How Wizards Goofed Up In Odyssey – And My Tribal Cleric Deck

  • Werebear is not an Elf

  • Phantom Centaur is not a Beast

  • Mystic Crusader is not a soldier

  • Cephalid Looter is not a wizard

  • There are few Zombies

In a world of glass houses, it’s important not to throw stones. Not only can you cut yourself up pretty bad, but have you ever tried putting together glass houses in the first place? Not an easy task. R&D is faced with both making the glass houses, and then sometimes they have to knock them down. They knocked a big one down with Onslaught. I was reading Mark Acheson’s article a day or two back (because you never know when Ferrett is gonna publish yer work) and it got me thinking…

Odyssey block had a graveyard theme. To most players, the graveyard represents what Odyssey is all about. Most people don’t really pay attention to the storyline (I don’t blame them; it’s horribly done) and they may not have noticed the second theme running through the set: Onslaught and Odyssey share this theme, but Onslaught brings this theme to the fore. The problem is, while they”share” the traits of the theme, Odyssey’s theming conflicts directly with it.

This theme is, Odyssey was post-Apocalypse, so it presented a world with new creature types – or underused ones. White got Nomads, Blue got Cephalids, green got Druids, Centaurs, so on and so forth. Before these would be Knights, Soldiers, Merfolk, Druids, and Centaurs.

(For a good look at the development of that theme, and not incidentally my favorite Rosewater article, check here – the best quip has to be the conversation between him and Jess

(Jess: Yes, a race of humanoid creatures with magical gills that live below the sea. I like it. Perhaps we could call them merfolk.)

What does this mean to us, the Standard deck builders? Summed up in five words, it means this:

Spurnmage Advocate is a Nomad.

This hit me hard while assembling a fun little Cleric deck for testing. The other advocates are Clerics, it’s true… But the burst of swearing when I hit up Apprentice for "clerics" and the Spurnmage didn’t appear probably scared the neighbours. And Odyssey Block is full of "fun tidbits" like this one.

And the Dwarves?

Well, they’re Dwarves.

It essentially means that, Wizards sort of goofed up – well, actually, they goofed up rather badly. Picture the decks that would have been possible if every nomad was a soldier or cleric, every dwarf a goblin, every cephalid a wizard. (Some are, of course.) You would have a much broader base of creatures to work with – and in doing so, you’d have a much more diversified Standard environment coming in November.

But we don’t.

The more I look at it, the more I think we’re going to see very little real, solid changes this block from Onslaught coming in, and more just from Invasion going out. I am not quite sure if I remember Odyssey coming in that well… But I don’t think it made a terrific splash either. Onslaught may be even more pronounced, as the set’s major theme won’t really crank up until the next block.

Read that again if you’re not following my point: Onslaught is like a delayed design in place. When Legions comes out, and the next set, and then the next block, you will see the Nomads, Cephalids and Dwarves vanish, and more cards that fit with tribal designs a lot better. I love Mystic Crusader* so very much… But I’m certain the soldiers that come out in the next couple of sets will outclass him simply by virtue of being soldiers. If they print a 2/2, does not tap to attack, pro black and red soldier, I’ll be a happy camper.

We don’t know if they will work it out like this: For all I know, Legions will have cephalid, dwarves and nomads en masse, driving us all to drink. But the possibilities get summed up like this:

Tribal, like all mechanics, will not see its true strength revealed until the 3rd set in the block. This should be a natural inclination to most people – but with Tribal, it’s a little subtler especially when matched with Odyssey.

More importantly, certain cards may dramatically go up in value later on in Onslaught’s lifetime. Mobilization and Riptide Laboratorytwo examples of very good, but also very tribal cards (and the latter obviously more so) – will be a lot better if even better tribal cards are printed. Mobilization will end up in a W/U deck – we all know that. Should, however, a very solid Soldier deck rise up, then Mobilization will become more valuable card through being used in multiple decks.

It’s much like how Call of the Herd was a high money card because it saw play in lots of Standard decks and even a few Extended decks. We should all know how supply and demand works, of course, but I’m pointing out that demand may not be highest at the set’s release now, but later on into the block.

Those are two interesting points to think on. I may end up hedging my bets and buying a few cards I wouldn’t otherwise simply on the offhand hope they’ll jump in value when some deck gets big.

I really shouldn’t talk about Tribal unless I’m going to post a deck list, so here’s one to cheer you up:

// Cleric

4 Devoted Caretaker

4 Weathered Wayfarer

4 Benevolent Bodyguard

1 Ancestor’s Prophet

4 Doubtless One

4 Master Apothecary

4 True Believer

4 Beloved Chaplain

// Spells

4 Divine Sacrament

4 Shared Triumph

// Land

1 Starlit Sanctum

22 Plains

The deck is obviously themed around clerics. I’m tempted to add and change many things, but here it is at the moment – bereft of not enough testing. Developing a format with friends means I’d have to go over the whole format we’ve dreamed up (which is probably 50% so very wrong; you should see my fun little mono-red Jeska deck…) and I’m not going to do that ’til I’ve a) Seen the real cards, and b) played it a whole lot more.

The deck has no real trick spells, but it has many trick creatures, which is amusing. The main cards are on my mind are as such:

Doubtless One: While not really a good card, this boy can become your fatty extraordinaire if you, well, are playing the cards in the deck. Simply put, everything in the deck, including himself, makes him bigger. It’s a product of linear thinking at it’s worse. You play stuff, the Doubtless One gets bigger, which in turn gives you more life and makes him harder to deal with. But if he fails …

Beloved Chaplain: Some games you will lock up the board with damage prevention but be unable to mount an effective offensive. That’s fine; just get a chaplain on the board and whittle away at your opponent. He’s got super-evasion, and with Bodyguard and Caretaker around plus all that damage prevention, one would be amused to see him as "easy to deal with.” If not that, he blocks Wurm tokens real good. (Until they fly, that is – The Ferrett)

Master Apothecary: How much damage can you prevent through this card? A lot. You can slow stuff down so very much, or just make Doubtless One really annoying, since any attack will result in my more life and a Doubtless one with effective toughness of like ten. Yeesh. She can be targeted with Smother – but yo, Bodyguard got her back.

Ancestor’s Prophet : This card should scream to any reader DECK STILL IN TESTING. I just don’t know; on one hand, it’s sort of like a subpar 5th Master Apothecary and if it resolves, with the clerics to do the deed, you can really screw with a Tog deck’s head (“Deal forty, I beg of you”) or force your opponent into a situation that requires extreme, immediate pressure. If nothing else, it can block various critters well enough.

The fact the deck can play creature after creature, while covering its assets… Well, except for Wrath, which no one plays (but will, soon enough …) and unified into a monstrously life-gaining machine not heard of since Ivory Tower, well… Who knows? I mean, you have an unblockable creature and the ability to lock the board up real mean-like…

But don’t take my word for it. I remember people writing me e-mails about how cleric decks were great months ago. I’m sure that guy, somewhere, is gleefully rubbing his hand while his opponent looks at his life count of "42" and wishes, oh will when this horrible pain end…

Iain Telfer