I think I mentioned that every once in a while, I’d go a bit faster than biweekly. This would be a good time to do it, since there’s a contest involved.
It’s time to open up the lines again for Break this Card – as for the nominee, I’ve enjoyed showing my decision-making process in the past, so I’ll do this as a pseudo-set review. Historically, I only look at the rares, since the purpose of the contest is to give you some ideas on how to use the challenging (but not completely impossible or narrow) rares in your packs. Break this Card has a proud history – Sorrow’s Path, Oath of Mages, Guided Passage, Graceful Antelope – and I hope we’ll have fun with this one, too.
All of the analyses below focus around two questions: (1) how might the card act in group play; and (2) do I want to use it for Break this Card? I only care about these questions. If you email me (and my readers all know I love hearing from them), please do not embarrass yourself by telling me how I got Crush of Wurms all wrong because it’s too expensive for the Standard environment and sure, Urza’s Rage costs the same but it’s uncounterable and an instant, etc. etc. This would be what we in the know would call”missing the point.”
Not much to see here, from our warped viewpoint. Anurid Brushhopper, Hunting Grounds, Mirari’s Wake, and Phantom Nishoba are all very solid, and none of us are horribly surprised that green-white”got the gold” in this set. They are all beatsticks in multiplayer – the Brushhopper will probably get the most play, since it is the ultimate answer to global (and targeted) removal spells.
In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and call the Brushhopper the”chase multiplayer rare” of the set. It’s not a gee-whiz card like Worldgorger Dragon, but it’s going to be one that makes us all ask the question – how do I get this in my deck?…Or, how do I deal with this if it comes out? The fact that tournament players will also be gunning for it is sad, but I can’t help that.
Unfortunately, none of the four are questionable enough to be a Break this Card candidate; building a contest-worthy deck around any of them is far too easy. On we go.
You know, I just don’t feel like building a contest around a land card just now – the Sorrow’s Path precedent be damned! Color me fickle. I suppose Riftstone Portal would be the land I’d choose, if I were going to choose one. But I’m not; I’m just going to discard that idea and then tap any article I write to add W or G to my mana pool. So there.
While the”white-green” set was cruel to black in common and uncommon slots, there are some interesting rares here. None, however, are outstanding: So this color should be fertile ground for Break this Card, this time. Add to that the fact that it has been a long time (if ever…? My memory’s bad, so corrections are welcome…) since a Break this Card has been black. My curiosity is piqued.
Balthor, the Defiled and Sutured Ghoul are all about reanimation, living and dying by that one-note strategy. Death Wish will be a powerful card – but I suspect most people will just build their decks to use the wish that gets the card type they want. Guiltfeeder depends a lot on the type of deck each opponent is playing, and probably doesn’t have the cojones to last through four or five opponents, any of whom will have anything from global removal to graveyard blasting. Masked Gorgon is interesting from an archeological standpoint (that is to say, it may be interesting about 3,000 years from now). Wow, maybe this ground isn’t as fertile as I thought.
One last card. Morality Shift… Hmmmm. Hold that thought.
Red’s had some real whoppers in months gone by. Busting open a pack to find a coin-flip rare (or even uncommon) can just boil the blood, can’t it? I hear from some Wizards staff (and I love them dearly, so I’ll be kind and keep them anonymous) that they firmly believe that there is a whole”coin-flipping fan base” out there. Now, I don’t have access to their market research and have no desire to be part of a long-term, formal focus group effort that gets at this sort of question; but I do have an unscientific polling method of my own and have decided to use it briefly. I am really desperate to hear from any amount of readers who feel like they just don’t yet have enough cards that tell them to flip coins. Seriously. Send me an email at [email protected] right now and demand that I stop disparaging the legions of heads-or-tails aficionados. I know that not all of these savvy players have Internet access; but certainly some of you have evolved some rudimentary keyboarding skills, or can grunt with enough nuance to someone who has.
Go on, email me now. The rest of us can wait.
(While we’re waiting, I do have to admit that Planar Chaos, a Judgment uncommon, made me smile when I first read it. This is probably because its upside can be huge in large group games, where the pause between survival flips is longer than in duel. But ultimately, the card’s a Standstill wanna-be, and will have pretty much the same effect, without the card drawing.)
Lightning Surge is a perfectly good damage card and one I recommend but not exactly the stuff of legendary creative deckbuilding.
Jeska, Warrior Adept is an altogether nice creature. Typically excellent rk post artwork. And even some strong interactions with classic Prodigal Sorcerer standbys: Awakening, Saber Ants, etc. But it won’t serve as an exciting Break this Card.
The highest-profile red rare in the set is Worldgorger Dragon, which no one who knows how bounce can be stacked will play at a kitchen table sporting an open island or two. (To catch the rest of you up: You play the Dragon. It comes into play, and its effect goes on the stack. In response, I Boomerang your Dragon. It leaves play, and that effect goes on the stack. Last in, first out: the leaves-play resolves, and all of your permanents come back into play, ignoring the inconvenient fact that they haven’t left yet. Then the comes-into-play resolves, and all your stuff goes, never to return. You then stare at the Dragon in your hand and the absolute lack of mana or anything else in front of you, and weep. That goes on the stack, but my cruel laugh resolves first.)
The Dragon’s cousin, Soulgorger Orgg, has some interesting possibilities with cards like Mirror Universe, Lich, Worship, and other expensive rares that readers with limited collections hate hearing me talk about.
Which brings us to Shaman’s Trance. No, wait, forget I even brought you here. (No, not even with Aluren, Dream Halls, or Hunting Grounds. Just let this one fade from memory.)
What’s left in red? Four cards. The top-notch but conventional Fledgling Dragon, the Balance-fetching Burning Wish, the fun but opponent-dependent Breaking Point… And the absolutely painful Dwarven Bloodboiler. So, which of those four cards would you enjoy opening least? (Cue music.)”One of these four is not like the others, one of these four does not belong…”
Bottom line, I’ll name the Bloodboiler for ceremonial reasons; but I don’t think red has a good candidate for Break this Card, this time around.
Blue always has some fun possibilities to offer group play, and Break this Card in particular.
I’ll start with a strong front-runner: Cephalid Constable, which could be enhanced all sorts of ways and yet still provides a clear challenge for the player who needs to control multiple opponents.
Then, we have two conditional enchantments based on more powerful, older cards: Mists of Stagnation (Stasis) and Telekenetic Bonds (Mind over Matter). Both beg for decks to abuse them, and multiplayer moves slowly enough that many players will be able to put the pieces together. But unless you’re in a Standard-only environment, why wouldn’t you just use the older cards? Then, instead of putting in cards to make the new enchantments work like the old ones, you could put in other fun cards and new twists that should occupy any creative mind for weeks on end.
The two Wormfang rares (Manta and Behemoth) are less susceptible to self-destruction than the Worldgorger Dragon is – but the Behemoth is not impressive enough, and the Manta just gets paired with Vanishing or some other phasing card and bores your opponents (and contest-holders) to death.
If I’m sounding down on the set, perhaps I can reveal how excited I really am about Judgment by talking about the three last blue rares: Cunning Wish, which next to Living Wish will likely get the most casual play; Scaplelexis, which as a fat blocker is a superb addition to multiplayer milling decks; and above all, Spelljack. Of these, only Scaplelexis would”work” in Break this Card from a technical standpoint – and even with this great addition, milling is too predictable a strategy to start the contest on. But to finish my side point…I would be very happy to open up any of these rares. They’re creative and fun.
Bottom line: Cephalid Constable gets the blue slot.
White And Green
While many reviewers of Judgment are upset that white didn’t get as many goodies as green overall, up here in the rarified air, the quality of cards is fairly tight between the two. Let’s blend the colors and take the cards one at a time:
Commander Eesha: I cannot think of a white multiplayer deck that uses creatures that would not be very happy to run four copies. Legend, schmegend. Group play is full of removal. Until said removal arrives, she’ll own the board. As for Break this Card, she is no more or less interesting than Benevolent Chaplain, which is not necessarily an insult.
Crush of Wurms: This was a really, really neat idea that absolutely required an impractical cost. Many wanna-be writers with Pro Tour experience or aspirations come up to a card like this and say”Wizards doesn’t know what it’s doing; this card sucks. Next.” The more seasoned pro writers take a more moderate stance; they know full well that Wizards knows what it is doing here. (And those same seasoned pros will take a short moment, in a dark room when no one else is looking, to make absolutely certain there is no tournament deck that could cast this cheaply, somehow. They hope and expect, as I do, that they will fail.) In Type I, you can build extremely fragile decks that get six 6/6 tokens (and possibly many more) by turn 2, but they’re not worth the bother. Just play this conventionally, with a little mana acceleration, and have fun with it.
Epic Struggle: I thought it might be funny to run the first Break this Card contest requiring two cards: Epic Struggle and Test of Endurance. I would ban Congregate, Angelic Chorus, and Ashnod’s Altar, and then a ton of fun decks would pour in, right? No, I didn’t think so, either.
Ernham Djinn: Lovely, but too old and worn over. (Most women say this about me, nowadays. However, I am unable to bestow forestwalk… And I don’t come so cheap, either.) (This is true – The Ferrett, who signs Anthony’s paychecks and can attest that while he may not have forestwalk, money grows on threes for Alongi)
Genesis and Glory: We’ll handle these two in one shot. Since there are plenty of cards and dynamics that I’ve made clear I don’t like in recent sets, it’s only fair that I should point out how amazing I think incarnations are. The idea of a creature that morphs into a”graveyard enchantment” is a real winner, and probably the most creative idea Wizards has had since Invasion split cards.
Both Genesis and Glory are true powerhouses in multiplayer. Genesis is the card that will finally push me to create a sixth Hall of Fame”animal” category that celebrates hardworking, incremental card advantage. (Probably bees, if you’re interested to know this sort of thing…Other cards that may benefit from adding this category are Volrath’s Stronghold, Benalish Heralds, and Viashino Heretic.) Glory is the kind of white card I wish there were more of – the less whiny,”I don’t like taking damage and need more life” kind and the more”good guys can take it and dish it out” kind. Not very pithy, those characterizations; but there you go.
Golden Wish and Living Wish: Living Wish will probably be the most-played Judgment rare in multiplayer, for the next several years. Golden Wish is a wild card – does your group use Mox jewelry? Do the games move slowly enough, without counterspells, that a 5-cc sorcery that fetches a powerful 5-cc enchantment (say, Cowardice) could have a real impact? Yes or no, Golden Wish – and any wish – are too difficult to administer in a contest like this. Use them, but don’t expect them as Break this Card features.
Nomad Mythmaker: Returning creature enchantments over and over? Hey, now; this looks faintly interesting. Elephant Guides are an obvious synergy, but there are way more possibilities than that. This is the kind of card that the most creative deckbuilder in every group will take at least one hack at… And it’s exactly the kind of card that ought to be considered for Break this Card.
Phantom Nantuko: The phantoms are a nifty dynamic. Play them, lots. I’m not sure +1/+1 counters make for exciting Break this Card decks, however. (I should open the contest to Unglued cards, someday, just so we can get a Giant Fan going on a phantom deck.)
Pulsemage Advocate: A card that sends three dead cards back to your opponent’s hand just so you can revitalize a creature does beg for some breaking. Let’s keep this on the”maybe” list, for both our multiplayer decks in general and the Break this Card list specifically.
Seedtime: A tournament-styled blue hoser that we may use with Cunning Wish, or (if we’re really brave) Vodalian Mystic.
Selfless Exorcist: Break this Card nominees are potential problems; this is a solution, not a problem. Use with confidence in a group that loves its reanimation or Night Soils.
Silver Seraph: Okay, this is a problem – a rather obvious one. Which shall you use: Squirrels, saprolings, or goblins? Whichever way you go, the path is pretty obvious.
Solitary Confinement: If this card had a drawback beyond the draw phase, it would be the hands-down Break this Card nominee of the set. But the drawback is not serious enough for the relentless minds that enter my contest; and we can all foresee Zvi Mowshowitz posting pay-per-view Solitary deck options for the next three months over on Brainburst. Before we move on, I would like to remind my readers (some of whom have already asked) that Howling Mine does not help you here, since the extra draw happens during your draw phase… Which you do not have. Phyrexian Arena, however, looks like a go (since the draw happens at the beginning of your upkeep).
Sylvan Safekeeper: A solution, not a problem. A really, really good solution that you’d be insane not to play if you’ve got at least two for a deck. Thank you, Olle Rade.
Test of Endurance: Get the net.
Thriss, Nantuko Primus: This thing’s going to revitalize a bunch of Awakening decks (assuming Nantuko Mentor and Nantuko Disciple haven’t already). Much like +1/+1 counters,”pump” doesn’t do Break this Card well. Plus, it’s not like the thing has a nuance or drawback to conquer, beyond its casting cost. (Chad Ellis is right: Green is just not clever at all. That was a really good, really classy way to put it. Thank you, Chad, for coming back to the writing fold.)
Bottom line, of the green and white bombs, only Pulsemage Advocate, Nomad Mythmaker, and the two incarnations (Genesis and Glory) are likely to provide for a strong Break this Card contest.
Add to those Morality Shift from black, and Cephalid Constable from white.
I’m a bit worried that both Genesis and Cephalid Constable will be overanalyzed by the tournament set before this contest can wrap up. Of the three white cards, Glory is the least interesting (because it is the most obviously powerful), and Pulsemage Advocate feels just a bit too much like it depends on what your opponents do.
So it’s between Morality Shift, which feels like a really expensive Feldon’s Cane with a hidden button to do a lot more; and Nomad Mythmaker, which will make you all look up a bunch of creature enchantments that you’d normally turn your noses up at. Both options are very appealing!
Given a choice, I like a creature for this contest more than I like a sorcery.
So here’s our nominee:
W, Tap: Put target enchant creature card from a graveyard into play enchanting a creature you control.
To get a response and be officially entered, submissions must have the following:
- An email address I can respond to;
- A decklist that’s legal in some DCI-sanctioned tournament format (take your pick);
- Same said decklist with at least one copy of Nomad Mythmaker in it; and
- A timestamp on or before midnight CST, Friday, June 14.
To have a chance, your entry should probably have the following:
- Four copies of the Mythmaker, or an exceptional reason why there’s less;
- A clear role for the Mythmaker(s) in your path to victory;
- Not much more than the 60 card minimum;
- A real first and last name (Pah! – The Ferrett, synoptic editor);
- A short (250 words) description of how the deck works; and
- Creature enchantments not just limited to Elephant Guide. (You don’t even need to have Elephant Guide – in fact, you may stand out more if you don’t.)
Prize support: I always have prize support! 49 entries or less will generate a single first-place prize of the rare in question (Mythmaker), with my unique and (some would say) imaginative scribblings on it. Between 50 and 79 entries will push that first-place prize to the runner-up, and I’ll find an even better entry to award a scribbled Mythmaker and a Torment or Judgment rare of the player’s choice. If we hit 80 entries or more, those lesser prizes will get pushed down to second and third place, and the first-prize winner will get a foil Mythmaker, the Judgment/Torment rare of his or her choice, and whatever else I can scrounge up.
Individuals can submit multiple entries; each will count toward the total. So if you have extra ideas, fire them in!
Looking forward to what you have to offer.