How They Brew It - Homeward Bound

Michael Celani • August 22, 2022

Jon Irenicus, Shattered One | Illustrated by Igor Grechanyi

I don't know anything about Dungeons and Dragons, so this article is my best guess.


Country Road

Howdy, pardner. Name's Michael Celani, and I'm a lonely trucker, ridin' under the stars. I can't wait to see 'er again, my country home: Palo Alto, California. Yup, travelin's rough. The days're hot, the roads're endless, and I'm 'bout to run outta 'postrophes. Aw, hell -- that was my last one.

Like every country boy, I spent my youth cheating on my wife with my tractor, and shooting people what look like ducks with my best friend, Jon Irenicus, Shattered One. Sure, his wild nights made all of our permanents go far away to get some space, but they learned how to... not get sacrificed... on their travels. Hopefully, they will be coming home soon!

Flying High

As a true American patriot, I care about freedom.

Since that sentence fulfilled my joke quota for this part of the article, we can now talk deck strategy by starting with the freest creatures out there: Birds.

These are all birds.

They may not be real, but the value they get when they swing into an opponent sure is. Not only are they tough to block, if you use Jon Irenicus to donate them to an opponent, each swing comes with a free card. Now that is two stones for one bird!

  • Circling Vultures may as well be the mascot for this deck. These feathered fiends are cheap, overstatted creatures with a downside that Jon totally nullifies. Donate them to an opponent and watch life totals dwindle and your hand size balloon!
  • Some flyers are more than just stat-sticks with downside. Thanks to how Cumulative Upkeep works, a donated Vexing Sphinx will continue to accumulate age counters without requiring that the cost be paid, making the prospect of removing it a bit of a rattlesnake for your opponents.
    • You can use Clockspinning to essentially proliferate age counters onto Vexing Sphinx, or boost the amount of +1/+1 counters on a creature as a sort of combat trick.
  • Is there a flying foe keeping making your skies cloudy? No problem! Pitch a card to Chamber of Manipulation, then donate the stolen creature to another player. Similar to a crafty Zedruu the Greathearted player donating something stolen with Threaten, once you pull this trick, it stays with its new owner permanently. (Be careful; you only draw cards for donated creatures you own.)

Country Road, Take Me Home

Alright, no more kidding around. If you thought that shooting birds (to other players) was the entirety of my strategy, you clearly need to read more How They Brew It. The one thing that is constant in all country music is that for some reason, we have to go home, despite that being the place where Dad gave me the belt.

When we travel the Homeward Path, all the creatures we donated will come back to our side of the field. While this will temporarily neuter our card draw engine, we get to direct all that damage wherever we want, or even redistribute our creatures to less fortunate players! Not to mention that there are plenty of other creatures we want to donate only temporarily, because once these terrible threats come back to us, they retain their inability to be sacrificed:

  • Egon, God of Death is usually too difficult for me to keep reigned in, but nothing says manly like taming my little pony. With Jon, you can turn Egon into a Phyrexian Arena stapled to an 8/8. (Be warned, however; if you can, you must exile two cards from your graveyard.)
  • Phyrexian Soulgorger is a great target to constantly donate and reclaim, since you can have it attack from your board as a 10/10, and then from another board as a 12/12 (and so on). This can be incredibly backbreaking against slower combo decks in particular, especially if their blockers are otherwise immobilized, such as with Verity Circle.
  • Myriad Construct becomes especially powerful if you have Clockspinning in your hand. Cast Clockspinning with Buyback to add a counter to it, while simultaneously making a ton of 1/1 Constructs. As it remains alive, you can keep doing this for as long as you have mana!
    • Another small synergy here is with Arcum Dagsson: sacrificing an artifact creature is part of his effect, and not his cost. You could sacrifice a single artifact creature over and over to tutor out every noncreature artifact in your deck, all at no cost to you.
  • Without the ability to sacrifice himself, Rankle, Master of Pranks can use the third mode on his attack trigger to keep the board clear, which is brutal after a late-game All Is Dust.
  • Finally, once Herald of Leshrac runs out of lands to devour, you can just keep them! Paying the cost on Cumulative Upkeep is optional for a creature touched by Jon, so as long as you can protect the Herald, the whole country is yours.

Monkey Madness

You know what? Donating only creatures with Jon Irenicus, Shattered One is boring. I wanna animate this:

You see, Monkey Cage is missing the magic words "if you do" -- you know, that bit of text that makes it so opponents can respond to the trigger, as seen on cards like Dreamcatcher. The effect this has is that if you were to somehow donate it with Jon, you could get monkeys from Monkey Cage on every creature spell despite the fact that it was never actually sacrificed in the first place! Luckily, our color identity includes blue:

We have an abundance of tutors in the deck, which normally you would use to search for Homeward Path, but once you find that land, if you have an artifact that would otherwise sacrifice itself, why not animate it, make it unsacrificable, and then take it back for your own ends?

You know what, making a ton of monkeys is boring. I wanna animate these:

You see, these enchantments are also missing that critical "if you do" line. Countering every enemy spell and taking infinite turns sounds pretty nice, so why not donate these as well? You might be concerned with the fact that Dimir has no methods of animating enchantments. No need to panic.

Just turn it into an artifact first, and then turn it into a creature with our artifact animation abilities!

But you must realize that this is a little jank, even for How They Brew It. Luckily, our jank comes with a built-in failsafe, because Jon can easily stop you from losing:

Yes, Jon can stop you from losing, but I never mentioned winning. Each of these innocuous-looking creatures has a state trigger, meaning that as long as the conditions on the card are met, the ability triggers over and over. Usually, these triggers stop themselves since the creature sacrifices itself. However, because of the Irenicus blessing, the victim stays alive well past their expiration date, and unless your opponent has a way to fix the board to stop it, the game ends in a draw thanks to an infinite loop of actions. Be careful when riding this path, though; I can imagine drawing games out of nowhere will get you kicked out of town more often than not.

Toward the Sunset

Oh, thank God, I found some extra 'postrophes inside my gun-flavored beer. I'm finally able to contract again!

Now that that's settled and I'm free from this article's gimmick, I'm working on a new project for streaming EDH called Pisces. You may have heard about it on Reddit before, but if you haven't, come check out my Discord so that you can enjoy playing on Spelltable without a table! You can also vote on the next article there.


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Newly appointed member of the FDIC and insured up to $150,000 per account, Michael Celani is the member of your playgroup that makes you go "oh no, it's that guy again." He's made a Twitter account @GamesfreakSA as well as other mistakes, and his decks have been featured on places like MTGMuddstah. You can join his Discord at https://discord.gg/xWWqD2G8Fj and vote on which decks you want to see next. In addition to writing, he has a job, other hobbies, and friends.