You Lika The Juice? – Just a Flying Hill Giant?

Read Bennie Smith every week... at StarCityGames.com!
The past two weeks I touched on “issues” and dipped into the mailbag… this week I thought I’d get back to what I find the most fun – tinkering with Magic decks! I’m going to be going to a Friday Night Magic this week up at Richmond Comix, and one thing I want to do for the tournament is further explore what I consider a sleeper power card from Lorwyn – Galepowder Mage!

Hello everyone! I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving holiday and have not yet gotten tired of leftover turkey sandwiches. We still have stuffing that I’ve been having with my lunches this week, which is no problem for me – I could probably eat stuffing every day if I wasn’t concerned about maintaining my girlish figure.

The past two weeks I touched on “issues” and dipped into the mailbag… this week I thought I’d get back to what I find the most fun – tinkering with Magic decks! I’m going to be going to a Friday Night Magic this week up at Richmond Comix, and one thing I want to do for the tournament is further explore what I consider a sleeper power card from Lorwyn – Galepowder Mage! When I built my Turbo Blink deck for Champs, GPM was one card that kept exceeding my expectations to the point that I ended up running four copies of it. Every time the card hit play and managed to attack, I won the game. To me, that’s a pretty strong signal that the card deserved a lot more attention than it’s gotten so far. In fact, to prevent you from needing to click away from the column to refresh your memory on what this flying, bomb-dropping hobbit does I’ll post the description here:

Galepowder Mage
Creature – Kithkin Wizard
Whenever Galepowder Mage attacks, remove another target creature from the game. Return that card to play under its owner’s control at end of turn.

This was one of the cards Scrye Magazine got as a sneak preview, and I remember my initial gut impression was hmm, Limited bomb, not much more, move along… I mean, it was just a flying Hill Giant, right?

I think perhaps my love of Green creatures had warped my sense of proportion. For four mana I expect the creature to be a bit larger, right? Then I realize that 3/3 is actually pretty huge in the air, and is a relatively good clock. The odds are against more than one potential blocker that could stop him from wanting to attack, and in that case his special ability makes him practically unblockable.

The beauty is that there’s really not that many blockers out there to worry about, in which case you can use the Mage’s special ability as a Momentary Blink on a stick.

You all know I’ve always been a huge fan of recursion, and in Magic that’s typically meant graveyard recursion. For me though, at its core I enjoy playing creatures that do cool things, and if they can do cool things over and over, then I’m in heaven. That’s why I’ve been a big fan of Momentary Blink decks the past year, chock full of comes-into-play abilities that you can reuse with Blink. The fact that you can flashback Blink is just amazing, so much that Blink decks operate just fine with Blink being the only means for ability recursion.

But why settle for just 4-8 reuses of a creature ability when you can have so much more? That notion is what led me to play Turbo Blink at States, below is the deck for reference, and here’s where I talked about it more in depth:

Strangely enough, the card in the deck I was least happy with was Stonecloaker; while he’s a stone-cold beating, and acts as yet another “Blink” of sorts, there just didn’t seem to be as much graveyard shenanigans for me to worry about running him in the maindeck. Of course, with the rise of Mannequin decks that might have changed.

The beauty of Momentary Blink is that it’s an instant, so it lets you make use of cards like Mystic Snake, Draining Whelk, and Venser, Shaper Savant who’s coming into play abilities generally require that instant speed. However, if you want to expand the “Blinks” in your deck to include Galepowder Mage (and in some cases Saffi Eriksdotter), you generally want to move away from having too many of those type of cards; if all you’ve got is a Mystic Snake and Galepowder Mage in play, you’re not getting much mileage out of GPM other than maybe getting your Snake in for two.

Momentary Blink and Galepowder Mage are obviously great with creatures that have comes-into-play abilities, but there’s a smaller subset of creatures that I don’t think gets much consideration in these sorts of decks – those with “leaves play” abilities. Here’s the shortlist of creatures that have them that “make sense” to reuse:

Aven Riftsweeper, Deadwood Treefolk, Firemaw Kavu, Keldon Marauder, Merieke Ri Berit, Subterranean Shambler. There are also the Champion creatures from Lorwyn that are interesting if you Champion a creature with a comes-into-play effect, then Blink or GPM the Champion creature, but then you have to wonder why not just Blink or GPM the original creature?

Anyway, the shortlist yields a surprise creature– Merieke Ri Berit, who happens to be a perfect “Blink” target. Interestingly enough, Conley Woods took note of the cool synergy and rode it to 4th place in Colorado’s Champs:

Merieke Ri Berit
Legendary Creature — Human
Merieke Ri Berit doesn’t untap during your untap step.
Tap: Gain control of target creature as long as you control Merieke Ri Berit. When Merieke Ri Berit leaves play or becomes untapped, destroy that creature. It can’t be regenerated.

What a thing of beauty! Not only does it have Merieke, but it also makes awesome use of Thousand-Year Elixir, another card from Lorwyn that has me intrigued. At last year’s Champs, my buddy Jay had a G/W/u deck featuring Mangara of Corondor and Blink; he used Scryb Ranger to get an extra use out of Mangara, and the Elixir does the same thing here, but even moreso – giving Merieke and Mangara haste makes them really powerful. I can see sick plays like dropping a Mangara with Elixir in play, tapping Mangara to remove a permanent, untapping Mangara with Elixir and tapping it again, then targeting it with Momentary Blink… and then tapping it again!

I can’t help but think Galepowder Mage would fit perfectly in this deck; while it doesn’t combine with Mangara, it is awesome with Merieke (as well as Shriekmaw and Mulldrifter). Drop Merieke, tap her and then untap with Elixir and tap her again. Then attack with Galepowder Mage, remove Merieke from the game. When she comes back during your end step, tap her to steal yet another creature. Between her and Shriekmaw, I can’t imagine your opponent ever keeping a creature in play that can be targeted. Why even play Sower of Temptation?

Let’s see how a GPM version might look:

Adding the four mana GPMs had me think it might be better to run Cloudskates over Venser to lower the curve, giving you something else real to do on turn 2 outside of evoking Shriekmaw. Familiar’s Ruse felt a bit clunky to me since you likely want to be more proactive with Mangara rather than wait for your opponent to cast a spell and react by tapping Mangara and then using Ruse as a neo-Blink. Of course, in my version I’ve removed all the counterspells, but that’s just how I roll. Counterspells are for wusses.

(Just kidding, calm down – I pointed this out namely because it’s a joke amongst my close friends that if I can cut counterspells from a deck, I’ll do it).

Keep in mind the mana is likely off a bit since I just used Conley Woods‘ manabase.

I did run across another deck that ran Galepowder Mage to a Top 8 finish in Champs over in Iowa, piloted by Matt Collins. Check this out:

Okay, no offense to Lightning Angel, but why wouldn’t you just run 4 Galepowder Mages here? Sure, she blocks Troll Ascetic, but look at all the juicy targets you have here for GPM madness? Aven Riftwatcher, Mulldrifter, Avalanche Riders, Venser, freaking Bogardan Hellkite?!?

Here are two more Momentary Blink/Lightning Angel decks from Champs that has me wondering why not just run GPM:

Am I insane or is does GPM just work better in here? Plus, it’s much easier to cast too. Let’s see how a Red/White/Blue GPM deck might look:

Again, the manabase likely needs tweaking because I just used Matthew Woods’ configuration, but I like what I see here – tons and tons of great creatures with abilities that work wonders with Momentary Blink and Galepowder Mage. Going up to 4 Aven Riftwatchers ought to negate the need to run the one random Loxodon Warhammer. Cloudskate and Avalanche Rider double-team – along with Blink and GPM – ought to wreak havoc on your opponent’s manabase. And you’ve just got to run 4 Mulldrifters, no question.

One thing I’d like to explore further is the synergy between Galepowder Mage… and Riftsweeper. Riftsweepers got a ton of play in this sort of deck – not only does he nicely hose popular cards like Ancestral Vision, Aeon Chronicler, Greater Gargadon, Epochrasite and Detritivore, but you can team him up with GPM to “permanently” remove a creature you target when GPM attacks. But wait – there’s more! If nothing else, you can use him to shuffle back into your deck Momentary Blinks you’ve already flashed back. Maybe something like this:

I kicked around the idea of running Faceless Butcher as another way to remove a creature from the game, then Riftsweeper it away, leaving the Butcher free to be reset with Blink or GPM, but I thought that might be straining the already precarious mana base. I’m not sure about Voidstone Gargoyle either, but it strikes me as a solid utility creature that can shut down Planeswalkers until you’ve swung in and killed them off, then you can reset the Gargoyle for some other card you don’t want played or used. What do you think?

I’m not sure which version I’m going to play — I have to admit Merieke is very intriguing, but I don’t think I have the Future Sight duals I’d need to pull it off yet. Whichever deck I run, you can best believe it’ll have four copies of Galepowder Mage.

Post Script
Have many of you noodled around in Gleemax of late? I went ahead and created a “persona” (blairwitchgreen for those who are curious). I poked around the Blogs and ran across Star City’s own Matt_V posting pretty nice “judge’s perspective” recaps from Star City’s Friday Night Magic tournaments, including the top decklists — decklists are always nice! Here’s the most recent one, and here’s the index. I looked at them all and found one (November 7th) which happens to have a decklist with… wait for it…

Galepowder Mage! Check it out.

Cory my man – it looks like you took a stock Blink deck and then came halfway towards my own Turbo Blink deck. Man, let go of your inhibitions! Only two Galepowder Mages? Only two Saffis? Only three Mulldrifters? You’re straddling the line man, come all the way over! Get rid of all those pesky counterspell creatures!

I also ran across a link to Gamer Radio Zero, which seemed pretty cool to me as a D&D fan. Now, Evan Erwin The Magic Show rocks, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. I still think he should tap Rizzo to contribute a segment to the Magic Show on a regular basis—John’s Invitational video was brilliantly funny and showed his storytelling skills aren’t just limited to the keyboard. After watching GRZ, my next piece of advice for Evan…

Get hawt gamer chix on the Magic Show, pronto. Where the hell did Wizards find this Blue gal? Wowza!! Now that Evan has hit the big time, I bet he could find some lovely Magic playing gal to contribute a segment too. C’mon, wouldn’t you love to see regular Rizzo and Hot Magic Gal segments on the Magic Show?

Stay tuned next week as I recount my Galepowder Mage FNM adventures! Take care.


starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com