THE MANA DORK—Hidden Gems 1: Scrying, Politics, and Extra Turns for Two Mana
Since coming back to the game in February after a long absence, I’ve done a lot of catching up.
I missed everything from Betrayers of Kamigawa through to Fate Reforged (with a spate of buying Deck Builder’s Toolkits back when Rise of the Eldrazi was a thing), so in the past few months, I’ve delved through Gatherer and MagicCards.info hundreds of times, searching for just that perfect card for my latest Commander deck.
And I found a few. And I thought I should share them with you.
This will be a very occasional feature here on the Mana Dork; I can’t guarantee I’m going to find five truly hidden gems a month or what-have-you, so when I’ve got enough, I’ll talk about them here.
Good? Good. Let’s get to it!
A wonderful old land from Alliances, this was one of the first cards I put in my Gwafa deck, and it’s put in a bunch of work.
You have to sacrifice an untapped island for Soldevi Excavations to stick, but it comes in untapped and provides 1U, which is a beautiful improvement on the Karoolands that would come later in Mirage block (and that are everywhere in the Commander 2014 pre-cons).
And then you get to scry, which is wonderful in the mid- and late-game when you need the card filtering more than you need the mana. I’ve been obsessed with scry since I came back to the game, and Soldevi Excavations is a big reason why.
Shadows of the Past
Speaking of scry.
So, I’m in a pod where I’m up against a political Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts and a Dragonlord Ojutai control deck. Teysa has just used Ajani, Caller of the Pride’s ultimate, and she’s got a board full of forty-plus 2/2 kitty warriors.
I cast Choice of Damnations on Teysa, and she selects a number just a little bit higher than her lands in play. I tell her to sacrifice all but that many permanents, and 38 of Teysa’s kitties go to the giant scratching post in the sky…
… and I get 38 Scry 1 triggers.
Need I say more?
Okay, I need.
Another game. Five players. I’ve been milled out thanks to an Altar of Dementia. I’ll lose the game on my next draw step.
The steps at the start of your turn are untap, upkeep, draw.
At this point, I’ve developed a truly frightening boardstate. Crypt Ghast, Gauntlet of Power, Caged Sun, and Cabal Coffers are all on the board, so I’m able to produce a truly ridiculous amount of mana. I also have Crypt of Agadeem in play, so I can produce black mana equal to the number of creatures in my graveyard.
And remember, I’ve been milled out.
I untap everything. Tap Crypt of Agadeem for twentysomething black mana. Tap Cabal Coffers, tap all of my swamps. I get myself up to 48 black mana…
… which I promptly dump into Shadows of the Past, dealing 16 damage to everyone else at the table, taking out one other player and getting two more down to single-digits.
Boy, was that satisfying.
I like my politics, and this has to be one of the most political cards I’ve seen in recent sets.
So, here’s what you do. First, you run this in a deck that wants things in the graveyard – Lazav, say, or Tasigur. Then you cast it, and you use it every turn, because everyone’s your friend and you want your friends to have cards.
And then somebody pulls an amazing card like Birthing Pod or a Sword of Feast and Famine or a combo piece, and they beg you to let them keep it, and everyone else begs you to dump it in the graveyard.
And you don’t care, because you’re Lazav or Tasigur or the Mimeoplasm or whomever, and cards in your graveyard are just fuel for you.
The negotiations are just insane, and some of the most fun times I’ve had in Commander games. Can’t recommend Dakra Mystic enough.
Who plays blue? Oh, right. Everybody.
I’ll admit, I don’t have any fun stories about this card yet, mostly because I literally just discovered it the other day. But I’ll still share it, because I’m absolutely stoked to try and use it. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a game where nobody was playing blue—and if someone’s playing blue, usually they’re playing a lot of it.
What are some of your hidden gems? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll test ‘em out!
Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor to A Muse N Games. Tune in every second Tuesday for The Mana Dork, his column on getting back into Magic.