From Right Field: StarCityGames Exclusive! An Unofficial, Non-Time Spiral Special Dissension Post-Preview: Stalking Vengeance!

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Relax, we’ve not gone mad… Chris is “previewing” an old favorite in a new light. Looking back at cards that failed to achieve is a fine place to search for new tech and tricks… and today, Chris doesn’t disappoint.

{From Right Field is a column for Magic players on a budget or players who don’t want to play netdecks. The decks are designed to let the budget-conscious player be competitive in local, Saturday tournaments. They are not decks that will qualify a player for The Pro Tour. As such, the decks written about in this column are, almost by necessity, rogue decks. They contain, at most, eight to twelve rares. When they do contain rares, those cards will either be cheap rares or staples of which new players should be trying to collect a set of four, such as Dark Confidant, Sacred Foundry, or Birds of Paradise. The decks are also tested by the author, who isn’t very good at playing Magic. He will never claim that a deck has an 85% winning percentage against the entire field. He will also let you know when the decks are just plain lousy. Readers should never consider these decks “set in stone” or “done.” If you think you can change some cards to make them better, well, you probably can, and the author encourages you to do so.}

I am so excited to be a part of the Dissension preview party. As you (should!) know, I had the privilege of doing the official preview for Firemane Angel, the *tee hee* hottie from Ravnica. A few months later, I got unceremoniously beat down by her in the first StartCityGames.com Writers MTGO Battle Royale. Oh, irony! Thy name is Chris Romeo!

Now, Time Spiral is going to be released in a few weeks, and in keeping with the theme of that set (and, hopefully, the entire block), I am proud to present a decidedly under appreciated rare from Dissension: Stalking Vengeance!

What can one say but “wow”? Or maybe “whoa.” Definitely some sort of exclamatory phrase that shows excitement or surprise. Possibly a “holy !”

Of course, some of you may even be saying, “That’s too expensive to be good. It costs seven mana.” That’s way, way too long to be a good exclamation. In those cases, I suggest something more along the lines of “ugh” or even “feh.”

Those, though, are just suggestions for neutral or even negative exclamations. If you feel that way, well, then, , I am here to change your mind. No need to thank me. It’s my job.

You have to look beyond the base stats. If you don’t, you miss the forest for the trees. Or, for you college guys out there, you miss the chyk with the hot bod because of the butter face.

(Interesting aside on this issue: I was grocery shopping with Luanne this weekend, when I spied a woman who was obviously a manager or assistant manager. From the back, she was simply amazing. She was callipygian, with a perfectly round, protruding-but-not-in-the-least sagging ass. She had long, curly, auburn hair. Her t-shirt was fitted and tight, and, when she picked up the boxes of shredded cheese, you could see the muscle tone in her arms and back. She had a chest that belonged in Playboy or Perfect Ten. Then, she turned around, and she had Sheryl Crow’s face. That was when Luanne whispered to me, “I think that’s a man, honey.” I don’t think so. Meanwhile, I can think about that superb physical specimen as long as I don’t think about her face. *sigh*)

(Just so I’m perfectly clear, it’s not that I find Ms. Crow unattractive per se. It’s just that, much like Sandra Bullock, she has the kind of face that is just to the masculine side of androgynous. Either one could actually be a drag queen. A very good one, but, still, a drag queen. That is one notch too far for me to think she’s beautiful. I like my ladies’ androgynous faces to be on the more feminine side, like Cassie Lane.)

Yes, if Stalking Vengeance was just a 5/5 ground pounder for seven mana, I wouldn’t be writing about it. It also wouldn’t be a rare.

It’s not “just” a 5/5 for seven mana, though, thank goodness. It also has haste!

Not the biggest selling point for you, is it? I mean, it’s better than not having haste, am I right? Can I get a witness? [Amen. — Craig] Thank you, Craig.

Well, then, I guess this guy’s big selling point is that other line of rules text: “Whenever another creature you control is put into a graveyard from play, it deals damage equal to its power to target player.”


Stalking Vengeance is that subtle kind of card that you have to stare at for a while, think about, set aside for a few weeks, and come back to before it really strikes you how good it can be when the proper deck is built around it. Your assignment for the next few lines of white space is to really and truly ponder the power of this guy.

Okay, that should be good enough.

Look, creatures die. It’s a fact of life. You can check with National Geographic. Seriously. In an attempt at science-based humor (at least, I think they were trying to be funny; I chuckled, anyway), the August 2006 issue of National Geographic Magazine had a chart showing the chances of dying of certain things. When it was all added up, they concluded that your chances of dying of any cause at all was one in one or one-hundred per cent. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Those guys are serious funny, I tell you what.

Anyway, creatures die. Sometimes, it’s to mass removal like Wrath of God or Pyroclasm. Sometimes it’s due to targeted removal like Dark Banishing or Viashino Fangtail. Often — maybe even mostly, thought I haven’t seen any National Geographic studies on this one — they die as a result of combat. Whatever the reason, they’re gonna die. You can quote me!

Let me ask you this. If you know your creatures are going to die, isn’t it best if they do something other than simply get you one card closer to Threshold? This is a rhetorical question. A rhetorical question is one that the speaker really doesn’t care if you answer or not and would actually prefer that you not answer. It is done as a way to move a discussion forward without actually having to engage the audience. It is usually done because the speaker loves the sound of his or her own voice or the sight of his or her own words and doesn’t really want to interact in any meaningful manner (i.e. other than basking in the glow of adulation) with other people.

I do it, though, because I have no one else to talk to. Isn’t that right?

Why, yes, it is, thank you so much for asking.

Of course, it’s better if your creatures do something other than just hitting the graveyard when they die. More for the same cost is always better. Do you get the two six-packs of soda for $1.50 each or the twelve pack for $2.98? You get the twelve pack because you save two cents on the same amount of soda! (Yes, I know that there are certain situations in which one would choose the two six-packs. For example, people with really bad backs who must carry exact even amounts of weight in each hand or risk debilitating pain would, thus, take the two six-packs. However, I said “for the same cost.” That bad back is an extra cost worth at least two cents of non-pain, and how the flock did I get here? Stop that!)

This extra “death benefit,” if you will, is one of the reasons that people liked the Kamigawa Dragon Legends so much. Flying 5/5 dragons for six mana aren’t super, especially when they’re Legends. It’s not bad, to be sure, but it’s not super. Now, add in their abilities that trigger when they hit the ‘yard and the change in the Legends rule, and all of a sudden, they’re ultra-mega-good. Anyone who’s been comfortable at fifteen life when Kokusho swung through in combat and then died when a second one hit the board in their opponent’s second main phase knows this.

Stalking Vengeance wants to exploit death in the same way. He just wants other folks to do the dying. Personally, I understand that philosophy. Or, as a wise man once said, everyone wants to get to heaven, but no one wants to die.

In an effort to help my boy, I came up with this deck; a deck that I affectionately call:

I have maxed out the rares in this deck (twelve), but I did so for very good reasons. First, we have to have four Stalking Vengeance. That left eight rares. I knew that I wanted some sort of mass removal, too. Pyroclasm is a definite. That’s not enough, though. Shard Phoenix steps up to the plate and does double duty (heh!) in this deck. It can team with Pyroclasm to deal a total of four damage to all of the ground creatures. If the Stalking Vengeance is on board, it’s also a way to deal two damage to your opponent.

With enough left for four rares, I toyed with simply using four more burn spells. Blaze came to mind. Then I remembered how Howling Mine was starting to show up in some W/r weenie and mono-Red decks. The theory is simple and elegant: so what if your opponent draws cards, too, when you can use yours more efficiently?

At first, that slot was four Howling Mines. That turned out to be too many in this deck. I was going to drop one for a Blaze when Mike Flores called me.

“Chris, it’s Mike.”

“Mikey! Baby! You still coming to dinner on Saturday?”

“Absolutely. By the way, use a copy of Demonfire in that Stalking Vengeance deck that you’re working on.”

“Great idea. I was… Wait a second. How’d you know about that?”

“See you on Saturday night.”

“Mike? … Mike? … Hello? …”

(Please note: This conversation may not have actually taken place in any known universe. However, there are an infinite number of possible parallel universes. This conversation occurred in at least one of them.)

Mike was right, and I’m not going to dwell on that. This is not an article extolling the virtues of Demonfire. We know what those are. It’s a so-called X spell. It deals damage. If your hand is empty when it resolves, it can’t be countered, and the damage it deals can’t be prevented. Yes, that’s good.

(Aside on Rules re: DemonfireDemonfire can indeed be targeted by countermagic if the Demonfire’s controller’s hand is empty. However, the countermagic won’t work if that person’s hand is empty when the counterspell resolves. Having said that, I saw a sweet play at a tournament this weekend. With a lethal, uncounterable Demonfire on the stack, the opposing mage caused each player to draw two cards with Vision Skeins. That meant that the Demonfire’s controller no longer had an empty hand. It was then Hindered. It doesn’t matter what state the Demonfire’s controller’s hand is when the Demonfire is cast, only when the countermagic resolves. In this case, he had two cards in hand. So, it was Hinder-able.)

Your Super-Mega Fun Time Plays with Avatar Friend Stalking Vengeance Yeah!

I don’t know if I’ll ever find all of the nuanced interactions in this deck. Every time I play it, I see some other synergy. I hate admitting that because deckbuilders want people to think they know exactly everything going on in their decks at all times. Each individual piece of the deck was chosen with the exquisite and meticulous attention to detail that master jewelers use. Alas, ‘tain’t true. Sometimes, we get lucky.

Sure, the choices I made had good reasons. For example, the Rusalka is in there to have a way to purposely sacrifice a creature. It helps if I end up in a ground stall and deals and extra bit of damage, depending on the sacrificed creature’s power, if Stalking Vengeance is in play. I have the Yeti in there as (potentially) reusable removal.

I didn’t see this play coming, though. During one test game, I had pretty much cleared my opponent’s side of the board. In fact, I had cleared it, leaving a solitary Stalking Vengeance on my side. Its hasted attack had dropped my opponent to eight. He topdecked a Tresserhorn Skyknight. Ugh. The Skyknight stops the Vengeance. My draw needed to be good, and it was: a Stalking Yeti. The Yeti and the Skyknight punched each other to death, and the Vengeance ran through for the final five points of damage for the win.

“Huh? The ‘final five’? How’d I win? The Vengeance deals five damage, and you were at eight.”

“No, I was at five. When the Yeti died, it dealt me three damage because of the Vengeance.”

“Oh, yeah. Man, how cool is that?”

It had never crossed my mind that the Yeti would do that. My only actual plan was to use him to kill my opponent’s creatures and maybe attack with him once in a while. What I got was six damage, split between my opponent and his creature, for the cost of one card and four mana. I submit this: that’s Some Good. All in favor?


All against, which means you’re voting for helping the terrorists?

I didn’t think so.

During another game, I actually discovered this little gem. With the two of us in a ground stall late in the game, I was able to recur Shard Phoenix and deal my opponent three damage per turn thanks to Scorched Rusalka. I’d bring back the Phoenix, cast it, and, at the end of his turn, use the Rusalka’s ability, sacrificing the Phoenix. That’s one damage from the Rusalka’s activated ability and two from the Vengeance’s triggered ability. He went from nine to dead in three turns.

Oh, and how about this piece of tech? With both of us reduced to empty hands and creatureless boards while we both sat at five life, I drew a Stalking Vengeance, cast it, and killed my opponent with it. Okay, it’s not so much tech as simply bashing face, but, yes indeedily doodily, that haste part can come in handy, can’t it?

Say It Loud! I’m Skred, and I’m Proud!

Even though Skred’s goodness seems as obvious as any observation that I could make about Demonfire, I’m going to once again pontificate on the subject. With twenty-four Snow lands, four Stalking Yetis, and four Coldsteel Hearts, Skred is utterly ridiculous in this deck. I have, on more than one occasion, cast Skred for seven damage on turn 4. This happens thanks to Coldsteel Hearts on turns 2 and 3 and Stalking Yeti on turn 4. I’ve actually had a couple of players who clearly thought they had the game in hand with a Watchwolf and a beefy flier of some sort on board concede when I cast the Yeti to kill the Wolf and Skred to kill the flier. It’s kinda nice to win like that, but it doesn’t help get the testing done.

Okay, I’m gonna stop rambling now, since this is already about twice as long as the typical preview article. I’m sorry. I can’t help it. This guy just excites me so much, roughly the same as Trisha.

As usual, you’ve been a great audience. Remember, stalking is illegal, but Stalking Vengeance is fun, fun, fun!

Chris Romeo