Ah, Fifth Dawn is here, and I have finally decided to return myself to writing. How could I resist? Crystal Quarry will finally see some real casual use, no longer fueling the one-in-a-million Sliver Queen, since no one really uses Cromat. The Sunburst mechanic will see to that. Amongst the dozens of set reviews there, I want to cover the odds and ends of these cards – play quirks, rules interests, and of course, the multiplayer and casual aspects of the best new ideas from R&D.
First off, let’s look at Color Impact. Does Fifth Dawn add anything to the color pools, the way Darksteel added a Misdirection effect to Red, or how Onslaught added card draw to creatures.
The short answer is, not really. Fifth Dawn spreads colored abilities to artifacts, much like the other two sets in this block, and only emphasizes Wizards’ previous changes and restructuring of the wheels.
Life gain continues to slowly improve. In the shadow of Exalted Angel and Pulse of the Fields, Beacon of Immortality can be a huge effect. At the prerelease, I saw a player’s life hit 820. That’s power. Quirk of rules the first: Double retains its English meaning. Doubling your life when it’s negative will send you even further spiraling down.
White’s interaction with artifacts is also interestingly defined. At the end of this block, White is apparently best at”taking care of” artifacts, rather than Red’s smashing them for gain, and Blue and Black’s powering up with them. Equipment was supposed to be White (see Steelshaper’s Gift, Steelshaper Apprentice, Auriok Steelshaper, Taj-Nar Swordsmith, and all the boosted-by-Equipment guys). Raksha Golden Cub is even more indication of this, as is Roar of Reclamation.
White sets more of its rule-setting abilities, following Arrest and Rule of Law with Stasis Cocoon, a half-Arrest that works as a full Arrest for artifact creatures. Not the most solid follow-up, and hopefully Wizards will power up this area of White’s new abilities.
Lastly, White emphasizes its third place in removal out of five colors with Vanquish. Armed Response is so pathetic, but it’s”removal.” Vanquish is quite solid, however.
Red is dipping more and more into the temporary theft department with Bringer of the Red Dawn and Magnetic Theft, and to an extent, Reversal of Fortune.
Temporary mana is also a slowly expanding theme with the horrible Mana Geyser. By the time you could break even with it, your opponent will have five lands out. Mana Geyser is more of a color fixer than an accelerant, but the intent is still there. It’s mainly a card for multiplayer games. Of the colors, Red gained the least from Fifth Dawn. At least it gained Shunt and Seething Song from Darksteel and Mirrodin respectively.
Even the burn from Fifth Dawn is quite weak, with the exception of Magma Jet, a card selection improver, and some recursive burn in Beacon of Destruction. No good land destruction, no shining creatures (with the exception of Furnace Whelp, who gets the so-called dragon bonus. Vulshok Sorcerer emphasizes the shift of Prodigal Sorcerer’s abilities to Red, and Cosmic Larva shows the”I don’t care” abilities of red.
Green’s color fixing and mana abilities, as well as flyer hate are emphasized in this set. Large, beefy creatures are the norm.
Joiner Adept, Dawn’s Reflection, and the Fellwar Stone on legs, Sylvok Explorer and Channel the Suns (a temporary mana source) all strengthen Green’s production abilities.
Moreover, Green’s shift into the premier artifact destroyer is emphasized in Tel-Jilad Justice. Green still has much to improve, but at least the creatures are getting more interesting and versatile, rather than just big fatties.
Reanimation and card draw at a cost is Black’s emphasized strength in block, with Beacon of Unrest and Bringer of the Black Dawn. More ways around Circle of Protection: Black comes in the form of Cackling Imp.
Black is still the king of creature removal, and can still best get around regeneration with Devour In Shadow and Lose Hope.
Discard is given a minor nod with Fill with Fright, but Fifth Dawn is not the block to show Black’s exclusivity in that field. Black has not had significant shifts in the color wheel for this set.
Permanent theft in the form of Acquire and Vedalken Shackles (at instant speed, no less!) is still Blue. As is tapping down, via Early Frost. Blue is slowly getting into the combat phase with more unblockability in the case of Plasma Elemental, and bounce is still plentiful. Sadly, Wizards still insists on nerfing counterspells with the weak Condescend, and the Johnny special Fold Into Aether. At the cost of a creature card and a card, you get to put another card into play for free! Quite frankly, the worst counterspell ever. Even Blue’s affinity creatures are anemic in this set. Fifth Dawn has not been kind to Blue at all. Beacon of Tomorrows is not the powerful spell it seems, since unless you have a way to constantly retrieve it, it’s not that good.
Face it, Fifth Dawn screwed Blue over. The most notable contributions are a weak Opt, and Merfolk Looters five through eight. Not the kind of thing you want to be remembered for. But at least Trinket Mage gives you a quick mana fixer by allowing you to tutor for any artifact land.
Sunburst is, quite frankly, the most casual mechanic I’ve seen in a looooooong time. Not even sliver decks used five colors, with most instead choosing to focus on the best of the slivers and trim to three or four colors. Well, actually, it’s also a great excuse to finish that set of duals for casual play. Most sunburst cards are quite unspectacular, but the following few shine. Quirk of rules: If you copy something with Sunburst using Sculpting Steel, it will NOT get counters from sunburst. Sunburst is a spell’s ability. That’s how it is for now, but it might change shortly.
Sunburst is actually a fairly middle of the road mechanic, raising its head mainly in the Bringers. Other than that, standouts include Pentad Prism and Engineered Explosives, giving otherwise weak removal colors a way to remove weenies, faster than Powder Keg could. Fifth Dawn has given colors good mana fixers, and another answer to weenie rushes.
The Bringers are the success of this mechanic, serving as either monocolored or Gold cards, much like the Dragon Legends from Invasion. More on them a little later.
With each new set, Wizards seems to be making brand new”revolutionary” abilities, and breaking more and more rules. Scourge brought the overhyped Upwelling and overpowered Storm, Mirrodin brought Platinum Angel Mindslaver, a rulebreaker that’s more than proven its power. Darksteel brought out Indestructible permanents, and Fifth Dawn has its fair share of rulebreakers.
Arguably, the most revolutionary (in terms of breaking game rules) card of these is Relentless Rats, the uncommon everyone literally can’t get enough of. It’s a very narrow niche card, and is a gift from Wizards to casual players everywhere. The problem is obtaining enough rats!
Eon Hub is an interesting card, removing the drawback from most cards, including but not limited to upkeep, cumulative upkeep, and damage dealing from effects such as Sulfuric Vortex. But the other thing to consider is that it also shuts off things like Oath of Druids, Eternal Dragon, and Genesis.
However, I feel that the card that will have the most impact on the casual and multiplayer front is Vedalken Orrery. Instant blockers, for-all-intents-and-purposes Haste (by playing creatures at the end of their turn), and giving discard at instant speed. Sorceries that have been put into consideration: Armageddon, Balance, Wrath of God, Jokulhaups, Fireball, Time Walk, Time Warp, and a variety of enchantments. However, even with an Orrery out, you cannot equip at instant speed unless you have an ability that allows you to, such as Auriok Windwalker, Leonin Shikari, or the Cranial Plating-cycle Equipment.
Wizards has been reminding us of just how fun recursion is, first with the reprinting of Hammer of Bogardan, then the Darksteel Pulses, (and to a lesser extent, Eternal Dragon, Undead Gladiator, the Dragon Enchantments of Scourge). Now the Beacons are here, and for a higher cost, they will quite possibly come back for another use. Each of them has a significant effect, but will they make an impact on the casual scene? Any deck seeking to use the Beacons will need a way to dig through their deck, or improve card selection.
Beacon of Immortality
Aside from the synergy with Test of Endurance (assuming it doesn’t get Disenchanted), I find it comedic that this card turns into what is for all intents and purposes a kill card in no less than two different combinations – Donate, Transcendence, Beacon, or Beacon, False Cure (something apparently quite a few people chanced on, and they automatically think this makes them Johnnies). The latter being more comedic when you slap the Cure on an Isochron Scepter. Of course, you don’t need me to tell you that this is almost useless when you’re at one life and have two or more players in a multiplayer game smelling blood.
Beacon of Unrest
For one more mana than Zombify, you get a recursive reanimation spell that can also target artifacts, in any graveyard. Good deal, yes? Most definitely. In multiplayer, anything that gives you continuous uses is a good thing, and for a relatively reasonable price as well. Here’s the trick though – as much as possible, don’t depend on your opponents to provide a good graveyard target. This isn’t like Bribery, quite obviously, so have a way to stock your own graveyard with your own goodies. Aside from that, reanimation is best as early as possible to take advantage of circumventing mana costs, so it loses a little to the classic reanimation spells like Exhume, Reanimate, and Animate Dead.
Beacon of Creation
Coat of Arms called. For some reason, Wizards decided to make this Beacon land-dependent, and while it could work well in some cases, this severely limits the versatility of this card. At least it’s relatively cheap.
Beacon of Destruction
Reusable burn is a good thing, and if you can somehow get this to be the last card in your library with lots of mana out and a Future Sight in play… well, that combination works with any of the Beacons, but only this one (and the next Beacon) will win you the game on the same turn.
Beacon of Tomorrows
Okay, I lied. It’s technically not the same turn, but if your opponent never gets another turn… well, it’s much the same thing. Doomsday is the card that calls out to me when I see this card. Other combinations include putting Mystical Tutor on an Isochron Scepter, Merchant Scroll on a Panoptic Mirror, or just plain milling yourself, a la Turboland with Battlefield Scrounger. But it still doesn’t address the ghastly mana cost…
The Bringers of the dawns are the latest in a line of a cycle of impressive creatures featuring fat mana costs, if not difficult. They’re all 5/5 tramplers for nine mana (or 5 if you can afford to pay the sunburst cost). Sadly, the implication of that cycle is that Blue, having the worst creatures, gains in a cycle like this, and Green, where fat tramplers are quite common, gains the least. They’re all immediate targets for removal should they ever make it into play, making the Black bringer an infinitesimally more durable (being untargetable by Terror, Dark Banishing, etc.). In the end though, all five are extremely playable and are going to be tasty rares to collect for casual play.
Bringer of the White Dawn
First thing that pops into mind? Mindslaver recursion. Unless your opponent can deal with the Bringer (or the Slaver) immediately, the game is quite frankly, over. And if you’re Green, not running anything with provoke, etc, good luck getting rid of it. Other fun, but not quite as game-winning, combinations include Memory Jar for a ton of drawing, Parallax Inhibitor to make Parallax Wave semi-permanent (along with the other Parallax enchantments), and for you power-packing Type I fellas, Black Lotus. The fact that it’s a sizable creature despite being nine mana, doesn’t hurt either.
Bringer of the Blue Dawn
Card drawing is always a good thing, but nine mana (or five mana of five different colors if you’re lucky enough) is quite a bit to ask. By the time you reach nine mana, you’d better be able to win soon (see Bringer of the White Dawn for a great example), and drawing extra cards by then might be a little too late. That said, it’s still a powerful ability, but if not for Sunburst, I’d probably rather have Arcanis, the Omnipotent, since Blue decks will likely have a different method of winning, or another support color, for combat based victories.
Bringer of the Black Dawn
Speaking of Card Drawing, a Vampiric Tutor on a stick is interesting. Certainly, Vampiric Tutor would definitely be powerful were it to be printed on a card, but I’m skeptical of this Bringer’s relative power level (compared to the other Bringers). I’m annoyed at the cost of two life, and I’m annoyed that you don’t get extra cards since it replaces your draw. But then again, It’s A Vampiric Tutor.
Bringer of the Red Dawn
In Limited, most cards that wouldn’t get a second look are pretty good. In limited, this thing is very good. But let’s face it – compared to the other Bringers, the ability is pretty lackluster. Oh, it’s fun when you have a sacrifice or similar effect, but other than that, this Bringer is the weakest of them so far. Grab the Reins was good because you could immediately remove the problem creature that you gained control of, often costing your opponent either his life, or another key creature. This Bringer does not. That said, taking control of your opponent’s best creature and using it against him is nothing to laugh at.
Well, that’s really it. The jury is still out on what will happen if something equipped with Grafted Wargear will die if it stops being a creature, but the Judge list currently says it dies. Finally, with Fist of the Suns, you can use it to pay anything that asks you to pay a mana cost, like, say, Disruption Aura, or an alternate casting cost (Lord knows why you’d want to do this) like Force of Will’s free cost.
“Must… Trade… For… Crystal… Quarry!”