or so, I seem to have noticed a few rules in basing a deck around Death or Glory. They are fairly obvious rules, as much as I like to consider myself clever – if you’re one of those anti-establishment people, call them guidelines if you must.
The most obvious of these "rules" is to call the card Life or Death. Er, I mean…
1) The most obvious of these rules is to use a fair number of creatures. Because you’re losing half of any graveyard critters to the Great Beyond, you need enough muscle to make DoG worth the five mana. Sixteen total creatures is the least I have found to be useful, giving you a 4:1 ratio of creatures to DoGs, and I think more is preferable. A deck with less creatures is likely using BIG creatures; a deck with more creatures is probably using a swarm strategy. Both are perfectly good uses for the card, as far as I’m concerned.
2) Creatures with come-into-play effects are good. This rule is less true if you are somehow dumping creatures into your graveyard before they reach play. But if you plan on casting your little creature, letting it run its natural course of life and then bringing it back to GLORY – er, life – then CIP effects are sure spiffy. Why gain three life with an Angel of Mercy when you can gain six? Ravenous Rats just love to enter play, chump block, and then re-enter play. The menu of CIP creatures is currently very long and very fun. And as an added benefit, you are likely to annoy both the bounce and Parallax Wave player. Go crazy.
Realize that kicker is not so great a mechanic for DoG. When entering play from DoG, a Sunscape Battlemage is just an overcosted Grizzly Bear. Likewise, cards with gating, or cards with a "do-this-or-die" mechanic (like Hidden Horror) can be a real bummer to bring back to GLORY! – er, life.
3) If at all possible, splash blue. Blue offers some really tremendous cards to your DoG deck, most notably Fact or Fiction and Reviving Vapors. Both help you find the DoG or other necessary spells and both make your graveyard considerably fatter. Urza’s Guilt does something similar, but is not for the faint of heart. Vodalian Merchant is a fine addition to any DoG deck, although sometimes his CIP ability is annoying upon being brought back.
4) Use board-clearing cards with abandon. Don’t worry about Parallax Wave, have fun with Wrath of God; Rout is nice, and so is Wave of Reckoning. Mageta is a near deity in a DoG deck. It’s nice – comforting, in fact – that the game’s best wide-sweeping creature-kill cards are in the same color as Death or Glory. Might as well take advantage of this odd twist of happenstance.
There are other rules, of course. You should use land, for instance, and try not to use more than four copies of Death or Glory in the same deck even if you own seven – that sort of thing. But if you start to violate these particular rules, then maybe you shouldn’t be making your own decks in the first place.
DEATH OR GLORY: SOME SAMPLE DECKS ("My DoGs, not yours")
As I mentioned before, when I decide to make a deck around a particular card I try building lots of decks with lots of different color schemes. Especially with a splashable card like Death or Glory, it’s fun to see what each color has to offer it and how a DoG deck might look in each of the five colors.
As a first pass, then, here are some of the fun ways I’ve tried to use Death or Glory. Keep in mind, these are all thought experiments meant to slap your creativity into action rather than something to take to Regionals.
In white: White has a lot going for it. It has mass-removal spells like Wrath of God. It has a lot of weenies (in fact, if Lin-Sivvi were never printed – pause for wistful sigh – then I think DoG would be a great addition to any Rebel deck) and board-control critters like Mageta and Blinding Angel. Most importantly, white is the color of Death or Glory, meaning we can try our hand at a mono-colored deck. Wheeeee!
A weenie-rush deck with DoG might work out really well in white. It’s not the route (heh… Sounds like "Rout"! Get it?) I took, though.
//NAME: T2 White DoG
4x Longbow Archer
4x Devout Witness
4x Voice of All
3x Blinding Angel
3x Mageta the Lion
1x Cho-Manno, Revolutionary
4x Orim’s Chant
4x Lashknife Barrier
3x Death or Glory
2x Marble Diamond
4x Rishadan Port
1x Kor Haven
4x Wrath of God
4x Crusading Knight
The deck can, of course, put on a moderately aggressive face against control decks. Most of the time it holds back initially, waiting for either Mageta or Blinding Angel to take over the game. Hobble and Lashknife Barrier are important for sifting through the deck and keeping a hand size the seven spellshapers can work with. Orim’s Chant helps against creature rushes from beatdown decks and can force a DoG through versus counterspells. Sadly, the only CIP creature is Voice of All. Angel of Mercy is definitely a consideration here, but the deck probably has enough defense without it.
In green: It hardly makes sense to try a control strategy when there are so many dandy aggressive creatures in green. Some of them even have FADING – a mechanic we like here at Death or Glory central. Not only is green great for creatures, but it has creatures that provide mana acceleration. For a deck based around a card costing five mana, mana acceleration is great. And like blue, Death or Glory has some natural synergy with cards in its allied color. My goodness… Could it be that easy?
//NAME: T2 Run DoG Run!
4x Llanowar Elves
4x Skyshroud Ridgeback
4x River Boa
4x Fleetfoot Panther
4x Defender en-Vec
4x Lashknife Barrier
4x Death or Glory
4x Rishadan Port
4x Wrath of God
4x Aura Mutation
4x Kavu Chameleon
This deck does some weird things. It’s a fading maniac, letting things just fade, fade away for an eventual DoG. The deck is also conceding that it just isn’t going to outrace Fires without a little help from something like the Defender en-Vec. Fleetfoot Panther can be an annoying thing to revive, but it makes the twelve fading creatures so nifty (and also acts to counteract targeted creature removal) it hurts not to use it. HURTS, I say! And yes, I am a card-carrying member of the Lashknife Barrier Fan Club. Use the thing before you tell me what an idiot I am. I’m a little more flexible on the Liberate front. Liberate isn’t necessarily good – I just WANT it to be good.
In red: Uh oh, a non-allied color! I can’t mix red AND white in the same deck, can I?? I’m just crazy enough to try it, Wizards R&D be damned. The most attractive thing about red with regards to Death or Glory is the creature ability of haste… And thanks to Stephan Tsochandar for pointing this out to me. With haste, a DoG has a very immediate impact on a game. Burn is nice, too – especially widespread burn like Earthquake, which allows the deck more ways to clear the board. Hmm. Lessee… Something like…
//NAME: T2 HotDoG
4x Lava Runner
4x Kavu Runner
4x Angel of Mercy
4x Seal of Fire
4x Wrath of God
4x Death or Glory
4x Rishadan Port
4x Urza’s Rage
4x Pollen Remedy
The mana curve hurts to even look at. And the lack of card drawing means that Death or Glory isn’t going to show up nearly enough, nor will you have many of your sixteen creatures in the graveyard to take advantage of it. To make matters worse, Kavu Runner looks pretty horrible in an environment ripe with Rebels and Skies, huh? Well… If you had a better idea, you should have emailed me in response to my last article. Pththththth!
In black: The toughest thing about using DoG in black is justifying why
you aren’t using Twilight’s Call. The spells aren’t different enough to
often justify the leap to a non-allied color. Besides, as I mentioned,
black has goodies like Ashen Powder, Strands of Night, and Haunted
Crossroads in addition to the Call as a way of playing with its graveyard.
But then Todd Gray, proud member of Team AWWAJALOOM, stepped into my life. He e-mailed me a deck that included Mercenaries with Death or Glory and Death Pit Offering. Screw those other black cards, I decided, the chance to use Death Pit Offering and Death or Glory was just too much fun. I modified his deck a little, but here’s the gist:
//NAME: T2 DoG-o-Death
4x Molting Harpy
4x Ravenous Rats
4x Skulking Fugitive
4x Highway Robber
2x Kjeldoran Dead
2x Cateran Enforcer
4x Dark Ritual
4x Death or Glory
3x Death Pit Offering
4x Rishadan Port
2x Dromar’s Cavern
4x Marauding Knight
I have said it before and I will likely mention it a few more times in my life: Mercenaries were just a bad idea. Especially since they’re called MERCENARIES, which is a pretty cool creature type. The idea that you have to spend a lot on a big creature FIRST with the ability to tap (rather than attack) to pull smaller, less-expensive creatures from your deck is just ill-conceived. Sorta like Lotus Guardian. Who decided we needed a Birds of Paradise that was 4/4 and came out on or after Turn 7?
In blue: Then there’s blue. You’ll recall there’s a whole rule nudging DoG decks towards using blue. Darwin Kastle’s Type 2 DoG deck used blue; Darwin must be smart.
Blue is just a fun, fun color to use in combination with Death or Glory. Blue rifles through your deck, it tosses things recklessly into your graveyard, it even gains you life in the process. Blue turns Disenchants into Dismantling Blows. Blue/white creatures tend to be defensive in nature. Life is good for the U/W DoG deck. In my own version, I haven’t strayed too far away from Darwin’s initial idea – observe!
//NAME: T2 Kastle’s Blue DoG
4x Stormscape Familiar
4x Riptide Crab
4x Jolting Merfolk
4x Angel of Mercy
4x Blinding Angel
4x Dismantling Blow
4x Fact or Fiction
4x Reviving Vapors
4x Death or Glory
4x Adarkar Wastes
4x Coastal Tower
4x Wrath of God
4x Meddling Mage
4x Crusading Knight
The great thing about this deck, in contrast with the other ones listed here, is that you don’t need to worry too much about affordable creatures. Thanks to Fact or Fiction and Reviving Vapors, you WILL get some good creatures into your graveyard. Thus, the DoGs will tend to look a little more impressive here than in some other builds. You still want to cast your creatures, especially early as chump blockers. But after that, the DoG will do most of your work for you. There is also a much better chance here you will actually find the DoG to cast.
I know right now you want to take out the Riptide Crab. Let me just say that the Crab is a superb early blocker… Really takes it for the team like a champ instead of a chump. He also blocks Rebels, which we (you know… the team he’s blocking for?) enjoy immensely. Other than that, if any of the choices surprise you, then you haven’t been paying attention very well.
These are just the one- and two-color DoG varieties. On Apprentice, I have already taken pains to include blue in the B/w version, and can make a fairly compelling G/R/w deck around Death or Glory. I even bet there’s a 5-color Dragon deck waiting in the wings. The possibilities aren’t quite endless, but they sure feel that way.
DEATH OR GLORY: CONCLUSIONS ("Taking out the DoG")
Really these decks, as I say time and again – anyone tired of this caveat yet? – are meant more for making you scratch your chin in thought than anything else. You could maybe show up to FNM with one of these suckers as-is and draw a crowd around you (they’d be laughing, but whatever floats your boat). These are exercises to show how DoG fits into decks melded to fit it. Play them enough times, in enough variations, and you will begin to learn how Death or Glory works. You’ll learn its nuances, its very deathly glorious essence.
So what have I learned from this exercise? Well, first and foremost I’ve learned I can really babble on about most anything. Did you see what a big deal I made of the card’s name? I mean, shee-oot.
It also seems to me that white mages are getting a little soft around the edges. They’ve been so comfortable with Rebels in their life that they haven’t bothered to venture into other possibilities (except when U/W mages take their Blinding Angels, which is just wrong). White is very lucky to have both the power of Wrath of God and a spell as widely useful as Death or Glory. Heck, white is lucky to have something that messes with their graveyard at all (Lin Sivvi notwithstanding).
Most of all, Death or Glory is a fun, one-sided spell. Bringing things back to GLORY (life, life, life!) is a fun idea. If you can get a DoG to resolve, good things will soon be happening to you.
Fragile creatures and fatties, rejoice! White has a spell to bring you GLORY!!!! (*grumble*)
Have fun and make something interesting,
"doctorjay" on IRC
Binary 21 is broken. 00010101
Official cheerleader of Team Hacked