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Say Uncle-Istvan!
By Evan DeBack
Before I even start, I'll have you know that I am a big fan of Rube Goldburg. Huge outlandish machines with dozens of parts, all to produce a relatively minor and simple effect? Sign me up! (If you don't know who he is, you can see some sample works at the official gallery.)

In this case, we're not trying to butter some bread or pour a glass of water - we're trying to win the game. Winning, despite all observations to the contrary, is extraordinarily easy. Battle of Wits + 200 cards. Bam! I mean, you're already playing with cards, why not add a few more and win outright on your sixth turn?

But here, here we will be doing things a bit more convoluted. I may not have reached the Grand Supreme High goal of 36, but 18 different cards can win the game quite well.

I'm going to run through my combo the way I thought about it. Inside out. Win condition (almost) last. It's fairly easy to figure out how you are going to win and then come up with ways on how to do it. It's a bit more tricky to come up with ways of doing random things and then actually fit the winning card in. Fortunately for me, though, it also makes things a bit more complex than they need to be. Which is the whole point of this!

First: The Engine.

Engines are what make combos go. Greater Good plus fat creatures, cycle lands plus Life from the Loam, Heartbeat plus Early Harvest. Either they make you lots of mana or net you lots of cards. In my case, the engine does a lot... without actually accomplishing anything. Enter Ashnod's Altar, Myr Retriever, and his friend and pal, Myr Retriever. Here we have an "infinite spell combo." Play the Retriever. Lure him over the Altar and squeeze two mana out of him. Play the second. Extract his life juices. As he dies, he can pull out the first
Retriever... which you can now play with the mana from the first. Rinse, repeat. Congrats, you can now play an infinite number of Myr Retrievers on your turn.

Unfortunately, this doesn't actually *do* anything.

But... what if there was some sort of secret Conspiracy? A conspiracy of, say... Uncle-Istvans? (Yes, Uncle-Istvan. The dash is there because Wizards doesn't like creature types of more than one word, as it makes things confusing. Not that Uncle-Istvan *isn't* confusing, but...) So, now we have Uncle-Istvan dressed up like a Myr, repeatedly throwing himself upon the Ashnod's (we might as well just name it Istvan's) Altar.

Well, the Myrs are now a bit uglier inside, but they still don't *do* anything.

What if, for example, these Uncle-IstMyrs had some sort of crazy mystical past? With creepy faces? Which allowed you to untap other Uncle-Istvans? Then we'd have something going for us. Thankfully, there is a card that allows that - Faces of the Past. But what to untap? How about a Manakin, who is also secretly (deep inside) an Uncle-Istvan too? Now, every time you go through the ritual of sacrificing a Myr to the Altar, you can untap the Manakin, netting a whole one colorless. Going through this process a million times nets you... one MILLION mana! ::evil laugh::

So now you have a million colorless mana. Woot, you can now mana-burn yourself to death. Oh wait. That wasn't quite the goal. Hmm.

Lets make this wonderful (but very bland) mana into a veritable rainbow of colors. (That is, of course, if your rainbow has only 5 colors, one of which is black.) Mana Cylix will do this all for you! Only once though. Oof. March of the Machines to the rescue! This will turn your little Cylix into a creature. A creature which is secretly an Uncle-Istvan in disguise! Now whenever your Myrs throw themselves to their doom, you can untap the Cylix, magically transforming some of that beige mana into any color you want! (Well, any color Wizards allows you to have. Can't have *too* much fun, here!)

So you now have a million mana of any color you want. Still, it looks like we're going to have a technicolor burning death at the end of the turn. So lets draw some cards.

What draws us cards? Archivist? Too easy. Ancestral Recall? Overcosted. Ah! Geth's Grimoire will work out fine. It's free card drawing, too! The minor catch is that they're going to have to discard cards. Well, that's easy - Ravenous Rats! Er, I mean... Ravenous "Uncle-Istvans" at this point. That's one less card for them, one more for you. But it's only one card. To do it again, we can have Cavern Harpy fly down, return Uncle-Rat to our hand, which then allows us to play the Rat again. Cavern Harpy (Cavern-Istvan? I'm so confused...) easily flies back to hand for the cost of a life. Oof. Can't do this too often or we'll die. Thank god for Soul Warden, our friendly Uncle-Istvan-who-likes-souls. Now we'll actually be gaining life (plus some from the Myr cycle!) and won't ever have to worry about death from Harpy pecking. But what if they run out of cards? Shieldmage Advocate is there to constantly return cards from their graveyard to their hand. It doesn't really matter what you choose as the source of damage, since you really won't be doing anything. The whole point is to return cards (hopefully something they can't play, like a land) to their hand so that you can then viciously make them discard it. What if they didn't have a hand or graveyard to begin with? Millstone (which is also run by Uncle-Istvan) is there to make sure there is something for you to pick from.

So now you have as many cards as you want, with as much mana as you want. Unfortunately, you still haven't gotten any closer to winning the game (and Millstone doesn't count, since you want to win now, grr!).

What shall we use as our victory condition? Hmm. Damage? Too easy. Decking? Too slow! Alternate victory condition? Oh yeah. Darksteel Reactor is there for you, just waiting to be powered up so it can explode all over your opponent. Except it's now a Darksteel Uncle-Istvan, but he's still indestructible, and he still wins you the game, so it's all good.

How do we get counters on the drated thing, anyway?

My personal favorite source of counters is from Kamigawa-block spiritcraft creatures. Especially those Bakus. *Skullmane* Baku. 2/1 for five whole mana? Skullmane > Morphling. Oh yeah. And what do we use to put counters on our poor little Uncle-Baku? Pure Intentions! Why they printed an arcane spell with absolutely no text is beyond me, but since it's the arcane I want, I might as well use it.

So you use the Intentions and get one counter. Woop-de-do. We're going to need it more than just once. First you have to mill yourself all the way down to zero with our good friend Mr. Millstone. Then you use Uncle-Istvan (this time dressed as a Junktroller) to put Pure Intentions on the bottom of your library. Use the draw part of the combo to get back the Intentions, which then allows you to play it over and over again, building up as many counters on the Skullmane as you want.

It's an extremely simple step to go from here to winning the game. Believe me, you con-du-it! (Yes, I deserve execution for that pun.) Power Conduit (now run, again, by Uncle-Istvan) will allow you to transfer one counter from the Baku to the Reactor with each turn of the Myr Engine. How does a pile of skulls power a Darksteel Reactor? Beats me! Er, no. Actually, it beats *them,* since I'm about to win with it.

To summarize the whole thing:
Enchantments which make this work: Conspiracy (naming Uncle-Istvan), Faces of the Past, March of the Machines.
Engine: Ashnod's Altar + 2 Myr Retrievers.
Mana: Manakin + Mana Cylix.
Cards: Geth's Grimoire, Ravenous Rats, Cavern Harpy, Soul Warden, Shieldmage Advocate.
Counters and Transport: Junktroller, Pure Intentions, Millstone, Skullmane Baku, Power Conduit.
Win the game: Darksteel Reactor.

18 cards. So easy to work. So fun to win with.

Now excuse me, I have one last skull to add to the pile...

Read More Articles by Evan DeBack!

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