From Right Field – Anna Karenina: Battlemage

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Two weeks ago, as a way to focus my time and attention, I asked you kind and thoughtful readers to vote on which of five cards I should feature in this week’s article. You voted for Ana Battlemage. Let me deconstruct this card and see what I’ve gotten myself into…

{From Right Field is a column for Magic players on a budget or players who don’t want to play netdecks. The decks are designed to let the budget-conscious player be competitive in local, Saturday tournaments. They are not decks that will qualify a player for The Pro Tour. As such, the decks written about in this column are, almost by necessity, rogue decks. The author tries to limit the number of non-land rares as a way to limit the cost of the decks. When they do contain rares, those cards will either be cheap rares or staples of which new players should be trying to collect a set of four, such as Sulfurous Springs, Birds of Paradise, or Wrath of God. The decks are also tested by the author, who isn’t very good at playing Magic. He will never claim that a deck has an 85% winning percentage against the entire field. He will also let you know when the decks are just plain lousy. Readers should never consider these decks “set in stone” or “done.” If you think you can change some cards to make them better, well, you probably can, and the author encourages you to do so.}

Two weeks ago, as a way to focus my time and attention, I asked you kind and thoughtful readers to vote on which of five cards I should feature in this week’s article. You voted for Ana Battlemage. Let me deconstruct this card and see what I’ve gotten myself into.

A&E’s Biography: Ana Battlemage: The Colon Story

The base stats on Ana Battlemage aren’t impressive. It’s a 2/2 for three mana, and it’s not even part of a Tribe that might help it out like Elves or Soldiers. So, I’m definitely not inspired to go that route. Where this card shines is those Kickers. The first Kicker costs 2U and forces a player to discard three cards. It can be either player. We might want to go the reanimation route, using the discard on ourselves. Of course, we could also just wreck the other guy’s hand.

The other kicker costs 1B and taps down an opponent’s creature while having the creature deal damage equal to its power to its controller. Again, it could actually be our creature that we tap down. Given that it would leave us with a tapped creature and damaged, I can’t figure out why we’d do that. Let’s leave that on the way back burner, then.

There are two more powerful characteristics of that Black kicker. First, since Ana Battlemage is Green, the ability is Green, regardless of the fact that Black mana has to be used to do it. Second, it’s the creature being targeted that deals damage to its controller, not the Battlemage. That might be important if the opponent has some way to protect themselves from our creatures or spells but not from their own.

MapQuest Never Fails: Choosing a Direction

For no reason other than “I Felt Like It,” I decided not to go the reanimation route, at least not in the way or with the fervor that one might expect. I think the discard kicker will be best used to limit an opponent’s options rather than our own. In addition, I wanted to focus on the Green mana. If we used Dread Return, we’d be pretty heavily into Black. That’s not to say that that isn’t a viable way to go. I just chose not to.

One thing I’m going to try that’s different for me is to not give the complete decklist of each version. (And Craig was thankful.) I’ll just give you the final one and tell you what was changed from previous versions. I’m still going to let you in on some of my original thoughts as to how to put the deck together.

For example, maybe I wasted too much time on this idea, but I wanted to be able to replay the Ana Battlemage. The first card that came to mind from that kernel of wisdom was Stampeding Wildebeests. I’d like to thank the fine folks who created Tenth for putting that in there. I didn’t get enough time with Stampeding Serow, and now I have the original with which to work. The Stampeding Krewe of Kritters, of course, called out for Carven Caryatid. Hey, if replaying the Battlemage is good, so is replaying the Wooden Wall of Hotties. Speaking of replaying creatures, I started thinking about the fact that this deck wouldn’t have much/any early game defense. Then I remembered Dream Stalker. A 1/5 on the second turn can put a crimp into many plans. A 1/5 on turn seven that returns an Ana Battlemage isn’t too shabby, either. Since we were already into Blue thanks to one of the Battlemage’s Kickers, that wasn’t an issue. [Remember folks… the Caryatid rotates out very soon, so use ‘em while they’re here! — Craig.]

I also thought of Terror as early defense. For two mana, just like the Stalker, it could get rid of some nasty problems. Tarmogoyf, anyone? From there, the first version was pretty much done. I added Harmonize because I think it’s required for Green decks now, and made sure I was using Snow lands so that I could get a bit more advantage by adding Scrying Sheets. My last addition was Sunken Hope. Hey, I figured if eight ways to bring back a creature was good, twelve ways were fifty per cent better.

My first game was not auspicious. Thanks to replaying the Caryatid over and over and casting three Harmonizes, I drew over half of my deck. (I had only twenty-nine cards in my library when the game ended.) Guess which two cards I saw zero copies of? Terror and Ana Battlemage. That’s right. When the game ended – I lost, by the way – over a quarter of what was left in my library were the control cards.

That was okay, though. Those things happen. Obviously, I wasn’t going to write off a deck when two of the cards that were supposed to help it win didn’t even show up. Sadly, game 2 wasn’t much better. Terror showed up once, and it was nice, getting rid of a potentially troublesome Shade of Trokair. This was the game that showed me that Sunken Hope was maybe not all it’s been touted as being. Sure, I could return Carven Caryatids and Ana Battlemages. My opponent, however, could return Nekrataals and Shrieking Grotesques. Yeah, not good.

I thought about putting more beef in there. That’s when I realized that I could use the other guy’s beef. I’d noticed that the Battlemage was getting a lot of huge creatures pitched to it. If you haven’t cast that Teneb, the Harvester, by the time the Ana Battlemage hits, you’re not likely to have many more choices to pitch. So, I removed Sunken Hope for Body Double. The first creature that I “cloned” with Body Double was Denizen of the Deep. My opponent registered his disgust at that turn of events. Not only did I get a DoD, but I got to return my other creatures to my hand, including a Battlemage and a Caryatid. Niiiiice.

The next three or four games, however, made me realize that the sideboard would have to have some anti-flying tech. Each of those games was won when the other guy simply overwhelmed my ground pounders. Sure, Desert came in handy a couple of times, but I usually needed two or three to pick off the opposing air force.

For the first time, I remembered Birds of Paradise. Don’t ask me why. I guess I was so focused on the Snow mana that I blocked them out for Boreal Druid. I realized, however, that I was getting plenty of Snow mana for Scrying Sheets from the regular lands. No need to stunt my color base by skipping the best mana bug ever. BoPs would also give me an airborne speedbump when needed.

This set of games also highlighted that Terror wasn’t versatile enough. Maybe in a different metagame it would be awesome. However, I saw far too many Black creatures for it to be any good. I also met a couple that had Protection from Black. That wasn’t a huge problem since all of my guys were Blue or Green. Still, I wanted something that could stop Black critters. I moved Utopia Vow into the Terror slot. Same converted mana cost. More versatile. I loved it.

For two games. I wanted the other guys dead or completely immobilized. Activated abilities were killing me. The additional mana for them was killing me. Besides, Body Double wanted them in the graveyard. That’s when I made the final two changes for this version of the deck. I dropped Utopia Vow for Sudden Death. Granted, it leaves the bigger guys on the board, but that can usually be taken care of in combat via judicious use of Desert and proper blocking schemes.

I also started looking back at Harmonize. I couldn’t deny that it was card advantage. The math tells you that. Unfortunately, many times, when I was casting it, I was leaving myself too open for other problems. I needed something that was offensive or defensive.

Or both.

In went Persuasion.

There you have it. The deck that was inspired by you. You might be asking “Why is Terror in the sideboard if you didn’t like it?” I didn’t like it in the main deck. However, there are still some ginormous guys out there that can be killed dead by Terror. The aforementioned T-Goyf is one. As the criminal defense often goes around these here parts, “Some folks just need killin’.”

You might also be asking “Is that it? A mere seventeen-hundred-plus words on Ana Battlemage?” Why, of course not. You’re too good for that. I’m too good for that. As was said of Pam and Jim’s relationship on last week’s episode of The Office, “I think they can both do better.” (That’s okay. It took me a second or three to realize why that was so funny, too.) But first, a mini-rant.

The Name of My Next Album: The Peppersmoke Incident

Last week, I said that a friend of mine who was also a judge said that you would always draw a card when you resolved one of the cards in the Peppersmoke cycle. Why would we say that? Because it says so right on the card. Peppersmoke says that you draw a card if you control a Faerie. Since Peppersmoke is a Faerie and you control it while it’s resolving, well, logically, you draw a card.

It seems that, even though the rules text on the card says that you draw a card, you don’t draw a card just because Peppersmoke resolves. Apparently, what the Wizards rules team meant for the card to say was that if you controlled a Faerie permanent (or whatever the proper permanent was for the spell being cast), you drew a card.

Except, of course, that this isn’t what the card say.

That leads me back to a problem that I’ve had with this game from the beginning. This is a card game. You should be able to play it in the middle of nowhere, with no access to electricity or the Internet or judges. The trouble is that you can’t due to the incompetence of the rules team, designers, et al. I’ll show you how I got to that conclusion from Peppersmoke.

Obviously, a judge and I came to the same conclusion on Peppersmoke because we know the rules and we read the card. Moreover, neither of us hesitated to say “Yes, as long as no one changes the type of card that Peppersmoke is before it resolves, you draw a card.” Quick, easy, and apparently wrong. So, how could we get there so swiftly and without hesitation? Simple:

1) Peppersmoke says to draw a card if you control a Faerie;
2) Peppersmoke is a Faerie;
3) I control Peppersmoke as it resolves; and
4) Therefore, since I satisfy the rules text, I do what it says, i.e. draw a card.

Apparently, though, I don’t control a Faerie when I control Peppersmoke, even though Peppersmoke is a Faerie.


Yeah, exactly.

You see, this paragraph appears in the Lorwyn FAQ:

“If a card uses ‘Goblin’ as a noun (that is, without following it with a word like ‘card’ or ‘spell’), it actually means ‘Goblin permanent.’ It can affect any Goblin permanent in play, including a Goblin tribal.”

How absolutely convoluted and completely unnecessary is that? Come on, folks, look at how they describe this in order to explain it. When “Goblin” is used as a noun, it really means “Goblin permanent.” In the phrase “Goblin permanent,” Goblin is actually an adjective. In other words, when “Goblin” is used as a noun on a card, “Goblin” the noun actually means “Goblin used as an adjective to describe a permanent.”

To quote the famous tennis player John McEnroe, “You can not be serious!”

Oh, I see. As this applies to Peppersmoke, since the word “Faerie” isn’t used as a noun on Peppersmoke, I don’t actually draw a card. Makes perfect sense, right?


For one thing, these contortions are grammatically ambiguous at best and just plain incorrect at worst. For another, FAQs aren’t the rules. FAQs explain the rules where there is uncertainty. I searched through the official, comprehensive Magic rules. The word “noun” only shows up in regards to spells and abilities that change words on cards. It says nothing like it does in the Lorwyn FAQ regarding some distinction between using a word as a noun versus using it as an adjective. In other words, the FAQ isn’t just explaining a rule; it’s actually creating one. It’s creating it out of whole cloth, a rule that does not show up in the comprehensive rules in any shape, form, or fashion. *poof* A new rule from the Lorwyn FAQ. What’s worse, it’s a rule for something about which there was no ambiguity in the rules text at all until the FAQ made it ambiguous!

“Romeo, you’re just mad that you were wrong and that the world got to see it.”

No, I’m not. One thing I’ve learned in my life – and I learned it early – is that it’s better to admit when you’re wrong, learn from it, and move on. As far as Wizards’ official stance on the matter, I was wrong. I know that now. I will play my Peppersmokes in the future accordingly.

This isn’t about me. It’s about the people out there who don’t play the game while sitting beside their computer because Magic is a card game, not an electronic, computer, or video game. They have a copy of the rules with them (hopefully), and they have their cards. They don’t search the Internet whenever a question comes up because they don’t have to. The answer is in the rules. When a rule is ambiguous or confusing and two or more of them disagree, they might look for an answer later on, but Peppersmoke & Co. aren’t ambiguous.

It’s also about incompetence. All the fine folks at Wizards had to do was to follow the word “Faerie” with the word “permanent,” and everything would have been fine. It’s not like it would have been a problem for them. We know that they contemplated such additional words in rules texts because the next two lines in the FAQ are these:

“– If a card says just ‘Goblin creature,’ it can affect only a Goblin creature in play. It can’t affect a tribal.
“– If a card says ‘Goblin card,’ it can affect any Goblin card not in play, including a Goblin tribal card.”

So, they know that they will be using (or are using) such phrases as “Goblin card” and “Goblin creature.” How hard would it be to make sure that there’s no ambiguity, and make sure that rules text on cards also might say “Goblin permanent”? No harder than making sure it says “Goblin card” or “Goblin creature.”

The bottom line is this. Wizards dropped the ball on this Peppersmoke thing big time. They continue to drop the ball as it regards this being a card game. It may not seem like much to them. Many of you play the game sitting right beside a computer continually hooked up to a high-speed Internet connection. I don’t care. This game should not require you to do that, but, in essence, it does. Many folks who play this game don’t play that way. When they finally try to venture into the world of in-store tournament play, they will be made to feel left out because cards don’t work the way that they say they do right on the cards themselves. Wizards, please, stop doing this kind of thing. If it’s a rule, put it in the comprehensive rules so that people who look for answers in the rules can find them in the rules. A FAQ is not the rules. Remember that.

Ana Battlemage: Return of the Battlemage, Part II: The Revenge: The Sequel

I’ve always loved Black and Green together. Even back before Apocalypse had shown up with Llanowar Wastes, I was trying to find ways to get those two enemy colors together. (Back then, I didn’t have the money for or even knowledge of either the original duals like Bayou or the Tempest lands like Pine Barrens.) Like a lot of folks, I was taught that Green’s allies, the ones it wanted to work with, were Red and White. Black was one it didn’t like working with. I could never understand that. If Green liked working with Red because Red could take out blockers for the big Green creatures, why wouldn’t it also like working with Black, a color that could take out creatures even more easily than Red?

I still Green and Black together, and, from the success of G/B decks over the past two years, I can see that I’m not alone. When I started looking at Ana Battlemage again, I realized that it was Green and Black, not Green, Blue, and Black. Okay, technically, there is a Blue kicker that requires Blue mana to use. What does that Kicker do, though? It makes an opponent discard cards. That’s Black, regardless of what color mana is used or what Time Spiral has thrown into the mix.

Oh, geez. What have I done? See, in the last sentence in the previous paragraph? The word “Black”…? Did I use that as a noun or an adjective? Better ask the rules gurus, or the rest of this article will be confusing. The answer will be published later, in a format not readily accessible to you, in a manner that creates confusion where it professes to eliminate it.

I decided to look at making a G/B/u deck, with the Blue being just enough for the Ana Battlemage’s Kicker. For Black, I was looking at more discard, creature kill (obviously), maybe some reanimation, and possibly a big finisher. I didn’t have much time to work on this one. Two decks a week is a lot even when you’re feeling up to it. Here’s where the G/B/u Ana Battlemage deck ended up:

As you can see, I didn’t get a chance to try with a Black finisher. That didn’t seem to matter, though. Rhox rhocked. I had almost forgotten that he was back in Tenth Edition. What a great choice he was, both by me for this deck and by the Tenth development crew for adding him. As a 5/5 with regeneration and uber-Trample for six mana, he is a rather large problem for many decks.

I went 4-1 with this one, but I would have liked more time to fool around with it. Obviously. Heck, I’d like to fine-tune every deck I every build, but no one’s lifetime is long enough. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to work the kinks out of this deck. Clearly, fliers, Artifacts, and Enchantments will be something we worry about in the sideboard.

A few final notes on both of these decks. I didn’t use Elves of Deep Shadow because I’m trying to stay away from Ravnica Block stuff. Ravnica leaves Standard in a few days (in real life) and Magic Online a few weeks after that. No need to waste time with those cards. I’d like my deck to be good for the next few months anyway. (Of course, I couldn’t resist a little Caryatid action…)

I also haven’t had a chance to test any Lorwyn cards for two reasons. First, there aren’t any online. So, I’d have to test with proxies in real life. That leads to the second reason. No chance to test in real life. Over the next few weeks, I hope to rectify that. In the meantime, you get to vote from among five more cards for the one I will feature in my column two weeks from now. Those choices are:

Fledgling Mawcor
Lord of the Pit
No Rest for the Wicked
Shivan Wumpus
Witch Hunter

Yeah, I’m in a very creature-oriented mood. Until then, I got something else for next week. At least, Craig hopes so.

Chris Romeo