Sovereigns of Lost Alara ∙ “the stack” ∙ … and Eldrazi Conscription
A new version of the Mythic deck centers around Sovereigns of Lost Alara setting up Eldrazi Conscription. You attack, the Sovereigns of Lost Alara goes and finds that normally cost prohibitive enchantment, sticks it on your guy, and all of a sudden you have a gigantic monster that should kill the opponent in just 1-2 blows. The second time you attack with such an Eldrazi-proxy, you probably get to set up Annihilator 2 as well, which is just cool (on top of being wicked deadly).
Recently my new protege Kar Yung Tom stated that the only way that King Hulk / Raka XXX can possibly lose to Mythic is to be smashed by this Eldrazi Conscription combination… So plan for it, anticipate, prevent, etc. For King Hulk — a deck with precious few ways to interact with the Sovereigns of Lost Alara combination itself — must use mass removal or Planeswalkers on its own turn to prevent getting smashed. But what about decks with actual instant speed removal, viz. Doom Blade or Path to Exile? How should they play against Eldrazi Conscription?
This is how the combination works.
The opponent attacks.
Any of the “attacks alone” text abilities go on the stack; these include both Exalted and the Eldrazi Conscription-finding ability on Sovereigns of Lost Alara. Let’s table Exalted for the moment. How do you deal with the second ability?
I think most players — acting “automatically” — will be tempted to let the ability resolve, let the opponent attach Eldrazi Conscription to the attacking creature, and then point the Doom Blade at the attacking bugger. After all this is “cool”. This is “card advantage”.
Or is it?
True, if you point a removal spell at an Aura’d-up Eldrazi wannabe, you are technically destroying two cards — both the creature and the creature enchantment. Is this card advantage? At that instant, the answer is yes. You are using one resource to remove two resources. But for practical purposes it isn’t. The Eldrazi Conscription in this case is “extra” … The opponent went and got it for free. Your “card advantage” play — your “cool” card advantage play — is really just a break even, despite the fact that at that instant, the exchange itself is card advantageous.
Let me propose a counter-automatic play:
What if we respond to all that jazz, and kill the creature before the Eldrazi Conscription hits the battlefield? Or even in response to all of it, before in many cases the Exalted triggers hit (when our removal spell is Lightning Bolt and the Eldrazi-to-be is a Noble Hierarch, this may actually be a necessity)?
I would argue that leaving the Eldrazi Conscription in the opponent’s deck is actually desirable.
First of all, if we prevent the ability from resolving, we are preventing the opponent from getting an extra card; we don’t have to make up the card on the two-for-one… because the opponent never got the Eldrazi Conscription for us to two-for-one. Grok? Good.
The reason this might be subtly better is that now the opponent can accidentally draw Eldrazi Conscription. Awesome, right? That is a card he never wants to draw. Not only is it essentially dead in hand, drawing both basically turns off Sovereigns of Lost Alara.
Now of course if the opponent has an army of little guys, and the ability to reload next turn and the turn after, you might want to pull out his Sovereigns’ teeth (especially if you have, say, two copies of Terminate). But if he isn’t long on threats on the battlefield already — as will often be the case — I think giving him the opportunity to get unlucky can be desirable.
Neither play is right all the time… But I figured presenting the opposite as a viable option might be a useful suggestion to many of you with automatic — but not necessarily automatically better — MO’s lined up.
P.S. For those of you who haven’t read it yet, I heartily recommend The Danger of Cool Things by my friend Chad Ellis. Chad was a former columnist at Star City and the mother ship, a Pro Tour Top 8 competitor, and a hell of a strategy writer. The Danger of Cool Things is his best work, and kind of a companion to Who’s the Beatdown if that makes any sense.