Hello readers! I hope you have been enjoying your day thus far. Today I want to go back to an idea I’ve explored a few times: exploring a card, talking about a bunch of things you can do with it, and building a few decks where appropriate.
I’ve done these articles a few times, and focused on cards like Equilibrium, Portcullis, Cloudstone Curio, Aurification, Djinn Illuminatus, Frankie Peanuts, Tawnos’s Coffin, Mages’ Contest and even Mizzium Transreliquat. Today I want to write on just one card, and it is one of my faves. Often imitated but never duplicated… Sneak Attack.
I’ve used Sneak Attack on several occasions in my articles. The SCG deck database goes back about a year. During that year, I’ve created three decks that use Sneak Attack. One build around Hoverguard Sweepers, one around Purgatory, and a third one built around Mayael’s Aria and Serra Avatar.
That’s just in the past year, and I know I’ve used it before. I don’t know what it is about Sneak Attack, but it just seems like a perfect card to build around. I constantly think up new ways to abuse and combo with Sneak Attack.
Is there a card like Sneak Attack in your deckbuilding life? A card you absolutely go back to again and again for a variety of different purposes. The Aria deck above is a combo Sneak Attack deck. I have control Sneak Attack decks, aggro Sneak Attack decks and combo Sneak Attack decks.
There have been many attempts to make Sneak Attack like cards, but none has been as interesting to me as Sneak Attack. Last week I brainstormed a bunch of different cards and strategies with Sneak Attack while I was in the shower. Before we look at those specifics, let’s look at what the card does.
Sneak Attack Unveiled
After being played, for one Red mana, you can place a creature from your hand into play with haste, and at the end of turn, it dies. That doesn’t sound like something too hard, but let’s look at how to use that.
The first and most evident thing to do with it is to Sneak out big beaters, and then deal damage by attacking. Sneak Attack out Darksteel Colossus and hit for 11, then it dies. Repeat ad nauseam. You could do the same with Akromas, Hellkite Overlord, Serra Avatar, whatever strikes your fancy.
That’s the easy way of playing it, but it certainly is not the only one. You can, as an instant, play any creature with a CIP ability for R. Play a Nekrataal for R and Terror. Play an Indrik Stomphowler for R and Naturalize. Play a Magma Giant for R and Pyroclasm, sorta. You can use it to instantly and cheaply play creatures with abilities that you want.
You can also use it to abuse “leaves play” abilities. One that I thought of was Child of Alara, but it destroys the Sneak Attack, so it can only be used once. Still, you could Sneak out the Child, and then at end of turn, the Child dies and you have Akroma’s Vengeance resolve. Then you untap and are the first to play things post-Child.
There are also creatures that come into play with resources that you can use before they go. One thing I would regularly do was Sneak out a Spike Soldier, and then hop the counters to other creatures after attacking or blocking.
You can Sneak out a creature for blocking, and that’s grand. You can use it to ambush attackers like flash. You opponent never knows what you could block with. Sneak out something big, like Plated Spider, in order to ambush and trade with an attacking Serra Angel, or a Goliath Spider to kill Baneslayer.
Sneak Attack gives a creature haste, so you can immediately use its tap. Here is a combo I thought of while brainstorming. Sneak Attack out Arcanis the Omnipotent. Tap it for three cards. Then bounce it back to your hand for 2UU. Result: spend 2UUR and draw three cards, without casting a spell to be countered, and without using a card; it is a pure 3 cards.
There are also combos that work with Sneak Attack. I talked once about a deck I had built with both Sneak Attack and Lifeline. Sneak out a creature, and when it died, it came back if there was another creature in play. I have mentioned that the first iterations of Abe’s Deck of Happiness and Joy used Sneak Attack to apply early pressure while stocking my graveyard for a game ending Living Death.
The Sneak Attack makes a disposable creature, so dispose of it before the game does. Sacrifice it for some effect before it dies, like Attrition or Carnage Altar. Since it’s dying anyway, get a benefit. You can also make mana with it.
You also combine things. Solemn Simulacrum can be used to get a land and then draw a card, making it pretty good with a Sneak. Hunting Moa is similar in this respect. Spike Weaver can both be played on defense to fog your opponent’s attack for a turn, and then you can hop the other two counters for a permanent effect. You’ll find these abilities all over the place.
You could Sneak out a Zodiac Dragon, swing, and then it comes back after it dies, and you can repeat as you need. Unfortunately, Zodiac Dragon is too expensive in the wallet for most to acquire.
Let’s work on a quick Sneak Attack combo deck core using cards from Urza’s Saga. Sneak Attack is great with Serra Avatar, and you sometimes saw that combo in tournaments. Playing Angelic Chorus was just unfair. You would double your life total while doubling the size of your Avatar as well. Now, imagine you had out Remembrance. This allowed you to search your deck for a copy of a nontoken creature you had that just died, and put it in your hand. Serra Avatar shuffles itself into your deck. Thus, you could have never ending Avatars. Imagine this:
On my turn, Sneak out Avatar, gain 12 life, attack with 24/24. It dies, activate Remembrance and get another from my deck and shuffle it back in.
Your turn, spend R to Sneak out Serra Avatar. I gain 24 life. Now I have a 48/48 blocker. EOT it dies, shuffles, search for another.
My turn, sneak it out, gain 48 life, attack with my 96/96 Avatar…..
You will win very quickly from there. This is the power of Sneak Attack.
Let’s look at some Sneaky Attacky deck ideas.
In order to whet your appetite, I gave you several decks ideas in the previous sections. Let’s include them here for completeness.
Child of Alara — This gives you the ability to Planar Cleansing the entire board, but it will kill off your Sneak Attack, so that’s not super great or anything. If you have out Academy Rector, then you can recover, and you can play Auramancer, Eternal Witness or Monk Idealist in order to get your Sneak Attack back post Child.
Arcanis the Omnipotent — As mentioned above, tapping it for three cards, then self bouncing is great. It won’t die, and you don’t lose any cards, you just draw them. You still have Sneak Attack out and Arcanis in your hand for more card drawing. If you are drawing cards quickly, you can easily win with a Sneak Attack down because you should have the mana and the creature cards to slap down enough fat to win.
Remembrance — It work best with cards like Darksteel Colossus or Serra Avatar or the Dread/Guile/Hostility/Vigor/Purity cycle, giving you a never ending supply of beaters. You can also just use it on its own, because getting a new Silvos is good, after the first one dies even without the Darksteel Clause.
Field of Souls or Golgari Germination — Every time you Sneak out a creature, it dies. When it does so, you get a 1/1 token creature. You can pile on the creatures with some degree of speed.
Symbiotic Wurm — If the like the idea of making 1/1s, but want to make a bunch all at once instead of over time, look no further than this 7/7 beastie.
Persist — Note that if you Sneak out a creature with persist, it will come right back after it dies with a -1/-1 counter, but otherwise be fine.
Cauldron of Souls — Since persist works with Sneak Attack, Cauldron of Souls will work as well. It doesn’t require any mana, and can work if you snuck out multiple creatures that turn.
Twilight Shepherd — Sneak out a bunch of creatures including the Shepherd, when it comes back from persist, the others go back to your hand for another load. That leaves you with a 4/4 flying, vigilance creature and a hand of goodies ready for another go.
Gleancrawler —Have this in play, Sneak many creatures into play, when they die, you get them all back in your hand. It’s like a reload for your ammo that can swing for 6 trampley damage.
Lifeline — Sneak your creatures out, watch as they come back if a creature is in play. It can be an opponent’s creature, a mana maker, whatever, and then they come back permanently. I like including creatures with self destruct abilities like the echo Ghitu Slinger or Mogg Fanatic. For example, you could include Heart Warden to accelerate your mana and have a creature in play for Sneaking with a Lifeline out, and then later start spending some mana to sacrifice it for cards.
Angelic Chorus or Proper Burial — I mentioned earlier the power of Angelic Chorus, and you could probably roll with Proper Burial as well. These can jack up your life total faster than Invincible Hymn.
Vicious Shadows — I really hadn’t thought much of this card one way or the other, until Sheldon Menery mentioned it in an EDH article and I said, that would be great with Sneak Attack (although expensive). By the way, it would be great with Sneak Attack.
Sigil of the New Dawn — Let’s just cut to the chase. Why play around with Remembrance and other effects when you can just spend 1W and return any newly deceased creature to your hand for reuse. All dying creatures come back to papa.
Verdant Succession — If you Sneak out Green creatures, then you can get a replacement for free, without the impending death clause of Sneak Attack. Sneak out Silvos, swing, it dies, search your deck for Silvos, put it into play, shuffle, and you are good. Now you have out a beater permanently for R. Note that your opponent can benefit from Green creatures dying too. Works well with Vigor.
Stronghold Assassin or Attrition — If your creatures are dying anyway, why not kill one of theirs in order to have both of you feel some pain? Note that you can Sneak out the Assassin and then tap and sacrifice itself to kill something like a removal spell for R that can’t be countered by Counterspell. See the next card for more ideas along this line.
Grave Pact — When one of your creatures dies, all of your opponents are Edicted. With a Sneak Attack deck, you should see a lot of death on all sides of the board if you run this. You can keep your opponent creature-free. This protects you from counter attacks while opening holes for your own snuck creatures to swing through.
Carnage Altar, Goblin Bombardment, Spawning Pit, Altar of Dementia, etc — Your sacrifice methods can be about more than mere creature killing.
Brion Stoutarm — Fling + lifelink = beatings
Protean Hulk — If you want a fairer way to go off than Flash-Hulk, how about Sneak-Hulk?
Fecundity — When a creature dies, draw a card. Sure, it works for both people, but you should be expecting a lot more death. Use it with cards like Carnage Altar to draw lots of cards. Mua-a-ha-ha!
Skullclamp — If I need to explain how broken â€˜Clamp and Sneak Attack are together, perhaps I have to explain how to tap lands to you as well. This is just sick. Imagine Skullclamp, Carnage Altar and Fecundity all out. Sneak out a creature, equip with Clamp, hit for damage, sack to Altar for card, get a card from Fecundity, get two for Clamp. You are not going to have problems with having enough fuel for this fire.
Lightning Coils — Nothing says Hot Lava Death like five 3/1 haste-y tokens. Play in decks that sacrifice creatures for gain, like Altar of Dementia, Carnage Alter or Goblin Bombardment for more fun, because then your tokens can dance a little dance.
Colfenor’s Urn — This one is a bit on the nasty side. Sneak out a bunch of beaters, load up your Urn, and then put them all into play for real. It’s double the CIP triggers for things like Indrik Stomphowler or Angel of Despair, and a bunch of beaters for cheap and real. Powerful, this is.
Deathrender — I love this. Sneak Attack out any creature, and equip it with this. Swing with it, block with it — whatever. Then when it dies, play, from your hand, any creature for free, and Deathrender equips it. Since your Sneak Attack deck should be rocking these expensive but powerful creatures anyway, this slides right in and is quite the abusive little monster.
Foster — Hey, getting more fuel for the fire is always great. Probably not as good as Remembrance or other effects, but if you are playing Green instead of White in your deck, make sure you consider Foster. Since it builds up your graveyard, it can fuel combo Sneak Attack decks that want big graveyards.
Gemini Engine — I know it doesn’t have the impact of cards like Silvos, Darksteel Colossus, or whatnot, but in decks that want to sac creatures, you can play it, swing, make a duplicate, hit, and then sac both of them for effects. You can do the same with Stangg, only you can’t swing with the Twin token, but you can sacrifice both before the first goes. See also: Siege-Gang Commander.
Solemn Simulacrum, Hunted Moa, Goblin Marshal, etc — There are a few creatures that have both enter the battlefield and leaves play triggers. These are great because you get both triggers by the end of the turn.
Flicker Effects — A great way to use and abuse Sneak Attack is to swing with a creature you just played, and then blink him out with something like Momentary Blink. When he comes back, he is here to stay. Planar Guide is great at this. This also lets you get double damage from CIP triggers.
Angel of Despair — I mentioned it before, but Angel of Despair is a key reason you want to keep playing and replaying the same creature from Remembrance, Urn, Cauldron of Souls, Flicker Effects, Sigil of the New Dawn, etc. You can abuse its CIP ability over and over again to just devastate opponents. Sure, there are other very abusable CIP abilities on creatures like Mulldrifter, Karmic Guide and Eternal Witness, but at the end of the day, AoD has got to be tops.
Ball Lightning and other Cards — The major disadvantage of Sneak Attack is that it turns all of your cards into Ball Lightnings with haste and sacrificing. Why not just Sneak out Ball Lightnings and similar cards, then? Then there is no additional disadvantage, just cheaper costs.
Pandemonium — Would you like to kill people even faster? Imagine Sneaking out a Serra Avatar with this in play. See also: Stalking Vengeance.
Dawn of the Dead, Corpse Dance — Why not bring back your creature from the dead for another go. Yes, they get exiled at the end of the turn, but if you have sacrifice outlets, you can get around that.
These were juts the ideas I thought about one night in the shower. There are tons more that I haven’t thought about. For example, while doing some research on card names for my article, I came across someone who build a deck with Sneak Attack utilizing Sword of Light and Shadow, which allowed him to equip and swing, and on the hit to return a creature previous Snuck. Brilliant! There are countless combos and synergies and strategies you can find for your Sneak Attacks. The card really is this good. I wrote a normal sized article about one card, some basic strategy, and then tons of ideas, and never even needed to build a deck. That’s how good it is.
Folks, I hope you enjoyed this week’s article. I’ll see you next week!