You Lika The Juice? – Filling Out Your EDH Toolbox

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Thursday, December 4th – As someone with a casual streak who also enjoys finding bargains, I’ve been enjoying The Ferrett’s recent Casual Player’s Bargain-Hunting Guide series. But a thought suddenly struck me like a lightning bolt as I read about acquiring playsets of certain cards – it’s been somewhere going on two years since I actually built a casual deck where I worried about playsets…

Making fiends, making fiends
Vendetta’s always making fiends
Making fiends while Charlotte makes friends

Once I got to be a teenager, I stopped watching animated shows and movies, and for many years didn’t pay much attention to them outside of a few exceptions (Ren and Stimpy, Beavis and Butthead, South Park). Then I had kids, and as a patriotic American it was civic duty to acquaint them with the television. For children, that generally means cartoons. In the intervening eight years, I’ve been pleasantly surprised how good some of the shows are, both educationally and in entertainment value; many of them do a great job of operating on two levels – there’s the primary focus on the kids, but then there’s often an undercurrent aimed at the parents, either with subtle humor or sly cultural references to things that happened long before the kids were born. As the kids have grown older, I’ve been pleased to find they enjoy the shows with more sophisticated storylines and characters.

Recently a new show popped up that I’ve become a big fan of – it’s called Making Fiends, it airs on Nicktoons and it’s wicked dark and fun. I’ve long been a fan of dark humor, and this cartoon does a decent job of being dark without being too dark for kids. At least, I hope it’s not too dark, but my kids (6 and 8 years old) seem to find it quite funny too, and hopefully I’m not damaging them by letting them watch it. Anyway, the show centers on Charlotte, an eternally optimistic and innocent little girl who tries to make friends with Vendetta, a mean little nasty girl who creates “fiends” in the hopes of destroying Charlotte and anyone else who annoys her. Charlotte always defeats Vendetta’s plots through the awesome power of her sunny disposition.

Seriously funny stuff, y’all – I highly recommend it, even if you don’t have kids.

Okay, now on to Magic!

As someone with a casual streak who also enjoys finding bargains, I’ve been enjoying The Ferrett recent Casual Player’s Bargain-Hunting Guide series. But a thought suddenly struck me like a lightning bolt as I read about acquiring playsets of certain cards – it’s been somewhere going on two years since I actually built a casual deck where I worried about playsets.

Yep, for me and casual Magic, it’s been all about Elder Dragon Highlander, and I think it’s the Highlander/Singleton nature of it that really does it for me. Here’s why: for tournament Magic, if you want to play a card you generally have to have a playset of them. Sometimes you can cut back to fewer copies, but in general you’ve got to have a darn good reason for that, and four copies of the card in question – often a rare – is the norm.

For casual players, it’s often the same thing: if a card’s worth playing in your deck, it’s worth maximizing the chances of you drawing it, even if it’s more of a fun card. So most casual players are as driven to acquire playsets as Spikes are.

Highlander/Singleton formats alleviate that need. Now, if you want a card for your deck, you only need one copy. For most Magic players, your collection is jam-packed with singleton copies of rares, many of them “junk” rares or Johnny specials. If you wanted to play one in a regular casual deck, you’d have to go out and trade for or buy 2-3 more copies. Depending on the card and your budget, that can get a little pricey, so most of them sit there in your boxes or trade binders gathering dust. But with EDH, all you need is one copy! Literally, if you crack one open in a pack, or pry a single copy out the back of a trade binder, it’s ready to be shuffled up in a deck.

Now, The Ferrett is doing his 3-4 part series and then moving on. I thought I’d do something similar for this one column, by presenting singleton cards I think most every EDH fan ought to have in his collection, but obviously the list is going to be quite long. Instead of writing up a 3-, 4- or more-part series of columns on the topic, I’m going to start today with “generic” cards that can go into most any EDH deck. Then, I’ll run 1-2 additional cards at the end of most of my columns going forward, an “EDH Footnote” for the casual fans. Even if you’re not into Elder Dragon Highlander, I hope that you’ll still find the recommended card sections at least fun reading.

So these are going to be cards that, in particular, may not warrant taking up 3-4 slots in a casual deck but may very well be worth one slot – and are worth the singles price to acquire it if you don’t already own one. I’ll start with an old favorite of mine:

Ice Cauldron

Now, if you’ve been around Magic for any length of time, you’ve probably run across Ice Cauldron in a bulk rares box or someone’s trade binder, and as soon as you saw the hefty text box your eyes likely glazed over and moved on to something else. A card this complicated that doesn’t just flat out dominate games (and, since this came in the same set as Necropotence, we’d have heard about it dominating by now if it had the juice) can’t be worth playing, can it? I’d argue that it’s at least worth considering playing in the right deck.

Here’s the main thing you need to remember that Ice Cauldron does for you: it takes a card from your hand and tucks it safely away in a place that no one else can touch except for a few very narrow cards like Pull from Eternity. Even if someone destroys your Cauldron, that card is still available for you to play. It’s like a safety zone part of your hand, but one that’s unaffected by Mind Twist or Wheel of Fortune. How many times have you worked to sculpt your hand and the board to finally ramp up to a game-winning spell only to have it go “poof” by a Time Spiral before you get to cast it? Conversely, how many times have you had to get rid of card you wanted to keep but you really needed to cast your own Wheel of Fortune or Time Spiral? Ice Cauldron is the answer to those problems.

It’s pretty obvious that Ice Cauldron is handy for draw-go play, allowing you to keep your mana open until your opponent’s end of turn and, if they don’t do anything you need to react to, you can dump your mana into the Cauldron and remove a spell from the game to cast on your own turn while you keep your mana open. You can also use it as mana storage, banking mana from one turn to add to the mana you finally use to cast a really big Fireball or Dregs of Sorrow.

If you read between the lines, you can also see a loophole where you can actually “store” multiple cards in the removed-from-game zone, and here’s how: first, put a charge counter where X is zero mana and remove a card. Then untap and use the second ability to remove the charge counter, adding zero mana to the mana pool, but don’t play the card. Now that your Cauldron has no charge counters, you can untap and use the first ability again. Obviously this takes a while, but you often have the time in big multiplayer games. You can also take advantage of cards that untap artifacts or permanents in order to speed this up — or heck, run Seedborn Muse and you’ll eventually be able to store away dozens of cards through the Cauldron!

There are lots of wonky rulings on Ice Cauldron that I won’t go into here, but if you’re going to play the card it wouldn’t hurt checking it out over on Gatherer to familiarize yourself.

Tawnos’s Coffin

I’ve had the pleasure of owning a Tawnos’s Coffin since Antiquities booster packs were sitting on the shelves, but if I didn’t have one I’d definitely buy a single copy for my EDH toolbox. It’s an incredibly versatile artifact, but is a bit of a mana hog so you wouldn’t necessarily want multiple copies in play – so it’s perfect for EDH!

The main use for the Coffin is to lock down a scary/annoying creature your opponent controls. If it’s scary or annoying enough then the other players will thank you by helping to protect the Coffin from any attempts at destroying it. Its secondary use is to protect your own creatures from removal or combat damage, and it can also be a reusable “blink” if you’ve got creatures with comes-into-play or leaves -play abilities.

After Mirage came out, it was decided that Phasing was close enough to what Tawnos’s Coffin did to errata the card to actually phase out creatures, but this year Mark Gottlieb’s minions decided to take it back closer to its original functionality, not use phasing, but yet still retain memories that most removed-from-game permanents don’t do. So if you’ve got a Rabid Wombat EDH deck, the Coffin is just the card to protect your Aura-rific rodent.

Keep in mind that the card returns the creature to play tapped, so if you save your creature and then bring it back it’ll still take a turn before it’s untapped and ready to block. Conversely, you can use the Coffin as an expensive Icy Manipulator for creatures in a pinch.

Ring of Immortals

When this card was originally printed, it was pretty horrible; back then it said “Counter target interrupt or enchantment. Can only counter spells which target a permanent under your control. This ability is played as an interrupt.” Interrupts were how the game handled counterspells in the beginning, and while there was plenty of interrupts that countered spells, there were hardly any that targeted permanents outside of the Elemental Blasts. And the only enchantments you really worried about targeting your permanents were Control Magic and its ilk (and certainly no one seemed overly worried by my Psychic Venom deck).

Years later, interrupts were removed from the game, and cards that referenced them were errata’d to instead reference Instants. One of the first cards I thought of that day was Ring of Immortals, and I hunted one down to add to my collection. Countering instants was a vast improvement in utility! Now my Lhurgoyf could rampage free from both Terror and Control Magic. The beauty of this type of card, outside of its reusability, is the fact that you’ll rarely need to use the card – just the threat of its use will wave away people to use their Terrors and Control Magics on other people’s cards.

Much like Tawnos’s Coffin, three mana per use is a bit hefty, and you’d certainly not want to run the risk of drawing multiples of them so this is another great card for the singleton format.

General’s Regalia

This card is a brilliant realization of flavor with function. The picture on this card and the flavor text suggests this is the regal uniform for Squee, Goblin Nabob, a creature card that also came out in Mercadian Masques. This card redirects damage from you to whatever creature “dons” the Regalia, and if you happen to have Squee in play, he can more or less take it and still come back for more.

But it’s not just a goofy little card; like the Ring of Immortals, it does the most good by simply persuading your opponents from doing things to you in favor of doing them to someone else who won’t prevent the damage. What’s particularly fun is pairing this card with creatures that don’t mind taking damage; my favorites include Saber Ants and Mogg Maniac. If you’ve got a steady supply of tokens it’s easy to make one the sacrificial goat. If you’ve got the mana for it, the Regalia is also a great way to break the symmetry of “kill everybody” cards like Earthquake and Hurricane.

Don’t let the dirt-cheap price tag fool you; this card is very handy in the right deck and well worth getting one for your toolbox.

Winding Canyons

Back before creatures had flash, we had Winding Canyons to do the job. As someone who loved playing creatures from the beginning, this card was a dream come true, allowing you to play on the same clever playing field as the blue players. End of turn Whispers with buyback, eh? Okay, let me drop my River Boa out there in response… You want to Man o’ War my blocker so your Ophidian can slither on in unblocked to draw you card… but I can just replay the blocker at instant speed to kill the snake! *insert evil laugh*

Back when Weatherlight came out, creatures were dumb — generally pretty low on the power scale, and you had to cast them during your main phase like a chump. Nowadays creatures are much, much better — so why not make them clever too, no matter what colors you’re playing? Good lord, what about pairing this with Realm Razer?!

Glacial Chasm

Before I played EDH, a card like Glacial Chasm was fairly ineffective because every casual deck worth its salt ran at least four Wastelands, and many ran Strip Mines as well. Assuming 3 or more opponents around the table, there’s a fairly high chance that someone has one in play to ruin whatever hope you had of relying on the Chasm.

In EDH though, there’s going to be a lot fewer copies of those cards to worry about! The Chasm is a great way to try and stabilize and gain some breathing room if your about to take a massive beatdown or get burned to death; remember, two life basically buys you two turns of immunity to damage. Another thing that’s particularly nice in EDH is that you start with 40 life, so you can afford to pay the cumulative upkeep for quite a while if you’ve got some fiendish plans for blowing people up – say, several really big Earthquakes, Hurricanes, etc.

Also, keep in mind there are ways to trick this card into play at instant speed with lethal damage on the stack, such as one of my old favorites – Crop Rotation! Sakura-Tribe Scout is another good one.

Okay, so that’s what I got for today. If you like stuff like this, make sure to look for the EDH Toolbox section in upcoming articles, and feel free to send me you own bargain gems you find are underused or underappreciated in Elder Dragon Highlander! I’ll close with a shout-out to all the fellas mustering out for the StarCityGames.com $5000 Standard Open up in Philadelphia – here’s hoping you kick mucho Faerie ass and stomp Five-Color Control into the dirt, both Cruel and non-Cruel varieties!

Until next week…


starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com

What I’m listening to (oldies week):

Reflections by Diana Ross & The Supremes
I’m a Man by The Spencer Davis Group
I Second That Emotion by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
Crosstown Traffic by The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Funkytown by Lipps, Inc.