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December 28, 2011


Into the Roil: Graveborn (PDS)

by Dredd77

I strolled the hallways of nothingness in search of battle. Quite simply, I was looking for a fight. The plane of Innistrad had left a bitter taste in my mouth. It was a new place and I was unaccustomed to its mana.

I had wielded it clumsily and the smell of defeat stung my nostrils. I would return, ready to spill blood, but this was not that time. For now, I sought others who had traversed planes for millennia, those like me. Ones who had traveled so many planes that reality bent to serve them. Never a dull moment with those types; they had seen much, knew much, and were limited only by their dreams. In fact, sometimes their dreams served them.

Ah, here it was. A plane full of life and mana and energy and, again, it drew planeswalkers like a moth to a flame. Such is the curse of immortality, inevitable conflict, a desire to prove oneself against all adversaries. The risk was oblivion, cessation of existence. I had caused some like me to be rent from eternity and I walked that fine line myself. Yet, the thrill of the hunt, the glory, the rewards were so great that I gladly engaged in this bloodsport.

I plummeted through the atmosphere, hurtling like a meteor, allowing myself to feel the warmth for a moment before smashing into the planet’s surface. I plowed into the soft, murky, stinking pits of a bog, leaving a gaping furrow a half-mile long in my wake. Ostentatious, perhaps, but I sought to surprise my foe. I climbed from the crater I had made and peered through the remnants of fog as they burned away and stared directly into the eyes of another planeswalker. Steady, prepared, and aware eyes. Despite my best attempt, he had the advantage and began to siphon energy from the mire beneath our feet. He took a breath, poured some of his own life’s essence into a spell and tore a hole in my mind. I staggered for a moment, my well-laid plans in tatters, a memory lost. In response, I brought forth a dark, yet useful, minion. All the while, my opponent drew more and more power from the deep recesses of the earth as I gathered my thoughts and power about me.

My minion leaped into battle, screeching and raked at my opponent feebly, once, then twice. Suddenly, I recognized his ploy as a massive portal appeared through which I caught only the briefest glimpse of a terrifying monster before he cast it to its death. I grimaced, when in the next moment, that screeching, hulking thing made of metal and poison came rising from the ground. I had passed it just briefly in another plane; it was a master of the mind, both creator and destroyer. At the side of my enemy, it filled him with endless possibilities, while mine could see only one. Death. For the briefest of seconds, I thought I could end this mind siege as I brought forth my own but my mind crashed into a wall of pure, impenetrable will that I could not overcome. I stumbled backwards, falling hand and foot into a mire so thick and suffocating that my thoughts left me. My foe understood the risks he took; he and I were drawing from the same well-spring of foul, death-fed, energy and so he sacrificed some of his very soul to call forth yet another fell creature. This monstrosity muttered mindless whispers as tormented and twisted as its own body and my companion slew itself at its mad suggestion. Under an onslaught of warped words and twisted metal, I fell into nothing.

Inkwell Leviathan

Ah, to be immortal. I laughed. I was not finished. This walker and I had not completed our tale. We began the dance again. I cursed, though, for my mind was not what it should be and I could only bring forth the same winged creature. It seemed, though, that our last duel had caused my opponent great wariness for he did not, or could not, drive his creatures into the depths as before. So, he waited, and I poured energy into the raising of a leviathan beyond imagining. Yet again, my concentration split apart, leaving me gasping in confusion, unable to do a thing. A smile graced my opponent’s face as a glorious being of pure light erupted from the earth, furious power reincarnated and made to heed a necromancer’s whim. This angel of death turned her terrible visage upon me and my every thought and action was paralyzed, ground to dust. I soon fell away into nothing, pushed back into the ether.

I cursed. Victory seemed so distant these past few battles. I still hungered so I sought a new adversary. And there in the dank, dead muck, I glimpsed another necromancer plying his trade, trading life for undeath. I roared a battle cry and he answered in turn. Speed was my ally as I drew upon dark, vile powers to quicken my foe’s demise. It was my turn to utterly crush the opposition. In that same instant, I called upon the undead power of the mythical sphinx, born out of tales of death and destruction. The necromancer before me sought frantically for answers, something, anything, to shield himself. But the great sphinx wreaked utter devastation with tooth and claw. Even when my opponent summoned a shadow of death the sphinx continued its punishing strikes and he finally bowed before the inevitable.

Our next duel played itself out in reverse. Having procured such a decisive victory, I confidently readied the great sphinx once more beneath the earth although I could not yet summon him. My opponent, however, could and did so with great enthusiasm. Lacking sufficient power to move quickly, I wracked my brain knowing I would need to find a solution to the very problem I had created. As the sphinx pummeled me, I sought the aid of a great titan who, by way of the imp, allowed me to use a spent infusion to call back my Avatar of Woe. This time, though, my opponent snickered and sent the avatar hurtling into oblivion and all the while the sphinx ripped at me. Helpless to do more, I sent the undead titan, once a champion of light, bounding violently into the necromancer once before I was reduced to ash by the sphinx. What irony.

In a rage, I gathered the atoms of my being together and plunged once more into the fray. I began my opponent’s culling by beckoning that small, yet handy, imp as I had the habit of doing. My nemesis ever so slowly drew energy from the murks beneath us, biding his time. The image of a great and fearsome dragon coalesced in my mind and then it clawed its way from the tomb it had been buried within. My opponent stepped back, still searching for the right moment to strike. I lent that legendary monster my anger and with one searing attack, annihilated any further possibility of action on the part of my enemy; there would be no right moment for him. I crossed my arms in grim satisfaction and observed Crosis’ glorious power as time and again it obliterated life and magic.

There were no more ‘walkers in this deathladen bog and I ventured out beyond the swamp to find a foe of a different sort. Upon a Windswept Heath, he used his life force to call a most noble druid to his aid. It was clear this planeswalker found his power in the many elements of the earth all around him. I, for my part, brought forth my winged minion, ready to wreak utter havoc with my next step. The very forest came alive at my foe’s command and a shining knight upon his steed arrived with fiery enthusiasm, drawing strength from the ground beneath him. Nonplussed, I buried that deadly leviathan and quickly called him back to unlife while my imp flew through the air dealing but the most minor of harm to my enemy. I hungered for blood and anticipated a quick kill. As the leviathan strode forward crushing the life from the opposing planeswalker he threw himself into a frenzy of action, his knight gathering mana in search of safety. A duo of small flitting beings of the fae allowed the knight to generate more mana for spellcasting than he would have normally been able to. And as the leviathan crushed my nemesis to within inches of his life his knight suddenly wielded a sword of amazing power and beauty that combined with the power of those two faeries to bring my onslaught to an abrupt halt. Slowly, and agonizingly, the tide of battle changed as I searched the grave for answers and my enemy waited, unable to strike at me without leaving himself open for a coup de grace.


I could only bring more imps to bear yet even they found themselves lost amidst a tangle of magic while a wise and elderly woman protected the faeries. My opponent even influenced one of the imps to never partake in the dark arts again. Even as I shunted power to the grave, hoping to reach a threshold that would strengthen the imps enough to make the killing blow, it was taken away when the most vile and depraved scum appeared and transformed my magic into power for its own and life for its master. As that monstrosity of filth recycled the dead, a battering ram composed of bone alive with hate armed itself to a faerie. I had unwittingly murdered a small military advisor who had been preventing his master from using such a weapon. In one overwhelming wave of violence, victory was snatched from my grasp.

After that long and protracted battle, I must have lost my wits. I was so intent on establishing an immediate death blow, that I began dismissing certain viable options from my mind as we anticipated each other’s next move. This was my great mistake for I instead left myself weakened. I was left without an answer to a winged wizard who clouded my mind. With my thoughts surrounded in a confounding cloud of mist, I could only grit my teeth when that mounted knight reappeared accompanied by those damned flying vermin. The cycle of gathering mana from the land around began and I was lucky to Entomb another Sphinx of the Steel Wind. My monstrous slave was at my side for mere seconds before I was sent screaming into the void between planes.

Rest assured, I would be back.

All of these games were amazing fun to be a part of. I always felt as though I had a reasonable chance at victory. Seeing Crosis force my opponent to discard 5 cards made my day. And the truly crushing defeats I suffered were actually my own fault. In the second round, I should never have ditched the Sphinx against a Reanimator deck knowing he full well might have that Reanimate in hand. And my last game, I got greedy and mulliganed a hand that wasn’t giving me the perfect combination of Dark Ritual, Entomb, Reanimate I was looking for. It was a hand that would have worked just fine otherwise and I ended up mulliganing to 5 and being on the play. I slightly modified the deck to include another copy of Entomb, Cabal Therapy, Sphinx of the Steel Wind, Inkwell Leviathan, Ebon Stronghold, Sun Titan, and a playset of Dark Ritual and Animate Dead. I played only 22 lands and the cards I did not use ended up in my sideboard including Diabolic Servitude, Hidden Horror, Zombie Infestation, Crystal Vein, Polluted Mire, Twisted Abomination, and Faceless Butcher. I like this deck enough that I’m actually investing in it further, and trying to keep everything foil, so suggestions are welcome.


Steve “Stric9” Mock is married with three daughters, ages 6, 1, and one newly arrived. Even Daisy, the toy poodle, is a girl. His wife calls him “Soldier by day, Dork by night.” Steve played Magic in high school, but was way too poor to do much more than stare at a Force of Nature. It wasn’t until the family started growing that he needed a hobby he could participate in from home. That’s when Steve started following Ertai’s Lament to learn more about the game. As a player, Steve falls somewhere between Vorthos, Timmy, Spike, Johnny, and Timmy. Actually, he doesn’t even know what those nicknames mean. Anyhow, the quality of art and storyline have drawn him in and he is an active Magic player when time (WIFE) permits. Steve would like to remind some of his fellow players that it’s ok to look good and smell clean while you play. Steve does it every day.

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. errtu
    Dec 28 2011

    Very nice article, and well written! I bought Graveborn as well and I’m trying to build a better deck from it. Like you, I have added 4 Dark Rituals and an extra Entomb (that one is expensive!). I’ve bought more Exhumes, Animate Dead and Putrid Imps so I’ve a playset of all of them. Also two more Reanimate (also not one of the cheaper cards) and tomorrow when my New Phyrexia fat pack arrives, I hope it includes a Praetor (doesn’t really matter which one, they’re all very nice, although Jin-Gitaxis is probably my favorite). I would dump the nonbasic lands and Crosis and maybe add a Dash Hopes or two to either counter something or have them lose 5 life.

    For greater glory: a playset of Lotus Petal (FtV Exiled version, since it’s foil).

    • Dec 29 2011

      I’ve never heard of Dash of Hopes before. That is a nice card! It makes me want to splash blue less. Adding blue to a legacy deck means picking up FoW’s and dual lands, etc which I’m in no mood to invest in. I love playing Legacy and never knowing what cards are going to show their faces.

      • stric9
        Dec 29 2011

        Before Dash of Hopes, I was thinking about disrupting the opponent’s hand with Cabal Therapy and Hymn to Tourach. I wonde which way I’ll go. Also, did anyone notice that the artwork for Animate Dead is actually an undead Sun Titan and that I was actually able to cast that spell on a Sun Titan? I was STOKED!

  2. Icehawk
    Dec 28 2011

    Nice! Great article. Quite an interesting twist on the deck.

    I have to say these special products are getting better and even easier to make decent by buying 2 and mashing them. I’m still shocked that they gave us 3 animate dead. Can’t complain that’s for sure. I have 2 extra for either my demon deck or my B using commander deck. Still haven’t decided.

    • Dec 29 2011

      Thanks! Aside from the Dark Rituals, that’s exactly what I did. I picked up a second Graveborn and put in/took out what I thought would make the deck more precise. Since then, I’ve made some more purchases and will likely have another go some time. What other pre-cons would be able to hold their own in a Legacy tournament? Elves? At least they’re affordable.

  3. Dec 29 2011

    Ever thought of doing a mash up with Bring About the Undead Apocolypse, Graveborn and Rituals of rebirth?
    Just saying

    • stric9
      Dec 29 2011

      I’ll check out the decklists. Unlike Ertai, I don’t have all the pre-cons so I would have to decide on specific cards to use. I’ve been keeping an eye out for Bring about the Undead Apocalypse because I think I remember it getting good reviews.

  4. Jenesis
    Dec 29 2011

    I love “flavor stories” like this (at times I have been tempted to write some of my own, but my skills are horrible).

    How did the GW Maverick player play a turn 2 KotR off of a Savannah, Noble, and summoning sick Dryad Arbor?

    I wish this site had a function to let you hover over the card links to see the pictures, since having to click to a different window every 5 seconds is a bit annoying.

    • stric9
      Dec 29 2011

      Hm. More than likely my story telling was slightly less than perfectly accurate. I tried to take minimal notes since I do all of this covertly and don’t want to seem like a cheater. I may try doing an audio recording so the duels are easier to document.

    • Dec 29 2011

      “I wish this site had a function to let you hover over the card links to see the pictures, since having to click to a different window every 5 seconds is a bit annoying.”

      Couldn’t agree more. It’s our next upgrade. The problem in short is this: EL at present is on the free WordPress site. This works well for most things, but it also means we’re not allowed to install plugins. Plugins are needed for hoverlinks, so the embedded links have always been our way of making do. In order to be able to do that, we have to take this site and self-host it. That’s not insurmountable, but it costs money to do and has some inherent stability risks.

      Our last big upgrade was the theme, and based upon the reception and our desire to keep growing the site, we’re not too far off from taking the self-hosted plunge. If I had to guess a date I’d say around March! It’s especially needed for articles like this, which look to have the link directly in the article prose rather than using card names.

      Thanks for the comments!


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