Hidden Gems #2

Raphael returns with another edition of Hidden Gems. As with his previous article, Raph examines a number of supposedly weak cards in the Ravnica Limited arena, and talks us through the pros and cons of each. His recent form on the Limited GP circuit is second to none… his advice will help improve your game. Plus drafting tips from Olivier Ruel and Anton Jonsson!

So here we go for another session of underused Limited powerhouses. Yes, it’s time for Hidden Gems #2!

Ravnica Rares, Part 2:

Dark Confidant

The Confidant definitely looks attractive. There’s no need to tell you the strength of drawing two cards a turn… but at what cost?

In Limited, Dark Confidant is a playable card that has a huge impact on the game, when played in the right deck. It works as a good beater and a fine blocker. Why that? Your opponent will tend to play around this guy. He will often do his best to try to protect Bob, as he sees it as an easy way to deal damage to you. This is not entirely wrong, but not exactly right either. You’re playing the card, so you’re supposed to know what you’re doing. As a beater, it will seldom find a blocker… and if it attacks once, that means you drew a card to replace it already, so no big deal if you lose it in combat. Any further cards you draw will be bonuses. Your opponent will want to start a race for damage, and think he has the edge. If you’ve ever played again Dark Confidant, that’s probably the feeling you had too.

So, in what decks would you play the Confidant?

You want to play the Confidant in an extremely aggressive deck that features only a few four-mana cards. Four of these “high-costed” four-mana cards is the maximum. A control deck will often feature more of these, and you’d rather not use cards like Lurking Informant on yourself to ensure you don’t take much damage.

A combination of Black/Red, splashing White or Green, will allow the best use of the Confidant. Make sure you have a few ways to deal with it yourself in case things turn wrong. Cards like Thoughtpicker Witch, Dimir House Guard, or (even better) Fiery Conclusion. The stronger aggressive decks you can draft are the Boros/Orzhov deck, with the Boros beatdown arsenal — Thundersong Trumpeter, Skyknight Legionnaire – and the Orzhov life gain – Mourning Thrull, Blind Hunter – or a Gruul/Golgari Bloodthirst deck, with as many Scab-Clan Maulers as possible.

When your opponent has started the race for damage (when Dark Confidant is in play), you do have extra information that will help you to know how to proceed. Keep in mind the following:

  • 40% of the time you won’t take any damage. Take a long look at all the casting costs in your deck, and calculate how much (on average) you’ll take every turn.
  • You should have ways to deal with it yourself, by either sacrificing it or killing it. Check how aggressive your opponent is on his own turns. There’s a chance he’ll just hold his troops and wait for you to die on your own. Take as much advantage of the situation as possible. When you’re done with it, just sac it, and all the card advantage you’ve accrued should be enough to win you the game.

Drafting a deck in which Confidant will be good is hard. That’s why you shouldn’t pick it too highly. When you do take it, try to draft around it. It will have an impact on the game, so if you opted for the aggressive strategy make sure you draft the right cards to go along with it.

Thoughts about this card:

Olivier Ruel: “Bob is worth a 5th to 8th pick in an aggro deck. He’s good when you’re playing low casting-costs, or when you’re playing aggro and going first versus control no matter what your costs are. In other decks, you can sideboard this when you go first, or when your opponent’s deck is a milling strategy (or if it’s just much better than yours). Indeed, even if Bob is usually pretty bad, it can still win games.”

Double your pleasure, double your fun

Doubling Season

Selesnya was probably one the most popular draft archetype back in RRR. It seems that it’s been left aside now that Guildpact is out. Token generators aren’t as popular as they used to be, and it almost sounds logical, as the number of cards taking advantage of them has lowered in number… cards like Siege Wurm, Conclave Equenaut, Overwhelm, and the usual Selesnya arsenal. “Less popular” also means “picked later.” That also means that opting for this strategy can lead to a substantial payoff.

Often overlooked, Doubling Season is one of those cards you think you’ll never really be able to play. Last week in GP Barcelona, I drafted a straight Selesnya deck, featuring this underused Green rare:

This is the kind of deck you want Doubling season in. Just check how many cards it works with:

Twilight Drover: I know I know… It’s a rare. You can’t rely on seeing it. So, just for fun, do the math… one token dies, you put two +1/+1 counters on the Drover. Remove the two counters, get eight 1/1 flyers. If you already have this fellow in your draft and you see a Doubling Season, just pick it!

Basic token generators: Selesnya Evangel, Scatter the Seeds, Fist of Ironwood, Pollenbright Wings, Bramble Elemental, Transluminant.

As for token generators, you’ll find Selesnya Guildmage; Seed Spark; Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree; and Golgari Germination — which isn’t that bad along with Doubling Season — and, of course, Tolsimir Wolfblood – who doesn’t go too well with Doubling Season (heh). You can get those cards quite easily if you’re drafting Selesnya. Two tokens a turn with Evangel, six tokens at once with Scatter, four tokens with Fist of Ironwood, eight if you play it on Bramble Elemental, countless token with the wings, and two flying tokens with Transluminant. Sacrificing the latter for two creatures with evasion ability becomes a great deal.

+1/+1 counters: Trophy Hunter, Ghor-clan Savage.

While not the most interesting part of Doubling Season, it’s worth keeping in mind that the cards you use it with in Guildpact are mostly the Bloodthirst guys. As if a 5/6 Savage wasn’t big enough, an 8/9 will definitely have a huge impact on the game. Same goes for a 5/5 trampling Scab-Clan Mauler. You’ll find the other +1/+1 tools in the Golgari arsenal, with cards like Shambling Shell, Golgari Guildmage, and Vigor Mortis for the “reachable cards”. Vulturous Zombie is by itself a huge threat… I’ll let you imagine how it goes with the Season!

Aside from the Green guilds you’ll find the Dimir Leader, Szadek – who’ll take care of your opponent’s deck a turn faster – and two of the Nephilim.

It also has an interesting synergy with Necroplasm. Necroplasm isn’t exactly the card you want to play in a deck full of tokens, as they will all die the turn it comes into play. With Doubling Season, you will get an ever-growing creature that will never kill itself, while killing two-mana, four-man, six-mana creatures. Dredge it back for more action when it’s dead.

How many of these cards do you need to consider playing the Season? As many as possible, obviously. Consider picking the Season when you already have at least one stable token generator, like Evangel or Vitu-Ghazi. Then start picking cards that will go with it, like Scatter the Seeds. Play the Season when you have at least five ways to take advantage of it. Try and have at least one stable source of token generation and/or +1/+1 counter generation like Shambling Shell. While the Season is good when it’s in play, you don’t want to draw it in the mid game when you’ve already played your Scatter the Seeds and Fists of Ironwood.

So, how good exactly is Doubling Season? In the right deck, it’s very good. As a card that doesn’t do anything by itself, and that won’t save you when you draw it when you’re in a desperate position, it has a huge impact on the game once you play it along with the right cards. In the deck I drafted in Barcelona’s top 8, it was an MVP.

Do not adjust your set


Flickerform is far from being a popular card. This White aura is very versatile. In a deck light on removal it can buy you some time and take care of a creature. For four mana a turn, we’ve seen better ways to take care of a creature… but sometimes, especially in Sealed deck, you don’t always choose how much removal you have. In a practice Sealed deck before the Limited GPs I faced Razia, Boros Archangel, and could deal with it for a few turns with Flickerform – just enough time to find a more appropriate answer – by phasing it out at the end of my turn. She would remain phased out during my opponent’s turn, so he wouldn’t use her to protect the other attacking creatures. Flickerform can work as a bad removal, but what makes it interesting is the fact you can use and abuse it on your own creatures.

There are a few cards that go along great with it:

Auratouched Mage: Fetch Flickerform the first time, phase the mage out during your turn, get it back at the end of your turn, get any of Flight of Fancy, Galvanic Arc, Fist of Ironwood… the choice is yours. When it phases in, phase it out again on your opponent’s turn to get another Aura (if you have more), and “re-activate” the aura already on it. It requires a lot of mana, but once you have it going, it’s hard to deal with. Flickerform protects itself and the mage as long as you have four mana open. Again, once you have it going, you won’t need to spend your mana anywhere else… especially if the aura you fetch is a Galvanic Arc or a Fist of Ironwood.

Ravnica’s 187 Auras: You don’t need the Auratouched Mage to get it going, but it sure helps a lot to have your entire combo on the board thanks to only one card.

187 Creatures: Vedalken Dismisser, Blind Hunter, Izzet Chronarch, Belfry Spirit

Remember, you don’t want to be on the receiving end of a two-for-one. Make sure you have an open window when you play it. In fact, try to play it when you have six mana, or when you’re sure you won’t just lose everything because you want to play it too fast.

Just like with the auras, the combo you will have pulled off will be dominating by itself. You’ll make so much card advantage out of it that it will make life really hard for your opponent.

Play Flickerform in any (White) deck with three or more 187 auras or creatures with interesting effects. It will work just fine if you don’t draw them, as you’ll buy some time by putting it on your opponent’s creatures, or on one of your own, just to attack and untap, or to create a invincible wall, and it will be a game winner in the mid/late-game on the right target.

Ghosts of the Innocent

Ghosts of the Innocent isn’t exactly the game breaker you’re looking for. When you play Ghosts of the Innocent, you need a plan for victory. You should consider the Ghost in a control deck, with huge threats or Vedalken Entrancers for the win.

The board situation changes dramatically when it comes down. In a position when you have to hold a lot of pressure, it releases you from most of it immediately. All your creatures double their toughness, it gives you a 2/10 blocker, and it nullifies all 1/1s and pingers your opponent may have. After you drafted the ghosts, try to find outs of your own to get around its effect, as it may as well prevent you from killing your opponent. You can find an out in the form of an instant removal or bounce. Use the “Muzzle” trick. Attack with your guys, put damage on stack, and bounce/kill the ghosts. Damage won’t be prevented, as its effect won’t trigger.

Or, when you stabilized the board, get rid of it and start the beating on your own. Flickerform it to double the fun! Have everyone deal their damage during your turn, and shut down everyone during your opponent’s turn.

While not being the ultimate weapon of a specific deck, it works as a silver bullet against aggressive decks. If your opponent can’t deal with it in the first few turns, consider yourself safe for some time. They won’t always have an answer to it, so it means “game” an awful lot.

Thoughts about this card:

Anton Jonsson: Both Flickerform and Ghosts of the Innocent are very good in the right deck. The problem, however, is that in RRG, White is usually the splash color, meaning that we don’t often have a deck where these cards “fit.” The upside of this is that when we do have a deck where they fit, we can usually pick them up quite late.

That’s all for now. More cards next week!