It may surprise to learn that when you preview cards for Wizards, you don’t get to choose what you review…. Well, at least not entirely. You might get a choice from a handful of cards if you’re lucky. But generally, they assign cards to you based on the demographic you fall into.
Are you the “Spike” writer, like Mike Flores or Brian David-Marshall? Well, you get a very efficient, Spikey, tournament-friendly card. Are you the Johnny slot, like Ben Bleiweiss or Noel DeCordova? Well, you get a very crazy Johnny card designed to provoke interesting deck interactions.
Guess who was the Timmy slot? Yeah, you guessed it. Which meant that I always got the very large, very splashy men.
The thing about having your cards chosen for you is that you’re not always as enthusiastic about them as you want to be… WAIT.
Okay? Hear that? That’s the sound of unwashed gamers in their Mom’s basement seizing upon that wording. They’re crying, “See? Everyone at Wizards is a soulless goon who only writes what their corporate overlords tells them to! Ferrett knew he was previewing terrible cards! HE SOLD OUT FOR THE MAN!”
Please. Shut up.
Nobody on Wizards is previewing cards they loathe, I assure you. If you dislike your assignment, you can ship back an assigned card and request another one… But you don’t get to choose from everything in the upcoming set. You have to select something from the subset of cards they have designated as previews.
Sadly, that meant there were a ton of times I looked at the full spoiler once it was out and went, “Whoah! Why didn’t they assign me that one? I would have previewed the crap out of that sucker.”
The issue is, naturally, that Wizards wants to hit certain demographics. You have to be somewhat jazzed about the card, naturally, but to some extent your enthusiasm is meaningless. They know from market research that certain cards in their set are going to make certain sectors of players absolutely go apes**t.
Problem is, said players aren’t always good.
I mean, I like Hamletback Goliath — but it does cost a lot of mana, and it does die to nearly any competent removal spell. But that’s of no relevance to the true Timmy demographic, who goes to bed nightly with his head dancing of 160/160 MONSTARZ.
So when I’d get my cards, I’d have mixed reactions. Some of them, like Twilight Shepherd, I’d go, “Oh, wow! That’s amazing! I can’t wait!” Other cards, like Hamletback Goliath, I’d get and go, “Umm…. I’m gonna have to work on this one.”
So I’m going to look at the cards that Wizards has spoiled thus far, and rank them based on how enthusiastic I’d be if I’d been assigned to preview them. I’m not going to go through all of them — just the ones that would provoke an interesting reaction.
(All spoiled cards can be found at the official spoiler list.)
Creature — Vampire
R, Tap: Vein Drinker deals damage equal to its power to target creature. That creature deals damage equal to its power to Vein Drinker.
Whenever a creature dealt damage by Vein Drinker this turn is put into a graveyard, put a +1/+1 counter on Vein Drinker.
This wouldn’t be too hard to preview. It’s a great multiplayer card, but it has two issues I’d have to work around — first off, it costs one mana more than I’d really like. At six mana, you’re dueling with dragons, and a 4/4 flier starts to look substandard even if it can pick off anything small.
Second, the activation cost? Boo. I know you’re trying to push the cross-color mechanics, and it’s certainly in flavor, but it makes the card harder to use and not as fun. Especially because what I really want to do is use this with Seedborn Muse in a really nasty control deck, and the three colors makes it harder.
Still, I’d jump to my laptop with verve if they’d assigned me this puppy. It’s a solid multiplayer card with a lot of potentially fun applications, and it’s useful in that it’s not only good on defense, but it’s able to pick off utility critters like Wellwisher at will.
Players can’t search libraries.
This one would be tricky… But give Wizards credit, they handed it to the right guy to preview. Whereas I look at it and go, “Okay, this shuts down searching functions nicely, and those pop up a lot in good multiplayer decks. But it’s an investment of four mana, which means you won’t stop the early fetchlands or Vampiric Tutors, and you have to waste a full card on something that will probably do nothing.”
I would not fail to acknowledge these flaws in the article, natch. (If there’s an issue with a card that I recognized, I mentioned it.) And I’d have to mention, with enthusiasm, how well Maralen of the Mornsong combos with this, assuming everyone just doesn’t jump on you right away and kill you. You might pull that off in multiplayer, once, assuming that they don’t have enough on the table to swarm you and bear you right under.
I’d spend a lot of time looking for cards that would make this good, because the unfortunate bit about it is that though it looks very powerful, it’s far too likely to be a dead draw on its own.
Master of Etherium
Artifact Creature – Vedalken Wizard
Master of Etherium’s power and toughness are each equal to the number of artifacts you control.
Other artifact creatures you control get +1/+1.
You’re going to be surprised by this, but I’d hate to get this card. Why?
Because it’s boring.
Writing an article on this would be purest tedium, because essentially it’d be, “Hey, you know that multiplayer Affinity deck you have? This would go great in that. Let’s talk about various Affinity builds, which was frankly kind of boring to begin with. Or heck, let’s try Modular, which is actually a much better multiplayer mechanic for a long-term game, and discuss how boring that is! And Myr! Heck, let’s just talk about Mirrodin.”
Oh, and Karn, Silver Golem. He’s awesome, too. What a fun, fun article. *yawns*
Where Ancients Tread
Whenever a creature with power 5 or greater comes into play under your control, you may have Where Ancients Tread deal 5 damage to target creature or player.
Kelly Digges did exactly what I’d do here, and no reason not to — it’s a card to get excited about. You play with big dumb monsters in multiplayer all the time — heck, that’s half the reason you want multiplayer as your format — and having the ability to Lava Axe an opponent any time you plop down a big dude will speed up games considerably.
Unfortunately, there’s an issue here with Where Ancients Tread, and it’s in deckbuilding. As much as I like the idea of Where Ancients Tread, you’re going to be running up against two troublesome facts:
a) When you have four of this card in your deck, to ensure that you’ll always have it, you’re taking slots away from more big dumb monsters.
b) At five mana, you’re crowding the top end of a multiplayer deck — and since your goal is to make a deck full of big, powerful guys, you’re left with the ugly choice of either toploading your deck with five-plus mana spells (and guaranteeing you have no good early plays, dooming you to a quick offense) or you’re putting in low-end spells and decreasing the number of stupidly-large dudes who can trigger Where Ancients Tread.
The answer, of course, is to use a reusable guy — Kelly picks up on Sparkcaster, which is just brilliant with this. But it makes the card less usable than advertised, and one suspects there will be a lot of Timmies out there who will be absolutely devastated when turn 8 comes around and they’re dead before they can get this to fire.
I’d be happy to preview this — it’s splashy, and its effects are easy to see. But I’d also be wary about choosing it as one of the top multiplayer cards in Shards, mainly because it’s going to be difficult to pull off correctly.
Creature — Beast
Spearbreaker Behemoth is indestructible.
1: Target creature with power 5 or greater is indestructible this turn.
This, I would plotz my pants for. It’s what casual games are made for. Yeah, seven mana’s an awful lot, but this follows the two tenets of a good multiplayer creature:
a) It must protect itself.
b) It must make your opponents burn up other cards.
You’ll have to tap out to cast it, natch, but you can! It’s indestructible! And after that, every big dumb brute you cast becomes immune to Wrath of God, Terror, or any other send-to-graveyard effect… And at a very low cost. That Spiritmonger’s sticking around, your Dragon isn’t going bye-bye, nobody’s going to Disintegrate that Mycoloth.
Sure, things like Hallowed Burial — a card that should see more play in multiplayer than it has thus far — will still get rid of them. And power-dropping effects, which don’t see a lot of usage, can fox this. But this is a great card, and I’ll be looking to pick up a few….
…but not four-of. This is a top-end card, and four in a deck is just too much. As a rule, six should be your top end in multiplayer, and not too many of those, either.
Also, if someone steals this, you’re hosed. But isn’t that always the case with the good ones?
Exalted (Whenever a creature you control attacks alone, that creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn.)
Whenever a creature you control attacks alone, it gains lifelink until end of turn.
Now, the Exalted mechanic is satisfyingly tricky — it doesn’t look like much until you realize that every creature with Exalted teams up to make your one attacking guy huge.
But this is a mechanic I’d have some reservations about touting. When you have one attacking guy, a single combat trick pretty much ends your tricksiness right there. There are going to be a lot of disappointed people saying, “I put the Exalted trigger on the stack…” just before they walk into a Terminate or a bounce spell. Sucks to be you, chum.
It wouldn’t be a terrible article, since I’d talk about Dueling Grounds… But Maze of Ith is used far more often in multiplayer than Dueling Grounds, and it shreds this whole strategy like the Bush administration shreds documents. Unless you can find some way to give the Angel shroud (go go Gadget Lightning Greaves!), it’s not going to be firing that often.
I’d be okay with it, because I like the idea. I want a zillion guys with Exalted, and sending my huge 25/25 lifelinking trampling beast on over. But as usual, a mechanic that relies on having a lot of guys on the table? Not so much for any Wrath of Goddy multiplayer.
Creature — Fungus
Devour 2 (As this comes into play, you may sacrifice any number of creatures. This creature comes into play with twice that many +1/+1 counters on it.)
At the beginning of your upkeep, put a 1/1 green Saproling creature token into play for each +1/+1 counter on Mycoloth.
This is a great card that suffers from “Terror” syndrome. As in, “Any Terror effect can kill it, no matter how large it is.” That’s consistently annoying to write about, because you can say that about almost any creature without a comes-into-play effect…
Which is why, when you cast a big dude like this, you want it to have some built-in protection. Like the Spear-whatever dude. He’s awesome.
That said, Mycoloth shines in a deck that wants its guys to go to the graveyard — anything with “Leaves-play” triggers will be brilliant here. And while you win big or go home, sacrificing a couple of Saproling tokens to get an 8/8 guy who gives you four tokens every upkeep? Really not too much of a price to pay.
This would be an ugly article to write, because I’d look up every card with a positive “leaves play” effect and then see how well they’d do with Mycoloth, and by the time I was done I’d probably have a deck that wanted to abuse this way too much.
Truth is, people will be scared of the Mycoloth. They will use their Terrors to get rid of it. Mycoloth will join Nacatl War-Pride and Urborg Syphon-Mage in the great ranks of “Creatures that want to be alive far less than the other players want them dead.”
But damn, when it works, you’ll be so thrilled. I know I will be. I still want four of these.
Creature – Dragon
Flying, trample, haste
R: Hellkite Overlord gets +1/+0 until end of turn.
BG: Regenerate Hellkite Overlord.
“Kelly,” I said, “Stop giving me tricky cards! I’m not that bright. Just give me dumb, powerful monsters.”
If I was still writing, I’d like to think that this was the poster child card for a Ferrett preview.
It’s monstrously expensive, sure, but the nice thing about getting to eight mana, even in three colors, is that you’re almost certain to have the specific mana costs. And it smashes the table. And it’s going to be really, really annoying in casual Reanimator decks for years to come, since haste and trample are two of the sweetest mechanics in multiplayer — you can’t block profitably, and if you tapped out at the wrong time, hoo boy are you going to be punished.
Planeswalker — Ajani
+1: Target permanent doesn’t untap during its controller’s next untap step.
-2: Ajani Vengeant deals 3 damage to target creature or player and you gain 3 life.
-7: Destroy all lands target player controls.
I would be hard-pressed to be enthusiastic about this one, as it’s totally not meant for multiplayer. You tap one thing from one guy? And if it gets huge, you destroy one player’s lands?
One man’s meat is another man’s poison. This isn’t quite poison, but it’d be an uphill battle talking about how great this was in multiplayer… Because it’s not.
Blightning deals 3 damage to target player. That player discards two cards.
What’s that, Timmy? You say that sorcery speed is too slow? And doesn’t actually affect anything on the board?
It’s just going to piss off people and make them attack you, because people hate discard in multiplayer?
Good dog. Absolutely correct. Have a biscuit.
Planeswalker — Sarkhan
+1: Creatures you control get +1/+1 and gain haste until end of turn.
-2: Gain control of target creature until end of turn. Untap that creature. It gains haste until end of turn.
-6: Put five 4/4 red Dragon creature tokens with flying into play.
If Hellkite Overlord was a slam dunk, this would be… Well, I don’t play basketball. I imagine it’d be something like showing up on the court that day to discover that LeBron James, who was scheduled to play, has gone on a killing rampage, slaughtering the other four players with a hatchet, and he’s now in police custody and you’re playing the Boise, Idaho All-Star Geriatrics team instead.
Is that better than a slam-dunk? I’m pretty sure.
Come on. The sauce here isn’t the OMG FIVE DRAGONZZZZZZZ, though it’s what everyone’s excited about — it’s the beauty of giving your folks a global boost and haste. Cast whatever you want and squeeze an extra attack phase out of it! That’s what Green creatures want!
*Juno voice* ALL BABIES WANT TO GET HASTED!
(Okay, that was a little obscure.)
Anyway, you can turn your Saproling army into a huge offensive thing, and then take control of almost whatever creature you want with a Threaten (except for, as is depressingly common, Akroma, Angel of Wrath). Then yeah, sure, someone wipes the board and you get infinite dragons.
That was easy. Next?
Artifact Creature — Sphinx
At the end of your turn, you gain 3 life if Sphinx Sovereign is untapped. Otherwise, each opponent loses 3 life.
I’ve been reviewing restaurants lately, and I find myself giving dings for overpriced food.
I mean, I like filet mignon, sure. But if I pay $25 for a steak, it’s gotta be an awesome steak — seared just right, the perfect cut of meat, with veggies on the side. If I pay $25 for it and it’s okay, well, then a four-star meal just dropped to a three-star.
Likewise, this is pretty good, but if I’m going to have the entire table looking at me and saying, “You know, I’m not that fond of losing three life a turn… How â€˜bout you?” then I want it to be something that costs a little less.
As it is, with all of the great artifact guys coming out, I’m going to stock up on Viashino Heretics right now. Seriously. Get four while you can; last I checked, they were only a dollar (or seventy-five cents, if you don’t mind SP versions). And they’re going to make all of these Artifact creatures’ owners absolutely miserable.
Last week, I promised you the saga of the Neil Gaiman Dance Party… But considering I’m already at three thousand words, but I think I’m going to save that for next week. Sadly, I won’t be attending the prerelease due to the onslaught of a sudden wood cabinet — I’ve committed to a beginners’ woodworking class to pump up my post-apocalyptic skills — but I’ll be at the release party the next weekend, ready to go. So I’ll need some Gaimany goodness to distract.
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