Insert Column Name Here – Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

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Monday, September 29th – Contrary to popular belief, I have to stand in line with everyone else and purchase cards from StarCityGames.com. Which means that when the new cards go up, I’m frantically looking through the list just like you, trying to find the ones that Ben’s underpriced and get the best bargains. And since a lot of my multiplayer articles revolve around the idea of “What are the best cards in this set?” I figured I might as well show you what Shards of Alara cards I ordered, and talk about why I wanted them.

Contrary to popular belief, StarCityGames.com does not give me free cards. I have to stand in line with everyone else and purchase them. Which means that when the new cards go up, I’m frantically looking through the list, trying to find the ones that Ben’s underpriced so that I can get the best bargains.

And since a lot of my just-after-the-set-release multiplayer articles revolve around the idea of “What are the best multiplayer cards in this set?” I figured I might as well show you what I ordered and discuss why I actually put my money where my mouth is. After all, it’s one thing to say that “Hey, this is a great card” and another to shell out the cash to get a playset.

A brief disclaimer, though: the cards I ordered are not necessarily representative of Multiplayer Magic As A Whole. In many cases, I had a preexisting deck that I thought a particular card would slot into, making my order very me-specific.

Case in point: Using the amazing Order History page, let’s look at my Shadowmoor orders:

4 Augury Adept
2 Boon Reflection
2 Cauldron of Souls
4 Everlasting Torment
3 Fracturing Gust
2 Mirrorweave
3 Raking Canopy
4 Turn to Mist
4 Twilight Shepherd
4 Witherscale Wurm (I know, I know)

And my Eventide orders:

2 Archon of Justice
3 Balefire Liege
4 Necroskitter
2 Spirit of the Hearth
4 Unmake

By comparison, how was my order for Shards of Alara? In a word: light. But here, check out my list.

Blood Cultist
Okay, it’s nothing special, but I am working on a B/R controllish multiplayer deck and I want to see if it fits in. I don’t actually expect to kill much with it, but I do expect to tag along on a lot of deaths — “Wait, that’s dying in combat? I’ll ping it. +1/+1 for me!”

Honestly, it’s probably too slow to hold its weight, but it seems kinda fun.

Cunning Lethemancer
Let me remind you that “me purchasing makes it” does not make it a great card — but I do have a B/G Madness deck that I’m also piloting, and it didn’t have enough discard outlets, and this seemed both entertaining and global. In reality, someone else will kill it on sight — people hates them some discard — but considering this is my third attempt to work Urborg Syphon-Mage into a deck, the more they’re killing my other 2/2s the better. But hey, it was cheap!

Empyrial Archangel
When I saw the spoiler for this card, I went, “Oh, crap. This is gonna make a lot of multiplayer games thoroughly unfun.” A 5/8 flier that essentially gives you an eight-point planeswalker-style life cushion every turn would be difficult enough, but the shroud is what puts this over the top. People will have to attack you to get through — and in multiplayer, where turning that many men sideways is a commitment that leaves you open to counterattack, that’s actually a fair amount of damage. (Worst-case, it’s a very expensive pseudo-Fog.)

I picked these up because at the time they were on-deck, it was only $5.00, and I thought that Ben had underpriced them. Sure enough, they’re up to $9.00 — which may be an overinflated price now, but I think that this will prove popular enough in casual play to be worth keeping two on-hand.

Which brings me to a very important point — most of the good cards in Shards of Alara are onesies and twosies, because they’re eight frickin’ mana. Unless I’m playing either a Reanimator strategy or Type Four, eight mana is — and should be — the top of my curve. I don’t want that many seven- or eight-mana cards in my deck, so for something like this ordering a deuce is perfectly fine.

It’s a decent set, but I wonder about how good it’s ultimately going to be because of that expense. For once, the issue’s not availability, but really, how many Godsires do you need to have? Certainly not a full playset. One or two is fine.

Hmm. Maybe that’s what Wizards is shooting for. The casual guy will be happy with two Godsires because he doesn’t need to get a complete playset, leaving him happier per pack. And what’s that, Timmy? We sell singles?

Oh, thanks for the job security, Wizards!

I don’t think I’ll play this much, but it is huge, and I may put it in a deck. I don’t think it’s terribly fun, true, but I have “fun” decks and “not quite as fun” decks for multiplayer. At a bargain price, this is something to keep around for one of the more irritating decks.

Flameblast Dragon
Another two-of order, since six mana is Rorix Bladewing territory… And “Not having haste” is a large issue with the Flameblast Dragon, since it gives people a one-turn warning that “By the way, you’re going to get Fireballed to the face every turn.” As someone else noted, I wonder how often this is actually going to be used to hit a creature.

That said, if it does survive, and it’s the late game, it can take huge chunks out of a player’s life total, serving as a mana dump when you have too many lands in play. And when I looked at it, it was only two bucks, so I was like, “Why not? I’ve got a mono-Red deck that could use that.”

Gather Specimens
This is abso-frickin’-lutely insane against any Living Death-style effect… Which crop up at our table on a semi-regular basis, making this a one-of in my Stealy Blue deck and possibly a one-of in my way too expensive and flashy U/R control deck (which has, among other things, an unsleeved Library of Alexandria, making collectors everywhere weep).

Yes, it’s six mana — which is, hello, why I ordered two — but it can also, rarely, come in handy when people decide they’re going to Animate Dead the biggest guy on the table in the graveyard.

Honestly, I probably won’t use this, but it’s worth $4.00 to imagine using it. I’ll just stroke the card edges like Gollum and whisper about the fun times we’re going to have together, oh yessir.

Okay, blunt truth: I have a Thallid deck. My Thallid deck is like 2-8 in total games, generally dying horrifically and without much of an impact… But on a handful of occasions I’ve survived to the point where I get Nemata, Grove Guardian out and took over. So everyone has this strange illusion that the Thallid deck is good — which it isn’t, but dammit when you’re beaten by a Thallid deck, you know you need to question some of your current life choices.

They blame the deck for their own issues. Really.

Anyway, I figured that for two bucks, purchasing a couple of copies to throw in there (over Sporoloth Ancient) might be worth trying.

But really. I am embarrassed to admit that I have a Thallid deck.

Spearbreaker Behemoth
I told you I thought it was good. Again, two copies, and about 40% of my decks involve stupid Green monsters in some way, so I just purchased two to have on-hand for a special occasion.

Now. Let’s talk about what was in my cart at one point but got taken out — in most cases, you can blame Ben Bleiweiss for pricing them accurately. Darn you, Ben!

Elspeth, Knight-Errant: Too Expensive, Too Untested
Wow, I really like Elspeth’s abilities, and I have the skeleton of a White Weenie deck just rarin’ to go. The sauce on Elspeth is, naturally, the “Make everything except Planeswalkers indestructible” ability… But the big question is, will your table let you get away with it? Barring some shenanigans like Doubling Season (a card which, from now until the end of eternity, will show up with depressing regularity on MTG’s “Craaaaazy Card Combos!” articles), you’re going to have to survive five turns without combat damage to get this.

That is ALOT. Not just “a lot,” but “ALOT,” said at top volume as a cat macro, with just a tinge of irony.

You’ve got your “make a blocker” ability to help stanch the bleeding, sure. but I’m pretty sure once this hits the table, you’re going to get absolutely swamped, and someone’s going to Wrath to rob you of this crazy ability.

At the time I thought about ordering it, it was around $7.50. Now it’s $15.00, and even as a twosie, I’m not willing to spend $15-$30 to find that whoah, this really isn’t nearly as good as advertised!

It might be the chase rare of the season. As it is, it seems too fair.

Hellkite Overlord: Too Expensive
…and rightfully so. But when all I need are one or two copies, I’ll see how many I pop in draft first.

Kresh the Bloodbraided: Too Expensive, Too Untested, Too Many Colored Mana
A real interesting effect, but I don’t currently have a R/G/B deck on file, meaning that I’d effectively have to build a deck to justify the purchase. And at $4.00, I’m not quite willing to spend $8-$12 to get something that may fire big, or may just die to a Lightning Bolt.

He’s in the nicest colors for the ability, of course; one well-timed Pyroclasm (or heck, even a cycled Slice and Dice) could make him huge, and Green has lots of ways to give trample. But I look at Kresh and don’t just see a guy, but the cards I’d need to make a whole deck out of him, and I’m not gonna do that.

However, I am entertaining myself too much by singing his first name to Queen’s “Flash Gordon” theme song. “KRESH! AAAaaaaAAAA! SAVIOR OF THE UNIVERSE!”

Sarkhan Vol: Too Expensive
Like Hellkite Overlord, I shouldn’t have to explain why he’s good, but I’m not willing to pay $100 to get a playset of a card that’s not going to win me a trip to the Pro Tour.

Skullmulcher: Not A Thallid, No Current Home
Fun fact: This card took me three minutes to look up in a flurry of searches because I’d written it down as “Skullmuncher.” Which, really, is a better name.

That said, I almost ordered this for my Thallid deck, but it’s not a Thallid and I do stick tightly to my themes. And I don’t currently have any decks that need something that kills things to draw cards. This card screams “Multiplayer combo” to me — some intermediate step that sends a lot of guys to the graveyard, then draws you the cards to fire off something big. But at five mana, it’s a tad pricey, and since I don’t exactly have that combo ready yet, I’m not willing to purchase it.

Stoic Angel: Too Expensive, No Home
If I happened to have a three-color G/W/U deck hanging about, this would have been a slam dunk, and I probably would have purchased two of them in the hopes that I’d crack more in drafts. This is a damn fine lockdown creature — efficient, sweet, and nice. But at $7.00, like Kresh before her, I’d have to build a solid deck around her, and I’m not willing to experiment.

If I find a deck with a strategy that can use her, I’ll happily pick her up. Until then, it puts the lotion in the basket.

Arcane Sanctum, Crumbling Necropolis, Jungle Shrine, Savage Lands, Seaside Citadel
I want them all, but I’ll most likely pick up enough of them in Draft to not need them.

There are a couple of other cards I’ll mention next week, but that’s pretty much it for now. So let me ask you…

An Important Question
Since I didn’t get out to the Shards of Alara prerelease, I didn’t play with the cards. (Instead, I made a lovely wood cabinet. When the apocalypse comes, I’ll now know how to build furniture, which is a considerably better skill than Magic.)

So here are my questions to you:

  • What card was better than you thought it was going to be, and why?
  • What card was significantly worse than you thought it would be, and why?

Next week, I’ll talk about my play at the SoA release party! And its very silly rules!

Signing off,
The Ferrett
[email protected]StarCityGames.com
The Here Edits This Site Here Guy
What’s missing from this article? Will anyone notice? Hmm….