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Donating the Pit
By Andrew Emmott
Once upon a time, not long ago, (October), there was a deck called Trix, (Well, there still is, but not in Extended). This deck made many people grumpy, mostly because it was a dorky combo that for some reason was a major deck archetype. Seriously, Trix was the style of deck that youíd expect only the likes of the CPA to think up and play, (In case you donít know, the 20 life loss combo that Trix used was Delusions of Grandeur and Donate), but alas it was a force to be reckoned with at the tournament scene anyway. My theory on why this was so is that people are stupid. Any deck that ran even the tiniest bit of life gaining or instant-speed enchantment control could hold it off, and discarding could hurt it too, but apparently tournament players are too busy thinning their deck and getting card advantage to run life gaining or enchantment control. Bah. (To be fair, the original Necropotence-Trix decks were broken, but then Dark Ritual and Necropotence were banned).

Anyway, getting almost maybe sort of halfway to the point of this article, I remember not too long before the extended rotation I saw a thread on another site about what should be banned to stop Trix. The three cards in question were Delusions of Grandeur, Donate, and Force of Will. Force of Will was an option simply to allow something the be banned that could weaken the deck without actually stopping it altogether, (Banning either of the combo pieces would kill the combo entirely).

My opinions on the matter were as follows.

Donít ban Force of Will: Yes, itís an overpowered card and yes it can be really annoying and yes itís a nice change of pace to have it out of Extended, but hey, itís only a counterspell, and the ACC is hardly card advantage. Besides, there is a saying about counterspells, and it is that they are only as broken as the spells they counter. Besides, it wouldnít have seemed right to ban a card that saw play in so many decks just because it bolstered one of them really, really well.

Ban Delusions of Grandeur: If you really think Trix is all that broken, then ban the card that really has no value in any other deck. Outside of Trix, Delusions of Grandeur is so unplayable itís sad. The best thing I can think of is to run Snowfall so you can keep your twenty life for a while, but thatís too silly even for us casual players. Nobody but the Trix players would miss Delusions if it was banned.

Donít ban Donate: Some people would use the argument I just used on Delusions on Donate as well, but those people are mean grumpy folk who donít think of casual play. Sure, outside of Trix, Donate has no tournament value either, but its potential for abuse in a fun casual format is high. The fact of the matter is that Donate is very good at what it does, even if it does something you donít normally want to do, it just hasnít been explored enough.

Of course, banning anything to stop Trix is an absurd idea because, as I said, Trix is stupid. But the whole issue got me thinking, ďWhat OTHER ways are there to abuse Donate?Ē I couldnít think of any right off the bat, so I just put it on the back burner.

Later I was thinking about 1.5, or more accurately, vintage in general, but 1.5 especially. I was thinking about how black can be a bit overpowered in 1.5 on account of Dark Ritual. Without Power 9 jewelry to bolster the other colors, black has a distinct advantage in 1.5 with itís own private unrestricted Lotus. Of course the classic way to spend that three mana is with a Hypnotic Specter, but Duress followed by Hymn to Tourach can be equally brutal, as could a Duress and a Sinkhole, or a one-drop and a Sinkhole/Hymn, or Duress and Black Knight, or whatever. The point is, 1.5 has oodles of ways to abuse three mana on turn 1. Additionally, most of those strong 1 and 2 CC spells work well without the Dark Ritual. If you donít have the Rit then Duress turn 1 followed by Hymn/Sinkhole turn 2 is still really strong, so youíre not liable to suffer much if youíre missing it. Thinking along those lines I started pondering what I could sideboard against black to deal with this stuff. Well, itís hard to do anything about an early Sinkhole or Duress, but the random ditch effects of Hymn to Tourach and Hypnotic Specter, which can be game-breaking, do have an answer. Three cards in particular, (there are a few more than just three, but they donít quite have the punch Iím looking for), have a sort of pre-madness ability where they do something drastic if your opponent makes you discard them, (additionally madness can be a good ability against 1.5 style discarding, but only incorporate it if it fits organically into your deck). The cards are Psychic Purge, Guerilla Tactics and Dodecapod. They read as follows:

Psychic Purge
Sorcery Ė U
Psychic Purge deals 1 damage to target creature or player.
When a spell or an ability and opponent controls causes you to discard Psychic Purge, that player loses 5 life.

Guerilla Tactics
Instant Ė 1R
Guerilla Tactics deals 2 damage to target creature or player.
When a spell or an ability and opponent controls causes you to discard Guerilla Tactics, deal 4 damage to target creature or player.

Dodecapod
3/3 Artifact Creature Ė 4
When a spell or an ability and opponent controls causes you to discard Dodecapod, put Dodecapod into play with two +1/+1 counters on it.

As an artifact, Dodecapod can be sideboarded in any 1.5 deck, while the others can make the cut in decks that play blue or red respectively. I know first hand that the mere fear of these cards can keep Hymns and Hippies at bay. A friend of mine put together a quick red/blue 1.5 card-drawing/burn deck that ran 4 each of Psychic Purge and Guerilla Tactics. I Hymned him when he had three cards in his card. I nailed a Psychic Purge and a something else. He laughed, revealed that his remaining card was a Psychic Purge, and told me I almost got both of them. Needless to say, my Hypnotic Specter stayed at bay. Things did not bode well for my quasi-suicide black deck.

After the Great Psychic Purge Incident I began thinking, ďMan, if only you could force your opponent to force you to discard, then you could tear through them with those quasi-madness cards.Ē

I began searching for ways to do it, realizing happily that it would probably require Donate. The combo I came up with was Donate andÖ

Bottomless Pit.

Ha ha! Iíve done it! Well, okay, I doubt Iím the first person to come up with this idea, but hey, it still accomplishes my original goals of A) Finding another way to abuse Donate and B) keeping it ďcasualĒ and by that I mean quirky, innovative, and fun.

Additionally, Oppression works too, perhaps even better, but Bottomless Pit is what struck me first, so thatís what Iím sticking with. This is the CPA after all; personal compulsions are more important than strategic minutia.

Well, actually, itís irrelevant whether I go with Oppression or Bottomless Pit; I donít have the cards for the deck anyway. But the harbinger of the Great Psychic Purge Incident, (His name is Harry, as it happens), does have the cards and has taken on the idea himself. Currently itís a work in progress. What Iím doing here is discussing the various strategies weíve come up with.

The Bare Bones: If you run 4 of each, Donate, Bottomless Pit, Psychic Purge, Guerilla Tactics and Dodecapod will take up 20 card slots, which by most peopleís standards means weíve already got half of our non-land cards set in stone. Since this is a combo that works better the faster you pull it off, searching, card drawing, and maybe even mana speed are elements one might want to incorporate. This aspect of the deck is the trickiest to plan; we still havenít got it quite right ourselves. I leave it up to your judgment, as your strategy might differ depending on what other elements you want to incorporate into the deck.

Madness: Madness has potential in this deck since you plan on discarding anyway. With the cards already listed, we know you plan on running blue, black, and red, so letís list what madness cards exist for these colors.

Circular Logic
Obsessive Search
Psychotic Haze
Strength of Lunacy
Fiery Temper
Violent Eruption

Itís also notable that Basking Rootwalla is good and playable without any green mana, but probably isnít worth it. Anyway, of those six cards Iíd say that Obsessive Search and Fiery Temper fit in nicely, while Strength of Lunacy is an almost definite rejection. The other three have potential, but youíd probably rather go with something else.

Chains: Chain of Smog and Chain of Plasma would fit nicely in this deck. How? The way Onslaughtís ďchainĒ cards are worded, your opponent is making a copy of the spell when they bounce it back at you. A copy of the spell that they control. In other words, if you Chain of Smog them and they decide to bounce it back at you, you can let them have it with a Psychic Purge and a Dodecapod. The same works for Chain of Plasma. You hit them, they discard and throw it back at you, you discard Guerilla Tactics, (or whatever), and bounce it back at them for a total 10 damage at the cost of two mana, two cards, and 3 life.

Good, (perhaps better), alternatives to Bottomless Pit are Oppression, (as stated earlier), and Anvil of Bogardan. Anvil of Bogardan is great because it provides card drawing as well. If you can think of any other cool things to Donate that will make your opponent make you discard cards, please tell me, Iím sure theyíre out there.

I may be cutting this off abruptly, but I canít think of many more ideas myself, so I enlist you, the casual player, to do better than me and take this idea even further. May we all build the best darned wacky decks possible!

Read More Articles by Andrew Emmott!

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