Yeah, we haven't used the opponent's life yet. Something like a Devastate would be nice, to kill off creatures at the cost of the opponent's life, but I didn't see anything like that.
Hmm, but we can just have The Akroan War make lifelinked tapped creatures donated to the opponent deal damage to themselves, and give the opponent life. Then we can transfer that to our own life with Vicious Rumors or Grasping Thrull, gaining a layer. (Any way to get more?) That takes us to 3 -> 3 -> 55 -> 10.
Edit: So, I was thinking about getting started, and I ran into a problem. Our current setup depends on white mana being very restricted, but to get started we need to cast an Emergency Powers (either that, or cast Bolas's Citadel, which requires three black mana, and black is also supposed to be restricted). Also, later on we need to cast Dance of the Manse, which also requires a white mana. So the problem is, how are we supposed to get two white mana, without making white mana too cheap? I don't see a way yet.
One thing we could do is give up the artifact layer, and have life be used to cast Samut's Sprint instead. So then we could allow white mana to be plentiful. In that case though, I don't think we can use Kenrith, the Returned King, since he can use white mana to gain life.
Another thing we could give up is Dance of the Manse. I think we could give up having a lot of copies of Thousand-Year Storm. Our stage combo casts a bunch of instants/sorceries, so our storm count goes up a lot just processing the stage combo. The only question would be if we need many TYSes for targeting purposes - the only place it seems like we need it is for Disenchant recycling our lockets, but I think we can use Repeated Reverberation to fix that. So that seems all right. But, we would lose having many copies of The Akroan War and Smothering Tithe, so that would lose us two layers. So we don't want to give up Dance of the Manse.
Edit: I guess we could use one of the opponent's card draws to get one white mana. (or more if we need it, with more Smothering Tithes) We can play a white mana land that comes in tapped in the beginning, so we can use it for Emergency Powers without being able to recycle it later. Then, we can use an opponent card draw for Dance of the Manse. That loses one opponent card draw, so we go down to 3 -> 3 -> 54 -> 10. Still better than losing a layer.
Edit: Hmm, there's another problem with Dance of the Manse. It can animate enchantments, but it can also animate artifacts, which means we can animate our locket and then just Replicate it to get more red mana.
I don't see a way to fix this - dropping Dance of the Manse costs more layers than just dropping the artifact layer. Perhaps there could be a way to not be able to animate the locket, but I don't see how. A legendary artifact would work here; too bad Mox Amber is no longer legal. Nyx Lotus enters the battlefield tapped, and anyway we will have white and black permanents. So there doesn't seem to be a good legendary artifact that we can use.
I guess we can just drop the artifact layer. This means we can have plentiful white mana again, so we don't need to use an opponent draw. So we are at 3 -> 3 -> 55 -> 9, unless we find a way to use artifacts again.
For donating, probably the easiest is the Replicate a lot of Clackbridge Trolls, which will create a lot of Goat tokens on the opponent's side. Then we can Role Reversal a Teysa Karlov and a bunch of tapped creatures.
Edit: Thinking about artifacts some more, The Great Henge gives us two green mana (probably useless) and two life. I'm not sure where to go from there though; that life can be used to cast Disenchant, or any non-X spell.
So, right now we are using lands to make blue mana, creatures to make blue mana, and Smothering Tithe to make black mana. Green mana seems to be necessarily cheap. We aren't really using white or red mana right now. The main problem is coming up with different ways to generate mana, that can be hooked into different layers. There is of course artifacts, but Dance of the Manse seems to kibosh those. Other than that, I really don't know. (A couple of Domris can make red mana, but that seems pretty limited.) There may also be more ways to use the opponent's resources, although we are already using opponent life total and library.
One possibility - if we could change the stage combo so that we don't use Clear the Mind, could we get layers of cards fetching other cards? Of course, we would still need to be able to cast Repudiate // Replicate somehow. We could use Experimetal Frenzy I suppose. But in that case, I'm not sure what the advantage is of fetching a card rather than just casting it from the top of the library. We no longer have Omniscience, so we don't get out of paying the mana cost if the card is in our hand. And I think with Experimental Frenzy we can cast X spells just fine. So maybe there isn't a way to get card-fetching layers.
Hmm, nice. Also, if we can't find a place for artifacts, we can animate a Selesnya Locket and make copies of it with Replicate.
Devious Cover-Up is interesting. However, without getting any card draws, it looks like we would need something like Experimental Frenzy, and I'm not sure why we would need to fetch cards if we have Experimental Frenzy.
Edit: While I certainly prefer the turn 3 setup at this point, I think it's worth keeping an eye on the turn 2 setup, and see how far we can take it. Maybe it's too much trouble to write up both decks, but I figure at least we can figure out both decks, and have the writeup concentrate on one, and give a mention to the other.
Looking at the turn 2 setup, which currently requires Gilded Goose if I'm not mistaken, I'm thinking right now it doesn't work with the current stage combo. While we can avoid having an easy way to give Gilded Goose haste, we can still Replicate it, and get lots of Food tokens. We can then spend a couple of mana to gain 3 life, which can be spent to cast Clear the Mind or Replicate using Bolas's Citadel. Or, could we make that part of the plan? Gain 2 mana from lands, and then spend that two mana to gain 3 life from Food, and use that 3 life to cast either of the spells. Maybe that could work. We do have to draw with Clear the Mind though - is there something that we can draw that we can put back in the graveyard or library easily? Maybe this is where we should go to Devious Cover-Up, to avoid drawing.
Since the stage combo is now based on life, I guess we can just hook into the life gain layer in our current setup? Which currently just skips the Samut's Sprint layer. We could even keep the Smothering Tithe layer, if we don't have any way to give Gilded Goose haste. Or, we could find some limited ways to give haste, and extend the combo even more. Anyway, even without an extension, that looks like a potential 8 layers, in 2 turns? Which looks like the preferable version at the moment. I might well be missing something though.
Even if I'm not missing something, this looks damnably hard to get started, even worse than the turn 3 version. In this one we can't get cheap mana from Leafkin Druid or Selesnya Locket, since any kind of mana can pay for food, which will give us life to extend the stage combo. But, there may be a lot of limited ways to gain life or mana, possibly enough to get going? It's worth exploring, at least.
Hmm, those instant/sorcery fetchers could be useful. Of course, most of the card fetchers that can gain layers will be instants or sorceries anyway. But, there is one notable exception: Adventure cards, which are creature cards outside of the stack zone. We can use Seasonal Ritual to gain mana, and then the trusty Usher to Safety to bounce Rosethorn Acolyte.
Well, it's looking like the turn 2 version can maybe get 8 layers. (Did you see the last edit to post #27?) So if it's 8 with turn 2 versus 10 or 11 with turn 3, what would you think is better? Anyway, I'm gonna keep an eye out for both.
Of course, if we can get a 2-stage chain, that would change everything again! Perhaps that's where our focus should be right now.
Oh I see. I did miss an edit, thanks. If the turn 2 version still gets most of the layers, I'm more torn now.
Also noticed that cerulean drake is unfortunately not siren stormtamer and can't counter the usher to safety. and if we have frilled mystic instead of drake we can counter the Seasonal ritual to go infinite.
(and Rosethorn Acolyte itself taps for white so i think we short circuit life out of those lines anyway)
Been thinking more about about combining the Thaumabroom combo in with this stage, and everything looks like it goes infinite, the thaumabrooms can make more mana to fuel the clear the minds and replicate can trigger constellation.
Oh, for the Adventure additions, the idea was to get rid of Clear the Mind, perhaps using Devious Cover-Up. (Can we get that to work instead?) Then, to get instants and sorceries back, we can use Augur of Bolas or Scholar for the Ages. So we can cast the Adventure spells from the library, but only at the cost of life, which is the next layer up.
But yeah, there is some cleaning up to do, like replacing Clear the Mind, and figuring out the start.
Edit: Okay, the most recent 11 layer chain doesn't work, because Usher to Safety can bounce our planeswalkers so that we can replay them. One option is to just remove Usher to Safety, and cast On Alert with life instead. That takes us down to 10 layers. But, we could also try to keep Usher to Safety, and see if there is some other way to destroy our copies of Martyr for the Cause. We can attack with many copies of Bloodfist Infiltrator or Drakuseth, Maw of Flames, destroying many Martyrs. So that also gets us to 10 layers. The difference is, that the planeswalker version will take us to X -> X -> N+1 -> 10, where N is the number of times that we can activate a planeswalker ability that can destroy a Marytr for the Cause. That is probably double digits at most. On the other hand, for the attacking creature version, N is based on how many Bloodfist Infiltrators and Drakuseths that we can attack with, so in that version N will itself be a large 4-chain number. So that's currently the best version for the turn 3 deck.
Devious cover-up is kinda hard to use, but definitely possible. we can make all of the copies target a copy of replicate or something, so we don't need to worry about the exile effect, but we only get the reshuffle targets every tys trigger.
The other tricky bit is the mana costs, but costing an extra colorless vs quasiduplicate is probably fine? We can use goblin electromancer to reduce them both to UU if we need to.
Devious Cover-Up versus Quasiduplicate seems fine, we will have lands that produce 2 blue and 2 nonblue, and we will just build up nonblue mana, that won't help increase the stage. So Goblin Electromancer may be unnecessary, although having one might not be a bad idea.
True, the next 2 expansions can certainly shake things up.
Edit: I think I can get us back up to 11 layers again. Instead of having On Alert untap Nyx Lotus, it will untap Gyre Engineer. That loses us our first two layers for Samut's Sprint and Nyx Lotus getting lots of mana. But, we can make that back up because some mana colors are restricted again. We can cast Alter Fate to recycle Shepherd of the Flock, and we can only cast Alter Fate from the library at the cost of life, because we won't have the black mana to cast it from our hand. Then, we can end with a Planeswalker destryong many copies of Martyr for the Cause, and then Smothering Tithe getting us lots of mana from our restricted colors. We can bounce the Planeswalker with Shepherd of the Flock, but if the Planeswalker is red or black, we won't have the mana to recast it.
Layer 9: Activating a creature destruction planeswalker ability will destroy many copies of Martyr for the Cause, thanks to Repeated Reverberation.
Layer 10: Making the opponent draw a card will give us a lot of black mana because of Smothering Tithe, which we can use to destroy planeswalkers using Dreadmalken.
So back up to 11 layers, hopefully.
Edit: Some random thoughts - I was wondering if maybe Dawn of Hope could be used for some advantage. However, it looks like having a life gain trigger a lot of card draws, so that we can draw say Shepherd of the Flock many times to cast it without spending life, is pretty much the same as gaining a lot of life with that life gain trigger and using it to cast Usher to Safety from the library many times.
I was also thinking about shenanigans with Nyx Lotus, perhaps with cards like Dance of the Manse, Spark Double, Saheeli, Sublime Artificer, or Masterful Replcation. One possibility: Use Dance of the Manse to bring bac Nyx Lotus and one other artifact as artifact creatures. Cast Spark Double, and have it copy Nyx Lotus, to get a noncreature, nonlegendary Spark Double. Replicate a lot of noncreature copies of the other artifact. Then, cast Masterful Replication to make all other artifacts into copies of the Spark Double version of Nyx Lotus.
Rules question: after Masterful Replication, will our artifacts made into creatures by Dance of the Manse still be creatures? Probably, in which case the above combo seems too easily repeatable. But, we could use Saheeli instead of Masterful Replication, to get many copies of Nyx Lotus at the cost of a planeswalker activation.
As soon as we have any option other than Guilded goose for a 1 cmc mana dork the turn 2 setup gets a lot more attractive. But for now I like the additional layers from the turn 3 setup, it's a lot easier to work with.
Another option for turning life into white mana is a shockland, which looks like it helps for getting the second early white we need for Dance of the Manse. Though as you note is pretty similar to casting on alert via citadel.
Usher to safety can bounce planeswalkers so I think thats back down to 10 layers. And we still need to grant haste to the Gyre Engineers somehow.
I think bouncing a planeswalker back to our hand should be fine, so long as we don't have the mana to be able to cast it. So it needs to be red or black. All the planeswalkers that are able to destroy a Martyr for the Cause seem to be red or black anyway, so that should be fine. But, Chandra, Awakened Inferno has the problem that it can destroy itself by activating it for 6, so it can put itself back in the library.
Oh nice, so that combo does seem to work. But, I can't quite see how to use it to extend our combo to further layers. The combo seems to be limited by Dance of the Manse, which requires blue and white mana, and needs to be in our hand. But, we have to be able to fetch instants and sorceries cheaply for the stage combo it seems, and Nyx Lotus can get us pleny of mana of any color. I'm wondering if there is some way to make things difficult in terms of having Dance of the Manse and our artifacts in either our graveyard or library. But, at first glance, it seems like we can cast Dance of the Manse, and then fetch it from the graveyard by casting Quasiduplicate to copy Scholar of the Ages (or else, cast Devious Cover-Up to reshuffle, then cast the Quasiduplicate to copy the other instant/sorcery fetcher). Quasiduplicate can also copy Nyx Lotus to put it back into the graveyard for recycling. Hmmm, but the other artifact doesn't have to be legendary, so perhaps there is no easy way to destroy it? That could be a thing.
But what good does chandra do spending the activation to go to the library? We can redraw and recast the spark double, but that still just puts us back to where we were. The -X exiles the target so there's not much advantage we can gain from the activation. If we had like Interplanar beacon I could see recycling chandra like that to be a problem, but otherwise I don't see the point of looping chandra and just slowly losing life and/or red mana?
Ooh, I missed that the target creature will never go to the graveyard, so Martyr for the Cause won't get activated. So it looks like that works! It's too bad that the layer that we get from killing off many Martyr for the Causes won't stack with the layer that we would get for having many Teysa Karlovs. But, I guess that does mean we won't need to have Teysa Karlov for dies triggers. We are still using her for lifelink, but we don't necessarily need Spark Double anymore. (although I suspect it will be useful for more planeswalker activations).
Edit: So, I had a few ideas for sticking Nyx Lotus in, nothing really great though. If we have cheap enough ways to give a creature haste, then we can animate Nyx Lotus with Dance of the Manse, and then give it haste, to be continually untapped with On Alert. So, in that case we need to replace On Alert. Fertile Footsteps from Beanstalk Giant can get fetch a few basic lands, so it's roughly equivalent to Quasiduplicate without the blue mana cost, so it can function as Layer 0. This loses us one layer.
Also, if we need to use a Planeswalker, Usher to Safety can bounce the Planeswalker, and Nyx Lotus can pay to cast it, so we can't have Usher to Safety if we need to use a Planeswalker later on.
So that would be 12 layers - except, to use Saheeli, Sublime Artificer, we have to get rid of Usher to Safety, so that loses 1 layer, down to 11. And this 11-chain is based on number of Saheeli activations, which is very likely going to be less than 53.
Another possibility is to replace Saheeli with Rowan, Fearless Sparkmage. Rowan's ultimate can untap a lot of animated Nyx Lotuses and give them haste, so that can be one more layer. However, now we have hasted animated Nyx Lotuses, so we can't have On Alert, so we lose a layer. So this winds up being equivalent to the Saheeli version.
Edit: Another possibility is to have many Tenth District Veterans untap lots of Nyx Lotuses. But again, this means we can't have On Alert, so that drops the combo down to a 10-chain, albeit a big 10-chain.
Hmm, I guess I wrote that without really thinking it through carefully. The idea was that we could cast Fertile Foosteps as an alternative to Quasiduplicate, so that we could build a stage using 2 less blue mana, which I figured would allow us to profit 2 blue mana. But, now that I think about it, each time we resolve a stage, we lose a group of mana. So after resolving the stage here, we would lose the 2 blue mana that we had to gain.
We could make it work I think, if we inserted two copies of Fertile Foosteps into the stage. Then, the stage would have cost 4 blue mana than it was supposed to, and even when we lose two blue mana be finishing off the whole combo, we would still be 2 blue mana ahead. But, I don't see an easy way to insert two copies of Fertile Footsteps. due to stack issues. I guess we can have Fertile Foosteps in our hand, and Usher to Safety / Alter Fate available. We can than cast Fertile Footsteps, cast Devious Cover-Up, and then cast Usher to Safety / Alter Fate to retrieve Beanstalk Giant after we cast it from exile. We can then cast Fertile Foosteps to build up the stage further. So we have a 3-layer stage combo while spending only two blue mana, and after we resolve the 3-stage combo we can get 4 blue mana back, so we will profit 2 blue mana. But, I don't see how to profitably use all the copies of Usher to Safety, so in fact it will be Usher to Safety that is Layer 0 rather than Fertile Footsteps. That means we lose 2 layers rather than 1, and only the Saheeli, Sublime Articer chain from above is still at 11 layers. Anyway, all 3 of the previous chains were already worse than our current chain, so I guess it's rather academic.
Edit: I believe I can get one more layer - we add a red tapped land or shockland, and use Nissa, Who Shakes the World to animate it. Then, we can use On Alert to untap that land for red, and then use the red to repeated cast Samut's Sprint, giving our Gyre Engineers haste. So that should be one more layer. Though, we can't use Chandra, Awakened Inferno anymore, since we now have access to the red mana to recast it. But, any black planeswalker that can destroy creatures should be fine - Garruk, Cursed Huntsman for example. So that gets us to at least 3 -> 3 -> 54 -> 12. That beats our deck from the previous Standard! (but on turn 3, of course)