I’ve always been afraid of change. Had I been alive, I would have been one of those guys getting up in arms about”New Coke” and calling it a communist plot. Now, it’s X-amount of years later and I’m still not about to open the doors for the reds, buddy, not on your life. The only things I like red are my Bolts and maybe a steak now and then. It’s because of this irrational switch-o-phobia that the release of a new set is so consistently a trying time for me. I don’t deal with it well. I tremble, I break out in hives, I make irrational claims like “I invented the untap phase.” It helps me to cope – a little.
Eventually though, I do come to grips with the terrible truth – the fact that the Limited format that I’ve been enjoying for so many blissful months is now a faint memory, no more than an insufficiently stifled fart in the cosmic winds. This time, with Darksteel, we must buckle our seatbelts and grab on to something, because there’s a new shiz-neriff in town, the sort with a ten-gallon hat and a couple of chrome six-shooters that fairly scream “Boy, things is gonna change ’round here.”
Haaauck P-Tooiey! (tobacco)
It’s not just the new cards themselves, though. We’ve got new”0th Picks” like Skullclamp, Sword of Fire and Ice, Pristine Angel, and Fireball, but those aren’t the only cards you need to look at in order to keep your Limited game sharp! A lot of the old favorites from Mirrodin have their value affected by the addition of a Darksteel pack to drafts. Let’s take a look at nine cards (and card groupings) that are really affected by these changes.
Skeleton Shard has long been considered a fine card – the best friend of such reanimation rascals as Myr Retriever (The Full Lock!) and Clockwork Condor. Now, with the cardpool scattered with a smattering of Arcbound goodness, Skeleton Shard goes from lategame powerhouse to all-purpose monster builder, a tool for all decks to enjoy. It should be taken very early, and when you do get to the Darksteel pack, try to pick up some Workers and Stingers- anything fast and nifty. It’ll work fine with slower arcbound bruisers like…uh…well, Arcbound Bruiser.
The procedure, constant reader, is as simple as Sunday trousers. Your guy dies, you put some counters on your Wizard Replica (my favorite common target – yours may differ!) and then you bring him back and do it all over again. Especially fun with Atog, Krark-Clan Grunt, and their many friends. Heck, Skeleton Shard plus Arcbound Ravager may actually be the high nut.
What? What are you laughing at? I know my poker terminology -“High Nut” is all over the cardrooms. Don’t try to tell me my business.
#2.Krark-Clan Grunt, Atog
Player 1: “Unforge your Viridian Longbow?”
Player 2:“Sacrifice it to my Grunt.
Voice of Tim Aten:“OMG Blownout!”
These guys were good before, but now they perform the important task of fizzling such spells as Carry Away and especially Unforge, which can really ruin your day if you’re running a deck with Equipment. A lot of fast R/x decks (usually R/B or R/W) love to run such things as Leonin Scimitar and Viridian Longbow, and Unforge on one of those puppies can really take you out of the game while the Fangren Hunters start dropping on the other side of the table. With a Grunt or Atog out, you don’t have to worry about such malevolent equipment chicanery – they even help soften the blow from something like Murderous Spoils.
The Grunt and Atog are also excellent with the Arcbound creatures, providing a way to instantly play power/toughness tricks on the hapless foe. They also allow you to play artifact lands without fear of Tanglewalker, help out with a Fractured Loyalty that is about to go awry (want him back, do you? No dice!) and perform other helpful services like”beating down.” You can also play two of the same artifact without fear of Echoing Ruin. For all of these reasons, the Grunt and Atog are very nice to have in a MMD limited deck.
#3.Raise The Alarm, One Dozen Eyes
These cards are better simply because of the existence of Darksteel’s Green common creature pumper, Echoing Courage. Raise the Alarm was always good, better than most people thought, but now it’s really set to shine in G/W decks that want to beat down, with nonstop attacks, combat tricks up the yin-yang, and enough Blinding Beams to fill a breadbasket. If you’re playing Green at all and have the chance to take Raise or One Dozen Eyes over (what was formerly) a comparable card, snatch it up. These cards end games in conjunction with Echoing Courage, though you have to be careful that the targeted creature isn’t removed in response!
What you do, see, is wait until the coast is clear. Then, you send in the Insects.
Whap-Thud! From harmless tick to Manhattan cockroach for one easy payment of 1G.
#4.Forge[/author] Armor”][author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] Armor
Keep an eye out for this – you’ll get it late and it’s dynamite with the new land-affinity golems, especially Oxidda Golem, with which it essentially shares a color. The Oxidda Golem is a 3/2 with haste and a fair creature, but it sometimes gets obsolete quickly when the big fatties come around, fading into uselessness in a way that the other golems (Spire, Tangle, Dross and Razor) do not. Turn 4 Oxidda, attack, turn 5 Forge[/author] Armor”][author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] Armor him onto my Arcbound Stinger is a saucy play. Forge[/author] Armor”][author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] Armor gains utility even without a golem to take the bullet, though – it’s a fine card to use with mid-sized Arcbounds (sacrificing a Bruiser lets you put eight +1/+1 counters on something).
I once Forge Armored an Oxidda Golem onto my Spikeshot Goblin – that was good times! Until I got DQ’d. There’s actually a rule, 110.7d, that prevents you from Forge Armoring six +1/+1 counters onto your Spikeshot Goblin. It’s unsportsmanlike conduct and cheating, apparently, and the penalty is a DQ without prize. Come to think of it, it does seem a little unfair.
I personally think these things are awful, and now I want to share that knowledge with you, the consumer. There are a couple of cards that interact with Vulshok Gauntlets in Darksteel, with diametrically opposed effects. Razor Golem gives White decks another creature to use with this hot and cold piece of Equipment (which is on rare occasions a powerhouse and sometimes just terrible), while Leonin Bola simultaneously shuts down any Yotian Soldier who thinks he’s Charles Bronson.
“I’ll tap you.”
“…This ain’t ov-ah.”
Leonin Bola screws over Equipment in general, using the weakest creature on the board to nullify what is generally the strongest opposing man, but this goes double for Vulshok Gauntlets, which are not only ineffective with the Bola on the other side of the table but actually detrimental.
Don’t let it happen to you! Considering the awful creatures you have to play with for Vulshok Gauntlets to be any good in the first place, perennial crud-smugglers like Goblin War Wagon (Get In There For Three!), Yotian Soldier (Twenty Turn Clock Motherf$&^$%Er asdhagsdahsfda) and of course Goblin Dirigible, the sixth turn equivalent of tripping over your own feet. Sure, these horrific hand-coverings are fine with Leonin Den-Guard and Razor Golem, but those are great with any piece of Equipment, so why use this dog?
Leonin Bola was the last nail in the coffin, I will never draft a Gauntlets again. Pass those Gauntlets along, let some other guy waste his turn.
No rare got a bigger boost from all the Arcbound creatures than Triskelion, which is now as good as can be. Pentavus also uses +1/+1 counters, but it was already completely nuts, so the counter-reload help won’t be noticed as much when”The Fleet” a.k.a.”Morphling 2k4″ a.k.a.”The ‘Vus” arrives on the scene. Triskelion, on the other hand, has been lifted from”very good” to”crazy good,” and will now sit on the table waiting for your Arcbound guys to take a dirtnap so it can grab a handful of +1/+1 counters and machine gun some more men. There’s almost nothing in the format I’d take over Triskelion now – I can count the uncommons on one hand. Words can barely express the great feeling that comes with firing that Trike into play on turn 5. They fail me, and that’s a rare occurrence for a guy with a mouth as big as mine. I falter when it comes time to express my Triskelion-related joy.
That said, I’ll give it the ol’ college try.
I sometimes get emails from enterprising lads overseas – people trying to sell me herbal stimulants. Some of these sordid communiques, using language clearly designed to evade spam filters, offer me the chance to have”a veray lardge pebnis.” Now, I’m not 100% sure what a”pebnis” is, or why I would want a very large one, but I can guess. And according to the glowing recommendations that trickle into my Inbox with spooky regularity, having a”lardge pebnis” is quite a good feeling indeed. These misspelled missives advertise the benefits of a gargantuan”pebnis” with a zealous and persuasive eagerness that would be endearing if it wasn’t so creepy. Enhanced virility, self-esteem and quality of life, all from the mystic”lardge pebnis,” the proverbial goose that lays golden eggs of success.
To conclude, I suspect that a turn 5 Triskelion, with Grunt and Bruiser in play, must illicit feelings quite similar to having a lardge pebnis.
#7. Mana Myr and Talismans
I’ve long been of the opinion that decks with less than two Myr almost never win – they speed you up, carry your Equipment, and generally help out the cause. Talismans are almost as good, and when it comes to splashing, they’re even better. The bottom line is, you want to cast your Crystal Shard on turn 3 with that Blue mana open, not tapped. That Vulshok Berserker wants to crash into the zone on turn 3, not turn 4.
In order to make sure you get the required two Myr/Talismans, you’re going to need to pick them up in the first two packs, unless you’re playing Blue. Actually, the whole mana situation is pretty interesting.
Blue has Talismans and Myr in packs one and two, and Vedalken Engineer in the Darksteel pack.
White has Talismans and Myr in packs one and two.
Green has Talismans, Myr and Viridian Joiners in packs one and two. Joiners aren’t quite as good, but with Fangren Hunter and Tel-Jilad Archers costing five, they’ll sometimes do the trick.
Red has Talismans and Myr in packs one and two.
Black has Talismans and Myr in packs one and two.
All colors get Darksteel Ingot in the Darksteel pack.
I firmly believe every deck should have access to a couple of these fine mana-producing cards. If you’re in R/W or B/R (two fine archetypes, if I do say so myself – Blinding Beam makes me feel positively naughty, and Raise the Alarm isn’t far behind), you’ll need to pick ’em up in packs one and two, so don’t delay. You’ll make your own personal decision about how much card quality you’re willing to sacrifice in order to smooth out your mana in the opening game. I’m personally willing to forego a lot in order to get two Myr, on color or not. When it comes to grabbing fourteen creatures, I’m like a monk setting himself on fire – almost no sacrifice is too great. [Geordie isn’t Buddhist, he’s just Canadian. They do some strange stuff to keep warm in the winter. – Knut] Creatures thirteen and fourteen are, ideally, a couple of Myr, and heaven help the poor fool that stands in my way.
I keep Myr in my pockets and sneak them into my decks on the sly.
Ok, not really.
I keep ’em up my sleeve. My pockets are where I keep the Spikeshots.
8.Elf Replica/Razor Barrier
These previously mediocre cards are more maindeckable now not only to counter annoyances like Arrest, but because of the existence of Carry Away and also Screams from Within, a card that sometimes leaps out of the uncommon slot to have a Goblin Sharpshooter-like effect on the game. Also, the cat is out of the bag on Fractured Loyalty, which functions like Control Magic a lot of the time.
Fractured Loyalty is still very hard to counter with Elf Replica, and Screams from Within will have smoked every one-toughness creature you control before you can get rid of it using the 2/2 Elf, but Razor Barrier works in both cases if you have the mana ready. The Barrier doesn’t work retroactively against Carry Away (you no longer control the permanent) but the Replica does. They serve auxiliary functions as well – Razor Barrier is a combat trick/counterspell for removal and Elf Replica is a 2/2 beater.
Don’t overlook these cards if you’re on the prowl for a 24th card.
9. Splash Cards For Power
With Darksteel Ingot in the common slot and Mirrodin’s Core in the uncommon slot, Darksteel is very splash-friendly, and I have seen many three on three team drafts 3-0’d by guys willing to play a true three or four color deck (usually base Green, but often not) to offset the weaker card pool that comes with having only six packs circling the table. Take the artifact, creature, or removal card from every pack, pick a base color where you can use double-colored casting cost spells, and go to town.
Decks are faster now that people understand the format, true – but there’s something to be said for pure power level in the cards you choose. If you’re taking those Deconstructs you’d normally have to pass for something like Leaden Myr if committed to B/R, you’re going to be rewarded with a very high power level in your cards when all is said and done. Darksteel gives you the mana tools you need to play a”good stuff” deck and not pay the price in color screw.
You’ll find this advice most useful at smaller tables (four and six man team drafts, generally), but it will work quite well at a typical eight man table as well. A deck with Terror, dubs Barbed Lightning, Viridian Shaman, and Crystal Shard can easily be a winner!
Well folks, that’s all for this week. I’ll be back next week with something or other, though I’m not sure what. Probably a report from the March 6th Waterloo PTQ, with more strategy capsules (if I do well) or complaining (if I don’t). Until then, have fun with those MMD drafts!