Aww, isn’t he cute?
Necrotic Ooze is a wonderful little monster from the recently released Scars of Mirrodin expansion for Magic: The Gathering. Its effect, which allows it to borrow the activated abilities (read: anything with a payment, colon, effect, such as “Tap: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool”) of any creature currently residing in any graveyard, gives it almost infinite possibilities for abuse. Adding the fact that it’s a more than respectable 4/3 for four mana (2BB), and you’ve got a potential superstar in the making. There are literally thousands of creatures in Magic that have activated abilities, so for the sake of sanity, I’ve decided to limit the following list to five black creatures (because you have to play black, you see), and five non-black honorable mentions. Obviously, there are probably creatures not on this list that work great with Necrotic Ooze. If I had the time, I would look through all 2,000+ creatures that technically combo even a little bit with our oozy friend that’s tearing up the tables (at least in Legacy). As a bit of a disclaimer, most of these decisions are more about fun and madness than about tournament worthy spikitude, but that’ll become clear pretty quickly. I’m putting together a Green/Black deck that should be awesome in multiplayer; when I finish it, I’ll probably write about my process here as well.
Top Five Non-Black Creature Honorable Mentions:
5. Gigantomancer (1: Target creature you control becomes 7/7 until end of turn)
You’re going to figure out pretty quickly that some of the best combos with Necrotic Ooze are creatures that have some absurdly powerful activated abilities that are balanced by being extremely cost inefficient or having ludicrously unappetizing drawbacks, usually in the form of upkeep triggers (the discard a card or sacrifice upkeep triggers on the various Masticores, for example). Since Necrotic Ooze only cares about the activated abilities themselves and not the rest of the costs or text box, he’s free to steal these super powerful abilities without having to worry about the drawback. Gigantomancer (a rare from Rise of the Eldrazi) certainly has a powerful effect, but to get it the hard way, you have to spend EIGHT MANA (7G) for a 1/1 creature. So really, Gigantomancer itself costs 9 so you can pump it and not have it die to a slight breeze the turn you cast it. Necrotic Ooze doesn’t care. It’s still a 4/3 for four. And suddenly it can make your entire board into 7/7 monsters for not very much COLORLESS mana, which is perfect, considering no one would ever actually cast Gigantomancer, and you could legitimately include it in nongreen Ooze decks if you’ve got good enough discard outlets or graveyard tutors. Gigantomancer is more of a straight-up finisher for an Ooze deck, and it works mighty fine.
4. Myr Propagator (3, Tap: Put a token that’s a copy of Myr Propagator onto the battlefield)
Spending three mana to make a token copy of a 1/1 kinda sucks. Sure, that token can make additional tokens, but at the end of the day you’re still completely wrecked by a Pyroclasm. The beauty of templating with Magic: The Gathering is that any card that references its own name in its text box is specifically tied to the card that text is currently applied to. Thus, if the name changes, the name in the text box changes right along with it. This means that a Myr Propagator in the graveyard allows you to use your Necrotic Ooze to make more Necrotic Oozes as tokens instead of Myr Propagators, all of which will have the same abilities to steal any activated creature ability from any graveyard. This actually makes the three mana investment more than worth it, and can get out of hand extremely quickly.
3. Morphling (U: Untap Morphling / U: Morphling gains flying until end of turn / U: Morphling gains shroud until end of turn / 1: Morphling gets +1/-1 until end of turn / 1: Morphling gets -1/+1 until end of turn)
From a value perspective, the five effects you get from having a Morphling in the yard get you a pretty damned good deal for the space it takes up in your deck. Obviously, the downside is you basically have to be playing blue to take advantage of it due to the important effects costing blue mana (there are much better pump effects to be had, such as Carrion Ants’ +1/+1 for one colorless). But the effects themselves are killer. Flying can be very important with other pump effects (like our Gigantomancer friend) in play, and the ability to untap on command is especially abusive with powerful tap effects, which should be available in spades. What’s most important, though, is the on command shroud, allowing you to save your precious Ooze from any and all targeted creature destruction, which would be vital for a deck that’s all in on the Ooze plan. Morphling’s suite of abilities are demonstrably better than the other ‘Lings (Torchling and Thornling), and thus this classic finisher gets the nod here.
2. Fauna Shaman (G, tap, discard a creature card: Search your library for a creature card, reveal it, and put it in your hand. Then shuffle your library)
This one is obvious. Not only does the Survival of the Fittest (coming to a Legacy banned list near you soon!) on a stick help set up the Necrotic Ooze combo by filling your yard with creatures, the Ooze itself becomes its own Survival engine once the Fauna Shaman dies! It can now help out its own cause, discarding into more powerful abilities while tutoring for that exact piece needed to really ramp the Ooze into insanity. I think the existence of Fauna Shaman makes any Ooze deck have to strongly consider at the very least a Black/Green base because the synergy is so absolutely absurd. I have a feeling that quite a lot of Ooze lists begin with four Fauna Shamans, four Oozes, and four Verdant Catacombs. It’s just too good to ignore.
1. Phyrexian Devourer (Exile the top card of your library: Put X +1/+1 counters on Phyrexian Devourer, where X is the exiled card’s converted mana cost. If Phyrexian Devourer’s power is 7 or greater, sacrifice it.) and Triskelion (Remove a +1/+1 counter from Triskelion: Triskelion deals 1 damage to target creature or player.)
This is the kill of choice for Survival of the Fittest combo decks running black in Legacy if the whole ‘attack with four Vengevines on turn three’ plan doesn’t end up working out. It’s not an infinite kill combo, as any exiled card with a converted mana cost of three or more will end up killing your Ooze, but as long as you hit ones and twos, you can machine gun your opponent’s creatures and your opponent’s face until nothing is left standing. It’s pretty easy to build a deck where the only cards in it with CMC 3 or greater are the Ooze, the Devourer and the Trike, which allows for the strong possibility of an infinite kill combo. This interaction is a big part of why many folks think Survival of the Fittest is going to be added to the Legacy banned list at the end of the month, and there seems to be strong evidence that it’s abjectly abusable. This is the cream of the crop for Ooze interactions.
Top Five Black Creature Cards to Abuse with Necrotic Ooze
5. Darkling Stalker (B: Regenerate Darkling Stalker / B: Darkling Stallker gets +1/+1 until end of turn)
This is the perfect utility card for an Ooze deck. You get regeneration and the ‘shade’ pump ability all on one creature card. Paying four for a 1/1 Darkling Stalker kinda sucks. Paying four for a 4/3 Darkling Stalker that can probably do twelve other things is pretty freaking sweet. The regeneration is key, allowing the Stalker to rumble in combat and live through infinite Lightning Bolts, and the added ability to pump it into oblivion is super strong if you’re planning to attack with your Ooze to finish your opponents off. It should be an easy one-of in any casual Fauna Shaman based build.
4. Infernal Denizen (Tap: Gain control of target creature as long as Infernal Denizen is on the battlefield)
This guy’s drawback SUCKS. 8 mana for a 5/7, which would be okay with that stupidly powerful effect. But you need to sacrifice two swamps at the beginning of your upkeep. And if you can’t, YOU HAVE TO TAP IT AND YOUR OPPONENTS GET TO STEAL YOUR OWN GUYS. I mean, seriously. That blows. You’re potentially landless (it’s not a may, you have to sac the swamps if you have them) and your opponent gets to steal your stuff. With the Ooze, though, you don’t have to worry about any of that. You just tap your guy and steal their guy. No fuss, no mess, no sacrificing swamps. Just good old-fashioned highway robbery. YOINK!
3. Minion of Leshrac (Tap: Destroy target creature or land)
You see, normally Minion of Leshrac makes you sacrifice a creature other than Minion of Leshrac every upkeep (the Lord of the Pit effect, as it were), and punches you in the gut and stays home if you can’t (i.e., deals five damage to you and taps itself). With Necrotic Ooze, you don’t have to worry about any of that. All you need to worry about is having a Demonic Hordes and an Avatar of Woe all for the low low cost of having one Minion of Leshrac in your graveyard. Seems good.
2. Sengir Nosferatu (1B, Exile Sengir Nosferatu: Put a 1/2 black Bat creature token with flying onto the battlefield. It has “1B, Sacrifice this creature: Return an exiled card named Sengir Nosferatu to the battlefield under its owner’s control.”)
A Necrotic Ooze is only good to you alive, and this is the closest Black has to insurance coverage. Four mana basically gives the Ooze pseudo-shroud and should be able to save it from just about anything. It’s not as good as Morphling’s ability to dole out shroud for a single blue mana, but being on color is undeniably important for the deck. Blue can give it shroud, Green can make it indestructible, but only Black can make it turn into a bat for a few seconds. And that’s got to count for something.
1. Shauku, Endbringer (Tap: Exile target creature and put a +1/+1 counter on Shauku)
Shauku is a 5/5 flyer for seven with that stupidly unfair ability. She also makes you lose three life each of your upkeeps and can’t attack unless there are no other creatures on the battlefield. At all. The three life I can deal with. The clause that basically turns her into a flying wall sucks. Sure, she helps herself, but it still sucks for all that mana investment to possibly just have the absolute greatest Avatar of Woe EVER. Take those awful drawbacks away, though, and you’ve got something truly spicy for your Ooze. Sure, there are going to be creatures that you want to go to the graveyard in order to add more activated abilities to your Ooze arsenal (it does take stuff from all graveyards, after all), but there are going to be creatures that you really don’t want or need to go to the yard. Your Darksteel Colossi, your Eldrazi titans, basically anything that shuffles itself or the graveyard back into the library. And really, the Shauku effect just completely obliterates any targetable creature in a way the other ‘tap to kill a creature’ effects don’t. This is a new level of killing a creature. It’s gone for good and your Ooze gets to grow. That’s pretty freaking awesome.
Did I forget anything? Let me know!