A Comedy Club Somewhere Near The Outer Rim:
<APPLAUSE> Thank you! Thank you! You’re too kind. I want to extend my gratitude to you all for coming out in such awful weather. I want to extend my gratitude… But the management said they’d cancel me if they saw any extensions of my gratitude. <RAUCOUS LAUGHTER>
But seriously, I just flew in from Phyrexia, and – BOY – are my arms tired. <GROANS> While I was on Phyrexia, I met the sweetest li’l lady. Of course, now, she’s no lady; she’s my wife! <COUGHING>
Meanwhile, Back On Earth…
The woman in question is the Lavaborn Muse. Why am I writing about her? For one thing, the Graveborn Muse has been written about all over the ‘net. I mean, she’s everywhere. MSNBC did a piece on her. She even has a shot in the new Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. I wasn’t going to go over the ground that’s already been covered on that one. Ditto with the Seedborn Muse.
Then there’s Windborn Muse. You know that card appeals to me, since it’s white…. But I’ve written so much about white stuff lately that Jesse Jackson has threatened to boycott my columns. <RIMSHOT.WAV>
Dreamborn Muse is interesting, but it looks like it’s going to take more work than I’m willing to put in right now to get her into a good deck.
Oh, but the Lavaborn Muse. What a sweetie. She’s a redhead. She’s got a body that’s not too bad (3/3 for four mana). But, man, what a killer ability. That’s three damage only for opponents if they have two, one, or zero cards in hand at the beginning of their upkeep. I emphasize the part about only to opponents, because most red stuff is so symmetrical that it sucks. Imagine if Dwarven Shrine only hit opponents. (“Then it wouldn’t suck,” the chorus replied.)
QUESTION: How does red empty an opponent’s hand?
ANSWER: It doesn’t. (Yes, I’m conveniently forgetting Skullscorch.)
ANSWER: Red’s gonna have to team up with black here.
The first thing that jumped to mind with Lavaborn Muse was to team her up with one of the most underrated creatures in black: Mindslicer. This bad boy is a pretty nice package. He’s a 4/3 for four mana. Of course, two of those have to be black. This isn’t so bad, even in a two-color deck, when we’re talking about a turn 4 creature.
What it does mean, though, is a lot of investment in rare lands. And we already have eight cards committed to rares.
Mindslicer’s ability (everyone dumps their hand when it goes to the graveyard) is just too powerful when teamed up with Lavaborn Muse. Does your opponent block and kill the Slicer and start taking massive damage from the Muse, or does she let the Mindslicer hit for four every turn? If she can’t take the damage, can she afford to do without the cards in his/her hand? Such ugly decisions. It’s like saying you can marry Roseanne Barr, or her less attractive sister.
The Problem With Muses
As many people have found while working on new decks with Graveborn Muse, there is a problem that I call The Kurt Warner Syndrome.
Out-Of-Season Sports Digression:
For the six of you who don’t know the story, Kurt Warner is the guy who came out of nowhere to lead the St. Louis Rams to the 1999 Super Bowl title, defeating my Tennessee Titans by about two feet. Warner could read defenses so well, make decisions so quickly, and throw so accurately that the team’s plays could take advantage of the incredible speed of their receivers. For three years, the rest of the league was thrown into a tizzy. Warner became the highest-rated and most accurate passer in NFL history, surpassing Joe Montana, Steve Young, Bart Starr, Johnny Unitas, and Dan Marino, to name a few. (Yes, he also surpassed Steve Spurrier, Todd Marinovich, and Ryan Leaf, too – but that doesn’t sound nearly as impressive, does it?)
Then he got hurt. Nothing big. Just a pinky on his throwing hand. No problem, right? The team still had MVP and double threat Marshall Faulk and a stable of receivers so good and so fast that teams like the Colts (no strangers to good quarterbacks) coveted the Rams’ third and fourth receivers. Just get a QB who’s a serviceable backup until Warner gets back.
It didn’t happen that way. Warner’s ability was so vital to the way the team was set up to work that they not only didn’t make the play-offs this year, but they were in danger of going 0-fer-the season.
I’ve seen this an awful lot with Graveborn Muse decks. The decks will just hum along perfectly… As long as Graveborn Muse doesn’t get sent to the locker room. That’s not a good strategy. The deck needs to be able to win (or at least not lose) if the Muse goes into hiding.
QUESTION: Won’t losing our hand hurt us, too?
ANSWER: LA LA LA LA LA I’m not listening LA LA LA LA LA
Okay, so what do we do about the fact that we’re going to be losing our hand, too? I figure there are two options: First, don’t worry about it. Black and red often run out their hands and play off of the top of their decks.
But personally, I don’t like this one. I’d rather do one of two things. First, we could have those cards in the ‘yard work for us. And second we could bring them back from the dead.
In the first case, we could use Screams of the Damned. As long as we stay ahead in life, which should be easy to do if the Lavaborn Muse is on board, we can use those cards in the ‘yard to create some spiffy mass damage effects. Of course, if we activate it too much, the Muse dies, too.
Option number two is to use yet another rare – please, forgive me – to bring cards back: Oversold Cemetery. This, of course, means we’re going to dedicate a lot of space to creatures.
Meanwhile, your opponent is beating you about the head and neck with creatures. So, I guess we need some creature control. Good thing red and black have that in spades. We could even use Innocent Blood as yet another way to give Mindslicer his walking papers. Early hand control like Duress wouldn’t stink, either.
So, for those of us who have lotsa rares, here’s the Lavaborn Muse deck that I see. I call it:
Lava Me Now Or Lava Me Not
There are two creatures in this decklist that I hadn’t discussed previously in this column. First up is Pitchstone Wall. This guy is a solid blocker. It stops Arrogant Wurms, Aquamoebas, almost every Goblin (supersized Goblin Piledrivers excluded), Wild Mongrels (barring the opponent dumping four cards to it), Basking Rootwallas, blah, blah blah, blah, blah. And if Mindslicer makes you dump a card that you really want, just sac the Wall to get it back.
The second is a creature for which I’ve been trying to find a place for quite a while, Prowling Pangolin. Why is no one using Prowling Pangolin? It is either (a) two Chainer’s Edicts in one for five mana or (b) a 6/5 for five mana. Neither one of these options stinks. And, if your opponent doesn’t have two creatures, they have no chance to sac two creatures to rid themselves of the Pangolin.
QUESTION: Great deck, Cabin Boy. But what if we didn’t just get a big, fat tax refund check?
ANSWER: Look to the uncommons, my friend.
So, you only have the 4 Sulfurous Springs (because you followed Unca Chris’ advice and invested in four of each painland instead of ordering a pizza every night for dinner for a month) and, of course, the 4 Lavaborn Muses (since that’s the whole point of this deck). Now whadya do?
Stitch Together is a decent replacement for Oversold Cemetery. While the Cemetery keeps ’em coming back to your hand over and over (which is why it’s a rare), Stitch Together has a very nice Threshold ability: the creature comes right into play. Boo-yah!
On the other hand, if you’re more a fan of the permanence of enchantments, Malevolent Awakening allows for some pretty fun tricks. Like, you can put combat damage on the stack and then go,”Hey, what’s that over there?!?” Then, you can activate the Awakening, sac a creature that’s going to die anyway, and bring one back to your hand.
But what do you do about the Mindslicer? That’s a mighty, mighty bosstone there. How about we use a creature that (a) makes only your opponent discard and (b) doesn’t have to die to do it? Sound good? I vote for Abyssal Specter. This gives us:
So there you have it: Two decks designed to abuse the power of Lavaborn Muse. Of course, there are no warranties, guarantees, or baby tees. You takes ’em as you sees ’em. But I think you’ll have fun here.