Friday, 27 August 2010

Of Dentistry & Manucures...

Opponent #1: Em, nothing else, go! [Thinks: His board is empty, I should be safe on 33 life.]

Me: End of your turn: Vampiric Tutor [pays life, searchy, searchy, puts card aside, shuffles, puts card on top] Draw, Entwined Tooth and NailAnyone have any responses?

All opponent's: [Thinks: I hope the next guy has something!] They don't: [thinks: D'oh!]

Me: [searchy, searchy] Ok, Avenger of Zendikar aaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnd, em........ Flame-Kin Zealot? Sure, why not?! So, I have 8 lands so I get 8 little 0/1 plant token guys. This Flooded Strand should give all the plants +1/+1, that ok? No Stifle on the Landfall trigger? Ok, activate, Flooded Strand, pay 1 life, any responses? [fetchey, fetchey] And another landfall trigger gets me more +1/+1 counters on my guys. That's, let me do a quick count,, 33 power of hasty attacking. Anyone on exactly 33 life?

Opponent #1: [groans]

Me: [evil laugh!]

When the itch gets you to build a particular deck, you just have to go out and build it. While reading over in the strategy forum about everybody's favourite Tooth and Nail targets, I decided to get it going on and have come up with a deck to make a very Rare-heavy change from our current decks (Balthor/Zombies and Ashling/Burn Peasant decks) This may just be the most expensive deck I've ever sleeved!!

Right, the idea is simple. Comb through everyone else's ideas over on the other thread (thanks guys!), add a couple of my own, mix in some land and it's insta-deck time. So that's what I did.
There's a couple of cards I don't actually own that were listed in the thread, like Mephidross Vampire, so I excluded the Triskelion combo. The idea of the deck is to repeatedly hit Tooth and Nail for shennanigans either from your graveyard with Eternal Witness or back from your deck via Wheel of Sun and Moon with tutors.

There are a few caveats with the deck: You're totally running for the multiple Tooth and Nail plan, thus you have to forget about things like counterspells and boardwipes outside of what the combo can get you. You're also completely dependant on your manabase panning out so, if someone decides to Dust Bowl-lock you at 6 lands, you just have to accept that until you or some other nice soul finds a way past that.

I'm not suggesting this deck as anything competitive or complete, the obvious exclusions are testament to that. You're trying to TandN an Emrakul and Iona to semi lock a board or even some Flame-kin Zealot/Avenger of Zendikar/Fetchland goodness (damage easily into the 30's on this one!) out onto the battlefield so it's only fair that you leave a door open for your opponents to have some fun. No Wraths, No counters, nothing that's not already on a creature.

Here's the list:
Progentius - General

Admonition Angel
Avenger of Zendikar
Butcher of Malakir
Crater Hellion
Empyrial Archangel
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
Eternal Witness
Flame-kin Zealot
Fleshbag Marauder
Grave Titan
Iona, Shield of Emeria
It that Betrays
Karmic Guide
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Primeval Titan
Realm Razer
Seedborn Muse
Solemn Simulacrum
Sundering Titan
Sylvan Ranger
Thrashing Wumpus
Wood Elves
Woodfall Primus
Yavimaya Elder

Basilisk Collar
Brittle Effigy
Coalition Relic
Crystal Ball
Darksteel Ingot
Mind Stone
Sol Ring

Beseech the Queen
Demonic Tutor
Enlightened Tutor
Idyllic Tutor
Kodama’s Reach
Mystical Tutor
Tooth and Nail
Tunnel Vision
Vampiric Tutor

Greater Good
Wheel of Sun and Moon
Survival of the Fittest
Wild Pair

Exotic Orchard
Fetch x10
Flagstones of Trokair
Forest x3
Gaea's Cradle
Island x3
Mosswort Bridge
Mountain x3
Plains x2
Shockland x10
Swamp x2
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Murmuring Bosk
Maze of Ith

Well, let's have a look then, shall we? There's a small group of players who exist only to work your mana base: Solemn Simulacrum, STE, Wood Elves, Yavimaya Elder and Sylvan Ranger are pretty much the bare minimum you can run without just hoping that your mana will sort itself out. Of course they have some support from the spell section but these guys run the double duty of chump blocking like champions.

After that we have the combos:
  • Emrakul, the Aeons Torn with Rafiq or Iona, Shield of Emeria
Emrakul is pretty much the accepted archetype bad guy/gal at the moment. If you have something that can give her haste in play (like an untapped Kiki-Jiki and a Flame-Kin Zealot) you're pretty much bringing a bigger gun than most to the gun fight. With Rafiq of the Many, it's a gun that can upgrade or become very hard to deal with should you have chosen Iona instead. Of course you could just choose Flame-Kin Zealot and have her attack directly for 16.

  • Flame-kin Zealot with Avenger of Zendikar or Terastodon
Speaking of Flame-Kin Zealot, these are two moves that can pull out huge damage very quickly. Presuming that you're running the Tooth and Nail off 7 lands and 1-2 artifact mana sources, you're getting 17 points of attack by dropping Avenger/Zealot. However you're not going to do this unless you have the land or fetch in hand for the additional 7 or 14 points on your plants so realistically you're looking at 24-31 attack for this move. There's a few advantages to the Avenger over the Terastodon here: Firstly, you're scaleable so you can decide based on your land count if your potential damage is worth getting one or the other and secondly, you have a lot more targets that need to be removed to reduce the damage and thirdly, you can combo with other cards that you may have on the table such as Kiki Jiki (copying the Avenger with the Zealot's CIP ability still on the stack will double your tokens and double any +1/+1 counters any subsequent landfall triggers give you) or Primeval Titan (which will give all your plants +2/+2 if everything attacks together). You can see that going this route is really only a question of how far you can push the boundaries.

Choosing the Terastodon allows for slightly chunkier beaters and a set attack value but at the cost of  three non-creature permanents which in turn may reduce your ability to repeat the Tooth and Nail any time soon if those three permanents were mana sources. What it lacks in scaleability, it makes up for in utility as the decks' main threat against opponent's non-creature permanents. Whatever Elephants you spread around the table will be smaller than your own as yours will benefit from the Zealot's +1/+1 until EOT ability. It's likely that they will throw their elephant under the bus anyway as the moma elephant, Terastodon, inexplicably for an elephant, doesn't trample. Major flavour fail Wizards!!

  • It that Betrays with Fleshbag Marauder or Butcher of Malakir
This is a nasty little trick at a certain point in a game when all the chumps have been cleared away and all that's left are the big hitters. Drop It that Betrays and Fleshbag Marauder and collect a free creature from each of your opponents. If you have times it right, it will be something that was worth getting from each and every one. For a more long-lasting effect, go for the Butcher. This is especially good against larger armies if you control a means to kill off some of your own smaller guys, say, an Avenger of Zendikar with some tokens and a Thrashing Wumpus. Unless the potential return is apt to be a stunning sweep of unbeatable creatures, you're probably best advised to do this later on when you have ways to trigger the Butcher repeatedly. Oh, you also have a Skullclamp if you haven't already boosted your Plants past 0/1 for +2 cards and +X free creatures, a great way to spend some mana.

  • Keiga, the Tide Star with Clone
What happens when Keiga and Clone both come onto the battlefield at the same time? You steal two target creatures! If it's legendary and you don't want it to go to the graveyard, or in the case of the Eldrazi back into their library, you only need to find a way to off your own Keiga to profit. That way is targetting it with your own Clone and killing both Keigas through the legendary rule. You then get two creatures from across the table.

If the creature concerned is not a legend, you can simply copy it with Clone and use the Keiga as a threat to steal the original. Obviously Clone is the perfect companion to a lot of other creatures in your deck, I think it goes without saying that 2 Avengers of Zendikar is better than one!

  • Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker with Woodfall Primus or Grave Titan or Primeval Titan or Duplicant or Karmic Guide or Eternal Witness
Kiki Jiki, Mirror Breaker, what a stunning creature! It's simple and yet so powerful at the same time. I've included some of the options here but really it can go with anything non-legendary in the deck.  One of my favourite plays was having it in play, playing a Tooth and Nail for Clone and Karmic Guide and having the Clone copy the Guide as well as Kiki Jiki. I went from just having the Kiki Jiki to having 3 Karmic Guides, a Flame-Kin Zealot, It that Betrays and a Fleshbag Maurader that had appeared, and were dealt with, in the early game. The Fleshbag/ItB combo brought me another 3 guys from the other players: Omnath, a 1/1 dork and a Bird of Paradise. Of course, I put the Flame-kin Zealot trigger on the bottom!

I'm fairly sure the combinations with Woodfall Primus, the Titans, Duplicant or EWit don't need to be gone into. They are all board or hand advantage doubled by Kiki Jiki.

  • Realm Razer with Admonition Angel
This nasty little combo came straight off the EDH boards. Tooth and Nail for both parts and remove all lands from the game. Find a Landfall trigger and use the trigger to remove the Razer from the game with the Angel's ability. All the lands come back into play tapped but also giving you a pile of landfall triggers. You use these triggers to remove your opponent's threats. Now they have the dilema: Do I kill the Angel knowing that I will also lose my lands?

  • Teferi with Seedborn Muse
A variant on the Vedalken Orrery/Seedborn Muse combo, Teferi grants a little more protection by slowing your opponent's spells down to sorcery speed and allowing you to "EOT: drop a creature, untap" at every end of turn.

  • Vigor with Thrashing Wumpus or Crater Hellion or Empyrial Archangel
This one is my personal favourite. Vigor is a 6/6 Elemental that makes your other creatures impervious to damage. Better still, for each damage they take, they grow that much instead. If you already have some creatures out, go and fetch Vigor with Crater Hellion to give everyone a permanent +4/+4 while destroying a large part of your opponent's board at the same time. For a more lasting effect, you can use Thrashing Wumpus, itself a good friend of Seedborn Muse. The ultimate defense pairs Vigor with the untargettable Empyrial Archangel to prevent all damage to you and turning the Archangel into a flying monster at the same time.

Vigor - Likes Birds.

That's a quick tour of the deck and some of the possibilities involved though you can always mix and match between the given options. If you decide to run the deck, have a blast and don't be afraid to come back and leave some comments!

Monday, 23 August 2010

Hi Tom, it's Bob from the office down the hall.....

Hey Tom, my man!

You know sometimes you come across obstacles in life that you just have to work around somehow? You can chew your way through them, or lurch about in the vain hope that, you know, something will just come up. There are times, however, that getting some quality face time and having a good chat works wonders. I find that, when I'm feeling ravenous and just have to nip out a get a bit to eat, just talking about it generally solves the problem a lot of the time. Of course, this isn't universally true. Some people just don't have the stomach, or brains (and it's always wise to avoid those sorts!), for a good heart to heart. Others, sadly, feel that talking is overrated and would prefer a more pro-active approach to dining.

Me, I'm a talker. Sure, I could just follow the trend, just take what I need and hope not to lose too many limbs in the process, but I feel it's important to cultivate the old brain functions, especially now, as, well, I'm in an advancing state of decay. Being a Zombie isn't all the fun lurching and groaning that it's cracked up to be and, to be very honest with you, I kinda miss mobility in my knees. You just don't appreciate the little things you've got until you dont have them any more, right!?

Hey, do you remember the fun we used to have chasing Cheryl and Bonnie from the secretary pool into the broom cupboards after late meetings? Man, that was a hoot! I don't get those urges any more, all interest in that kinda "dropped off" a couple of weeks back, if you get my drift. Still, I did get to chase Cheryl and Bonnie from the secretary pool into the broom cupboards again a few days ago, so it being a Zombie's not all bad. Cheryl is around here somewhere.... oh yes, she's over there, chewing on the doors.

Look Tom, I'm not going to lie to you: this is probably going to end badly. At some point, some intelligent life-challenged being with a few more remaining appendages than most is going to mention that the doors to the mall are not edible and we can still drive a truck through them. I'm sure we can find a few desperate, brain-starved fellows to soak up whatever resistance you've all got waiting for us inside that mall. No matter how you cut it, you're all going to die screaming.

We're at an impasse here, maybe we should compromise: If you open up the doors, we'll all come inside and eat your brains..........
Yesterday Balthor Bob turned up in my mailbox.

Since then I've been riffing on Zombies and surprising myself at the number of common and uncommon Zombies I don't own. I'm positive I had a fistful of Gempalm Polluters and Nantuko Husks but, as it turns out, I had neither. I'm even thankful for the Phyrexia Vs Coalition duel decks for the sole copy of Carrion Feeder in my collection. Don't ask me what a Scourge common has to do with Phyrexia (apart from it being the last set based on Dominaria until Time Spiral though long after the Phyrexian timeline was supposed to have ended) but I'm glad they included one anyway. Right now, I have a full Peasant EDH deck and a pile of cards that still need to go into the deck about this high:

You see, it's not easy trying to decide which of Exhume or Stitch Together is more "Zombie". Scathe Zombies, as the Ur-Zombie [that's first ever zombie creature in this here game here] is in there with a pile of other lurchers but, in reality, they are all just filler because being a Zombie isn't just about lurching across the table for some brain-munching goodness while whistling a tuneful little ditty by Jonathan Coulton, no siiiirrrr-E, Zombies gotta be clever now, and part of "clever" is knowing how to work together. That takes organisation which, let's be honest, is not a department your average horde of zombies is generally overabundantly blessed in.

Luckily for us, our lurching legions of vitally challenged have two big hitters in Noxious Ghoul and Vengeful Dead. These guys are the real deal. They are the ones we wheel out at the end of the movies when the hero looks like he's going to get one-up on the home team and all hope seems lost. I am, of course, talking about Zombie movies, not "zombie" movies here. Hell, we even grafted a few extra limbs to these guys so that, when stuff starts falling off, they just keep on truckin'! 

Nox and VD are like the one-two punch, the jab and the round-house, get's them coming and going, the proverbial ripping-your-arm-off and thrashing-you-around-the-head-with-it. Whenever Nox or any fellow crumbly (I gotta stop calling everyone a crumbly, it gets them all riled up!) comes on the battlefield, a little bit of shock and awe gets spread around. Sometimes you get smaller critters falling outta trees or suchlike when it's only 1 or two but with a whole crowd, everyone else just pretty much gets the Thriller treatment.

An aside on Michael J, Mr. Thriller Killer himself, that dude is so lucky he didn't join the legions. Just last week I walked past a TV store, they had left Thriller on repeat: I almost didn't get away. That damn tune must have dragged hundreds of vitally challenged into it's trap. Dancing & losely attached body parts is not a good combination, I can tell you! There were crumbly bits everywhere! Luckily someone finally, but inadvertantly, put a femur through the screen from 20 yards away. Bob only knows what the carnage would have been like had it gone on much longer. Still, got myself a couple of spares of important appendages so it wasn't a total loss.....

Vengeful Dead is pretty much the incarnation of getting pissed at livings trying to put us down. You can do it I suppose, but you're sure as hell going to pay for it! Put Nox up front and VD at the back, you've got a team! Bob says he can bring them both back whenever so all they have to do is bring friends and make sure they don't get caught in the open. Luckily, Bob was able to put us in touch with Phyrexian Ghoul, Carrion Feeder and Nantuko Husk. These guys are the business when it comes to duck and cover and the inconvenient "dying" part? Well, what do we care, we're Zombies! Another advantage of the sacrifice trio is that they pull a bit of the heat away from everyone else, VD and Nox excepted, because they have to be blocked or everyone's going to take a quick dirt nap to beef them up. Bring in Bob and place your setting in a lot of swampland and you've got the makings of a Zombiewood classic: "Bob may be a Zombie Dwarf but he doesn't need a step-ladder to kick your ass!" As a movie title, it probably could be a little sharper, but it communicates the theme pretty well.

That's pretty much the main thrust of our plan to eat your brains. Other Zombies are involved at different levels of the organisation.

But they're just crumblies, not real Zombies! 

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Peasant Ashling - A Burning Vision

I hail from the land of Leprechauns, blarney, pots of gold at the end of rainbows and good beer. While it can be a bit tiring to be repeatedly assailed with the usual misconceptions about Ireland and the Irish, (I’m not a red-head, don’t live in a white-washed thatched cottage surrounded by sheep and I have more normal blood than Guiness running through my veins) sometimes you just get some things that others may have missed. This is the same for every culture of course, but, as I’m Irish and not, say, Brazilian, I only get our stuff: The cupla focail, GAA, Fr. Dougal and a lot of the phrases and legends that have made their way into modern life from old Irish culture and the Irish language. You may not have realised it at the time, but the Lorwyn block was an Irish/Celtic block. A lot of the feel was taken from Breton, Welsh, Scots & Irish origins from the monsters to the visuals to the names of the cards themselves.

I suppose you’ve never asked yourself why Ashling (the Pilgrim/the Extinguisher) is female. It just fits maybe? Or you know a girl called that or similar so you never thought to question it? Or maybe you don’t really care because she wasn’t tournament worthy and you just traded her away. :o) Well, Ashling is named after the a poetic genre that developed in the late 17th Century and continued into the 18th Century. It revolved around a female character know as “Aisling” who appeared either in dreams and visions as a young and beautiful woman or an old and haggard crone, and either represented something or entreated the readers in a roundabout way to do some task. In short, this character represented the nation of Ireland and either bemoaned the presence of the occupying English landlords and soldiers or entreated the Irish to rise up and free itself from the servitude and oppression of the occupying English. The genre was necessary as any open rebellion against the English or incitation to revolt was quickly quashed, violently and efficiently. The name is still quite popular however and Aislings are seen in Ireland and in Irish communities around the world.

Ashling the Pilgrim is both a more-pronounceable form of the original Aisling and a convenient play on Lorwyn’s elemental tribe’s link with fire: “Ash”-ling. I’m sure they giggled when they thought that one up. The trouble with the obvious nomenclature is that neither Ashling the Pilgrim nor Ashling the Extinguisher are “Aislings” in the truest sense of the word. One was a patsy for the Sapling and what she grew into was hell-bent on destroying the plane rather than a dream woman encouraging a people to reclaim what was rightfully theirs. I got the pun, I picked up on the reference straight away but, man, did they get that one wrong. Anyway.

Ok, so now we’ve done the irrelevant back-story, why am I even bringing this up? If you answered “You’re making an EDH deck maybe?” then go to the top of the class!! Yes, I’m making an Ashling deck but, wait!, it’s not any old EDH deck we’ve got here, today kids we’re making a Peasant deck.

Our little group decided to mix things up a little and set the challenge of a Peasant EDH deck, that is to say, only commons & uncommons are allowed. As most Legends are rare and our newer members are all post Shards of Alara, we allowed that the general could be rare. Very quickly we added Uril to the banned-list as most of the best solutions to troll-shrouded generals are at Rare or in Black which would put significant restrictions on anyone not playing Uril. Rather than warp the meta-game before we even got started, Uril was banned. We’ve seen a few versions of Peasant EDH, notably over at MTG-color-pie and 99 Things that suggested that any non-rare creature could be used as a general however we felt that, for flavour reasons, we would prefer to allow one single rare as general than to move outside Legendary. For those with a collection adequately large to choose a non-rare Legend, there is no drop-down for the single permitted rare: It’s your general or you don’t get one. And so everyone went their own way to build their Peasant deck.

An aside on Zombies:

I’ve been looking to build a Zombie deck for a long time now but haven’t for the lack of a number of what I consider to be key cards. I’m pretty picky when it comes it deck-building, I’ll build if I’m missing 2-3 cards but not 10 or 15. This was always the case when I started putting cards aside for a Zombie deck. Now that we’ve suggested a peasant format I could disregard any of the rare cards I was missing and plug the gaps with random brain munchers. I went to my binders and pulled everything out and found that I had 98 cards of the hundred I needed. One of the missing cards, Vengeful Dead, is pretty key in any mass recursion Zombie deck and up until this morning I couldn’t find this common. Now I have it and I’m only left needing to track down the last card which, unfortunatly, is my General: Balthor the Defiled. I know that some players have no problem with proxies or photocopies but I do. If you can’t play an exact card you should generally speaking be able to find a replacement. If you’re not willing or able to, you need to make the hard choice of changing your deck as a result. Here I’m faced with not playing Zombies until I find a Balthor but my mind is bent on the task. I will find one and I will be making a gap in my schedule to accommodate my playgroup RE: their brains.

Mmmmmmmmmmmm, Brrrraaaaaiiiinnnnnnssss!!!

End aside.

So temporarily thwarted with my first deck idea, I turned to Ashling & 99 Mountains.dec. Yeah, we laughed. Once. Maybe twice. Then it got old. This may have been about turn 5. I went into the tank (i.e.: the internet) to get some more out of the possibilities that peasant Ashling could offer. There’re lists and lists galore out there but they generally go for either very heavy mountain representation or a very heavy burn suite. The issue with both these approaches is that if you cut all the rare & mythic cards out of the lists, well, you’re generally left with Ashling & 99 Mountains again. Have a look at this list that was sent to Bennie Smith over on Star City Games to deck clinic:

1 Ashling the Pilgrim (general)
1 Akroma's Memorial
1 Gauntlet of Power
1 Magebane Armor
1 Mana Flare
1 Shield of Kaldra
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
1 That Which Was Taken
1 Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep
1 Smoldering Spires
1 Teetering Peaks
1 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
88 Mountain

Here’s the same list without the rares:
1 Ashling the Pilgrim (general)
1 Smoldering Spires
1 Teetering Peaks
88 Mountain

Ashling and some land. We’re not getting much help here. The deck clinic went on to suggest: Urza’s Blueprints, Warp World, Mikokoro, Center of the Sea, Gamble; Sword of Fire and Ice, Apocalypse; Mindslaver; Godo, Bandit Warlord; Loxodon Warhammer; Countryside Crusher Shinka the Bloodsoaked Keep, and Miren the Moaning Well. None of these, bar Loxodon Warhammer, can help us with the additional restrictions we have placed on the deck.

So I decided to break Ashling down to see what lines I could follow to fill out a deck. Ashling needs to use her +1/+1 ability to burn things and she needs to gain +1/+1 counters so that, when she burns things, she burns them for a lot. While one is a means to the other, these two are not necessarily connected. Ashling can gain +1/+1 counters independent of her built-in ability to add them. If we can add counters outside of her own ability, it won’t count towards the number of activations per turn though it will make the fires burn all the brighter when she does flame on. I first thought of a silly little card called Ashnod’s Transmogrant which, in addition to adding a single +1/+1 counter, turns a creature into an artefact. As I’m sure anyone playing for any length of time is aware, there’s an excellent mechanic that allows for +1/+1 counters to pass from one artefact creature to another: Modular. Unfortunatly Ashling is totally dependant on the Transmogrant to become an artefact and we have no way to find or recur it within our rarity restrictions. So while it maybe a cheap & easy additional +1/+1, it’s not the key to an Ashling – Modular deck. Heck! Back to the drawing board!

There are loads of cards that give +1/+1 counters. Unfortunatly most of these are Rare or non-red. We have the aforementioned modular mechanic, there’s Dragon’s Blood, that’s good. Energy Chamber will help us as much as Modular would: a lot if we can be sure to be able to change Ashling into an artefact with any regularity but very little if we can’t. Power Conduit is an option but we’ll need some permanents with counters.

Let’s leave that there for now and take a look at the other side of Ashling: She needs to activate her ability 3 times per turn to explode. In a multiplayer game Ashling can activate her ability twice on any player’s turn and gain two +1/+1 counters without exploding. Essentially she can grow by +2*X/+2*X for each trip around the table where X is the number of players provided you have enough mana to fuel her. Man is the second key element to making an effective Ashling explosion. You need a lot of mana all throughout the game including the first few turns. This is the only way to ensure not only that you’ll be able to set her off at will but also that you’ll have no problems replaying her again and again. After all her ability is pretty self-destructive, the usual suspects used to protect her from herself are rare and, thus, not available to us.

We are going to need pretty much every non-rare colourless or red permanent source of mana acceleration. This may look boring, it is, however the mana investment Ashling requires is huge and she’s likely to need it all. Excepting all but two of the creature based mana sources, we have Fire Diamond, Mind Stone, Foriysian Totem, Grinning Ingus, Coldsteel Heart, Dreamstone Hedron, Everflowing Chalice, Thran Dynamo, Worn Powerstone, Soulbright Flamekin, Sisay’s Ring, Star Compass, Sol Ring, Temple of the False Gods, Thran Turbine, Red Mana Battery, Ur-Golem’s Eye & Basalt Monolith. The reason we want to avoid creatures is simply that they will likely die when Ashling does her thing. Grinning Ingus allows us to occasionally pay now to benefit the next turn. On the off-chance that this could be useful, as well as having a warm body to throw under the bus occasionally, I’m willing to give him the nod. Coming at it from the other side, Heartstone will allow us to pay less for her ability so I’ll add that in too.

On the land front we have some Mountains and the possibility of Dormant Volcano and the underwhelming Mercadian Bazar. A Terrain Generator is essential of course which will prompt the inclusion of an Expedition Map. Ramping up your land count in this way, and with Wayfarer's Bauble, is where we want to be going.

We mentioned Power Conduit before and the cards that we can use to use it to add (or subtract) counters from Ashling. Mercadian Bazar, Everflowing Chalice, & Red Mana Battery will all turn 1 counter into an extra +1/+1. With the help of a Voltaic Key, it will turn 2 of these counters into extra +1/+1 counters. It can also work in reverse if we want to change +1/+1 tokens into mana for any reason. It allows us to use Coalition Relic counters to stockpile on our Everflowing Chalice or even gain some probably much needed life with Sun Droplet.

Life is going to be a bit of an issue as we’re low on defence and high on throwing fire about. Unfortunatly Red is a little under-stocked with life-gain and equipment that gain life are generally rare. Fortunatly Loxodon Warhammer saw print as an uncommon so that’s an easy inclusion. That’s pretty much all we can allow for in the deck though, hardly more than a nod in the direction of hopefully not dying too quickly! In other equipment Lightning Greaves and Whispersilk Cloak can protect Ashling long enough to go nova and occasionally surprise a player with a quick beating. The only remaining idea I have is Slagwurm Armor. Its +0/+6 gives Ashling some room to explode and still stick about. Unfortunately when you activate her ability for the third time in a single turn, you also remove all the counters. Any damage is likely to destroy the Legend without some help and our “Protection from Red’ equipment is all rare. The Slagwurm Armour gives you a little lee-way in clearing the board without needing to recast your general.

So we have looked at a few of common and uncommon ways to try to maximise both the token and mana production needed to really turn up the heat, what are we going to do with all this mana bar pumping it into Ashling? We could pump it into X-spells, surely there’s a couple at our rarity that are playable:

Blaze, Fireball, Flaming Gambit, Kaervek's Torch, Fanning the Flames, Jaws of Stone, Spire Barrage, Lava Burst, Volcanic Geyser and I may have The Ultimate Nightmare of Wizards of the Coast® Customer Service lying about somewhere. It’s worth a laugh if nothing else. As a sop to killing off the inevitable elf deck that Marc is going to build, I’m including Breath of Darigaaz, Pyroclasm & Sulfurous Blast. That may or may not be enough but it is a lot of potential fire.

That leaves us with the following list:

Ashling the Pilgrim

Grinning Ingus
Brighthearth Banneret

Ashnod's Transmogrant
Dragon’s Blood
Power Conduit
Fire Diamond
Mind Stone
Foriysian Totem
Darksteel Ingot
Coldsteel Heart
Dreamstone Hedron
Everflowing Chalice
Thran Dynamo
Worn Powerstone
Sisay’s Ring
Star Compass
Sol Ring
Thran Turbine
Red Mana Battery
Ur-Golem’s Eye
Basalt Monolith
Expedition Map
Wayfarer's Bauble
Voltaic Key
Sun Droplet
Loxodon Warhammer
Lightning Greaves
Whispersilk Cloak
Slagwurm Armor

Vorrac Battlehorns
Tenza, Godo's Maul
Explorer's Scope
Adventuring Gear
Sensei's Diving Top
Crystal Ball
Darksteel Pendant

Flaming Gambit
Kaervek's Torch
Fanning the Flames
Jaws of Stone
Spire Barrage
Lava Burst
Volcanic Geyser
The Ultimate Nightmare of Wizards of the Coast® Customer Service
Breath of Darigaaz
Sulfurous Blast

43x Mountains
Dormant Volcano
Temple of the False Gods
Mercadian Bazar
Terrain Generator

Now we have a list that is a very good starting point for a more solid deck. There are obvious flaws: the lack of creatures, the lack of more pinpoint removal and the fact that we’re totally ignoring any artefacts that may appear on the other side of the table. With 56 land and another 16 mana sources, there’s always going to be space for any changes that need to be made. Feel free to chime in the comments section for any obvious omissions.

Now with a lot more games under my belt, I've made the obvious change of taking out the illegal Coalition Relic for Darksteel Ingot and have added a few more goodies. Sensei's Diving Top and Crystal Ball are a good place to start. These are obvious to filter off the lands polluting the top of your deck. While I find you can generally accellerate quickly up to a critical mana point, there's a time that you need to be drawing spells. I may even bring Darksteel Pendant in here such is the need to filted down through your deck. There is next to no drawing in the entire deck so we'll filter instead.

Brighthearth Banneret has taken the place of Soulbright Flamekinas the latter's ability was never relevant and the former has been useful in both reducing the cost of and boosting Ashling with it's reinforce ability.

Finally, as you're building Ashling up to be a huge furnace for the rest of the table, we must remember that she's also a big beater. The biggest issue then becomes the lack of trample so O-Naginata, Vorrac Battlehorns & Tenza, Godo's Maul all join Loxodon Warhammer in turning her into an offensive threat. In the same vein Fireshrieker's double strike is a huge bonus if she can also have trample from elsewhere. Interesting to keep in mind that, as with the Slagwurm Armor, Tenza, Godo's Maul will allow Ashling to survive an activation at 3 counters as it will give her a permanent +3/+3.

Finally, another two equipment round out the Voltron that Ashling seems to be becoming: Explorer's Scope and Adventuring Gear. With the large % of lands in the deck we have a higher chance than usual to hit with the Scope and benefit with the Gear as well as accellerating your land. These last two are more or "we'll see how it goes" rather than "this is what the deck needs" so further testing will decide. The updated decklist is above.