Dragons of Tarkir is finally upon us and the set is a sweet one! We have some powerful cards that will hopefully help to diversify Standard a little bit, but there are also some cards that need a little more of a brewer's touch to get where they need to go. For every Warriors deck that Dragons of Tarkir seems to lay out for us, there is also some strange card that is difficult to wrap your head around. One of these cards caught my attention in in the spoiler a few weeks ago and since that time, whenever I go to begin working on a deck, Living Lore pops into my active memory.
Living Lore is a fascinating card as it asks you to do something and then rewards you for doing that thing in multiple ways. Imagine for a second that Living Lore was a four mana 1/1 with the free cast text on it. That would already be something I was very excited about and the first place I would go would be to casting giant, expensive spells that I would never be able to actually spend mana on.
Well, it just so happens that Living Lore is not a 1/1, but rather has a size based on the size of the spell you exile, meaning that you are getting paid an additional time for exiling big giant sorceries and this one you barely have to work for. Because you get immediate value and have the potential to unlock additional value, I think Living Lore is a fascinating card.
There are some things to keep in mind about this creature though:
-The exiling of an instant or sorcery is "As it enters the battlefield." This means that once you choose a card to exile, the opponent can no longer Stop That from happening. If your opponent exiles your graveyard with Living Lore (the creature) on the stack though, you will be left with a 0/0 that immediately dies.
-Living Lore needs to deal combat damage to be able to cast the spell underneath it. Note that nowhere does it say "to a player" in that line of text. That means that chump blocking this will not stop it from triggering. An opponent could block with a token and then kill their own token before damage though and you would not be able to cast the exiled spell just yet.
-When you cast a card from exile, it still goes to the normal zone it should, so in this case, the graveyard. This is important because one spell can theoretically fuel any number of Living Lore in your hand so long as you take the time to trigger them one at a time before playing the next Living Lore.
-Converted mana cost is always the total of the numbers in the upper righthand corner of a card. Cost reduction effects do not matter. Treasure Cruise always has a cmc of eight in your graveyard, for example.What are we looking for?
So what are the components of a good Living Lore shell? To figure that out, let's sketch out a best case scenario. In my opinion, that scenario plays out a little something like this:
Turn 1- Discard expensive spell to Graveyard.Turn 2- Mana Accelerant (Interchangeable in order with step 1)Turn 3- Living LoreTurn 4- Attack with evasion, deal a million, cast epic spell, hopefully win game.
Now, I am not saying we need to get this scenario to happen necessarily, but it would appear to be "the best possible draw" assuming our opponents were not interacting with us and we drew everything perfect. However, we do learn quite a bit about some components we need.
-Discard outlet or Mill outlet-Expensive spell that makes it into our graveyard-Living Lore-Protection for Living Lore
We can add evasion or whatever afterward, but if our primary goal is simply to cast the card we are Loring away, we get that through this setup and either get to eat an opposing chump blocker or can get in a big chunk of damage depending on what the opponent can and will do.
The answers to these questions is going to shape everything for us here as right now, all we know is that we are playing blue and playing Living Lore. The rest of the deck is completely up in the air and we can shape it based on what tools we have that supply the above effects. First of all, we should see if there is something even worth working for, so let us begin by taking a look at the expensive spells in the format.
For this list, I limited it to things that cost seven or more, but we can definitely include some fives and sixes that we both expect to cast and can snag off of a Living Lore without feeling bad about it.
Clone LegionDead DropDig Through TimeFated ReturnIn Garruk's WakeTemporal Trespass
Treasure CruiseVolcanic VisionWorst Fears
The delve cards in this list are quite nice because they allow out Living Lore to be gigantic without requiring us to be a dedicated ramp deck in order to actually cast them. Dig Through Time is especially nice as we are trying to assemble what amounts to a big of a combo and it goes so far into your deck after the missing components while also being fine on Living Lore itself.
The flipside to the delver argument is that you are not getting the same level of value when you cheat it out as you aren't really cheating out an eight mana spell. That is certainly true and is what makes In Garruk's Wake or Worst Fears attractive. Also worth noting is that Fated Return allows you to constantly get back the same Living Lore as an indestructible 7/7 creature, which is kind of nice.
Moving on, we want to find some ways to both fill up our graveyard for potential delve synergies, as well as finding a way to discard expensive spells for our Living Lore to find early on. We specifically want to look for things that work before turn four because having to delay our Living Lore when we have assembled the combo and are against a deck that cannot interact is not a good game plan. In those match ups, we want to be able to race whatever they are doing if it comes to that.
With that caveat stated, here is the list of viable discard outlets for our expensive spells followed by ways to get it into the graveyard from the top of our deck, should we be lucky enough for that to happen:
Dark DealDisciple of DeceitJeskai AscendancyKolaghan's CommandMonastery SiegeSibsig IcebreakersSultai CharmThoughtseizeTormenting Voice
Commune with the GodsGrave StrengthNyx WeaverRakshasa's SecretSatyr WayfinderScout the BordersSee the UnwrittenSidisi, Brood TyrantSudden ReclamationSultai Ascendancy
Commune with the Gods and Satyr Wayfinder once again pop up as the dynamic duo of mill cards but they have proven time and time again to be effective. Commune with the Gods and Scout the Borders both have the upside of actually digging for Living Lore. Their traditional partner, Sidisi, Brood Tyrant, is also pretty decent at both enabling the graveyard for Living Lore, but also being a payoff for the digging, should you not assemble your combo (or even sometimes if you do).
Once we begin to move down this path, we very quickly run into Whip of Erebos as a sick interaction with Living Lore. Not only do we benefit from the lifelink by having a giant creature, but I can also whip back my Living Lores to immediately cast large threats out of the graveyard unless you have an instant speed removal spell you choose to use on my soon to be dead creature regardless. That is a pretty powerful interaction and might just be enough to sneak Living Lore into good constructed decks.
Taking Reid Duke's Sultai Reanimator deck from this past weekend, we might modify it to be a Living Lore deck while maintaining much of the normal synergy and play pattern.
While I don't necessarily find this build to be the most optimal in the world, it is kind of interesting and shines a light on just how involved this little bit of synergy is. We were only able to fit in three pieces of protection into this list and they aren't even fool-proof. If we want to actually maximize the strengths of Living Lore rather than just awkwardly jamming it into Sultai, we are going to have to dedicate the entire shell toward the effort.
Once Living Lore becomes the focal point of our efforts, just having a few Thoughtseize to protect it is no longer going to be good enough. Now we actually have to win by attacking with this Living Lore meaning we cannot just have it dying left and right. We can dip into white to pick up some protection spells like Gods Willing, but that would scare me a little bit just on mana concerns alone. The other option would be to up our hand disruption and to dip into Counterspell territory.
Swan Song is the cheapest Counterspell in the format when it comes to being a consistent hard counter. However, there is certainly some merit to Stubborn Denial here as, theoretically, when we want to cast it most it is going to have ferocious active. The times where we want to cast it to deal with a draw spell or Ascendancy and have no Living Lore in play worries me a little though, so I gave Swan Song the nod.
Ultimately, the above list looks to Fated Return back a Living Lore as a 10/10, hopefully with lifelink. From there you just control the game with removal and countermagic until the opponent dies. In the meantime, you can use Living Lore as a means to dig for key cards or simply to cast a Crux of Fate for the fourth plus time.
If we wanted to, we could pretty easily get rid of green altogether in the above list, but I do find Sultai Charm to be extremely strong right now and especially so in this list. We want access to that discard/draw spell and having Naturalize or Ultimate Price access in your maindeck can be absolutely game changing right now.Wrap Up
Living Lore actually looks like he fits into this control shell pretty nicely which makes me want to wait a while to brew with him again. If he lends himself to control, once we have a better idea at what the new format is going to look like, we can better adapt the spells and stylings of Living Lore. It is also possible that the best place to be looking to abuse Living Lore is in Modern where the card pool expands our options greatly.
This Pro Tour does look like it could have a lot of new and exciting stuff being showcased though. It should be fun to see what everyone comes up with, even if Living Lore is not likely to be involved. Until next week, thanks for reading!