10/13/2011 FtL: "Magic Words, Part 2"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's From the Lab, which goes live Thursday morning on magicthegathering.com.

Wow, those Syzygy combos are fantastic

I also particularly approve of the Party and Inconceivable entries. Nice work.
I am honestly surprised at the level of playability of these decks.  Very well done all.

And a special hats off to the Syzygy deck for not only chosing such an obscure word, but also creating not one, but several legitimate combos within the same deck.  I am truly in awe sir, well played.


From Mark Rosewater's Tumblr: the0uroboros asked: How in the same set can we have a hexproof, unsacrificable(not a word) creature AND a land that makes it uncounterable. How does this lead to interactive play? I believe I’m able to play my creature and you have to deal with it is much more interactive than you counter my creature.


Post #777


MaRo: One of the classic R&D stories happened during a Scars of Mirrodin draft. Erik Lauer was sitting to my right (meaning that he passed to me in the first and third packs). At the end of the draft, Erik was upset because I was in his colors (black-green). He said, "Didn't you see the signals? I went into black-green in pack one." I replied, "Didn't you see my signals? I started drafting infect six drafts ago."


MaRo: I redesigned him while the effect was on the stack.

Please excuse me while I fly off the handle and get excessively Vorthos on this thread but these decks are all just so flavorful, I felt like I had to respond with what they made me see.

Spies deck
The nature of the spark, and of the personalities of those who can survive the life it brings, isolates many planeswalkers from those around them. They often become like ghosts, drifting in and out of the lives of those they meet in their wanderings, frequently not returning to a given place they once called home until generations after everyone they once knew there has already died. In the face of this isolated, ultimately solitary, lifestyle, given enough time many planeswalkers tend to develop a certain wariness of anyone who learns who and what they are.

For some, this wariness can grow into fullblown paranoia. This is true for no one so much as the planeswalker depicted here. She has dedicated her natural gifts for clairvoyance and illusion to building up a sprawling, labyrinthine spy network covering her adoptive homeplane and extending to several others astrally nearby. Her increasing obsession with secrecy and her suspicion of her own intelligence assets has led her to spend more and more time locked away in her frozen citadel, hidden among the crashing ice floes and the thick boreal forests of the far southern fjords. 

Perhaps her suspicions are even well founded. For example, she would be beside herself to learn that messages, magically inscribed and obscured on the insides of the bones of messenger doves, have arrived on the desk of Edric of Trest, the legendary spymaster of that seething fount of conspiracy and intrigue and, supposedly, a client of the planeswalker. The intricately encoded messages have informed the daunting elf that his patron has been working feverishly in the dungeons of her rimy tower, conducting elaborate experiments with controlled, biomantic growth environments. The spymaster doesn't actually know yet that his patron is hoping to grow her own, blindly loyal, agents to replace the all-too-mortal spies of her current network, but Edric knows as much and more about suspicion to set even a planeswalker at unease.

Piety deck
When faced with the endless, infinite, shifting continuum of the Blind Eternities, seeing every possibility made manifest (even the impossible ones; perhaps especially the impossible ones), most planeswalkers must admit that existence seems to be painted in many shades of subtle gray.

Not so this one. He has found a singular, and some might say simple, peace of mind in what he firmly believes to be the purest of intentions and doesn't hesitate to share his certainty with others. He makes no claim to divinity himself, but he lets the power of his actions, both on the battlefield and in the palace pulpit, speak for him. He will bear neither miter nor crown, yet the doors to the most holy of inner sancta on planes far and wide open for him. He answers to no rank nor title, yet young men and women leave home to fight and die at his command. He rejects all worldly authority, yet when he praises, his object is revered by his believers and when he condemns, his victims pray to face only the revilement of pariahdom.

He calls no land home; wherever there are heathens to be evangelized or sinners to punish, there does he belong. However, he often returns, again and again, to the drifting ruins of the great temple-fortress of Emeria on Zendikar. He finds a purity of purpose in the crumbling temple and the hedrons which gyre about it. He feels that its builders truly understood what it means to be the wall of light which holds back the flood of darkness. It has been a long lifetime since last he was on Zendikar, however. It might be that his next pilgrimage will show him a very different plane than the one he once knew. But then, what ever truly is consistent in this world save the divine?

Æther deck
The æther. That which surrounds and penetrates all that is and defines the little that cannot be. Patrimony and domain of wizards throughout the multiverse. Riddle to the curious, answer to the ingenious. Tool to the bold, doom to the careless. Window to the world and door to (un)reality. And companion to those who know how to approach it correctly.

This planeswalker has learned through very careful study and reflection, and also quite a bit of reckless self-experimentation, to manipulate and animate the æther itself. By charging the æther in a specific manner she can cause it to manifest itself in the form of living, æthereal beasts. Bodyguards and attendants, friends and pathways to infinity, this planeswalker travels both with and through her servants.

Few, however, seek to learn her teachings. Perhaps this is due to the distracted, occasionally vacant, look she wears as the tentacled æther beast she keeps as a familiar pulses phantasmally at the base of her skull with the pleasure of devoured thought. Or, perhaps, it's due to the persistent rumors of her wild outbursts of dissatisfaction at an old pupil who, one day, disappeared in a sudden burst of the same essence he'd sought to master. Either way, the planeswalker keeps her own counsel.

Bacon deck
The multiverse is fortunate in that few worlds are hosts to clans of orggs. The multiverse is unfortunate, however, in that a few worlds are. As a rule, to envision an orgg, think of a titanic gorilla, cross it with an alligator, give it two extra arms and the intelligence of an obnoxious five-year-old and the winning personality of a hungry badger. Then give it a big club. 

To every rule, though, there is an exception and orggs are no different. This planeswalker comes from a clan which raised him in a shamanic tradition sophisticated enough to enable him to survive the aftermath of his spark igniting. The day that it happened he had found himself cornered in a crevasse in the floor of a great mesa by a flight of three young dragons on a training hunt while their broodmother watched from above. As they snapped down into the crevasse at him, he desperately tried to seize one of their necks to dash it against the rock wall but one of the whelps sank its fangs into one of his right arms first and heaved into the air with all its might. The orgg's arm severed at the elbow and he collapsed to the floor of the crevasse, bellowing in pain and fury. 

When he looked back up again, he was lying on a black, sandy beach which he had never seen before, no dragons nor mesa in sight. His arm was bleeding profusely, leaving long, five-pointed sprays of bright red blood on the black sand all around him, quickly washed away by the waves. He was able to stop the bleeding with the little restorative magic he knew and a haphazard tourniquet made from his ragged clothes using his three remaining hands. 

It took him a great deal of effort to learn the languages of the clans of sea trolls that he came to dominate among the black strands and coastal tarpits of his new home, but with every attempt it came more easily and he gradually learned the magic and legends of the sea trolls and slowly began to piece together what had happened to him, what he had become. Cast adrift, without the influence or traditions of his own clan to restrain him, he let his curiosity fly freely and, with the labor of his new sea troll drudges, he began a long series of experiments that ended with his slow mastery of his planeswalking ability. A true planeswalker now, he began combing the ever-shifting, æthereal connections he sensed between this plane and its neighbors and, after much trial and error, finally found his way back to his home plane. After a long, arduous journey across fen and bog, over river and peak, he returned to his ancestral mesa and, after a quick, vicious duel with the clan's disdainful chieftain, the Maimed Ghost, as the planeswalker came to be called, claimed leadership of his people. 

To consolidate his power in the clan's eyes, he hacked open the dead chieftain's gut and, then, before their disbelieving eyes, his own. Using the darkest blood magic he had learned in his long travels, he tore one of his own organs out of his stomach, murmured an incantation over it as it dripped bituminous ichor between his fingers, then stuffed it inside the steaming corpse of the old chieftain. He commanded the body be guarded from scavengers but that it should not, otherwise be touched in any way. A week later, the body had begun to putresce beneath the beating sun and dark words of discontent and treason rumbled around the campfire. The next morning, the last hour of night was rent by a sharp cry of pain and despair. The stinking, half-rotted corpse of the old chieftain came shambling into the orgg camp, then sat down in a daze. The revived chieftain slowly began to heal and, eventually, was as strong and healthy as he ever was. But he always kept a good distance away from the Maimed.

The planeswalker now wanders across the multiverse with a select cohort of his most brutal clanmates. He occasionally serves as a sort of hitman for other mages or planeswalkers or just acts as a very sophisticated, transplanar thug, taking what he wants and killing anyone who gets in the way. But, mostly, he just indulges his curiosity, and especially his appetite, wherever he pleases. He has a particular taste for tough dragon meat and has chained and is fattening up an exceptionally ancient one he was able to catch. It's certainly too old to be one of the whelps which took his arm so many years ago, but he likes to imagine it so anyway whenever he's dreaming of long strips of dragon bacon sizzling over the fire.

Smoke deck
On their home plane, cinders are a dwindling race of fire elementals that have lost the power to stoke their own flames. Only by stealing the warmth of the living do they sustain their own lives. The more fury or terror or pain that a creature feels as it dies, the hotter its blood runs and the more warmth it gives to the cinder that consumes it. Accordingly, cruel sadism and apocalyptic nihilism are the rule for this dying people; all those with compunctions about the slaughter of the warm have already guttered out, their ashes blown away on the wind.

This cinder planeswalker is no different. Where she walks, smoke and fire follow and only dying embers are left behind. Out of self-preservation, of herself and of her people, she travels the multiverse, using her gift to wage a campaign of destruction and death so that her own life, and those of her family, might flicker on for one more night.

Feast deck
Some mages are motivated by an unquenchable curiosity about the nature of the universe that surrounds them. Others are driven by the desperate need to lord power and influence over others. Still others seek to right wrongs or salve their own conscience or ego with the quality of their good deeds. Some, however, are just looking for a good meal.

This viashino planeswalker was born and raised in a nomadic hunting tribe in the savage wilds of a plane rich in predatory plant and elemental life but poor in animal life. Hunger, thus, was his constant and most intimate companion until the day that his spark ignited and he suddenly found himself in a quiet, sunlit wood, lost and alone. Compared to his old home, however, this new world was stuffed from the roots to the canopy with delicious, edible treats everywhere he looked. Now, with a growing mastery over the living elements and an ever expanding understanding of magically manipulated agriculture and husbandry, he explores the multiverse with a chaotic menagerie of semi-domesticated livestock in tow, searching always for a way back to his homeplane with every intent of freeing his people from the aching chains of hunger that bind them.

Party! deck
Many planeswalkers see themselves as the masters of nature, seeking to dominate and control lands and creatures and the mana that gives them life.

This one is not among them. This planeswalker is deferential to, one might even say submissive to, the primeval soul of the elements themselves. She presides as high priestess of a church worshipping the essence of the elements on a plane rich with primal mana. Nestled among the thick, tropical boles of a broken, rocky coastline, this nature faith's most holy temple looms upon the summit of a towering ziggurat, ancient beyond conception. From this imposing shrine the planeswalker presides over the most sacred event in the church's long, astral calendar, the celebration of the emergence of the Elemental Soul at the conjuction of the planes. This occurs once every few hundred years and, as the Soul of Elements itself prepares to become manifest in the vast reflecting pool at the ziggurat's foot, creatures from everywhere on the plane, sentient and otherwise, are often subconsciously drawn on a great, arduous pilgrimage to the ziggurat to attend the event. The festival can reach a fever pitch whereby the faithful celebrants are whipped into a fervent frenzy by the uncontrollable maelstrom of elemental energies which envelops the temple grounds.

Many other planeswalkers seek to attend this profound event in order to siphon off some of its unparalleled energies for their own purposes. The high priestess is fine with that, so long as they respect the holy spirit of the occasion, but if any dare to abuse or otherwise interrupt the proceedings, she won't hesitate to set the vast crowd of ecstatic faithful upon the intruders in a furious rage.

After the celebration, though, as the great spirit settles back into its quiet slumber once more, the high priestess returns to her banal duties for the upkeep of the shrine, just biding the centuries until the next grand celebration approaches.

Inconceivable! deck
The multiverse is ancient beyond comprehension and greater mages than any alive today throve and perished long before even the smoothest grain of sand had first become the tallest, most jagged peak. And yet, their legacies echo down through the uncountable ages in the form of magics undreamed of and artifacts of power and cunning that defy imitation and, at times, understanding itself.

Many are the planeswalkers who devote their long lives and extraordinary powers to the discovery and recovery of these relics of worlds and peoples lost to the oblivion of time. This man is among their number. From his personal reliquary, hidden away behind many illusions on a remote, volcanic archipelago, he carefully scours his copies of tomes written and forgotten before his own race learned speech. He plans expeditions into the sprawling libraries of thriving universities and to the crumbling ruins of dead civilizations swallowed by the eons. When he attempts to replicate or modify one of his treasured finds, he follows his own intuition as much as clues from manuscripts inked on the parchment of beasts that went extinct before the first moon shone on the plane of his birth. His own cunning and quite a bit of supernatural luck carry him through to success more often than not. From a gigantic slab of stone, carven with ceaselessly flowing rivers and channels of runes in a thousand different scripts, to a tiny, unassuming, little pebble which has laid to sudden rest more worlds than have exploding suns, every artifact in his collection tells a story. Stories not just of his own exploits in his dogged pursuit of lost treasures, but also of the innumerable lives that each one has touched, back to the first of the first days.

Occasionally, as he looks down from a balcony carven out of the jutting rib of a beached sea leviathan that forms one of the many towers dotting his archipelago, he sees the tiny, inky black lights of the eclipse moths glowing along the smooth seashore below, and he feels a moment of deep satisfaction. And then he thinks of another way of decrypting the message of that white light strobing from deep beyond the eyes of that fragile, glass skull he found a few decades ago and dashes back to his starcharts.

Syzygy deck
The souls of the departed. The eyes of the gods. Windows into heaven. Doorways into hell. You could travel to one hundred thousand planes and hear one hundred million tales of what the stars are. Many and more are the tales that this planeswalker knows. For in the stars are written more secrets than have ever been committed to paper or hide, stone or steel. All that is in the world is foretold by the stars and all that is seen in the stars is presaged in the world. The soul of existence is traced in the shining faces of these wells of light and in the black eternities which lie between. 

Abandoned as an infant on the steps of a palace, this planeswalker was raised from birth to be a court astrologer. He was castrated when he came of age, acclaimed the most brilliant astral augur of his generation and died of plague before his time. But the stars barred his way. The trauma of death and refusal lit the flame of his spark and when he awoke, it was not to apothecary's incense lingering in the rotting heat of a plague house but to a light snowfall, acrid with the taste of coal.

He had been reborn on the darkside of a world tidally locked with its sun. In this land of eternal night, the only light that had ever been known came from the planeswalker himself and from the single dull star in that blackest of skies, hanging, dim and low, on the horizon.

He followed this solitary guide until eternal night slowly, tantalizingly, became eternal twilight as he approached the solar terminator. Here, he encountered the first signs of civilization that he had seen on the plane looping the world in a slim gray ring caught between carbon snowfields on one side and charred deserts on the other. It would still be years before he could be convinced that he was not in hell but simply on another plane.

His question, however, then became not "Where?" but "Why?" He has spent the rest of his considerable life searching for an answer to this question. He has come to believe that he was spared for some purpose that he is not yet ready to know but believes that it will be for the sake of the greater good.

He has asked a million stars on a thousand worlds but none, so far, can answer him. No matter how far he travels, though, or for how long he is away, he always returns, sooner or later, to the gray world of his reawakening, to commune once more with the faint morning star that led him back from the hell of his own fear. He is sure that when the time is right, when all things come into their proper alignment, he will finally learn why his life was given its second sunrise.
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