Corrections and Apologies:
Correction #1: Mannichi the Fevered Dream may be better than I gave it credit for. In Red/White, for example, there are many creatures with differing power and toughness as well as a few ways to make your own, like Kabuto Moth and Indomitable Will. If you attack with a 2/1, your opponent can’t block with a 1/2 since you can switch with damage on the stack. If you attack with a 2/3, he can’t block with his 3/2, since you can switch before damage goes on the stack, then again with damage on. All in all, this is a potentially powerful card since its activated ability is reasonably cheap; you’ll know when you see it if it’s right for your deck.
Correction #2: I underrated Ronin Cliffrider a bit too. If he doesn’t make your deck, you’ve drafted rather well.
Apology: I would like to apologize to Reinhard Blech, for having a last name that’s a synonym for “yuck.”
It’s Valentine’s Day, and I’m sitting in front of my computer with a Lean Cuisine (Chicken Marsala) and a Coke (not Diet; what am I, “fancy”?), getting lightheaded from inhaling the diesel fumes emanating from the vent, watching Pirates of the Caribbean on repeat, and writing an article about cardboard rats. It could be worse, I suppose. I could be watching Corrina, Corrina. Not only am I more pathetic than ever since my transition from “Student” to “Unemployed*,” I lost all of my street cred when I sold my soul to the Man. That point was driven home by the following terse e-mail from one Kelly Koechel:
“how do you feel about this team name: $tarcitygame$ ?”
Look at that. I’m actually a joke now. Well, I’ve obviously been one for quite some time, but I’m pretty sure it’s growing longer, and the punchline is getting less and less funny. Best not to dwell on that, though. I have cardboard rats to write about.
Last week, as none of you remember or care about, I made some mention of a whimsical sort of peculiar draft deck that I pieced together during a 3-on-3 at Ken Krouner house. We chose to make teams in the fairest manner possible, namely a House vs. House battle. This meant Grand Prix Top 4 finisher Aaron Lipczynski (with Jill helping), JSS top 4 finisher and Grand Prix finalist Adam Chambers, and ugly StarCityGames.com feature writer Tim Aten against Ken Krouner, Chris Morgan, and Mike Hayner. Some people, not me personally, but some people might see these teams as mildly lopsided, especially considering that all three members of the opposing team were a little “sleepy.”
After Champions of Kamigawa, I have the makings of a decidedly mediocre Red/Blue deck. I crack a pack with Genju of the Realm and eschew it in favor of something that could conceivably be remotely playable. KK passes me the card I love and want to play more than anything, Patron of the Kitsune. I figure since it’s just a fun draft, I can try to switch into White pack three and either end up with a crappy Blue/White deck or some sort of three-color concoction. I didn’t really see much more White that pack; I found out that Ken, despite passing either the best or second best White card in the set, was actually White himself. A few picks later, I see Genju of the Realm. I count the cards in the pack; there are ten. That, of course, means that this is not the one I opened.
Well, you know how it goes. I’m incapable of passing up an opportunity to draft eccentric decks that I hope will one day become urban legend, despite the fact that they’re often ill-equipped to deal a single point of damage. I like to straddle the line between utter ineptitude and sheer mastery.
Genju of the Realm Deck
1 River Kaijin
1 Callous Deceiver
1 Shimmering Glasskite
1 Soratami Savant
1 Teller of Tales
2 Mystic Restraints
1 Petals of Insight
2 Dripping-Tongue Zubera
1 Petalmane Baku
1 Matsu-Tribe Sniper
1 Moonlit Strider
1 Patron of the Kitsune
1 Pain Kami
1 Shirei, Shizo’s Caretaker
1 Soulless Revival
2 Genju of the Realm
I never got to assemble Kaldra, but that doesn’t mean I’ve given up my other dreams, including all five Hondens in play, using the Green Myojin to toss out the other four, and to a lesser extent, attacking with an 8/12 trampling land.
My first match is against Chris Morgan, who in the parlance of Albany, drives a Mercedes-Bunz. He actually has a real deck, so he crushes me game one. I actually was One Land Short of Domain on turn 4 With Genju in My Hand**, but I never drew land five. Game two is quite painful, as any game with this deck was bound to be. I just have to hope to stall with my assorted Green and Blue 1/xs until I can draw some sort of action. I manage to fulfill my destiny and hit him once with the Genju before he destroys it with Wear Away. The attack puts him to two, and I finish him off with a flying Callous Deceiver. Game three is looking pretty grim, but Shirei (flanked by a pair of Dripping-Tongue Zubera) is keeping me in it. He casts Wear Away on my Mystic Restraints (enchanting his Moss Kami) and Rend Spirits my Tallowisp so I can’t search for the other. Naturally, I topdeck it the very next turn. I stall with assorted bearls until I find one of my Genjus, and after taking one hit from it, Chris scoops ’em up. If he had waited one more turn before conceding, I would have topdecked Moonlit Strider, which would have enabled infinite Pain Kami recursion in conjunction with Shirei. I find that my teammates also won, and that Ken is playing with Akki Blizzard-Herder.
Now it’s my turn to play against the patriarch of Albany Magic. He plays creatures on the first three turns, and I concede on turn 4 at 14 life with no conceivable way of getting back in the game. I’m not about to go down without a fight, however, so I reach for my patented Transformational Sideboard. I seemed to recall having enough playables for an underpowered Red/Blue deck with Earthshaker. Closer inspection revealed that I was about, oh, five cards short of the recommended 22.
Genju Deck, post-Sideboard
1 Wandering Ones
1 River Kaijin
1 Callous Deceiver
1 Kami of Twisted Reflection
1 Shimmering Glasskite
1 Soratami Savant
1 Teller of Tales
1 Peer Through Depths
1 Dampen Thought
2 Mystic Restraints
1 Petals of Insight
1 Pain Kami
1 Kami of Fire’s Roar
1 Myojin of DI Rage
Earthshaker was to be my money card; I assumed that if I managed to get that one card into play, I could actually win a game against Ken. That’s the sole function of Dampen Thought and Peer Through Depths in this deck. Embarrassing, I know.
Not that there’s any relevance whatsoever to including the information here, but Adam Chambers and I have taken to calling the potential “rising star” slot at the Invitational the “Jugan award.” We’ve also decided that there should be a “Ryusei award” for notable falling stars.
So anyway, I’m playing Ken Krouner and I’m “stalled” on three Mountains and an Island. I actually have to Thoughtbind his Blizzard-Herder to stop the bleeding. I get Frostwielder into play and pick off a few of his guys. Finally, on about turn 8 or 9, I draw my coveted second Island. “God,” I sigh deliberately, “finally,” as I tap both Islands and a Mountain and dump Kami of Twisted Reflection into play. Ken’s deck is pretty janky, and I manage to draw enough answers to his meager threats to stabilize at around five life. It’s a battle of attrition, with his Harsh Deceiver staring down my Frostwielder and Kami of Fire’s Roar. At the end of his turn, I Peer Through Depths, sending five cards right to the bottom. I draw something irrelevant and pass the turn. KK draws a card. A single bead of sweat rolling down his forehead, he ships it back to me. I rip land number ten and slam in onto the table, tapping it and its nine brethren to summon a monster of epic proportions. That’s right, I resolved Myojin of DI Rage when it was relevant. Ken scoops up his land, and decides that he might as well scoop up his Harsh Deceiver too and start shuffling.
In a long and drawn-out game three, we both drew a lotta buncha lands. On what would be the last turn, I’m at two and Ken’s at four. He has two blockers and a Jade Idol and one card in hand, presumably a land; I have Callous Deceiver and Jade Idol in play and Kami of Twisted Reflection in my hand. I draw Kami of Fire’s Roar and thoughtfully examine my twelve lands in play. I play the Kami of Fire’s Roar, animating my Jade Idol. I cast Kami of Twisted Reflection to render one of his arbitrary buffoons incapable of blocking, sacrifice it to bounce my Callous Deceiver, recast Callous Deceiver to make his other arbitrary buffoon unable to block, and swing with the Jade Idol for the win.
I don’t know whether to feel proud or ashamed of this draft. Probably a little of both. Anyway, those decks cured my lust to draft goofy Genju and Myojin decks, so I should have my game face on until at least after PT: Atlanta, which is good, since it’s high time for America to pull its collective head out of its collective ass and take back Sunday from Masashi Oiso, Masahiko Morita, Takanobu Sato, Anton Jonsson, and Robert the Dog. Especially Robert the Dog. I suppose if we wanted to cheat, we could say that the Mauler is basically an American, but I don’t think anyone really wants to go there. It’s hard to say whether the American Magic community or the Mauler would be more revulsed by that prospect.
So, okay, like, Betrayers Black, for example. It’s got, like, a lot of playable cards, or whatever, you know? So I was thinking maybe I stop, like, wasting everyone’s time? And not bother trying to front like I care about making transitions and whatnot. Let’s just start talking about cardboard rats.
Ink-Eyes, Cardboard Rat
I would like to state, for the record, that I’m using this repeated “cardboard rat” nomenclature to parallel my discussion of how each day of my life is a lengthy, painful joke that gets less funny with each iteration. Yeah. So, okay, like, Ink-Eyes, for example. Ink-Eyes is nearly impossible to kill, since she can’t be targeted by Befoul or Horobi’s Whisper, regenerates if someone targets him with Rend Flesh, and shrugs off Red removal (but could regenerate from that as well). She’s reasonably costed for his stats, and she’s far too large to be blocked effectively. In addition, once your opponent does run out of blockers, the rest of the game should just be a formality. Five plus a bonus creature every turn is nigh impossible to recover from. To top it all off, he has Ninjutsu, meaning he’ll probably sneak in for five damage and a Reanimate on his first attack, possibly as early as turn 4 or 5. This is easily one of the best cards in the set, and if you had any inclination whatsoever to go Black upon opening your Betrayers pack, there’s no way you’d ever want to pass this.
Shirei, Shizo’s Caretaker
This card really impressed me when I played with it in my five-color monstrosity. If your opponent doesn’t kill it, you can do some pretty unfair things. First, all of your one-power guys, like Kiku, Night’s Flower or an unpumped Kabuto Moth, become essentially immune to most removal. Second, any of your one-power creatures becomes an infinite blocker. Lantern Kami and Ember-Fist Zubera hold off Yosei and Nagao indefinitely. That means that you don’t even have to have any cutesy tricks to windmill slam this first pick; all you need are some one-power volks in your wagen. If you do have cutesy tricks, Shirei turns into half of a completely ridiculous two-part combo engine. Here are some examples:
Shirei + Sakura-Tribe Elder = an infinite blocker + two basic lands from your deck every cycle of turns
Shirei + Kami of False Hope = infinite fogs
Shirei + Bile Urchin = an infinite blocker + a loss of two life for your opponent every cycle of turns
Shirei + Moonlit Strider = protection for Shirei + the possibility of making something unblockable every turn + TWO infinite blockers (the Strider and whichever creature you give protection to) + the ability to return up to two spirits from your graveyard to your hand during every cycle of turns
Initially I had this as sixth, but as I was writing, I sold myself on moving it up to #2. I’ll take this over anything in most cases, in part because I like victories with style and substance. I actually will be gloating about the glory days of casting Mythic Proportions on Phage against Eivind Nitter on Magic Online, or converting Kitsune Mystic into Autumn-Eyes with double Indomitable Will, then forcing Jamie Parke’s creatures to attack into it by manipulating his Uncontrollable Anger, until I the day I die.*** Keep in mind that both of these rare board situations were actually relevant to the outcome of the match. I didn’t knock them down to one with a Shock in my hand, then toy with them; I actually needed my combos to win.
Sometimes you won’t have Shirei and a one-power man in play concurrently, and he is sorta fragile for his cost, but his power more than compensates for these drawbacks, and I would consider splashing him.
Some people, like Rich Hoaen, aren’t too thrilled with the Ninjutsu mechanic. I can see where they’re coming from; it’s bad tempo, and none of the Ninjas (barring Higure) have evasion, making it uncertain whether you’ll be able to use their triggered abilities more than once. That said, the very nature of the game means that you’ll be able to get in at least once, almost every single game you play, with your Ninja. All that has to happen for you to score with a Ninja is that your opponent lets one guy through once. How many games have you played where every single creature gets blocked the whole game? That’s right. This isn’t Rex-kwon-do.
What this means for Throat Slitter is it’s probably going to kill their best non-Black creature at some point in the game. If you’re Blue/Black, you’ll have tap and bounce effects to clear the way for this guy to keep slittin’ throats. The ideal color combination for him is Black/White. First, when you attack with a hopeful ninja swap candidate, your opponent may be less inclined to block because of White’s various combat tricks, like Hundred-Talon Strike and Indomitable Will. Then, once the Slitter’s in play, Kabuto Moth and Split-Tail Miko, among others, may mean that your opponent will lose the creature whether he blocks or not, and Blessed Breath and Moonlit Strider can let you get in for additional hits. In one money draft, my opponent had Eight-and-a-Half-Tails/Throat Slitter going. I may have lost that one, and my opponent may have been Rich Hoaen. At least I can beat him when I play him on Modo, presumably because he can’t see the fear in my eyes.
This card looks ridiculous on paper, and it’s every bit as good as people give it credit for. It would be one of the best removal spells in the format even if you only got one use out of it. Guess what, though. The more arcanes you have, the better this gets. Again, I hope the well-kept secrets like this one that I reveal to you each and every week affirm your decision to make that leap into Premium. Incidentally, since it costs no mana to Splice, it’s easy to tack this onto clunkers like Devouring Rage or Pull Under. Still, optimizing this card may not be straightforward. You may need to finesse ’em a bit. Sometimes you’ll want to smash your 2/1 right into their 5/5 to get the fourth card in your yard to splice the Whisper. You have to consider the ramifications of having that extra creature around and waiting an extra turn or two to splice the Whisper, or worse, having to hardcast it despite having another arcane in your hand. Maximize your use of this card, and you will win the game. At some point, you will play against a nice Japanese player who casts Psychic Puppetry or Reach Through Mists, splicing this onto your Moss Kami and Dampen Thought onto himself. He will then do the V-for-Victory/peace sign thingy and, if Taka has excelled in his mission of infiltration, say “Ba-ha,” and rightfully so.
Unless I’m playing for the cards, i.e. in a money draft, I’ll be taking this over Horobi’s Whisper. This can target Black creatures, kill the odd regenerator/indestructible, and in a pinch, be cast for free. Horobi’s Whisper will generally be cheaper, often significantly so, and will sometimes take out two creatures or more. Whisper is simply a better card, but its edge over this is minimal, and the Shoal is probably going to be worth a few tix. This is a Constructed-caliber rare, my favorite type of card to play in Limited, though I usually prefer the “undercosted large creature” variety.
…and here we have another excellent removal spell. This is, in most cases, noticeably worse than the Whisper since it costs more, is a sorcery, and will generally only take out one creature. Nonetheless, even if you don’t get another creature out of their deck or, under ideal circumstances, their hand, you still glean some valuable information. You’ll be able to determine whether you should sideboard certain cards in future games as well as whether you should bother playing around a Devouring Greed, Indomitable Will, or other problem card. Since I’m babbling about pet cards and concepts in Magic, I’ll mention here that my favorite things to do in Magic are draw cards, gain life, and know what’s in my opponent’s hand, and to a lesser extent, his deck. Nothing makes me happier than having no x-factors present when I’m trying to decide my best course of action or commit resources to going for the instant win. I have an Actual Strategy Article in the works that discusses playing lands and how that act relates to control of information. It’ll be interesting, if I ever finish it.
With the addition of Betrayers, there are now enough quality ogres to make Painwracker Oni a maindeck near-bomb, and this may be the best of the bunch. A turn 2 two-power creature followed by a third turn three-power creature is exactly the start an aggressive deck wants. Often, a toughness of one means that the opponent has to have a clear board for the creature in question to get through to your opponent unmolested, but that’s clearly not the case with this feller. In many cases, your opponent will take six damage from this before he can even consider blocking, and at that point, he still may have to trade two creatures for your one. Unlike Villainous Ogre, the Marauder isn’t completely worthless if your opponent’s creatures have formed an impasse. Unfortunately, the Marauder dies to literally everything- FrostLING, First Volley, Frostwielder, Hankyu with half a counter, etc – so he’ll sometimes be suboptimal. [Was that a hard “L” on LING there? I can’t tell… – Knut, going obscure]
Yukora, the Prisoner
Yukora moved around quite a bit on my preliminary lists before settling in the top ten. He’s a really big Black man, and you know what that means. That’s right, he can only be killed by “one of the Rends” in Black or a salvo of spells/effects in Red. Jesus, Tamblyn, what did you think I meant? If your opponent does manage to kill him, there’s a chance that some of your guys will stick around, particularly in Black/Red. There will be several situations in which you don’t need to commit much more to the board than Yukora himself, thus avoiding his drawback. Keep in mind that Yukora says “leaves play,” not “goes to the graveyard,” meaning that Yamabushi’s Flame (with something else) or even Eye of Nowhere has the potential to squad ya (see glossary if necessary). Exercise a little caution with this Juzam here, and I’m sure he’ll prove worthy of his position on the list. Not that the list is necessarily meant to be taken as a list, for those of you who abhor lists.
Not exactly! But even if it doesn’t give target creature +3/+3 – or possibly more – at instant speed, Hired Muscle is still a great card. As noted by my colleague Mr. Pelcak, Red/Black seems to be shifting away from exclusively Spirits and more into a menagerie of Spirits, (cardboard) Rats, and Ogres, hence somewhat diminishing Hired Muscle’s effectiveness in that archetype. Other factors limiting its worth in R/B are that color combination’s glut of three-drops as well as, potentially, the double black in its casting cost. Still, it’s fine in R/B and other B/x decks, especially against U/W, as it should be good for forcing through an easy 8 or 12 damage if you play it early. As much as I talked it down, Hired Muscle is nonetheless very powerful and worthy of one of your first few picks.
For more information on why this card is so swell, look at my borderline Rodman-esque logic from the Throat Slitter entry. If you draw it, you’ll probably find a window in which to strip two cards from your opponent’s hand. This works particularly well with bounce, which clears a path for the Shinobi and possibly forces the opponent to discard the bounced creature. Like the Slitter, it can also be fine with Blue tap effects or White tricks. It’s relatively more effective in Red/Black than the Slitter, since killing all of an opponent’s creatures in order to score with Slitter is redundant. (That doesn’t mean to take Shinobi over Slitter, even in Red/Black). This is pretty expensive to sneak into play, so the loss of tempo may be significant, particularly if the opponent has some sort of spell handy to bounce or kill the rat ninja.
Like Shirei, Toshiro U-Me is potentially abusable; unlike Shirei, his ability costs mana and is a lot narrower. Cards like Toshiro are fairly easy to gauge during an actual draft, as by the time you have a chance to nab him, you’ll probably know whether he’s going to be good in your deck. He becomes a higher pick, possibly even a first pick, if you have a number of instants (like Glacial Ray), ways to get opposing creatures into the yard (like Glacial Ray), or instants that get opposing creatures in the yard (like Searing Wind). Ideally, you’ll kill your opponent’s animals in combat rather than with spells, freeing up your mana to cast spells from your graveyard. The threat of you being able to do just that may make your opponent think twice about some attacks or blocks. Waiting until you have four mana for a double-Ray or six mana for a double-Rend really doesn’t seem like the end of the world either, I suppose. You could do worse than a 2/2 bushido creature for three, but Toshiro finds himself in perhaps too competitive a slot in the mana curve if you’re unlikely to use his ability.
Black’s most resilient three-mana three-power creature, the Takanobusato Bleeder isn’t about subtlety or fanciness. He keeps it real. As the streets. Like Adam Chambers. Take this if you have any need for a three-drop in your deck; there are few better, and there’s really not much more to say about it. I’m not going to waste any more time tripping over my words or trying to be clever. I’m not Jeff Cunningham and I never will be, Ted, so just BACK OFF!!! [I’d put some inside joke that only two of you would get right here, but this is a Tim Aten article after all so we’d certainly be making a visit to the Department of Redundancy Department. – Knut, who loves him some ffej and some taten]
Kyoki, Sanity’s Eclipse
I’m fine. Really. And um… so is thiiis guy! Yessss! I nailed that segue. Oh man, I wish you were here to see me poring the “I’m fine. Really.” on the page for several minutes, looking for an opening. And to give me a well-deserved high five. Kyoki, all told, is slightly worse than Moss Kami. It’s a reasonable size for its casting cost, and believe it or not, its ability can still be relevant even on turn 7 or later, particularly in Sealed. You may be able to snatch a Dragon or a finisher like Strength of Cedars or Devouring Greed before trading this for two opposing creatures and/or spells.
Patron of the Nezumi
With enough other rats, this becomes a bomb that can hit play as a surprise blocker as early as turn 4. Attack with Nezumi Ronin, then with a frustrated look on your face (and a twirl of your hair if you’re Jill), pass the turn. That Ronin Houndmaster won’t see it coming. Without several rats, this becomes a random seven-mana clunker that your opponent can outrace and/or chumpblock at the price of a creature and 1 life. Unfortunately it may be difficult to tell how many rats your deck will end up with when you see this card; the last pack potentially has several rats in it, so you may be kicking yourself for passing it. If you have as few as two or three rats going into the last pack, you’re probably safe to take this over just about everything but removal as long as you remember to value any other rats you see in Betrayers a little higher. Naturally, the Patron also becomes more desirable if you have a few mana accelerators.
Scourge of Numai
While powerful and reasonably priced, I reckon the Scourge has the potential to bite y’all squ’r in the but-tocks if’n ye ain’t currful. One life a turn is negligible; two life a turn puts you soundly in the realm of “getting outraced by fliers.” Try not to think about them casting a Mystic Restraints or Cage of Hands on it, or bouncing it during your upkeep after you’ve lost the life. Of course, if you have quite a few Ogres, making this a vanilla 4/4 for four, it gets considerably better. Try not to resort to playing crappy Ogres like Deathcurse Ogre or Shinka Gatekeeper to improve him, though. I tried that on Modo Beta with minimal success. (Sokenzan Bruiser I’ll allow). Several Ogres sweeten the pot quite a bit, but while more common now, that creature type still isn’t widespread enough to guarantee you’ll have one in play at the same time as the Scourge. As long as your deck is aggressive and you’re prepared for some unfavorable scenarios, the Scourge can be a good man. In sum, don’t draft this too high, but if you take it, you might as well play it.
Genju of the Fens
Genjus are genjeriffic (yeah, I went there) since they enter play quickly or with pseudo-haste and are hard to remove permanently. Obviously, their major drawback is the additional mana investment required to activate them, and this downside is magnified in Genju of the Fens. In the midgame, if you leave three mana up, it can be a 3/3 blocker, which is reasonable but rarely worth it. You probably won’t want to attack with it much until your hand is empty, as you’re dealing slightly less than 1 damage for each land you tap (if you include the land the Genju is enchanting); you’d rather be casting spells. It’s pretty good if you have flying attackers and instants and hence can afford to leave plenty of mana untapped on your opponent’s turn. It’s really strong in the lategame, too, as it’s a Cursed Ronin that basically can’t die. I would recommend 18 lands, at least 10 of which are Swamps, if you’re going to play this. Often, it’s a wise idea to play 18 lands anyway, as Jeff Cunningham and Rich Hoaen have pointed out.
This is just a run-of-the-mill two-mana 2/1 with an occasionally relevant ability. If your deck is topheavy or you have a Marrow-Gnawer or Patron of the Nezumi, give it a little more respect. It’s pretty sweet if you can sneak this into play on turn 2 off a Bile Urchin or Frostling, but that’s just one extra point of damage. Annnnd I made it through an entry without using parentheses. Kudo buyins at all?
That’s a lot of mana. Nevertheless, Pus Kami is excellent in any deck that can buy itself enough time to cast it. Once you untap with it, you can swing or leave it back on defense, then pay a single Black mana to kill their best creature and get back a Scuttling Death, Feral Deceiver, or what have you. It’s kindasorta like a more expensive Betrayal of Flesh. I would almost definitely want 18 lands in any deck with Pus Kami, and no more than two or in some rare cases three other spells that cost six or more mana. Ideally, one of these six-drops would be something you could soulshift back.
I like this a lot better than Waking Nightmare since it’s more effective as concerns the general flow of the game. Allow me to explain, as that sentence was barely English. On turn 3, you want to play a creature, and forcing your opponent to discard two of his five or so cards gives him too many options. Usually he’ll discard a land and a redundant drop, or two other similarly low-valued cards. Later in the game, Waking Nightmare will sometimes strip an opponent of his last two cards but will often hit only one. On turn 5 or 6, your opponent is likely to have played out most or all of his lands, and he will have right around three cards left, sometimes more if his draw is sluggish. This is the perfect time to cast Three Tragedies, ideally with a few creatures in play. If it will leave your opponent with no cards, you can afford to be a little behind in board position.
Cards like this allow you to play a control game rather than a tempo one; eliminate your opponent’s backup tricks, removal, or large creatures, then outclass his early drops with your later ones. This is harder to Splice onto than Nightmare, of course, but Nightmare doesn’t seem a spell frequently used as a splice vessel, and Horobi’s Whisper attaches as easily to Three Tragedies. Finally, some players may hold three cards in their hand, attempting to play around Waking Nightmare by protecting an important spell with two lands or otherwise worthless cards. That’s when Tragedies gets ’em, especially before people are used to having the card in the format. Until I find a reason to do otherwise, I will maindeck one of these at every opportunity.
This card begs comparison to Distress, which I never really minded maindecking. In fact, I’d be disappointed if I couldn’t maindeck one. This is a little weaker, naturally. It’s a fine turn 1 play and doesn’t have two Black mana symbols, but it doesn’t give you nearly as many options. I’d try to leave this on the bench for game one, but there’s no reason to be ashamed of including it as a 22nd or 23rd card. Like Kyoki, Sanity’s Eclipse, this is a little better in Sealed, which is somewhat slower and hence more conducive to players having relevant cards in hand later in the game.
Unless you have Shirei, this ability is probably negligible, which means that this is a glorified Wandering Ones. That said, it can still make your deck if you have a decent amount of ki counter amassers or Ninjas. I would probably want three cards within these categories as a prerequisite for playing the Urchin.
I wouldn’t maindeck this, except perhaps in the soon-to-be archaic**** Rochester draft format. I’d bring it in out of the board if my opponent had three or more legends, or possibly two really good ones. If your opponent only has one legend that you know of, and you don’t really have reason to suspect he has another, only bring this in if you just lose when the legend in question hits play. In other words, this is good when Iwamori isn’t. Don’t do what Donny Don’t does.
The ability is nice and all, but five mana for a 2/1 is asking a little much. Red can kill it without batting an eye, and this would take about fourteen turns to amass enough counters to kill a Green guy. I could see playing it in an extremely spirit/arcane-focused Blue/Black deck and/or sideboarding it in against decks that can’t possibly remove it, but I wouldn’t be thrilled.
Stir the Grave
If you stop to think about it, Stir the Grave is functionally identical to Raise Dead. I….dentical. The only differences are that you have to cast the creature again the same turn and can pay for it with mana of any color. This is actually more likely to get maindecked than several of the cards above it, but it will come to be known as the hallmark of a deck that came up a few short. I would consider playing it in a “good” deck if I had several very strong creatures that I’d be really interested in getting back, like Kabuto Moth, Scuttling Death, or Kodama of the South Tree or other random bomb rares.
Blessing of Leeches
Serpent Skin has made a return already, except weaker and in Black. I like the ability to tap out and still be able to regenerate, but the initial three mana investment makes it a little clunky as far as tricks go. Yes, yes, my mother is a little clunky as far as tricks go, sure sure. The loss of one life every upkeep, while contributing nicely to the card’s flavor, creates the very really possibility of the card becoming a liability. Whatever you put this on better be bigger than your opponent’s biggest creature, or you may find yourself flailing wildly with it in an attempt to get it off the board. This would mean it’s probably best in green/black, a color combination in which you’d rather have the Original. It might also be alright in decks with evasion that need help slowing the bleeding on the ground. I might be off on this one, but it seems that you’d rather play a creature over it.
This is a card that I wouldn’t want to maindeck unless I myself had a lot of ninjas, in which case your opponents probably don’t have very many ninjas, in which case he’s marginally worse than a Rag Dealer. Interestingly, I’ll probably sideboard this right in if I see so much as a single Ninja on the other side of the table.
Call for Blood
This is way too expensive for what it does. With some exceptionally crafty maneuvering, you can trade two of your cards for two of your opponent’s. Wow. You obviously really only want to cast this in response to the inevitable demise of one of your creatures, but you don’t want to have to leave five mana up all the time waiting for such a situation to arise. Even when the situation does arise, the condemned creature may not be big enough to take down the enemy creature you really want dead. Despite the fact that this is one of the crappiest removal cards I’ve ever seen, there are still worse cards you could play as a 22nd or 23rd. I personally doubt I’ll ever touch this one myself, though.
Mark of the Oni
If you don’t control a Demon, you can still use this…to…remove one target blocker…until end of turn. Even if I have three Demons, I’ll be hesitant to play this, since Demons already have a sizable target on their backs. I guess I’d still play it with three, since you can actually use the “falter” trick in a pinch, and sometimes it will make an opponent sacrifice a creature like Scuttling Death, since that’s what you’d do with it anyway before the end of the turn. As I believe Zvi said, this is a tech sideboard card if your opponent has a decent number of Demons, but this scenario will seldom occur.
This only works on legends and can only target ones in your graveyard, making this far too narrow. You probably won’t ever get a window to cast this, and if you do, its results will be erratic.
At three mana (and the approrpriate Soulshift: 2), this card would be a powerhouse. At four mana, it would be a little weaker than Burr Grafter. At five mana, this card would be a joke. It costs six. Yeah.
Before I let all five of you go back to World of Warcraft or watching television or playing around with that one thing that’s like, a paddle with a ball attached to it with a string, or whatever it is you kids do these days, I feel that it’s my obligation to provide you with some sort of…
Super Happy Fun Glossary
Ba-ha: This one originated with Taka, then I heard TBulge’s brother Matt Bulger use it, then I was hooked. Thanks to these fine gentlemen, many Minnesotans use it, and it’s spreading throughout Albany. I assume Taka heard Gerry or someone do the point and laugh a la John Marks, tried to imitate it, and failed miserably, resulting in “ba-ha,” but that’s mere conjecture. Regardless, “ba-ha” is my method of choice to mock someone when something goes wrong, i.e. they get manascrewed and whine about it, they get manascrewed and don’t whine about it, they spill ice cream on themselves, their dog dies, etc. It is spoken in a near monotone with a noticeable accent on the first syllable.
Bearl: This term pays homage to the great Ken Bearl, and Pelcak has made it his personal mission to make “bearl” happen. Several months ago, he started replacing random words with bearl as an attempt to make it into lingo, and he’s done a good job, assuming you live in Minnesota. Usually you sub it in for words with negative connotation, as in “I can’t believe I lost to that bearl” or “Crawling Filth is such bearl.” In some instances, it may be appropriate to use it positively, as in “Winning PT: Atlanta would be quite the bearl.” Nowadays, Minnesotans and sometimes myself will just toss it in at random, as in “Attack with Mistblade Bearl” or “I have to catch the 9:00 bearl to Baltimore.” At the Minnesota team PTQ, a group of us toyed with the idea of coaxing every team to include “bearl” in their name, but in the end, only a handful of teams ran the idea. For our part, Pelcak, Gerry Thompson, and I split in the finals as Bearl Jam, earning bearldom international notoriety thanks to BDM’s PTQ wrap-up on magicthegathering.com.
Bunz: A piece of Albany lingo originated by one Joe Schneider, this means “stains” or “s***,” as it were. According to Chambers, it used to be bearlesque in that it could be used for any occasion; now all but those uses with negative connotation are archaic. Wow is “bunz” stupid, and that means that I have a special place in my heart for it. Examples include “Mark of Sakiko is so (such) bunz,” “I can’t believe you’re playing that bunz Psychatog deck,” or “Ken Krouner drives a Mercedes-Bunz.” I probably wouldn’t be caught dead using this outside the local Albany circle.
Hulluh: This means hello. It can be a greeting, but it is also often used when you would want to indicate a quizzical tone. Unless I’m mistaken it was brought into common usage by Tbulge, who used it to mock the way one of his friends answers the phone. The first time I heard it was in the retelling of a story where one Josh Day allegedly said, “Hulluh, I would like to order a triple delicious.” If someone has said “hulluh” to you on Magic Online, it was probably me.
Plez: I hate saying this, so if I ever say it to you, plez punch me in the face. We started saying this to mock Jill since, evidently, this is how she thought the netspeak “pls” was pronounced. Flores used to pronounce pls as “pliz,” but I prefer “pullz” or, in the spirit of the great Jason Opalka, “plssssssssss.”
Rolls: Synonym for “bunz,” also originated by the apparently very clever Joe Schneider. See, since..rolls and buns are…basically the same…thing? Anyway, some examples include Night of Rolls’ Betrayal or “Ken Krouner drives a Rolls Royce.” Like with bunz, don’t expect me to say this outside of Albany, unless it somehow catches on, in which case I’ll kill myself.
Squad ‘ya: An anachronism on this list, I had to include it since I used it in the article. This sort of language was used by the infamous Geddes Cooper, who is apparently going to play in the LCQ for PT: Atlanta. “Squad ‘ya” means “kill all of your creatures.” In a similar vein, “Nug ‘ya” means “I target you with this burn spell or effect as opposed to one of your creatures.”
Triple Delicious: I could actually write an entire article on this fabled sandwich, but I’ll leave that to someone else. Or maybe I’ll just do it next week, but I already filled my quota for this week with all that Betrayers of Kamigawa nonsense. Apparently, the triple delicious, if it does in fact exist, is made up of three double cheesburgers stacked on top of one another with some bun parts removed so that there’s only one slice of bread between each set of two patties. Minnesotan Josh Day tried to order this at White Castle once while inebriated but was met with minimal success. “Cave”Dan Schriever is actually a scholar on the legendary treat, but he was unavailable for comment. In other words, he ignored me when I messaged him on Modo.
501: Translate this Arabic number into Roman numerals to see what it means. If you don’t know what that means, consider yourself lucky and/or ask me about it. On rare occasions, I’ll take it to the next level and call something Levi’s because of the Levi’s 501 blue jeans. Props to Phil La Pointe for independently realizing this logical progression. There’s no real need for Levi’s until 501 itself catches on, though. In addition to just saying “501,” you could say “I already drank 501 Cokes,” or he “he actually passed me 501 Kabuto Moths.”
Alright, homeslice, it’s been real. Toss me a lil somethin’ somethin’ in the forums, if you got this far. I’ve had a slow year.
“Die young and save yourself.”
And now, this week’s post-signoff bonus…
Song references I considered making but didn’t (sorted by entry):
Throat Slitter: Red Hot Chili Peppers “Otherside” and/or Blink 182 “Easy Target”
Okiba-Gang Shinobi: Lost Prophets “Shinobi vs. Dragon Ninja”
Kyoki, Sanity’s Eclipse: My Chemical Romance “I’m Not OK (I Promise)”
*If you’re a new reader, I graduated tyvm. I’m just taking a little more time off. I’ll get a job. I swear.
**Which is also, of course, the name of a semi-notorious 1996 song by Primitive Radio Gods.
***Probably sometime in April.
****Has anyone else tried to run “soon-to-be archaic” before? I truly am a pioneer of language.