To celebrate the deadline last night for Keldon Necropolis decks (you DID remember to submit one, right?), I figured I would take on solo another card that I was heavily tempted to use in the Break this Card Contest: March of Souls.
March of Souls is a quickly-recognized "chaff" constructed rare in Planeshift. We may need to resort to a fragile combo; but such is the nature of the card.
The March is a bad bargain. You spend five mana – and then for every creature you kill, its controller gets back a 1/1 flyer! You could play against a Kobold deck and actually end up worse than when you started.
But before we throw this thing away, let’s focus on the last part of the card and see if we can’t take advantage of it. All those 1/1 white flyers…What might get rid of THEM? A Hurricane, perhaps, but we could have more style than that. How about Spreading Plague, which kills all creatures sharing the color of a creature coming into play? When all of those Spirit tokens rush in, they will all kill each other.
Well, why would we want to kill TWO waves of creatures? Why not kill just one with Wrath of God and have done with it?
The answer: Dingus Staff, which does damage to a player for losing a creature. Now March of Souls is a "two-fer": A player with, say, five creatures takes ten damage when the first part of the March resolves, and then another ten when five Spirit tokens come out and all kill each other. So every player with five or more creatures takes lethal damage, for three mediocre cards: it is, at the very least, flashy.
Of course, a three-piece combo needs plenty of support. Try this: The (restricted) Enlightened Tutor to find the Plague or Staff, and four Argivian Finds to resurrect them. If you build your deck with cheap, expendable artifact creatures, you will get more value from the Finds – and avoid activating the Plague with your own creatures. But the Finds have yet another use: Bringing back your most important control card, Parallax Wave.
Parallax Wave serves two functions: First, it can delay truly ugly creatures like tramplers, which your creatures will have difficulty blocking. And secondly, it gives you exquisite control over the Spreading Plague and what creatures you want to live… Or die. When a creature comes into play, if you want a matching-color creature to survive (whether owned by you, or someone you want to be friendly with), simply remove a fading counter from the Wave and get it out of the way of the Plague. Once that creature comes back (as the Wave fades out), it will kill the very creature that first threatened it.
There’s one final card in the deck worth a spotlight: Radiant, Archangel. If the situation is right – you are playing against largely creatureless decks, or you feel this is the faster path to victory for this game – then forgo the Spreading Plagues and Dingus Staffs. (Discard them to the Skirge Familiar, if you like.) Cast March of Souls, saving your own flyers with Parallax Waves and generating new ones with whatever other creatures are out there. Then cast Radiant, who with all the spirit tokens should come out looking like she had plenty of bunny cake on Easter Sunday. Attack, smash, win.
One more note before I give you the full decklist here. I resisted using Replenish and Masticore, two "high-power" rares that would increase the power of the deck. (And one of which has been banned between the writing and publishing of this column — Anthony’s been on a roll, folks — The Ferrett) For those of you with the budget, feel free to put in two of each and another Plains, taking out the decent Argivian Finds and the awful Brass Secretaries.
4x March of Souls
3x Spreading Plague
3x Dingus Staff
3x Parallax Wave
1x Enlightened Tutor
3x Argivian Find
4x Bottle Gnomes
2x Brass Secretary
3x Wall of Resistance
2x Skirge Familiar
2x Radiant, Archangel
3x Marble Diamond
1x Charcoal Diamond
2x Polluted Mire
2x Drifting Meadow
Wow. This article ended a lot faster than I expected. Doesn’t seem like enough to fill out a week, does it? Especially for a nice round number like #80. That’s okay, I’ve got all sorts of entertaining things waiting in the wings for just this kind of situation. (In the true spirit of "MacGyver", I will now turn an old keyboard, some lint, and a half-liter of Sprite into a workable Internet article…)
SPECIAL FEATURE: MISNAMED CARDS
Ever since the very first Casual Fridays, when I got all up in arms over the Pouncing Jaguar not having haste, I have been slowly putting together a list of creatures that, based on their name, ought to have abilities that they do not in fact have. These oversold creatures have been annoying me for some time now, and as part of my therapy I shall now share five of the worst with you.
It is incredibly important that you all hear the proper tone as I go through this list. I’m looking for something whiny and Seinfeldian here, kind of like, "Why do they call it Ovaltine? The package isn’t an oval, it’s a circle…" For those of you who want to ramp up the annoying factor, recall the voice Andy Rooney has used in any one of his thoroughly useless and overly crotchety "60 Minutes" diatribes.
First, an honorable mention that really is more about the artwork than the rules text (and so I suppose this is more of a tangential rant, but we’re in bonus-article territory here and you’re all just better off not getting too critical with me): Radiant Kavu. The story behind this artistic interpretation, please? The best line on this isn’t mine. Here’s the story: I bust open a pack with this as the rare while relaxing between reports in Los Angeles. I look at it, notice it’s a 3/3 for three with a cool ability (no arguments there), and then really take in the artwork.
"This thing looks decidedly un-radiant," I pose to the group of writers who regularly flock around me like groupies, hoping to bask in a bit of the glory and insight that seeps out of my skin like a pleasant-smelling aura. "It’s purple and hairy. Very un-radiant indeed. De-radiant, I’d say. In fact, I would go one step further and call it DIS-radiant."
Omeed Dariani, having enough of my silly prefix plays, glanced at the artwork and said, "Yeah, it does look weird. Like a big muppet!"
Muppet Kavu. Now you all know what to call it.
On to the real mistitled.
5. POUNCING JAGUAR. I’ll kick off the list with this one so you younger kids can catch up. Here’s the deal: If it pounces, why is it waiting a turn to attack? And don’t give me that tired "undercosted powerhouse" argument, either; that didn’t stop them from making Morphling. Which, incidentally, should also have haste. (Heck, why leave THAT ability off the list?)
Incidentally, for those of you who believe that Casual Fridays has absolutely no impact on the game of Magic, allow me to present to you the following pieces of evidence:
Exhibit A: Magic before Casual Fridays: all creatures with "Pouncing" in the title do not have haste.
Exhibit B: Magic after Casual Fridays: 50% of creatures with "Pouncing" in the title have or can naturally gain haste.
It’s okay… You don’t have to thank me. Just getting the game right is reward enough.
4. FIRES OF YAVIMAYA. The anti-Jaguar problem: now creatures get abilities they shouldn’t have. I get how creatures might move faster, and even possibly attack right away, when their fur is getting singed; but how does making the forest collapse make a creature stronger? You know, come to think of it, the haste thing makes less and less sense, too…
Let me put this in a real-world context for you: If your naked butt was summoned out of a cozy little corner of the aether you called home, and all of a sudden you were in the middle of a fifty-foot high forest fire with maniacal creatures doing battle all around you, would you:
(a) Look for the nearest giant scaly thing and attack, hoping that a flaming pine would land on you and somehow boost your energy; OR
(b) Run as fast as you could in whatever direction the fire (and giant scaly thing) wasn’t, taking care to avoid anything that looks like it is being sacrificed?
I’ll concede haste just to keep the card tournament eligible. But if we’re designing the card from the title out (and of course no one would seriously expect Wizards to do this), how about:
Fires of Yavimaya: All creatures gain haste. Sacrifice Fires of Yavimaya: Fires of Yavimaya deals three damage to target creature or player.
If you’re starting with the card as is and looking for a name, like a normal person, well, why not Nature’s Call? (Nothing makes me feel more +2/+2 than relieving myself in the woods while camping.)
3. RAGING BULL. Some of you newer players may not be familiar with this Legends card. ("Legends!", your mind gasps. "Oooh, it must be really good, or at least interesting, with different mana symbols and strange abilities.") Let me fill you in.
This is going to be exciting, isn’t it? I mean, this thing is RAGING.
Whatever it is, there’s just no doubt that it can’t wait to get out of your hand and just start smacking people around, right? Here’s a peek:
Raging Bull is a red creature. It costs 2R. If you play Raging Bull and pay all mana costs, you get a 2/2 creature. If you don’t, Raging Bull stays in your hand and keeps all of its abilities.
I tried really hard back there, but no go. Raging Bull is the kind of card name that they should have hung onto until there was a decent creature to go with it. Something with haste, and maybe something else for 2R. (In WotC’s defense, they may have been holding on to the name "Suq’ata Lancer.")
Tied here for third, with a similar name: Raging Spirit, from Mirage. Here’s another decidedly unangry creature, 3/3 for 3R that you can turn colorless for two. (They eventually named this right in Invasion: Ancient Kavu.) Imagine this thing on the battlefield:
RAGING SPIRIT: You enemies have made me very ANGRY!
ENEMIES: (Together, in awe:) Geez, we’re sorry, we didn’t mean to…
RAGING SPIRIT: TOO LATE! My wrath has boiled over. See what your foolishness has wrought! I shall now channel the energy from two faraway, exotic lands to… bleach myself!
ENEMIES: (Gurgling, running, dying:) AAAAIIIIIIIIEEEEEEE…..
I did save the last two slots for non-haste, non-raging issues:
2. PALE MOON. Yet another reason to hate this card. Here’s the deal: if a moon-based effect, no matter how lousy in a game or depressing upon opening your pack, is to have any effect on a land, it should happen when the moonlight is strong, not weak. Stronger moon, stronger effect.
So extend the logic. A Pale Moon can only manage a temporary colorless wash as an effect. Can we seriously entertain the notion that there is a "Shiny Moon" card theoretically possible, that goes one better and does…What? Makes all non-basic lands produce, um, the mana they’re supposed to? Or, heaven forbid, no mana at all for a turn? Wow, that sounds pretty powerful. It should probably only last as long as a combat phase.
You heard it here first. The rare you bust open in your first Apocalypse booster could be Shiny Moon.
1. TREETOP VILLAGE.
"Hey, I’ve got a great idea for a card."
"Really? What is it?"
"You know those man-lands we’re building to come out in Urza’s Legacy? Well, how about if the one for green produces a 3/3 trampler for only two mana?"
"Sounds great! Green aggro decks will play it all the time. Well done. What shall we call it?"
"Well, let’s think of something that tramples."
"That’s easy. Villages trample all the time! Why, just yesterday, I read a story in the New York Times about how this village broke lose from the local zoo and trampled through the nearby, er, village."
"Great. We’ll go with Village. But it needs something more…if only we knew where this village was trampling FROM…like, what’s the village’s motivation? What makes the village tick? What’s the source of the village’s trampling power?"
"That’s easy. Treetops! All heavy, trampling creatures are expert at racing across slender elm boughs. I mean, if pigs can fly, and I KNOW they can, then villages can certainly race across the treetops! Hey, you know, this thing should be able to block flyers, too, since it’s in the treetops."
"Naw, villages in treetops blocking flyers? That wouldn’t make any sense. Stick to trampling, man. THAT works."
Disclaimer: the preceding conversation did NOT take place at Wizards of the Coast R&D. What WAS said, I’m not sure we can possibly imagine.
COMING SOON: I’ll try to turn around the Keldon Twilight contest right quick, so we can do prizes straight away! Then we’ll take a short hiatus from Break this Card until Apacolypse is out. Also on the way: Reflections on team play, and strategies for making your team deck(s) shine.