Fade To Black

So I’m playing booster draft at a tourney, and I’ve got all this green fat and red beatdown out there, and I’m thinking to myself as I watch my and slowly fade away, "damn! I wish there were a mechanic in Magic that let me retrieve these low-cost, high-action creatures from the graveyard!" It is…

So I’m playing booster draft at a tourney, and I’ve got all this green fat and red beatdown out there, and I’m thinking to myself as I watch my Blastoderms and Woodrippers slowly fade away, "damn! I wish there were a mechanic in Magic that let me retrieve these low-cost, high-action creatures from the graveyard!"

It is a bit of irony that I don’t read tons of articles about Magic. I flip through the usual sites, check out a Scrye here and there, and end every day flipping through my card collection in despair of the flavor text, crying out, "Omeed is right! They SHOULD have more classical English literature on these things! On Milton, on Shakespeare, on Austen and Hardy! On Dickens, on Shelly, on Lewis and Bronte!" (All right, the rhyme is not perfect. But ’twas the night before deadline and I’ve got an article to get through, here… I’m stunned I remember THAT many icons of English literature. I almost had to use Bronte twice… there’s a real delicate joke right there; I’ll give most of you a little time to look through your Norton anthology and think it over… figure it out… that’s OK, we’ll wait… all right, you with me? Great, let’s get moving.)

What I have read lately hasn’t talked too much about fading yet. I am absolutely certain that when the discussion starts in earnest, some people (and they may not be the smartest people, mind you, nor the most experienced at Magic; but they probably will be the most suave and dashing) will bring up graveyard recursion as the perfect complement to fading.

Green and black already work together like gangbusters – I can’t believe they have these colors in opposition, but be that as it may – and now they’ve actually begun coming up with creatures that go to the graveyard without the controller having to do a darn thing. No extra spells, no activated abilities, no suicide missions: just slam your opponent with a fattie for 2-4 turns, let it rest for a turn or two, and then bring it back again. I’m no Pro Tour maven, but I might watch for a rogue deck or two to swing around using a few of the cards I’m going to talk about, below. But whether or not such a deck is tourney-worthy, it is still great fun to create and I’m going to put one together, right now, on the spot, without a net.

The first thing you absolutely need – and I can’t stress this enough, as many young kids today just don’t understand this – is a really cool title for your deck. It’s better if it ends with ".dec" because that blends the techno-coolness of the new century with the slang terminology of youth and the special identity that is your own special deck of cards. No longer being in my 20’s, I’m not cool enough to use .dec. But I can reference old Metallica songs, and I call this little ditty Fade to Black.

The next thing you need is a reason for the name. I’m thinking fading, and black, but I’m open to reader suggestions, as always. Until then, I’d like to try the three best green fading fatties: Skyshroud Ridgeback, Blastoderm, and Woodripper. (If I had a Skyshroud Behemoth, I might actually give that a whirl, too.) Based on casting cost, I’d go with four of each of the first two, and two or three of the anti-Masticore. (That’s what we’re all calling it, right?)

What else fades? In black, the Phyrexian Prowler’s a four-mana, fading 3, pumpable beast. But that’s about it in green and black, and I’d like to keep it to two colors. I tried looking in artifacts, but the Rusting Golem is just too awful even for this silly deck. Neat artwork, though.

So we’re off to other cheap, sackable creatures, which will bring us by some old standbys. Spike Feeder and Elvish Lyrist can provide utility, as can the Bone Shredder. I’m also going to throw in Multani, which does a nice job of replacing my non-existent Behemoth and is untargetable, like the ‘derms. I think I’d like all of these large untargetable (OR targetable) creatures to get through for damage, so a couple of Stampede Drivers wouldn’t hurt.

Pumping, a green mainstay, is a bit harder than usual since a few of the core creatures can’t be targeted. That won’t stop me from putting in Parallax Dementia, which in graveyard recursion really has no drawback, and one or two Invigorates. Overrun might be nice, but I’m betting it will be overcosted for the amount of creatures it will affect in a given turn.

For the recursion: Unearth will bring back five of the eight featured creatures, and I’ll take a risk with Exhume just because I love it so. (If those don’t work, I might try Oath of Ghouls.) A couple of Haunted Crossroads should finish up the mechanic nicely.

What am I missing? Fuel for the air war. I have a Predator, Flagship I’m dying to try; that doubles as removal so the Bone Shredders have company. Hurricanes should handle the rest.

The final list I’ll be trying for the first time this Thursday, with my group:

FADE-TO-BLACK.DEK (See? I just can’t pull off that suffix.)

Creatures (21):
4 Skyshroud Ridgeback
4 Blastoderm
2 Woodripper
2 Spike Feeder
4 Elvish Lyricist
2 Bone Shredder
2 Stampede Drivers
1 Multani
1 Predator, Flagship
1 Rhox (I’m sorry, I just got one and I HAVE to try this baby out)

Recursion and Whatnot (17):
4 Unearth
4 Exhume
2 Haunted Crossroads
4 Parallax Dementia
2 Hurricane
1 Parallax Inhibitor

Lands (23):
11 Forest
7 Swamp
1 Treetop Village
1 Spawning Pool
1 Bayou (yes, yes, if you have four, you should play them)
1 Volrath’s Stronghold

The man-lands are there in the event that you have a blue mage keeping you down – you have an available attacker/blocker somewhere in your deck that won’t die or grow smaller or get sacked right away. I’m keeping my Survival of the Fittest quartet on the sidelines for now, but you may see it in the future.

It’s a rush deck, which normally isn’t a good idea in multiplayer chaos. But because you can bring back a good portion of your army, you should be able to pull off the Darth Maul maneuver, where you ferociously threaten, rush, and parry multiple people until the opportunity comes to just take one person out. Then you bring back your army and turn to the next victim (and try not to get sliced in half, this time, with the old jumpin’-Jedi trick).

The Darth Maul maneuver is not to be confused with another rush strategy, the Cookie Monster maneuver, where you indiscriminately attack whatever it is you feel like feeding on, without regard to order or consequences to long-term health.

Doing a quick mana-cost check:
Doing a quick mana-cost check:
ONE slot: 10 (Driver, Ridgeback, and Lyrist…I count Unearth above, since realistically you don’t cast it turn one)
TWO slot: 15 (almost ALL of the non-creature spells including Unearth)
THREE slot: 6 (Crossroads, Feeders and Shredders…this is also the point when the non-basic lands can get rolling)
FOUR slot: 4 (‘derms)
HIGHER: 5 (‘rippers and the three uber-fatties)

Yeah, two slot is thick. I’m telling myself I won’t mind, since I’m counting Hurricane and Unearth in there (which really get cast and used later in the game), but that will probably still crowd me. If readers are interested, I’ll be happy to follow the "life" of this deck over the next few weeks. If that’s the case, go ahead and send in suggestions. I’ll filter and use the best ideas (or at least the ones using cards I have, so be gentle), and maybe we can all have a piece of this deck’s action. After all, why should I be the only one who kicks my group’s collective butt on a regular basis? You folks go ahead and get in on the fun, too.


As we do with every expansion, my brother-in-law Pete and I "split" two boxes of Nemesis, doing our special "no one gets screwed" draft. I don’t know how many of my readers have already heard this described, so I’ll be brief, but I want to make sure I’m spreading this gospel here. Pooling and drafting on boxes is absolutely the way to go, I believe, because you are much more certain of getting cards you want. Yes, you forgo sole ownership of the potentially killer box with four foil rares in it; but your downside is a lot smaller, too. It’s basic game/investment theory in action.

Here’s how it works:

1) Buy however much product you and your buddies were going to in the first place. (You can do this with any number of people; Pete and I find it faster and simpler with just two. I’ll work off that assumption.)
2) When it comes in, open all of the packs together and split them into four piles: foils, rares, uncommons, commons.
3) Take the rare pile first, look for dupes. If you can split them up so each person in the group has one, do it.
4) Whatever is left of the rares – the "singles" (or sometimes an "extra" dupe) – gets laid out on the table. Person who went through the trouble of ordering the box drafts first. Person who drove the longest distance to get to this draft goes second. Person who got screwed last draft goes third. And so on.
5) Pete and I are pretty open with each other if we already have a certain card – for example, if I got a Blinding Angel at the pre-release and there’s one he’s eyeing, I go ahead and let him know I have one, so he doesn’t take a card too early that I wasn’t going to take anyway. Letting someone know you have a certain card isn’t an ironclad guarantee that you won’t ever draft it – it’s just a courtesy you extend to a friend.
6) When the rares are gone, take on the uncommons and commons in turn. We draft all of the leftover/spare uncommons like the rares, all at once. We do the commons VERY quickly, not really drafting but just quickly deciding who should get the odd Mind Swords after each of us has seven.
7) What you do with foils is up to you – you can draft them with the rares if everyone loves foils, or the one person who loves foils can trade off draft picks for the rights to one or more of them, or one person can take all of them to a local store, along with each other person’s list of what they would like for their share of the trade booty. Pete and I do the last, since we don’t get crazy about foils.

By the time you’re done, you’re almost guaranteed (assuming each person’s portion of a 140+ card set is about equal to a box) of up to ten very usable or excellent rares (one or rarely two each), 2-4 of each of the really good uncommons, and 6-8 of each of the solid commons. And you’ll never feel like you blew $70 on a bad box while your buddy got two Predator Flagships, a foil Lin Sivvi, a Rhox, an Avenger en-Dal, two Volraths, and two Rath’s Edge in his. (This would have happened with me and Pete, this last time… I would have gotten the very cool box.)

Okay, so I think we’ve all learned from the last couple of columns that I’m risk averse. So sue me.

Don’t forget to send me suggestions on the Fade to Black deck if you want to be part of the action. Use "Fade to Black" in the subject of the email, please. Thanks.

Happy playing,
Anthony Alongi
[email protected]