Hello from snowy Roanoke, Virginia! For those who might not know, I’ve been hired by Pete Hoefling (a.k.a. Darth Junior, a.k.a. the owner of StarCity Games) to be his Magic Card Manager. This entailed a relocation from New Orleans, Louisiana, and I’ve gone from wearing a T-shirt and shorts to surviving snow for the first time in nine years.
Not that any of you care.
But what you should care about is our contest! Over 350 people entered their predictions about Onslaught Block Constructed. I challenged you to name the top fifteen cards that would show up in the format, by quantity, and rank them in order. Whichever one of you comes the closest to predicting these fifteen cards wins your choice of a box of product, or $50 cash.
Side note: All entries sent in now will be deleted without even a single view. Deadline was 11:59 p.m. eastern time on February 28th, and I meant it. There are no exceptions.
Here’s the catch: Nobody is winning that box. You know why? Cause I’m going to win my own contest. You know, the contest was entitled”Beat Ben at his own game”… And this box comes straight out of yours truly’s paycheck, and I am going to make sure that none of your money-grubbing hands gets even a single fingerprint on the outer plastic wrap of my box. Someone out there might get lucky and still win it, but I won’t go down without a fight.
Take Shock, for example. Shock will be the most played card (excepting, as the rules stated, cycling lands, sac lands, and basic lands) at Pro Tour: Venice, hands down. Anyone who didn’t pick Shock as their #1 choice was smoking crack. Sligh uses Shock. Astral Slide (both W/R and W/R/G) uses Shock. B/R Zombies uses Shock. G/R Beasts uses Shock. Dermoplasm/Skirk Alarmist uses Shock. It’s the most efficient removal spell in an environment, and environment where red will far and away be the most-played color anyhow.
Pick 1: Shock.
The second and third most played cards will certainly be Astral Slide and Lightning Rift – but in which order? Several Slide archetypes have emerged, including W/R (the traditional Slide/Rift), W/R/G (the later-in-the-season traditional Slide/Rift), W/G (using huge morph creatures) and W/R/G (a mix between traditional and huge morph creatures). Main deck, there will certainly be more copies of Astral Slide than Lightning Rift. However, several aggressive red decks (such as Sligh and B/R zombies) can easily side in Lightning Rift against a Slide deck, to allow them extra points of damage and general deck hosing. Because of this, I’m giving the nod to the Rift, though the numbers between Slide and Rift should be very close.
With very little mana fixing in the environment outside of sac lands, the cycling Krosan Tusker becomes very attractive. It fits firmly into several Slide archetypes, beast decks, and Reanimator builds. With versatility such as this, could this format’s Yavimaya Elder finish any lower than fourth?
Pick 4: Krosan Tusker.
Mono black and black/red zombies have become very popular thanks to the addition of Graveborn Muse in Legions. Other black decks include B/G Reanimator (mostly using beasts) and B/W clerics. Just as you’d play Shock for removal in a red deck, you’d want Smother in your black deck. Capable of removing all morph creatures (before they get turned face up, natch), slowing down an opponent’s early game, and removing those pesky utility creatures such as Sparksmith, Smother does it all for an affordable two mana.
Pick 5: Smother.
The next choice of mine also is the only pure sideboard card on my list. With all these enchantments running around the format, people need answers from their sideboard: That’s why Naturalize will finish as the sixth most-played card in the format. Some players will even go as far as to main deck a copy or two. With Astral Slide and Lightning Rift poised as”the cards to beat” in Venice, Naturalize will be the number one choice as the card to beat them.
Pick 6: Naturalize.
What’s the best creature in the format to beat down with? Some might name Goblin Piledriver, others Blistering Firecat… But for the love of God, can you beat a 4/5 flyer with Spirit Link attached that starts swinging in the skies on turn 4? Exalted Angel will be the kill card of choice in most Astral Slide decks, and will certainly be featured in any white weenie decks that might emerge.
Pick 7: Exalted Angel.
Removal spells are very important in an environment where creatures will dominate (as opposed to the combolicious Tolarian Academy-fueled environments). Four more mass removal spells make the list, three of them red: Slice and Dice, Sparksmith, and Chain of Plasma. Sparksmith will be featured in virtually every Sligh deck that comes to the table, heading up the goblin tribe. Slice and Dice fits into most makes of Slide/Rift decks, functioning as both Simoon and Wrath of God. It also benefits the B/R zombie decks, which can often keep Soulless Ones alive after a four-point board sweeper. Chain of Plasma, while more versatile than Smother as a removal spell, might turn many people off due to its drawback. I’m betting that enough people will realize just how good Chain of Plasma really is.
Zombies. I’ve mentioned these undead buggers countless times above, but yet only one zombie card (Smother) has made the list so far. Wait no longer for my zombie picks, as they come in at 10th, 12th, 14th and 15th places. Rotlung Reanimator comes with built-in card advantage, and fits into three archetypes: Clerics, Zombies, and Reanimator. Withered Wretch, my number 12 pick, works to stop opposing zombie decks, kills Reanimator cold, all the while beating down as a 2/2 zombie for two mana himself. Graveborn Muse, touted as Necropotence on wheels, certainly deserves a lot of play in Venice. However, can the zombie deck beat Astral Slide decks? Will Cruel Revival and Skinthinner be enough to stop a deck which can phase out 13/13 ground pounders and 4/5 flyers at will? That leaves Bane of the Living, the 4/3 insect which acts as this format’s Mutilate. While it takes a little bit of mana to get going, it’s wholly capable of decimating an entire board position. And unlike Mutilate, you have more freedom of choosing exactly what –X/-X should be.
Last up on my list comes a creature which has made appearances in Extended and Standard: I talk of none other than Bottle Gnomes on crack, Ravenous Baloth. Beast decks and Reanimator decks will be sure to pack him in multiples. He serves as a great deterrent against Sligh decks, and beats down with the best of them.
Pick 13: Ravenous Baloth
So to recap, here are the choices to beat for the top 15 cards which will be played at PT Venice:
Pick 1) Shock
Pick 2) Lightning Rift
Pick 3) Astral Slide
Pick 4) Krosan Tusker
Pick 5) Smother
Pick 6) Naturalize
Pick 7) Exalted Angel
Pick 8) Slice and Dice
Pick 9) Sparksmith
Pick 10) Rotlung Reanimator
Pick 11) Chain of Plasma
Pick 12) Withered Wretch
Pick 13) Ravenous Baloth
Pick 14) Graveborn Muse
Pick 15) Bane of the Living
Tune in on Friday of this week, when I’ll have tabulated all of your results. We’ll see what the StarCity community as a whole thinks of the PT Venice metagame, hear what you guys had to say about different cards…. And I’ll explain why more people picked Wild Mongrel to appear in this format than any given blue card.