Lords of Atlantis: The Definitive Cowardice Sourcebook

Five potential Cowardice builds, showing you the evolution of the form.

When Mercadian Masques was first released last year, I was bubbling over with excitement. Rebels, Mercenaries, Rishadan Ports, and Dust Bowls filled my mind while I opened booster after booster of the product. After opening three boxes of the stuff, I was sorely disappointed; where were my Ports, Bowls, and good creatures?

Why were the Mercenaries getting the shaft while the rebels got Cho Manno?

And why oh why did Wizards print Black Market?

But after doing the normal sorting and putting cards into the binder, I noticed this little five casting-cost enchantment for blue:

Whenever a creature becomes the target of a spell of ability, return that creature to its owner’s hand.

What garbage, I thought. Who would play this in a format dominated by Replenish, Bargain, and Angry Hermit? (I got to my boxes late in the season!) I put my Cowardice in the binder and never got rid of them.

When I moved to Minnesota though, it was a different story. Trey Van Cleave opted to play Cowardice at Pro Tour: New York when everyone else was playing Rebels and Waters. Running maindecked Jolting Merfolks, the object was to put everything back into your opponent’s hand and then proceed to beat them down with various blue creatures. This was not in the plans though, as Blastoderm beat the bejesus out of this deck. People continued to experiment with the idea though, as it was the only quasi-combo deck in the MBC format – and when Prophecy was released, a card powerful enough to take advantage of Cowardice was included:

Rhystic Deluge
U: Tap target creature unless its controller pays 1.

"Target" here is the word! Instead of just relying on the Jolting Merfolk for creature control, the Deluge allowed you to tap everything at the end of your opponent’s turn and then attack with all of your unblocked creatures. I opted to play Nether Go! during the MBC qualifiers – but had I gotten the chance, I would have worked with Cowardice more.

Cut now to the current type two (no one wants to hear about an Elvish Herder/Cowardice deck from the old Type II, now do they?) States was around the corner and I had given Cowardice new thoughts. Invasion saw the release of yet another targeting blue card in:

Metathran Transport
Metathran Transport can not be blocked by blue creatures.
U: Target creature becomes blue until end of turn.

I played a version of Nether Go again at States, and I missed out on a chance to test this deck style. Since then, I have built four different versions of the deck – one in every color combination except Blue Red. All Cowardice decks, though, seem to run into the same problems: What stops creatures that can not be targeted? Simple! A well-timed Wash Out will end your woes for a while – just be sure to have plenty of counter backup. You will see the word "Blastoderm" a lot in the upcoming discussion – and for a good reason. This deck fears the ‘Derm and Blurred Mongoose – not because they are cheap effective creatures, but because they both say, "They can not be the target of spells or effects." (So does Deadly Insect, but really, who plays with that?) (Who plays with a Blurred Mongoose? — The Ferrett, champion of Mongeeseeses everywhere)

Blue White Cowardice:
4x Cowardice
4x Rhystic Deluge
4x Wrath of God
2x Rout
4x Opt
4x Brainstorm
4x Enlightened Tutor
2x Blinding Angel
2x Teferi’s Moat
4x Wash Out
4x Counterspell
4x Adarkar Wastes
4x Coastal Tower
10x Island
4x Plains

This deck is a very suboptimal build. It revolves around mass creature removal (Wrath, Wash Out, and Teferi’s Moat) as the only way to get around Blastoderms. It uses the Blinding Angel as the kill card, and the Opts, Tutors, and Brainstorms get you the cards that you need to start the foundation of a creature lockdown. Four Counterspells round out the mix. They are to be used to counter cards that wreck this build: Disenchant, Dismantling Blow, and removal that can kill the Blinding Angel. An option I never considered until now is the Acolytes from Invasion. They give you a cheap creature that is protected from either source of major creature elimination, and it gives you another option for the Cowardice.

The next build I went to stayed within the allied colors concept. The addition of the Invasion taplands and the Ice Age painlands allows for easier mana development. The black/blue build is easier to make though, it allows access to Evil Eye of Orms By Gore, and the best searcher in all of Type two – Vampiric Tutor. Four of each are in order here: The Evil Eye because it stops Blastoderm, and the Tutor because well… It gets you what you need.

4x Cowardice
4x Rhystic Deluge
4x Evil Eye of Orms By Gore
4x Vampiric Tutor
4x Recoil
4x Washout
4x Opt
4x Brainstorm
2x Fact or Fiction
4x Counterspell
2x Power Sink
4x Underground River
4x Salt Marsh
8x Island
4x Swamp

This deck features a few more counterspells and a little more card drawing. Fact or Fiction makes its appearance in this build. There is a smaller amount of Islands in this deck to make room for enough swamps to take advantage of Recoil and the Evil Eye.

The third build of the deck has seen many changes. It started off as a thread on the Kentucky Magic Alliance (please email me to join this up-and-coming emailing list – end self promotion), and was the first deck to feature green in it, instead of a regular mono- or ally-colored strategy. The ever-feared Blastoderm makes an appearance in this build, as do the Mirage diamonds and Natural Affinity. This is a combo deck at heart; it waits for the right moment to cast the Affinity, and then returns all lands back to their owners’ hands with the Rhystic Deluge. It uses the same base as the other decks, but also allowed more flexibility in the creature department.

Turbo Cowardice 1.0
4x Cowardice
4x Rhystic Deluge
4x Sky Diamond
2x Moss Diamond
4x Skyshroud Claim
4x Brainstorm
4x Power Sink
4x Fact or Fiction
2x Blastoderm
2x Natural Affinity
2x Counterspell
16x Island
8x Forest

The biggest problem with this deck is mana consistency. It’s surprising, but the Claims do not make up for land efficiency since they only go after Forests. In the next version of the deck I replaced the Claims with Harrow, but that still lacked punch. Only netting you a one-land gain, this can be redeeming in the fact that it does search out Islands.

But I was still not pleased with the deck and I settled on this version, which was much like the Urza’s Block type two Cowardice deck that I spoke of earlier.

Turbo Cowardice 2.0
4x Birds of Paradise
4x Cowardice
4x Rhystic Deluge
4x Llanowar Elves
4x Power Sink
4x Brainstorm
4x Blurred Mongoose
4x Blastoderm
4x Fact or Fiction
4x Counterspell
15x Island
5x Forest

What makes this deck different is the amount of creatures. Birds of Paradise and Llanowar Elves up the tempo of the deck, while the Blurred Mongoose and Blastoderm make sure that the Cowardice does not turn against you. This deck packs eight counterspells and eight ways to search for the combo parts that you need. Sporting only twenty lands, the mana-producing creatures that are in this build compensate for the low mana mix. Gaea’s Heralds (I think that this is the name of the creature) from Planeshift is a creature that can not be countered, and then also gives future creatures the ability to not be countered – this might be an interesting trick.

All of the dual-colored Cowardice decks run into the same problem: The activation costs of Rhystic Deluge and Metathran Transport are paid in Blue mana. The only feasible way to abuse all three cards, then, is to play a deck that has nothing but blue spells in it! This is my final version of Cowardice, and by far the most effective. Sporting fifteen library manipulation spells, finding the combo could never be easier! Also playing this time around are Air Elementals and Metathran Transport – and with the eight combo pieces and the seven counterspells, this deck can give your opponents fits!

4x Cowardice
4s Rhystic Deluge
4x Metathran Transport
4x Air Elemental
4x Brainstorm
4x Opt
4x Accumulated Knowledge
3x Fact or Fiction
3x Foil
4x Counterspell
22x Island

In retrospect, this deck can afford to lose one Transport, Elemental, Foil and an Island. To use the four free spots that I just cleared, I suggest either more counterspells (Prohibit, Thwart), or four Wash Outs. In an environment where creatures are abundant, I suggest this archetype. People do not expect Cowardice in tournament play, as they have sat on their laurels waiting for the Pro Players to tell them what to play. But just because the pros have stopped working doesn’t mean you have to!

Joshua X Claytor
I will be at the Indy Prerelease on Saturday; look for the guy who is wearing clothes. I’ll have a nametag – will you?