I have long been looking forward to the end of Mirrodin Block and the joyous release of The New Set. The last few months have not been a happy time for me. I haven’t played much Magic at all due to my hatred of extremely binary formats (Affinity… or anti Affinity?!), a condition that applied to both Block and Standard Constructed, sadly. Yet much like Madonna, the new set always brings with it a ray of light. It is upon us – bringing wonderful Eastern-inspired artwork, glorious new card interactions, and a slew of immature and clumsily-guised dirty double entendres to enjoy. But don’t worry if you couldn’t make it to the prerelease; in just a few short weeks, you too will finally be able to get your greedy little hands on some COK… boosters.
Fortunately, Ted dragged me and fellow miscreants Tybuc and Gibb along with him to Richmond for this past weekend’s prerelease and we had a blast. Really. I even had fun with Star Wars Kid! Not as much fun as Kibler had with young Christopher, granted… but unlike him, I like to keep it legal. I think that this prerelease was the most fun I had playing Magic since Invasion block. For the first time in a while, it felt like Limited had returned to its roots; colors did what they did and the challenge was in finding the right combination of complementary abilities to win. Without morph or a large number of colorless artifacts to fall back on, building a mana base and really thinking about the pairing of colored spells and effects in a sealed pool was once again paramount. I also noticed that the decks curved out a lot better due to the presence of many playable two-drops. It felt very natural to play with COK; Limited Magic seems to have come full circle, and it’s quite refreshing.
There were more than a few standout cards for me at the prerelease, but I will only take the time to discuss the ones that really piqued my interest. Set reviews will have most of the Limited and Constructed applications for these cards well-covered, but I doubt you’ll have as a good a time reading them. Keep in mind that these may not be the best cards and my reasons for liking them may not be entirely sound – as I have been known to be irrational when it comes to certain creatures. [Please God, no more Thieving Magpies in decks… ever. – Knut, tired of talking sense into Dr. Frankenfurter here] Of course, it’s always dangerous to rate and review cards before playing with them a good deal – I would venture that more than a few scribes have lost points for saying stuff like Skullclamp wouldn’t affect the format or as I did, missing the boat on Cranial Plating in Affinity. It’s a deadly game, people, but one I will play.
I lost every single time this thing came out. Without some Jedi mind trick or ridiculous card expenditure to force your opponent to tap out, I don’t know that it’s possible to win against a decent player. This little bastard protects permanents, which makes him a Shelter against everything that could somehow affect the board. At an insanely cheap cost. Most of the time, 8.5 Tails will simply be a really good Glory, allowing creatures to plow through whatever paltry defenses your opponent has set up. In the immortal words of Borat Sagdiyev,”He can smash.”
Let me be crystal clear – I love Mad Dog. I love Mad Dog in just about any format he can be played in. This guy is like Mad Dog 2.0 Turbo Edition, except he’s actually slightly worse when looked at in a vacuum. It doesn’t matter. The thing about this little red Corvette is that he’s very similar to everyone’s favorite Lava Axe – Suntail Hawk (now doing business as Lantern Kami). Most of the time, he will get up in it for a point of damage every turn without gathering any attention. Your opponent will never want to trade a 3/3 creature or a removal spell for a lousy Battle-Mad Ronin, and blocking him with something bigger opens up the possibility that you might kill that creature with a ping / burn spell / nasty glare. He also likes to wield a No-Dachi and hang out with Takeno, Samurai General. If you have either of these cards in play, Battle-Mad Ronin is quite ridiculous. This human samurai was in almost every deck I played at the prerelease and never once disappointed.
A burn spell that returns to your hand but makes you randomly discard a card doesn’t seem like it should be all that great on the surface, but it is. Reusable damage sources are always tremendous in forty-card formats, but they seem to be more so in COK Limited. Frostwielder and Honden of Infinite Rage were nice to me on the day, but not compared to this little nugget. Naturally, being able to titrate the contents of your hand is the key. During the event, I was keeping my grip stocked with lands and Hanabi Blast was clearing away all kinds of creatures. When I needed to kill my opponent, I was able to do six damage on average before losing the card. I would rate it above the two aforementioned cards and above Yamabushi’s Flame as well. Burn baby burn, flames a getting higher! You no mess with Lo Wang (Props issued to anyone who picks up that reference).
I only mention this because in my first flight I was playing a deck with all of the x/1 Soritami Origami creatures and my opponent wrecked me with it in games two and three. It was literally the only card he could have drawn to win both games. If you’re thick with Islands, you have good reason to fear Gale Force out of the board against Green decks, because almost every single Blue creature has flying and you will lose your entire team. One way Wraths win games, especially when your opponent doesn’t know they exist (because who reads card spoilers?!) Love that Prerelease!
Seizan, Perverter of Truth
I had packs on the line and my opponent had drawn his five card mulligan on the play. The Perverter popped out of his deck on the fourth turn with an assist from The Rampant Growth Guy. A few short moments later, I lost the match. I’m not sure what the chances are of winning with a five card hand on the play, but I do know that they go up dramatically when you can get this guy out on the quicks. Seizan is a total badass. Sure, your opponent gets to draw the extra cards first, but you’ve got the 6/5 body, silly. If you can even get one shot in with him, it’s over. It won’t matter if you place him in a Cage of Hands or under some Mystic Restraints then. It goes without saying that a symmetrical double Phyrexian Arena attached to a 6/5 for five mana is a windmill slam first pick.
Bushi Tenderfoot/Kenzo the Hardhearted
I’ve talked enough about cards that impressed me, so it’s time for a disappointment. Simply put, if there’s any chance that this guy could be flipped, any breathing non-donkey opponent will never let it happen. Most of the flip cards that I played were extremely underwhelming on the day. I tried so many times to trick my opponents into letting me (put my thing down) flip it and reverse it – and these are Prerelease players – and they just were not having any of it. Sigh.
I wasn’t sure what Protection from Spirits and Arcane would do for me but as it turns out, it is very good. There is a ton of Creature – Spirit printed on cards in this format and my little 2/1 friend held it down against them forever. Kitsune Riftwalker turned aside many a Green fattie on the day and frequently dealt the final points, sneaking through a spirit-based army to do so. His cousin, the Kitsune Blademaster, was also a most excellent Gray Ogre. Somewhere along the line, foxes became pretty hardy creatures. Who knew? Tybuc certainly didn’t, as this quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog and nibbled him into submission.
Kami of Twisted Reflection
This Kami was a pretty decent combat trick in a color that doesn’t have many of them, so he’s serving of mention. I was often able to trade him for a 2/2 and then use the ability to save another one of my creatures from a trade and netting a card in the process. Not spectacular, but not bad. This kid was also good insurance for any Legends that I had out and about.
Student of Elements / Tobita, Master of Winds
Utter trash. How are you supposed to ever flip this crap? I quickly moved him into the pile after realizing my entire basis for wanting to play him was so that I could say”When I was first cast, I was but the student; now I am the master.” To do so would require playing Guardian of Solitude or Lifted by Clouds, neither of which I would touch. If you’re heavy Blue, ninety percent of your creatures are going to fly already anyway! Tobita, you are no Wonder.
Nezumi Graverobber / Nighteyes the Desecrator
Champions of Kamigawa is all about the Rats with Powers, so it seems. This is probably the second best of the lot next to Nezumi Shortfang / Stabwhisker the Odious (a sick name) and is sure to frustrate opponents for months to come. The fact that you can reanimate a creature out of any graveyard is definitely a bonus, and with so many ways to kill in the color, there will be no shortage of targets. Mono-Black is looking like a very strong draft strategy, as it has an excellent, balanced mix of good creatures and removal in the common and uncommon slots along with several game-winning bomb rares (and a game-winning uncommon in Dance of Shadows). Magic has often held many social analogs, but none as blindingly obvious as the envy that other colors are sure to have for the awesome steadiness and raw power of Black COK.
I think that’s enough for now. I haven’t even really touched upon what cards I think are going to make an impact on Constructed. I don’t know that there are many. Affinity is still likely to be dominant in the States metagame, but Imi Statue will at least give those dastardly artifact players something to worry about.
Okay, so I had a few ideas for the core dump this time but I think I’m going to put it to a vote. The gum stuff got a phenomenal response (yes, it has been that long since I’ve written a non-coverage article), so I was bandying around the idea of top ten bottled/canned drinks of all time – another area of expertise. I also thought about perhaps discussing the top ten vocalists, but that one would really require a lot of work. Then there are the worst gums of all time, which I promised, too. I think I said this before, but I am totally and utterly list obsessed. If there was a list of top ten household cleaners in Good Housekeeping this month, I’d probably pick it up off of the magazine rack and thumb through. So either drinks or singers – sound off. I think for now, I’m just going to get random.
So what do most Magic players do when they’re not playing their favorite card game? That’s right, they play their second favorite card game – poker. Haha. In actuality, the ranks are probably reversed these days – a fact that has Wizards of the Coast worried sick. They have been super touchy about the connection between Magic and poker and it’s now even more evident with the success of Dave Williams, John Murphy, Thomas Keller, Mattias Anderson, and others at the World Series of Poker this past year. To be honest, I don’t see what the problem is and why Wizards is so interested in disavowing the connection between the two. Just about every Pro Tour regular plays poker to supplement their income or, in some cases, to provide their only income. Many more PTQ and casual players are also picking up the fifty-two card formats as well, noting the success of their more accomplished Magical compatriots. A wise sage by the name of Warren Sapp once said,”Whas the prahblem heah?” Maybe you guys can help me out. Why is Wizards so concerned about the connection between the two games? What are they trying to protect?
I’m glad to see that many have finally caught on to Da Ali G Show, as I have been hyping it up to anybody who will listen for the better part of two years now. I was introduced to him about six months before the first season on HBO aired and found him to be a total riot. Said first season is now available on DVD and I stress that it is absolutely required watching for anyone… well, anyone who enjoys laughing. Now that this second stint has wrapped up, I can say that this year’s skits with Ali G were not as funny as the first season on balance, but that is more than made up for by the fact that season two’s Borat sketches were twenty times more insane than their predecessors. The Wine Tasting episode alone could put Cohen in the comedy Hall of Fame, were there such a place. Fans of the Kazhakstanian reporter will definitely want to check out the Borat homepage at http://www.boratonline.co.uk/ as well as the Borat soundboard (also linked in on that page).
Speaking of must see TV, the third season of HBO’s The Wire tipped off last week. For those that have never heard of it, you’re missing quite possibly the best show to ever air on television, period. There has never been anything with the plot arcs, character depth, richness of dialogue, and lasting effect that The Wire possesses. It has all the trappings of a contiguous televised novel more than an episodic television show. It’s compared to other cop/criminal dramas like The Shield, Homicide, or NYPD Blue, but it pisses all over those shows. People often scoff in disbelief when I tell them that it’s better than The Sopranos. It’s a lot better than the Sopranos, and I believe that the first two seasons of that show were among the greatest TV ever aired. This show is better. Pick up the first season on DVD when it comes out on October 12. Then, use BitTorrent to download the second season. Start recording the third season now so that you can catch up. Things start slowly, but the intensity just builds and builds with every episode. How it has escaped an Emmy is baffling. Enough hype – just watch it. Tap in.
Ted sent me some link the other day of a guy who gets (mostly) beautiful women to pose naked for him and then puts the pictures up on his Journal. I don’t think the models get paid or anything. Then people post comments like”My God, what a wonderful use of lighting!” It makes me consider whether I’m using my own free time in the best way possible. Just astounding.
On Boston Sports…
Only three weeks until NBA training camps open. I love basketball. My Celtics are going to be a lot better than they’ve been getting credit for. This is naturally contingent on Gary Payton not corrupting and destroying the soul of everyone on the team. He does have that ability. With his legendary penchant for partying and the night life, I wonder if he actually is Satan, sent to corrupt everyone in his wake. We’ve got a team full of rookies and impressionable young players. Oh, and Ricky Davis. It could get really spicy.
On to the NFL, I believe that the Patriots, barring any significant injuries, will once again repeat. How do the defending champs actually improve in the offseason? That’s not really supposed to happen, but it did. The champions are supposed to have players and assistant coaches leave in search of a fat payday, head coaching jobs, and the like. We stuck together and got back a former All-Pro linebacker, signed a perennial 1,000 yard rusher, and drafted another great rookie crop while losing little of consequence. Maybe the Pats will have more than a few players make the Pro Bowl this year – but hey – I’m okay with other players getting the individual recognition and my team winning the titles. [Jim is obviously not aware of the jinx factor of writing about your favorite teams while they are on a streak. I expect the Patriots to now implode in a Hindenberg-like collapse this week and go out in the first week of the playoffs. -Knut, who learned his lesson when Notre Dame and Oklahoma were bot undefeated two years ago]
As far as the Red Sox go, unless we sweep the Yankees this weekend, the division title is probably out of the question. I am already steeling myself for the inevitable playoff duel, though. The Yankees are more vulnerable than they’ve ever been this year – their starting pitching is garbage, their bullpen is suspect (besides everyone’s favorite Ferengi, Mariano Rivera), and were it not for Gary Sheffield and Pay-Rod, they probably couldn’t score any runs either. This year, there is no Grady Little. This year, we will be victorious. En Garde, Mr. Bleiweiss – your team’s time is just about up.