The Kitchen Table #118: Guildpact Goodies

I tried to pretend in last week’s article that everything was all okay, but I just felt wrong doing so. Therefore, I feel honor bound to let you know what my issue is, and how it will affect my writing as a result. I don’t even know if you’ll agree with me, or just think I’m crazy, but its my honest reaction, so I figure it should be stated for the record, especially because I haven’t read anybody else with a similar reaction, and I’d honestly like to find out if I am alone on this one.

I was wrestling with whether or not I should include the following short essay on an issue that I have with Guildpact. I tried to pretend in last week’s article that everything was all okay, but I just felt wrong doing so. Therefore, I feel honor bound to let you know what my issue is, and how it will affect my writing as a result. I don’t even know if you’ll agree with me, or just think I’m crazy, but its my honest reaction, so I figure it should be stated for the record, especially because I haven’t read anybody else with a similar reaction, and I’d honestly like to find out if I am alone on this one.

On Nephilim

I want to take a second and speak about a topic that disturbs me. Nephilim is translated from Hebrew as “fallen ones.” They are mentioned in the Bible and Old Testament on several occasions, one where it appears that they are a crossbreed between the sons of God and daughters of man. (Genesis 6:4 for those who want to look it up).

A lot of scholars believe that the Nephilim were a crossbreed of fallen angels and women. It would have been a clever trick for Lucifer to have tried, by tainting the genetic purity of man and gaining control of the entire race. In fact, many scholars believe that the subsequent flood and the survival of Noah wasn’t as much about his ethics as it was about his genetics. When the Bible says that Noah was saved because he was pure, some feel that went beyond morality as the Nephilim became more abundant.

There are, of course, other theories about the Nephilim and what they were. Some believe that they were the descendants of Seth who intermarried with the descendants of Cain instead of keeping themselves away. There are other theories as well.

Part of your view of the Nephilim depends on whether you believe the Book of Enoch to be canonical or not. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church (one of the oldest established Christian churches in the world) accepts Enoch as canon. In fact, Enoch dates back to Maccabean times (Around 150 BC), and it survived only through being preserved in Ethiopia. The book describes the fall of the Grigori and Nephilim. (Grigori, according to Enoch, are a special type of angel called watchers and have fallen from grace and the Nephilim are their children with man). Another group to consider Enoch canonical are the Essenes, an old Jewish sect.

As you can see, the Nephilim have a rich place in the belief structure of Jews and Christians. There’s an established history here. The Nephilim are a religion specific creature, not found elsewhere or in common myth.

Take angels, for example. Although angels are a part of my faith, they have moved into general myth and legend. I am comfortable with angels as a part of the Wizards universe. On the other hand, if the next set has an archangel named Michael and a messenger angel named Gabriel, then I’d take serious offense. I hope that makes sense. Nephilim are a different case entirely, because they are so religion-specific.

Here’s my issue: Why would Wizards of the Coast take an important aspect of my faith and change it around and put it on cards for a game? It’s one thing to take angels and demons and do so — those beings are sufficiently generic that it doesn’t bother me. However, using Nephilim is a specific reference to the Old Testament, and I wonder why Wizards thought that was okay.

What’s next? An artifact in Snap called the Arc of the Covenant? A Red sorcery called “The Walls of Jericho Fell Down?” A new legendary creature named Gideon or Absolom? A White instant called Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh? A Black enchantment called Crucifixion?

Surely the tapestry of human myth is sufficiently large that Wizards does not need to incorporate living faiths. I would consider it highly disrespectful for Wizards to take something like the Nephilim and just throw it on any card. Why? Surely it has to be something more than because they like the name, right?

I am confident that others would feel the same about their religion as well. Mormons probably wouldn’t like a pair of glasses as artifacts in the next set entitled the Umim and the Thummim.

So, I am not going to use or mention the Nephilim in any article from here on out. I would like to hear officially from Wizards why they thought it was hunky dory for them to raid my religion for ideas for cards for their game. Could they not come up with their own ideas? Why should they insult me in order to make cards?

I’d love to hear one of the triumvirate (Matt Cavotta, Mark Rosewater, Aaron Forsythe) give us the Wizards’ rationale for why they made this decision and what their reasoning was. Wanting something that much probably means I’ll never get it.

As a result, I’m not going to discuss the five cards in my articles again. They are now taboo.

Resuming Our Natural Article
I hates them silly articles with their silly “must come up with a theme” needs. I can’t just write stream of consciousness for ten pages, slap a title up that has nothing to do with the article and then send it off. Somebody else already has that schtick.

Instead, I’ll actually have to have a real article. Luckily, that ol’ Guildpact thing just got released. Today, I’m just going to build a few Guildpactish decks that you can use around the kitchen table.

I am just looking for inspiration. I am browsing the list of cards and trying to spy something that clicks a deck idea in me. The first such card hits me, and its time to build, build, build your way to a better you.

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine
Stitch in Time is an odd card. Red is used to these “either or” cards, but Blue is in a whole new area.

The interesting part about Stitch in Time is that it just adds one Red to Time Walk’s already low, low casting cost. I know that I already used Djinn Illuminatus last week, but that was before I knew about this card. Stitch in Time seems perfect for the Djinn. Fork it one or twice, and then you’re bound to get at least one extra turn, and likely more.

Another pair of cards that you have to run with Stitch in Time is Goblin Bookie and Krark’s Thumb. That gives us a core to work with. Let’s see what else we can do:

This uses eight walls to create a defense while you set up your machine. Drift of Phantasms doubles as a tutor for a Stitch in Time when you need one.

You can use a Stitch in Time to Time Walk early in the game, helping you advance you to the endgame. With a Krark’s Thumb or Goblin Bookie out, you have a 75% chance of Time Walking when you play the Stitch. With both out (or two Bookies), you’ll have an 87.5% chance of Time Walking. That’s pretty reliable.

Once you have out a Djinn, there are a couple of goodies here. The first is the obvious Lightning Bolt. As can be seen from last week’s article, I think Lightning Bolt and the Djinn are an obvious pair. If you play the Djinn, you should almost always play the other.

The other good card, and winning condition to boot, is the Firestorm. Using extra turns and Fact or Fiction to fill up your hand, cast a Firestorm for a large number. Discard enough cards to target every player at the table besides yourself.

If there are five players at a multiplayer table, cast Firestorm and discard four cards, targeting each opponent. When this Firestorm resolves, each player will take four damage. Now replicate the Firestorm with the Djinn for every Red mana you can make. If you can make, say, six Red mana, then you’ll have six separate Firestorms on the stack, all dealing four damage to each of your opponents. If you have less mana or less opponents, you can always Firestorm and discard more cards, but target creatures with your extra targets.

For this reason, you’ll want to keep extra cards in your hand instead of playing them. Once you’ve set up, extra Goblin Bookies aren’t going to help, so don’t play them. Keep extra Islands unless you need to play one for some reason, and so forth. Eventually you’ll have enough cards to go off and kill everybody in one mighty smiting.

Vampires and Moons
I don’t know why I don’t use cards like Crusade and Bad Moon more in my decks. It’s usually not my style. However, today we will give you a deck that is both flavorful, and utterly wrong for me.

I really like Skeletal Vampire and its way of bringing friends to the party. With a Bad Moon out, Skeletal Vampire bring out eight power of flying goodness with the promise of future goodness to come.

Let’s see what else will come to play at our table.

This deck includes a lot of flyers, some interesting abilities, and removal. It has cheap creatures and more expensive creatures. Let’s take a closer look.

Removal includes the vampire-flavored cards Vampiric Feast, Drain Life, and Steal Strength. Steal Strength often does enough to kill a creature in combat, and occasionally it can kill two. Drain Life is an obvious selection. Vampiric Feast is pricey, but it was so flavorful that I felt I had to throw it in.

We have several cheap creatures. Vampire and Grimclaw Bats come down quickly and start beating. A first turn Vampire Bats, followed by a second turn Bad Moon, allows you to swing for three flying damage by turn 3. You also have a full set of Soul Collectors that can be played on the third turn with Morph.

After that, you add a full set of the classic Sengir Vampire, then a full set of Skeletal Vampire. This gives you staying power as well as beef backup for your early drops. The Skeletal Vampire brings two friends to the fray. It can also sacrifice Vampire or Grimclaw Bats to regenerate or make more bats, so there’s some synergy there.

Baron Sengir can tap to regenerate a vampire, which means that he can regenerate thirteen of your creatures. He cannot regenerate Vampire Bats, which are bats, not vampires.

Shauku, Endbringer has been errata’d to be a vampire. She can off opposing creatures at no cost, but she does have a hefty life upkeep. Lucky for you, you have Drain Life and Vampiric Feast to help you out. While Shauku drains your life, she’ll also be offing opposing blockers to allow your flying horde to win the game. That’s the price of power Black style, after all. Use Shauku very carefully.

Another idea I had was to include Spike Cannibal, but it didn’t fit the theme. Still, between Shauku, Sengir Vampire, and other cards I could play (Sengir Bats, for example), it would make out in the counter department.

This deck has Vampires, Bats, and life drain all under a Bad Moon. It’ll be a pretty spooky night at your kitchen table this week.

Green and Black and White
I decided to build a nice multiplayer deck around the combination of Green, White, and Black. I liked this because all three color guild combinations here had already been released — another possibility would Red/White/Green. This way, I can include lots of cards recently published. Just for fun, I’m going to limit myself to the block, which makes this automatically legal for Magic: the Electronic. Let’s take a look at the final deck

This deck is loaded with goodies. From Glare of Subdual all the way to interesting flyers, this deck appears to have a lot of creatures, many of which can cause problems.

Agent of Masks, Blind Hunter, and Orzhov Guildmage can kill players who think that they can stop your creature horde. Each of these creatures causes loss of life, so they’ll even hit players that are supposedly protected by things like Worship and Circles of Protection.

I included each of the guildmagi, but I changed their proportion based on their usefulness. You might occasionally want a Golgari Guildmage, but it’s not that great compared to alternatives, so I just tossed in a single copy. Selesnya Guildmage is of maximum usefulness, so I included four. I figured the Orzhov magi are in the middle, so I included a mix that’s in the middle as well.

Putrefy and Mortify are the two removal spells of choice in this deck. This gives you eight cards that can pop any offending creature. It also gives you four ways to take out enchantments or artifacts that get in the way of your plans. Keening Banshee acts as back up removal in many situations. Similarly, Nullmage Shepherd doubles as backup artifact removal, just in case you need it.

Banshees and Blind Hunters fly, so you have a bit of evasion. Your Selesnya Guildmage can pump up your creatures and then you can send over a flyer or two for a good spot of damage.

I included some of the best creatures going. Loxodon Hierarch is a great way of gaining life, getting a great beater, and getting a way to save your creatures all in one. I love Civic Wayfinder in casual games, and I had to toss in a full set here. I even threw in a Tolsimir Wolfblood. Tolsimir will pump every creature in the deck except for Banshees. Selesnya Guildmagi and Hierarchs will get double pumped by Tolsimir. Plus, he makes a nice creature that you can throw into the breach without hesitation because he can always make another. The extra creature can also help with the Glare or Shepherd.

Lastly, I threw in a pair of Recollect to allow you to mine your graveyard for resources. You have a lot of powerful spells, and bringing one back should prove seriously damaging.

Obviously, if you have the actual new dual lands, you’ll want to put some in. Operating under the assumption that you didn’t, I massaged the manabase until I came upon the right combination of basic lands and the new double-tap lands (or whatever you call them).

I hope that you have enjoyed these three decks. There is some real potential for the Guildpact cards. Well, at least for all of the non-Nephilim ones.

Until Later,
Abe Sargent