I’m feeling a little frustrated with Magic these days. More specifically, I’m feeling a little frustrated with how little I play. I fully expected to head to Neutral Ground: SF’s weekly Type 2 this weekend until I realized it would mean missing both NFL championship games. That makes three weeks in a row that something has kept me from busting out my neat Enchantress deck and actually playing against a non-teammate. I haven’t played in a Type 2 tournament in months. Extended is similarly frustrating. I have playTESTED my deck a lot, but the first PTQ isn’t until this Saturday. I don’t know why I somehow think playing against a stranger is more satisfying than playing against my friends. Tournaments are fun, and I like to see how my carefully crafted madness stands up against a field of tuned decks. I’m thrilled that Iain MacFadyen took our rogue creation to a #1 seed in the Top 8 this past weekend at his first PTQ, but it kills me too. I… want… to… PLAY!
Thankfully, I have a pretty active month or two coming up. This weekend is the PTQ in Sacramento, my first-ever Extended tournament. Then the Nemesis pre-release on the 5th. In two weeks another PTQ and then another two weeks after that. There’s no Type 2 in there, and since I am just dying to play the Enchantress monstrosity, I’ll probably sneak down to Palo Alto on Sunday one of these weekends too. Knowing I’m about the play so much Magic only makes this current dry spell more frustrating.
I have been passing the time by pouring over the Nemesis spoiler. I’m starting to feel pretty comfortable with the cards (even if I can’t picture them in my head and have never played them), and have designed nearly a dozen Type 2 decks I want to build. My teammates think I’m crazy, but building decks with the cards helps me figure out what I want and what I won’t use.
Speaking of which, Nemesis marks the first Magic set since Weatherlight that I won’t be buying a box of on the release date. It’s not that I’m not excited for the new cards, in fact it has nothing to do with Nemesis at all. It’s just that buying a box – or a box and a half, or two boxes – doesn’t seem productive anymore. With a box I have mountains of cards I never play and not enough rares to make a good constructed deck. Sure I can trade, but inevitably, I end up shelling out a lot of money for the uncommons and rares I don’t own and shoving all of the other stuff to one side. After two full drawers of cardboard, I’m starting to rethink my ways. This time, I’m experimenting by ordering four sets of commons and two sets of uncommons off of eBay, and then I’ll buy the rares and extra uncommons I want singly. It may turn out to be more expensive this way, but somehow I doubt it.
I still haven’t narrowed down my long list of rares-I-want-four-of to a manageable number, but do have a list of uncommons I’ll be acquiring. There are only twelve, at least initially. I’m sure some of them will prove to be terrible and others not on the list will turn out to be must-haves, but at least when Nemesis is released I know what I’ll be ordering. Here’s a list of the twelve uncommons I think are cool, and some of my reasons for thinking so. Keep in mind that I play Magic mostly for Type 2, so the lens I’m viewing these cards through is a Type 2 one.
Nada. Nunca. Nothing. I would like Chieftan en-Dal if it were a rebel. As a knight and with a double-white casting cost, though, I have a difficult time figuring out what kind of deck would want it. I’m glad they made Voice of Truth but I don’t need more than two of those, and how often have I busted out my other Voices?
Jolting Merfolk, 2UU, Creature – Merfolk 2/2, Uncommon, Illus. Glen Angus
Remove a fade counter from Jolting Merfolk: Tap target creature.
A lot of people have been commenting how horrible the Jolting Merfolk are, and I agree that it’s ridiculous that it’s a merfolk. No merfolk deck that I can see would want more than one of these, and even then there are probably better ways to get around blockers. But igonore the fact that it’s a merfolk for a minute. Overcosted for a 2/2, sure, but also a creature with mass tapping ability that can still attack (in other words, the ability doesn’t cause itself to tap). Thus the Jolting Merfolk _might_ have a place in an Opposition deck, letting you concentrate on tapping their lands. At the very least it fits into a deck built around Rising Waters, drastically slowing down a deck that uses creatures as its path to victory. Rising Waters slows an opponent’s ability to empty their hand of creatures while the Merfolk would take care of any weenies that slipped through in the first few rounds. It’s a bit of a long-shot, but I like the idea enough to get four and play around with them.
Carrion Wall, 1BB, Creature – Wall 3/2, Uncommon, Illus. Tony Szczudlo
1B: Regenerate Carrion Wall.
A wall built from the bodies of the enemy will never lack building material in times of war.
I don’t know why I like this card, actually. I like cheap walls, that’s one selling point. And it just seems like a ritualed-out Carrion Wall will shut a lot of creature-rush decks down. I don’t think this fits into the traditional Control Black deck, but I bet I’ll find a use for it someday and wish I had four. Just in case, I figure I would add it to the list.
Massacre, 2BB, Sorcery, Uncommon, Illus. Pete Venters
If an opponent controls a plains and you control a swamp, you may play Massacre without paying its mana cost.
All creatures get -2/-2 until end of turn.
Black’s Wrath of God. This is probably the only card on the list that I consistently want to show people.”Have you seen Massacre?” I’ll say, stumbling around on the streets pointing at the spoiler to strangers. Seriously, the alternate casting cost is a luxury here; as far as I’m concerned, this would see a lot of play even as a straight 2BB Sorcery. This is the first reasonably-costed mass removal spell black has seen in a long time. Better than the hugely expensive X-spell from Tempest, for sure. Of course it doesn’t necessarily kill _every_ creature, but it kills most of them in constructed tournaments. Even more important, it kills non-targetables, pro: black, regenerators, black and artifact creatures. I guess because it’s technically a color-hoser, they had to make it an uncommon, but it strikes me as funny that this is less rare than, say, Pale Moon.
You can see from the list, so far, that most of the uncommons I like are red and green. I naturally gravitate towards these two colors anyway (though never towards Stompy or Sligh for some reason), so it’s no surprise that the these are the cards catching my eye. In addition, I personally think WotC is making incredibly good green cards these days and are maybe making up for how they’ve reamed red the past few sets.
Arc Mage, 2R, Creature – Spellshaper 2/2, Uncommon, Illus. Terese Nielsen
2R, T, Discard a card from your hand: Arc Mage deals 2 damage divided as you choose among any number of target creatures and/or players.
Helllloooooo… Squee! I really like the idea of a R/B Squee deck that is just packed with Spellshapers. I haven’t done anything but toy with the idea on paper, but something like:
4 dark ritual
4 kris mage
4 skittering skirge
4 arc mage
4 hidden horror
2 yawgmoth’s will
2 dark triumph
4 sulfurous springs
That’s just a rough draft, but you get the idea. I’m not sure this is a tournament-quality deck, but I would love to put it together and tinker with it a little. At the very least, this is the kind of deck that Team Purple Pepper would _love_ to see in its play sessions. Notice how there are two Dark Triumphs in there but Dark Triumph doesn’t show up on my list? That’s because I don’t want four of them, not because I don’t think it’s a spiffy idea for a card. In any case, I think the Arc Mage is cool for a Spellshaper and thank GOD WotC made it able to target players _and_ creatures, thus giving it a fighting chance at playability in constructed.
Flowstone Surge, 1R, Enchantment, Uncommon, Illus. Scott Hampton
Creatures you control get +1/-1.
The army was never at a loss for weapons; Crovax was their forge.
I read right over this card at first, and yet somehow I saw and processed Flowstone Strike. As a 1R single-target instant, I think this card is pretty bad since red has better surprise cards and better removal. But as a permanent enchantment I’m pretty happy with it. A red weenie deck using Flowstone Surge would have to choose its creatures carefully, picking cards like Goblin Raider, Lava Runner, Crag Saurian and the new Mogg Toadie. And that sort of deck would be fun to play. What makes me happy about this card, though, is that it’s splashable for other colors. Green suddenly has its own little Crusade, for example. I’m absolutely certain I can make a deck in which this card is a sizable advantage.
Mogg Alarm, 1RR, Sorcery, Uncommon, Illus. Dave Dorman
You may sacrifice two mountains instead of paying Mogg Alarm’s mana cost.
Put two 1/1 red Goblin creature tokens into play.
They make mountains into mogg holes.
I’m not sure when you would ever want to play the alternate casting cost on this, except maybe in the late game with a couple Reckless Abandons. But even as a 3cc Sorcery, I really like this card. I’m determined to make a Kyren Negotiations deck that doesn’t drift into being a Wildfire deck or a red weenie deck (why am I determined? Because I can’t play Magic, so I just like to think of dumb challenges like that… leave me alone). This obviously fits right in.
Rupture, 2R, Sorcery, Uncommon, Illus. Gao Yan
Sacrifice a creature. Rupture deals damage equal to that creature’s power to each creature without flying and each player.
All creatures have an inner fire. Releasing it can be dangerous.
This has”silly combo” written all over it. Sneak Attack something into play and then Rupture it (somehow not killing yourself in the process), for example.
This also makes the Flowstone mechanic slightly more interesting, though probably not interesting enough to see a lot of play. I’m just not exactly sure how this will work out or what kind of decks will want it, but it seems like Rupture will be making its way into some new deck somewhere.
Animate Land, G, Instant, Uncommon, Illus. Rebecca Guay
Until end of turn, target land is a 3/3 creature that’s still a land.
Irony is getting walked on by the earth instead of the other way around.
This card looks like an incredibly useful instant. It can provide an extra creature to deal lethal damage, a surprise blocker or you can even target an opponent’s land to kill it. All for one mana! And it’s an instant! Wheee! There’s also that little combo with Eradicate, but I think this card is good even without that trick. Green now has lots of interesting cheap spells – Giant Growth, Symbiosis, Invigorate, Animate Land to name a few – that are considerations for a speed deck. But unlike those first three, Animate Land is also an appropriate card for a slower control green deck. I really like this card.
Refreshing Rain, 3G, Instant, Uncommon, Illus. Don Hazeltine
If an opponent controls a swamp and you control a forest, you may play Refreshing Rain without paying its mana cost.
Target player gains 6 life.
Admittedly, not a lot of people will try using this card except me. Rejuvenate didn’t see a lot (read: any) play in constructed decks, so I’m not sure a non-cycling instant version will either. As a sideboard card, Compost is clearly the better hoser. So why get four? Well, I’ve had in my mind a B/G control deck – not one that uses the Plaguelord or the Hermit – and this card might fit into it fairly well. Something like:
4 dark ritual
4 powder keg
4 vine trellis
4 darkwatch elves
4 refreshing rain
4 thrashing wumpus
1 phyrexian tower
4 rishadan port
4 treetop village
1 yavimaya hollow
Again, this is just a rough draft, and the mana-curve on this deck stinks, but you get the general idea. In a deck with Thrashing Wumpus and/or Squallmonger, staying ahead on life is very important. Again, I’m not sure this is the kind of deck that will ever make it from my Deck Book into a tournament (competition in the Deck Book is pretty stiff), but it’s one of those fun ideas to play around with.
Wild Mammoth, 2G, Creature – Elephant 3/4, Uncommon, Illus. Bradley Williams
At the beginning of your upkeep, if a player controls more creatures than any other, that player gains control of Wild Mammoth.
“Sit. Heel! Down! HELP!”
I think the merits of this creature are pretty obvious. Green is always looking for undercosted creatures and is usually getting more creatures out than its opponent. Voila… Wild Mammoth. I will be pretty surprised if Stompy decks don’t start using the Wild Mammoth, especially since the only 3cc slots right now are Cradle Guard and Simian Grunts. Of course, I said earlier that I don’t play a lot of Stompy. If you must know, I’m thinking of the Mammoth as a wonderful, splashable, addition to a Flowstone Surge deck. In fact, it’s the card’s splashability that will likely get it seen in many weenie decks of all varieties. This card will probably get used in a W/g weenie deck for instance, splashing green for Rancor and the Mammoth.
Woodripper, 3GG, Creature – Beast 4/6, Uncommon, Illus. Alan Pollack
1, Remove a fade counter from Woodripper: Destroy target artifact.
Under normal circumstances, green wouldn’t want a 5cc 4/6 creature, especially a temporary one. Weatherseed Treefolk is a much better choice if a green mage is looking for a mid-game fattie. But green has never had mass-artifact removal as an option before, which is why I think the Woodripper is neat. An excellent anti-Wildfire, anti-Tinker sideboard card, the Woodripper can either deal its twelve points of damage before dying, hang around to block, or just eat a bunch of Dynamos, Monoliths and Keys and leave. And as has been said of green in many articles, the mana cost isn’t prohibitive like in other colors because of green’s mana acceleration. I can easily see pulling in some hungry Woodrippers to join my maindeck Orangutans against a variety of artifact-heavy decks.
Flint Golem, 4, Artifact Creature – Golem 2/3, Uncommon, Illus. Lou Harrison
Whenever Flint Golem becomes blocked, defending player puts the top three cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard.
Rackling and Viceling are cute, but I’m reserving judgment on them before I get more than two of each. Four mana for a 2/2 seems like a lot, especially for a mediocre effect. The Flint Golem, though, is slightly different. I like the choice of blocking and losing access to three cards or taking two points of damage, and I really like making it un-Shockable. The four mana is still a little steep, but I’m also acutely aware that WotC is slowing the game down. As a result, I’m expecting cards like Flint Golem to get more and more playable.
As for lands, neither of them are uncommon, so I won’t comment on them here.
I’ll be talking about Nemesis more and more as it’s released and people start to think about Type 2 again. All in all, it looks like a fun – albeit uncreative – set. Someone definitely pulled the Conservative Trigger in R&D, and personally I’m fine with that. I think Fading will be more interesting than people are giving it credit for, and there are quite a few gems in the common and rare slots. I believe Donais when he says that in a year Type 2 will be the more exciting and diverse than ever, and I think we’re already beginning to see the environment shift. And can you imagine Masques Constructed? What does”beatdown” look like in such a slow environment? Are they still going to have 50-minute rounds? I like the way Magic is headed, not because I like a slower environment per se, but because a slower environment means access to more of the cards in each set. If I’ve shown anything, I’ve shown that I like digging _deep_ into a set for fun cards.
There’s a lot of Magic to play these days. Type 2 is still exciting and open, Nemesis is getting released soon and Extended is capturing the Pro Tour attention. Although I’m frustrated at not being able to play, I love the three-ring circus going on.
This Saturday I’m packing the car with Will, Tom and Dan and we’re headed to the Sacramento PTQ. I’m a little nervous, especially with Iain’s Top 8 finish, because I feel like a poor showing will reflect much more on my rusty play skills than on my rogue deck. You can read all about my pathetic exploits next week, I’m sure. In the meantime, cross your fingers for Team Purple Pepper and, above all, have some fun out there!
Comments and/or questions are always welcome,
Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar, Ph.D.
Proud Member of Team Purple Pepper