The Story Thus Far…
In last week’s column, writer Abe Sargent mentioned his need for a column title. Four great suggestions were offered in the forums, and Abe went back and forth over which to choose:
Abe’s Asteroid Techno Palace — This was initially offered as a joke, but apparently a lot of people actually liked it.
Sargent at Arms — Although a clever little title at first, it’s unsure how long the fun value would last.
Abe’s Column of Happiness and Joy — This clever suggestion in a play of Abe’s Highlander deck, entitled Abe’s Deck of Happiness and Joy.
The Kitchen Table (alternatively, Abe’s Kitchen Table) — This title establishes the causal nature of the column.
Although I think Sargent at Arms is quite the clever idea, ultimately I’m unsure of how long I think it’ll remain clever. Like a good joke, it’s quality likely lies in its brevity.
Abe’s Column of Happiness and Joy is nice — but it’s a bit long. I’m tossing it.
Abe’s Asteroid Techno Palace was the name of the first port I built in TradeWars 2002. That’s why I tossed it out there as a joke. I must admit, it has a certain appeal. On the other hand, the kitchen table analogy actually informs the reader about the column, so I think that’s a better choice.
Now, my decision rests in choosing whose kitchen table this is. Suppose that I titled this article with that title. Let’s take a look and see which one feels better:
The Kitchen Table #483: Guildpact and Five
Abe’s Kitchen Table #483: Guildpact and Five
Saying that my article is “THE” kitchen table seems a bit haughty. On the other hand, putting my own name in my column title seems a bit conceited. So, I can be either haughty or conceited, but not both, apparently. If you have an opinion, weigh in the forum with which you prefer. I’ll title the next article with my decision.
I do have a second query as well. What number should I start with? Next week’s article could be number three or number one hundred and something. In other words, if I want (I am the writer after all), I can retroactively say that every article of mine has been part of the Abe series. So, for example:
(Something) Kitchen Table #3: Next Week’s Super Secret Article Title
(Something) Kitchen Table #1??: Next Week’s Super Secret Article Title
Which do you prefer? Is retroactively adding all of my previous articles fair? It gives a sense of the body of casual articles you can peruse, so who knows. What’s your opinion?
Post in the forums your choices for the final name of the column and number that should appear.
“The” versus “Abe.”
3 versus 100+ (I really don’t want to do the math unless it passes).
Back to Our Regular Column
I have to have a fan on in my bedroom in order to get to sleep. The white noise covers up the occasional sound and allows me to slumber more blissfully. Many people listen to stereos, water machines, tracks of jungle sounds, and whatnot. It’s hardly an uncommon phenomenon.
Sometimes, however, white noise is more distracting than relaxing. What if you wanted to hear those sounds? In these cases, white noise ceases to be of assistance and instead becomes a hindrance.
The first few weeks after a prerelease can be the same. There’s an awful lot of white noise being made about the set. From forum posts, to casual conversations, to eighty set reviews a day, the whole thing can be overwhelming.
One of the annoying things about set reviews is that the writer typically feels honor-bound to mention every card. This tends to regress into very predictable comments like “good in Limited, bad in Constructed,” or, “my God, please don’t play this useless piece of cardboard.”
My own little spin on a set review is to only include those cards that I feel are worthy of mention. Some cards I really like, so I’ll toss the occasional comment out there. Some cards have been discussed, so I’ll respond to those thoughts.
By the way, this is a Five Color review of the cards, not a casual magic review of the cards. Casual Magic may adore a card, while Five Color sneers at the same. Here is the normal Five Color overview, for the few of you who still don’t know:
Five Color is a casual format using all Type One legal sets requiring a minimum of 250 cards and at least with twenty cards of each color. Because of the quirkiness of the format, we have our own banned and restricted list. We have generous mulligan rules, and we encourage ante.
It’s my own little goal to make that blurb shorter and shorter each time I write it. If you have any questions, point your mouse to www.5-color.com Make sure that you do so after you read all of the yumtastic articles here on StarCityGames.com.
Normally I’d spend a bit on the new abilities and discuss whether or not they are good in 250. In Ravnica, two abilities — Dredge and Transmute — were particularly powerful in Five Color. In Guildpact, however, this is much less so. Replicate is cute and all, but its hardly powerful on a Five Color level. The same is true of haunt and bloodthirst. Therefore, I am going to skip to normal comments and head straight to the cards.
Guildpact’s White cards remind me of those lousy slates of White you used to get back during the “White Really Sucks” days (Like Odyssey). While there are a few interesting mechanics from a casual perspective, it seems like watered down soup. Since soup is normally watery, watered down soup is particularly weak. This color is icky. I’m stretching just to put in a couple of cards so that we’ll actually have a section.
Absolver Thrull — Yep, it can pop two enchantments alright. And it can block and attack. Go go Gadget Thrull! On the other hand, for four mana, I’d rather have the 2/2 flyer that is Cloudchaser Eagle. Flying trumps a defense and the vague hope that at some future time another enchantment could bite it.
Spelltithe Enforcer — Probably the best pure White card in the set. It could fit into some mana denial tempo decks that like Winter Orb and Tanglewire and Dwarven Miner. Not only does it slow down opponents, but it swings for three as well.
Wow, I feel dirty after plunging through the ineptness that is Guildpact White. Now we enter the Green section of the table. Hopefully we can find more fruits here. There’s not too many worthwhile cards, but there are a few better offerings.
Bioplasm — One of the worst names ever. Wow, did Magic take a turn for the worst in card naming, or what? Whatever happened to card names like Keeper of the Nine Gales? Why do we get lousy names like Bioplasm, Vacuumelt and Gigadrowse? Here, I’ve got one for you — Nomenclatureplasm.
Just for kicks, in thirty seconds, I am going to write every name that comes to me for Bioplasm (which isn’t a bad card):
Lichen and Burnem
Lichen Love Monster
Beast of the Brush
Scavenger of Compost
Scavenger of Filth
Sphere of Algae
And that was just thirty seconds. Actually it took me just thirty seconds to think about them, but a few more seconds to finish typing. Still, I think my point stands. In thirty seconds of brainstorming, I think I have several ideas better than Bioplasm.
Dryad Sophisticate — This is a very strong card in any environment where players decide to run lots of non-basics. That would be true of Ravnica Block, Type Two, and, oh yes, some format called Five Color. It’s not on par with River Boa or Spectral Lynx because they each have defensive capabilities, but it more likely to be unblockable, which is nice. As a virtually unblockable creature with two power for two mana, this is a great card.
Petrified Wood-Kin — It’s a bit on the pricey side, but it can end a game. You don’t have to worry about countermagic when you play it, and you really don’t have to worry about most commonly played removal spells — since they are instants. Putrefy, Terminate, Swords to Plowshares, Spite/Malice, Expunge… all instants. There are just a few commonly played sorcery removal spells. Otherwise, you need creatures. So, unless your opponent has a Vindicate or Nekrataal, your Wood-Kin could be really damaging.
Wurmweaver Coil — This is a very interesting enchantment that can really put pressure on an opponent. Note the Green creature restriction. In some decks, this could be a problem, but a lot of modern decks are chock full of minty Green creatures. Again, it’s pretty expensive, but there have been several ways printed that bring enchantments directly into play.
Red is typically the backwater of Five Color Magic. It pops lands, but other colors can do that. It destroys artifacts, but other colors can do that. It does random and chaotic things, but you don’t care. It has the occasional beefy flying dragon, but other colors have better. Really, the only thing that Red can do better than any other color is deal damage. That’s not that great an ability. When you play with all five colors, you really realize how limited Red can be.
Skarrgan Phoenix — It was reviewed over at MagicTheGathering.com, so you really don’t need me to say much. It’s definitely an aggressive card, I’ll give it that. It’s playable in only the Reddest of decks in Five Color, and that’s not too common an experience. By the way — make absolute sure that you use your pirate voice whenever you say Skarrgan. Remember to sound half drunk on rum. You want to slur a bit. “SkAAARRR-gun”
Tin Street Hooligan — I don’t know if everybody will agree with me, but I really like this guy. He’s a nice attacking body with the ability to off an artifact. I’d rather have a two mana 2/1 off an artifact as opposed to a 2/2 for three. In fact, you can choose not to use Green mana at all and not pop an artifact, thus saving your own trinkets if your opponent does not have any. You’ll almost always have Green mana, since Green is the backbone of most Five Color decks. As such, I really enjoy the opportunities this guy offers.
Black only gets a few good cards as well. It’s apparently a theme that Guildpact cards must be good in Gold because they are crap in color.
Abyssal Nocturnus — Hello you. Say hello to a little guy who can become quite the big guy for a turn. Did I play a Wheel of Fortune? I guess I’ll just have to swing with my 10/10 feared creature now. Whoops, I think I just took out half your life total.
Cry of Contrition — I like cheap discard. One Black mana taking out a card is never as good as Duress or somesuch. Taking out two cards with it, that’s not too bad. Nobody ever draws a perfectly curved hand. Play the Cry when you have that extra mana available, because you have top play a two drop on the third turn, and then toss in that early creature for future discard problems. That’s a solid use, I think.
Daggerclaw Imp — Although strictly worse than, say, Cloud Spirit, it still is a three power flyer for three splashtastic mana. That’s a great deal as far as I’m concerned, and this is my article after all.
Blue is filled more with cards that make me go “eeuuwww,” as opposed to cards that make me go, “a-ha.” This is not your father’s Blue.
Frazzle — Does anybody remember, you know, real counterspells? Things that said “counter target spell?” Not, “counter it unless blank occurs.” Not, “counter only certain spells.” There are no more simple counters. Maybe they need an actual Counterspell, not this lot. Aaron just said that R&D thinks 1UU is fair for a hard counter over on MagicTheGathering.com. That’s fine, just print it already instead of this lot.
Fingers of Sand
Fingers of Time
Particles of Time
Journey into Sleep
Draw Forth Energy
There ya go. I’m really fond of Sandtrance myself.
Quicken — Part of me really likes the broken potential with this card. Another part of me hopes that this isn’t the next Overmaster. I think I’m once bitten, twice shy. Metagaming one casting cost rares that cantrip didn’t work before, and there’s no guarantee that they will do so now.
Stratozeppilid — Since it is a very splashable creature, it might see play. I think we are better than this card, however. I’d rather play Moroii, Serendib Efreet, Mystic Enforcer, or any number of cheap big flyers.
Vacuumelt — I should do the thirty second name game again, but I’ll spare you a third blast of my apparent hubris.
Please let the Gold cards be good and worthy, for the other cards are not. I combine guild mana cards here, so the title should properly be multicolor or some such.
Angel of Despair — I know that this is Five Color and that people like their big splashly cards just as much as the next person. Five Color’s casual nature can lead players to play with poor cards. After all, why play with Angel of Despair when you can play with Kokusho. Koku is cheaper for the same 5/5 flying creature. It has a much less intensive mana cost. Koku’s ability is probably better as well. Yet, within two months, someone will play this thing against me. *Sigh*
Borborygmos — Best name in a long time. Expect to see him if the while Red/Green Gruul thing causes players to toss more Red into their decks. He fits in alongside other Red/Green classics like Savage Twister and Shivan Wurm.
Burning-Tree Shaman — This is the card that will live up to the hype. As the proud owner of both a strong body (bigger than, say, Call of the Herd tokens) and a useful ability, the Shaman could prove game winning in numerous situations.
Conjurer’s Ban — Probably cute enough to get played for the month or two it will take for people to realize how much it sucks. Maybe not even that long.
Djinn Illuminatus — Based on last week’s article, it should be evident that I really enjoy the potential of the Djinn. I just don’t think that it will have much impact on Five Color. Some of the most powerful cheap cards that we have aren’t that great replicated — like Contract from Below or Balance for example. Sorry to all of you Djinn loving fans. Find space for him at the casual table, we’re all booked up here.
Dune-Brood Nephilim – Let’s make this my general Nephilim talk. I’m not sure how much impact the Nephilim will have in 5c. They have the benefit of being quite powerful but they have prohibitive costs attached. Between Mox Diamonds, Felwar Stones, dual lands both old and new, fetchlands, Birds of Paradise, and more, my hope is that these could get played if they were worth it. I’m not sure they are. This guy with his Hazezon Tamar ability is neat and all, but I’m not sure it has the punch to get played.
Electrolyze — Despite the optimism of other authors, this is certainly not both Fire and Ice combined. Ice locked something down, and this doesn’t. Fire could be used on the second turn to off a pair of X/1 creatures before untapping and doing something on the third turn. This cannot. It might still be good in Type Two or whatever, but it simply costs too much for too little in Five Color.
Ghost Council of Orzhova — It may be all that and more in Orzhov decks, but its power is greatly diminished in Five Color. The mana requirement is too high and it doesn’t have the synergy in Five Color that it might have in block or something. It remind me of Thief of Hope. Unless you build your deck around it, it’s just average at best.
Invoke the Firemind — Versatility is a great thing and this has it. It’s probably better than Illuminate is a lot of situations. Of course, how often does one play with Illuminate? This is an acceptable card to play in a Blue heavy Five Color deck that wants the ability to occasionally go to someone’s head for damage.
Izzet Guildmage — If you look at my Djinn Illuminatus comment s above, you might walk away under the impression that I think replicate, and therefore copying, is useless in Five Color. I’m not. A seven mana replicate machine needs to do something massive, and it won’t. On the other hand, a solid 2/2 grizzly bear does not need to do anything massive in order to be useful. Just forking the odd Counterspell or Lightning Bolt is sufficient.
Mortify — It’s definitely a great card, but I like Putrefy better. The Green color is the base color in most Five Color decks with Blue being the most common second choice as a base color. Putrefy is in one of those colors already, but Mortify is not. There may also be debate as to which is better — sorcery speed Vindicates that can take out anything or instant speed Mortifies that can take out creatures and enchantments. I doubt that many players will play both, so a choice will have to be made. I suspect that the Vindicate may have a leg up because you can tag a land with it, and in Five Color, sometimes destroying one land can slow down a opponent for several turns.
Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind — This is amazing with some cheap card drawing. Combine Niv-Mizzet with, say, Contract from Below, Wheel of Fortune, Memory Jar, and so forth. This has a smattering of potential, but at the end of the day, I’m going to think that it relies too much on other cards to be good. Even a card as heavily tutored for as Contract won’t see play enough to run the Firemind.
Rumbling Slum — I have no problem with the Green part of the casting cost, only the Red. If you can get these colors easily enough in your deck build, then this is one of the best cheap beaters in a long time (along with Moroii). It easily outclasses Erhnam Djinn (which doesn’t get much play these days either) and its kin. Now, obviously the mana requirement is not going to be easy to get for many decks. For those that can, however, this is a great card, and you’ll likely want to get a full set.
Wild Cantor — This is hardly the worst spell you could play. I think many players would prefer some permanent form of mana fixing, but this can allow the quick casting of a Tithe or Impule or Sakura-Tribe Elder so that you can fix your mana. It’s worth experimenting and trying this guy out.
There is just one land I want to discuss at length, so here it is:
Orzhova, the Church of Deals — Lands that serve as winning conditions are rare. Usually they either turn into creatures (Mishra’s Factory, Faerie Conclave) or they make creatures (Kjeldoran Outpost, Vitu-Ghazi). In this case, it can be used to “ping” an opponent for one a turn until they die (Shivan Gorge). It might be worth a serious look at an uncounterable way of dealing a last few points of damage.
Well, there ya go. Thirty-seven cards later and I’m feeling tired. Although there are some interesting bits in this set, I’m rather disappointed at the whole thing. It’s not as solid a set as the previous one. Still, if you’ll remember, Planeshift was a weak set compared to Invasion and Apocalypse, but that block was amazing. Hopefully the same trend will be here as well.
Good luck with using these cards in your decks. I hope that you found a gem or two here for deckbuilding. Luck to you all.