It doesn’t matter where I’m heading or how lost I get along the way. I’ll always end up back in Mirage. It’s not just that I like black people on my Magic cards (though, Lord knows, there aren’t many of them outside of Mirage). There’s also the wonderful setting, an environment far-flung from that of traditional fantasy. Sometimes, though, Mirage ignores its keynote mechanics, leaves the Phasing, chimera, and griffins behind. Sometimes, it plays good, old-fashioned, hardscrabble Magic.
This is the case with Forbidden Crypt. Just thinking about the card’s effect makes me feel all tingly. Few cards from the block have such potential power, yet few are so hard to grapple with (excluding Pygmy Hippo of course). The enchantment’s primary trouble is that before you can get to tutoring each turn, you need to stuff your graveyard. So, besides Deep Spawn and Ertai’s Familiar (even I have limits), what methods are there of getting stuffed? The simplest (and best) option is Traumatize, but it goes against all I hold dear to suggest a card that would cost you so dear. Naturally, the same appears to go for Gifts Ungiven, but because Gifts Ungiven will be tournament legal for quite a while yet, you could do worse than picking up a few copies. Twist this logic around, and you’ll realize that you really ought to own a 4-set of Traumatize as well. Huzzah! What follows is the possible core for a possible Forbidden Crypt deck:
2 Thought Courier
2 Tolarian Winds
4 Gifts Ungiven
4 Forbidden Crypt
In Forbidden Crypt decks, it’s difficult to hit upon the correct number of self-milling cards. Whereas cards like Tolarian Winds and Thought Courier aren’t too shabby once Forbidden Crypt is on the table, things like Mental Note and Book Burning are perfectly useless. Ideally, you’ll be playing Traumatize on turn 5 and Forbidden Crypt on turn 6 (Wayfarer’s Bauble could speed this up a turn). After those two turns spent not altering the board, you’ll probably need to make the most of Forbidden Crypt’s tutoring power and won’t have an opportunity to cast card drawing/card selection spells such as Tolarian Winds and Gifts Ungiven for a while anyway. It’s important to note that, even though Gifts Ungiven might appear trashier than Akron, Ohio after Forbidden Crypt has been cast, by this point, your library will have become an otherwise dead resource, and you can view the instant as straight, selective card drawing. Forbidden Crypt decks lend themselves to being tool boxed, a happy coincidence since Gifts Ungiven suggests the same thing.
Besides the requisite tool box utility spells (removal, counterspells, bounce), Forbidden Crypt offers some interesting possibilities. As with Tombstone Stairwell (considered earlier in this series), Forbidden Crypt could gain power from Iname, Death Aspect. Add Haunting Misery to the mix, and you have a cheap finisher. A complement to these cards is Strands of Night, an enchantment that can function either as a kind of sure-fire Call of the Wild or as a minor combo with multiple copies of Kokusho, the Evening Star. This deck might even be able to do without Traumatize. Necromancy is another spell that could help out if you failed to draw Forbidden Crypt.
A separate track altogether is the almost-creatureless one. If you combine Forbidden Crypt with Traumatize, heaps of removal, and Endless Whispers, you’ll get your opponent’s creatures once they die, but your opponent won’t get them back on the turn around. Visions offers an interesting card drawer (both pre- and post-Crypt) in Three Wishes, and if you’re veering heavily toward Blue, Ancestral Memories could be an expensive but mighty sorcery. Similarly, the more recent Future Sight could offer the best of both worlds, giving you access to both graveyard and library.
On an even weirder note, you could try out Forbidden Crypt with Artificer’s Intuition:
4 Aether Spellbomb
4 Necrogen Spellbomb
1 Wayfarer’s Bauble
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Conjurer’s Bauble
4 Engineered Explosives
4 Disciple of the Vault
4 Artificer’s Intuition
4 Vedalken Archmage
2 Forbidden Crypt
4 Seat of the Synod
4 Vault of Whispers
The idea is to “cycle” through your deck with Artificer’s Intuition and/or the Spellbomb-type artifacts until you’ve assembled Disciple of the Vault, Vedalken Archmage, and Forbidden Crypt. If you’re lucky, you might win with Disciple of the Vault even if you don’t have the other pieces of the pseudo-combo. Your winning percentage really skyrockets if you alter the deck by including Arcbound Ravager, Aether Vial, Myr Enforcer, and Frogmite.
Forbidden Crypt is just one of many fascinating Black cards in the incredibly rich Mirage Block. Another of them is the subtly powerful Mischievous Poltergeist. Unlike Deepwood Ghoul (which will kill you twice as quickly and can’t fly over blockers), you can regenerate Mischievous Poltergeist until the cows come home. The Ghost could be the cinching element in a U/B Control deck featuring Mundungu, a wizard that won’t counter many spells but will annoy the blueberries out of opponents during casual games. Similarly, Abyssal Hunter is a potent predecessor to Spikeshot Goblin.
Rather more maliciously, Pillar Tombs of Aku could shine in the appropriate deck, not because its form of direct damage is better than, say, Consume Spirit’s but because the enchantment forces opponents to pull the trigger themselves. If, however, you’re impatient to have that trigger pulled, you can help the process along with a well-timed Phyrexian Purge. Or, to ensure that you’ll always have the creatures you need, you can take the B/W Control route and keep your creatures hanging around Purgatory instead of the graveyard.
I’ll leave you with a bit of off-kilter color wheel fun. That Mirage marked the height of color confusion is evident from a number of its contributions to the card pool: Black and White received counterspells in the frankly awful Withering Boon and Illumination while Green had access to playable direct damage via Unyaro Bee Sting. Ouch! Withering Boon has, at least, a purpose since Black’s removal is rarely color-blind and absolute. But Illumination? In the era of Disenchant!