The first card Douwe (limited) suggested:
Strands of Night 2BB
BB, Pay 2 life, Sacrifice a Swamp: Return target creature card from your graveyard to play.
Letís compare this Weatherlight (and 7th edition) uncommon to other animation cards like Zombify or, even more similar, Betrayal of Flesh. Zombify provides animation for not too much mana (as does Breath of Life in white). Betrayal of Flesh costs a bit more, but is very surprising and can also destroy any creature, and can be entwined. Strands of Night isnít really surprising as it is an enchantment. Its effect can be used at instant speed, however. It takes a hefty initial 6 mana to use, but it can be used repeatedly. And that is an advantage in long multiplayer games.
Now, in what kind of deck could Strands of Night really be abused? The costs of repeated animation are pretty restrictive, so they have to be managed. Sacrificing your swamps can diminish your options rapidly and 2 life is also a cost you cannot ignore. In addition Strands of Night can be destroyed by any enchantment destruction. Lucky for us, artifacts seem to matter more these days so enchantment destruction is a bit rarer during multiplayer games.
Now with Strands of Night Iíll be able to animate my henchmen as long as I can afford to pay the costs. The only way I can keep on doing this when the deck can continually generate swamps and some life. So I went looking for some ways to gain life and keep the swamp count up. I found some options in Black and artifacts give us some too, but the color of life gain is white, while green is land searcher number one. Those colors may provide us with some interesting tools.
Both white and green can generate life and provide for extra swamps. I also like the idea of making a zombie deck that conveniently uses the Strands. This would make Corpse Harvester a star player. Iíd add zombies like Twisted Abomination (cycle and then animate), Grotesque Hybrid (can discard a creature), some other zombie Ďstaplesí (noxious ghoul, withered wretch, festering goblin) and some big finishers (Visara the Dreadful, Avatar of Woe, Platinum Angel). Life gain is a bit harder, but Siphon Soul would be a start. Tortured Existence is a black enchantment that could also help putting the right animation targets in the Ďyard while returning some other (utility) creatures. Black also has enough tutoring cards to fetch any card needed.
White could take advantage of some spellshapers: Tonic Peddler for lifegain (playing this is certainly worth some style points) and Devout Witness for some artifact/enchantment destruction. The spellshapers provide instant speed discarding that let you animate a creature from your hand as a surprise (theyíll never know whether they can attack you safely). Oath of Lieges and/or Weathered Wayfarer can keep your landcount up while the latter also provides more fuel for the spellshapers. You could add some extra life gain to survive long enough for Strands of Night to go online. White also gives us Auramancer (and Monk Idealist) to retrieve Strands of Night, Oath of Lieges, or any other enchantment in the deck. There are enough animation targets in white too. Akroma, Angel of Wrath, Serra Avatar, Pristine Angel, Yosei, the Morning Star (whatever big creature you own and favor). White also has Enlightened Tutor to search for any of the enchantments.
A Strands of Night needs a lot of mana to start going and with and green helps best with that. Sakura-Tribe Elder is great for early mana acceleration and makes a 3rd turn Explosive Vegetation possible. For life gaining Grim Feast might be a good option (great with Last Laugh too). Itís highly dependant on your opponents, but in a 4+ player game it should gain enough life to fuel Strands of Night. Of course green also has Eternal Witness, a card that can return any element of the deck when needed. When going for a really casual deck you could just use Krosan Tuskers and Twisted Abominations to fetch some swamps and then reanimate them with the Strands.
For now Iíll be going for a B/W Strands version. Mainly because cards like Oath of Lieges and Tonic Peddler will be very surprising. Nobody usually plays these cards, and with reason. In this deck, however, they could do the trick. I love it when Ďbadí cards suddenly become key components of a working deck. Letís see if I can achieve just that:
Strands of Night and Day (B/W)
4 Tainted Fields
4 Oath of Lieges
4 Strands of Night
4 Swallowing Plague
2 Worthy Cause
4 Bone Shredder
4 Tonic Peddler
4 Devout Witness
1 Kokusho, the Evening Star
1 Yosei, the Morning Star
1 Platinum Angel
1 Kuro, Pitlord
1 Jareth, Leone Titan
1 Visara, the Dreadful
1 Avatar of Woe
1 Akroma, Angel of Wrath
Playing the deck
The idea is to make sure Iím the only one that can really take advantage of Oath of Lieges. Initial land searching will prevent this, but after sacrificing some swamps it should work out. And when you have an Oath of Lieges in play, you can use any drawn lands to fuel the spellshapers. As mentioned before, the spellshapers also provide a way to drop your fatties in the graveyard to animate at instant speed. Animate them with the Strands and go for some beats. Akroma is a standard animation classic, but you could choose any 6 to 8 fat creatures you have/prefer. I have included Kuro, Pitlord as an experiment. It has a hefty upkeep, but if the lifegain in the deck works as well as I expect this could create a one sided Mutilate for your opponent. Worthy Cause is included to feed Kuro and make sure you can sacrifice your Kamigawa dragons for their effects (and animate them again).
My opening hand had 2 lands. Because there are 24 more lands in the deck I took the gamble and kept my hand. And of course I drew no more land. Turn 2 I played a Tonic Peddler and that certainly made my opponents look twice. Turn 3 I draw an Oath of Lieges and that beautiful enchantment saved my oink. I might help any opponent who is manascrewed, but I have no problem with that. The Tonic Peddler helped me to stabilize my life total while my opponents gave me a run for my money, especially after I discarded Akroma to the Peddlers.
Turn 7 or 8 I had a Strands of Night in play and some black mana open. From that moment on I just started animating my henchmen, small (Bone Shredder) and big (Akroma). Innocent Bloods and Grave Pacts wreaked havoc, but I kept animating. The Oath worked wonders and kept my landcount up. I made the mistake early in the game of searching for a plains to have more white mana and after a few rounds I found myself stranded (hehe), with not enough black mana to continue my animation project and also cast some other spells. Always go for the swamps.
The Swallowing Plagues were a last minute decision and it was a wrong decision. When Strands is out youíll never want to tap out nor will you have enough mana to use it on the larger creatures. I did not draw Worthy Cause, but I have a hunch its buyback is too expensive. The deck can use some more defense. A lone Peddler doesnít hold the line very well. Iíd make the following adjustments to the current build:
-4 Swallowing Plague
-2 Worthy Cause
-1 Kuro, Pitlord
-1 Avatar of Woe
+4 expunge (or Vindicate of you have them)
+4 Terohís Faithful
A more control build which, for starters, replaces Tonic Peddler with Peace of Mind (literally the enchantment version) and uses Abyssal Gatekeeper and Barter With Blood might be another way to create a B/W Strands of Night deck. Iím sure you could come up with a decklist if you want to go that way.
Wrapping it up
It wasnít easy but I think the result is a deck that is fun to play and works in a casual multiplayer group. Some of my card choices might be inferior, but I preferred playing with a deck that has a few surprising cards. The deck certainly performed well enough. If you have a deck with Strands of Night let us know and explain your card choices and its strategy! I hope this article got your creative juices flowing enough to inspire you to take a second look at this enchantment stranded in your trade binder.
See you next time. Arjan van Houwelingen (Jorael)
Feedback is appreciated!
Here some other B/W/G cards to gain life and search for swamps I didnít mention yet.
-El-Hajj‚j (comedy option)
-Soul Net (old skool)
-Crucible of Worlds
-Zuran Orb (probably costs too much land)
-Moonlit Wake (nasty with Tombstone Stairwell too)
-Life Burst / Renewed Faith / etc.
-Pulse of the Fields
-Nourish / Invigorating Falls / Joyous Respite / etc.