When you’ve got a slower-paced game where control decks are less effective and mana bases have more time to stabilize, what happens to the game of Magic that we all know and love?
We saw it happen at the last few Standard tournaments: Akroma, Angel of Wrath, Silvos, and Rorix came out to play. Removal and ways to deal with these creatures were at a premium. Scourge continues this large creature and spell trend… But hidden amongst these powerhouses, fatties, and giant spells, are also smaller spells that pack quite the Johnny package.
An interesting defensive card that becomes more offensive after its first combat encounter, its trick is its biggest weakness – will it survive its first combat encounter? Otherwise, it’s a solid creature that, like Rukh Egg, will deter opponents from attacking you early on and serves as a decent blocker later on. Moreover, this is the creature that bird decks have been waiting for – something of substantial size that contributes to the tribe. If nothing else, it’s a 4/4 for four mana. Hey, they’ve got to attack you sometime, right?
Quite simply, a Soldier Lord without the usual Lord problem. It’ll help tribal decks. Simple!
This truth is the same for the other warchiefs. Tribal decks aside, remember that the Warchief Cycle affect themselves too, so this is a 2WW for 2/3. That’s nothing spectacular, but the effect is cumulative, which makes these notable, along with Undead Warchief as well. Two of the Daru Warchiefs make each other 3/5, and the Undead Warchiefs are 5/3. That’s pretty nifty.
Note that in my opinion, red gets shafted again – two instances of haste do nothing for goblins, which are relatively cheap anyway. The Krosan Warchief at least deals with large creatures that will almost always benefit from twice as much mana cost reduction, and the Mistform Warchief can affect multiple tribes – which is best when you’re casting multiple spells in a single turn, but hey, blue is blue and we expect blue to suck these days. Couldn’t Wizards at least given the Goblins first strike (which may be too good) or at least +1/+0?
A more white-intensive, evading, bigger, non-legendary Cho-Manno, Revolutionary. Despite the WWWW cost, anything that can block ’til the cows come home is a good thing in multiplayer, and tossing on cards like Pariah, Flickering Ward, Entangler, Unquestioned Authority, or Lure are hardly a bad thing.
Decree of Justice
Multiplayer, as I said, is slower and allows you more time to create a solid mana base. When your card pool contains fun stuff like Sol Ring, Grim Monolith, and generally speaking, more cards that produce mana, you can produce tons of Angels, or even Soldiers. It’s a good card in a soldier-themed deck, serving to bolster their number or create a bunch of flying finishers.
A totally funny trick in any situation. It’s like a Fog, built into a Soldier body! One of the supreme chump blockers, if it’s only for one use. Actually, it’s much better than that, because it still lets your soldiers do their killing thing. A great (though obvious) combat trick in Type 1 casual.
It seems like a simple card, and it’s easy to overlook – but as was described on The Sideboard, Silver Knight fills a spot in the good white weenie selection. Protection from Red is a much more meaningful thing than Protection from Black, anyway. This rounds out the 2cc slot, sharing space with Whipcorder, Order of Leitbur, Order of the White Shield, White Knight, and Longbow Archer, among others.
I like this card. Joined by Exile, Swords to Plowshares, Reprisal, and other white”attacker-restricted” removal cards, Wing Shards is good even without its Storm ability – but it does have it. Remember, as it stands, Storm will make copies for the number of spells any player plays. See Reckless Charge, Rancor, Giant Growth, Overrun, et cetera… In some cases it may not help as much, but any magnification is a good thing – and like I said, even without Storm, it’s a decently costed spell, though it’ll usually just kill an attacking weenie.
The key with this card is to draw, draw, draw. Arcanis the Omnipotent fills this role very well. At three mana, it can be used soon enough, and a couple of draw steps should not be a big deterrent. You would be searching for this spell a little earlier than usual, since you’ll be getting the spell a few turns later and have a chance to get some more land into play. Wonderful with Sylvan Library.
It copies sorceries and instants… Even an opponent’s. So play it! With this face-down and three mana open, you’ve got what comes down to an almost-uncounterable Counterspell that can be used later in a counter war, or at least a way to double the power of a fat Fireball or similar spell. For even more fun, pair it with Mirari to triple your spells.
See: Morphling. See: A fat creature enchanted with Pemmin’s Aura. See: The tons of removal spells that you will encounter in multiplayer, or bounce, or removal in response. Creature enchantments are risky business, and remember – even if your creature is untargetable, the enchantment isn’t.
Rush of Knowledge
Wonderful in Limited events; in casual, this will almost always net you more than three cards. It’s a little expensive, but geez – card drawing is always good. Later in the game, Fact or Fiction can get you three to four cards; this will get you more than that. Card drawing is a good thing.
Now here’s a bad boy. Even in multiplayer, this baby will save your ass. The most promising use I can think of is to counter one of your own activated or triggered abilities. Notably, consider that this ability counters upkeeps and cumulative upkeeps, as well as 187 abilities, morph abilities (obviously), cycling abilities (either the card draw or any triggered abilities, but not both). It will save you from Pernicious Deed, Powder Keg, Strip Mine, creature-based abilities such as Willbender and many others. Most notably, casting this in response to putting Phage the Untouchable into play other than from your hand would, as it currently reads, counters the”you lose the game” clause. Moreover, this can counter the”return to play” trigger on cards like Astral Slide.
Brutal, isn’t it? That’s just the beginning for this bad boy.
Finally, another good blue creature. It’s a little expensive to cast at seven mana, but once this is out, it can keep weenie hordes off your back, ground creatures to make sure it goes unblocked – or in combination with something like Sky Weaver, you can make your army virtually unblockable. If you’re thinking of using this with Wonder, remember timestamps – if you have Wonder in the graveyard before you use the ability, then your creatures will lose flying. After you use this, it won’t. At worst, this is practically unblockable by spending 3U.
As much as I enjoy playing discard, this card is not going to be that hot in multiplayer unless someone figures out a way around this conundrum: Consider everyone’s favorite first turn play for black discard: Turn 1 Swamp, Dark Ritual, Hypnotic Specter. Consider then that by the time you get to play Cabal Conditioning without any mana boosts is turn 7, and even with boosts like Sol Ring, Cabal Coffers, and Moxen, you still need a big boy on the board to make it worth your while. True, you can go turn 1 as listed above, turn 2 play another swamp, a Dark Ritual and something like say, Cackling Fiend or some such, turn 3, another swamp, two Dark Rituals, and then Cabal Conditioning for four… But this requires the perfect hand, and moreover, is more than likely impossible.
Later in the game when you can cast this for substantial amounts, you may be able to combo this with Wheel and Deal to get the most out of … But do you really want to be playing with wheel and deal? Dragon Mage may work.
But the bottom line is this: By the time you can cast Cabal Conditioning, you may not have worthy targets, since people tend to empty their hands and Control Players will tend to have a counter in hand if they’re hoarding cards. Discard decks want to go fast.
Call to the Grave
In a zombie-based deck, this is the new and bloody The Abyss. Get it. While the restriction on creature selection is narrower than the Abyss, the targeting is not, so untargetables and pro-black creatures are vulnerable. However, if you’re not playing zombies, this is interesting only if you can take advantage of the symmetry. Otherwise, The Abyss is an $80 card. There’s a very good reason for that. But remember how The Abyss made everyone angry with you? So will this. Great with Grave Pact!
An interesting small black creature that acts as weenie removal and, later on, creature removal. It attacks early, it gets large later on, and is fast enough to slip by counters. Finally, later on, it gets big enough to avoid burn. There are worse ways to spend BB.
An interesting draw card for black that lets you abuse Grave Pact even more – or maybe even Havoc Demon. The fact that it’s a sorcery doesn’t improve it or make it a good way to recoup card advantage in combat. Decks that abused Diabolic Intent can use this deck too, allowing you to use it with Mindslicer for ugly results. You get to empty your hand first, then draw two cards if you stack the triggers right.
A 3cc burn spell, a smaller Disintegrate, a more expensive Incinerate, very different from Lightning Bolt. Another burn spell for the burn deck, but it fills the void that Incinerate and Disintegrate does for one slot. Inferior, but keep it in mind when trying to fill your deck.
Form of the Dragon
The more players, the more people who can likely drop you to zero with this card in play. That said, it is a Moat for you, and it does five damage to any target in play. Consider if a Moat effect will be useful for you, then consider if you can handle the added pressure being at five life will put on you before sticking this in your deck.
This spell is, ironically, best against a Sligh Deck. Control and White Weenie suffer to it, but all other decks will simply shrug it off. Keep it in mind when building your deck. Pyrostatic Pillar discourages Counterspells, to be sure (which, I assume, was its original intent) but does little else to advance or hinder most deck’s board positions.
A variation (and improvement of sorts) to Goblin Marshal, the Commander brings with it some buddies and a threat that should be dealt with lest some poor, low-lifed soul be its next victim. It’s a great deterrent, and if nothing else it gives you a few chump blockers. Moreover, once it’s on the table, any goblins you sacrifice result in two damage that cannot be countered in the typical sense of two blue mana.
In multiplayer games, this thing is going to be huge. By the time you get it out, you’ll have things out to support it. The trick is making sure you have enough so that it doesn’t die to a single removal spell. Too slow for duels and lacking serious evasion, Ancient Ooze in multiplayer will almost always be huge for its casting cost… But will you be able to use a seven-mana critter? Quite possibly. If you don’t have other creatures to back this up, then you’re as good as dead anyway, seeing as it’s turn 7 and all. Cast in pairs or more, these get sick-huge very, very quickly.
The card we made at Magicthegathering.com, the fact that it has the ability to move its counters is interesting, especially when you have something like Spike Weaver or Spike Feeder in play that can use the counters. Consider the interesting notion that counters don’t disappear if the permanent they’re on is no longer valid. (See also: Treetop Village.) Actually, let me also add that it’s funny -the people who voted for various attributes said that Forgotten Ancient would make green stronger against blue. Note, however, the mana cost – even with green mana accelerants, Four mana means that there’s a good chance it’s going to get Force Spiked or Counterspelled. Moreover, the fact that it only requires one green means blue mages can splash for it, too.
Green is getting some very interesting tools. This one is, for all intents and purposes, a slightly weaker Orim’s Chant on your turn. This will keep your turn free and clear for pulling off any nasty tricks you may have in hand – like, for instance, a Biorhythm. Combine the fact that this is a cheap green flier like Birds of Paradise, all for just G – and at the very least, you’ve got something that will definitely extend your lifespan.
Ark of Blight
Funny how Wizards is worried about balance in the color wheel, and out comes this artifact land killer. It’s slow to come out – but once it does, colors that would otherwise be unable to deal with such (*ahem ahem* blue) now have another answer that is less disruptive to their mana than Dust Bowl, more versatile than Wasteland, and not restricted like Strip Mine. Treetop Villages everywhere let out a collective shudder.
Most of the other cards are pretty self-explanatory, and pretty direct. Scourge has quite a few interesting cards for multiplayer. In my personal opinion, this is one of the better sets for casual play in a while, Apocalypse being the next best. (Giving enemy color cards new life was a great thing, as was making mana bases easier to build.)
Particularly intriguing to me is the new uncommon land, Temple of the False God, which gives a slight mana boost later in the game. While it won’t become a chase uncommon the way Circular Logic is, I still think that it’s a great card for the casual card table.
Here’s to large, invading armies.
John Alcantara Liu
“So I met this cute girl today who plays Magic…”
“Wow, that’s pretty rare… I’ll trade you this Verdant Force for her number!”
“Hey, hey, what kind of person do you think I am? It’s worth at least a Morphling.”