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Against the Odds: Teaching Arena Zoomers about Necro and Storm (Timeless)

Lately, Timeless has been by far the format I've been playing the most, and a lot of the iconic banned-in-Historic cards, like Ragavan, Oko, Teferi, and more, are everywhere in the format. But one hilariously broken card hasn't shown up nearly as much: Necropotence! A little history lesson: Necro was very underrated when it was first printed back in Ice Age in 1995, to the point where Inquest Magazine gave it a one-star review, its lowest possible ranking. Players at the time simply didn't realize that paying one life for a card was an absurdly and arguably brokenly good deal. Shortly thereafter, Necro broke Magic and ended up being banned or restricted in literally every format. Fast forward nearly 30 years, and the same thing seems to be happening again, this time with a new generation of Magic players on Arena. People just aren't playing Necropotence nearly as much as they should be. As such, today, we're going to do our duty and hand out some more life lessons to Arena Zoomers, this time by teaching them about the power of Necro and the storm mechanic. How busted is Necro in Timeless? Let's find out on today's Against the Odds!

Against the Odds: Teaching Arena Zoomers about Necro

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The Deck

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Our deck today is all about Necropotence, to the point where we really don't want to keep an opening hand that doesn't have either Necro in it or a tutor (like our one restricted Demonic Tutor or Beseech the Mirror) to find it. The good news is that mulliganing aggressively for Necro is pretty painless (assuming we find it eventually) because a single Necro will draw us roughly infinite cards. Starting with a four-card hand doesn't really matter if that hand drops a Necro on Turn 1 and proceeds to activate it 10 times to draw 10 new cards.

Oh yeah, if you don't know what Necro does, the TL;DR is that we can play one life to draw a card, but we don't get that card until our next end step. We also have to exile any cards we discard and skip our draw step. The way we play Necro is that on the turn we play it, we typically want to draw around 10 cards, give or take. We then go to our end step, discard our worst cards to hand size, and hopefully sculpt a hand that can win us the game in the next turn or two. But more on this in a minute.

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Let's assume we find Necro. Step two is getting the enchantment on the battlefield as quickly as possible to start drawing cards. For this, we have a couple of different fast-mana plans that not only support a fast Necro but also help support our storm finish by upping our storm count. The first and easiest is Dark Ritual, which just so happens to make three black mana, exactly what it costs to play Necropotence. Our ideal opening hand is Dark Ritual and Necro, which allows us to play Necropotence on Turn 1, draw a bunch of cards, and possibly win on Turn 2 or 3!

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One of the odd quirks of Timeless is that there really isn't a secondary ritual beyond Dark Ritual, so as a backup plan, we essentially try to build another Dark Ritual with Phyrexian Tower, Ornithopter, and Greedy Freebooter. Phyrexian Tower can sacrifice a creature to make two mana, which means we can use it to sacrifice a free Ornithopter or even Greedy Freebooter—which makes a Treasure when it dies, to help make up for its one-mana cost—and essentially end up +2 mana, the same as Dark Ritual. Toss in Springleaf Drum to make some extra mana by tapping our creatures before we sacrifice them, and we can make a lot of mana pretty early in the game. One quick note on Phyrexian Tower: normally, with legendary lands, you only want one copy in your hand (or even your deck) because of the legend rule, but Tower is so good in our deck that we're playing the full four copies, and keeping multiples in hand is fine. The extra mana it can generate during our big storm turns is so important that going down a land because of the legend rule to play a second copy is still more than worth the cost.

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So, let's say we find Necro and play it on Turn 1 with Dark Ritual. How does this lead to us winning the game? Storm, of course! Our primary finisher is Tendrils of Agony, which drains for two but has storm, meaning that if we can cast nine spells before it during our combo turn, we'll deal 20 damage and win the game on the spot. While we do sometimes deal 20 damage all at once, unlike Legacy or Vintage Storm, we don't really need to win in just one turn because of Necro. The most common way we win is to play Necro, draw about 10 cards, Tendrils of Agony on the following turn for 10-ish damage, draw another 10 cards with Necro, and then follow up the next turn with another Tendrils for 10-ish to win the game. If we don't happen to find Tendrils of Agony, we have Weather the Storm as a backup. While Weather the Storm can't damage our opponent, it can gain us a ton of life, so if we draw a bunch of cards with Necro and don't find Tendrils, we simply storm off with Weather the Storm, gain 15 or 20 life, draw another 10-ish cards with Necro, and storm off again the next turn, this time hopefully with Tendrils of Agony

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Two other cards are worth mentioning. First is Beseech the Mirror. While we sometimes play Beseech fairly as a tutor to find a Necro, the sorcery's real power is upping our storm count. Our deck has a bunch of random artifacts (Mishra's Bauble, Ornithopter, the Greedy Freebooter Treasure), enchantments (Necro), and even tokens (Orcish Bowmasters) to bargain Beseech the Mirror. The trick is that we can cast a Beseech, bargain it, tutor up another Beseech, bargain it, and keep doing this until we cast every copy of Beseech the Mirror in our deck before using the last copy to grab Tendrils of Agony for the kill. This is our easiest way to kill in a single turn. If all copies of Beseech are still in our deck, a single one will up our storm count by four, making it fairly easy to get our storm count high enough for a single Tendrils of Agony to be lethal. 

Second is Bolas's Citadel, which is just a one-of backup card-advantage engine but also hilariously good with Necro. Bolas's Citadel lets us play cards from our library for life instead of mana, which is super powerful until we hit too many lands on the top of our deck and fizzle since we can only play one each turn. But this will never happen if we have Necropotence out. If we find a card on the top of our library we don't want to cast (or an extra land we can't play), we can simply exile the card to Necro to get a new card on the top of our deck to play with Bolas's Citadel. While it doesn't come up all that often because Bolas's Citadel is just a one-of, I don't think I've lost a game where I had both Bolas's Citadel and Necro in play at the same time. It's disgustingly strong.


Record-wise, Necro crushed it. In more than 20 games with the deck, we posted an awesome 67% win percentage. I think Necro Storm might actually be a sleeper pick for best deck in Timeless, at least out of the decks that nobody is really playing. Necro itself is absurdly powerful, and doubly so in a format that also has Dark Ritual to get it on the battlefield on Turn 1. The main way the deck loses is by being disrupted—we sometimes mulligan aggressively for Necro only to have it Thoughtseized or countered and do nothing. But barring that, the deck is fast and consistent enough to beat almost any deck in the format. While the deck is a bit complicated to play, it's a really fun and seemingly legit option if you like putting together puzzles and can count to 10!


Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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