Something lighthearted this week to celebrate the end of US Regionals:
I love cards like Last Laugh. They are not quite good enough to build obvious decks around… But they have that potential. Last Laugh decks could have been great for Regionals, but for two problems that I’ll I discuss below; the deck can also be built for Extended, where it is slightly better – or for multiplayer, where it works just fine.
Last Laugh’s concept is pretty simple: Whenever a permanent (other than Last Laugh) goes to the graveyard, Last Laugh does a Pestilence for one. If there are a lot of creatures, the first creature can kill a second, which will trigger Last Laugh again, killing more, and so on until the board is clear. Imagine a R/G deck with two Birds, an Elf, a Raging Kavu, an elephant token and a Jade Leech on the board. With Last Life in play, if anything dies, everything dies, and everyone takes six damage.
The first step in breaking Last Laugh is making sure that the effect is not symmetrical. The easiest way to do this is to use cards that prevent the damage to you. In Type 2, the only real method of doing this is Sphere of Grace. Circle of Protection is not enough, since Last Laugh triggers individually for each permanent hitting the graveyard, meaning that you would have to pay the Circle for each occurrence. That’s too much mana to make the system work. Sphere of Grace, however, will prevent all the damage from Last Laugh, even if it triggers three hundred times in a turn.
Sphere of Grace and Last Laugh mean that we will be running white and black.
The second trick is to get it to trigger often enough. This is the biggest problem with Last Laugh decks right now: many good decks don’t run creatures. Sweeping the board with Last Laugh doesn’t do anything positive when all the creatures are yours, so just side out the Last Laughs for Aegis of Honor and so forth.
The biggest problem with supplying creatures is that you need a lot. The deck really wants a token generator – Kjeldoran Outpost, Breeding Pit or Sacred Mesa would be in the right colors, but Squirrel Nest is about the best you can find in T2, followed by Acorn Harvest and Chatter of the Squirrel. Green would also give you Birds of Paradise and land search cards to smooth the mana. Finally, green gives you Mystic Enforcer, which is immune to Last Laugh and would provide the creature that stays in play so that you don’t have to sacrifice Last Laugh. Llanowar Knight also has protection from black.
I should mention that the one possibility that B/W does provide (Reborn Hero) is awfully expensive. Reborn Hero/Animal Boneyard might be fun, but it takes too much mana and does too little in the deck. Still, it’s not impossible – but that’s how far we are reaching to make the combo work.
A second option that I’m not sure how to use is having Lashknife Barrier around to prevent all damage to your own creatures. The cantrip effect is nice, and it would mean that your tokens could survive the Pestilence effects, but the board-sweeping effect of killing a half dozen tokens – and dealing six damage to everything else – seems as important.
I’ll take a shot at this deck for T2, but only in the hopes that there’s something in Judgment that will flesh out the deck. Right now, this has as much chance of beating G/R beats and Tog as the Montreal Expos do of winning the 2006 World Cup.* Llanowar Knights are a rude surprise for Ichorid and Nantuko Shades, though. Pro-black and Squirrels are great – right up until they Mutilate.
4 Elfhame Palace /Brushland (painlands could be a problem)
1 Caves of Koilos
4 Llanowar Wastes
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Krosan Restorer (to get double mana, and to pump Squirrels)
4 Diabolic Intent
4 Sphere of Grace
4 Last Laugh
4 Innocent Blood
4 Chainer’s Edict
1 Rancid Earth (killing a land also triggers LL)
3 Squirrel Nest
2 Mystic Enforcer
4 Llanowar Knights
After looking at this closely, I think it needs some tuning. It needs Duress. Actually, it needs a lot: This probably cannot beat anything in the current metagame. So let’s dump the Type 2 idea and move on to casual play and multiplayer, where Last Laugh has a chance to really shine.
First of all, we need a creature that can survive to keep Last Laugh in play turn after turn. Mystic Enforcer is good, but it makes you a real target, doesn’t survive Swords or Bolt, and is off-color to boot. A better first step is Cemetery Gate; a cheap, pro-black 0/5 Wall from Homelands. It not only provides the Last Laugh interaction, it also stops some early attacks, and it’s black. Wall of Light is a 1/5 Wall from Legends; it is white. Voice of All is another possibility, if the deck supports WW. If the build includes white and green, we get Mystic Enforcer and Scalebane’s Elite.
Second, we need ways of finding the combo pieces. Enlightened Tutor is one option, since most parts are enchantments; academy Rector is also good, especially since you can sacrifice the Rector with Last Laugh already in play, then stack the abilities so the Rector can fetch Sphere of Grace before Last Laugh starts dealing damage. Since the deck also runs black, Demonic and Vampiric Tutor are also viable options.
Third, we need a method of producing tokens or creatures to sacrifice, so that we can clear the board. These include Sacred Mesa, Breeding Pit, Sengir Autocrat, Hornet Cannon, Kjeldoran Outpost, and so on. Some of these, like Hornet Cannon and Sacred Mesa, force you to sacrifice the tokens at end of turn or during upkeep. This means that they can trigger the sequence without other actions. Sacred Mesa, for instance, could produce a lot of tokens, but with Last Laugh in play, they will all die during upkeep (one sacrificed, then Last Laugh deals one to all the others).
Next, we need a way to trigger the cascade of damage. In multiplayer, Innocent Blood is cheap and probably means you will start the Last Laugh damage at three or more. The only drawback is that the spell is a sorcery. That is less important if you have a bunch of 1/1 tokens on the board – they will all die the first time Last Laugh triggers, and should kill most of what remains. Another option is to use lands and other effects that sacrifice creatures for other effects. Attrition is overkill – but Diamond Valley, Phyrexian Tower, Animal Boneyard and High Market all allow you to kill you creatures at instant speed, allowing you to set off the chain at any time.
If Last Laugh is your only win option, then play Replenish, so that Tranquility doesn’t wreck you whole day. A better option is to add some large beatdown machines – preferably pro-black. Minion of Leshrac is a good option, since it requires creature sacrifices during upkeep, triggering Last Laugh. Spirit of the Night is also a personal favorite – and since the deck is more show-off than serious and tournament worthy, go ahead and play it.
If I were playing this today**, here’s my build, using T1 restrictions.
R Demonic Tutor
R Vampiric Tutor
R Enlightened Tutor
R Sol Ring
4 Last Laugh
4 Sphere of Grace
2 Sacred Mesa
3 Diabolic Intent
2 Hornet Cannon
2 Swords to Plowshares (for annoying pro-black creatures)
1 Subversion (another target for opponent’s Disenchant)
2 Disenchant/Seal of Cleansing
4 Academy Rector
4 Cemetery Gate
3 Radiant’s Dragoons (just ’cause I like them)
3 Sengir Autocrat
1 Spirit of the Night
1 Minion of Leshrac
1 Phyrexian Tower
1 Diamond Valley (all I own)
1 High Market
2 Volrath’s Stronghold
1 Kjeldoran Outpost
2 Terminal Moraine
4 Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author]
4 Caves of Koilos
That’s pretty much it. I might add a couple enhancements when I actually pull cards (I always do), but that’s the starting decklist. If I weren’t playing T1 rules, I would add more tutors. In my experience, group games tend to start slow, so this build shouldn’t be too bad, but it is about seventy cards – cut some of the chaff (Dragoons, Minion of Leshrac, Subversion, some silver bullets) if you want to get the combo more consistently.
Here are some random enhancements that might be worth considering:
Gravepact may be overkill, but it would mean that any time you sacrificed a creature, everyone else would sacrifice one as well – in addition to those killed by Last Life damage, if you stack the effects correctly. My only question is whether this is actually necessary.
Reprocess is another interesting effect, even in Type 2. You can sacrifice a number of permanents, then draw that many cards. It’s a nice combo with Academy Rector and Enlightened Tutor, if you get the stack right. Renounce, the other combo with Rector that appeared in Sabre Bargain, does not work as well. Remember, you don’t get the lifegain until resolution, which occurs after all the Last Laugh triggers resolve.
Some lifegain might be nice. Subversion or Syphon Soul are strong possibilities. Congregate is only good if you do it before Last Laugh is in play.
Radiant’s Dragoons looks interesting. You gain the life – and if you do not pay echo, Dragoons go to the graveyard, triggering Last Laugh. Teroh’s Faithful just gives you life, but that might be interesting as well.
If you don’t want your creatures dying to Last Laugh effects, try Lashknife Barrier. Remember, Last Laugh deals one point of damage each time it triggers – and Lashknife Barrier prevents each one in turn.
If you want to kill all creatures, simply, add Humility. Nothing stops Morphlings like Humility – and with Humility in play, killing any one creature probably sweeps the board (unless you have Lashknife Barrier…)
If you want the Sphere of Grace to protect you even farther, add Darkest Hour. Now all creatures do two less damage. Shifting Skies can do the same. Blind Seer can affect instants as well (Lightning Bolt becomes Zap), but it costs more and requires a lot of blue.
Living Death would have some very interesting effects. Once you cast it, all existing creatures will hit the graveyard, triggering Last Laugh for each creature. Then the new creatures enter play, and take a lot of Last Laugh damage. I’m not sure that the effect is better than Innocent Blood or other methods of starting the cascade, but it is interesting. It could work pretty well with pro-black creatures, or creatures like Radiant’s Dragoons and Teroh’s Faithful.
If for some strange reason, you wanted to play a mono-black version of the deck, you could replace Sphere of Grace with Urza’s Armor. Not recommended.
Anthony Alongi mentioned Safe Haven in his list of great multiplayer lands. It would work – you could pretty much sweep the board during upkeep with a Last Laugh chain, then sacrifice the Haven to release the creatures you had carefully saved up. I don’t think this is really necessary, but it could be interesting.
Speaking of lands – Last Laugh triggers on any permanent hitting the graveyard, so black land destruction will also trigger it. With a combo like Last Laugh / Blanket of Night (all lands are swamps) / Kormus Bell (all swamps are 1/1s) being out, killing anything would produce a ‘Geddon effect, plus one damage for every land in play.
* – Yes, I know the Montreal Expos play baseball now and the World Cup is a soccer tourney, but that’s the point. Besides, by 2006, the Expos may not be a baseball team anymore.
** – I’m not. The core of my casual playgroup has moved, and we haven’t got another multiplayer group established yet. I have two other decks already together, looking for games, so I have more time to think about this. The theory is good, though.
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