Yawgmoth’s Whimsy #236 – Eventide Observations

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Thursday, July 24th – I ran a PTQ last weekend. The Top 8 happened – Faeries and Faeries and Merfolk and Faeries and some Elementals and – who cares? That format is dead already. It was pre-Eventide, so everything will change. I’ll talk a bit about it, then I’ll look at some Eventide cards. That’s more interesting.

I ran a PTQ last weekend. The Top 8 happened – Faeries and Faeries and Merfolk and Faeries and some Elementals and — who cares? That format is dead already. It was pre-Eventide, so everything will change. I’ll talk a bit about it, then I’ll look at some Eventide cards. That’s more interesting.


Personally, I am impatient for the Block Constructed format to change. The players seemed to be too. Everyone was a little sick of playing Faeries, or against Faeries. Faeries was too dominant. Looking at the stats from PTQs (which do not yet include last weekend’s results), Faeries had made 90 Top 8 appearances, and won 17 PTQs. The next closest deck was Mirror Master, with 40 appearances and 4 wins.

In Madison, “the mightily named” (Rich Hagon description) Jasper Johnson-Epstein — the quintessential beatdown player — played Faeries to a second place finish. Adrian Sullivan, despite championing his Red decks, borrowed a Merfolk deck from Brian Kowal. Best spectator line in the Top 8 — BK walks over to where Adrian is shuffling up for game 2 of the semis, and deadpans “Adrian, I have to go, can I have my deck back?” Worst part of the event — seeing Faeries everywhere.

Best judge call of the day — and one I only heard about secondhand — involved Rashad Miller playing Elementals and a Reveillark player who didn’t quite understand the way the stack worked. Someone cast Mirrorweave during combat, targeting a Reveillark, and a lot of 2/2 creatures died. Because of the AP/NAP rule (active player’s triggers go on the stack first, then nonactive), Rashad’s Sowers of Temptation ended up stealing a lot, and the opponent’s got nothing. Rashad also managed to use Incandescent Soulstoke to pop out a Mulldrifter while Mirrorweave was on the stack, and got to sacrifice the Mulldrifter/Reveillark end of turn, at which point it went to the graveyard as a Reveillark and came back as a Mulldrifter — drawing Rashad another two cards.

We had a ton of judge calls involving Mirrorweave and layers on Saturday. I did make an announcement at the start of the event about the MTGO bug involving Mirrorweave and Sower of Temptation (online, if you use Mirrorweave to change Sower into something else, you get your creature back. That shouldn’t happen.) However, you can use Mirrorweave to mess with the trigger on Mistbind Clique (make everything non-faeries and they can Champion, or, if they have Bitterblossom, you can at least erase the tap all lands ability.) Mirrorweave can also be a decent fog, if you Mirrorweave all creatures into Mutavaults.

We had relatively few judge calls, and only a couple of dumb mistakes (3 decklist errors, including the guy playing — and listing – Snow-covered Islands.) The most commonly asked questions — after “where’s the bathroom? ” and “is there a lunch break?” — all involved layers, and the judges had all read up on them. I had only a couple of appeals, and I was able to uphold all of my judges’ rulings.

Overall, the PTQ went well. Registration closed at 10am, with 131 players. That was just over the 128 player cutoff, so we played a full 8 rounds of Swiss, and played out all three rounds of the Top 8, but we still got done by 8:30pm.

Breaking Helix Pinnacle

I keep wondering about this card. It is almost certainly not good: it pretty much requires an infinite mana engine, and then it only wins on your next upkeep. If you actually had an infinite mana engine, you could probably just win, immediately, with something like Blaze, or at the beginning of the opponent’s turn with Whetwheel.

I can’t imagine having enough mana free to actually build up this enchantment legitimately. The average constructed game rarely goes more than a dozen turns. It certainly won’t go a dozen turns if you don’t do anything to stop the opponent, and even if it does, it’s not really enough.

Imagine you drop Helix Pinnacle on turn 1, and drop a land every turn thereafter. If you do nothing but tap out to add counters to Helix Pinnacle, you will hit 100 counters somewhere in the middle of turn 14.

That’s not going to do it.

I keep thinking there must be something you could do with Morselhoarder. After all, Morselhoarder is part of an all-common infinite damage combo in draft. It is part of an infinite creature combo as well.

Infinite damage: Morselhoarder + Sinking Feeling + Power of Fire
Infinite creatures: Morselhoarder + Sinking Feeling + Presence of Gond

Unfortunately, the combos cannot generate infinite mana, just infinite untaps. Morselhoarder eats a -1/-1 counter for a mana. Sinking Feeling untaps the Hoarder for one mana plus a counter. The combo can go infinite if we can either add one additional counter per untap or erase the mana cost of the untap. I don’t see anything in block or Standard that can do either of those. In Extended, Doubling Season could add an additional -1/-1 counter for each untap. In Legacy, Heartstone almost works, but is too restricted.

However, in Standard, you can enchant Morselhoarder with Utopia Vow, so that it can tap for a mana. That, plus Sinking Feeling, does indeed create infinite mana, of any color. That can “break” Helix Pinnacle. It could also power Whetwheel, or even Blaze for a million.

Of course, the problem with this idea is that it fails one of the critical rules of combo decks: that the cards either help you find your combo or be good on their own. Imagine playing against Faeries with a Morselhoarder / Sinking Feeling / Utopia Vow Whetwheel deck, and you draw everything but the Morselhoarder. How stupid is that going to feel?

Morselhoarder / Power of Fire / Sinking Feeling seems fine in Peasant Magic, however.

Training Judges

If you are not interested in rules stuff, skip this section.

I read Riki Rules for this week. It reminded me of an interesting — well, interesting to judges — question that Ingrid asked me. It was a two part Snakeform / Runes of the Deus question. I have sprung it on a couple other judges since then.

Some card details, because the first rule of answering any question is to RTFC — read the {fine} card.

Snakeform: 2{u/g}, instant, Target creature loses all abilities and becomes a 1/1 green Snake until end of turn.
Draw a card.

Runes of the Deus: 4{r/g} enchantment — aura, Enchant creature
As long as enchanted creature is red, it gets +1/+1 and has double strike. (It deals both first-strike and regular combat damage.)
As long as enchanted creature is green, it gets +1/+1 and has trample.

First question: assume you have a Llanowar Elves enchanted by Runes of the Deus. It is targeted with Snakeform, and Snakeform resolves. What is it?

The answer is a 2/2 Green snake with no abilities.

Here’s the technical answer.

This is a question about the interaction of continuous effects. (Runes applies all the time. Snakeform until end of turn. Both are “continuous,” at least this turn.) The interaction of continuous effects is covered by section 418.5 of the Comprehensive Rules — the infamous layers section.

The layers are:

Layer 1: Copy effects. These are applied first.
Layer 2: Control effects — control changes are applied before other effects.
Layer 3: Text changing — and that means changing Magic words, like “Swamp,” or “blue”
Layer 4: Type changing — land into artifact creature, goblin into treefolk, etc.
Layer 5: Other, (including adding or removing abilities) except effects that change power and toughness.
Layer 6: Power and toughness changing effects — and these are divided into sublayers.
Layer 6a: Characteristic defining abilities.
Layer 6b: Other P/T effects.
Layer 6c: Counters.
Layer 6d: Effects from static abilities that modify but do not set power and toughness.
Layer 6e: Effects that switch power and toughness.

As printed, the card is a 1/1 elf that taps for mana.

With Runes of the Deus, it is a 2/2 trampling elf that taps for mana.

Once Snakeform resolves, you go to layers.

In layer 4, Snakeform makes it a snake, overwriting the elf creature type.
In layer 5, Runes adds trample, then Snakeform removes both the mana ability and trample. (It’s because of time stamp — the Runes was cast first, Snakeform later. Within a layer, you — generally — apply the effects in timestamp order.)
In layer 6a: Nothing. (“Becomes a 1/1” is not a characteristic defining abilities. CDAs are special — like the ability on Maro to define Maro’s x/x P/T. My memory shorthand — CDAs have to be printed on the card, and not activated. Svogthos, the Restless Tomb’s activation isn’t a CDA, it just looks like one.)
In layer 6b: Snakeform makes the creature a 1/1.
In layer 6d: Runes makes it a 2/2.

Okay, now that you know how it works, assume you have a Mogg Fanatic enchanted with Runes of the Deus.

As Riki would say, easy peasy, right?

Snake in layer four, abilities removed in layer 5, 1/1 in layer 6b and 2/2 in layer 6d: 2/2 Green snake with no abilities.


It’s a Green 2/2 snake with trample.


The difference is in layer 5. Remember that I said you generally apply the effects within a layer in timestamp order? One of the exceptions is when a dependency is involved, and one applies here. Here’s the rule for dependency:

418.5c An effect is said to “depend on” another if (a) it’s applied in the same layer (and, if applicable, sublayer) as the other effect (see rule 418.5a); (b) applying the other would change the text or the existence of the first effect, what it applies to, or what it does to any of the things it applies to; and (c) neither effect is from a characteristic-defining ability. Otherwise, the effect is considered to be independent of the other effect.

The effect of Runes of the Deus is changed if the creature is made Green. This means that the effect of Runes — granting trample — depends on the effect of Snakeform — making it Green. This isn’t true in the first example — the Llanowar Elf is Green — or of the other ability of Runes, since the Mogg Fanatic started out Red. In layer 5, the Runes will give the Mogg Fanatic double strike, then Snakeform will take it away and make the creature Green, then the Runes’ “gains trample” ability will be applied.

What makes these questions so good is that they are a nice teaching tool. People may get the first one right or wrong, and may pay a bit of attention to the answers — but when I explain the steps for the first question, and they apply it to the second example and I say they’re wrong, they pay attention. They may even argue — and that’s when learning happens.

Did I get it right, when Ingrid asked me? No, I failed the RTFC step. I skimmed Snakeform, didn’t notice the “makes it green” part and completely punted the interesting portions of the questions. She had to ask me about dependencies, then had to remind me about the color change. That killed the surprise.

Here’s a question only a judge would ask: if you have Steel of the Godhead on a Thistledown Duo, and you Snakeform it, does it not have unblockable and lifelink because it is the wrong color, or because the abilities are removed? It is the ultimate “who cares?” question — the abilities are gone either way. (If you are curious, there is a still a dependency, which means the remove is applied first, then the abilities, then they fail because of the color mismatch. That does mean you could save the abilities with a Scuttlemutt, if it changed the color after Snakeform resolved; so I guess it does matter. I think. I really should think more about whether the dependency still applies with Scutts timestamping over Snakeform.)

More Infinite Combos

I have a soft spot for infinite combos — especially in casual / multiplayer games. My basic game plan for multiplayer is to look meek and non-threatening, right up to the point where I kill everyone. It’s political. Strange and wonderful infinite combos, like Morselhoarder / Power of Fire / Sinking Feeling, are perfect for this plan. It looks like I have nothing but bad cards, right up to the point that I win.

A lot of people are playing with the Devoted Druid / Quillspike combo. It works — Quillspike gets infinitely large — but getting the creatures into play, and finding a way to win with it, is trickier. Block, and even Standard, is a bit short on tutors. Summoner’s Pact can, indeed, find a component creature, but most of these combos also need either a way to get the creature past blockers or a card like Rite of Consumption. Tutoring for Rite of Consumption is tougher / too expensive.

I can see including the Quillspike combo in a Green beatdown deck, but that’s about it. It looks like a fine backup plan, but too fragile to be the main approach.

I have also been looking at Bloom Tender. It does not look all that exciting in Block or Standard, but it has some potential in Extended. By some potential, I mean the potential for infinite Green mana on turn 2, plus the ability to draw any card in your deck that turn. You get there like this:

* turn 1: Chrome Mox, land, Bloom Tender.
* turn 2: land, Freed from the Real on Bloom Tender.

With infinite mana, winning could be easy — but less so with Green mana than other colors. Of course, the last time you tap for mana, you get UG, so you could win with something like Stroke Of Genius. Alternatively, for the next few months at least, you could generate 160 green mana, then cast Flash of Insight to look through your entire library, find Helix Pinnacle, cast it and add 100 counters. Better yet, you could find Whetwheel and just mill them out.

Turn 2 kills seem like fun, if you can make the deck consistent enough.

That’s the question, of course. Can the combo be consistent, is it fast enough to compete and can it be easily interrupted?

All of the combos that rely on little Green guys — like Bloom Tender and Devoted Druid — remaining in play have some issues. If your combo relies on keeping a targetable creature alive, and that’s basically all you deck does, you just lose to decks with Terror or Tarfire. The Morselhoarder decks lose to those, and to decks that can sideboard Krosan Grip.

Counters can also ruin your day. Generating 101 mana, then having your Helix Pinnacle countered is going to be bad times.

And, of course, most of these combos don’t work on Magic Online. Imagine trying to click through the Morselhoarder / Sinking Feeling / Utopia Vow combo 100 times. Online, you can’t just say “repeat 100 times” — you have to actually do it 100 times. While you are doing it, your clock is running. Click fast.

I think I’ll just keep these combos for casual play. I can see playing a Peasant deck with Morselhoarder / Sinking Feeling and Presence of Gond. I’ll also include Essence Warden — just so that my opponents have something else to waste their removal on.

I have been looking for more practical ways of winning with the infinite Green mana produced by the Bloom Tender / Freed from the Real combo. I am not seeing a lot of good answers — but I have seen a lot of bad possibilities. Sprout Swarm is cute, but it lacks the style points of an infinite number of Cartographers. See, you generate infinite Green mana. You cast Cartographer. You then cast Spitting Image copying Cartographer. You then retrace Spitting Image copying Cartographer and return the land from retrace to your hand. Then just keep doing this.

Infinite Cartographers — and the tokens from a retraced Spitting Image are not removed at end of turn.

I might as well stop. I have a million stupid combos. I don’t know that I have any playable, feasible combos. Testing will tell. I am on the Eventide online beta, though, so I can try them all out.

Could be fun.

Drafting Online:

I have been enjoying Shadowmoor drafts online. I started with about 20 packs, and am still going after playing in a couple dozen drafts. I just won a 4-3-2-2 that I never expected to win. Seriously.

It was early morning, and I had a couple hours before I had to leave for work. I drafted a semi-decent RB deck. I beat my opponent fairly easily round 1.

Round 2 I won game 1, but was in some trouble game 2. My opponent had dropped a Barrenton Cragtreads. I had a 3/3 as well, and a tapped Scuttlemutt in play.
He dropped Steel of the Godhead on his dude, then swung for 5. Since I am an idiot, I swung back (with the 3/3 and the Scutts), then dropped another 3/3. He dropped the UW Liege, and swung with his 7/7, bringing the life totals to 25 to 8 in his favor. I finally got smart. I made his Cragtreads Green, burned it out, then swung with my 3/3s. His life total was almost back below 20. My opponent dropped a Watchwing Scarecrow and sat back on defense. I smashed it to smithereens, swung and dropped another 3/3. He tapped out to drop two more defenders, but I had Ember Gale.

On to the finals — and the game I really had no chance of winning. Rounds 1 and 2 had take the full time, so I had to head for work. I PMed my opponent, congratulating him on the win, and logged off.

When I got home, I had four packs and more rating points. Apparently my opponent had not showed up either, and he must have won the die roll. That means he timed out first, waiting to chose whether to play or draw.

Like I said, no way I should have won that draft.


“one million words” on MTGO