Fun With Old Cards #6: Flashing Back to Khabal Therapy

The basis behind this entire deck lies in one sentence found in the text box of four of the deck’s creatures:”At the end of each turn, put a (+1/+1, regeneration or other) counter on (creature)”. What this means is that the creature in question doesn’t have to be in play at the time a creature goes to the graveyard in order to get a counter – hence, Wrath of God and Living Death can be followed up by a freshly-cast Ghoul and it will still get the counters!

Yin/Yang. North/South. Heads/Tails.


Opposite sides of the coin – yet complimentary and best when sampled from either side among mixed company. Governing and controlling, yielding and relenting, pushing or pulling, giving or taking – all necessary and enjoyable components of the two-stroke cycle begetting life… Whips or chains, fishhooks or Wesson oil –

Oops, sorry…I was digressing into my other website gig there for a minute.

Semi-seriously, though, the decision to be dominant or submissive in multiplayer games is sometimes a personality choice, but the best gamers go both ways depending on their schemes and machinations. Personally, I usually like to be the quiet dude over in the corner happily dropping squirrels and Saprolings while slowly building up some sick-as-dog scheme to get the drop on everyone – but every playgroup I’ve ever played in eventually wises up to me and starts sending their business my way. That is when I change rolls, and whip out my big heat-seeking deck and teach people the meaning of R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

I should know. I was taught by a Master myself.

His name was Jeff Laikam.

His game was Khabal Ghoul.

Click on that link, and let all the ramifications in that text box slowly cogitate in that brain of yours. Your brain hurt yet? The infinite combos got your mind overheating? You old-timers out there, you know what I’m talkin’ ’bout ‘roun’ here. Once you been beeyatch-slapped by da massa hisself, you don’ ferget it. You loose teef an’ cain’t never talk right no more, let alone cross yo legs.

Now Jeff started simple, doing the mono-black Breeding Pit/Sengir Autocrat thing with Bad Moons and Tourach’s Gate, using Forbidden Ritual to sacrifice tokens to clear out people’s permanents and following up with the Ghoul. It hurt my backside – but then he discovered white and Wrath of God. This was about when he stopped using Vaseline…

Then he completed the holy trinity: green. Hello, sand…and Living Plane. Unfortunately, Jeff no longer plays Magic and I forgot the exact contents of his deck, but I will reprise it here using some newer cards. Also, I will present a rare-light deck that can recreate at least some of the fun of the original at a fraction of the cost. I give to you:

"Game Over, Man"

40 spells:

3 Khabal Ghoul

1 Asmira, Holy Avenger

3 Osai Vultures

3 Scavenging Ghoul

2 Crypt Rat

3 Living Wish

4 Living Plane

2 Sterling Grove

2 Overgrown Estate

2 Drop of Honey

2 Rancor

2 Squirrel Nest

2 Living Death

2 Wrath of God

2 Mirari’s Wake

2 Spirit Link

1 Zuran Orb

1 Demonic Tutor

1 Seal of Cleansing

26 lands:

1 Gaea’s Cradle

1 Serra’s Sanctum

1 Volrath’s Stronghold

4 Bayou

4 Savannah

4 Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author]

3 Thran Quarry

1 Diamond Valley

1 The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale

3 Reflecting Pool

3 Undiscovered Paradise


1 The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale

1 Gaea’s Cradle

1 Serra’s Sanctum

1 Volrath’s Stronghold

1 Dust Bowl

1 Khabal Ghoul

“>Kamahl, Fist of Krosa

1 Terravore

1 Genesis

1 Verdant Force

1 Crypt Rat

“>Mageta, The Lion

1 Asmira, Holy Avenger

1 Osai Vulture

1 Scavenging Ghoul

1 Fallen Angel

1 Elvish Lyrist

1 Uktabi Orangutan

1 Nekrataal

1 Visara the Dreadful

The basis behind this entire deck lies in one sentence found in the text box of four of the deck’s creatures (the ghouls, vultures and Asmira): "At the end of each turn, put a (+1/+1, regeneration or other) counter on (creature)". Pay particular attention to the first part – at the end of each turn. What this means is that the creature in question doesn’t have to be in play at the time a creature goes to the graveyard in order to get a counter – as long as the creature getting the counter comes into play before the end of the turn! Hence, Wrath of God and Living Death can be followed up by a freshly cast Ghoul (or returned from a graveyard via Death) and it will still get the counters!

Living Plane was added to increase the body count and paralyze opponents, while you sit there gaining life by sacrificing your land to Overgrown Estate or Zuran Orb. The ensuing rectal ruination can best be described as "Holmesian" in scope (that’s a foot-long subway sandwich, folks. R.I.P., good buddy!). I have seen Jeff’s Khabal Ghouls reach triple digits in power and toughness in large chaos-magic games, while he gained triple-digit life. Seeing one of these in action, Spirit-linked and Rancored, is quite an unforgettable experience!

To add injury to injury (the insult manifest on the table), Jeff would follow up with Drop of Honey to clean up any lands and creatures that opponents somehow got into play.

A major difference between Jeff’s deck and my build, however, is that he used Elvish Farmers and Caribou Range to produce his tokens, as they were creatures he could sacrifice to gain life. I found the Farmers to be too slow here, and Caribou Range ties up more mana than I’d like – but if you like insanely huge life totals, then, by all means – use them! I have, however, utilized Grim Feast on opponents who have their own token generators going so I can "feed" off their creatures when they hit the ‘yard!

ALERT from the national broadcasting system. (Annoying buzzer sound) This is NOT a test. Repeat: this is NOT a test.

Has anyone seen the new Legions card previewed by Anthony Alongi at Magic the Gathering.com – Seedborn Muse? From now on, all multi-player Magic players are required to play Jester’s Cap, Lobotomy, Swords to Plowshares, and Terror until Wizards of the Coast admits their terrible error and errata’s the card out of existence! Can you imagine how sick this thing could be with Mishra’s Helix? How about throwing in a bunch of artifact mana, Candelabra of Tawnos and Masticores for a finisher? I rank this card with Khabal Ghoul for combo potential!

Back to the deck… Explaining card choices: Osai Vultures, aside from fitting with the general theme of the deck, are there for good air support. If you have one of those out with a bunch of counters on it, people are going to think twice about attacking you through the air! The Scavenging Ghouls work on defense as well, and the fact they can regenerate without using mana makes them stellar when your land is gone! Asmira, Holy Avenger is great, especially since she’s a flier – but be aware, she only gains counters for creatures going into your own graveyard. She’d be more broken than Khabal Ghoul otherwise!

Mirari’s Wake is absolutely golden here, giving your lands and token critters extra resilience and providing plenty of power for casting Wrath or Death early, followed by a Ghoul. With one out I once popped a Crypt Rat for one (with Living Plane in play), killing everyone else’s lands but leaving mine! Also, the extra mana allows for you to save some lands if you have to pay upkeep on your creatures with The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale in play. The Vale is ridiculous with Living Plane!

Sterling Grove gives you the ability to "tutor" for Overgrown Estates or Living Plane, or to protect your enchantments. Diamond Valley can provide you a prodigious amount of life, and a way to get creatures into the ‘yard for reanimation via Death. Living Wish threats: Fallen Angel is fun with the token critters and creature lands, but is more for finishing your final opponent than anything else. Kamahl also is great with the tokens and man-lands, but I actually used him most often with Drop of Honey in play just to animate an opponent’s land and kill it off. He can keep your stuff alive with his ability too if you blow a rat.

Genesis is good for returning your stuff for reuse – but the funnest card in the ‘board for me has to be Mageta, the Lion. Reusable Wrath effects with Living Plane in play are just wrong! Terravore can get almost as huge as Khabal Ghoul, and Verdant Force provides endless chump-blockers.

All in all, this is the most potentially abusive creature-based deck that I have ever played. It’s sheer dollar value is such that most couldn’t possibly afford to assemble it – but there are enough alternative cards available that one could build a reasonable facsimile for a fraction of the cost! Here I give you:

Dominance Light

36 Spells:

1 Asmira, Holy Avenger (a cheap Mirage rare!)

4 Osai Vultures (inexpensive common!)

4 Scavenging Ghoul (trade fodder!)

4 Crypt Rats

4 Sadistic Glee

2 Rancor

2 Dark Heart of the Wood

3 Sterling Grove

1 Nature’s Revolt (or more if you have ’em; decrease Sterling Grove count accordingly)

2 Spirit Link

2 Infest

1 Zuran Orb

1 Naturalize

1 Overrun

2 Squirrel Nest

1 Animal Boneyard

1 Strands of Night

24 Lands:

4 Elfhame Palace

4 Plains

8 Swamp

8 Forest

How’s that for light? Only two rares, and Asmira is optional! If you have them though, use Wrath of God in place of Infest (not good with Scavenging Ghoul!). Also if you have them, a couple Terravores in the main deck can be nearly as effective as the Ghoul. Dual lands like Llanowar Wastes and Caves of Koilos will help a lot, too.

Sadistic Glee is best when placed on a Vulture, but be aware that it only gives you counters if the creature it enchants is already in play when creatures go to the graveyard. No end-of-turn stuff there! Also, you may have a hard time punching through your opponent’s defenses if he has a lot of creatures already in play (even if you get rid of their land with Crypt Rats/Nature’s Revolt), so main-deck spot removal might be beneficial. Play with the deck and make changes as you see fit – but most of all enjoy!!

That’s all this week, but tune in a week (or two, I’m on vacation!) and I’ll give you another deck and answer some of my e-mail! Thanks for your input by the way, and keep it coming – I’ll acknowledge the best responses here if I can!

Tony Costa

[email protected]