Something light hearted.
Magic deck names are starting to get more systematic than they used to be, which has its positives and its negatives.
Back in Theros/KTK days, if you heard that Jeskai Heroic won a tournament, you immediately knew it was a URW deck based around the Heroic mechanic. And so would someone who understood Magic but had never followed tournaments before.
Back when Time Spiral was recently released, there was a different URW deck that did the rounds. It was named “The Star Sprangled Banner”. This name was a reference to the national anthem of the United States of America – a country with a red, white and blue flag.
If you didn’t figure out that reference, the name told you nothing about what the deck was trying to do, or how. The name was less functional, but once you knew what it meant, it was unique and cool.
For a look down memory lane, here’s some of the sillier names from Magic’s early history.
Named after a breakfast cereal, this deck used Goblin Bombardment to throw Pebbles (0 mana creatures) at the opponent until they were dead.
This might seem like a bit of a non-bo as you need 20 Pebbles to kill someone, but that was what Enduring Renewal was for.
If you could assemble the three piece combo of one Pebble, plus Goblin Bombardment, plus Enduring Renewal, you would win the game on the spot in most boardstates.
Ironically this deck would have been even better named if it was called Fruit Loops – which is the name of the closest equivalent cereal here in Australia.
This deck would start a long tradition in the Extended format (somewhat of a precursor to today’s Modern format) of naming combo decks after breakfast cereals.
The deck would otherwise be long forgotten, as it was never very good.
In every country in the world, Fruity Pebbles get loaded up with sugar and cocoa, and sold as a chocolate flavour.
What do you get if you add cocoa (black) and sugar (good tasty stuff that energizes you but shortens your lifespan) to Fruity Pebbles in Magic?
You get a much stronger deck, that uses Necropotence as a supremely efficient way to find the three piece combo, along with ridiculously overpowered tutors.
Unfortunately for the Pebbles decks, it’s a little tough to manage 2WW, 1R and BBB costs in one deck, especially before fetchlands have been printed. Revised dual lands and the few available rainbow lands weren’t enough to make the deck tick.
Trix is probably second only to Tolarian Academy Combo in its impact on Magic’s various banned and restricted lists, and is possibly the most influential deck of all time on Magic’s future design.
Trix started with the two-card knockout combo of Illusions of Grandeur and Donate. The combo requires 4 mana one turn and 5 on the next, or 7 all at once, to cast Illusions and dump in on the opponent, at which point you sit on your extra 20 life until your opponent cannot pay for Illusions’ upkeep and dies. Or, you could accelerate the process by removing Illusions yourself.
This combo was initially trialled as a way for a control deck to win. Instead of keeping the board clear until you could use a Morphling, Palinchron or new star Masticore to win, 1999 saw a few players experiment with winning out of nowhere with the unwanted gift.
Those early Illusions decks were terrible, but somewhere, a genius had a different idea, one that would revolutionise Magic. They build an all-in combo deck that sought to make 7 mana very early, and to cast Illusions and then Donate it as early as the second turn.
This deck became Trix, because naming decks after breakfast cereals was an established tradition, and this deck was full of tricks.
Borrowing tech from the quite mediocre Cocoa Pebbles deck, it ran Dark Ritual, Demonic Consultation and Necropotence. And borrowing tech from the Tolarian Academy decks that six months earlier had terrorised Standard, Extended and Vintage until they felt the banhammer’s loving caress, Trix ran all of the broken artifact mana.
Mana Vault, Lotus Petal, Voltaic Key, Grim Monolith – all of these artifacts could generate more mana than they cost to cast and could do so the turn you cast them.
Running those cards left enough room for Brainstorm and Portent as card selection, and Force of Will (and other cards – more permission or discard) as a way to protect your combo.
Trix was an utter monster.
It was the reason that Wizards have stopped printing fast mana and good tutors.
The following cards were among the casualties – suffering either a banning, or an end to reprints, largely as a result of this deck’s dominance:
- Demonic Consultation
- Dark Ritual
- Mana Vault
- Grim Monolith
- Voltaic Key (later rehabilitated in Magic 2011, once it no longer had anything to combo with)
- Vampiric Tutor and other weaker tutors
- Other similar combo cards that Trix didn’t (usually) use, like Doomsday and Meditate and (over a longer timeframe) Infernal Contract. Basically any early game play that made you much more likely to be able to combo win the next turn.
- In short – fast mana, cheap card selection, and cheap mass card draw with drawbacks all got largely removed from the game thanks to Trix.
Full English Breakfast
Long before “meme” was a word widely being used, memes were a thing in Magic. Whether it be using the word “Mise” to refer to luck, or just using silly deck names, Magic has always had memes.
By this point, naming combo decks after cereals has become a meme, and so when someone decided to make a combo deck around the (absurd) interaction of Volrath’s Shapeshifter and Survival of the Fittest, they decided to go a little silly with the names.
Full English Breakfast was tough to pilot. The deck sought to cast Survival first, then drop a Volrath’s Shapeshifter with GG or GGG open (depending upon what was in hand).
The first Survival activation dug for Flowstone Hellion, a card no-one ever thought had Constructed potential. The Hellion was promptly discarded to use Survival again, which then gave the Shapeshifter haste.
At this point the Shapeshifter/Hellion was declared as an attacker, and then its activated ability used ten times without passing priority. In response to these ten activations, you would activate Survival one last time, discarding Phyrexian Dreadnought, also known affectionately as Fido (Phy-d0)…
Once the stack resolved, your confused opponent was being smacked over the head by a just-summoned but no longer hasty 22/2 trample creature. Ouch.
There comes a time in every meme’s life when it jumps the shark. (Warning – that’s a TV Tropes link. Definitely not safe for work, not because of lewd/violent content, but because TV Tropes is one of the most distracting sites on the whole internet. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.)
Cephalid Breakfast was the moment the breakfast cereal names jumped the shark.
Cephalid Illusionist was a weird card. Self-mill was still seen at this point as a drawback by most players, and so the triggered ability seemed like a downside to the playerbase at large.
How wrong we were.
Once your whole library is in your graveyard, it’s pretty trivial to win the game. Laboratory Maniac hadn’t been printed, but Songs of the Damned had, and if you had that card in your hand it was easy enough to find a way to win.
As an aside: I think that Songs of the Damned is the most fundamentally broken card legal in Legacy that is flying under the radar right now. (Disclaimer: I own many, many dozens of copies of the card.)
All you needed was a way to target the Illusionist repeatedly and you could vomit your entire library into your graveyard.
Enter Nomads en-Kor, and the whole en-Kor mechanic from Stronghold.
Under 5th edition rules (the rules when Stronghold was printed), damage redirection abilities like these were only legal to play during damage prevention windows.
However, the Sixth Edition rules changed that. Now, the ability can be activated any time targetting any creature you control, whether there is damage pointed at the Nomads or not.
Once you succeed in dumping your library into your graveyard there are any number of ways to win. Even though the ones we would use today had not been printed yet, Haunting Misery got the job done, and if it was in your graveyard, you had Reclaim to go and get it.
This made for an interesting deck.
And who hasn’t wanted to eat a Cephalid for breakfast?
I’m skipping over Eggs and Sunny Side Up, because they were not from the same era. So that’s all for today.
What silly names for today’s best competitive decks can you come up with? Reply either here, or on the thread at Reddit.
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