The Onslaught spoiler is apparently leaked; whether or not that spoiler is official is totally questionable. But enough is already confirmed that anyone writing anything slightly readable can definitely find something to make a point of in the massive jumble of confirmed and unconfirmed cards. Let’s get this show on the road.
Let’s Talk About Tribes
If you’re like me, you’re one of those zany people who still clings to their casual days with fond appreciation. Onslaught, to me, says,”I am the set you wished for ten years ago” – and it does it repeatedly. The reason is the concept of Tribes… And of course, that cycle of giant fat legendary creatures.
The main thing for me is that White got a number of very interesting tribal creatures. White’s primary is Soldier an old standby from quite a while back. Almost every white Aven is part Soldier – and there’s even a good White soldier in the main set, good ol’ Longbow Archer. So there is an established number of good Soldiers, and even the ancient Soldier tokens from Unglued.
Attacking doesn’t cause Soldiers to tap.
2W: Put a 1/1 white Soldier creature token into play.
Serra’s Blessing is, in and of itself, not that great a card: However, it is not a bad card, it just that the loss of a card and the loss of tempo to cast it doesn’t often justify the card.”Does not tap to attack” is either a very powerful ability or a very bad one: The fact you get a card that produces Soldier tokens galore at a fair price alongside Serra’s Blessing puts this card over the top.
Why? Well even when you’re not making Soldiers, Mobilization let’s you keep blockers around and use tap effects however you see fit. It remains useful even when you don’t have the mana to make a lot of tokens, while not having the”might do nothing” problem that Serra’s Blessing does. Slip Mobilization by and Blue decks aren’t going to care if they can clear every creature you draw into your graveyard; you’re still going to be making more.
Two of my favourite new white weenies are Soldiers as well. First, we have the arrogant…
Creature – Soldier Rebel Uncommon
W, T: Tap target creature.
Morph W (You may play this face down as a 2/2 creature for 3. Turn it face up any time for its morph cost.)
His bolas whirl like galaxies, but it’s his enemies who see stars.
A 2/2 for two mana is par for the course in White. The problem with 2/2s for two is simply that unless they have an overwhelmingly powerful effect on the board, their lack of size will over time make them increasingly useless; a 2/2 doesn’t match up with a 6/6 that well. But the Whipcorder, who is both a soldier and a rebel – making him a graduate of white’s first and third-best academies of war – doesn’t take any of that”Getting useless” deal at all. Sure, there’s a 6/6 on the table… Tap it down! And with Mobilization out, he’s not only tapping them down, he’s attacking beforehand and then tapping them down.*
Then we have the likely sleeper hit…
Creature – Soldier Uncommon
Tap two untapped Soldiers you control: Catapult Squad deals two damage to target attacking or blocking creature.
Together they could hit anything between the heavens and the horizon.
I can’t say for sure that the Squad is going to be playable in Standard; I think the Whipcorder will be, should White Weenie manage to get itself mobilized, and it’s a rebel so it might very well find itself a home in someone’s deck.
The squad is almost a bomb in Limited, though. You wanna talk manipulative combat math? Throwing an extra two or more around before combat damage is dealt is downright rude. Blow fliers out of the sky, topple fatties, or just add more to the pain to bring a larger creature down. I can’t really describe the gleeful feel I’d get, putting this on the board with three or four other soldiers on the table on my side of the board. The grin as I look up at my opponent that says”Hey, I can do four or more damage before your creatures even take a swing” will be priceless.
Remember, this is Onslaught. White decks will have five to ten soldier creatures in them, and the Squad will make your opponent count them hard.
Soldiers also get the benefits of the”white Heart of Yavimaya”:
T: Add 1 to your mana pool.
W, T: Target Soldier gets +1/+1 until end of turn.
Certainly a great treat in Limited, the encampment might even make its way into standard should soldiers prove their mettle. I keep looking at stuff like Longbow archer and thinking of the subtle points the card raises. The ability to make soldiers bigger right when they need it, in order to trade with a beast, elephant, or zombie will be important. But at the same time, the need for white mana in a deck might make this one trickier; you might have to head down the dreaded mono-colour road. Who knows?
This a great example of Tribalism in Onslaught. While Shared Triumph might not have fit in other, less unified sets, it fits snugly into Onslaught. You will not be running six or ten different creature types. Even in Limited, you will be finding yourself with three to five, and sometimes, even less. Shared Triumph will not suffer the problem that Crusade or Divine Sacrament sometimes do, as you will be able to both pinpoint your best creature type to receive the boon… But at the same time, you’ll be able to avoid locking the +1/+1 on your opponent’s creatures or have to hold a dead card in hand.
Every colour is like this! It’s like a theme deck parade with all the blissful, childlike innocence of a”Goblin deck” or a”Cleric deck” – while at the same time, the boons granted by those interactions might go so far as to make the individual tribes tournament worthy without the outright frustration of the last great theme deck: Rebels. I am certain that you will at the very least see a deck based around beasts, considering how powerful the”beast” abilities of Ravenous Baloth and Contested Cliffs happens to be. This is a real boon to both casual players and the casual natures of players, although it’s all in the air whether or not we’ll see these sorts of decks.
Giant Idiots Ruin Games
If you want to talk about great and subtle articles, I’d have to point out Josh Bennet’s recent article, Introducing the Pit Fighter Legends, as one of those top of the line bits of writing that I actually re-read a few times just out of the pure joy of enjoying good writing. I swear I’ll be screaming out”Prefer your neck knee-free?” every time I nail my opponent with a hasted fatty for years to come.
Beyond that very humourous article is a very subtle point made about a change in R&D’s outlook that came about during Invasion block, yet seems to have continued onwards: That is, we now seem to get really fat, large, great creatures for a proper mana cost. Seeing as this a cycle of creatures, it becomes obvious that each colour has indeed gotten an excellent card… Except maybe Red’s entry, who barely seems better than the venerable Shivan dragon.
Each of them stands out, on some level, as a card which you might very well end up putting in your deck or playing in some fashion – casual player or no – and yet they all appeal to our”inner gamer” who loves to see big giant creatures smash face. Arcanis, of course, will probably appeal to anyone who has the blood of a blue mage in their veins: I plan on slipping a Silvos into the sideboard of any deck that uses Living Wish, because few things decide Aggro vs. Aggro matchups like a 8/5 trampler with regeneration, eh?
And Now? The Confusion!
While the set contains many good cards, and many interesting strategies will show up in limited through Morph, there is the real point that one wonders about the whole colour wheel thing and what rebalances have been made.
The first is that green is now the home of”whenever ~this~ deals combat damage to a player, you may draw a card” – which is a nice change that will please many players. The Hystrodon is not much of an Ophidian or Shadow Mage, but more of a large fatty creature, means it remains mostly in the theme of Green while gaining a fair ability in the process.
I’m not bothered by Green getting Hystrodon in the least, but I am bothered by the fact that Green received a number of other colour’s abilities at a point in time where those colours might be better off being left alone.
Naturalise is not totally out of green’s theme, as Green has long be able to destroy any type of permanent with a variety of”wind”-based cards. But it does essentially emulate a previously present white card down to the line. It is exactly like disenchant. It does not cycle, it has no special”green” abilities, it is not a sorcery; it essentially is a Disenchant, only printed in green. There is no theming really shown here, and it is a disappointment to anyone following the current Standard environment. Green needs no further boosting. Green is far from incapable of dealing with enchantments or artifacts, of course… But making green better actually seems like a pretty bad plan at the moment. We have 6/6 creatures for four mana that can easily gain free evasion in mono-green; I don’t see why we require additional abilities be refined for green. I’m of the opinion that green got Naturalise due to the nature of Limited/block Onslaught… But if this heralds the end of Disenchant, a number of people will be displeased. White has seen black get Wrath, the loss of Armageddon effects, and the gradual weakening of all its”good” themes. The best weenie is green; what else is going to green?
Well, there is also the very wonderful;
Creature – Insect R
Gigapede can’t be the target of spells or abilities.
At the beginning of your upkeep, if Gigapede is in your graveyard, you may discard a card from your hand. If you do, return Gigapede to your hand.
Glen Angus 264/350
While this is a reprint of Deadly Insect and perhaps one of the best cards in the set given it’s innate comboliciousness with Violent Eruption, but the card represents – to me – a clear sign that Wizards intends for Green to have access to graveyard recursion, at least for now. Genesis, to me, seemed a little out of flavour but fine due to the whole”Judgement Incarnation” factor. Gigapede, on the other hand, feels like a black card.
It’s just a great card, of course, and I have no personal complaint with it – it’s one of my favourites out of the set – but at the moment it looks too much like green is getting far too many new mechanics at once. Alongside madness creatures, Gigapede is pure card advantage. Let’s hope writers aren’t complaining about how overpowered green is in a year or two.
It’s great green is getting a lot of good cards, but a lot of them are the sort of cards that white isn’t going to be able to deal with in Standard. It will also make mono-black beatdown – which feels more and more like a reality – weaker, since they’ll be forced to play ridiculously strong creature kill simply because only Shade can plow through the absurd fatties green is getting.
Or maybe I’d be happy if they stop printing non-interactive life gain, at all:
Creature – Cleric Lord Rare
Tap five untapped Clerics you control: You gain 10 life.
“We have faced horrors of war and terrors beyond imagining. We will overcome the uncertainties of this new life.”
Kev Walker 3/350
* – Confirmed cards have been shown on Wizards’ sites. Unconfirmed have shown up on the www.mtgnews.com site’s spoiler, which is a very good source.