Fun With Old Cards #5: Kneeling At The Altar Of Dementia

I believe that my Altar of Dementia deck is more twisted than anyone’s, because I understand dementia… And I’m certainly not an altar boy, but I’m fed up with being told that I am.

“I think all right-thinking people in this country are sick and tired of being told that ordinary decent people are fed up in this country of being sick and tired. I’m certainly not. But I’m sick and tired of being told that I am.”

– Monty Python

I agree.

The vast majority of wrong-thinking people are right: everyone has their own version of what constitutes the ultimate Altar of Dementia deck. Few cards in Magic have inspired such debate among multiplayer veterans; few cards have churned the imagination so widely and so deeply. Many of the dedicated I have questioned about their devotion to the Altar are sick and tired of being fed up with ordinary decent people’s inability to understand their country, and also why they love the card so much.

But those who shudder every time these demented mages tap for two are wrong, and deserve a space in their own graveyards, complete with cardboard coffins. Me? As a right-thinking person, I believe the wrong thinkers are wrong and that two wrongs do not make a right, and I’m certainly not sick and tired of thinking.

I also believe that my Altar of Dementia deck is more twisted than anyone’s, because I understand dementia…And I’m certainly not an altar boy, but I’m fed up with being told that I am.

Now bend over, because here it comes:

Soil-Ent Green

36 Spells:

4 Altar of Dementia

1 Chainer, Dementia Master

3 Night Soil

2 Grindstone

2 Parallax Dementia

4 Quirion Elves

2 Entrails Feaster

2 Weatherseed Treefolk

2 Deranged Hermit

2 Nut Collector

2 Squirrel Nest

2 Coat of Arms

3 Broken Visage

2 Tombstone Stairwell

1 An-Havva Inn

1 Puffer Extract

1 Eater of the Dead

(For some extra insanity flavor, try these!)

24 Lands:

2 Gaea’s Cradle

2 Volrath’s Stronghold

4 Bayou

4 Llanowar Wastes

4 Tainted Wood

2 Forest

2 Swamp

(If you add any of the extra spells, throw in a few more lands.)

So how do you play this deck? Well, why don’t we just ask the cards themselves?

What’s that? Why, don’t you talk to your cards? No, my friend, I think you are the strange one… Just come on over here now, I’ll show you. There, in the forest, next to the big oak tree – the Deranged Hermit, in his natural habitat – watch, and listen:

“Oh come on out now, little furry ones…come on out and let’s play…oh, there you are! Now, stand still…HYAAAHHH!!!” *PUNT*”It’s up…it’s GOOD!””GGGOOOOOOOOOAAAAALLLLL!!!”


I in no way, shape, or form endorse the harsh treatment of small, furry animals; particularly cats, squirrels, and most importantly, ferrets.


Annoying little yap dogs. Three-inch spikes and maximum hang-time, baby!

Ummm, why don’t we ask the Hermit what his purpose is in this deck –

“Hey Hermit!”

“Huh? Who’s talkin’?”

“Me. I own you and put you in my deck. Now, what is your purpose?”

“You a man or a woman?”

“Uh, does it matter?”

“It might…but my purpose? Fodder! I’m always used as freakin’ fodder! My buds and me always sacrificed for some sick purpose… Here, it looks like you wanna spill our blood on some damn altar. Well, we’re sick of it! ‘Course, with a Coat of Arms and my buddy the Nut Collector out, we can do some damage. And… Hey, ya know, I’ve been alone a looooong time…”

“Umm, just how long have you been alone with these squirrels? Hey… Stand back…”

On to the Nut Collector – observe!

“Come here little friends, I have nuts for you…that’s right, just follow me, over here… Behind this tree…”

“Hey, Mr. Nut Collector! What’s your purpose?”

“Shh! You’ll chase ’em away. My purpose?” (shoots me a squirrelly look)”Pssst…(whispering) – I pump squirrels! Come on over here, little ones, daddy’s got nuts for you…”

Whoops. Let’s move elsewhere.

All right, over there’s the Quirion Elves. They’re pretty straightforward, just there for an early drop and to produce much-needed mana. Something about them (what’s in a name?) makes me not want to drop the soap around those boys either, though… And they get (Parallax) demented real easy, too. Get all mean and physical-like for awhile, but then they drop dead or lay out on the altar.

Hmmm… Altar boys…


It’s not what you’re thinking. It just isn’t, don’t go there, and don’t even think of thinking it. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – just, no. And I’m not really demented, either. Honest.

And over there – oh, the horror! The Weatherseed Treefolk, all lined up and jumping onto the altar (with damage on the stack!); their limp bodies falling into the grave – oh, what madness is this?! They’re crawling out, alive, and – getting back in line to do it all over again! Oh, they’re dying again and again! Oh, they’re dying again and again!

I repeat myself when under stress. I repeat myself when under stress… The horror!

Let’s move on to our garden now, shall we? Why, there’s Detective Thorn himself, inspecting the graves across the way from the altar… What’s that, detective? They’re empty? Why, what’s going on, I wonder? Could it have something to do with this nice, lush night soil and these tasty little green critters over here?

Why, yes, yes… Saprolings are made of people!!!

You won’t find any of that soil used on my graveyard, though, oh no. The bodies stay here, to be re-used again and again with Volrath’s Strongholds and to fuel the Tombstone Stairwell – but only after the Entrails Feasters have had their fill, and the Eater of the Dead as well. We can’t be having any zombies coming our way, now, can we?

And our zombies, why, we can attack with them and our pumped-up squirrels and our saprolings and hopefully they are oh just soooo very huge (thanks to Coat of Arms!) and sacrifice them (don’t forget to put damage on the stack!) to the altar to remove very large numbers of cards from people’s libraries! With the Stairwell, you can do it again and again and again (I feel stress coming on…)!

And if you like one of the darling little monsters you’ve milled into your friend’s graveyards? Why, just tap Chainer and use him for your very own! You can take lots of cuties, and pay Chainer’s little fee by putting on a show at the An-Havva Inn, where all your little green buddies are hanging out!

And someone dares to attack you? The gall! Just make it look in the mirror *shatter*! It’s Broken Visaged! Then use the token created with it to block another creature – and sacrifice it to the Altar! For added insult, pump it further with Puffer Extract!

Last but not least, if for some reason your altars keep getting destroyed (I couldn’t fathom why), you have the Grindstones to feed your Night Soil and Entrails Feasters. (Gotta love that flavor text!) Mill yourself to pump your Stairwell if you’ve picked ’em clean!

Card Spotlight

Slate of Ancestry: Bye-bye, Thorazine! Heh… My, so much rubber on the walls…my eyes, my eyes, oh where are my eyes?!

Oh, I see… But this card, it doesn’t look tournament-worthy at first glance, doesn’t it? It’s the old”I win more” argument – where if you’re getting it to work you probably have creature advantage already and will win without it. Still, I think in the right deck (such as U/G or W/G madness) it might make a sideboard or two for the mirror-match, don’t you think? Of course, I could be wrong…But I could also be just insane enough to be right!

Back to reality…hope you enjoyed the deck! Next week (Ferrety willing), I’ll break out the token critters once more for the most abusive deck I have ever devised. It is so nasty that I can never get away with playing it twice – and it doesn’t use any of the cards I see people complaining about so often in multiplayer!

Tony Costa

[email protected]

P.S. – If anyone has tried to e-mail me previously, I may not have received it due to space limitations in my mailbox. I’m ready for it now, though!