The Flashy Play - TSP to * Infinity

The Flashy Play – TSP to * Infinity
*not quite
by Frank Shaskus

The important thing to remember about infinity is that it’s really big. Imagine the biggest burrito you've ever eaten. The one that made your stomach feel like a sack of beaten leather. Then imagine a beach where every grain of sand was that very same burrito. Imagine an ocean made of salsa, preferably tomatillo based so that the color is right (Though if you don’t like salsa verde please feel free to substitute). If you added up the calories for all the burrito dunes and salsa waves you would have an enormous number. A number so large that your mind could not wrap around it. And yet this number would be but the tiniest zit on the buttocks of infinity. Not even worth the scratch.

And this is why Magic has a rule about arbitrarily large numbers. Because infinity is just too big. All the normal familiar rules of math get wonky when infinity is in play. One plus infinity? Still infinity. Infinity plus infinity? Still infinity. Infinity minus infinity? I think it’s still infinity. But a really big number, be it Oprah money or the summed waist sizes of Denny's patrons, is manageable. You can do something with it. I like to use big numbers to bury my opponents underneath an (almost) innumerable Saproling horde.

Why Saprolings? Here is where we examine the life of the typical Saproling. As near as anyone can tell, they originated as the waste products of a race of thinking fungus. These veggie bits were so intriguing that the greatest minds of many magical planes (and, presumably, plains) found new ways to form semi-sentient chartreuse plant things.

Why? The central appeal of the Saproling seems to be as a fuel source. Almost every planar sighting of a Saproling also features several beings who consume them. They are walking Peat Moss in a land full of Scotsmen. As such, they are due for an uprising of redwood proportions.

Because every once in a while the laws of magic go haywire. The normal process of Saproling excretion can be bypassed by avoiding the traditional Saproling generation route all together. And when a degenerate mechanic gets involved we can enter the land of arbitrarily large numbers, populated exclusively by Saproling. With the coming of Sprout Swarm, we have unprecedented Saproling power. We have the revenge of the plant poo.

What makes Sprout Swarm ideal for reaching the realm of improbably large numbers is that it provides its own fuel. You see, at the end of one iteration of Sprout Swarm you have One Green Saproling. Why is this interesting? Because of convoke. You can get around paying for the colorless mana of any spell pretty easily. Between Omen Reader, the Ouphe, and Durkwood Baloth you can see that green has made this a bit of a cottage industry. But ways to gloss over color requirements are few and far between, and for a reason. Being able to ignore color leads to degeneracy. And that is what takes us back to Sprout Swarm. Because it leaves One Green Saproling. And what do you need to fulfill the requirements of Sprout Swarm? One Green Saproling! Hurrah! Now we just need to practice drawing zeroes and we're in business.

Or, on the way to being in business. Because we have the unfortunate headache of the four colorless mana needed to take the swarm infinite. Thankfully, Magic R&D usually throws a few colorless mana cheats into each set to keep the Johnnies busy. Time Spiral block is no exception, allowing us to fudge on colorless mana with the pricy Cloud Key and the extraordinarily cheap Locket of Yesterdays. With four Cloud Keys set to instant in play, you can buyback the Swarm all you want. With two Lockets in play and two Swarms in the yard you can also declare a random large positive integer for the win. (Remember, the Locket reduces the cost for each copy in the yard. This is important. If you know this and your opponent doesn't you're probably going to win when they least expect it. Satisfaction tastes like chocolate.)

Some non-arbitrary rules for choosing your improbably large number:
  • Make sure it is greater than your opponent’s life total + the number of blockers they have.
  • Make sure it is a number you can easily manipulate. (A twenty digit number, while fun, is a pain to rewrite after spot removal)
  • Make sure it is a number you can say out loud. One billion is nice for this. Any time taken while you are forced look the name up on a chart may be viewed as stalling.
  • Make sure it is actually a number. Gazillion sounds nice, but it is every bit as imaginary as the Canadian Girlfriend you had in seventh grade. We know that picture came with the wallet.

So we now have our engine of kudzic destruction, the ability to create an overwhelming plant army the likes of which Monsanto has been fighting in secret for the last fifty years. (I’d tell you more, but it’s classified. I only heard about it from my Canadian Girlfriend.) But how to assemble it? Five card combos are notoriously unreliable, even if they are as polymorphic as the one before us. What we need is the power of blue. The best way to get the five cards you need is to look at every card in your deck. Between Careful Consideration, Foresee, Mystic Speculation, and Whispers of the Muse, blue can let you go through every single card of any use in your entire deck. Usually in six or seven turns. While I would normally love to test for hours to find the exact best tool for the job, in this case I'm just going to use all of them. This deck just wants to get its combo on and forget about the guy (or gal) across the table.

To that end, we need acceleration. When you pack a bunch of four mana card draw, you need to skip ahead a turn. Thankfully, our color choices provide us with the ideal answer. Edge of Autumn is both an excellent accelerator and never a dead card. Prismatic Lens is such an obvious inclusion that even I saw it coming. Interesting fact: Two Lockets in play and one Lens in the yard? All future Lenses are your very own crappy moxen! Yea crappy moxen!

When playing the deck, your goal is to get out as much mana as possible and then burn through your deck. Lockets make chaining spells crazy cheap, and Keys and Lockets will get your Considerations down to UU in no time. Don't be afraid to Whispers without buyback. It’s just going to make future Whispers cheaper. Foresee is like a Fact or Fiction where you make your own piles. And at common it is cheaper than dirt.

What gives this deck such an interesting long game is Whispers of the Muse. If you haven’t gone wacky with Sprout Swarm, you’re usually in a position where you can Whisper with buyback for 1U or just U. You burn through a lot of your deck when you are drawing eight to ten cards a turn. And this is obvious, but important. Most combo decks are obvious. This deck has one avenue to victory and you have to get to it fast. Know when you’re going to die, and go off right before then. Do the obvious thing.

Time Spiral Constructed is a really interesting environment, because it has tons of monolithic monsters. Korlash, Heir to Blackblade, Brine Elemental, Greater Gargadon, Tarmogoyf, and the like can all end the game in a hurry. But with Snapback you can undo the work and buy yourself a turn or two. Considering that W/G aggro can kill in five and you can kill in six or seven that extra turn matters quite a bit. I originally ran the deck without the bounce. And I lost. A lot. Every game, in fact. But adding free unsummons got the deck to respectable against beatdown.

Give in to your anger.
How to play:
Wild Pair Slivers:
Bounce the Gemhide Slivers. Seriously. Gemhides mean fourth turn Wild Pair. Fourth turn Wild Pair means you lose. You don’t want to stop them from going off. You just want them to not get around to it until the sixth or seventh turn. Since they can’t fly, they can’t get past your army. And ten slivers can’t block ten million dancing chopsticks.

Black/Blue control
This is unwinnable, unless your opponent is a moron. They Extirpate Sprout Swarm. You lose. Which is unfortunate, because you strand all the removal they carry in their hands. This is addressed later on, but probably not to your satisfaction.

White Green beatdown.
Pray for your opponent to Griffin Guide a Tarmogoyf on the third turn. This is a double Timewalk for you, provided you have the Snapback. If they start making multiple threats, you lose the economy that Snapback provides. That said, feel free to drop saps as chumps. You are playing a waiting game.

Things that are not obvious:
  • Creating four Saprolings for 4G forces your opponent to concentrate on something besides stopping the combo. This can be good for you.
  • Discarding to Careful Consideration is extremely powerful with Lockets in play. Discarding duplicates can make them cheap or even free.
  • Foresee is a pun. Fore-See. Four See. See Four cards. Now that you know this you will always know it. It’s as indelible a memory as the time Abby Firschner forgot to close her blinds.
  • This deck lacks shuffle effects on purpose. You’ll have six to eight cards that you put on the bottom with Foresee that you really would rather not see again. Shuffle effects would ruin that. Edge of Autumn is the exception, because you usually use it long before (or at least a turn before) Foresee.
  • Underneath those frumpy sweatshirts and baggy jeans Abby Firschner was stacked.
  • You can draw twelve cards during your opponents end step and go off. Edge of Autumn is silly that way.
  • Interestingly enough, this is only a ten ticket deck on Magic Online. When Cloud Key is the most expensive card in your deck, you can skip the blood bank. At least for this week.

Honey? Did my helmet come with instructions?
So what can this deck do better? Adding a path to victory might be nice. Casting six to ten spells in a turn certainly suggests something storm based might be possible. Rift Sweeper is probably a solid addition to the sideboard, since it provides you with a bit of an answer to Extirpate. Adding your own Tarmogoyfs will blow the budget to smithereens, but they fit in nicely if your opponent is kind enough to take out their removal. Maybe Urza’s Factory for another hard to stop victory condition against control? Suggestions are appreciated and will probably be tried. Post them on the board, because it is obvious I’m too close to this to see the flaws.

So shuffle it up and give it a try. Sure, it’s tricky to play, combo decks make you feel dirty, and your Schnauzer is in the hospital. Who cares? This deck goes for the freaky fungus flashy play. What could be more rewarding?


I would like to give you, the reader, insight into the process of getting your article scooped. If you don't want to hear the nitty gritty details of what goes on in my head, feel free to stop now. I won't mind. It's not like I have feelings or anything. Not that you'd know. Since you already stopped reading and all. No. Go on. Watch a Friends rerun or something. I think it's the wedding dress one that you didn't get to finish watching because you had to take your dog out. I remember because it was the eleventh time you promised yourself you'd get a PVR. We'll miss you.

Everybody who cares still here? Good.

Like most every human being on Earth, I like to think of myself as original and interesting. And much like most every human being on Earth, I ignore all evidence to the contrary. The deck featured in this article is a case in point.

Locket of Yesterdays felt so degenerate on the original TSP spoiler that it was the first card for which I put together a playset. I built an interesting but easily disrupted extended deck and then lost interest because I found my one true love from TSP: Greater Gargadon. Then, when Future Sight spoilers came out, we saw Sprout Swarm. While I was intrigued about it in combo with Locket of Yesterdays I was far more interested with how it worked with Intruder Alarm. If you aren't familiar with the card, you're missing out. It enables an infinite number of infinite combos. Oddly enough, it has never been part of any good decks. That was the interaction that fascinated me. You could elf into infinite on turn three or four. What's not to like?

Unfortunately, my casual playgroup slowed down for a while so I never got to set the alarm deck. This is probably a good thing, since few things say “kill me now” like Intruder Alarm. No sense in alienating the few people on earth who can stand me in person.

So, I had to move back to Magic Online to get my fix. And no one wanted to play anything interesting in Standard, so I had to make a TSP deck. I knew I wanted to use the Swarm, and I figured the Locket would be fun too. I hit gatherer and found Cloud Key, so away I went. The original deck is not all that different from the deck I presented today. It felt interesting and original. It surprised people left and right, and most people would drop a (presumably sincere) “nice deck” before conceding to my incredibly boring sap generation process. It felt like I had a deck worthy of a full article.

So I wrote it. Originally in the style of a “choose your own adventure” type thing, though that never really came together. Then I rewrote it in a more standard form and submitted it on the tenth. On the eleventh I woke up and checked out the WOTC site for House of Cards. And I felt like someone had kicked my dog. Then beaten him. Then they kicked him again out of spite. (The fact that I don’t own a dog only partially spoils the simile for me.)

I was scooped.

I went through the twelve stages of grief. It began with me eating a whole HoneyBaked Ham and it culminated in me trekking through the Pacific Northwest naked and covered in mud. Seven unconfirmed Bigfoot sightings later, I went back home to reflect.

The first thing I wanted to figure out was if I was truly and completely scooped. On the one hand, he has a deck with two of my three key components, the same name, and a lot of the same card draw. On the other hand... Nope, no other hand. Totally scooped. The fact that my deck was TSP block and marginally competitive just was not a big enough differentiator.

The next thing I tried to figure out was if my article was funnier, and therefore worth running. So I compared mine to his. Mine has an edge in slightly dirty jokes. And my explanation of infinity seemed unique enough. I didn't have a running theme like he did, but it wasn't a bad article for the lack. I don't know if mine is funnier, but it seemed funny enough. (How do you rate funny anyway? Ten millilaughs? A quart of mirth? Clown Noses?)

So far, my article seems like a prime target for cancellation. It isn't breaking much new ground anymore. It lacks the number of fart jokes that would make it funny enough to stand on its own. (Twelve, if you're curious.) (The equivalent of four Clown Noses.) So what can be done to make this article interesting and original?

You're all interesting and original people, so I'm betting you have already figured it out. For those of you that just got back from the Friends rerun: The other article does not contain extended musing about how to make a scooped article interesting and original.

How. Meta.


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