If the initial results are any indication, Ravager Affinity is, as I predicted, far from dead. Skullclamp’s banning didn’t stop it from being the deck to beat. Cranial Plating just stepped in to fill the void. As I pointed out a couple of weeks ago, Wizards couldn’t have telegraphed that move any better if it called the thing”Skullclamp Replacement.” I can just picture the brainstorming session now . . . .
Head Wizard: Thanks for coming to this emergency meeting, gang. As you may have heard, they figured out how to abuse Skullclamp.
Assistant Wizard #1: You mean . . . they put it in decks with creatures?
HW: I’m afraid so.
Group of Wizards: (simultaneously)”You gotta be kidding me!””Really? They picked up on it that quickly?””Those sneaky bastages.”
HW: Anyway, we have to ban it. It’s in every deck. Well, every deck with creatures, anyway. Luckily, we have the card that will replace it ready to go. We just need a name. We want one that will make them think of Skullclamp right away so that they know to use this new card in its place. Any ideas?
AW #2: Weasel Pants?
HW: (annoyed) Mmmmmm . . . don’t think so.
AW #3: Kitten Mittens?
HW: (more annoyed) No.
AW #1: Hey, check this out. According to Merriam-Webter’s online dictionary,”cranial” means”of or relating to the skull[.]” We could call the thing Cranial Clamping or Cranial Insertion or Cranial Plating or something like that.
HW: Cranial Plating, huh? I think I like that.
AW #2: Gee, I dunno, Paulie. Are you sure that they’ll see the connection? I mean, we want them to know exactly which cards to put into the Affinity deck we pre-built for them.
Yes, I’m fairly sure that that’s almost exactly how the meeting went. Or not. If there even was a meeting. Which there probably wasn’t. In fact, I’m sure there wasn’t. And I’m not just saying that because someone told me that there is no Magic cabal inside Hasbro and that I’d better shut up. You know what? Forget I said anything. I’m wrong. It’s just a coincidence that”cranial” means”of or relating to the skull” and that Cranial Plating has pretty much simply slid into Skullclamp’s slot in Ravager decks.
I testify under penalty of perjury that I wrote that previous paragraph of my own free will and that no one was holding my wife or any of our pets hostage.
Now, people are all excited about MD5 block. (I love that name. It’s so much cooler than MBC, which makes me think of Masques Block Constructed.) I don’t see why, though. It’s going to be more boring than Standard. My favorite quote on MD5 block came from a guy who e-mailed me a decklist and said of it:
“We’ve been working on this deck that uses some of the new Fifth Dawn cards. It’s not very strong in Standard, but it rocks in block.”
Uh, Hank? There’s something very wrong with your logic. You say that your deck can’t really win consistently in Standard, where Ravager decks run rampant, but somehow it wins much more in MD5 block. How is that? I mean, look at this deck:
Post-Fifth-Dawn/Post-Skullclamp-Banning Ravager Affinity
4 Seat of the Synod
4 Vault of Whispers
4 Great Furnace
4 Tree of Tales
4 Disciple of the Vault
4 Arcbound Ravager
4 Myr Enforcer
21 Other Spells
4 Welding Jar
4 Cranial Plating
4 Shrapnel Blast
3 Electrostatic Bolt
Um, dude? That deck is nothing but Mirrodin and Darksteel cards with Skull Plate – I mean Cranial Plating – from Fifth Dawn. It’s MD5 block legal. It often crushes things just by accident in Standard. If your deck can’t win in Standard – where Ravager shows up in huge numbers – how is it that it wins in MD5 block where Ravager was born and raised?
Speaking of MD5 block, I got some advice from a concerned reader on how to play the Krark-Clan Ironworks deck. Here was his advice:
“You have to get a Pentad Prism in play on turn 2 so that you can have a turn 3 Krark-Clan Ironworks with six artifacts in play. Then, you can cast the Charbelcher and activate it. It takes aggressive mulliganning to do that, though. Don’t be afraid to go down to four cards if it gets you the four you need.“
Yeah. Thanks, but no thanks. I’m not comfortable with a deck whose idea of a good hand is four cards.
Personally, even though I’m not excited about MD5 block, if I play, I want to play an anti-artifact mono-Red decks like:
4 Darksteel Citadel
4 Great Furnace
3 Blinkmoth Nexus
4 Solemn Simulacrum
4 Furnace Dragon
28 Other Spells
4 Seething Song
4 Electrostatic Bolt
4 Shrapnel Blast
4 Damping Matrix (“Geez, look at all of those rares, Marty!”)
4 Echoing Ruin
4 Grab the Reins
(Grab The Reins Rules Note: If you play Grab the Reins with Entwine, there are two targets. The first is the creature you’re trying to Grab. The second is the target for the damage. Read the card carefully. Notice that nothing on it says that you have to sacrifice the creature that you steal, although that’s what most people want to do. They want, for instance, to Grab a Darksteel Colossus and throw it at a Platinum Angel. There’s a pleasant, earth-shattering”kaboom” when that happens.
(Let’s say that you’re playing against Affinity. Thanks to your Shatters and Electrostatic Bolts, the game is not out of hand. You’ve got a Solemn Simulacrum on the board. You’re trying to play Grab the Reins with Entwine. You’ve targeted her Arcbound Ravager for the steal and her Disciple of the Vault for the damage. Your plan, of course, is to take the Ravager and throw it at the DoV.
(“Ha ha!” she laughs.”I will thwart your plan.” (That’s how female Magic players talk around here.)”I will sacrifice my Ravager to its own ability and put its counter on my Frogmite. The Ravager is no longer there. Thus, your spell is foiled! Oh, yeah, and, um, also, lose a life.”
(It’s an awful feeling to disappoint a woman (Shaddup!), but, sadly, she’s mistaken. You see, the Disciple is still a legal target. You have a creature you can sacrifice: the Solemn Speedbump. It’s just not the creature that you wanted to sacrifice. Oh, well, you have to because the spell says so. So, you throw the Li’l Robot at the Disciple and draw your card. Oh, yeah, and, um, also, lose a life.)
Hopefully, the point of this deck is obvious. You hammer at artifact-heavy decks like Ravager and Krark-Clan Ironworks. You cast Furnace Dragon ASAP, wiping them out. You fly over for the win.
Except that, as much as I like the deck, what with the Big Ol’ Bubba Dragon and all, it hardly seems to work that way. Good Ravager players recognize the mono-Red goodness of this deck. They hold Shrapnel Blast. With the Dragon’s triggered ability on the stack, they throw Shrapnel Blast at it. Then, they sacrifice as much stuff as they can to the Ravager. With a Disciple of the Vault (or two) on board, the Dragon player loses a lot of life. S/he also loses the Dragon. So, the board looks like this when all the devastation is done:
Dragon player: Empty hand, some Mountains, four life
Ravager player: Empty hand, no land, twelve life, two 1/1 creatures ready to attack
Not the best position to be in for either player, of course. If I had to choose, though, I’d rather that my opponent’s hand be empty and s/he be on a two-turn clock than that I be looking up at a 5/5 Dragon. I can sandbag some lands and recover.
Essentially, it looks like MD5 block season is going to boil down to you either playing an artifact-heavy deck or an anti-artifact deck. That doesn’t seem very diverse or healthy to me. Of course, as I’ve been told, I’m not a very good player, and I don’t play in professional circles. Maybe it will be more diverse at the upper echelons of Magic. I guess we’ll see over the next few weeks.
In the meantime, I’m going to have fun trying to win with a 5/5 Dragon. Heck, it’s only a game.
As usual, you’ve been a great audience. Now, make sure you watch Monk on USA on Friday nights at 10 PM.
P.S. I promise: no more talk about Skullclamp after today. Promise. Especially because my mind has been changed by the persuasive arguments made by others. Mostly, this one:”It’s banned. It’s not being un-banned. Get over it.”