October 3, 2012
By Imshan AKA Sinis
When I was much younger, I was very interested in science. More than anything, it was the application of science I found fascinating; science fiction writers had laid out the framework of a future barely believable, and science would make it happen. I expected that we’d have teleporters, rayguns, and space travel, all in short order. As I learned more about the nature of scientific inquiry, discovery and application, I became disenchanted. I had hoped for a certain kind of magic, a kind of mad science with which enough guile, gumption and good fortune, the craziest things could be accomplished. Science is still a wonderful thing and applications are constantly churning out wondrous new technologies, but I had an idea that is innately self-defeating, like complex explainable machinery surrounding an elusive and essential center responsible for something inexplicable. My idea was of a science without bounds, with which actual science has no discourse. For highly analytical people, there is no magic here.
A while ago, I wrote an article about how much I liked bad cards, bad mechanics, and generally bad Magic. Part of this is born out of the fact that I am a bit of a Johnny at heart, and the more convoluted a pile of cards are, the more interested I am going to be. As everyone knows, no Ravnican guild appeals more to the idea of unbounded science and Johnnies than the Izzet guild. With all the Return to Ravnica pre-releases wrapping up last weekend, and release day coming up this Friday, it’s also open season on deck overhaul and new deck brainstorming.
At the one Return to Ravnica pre-release I was able to attend, I played for the Izzet guild. Of all my cards, a set of cards in my sealed pool caught my eye: Guttersnipe, Goblin Electromancer, Blistercoil Weird and Nivmagus Elemental, along with a few instants and sorceries like Teleportal and Street Spasm. The permanents all have something roughly in common: you cast an instant or sorcery, it is modified, having additional or subsumed effects or different costs. The rampant Izzet pun issues aside (‘What time Izzet?’, ‘Izzet the next round yet?’), the Johnny in me was very happy; when I cast an instant, it might be cheaper, do damage to an opponent, power up my creatures, or all of the above. The not-quite scientist in me was also very pleased; even if all the parts were identifiable, casting an instant or sorcery out of the Izzet box had a certain kind of wonder to a person who had not yet abandoned magic for reason in the analysis of new cards.
As I left the local game store, I started thinking again about how all this would translate to EDH. Is Guttersnipe really significant? It does say ‘each opponent’, so perhaps it is not totally awful. Goblin Electromancer is playable as pretend acceleration. Blistercoil Weird and Nivmagus Elemental clearly aren’t all that exciting. Can I be a mad scientist in EDH? As I thought about the cards I had opened more and more, and recalled the spoilers leading up to the pre-release weekend, I felt the same disenchantment from before. The magic of the chaos I had played in the pre-release faded into cold reason once again, and I thought of the best synergies, and wondered if Guttersnipe and the rest could be broken in a fun and entertaining way.
An Izzet watermarked card I didn’t have in my sealed pool, but a friend did, was Epic Experiment. He was pretty furious at it, because it was not a card that appealed to him (and he had picked Golgari). For the very same reason he didn’t find it interesting, I found it immediately compelling: it was random, and it was epic. It even said so in the card title. The entire flavour of the Izzet guild can be summed up in this one card: if you cast it for a significant value of X, there is a good chance that powerfully random effects are going to happen. If you have Guttersnipe on the table, you can also start counting up the damage if it resolves. Of course, Guttersnipe isn’t the only trick here. Sphinx-Bone Wand can quickly ratchet up counters and start dealing harsh amounts of damage. It costs 7, but, we’ll spare no expense for this experiment! This is only the beginning!
In red and blue, there are a host of spell copy effects, starting with Fork and ending with Chandra, the Firebrand. Twincast, Reverberate and Cloven Casting all make Epic Experiment twice as exciting. Part of the entertainment in copying Epic Experiment is that as the copy Experiment resolves, you could flip another instant that could copy the original Experiment while it is still on the stack, causing an even greater catastrophe. Even ahead of the usual suspects for copy effects, is Eye of the Storm. The actual resolution for Epic Experiment with Eye of the Storm on the battlefield is long and convoluted; to try to make a long story short, Epic Experiment casts each of the flipped instants and sorceries within the mana cost limit in order of the caster’s choosing, which all trigger Eye of the Storm. The Experimenter then resolves the first spell, and then resolves a copy of the first spell with the second spell, and then a copy of the first and second spell, followed by the third spell… There is no actual way to make that story short, except to say that the first spell exiled with Eye of the Storm will get copied for each spell in the Experiment, and the second for one less, and so on. Of course, failing to win on this turn allows everyone else holding an instant or sorcery to take advantage of the experimental house you’ve built.
Post Publication Note: A kind reader has pointed out that Eye of the Storm is in fact a nonbo with Epic Experiment. Since Eye of the Storm exiles the Experiment and recasts it, X is considered 0, and it doesn’t do anything. To that, I can only add that I ought to go back to the drawing board, and that a Stifle or Trickbind would be in order to make it work. This shouldn’t prevent Eye of the Storm from working; it will have already triggered when you are forced to copy Stifle/Trickbind.
Reaching back to the pre-release, Blistercoil Weird is not the first of its kind. There has been a fine tradition of instant and sorcery junkies stretching back to the original Ravnica block with Wee Dragonauts. More recently are Charmbreaker Devils, Kiln Fiend, and a weird cousin Talrand, Sky Summoner. Each of these creatures, should they survive the cataclysm of the Experiment, could swing for a lot of damage, especially if there are copies involved and opposing creatures were obliterated, tapped out or returned to their owner’s hands.
Finally, as though there needed to be more reason for engaging in experiments of the epic variety, cards with Storm can really add to the silliness. Mind’s Desire, Empty the Warrens, Temporal Fissure, and Ignite Memories can all develop a strong number of copies as the number of instants and sorceries in the experiment increases. This only increases the actual difficulty of resolving Epic Experiment with Eye of the Storm in play; the Oracle text on Eye of the Storm says that the copied spells are ‘cast’, thus triggering the Storm copies to appear also (which are not cast, and thus not exiled by Eye of the Storm). Suffice it to say that there could be a lot of iterations of Mind’s Desire, or something like Volcanic Awakening could actually function more like an Armageddon.
If EDH is supposed to be the big, splashy, casual format, Epic Experiment can’t possibly go wrong, unless you flip a bunch of ineligible cards (which pretty much obliges me to mention that Mana Severance is a Sorcery you should cast before Epic Experiment, or as soon as you can if you end up in copy-Experiment-land). There are plenty of cards that could make this resolution even more bizarre with a little bit of creativity. Spelltwine, Counterlash (targeting your own spells to cheat out spells in your hand), Radiate, burn, cards with scry, extra turns spells, and spells with modal choices like charms or the Lorwyn command cycle can all create epic plays. The possibilities are vast, and perhaps most importantly, unpredictable.
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