Hexproof
Pro Tour Dark Ascension

Joshua Vanderwall | 15 Feb 2012 16:00
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Last weekend was Pro Tour Dark Ascension in Honolulu, and the new set certainly made its mark on the event. Brian Kibler took home first place with a Wolf Run Ramp deck featuring the latest addition, Huntmaster of the Fells. While this was all going on, The Escapist crew was congregating at our local hobby shop to compete and I'm proud to say that my own Wolf Run Ramp deck featured none other than the Huntmaster himself. Of course my record leaves a bit to be desired as compared to the results Kibler showed, but all the same I'm pretty pleased to have been on the cutting edge of deck tech this past weekend.

In case you're unfamiliar with Wolf Run Ramp, it gets its name from Kessig Wolf Run, and has been putting up results basically since Kessig Wolf Run was introduced to Standard. It hasn't seen as much consistent play as some of the other archetypes, but Wolf Run Ramp always seems to come back with a vengeance when people least expect it. The basic game plan is to ramp up mana with Rampant Growth, Sphere of the Suns, and Solemn Simulacrum to drop a turn four Primeval Titan. As long as your Titan resolves, as well as anytime he attacks, you get to fetch any two lands from your Library, often being the namesake Kessig Wolf Run and Inkmoth Nexus, or a Red mana source to power Kessig. At this point, you've got 8 mana on the board. This is enough to animate the Inkmoth Nexus and pump it up with Kessig Wolf Run for 4 Infect on turn five. As long as you swing with your Primeval, you'll be getting two more lands out of it so you can swing for 6 infect the next turn. For those keeping score at home, that's a total of 10 Poison Counters, which ends the game by turn six. Of course, that's just one course of action for Wolf Run Ramp. Regular damage can end games just as quickly, if need be. With an unchecked Primeval Titan on turn 4, plus Kessig pumping him up, you can swing for 11 Trample on turn five and 13 Trample on turn 6, closing the game just as quickly.

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Then they gave us Huntmaster of the Fells. In the current Standard environment, Vapor Snag is everywhere. Check out the Top 8 lists and you'll see 16 Vapor Snags. This is the same showing as Snapcaster Mage and Delver of Secrets which are arguably two of the most powerful cards in the format. Unfortunately, at least for Blue players, Huntmaster of the Fells makes for a very poor Vapor Snag target. It seems to me that you'd likely have to Snag the Wolf token he creates, lest your opponent end up with extra bodies on the board and extra life to boot. In the Ramp decks here, you can easily resolve a Huntmaster on turn three, a full turn ahead of schedule which can help you catch up on board position against more aggressive strategies. He helps keep the opponent off-balance, as they're likely going to want to cast a spell every turn to prevent him from flipping, which can help draw out bad plays. As the game goes longer, Huntmaster doesn't really flag. Kessig Wolf Run gives you a great outlet for your mana, so you can pass the turn without casting a spell, causing Huntmaster to flip. Every time an opponent uses Snapcaster Mage he'll flip back, and each time he flips, you gain more value.

Huntmaster wasn't the only Dark Ascension card to make a splash at the Pro Tour, though. Looking at the Top 8 again, you'll probably notice the inclusion of Drogskol Captain in the Spirit/Delver lists. He couples well with Phantasmal Images, who can copy the Captain to give both the copy and the original Hexproof. Follow that up with Lingering Souls, also from Dark Ascension, and you get a small army of 3/3 Flying Hexproof Spirits. Another inclusion that I'm pleased to see is Dungeon Geists, which was included in three of the Top 8 decks. As I mentioned last week, he's a good threat/removal combination that isn't as weak to mass removal as the likes of Fiend Hunter. He's higher on the mana curve, but I'd guess that most times that won't actually hurt, since you're probably not going to want to cast him too early anyways. As a kicker, Dungeon Geist gets Hexproof from Drogskol Captain, making him that much harder to deal with in certain builds.

Q&A
Q: Does casting a spell with Flashback from your Graveyard trigger Null Profusion, allowing you to draw a card?
A: Yes. Casting a spell with Flashback from your Graveyard works just like casting it out of your hand, so it will trigger these sorts of abilities. The spell still goes on the Stack, it still resolves as normal, the only real difference is where it started and where it ends up. Instead of casting it out of your hand, you're casting it from your Graveyard. Likewise, instead of going to your Graveyard after it resolves, it will be Exiled by the Flashback ability.

702.32a Flashback appears on some instants and sorceries. It represents two static abilities: one that functions while the card is in a player's graveyard and the other that functions while the card is on the stack. "Flashback [cost]" means "You may cast this card from your graveyard by paying [cost] rather than paying its mana cost" and "If the flashback cost was paid, exile this card instead of putting it anywhere else any time it would leave the stack." Casting a spell using its flashback ability follows the rules for paying alternative costs in rules 601.2b and 601.2e-g.

Question of the Week:
What steps make up the Combat Phase of a player's turn?

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