A Singular Dilemma – Sassy Accessories

I know a lot of you were waiting for the artifact dilemma. Sadly Mike was so distraught over his recent beatings in the polls, that he has gone into hiding and has been difficult to reach. It may also have to do with Amsterdam preparation and spending time with his lovely fiancé. I don’t remember if I have said this publicly or not, but congratulations Mike and Rachel, you are both great people and I wish you a long, happy life together. In the meantime, I want to go over all the Equipment one by one in my own sassy, against the grain pick order. I don’t feel like I am cutting off my Dilemma series, as I will be discussing all Equipment not just the commons.

It isn’t often a new card type comes along. In fact, the last time it happened was back in the days of Legends with Enchant World. Mirrodin brought us Equipment and there has been a lot written on it, and rightly so. Laura Mills wrote an article for Star City about using Equipment effectively. Nick Eisel covered his rating system for Equipment. Countless authors have put Equipment into their discussions of draft in general. And many aggressive Constructed decks have shown the power of Bonesplitter.

Equipment is not only a new card type, but it reacts with the game very differently than anything else. If you look back to the first artifact set, Antiquities, there were cards that acted similarly, but they weren’t quite the same. They tapped to create their effect, so you couldn’t put them on more than one creature in a turn, and they were fairly dull. Ashnod’s Battle Gear is one example of how these precursor’s to Equipment worked to give you an idea of how underpowered they were.

I know a lot of you were waiting for the artifact dilemma. Sadly Mike was so distraught over his recent beatings in the polls, that he has gone into hiding and has been difficult to reach. It may also have to do with Amsterdam preparation and spending time with his lovely fiancé. I don’t remember if I have said this publicly or not, but congratulations Mike and Rachel, you are both great people and I wish you a long, happy life together.

In the meantime, I want to go over all the Equipment one by one in my own sassy, against the grain pick order. I don’t feel like I am cutting off my Dilemma series, as I will be discussing all Equipment not just the commons.

The thrust of this article will be that Equipment is flat out overrated. While I once considered Bonesplitter to be the best first-pick common in the set, I now rank several cards over it. I once considered Loxodon Warhammer to be in the top five cards in the set, I am no longer sure it makes top twenty, and I don’t even consider it the best piece of Equipment. While I at one time would play a lot of land in my deck to accommodate early pick Vulshok Battlegear and Vulshok Gauntlets, because I thought Equipment dexterity was of the utmost importance. Now I try to avoid cards like this unless I have several creatures that don’t tap to attack, so I can get dual use out of them without Equipping twice in one turn.

I had a discussion with Brian Kibler a while back about why people lose games when they can’t see their mistakes. He gave me one of the more original, insightful answers to this question I had ever heard. He told me that often players lose because in the early game they spend their mana to gain card advantage or sneak in extra damage instead of developing their board. These words summarize what I think is the main problem with Equipment. When you spend turn 4 putting a Battlegear on a Myr, you have essentially granted your opponent an extra turn for four damage. What bothers me isn’t so much that people make this”error” due to Equipment. What bothers me is that often, it is the correct play to do this, and the very presence of this heavy Equipment in your deck will cause a tempo swing in your opponent’s favor. Compound that with the fact that it is probably just as often the wrong play, and you have a card type that is problematic at best.

Another big problem with Equipment is that it is fragile. Not only can it be destroyed by every piece of artifact removal created so far, but it can be destroyed by two more (Turn to Dust and Rustspore Ram). If Equipment is destroyed mid combat, it often means a two-for-one in favor of you opponent. On top of that Blue has two ways of disarming a creature mid combat (Disarm and Regress).

For the record, I don’t think Wizards made a mistake in creating this card type. It impacts games, it is skill testing, and it gave us something else to think about while the game is going on.

I don’t want you to think from my attitude that all Equipment is bad or that some of it isn’t actually quite good. The point I am trying to make is that by in large it is overrated and not thought of properly in people’s minds.

Here is a listing, in power order, of the Equipment in this block:

1) Mask of Memory

Idiot, moron, crack-smoker, douchebag, lame-brain. These are just a few of the epithets that should be hurled at me due to my initial reaction to this card. I did a money draft with Osyp, and I told him to leave this card in his sideboard. That’s right I’m an idiot. In a discussion with Antonino today I likened this card to Hypnotic Specter. That is to say, if you get hit with this card twice, you just lose the game. I feel that this is one of the few pieces of Equipment that is Constructed playable.

2) Loxodon Warhammer

If Mask of Memory is Hypnotic Specter, then this is Juzam Djinn. Sure you can come back from two hits by this guy, but you are certainly dead after four. Just because I am not as in love with this card as I once was, doesn’t mean I don’t think it is incredibly powerful. The drawback is this card is very slow, and you give your opponents a fair amount of time to dig for an answer to the Hammer itself or the creatures you put it on.

I am not saying don’t slam this thing when you open your pack, but don’t consider taking it over the busty rare creatures. Megatog, Arc Slogger, Molder Slug, Pentavus, Leonin Abunas, Troll Ascetic, etc. these should all be considered over the Warhammer if you are in those colors. You can also take Icy Manipulator, Crystal Shard, Grab the Reins, Betrayal of Flesh, and there are even times in pack 3 when Spikeshot Goblin or Fangren Hunter should be considered over this card.

3) Lightning Greaves

While I don’t think I could quite bring myself to draft this over the Warhammer, I find myself getting just as excited about it. No matter what deck you’ve drafted: Affinity, Mono Black, Green Red, White/x, this card will be a boon to you. It creates a tempo swing every time you play a creature, and in addition to that it keeps your best creatures safe. Nine times out of ten, it does both. On top of all that, it is the best Equipment for Constructed. It is the only piece of Equipment to make a relevant impact on Extended at Pro Tour: New Orleans, and it is a prominent card in one of the best Type Two decks out there, Affinity.

4) Nightmare Lash

Obviously this card is not very good outside of Black. In fact, it is probably only this high in mono-Black. I placed it this high on the list because if you are drafting mono-Black, this is where you should put it, and if you are not, you should often ignore it, and odds are it won’t lap. So when this card is pickable, it is the fourth best piece of Equipment. It is free to equip, and in the deck it shines in, it is the biggest boost to power and toughness you will likely find. The difference between this and the next piece is that this doesn’t cause you to play much differently to yield the maximum bonus.

5) Empyrial Plate

It is hard to believe that a card that so closely mirrors a card that was being considered for banning in its format would be so low on this list. Empyrial Armor was such a devastatingly game-breaking card that for a time, it was being considered for banning in Limited. The Plate closely resembles this card, but the plethora of artifact kill and the rare status of it reduce the cause for alarm. The only reason I rank this below Nightmare Lash is that in the late game, unless you have been playing in hopes of drawing this card (hence weakening your development), it is going to be less effective at the same mana cost. However I was painfully introduced to the power of putting this on a Viridian Joiner early in the game in one of my Mirrodin Leagues.

6) Sword of Kaldra

Let me tell you, if there weren’t five different mana Myr in this set, this card would be nowhere near this high. However, if you have ever had the turn 2 Myr turn 3 Sword turn 4 attack for six draw, you would understand what I am talking about. This draw is so absurdly powerful that it alone shoots this card up several spots. [I swear on my cat’s grave that I lost to this draw in five consecutive draft games against three different decks. Losing to Leonin Elder beats leaves a pleasantly bitter, acidic taste at the back of your mouth. – Knut] That being said, four to cast and four to equip is a lot of mana invested. And often times this card can clog your hand for just that reason. I like this card, but it is far from a bomb. [Except against me. – Knut, still bitter]

7) Bonesplitter

This is one of the few Equipment cards that actually nets you tempo. In this format, there isn’t much else to do turn 1 and often times, especially with Myr and Talismans, you have an extra mana floating around when you need it. The sad part about this piece of Equipment is that is it nowhere near as powerful as our Urza’s Legacy buddy, Rancor. It doesn’t give trample, and the one-drops in this set are far less impressive than those in Urza’s Block. When you traded with Rancor’d creatures, you were still taking some damage or losing a higher quality creature – with the Splitter, you often have to do neither.

8) Fireshrieker

When this card is, good it is very good. Sadly, considering the average quality of creature in this set, it is rarely very good. If you are”forced” to pick this card early, try to keep it in mind when you are making the close call between Ogre Leadfoot and off color Myr. Later in the draft when debating this card or Goblin Dirigible, think about the creatures in your deck.

9) Vulshok Battlegear

If Sword of Kaldra and Leonin Scimitar had a love child, it would probably look a lot like this. More expensive for the effect than Sword, but also an uncommon, so you can’t be too choosy. This card has always either been fantastic or unimpressive to me. I’ll give you an anecdote to illustrate this.

I put this card on the board as bait, because I had Loxodon Warhammer in my hand. Now I won the game, but it was closer than it would have been had I baited with the Warhammer to protect the Battlegear. Three toughness can often help you out more than the life gain plus trample, especially if you are low on creatures. This is where the value of Equipment really starts to diminish.

10) Scythe of the Wretched

Now call me crazy, but if I am spending four to equip, I want a little more than +2/+2. I won’t deny it has a nice ability. Sometimes that ability is enough to make the creature effectively unblockable, but four mana is damn near unmanageable. Now you start to look at the Equipment that can very easily be cut from a deck that doesn’t thrive on it.

11) Leonin Scimitar

This card shines in mysterious ways. +1/+1 doesn’t seem like much, but it can do a lot. You’d be surprised just how much better a Fangren Hunter gets with this card on it. This card belongs in Affinity decks, mono-Black decks, and White decks. In these decks it comes out early and provides additional effects to the +1/+1.

12) Vulshok Gauntlets

This may have fallen farther than any card in my estimation. I used to think it was one of the top five commons in the set, now I often don’t take it at all unless I am filled to the brim with cards that break it (Spikeshot Goblin, Leonin Den-Guard, Yotian Soldier, Skyhunter Cub, Goblin War Wagon, Goblin Dirigible). Far from unplayable, but not extremely desirable.

13) Viridian Longbow

One of the two pieces of Equipment designed to be defensive. This card can utterly annihilate your opponent or be effectively dead. Cards with swings that huge are low on my list, but it is a one-mana artifact and it can do some real damage. This is the last of the Equipment that should be played more often than not.

14) Banshee’s Blade

Nick Eisel had some high praise for this card, I just don’t see it. If you have that much evasion in your deck, you likely don’t need this card to win. This draft pick would be better spent on something that can protect the ground, or pump up your evasion in the short term.

15) Neurok Hoversail

Nate Heiss wants this in his Green/Red deck. While it can shine there, more often than not, it is unnecessary. My Green/Red decks boast far less artifacts than Nate maintains.

16) Slagwurm Armor

Playable in Mono Black and a desperation maneuver when you find yourself with a lot of Cubs and Den-Guards and not much Equipment. This should generally be in your sideboard or better yet, not drafted.

17) Dead-Iron Sledge

Ok, I admit it, I lost a game to this card. I actually lost the game to drawing less creatures than him and the Sledge drove this point home, as he could keep attacking into my lone Tel-Jilad Archer and get through. This can be a good sideboard card if you are facing a deck with few creatures that are all bigger than yours, but there are too many Myr to main deck this thing.

18) Golem-Skin Gauntlets

If you have enough Equipment in your deck to make this card”good,” I pity you. Any more than four pieces and you have too much, and that is not nearly enough for this thing to get the nod.

19) Vorrac Battlehorns


20) Worldslayer

Omgomgomgomg two Disks in one set! Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeahhhh…..

So in a nutshell, Equipment is good, not great. None of it is quite as good as people thought except Mask of Memory and Lightning Greaves. Just remember there is more than meets the eye in the playing of these cards.

I generally try to keep my articles hovering in the 1,500-2,000 word range. This one is already over so I figured it was a good time to revive an old tradition. I was asked to add some humor to my articles so… with all due respect to Mike Bregoli and MiseTings, I have decided to bring back the Good Man of the Week award in the pages of my articles on Star City. I am not so crass that I would put it at the beginning and force you to, at best, scroll past it. For those of you interested read on, for those not interested, I hope you enjoyed the piece.

Good Man of the Week: Mike Long

Before I go into this, I should point out what makes a good man. Some think it is contribution to the magic community, others think it is contributions to society as a whole, some think it is humor, some think it is accomplishment. Well the only true determining factor for a GMOTW is that I feel like writing about them.

This week we honor the most loveable of scum, Mike Long. Now there are a lot of misconceptions about Mike. Some see him as an evil, self-serving, ruthless, cruel, opportunist. But I had the opportunity to meet a different Mike Long. I was able to glean some very keen insights into this man who was called the Darth Vader of Magic so many years ago.

Like Vader, Mike has a seemingly unending devotion to a”religion” that most of us may balk at. While I don’t feel it is my place to go into the specifics of this, I can promise you that after talking to him, I can say with 100% certainty that he has never done anything bad to anybody. If you need proof of this, you will have to talk to the man himself.

Mike is giving back to the Magic community that he loves so much. He is willing (for a nominal fee), to impart his vast knowledge of the game, game theory, and psychology on you for a low, low price available only at http://www.mtgsecrets.com. Mike’s razor wit and abundance of charisma have lured many people into his world, and they are all better for it.

Throughout time, Mike has been taken advantage of. In a match with mark Justice, Mark was able to cheat and convince a judge that it was in fact Mike who was cheating. Our poor protagonist could do nothing but accept his fate, while realizing that Justice had done nothing to him.

He is a man who loves his beans and is often found counting them in front of his computer while supporting his family. He is one of the few who has been with the Pro Tour since its inception and he is one of the few who will never be forgotten.

Some of his favorite cards include Elephant Grass, Elvish Piper, Waiting in the Weeds, Necropotence, and Smoke.

For all you have done for us, but not to us, Mike I hereby give you the first award in a new era of…. Good Man of the Week!