Fun With Old Cards #7: Defying Gravity’s Sphere

The heart of the deck, Gravity Sphere, is one of those cards that bring out the rules lawyer in everyone – especially when I get the creature combos going and destroy everything else around! Plus, I answer mail from my fans.

Hey, y’all (sorry, but I spent four years in hell – er, Houston), I just got back from vacation and I had a good time. Man, things are movin’, ain’t they? Mexico City’s shakin’, Iraq is quakin’, and now it seems Nicole Kidman’s taken – sorry, Romeo, I saw it in the Enquirer.

Ironically, I lost my martini shaker – and now I’m shakin’ and seein’ things outta the corner of my eye: Trolls and skeletons and goblins; mechanized contraptions and evil flying things (ever see those little lights that dart across your field of vision?) – and I’ve lost the ability to fly! Never underestimate your martini shaker, friends – it is your confidante, your muse, and your oracle. It can make all things seem possible for a while; provide strength and vision in your darkest hour; and send you above it all, through the clouds and far away…

…And yet my friend is gone. Though I still have the proper ingredients, sans shaker the quality of my concoctions suffers, somewhat like comparing my cooking to my mom’s. Minus the trappings flight is not possible; and as if by edict a chasm yawns before me – the ensuing earthquake causing a mudslide that buries me deep in a pit, trapped and thirsty…in the dark, shaking…hallucinating…

Deleterious Tremors

43 Spells:

4 Gravity Sphere

3 Earthquake

3 Fault Line

2 Hyalopterous Lemure

2 Urza’s Avenger

2 Diabolic Edict

2 Pit Trap

4 Sedge Troll

3 Mudslide

4 Nightscape Familiar

2 Mana Flare

3 Simulacrum

2 Nevinyrral’s Disk

4 Goblin Balloon Brigade

1 Fork

1 Wheel of Fortune

1 Diabolic Tutor

27 Lands:

3 Glacial Chasm

4 Badlands

4 Sulfurous Springs

8 Mountain

8 Swamp

*Sniff sniff…* Hmmm, something’s kinda ripe here…no, I used deodorant this morning. Didn’t eat cabbage or beans last night…

Aahhh, it’s the deck!

Yes, it is cheesy – but in a high-class, smoked Gouda kind of way. I personally don’t like to use mass burn-effect spells often, but this deck uses them to very good effect. The heart of the deck, Gravity Sphere, is one of those cards that bring out the rules lawyer in everyone – especially when I get the creature combos going. People simply don’t believe that I can give a creature flying if I have it in play, but according to the oracle (on Crystalkeep.com) Gravity Sphere removes flying from all creatures when it comes into play, and from each creature thereafter when it comes into play. It does not remove flying from a creature if you somehow give it flying after the Sphere comes into play! Hence, I use the Goblin Balloon Brigade, Hyalopterous Lemure, and Urza’s Avenger.

The Brigades are great little one-drops for early pinging and chump blocking, and the Lemures and Avengers are really nice conditional flyers with decent bodies that don’t require mana for activation. All of these buggers can survive an Earthquake or Fault Line and attack unopposed with Gravity Sphere in play.

The Sedge Trolls and Familiars are there to gum up the ground and can also survive your quake effects – and are pretty good targets for Simulacrum, which will allow you to put all of your quake damage onto their backs! The Familiars also help all your red spells by decreasing their casting costs, while the Trolls are pretty decent beatdown with swamps in play.

I used to also use a little combo that is pretty fun, if you don’t have the rare Sedge Trolls: Uthden Trolls with Stone Giants. The Giant can give your Trolls flying, and then you can regenerate them to do it over and over again!

As for spell selection, I use a pretty diverse array of removal spells. The Earthquakes and Fault Lines are obvious – and awesome with Gravity Sphere in play. Diabolic Edict works to take out any big dudes (or pro red critters) that survive your quakes, and the Pit Traps are all-purpose threats that can take out nearly any attacking creature for two mana with a Sphere out! Disks are for any troublesome enchantments and are great with your regenerators.

The Mudslides are really a key component, though, and with Gravity Sphere down it makes all creatures read: Pay two (per Mudslide!) to untap a creature during your upkeep. Sure, it’s a pain with your own regenerators – but all you have to do to untap an Avenger or Lemure is give it flying during your upkeep! This shuts down your resident token-making mages, and ties up people’s mana. (I used to splash a bit of white for Armageddon to really shut down the creature attack – but people seemed to get upset…)

The Mana Flares are present in the deck mainly as a finisher for your X-spells. If you’re gonna do cheese, may as well go the Limburger route – and use Glacial Chasms to save yourself in the process! Be sure to tap your land for mana before you sacrifice it to the Chasm first, however. So break out your nachos and salsa and flambé away!

I promised last time that I would answer some general e-mail questions, and first I want to thank everyone who wrote me! The response has (generally!) been great and it is appreciated. Starting with deck idea questions – my first deck, which involved recurring Shahrazad infinitely, using Burning Wish and Mirari (as well as Golden Wish) to create endless subgames, was well received. To answer specific questions, yes, I do believe based on the wording of Mirari that you can use the artifact itself to duplicate Shahrazad!


(Hold that maniacal laughter, Tony – actually, this is a source of confusion among judges, who are trying to iron this issue out – The Ferrett, who’s seen Gis try to answer this already)

I also had a couple questions about what to do if your group uses a lot of counter magic. To that, I say use Overmaster and Recoup! (Recoup is also another spell you can abuse thoroughly here with the Mirari/Burning Wish engine.)

For my deck Blunt Trauma, which used Clones/Vesuvan Dopplegangers/Dance of Many to copy Phyrexian Colossus and Colossus of Sardia, I was asked why I didn’t use Voltaic Keys to untap them (sorry, I lost the e-mail and can’t credit the questioner). My answer is, if you have them, use them! I personally wanted to abuse the Grim Monolith/Power Artifact combo to create infinite mana for both casting and untapping them – but if you don’t have them then use Voltaic Keys. They have less of a cheese factor, too. Definitely keep the Chain Stasis in, though, just for the shock value!

Also – I just saw that Copy Artifact is no longer restricted. Use four! And up the Skull of Orm count to two or three copies!

I got the best responses for my Altar of Dementia deck. As I said at the start of the article, I didn’t claim to have the best Altar deck – just the most twisted! I got a couple really neat ideas from people, though. Russell Sherman sent me a mono-green build that abused Weatherseed Treefolk and Rancor, along with Endless Wurm and Greater Good (to draw cards). Great for beatdown and decking people!

The sickest idea came from Ezra Raste, as he decided to mill his own library down to two Serra Avatars. One he would sacrifice to the Altar, while the other he’d sacrifice to Animal Boneyard! Repeat ad nauseum! You could deck someone with one shot!! I’m gonna try that one!

By far, the most repeated question was some version of:”Hey, don’t I know you from (X)?” To that I have to answer, probably not, unless your dad also plays Magic! I’m kinda up there on the age scale… But suffice to say I hail from Northern California, and I spent my time from Mirage to the start of Invasion in Houston. As for what I look like, well, I actually look a bit like Chris Romeo – except I shaved my mustache, have blue eyes and don’t use as much hair coloring. I do, however, have the same insatiable, unrequited appetite for redheads.

In fact, I have one hell of a story I might share with you, entwined bit-by-bit within my future deck submissions. It has everything… A little romance, a little scandal (not concerning my work, I must stress!), a little international intrigue…not exactly five hours on a pool table (I want proof, Rizzo!), but juicy nonetheless. (What is the statute of limitations on kiss-and-tell, I wonder?! Rizzo waited ten years – is five enough?) Shall I provide a little plot foreshadowing?

I went to Houston for graduate school.

I got my Master’s degree in molecular genetics.

Studying anthrax.

On a CIA grant.

Have a nice day. (And avoid suspicious white powders.)

Stay tuned… The Sneak Attack is coming! It is coming!!

Tony Costa

[email protected]