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The Magic Chest 29: Life/Death
One thing I still can't get used to with split cards is not to read them. I always read cards, even if I know the exact wording by heart, but an opponent will immediately catch on to the fact that I'm tilting my head to read the card I just drew. And since there are only 10 split cards, it's usually not hard to guess which one it is from the colors I'm playing.
In general, I love split cards, if only because they look so cute, like two little baby cards. However, most of them aren't much to get excited about, because they're just useful utility cards and usually slightly overcosted or underpowered to make up for giving you two cards in one.
Life/Death is the big exception, though. Arguably, Death is still a utility card, although it can also be used to scare the living daylights out of an opponent by reanimating something huge. However, Life has an effect that opens up a lot of possibilities. It can be used as a surprise way to do some extra damage on your attack, but it can also be used in a combo deck as a burst of extra creatures. With an Ashnod's Altar and a Fecundity in play, you can turn 6 lands into 12 mana and 6 cards, one of which is hopefully a Spontaneous Generation, which can be used to create a bunch of saprolings, which can in turn be sacrificed for mana and cards until you have enough mana to Fireball for 20. Jumpstarting a combo like that for only one green mana is pretty good.
Of course, the most stylish way to win if you have a bunch of small creatures is to use an Overrun, but in the case of animated lands, you'll end up tapping most of them just to cast the Overrun. There's a solution for that, though: Death Pit Offering. It's not as impressive as Overrun, but it stays around, it's cheaper and it works together beautifully with Life.
Of course we'll need more creatures to make Death Pit Offering useful. The drawback of losing all your creatures when you cast it is pretty bad, but there are a few solutions to that. One of them is Chimeric Idol.
Spirit Mirror is pretty useful as well. For 2WW, you get a 2/2 that comes back in your upkeep if it gets destroyed. But it has the drawback of only producing one 2/2 token, even if you have several Mirrors in play, so I only play one.
Another creature I like that isn't really a creature is Opal Acrolith. It's the only one of the Opal creatures I've found useful, because it can revert to an enchantment whenever you need it to, making it hard to deal with for your opponent. Sure, like all of the Opal creatures, it depends on your opponent playing creatures, but that's usually not a problem in casual play, especially not in multiplayer games.
It would be nice to have a few cards that could quickly create a lot of token creatures as well. Breeding Pit is too slow. Icatian Town is an option, but 6 mana for 4 1/1s is a bit too expensive. Sengir Autocrat's tokens are too vulnerable, because they get buried when the Autocrat leaves play. That leaves Spontaneous Generation. For 4 mana, it creates as many 1/1s as you have cards in hand. Since this is intended as a controlish deck, that should be at least 4 or 5.
That brings up a useful sideboard card against discard: Metrognome. Your opponent's Ravenous Rats suddenly aren't as irritating anymore if it means you get 4 1/1s out of them.
The Penumbra creatures fit well with the Death Pit Offering too. Even though they're creatures and thus vulnerable to the Offering's drawback, they replace themselves when they die. There are other creatures that would fit, like Weatherseed Treefolk and Blinking Spirit, but I wanted to try out the Penumbra Bobcat.
Another alternative to the Penumbra Bobcat would have been the Welkin Hawk. A cheap 1/1 flyer that gets you a replacement when it dies. Instead, I put those in the sideboard against decks with a lot of flying creatures. They can also be sided in against creatureless decks in place of the creature removal.
Speaking of creature removal, I think the best options for this deck is global removal like Wrath of God. Most of the creatures in the deck so far can shrug it off, where most opponents will lose all their creatures.
Four Wraths isn't enough for me, though, so I added a few March of Souls as well. They're not as good as Wraths, because they're more expensive and give 1/1 flyers for each dead creature, but with an Offering in play, yours will be 3/3 flyers. And it works well after a Spontaneous Generation.
So far, the deck seems to have a bit of a mana problem, with double black and double white in the casting costs and plenty of green cards as well. In an attempt to solve that, I've added four Yavimaya Elders. It doesn't help that the Elders have double green in their casting cost, but at least it can get two colors of mana at once, increases the number of lands in play for Life and increases the number of cards in hand for Spontaneous Generation. They're also good targets for Death, in case you don't have enough land to make Life useful.
That leaves only a few Seals of Cleansing as utility and the land. I've used plenty of pain lands, so I'm also adding Soul Wardens to the sideboard for some lifegain against burn and some extra cheap creatures.
The sideboard is rounded out by a few Night Soils against reanimation and graveyard recursion decks and a single Death Mutation, just for fun. It's way too expensive, but when you manage to cast it on a big creature with a few Death Pit Offerings in play, it tends to really swing the game in your favor!
A Matter of Life or Death