In Part One, I talked about the artifacts of Darksteel. Part Two tackles the rest of the set, exposing my thoughts like a has-been pop singer‘s half-time show! (Now if that line doesn’t get a Knutsontervention I don’t know what will)
Let’s jump right in, shall we?
Holy Cow, Did They Really Print This?
I was going to give this section a header of”The Best” or”The Standouts” but that’s kinda dull and boring. Really, what I to capture here are the cards that cause your heart to race and drive you to call/email/instant message your friends and say,”Holy Cow, did they really print this?”
I was a huge fan of Braids, Cabal Minion and played Pirates and other Braids decks to some success while Psycho-B*tch was around. Greater Harvester might be even better. There’s a ton of things going for this card; as a 5/6 it’s got a huge threatening body that can put away a game quickly if it’s ability disrupts your opponent for a turn or two. And that disruption ability! Having your opponent sacrifice two permanents each time you hit them is amazing. The only hiccup is the fact that your opponent will likely want to chump block, trading his worst creature for your least-needed permanent.
Wait just a minute though – that’s not really a hiccup at all since Black is chock full of removal! I don’t think it will take too much effort to clear the way of blockers. Last, the Harvester exists in a color that is more than capable of blunting its drawback with things like Rotlung Reanimator and Oversold Cemetery or even turning the drawback into an advantage by sacrificing permanents that have worn out their welcome like Phyrexian Arena or Graveborn Muse. Here’s an initial Harvester deck idea I’m going to test out:
4 Ravenous Rats
4 Vicious Hunger
4 Chittering Rats
4 Phyrexian Arena
4 Dark Banishing
4 Graveborn Muse
4 Greater Harvester
3 Unholy Grotto
4 Barren Moor
In case you haven’t gotten the hint R&D is clubbing us over the head with, Equipment is the salvation of White Weenie. [And here I thought baby seals were the salvation. – Knut, confused] Those who bought that idea in Mirrodin and dramatically failed at States are understandably skeptical, but Shikari adds a powerful element to this argument. Starting with four Auriok Steelshapers, then adding four Leonin Shikari, and four Skullclamp gives you a pretty solid base to build on. Now whether Equipped White Weenie can ever thrive in an environment infested with Akroma’s Vengeance, I have no idea (I suspect the answer is no), but once Onslaught Block rotates out this fall, I would take a close look at the card pool to see where Equipped WW shakes out. Shikari is a fantastic card awaiting the right metagame.
Wow, a Seal of Cleansing that swings for two! What more could you ask for? Oh, make it an elf so you can further enhance the Onslaught elf tribal stuff? Holy cow! It’s a shame that Mirrodin block Limited requires that this be made a rare, since every tournament player is going to want to have a playset of these, whether it’s for an Elf deck, G/R Ponza, Cemetery, or heck, just about any Green-based deck! As a big fan of utility, I’m cuckoo for Zealots! [Ah Zealots, breakfast cereal of Champions. – Knut]
Wow, This Is Pretty Good…
These next cards won’t speed your heart rate, but they’re cards a lot of us will be happy to see, and many of them will prove to be da bombdiggity.
Much like Shikari, this Angel will likely shine a little brighter once Onslaught block – and its Exalted cousin – rotate out. An incredible blocker right out the gate, once you untap and at least bluff some instants, she’ll play hell on your opponent’s offensive plans.
Pulse of the Fields
I have to admit to initially disliking this card. I mean, good players know lifegain sucks, right? Right? Setting the question of whether I’m a good player or not aside for now, though, this certainly seems to be pushing the bounds of mediocrity. I can remember the days when Gerrard’s Wisdom was used in control decks to buy you enough time to seize control of the board with a sweeper spell, and I can certainly see this Pulse used in a similar way.
You’d have to commit enough creatures to the board to deal more than four points of damage each attack to gain any ground against this single spell, which of course begs you to walk into a Wrath of God or Akroma’s Vengeance. I don’t even want to think about the craziness when you’d have six mana available. This is like a virtual Exalted Angel that’s immune to creature removal, and it’s a nightmare for weenie decks.
Ah, Isochron Scepter decks have their fifth through eighth Boomerangs! Finally, a single colored-mana bounce alternative to Chain of Vapor that is also very efficient at neutering Decree of Justice. I suspect this card’s popularity will grow over the coming months.
You knew they’d print this eventually, and as the ultimate combo-buster it’s very welcome. Fantastic card name!
Pulse of the Grid
This card’s been getting a bad rap, but it’s got some great potential. At the least it can act as a few extra copies of Thirst for Knowledge. If you happen to be playing a dedicated bounce deck (maybe with Isochron Scepter), you could pretty much guarantee you’re going to get this back turn after turn. Finally, there are times when discarding to the graveyard is a good thing.
This card can give you access to five mana on turn 3, provided you’re going to be using some of that on artifacts. That’s pretty huge. So if you drop a Gilded Lotus and a land the following turn, you could have nine mana on turn 4! There’s tons of potential here, just look at how many different Mishra’s Workshop decks there are in Type 1 for inspiration.
I have to admit something – I’m a Rat Bastard. I love Ravenous Rats, and now they have a big brother that’s even better in some ways. I immediately thought of this card alongside Astral Slide in some bastardized Ralphie Treatment deck. Jim Ferraiolo has probably already thought of this, tested it a gazillion times and dismissed it, but that won’t stop me from trying it out myself!
I played Pox, and you Sir are no Pox! Or are you? Recent discussions on this card have made me question my initial dismissal of this card as overpriced tripe, and I have to admit now to being intrigued enough to want to give it a try.
Three mana, three damage to a creature or player, instant speed. With a reasonable entwine cost to hit both a creature and player, this is a great little burn spell to have available.
I’ve never been able to bring myself to play Blaze. Fireball on the other hand, now that’s some good cookin’… Especially in a format where mana acceleration is plentiful, the original mana sink spell is bound to make players smile and their opponents frown.
There are two things about this card that keep it locked in a limbo between being really good, and really mediocre. On the good side of things, it’s another four mana Beast that supplements Ravenous Baloth quite well, and if it gets its swing on several times, it can’t be beat. On the mediocre side of things it’s extremely color intensive, and not quite as good without a Baloth in play. So… it’s not as good as Baloth and will be even worse when Baloth rotates out. Born to be second string…
Wow, is this efficient. While I’m not sure it’s worth shaving a mana off Naturalize for a narrower card, it’s nice to have the option. With my luck, I’d pack Oxidize in my board expecting Affinity and run into Rift/Slide decks all day.
Pulse of the Tangle
Another Pulse that will drive weenie decks into fits. The fact that this makes Beasts means this is even better, and fits a gaping hole in Beast deck mana curves. With a Ravenous Baloth on the board, this card can also double as a Pulse of the Fields! Okay, maybe not…
This is like the ultimate Invasion tap-land, but better! If having colored mana turn 1 is not critical to your deck, this is a gimme. Also, don’t overlook the fact that this generates and uses charge counters that can be taken advantage of with things like Power Conduit.
Sitting On The Fence
These are cards that look pretty good at first glance, and still seem pretty good after thinking about them some more. But they may prove to be less than stellar in practice, so I’m hedging my bets by calling attention to them as cards to watch.
Maybe I’m crazy, but I think this card is worlds better than Savannah Lions in equipped White Weenie with Skullclamps. I’d rather lay the smackdown with my one-drop than sac ’em off for two cards.
In Scrye’s interview with Henry Stern, I specifically asked why this card was costed so high. His answer indicated that this was a card designed for casual play, and in testing in the casual environment, cheaper versions got negative feedback. So there you go.
It’s kinda wild how many different paths you can take starting with the basic Affinity skeleton, and while I don’t think the Drake has a place in traditional Broodstar-centric versions, I could see a more combo-rific version with Arcbound Reclaimer giving you recursive artifacts. After being abused by Reclaimer/Skeleton Shard/Mindslaver in this past weekend’s group game, I have respect and fear for the potential here.
Another likely candidate for Combo Affinity.
The Snap is one of those cards that most of us keep running across in spoilers and reviews that make you scratch your head bemusedly and say”Ooooookay…” But think a little past the card and wonder”Why would Wizards make this card?” Perhaps in their testing for Type 2 or block there’s either a gross token-generating deck, or a deck that abuses counters, and Aether Snap exists to give you an answer to the madness. So the Snap is of interest simply, because it’s a clue that perhaps there’s a broken strategy to be uncovered.
Pulse of the Dross
If Suicide Black makes a comeback, this might not be a bad card to have, at the least in the sideboard to fight against decks that keep their hands stocked.
I keep hearing about how this can double the counters on Darksteel Reactor. It can also double the counters of an Arcbound creature (provided you have another artifact creature to send them to). A marginal card that has some potential to keep in mind.
Obviously horrible in any Mirrodin-infested environment, the Ogre certainly has some gross potential in other less-artifact heavy environments.
Slobad, Goblin Tinkerer
First of all, the name is friggin’ hysterical! Making him a legend certainly puts the brakes on his potential, but he’s still very interesting. He lets you effectively choose which artifact your opponent’s artifact destruction hits, so why not sacrifice a Pest token or Myr Retriever rather than your Platinum Angel?
If only he were a beast… I’ve seen a lot of people theorizing about making a lifegain deck, and if such a thing ever came about the Entity would certainly thrive in it. The most intriguing variation I’ve heard used Words of Worship along with Well of Lost Dreams. That’s a lot of life.
I know Mishra’s Factory and the Urza man-lands were good, but were they too good? The Nexus is still decent and will likely see play, but I can’t help but feel that adding a mana cost to the tap for a +1/+1 boost was a little too much. Maybe these guys will be better than I think, we’ll see.
And that wraps up my initial thoughts on Darksteel. Overall I think the set is very interesting, and I can’t wait to explore all the new cards.