SCG Daily: Inverting Dragons

As the person who named the Ascendants (yes, I’m proud of my creative writer gig), I’d like to point out that Homura is the first and currently only card with “Human” in its name. Unfortunately, Homura’s creature type matters even less than Erayo’s. No Monk lords exist, and there’s currently debate in R&D whether Humans will ever have a lord of some kind. But fortunately, Homura has another ability that’s a little more enticing…

Welcome to my second day of Ascendant fun. What? You missed Monday? Well go here, then. You’ve got some catching up to do.

For the rest of you, same drill, different Monk. Whereas yesterday I tackled the most talked-about Ascendant from Saviors of Kamigawa, today I’m talking about one of the least-mentioned. Since I’m trying to keep these Daily articles shorter than my usual babble-length fare, let’s jump right in…

Homura, Human Ascendant.

As the person who named the Ascendants (yes, I’m proud of my creative writer gig), I’d like to point out that Homura is the first and currently only card with "Human" in its name. Unfortunately, Homura’s creature type matters even less than Erayo’s. No Monk lords (a la Elvish Champion) exist, and there’s currently debate in R&D whether Humans will ever have a lord of some kind. So at least in terms of race and class, there is no reason for Homura to excite me. In fact, Homura’s card type is somewhat of a liability, since the card is legendary.

The thing that stands out when looking at Homura, Human Ascendant is that it costs six mana, two of which have to be red. Shivan Dragon and Two-Headed Dragon cost that much mana. So does Crater Hellion and Shivan Phoenix. In Kamigawa Block, Patron of the Akki and Ryusei, the Fallen Star are of comparable cost. On this information alone, then, I would expect Homura to be flat-out scary as a creature and sit atop my deck’s mana curve.

Instead, I get a 4/4 body.

That’s not horrible, by any means, but I certainly want more for six mana. The story gets even worse when I read the rules text and realize that Homura can’t block.

Can’t block? This means as a creature he is meant to bash, bash, bash without worrying about defense. The problem is that aggressive decks who want to bash, bash, bash want creatures that are more efficient than Homura. Check out Arc-Slogger, for example, which is one less mana for one more toughness. Heck, Ogre Taskmaster does the same damage for two less mana. I wish Homura had haste – but no matter how long I stare at the card, those five letters never materialize.

As a beatstick, then, Homura, Human Ascendant is fairly big but very inefficient. Compare him to Erayo, Soratami Ascendant and you see its flaws. Erayo is worth the cost for the creature side alone. Homura… not so much. I can certainly do better for the mana if all I want is a fatty.

When Homura is Put Into a Graveyard from Play…

Here is where Homura compares favorably to Erayo. I have to do some pretty severe deck gymnastics to flip into Erayo Essence. For Homura’s Essence, again… not so much. In fact all I need to do is somehow kill poor Homura to make him ascend.

There are a few things working against Homura’s death wish. First is the cost, which means I won’t be flipping Homura until the mid-game at the earliest. The second obstacle is Homura’s toughness, which makes him stubbornly resilient. The third is his inability to block, which means he can’t give his life in defending me. That’s a pretty grim trio of reasons.

The most obvious option is to drop Homura and send him at an opponent’s face until he dies. That’s not a bad option if everything else fails, and probably speaks to having a way to give Homura haste or Grafted Wargear so he’s maximally scary. It’s not a perfect option, though, because there are plenty of ways to hold off a 4/4 indefinitely (Troll Ascetic comes to mind) and because, as I said, Homura isn’t good enough on his own to take him at face value.

No, if I’m packing Homura in my deck then I want him to flip, which means considering some ways to kill my own guys. Without leaving red we have the following options: Blasting Station, Blood Rites, Bloodshot Cyclops, Fodder Cannon, Grab the Reins, Grafted Wargear, Junkyo Bell, Miren, the Moaning Well, Shimatsu the Bloodcloaked, Soulblast, Spawning Pit, and Through the Breach are all possibilities. Some of those are easier to fit into a deck than others, with Blasting Station, Grab the Reins, Grafted Wargear, Miren, Spawning Pit, and Through the Breach as the top contenders.

The other color that can devise ways to kill Homura is black. Footsteps of the Goryo seems perfect, if Homura ends up in my graveyard somehow. Black has plenty of goodies, though, the best of which are probably Death Pit Offering, Fallen Angel, and Phyrexian Plaguelord. Oni Possession, too, somehow makes me smile.

If there’s one downside of Homura’s trigger, is that it’s perhaps too easy to set off. Whereas I feel relatively comfortable dropping Erayo, Soratami Ascendant once Erayo Essence is in play, I wouldn’t want to take my chances with Homura, Human Ascendant. This suggests having a Plan B that does something with cards in my hand, either allowing me to discard them for some effect (like Blazing Shoal), or taking advantage of something like the wisdom effect a la Adamaro, First to Desire.

Homura’s Essence

Was it worth it? Was it worth my inefficient-no-blocking-beatstick dying?

You bet your bippy it was.

Homura’s Essence turns all of my creatures into dragons, man! It doesn’t get any cooler than that! Okay, they aren’t literally dragons, because their creature type doesn’t actually change. They’re, like, channeling dragons, or taking draconic steroids, or something. They sure act like dragons.

First, my creatures get bigger… the Death Pit Offering effect (in red!). Just like Death Pit decks, this means it’s okay to have smaller utility creatures, because once Homura’s Essence is in play they can smash face. Iron Myr, Hearth Kami, Ember-Fist Zubera, and Bottle Gnomes are great. Ronin Houndmaster is great. Even Battle-Mad Ronin and Goblin Striker look pretty darned scary. Let’s not forget that Viashino Sandstalker is a mighty 6/4 hasty lizard, too.

Second, my creatures have flying… the Levitation effect (in red!). It occurs to me that this is an incredible luxury for red decks, which have typically had to either burn through defenders or out-speed them. Hmmmm… that Viashino Sandstalker plan is looking better and better. This also makes cards like Ryusei, the Falling Star and Jiwari, the Earth Aflame very cool because they can result in a one-sided Wrath of God.

Finally, my creatures can breathe fire… the, uh, Firebreathing effect. What this suggests to me is that my Homura decks should be able to produce lots of red mana. Iron Myr, as I said, is a natural fit – but so is Seething Song, Pentad Prism, and the like. This also means that even if a Homura deck uses another color beyond red, it’s likely to be a splash color at best (the exception being green, but I’ll go into this in a bit).

In all, the game should end very quickly once Homura’s Essence comes into play. Presumably my deck is stuffed full of critters, and now those critters are beefy, mean, and have evasion.

Homura Decks

Just because Homura decks will tend towards mono-red doesn’t mean there are limited ways to take advantage of Homura’s Essence. Here are a few of the red decks I can imagine before I briefly touch on other color options…

The one idea I’ve seen floating around involves Through the Breach, which is a fine idea since it gives Homura a shot at dealing four damage and automatically flips him at end of turn. Since it’s an arcane card with splice, I can see the deck also making good use of Cunning Bandit, Blind with Anger, and Skyfire Kirin. After all, once I have control of an opponent’s creatures, they’re just as dragon-ly as the ones from my library. The only problem in a deck like this is ensuring I have enough creatures, rather than loading up on arcane cards. Ember-Fist Zubera and Glitterfang seem like good options here.

If I can make lots of tokens, then Homura’s Essence is mighty cool. Rally the Horde is the most fun option here, and Spawning Pit is a nice complement (and something to flip Homura). Genesis Chamber is a Death Pit Offering fave and fits in with Homura, too. Orochi Hatchery can get mighty scary if the deck can generate a lot of mana, a la Seething Song. Maybe Wand of the Elements and/or Tears of Rage can show up in the deck. Whatever the case, I know I would definitely use Rukh Egg, which is another "kill me" card that’s a natural fit with Homura.

A "hand size matters" deck in red sounds fun, with Akki Underling, Glitterfang, Viashino Sandstalker, and a full four copies of both Adamaro, First to Desire and Brothers Yamazaki. Maybe Spiraling Embers makes an appearance, too. Tenza, Godo’s Maul probably fits into this deck, maybe with a Godo, Bandit Warlord toolkit. Of course, Barrel Down Sokenzan would enhance such a deck.

From the land of "Whoah, what is JMS smoking?" I think it would be funny to add Mycosynth Lattice to a Homura deck and then use Atog or Megatog to eat up Homura, Human Ascendant. I mean, come on! Bosh, Iron Golem, Shrapnel Blast, Forge[/author] Armor”][author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] Armor… who’s with me?

…Okay. Fine.

I like the idea of a haste deck that turns all of my post-Homura’s Essence topdecks into potential game-winners. Things like Ronin Houndmaster, Slith Firewalker, Viashino Sandstalker, Oxidda Golem, and Vulshok Sorcerer. The tricky part is keeping the deck away from a basic red weenie aggro strategy, where Homura has no place. Maybe concentrating on Feral Lightning as a support card would keep me in line.

Speaking of Lightning, there’s a combo deck to be made with Lightning Coils and Homura, I’m just sure of it. Maybe Spawning Pit flips Homura and kills my creatures, or maybe I resort to splashing black for graveyard recursion and self-sacrificers like Fallen Angel. I can sort of smell the possibility there…. or maybe that’s just ozone. All I know is that one pop of Lightning Coils with Homura’s Essence on the table should win any game.

Since I’ve broken the seal on talking about black, it occurs to me that any Homura deck splashing black needs to justify why it isn’t monoblack and using Death Pit Offering. Either that or it needs to also use Death Pit Offering for a "win more – a lot more" kind of feel. I picture a Red/Black controllish deck with Barter in Blood and Phyrexian Plaguelord in it, maybe with Measure of Wickedness added in for style.

Green is the other compatible color with Homura, because of both its potential for mana-acceleration and its mana-fixing abilities. The fact that Time of Need is green solves a lot of problems, too. I’ve been playing a deck that is about as far away from budget as can be, but shows the sort of synergy that’s possible in a Green/Red Homura deck:

Homura’s Needs

Think hard and have fun,