Burning Inquiry — Taking a Break from Magic
We've all been there. At some point this game which once inspired such lustful joy becomes a frustrating grind. Somewhere between the reserved list and the banned list, netdecking and token promos, boundless infinite combos and constricting real-life circumstances; it is here that players must reconsider the spaces for Magic: The Gathering in their lives. Some find reprieve in a casual format known as EDH. Others respond in stronger measure by deciding to take an intentional break from the game. Then there are some odd players that wake up too early one morning and choose to do both.
This time in the Burning Inquiry we're going on vacation! To accomplish this we design a deck with a very strange purpose: to skip as many of our turns as possible. Now, this concept might bother you, but have you ever considered what being free from the burden of an untap step might feel like? Can you imagine the beard you could grow with no upkeep? Are you not exhausted from fighting every damn combat step? Enough! As someone once said whilst wearing far too much eye-liner, "This is the dawning of the rest of our lives... on holiday." So join us as we pack our bags, enlist a neighbor to feed our pets, and look for an isolated place to put our feet up. Yup, we certainly can get used to this. Perhaps we'll be skipping our turns for a while...
Life's a Beach
Inquiry #1: How do we go on a turn-skipping vacation?
Often thought of as a harsh drawback, the ominous "skip your next next turn" rules text has been included on a lot of cards. For starters, we can take a day trip with Meditate, while Eater of Days allows us a little more time to get away. Timesifter, though technically an "extra" turn card, is just as likely to prevent us from going into work. Cards like these have their niche applications, but mainly serve as redundancy in our deck. What we're really looking for are cards that let us store up vacation time.
To this effect, we can glean inspiration from the vintage staple Time Vault, which of course players have casually been using to skip their own turns for decades. I'm sure we're all familiar with this classic line:
Use Time Vault to skip my next turn.
End of opponent's turn play Twiddle to tap the Time Vault.
Again, use Time Vault to skip my next turn.
It's no wonder the card is banned, but similar enablers like Magosi, the Waterveil, Chronatog Totem, and Chronosavant can possibly work for our purposes. Keep in mind though that these only gives us brief vacation windows, whereas a card like grandfather Chronatog allows us to take vacation time at will, pretty much making us a professional when it comes to wearing Hawaiian Classic Car print dress shirts. In a similar manner, we can send endless postcards from the Bikini Islands by perpetually responding to our own Lethal Vapors activations.
Inquiry #2: What do we do while we're on our vacation?
The obvious answer to this inquiry is we do nothing. The whole purpose of a vacation is to break from the tedious demands of responsibilities, which is why we quite literally could put together a list of cards that simply ensures our turns are skipped while our opponents battle each other. But let's face it, people aren't happy for their friends on vacation. Maybe on the surface you'll get some congratulatory regards, but deep down they'll want us to burn in hell for posting a picture of our toes in the foreground of a great blue ocean. In a game of EDH we'll be seen as an easy target, which means we should defend ourselves with cards like Solitary Confinement, Delaying Shield, and even Soul Echo. Then there's Parallax Wave which can offer five separate points of spot removal. These cards are particularly potent as we intend on avoiding any upkeep drawbacks, but they are also inherently flawed since if they're removed we're sort of lost at sea. For this reason, we've got much stronger sunblock with effects like those from Orzhov Advokist, Island Sanctuary, and Chronomantic Escape which persist ceaselessly, or at least until we return from our three-hour tour.
The inclusion of "until end of turn" effects is actually a pretty hot travel tip. For example, there are several planeswalkers with this type of ability; the most interesting being Jace, Architect of Thought. It could also be fun to stick a Hope of Ghirapur on someone, or lock an opponent out of their commander with Reflector Mage. The detain ability exemplified by Lavinia of the Tenth boasts surprising strength in a deck that skips its own turns, as does goad if you find a juicy target for a Jeering Homunculus. Furthermore, cumulative upkeep is at its best when you don't have one, and Mystic Remora offers an interesting direction for our deck to take.
Now that a sort of planned itinerary has emerged we might be inclined to let our Type A personality traits take over and make accommodations for every detail of our trip. See, if we were really so inclined while on holiday, we could still have untap steps by means of Seedborn Muse, Awakening, or filling a suitcase with artifacts and an Unwinding Clock. A card like Psychic Possession allows us to keep in touch with our draw step. We can also remotely water our lawn with Burgeoning. Then there are Vedalken Orrery and Leyline of Anticipation which act as wi-fi access to normal main phase activities. However, to me this is the equivalent of bringing your work with you, and we should resist that temptation.
Never Going Back Again
Inquiry #3: What are we missing while on vacation?
A few days into a vacation and most people start getting a little homesick. However, if we time our vacation just right we can take direct measures to squash these fleeting feelings of fondness. Ask yourself: would you be as eager to return to your home during a heatwave? I think not, and it just so happens a check of our local weather reveals not so enticing conditions brought on by Sulfuric Vortex, Forsaken Wastes, and Havoc Festival. The forecast ahead might be even more adverse with cards like Ankh of Mishra, Manabarbs, and Spellshock. Phew! Fortunately we can beat the heat a little longer with an open hotel reservation.
Then again temperatures at home may be moderate, but what if the politics are not? Perhaps our neighborhood association is made up of busy-bodies or there's lingering drama from the last PTA meeting. These realities of our hometown might encourage us to avoid such small-scale social extremists; especially when we know they aren't going to be happy about the Planar Chaos or Dovescape we left behind before jetting off to paradise. To make matters worse, what if we left a giant Possessed Portal in our front yard, and now the entire town is speculating that we joined ISIS?
Of course heat and political turmoil might make the prospect of returning home less than ideal, but obligations would eventually pull us back. Now, if our plane of origin experienced Desolation while we were gone, that's another good reason to stay away. If, say, we lived in Tornado Alley and a Mana Vortex came through or an area subject to flash floods at the mercy of a Quicksilver Fountain, we might not have much to return to. Maybe we happened to depart right as some corporation began polluting the local river with Contamination or billowing from a toxic Smokestack.
Inquiry #4: Who will lead us in our vacation endeavors?
As we ponder the details of our vacation, the timing is somewhat poetic with summer coming to a close. A longing for one last great adventure is further intensified as we again utilize the open deck construction offered by partner commanders on the heals of C17 spoilers. Several different partners spring to mind as intriguing tour guides for our vacation deck. For starters, one of our travel agents must be Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker since it is the only intriguing option with a color identity in white, and it would be too much of a challenge to travel without the combat step protection that ivory baggage insures us against.
One tour guide we might consider is Thrasios, Triton Hero, who combines well with the Seedborn effects mentioned earlier and provides an interesting ability for any vacationer who looks to reconstruct their turns outside of their own. The color green also offers Tempt with Discovery-style land tutoring for opportunity to easily discover exotic places such as Glacial Chasm, High Market, and Alchemist's Refuge. Throw in the possibility of potentially skipping a town during a Destructive Flow and we've got a nice little vacation package. As mentioned earlier though, we shouldn't be looking to take our work with us.
Perhaps the most exciting travel buddy is Vial Smasher the Fierce. Imagine the thrills of packing an indulgent suite of "free" interaction. Foil, Thwart, Force of Will, Pact of Negation, Mindbreak Trap, Disrupting Shoal, Commandeer, Snuff Out, Misdirection, Submerge, and Gush all can be used while tapped out in a pool chair. A black color identity also allows for unique souvenirs such as Magus of the Abyss, Curse of Vengeance, or Null Profusion, and of course lots of tutors. However, we might worry that this extravagant vacation might be a little too hard to pull off for the time being.
A safer route is the partner we've actually chosen to invite on our trip, Kraum, Ludevic's Opus, who like Ishai doesn't mind our opponents having excessive opportunities to cast spells.
Your Vacation Brochure
The Vacation Deck
For further information on planning the vacation of your dreams I encourage you to check out this episode of the Commander Time podcast. Also for reference I believe this is the original source that inspired my vacation deck building philosophy, although other iterations of these decks continue to pop up around the web. Anyway, I wish everyone safe travels ahead! Be sure to take lots of pictures for the slideshow we're all looking forward to sitting through upon your return.
Cheers to the brewers!