My Magical Life: A Constructed and Limited Look at Time Spiral

Time Spiral has finally been unveiled… and Magic’s greatest minds are on the lookout for top tips and hot tech. Billy, bunged with a head cold but fresh from the prerelease, takes us through his preliminary thoughts on Time Spiral, looking at the set from both a Constructed and Limited standpoint. He throws up card interactions left, right, and center. Who knows, maybe the next Standard-defining deck is born in this intellectual melee…

I don’t know if you noticed, but I took s break last week. I begged Craig not to make me

write anything about anything, because I had absolutely nothing to write about. Also,

Burt Jones – who I told you about the week before last, and who I got to hang out with during

my vacation – told me to stop writing about nothing. Last week seemed like a reasonable time

for a break, because it was the last week before this week; this week being my first

chance to really write about Time Spiral.

I prereleased a little, much less than I would’ve liked, but I wasn’t feeling the best. I

thought I was suffering through my horrible allergies (and maybe I was), but it turned out I

was battling a painful and rather gross head cold. So I limited myself to one flight at

Neutral Ground’s midnight event, then left early (6 a.m.) so I could get a reasonable amount

of rest. I was hoping to head out to Jersey or back to NG yesterday, but I felt bad enough

that it woulda just been stupid. Fortunately, my head has stopped rebelling, the occasional

outburst in my chest is little more than an annoyance, and I’ve gotten quite good at wiping

out the excursionary forces that try sneaking out of my nose. So, even though I didn’t get to

play much Sealed or Draft at all this weekend, I did get to spend most of my time laid up

reading over the final spoiler.


I’ve got some general ideas about Time Spiral in Constructed. They’re untested, unproven,

and unsubstantiated, but they’re mine, and I love them. I hope you can appreciate that. A lot

of set reviews (even those focusing on Constructed) tend to look at cards in a vacuum, which

is okay (sort of), because largely we really don’t know what the new formats are gonna look

like just looking at a spoiler. But I also think these reviews tend to be a lot more vacuous

than need be. I don’t wanna be that guy… the one that says “Careful Consideration could

be good, or not. We’ll have to see if there’s a deck that wants to dig deep without

necessarily picking up any card advantage, and that needs some way to get rid of cards in its

hand. If there is, Consideration does the job well.” To avoid that, I’m gonna review

organically, grouping cards along all sorts of intuitive guidelines so that it may look like I

have decks in mind when analyzing a card. Then, at various points in the “review,” I

may even talk about possible decks or deck cores or birthday parties. Oh, and I’m only going

to talk about cards I find interesting. We’ll see…



Oh, snap… I forgot something I wanted to do briefly, before I get into everything I

really wanna get into. My first Time Spiral Sealed experience.

First, a card pool:

1 D’Avenant Healer (obviously a very solid man)
1 Evangelize (slow, unpredictable, and probably underwhelming)
1 Flickering Spirit (evasive and relentless, seems good but mana intensive)
2 Gaze of Justice (extra cost seems to make the card awful)
2 Ivory Giant (maybe it’s better at setting up alpha strikes than I thought, otherwise too

expensive for the body)
1 Quilled Sliver (a Crossbow Infantry with more risk and potential… seems fine)
1 Return to Dust (there seem to plenty of targets to maindeck this, especially the totems)
1 Serra Avenger (really good)
1 Spirit Loop (it gets around the aura-card disadvantage problem, but I’m not sure the effect

is worth a spot)
2 Temporal Isolation (a solid Pacifism, the flash can also turn it into combat removal)

1 Coral Trickster (a solid body and an ability that’s only situationally relevant, more than

fine as a flexible curve guy)
1 Crookclaw Transmuter (flash is really strong in this set, this guy’s a combat trick and a

high-powered flier. Duh)
1 Dream Stalker (pretty meh without a few things to combo with)
1 Drifter il-Dal (stone raining yourself turn 1 seems rough)
2 Errant Ephemeron (a four-power flier that can start hitting turn 6)
1 Fathom Seer (a morph that can draw cards for basically free, reasonable to more reasonable

depending on your island count)
1 Mystical Teachings (this card is great, especially if you have Strangling Soot)
2 Riftwing Cloudskate (it’s probably good)
1 Screeching Sliver (seems useless, slivers wanna beat down)
1 Shadow Sliver (I’m not sure why, but there’re a lot of three-mana 1/1 slivers, which

hurts this guys beatdown urges)
1 Sindbad (he’s worth almost half-a-card a turn, reasonable for a 2-drop)
1 Slipstream Serpent (this guy’s good and solid in the way morphs without abilities are)
1 Teferi (flash is good, he might be a bomb if you can afford UUU)
1 Willbender (a morph with a potentially game-swinging ability)

1 Basal Sliver (filler body with a mostly overcosted ability)
1 Cyclopean Giant (fragile for a four-drop, the triggered ability isn’t good enough to want

him to die)
1 Deathspore Thallid (seems fine if you have enough other Saproling action, otherwise too

1 Demonic Collusion (only if you have one card you need to get to win, ever)
1 Dread Return (same as above, sort of)
1 Drudge Reavers (solid, definitely tricky, but clunky to get max trickiness)
1 Feebleness (very solid removal)
1 Funeral Charm (far better than you should expect from a one-mana spell in Limited)
1 Mindlash Sliver (blank)
1 Mindstab (potentially awesome depending on speed of format)
1 Psychotic Episode (pretty awful, but still a Coercion if that’s what you need)
1 Smallpox (seems hard to get ahead on this card in limited)
2 Strangling Soot (this card kills a lot, twice)
1 Traitor’s Clutch (some card advantage, some combat potential, some falter effect, seems

1 Viscid Lemures (awesome if Black is good, otherwise so-so)

1 Bogardan Rager (expensive for a 3/4, but flash gives this guy a lot of versatility)
1 Coal Stoker (card pools should be too good to need this guy)
1 Empty the Warrens (storm seems pretty tough to rely on, without storm this is bad)
1 Flamecore Elemental (the body is big for four mana, not so much for eight… look hard at

your curve)
1 Fury Sliver (double strike is strong, this guy is okay on his own, not worth it if you have

1/1 slivers, and good if you have slivers with actual bodies)
1 Ground Rift (pretty bad falter)
1 Mogg War Marshal (expensive and clunky for three 1/1s, just clunky for two 1/1s, only a deal

if the marshal gets to block)
1 Orcish Cannonade (a good removal spell)
2 Subterranean Shambler (seems reasonable but not spectacular, aces if you ever need running

1 Undying Rage (seems like the perfect card for one of those aggro junk decks)

1 Chameleon Blur (overcosted Fog with room for some finesse, probably not worth it)
1 Durkwood Baloth (a natural six-drop you can pay for on turn 1, good as long as six-drops are

not irrelevant)
2 Gemhide Sliver (a mana-fixer that’s combos with slivers, really good)
1 Havenwood Wurm (reasonably priced, it’s a Waste Away with a one-mana 5/6 trampler

1 Krosan Grip (really good at killing artifacts and enchantments, fairly efficient too)
1 Might of Old Krosa (a bad Giant Growth unless you just need to hit someone with no blockers

and no removal, still reasonable)
1 Scarwood Treefolk (big for his price, his use depends on speed of format, if it’s faster,

he’s worse)
1 Strength in Numbers (harder to take advantage of than it looks and it’ll almost never

counter a burn spell)
1 Thrill of the Hunt (a solid trick with built-in card advantage)
1 Wormwood Dryad (should be unblockable in sealed)

1 Vhati il-Dal (well-costed body and an ability that dominates combat and combines well with

many cards)

1 Phyrexian Totem (like all the totems, an on-color auto-include, the creature half can be

risky with so much flash running around)
1 Thunder Totem (mana acceleration, fixing, and a hard-to-kill evasion creature)
1 Weatherseed Totem (the best totem, this guy hits hard and is almost impossible to kill)

1 Academy Ruins (probably does nothing in most decks)
1 Arena (amazing if you have the biggest guy on the board)
1 Molten Slagheap (the storage lands don’t fix well early, but they’re great for splashes and

for, ya know, storing mana)
1 Terramorphic Expanse (a pretty awesome fixer for any deck)
1 Urza’s Factory (seems great for Sealed, it is pretty slow though)

I had one bomb I was sure of in Arena, and another I didn’t stop to think about in Teferi.

Otherwise, this was just a solid card pool. The thing that drew me immediately was the double

Strangling Soots. I’m almost positive I misbuilt because I played Black as a main color, and

the black creatures (other than Vhati) just didn’t warrant it. Red was cut almost immediately

except for the Bogardan Rager and the Fury Sliver. I knew early I wouldn’t be able to support

Orcish Cannonade. I ended up playing a heavy Blue splash, easing the cost of it with Blue

morphs. I’m sure I undervalued Temporal Isolation in building, but I don’t think White offered

enough to consider it seriously. Here’s what I ended up playing:

1 Scarwood Treefolk
1 Wormwood Dryad
1 Vhati il-Dal
1 Havenwood Wurm
1 Durkwood Baloth
2 Gemhide Sliver
1 Viscid Lemures
1 Drudge Reavers
1 Deathspore Thallid
1 Willbender
1 Slipstream Serpent
2 Errant Ephemeron

2 Strangling Soot
1 Funeral Charm
1 Mystical Teachings
1 Krosan Grip

1 Feebleness

1 Phyrexian Totem
1 Weatherseed Totem

1 Arena
1 Molten Slagheap
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Urza’s Factory
1 Mountain
2 Island
6 Forest
5 Swamp

I went 2-2 with the decking… pretty stellar performance. I won the first round even

though I kept screwing up with the new cards, making plays like flipping the serpent with no

islands, or blocking the flanking sliver with a 1/1 (I thought it was the crossbow sliver).

Anyway, reading is good, but Arena is better. In the second round, first game, my opponent had

a summoning-sick Magus of the Mirror, so he took an attack that put him to three, forgetting

about the Strangling Soot in my yard. That was low enough for me to kill him with Weatherseed

Totem, even though his Verdant Embrace was quickly clogging the board. In the final game, he

was at eight with a handful of men and a Serrated Arrows, maybe even the Embrace again. I had

a Wurmwood Dryad, a Negator totem, and the hope of topdecking Funeral Charm for the swampwalk

after I got him to somehow tap the Arrows and target something besides my Dryad. I Strangle

one of his guys at end of turn, and then activate Arena; while I’m tapped out he Arrows my

Gemhide Sliver so I can’t flashback the Soot (he was still stinging from game 1). Of course, I

topdeck the Funeral Charm for the win.

Then, I started losing, so now I start a new paragraph.

The next round I play this kid I’d played at the Coldsnap midnight prerelease. His deck

was ridiculous. One game he locked me out with Magus of the Disk and Fool’s Demise. I even

killed an unchanted Magus with a sided in Smallpox, and he Zombified it. The other game I lost

to Lim-Dul. Clockspinning seemed pretty reasonable the two times I saw it played. By the last

round, I was cursing myself for being stupid and careless and Neutral Grounds for running out

of paper towels. Fortunately, my opponent was a lot of fun to play against. Julien [sic], an

exchange student from Cologne (I think), was an old school tournament player who only gets out

for prereleases now. He was the most skilled player I faced in the four rounds, and that

always makes matches a little more fun. In the deciding game, I had Arena and Vhati. He shook

his head as I ate away at his team, and then killed Vhati. Julien was a real bastard. I

stabilized with a big wurm. To go with my Arena. It went better with his Ray of Command. I

forgot to pick up my consolation pack before I left. Actually, I was ashamed.

I’m pretty sure this was the deck I should’ve built:

1 Viscid Lemures
1 Scarwood Treefolk
1 Wormwood Dryad
1 Vhati il-Dal
1 Havenwood Wurm
1 Durkwood Baloth
2 Gemhide Sliver
1 Willbender
1 Slipstream Serpent
2 Errant Ephemeron
1 Crookclaw Transmuter
2 Riftwing Cloudskate
1 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir

2 Strangling Soot
1 Mystical Teachings
1 Krosan Grip

1 Phyrexian Totem
1 Weatherseed Totem

1 Arena
1 Molten Slagheap
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Swamp
1 Mountain
7 Forest
6 Island

It’s not a major, major shift, but I do think it’s a significantly better build, and

fairly obvious; therefore, it was a pretty major misbuild on my part. My creature pool gets

miles better and so does my mana; at the same time, I don’t lose anything in the spell

department. The Factory probably should be in there and if I was going to play today, it would

probably make the cut.

Anyway, I can’t believe I’ve managed to put off talking about Time Spiral in Standard for

such a long time. I’m actually really excited about it. So yeah, I’m just gonna dive in, but

first (no, it’s not another distraction, more of a confessional disclaimer):

I still have reservations about what I’m about to do, on account of the demands of competitive

Magic (which makes open disclosure like the following sometimes not the best idea), so if you

notice than I’m talking around something that you think is fairly obvious without making it

explicit, I might be. Maybe I just don’t see it. And you’ll have to excuse me if, at this

point in time, I don’t submit any actual decklists. Not only do I not really have testing, I

also can’t reveal all of my intuited Constructed secrets. If I do share, it’s compulsive, and

please feel free to enjoy. I really do enjoy sharing, and I need Krempels to stop me.

The first thing I wanted to talk about was the combo potential that’s all over Time

Spiral. Here’s a rough list of some of the actual combo engines available (some I stumbled

upon by myself, others I’ve picked out of the forums or from various conversations with

excited prereleasers… they’re fairly obvious, so excuse me if I ignore anyone’s proprietary


Saffi Eriksdotter plus Crypt Champion (with no red) equals infinite

“creature-coming-into-play” loop and infinite sac fodder
Enduring Renewal plus Wild Cantor equals infinite “creature-coming-into-play” loop

and infinite spell count
Enduring Renewal plus Ornithopter equals infinite sac fodder and (with a sac outlet) infinite

spell count and “creature-coming-into-play” loop
Niv-Mizzet plus Ophidian Eye equals a “card drawing, damage” loop that’s lethal if

your library’s bigger than your opponent

There are cards like Living End that are pretty much combos in themselves. And I’m sure

there are plenty of more convoluted combos, but these are the simplest, most elegant that I am

aware of. Obviously, these are mostly just engines and the Niv-Mizzet combo is the only one

that can win by itself. Unfortunately, it’s also the clunkiest, because in most cases it will

have to take place over two turns, due both to Niv’s cost and his summoning sickness. The

spell-loops feed storm spells, of which there are four relevant ones in Time Spiral:

Empty the Warrens is more reasonable in a deck that generates a high, but not infinite,

storm count. Dragon Storm needs a fast mana, short storm engine; unfortunately, there’s no

more Kokusho for a quick kill, so it really just powers out lots of dragons… which is not

bad against most stuff that isn’t Wrath. Ignite Memories can kill faster than Empty the

Warrens, but it’s pretty random even when you do go off. Grapeshot is worth particular note

because it is so cheap. It kills people quickly with the infinite loops.

There are a few cards that can abuse the infinite sac fodder. Nantuko Husk becomes an

infinitely large attacker. And Thermopod can generate infinite mana. There are plenty of sac

outlets with mana costs, but those are a lot less interesting, and comparatively pretty


As far as abusing the comes-into-play potential, Soul Warden, Pandemonium, Herd Gnarr,

Juniper Order Ranger, and Poisonbelly Ogre are available. The Ranger and the Ogre probably

cost too much for effects that don’t outright win you the game. Herd Gnarr doesn’t really do

anything Husk doesn’t for cheaper, but if you don’t wanna play Black, it’s there. Soul Warden

is super-efficient, and leaves you with about fifty turns to figure out how to win.

Pandemonium provides a pretty clean win; its only real drawback is its vulnerability as an


(It seems worth noting that all of these combos can be broken up by a Naturalize effect.)

Also, you’ve probably noticed that, except for the Niv combo (which I like to call

“Mizzet… Fool”), a lot of the other combo pieces and win conditions either are the

same, or overlap in purpose, such that it’s probably possible to run a deck with some mix of

Saffi, Crypt Champion, Renewal, Wild Cantor, ‘Thopter, Husk, Pandemonium, and Soul

Warden. It’s an easy path to end up taking… you’re playing Renewal and Cantor to win with

Grapeshot or Soul Warden, so why not run Husk and Thopter as another infy loop? Now that we

have Husk, shouldn’t we put the Saffi-Champion loop in… and who cares if your Saffi loop

doesn’t affect your storm count, or that Ornithopter doesn’t trigger Pandemonium? My gut

reaction is that that’s not the way to go. But I guess there’s some potential for a toolbox

deck with a combo win built in.

As far as piecing the combos together, “Mizzet…Fool”, which has a

Curiosity-based counterpart in Extended, has the natural advantage of being Blue. Truth or

Tale strikes me as decent but not great, as, except for imperfect knowledge, you should always

get the second best card in the stack. On the other hand, Careful Consideration seems

combo-awesome. It digs deep; lets you get rid of redundant pieces and useless cards in your

hand; and can, in a pinch, be cast main phase for actual card advantage. Ancestral Visions

gets better the slower your deck plays, and it’s possible any Blue-based combo deck will play

a slow, counterspell heavy game. Mystical Teachings is probably too expensive to see much

play, but it’s around and it’s an instant. (Black offers Demonic Collusion, but that seems

pretty much not worth the effort.)

The same tools Blue has to protect itself also work to protect its combos. Cancel is a

pretty efficient hard counter, perfectly capable of supplementing Remand and Mana Leak in the

time-buying game. Wipe Away has obvious board control utility, which helps when you’re trying

to push an enchantment-based combo against Ronom Unicorn. Repeal and Boomerang are obviously

available, but both can be countered. Trickbind can also fill a similar role, though with less


Search for Tomorrow seems reasonable if you have some kind of combo that needs four lands

on turn 3 and doesn’t wanna tap out turn 2. Maybe in Block, without Farseek, this will see

play. Lotus Bloom, however, can fit in any deck that wants the mana it offers, is willing to

trade that potential for consistency, or has outlets such as Compulsive Research or Careful

Consideration for untimely Blooms.

Which brings me to another pseudo-combo… Akroma plus reanimation spell. Reanimator

before Akroma played like an overpowered toolbox deck, powering out whichever of its random

fatties was most effective against the particular opponent. After Akroma, reanimator seems, to

me at least, to be a combo deck that usually goes off a little quicker and takes a little more

time to kill. It’s not the fastest reanimation ever, but Research into Zombify or Resurrection

on Akroma is a reasonable clock that doesn’t take up much space. Solar Flare already has a

deck skeleton for it and it doesn’t have to squeeze out Angel of Despair in the process. My

point was, in a deck like that, Lotus Bloom can power out a turn 4 Angel (either kind) mostly

by itself (Akroma needs a Signet).

The last loose combo I wanted to mention before I signed out is Coalition Victory plus

Scion of the Ur-Dragon. It’s almost a two-card game-winning combo. But the color and land type

demands promise to eat up a lot of deck space. I’m sure it’s doable; as far as I know (being

in my relative Magical infancy), there were competitive Victory decks the first time around. I

know I’m not saying anything especially valuable about this combo; I just wanted to point out

that a deck built around these two probably requires a very disciplined and refined balancing

of land search, card draw, combo pieces, and cards that actually do something.

Next week, I’ll be back with whatever’s going on in my developing understanding of the new

Constructed formats, plus other stuff. Like, I’m supposed to be testing for Kobe, so I’m sure

I’ll be drafting some, but I really like deckbuilding, and I’ve got Worlds to look forward to,

so some of that will always be jumping around in my head.

Until then,