Fun With Old Cards #8: If They See It Coming, Is It Still A Sneak Attack?

Before I detail how to play this deck, I should warn you that what you are about to witness is graphic, violent, and could inspire foul language. This deck utilizes two cards that my personal playgroups frown upon and draw instant retaliation the second I put them into play: Pandemonium, and Sneak Attack. They all gun for me, but to quote Jaya Ballard, Task Mage:”You know what? They’re dead.”

8,000 spores.


That’s about how many Bacillus anthracis (subsp. Sterne A) spores it takes to cause pulmonary (respiratory) Anthrax in Rhesus monkeys. The post-9/11 Anthrax attacks, however, suggest the possibility that among the elderly or immunocompromised, one spore may be enough to kill.

One spore.

Scary, isn’t it? The government has been hush-hush towards the public on the subject of what could constitute a lethal dose, and for good reason. Just think of the Pandemonium that would ensue if someone were to instigate a large-scale Anthrax Sneak Attack here in the U.S., with everyone knowing that someone could Fling just one spore your way – and you could die if you inhaled it. We should draw comfort from the knowledge that the government keeps us ignorant for the Greater Good…wait, what’s that noise?* Look, up in the sky…ohmigawd…


(Redheaded) Stepchild’s Revenge

Spells (36):

4 Sneak Attack

4 Elvish Piper

4 Fling

3 Weird Harvest

2 Pandemonium

2 Greater Good

2 Symbiotic Wurm

2 Viashino Cutthroat

2 Shivan Phoenix

3 Serra Avatar

2 Penumbra Wurm

2 Crater Hellion

2 Phyrexian Colossus

1 Devouring Strossus

1 Genesis

Land (24):

4 Sandstone Needle

4 Taiga

4 Shivan Oasis

4 Karplusan Forest

3 Forest

3 Mountain

2 Diamond Valley

Before I detail how to play this deck, I should warn you that what you are about to witness is graphic, violent, and could inspire foul language. This deck utilizes two cards that my personal playgroups frown upon and draw instant retaliation the second I put them into play: Pandemonium, and Sneak Attack itself. Pandemonium is one of those cards that are completely broken in multi-player, with the Ferrett himself advocating the banning of this card in the format. I personally don’t like to ban cards outright, but I do think that restricting the card might be a good option, and going to one copy here would be fine. That said; the deck plays just fine without Pandemonium, thanks to Sneak Attack. Being able to put a creature into play, with haste, for just one red mana, is broken even with the”drawback” of burying the creature at the end of the turn.

I don’t care.

I’m using four.

When Sneak Attack hits the table, every instant damage source imaginable is immediately thrown at my head – but if I plan ahead, it doesn’t matter because, to quote Jaya Ballard, Task Mage:”You know what? They’re dead.”

The obvious point of the deck is to play large creatures without paying their full mana cost. To that end, I use the four Sneak Attacks and supplement them with Elvish Pipers because they provide the flexibility of having a creature stay in play for good, and I like being secure in the knowledge that during the game I will be certain to draw at least one”enabler.” Also, the Piper can suck up a Chainer’s Edict in a pinch and can be recurred using Genesis. If push comes to shove, however, the deck is capable of hard casting all but four of the creatures I use.

When playing this deck, be aware that you will take early damage. You have no plays possible before turn four, or maybe three if you have drawn Sandstone Needles. If your mates play with a lot of weenies, replace the Pandemoniums and Colossi with Tinder Walls or Wall of Roots. They will speed you up and provide early defense. Usually in large chaos-Magic games you will have plenty of time to set up. In the meantime, you can set up your land base and play Greater Good or Elvish Piper, which tends to be a target but isn’t as universally reviled as Sneak Attack.

The most interesting card in this deck is Weird Harvest. This card gets the creatures I want, and I use it slightly differently depending on whether I have Elvish Piper or Sneak Attack in play. With the Piper, I pull out Symbiotic Wurm and Devouring Strossus, and if I have the extra mana I also get a Serra Avatar and Genesis. The Wurm/Strossus combination alone puts your opponents on a clock. Don’t get Crater Hellion, though, unless you really need to clear the table – because they will kill your Piper! With Sneak Attack in play I usually grab Genesis, a Crater Hellion or two and Serra Avatar or Penumbra Wurm. This allows you to recur the Hellion via Genesis to clear the table of small creatures, and to build an army of 6/6 Wurms.

Of course, there is a bad side to Weird Harvest, as your friends can see what you are getting – and they get to pull out just as many creatures as well! Usually, the disparity in creature size is enough to swing things your way, however – while they’re fisting their Ravenous Baloths and Sengir Vampires, you’re fingering two Crater Hellions and serious fat! Sometimes you can truly shake ’em up by holding on to the Sneak Attack and not playing it until you have the creatures in hand, then dropping the Hellion and big stuff the next turn when they least expect it!

Another great card in the deck is Greater Good. The drawback to Sneak Attack is that you have to sacrifice the creatures you play at the end of the turn, so why not sac ’em to good effect and draw a fistful of cards? Sure, you have to discard three – but with such large power values on most of your creatures and with Genesis in the deck (not to mention Serra Avatars get shuffled back into the deck when they get into the graveyard), you get to hold on to the big fatties and utility stuff. One trick I’ve used to good effect is sacrificing a Serra Avatar to Greater Good after attacking with it via Sneak Attack, drawing twenty cards in the process, and then playing another Avatar and sacrificing it etc. until I am down to nothing but Serra Avatars in my deck (be careful about decking yourself with Greater Good!)! I then play a Diamond Valley and every turn I attack with an even larger Avatar while I gain more life than anyone can handle!

Don’t forget, by the way, that you can use Sneak Attack to send in surprise blockers at any time. This works great with Symbiotic and Penumbra Wurms, as you wind up with creatures ready and able to attack on your turn!

Of the other creatures I’ve used in the deck, Viashino Cutthroat and Shivan Phoenix are in because you can order their end-of-turn abilities to return them to your hand instead of burying them. They are also the easiest to hard cast when you are in a pinch, though the Cutthroat won’t be there for you on defense. The Phyrexian Colossi are there as a way to force damage through anyone that manages to play a couple of imposing blockers. The Symbiotic and Penumbra Wurms, of course, give you creatures when they die; and the Devouring Strossus is nine points of flying terror that is great with Sneak Attack but stellar with Elvish Piper and Symbiotic Wurm. Nine turns of 9/9 damage equals 81 – or four player’s life totals, am I right?! (Assuming you sac the Piper too.)

The Flings in the deck serve a dual purpose: Large creature control, sacrificing your sneaky critters (before Sneak Attack claims them) to off their monsters, and massive direct face slaps. I once played Sneak Attack and dropped a 20/20 Serra Avatar to do twenty damage via Pandemonium to kill one player, attacked with it to kill a second, then flung it to take out a third!

The land base I use is constantly in motion. I’m using Sandstone Needles now because they allow you to drop a Sneak Attack early or to really explode with it if your grip is full of fat. The Diamond Valleys are there to gain life from my soon-to-be ex-creatures, but you could splash white for Animal Boneyard for the same effect. Shivan Oasis is fine because you really have no early drops, and I might take out the painlands for more basics because I have no problems casting anything when I need to. If anything I’d go heavier red though, to really abuse Sneak Attack. So, there’s the deck – have fun with it!

Tony Costa

[email protected]

* – By the way: while I did study Anthrax, I only worked with attenuated (weak) strains and never had access to deadly ones (nor did I want access!). And although the CIA funded my school project, I want to say that not only did I not work with deadly strains, my project focused on the destruction of Anthrax and not weaponization! I do have a conscience!! I just hope they haven’t been bugging my phone, or looking at my e-mails…