Now that all the cards of Odyssey are revealed, it will take several weeks before most of the possibilities of the set are explored. I’ll share what I’ve picked up from the Prerelease, and bend this Limited tournament experience into lessons for multiplayer play. Because that’s typically what I’m thinking at a Prerelease: Oh, look at this card, I wonder if I could fit it into my Grave Pact deck; look at that one, I’ll bet Pete will have that in some squirrel deck soon; and so on.
So this will kind of look like a tournament report; but that’s not what you should be focusing on.
THE CARD POOL
Here’s what I got to work with. We’ll take it color by color:
3 Diligent Farmhand
Call of the Herd
This didn’t look too bad. I noticed that double-green showed up a lot, and I also noticed that two out of two rares so far (Call of the Herd, Bearscape) were solid. What I really liked about the green was the fact that three Diligent Farmhands would not only ramp me up a curve fast, but would also get me to threshold faster. I liked green, but didn’t love it.
Krosan Archer is a great way to get to threshold; in multiplayer, I’m already thinking that this may be the best way to”threaten” the table that your Krosan Beast is about to go nuclear. I faced this thing all day long and it was a pain in my backside.
2 Scorching Missile
Bash to Bits
2 Pardic Swordsmith
The deck I had opened and passed on showed me just how much amazing red removal was in this set. Then, in stark contrast, I received this. While I had nothing against the cards in this set, I put the Barbarian and Chainflinger in one pile to consider for a splash, and everything else in the other. Without great removal,”okay” red creatures weren’t going to build a deck for me.
Please note that I consider Chainflinger far better than”okay” – this thing looks fantastic, and as a more rigorous”Tim” should enjoy not only honored status in limited format, but also lots of casual play, since it serves as both creature and removal and finisher, and can warn off all sorts of things. For combination possibilities, think of this thing with Saber Ants, or a creature enchanted by Druid’s Call, or Repercussion.
2 Whispering Shade
I was quite pleased to get two or three of the few playable removal options black gets in Odyssey. (I’m speaking in a relative sense here; compare with the black in Invasion, or Masques, or Urza’s Saga.) With decent, splashable cards, black was screaming”second color” at me. Again, look at the list: Every card is playable!
Infected Vermin is, of course, the latest version of Pestilence and Crypt Rats. This card, together with the bomb in gold (below), is what led me to my unusual Prerelease strategy. As a loud admirer of the Thrashing Wumpus, I just couldn’t face you all if I didn’t play her little cousin.
2 Nomad Decoy
Testament of Faith
Pilgrim of Justice
Ray of Distortion
I am rarely impressed by white in sealed deck. This was one of those rare moments. With my Decoys alone, I had the ability to tap four creatures in the late game. And again with the splashability! Until I looked at the next color, I was thinking white/black/red, with apologies to green.
Shelter works even better than Confound since it works as a combat trick, and this card will be even better in multiplayer games, since it protects against many sweepers like Hurricane, Inferno, and Pestilence. Wizards is apparently trying hard to convert me to white; for now, I’ll just say I appreciate the direction they’re taking.
Words of Wisdom
Touch of Invisibility
Amugaba! Amugaba! AMUGABA!!! Here was a card that I knew would bring home the bacon. Since this beast combined with yet another tapper (Puppeteer), another solid flyer (Windreader), and blue’s normal complement of pacing bounce cards, I felt at this point I absolutely needed to run blue/white, with blue as primary color.
Patron Wizard was the only rare I was”disappointed” with; while I like the ability and 2/2 body for three, the UUU cost meant I was fairly certain I wouldn’t be running it. But I like this new”champion” for wizard decks, and encourage readers to mess with it a bit.
Let’s just set aside the uber-bomb at the top, there, and focus on the Deadfall and Steamclaw, which I was thrilled to see. Since the Amugaba put me in a white-blue mood, I knew that Deadfall would help me in the removal category, there. The Steamclaw looked like a strong sideboard card; and I wouldn’t blame anyone for maindecking it.
Okay, on to the Dragon. This is what obviously put my card pool over the edge, from four and a half solid colors (red is the half) to the mathematically improbable five and a half. (How else would you describe this situation?) I went nuts trying to figure out if I should build the obvious blue/white defensive deck, or the green/black/red mid-game offensive deck.
WHAT WOULD HOMER DO?
Control, or beatdown? Control, or beatdown? It took me nearly as long as it took me to read Homer’s original Odyssey in college to make a decision.
In the end, I decided that the blue/white would give me the edge against players of equal skill but one-note beatdown decks. It was also”against type” for me as an aggressive player, which meant I might just learn something.
If you refer back to the color lists above, I ran the blue cards on the list down to Words of Wisdom, the white cards down to Cease Fire, and the Deadfall in my maindeck. Cease Fire came out almost every time for Fervent Denial, once I realized how long I could make games go. Spiritualize and Words of Wisdom were shaky (I nearly decked myself three times), and I won’t argue with anyone who would tell me they aren’t worth it. Steamclaw and just about any of the other blue cards would have been fine there, instead.
So that’s it, right? I ran the blue/white deck all day and bored people to death?
Um, no. Let me introduce you to my sideboard.
I would take out eight Plains, nine Islands, the Deadfall, all of the blue cards, all of the white cards…And then I’d put in the Vampiric Dragon, all of the green down to Bearscape, all of the black down to Afflict, the Barbarian and Chainflinger, Steamclaw, the two non-basic lands, seven forests, six swamps, and two mountains. There’s a little room in there for another card or two; I’d use Execute, Whispering Shade, or Innocent Blood, depending on what I was facing.
In one of my matches, where I lost the first game after nearly forty minutes, having this second, speedier deck ready to go was key. I even had the whole thing sleeved, so I could keep it off to the side (that’s far off, inside a box…you don’t want to run into a rules violation by mistake), and then between games, move the cards back and forth so much that my opponent would not be able to tell I had switched strategies completely, until the beats began. (I did this more for humor value and to freak them out than as any kind of”strategy.”)
I won my first two, lost the third (to a fellow who eventually went undefeated), won the fourth and fifth, lost the sixth, and won the seventh. Here are key moments that can educate us about this set:
White-blue decks: Still stupid. The most frustrating game of the day for me was in round two, when I was playing against a red/white/blue weak control deck. (The deck was weak, not the player.) One of the cards in there was Bomb Squad.
I look at it, sure, okay, fuse counters, kill creatures, do damage, whatever. So it’s something I need to get rid of.
Then it hits me: I have no solution for this. All of my removal is dependent on creatures attacking me. Creatures that hold back and ping just laugh and laugh and laugh at me.
I mean, really, this is why I hate blue and white. A 1/1 creature can stand outside of the wall, hurl lit fuses over the ramparts, and kill me. I can do nothing about this. This card turns my deck into the beatdown deck, which it is not (without Amugaba out).
It felt good to sideboard, that match. Vampiric Dragon doesn’t seem to have a problem with a 1/1 creature.
Land enchantments: looking stronger. Ryan, the good man I lost to in the third round, is a better player than I. His deck also had a nasty trick: Caustic Tar and Deserted Temple. For people keeping score at home, that’s six life a turn. In a furious back-and-forth over the last two turns of the third game, I got him down to two life… But he got me down to zero. Advantage, Ryan.
While I was playing Ryan, the fellow at the next table over had the land enchantment that serves as a Ray of Command. So there’s another land enchantment worth keeping an eye on.
So expect the Caustic Tar, and more, in your multiplayer games. They’re just too tempting to resist. When considering them with the Planeshift tri-lands you can still expect to see, Capsize and Dematerialize are looking better and better.
Infected Vermin: Not as good as I hoped. Since it’s not flexible in the damage it deals, and costs a considerable amount, I think this is one card we can leave for Limited purists, and skip in multiplayer. Maybe in combination with Questing Phelddagrif or Varchild’s War Riders… But not much else.
Break this Card candidates are out there. I’ll dig into this contest again next week, since I just caught up with all the old prize support a few days ago. But there are certainly plenty of mediocre rares worth exploration. The one”unsatisfying” rare I pulled, Patron Wizard, would be one of these. They’re not bad. They’re just difficult. And I like that.
Really stupid cards? Also out there. Either because of ridiculous sorcery-speed cost (Volley of Boulders, Time Stretch) or simply dumb effects (Battle of Wits), Odyssey has its share of rares that will disappoint us. I cannot tell you how relieved I was to open my six prize packs and get six rares that will at least be considered briefly for top-level play: Krosan Beast, Shadowmage Infiltrator, Karmic Justice, Deserted Temple, Bloodcurdler, and Hint of Insanity. I do not expect this to happen, ever again.
How much longer can I possibly avoid busting open Chance Encounter? What divine influence can I depend on to keep all five Shrines as far away from me as possible? (I don’t care if they work like the dickens; they’re as boring as whale poo.)
But save the spittle. When I first saw the set, I thought Buehler had done us bad. I spent too much time focusing on the rares I mentioned above, and not enough time looking at the set in terms of how it would play in Limited and multiplayer environments. But I was wrong. The more I look at it, the more I like it. Buehler has a dark horse beauty of a set here, and Odyssey is going to sneak up on a lot of us and win our hearts. It’s okay if none of us are exactly sure how that will happen, yet. But trust me: it’ll happen.
WHAT WOULD MIKE LONG DO? WHO CARES?
I guess I have enough room left in this week’s column to try out a rant. (Poor Ferrett will have to decide now whether to put this under”Issues and Opinions,””Tournament Reports,” or”Casual Play.” I try to screw him over in at least one way, every week; that way I can feel like I’m getting things done.)
As a semi-regular Sideboard contributor, I would like to express publicly my frustration with one recent offering over yonder. Normally I would take my case to Sideboard personnel privately; but they’ve made it clear to me in the past where they stand. So, I’m on to whipping up public pressure.
I’m talking about the offering from Mike Long,”My Story,” the introduction to which went up Tuesday. Apparently, he’s going to explain his life story. I only clicked on this article because I could not honestly believe that Wizards would allow it. And yet they have: They are promoting a DCI-identified cheater.
I want to make it clear to all of you college kids who stay up until 3 a.m. in your dormitory common rooms debating both sides of every argument so often that moral ambiguity is a way of life: This is wrong. Wizards apparently has too many employees who still indulge in dormitory debates: They want to punish Mike Long (through the DCI) for breaking the rules repeatedly, but they also want to pay him (through the Sideboard) to tell us all about it.
While I looked desperately in the introduction for some indication that Mike Long will apologize for his misbehavior, renounce it, and recommit himself to the integrity of the game, I found none. (“Seeking redemption and understanding” doesn’t cut it, Mike. Try”I’m sorry. I made a mistake. I won’t do it again.”) And so I will not be reading any future installments. I urge you to avoid them as well.
Are we honestly expected to click several times, like rats on a pellet bar, to get additional supplements of self-aggrandizing claptrap from an unrepentant thief? People actually complained when Zvi Mowshowitz tried to give us a deep Type II analysis across several chapters. Will those people honestly tolerate this garbage over an as-yet-undetermined number of episodes?
Some people – Wizards employees, no less – have told me,”Sure, he’s a bad guy. But people want to hear about Mike Long! They love it!” This is what I call the Fox Network approach to the Magic community… Except it’s worse, because Fox doesn’t promote the people who steal money from itself and its viewers.
People want to hear about Mike Long? Maybe. But I don’t care if it’s true or not. I don’t care if it’s legal, I don’t care if it’s good for business, and I don’t care if the audience laps it up like trained poodles and sits up to beg for more. I’ll say it slowly so that you pseudo-philosophers can understand: set…the bar…higher.
Until he repents, Mike Long adds no value. We can learn nothing from him. There are plenty of people who are better at strategy, better at writing, and/or have more recent accomplishments. That leaves Mike’s sole value added at letting us know about cheating. And we already know what cheaters sound like; we hear from enough of them on their way out. We don’t need to hear from them long after their prime.
If Mike wants to plead his case, let him plead it elsewhere. Let him find a place that thinks the DCI is wrong, or a joke. Let him make his case on a site that condones cheating.
Or perhaps he already has.