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Contest Entry - Chicken Heart
By John Hetherington
The following deck list is one of my most recent deck ideas centering around the use of black Spellshapers from Mercadian Masques block. I've been playing MTG for only about six months, but I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of taking a card's "limitation" ("Why would I ever want to do that!") and making it an advantage ("OH...now I see").

Typically, the fodder used to run Mercadian Masque's Spellshapers is land. These creatures require one to discard a card from one's hand as a cost to activate its ability. Not liking either potential outcome of using lands in this fashion (mana-screw or mana-flood), I decided to exploit the discard requirement by packing my deck with cards that I considered overcosted and that you'd typically only see 1-2 in a deck as finishers. I use these creatures as discards to the Spellshapers, and then employ either Diabolic Servitude or some other graveyard manipulation spell to return these burly beasts back to play.

The following is completely my idea, and I have not seen anything resembling it either in local casual or tournament play. I call it "Chicken Heart" based on the Bill Cosby comedy routine about listening to scary stories on the radio ("Beware the Chicken Heart...its in your neighborhood...its on your street...its outside your door...I'm smearing the Jell-o").

Chicken Heart v1.2

Spellshapers (9)
3 Bog Witch
3 Plague Witch
3 Cackling Witch

Burly Beasts (13)
3 Delraich
3 Rootbreaker Worm
3 Tidal Kraken
4 Skittering Skirge

Graveyard Manipulation (8)
4 Diabolic Servitude
4 Victimize

Mana Production (26)
4 Dark Ritual
4 Peat Bog
4 Polluted Mire
14 Swamp

Life Gain (4)
2 Soul Net
2 Throne of Bone

The basic idea is to get at least one Witch into play early (with nine should be at least one in hand from the draw). Use them to discard the Burly Beasts into your graveyard, which you can then bring into play one at a time (Diabolic Servitude) or two at a time (Victimize). This can all be accomplished without causing the Skirges to skitter by the way (Skittering Horror are good too). Creatures that have trample or are unblockable are a must, because a common reaction to this deck is to use time-stalling tactics like chump blocking until they can respond to the Turn 3-4 threats you're putting on the board. You can even hard cast the Delraich, if needed.

Soul Net and Throne of Bone are great ways to stay aggressive and maintain a heathly life total, but you could also insert hand desruction cards (e.g., Duress, Ostracize, Unmask, Stupor, etc) to limit their ability to respond.

The Burly Beasts do not always have to be 6/6, and I have run 2 Soltari Visionary (for enchantment removal) and 2 Woodripper (for artifact removal) at times. Chicken Heart can also be adapted for Type II play (heresy here at the CPA I know, I know) by substituting the Rootbreakers with Laccolith Titans (or some such monstrosity legal in Type II).

You should see the confusion on your opponents face when the only land you play are swamps, and yet you continue to gleefully discard an assorted rainbow of colored critters to your graveyard. Fun deck to play... Watch out for the Chicken Heart.

John Hetherington
(Eyeing that Walking Sponge)

galumph@micron.net

Read More Articles by John Hetherington!

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