Yawgmoth’s Whimsy # 14: Unnatural Reflections

Peter tries out an old T2 deck that abuses Unnatural Selection and Pure Reflection, which doesn’t work, then ports it to multiplayer.

Ever notice how tech doesn’t stay tech, and undiscovered cards are never undiscovered for long? This is especially true of IBC block: No matter how weird a card is, someone, somewhere, plays it. Case in point – someone won a recent* PTQ with four maindecked Guided Passages.

Or another, and more apropos, example: Zvi was talking about the interaction of Pure Reflection and Unnatural Selection. That was my topic for an article I started a few weeks back – what’s up with that? Of course, I’m goofing around with it in multiplayer and casual formats – Zvi is playing for real.

Here are the two cards:

Unnatural Selection




Text(AP): {1}: Choose a creature type other than Wall. Target creature’s type becomes that type until end of turn.

Pure Reflection





Text(IN): Whenever a player plays a creature spell, destroy all Reflections. Then that player puts a white Reflection creature token into play with power and toughness each equal to the converted mana cost of that spell.

This started a few weeks ago, when I was looking for a deck for Friday Night Magic. I don’t like to play the same deck weeks after week – truth be told, I don’t like to play any deck more than once at FNM. That means that pickings are a little slim. I have played a bunch of FNM T2 tourneys, so I have played my versions of nearly all the major archetypes. Pure Reflection and Unnatural Selection seemed interesting, so I started thinking about interactions.

The obvious: Pure Reflection / Unnatural Selection. I make all my opponent’s creatures reflections, then cast a creature. Since my opponent’s creatures are all reflections, they are all destroyed. A one-sided Wrath of God is okay, even if their creatures can regenerate. If I have a Reflection token in play, I can make it something else during my opponent’s upkeep so it will survive if they cast a creature.

Incidentally, the Pure Reflection trigger goes on the stack even if the creature spell is countered.

Pure Reflection/Silver Drake: I can cast it with no creatures in play, since I can gate back the Drake’s reflection token. Or I can gate the Drake and keep the Reflection.

I checked this with the judge I’m married to: Here’s the technical breakdown.”You play Silver Drake, it goes on the stack and Pure Reflection triggers. You get priority, and the Pure Reflection ability goes on the stack. Your opponent gets priority. You both pass; Reflections are destroyed, Reflection creature token comes into play, Silver Drake comes into play; gating triggers.”

Pure Reflection/Unnatural Selection/Darting Merfolk: For a few more mana, I can cast him all day. I wanted a creature I could drop and pick up as needed. My biggest fear was of having the combo out and not having a creature to cast. (This reasoning is a bit flawed – see below.) Besides, Darting Merfolk can block Blastoderm all day.

Empress Galina/Unnatural Selection: As I’ve always said, Llanowar Elves are Legends. Unnatural Selection turns any creature into a legend, then Galina can tap to gain control of the creature. That control continues until the end of the game, even if Galina untaps or leaves play.

Sunweb/Unnatural Selection: Sunweb is a big flying wall. Walls cannot attack. With Unnatural Selection in play, I can turn Sunweb into a Mouse instead of a Wall. Then I attack with my flying 5/6 Mouse. (Incidentally, the rules say you can make a creature any creature type with Unnatural Selection – other than wall – even types are not yet in use in the game. So I turned my walls into banana slugs*, gerbils, and paramecia, and I turned a Darting Merfolk into a Kraken.)

The trick is getting Unnatural Selection and Pure Reflection – the combination is nearly broken.

I figured that, in the current T2, finding the enchantments would be a real problem. If the deck didn’t have the combo, it would be hurting. Darting Merfolk was an attempt to slow down big beats. Beyond that I figured to run Counterspell and Absorb, some disenchant-type spell plus card drawing. Accumulated Knowledge was obvious. I tried to fit Fact or Fiction, but didn’t have room for several. Benalish Heralds looked better, since it was a creature and could trigger Pure Reflection and Unnatural Selection. The Heralds could also act as a wall if necessary.

I really miss Enlightened Tutor.

Sterling Grove looked good, but I was too worried about the mana. Running Grove would require green mana, and I was already strongly into blue and white. I figured not having blue available for counterspells early would hurt, (it did, as revealed below) and having to run more painlands and forests would make it worse. However, running green would also allow me to run Fleetfoot Panther, which would allow all kinds of great blocking and Wrathing tricks. Fleetfoot Panther would have let me destroy reflection tokens, and targeted creatures (with Unnatural Selection and Pure Reflection in play) at instant speed. With Pure Reflection in play it could gate itself and leave a 3/3 token at any time – for instance, after declaration of attackers, but before blockers. Plus, Fleetfoot could save my Heralds from removal, etc.

That would be nice, but mana consistency is important. I decided on straight U/W. Here’s the FNM decklist:

The Empress’s Unnatural Reflection:

4 Unnatural Selection

3 Pure Reflection

4 Counterspell

4 Accumulated Knowledge

4 Absorb

2 Misdirection

1 Dismantling Blow

1 Worship (random, but useful)

2 Silver Drake

3 Darting Merfolk (wrong)

4 Sunweb (flying 5/6 wall)

2 Empress Galina (she’s too expensive, but it was a metagame call)

1 Benalish Heralds

4 Adarkar Wastes

4 Coastal Tower

10 Island

6 Plains


3 Galina’s Knight

1 Fact or Fiction

1 Disenchant

1 Dismantling Blow

2 Exclude

1 Memory Lapse

1 Glacial Wall

1 Coalition Honor Guard

1 Washout

2 Samite Archer

1 Standard Bearer (versus Opposition/Orb)

Some of the sideboard looks really random, but it is for a reason. As always, I was throwing cards together late Thursday night. I never playtested the deck and I was very nervous about the lack of card drawing and counters, so I added one or two of each to the sideboard. The Glacial Wall is there for the same reason: I thought it might be necessary, so it came in. The Galina’s Knights were an early thought for maindeck, but only made the board. I really wanted a 25th land, but convinced myself that four Accumulated Knowledges would fix that. Wrong – one Darting Merfolk or a Sunweb should have been another land – probably an Ancient Spring.

I also meant to add Hibernation or Submerge and Dodecapod to the sideboard, but forgot. I remembered after seeing the Blastoderms and so forth in match 1, game 1, but by then it was too late.

I had one more problem before playing the deck: Friday afternoon, I e-mailed Ingrid at work to ask her whether she was planning on playing or judging for FNM. She said she was judging, and that Steve, the storeowner and a level 3 judge, was leaving for a concert and she would run the tourney. I worried about that, since my wife would be explaining to a lot of players that the stupid tricks I was describing really did work, and that their creatures were, indeed, either dead or mine. I figured it would be okay if people could appeal to Steve – but with him leaving, I wanted to make sure no one would get worried about biased calls. We went in early, and I brought a spare deck just in case, but Steve thought it would be fine to play this monstrosity. He knows Ingrid is as unbiased as they come.

I also walked through all the combos and made sure that he and I agreed on how they would work. I had already talked them through with Ingrid, and we had nailed them all. (Truth be told, I missed subtleties on two, but Ingrid caught those.) I also brought a printout of the netrep ruling that creatures controlled be Empress Galina stay in my control even if she leaves play. They do – the bronze rule of Magic is that cards do only what they say, and nothing on Empress Galina says”return control of the legend before the game ends.”

So I got the cards into matching sleeves, shuffled and the pairings went up. I don’t remember the exact numbers: Enough people for 4 rounds of swiss, but not enough to need 5 rounds.

Round 1: Jeff Hegedus: Big R/G beats

In the end, we played five to seven games before I got the deck working, so I don’t remember everything. My opening hand looked good: Coastal Tower, Plains, two Counterspells, two Absorbs, and Darting Merfolk. To make a long story short, I never got a second blue source, despite casting two Accumulated Knowledges.

Game 2, I was equally unlucky. I sided in the Galina’s Knights, Excludes, and Glacial Wall for a Merfolk or two, the Disenchant, and some other stuff. My opening hand had two Galina’s Knights, plus the appropriate lands. His, unfortunately, had mana and two Thornscape Battlemages, which killed the Knights. I topdecked a third Knight, but he topdecked a third Battlemage. When I topdecked a Glacial Wall, he cast a Shivan Wurm. Once again, I never got to two blue mana. I was not a happy camper.

We still had a lot of time left in the round, so we played several more games for fun. I kept getting run over and realized that the Darting Merfolk were a serious mistake.

Round 2: Chris Martinez: IBC Domain with Global Ruin

We both started out slowly and did nothing special for several rounds. He resolved a Harrow, since I still had not found any card drawing or a single counter. I had a ton of land in play, then I finally woke up to the fact that he was playing Domain. A moderately smart player would have held some land back, but I was holding two Pure Reflections, two Unnatural Selections and a Dismantling Blow and waiting for a creature to cast, so I figured to drop everything in one surprise turn. Dumb plan. He cast two Collective Restraints to bait counters, but in my first twenty cards I still had not found one; then he cast Global Ruin. He got out a Spiritmonger, and I drew into Darting Merfolk and started blocking and bouncing. I almost stabilized, then he cast another Ruin. I still had no counters, but got the Merfolk back in action. Finally, about forty minutes into the round, he got a second Monger and the win.

Game 2, I started fast and got in two attacks with my Sunweb. Then he cast Deed. I countered. He tried Evasive Action, and I had Absorb. He casts another Deed, and I countered again. Unfortunately, I ran out of counters first, and he nailed my Unnatural Selection with Dismantling Blow. He then resolved a Collective Restraint before I could get enough damage through with a Merfolk. I could not get enough card drawing or my Disenchants in time, so I lost.

Round 3: David Uselman: Saprolings and stuff

When you have gone 0-2 in FNM, you are playing some weird stuff. My third round opponent was playing a fair to good draft deck. I saw him play Briar Patch, Restock, Stream of Life, Reclaim, Star Compass (I had to explain that he didn’t have to chose the mana color when he cast it – he could chose each time he used it), Collective Unconscious, Glorious Anthem, Keldon Battlewagon, and so forth. It was truly random, but had some synergy in that it created lots of tokens, pumped them, and beat. It was going to be pretty tragic if I lost this round.

I lost game 1.

He won the roll, and opened with Forest, elf. He cast a quick Harrow, and cast a Rith’s Charm to gain three tokens. I was stuck at two mana, one white, so I cast a Darting Merfolk and passed the turn. He cast another Rith’s Charm and beat for three. I drew a non-land and blocked and bounced the Merfolk on his turn. He developed mana, then cast Glorious Anthem. I drew no answer and died. Once again, I had counters in hand.

In came Disenchants, probably Glacial Wall, and maybe some other stuff. Two of the nearly useless Merfolk left.

Game 2 started pretty much the same. We both developed slowly. He summoned three tokens, but I had Unnatural Selection. I untapped, all his tokens became Legendary trees, and died. He cast Aura Mutation to kill my Selection, but I had drawn Worship and Benalish Heralds, and had counter backup to protect the Worship once I cast it. I was immune to damage, was drawing two cards a turn, and soon had the combo out. I beat him down with a Merfolk and some tokens. Even Empress Galina put in an appearance, giving me control of some legendary Saproling tokens.

Game three was even less of a challenge. I drew mana, counters, and Unnatural Selection. For the first time all evening, I could decide whether to counter spells or just kill tokens by making them all Legends. I countered Aura Mutations, Restock, and similar threats. It took a while to find a kill mechanism, since he did get Anthem down and had a token left, so my Merfolk couldn’t do anything. But eventually I drew Silver Drake and he died to 3/3 tokens.

Round 4: Charlie Buettner: Legends and Elvish Piper

I have played against an earlier version of Charlie’s deck, which runs Planar Portal, big Legends, and tricks to get them into play. The last version ran Dragon Arch – this one ran Elvish Piper. I can hardly call it metagaming, since I didn’t expect to play him, but a deck with a ton of Legends and only Legacy Weapon for removal really hates to see Empress Galina on the other side of the table.

Game one was strange, and went on forever. I drew a decent hand and countered the first Piper. Then I dropped a Sunweb on my turn 4, and Empress Galina on my turn 5. Just in time – I could tell by his sigh that he had some big legendary dragon in his hand (I found out later he had two Crosises and a Treva.) After that, we stalled. He did manage to get a second Piper down and filled the board with large, non-legendary creatures (but not larger than my three Sunweb).

Finally, he cast an Anavolver with both kickers, and I couldn’t counter it because I had blown my counters on Legacy Weapons. (He ran four Weapons, and I had countered one at least four times so far.) Then he made a serious mistake: For three turns, he did not attack with the Anavolver. (We talked this over later – after the match.***) His Anavolver could run through the Sunwebs one at a time – and he could have regenerated the Anavolver if I double-blocked. Three turns later, I drew Worship and I was safe again. I wasn’t winning, since I could not draw an Unnatural Selection to turn my Webs into beats, but he couldn’t kill me.

Did I mention he was playing Collective Restraint and a domain mana set? He drew the domain and Harrows quickly, and I could not counter the first Restraint. Shortly thereafter, he got a Planar Portal out and started searching up Restraints. In the end, he resolved two, then three, while I waited for the Dismantling Blow or anything else.

After that, it became a waiting game. I had to get to sixteen mana to make a Wall a creature, pay for the three Restraints and fly over. He had enough land out to activate Planar Portal three times a turn, fetch three Legacy Weapons, then discard them and do it again next turn. I was pretty nervous during this, since I did not have a counter in hand and he could have cast the Weapon and then used it to remove Galina before I had priority to activate her (although I could have used her in response, and gotten control of the Weapon after she left). More worrisome, he could have removed the Worship, then started sending with the Anavolver. Without Unnatural Selection, I could not deal with the Anavolver. However, he just sat back and played with the Planar Portals. At least he was having fun. I was, too, except for the niggling fact that I knew he could win if he just thought it through.

About thirteen turns into the game, I finally drew the Unnatural Selection. I was so happy, I cast it, made all of his threatening creatures Reflections and cast my Drake. My mistake: I should have made his Anavolver a Legend and stolen it, but the Collective Restraints meant I could not have done anything with it. Probably still the right decision: He had an active Elvish Pipers and could have brought a creature into play in response to my doing the Reflections trick and tapping Galina.

Incidentally, I had had a Pure Reflection on the board for a long time, but I had the token. He was putting his creatures into play using the Elvish Pipers, which does not trigger Pure Reflection. That only happens when you cast a creature card. Once I had Reflection and Selection down, of course, it didn’t matter – I killed the Pipers immediately.

With about ten cards left in my library, I finally drew enough land to attack and have mana left to counter – and then, of course, I drew Dismantling Blow. I finished the game at twenty-nine life, having resolved three Absorbs and never taken a hit at all.

I sideboarded out all the Darting Merfolk, and something else, for the Samite Archers, the disenchants and probably an Exclude.

Game 2 was pretty brutal for him. I played turn 2 Unnatural Selection, turn 3 Pure Reflection, and a turn 4 Samite Archer in response to his Collective Restraint. At the end of his turn 8 or so, Blow with kicker took care of the Restraint, and Sunweb sailed in for the win. Just like it was supposed to.

So that was FNM, and the T2 version of the deck. The deck was kinda fun to play, so I figured to try converting it to multiplayer. We play Type 1 rules, which is a shame because four Enlightened Tutors would really help. (In T1, Enlightened Tutor is restricted.)

The first question in T1 was whether to add green. Fleetfoot Panther could do nearly everything the Drake could (except fly), but at instant speed. Sterling Grove was solid, both as a searcher and as protection. Dual lands would mean that color wasn’t that much of a problem, and I could play Worldly Tutor and Academy Rector if I needed to. The problem was that with green, I could add a dozen great cards. A dozen more cards in a tight combo deck is a problem, though, so I stayed U/W.

The second card I really wanted was Vesuvian Doppelganger. During your upkeep, Vesuvian Doppelganger matches the creature of your choice. Unnatural Selection and the Doppelganger is okay – every upkeep, she becomes the scariest creature an opponent controls, then they both become legends – Doppelganger first, of course – and the opponent’s creature dies. Unfortunately, we don’t own any Doppelgangers, and Clone is not as good. As for the other changes from T2 to T1: Some of the Counterspells became Mana Drains, four Plains became Tundras, and Enlightened Tutor reappears. I also added another Drake, another Benalish Heralds, two more Dismantling Blows and some Undiscovered Paradises to fill out the mana. I didn’t add any Power Nine – Ingrid wanted the Ancestral and the blue Mox, so I didn’t get to play them, and it seemed okay without Mox Sapphire or TimeTwister.

I played the modified deck (no Darting Merfolk, but with Clone) in our weekend partners games. I ended up partnered with Cathy, who was playing a deck I cannot remember well (a black/green deck with Elves, Llanowar Dead, Consume Strength, and Spirit of the Night.) John was toying with a deck in which everything cost one to cast, and which was pretty much a Highlander build. Ingrid was playing a R/U counterburn deck, with a smattering of creatures and a large assortment of burn spells (two or three each of many of the good ones.)

In other words, my opponents either had nothing much to Clone, or no creatures to speak of. Clone was definitely bad. Vesuvian Doppelganger and Unnatural Selection could have just decimated John’s army, but Clone could only do in one of the horde of creatures. Worse, Clone was almost always copying one of John’s 1cc creatures, meaning that is was generally a mediocre 1/1, or occasionally copying one of Cathy’s elves – but in that case, I was not using Unnatural Selection and Clone as creature removal.

In many respects, playing that particular decks was like playing a deck with eight maindeck Wrath of Gods against creatureless decks. I had trouble fighting through the burn and counterspells, and wasn’t able to keep a token because John kept casting weenies. On the other hand, the Samite Archer from the sideboard was amazing, unless John had Cursed Scroll or Ingrid had burn. The saddest turn of the night was one game where Cathy was mana screwed, with two lands and a Llanowar Elf, and I had nothing much, while John was beating us down with three or four 1/1 and 2/1 fliers. Then I topdecked Samite Archer, and Cathy topdecked Priest of Titania. Ingrid had the turn after Cathy, and I said something like”Here’s where you topdeck Arc Lightning and wreck us both.” She did. Cathy never cast anything significant that game and John’s fliers kept flying under my Sunweb, but over my ground crew.

The deck looked reasonably solid – and had people not played decks without any significant creatures, it would probably have rocked. That’s assuming you can get some Vesuvian Doppelgangers, of course. Clones are similar to Darting Merfolk – marginal in theory, very poor in practice.

It’s Friday afternoon, and I’m wondering what to play tonight. I have almost run out of ideas (I try to avoid playing the same deck archetype at FNM twice), so maybe Dueling Grounds? It’s that or CounterRebels, although I may have played that early last spring. I’ll find something – if it seems interesting, and if it translates into the new T2 at all, I’ll write about it sometime.


* – I started writing this a while back, can you tell?

** – Ingrid’s comment on reading a draft of this article:”Judge’s note:”slug” is a valid choice;”banana slug” is not – the choice has to be one word only. I let you get away with”banana slug” in casual play because it was funny. ILJ”

*** – It was just Friday Night Magic, but I still wasn’t going to tell him how to win during the match.