Yawgmoth’s Whimsy #81: A Million Ways To Abuse Power Conduit

No, you cannot get infinite turns with Power Conduit and Time Vault. Although Time Vault’s Oracle-based errata says that it has counters, and it is technically true that Power Conduit can eat any form of counter, Power Conduit can only supply”charge” or +1/+1 counters. It cannot produce Time Counters. But it can put charge counters on Magistrate’s Scepter.

I was rewiring part of my house last week, so there’s probably some funny power conduit joke there, but I’m not finding it. The Power Conduit mirror match, on the other hand, is pretty funny. The games come down to who takes infinite turns first.

No, you cannot get infinite turns with Power Conduit and Time Vault. Time Vault, on the actual card, reads: Tap to gain an additional turn after the current one. Time Vault doesn’t untap normally during untap phase to untap it, you must skip a turn. Time Vault begins tapped. If that wording was still correct, all you would need to go infinite is a Voltaic Key, but that wording is not current. Time Vault has received errata – the new, official wording is:

~this~ comes into play tapped. ; ~this~ doesn’t untap during your untap step. Skip your next turn: Untap ~this~ and put a time counter on it.

{Tap},Remove all time counters from ~this~: Take an extra turn after this one. Play this ability only if there’s a time counter on ~this~.

Power Conduit can eat any form of counter, but can only supply”charge” or +1/+1 counters. It cannot produce Time Counters.

But it can put charge counters on Magistrate’s Scepter.

To take repeated turns with Magistrate’s Scepter, you need to get three counters on an untapped Scepter. You can generate counters on the Scepter with mana, but then you need a method of untapping the Scepter. You can move counters from something else, using Power Conduit, as long as you have a means of untapping Power Conduit. You can also use three Power Conduits to move counters onto a Scepter.

Getting three Power Conduits into play is tricky, but a Power Conduit deck has several methods of untapping the Scepter. Voltaic Key is the best, but Aphetto Alchemist and Galvanic Key work as well. If you are playing an Extended Tinker deck, you can play four Voltaic Keys plus some Sculpting Steels (to copy either the Key or the Power Conduit), so activating Power Conduit three times a turn, or having two Power Conduits and four mana, plus an untap for the Magistrate’s Scepter is not all that unlikely.

So is there a Power Conduit/Scepter deck in Extended? With Tinker in the format, definitely not, and probably not even once Tinker is gone. Three things make the Power Conduit combo a bad idea in the current format. First, it is much slower than the current combo decks – at least two or three turns slower. That is reason enough to eliminate it from consideration, at least for now.

Second, Power Conduit/Scepter walks into all the hate that other decks will pack for Tinker and the Goblin Charbelcher decks. I am a G/B mage – have been for years – so I am playing Rock with Pernicious Deed, Uktabi Orangutans, Viridian Shamans and maybe Naturalize maindeck, with Deconstruct in the sideboard. Every deck with Green and White run Disenchants, while everything else runs Damping Matrix. Not so good for a combo that needs to have a bunch of artifacts in play.

Third, the combo is too complex in Extended. Getting some combination of mana, untap effects, Power Conduits and a Scepter is not as hard as you might think, but Extended doesn’t have a great source of counters. Something like a Clockwork creature in a Soul Foundry would provide an infinite source of counters, but that is way too vulnerable to removal, but is serious card disadvantage if it gets Disenchanted.

However, I am looking at Power Conduit for casual play, so I don’t have to look only at Extended-legal sets. I play Type One rules for casual and multiplayer, which restricts me to just one Voltaic Key, but offers some great sources of counters. It is this ready source of counters that makes the Power Conduit decks playable.

The first source of counters are the series of”depletion” lands from Ice Age (Land Cap, Lava Tubes, River Delta, Timberline Ridge and Veldt.) They are all cheap rares because they are all pretty bad in any other circumstances. They tap for allied colors of mana – but when they tap, they get depletion counters. Depletion counters prevent land from untapping the next untap phase. That particular defect made these lands unplayable, but Power Conduit makes this drawback into a boon – if you Power Conduit the depletion counters, the lands untap and the counters become something useful.

One other disadvantage in older sets can also turn into a source of counters for Power Conduit: Cumulative Upkeep. The current comprehensive rules say that cards that have Cumulative Upkeep get”age” counters. Power Conduit can eat age counters, meaning that you can keep Cumulative Upkeep payments at one, get the benefits from the card, and get counters to play with.

Rules Aside:

Each turn, Cumulative Upkeep triggers. It puts an additional age counter on the card, then requires you to pay upkeep for all the age counters on the card. The two steps form a single resolution, so you do not get a chance to move counters before paying upkeep, but you can keep the Cumulative Upkeep at a level of one by moving the age counter each turn.

There are a lot of cards with Cumulative Upkeep, or the equivalent. They allow you to build several different versions of a Power Conduit deck. You can build a beatdown version, a more controlling version, or a blend of the two. I’ll start by discussing beatdown.

Beatdown decks will run creatures and creature enhancements. Evasion creatures are a must, with Flying, Shadow, and Unblockability being the best forms of evasion. The best form of enhancement, for use with Power Conduit, has to be Unstable Mutation. Unstable Mutation gives the creature it is enchanting a -1/-1 counter each upkeep, but since Power Conduit turns all the -1/-1 counters into +1/+1 counters, the creature gets very big, very fast.

As for offensive creatures, Illusionary Forces is a 4/4 flier for four mana with Cumulative Upkeep. Yavimaya Ants is a 5/1 Trampling, Hasted creature for 2GG, also with Cumulative Upkeep. Unstable-but-growing Ants are a pretty good win condition. However, having too many cards with Cumulative Upkeep is bad if you don’t draw a Power Conduit, or don’t draw enough Conduits to keep up. You want a couple creatures that don’t need that kind of maintenance.

The deck is also going to run Wall of Roots, since it provides mana acceleration, and it is both an early blocker and a source of counters for Power Conduit.

U/G Beatdown Power Conduit

4 Wall of Roots

4 Illusionary Forces

4 Aphetto Alchemist

3 unblockable creatures (e.g. Metathrans, etc. as Mutation targets)

2 (other creature)

4 Power Conduit

4 Unstable Mutation

1 Voltaic Key

4 (card drawing)

4 (answer cards)

1 Power Matrix (a nod to Timmies everywhere)

2 Magistrate’s Scepter

1 Regrowth/Recall

4 Tropical Island

4 Yavimaya Coast

4 Fetchlands that can get Tropical Island

3 Island

3 Forest

4 Depletion lands producing either Blue or Green

You could use a number of options in the other creature slot. Yavimaya Ants are best in small games or duels, but they are too vulnerable in large games. You could also use Aboroth, since Power Matrix can give it evasion. If you really value style over efficiency, there’s always Polar KrakenPolar Kraken and Power Matrix is a Timmy’s wet dream. In duels, I would probably consider Solemn Simulacrums or Yavimaya Elders as additional creatures to provide card drawing and land search, but I prefer control to beatdown. In multiplayer games, I would run Forgotten Ancient, because it gets so big, so fast. Necropolis is a cheap blocker, a source for counters, and something to do with the creatures in your graveyard.

The Aphetto Alchemists can untap the Power Conduit, or can untap attackers to create blockers. They can also untap the Power Matrix. Power Matrix allows you to do damage with Aboroth or Illusionary Forces, even if the opponent has an unkillable blocker, like Fog Bank.

The card drawing is necessary to refill your hand. Ancestral Recall is nice if you own one, but Accumulated Knowledge or Impulse might be better in duels, while Mind’s Eye, Rhystic Study, or Mystic Remora are better in multiplayer games. Mystic Remora is harder to play around than Rhystic Study, but does not trigger on creature spells, and having too many Cumulative Upkeep spells can really hurt. A final option is to play artifact lands and Thirst for Knowledge.

The answer cards will vary, depending on whether you are playing in a duel, a small multiplayer game or large multiplayer game. In a duel, you should be able to hold off serious threats with some basic counters, like Mana Leak or Counterspell. In multiplayer games, it is much more difficult to counter all the threats, so cards that can destroy any problem card work better. That means Naturalize, Creeping Mold (which destroys Maze of Ith) or even Desert Twister (if you can find the mana) are better options. In larger games, Nullmage Advocate is always nice, since you can make friends by returning some cards to one player’s hand while Disenchanting another player’s problem permanents. Finally, unless the game is large, Tornado is an answer to anything…And is another source of counters.

Some other options might be appropriate, given your metagame or card pool. First, Uktabi Efreet, a Visions common, is an alternate beatstick, but nothing special. Mind Harness (a Control Magic that can only target Red or Green creatures,) costs just U, but has Cumulative Upkeep. Finally, Elephant Grass is a cheap Green Propaganda that works well if your opponents try to swarm you.

The beatdown version is more concerned with beating with big creatures and using the Power Conduits to control Cumulative Upkeep, than with taking infinite turns. That is why the deck only runs two Magistrate’s Scepter – the deck can win without taking infinite turns. Of course, going infinite makes it a little easier.

On the other end of the spectrum is the control version. This deck is dedicated to holding the fort until it can take infinite turns, then finding something to win with. Before listing that deck, I want to discuss a few cards.

Serrated Biskelion is Serrated Arrows in creature form, but Power Conduit can keep it alive for many reuses. It could even find its way into the beatdown deck above, but it shines in control. It kills Royal Assassins quickly, and anything larger slowly.

Krovikan Plague can turn any otherwise useful creature into a Tim and a yet another source of counters for Power Conduit. If you want to play mono-Black Power Conduit and need a Tim, this is the answer.

Mindless Automaton is a card drawing machine (no pun intended) with Power Conduit and other sources of counters. It is also great place to store counters before you draw a Scepter. Once you go to infinite turns, you can build this thing up, then beat down with it. This is also pretty good with Forgotten Ancient.

Juju Bubble is pretty useless until you go infinite, but at that point you can stop drawing cards, get counters off this and use the rest of your mana to gain life. Juju Bubble is pretty marginal, but it is almost-playable lifegain in mono-Blue decks. Of course, Illusions of Grandeur could work just as well. Even Bottle Gnomes might be a better option, at least in duels.

I wanted to mention Morinfen and Gallowbraid, the Brothers Grimm, for their low casting costs and a Cumulative Upkeep of life. They are the big beats, but the color is wrong for the G/U beatdown version, and the control deck probably doesn’t need them. Still, if you want to play the old classics, a U/B aggro-control Power Conduit would probably serve as a nice excuse.

If you like to sit behind solid defenses while assembling your combo, a deep Glacial Chasm may be the answer. It helps to have some form of lifegain (Subversion works pretty well in multiplayer) and maybe an Ivory Mask to go along with it.

Ebon Praetor is another beatdown creature – but this one has a lot more going for it. During upkeep, put a -2/-2 counter on this, then turn it into a +1/+1 counter. The Praetor grows rather quickly with that sort of action. Besides, the artwork on this puppy is great. Who doesn’t like winning the game with giant rabbits?

Riptide Replicator uses charge counters, so you could increase the size of the creatures you pump out. Cast it early to crank out little guys, then make it bigger over time.

Shield Sphere is the ultimate cheap blocker and source of counters. If you have trouble with beaters, this is the answer – more so once you put a couple +1/+1 counters on it, so that it kills attackers.

Kjeldoran Home Guard. If you are playing White, Power Conduit means the Home Guard gets bigger and you get a lot of little blockers for free.

If you are playing White, you should also consider Sustaining Spirit, which is basically a Worship with Cumulative Upkeep.) It is another source of counters and a way to stay alive unless your opponent can cause loss of life or can kill the creature.

Finally, Corrosion is how you win the mirror, and it is a serious blow to any opponent running artifact lands and other cheap artifacts. You can keep the Cumulative Upkeep low, or just let it do its duty and then let it die. In duels this is not always great, but in a big multiplayer game, it can be golden. Playing one or two as tutor targets is the way to go.

Here are a couple of sample decks, generally”tuned” for my play style and for five player Chaos games. I am not running counterspells, so I just hoping to duck the Pernicious Deeds and Akroma’s Vengeances, but they are fairly rare in many of the games I play. The general feeling is to let each player alone while their decks develop, but if your group likes global destruction, some form of counters, or stuff like Bind or Stifle for Nevinyrral’s Disks, Oblivion Stone and Deed, might be wise. In decks with four Aphetto Alchemists, Null Brooch is a reasonable option.

Mono-Blue Power Conduit

4 Power Conduit

3 Magistrate’s Scepter

2 Quicksilver Fountain

1 Voltaic Key

1 Sol Ring

2 Sculpting Steel

3 Shield Sphere

4 Aphetto Alchemist

4 Serrated Biskelion

1 Mindless Automaton

1 Arcanis, the Omnipotent

1 Recall

4 Accumulated Knowledge

3 Impulse/Rhystic Study

1 Ancestral Knowledge (upkeep counters)

2 Capsize

24 land, including several depletion lands and a Tolarian Academy

This version digs for the combo, but the biggest problem may be lack of counters to pull when going infinite. In a worst case scenario, Serrated Biskelion can target an Alchemist, creating two counters to steal. Mystic Remora might be better than Ancestral Knowledge, if your group leans towards non-creature spells. I didn’t want to go beatdown in this version, but if you do, some Illusionary Forces are a good addition.

Arcanis is very expensive, waits a turn before becoming active and is easily killed, but with an Alchemist or two, he is nuts. Alternatively, if you can keep it alive and want a lower casting cost, try Archivist. Urza’s Blueprints is a non-creature option, and in multicolored decks, where UUU is potentially a problem, I will play Blueprints over the creatures.

Quicksilver Fountain screws up opponent’s mana, possibly fatally, but you can only keep it from erasing all the counters with at least two non-Island lands and a Power Matrix. When it is working though, it is a real pain for most opponents. If you want to make Quicksilver Fountain an integral part of your deck, consider Cloudposts or Mishra’s Factories.

U/B Power Conduit

4 Power Conduit

3 Magistrate’s Scepter

1 Vampiric Tutor

1 Voltaic Key

1 Sol Ring

1 Demonic Tutor

2 Shield Sphere

1 Ebon Praetor

4 Aphetto Alchemist

3 Serrated Biskelion

3 Wall of Souls

1 Mindless Automaton

1 Karn, Silver Golem

2 Sculpting Steel

1 Urza’s Blueprints

3 Rhystic Study

1 Glacial Chasm

1 Krovikan Plague

1 Quicksilver Fountain

1 Capsize

4 Underground Sea

4 River Delta

4 Salt March

5 Island

6 Swamp

1 Tolarian Academy

This version has some tutoring power, in addition to the card drawing and Alchemists that Blue brings. Krovikan Plague is a source of counters and a (very slow) alternate path to victory. Wall of Souls is the only other benefit for version this over mono-Blue, but since Wall of Souls is great in multiplayer – it sends most attackers elsewhere – that is not bad.

I also worked out a U/R/B version that could run Viashino Heretic, Rogue Skycaptain, and Corrosion, but I’m not sure that messing up the mana that much provides enough benefit to be worth the price. Corrosion is insane against all the artifact lands everyone keeps running in my area, but Karn, Silver Golem can do almost as well.

U/W Power Conduit

1 Sustaining Spirit

3 Kjeldoran Home Guard

3 Illusionary Forces

2 Leonin Abunas

4 Aphetto Alchemist

2 Teroh’s Faithful

1 Arcanis, the Omnipotent

2 Serrated Biskelion

2 Erratic Portal

4 Power Conduit

1 Voltaic Key

1 Enlightened Tutor

1 Absorb/Recall/Mind’s Eye

2 Dismantling Blow

3 Rhystic Study

1 Sol Ring

3 Magistrate’s Scepter

3 Land Cap

4 Coastal Tower

4 Tundra

3 Adarkar Wastes

5 Island

4 Plains

1 Karakas

Sustaining Spirit is a Worship on a stick. Erratic Portal performs two functions – it slows down opponent’s attacks, and it bounces your own guys. Teroh’s Faithful is expensive lifegain when cast turn after turn. Creature removal doesn’t work as well when you can bounce your creatures. The best effect, however, is the ability to untap the Portal with Alchemists, meaning that opponents need to keep a lot of mana untapped to keep their own creatures on the table.

These all need some tuning for your play group, but they should work for mine.

You can also play a Power Conduit deck whose goal is messing with mana. A lot of cards that force lands to tap for the wrong mana have Cumulative Upkeep or similar effects. Naked Singularity and Reality Twist are of the”Forest make Blue – or was that Red?” variety, and I find them both a pain and pointless. Two others, Ritual of Subdual and Infernal Darkness, mess up opponents’ mana and prevent them from playing their cards. They are also annoying to play against, but at least you can play around them, so they serve some purpose. With Power Conduit to control the upkeep, these cards can control a game while you win with – maybe the Brothers Grimm?

For what it’s worth, here a list of all the other (non-trivial) cards with counters or Cumulative Upkeep. None of these seem all that amazing, but they could be used in a Power Conduit deck if you like them.

These are all cards that could fit in the deck, since they produce counters and have some vaguely reasonable effect. However, there are almost always better options. But if you like the cards, go for it. The purpose of multiplayer and casual decks is, after all, the chance to play favorite cards. If your sole purpose is to win, then just play a Type One Worldgorger Dragon/Bazaar of Baghdad deck. It can kill any number of people very quickly.

Enough for now.


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