How They Brew It - Plagiarize Guys

Michael Celani • September 12, 2022

Zevlor, Elturel Exile | Illustrated by David Rapoza

You slump, weary, over a cramped writing desk within your darkened abode. The neon glow of your only light source, the digital clock resting upon your nightstand, flickers faintly as the alarm beeps twice, signifying it's now 4:18 AM. A power outage had reset the times on all your household electronics, but you haven't had an opportunity to fix them because you're too concerned about your upcoming term paper. The topic, "The Demonstration of a Generalized Polynomial Time Algorithmic Solution to Nondeterministic Turing-Machine Computable Questions and its Implications in Modern Cryptoeconomics," is trivial, but you just can't seem to focus. You listlessly scrawl words into your composition notebook, but they're all wrong. It's due tomorrow, meaning you have to do it today.

You sigh, and your thoughts drift to your partner, whom you miss dearly. It seems like just yesterday that they were kidnapped, with the ransom note stating they will be released if and only if your grade is an 83% or above. If you don't pull through, you'll never see them again, and their captors will hypnotize them to steal the secret nuclear launch codes entrusted to them by the Reagan administration. In a then-predetermined chain of events, the codes will leak to the Malians, igniting the world in a fourth World War that ultimately ends with complete, unequivocal, worldwide French dominance. Worst of all, you'll fail your WAL 101 (Intro to Walnuts) class, and your professor will shoot you.

In your sorrow, a flicker of hope shines within your mind as you remember that last year, your cousin wrote a paper on the exact same topic. Perhaps the ends really do justify the means. Dare you ask for a copy?


Copying Mechanism

My name is Michael Celani, and my teachers don't understand that I'm not cheating on my homework, it's just a polyamorous relationship. To be honest, I don't understand why they're even force-feeding us this information to begin with. When am I ever going to need to know all this useless history? I can't stomach studying years for another second.

Luckily, I'm best friends with Zevlor, Elturel Exile. Zevlor lets us copy his homework for each opponent we have, provided we change the targets a little. Like when the shot heard 'round the world struck John F. Kennedy, one spell's effect can ripple outwards and end up impacting the game a ton. Let's get to work!

Penny For Your Thoughts (Which I Will Pass Off As My Own)

I'm too cool to do assignments because I'm busy getting laid going to parties going to parties and getting laid. No joke: people love me like they love Richard Nixon. That's why I pay companies to write my papers for me. Of course, I never pay the paper mills full price; I always use coupons, discounts, and new customer bonuses, which I collect via my pile of fake email addresses. Check it out:

  • To start, we'll discount the bulk of our spells directly using Baral, Chief of Compliance, Goblin Electromancer, and Haughty Djinn. These are the cheapest options available that unconditionally reduce the cost of instants and sorceries.
  • Helm of Awakening is a more generic discount engine, but like our planet Earth, it shouldn't be used unless we want things to heat up. Hold it until you've got a big hand; that way you can easily take advantage of the cost reduction multiple times before your opponents.
  • Storm-Kiln Artist isn't a discount per se; it's more of a rebate. It works with not only with our spells, but with their copies, so it's tantamount to Xeroxing a cereal box top to scam Kellogs out of a school computer.
  • Without green in our color identity, we're a building constructed prior to the ratification of the Americans With Disabilities Act: we don't have ramp. However, we can rely on Aphetto Alchemist, Clever Conjurer, Kelpie Guide, Vizier of Tumbling Sands, and Fatestitcher to refresh our lands and mana rocks. Use them to get an engine started early, then transition to twiddling Zevlor once you can pay for multiple activations each turn.
    • A perfect target to untap is Empowered Autogenerator, because its mana ability grows more powerful the more often it's used.
  • Slap some Illusionist's Bracers or Battlemage's Bracers on to double Zevlor's activated ability, which is equal to two more copies per activation. They're also great on your untap creatures, and arguably better if you have a gigantic mana rock.

Making History

What's the point of not doing your job if you don't get paid for it, though? See, the real magic is purchasing two papers from the mill. You submit one of them as your assignment, and you sell the other to as many students as possible without any of them finding out. It's sort of like dating everyone at once, and though you think this plan would backfire as soon as everyone failed, I'll already have spent all my cash. In other words, these cards get you more value off of casting and copying spells:

  • Most of our magic will end up drawing cards, so anything that triggers when we draw or scales with the size of our hand will see a lot of action.
    • Chasm Skulker can get out of tentacle very quickly, and your competition will be wary to remove him and risk being overwhelmed by Squid tokens after he gets just a few counters (especially if they've got any Islands).
    • Psychosis Crawler snipes everyone whenever you draw a card...
    • ...while Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind snipes anything. He even taps to draw a card himself. This draconic draw engine makes great pair with your army of untap creatures.
  • Archmage Emeritus is the professor whose courses you'll take because he's hot. Each spell and copy you produce nets you a card to replace it, easily making him one of your most valuable creatures.
  • Wizard Class grants Chasm Skulker's growth effect to anything once it reaches the second rank, because Wizards are known for being big and beefy.
  • Lier, Disciple of the Drowned lets you repeat spells from your graveyard, and since they are cast with Flashback, they're eligible for Zevlor shenanigans.
  • Finally, Isochron Scepter is great simply because our deck runs a ton of different cheap instants.

The Splice of Life

Reducing the cost of your instants and sorceries, drawing dozens of cards, and twiddling Zevlor to produce more copies than that run-down Kinko's about to close due to a loss of business caused by the increase in teleworking prompted by the social-distancing health concerns of the global COVID-19 pandemic is obvious, though. You don't come to How They Brew It for good decks or my jokes, and I can't hide from you what spells we're going to duplicate any longer. We're going to draw tons of cards:

This list may concern you. "Michael," you question, disappointed. "Zevlor requires your spells to target one and only one opponent or permanent an opponent controls, and these spells have no targets at all." Well, it looks like someone forgot to factor in the dark energy equations, because that's not entirely true. If our spells have no targets, we'll make them have targets:

The spells we want to copy are all Arcane, so we can Splice onto them. Splicing basically adds one spell to another. It's also a text-changing effect, meaning it directly affects the text of whatever spell you Splice onto as you cast it. In short, Zevlor can't tell the difference between a card that has targets naturally and one that has targets through a twisted repudiation of God's will, so taking a spell and changing the words around a little actually works by netting us the two copies we paid for. The best part? Duplicated spells retain any text-changing effects. Simply reveal Into the Fray, Consuming Vortex, or even Psychic Puppetry from your hand, and you're tripling the power of your draw spells and Splice effects simultaneously.

You're going to be cycling through a lot of Arcane spells, so you'll be pleased to know that the additional cost is reduced by our discount creatures even if the original spell costs only one mana, sort of like how they work with X spells. Of course, you can Splice onto spells cast from your graveyard with Lier, Disciple of the Drowned, but copies of spells created by Arcane Bombardment and Isochron Scepter also work, even though you'll still have to pay the Splice costs.

Your main win condition will be to grow your hand's collection of cards to the high twenties or low thirties, at which point everyone's life total should be low enough to smoke them with Spiraling Embers. To get there, you can either Splice targeting effects onto cards like Sift Through Sands and Ideas Unbound, or work it the other way around by appending Evermind and Everdream to targeted Arcane cards such as Dampen Thought. If you can't fill your hand up in a single turn, Reliquary Tower, Thought Vessel, and Decanter of Endless Water will give you more time to get a grip. A particularly strong play pattern is to Splice a targeting effect onto Eerie Procession, which lets you tutor for any three Arcane cards in your library.

If that's not enough to kill your opponents, there's a decent chance you'll be able assemble some sort of infinite Storm combo using your variety of untappers, Magecraft creatures, and Arcane Splicers. Petals of Insight is the lynchpin of this strategy: becase you always have the choice to put it back in your hand when you resolve it, it's a repeatable outlet for splicing. When you copy it, you can let the copies draw you cards and then put the original back in your hand. If you're able to produce enough value per cast to keep going, Petals becomes a win condition in itself.

Firing Glacial Ray aside, cleverly arranging the cards you put on the bottom effectively stacks your deck and lets you find anything you need. Note the cards on your wishlist, keep track of them as they bubble up through your library across multiple casts of Petals, and draw them once they reach the top (or fourth from the top if your draw effect of choice is Evermind). You'll need to generate substantial mana per cast to do this, though. One way is to use Chromatic Orrery alongside Teller of Tales and a Kelpie Guide, as you'll always have the mana to cast the next iteration, but you can also use two untappers with Illusionist's Bracers to generate infinite untaps, or (more of a stretch) Storm-Kiln Artist and three cost-reducers plus Desperate Ritual for just enough mana to remain neutral.

And of course, since it's not How They Brew It unless there's something big, splashy, and dumb, and since we're running all three of Reach Through Mists, Peer Through Depths, and Sift Through Sands, our deck is capable of tutoring out The Unspeakable. You can have it show up at instant speed, by the way.

Crux of Fate

Well, guys, I graduated college, and with my fancy new Bachelors of Computer Engineering degree, I've been scouted by the United States Department of Defense to keep our national secrets secure from computer hackers in other countries, like Russia, Georgia, and Alaska. Unfortunately, I don't actually know how to program computers. Not to worry, I've got a plan: I'll simply copy all of my code from Stack Overflow. No one will ever know!

If you enjoy How They Brew It, please check out the Discord and my other projects at my website. You can vote on what article you want to see next, or just check out the other cool stuff I do. Also, check out the rest of the articles by our talented writers here on Commander's Herald. See you around!


Plagiarize Guys (Zevlor, Elturel Exile EDH)

Commander (1)
Creatures (16)
Sorceries (9)
Instants (18)
Artifacts (17)
Enchantments (2)
Lands (37)

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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.