CHK It Out! The Week in Preview

Pugg picks up where he left off and takes a look at the entire week of Champions of Kamigawa cards previewed on MagictheGathering.com, offering insightful analysis, Constructed and Limited takes, and a healthy dollop of humor to make the bad cards go down easier.

Welcome to the first weekly version of the groundbreaking article series CHK It Out! I had to go weekly because daily articles are hard. Plus Knut swore at me and made me cry.

So what can you expect from the new and improved CHK It Out? I’ll tell you!

  • In depth, comprehensive analysis geared towards the sophisticated player

  • Famous people saying how awesome I am

  • Less whining

  • Fewer puns

  • Baldfaced lies

And much, much more! Oh, and also those pesky preview cards. Yeah, let’s get to those.

I loved the”skulkers” back in the day. Despite my lack of skill, I saw that they were efficient creatures with a minimal drawback. Yes, I said minimal! The strongest deck in my play group was my buddy’s Air Elemental/Serra Angel/Sengir Vampire deck, which didn’t even do anything until turn 5. He also played with Control Magic, but in that case the Skulking ability was a bonus! In fact, there were very few spells we played where the drawback was actually a drawback. Swords to Plowshares, Counterspell, Terror (even better! except I think at one point we were pretty sure we could play Terror on Black creatures; it just wouldn’t kill them), Lightning Bolt. Okay, so Lightning Bolt could kill Tar Pit Warrior, a four-toughness creature. Big whoop.

I think that’s the issue new players tend to have with those cards – they see the drawback and imagine what could go wrong. Using more modern-day examples:”If he cycles Solar Blast, it dies!””Blinding Beam is a two for one!””Choking Tethers is like an instant speed Wrath!””Triskelion is like Wrath in a can!””Tooth of Chiss-Goria is like Wrath on a stick!””Astral Slide is like some sort of ethereal Wrath that sits around until you cycle a card.””Wrath is… umm…”

With the exception of Astral Slide (which won’t be in the same Standard environment as Horobi anyway) there aren’t too many spells and abilities played competitively these days where the Skulking ability is all that bad. Crystal Shard is the worst offender I can think of, and that’s played mainly to replay your own creatures, not to bounce your opponent’s (except in Limited). The point is that in general, you don’t play spells that target your opponent’s creatures unless you’re planning on killing them (bounce is one of the few exceptions, and exceptions are rare). Awe Strike just isn’t very good in Constructed.

Of course, seeing Horobi as just another Skulker is missing the point. The ability extends to all creatures, so if your deck is designed to exploit it, you can do some pretty snazzy stuff. If only someone had built a deck like this.

Heiss’s deck is pretty bad. Sorry, man, but it is. It embodies the classic Johnny quandary:”Once I get Card X in play, you’d better watch out, because that card will make you dead.””And if you don’t draw it?””Umm, uhh, duhh… Fatality!” And then flying monkeys carry the guy’s head away or something. Man, that’d be so awesome. But right, the Johnny dilemma, or enigma maybe? Puzzlement? My thesaurus suggests Gordian knot. Whatever way you spell and pronounce it, the rest of the deck is awful without Horobi. One might go so far as to say it’s Horobile. Not me, though. That’s harsh. Even if you stuff your deck full of tutors, decks based around a single card don’t cut the muster unless the card can win you the game on its own. Now, if Wizards made some more skulkers…

–Obligatory Limited Analysis–

Unlike Constructed, Limited actually does have a bunch of targeted effects that don’t outright kill. This means either Horobi has even more of a drawback than normal, or you’re one of those people that first picked Rust Elemental. Your choice. Like Fractured Loyalty before it, it’ll probably be under appreciated, yet very strong if you have the discipline to synergize the deck with it. Oh, also, you can regenerate from the effect. Shame it’s only good on guys with built-in regeneration. Now, if Wizards made some more regenerating skulkers with sexy artwork…

Next up on the docket is Thief of Hope. Here’s a visual representation of that card in the jpeg compression format.

Yay, it’s not rare! And it shows. I guess Maro’s article was more about the mechanics than the card itself, so that’s where I’ll start. Arcane isn’t really a mechanic as much as it’s a new card type, and that’s cool. However, seeing as how Arcane doesn’t even really do anything yet, I really don’t have much to say about it. Though I predict that we’ll see another ability that really does something special with Arcane soon. Yep. I’m not using any outside knowledge to arrive at this conclusion. Nope.

Then there’s Soulshift. More like, Soul—s-soul, uhh, soulsh… damn, I’m stumped. Now, I don’t find it a very creative or exciting ability, and while I’m generally fine with Wizards’ relatively new keyword policy (i.e. keyword ’em all and let God sort it out), I feel this one would have been better left as rules text on the card. Make it a cycle (or two) instead of an actual mechanic. It saves you some disappointment that way.

At least it’s interesting in Limited. Potentially. I suppose it all depends on how many Spirits the set actually has. Even if there are a ton, the ability still suffers because you have to have Spirits in your graveyard – in a deck with, say, seven Spirits, it’s not too likely you’ll have one in there before turn 7 or 8 or so – and the ability only returns the creatures to your hand, not directly into play. Some folks might be tempted to compare Soulshift to the Rebel mechanic. Don’t.

I got it! Soulshafted. That’s how this mechanic makes me feel. I’m so clever.

I guess ultimately Thief of Hope is a fairly powerful card; it’s just uninspiring. If Spirits and Arcane spells are as prevalent in the set as I’d imagine, this could effortlessly create a ten-point life swing in your favor and give you card advantage without any additional mana investment. That’s pretty damn good for a Gray Ogre. I think this is a first pick quality card. Just don’t expect it to be tearing up the Standard circuit.

So, who’s next? Ah, geez, it’s Alongi. This better not be another multiplayer card! C’mon c’mon c’mon big bucks no whammies…


Okay, let me go on a little rant here. I don’t really play multiplayer. Sorry, guys. I did at one point, though. And you know what card really pissed me off? Syphon Soul. Not because it was good or anything, which it’s not, but because any player could see it had no use outside of games with more than two players.

Now, I hear many players love the multiplayer cards. Alongi’s clearly a fan. I don’t personally see the point. I mean, there’s the argument that Wizards has long neglected the multiplayer community and they’re trying to rectify that, but are cards like this the way? Do multiplayer fans really like being spoon fed the Reverse the Sandseses and Syphon Minds of M:TG? I wouldn’t. I think the challenge (and the fun) in multiplayer is finding cards that were designed with duels in mind and breaking them, or at least using them to different effect than in a duel.

“Pugg, you buffoon,” the letters will say.”Wahh waaah wah. Wah wah waaaaaah. Don’t steal my candy. I am not hitting myself!” Then they’ll go on to complain about cards that, while underpowered or merely decent in two-player become game-destroying in Empress or Five-Headed Giant or whatever the hell you guys call your weirdo formats. Like Congregate, I guess. Well, frankly, if certain cards become problematic, you need to start banning or restricting or what have you within your playgroup. (Or is Wizards going to add B+R lists in its official multiplayer rules? I’m sure that’d be a mistake.) Much like there are plenty of cards in two-player Magic which are broken and then banned, some cards are too good in multiplayer. So do something about it.

“Pugg, you foontard! You don’t even play multiplayer! How dare you tell us what to do! Mommy!” You’ve got a point, whiny made-up man. But your cards take up space in my packs. It’s not a coincidence that Syphon Mind and Mana Geyser are last picks. I think an environment where every card is playable – at least by past standards – is a healthy one. (This very much goes against current Limited dogma. I should expound on this someday.) Multiplayer cards are almost universally unplayable. They are dead cards in packs. That’s no fun for me.

Since it’s entirely obvious when a card is multiplayer and unplayable in a duel, we might as well be playing from two separate card pools that overlap. So why not make a multiplayer set? I realize Unhinged will probably fill some of that void, but until then, I’m sick of multiplayer cards. I hate them! Hate hate hate them! And yes, I’m aware Alongi said people would complain in his article. What’s your point?

So yeah, Reverse the Sands. Actually, it’s not as unplayable as I may have suggested. It’s just poor. (No, it’s not unplayable by mere virtue of the fact that it costs eight – I think we’ve learned that lesson from Tooth and Nail.) It’s too unreliable. It rewards not losing instead of trying to win. Bibbety bobbety boo.

All right, Flores, show me what you got!

A flip card. Neat. This is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s like one card when you look at it one way, and a totally different card the other way. Pick me up off the floor.

Actually, I’m a bit confused. Let’s just look for the part where he explains exactly how this thing works… let’s see, Cabal Interrogator, Nationals ’99, Sullivan playing upside down – hey! I do that! – what? No rules explanation? How does this ability even work?

Perhaps I can be of assistance!

Boy oh boy! It’s my good friend, Dr. Rules, M.D.! How’re ya doing, buddy?

I’ve been better. I really need to get this hernia taken care of. See it protruding from my skin, right here?

Ew. Anyway, do you know anything about flip cards?

You mean morphs?


Flip-a-coin cards?


Like every Yu-Gi-Oh! card?

No! Look, see that picture up there?

Woah! That thing is f***ed up.

Yeah, I guess. So how does it work?

How the hell should I know?

Argh! That’s enough out of you. I guess it should be pretty obvious how flip cards work. They always come into play”right side up” (mana cost up, really hard to see expansion symbol down), and when their flip condition is met, they become the other thing (probably exclusively during the resolution of their flip ability). They get Slid, they come back right side up. Simple enough. I hope. Still, would it have killed them to give us the official rule? I mean, you can have a Stabwhisker and a Nezumi in play, right? I think so, but I’m not sure.

Me neither. But I do know that you all need to buy my new diet book, X Yourself Thin.

Ugh. Go away.

Nezumi/Stabwhisker is a fine card, but it’s hard to say if the environment will warrant him in the board. Even against most control, he’s not a silver bullet. No, only Coors is the real Silver Bullet.

(Okay, Mike pretty much covered Constructed, so why don’t you slooowly segue into Limited. Go on. Say something! No, don’t use parenthesis! They don’t make you invisible! Gaah!)

It’s super easy to compare Nezumi to Cabal Interrogator, so that’s what I’ll do. I mean, Cabal Interrogator was such a beating when played correctly. Problem is, too many folks would play him turn 2 and start activating him turn 3. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Onslaught was all about the third turn morph. If you waste your early turns getting card advantage while your opponent develops her board, you lose.

No, wait, scratch that. That should be his board. My mistake.

This isn’t to say this same rule will hold true in triple CHK draft. CHK CHK CHK. Who invited the CHKs? Is someone rattling my doorknob? Is that a helicopter flying overhead? Sigh. That’s the best you’re gonna get out of CHK. Right, so maybe CCC will be a slower format than Onslaught. Or at least it’ll appear to be at first. It’ll take a few weeks before anyone realizes the terrible truth.

Finally, all roads lead to MaGo. The funny one. My arch-nemesis. Oh yes, Mark Gottlieb. You heard me.

Ha ha ha ha ha. Ho ho ho ho ho. Hee hee hee hee hee. Yes, these are just some of the weird noises I make while attracting swine and reading MaGo’s articles. I mean, he said at the end there that there are no Green cards in Champions! And I believed him!

Say, let’s make this interesting. We’ll do like one of those things were you say something and then I’ll say something back. For example, if you say”tomato,” then I say”tomato.” Got it? Good.

You say:”Gifts Ungiven is much worse than Intuition. It costs more and you’re not even guaranteed the card you want.”

I say:”Shut the hell up! I’ll cut you.”

Okay, so that wasn’t such a great idea. Now, it’s true that by most standards, Gifts Ungiven is worse than Intuition. Volcanic Hammer is worse than Lightning Bolt. One card is overpowered, one’s just about right. Gifts Ungiven is too hot – I mean, just right.

Being just right means you don’t throw it in every deck with Blue. No, some Blue decks would rather play Thirst for Knowledge. Some Blue decks don’t want to play four mana for anything but Wrath. Some Blue decks aren’t control decks. Well, you know, the crappy ones. (On the other hand, all Blue decks want Time Stop.)

The thing is, I think Thirst is currently a far superior card – provided you’re playing with some artifacts, which you are. However, should the metagame shift away from artifacts, say in a year, Gifts Ungiven will most certainly find a place. Also, it’ll probably be around for a while. Notice that enticingly neutral name? This thing’s a candidate for 9th, baby.

Aye, but here’s the rub. Thirst is superior for straight card drawing (I don’t really see Gifts Ungiven as an effective tutor), but Gifts has plenty of other uses, like getting cards into your graveyard. Is this enough to reanimate Reanimator? Hardly. But it’s something to keep an eye on.

(One thing I should note is that Gifts Ungiven is vastly superior to Concentrate. Not only because it’s an instant and requires one less Blue, but also because you get two desired cards versus three random ones, one of which is most likely a land. And if you need land, it’ll be easy enough to get one with Gifts as long as you’re not monocolored with just basics. So, Concentrate bad, Gifts good. Aight?)

I’m not going to bother discussing the Limited implications of this card. All I’d wind up saying is how it’s decent card drawing, but with the added unpredictability of Limited. Perhaps only two cards in your deck will”save” you. You don’t have the luxury of putting four-ofs in your Limited decks. I’d still probably point out that it’s decent enough card advantage and would probably be a midrange pick if not for the fact that it’ll be worth some money. Yeah, no need to point that stuff out at all.

Huh? That’s it? Just one more week plus a day of cards to go and then the prerelease? Whatever will I do after this week? Maybe I’ll write a tourney report. Maybe I’ll write a set review. Maybe I’ll sink (back) into a deep, relaxing depression and bubble bath. I do love bubble baths. Who knows?

You will! Next week. Stay tuned for the exciting, totally not boring I’m serious stop making that face conclusion of CHK It Out!

Pugg Fuggly

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