Hello everybody, and welcome to another edition of Utter Beatings. In this week’s article I:
* Take advantage of Luis being on vacation to beat him to as many Day of Judgment puns as possible (don’t judge)
* Prepare for Day of Judgment by confessing all my sins and reflecting on its likely impact on Standard and Block
* Grossly and obviously misevaluate some of the more interesting Zendikar cards spoiled so far, looking at them through the lens of Day of Judgment
* Write a conclusion
That’s gotta sound as exciting as enemy fetchlands, so let’s go!
Day of Judgment
Destroy all creatures.
Thank God – or whoever it is that’s responsible for judgment these days.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that the return of [card wrath of god]Wrath[/card] also means the return of “Wrath decks.” We’ve come a long way since Damnation was fueling essentially creature-less control decks into dominance. Day of Judgment is obviously powerful, but Wizards has made it pretty clear that they want everyone playing lots of creatures, so don’t expect to be able to do otherwise. There are too many overpowered checks and balances keeping [card wrath of god]Wrath[/card] decks in line. Planeswalkers and absurd creatures like Bloodbraid Elf and Putrid Leech were mitigating the amount of play [card wrath of god]Wrath[/card] was seeing before it rotated, and Zendikar already has a whole host of [card wrath of god]Wrath[/card] hosers spoiled.
Don’t get me wrong, DoJ is still going to be awesome and format-defining, I just don’t think it is going to be as insane as you might expect from a format that revolves around creatures. Your traditional [card wrath of god]Wrath[/card]-based creature-light control deck may not be viable, but there’s still going to be plenty of homes for DoJ. Instead I see it fitting into midrange decks packed with creatures and looking to grind out opponents over long games, similar to BW Tokens using Wrath not long ago. Cruel Ultimatum absolutely loves seeing DoJ, and the two will undoubtedly do well together. But don’t be surprised when your opponent’s [card cruel ultimatum]Cruel[/card] Day of Judgment deck just gets you with Sprouting Thrinax into [card bloodbraid elf]Bloodbraid[/card] into Putrid Leech.
Moving on to the new [card wrath of god]Wrath[/card] hosers…
At the beginning of each opponent’s end step, if you didn’t lose life this turn, you may put a quest counter on Luminarch Ascension. (Damage causes loss of life)
1W: Put a 4/4 white Angel creature token with flying onto the battlefield. Activate this ability only if Luminarch Ascension has four or more quest counters on it.
Just incredible. I loathe making the comparison to Bitterblossom, but it’s just so apt. It’s bad past turn two, multiples are blank, it’s suboptimal against the most aggressive decks – and it’s so powerful it’s going to see a ton of play in spite of all that.
This is such a sick threat against control decks. Sure, Esper Charm, Maelstrom Pulse, and Oblivion Ring exist, but these aren’t exactly good solutions to the card. Even when you have the answer, you are coming out a mana behind on the exchange, and you are just about dead to a turn two Ascension if you don’t have an answer. To be fair, I imagine we will be seeing some solutions to quests in Zendikar, but for now that is pretty much what we have to work with. Maybe it will be realistic stalling the Ascension with [card volcanic fallout]Fallout[/card] and [card lightning bolt]Bolt[/card] into [card cruel ultimatum]Cruel[/card], but I’m doubtful. Ajani Vengeant is somewhat comparable against control, proving its worth against 5cc, while costing twice as much as Ascension.
Of course, the best way for control decks to beat this card is to play it themselves. Even against aggressive decks, I actually think this is a pretty exciting finisher. It isn’t just a win-more card – if you are going to play a long game of attrition, you need to make sure you can pull ahead, and this may be one the best ways to do that. It’s no Cruel Ultimatum, but it sure asks a lot less from your lands, both in terms of colors and quantity. Seven mana is a lot, and requires investing in plenty of card draw to enable hitting your land drops and spells. Luminarch Ascension has no such requirement, as you can just keep up with your opponent with cheap spells and operate off of much leaner amounts of mana.
Where Luminarch Ascension gets really exciting is how well it interacts with Planeswalkers. If your opponent has to attack a Planeswalker, you can start accumulating counters on Ascension despite being “behind” on the board. Being able to sneak in counters thanks to Walkers and sweepers can make Ascension good even when it should not be. Just imagine how devastating a curve like Ascension, Wall of Denial, Ajani Vengeant is on the play. It’s not going to take very much after that to get Ascension online.
I suspect many quest counters will be missed due to to mis-timed [card volcanic fallouts]Fallouts[/card] and fetches. You can of course do either at end of turn after getting your counter, but just be aware that you will often need to main phase these effects when you otherwise would not want to.
My favorite thing about the card? It incentivizes moving away from Cascade in Standard. It plays poorly with Cascade – see bad past turn two and bad in multiples. Luminarch Ascension is very rarely what you want to be [card bloodbraid elf]Bloodbraiding[/card] into. And it is powerful enough to actually be a reasonable alternative to Cascading. Of course, it might also be powerful enough to get played alongside Cascade despite interacting poorly with it, but we’re definitely moving in the right direction here.
I would be very surprised if this card doesn’t have a big impact on Standard and Block. Even if control decks don’t themselves adopt it, its applications as a control hoser will force control decks to adapt and/or ensure it has a place in the format.
Creature – Vampire Spirit
Bloodghast can't block.
If an opponent has 10 or less life, Bloodghast has haste.
Landfall- Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, if Bloodghast is in your graveyard, you may put Bloodghast into play.
The scariest part about this card is that it might not even be good enough. A two mana 2/1 just isn’t an efficient enough attacker these days. More efficient creatures beat it in a race, and there is no shortage of big bodies to render Bloodghast harmless. A two mana two power unblockable creature isn’t good enough, and against many decks Bloodghast is going to be much worse than that. If your opponent doesn’t need to kill Bloodghast, it’s pretty bad.
If your opponent does need to kill Bloodghast, however, they are in trouble, and a deck without many blockers probably does. A sweeper-based deck can trade with Bloodghast unfavorably via [card path to exile]Path[/card] or Oblivion Ring, or evenly with Celestial Purge, but without a specific answer, Bloodghast is going to generate so much value. [card celestial purge]Purge[/card] is certainly a nice one, and maybe it’s enough, but Bloodghast provides yet another incentive to move towards playing lots of creatures.
Bloodghast isn’t exactly what controlling decks are looking for, but it is great alongside sweepers, asking your opponent to commit more to the board and exploding quickly post-sweep yourself. The Persist-Wrath plan was so sweet in Tokens, and maybe a similar deck will pop up to take advantage of this similar interaction.
Quest for the Gravelord
Whenever a creature is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, you may put a quest counter on Quest for the Gravelord.
Remove three quest counters from Quest for the Gravelord and sacrifice it: Put a 5/5 black Zombie Giant creature token onto the battlefield.
This card doesn’t seem to be getting any hype, but I’m pretty impressed with it. All it takes is one removal spell (from either player) and one trade, and just like that you have a 5/5 for your single mana investment. Having access to such a profitable one mana play can lead to some very significant tempo swings. What’s so great about this Quest is that it is good past turn one. You can easily fit it into your curve when you draw it outside of your opener (or when you cascade into it), and it isn’t going to be much worse on turn four than on turn one. Creatures are still going to be trading off and it can still quickly be activated. You still get the same sweet tempo boost, and it takes much longer for the card to be irrelevant than most one drops. Past a certain point it does start making a lousy topdeck, but how much are you expecting from your one drop? They can’t all be Figure of Destiny.
So, this card is good before even considering its interaction with sweepers. [card wrath of god]Wrath[/card] hate in the past has been terrible because it isn’t good enough when they don’t have sweepers, but Quest seems to have solved that problem. So consider how good it is against sweepers. Day of Judgment away my three dudes? You had better have another one for my 5/5 and [card bloodbraid elf]Bloodbraid[/card] that just eighted you, and even then you might just be dead. If sweepers are a problem for your deck, Quest goes a long way towards solving them. The one problem with Quest as a sweeper hoser is that it is even better playing alongside Day of Judgment. It’s awesome how flexible the card is; it’s a great tool for decks ranging from the most aggressive to the most controlling.
Being able to keep Quest around as an Enchantment even when it has three counters on it is so nice for blocking purposes. [card bloodbraid elf]Bloodbraid[/card] into removal? I’ll be keeping my 5/5, thank you very much. Maelstrom Pulse in hand? Still not helping your Putrid Leech get through. You couldn’t attack your army into my potential 5/5, and had to add another creature to the board? Guess I’ll just DoJ and keep my monster around.
It’s going to be interesting watching how the battles between creatures and Day of Justice on the one hand, and Day of Justice and the various hosers on the other, play out. Will aggro finally triumph over control? Are creature-based control decks the future? Is combo part of the picture, and if so how is a format that revolves around creatures going to react to it? The day when we can really judge the answers is fast approaching!