After a prerelease in which I went a disappointing 4-2, I don’t have anything worthy of a report – but I do have some random tidbits and thoughts about Scourge that I can bring to the table. You may have thought of some of these or all of these, but hopefully it’ll provide an interesting read for new and old players alike.
I probably don’t need to tell you how good this guy is, but at least one person at the prerelease told me they didn’t like him because of the life cost. Forget it. The game of Magic is all about managing your resources, and life is the most plentiful one. In this format, with an abundance of expensive creatures and morph triggers, mana is actually the resource that is taxed the most. The drawback of sometimes not being able to morph him up in the late game pales before the advantage of morphing early for a zero-mana cost.
As one of the few people who still believes in drawing first in this Sealed format, I’m ecstatic about the presence of a”free” morph. There is nothing better than morphing this on turn 3 with a bunch of tapped islands and plains and then watching their morph come crashing in to its death. If they make the mistake of trying to wreck you with Battering Craghorn, it’s practically game over.
While I don’t see Storm as being that big of a concern due to a simple lack of good cards with the mechanic, it definitely makes combat tricks a lot riskier. My Wing Shards took out both Forgotten Ancient and Snarling Undorak after a Carbonize disrupted my double-block. Scattershot can also be cast in response to something like Accelerated Mutation to take out the targeted creature. Casting spells early in your turn while your opponent has mana untapped just got a whole lot more dangerous. Also, be wary of a good player who randomly casts a creature before their attack phase, as they are probably setting up something like Astral Steel.
Another spell that’s great for the player who’s drawing first, this is the Blue mage’s early game equivalent of Shock. It may not be immediately obvious that you can use this on your turn 2 to counter their turn 3 morph, as morphs have a converted mana cost of zero despite the three mana spent to play them. This usage alone makes for a nice card, but factor in the usefulness of this spell in the mid-game due to its cheap mana cost and you have a great one. The only time I was disappointed in Dispersing Shield all day was when my opponent went for a full-strength Decree of Savagery; Daru Lancer’s converted mana cost just didn’t cut it.
When I first saw this card, I knew there had to be something to the name. My quick attempts to unscramble Pemmin proved fruitless, but eventually someone took pity on me and pointed out that the whole thing reverts to”I am Superman.” Go figure.
The Aura is incredibly versatile, serving as everything from a blue answer to Sparksmith to late-game removal for their big guys to protecting a key creature of yours to making a monster blocker and attacker. Where it really shines, though, is on a creature with an activated ability. Untap for something for a single blue mana, multiple times per turn? A Wizard with Lavamancer’s Skill and Pemmin’s Aura is immediately game over, barring mass removal. Today I saw a Magma Sliver with the Aura that was capable of swinging for at least thirteen. Draft this card and don’t look back.
These are an interesting take on the card disadvantage problem that is inherent in creature enchantments, as well as a good way to reward players for using large creatures. The Blue one is certainly always playable, due to its cycling, but the Black and White ones merit second looks as well. Even the Red one seems fine in the right deck, if there’s enough fatties and mana acceleration to abuse the haste ability.
The existence of quick fatties (led by Krosan Drover and Daru Warchief, or maybe even Mistform Warchief in a pinch) backed by Dragon Wings makes me wonder if Green/Blue has suddenly become a lot more viable. In addition, the combination of Pemmin’s Aura on Timberwatch Elf is sicker than I care to imagine. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few Green/Blue decks start popping up in drafts here and there. The big problem is that there still aren’t any good bounce spells, mainly because Wizards recognizes they’d be too good in a format full of morph.
Splashing Extra Colors
Adding a third color to your deck has never been so painless – mainly due to the landcylers, but also because of Sprouting Vines. I’m not a big fan of that card, but the fact that it’s an instant saves it from being absolutely terrible, and it’s certainly playable in decks with more than two colors. In the prerelease I was able to splash Black for Cruel Revival, Smother, and a Lingering Death mainly because of the Twisted Abomination that I conveniently opened. Every landcycler of your splash color is like an extra land of that type that you don’t have to actually add to your mana base, which keeps things nice and tidy.
Highest Converted Mana Cost
I know that at one point, Wizards announced that we would need to keep track of a new number that had never been used before – but I can’t remember if that was for Mirrodin or Scourge. Regardless, when facing Green and Red decks, you need to keep an eye on their highest converted mana cost and attempt to keep your life total above that number at all times. Green players will often have the Accelerated Mutation to slam down on an unblocked creature, while Red mages can obviously just send a Torrent of Fire at your dome. If you die to an effect like this, don’t just curse your luck; think about how you could have played around it instead.
End of Combat Step
There is a little-known step that occurs after combat damage has resolved but before exiting combat which is called, appropriately, the”End of Combat” step. It’s unusual that anyone actually uses it, but in the side draft last weekend I actually found a need for it. My opponent, who had multiple Krosan Drovers, had accelerated out a Twisted Abomination and some other medium-sized creature. I had no good answer to the fact that the Abomination was going to keep swinging every turn other than a Wing Shards – but unfortunately, he hadn’t played any spells, I didn’t have any instants, and he was attacking with both.
I double blocked his 4/4 with a morph and a 2/3, hoping that he would use some sort of combat trick, but instead he just said that he was ready for damage. I thought for a second, and agreed, with him assigning lethal damage to my Aphetto Runecaster. After damage resolved, I moved to the end of combat step and cast the Wing Shards, forcing him to sacrifice his Abomination since his 4/4 had by now already headed to the graveyard. I ended up taking five points that turn but it was more than worth it, as I had dealt with his regenerator and stolen the tempo of the game.
Another”untap target creature” effect, but this one has the added bonus of being able to save any Elf that’s about to die. When combined with Fierce Empath, you can tutor up a large creature whenever you want, all the while untapping your Timberwatch Elf for extra pumping goodness. If the large creature happens to be a Wirewood Guardian, you can return it to your hand whenever your opponent futilely attempts to gangblock and kill it. I lost one game in the prerelease strictly to this annoying little insect. It’s definitely going to be a mainstay in Elf draft decks in the upcoming months.
While part of me is a little sad that they finally printed a Fog effect in this block that I now have to play around, the rest of me is glad that it was given in such a one-sided form to my favorite tribe – Soldiers. The Strategist suffers from the fact that he’s not a Soldier until he’s used his effect, at which point he’s only a 1/1, but the effect is strong enough that he’ll be seen in almost every White deck. Either by wrecking your opponent in a big combat or by giving you that last crucial turn you need to race a green deck, the Strategist serves a purpose in almost every game.
Emergence of White/Blue Control
I drafted White/Blue in a triple-Scourge side draft after failing miserably with White/Blue in the prerelease, and it was rather redeeming. In Scourge, contrary to the prior two sets, White/Blue actually has quite a control element. Between defensive cards like Coast Watcher, Frozen Solid, Wing Shards, and the card drawing power of Rush of Knowledge, the combination can fairly easily shut down Green’s fatties and swing through the air for the win.
Here was my decklist:
1 Silver Knight
2 Aven Farseer
1 Frontline Strategist
1 Daru Warchief
2 Aven Liberator
1 Karona’s Zealot
2 Raven Guild Initiate
1 Aphetto Runecaster
1 Mercurial Kite
1 Mischievous Quanar
2 Shoreline Ranger
2 Dispersing Shield
2 Frozen Solid
1 Wing Shards
2 Rush of Knowledge
1 Decree of Justice
I left my sideboard behind, but it included three more Frozen Solids, three more Dispersing Shields, two Coast Watchers, another Strategist (that probably should have been in the maindeck over an Initiate), and lots more goodies.
I don’t think the draft was at all realistic, considering I got fifteenth-pick Mercurial Kites twice (which is not a great card, but still…), but my deck certainly ran more than smoothly. Frozen Solids kept the annoying creatures locked down while Dispersing Shields ensured safety from everything else. Decree of Justice was a nice finisher, although not really as immediately powerful as the other Decrees can be.
The jury is still out on the Raven Guild Initiates, but so far I’ve been pretty happy with them. There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to unmorph them due to lack of a Bird, but they are nuts with Imagecrafter out and often strong anyway. Anything that morphs without a mana cost has the potential to completely wreck your opponent until people catch on a little more. It is also fine to cast them face-up simply as a Wizard with four toughness.
I’m a little worried about how the Scourge White/Blue cards are going to mesh with the rest of the block, though. Their control qualities might not go well with the aggressive decks that have been viable up until now. We’ll have to wait to see what happens.