11/10/2011 FtL: "Scatterbrain"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's From the Lab, which goes live Thursday morning on magicthegathering.com.
Well, all the Inception references were clever and had me groaning at the same time. I really like that deck.

Regarding the contest, a quick trip to Gatherer has revealed no option to search for specific collector numbers. That should be added for future fun.

Loved the intro babble; Noel DC has never managed to quite match Chris Millar's consistency in the production of hilariously insane gobbledygook, but he definitely makes an effort and this week I'd say he nailed it.
I didn't notice Lumberknot's parallel to my beloved Gharial (crocodiles are awesome, please give them tribe support!) before, but now that it's been pointed out, there's one subtle detail about the new guy that I love - he doesn't say "may".  While Magic Online has made a great stride toward minimizing the inconvenience of "may" by adding the "always yes" option, I still have a residual dislike of "may" as a result.  I'm always forgetting these fiddly details and feeling dumb; not being allowed to go back and fix a skipped trigger because it's mandatory is a pointless inconvenience and incentivizes you to play with painful slowness in order to avoid such omissions.  Anything that makes the game flow more effortlessly is a good thing; the occasions on which backtracking would cause a problem are not too frequent in the case of a simple ability like this one, and so dropping the "may" is pretty nearly all-upside for me.  Not quite as big of an upgrade as the hexproof (and that second G is an actual issue if you build tricolor or more decks as Gharial's homeplane of Alara assumes you will), but definitely a nice added touch.
To multiplayerize the Lumberknot combo, I recommend adding Omnivore Hydra (not the exact name, it's the one from Commander) and Sakashima the Imposter.  Sakashima copies the Lumberknot, gains 4.7 million +1/+1 counters, and then turns into a Hydra so he can kill all opponents with just one swing.  (Also, Mentor of the Meek makes me want Meekstone for no other reason than the theme - obviously leaving this out of the Lumberknot deck was correct, but it's an interaction I'd like to see someday.)
"Theme deck" is so vague I hardly consider it worth a contest (something more specific like "movie theme deck" or "song theme deck" would have been better), but there's no way in Hell I'm voting for the collector number contest, as it's simply far too annoying a restriction.  I have a hard enough time accepting that Converted Mana Cost is allowed to affect the game when it's purely a player-level concept; collector number isn't even player-level, it's buyer-level, and I want nothing to do with it being referenced in any fashion in the Johnny column.  Johnny is about being creative, and restrictions may sometimes breed creativity, but they can also choke it; a restriction like this one does nobody any good.

My New Phyrexia Writing Credits My M12 Writing Credits
As far as the benefit of the rest of Magic is concerned, gold cards in Legends were executed perfectly. They got all the excitement a designer could hope out of a splashy new mechanic without using up any of the valuable design space. Truly amazing. --Aaron Forsythe's Random Card Comment on Kei Takahashi
I voted for the collector number contest. It's a bit annoying, but I think I've found a viable way to search for them. Collector numbers were only printed on cards starting in Sixth Edition, and the Modern cardpool starts with Eighth Edition, so I've just pulled up the entire Modern cardpool and sorted by collectors number (you can't search for specific numbers, but you can put it in order of number) and paged through until I found the one I want. After I have the backbone of the deck I'll check the sets between Sixth and Eighth to see if there's anything I really need. Maybe a bit annoying, sure, but it's definitely doable.

As for creativity, I can think of lots of numbers that would be interesting to build around. Partly for numerological reasons (7, 13, 100, your street address, 6 and 66, the xth digits of pi, whatever) and partly for a theme. Combine the two deckbuilding challenges into one if you want. For the history buffs, a Battle of Hastings deck using the numbers 10 and 66. For Prince fans, 19 and 99. (Anyone else is totally welcome to use those ideas, of course.) I've got one number I want to build around and I'm still looking to see if there's a deck that even vaguely fits that theme. If not, possibilities abound.
Collector numbers started with Exodus, so that's a few more sets you have to look through.

willpell's Sakashima+Lumberknot is a bombo (or at least not as much of a combo as it claims to be), since Sakashima can't "change forms" except by bouncing to hand, at which point it loses all its counters. Unstable Shapeshifter could get there if you're very careful with the timing, or else Vesuvan Shapeshifter (or their Doppelganger) if you're willing to wait for next turn.

At first I didn't care, but after a little more thought I didn't feel like the collector number decks actually presented you with a "challenge", so much as it just restricted your card base to an arbitrary and previously unexplored set of cards.  That's not a bad thing, but it doesn't really make for interesting or creative decks.  "My deck is built from subset 67 of the currently printed cards".

So I voted for the painfully vague "Theme" decks.  At least that is more interesting than the other option.

For those who don't care much about flavor, please forgive this intrusion. As always, thanks for the inspiration, Noel!

Dream Is Collapsing

Oneiromancy, the evocation and manipulation of dreams, is one of the most fiendishly difficult and personally dangerous magical disciplines anywhere in the multiverse. The ability to interpret, let alone influence, the wild, mercurial, symbolic subconscious of another being demands an understanding of the mind and mental magic that only the greatest, most deeply experienced masters can ever begin to approach. Add to that the substantial risks involved in maintaining the integrity of one's own consciousness as a discrete entity while penetrating deeply into the alternate reality of another's dreaming mind, and the works of dream magic become an art practiced by a vanishingly small number and mastered by even fewer.

This planeswalker, however, is among that exceptional few, although the use to which he puts his gifts might strike some as curiously banal. A dreamthief of the highest order, he specializes in extracting thoughts from or inspiring ideas in the minds of high profile targets. Once he and the subject of his work have been put to sleep, he operates entirely through oneiric avatars, delving into layer after layer of the shifting, unpredictable, internal surrealities of others' dreamscapes or even, occasionally, simply resculpting those unrealities to better serve his own purposes.

Unlike many other oneiromancers, this planeswalker has learned a complicated, but effective means of prolonging the sleep of his targets effectively indefinitely. He can weave a lie of the waking world inside their minds while the unstable hulk of his own intrusive personality wanders through the corridors of their unconscious thoughts until he is able to divine all that he needs from them.

However, even for this master of the art, danger is always lurking in the depths of dreams. The dreamborn muse who whispers to us all in the dead of the night sings a siren's song of dissociation even more seductively for those who move in the minds of others. When he hears her begin to cant her subtle verses, like a cool seabreeze on a warm night in the mind of the dreamer, he knows that he must settle his work before the dream fractures for both souls and his self is lost forever in the dissolution of the other.

Meek Making
Most in the multiverse see a clear distinction drawn between the wild and the settled. There are those who choose to live their lives roaming the deepest dells of the forest or the highest vales of the mountains and those who choose to make their home in a village or city and never wander far beyond their community's walls.

Then there are those who choose both. This planeswalker has dedicated several centuries to a long and complicated breeding program of many interwoven branches, aided with quite a bit of magical manipulation, to give birth to the perfect seed. This seed will take root and grow for millennia more but, within just a few short decades, it shall already be a sapling of immense proportions. When the time is right, the planeswalker shall begin to lovingly carve his new home into its living wood. More importantly, he shall whisper to his tree, in its youth, words of wilding, imparting to it the spirit of nature that shall bring it consciousness and mobility, give it the impulse to strength and the instinct for the hunt. But so, too, shall he teach it the withstraint of the meek and the disposition to balance, the strength that builds a community without tearing it apart. He shall make of it a vast city-tree, a place where those who wish to live a life of the wild hunt can do so while still in the arms of civilization, where the wanderer can be at home and yet never languish.

Together, they shall walk the face of their plane, living by the instinct for order; and the likeminded shall join them as the tree grows ever greater and ever wiser in the ways of the wild with each passing season. And, in the end, when the tree is a vast, thriving metropolis, a roving garden temple to the profound simplicity of nature's path, and so wise that it seems to carry shrouds of omens strewn upon its countless boughs, then the planeswalker will know that his work is done, that his child is grown. He shall take a single seed from his child and his home and he will 'walk to a new world to begin the cycle anew.

Red-Green 117
Many planeswalkers get themselves embroiled in vast political plots that stretch across worlds and involved transplanar emergencies which threaten to topple over the edge of control with billions of lives in the balance.

This one may have experienced such things in his youth but, these days, he's mostly just looking for a little entertainment. Most of his time he spends animating portions of the wide forest he's grown around his home and making them fight against one another in the great arena he's plowed under at the heart of the wood.

When the day's fights are over, he chars the losers to ash, uses the remains as enchanted fertilizer for the next day's gladiators and simply waits for the genesis that the morning will bring.

This has gone on for many years now and the planeswalker has gotten careless and inattentive around what he believes to be his private land. But there are others in the forest who watch from the eaves, aghast at his filthy splintersport. And they plot in the shadows. Chief among these is one he believes a loyal liege, long-pacified and resigned to the planeswalker's domination of the forest. But the trees have other plans. With every night that passes, the reckoning moons grow a little fuller and when the three full moons align, the trees shall reassert their claim to their own destiny.

When the soil writhes with unsettled roots and gloom walks between the boles and fire rains like a storm of comets from the scarred hands of the enraged wizard, woe betide every denizen of this dark wood.

Black-Red 117
This planeswalker also deals in bloodsport but in a very different setting. He serves as ringmaster to a great draconic demon who likes to play with his food in the arenas of the rocky bogs and broken fens of his black domain.

Surrounded by scheming vampire nobles and a simpering, sycophantic preisthood that fight endless, petty, bureaucratic squabbles over the rights to their human chattel, the planeswalker is sick of and sickened by his surroundings but is bound by a contract signed in blood with the demon for service in exchange for infernal knowledge. His contract, however, is drawing to a close and, soon, he'll be free to 'walk away, wherever he might choose and, with him, he'll take demonic secrets about the planes and what lies beyond that others would kill for.

Or, that others would die for.

The demon, too, knows full well the terms and limits of their contract and he hasn't been playing his blood games all this time just for the pleasure of breaking all his toys. He is well aware of what a spark is and what it allows its bearer to do and he also knows how difficult it is to overcome that bearer. But he has studied his course of action long and his plans are now all in place. Just when the planeswalker thinks he is free to leave, his master will show him exactly why he's been training his slaves so hard in the arena. And once the spark is his, then everything will be different.

Another way to build a collector-number deck would be to pick one or two cards - maybe a linchpin of combos like Ashnod's Altar, maybe a Spike-beloved tournament staple, maybe just something you like the flavor of - and limit yourself to those cards' collectors numbers. Do any two-card combos have sufficient support in their own numbers? Just a thought.
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