Ha ha! Fooled you. Now you all think I am going to talk about Onslaught, that common enchantment from Exodus… But instead, I am going to talk about Onslaught, the new set of cards that kind of revived my hopes for cool new decks. Hopes that dwindled during the Odyssey Block. But since everybody -everybody and their mothers – is writing articles with”Onslaught” in their names, I figured that I’d trick you into reading this by explicitly not mentioning the word. Clever, huh?
So here’s the deal: I will write something about the prerelease, some sort of report. All mixed up with that will be random comments on less random cards that I have seen and liked. All is sprinkled with silly gags about things I alone find funny, such as those tiring Zephid jokes I keep on attempting.
Here comes the inevitable road trip story:
Woke up, fell out off bed, dragged a comb across my head. Found my way downstairs and drank a cup. Looking up, I noticed I was late. Took my coat, grabbed my hat, made the bus in seconds flat. Found my way upstairs and had a smoke. Somebody spoke and I went into a dream. Ah, aha, hahahaaaa aha hahaaaa.
Fooled you again! I had you reading some old Beatles lyrics (A Day in the Life) while you all thought I was going to you tell about how I got on my bike and cycled for twenty minutes, ending up at the Labyrinth, where the prerelease was being held. Nothing happened on the way. No yellow submarines begged me for help, no rings of power were found, and no men in white vans pointed arms at me.
And I didn’t smoke. I never smoke and will never try it, either.
I wound up at the store and all of my friends were already present. It is always so much fun to play an in-store tournament at the Labyrinth. Every face you see is a familiar one, and you laugh with each of your opponents. (Not at them, like at regular tournaments.)
So before the tournament starts, we all bust our 150-card all uncommon Highlander decks and give them a metaphorical whirl. Trying to give 150-card decks a literal whirl will most probably result in you having to pick up hundreds of different cards from all corners of the store, so that would not be advisable.
Those decks are really funny – a fact that is proven once more by the fact that we have had these decks as a fact for more then three years now, as a matter of fact. How long has 5-Color lasted? These decks outlasted it. It gives you the situation where you do not dare cast your Slaughter with buyback because your opponent has a Lilting Refrain with eight counters on it… But if you do not cast it, his Ghost Ship will come and hit you again. And if you do not cast it, his Bottomless Pit will be glad to oblige. So you waste your Slaughter, and another awkward situation is created.
This is what Magic felt like when you just started.
Then the cards were handed out, and we were all eager to open our packs. The guy to my left, Gert-Jan-Piet, had a Silvos, Rogue Elemental. That’s one bad mean person. The women at the other table, Els, had a foil one. And there was somebody else who also had a regular Silvos, next to his Rorix Bladewing. How many pit fighter legends can you possibly get in a thirty-six-person tournament? Werner, sitting right in front of me, opened Arcanis, the omnipotent. We used to call Yavimaya Elder the Ancestral Recall-guy, but I guess that his claim to this fame is now forfeit. Werner also opened Future Sight, and I got very jealous of him.
Play with the top card of your library revealed.
What kind of future sight is this? My opponents get just as much sight as I do… And I pay dearly for this enchantment! Luckily, I get to actually do something with my knowledge of the future, for I can play with it. And it doesn’t say”until end of turn” or”only once each turn” or”only during your turn” anywhere on the card. That’s potentially very much card advantage. Keep on playing them from the top and you will never run out of cards.
“Yeah, but what if you run into the second land for that turn?”
That’s why we play with Fastbond! Imagine that. You would almost want to play with Scouting Trek so that you could play all the land from your library in one turn. A single Zuran Orb would offset all the loss of life imbued by the Fastbond. A spell with X in it’s casting cost that is not named Ivy Elemental or Krakilin will seal the deal for you: Most preferably a spell with both X and Y in it’s cost.
Play with Saprazzan Breaker and Storm Elemental to mill yourself. One mana to mill one card away from yourself? Or use Millikin to get rid of unwanted cards that clog the top of your library; double copies of Future Sight, for example. A shuffling your library becomes a whole new experience: Activate Survival of the Fittest, look at the top card of my deck, either play it or not, operate the Survival again. This can also be worked with Predict and Foreshadow. Soldier of Fortune gives a shuffling effect to your opponent as well, to counter any Mirage- or Vampiric Tutors he might want to play… Or to mess with his Insidious Dreams. But I won’t steal Bennie’s writing material and will refrain from this single card strategy right now, once the more to get to the part where I tell you about my sealed deck.
Here it is, without much ado about nothing. (Hell yeah, that’s Shakespeare in my articles! StarCityGames: Where you actually learn something about culture and stuff!):
1x Lonely Sandbar
1x Tranquil Thicket
1x Tribal Golem
1x Charging Slateback
1x Battering Craghorn
1x Skirk Commando
1x Lavamancer’s Skill
1x Erratic Explosion
1x Mistform Dreamer
1x Riptide Shapeshifter
1x Sage Aven
1x Aven Fateshaper
1x Read the Runes
1x Vitality Charm
1x Wirewood Elf
1x Elvish Pioneer
1x Wirewood Savage
1x Symbiotic Elf
1x Everglove Courier
1x Barkhide Mauler
1x Krosan Tusker
1x Elven Riders
1x Stag Beetle
That’s it. It looked so very, very mediocre at the start, but once playing with it I realized that it was quite the beating. Maybe that also had something to do with the fact that I drew my Tribal Golem every single game but two. Most of the times it was even in my opening hand, so that it hit play in the fifth or sixth turn… With haste and flying, and sometimes with trample, too. I will comment on my experiences with each card in my deck that I think will be worth mentioning.
Tribal Golem: This was so very good. It almost always had trample – and more important, flying. There were four beasts and four wizards in the deck, and a single goblin. But most of the times, the Imagecrafter did his thing. When the Golem hit play, the crafter would turn some random elf into a goblin to hasten the Golem. When two Mistform Dreamers would block the Golem, the crafter would turn something into a soldier, giving the Golem first strike. I even once remarked casually:”Well, go ahead and destroy my Golem. I will turn one of my guys into a zombie and just regenerate him.” And even though I had no black mana, I think that the threat worked, for my Barkhide Mauler soon found his demise by some direct damage. Amazing.
Charging Slateback, Battering Craghorn and Skirk Commando: Hell yeah, I love morphing even more than I love boiled eggs and sandwiches – and I do like those a lot. So I play a guy at turn 3, face down. Everybody knows what’s in my deck, so everybody has the same tough choice: block it on turn 4 and find out that it’s a Craghorn? So that would insinuate that not blocking would be smarter. But then: not blocking and finding out that it’s a Skirk CommanD’oh! That’s also very not funky. And then, in the late game, a new morph guy hits the table. Is it the now less-impressive Commando, or is it the Charging Slateback – the one that will charge through my blockers like nobody’s business? Ah, the agony of not knowing. Magnificent ability. Maybe not because it would (or could be) so very powerful, but the more because it is so dang funny – and that’s what I’m for.
Erratic Explosion: I only let this go off once without knowing how much damage it would do, but that was when it was only hitting a two-toughness creature anywise. The rest of the time, an Aven Fateshaper or Sage Aven would have told me that when Exploding after one turn, I would mill away an unwanted land, followed up by five damage due to Barkhide Mauler or Riptide Shapeshifter. I once dealt seven with a Fateshaper, and I knew in advance that I was going to do it.
It finished off the opponent, of course. No point in wasting your Fateshaper.
Imagecrafter: If you thought that Tidal Visionary was a good one drop in Invasion Block, you will adore this one. Gets in two damage before it would walk into some morph guy – and after that, it twiddles with all sorts of effects. Cruel Revival destroys target non-zombie creature. Tribal Golem gains Haste when you have a goblin. Wellwisher gives one life for every elf in play. Cabal Archon throws clerics at your opponents. There’s just so much to do with this little man. And even in the late game, where the game was down to a stall of fat creatures! I was still glad to draw him. There’s always work for him. Protection from Clerics? Hey, that’s funny; I happen to have none. The Imagecrafter also changed some men into wizards once they got enchanted with Lavamancer’s Skill.
Mistform Dreamer: Boy, was he an elf a large chunk of the time. He just loved to get pumped by my courier. He just loved to be wished well, giving me more life. He also loved to give my Golem all sorts of abilities. Do you note how almost all of my cards are related to the Golem somehow? I drew him almost every single game. Only twice did I not draw him. That might explain.
Riptide Shapeshifter: Hell, yeah. This card was amazing. Just let him get himself killed in combat, dragging some opposing guy down with him into Hades, and then sack him just in time. Two of the three bomb creatures in this deck had a unique creature type – Golem or Insect – so I always got to them when I wanted. And I could also always say”bird” and get to my Fateshaper Aven, with a chance of getting a Sage Aven instead. But sometimes I already had the little Aven in hand or in play, so that the shapeshifter would get to the large 4/5 flyer for sure. I just loved that card. Now if it only made you put the revealed cards on the bottom of your library in any order instead of reshuffling them: Once I named Insect, and the Stag Beetle was the bottom card of my deck. I could have gone all Long-ish and could have stacked my entire deck! What a shame.
Sage Aven/Aven Fateshaper: I do not have to explain the benefits of a 4/5 flyer. But the 1/3 flyer surprised me. I always thought that Sage Owl and Spire Owl were kind of weak… So naturally, I didn’t expect much from this guy, mainly because he only gets +0/+2 for two mana. That’s quite a hefty cost. But suddenly, when a useful (read: non 1/1) body gets attached to the ability, the ability becomes a whole big lot stronger. Didn’t Moment of Silence suck until everybody found out that Blinding Angel was quite the little game-breaker? I thought that Index sucked – but now that there’s a useful creature attached, it suddenly becomes good.
I set up my Erratic Explosion a lot of times with the help of these guys. It feels quite good to be able to say:”Deal five damage to your Venomprout Brackus.” But I only used the ability on the Fateshaper once. It is quite costly, and once a 4/5 flyer aids you, you do not need much more. I did, however, set up another marvelous Explosion with it.
Read the Runes: every time I cast this, I thought about the name of this card as:”Read the Manual!” I can really imagine some wizard shouting at you to read the friggin’ runes before you cast the spell.”I told you to read the runes! Now look what you’ve done! Raaah!”
But anyhow, this most often drew me seven, ate three lands and a small guy like a Skirk Commando in a late game, and thus gave me four new cards to tamper with. You usually win when you draw seven while both players are in top-deck mode. At the beginning of a game, should there be pressure brought upon me, I sometimes cast it for one or two, sacrificing a guy or two who died in combat after damage went on the stack. Quite a reasonable play, and it gives you something of an advantage.
Vitality Charm: Saved my life once by acting like a fog. It put an instant insect into play, which chumped the Slipstream Eel that would otherwise have eaten my soul. It also almost killed a Quicksilver Dragon once by pumping my Aven Fateshaper that blocked it… But alas, the opponent had a Mage’s Guile, countering my Charm.
Elvish Pioneer and Wirewood Elf: Acceleration is very savagely good in a world made of fat and blubber and other large numbers. With the Pioneer, power rangers (It’s morphing time! Pterodactyl! Triceratops! Tyrannosaur!) came out at the second turn. That’s kind of scary for opponents: Imagine morphs to have just cost two. And though we will all miss Werebear like ’twas our kin, the acceleration of Wirewood Elf is much more appreciated in this environment.
Wirewood Savage and Wellwisher: The savage brings card advantage like mad and the Wellwisher (I wish there was a well; I’m thirsty) once gave me nine life each turn. Those life were badly needed, because Silvos thought that I was quite the tasty little morsel. To me, this proves that tribal stuff works. I’ve seen a man with 158 life. That game ended in a draw because time ran out while they still were in their first game. The opponent also had a Wellwisher and was nearing the hundred life. So remember, exaggeration of themes might get you at the lower tables because your Wellwishers might gain you too much life.
Everglove Courier: Pumped about everything, thanks to Imagecrafters. I miss Nantuko Disciple, who didn’t need support from a wizard and who didn’t cost three mana to activate. The fact that the bonus is permanent as long as the courier Remains tapped does little to compensate this.
Elven Riders: Nostalgia galore. I used to kill a friend of mine, who sat next to me in class seven years ago, with this – and this very tournament, I killed him again with this. That was such a beautiful revival of a fond memory. He also thought it was funny, but he didn’t laugh as hard as I did (it was the final round of the tournament, and the winner of the match would wind up second place, which I did).
Stag Beetle: This guy disappointed me when I cast him for the first time. I thought that he started out as a 4/4 and got a counter for each additional creature. How wrong I was.
“So you mean to say that my Beetle is just 7/7 and not 11/11?”
“Yeah, look, says here: 0/0.”
“Well, 7/7 for 3GG is still pretty okay, innit?”
That was my deck, and it did quite well. I had a really good time and hope to play some more sealed events with Onslaught. Or I hope to just get four or six friends together to play a little sealed by ourselves at the Labyrinth.
Cards that I left out:
Goblin Burrows: Not enough Goblins in my deck
Embermage Goblin: Well, I only had one, and something had to go. I liked morph better that this, so the Slateback got the nod over this one.
Spitfire Handler: Very cool picture, but with red as a minor color, fire breathing doesn’t seem to do much anymore.
Goblin Sledder: Got cut as the last card, but mostly as a direct result of being one of the lone two goblins of the deck, deterring it’s effectiveness.
Lightning Rift: I really like this card and will surely play it in multiplayer. Becomes really eerie in multiples.
Searing Flesh: …And when seven damage doesn’t finish the opponent, are you then happy you drew this while what you really needed was actually an answer?
Steely Resolve: do I really want to spend a card to make my elves untargetable? Or my beasts? No, I do not.
Airborne Aid: With only two birds? Not consistent enough, I feared.
Crafty Pathmage: Quite fun with morph – but I remembered Dwarven Warriors, and how I used to praise that card in the past. I am now taught that cards you thought to be good in the past are actually bad, so I didn’t play it.
Screaming Seahawk: Even worse than a monsoon man. Even though it flies.
Slipstream Eel: Large enough, and it has cycling, but something has to go.
White notable cards:
I didn’t think this to be enough to justify a whole color. Sure, Divebomber is nice, and Pacifism is good, but it felt too weak.
When the end of the deck building time was nearing, I almost switched to black. That Haunted Cadaver just called out to me:”Play me; I will strip their hands for you! What harm can it do you? Play me!“
I used to play frequently with Mindstab Thrulls – and this is just like that, only it’s a better card with a less pretty picture, all three of the alternate arts of the Thrull considered. And Swat is creature kill, which is quite few and far between here, I guess. Headhunter would be a nice supplement to the Cadaver, as would the Buzzard be. The Husk made me think of that Phyrexian Ghoul deck I played in the Saga/Masques type II period, the deck that killed on turn 3, with a little bit of luck.
Turn one: Birds of Paradise.
Turn two: Phyrexian Ghoul.
Turn three: Academy Rector. Attack with the Ghoul, eat the Rector, search for a Pattern of Rebirth for on your Birds. Eat that one, too, and look for a new Rector. Eat it, and go find a Saproling Burst. Make six tokens and eat them. You have now eaten nine guys, making the Ghoul 20/20, quite capable of killing in the name of…
Walking Desecration just selectively lets your opponent’s creatures walk right into your deadblocks. Go ahead, attack with your lone cleric – deadblock it. Now swing with your two soldiers. Deadblock. Evil Laughter all around.
But I still went with the red over the black, because red had more creature kill and more morph. And I really wanted to play with morph. And I still do.
Bad play of that day:
Look – my opponent has a Silvos! Let’s go and race him with a Silvos of our own!
* casts the legendary Silvos *
Opponent: Oh no – he’s going to race me with his own Silvos! Luckily I have this Discombobulate to counter it!
That’s the second time I witnessed something like that. I already saw it once before with Exclude and Dromar.
Stijn van Dongen,