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Dig Through Time — Planar Chaos
This week on Dig Through Time we’re going to visit the alternate present of 2007 with Planar Chaos. Like the rest of Time Spiral block, this set explored the “crust” of the color pie, mining for effects that bordered on allowable in each color at the time. They weren’t just pushing boundaries, though. Some of the experimentation was an attempt to reassign effects to a more appropriate color, and you’ll see some of these cards in this review that seem perfectly reasonable by today’s standards. Some of these shifts show up in timeshifted cards such as Frozen Aether (timeshifted Kismet), which have a slightly different border than the rest of the set. As with my recommendation from Future Sight, do yourself a favor and read through the whole set on Gatherer, there’s gold in them there hills.
Voidstone Gargoyle is a really strong hate card that sees play in 172 decks. This was the very first mono-white card that sort of proactively countered a spell by making it uncastable. Meddling Mage pioneered the effect, but also had blue in its mana cost. Voidstone Gargoyle may not be as cheap to cast as Meddling Mage, but the Mage also isn’t a 3/3 flier with a Phyrexian Revoker stapled to it. If you’re a fan of the Gideon’s Intervention, Nevermore, and Pithing Needle why not run all of them in a very nasty control deck? Most players won’t expect you to preemptively hate their decks out of the game.
Isperia the Inscrutable, who likes to peek at your opponents’ hands, plays this card the most at 27 decks. Making rules is fun, and everyone knows that the Azorius guild excels at fun. This card is good in mono-white decks that don’t have a way to deal with a given card or commander. It’s perfect for the new Djeru, with Eyes Open, as that deck has a strong focus in flickering and blinking its creatures, which would allow you to reset your Voidstone Gargoyle and name a different threat. Brago, King Eternal is another natural commander for cards like this, since he has flickering built right into him, and doesn’t have to rely on his deck to do it for him.
Dust Elemental is a super Whitemane Lion that sees play in 229 decks. This guy can save some of your team from a wrath, or from targeted removal. In the event of a wrath, though, you’re going to lose the elemental as well. In a token build, Dust Elemental is a super evasive beater with pseudo-haste. It’s worth noting that, like Whitemane Lion, Dust Elemental can return itself to your hand, if that’s something your deck wants to do.
Ephara, God of the Polis, who loves creatures with flash, plays this card the most at 35 decks. Other commanders that focus on flickering and flashing creatures like Roon of the Hidden Realm, Hixus, Prison Warden, Archangel Avacyn, Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder (can you imagine giving this 6/6 body double strike and lifelink?!), or the newly-printed Djeru, With Eyes Open are all strong commanders that synergize well with Dust Elemental’s abilities.
Serendib Sorcerer, a color-shifted Sorceress Queen, sees play in 232 decks. This card says “fun,” using the words “screw with your opponents’ combat math.” Serendib acts a little bit like a Maze of Ith. One thing you can’t do with Maze is strap Illusionist’s Bracers on to it for double activations. Serendib Sorcerer won’t stop combat triggers, but it sure does shrink a creature’s power to zero. He stops big creatures using this one, weird trick. Voltron commanders hate him! He could be fun to run with a suite of tappers like Fatestitcher, Courtly Provocateur, and Bonded Fetch in a very strange blue toolbox-type deck.
Everyone’s favorite Wizard tribal commander, Azami, Lady of Scrolls, plays this card the most at 72 decks. Serendib Sorcerer is good for any deck that needs to protect itself from damage. Superfriends decks, pillow fort decks, and Dralnu, Lich Lord decks could all make use Sorcerer’s ability. I have a bit of a tapping creature theme running in my Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind deck, and had lots of fun playing against a very frustrated Medomai the Ageless player at a FLGS recently.
Tired of trading one-for-one with your counterspells? Try Dismal Failure, which sees play in 149 decks, and forces the offending caster to discard a card on top of the spell you’ve just countered. This card is sort of the inverse of Dismiss or Failed Inspection. Generally, card advantage is better than putting a single opponent at a disadvantage, but some commanders and strategies like to use their opponents’ graveyards as resources. And, really, how fun is it to do something unexpected like discard in blue?
One commander that tries to utilize opponents’ graveyards better than they can is Lazav, Dimir Mastermind, who plays this card the most at 12 decks. The Mimeoplasm and Wrexial, the Risen Deep will also eat up any juicy tidbits that your opponents carelessly discard. These decks also tend to run cards like Sepulchral Primordial and Diluvian Primordial, which can double up on what you can take from your opponents’ graveyards.
Seeing play in 72 decks, Shrouded Lore can get back an instant, sorcery, enchantment, or planeswalker from your graveyard to your hand; so long as you’re willing to pay some mana, or have an opponent that’s willing to play ball. With the likes of Crypt Ghast, Nirkana Revenant, Cabal Coffers and Magus of the Coffers as format staples in black, it should be pretty easy to get the card you want, but don’t underestimate politics either! While black is famous for reanimating creatures, the occasional artifact, and very infrequently for casting spells from the graveyard (despite Mark Rosewater’s assertions), a Regrowth effect is pretty unheard of for the color.
Torrential Gearhulk and friends might beg to differ.
Sidisi, Undead Vizier, the tutor queen, plays this card the most at five decks. Any mono-black, or even two-color commander that wants to reuse certain non-creature cards in the graveyard should be able to pay into this card until they get what they want. Putting this in an Athreos, God of Passage, or other Orzhov deck, can let you get back a clutch board wipe, especially if you ask an opponent that really needs someone to wipe the board.
Kor Dirge is a black damage redirection effect that sees play in 35 decks. In a pinch, it’s good for throwing combat damage back in a blocker or attacker’s face, but this card is especially good in a meta with lots of direct damage. For example, Kor Dirge is actually really good tech against the Neheb, the Eternal decks you should start to see popping up now that he’s been released. If you’re in black and red you can save one of your creatures from your own Blasphemous Act or Hour of Devastation, and maybe even have it finish off an especially large Thromok the Insatiable or, with Hour of Devastiation, Avacyn, Angel of Hope. This card also gets around stuff like Everlasting Torment, since it doesn’t prevent damage like some damage redirection effects do. Instead, it’s a replacement effect that just points the damage somewhere else.
Dralnu, Lich Lord, who hates taking any damage (remember to build in a sac outlet, kids), plays this card the most at 10 decks. Stick this in Neheb, the Worthy, Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch, or Tsabo Tavoc for some very unexpected tricks.
Do you like discard effects? How about discard effects in the form of a Dramatic Entrance effect stapled onto a Threaten effect? And at instant speed? Treacherous Urge sees play in 150 decks and is that card. The card is good on its own, but if you combine it with Peek effects like Gitaxian Probe or Telepathy you’re guaranteed to get something good. Flashing in an opponent’s Sunblast Angel or Craterhoof Behemoth from out of their own hand is just…delicious.
Toshiro Umezawa, who gets to double-dip on casting this card, plays Treacherous Urge the most at 25 decks. Dralnu, Lich Lord also gets to recast this card, and has a little bit more control than Toshiro over when he gets it back, though Dralnu is usually built to do other things. This card is another good one for Lazav, Dimir Mastermind, since you can make Lazav a copy of the creature when you sacrifice it at the end of the turn.
One of my favorite cards of all time, Null Profusion, sees play in 338 decks. This card is a color-shifted Recycle, which is also great, but for some reason I like it in black better (or why not both?). Pay close attention to the wording on this card, “whenever you play a card,” this means that you draw cards off of playing lands, in addition to casting spells. If you combine this with Azusa, Lost but Seeking, Oracle of Mul Daya, The Gitrog Monster, or Mina and Denn, Wildborn, you can more readily cycle through your deck. Also, if you play Null Profusion, and then follow it up with a Reliquary Tower or Thought Vessel the game pays attention to the time stamp order, and you get to keep your Null Profusion with no maximum hand size. Be careful about doing this in reverse order, though.
Damia, Sage of Stone, who also likes to skip your draw step, plays this card the most at 38 decks. The Gitrog Monster lets you play an extra land each turn for an extra trigger on Null Profusion, generally doesn’t care about skipping the draw step, or about discarding down to two cards. Storm commanders like Dralnu, Lich Lord or Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder can run this card with lots of Dark Ritual effects, so they can finish their opponents off with a Tendrils of Agony. This is also just a really good value card in any black deck. I run it in Korlash, Heir to Blackblade to great effect.
Detritivore is a great way to keep your opponents off their fancy dual and utility lands that sees play in 237 decks. You’ll need to ramp ahead a little bit to sink some mana into Detritivore’s suspend cost, but, in the long run, it’ll be worth it to get to destroy one nonbasic land a turn. Or, with Strionic Resonator, blow up two lands a turn. If you run lots of rituals like Battle Hymn or Mana Geyser, you can ensure that this card stays suspended the whole game, and does nothing but demolish lands. If you do end up casting it off of suspend, or, god forbid, hardcasting it in a pinch, you can always Fling it at an opponent’s face.
Jhoira of the Ghitu, who was going to suspend Detritivore anyway, plays this card the most at 101 decks. Numot, the Devastator also likes to blow up lands, and doesn’t mind bringing some friends to help. The recently printed Neheb, the Eternal should be able to suspend this card for a substantial number, and keep your opponents off their nonbasic lands for the rest of the game. Which is definitely something Neheb should be doing.
Magus of the Library is some slick tech that sees play in just 289 decks. Maybe you don’t own a Library of Alexandria. Maybe you do. Maybe you want to play with two of them (If only we could. The land is still banned). Green is probably third best at card advantage after blue and black, but it tends to draw a lot of cards in one go, rather than one at a time. Magus can draw you one card at a time, as long as you have a full grip, or in lieu of that, he can add a colorless mana to your mana pool. All for just two green mana. What’s not to love?
Sasaya, Orochi Ascendant, who cares about having seven lands in hand, plays this card the most at 22 decks. Magus of the Library is probably best paired with a commander that can get some extra value out of this little guy by untapping it like Derevi, Empyrial Tactician and Samut, Voice of Dissent. Kydele, Chosen of Kruphix can also benefit from both modes of this card, either ramping you a bit, or drawing an extra card and ramping you anyway.
This week I’m bringing you two-colored superfriends action inspired by Djeru, With Eyes Open! We’ve got some control, some flicker and bounce, and a classic The Chain Veil + Teferi, Temporal Archmage combo finish, all headed up by Isperia, Supreme Judge. I hope you enjoy, and I’ll see you again in two weeks!