With a title like that, you know this article is going to deal with that powerhouse of Magic – the big robot himself – Jangling Automaton. No, wait; Alongi’s already done that. Which leaves me with a great title and a quick search for something to go with it. One card gives a warning:
Creatures don’t untap during their controllers’ untap steps. Whenever a creature comes into play, untap all creatures.
Intruder Alarm changes one the of the fundamental rules of Magic; namely, that creatures only untap once per turn. Now they untap every time a creature enters play, which means that you can build decks to abuse this effect. And I have – frequently. Intruder Alarm is one of my favorite group play cards – the interactions are great.
Here’s a less than practical illustration, but it gets the point across. Assume you have two Wall of Blossoms, one Jungle Barrier, one Ornithopter, and two Tradewind Riders in play. (Tradewind Rider: Tap the Rider and two other creatures you control to return target permanent to hand.) You can tap the first Tradewind Rider and the two Walls of Blossoms to bounce one of the opponent’s permanents, then tap the Ornithopter, Jungle Barrier, and the other Tradewind to bounce the Ornithopter. Then, when you replay the Ornithopter, everything untaps and you can do it again. Keep repeating until your opponents have no permanents in play. Then, if you are vindictive, play Megrim.
Intruder Alarm can allow you to repeatedly tap a creature, provided you can repeatedly cast creatures. The trick is to find ways of returning creatures to your hand, to allow recasting. Some enchantments can do the trick: Equilibrium, or even Escape Routes, spring to mind. Equilibrium is clearly better, since it can return a creature for one colorless mana. So now assume you have two Llanowar Elves and a Priest of Titania in play. You can tap the Elves’ mana, cast a one casting cost creature, activate Equilibrium to bounce that creature, then do it again. Each iteration generates a net of three mana and you can keep tapping until the cards wear out. Add a red mana and you can kill with Kaervek’s Torch, or stay blue/green and kill with Stroke of Genius or Braingeyser. This gets even easier with gating creatures – then the creature and the bounce come together in one simple package.
The deck could be something along the lines of Elfball, but splashing blue for the Intruder Alarm. Beyond that, it would have lots of cheap elves including Skyshroud Elves or Nomadic Elves (for color washing) and a gating creature – probably Horned Kavu or Fleetfoot Panther. Sparkcaster is also possible, since it has a built-in kill mechanism, but a big burn spell could also work. The advantage would be that the deck could be almost completely green, would have Emerald Charms and the like to deal with problem enchantments (like Ivory Mask), and so forth. Here’s an untested sample – but if you play this deck, fear Perish, Earthquake, Powder Keg, and Pernicious Deed.
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Fyndhorn Elves
4 Nomadic Elves
4 Skyshroud Elves
4 Quirion Rangers
4 Priests of Titania
4 Intruder Alarm
4 Collective Unconscious or Fact or Fiction
4 Kaervek’s Torch
4 Gaea’s Herald
Last time I wrote about Nature’s Revolt, which turns all lands into creatures. Nature’s Revolt, Intruder Alarm, and a gating creature are a combo, since casting the creature will untap all your lands. Nature’s Revolt is way too expensive – and since all you need is one turn to generate infinite mana, try the Life half of the Life/Death split card instead.
Here’s a sample Extended deck that could even be playable:
4 Intruder Alarm
4 Cavern Harpy
4 Force of Will
4 Vampiric Tutor
4 Intuition or Impulse
4 Stroke of Genius
24 lands – but no Cities of Brass and no Gemstone Mines. Probably 4 Bayou, 4 Underground Sea, 4 Tropical Island, 4 Underground River, 4 Island or Wasteland, 4 Yavimaya Coast
Another way to use Intruder Alarm to generate infinite mana is to use a token generator and artifact mana. The trick is to find a way of getting the tokens into play repeatedly – you need a token generator that does not tap, or that can be untapped. I have tried some enchant lands (Caribou Range), some creatures and sacrifice effects to do this, but artifacts are by far the best approach. Karn, Silver Golem is a favorite card of mine – and always has been. For one mana, Karn makes mana artifacts into creatures. Suddenly, Grim Monolith, Mana Vault, Sol Ring, and Thran Dynamo are even more amazing. Again, the variety is endless, but here are two favorite combinations. Remember, since Karn has made the artifacts creatures until the end of the turn, whenever a creature comes into play, they untap.
Any two artifacts that can tap for four mana (namely, Charcoal Diamond and Mana Vault) and Phyrexian Processor (Pay X life; 4, tap: put an X/X token creature into play.) This gives infinite token creatures.
Thran Dynamo (tap, get three mana) and Diamond Kaleidoscope (3, tap: put a 0/1 artifact creature token into play. Sacrifice a token, put one mana of any color into your mana pool.) Presumably, everyone can find a way to use infinite colored mana to kill an opponent.
Actually, there are about five hundred ways to get infinite mana out of Intruder Alarm. Let’s look at some other ways to kill using repeated untapping. First, a strange little deck I built years ago with the intention of keeping my opponents guessing until I pulled off the kill. (Warning – very bad deck to follow.) Instead of using something obvious – like Karn/Dynamo/Kaleidoscope/Torch – I used Citanul Flute, a Prodigal Sorcerer, and 30 0cc creatures.
Here’s the combo: Karn – Silver Golem, Prodigal Sorcerer (also known as Tim), and Intruder Alarm in play. Cast Citanul Flute (x, tap: Search your library for a creature with casting cost X or less and put it in your hand.) Use Karn to make Citanul Flute a creature. Tap it, spending no mana, to search for a 0cc Kobold. Tap the Tim to do one damage to an opponent. Cast the Kobold, thereby untapping the Tim and the Flute. Repeat until your opponents are all dead, or you run out of Kobolds.
Like I said, the deck is bad. Even adding a Goblin Bombardment and a Feldon’s Cane didn’t make it much better. I played this once, and I only lived long enough to get the combo off (something like game 7) by whining a lot. Who says there’s no politics in multiplayer? (That would be Anthony — The Ferrett)
I have managed to make the deck idea work in a real tournament – mainly by dumping the Karn/Flute/Kobold idea. Intruder Alarm is still strong even before going off; it slows down beatdown decks – especially when backed by counters. Back in the bad old Extended days – when Trix with Rituals was dominant – I tried something similar – mainly because I wanted a deck that could run Pyroblast, Force of Will, Counterspell and Emerald Charm, as well as having some answer to fast beatdown. At literally the last minute, I grabbed a deck I had built the weekend before for a four-player fun game. Here’s what I remember of the deck:
Stupid Pings: (Ingrid’s favorite deck, by the way) (Write for us, Ingrid! Lordy, you’re good! — The Ferrett, begging)
4 Force of Will
4 Arcane Denial or Incinerate
4 Intruder Alarm
4 Saber Ants (when it takes damage, put tokens into play.
4 Suq’Ata Firewalker (pro-red Tim)
2 Chinese Prodigal Sorcerer (couldn’t resist)
The deck stopped Sligh and Stompy by dropping the Saber Ants (which were pretty good against all the 2/2s and 2/1 in those decks). Pinging the Saber Ants with a Tim creates a token, which then blocks bigger creatures. The deck has a few combos. First, Intruder Alarm, a Tim, and a Saber Ant equal untapping. A couple times I caught players sleeping when I would have the Ants tapped, and they would attack with some smaller creatures. I would ping the Ants, which would create a token and untap both the Tim and the Ants. More importantly, casting Bravado (+1/+1 for each creature you control) on the Saber Ants makes the ants big. I won two games by having the Intruder Alarm, a Tim, and the Ants in play, casting Bravado on the Ants and attacking. If my opponent didn’t block, I could ping the Ant – making it bigger and untapping the Tim – twenty times, resulting in a 25/26 Ant. Alternatively, I could just ping the ants six hundred times at the end of the turn, then send two hundred creatures the next turn. Best of all, with two Tims in play and Bravado on the Ants, you can do infinite pings.
The deck went 3-1 through the swiss, won my semi-final match, and might have won the tourney. I’ll never know, though. It was a weeknight tourney, almost 2 a.m., and we decided a top 4 split and sleep was better than playing it out. But, hey, the deck worked, and it was fun playing something completely unexpected.
There are plenty of other options for Intruder Alarm. For example, Archivist taps to draw a card. So does Urza’s Blueprints, which can be animated by Karn. Adding something to make token creatures would let you draw your entire deck and get a ton of life. Saproling Cluster is one idea, but I don’t doubt that the resulting deck would be any better than the existing Fecundity/Altar decks already in play. On the other hand, something built around Karn/Urza’s Blueprints/Dynamo/Monolith/Processor/Tinker could be fun – especially in multiplayer. Once you have the Processor generating tokens, you could untap everything whenever you wanted. You could add some tap-for-life artifacts like Braid Wood Cup, and use Null Brooch as a continuous counterspell. (Null Brooch and Archivist is not a perfect combination, but that’s life.) This assumes that your opponents will let you get Intruder Alarm, Karn, Null Brooch, and a Processor in play at the same time, but there are some easy tricks that can make that happen. Unfortunately, this is too long already, so I’ll save that for some other time.
‘Til next time, when I will talk about something completely different…