Again, I find myself without much to write about – it really is tough when I haven’t been playing a lot .After a lot of debating and even a question on Facebook, I’ve decided on writing about the new cards that were already spoiled from Mirrodin Besieged. The whole set is not spoiled yet, but some of the cards are very interesting and I’d like to talk about them.
When I did the “strengths/weaknesses” article, I said one of my weaknesses was, well, always looking at weaknesses. So, for this article, I will try to be a little more, let’s say, positive. That does not mean I am purposely exalting a card because I want to be positive – you will never ever see me do that, and everything in here is my honest opinion. What it does mean is that I will look a little more on the bright side of things.
The Green Zenith (and I keep thinking of this as the Shoal Cycle for some reason) is in my opinion the best card spoiled so far, and it will see play in different formats. The biggest attraction of this card is that it is very cheap – one mana is not a lot to pay for this kind of selection. Think of it as a Worldly Tutor, except it puts the card in your hand and not on top of your library (and is a sorcery, and you have to play both in the same turn… eh ok nevermind).
The first use of this card is to get combo pieces. In a deck such as combo elves, getting the missing link for one more mana is very cheap and convenient. It is better than Summoner’s Pact, too, because you don’t have to use it the turn you’re winning – you can simply play this on turn two and get a Nettle Sentinel, Heritage Druid or Llanowar Elf, or play it on turn three to get a Fauna Shaman, or on turn four to get a Viridian Shaman kind of card. If you are mid-combo, you can get a Regal Force or another big, powerful guy.
The second use is in ramp decks. Most of the talk I’ve heard is how this card is Titans 5-8, and, though it certainly is that, it is so much more. The biggest strength of this card is that, again, it is useful at any point in the game – Look at this as Titans 5-8, but also as Battlements 5-8 – a Battlement/Titan split card would be extremely strong, and this is almost what this is. By playing four of those, you increase consistency by increasing your ramp count while at the same time increasing your threat count, lowering the number of hands with all ramp or all threats, which is probably my biggest concern with Ramp decks.
The obvious comparison is Summoning Trap, and I think this card is much better. For starters, it never misses, and Summoning Trap certainly misses – just ask anyone who has played the deck. In fact, it’s very easy to check – whenever you draw your opening hand with a deck like that, imagine you were trapping into those 7 cards and see if you would like anything from there. If you get Memoricided for Titan, you’re more likely to miss than to hit.
The fact that Trap is instant is relevant, but not relevant enough to make up for the versatility – a hand with Zenith and Titan, for example, is on average much better than one with Trap and Titan. The free aspect is nice, but I still think the fact that you never miss and that you can grab Battlement is much more important. You can also play both, or sideboard Traps, but the downside of that is that if you have four Zeniths you’ll probably have less threats, so Trap gets worse.
The use of the Zenith also means you get to play some silver bullets. A single Joraga Treespeaker, for example, will hardly harm you, but it will increase your goldfish by two turns for the hands in which you have Titan/Zenith, making an otherwise unkeepable hand actually decent at very little cost (though it could hurt as yet another one of those cards that you always draw when you have Valakut and they’re dead to a Mountain). Imagine 4 lands, Trap, Titan, Titan and 4 lands, Zenith, Titan, Titan when you have access to a Treespeaker in your deck. An Acidic Slime might also be a decent bullet if you need to delay them for a turn or hit a problematic permanent. Another good choice for a one-of is Dryad Arbor – I know it’s a bad card, but by having one in your deck you make every Zenith that you draw a Llanowar Elves, and I think that is certainly worth it (plus the random added benefit of being able to grab a guy with fetchlands). If there is a Legacy Elves deck, it probably wants this card, and then it probably wants Dryad Arbor in it. It is also not irrelevant that you can pay this for as much as you want, like Wargate, to get around Counterbalance/Spell Snare/Spellstutter Sprite.
Of the Ramp decks, I think the best for this card is Valakut. I think Valakut is already more powerful than Eldrazi Green in the abstract, but Valakut’s Primeval Titans are also much more threatening – if I resolve one I want to win, and not have to search for another dude. It would be good in Genesis Wave, except it is not Waveable, so you probably don’t want it. Here is a list, just for reference:
(don’t ask me why one Catacombs exactly is the correct number- there is surely some powerful math behind it, because every single list runs one, so who am I to run any other number?)
I’m a bit wary of only having one Avenger and would probably prefer two, but I don’t really see much to take out, and this is only a general idea anyway.
I’ve seen a lot of hype on this card, and I honestly don’t see why, as I cannot imagine ever wanting to play a card like this in my deck. People say this is the “Blue Rampant Growth“, but please, what are you playing, 26 Island mono blue? The UB deck from t2 doesn’t have a single land that is more than a four-of. Sure, if you cast this you have three lands in play, so you likely have three chances to hit, but you can definitely still miss, especially if you have multiples of the same land in play. And, you know what, even if you hit, you wouldn’t want to play Rampant Growth anyway, even if it cost 2 and not 1UU!
I understand that it can hit opposing permanents too – so, if they have Jace, you can hit Jace and kill it. That is not nearly good enough – just play Jace. If they have Grave Titan and you play this and get Grave Titan, sweet. If they have Grave Titan and you play this and get Island, aaw. I guess it was worth the wait for seven turns with a card that didn’t do anything just so you could get your seventh land into play, though, so no harm done.
For a card to be worth the risk of doing nothing, it has to be very powerful when it does do something. This is not – stay away from this card, it is not playable. (Of course, of course, I might be wrong – I could always be wrong, this is just my opinion, but it is my honest opinion that this card will never see play in any competitive deck in any format). The flavor text is cool, though.
The fact that this card is not the product of much hype speaks wonders about the power creep in creatures we’ve been having – if we were a couple years ago, everyone would be talking about it as if it was the end of Magic or something. But we are not, and this guy is most certainly not powerful enough for us to scream “fake” – I think it is powerful, but not as much as some people make it out to be.
The obvious use of this card is against the control decks, so let’s see how it does there. The first thing I see is that it has the power to make a lot of the opposing player’s cards useless. For example, imagine that you play this against UB – it does not beat Grave Titan, but it renders every single card other card in their deck – the full 57 – completely useless. Every card they have is going to try to find a Titan or it doesn’t do anything. It changes the way the matches play completely.
Of course, that is not to say this card will singlehandedly beat Control – if you look at it, it’s not much different than Vengevine as far as the control player is concerned, except it can be played in decks that don’t run a lot of creatures (but doesn’t have Haste to surprise your Jaces). For example, you can easily go Jace, Fateseal and then Sea Gate Oracle+Brainstorm, and then find Grave Titan or other chump blockers. But it does force the control player into moving – they have to start tapping out or this card will kill them at some point. Since it can’t be killed, countered or discarded, there will be lots of hands that just cannot beat this guy.
If you’re the control deck, there are a couple things you can do. I recommend drawing your Grave Titan – that really is the best solution – but if you don’t want to do that, then you could play, for example, Consuming Vapors or Wall of Tanglecord. You could also change the focus a little bit and play Abyssal Persecutor to block him forever. There is also the important point that it costs GG, and against Valakut it is not that uncommon that you keep them out of double Green with Spreading Seas and counters/discard for the early acceleration. And, as a last resort, there is always Mindbreak Trap.
Other than UB, though, this card is not especially good against anything. Against UW, it can get Wrathed if you play it too soon, and it can get chump blocked by Hawks/Gideons until they find a solution – though it might mean that, if anything, they have to play a solution in their decks, for example a Baneslayer or Elspeth Tirel. Certainly not a bad card against the deck, and you could do a lot worse for four mana against UW, but not as good as against UB. RUG doesn’t seem like it would care a whole lot to face this guy, though they might play some themselves (but my first guess is that they won’t, since Garruk and Oracle both look better in the deck) – it is possible that it forces them to play more Avengers, though, to deal with it (which I think they should anyway, Avenger is sweet). Of course, there is the fact that this card is never BAD – against Boros, Red, Vampires, he is just a solid 4/4 dude that you can tap out for without fear they’re going to deal with and crack back, and he is big enough to block and kill most things without having to Regenerate.
In the sideboard, though, I think he is better. Valakut is a really tight deck for game 1, but you have some more room for games 2 and 3, and this card is much better than Gaea’s Revenge. UW generally takes out Squadron Hawk and UB takes out Sea Gate Oracle, so there goes a chump blocker, and nothing that they bring in is actually good against him. I think that, if you play Valakut, a combination of Koths and this is your best plan against the control decks.
I can also see this guy in the board of the RUG deck, or another new UG deck that appears at some point in the future – a long long time ago, there was a jokeish vintage deck called ICT – “Invincible Counter Troll”. If you ever want to build a Counter Troll deck (or a Controll deck, we’ve had those too), this guy is the perfect man for the job – you can tap out for him without any fear that they will counter it, kill it or trump it – because even Jace will just stall him for two turns if you can untap with countermagic, so the best they can do is really just to play another one of him to Legend rule you out – and then you don’t have to do anything for the rest of the game. I can imagine, for example, how an UB deck would have a very hard time beating a deck that had three or four Trolls, some Jaces and a lot of counters, since all they need to do is play a Troll and counter your Grave Titan. Perhaps you could play some Battlements in this deck too, and now Troll comes out t3!
There is also the equipping factor – this guy does have Trollshroud, after all. Right now, the only playable equipments to go with this are Sword of Body and Mind and Basilisk Collar (though god forbid you get to equip the Troll with Argentum Armor), and I don’t really see a deck that would play both this guy and the Equipments, as of this moment, though it is certainly strong if you manage to get both in play. I guess we will have to wait to see what the new Sword does before we rule it out completely, though.
This guy is obviously interesting because of his Phage-like ability, but if you are cheating anything into play these days it might as well be Emrakul. The reason this might be better is because it is just what the doctor ordered for your Shape Anew deck (buy yours while they’re still low!). Shape Anew has a couple of advantages over Polymorph, namely that they cannot Bolt your Artifact in response, that you can run more creatures, and that it is actually t2 legal. Right now, the best way to play it is Master’s Call, but you could also play, for example, four Trinket Mages, four Stoneforge Mystics and one Basilisk Collar. The disadvantage of that is that, after the first one, the other 7 guys in your deck become useless – perhaps you don’t need this many of them with Master’s Call. You can also play Dread Statuary, but good luck with that. An interesting card, but I don’t think good enough to see play.
If the Last Troll (how cool is that name, by the way? THE LAST TROLL) didn’t exist, I doubt I would be talking about this card. Since he does, though, I feel like this card deserves a mention, if anything because she completely destroys the Troll in every aspect. It might be just what a deck like UB needed, and she does kill pretty fast, even past the Troll if you will. It sucks that she doesn’t add clocks with Tar Pits (Titan probably doesn’t mind much as he doesn’t need any help), but she might still be worth exploring. Perhaps even a combination of her and Skythrryshxyr – both deal with the troll and they complement each other’s clocks pretty well, though both are much worse than Grave Titan when you’re behind.
The drawback is pretty negligible, since only weirdos play Infect, and if you manage to stay alive for ten upkeeps with this in play without winning then that probably means you would have been dead 9 turns ago if she wasn’t there. This is certainly not a card I would jam into my deck without testing, and it is very likely not good enough, but just another option to keep in mind if you want something to stop Troll but that also does something if they don’t have it (i.e. not a Wall of some sort) and cannot reliably get rid of Abyssal Persecutor (I know, that’s a lot of “ifs”, leave me alone, I’m trying to be positive here).
Tezzeret is a big puzzle. Most Planeswalkers are incredibly hard to evaluate, because they do a lot of things that have never been seen before, in a lot of ways that have never been seen before. Some of them are clearly broken – everyone knew Jace TMS was going to be the best card ever as soon as he got spoiled (you knew, right?) – and some of them are clearly bad – everyone knew Chandra Ablaze was going to be awful the moment she got spoiled (you knew, right, Conley?). There are a lot of Planeswalkers that are deceptively strong, though – Ajani Vengeant and Elspeth, for example, turned out much better than I thought they’d be. So, which one is Tezzeret, good or bad?
I think he is, well, neither. He is not a very strong card in abstract, like the three I mentioned before, in a sense that you can just play him in a deck and he will deliver. He is clearly more like his old self and Ajani Goldmane – he is for one kind of deck, and in that deck he is going to be awesome, if the deck happens to work. So, it doesn’t really matter if he is the best card ever if the deck he is played in is terrible.
If we analyze his abilities individually, we see that they have potential. He costs four, which is a world less than five for Planeswalkers, and you can look at the top 5, probably find an artifact, and pass with four loyalty, four being the magical number because it doesn’t die to Lightning Bolt, Creeping Tar Pit, Bloodbraid Elf, etc. Basically, with Jace TMS you sometimes have to Fateseal to prevent him from being Bolted and then if they legend rule you or Pulse him and you’ve “wasted” your Planeswalker, but with this guy you protect him by doing what you want to be doing anyway. This ability looks awesome in a deck that has combo piece artifacts to search for, such as Sword of the Meek/Thopter Foundry, or Time Sieve, but even if you don’t have anything in particular you want to find it is going to help you find an artifact to make a 5/5 or to Ultimate them.
Then there is his -1 ability, which is different than Sarkhan the Mad’s because if they bounce the guy you don’t lose anything. With Sarkhan, if you lose a guy to make a 5/5 and they Jace it, well, that sucks. With Tezzeret, you’ve both lost one loyalty counter, not nearly as bad. One deceptively strong point of Tezzeret is that, unlike Sarkhan, your 5/5 has haste. It is not that unlikely to play a turn one artifact (Elixir? Effigy? Mox Opal? Artifact land? A Chalice for 0?), turn two Chalice, turn three Tezzeret animate your artifact and attack for 5 (killing their Planeswalker, perhaps), then next turn animate Chalice and attack for 10 – now you have two 5/5s and a Planeswalker that digs for more artifacts that he can transform into 5/5s too. You can also animate your artifact and leave it back to defend Tezzeret, and planeswalkers who can defend themselves are generally better than they look. Last, be aware that you can upgrade your artifact creatures.
The third ability is not as interesting, though it does threaten a billion damage in a deck like Affinity that can play artifact lands. The problem with that is twofold – first, you’re playing Affinity in Legacy, and Affinity is beyond bad – really, it is. Second, you’re playing a four casting cost card in Affinity – if you ever decide to play Affinity in Legacy, and I have no idea why you ever would, then you probably want it to be one of those fast, Glimpse builds, so you can at least win a game or two by playing your entire hand out on turn one. A four casting cost Planeswalker does not go a long way towards helping that goal.
The ability is also decent in a deck like Time Sieve, because it just kills them, but by that point any ability would, including the second one. I think it is an ability to keep in mind that you can use – for example, sometimes you just have to gain four or six life to stay alive, and it is not hard to have three artifacts if you play an artifact deck and have been using the first ability – but you will very rarely include Tezzeret in a deck because of his Ultimate.
So, right now, the only existing deck in which I would actually want to play Tezzeret is the 1.x Affinity with Tempered Steel – there you can fully utilize the three abilities, and it gives you gas and reach at the same time. I don’t like the deck, but Tezzeret might make it good enough. He also seems to fit well in Time Sieve, but there is little chance I will play that too, and I can’t really see anywhere else, but I think he is powerful enough that he is worth a try with new decks. You don’t even have to be completely dedicated to him – a bunch of Chalices, Ratchet Bombs, some do-nothing artifacts (Prism?) and random Trinket Mage bullets might do it just fine, with the added bonus of being able to look for Wurmcoil Engines when you need to kill them (this interaction looks like it has potential).
The biggest problem I have with that approach is that, in this deck, he is still probably not better than Jace, and they compete for the four casting cost slot. If you have to warp your deck too much to play him, you probably want to play more than one or two – after all, it’s not worth playing Prophetic Prism in your deck to fuel your one Tezzeret – but how many four casting cost Planeswalkers can you afford to play? Probably not 8. Can you play 7? Seems a little bit too much to me. When you start cutting Jaces for this guy, you have to ask yourself if what you’re doing is really worth it. It is good that you can play t3 small Jace and t4 this, though – I guess only time will tell if he is playable or not outside a completely dedicated artifact deck, and the only way to find that out with Planeswalkers is to play them. Basically, I am ready to try him, but I am also ready to dismiss him very quickly.
Glissa, the Traitor
Legendary Creature – Zombie Elf
First strike, deathtouch
Whenever a creature an opponent controls is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, you may return target artifact card from your graveyard to your hand.
I think this guy is way overrated. When I read about him, I read stuff like “goes in every beatdown deck”, and he most certainly doesn’t. The thing about him is that he is a one drop, but he is not really. I’m fairly sure he is terrible in an outright aggressive deck, like Zoo – you have to have at least two more attackers for him to deal the same damage as Savannah Lions, and if they kill your other guys he gets bad too. People say “one mana Glorious Anthem“, but he really is not – it is only +1/+0, only on attack, he has summoning sickness, he can be killed fairly easily if they need to, and he can even be blocked sometimes. Besides, it’s not like Glorious Anthem is a good card in a normal aggressive deck anyway – stay away from this as a “solid creature”.
That is not to say I don’t think he has his niche, though. To me, the potential in this card lies in the fact that he is an artifact creature. By being a creature, he gets boosted by other creature enhancers, including himself – if you draw three of him, that’s six damage, whereas three Anthems is zero – he can be equipped and he can attack to activate the likes of Windbrisk Heights and Beastmaster’s Ascension. That is a very narrow list of cards that get help from him being a creature, and that is how narrowly you should play him. Basically, this guy looks like he has potential in “all or nothing” decks – decks where either stuff works and you overwhelm your opponent so fast and furiously that he can’t do anything, or they play a Pyroclasm and you spend the rest of your miserable turns drawing cards that don’t do anything. This guy will increase variance – he is certainly an all or nothing card – but if you play those decks, then isn’t that what you’re looking for? You’re not going to win a game in which you don’t overwhelm them anyway, so you might as well increase the times where you do. I think it goes without saying that this is not really my style of deck and if everything goes according to the plan I will not be sleeving this card up anytime soon.
The first home that comes to my mind is some sort of WW artifact deck that uses Tempered Steel and Myrsmith. Tempered Steel is one of the cards that is playable and that makes this guy actually good, because he is hard to block. By being an artifact, he also triggers Myrsmith, which he also pumps, and he gets helped by Steel Overseer, while also helping with Glint Hawk and Mox Opal. A list with Myrsmith, Tempered Steel, Signal Pest, the new 3/1 with Battle Cry, Glint Hawk, Glint Hawk Idol and Mox Opal could be very explosive in block constructed, for example, where there is no Pyroclasm (though there is Ratchet Bomb), and if you add Overseer and Ornithopter you could port it to standard.
The second home is that terrible Goblins deck in standard, with Kuldotha Rebirth. As much as I hate the card, it does go well with Signal Pest – if you have already cast it, it’ll pump your three tokens, and if you have not, it gives you an artifact to sacrifice. Nothing to be very exciting about, and certainly does not make the deck good in my eyes, but he seems one of the better cheap artifacts to play in there – certainly better than the likes of Trusty Machete.
There is nothing to see here for t2, and very likely nothing to see here for extended, but this card is kinda… cute. I don’t really know what it is, it’s just so efficient and elegant, and it does everything you want for one mana – I don’t see where I would play it exactly, but it looks like to me it is a good card to keep in mind in Legacy and even Vintage.
Well, this is what I’ve got for today. The other cards spoiled (at the time of writing, anyway – surely there will be more by the time you read this) either have already been talked about, or are clearly unplayable and everyone knows they’re unplayable, so I don’t have to talk about them (no, you cannot play the Imprint Myr, or the Teferi Myr, or the attach an equipment Myr). It might be possible that I just don’t know what to think of a card, too. I’m still at a loss as to what to write for next week, though, so if you have a suggestion, mention it in the forums (though please no “write about how to sideboard with Faeries against the new version of Jund” or anything of the sort – remember I haven’t played much in the past weeks and I have no incentive to do so without Besieged).
On Facebook, most of the suggestions I got that were practical were about writing stories – “untold legends”, if you will. The problem is that, when you’ve been writing for as long as I have, there are almost no legends untold – if something happened and I found it amusing, I have already written about it somewhere. There were also requests on how I started playing and how I became a professional player, but I have already written that article. I think the only “untold” story that I have is the Invitational.
Some people suggested theory articles, such as “what people do wrong”, but that is very hard to write. They are my favorite articles, and I think the ones I do best, but I need inspiration on a topic, and it’s hard to find that when you haven’t been playing, especially because, again, I’ve already written about mostly anything I could think of and I don’t want to repeat myself. If I find some theory topic to talk about for next week, I will do that.
Other suggestions were “write about Brad leaving”. Well, I don’t really have to write an article about that – I can address it now. As far as I go, Brad leaving doesn’t change anything to me. I don’t think he “betrayed” us by leaving or anything of the sort – my personal relationship to him is completely unchanged by this. I mean, Brad has to do what Brad wants to do – I don’t know why he left, and, quite honestly, it doesn’t matter – he left because he wanted to, and that is enough for me, since it is his life and I respect his choices. Hell, how can I judge him, when I used to write for Starcity and now write for Channelfireball myself? I guess most of you either have already left a job for another or will do so in the future, too.
Anyway, I’d like to do an “acceptance check” on a topic that came up, “whacky formats”. Mental magic and its variations (5 seconds mental magic, alphabetical mental magic…), the “lands” format, cube drafting, EDH, team drafting, Nassif’s winston multiplayer draft monstrosity – I have played all of those, and I do from time to time, though I expect I have a different approach than most – I play them for fun, of course, but I also want to win when I play them. I could write a little bit about them, explaining the rules of the most different ones for the people who don’t know them, and then strategies for each. If you would like to read about that or if you hate them and would much rather have me write about something else, please let me know in the forums. And, again, if you have any different suggestions, I’ll be very happy to hear them.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this, see you next week!