As part of a continuing trend of my body trying to undermine my ability to play Magic, I decided to contract my first cold since arriving in the States. Honestly, I thought the U.S. would have moved beyond such things. Alas, I managed to attend but one prerelease event (and then had to spend the rest of the weekend in bed)—however, I had a lot of fun and I want to share with you some of the highlights and my views on M15 Sealed so far.
I had heard that the set had a lot of low-toughness creatures. It wasn’t until I actually played with the cards that I saw the truth of this. I had a Netcaster Spider and it did a very good job at holding off many of my opponents’ creatures, both flying and non-flying alike. For the sake of interest I did a little research.
* = creatures with P/T based on other factors (e.g. number of Forests or what they are copying)
Ta-da! This is the number of creatures with a given toughness. There are 124 creatures in this set—I only counted creature cards, so cards that generate creatures such as Triplicate Spirits aren’t included. This does give you a pretty good overall picture though. 89 creatures have 3 or less toughness (not counting * creatures); this is over two-thirds of the total creatures! If you consider 2 or less toughness then you are looking at 50% of the creatures in the set.
I had a quick check over M14’s creatures—a particularly impressive feat as the new Gatherer doesn’t tell me how many cards it found in the search so I have had to count all this cards by hand. It turns out these numbers aren’t that unusual for core sets, as M14 has a similar number—however, it certainly felt like a small creature set. What isn’t shown in the data is that many of the creatures with greater that 3 toughness are Walls that can’t attack you, or are bomb rares. Many common filler creatures of an average deck can indeed be easily stopped by a 2/3, making cards like Witch’s Familiar a much more valuable card for a deck than you might think.
Returning to Netcaster Spider, it has to be the card that most overperformed for me at the prerelease. Aside from the previously discussed ability to hold back many of the cards in the set, the secondary ability where it gains +2/+0 when it blocks a flier is huge! Of all the fliers in the set of which there are 25, 21.5 of them have 4 or less toughness, meaning Netcaster Spider trades with over 85% of the set’s fliers. About 50% of those aren’t even trades, as they have 1 or 2 power. (The 0.5 card is Seraph of the Masses, quite often that card is going to be around a 4/4, but Netcaster Spider stops it attacking profitably until it is a 5/5). As many of the set’s bombs have flying, Netcaster Spider can trade with all manner of power cards. I expect this card to be picked pretty highly in draft after seeing its incredible performance this weekend.
Reclamation Sage is just yummy! I am always a proponent of playing a Naturalize effect in core set Limited and M15 is no exception. There are plenty of pesky enchantments and artifacts that you will be very glad to have a maindeck answer to (such as Stab Wound. You remember how painful that card is, don’t you?). I did a quick count and there are around 22 artifacts and enchantments that I would want to be able to remove. Spectra Ward is a very good example, as you aren’t dealing with the enchanted creature otherwise (unless you can kill it in response to the Aura). However, better than a Naturalize is a 2/1 which has the same effect! Reclamation Sage is a sweet card. You do have to be careful to not just run it out just to “make a play.” Especially in Sealed, you get heavily rewarded by waiting for that value play. As discussed earlier, chances are your 2/1 for 3 is not going to be applying pressure for long. I frequently made no play on three when I could have played the Sage. I was rewarded by getting to take down large artifact creatures or an Encrust on my much more impressive threats. Naturalize has its advantages as the instant speed can give options on blowouts but I like the 2/1 body to trade with afterwards.
Pillar of Light is the next card on my list. I have been feeling very “meh” about this card. As conditional removal it can really chafe when you need an answer to that 3/3 flier. However I think you should run a single copy if you have one, for all its problems. For a start, many of the cards with 4 or more toughness in this set are the sorts of bombs you really, really want an answer to. Given that I want to run Naturalize for 22 targets, Pillar of Light fits the bill with 30 targets (maybe a couple more from the */* category) so technically I should as strongly recommend a copy of Pillar as the Naturalize effect. I didn’t actually get to play with a copy but it seemed a good answer to my Scuttling Doom Engine!
Speaking of Scuttling Doom Engine, I normally avoid talking about rares in these articles but this adds nicely to the previous assessment of power and toughness. I also looked at power of creatures—74 have 2 or less power… that means over half the set can’t block this giant 6/6. It is so good. Especially if you have a removal spell to blow out your opponent when they finally find two creatures to double-block with.
Another rare I want to discuss briefly is Cruel Sadist. I was unsure how to evaluate this card. However, when I saw it in play I was impressed with the utility it provided. Yes, it’s slow, but you can either grow a big creature to bypass walls or you can store up charges to pick off any 1-toughness creatures your opponent foolishly plays. I liked it. Not sure how highly I’d pick it in draft but, as with any multi-use card, it’s got to go fairly high on the list.
All right, back to awesome commons and uncommons. Cone of Flame was as brutal as I expected. With the majority of creatures having 3/2/1 toughness you can easily expect to get super value from this card! In several of my games against red decks I played Typhoid Rats into Runeclaw Bear into Netcaster Spider and then sat there praying I wasn’t gong to get 3-for-1’d. It’s a terrifying threat. The one game it happened to me I would easily have lost without the Nissa I had to play next turn to gain back the value over time. Only insane bombs or a lot of luck get you back from that sort of value in Limited. I never expect to be passed this card in a draft.
I talked earlier about the need to wait on Reclamation Sage to use it as a removal spell rather than to apply pressure. Another card that falls into this category is Quickling. I absolutely love this card. Removal is at a premium in Limited so if you can counter your opponent’s removal spell while also adding to your board presence then you are going to be very far ahead. Quickling can be used aggressively but I like to employ it in that slower, more controlling mode. If you want to use it aggressively do be aware of being 2-for-1’d by it yourself. While the bounce effect doesn’t target, if you only have one other creature then your opponent can destroy that other creature in response to the trigger, leaving you to sacrifice the Quickling as well. The other awesome use for Quickling is as a value play to replay your creatures with enters-the-battlefield triggers. My opponent bounced a Hornet Queen with his Quickling—things don’t get much ruder than that. Again, Quickling shines when you play it smartly rather than just as an awkward 2/2 flier.
Other overperformers: Rotfeaster Maggot may just look like a 3/5 for 5… okay, he is, but actually black tends to use a lot of its own life as a resource in M15 and Rotfeaster Maggots is a perfect good road block that also helps balance out some of that blood payment. If you are playing a Sign in Blood, a Shadowcloak Vampire, and a Cruel Sadist, then this card will be a valuable addition to your deck to ensure you can keep spending life to gain advantage.
Nissa’s Expedition: I figured that despite the convoke clause you just aren’t going to want this spell. However, if you go one-drop two-drop into this, not only does it fix your mana—a valuable thing on its own in Sealed where you often splash for a third color—but its ramps you to 6 mana on turn 4. This is the sweet spot for bombs. I was certainly jealous as I watched others cast it. I’m not sure it’s really got a home in draft as it might be too slow, but it’s certainly more valid in Sealed than I thought.
Another card that over-performed for me was Living Totem. I figured it would be just an average filler card, but, as usual, that flexible +1/+1 counter proved more valuable than anticipated. The convoke is a necessity so that you’re not just playing an overcosted 2/3, but green has enough creatures that this shouldn’t be a problem.
This seems a good junction to discuss something you may have noticed: of the cards I decided to highlight here there are many more green cards than anything else. I was so surprised by all of these green cards—the only commons I rated highly before the prerelease were Elvish Mystic (obviously) and Shaman of Spring (which I got 3 of!). The prerelease showed me that, actually, the color is not too poorly positioned in this Sealed environment.
The last card I had written down on my list of awesome cards was Frost Lynx but I really have nothing to add to this card. It does exactly what it says on the tin—a sweet tempo play attached to a 2/2 body.
You’ll remember that I hated M14 Limited. My post-prerelease article for that set was very scathing and I referred to the whole set as “vanilla,” as I felt there was no room to outplay your opponent: just lots of dumb guys to bash heads. Eventually the set boiled down to “Opportunity or bust.” So far M15 seems much more interesting with lots of back-and-forth and many cards in different colors that can generate value. For a core set, it’s shaping up reasonably well.
What cards impressed you this weekend? I continue to be unimpressed by the ability to play with your promo card. I don’t know about you but I got pretty sick of people resetting their life totals to 20! I would actually favor a Limited event where you only got to play with commons and uncommons—maybe replacing the rares you open with a random uncommon of that color to keep the pool the same size. I think that would be a really interesting event. Perhaps I shall arrange one someday. Anyway, I digress. I hope you enjoyed your prerelease event, wherever it was, and I shall see you next week.