The decklist that is contained in the following article may or may not be a surprise. Hell, it may not even be a contender for the ongoing Pro Tour: Osaka Qualifiers. But it has not been discussed much on the net, and now seems like a fine time to do so.
I have done little research on this deck type, but the en-Kor creatures from the Tempest block have always intrigued me. The ability to redirect what could have been lethal damage to one creature to another that would survive seemed to be some good, but was overshadowed by the more powerful Spike, Sliver, and Shadow creatures of the block. It was not until Urza’s Block that some saw a potential combo card for these creatures in About Face – and when Masques block came along and added Task Force to the already-hip Angelic Protector, a deck just seemed to build itself.
Now, most of you reading this will either be outraged or incredibly bored. Seriously, what kind of player would like to consider a kiddy combo deck to play in some tournament, be it local or not?
The following decklist can be considered a sample version of Life. I believe that the deck type sprung up in the Saint Louis area, surprising several players, and falling short of a Pro Tour spot in Japan this time last year. No one played the deck in New Orleans (if I am wrong, I apologize), and it seems to only do well in the Grand Prix Trial circuit this year, where Donald Cripe has taken different versions to top eight finishes.
4x Angelic Protector
4x Task Force
2x Urza’s Rage
4x Swords to Plowshares
4x Mother of Runes
4x Nomads en-Kor
2x Warriors en-Kor
2x Shaman en-Kor
4x Seal of Cleansing
4x Worthy Cause
4x About Face
1x Altar of Dementia
3x Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]
I may be going out on a limb when I say this, but it looks like the deck was designed to beat up on the popular Trix and Sligh decks of last year. The matchups this year are pretty much like this:
In testing, this deck has had easy times against Sligh, Donate, Stompy, Three Deuce, Junk, and Secret Force. It has a hard road to victory against Star Spangled Slaughter, Counter Sliver, and Benzo, while against anything else that has more counterspells than creatures seems to be an auto loss.
What troubled me the most was the fact that this deck has very little search to get hold of the key combo parts. In fact, the version that I have mentioned is out of date, and has even been stripped out of my playtest gauntlet. To be competitive, the deck had to evolve – and again, Donald Cripe made top eight at a GPT in St. Louis this past weekend with the following version.
3 About Face
3 Vampiric Tutor
1 Aura of Silence
3 Swords to Plowshares
1 Altar of Dementia
2 Warrior en-Kor
2 Shaman en-Kor
4 Nomads en-Kor
4 Angelic Protector
4 Task Force
4 Worthy Cause
4 Mother of Runes
4 Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author]
This deck now has the search that is needed to find the combo in Vampiric Tutor, and has shifted into making the control matchup a bit more bearable in the addition of Duress. In my opinion, Duress has to be the best turn 1 play in the format, and may very well be one of the top five cards in Extended.
Now, what do these cards do? What makes the combo so great that some players are just housing certain areas with this build? Against Sligh, Stompy, and the other aggressive decks of the format, Worthy Cause is the bane of their day.
Sacrifice a creature: Gain life equal to the sacrificed creature’s toughness.
The theory behind this card can be found in combination of one of the en-Kor critters and either Task Force or Angelic Protector.
Creature – Soldier
0: The next 1 damage that would be dealt to Nomads en-Kor this turn is dealt to target creature you control instead
(The other maindecked en-Kor creatures have the same redirection ability as the Nomad.)
Creature – Rebel
Whenever Task Force becomes the target of a spell or ability, it gets +0/+3 until end of turn.
When you have these two creatures in play (or the Angelic Protector), it is possible to gain an infinite amount of life. Simply use the ability of the en-Kor to pump the toughness of the creature to a high amount, and then Worthy Cause it. Most aggressive decks will scoop at this point, seeing that it is quite impossible to knock you down from three trillion life.
Against Control, the deck looks to the same creatures, but uses About Face as the finisher.
Switch target creature’s power and toughness until end of turn. Effects that alter the creature’s power alter its toughness instead, and vice versa.
You use the same redirection ability and pump the toughness to high amounts again, then swing with the huge monster. Just About Face after blockers but before damage goes on the stack, and the look of your opponent should be priceless. However against control you may find yourself needing an alternate win condition. Against non-Oath decks, which maindeck the powerful Gaea’s Blessing, Altar of Dementia fills the void.
Altar of Dementia
Sacrifice a creature: Target player puts a number of cards equal to the sacrificed creature’s power from the top of his or her library into his or her graveyard.
Pretty simple, right?
Now as I said, this deck may not be much to look forward to outside of the Midwest region, but it looks to be a promising and enjoyable deck to play. Good luck to you during the upcoming PTQ and Grand Prix events this season!