Before I get into the meat of this article, I’d like to thank everyone who wrote in regarding”Unacceptable Behavior.” It was great hearing your point of view on the subject, and I hope all of you took the time to read John Shuler’s article and send him an email. With all of your help, maybe John can impress the DCI how serious the issue of sportsmanlike behavior is to the Magic Community.
I also want to apologize for my use of”stereotyping” to make a point. Yes, I know that not all jerks are youngsters, and not all older players are good guys. I was merely trying to point out in broad terms that it’s the good guys in Magic that are a positive impact on the game, both aesthetically and financially, and the DCI should encourage them and dissuade the jerky behavior. I hope my choice of presentation didn’t distract you from the important stuff. Okay? Cool. Onward…
By the time this hits StarCity, I imagine the net will be bombarded with set reviews on Odyssey. While I enjoy weighing in with my opinion as much as the next net-writing dude, does the Magic community really need another set review? Probably not – so I’m going to look at Odyssey in another, hopefully more useful, light. Namely, I want to see how Odyssey and Invasion block mix.
Are there synergies between cards and themes? When looking over a new set, it pays to mine for gold in broad terms. For instance, last year’s States marked the debut of early Fires decks, featuring a new enchantment in Invasion that vastly improved fading cards from Masques Block (Blastoderm and Saproling Burst). From the intersection of these two sets was born the defining deck archetype of Type 2 for the past year. Can we pull off the same alchemy from Invasion block and Odyssey? Here are some things that leap out at me.
FACT OR FICTION AND PROBE
As good as these spells were already, Odyssey simply kicks them into the stratosphere. Whether it’s simply building your threshold or the fact that discarding flashback spells is less painful, expect to see these two spells infesting more decks more often.
Similarly, Vapors lets you dig for a card, gain some life, and, most importantly, fill the graveyard. In the wake of Odyssey, this card could be a valuable tool in the right deck.
The bane of control decks, this guy usually walked the line between maindeck and sideboard. Odyssey turns him into the next Shard Phoenix. Remember the Forbid lock decks would achieve, fueling the buyback by returning the Phoenix from the graveyard? There’s a bunch of similar things you can do in Odyssey: Zombie Infestation. Wild Mongrel. Chamber of Manipulation. Crashing Centaur. Junk Golem. Even Patchwork Gnomes. Okay, I’m reaching – however, I think in particular Zombie Infestation and Wild Mongrel have some really good synergy with Pyre Zombie, and you’re not even casting him! Oh, and one other Odyssey card goes with Pyre Zombie like peas in a pod — Entomb.
LORD OF THE UNDEAD
For a tap and two mana, Lord of the Undead can return a zombie card to your hand for use much like Pyre Zombie. In fact I could see a viable Zombie deck revolving around Infestation/Pyre Zombie/Lord of the Undead. Not only does the Lord help feed the Infestation, but the Zombies created get +1/+1 as a bonus. That’s some serious beats.
Duh. Nuke a key Flashback card; upset a fragile Threshold applecart. And draw a card. While Cremate seemed to only show up in Nether-Go decks and occasional sideboards, I always thought this card had the potential of being a black neo-Opt. As a cantrip, it’s never going to be useless, and in the wake of Odyssey and its mass of graveyard themes, Cremate could really show its worth as a standard, maindeck black card.
TWILIGHT’S CALL/DEATH OR GLORY
These Living Death wannabe’s gain considerably from Odyssey’s numerous search-and-discard spells and effects. Of course, Twilight’s Call suffers somewhat from the fact that your opponent is just as likely to be priming his graveyard for reanimated goodness, too – that’s where Crypt Creeper comes in as a perfect companion to Twilight’s Call.
Some of you may remember my fondness for Reya from an early feeble attempt at a graveyard recursion deck called Sleeping Beauty. Well, now we have the tools to let Reya really shine! In addition to the above mentioned search-and-discard tools, Odyssey gives us a black version of Breath of Life in Zombify, giving us eight pain-free ways to animate Reya. Once she’s out there and kicking, she’s the best graveyard recursion engine we’ve got.
One of my first thoughts when I saw Cauldron Dance was”Gee, too bad we don’t have Scrivener in Type 2.” Well, guess what, kids? We got it now! With a Cauldron in hand and a Scrivener in your graveyard or hand, you have the opportunity to cast Cauldron Dance turn after turn. The final piece of the puzzle is some humongous creature with haste. Penumbra Wurm seems like a good choice, don’t you think?
Speaking of Scrivener, I also thought of a nasty little combo with Scrivener, Sunken Hope and… That’s right, Orim’s Chant! The key to recursing Scrivener with Hope is the fact that you do need to cast Scrivener each turn… And that’s not exactly cheap. Therefore, the instant you get back each turn needs to be inexpensive. Orim’s Chant immediately jumped out, being very cheap to cast and actually having great synergy with Sunken Hope, since you can prevent your opponent from replaying whatever creature he returns each upkeep, eventually locking him out of having any creatures at all.
While Yawgmoth’s Agenda suffers a small bit from the presence of the ultimate graveyard hoser Haunting Echoes, I think Agenda gains a lot more from Odyssey’s search-and-discard arsenal. In fact, I could see some sort of Turbo Agenda deck being made following the lines of the current red-black-blue Agenda control decks from IBC, with lots of hand destruction, Blazing Spectres, filling the graveyard quickly, and then slapping down an Agenda.
ATAYLA, SAMITE MASTER
There’s one extremely weird card in Odyssey called Nefarious Lich, and if you could get the colors to work, Atayla would probably fit in there perfectly. Being able to both prevent damage as well as gain life is a perfect complement to existence as a Lich. Will this be a good deck? I have no clue, but Lich is strange enough and potentially powerful enough to prompt the more comboliciously-inclined Magic players to give it a shot.
All right – I mention this guy mostly as a joke, but don’t completely dismiss him. His self-milling effect reminds me a bit of Ertai’s Familiar back in the first heyday of graveyard recursion during Mirage Block constructed. He can help you achieve or maintain threshold and feed various graveyard-fed effects (such as Skeletal Scrying or Bearscape). The lesson here is that what’s been considered to be garbage or sub-par cards in the context of sets released so far could become powerhouses when combined with future sets. Be on the lookout for ’em, and you’ll reap the rewards.
For those who might be interested, here’s a deck I’ve been noodling around with in anticipation of getting my hands on some Odyssey cards, using some set-intersect ideas from Invasion and Odyssey.
4x Zombie Infestation
2x Skeletal Scrying
4x Zombie Cannibal
4x Crypt Creeper
4x Pyre Zombie
4x Lord of the Undead
2x Famished Ghoul
4x Sulfurous Springs
Have fun with Odyssey and start thinking about the new Type 2. States is just around the corner!