Down And Dirty – Mob Munchies & Zendikar Begins

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Wednesday, September 16th – Zendikar spoilers continue to roll out at a snail’s pace, and everyone has their opinions on their strengths and weaknesses. Today, Kyle Sanchez discusses a much-debated one-drop that Mike Flores claims will be a Standard staple, and offers to devour a foil copy if this is the case! He also shares his thoughts on a collection of cards he feels will rock the New Standard casbah…

After reading one of Michaelj’s recent articles, I agreed with most of his points… until the final line, when he tried to sneak in “Scute Mob is the second coming of Tarmogoyf!” I hassled him about this statement, but he didn’t back down, so I claimed I’d eat a Scute Mob if it turned out to be a staple in the immediate future Standard format. I just don’t see it. Here’s what Scute Mob does…

Scute Mob
Creature — Insect
At the beginning of your upkeep, if you control five or more lands, put four +1/+1 counters on Scute Mob.

This little critter is something to think about, and it’s been the center of several heady heated debates, with great arguments on both sides. I’m not going to dumb it down and say “this guy is only good later on.” That’s pretty darned obvious. The real question is where this guy goes, and what kind of positive interactions we can expect from him.

I don’t mind Cascading into this guy with Enlisted Wurm, Bituminous Blast, and/or Bloodbraid Elf, apart from when setting up a Volcanic Fallout. This is his best usability in my book, but the Cascade deck isn’t exactly lacking late game power, and will a big vanilla dork add a desirable aspect to the deck? I don’t think so.

I like being able to ramp up to Time Warp and having the option to drop this guy in the same turn. I’m a big Misty Rainforest fan. I‘ve always been a Simic fan. I’ve set up Rude Awakening with Condescend backup. I’ve Wished Cunningly to bake with Mirari’s Wake. I’ve kept it real with Aqueamoeba and Mongrel. I’ve even swung through the air with Gaea’s Skyfolk. However, I just don’t see Blue wanting this guy as a finisher.

In my mind, there are two types of creatures that Blue mages want to actually do the dirty deed: sleek, efficient stars or resilient, big busty beaters. This guy doesn’t fit properly in either category and really straddles the line, which is what’s causing so much debate. He’s not sleek, yet pretty efficient. He’s not resilient, yet potentially bustier than a pregnant Tera Patrick. It’s awesome design on this card, since it’s so hard to predict where it will be three months from now, or even a week and a half from now.

There is also an ominous cloud of extremely powerful and efficient removal spells in this new Standard. We all saw what happened to Wake Thrasher and the hype he generated. He’s a fantastic vanilla beater that Blue never wanted to adopt outside of those fishy folk. Why? Because control decks can’t waste slots on bad creatures that a) can’t block well or b) can hold its own against a slew of popular removal spells. It’s an equation we’ve seen played out over and over again, and I don’t see Scute Mob in control decks anytime soon, especially with so many other more resilient and more powerful creatures around.

So he’s not in a control deck, and he clearly doesn’t fit into an aggro deck too comfortably. Where’s this little bug going? A five-color wacky Harrow deck? (Psst! They’re reprinting Harrow!) Possibly a U/G Garruk Wildspeaker / Time Warp deck, probably splashing two or three colors thanks to Harrow? Or a Jund Cascade deck involving Bloodbraid, BitBlast, Lightning Bolt, Harrow most likely, and the busty-sleek one-mana/five-drop Mobter?

I don’t see any of these coming to fruition, so I bet Michaelj that I’d eat a foil copy of Scute Mob if it turns out to be a Standard staple!

Stupid, childish, completely unwarranted? Oh yeah, this is Down And Dirty! If you want a solid Black Magic review, Samwise Dreamblade provided that already this week.

As an additional cost to cast Harrow, sacrifice a land.
Search your library for up to two basic land cards and put them onto the battlefield. Then shuffle your library.

This, I can most assuredly say – unlike Flores and his robust Mob-Goyf claim – will be the second coming of Harrow!

I remember many moons ago when Brian Kibler was a revolutionary deckbuilder and Invasion was the hot spot on the block. Domain ran rampant, and Dragon Master came out with a Dark Domain deck when Apocalypse dropped to sport Void, Destructive Flow, Pernicious Deed, Overgrown Estate, and Spiritmonger! That deck was such gas, and one for which I traded and bought packs to battle at FNM the next week. Harrow was the key to the deck, much like Kodama’s Reach in the Sakura-Tribe Elder, Gifts Ungiven, and Sensei’s Divining Top format we endured during Kamigawa Block.

My hope is that Harrow changes the way we can build decks from now on. I don’t think the Magic populous was as intelligent as it is these days, and Harrow is one of those cards that can grow and provide mana flexibility, much like Reflecting Pool in Standards past.

Iona, Shield of Emeria
Legendary Creature — Angel
As Iona, Shield of Emeria enters the battlefield, choose a color.
Your opponents can’t play spells of the chosen color.

Like Chapin said, this creature is absolutely bonkers. With all these new powerful lands coming out, and Harrow, I don’t see why nine mana isn’t the new seven mana. Our Standard format is about to be pretty shallow, and when these rotations happen it’s often best to do the most powerful thing you can. It will probably be a new fashion to Harrow into Cruel Ultimatum; however, I don’t think there is a more devastating creature in Standard than Iona. I could definitely see her in a reanimation strategy, but even hard casting her doesn’t seem like it will be too hard given how powerful she is, and she might make a great addition to mana-heavy decks as a one-of. Harrow and fetch lands thin the deck, so one-ofs will be in much higher frequency than in the slow Vivid-based decks of old.

Luminarch Ascension
At the beginning of each opponent’s end step, if you didn’t lose life this turn, you may put a quest counter on Luminarch Ascension. (Damage causes loss of life)
1W: Put a 4/4 white Angel creature token with flying onto the battlefield. Activate this ability only if Luminarch Ascension has four or more quest counters on it.

This is a card that is pretty devastating in the control mirror. I don’t think it’s possible to build any type of mainstream deck around this card, and to be able to ascend with it consistently in such an aggressive format with many burn alternatives. It will probably be one of the best sideboard cards available as an excellent trick up the sleeve, and will make us scratch our head before using Esper Charm as draw two on turn 3 of the control mirror.

Elemental Appeal
Kicker 5(You may pay an additional 5 as you cast this spell)
Put a 7/1 red Elemental creature token with trample and haste onto the battlefield. Exile it at the beginning of the next end step. If Elemental Appeal was kicked, that creature gets +7/+0 until end of turn.

I hate hate hate cards like this, that encourage encourage encourage those Red mages with their All-In play styles. They’ve got Hellspark Elemental, Ball Lightning, and now this? Since when were big weak-butt creatures with Haste so plentiful? This is just absurd. I don’t think it’s a good card by any means, at four or nine mana, but I suppose it does have some appeal to the Elementalists out there.

Goblin Ruinblaster
Creature — Goblin Shaman
Kicker – R
When Goblin Ruinblaster enters the battlefield, if it was kicked, destroy target nonbasic land.

This is Avalanche Riders 3.0, and a serious Standard contender. Pretty obvious though. This one’s usability is somewhat stymied because it also costs three and isn’t a desirable Bloodbraid Elf Cascade.

Lavaball Trap
Instant — Trap
If an opponent had two or more lands enter the battlefield under his or her control this turn, you may pay 3RR rather than pay Lavaball Trap’s mana cost.
Destroy two target lands. Lavaball Trap deals 4 damage to each creature.

This is a card I can really get behind. My immediate thoughts drift to Extended and how much of a monster this is against those Wild Apes and fetchland manabases acting as a cheap Instant speed Wildfire of sorts. The high mana cost is fairly restrictive, but U/R Tron has been popular before, and this just gives it a few more options to combat the fast-paced format that we’re marching towards.

The Standard implications of this card will depend on how big the fetchlands become. I don’t expect for them to be too popular the first month or two because of availability.

Lorthos, the Tidemaker
Legendary Creature — Octopus
Whenever Lorthos, the Tidemaker attacks, you may pay 8. If you do, tap up to eight permanents. Those permanents don’t untap during their controllers’ next untap steps.

Like I said earlier about Iona, it’s clear we’re going to be encouraged to play more lands, and as such the big busty spells becomes more attainable and mainstream. This guy will win a game if you untap with him. He’s well out of any logical burn range, and Esper decks have Charm and Identity Crisis to clear a hand out before you drop this Octopussy. I really dig the Octopus eight-centric theme to this card; however, I don’t see myself wanting to play this guy then attack with it instead of casting Iona. Much like Cruel Ultimatum from Shards of Alara, Iona will really define what we want to pay for a creature when we have butt loads of mana.

Halo Hunter
Creature — Demon
Intimidate (This creature can be blocked only by artifact creatures or creatures that share a color with it.)
When Halo Hunter enters the battlefield, destroy target Angel.

This guy is interesting. Finally, an answer to Baneslayer Angel! Erm… except that she has Protection from Demons… Seriously?! The only Angel worth murdering, and Wizards makes this guy a Demon to keep him on the sidelines? And on top of all that they renamed the Fear mechanic to be much less flavorless. “Intimidate” isn’t nearly as threatening or stingy as “Fear,” and this guy won’t be collecting any relevant Halos anytime soon either. [It’s not quite Fear, of course… I like the new working of the ability, if not the name — Craig.]

Crypt of Agadeem
Crypt of Agadeem enters the battlefield tapped.
T: Add B to your mana pool.
2, T: Add B to your mana pool for each black creature card in your graveyard.

Could this be better than Cabal Coffers? It certainly has splashy potential in some sort of Extended Dredge deck, but the startling part is that it doesn’t exactly have a downside. It’s a slow Swamp with a sizable advantage tacked on. I don’t know where this is going, but it doesn’t have the design restraints that Coffers did with needing Swamps. Sure, you need Black dudes in your yard, but everything turns Black after they sit in their grave long enough. You can pump out a truly massive Banefire with this thing, which is a pretty decent finisher. Or you can go to the extent of powering out the brutal Bloodchief of Ghet I previewed last week. Meh, probably not, but I don’t see any reason not to play it as a one or two-of.

Scythe Tiger
Creature — Cat
When Scythe Tiger enters the battlefield, sacrifice it unless you sacrifice a land.

Sam had this card pegged in his evaluation. When compared to Rogue Elephant, which was one of Stompy’s greatest forces, this card is a complete sham. Why would you sac a land for a big creature that you can’t Giant Growth the next turn? In our current age it won’t be long before he’s outclassed by a bigger creature in play, which is where Shroud is more of a hindrance than a bonus. Dropping this turn one in the control mirror however could be a fairly profitable play since they are low on creatures and Shroud keeps them from easily handling it. We also don’t know if we’re going to get any bonuses for sacrificing lands from unspoiled cards or in future sets, so the verdict is still out of this feline.

Oracle of Mul Daya
Creature — Elf Shaman
You can play one additional land on each of your turns.
Play with the top card of your library revealed.
You may play the top card of your library if it’s a land card.

I’m diggin’ this guy as a Green Future Sight, but I’m lacking the juevos necessary to use Forests to cast a four-mana 2/2.

Oran-Rief Survivalist
Creature — Human Warrior Ally
Whenever Oran-Rief Survivalist or another Ally enters the battlefield under your control, you may put a +1/+1 counter on Oran-Rief Survivalist.

If there is some kind of “Ally” deck, this guy will probably be a front runner. However, such a force usually doesn’t come about with only the core set of the block available. Allies will grow in strength the more of them we have to choose, so I’d wait six months before seriously considering this fella in any brews.

Khalni Heart Expedition
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may put a quest counter on Khalni Heart Expedition.
Remove three quest counters from Khalni Heart Expedition and sacrifice it: Search your library for up to two basic land cards, put them onto the battlefield tapped, then shuffle your library.

Wow! This card is awesome, definitely a power common for this set. Fetch lands add two counters to this bad boy, AND whenever you use the ability you get to add two Quest counters to it again. This is like a two-mana Endless Horizons, except for any basic land type, which functions eerily similar to Mana Severance. Every turn you get to pull two lands out of your deck and put them into play. Banefire is about the best we’ve got in the X spell department, but this card also makes Lavalanche fairly appealing, and when you have multiples of this your acceleration is off the chart! I can’t wait to build decks with this, and it might be stronger than Sylvan Library.

That was my initial impression of it at least, before I re-read it. My bubble was burst by the “sacrifice” clause. Bummer, this is a weak Harrow, but it still might see some marginal play.

Relevant Reprints / Renames

Mind Sludge
Target player discards a card for each Swamp you control.

This gives Vampires an extremely potent weapon, coupled with Duress to push it through. It feels like we’ve got all the pieces minus Mirari and Nantuko Shade to rebuild the old Mono Black deck from Odyssey Block. I’m not sure if that means anything, but Mono Black Control hasn’t had this many enticing pieces in awhile. Should be interesting to see what the deadheads come up with.

Day of Judgment
Destroy all creatures.

Finally, I can go back to play good Wraths, and now I don’t have to worry about Kitchen Finks to clog the board. This is going to be the centerpiece of the format, a card which everything will form around. Playing around Wrath becomes important again, and I’ve always wanted to be the one sweeping the board rather than the guy trying to squeeze damage and not over-extend.

River Boa
Creature — Snake
G: Regenerate River Boa

Woohoo! Mire Boa didn’t work out too hot because of the age it was unearthed in, but River Boa is poised to do some powerful things. Sure, he’s kind of runty, but playing against this guy as a Blue mage is extremely annoying, and now our Wrath of God doesn’t even kill the snake. I’d bet this guy out-performs Scute Mob any day of the week.

Nearly half of the spoiler has been completed by our friends over at MTGsalvation.com, and already we’ve gained a great deal of information about how the format will shape up. The aggressive decks (Red decks in particular) always seem to thrive in the beginning of new formats, and I’d expect no less here. Then the sea of midrange fringe decks will spur up with unique ways to combat the quick refined decks while trying not to lose ground against each other, which is when the control decks will formulate their plans and clean up the mess.

Land is going to be more abundant and important than ever, which I’m pretty excited about. I feel like one of my chronicled weaknesses as a deck builder is the manabases I attach to decks, so hopefully in this land of many… land… I’ll learn a thing or two about how to correctly analyze and construct solid manabases. They’re the engine that keeps every deck pumping, and it’s about time we see a proper block dedicated to their grandeur.

Thanks for reading!