Magic Memories: Evolutionary Leap

Discussion in 'Single Card Strategies' started by Oversoul, Aug 28, 2017.

  1. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    "Wow," I told myself, "you really did blather on a lot about Yawgmoth's Bargain."
    "Yes," I admitted, "it is sort of the most iconic combo deck enchantment ever. I like enchantments, I'm a combo fanatic. Also, it's a card that has had some personal significance for me: it was the centerpiece of my best friend's deck at around the time that he really came into his own as a deckbuilder. So 17 years later, I still associate it with him. Also, I did kind of go on some tangents there at times..."
    "Yeah, you can be a pretty longwinded," I sneered (at myself).
    Defensively, I replied, "Well, I think I'm done. For now, anyway. These threads seem to have a formula. I give a little background about why I'm thinking of a particular card. I talk about it in abstract, give examples of where I've used it or seen others use it, sometimes someone else chimes in, and then I wrap things up by noting anything else about the card that I can think of."
    Without directly acknowledging my own response to myself, I asked myself, "Well, what card is next? Is it Necropotence?"
    "No," I decided, "that'd be too much."
    "Get it out of your system," I suggested. "You've been skirting around the issue. Really, it shouldn't be a big deal. I mean, if not Necropotence, then what?"
    I pondered that question. What answer could I give myself that would satisfy me? Perhaps, without meaning to, I'd started leading myself in the direction of a Necropotence thread. The whole endeavor was poisoned from the beginning: I'd started these threads out with Dark Ritual. Oh, I could try to distract from that, suddenly dive off into unexpected territory with a card like Scalpelexis or Abyssal Hunter. But along the way, I'd touched on cards that were linked to my own history with Necropotence: Arcane Denial in my blue/black Necro decks, Sliver Queen and my early attempts at five-color goodstuff that formed my introduction to the card, Lake of the Dead and my experiments with black mana ramp in Necro decks, Academy Rector, Yawgmoth's Bargain, it's all leading toward Necropotence. Oh, I could really stretch things. I could pick some other obscure card that I happened to use, once upon a time. But I already did that. No, I need something new. Something new?
    "Well," I repeated, "if not Necropotence, then what?"
    "Evolutionary Leap," I exclaimed.
    "From Magic Origins?" I was skeptical. "That was what? Two years ago?"
    "Yeah," I replied to myself, "It's even on the CPA frontpage. I wrote that amazing poem. 'Tangleroot is set to make an Evolutionary Leap.'"
    "For one thing, that poem was bad," I chided myself. "For another thing, you never actually built a Tangleroot/Leap deck. You've hardly even played with the card at all. This series is Magic Memories..."
    "Exactly," I interrupted myself somehow, "and not all of my memories are from 2000. Scalpelexis came out when you were in high school. Lots of Magic cards, literally the majority of Magic cards, came out since then. This doesn't have to be 'Magic Nostalgia Party.' This doesn't have to be 'I love 90's Magic.' Evolutionary Leap is cool and I wanna talk about it!"

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  2. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    From the moment Evolutionary Leap was spoiled, there were unfavorable comparisons to Survival of the Fittest. So I'll start off by saying that Survival of the Fittest is a more powerful card, that I like it better, it has more useful applications, and I already started a Magic Memories thread about it. With that out of the way, most of those comparisons are stupid and bad. The cards fill completely different roles. Survival is a toolbox card, a Madness enabler, and an engine to set up graveyard-based combos or to enable beatdown with situationally potent attackers. Evolutionary Leap is a value engine that churns through a deck. I get that both are enchantments that cost 1G and have an activated ability for G and also giving up something else, and both put creatures into your hand, but the other details are completely different. Sacrificing creatures and discarding cards synergize with different things. So they don't even belong in the same kind of deck. I wouldn't put Basking Rootwalla in an Evolutionary Leap deck and I wouldn't put Veteran Explorer in a Survival of the Fittest deck.
  3. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Do you play Magic Duels? You know, that free-to-play successor to the annual "Duels of the Planeswalkers" series, which itself has been abandoned and might be replaced by the upcoming "Arena" game. If you don't play it, then you should. Or perhaps you should not: it is no longer being supported and Amonkhet was the last set released in the game. But is free and it does present its own interesting variation on Magic. Most notably, instead of a blanket four-card rule, you can use four copies of any common, three copies of any uncommon, two copies of any rare, and one copy of any mythic rare. This restriction, combined with the small cardpool, gives tempo decks the edge, although some slower decks can find enough removal to compete.

    Most of my usage of Evolutionary Leap has been through the Magic Duels game, where it excels. In the game, when you win games you acquire coins, which are used to buy "boosters" of new sets, which is how you build your collection. You also get quests that give larger amounts of coins, things like "put X -1/-1 counters on creatures" or "win X games in which you casts a red or black spell." When I got a quest to create tokens, I built a red/green deck with servos and thopters. With tokens, Evolutionary Leap becomes a card advantage engine.
  4. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Evolutionary Leap synergizes especially well with the "Fabricate" mechanic from Kaladesh, which is what I use in my Servos deck in the Magic Duels game. Just last night, I was facing a more aggressive deck that was outracing me with the "Exert" creatures from Amonkhet. I was able to block the biggest attacker with a Highspire Artisan, then sacrifice my Artisan to dig up another creature. It's a common play for the deck and Evolutionary Leap makes it easy to grind out games against faster decks. Either the creatures that make servos or the servos themselves can chump-block, then fuel Evolutionary Leap to draw into more creatures. In this particular game, I got Decimator of the Provinces and used another Highspire Artisan to "emerge" the big eldrazi, swinging in with my whole team and trampling over blockers for lethal damage in a single turn. I've also used Evolutionary Leap to sacrifice the elemental tokens generated by Chandra Flamecaller. If opponents can't kill that planeswalker, she can give me two potential Evolutionary Leap activations per turn.
  5. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    The card has been fun in Magic Duels, but it really has more potential than that. I've explored some possibilities for casual play. Notably, I don't really think that the Tangleroot idea I noted in my poem is really worth it. The idea is that with free creatures, you can cycle through your deck, casting creatures and using the mana from Tangleroot to sacrifice them to Evolutionary Leap, digging up the next creature. This can eventually lead to a storm finish, although to work reliably it needs to have some access to extra mana aside from just Tangleroot. Mostly, it requires one's deck to contain a lot of free creatures. That sort of thing can be fun, but it's best not to rely on combos that require so much library fodder.
  6. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Probably the strongest use for Evolutionary Leap is the niche that it's found in Legacy tournament play: Nic Fit.

    In Legacy, "Nic Fit" is a deck name that really serves more as an umbrella term describing pretty much any deck that uses the card Veteran Explorer.

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    The usual approach is to blindly Cabal Therapy your opponent, then sacifice Veteran Explorer to flashback the Therapy, hopefully getting rid of the most threatening cards in your opponent's hand and ramping up your own mana so that you can play bigger things earlier and take over the game. Evolutionary Leap is no Cabal Therapy, but it's still a decent sac outlet for Veteran Explorer and can be used repeatedly to set up even more ramping. Nic Fit decks have been around for a long time, much longer than Evolutionary Leap, and not all of them incorporate the card. But the ones that do also tend to use Eternal Witness and Academy Rector. In such a deck, sacrificing Veteran Explorer to Evolutionary Leap means not only mana ramp, but the creature that Evolutionary Leap finds could be another Veteran Explorer, keeping the ramp going. Hitting Eternal Witness can get Veteran Explorer back and hitting Academy Rector can cheat a big enchantment onto the battlefield. This allows Evolutionary Leap to act as an engine that takes over games very quickly. To win against Nic Fit, opponents must either the player before the engine gets going or heavily disrupt the engine.

    Here's a recent Legacy tournament list that I really like, piloted by Pierre Devillers...

    1 Eternal Witness
    4 Academy Rector
    4 Veteran Explorer
    1 Toxic Deluge
    2 Collective Brutality
    3 Green Sun's Zenith
    3 Lingering Souls
    4 Cabal Therapy
    1 Curse of Death's Hold
    1 Dovescape
    1 Sandwurm Convergence
    2 Pernicious Deed
    2 Starfield of Nyx
    2 Sylvan Library
    3 Evolutionary Leap
    4 Cast Out
    1 Bayou
    1 Cavern of Souls
    1 Plains
    1 Savannah
    1 Scrubland
    1 Snow-Covered Plains
    2 Phyrexian Tower
    3 Forest
    3 Swamp
    4 Verdant Catacombs
    4 Windswept Heath

    Sideboard:
    1 Containment Priest
    1 Diabolic Edict
    1 Extirpate
    1 Humility
    4 Leyline of Sanctity
    2 Lost Legacy
    2 Spirit of the Labyrinth
    3 Surgical Extraction

    Note the hilarious "living the dream" combo I mentioned at some point in another thread: Dovescape + Sandwurm Convergence. Flying creatures cannot attack you under Sandwurm Convergence, and noncreature spells get converted into flying creatures. On the ground, you get sandwurms, so unless your opponent is already way ahead or has something that can break out of the interaction (like a creature that destroys enchantments), it's a pretty formidable lockdown.
  7. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I think it was when I was in high school that a friend of mine used Proteus Staff against me.

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    He put Raise the Alarm on an Isochron Scepter, then used Proteus Staff on his own soldier token, stacking his library. Then he tried to cast Goblin Charbelcher, which I countered. I was a jerk and played lots of counters back then.

    Of course, Evolutionary Leap doesn't allow for this sort of interaction. That seems to be a deliberate part of the card's design. WotC attempted to move away from effects that search libraries (searching libraries causes more shuffles, which slows down tournament play), so flipping cards from the top until a condition is met serves as an alternative to that. But letting you choose the order of the cards that go to the bottom encourages deliberate library-stacking, which can be abused (and also slows down tournament play). So there's the weird compromise of not allowing you to search, but still requiring randomization, which itself amounts to shuffling in everything but name. Hence the rules note on Evolutionary Leap...

    That's not as outlandish as it might seem. Throw in lots of mana ramp and creatures that have EtB triggers, maybe some token generators, and it isn't too hard for Evolutionary Leap to deplete your entire library of creatures. At that point, though, you're probably winning.

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