Nothing Comes Between Me And My Wranglers!

Those who know me could probably guess what’s going to be my favorite card from . Yup, I really like . Hey, they don’t call me Squirrel King for nothing! I can’t wait to rustle up swarms of Cradle-boosting, planeswalker-eating mad squirrels. In honor of the coming fun, I’ll put out the call for any…

Those who know me could probably guess what’s going to be my favorite card from Prophecy. Yup, I really like Squirrel Wrangler. Hey, they don’t call me Squirrel King for nothing! I can’t wait to rustle up swarms of Cradle-boosting, planeswalker-eating mad squirrels. In honor of the coming fun, I’ll put out the call for any of loyal readers to send me any spare Squirrel token cards from Unglued. I only have two; they have been impossible for me to find. At major tournaments you can find me asking, “do you have any Unglued Squirrel token cards?” Inevitably, the answer is “not with me.” Well, here’s the deal— mail in however many squirrel tokens you can spare to Bennie the Squirrel King, care of Star City. They will forward them to me, and I will send you a rare in exchange. If you want, give me a color preference, and I’ll try to send you one in your favorite color. I won’t send you a Masticore or Gaea’s Cradle (unless you send me a boatload of squirrel tokens), but I promise it won’t be a junk rare. It’ll be a card I’d play with. How’s that for a deal? I mean, what good are your one or two Squirrel tokens doing you gathering dust in your commons boxes? This way, next time you read about me beating someone down with Squirrels, you can smile and know it’s one of *your* squirrels that’s tearing someone a new one.

There’s a funny side story I’d like to throw in here regarding squirrels. When I was a freshman in college many moons ago, I lived in a dorm at the edge of campus. It was in heart of Richmond, and nearby was this old, semi-run down park. During the winter, when all the trees and bushes were bare and the grass was dead, the place could get downright creepy. Being an aspiring writer who liked horror, I wrote a trilogy of short stories set in a park; one was about a kite-eating tree that didn’t mind munching on flesh, one was about a ghost who’d run along with lone joggers, and one was about some fearless squirrels who got hungry. Really hungry. Downright viciously hungry. Your imagination can fill in the rest…

So, I’ve always subconsciously enjoyed siccing my killer squirrels on my opponent. Yeah, I’m a sicko. At least I don’t play combo – I’m not *that* degenerate! But Prophecy does give us another chance to play with squirrels, and that, my friends, makes me a happy green mage. Let’s look at my main man–

Squirrel Wrangler
2GG, Creature – Druid 2/2, Rare
1G, Sacrifice a land: Put 2 1/1 Green Squirrel tokens into play.
1G, Sacrifice a land: All Squirrels get +1/+1 until end of turn.

The only thing that would have been better is if he were an elf (and could have been fetched with the Poacher). As it is, he goes along great with his fellow druids, Yavimaya Elder and especially the Groundskeeper. Wow, has Prophecy caused the Groundskeeper’s stock to go up, or what? With a Wrangler and Groundskeeper in play, you can pretty much create two squirrels or pump them up every turn without being countered. Not too shabby! What’s even nicer with the Wrangler is, if you’ve got a Cradle out, you can sac a land to effectively double your mana (one land = two more critters). How’s that for a deal? Anyway, in honor of a new set coming out, here’s a brand new, completely untested deck for you.

Squirrelkeeper Control
4 Elvish Lyrist
4 Groundskeeper
2 Vine Trellis
4 Yavimaya Elder
3 Masticore
4 Squirrel Wrangler
4 Deranged Hermit
4 Tanglewire
4 Creeping Mold
4 Plow Under
3 Gaea’s Cradle
4 Rishadan Port
4 Treetop Village
12 Forest

It’s a little rusty, but has some potential. Obviously, the biggest problem is Powder Keg, but there doesn’t seem to be as many people out there playing the Keg. Perish is also a problem, but then again it’s a problem for any green deck. Fecundity could be a good sideboard solution to both problems.

Much like my States deck, this deck really leans on Groundskeeper to both keep the Wrangler going, and to feed the Masticore. I’m half-tempted to throw in some graveyard recursion to try and make sure I can have a Groundskeeper out most of the time. Anyway, that’s my first thoughts on the Wrangler. I imagine he’ll prove to be just as popular as his Deranged elven counterpart, and for the brief time they’re both Type 2 legal, look out!

Now I’d like to go through a few of the Prophecy cards that really stand out to me. As a little time goes by and we actually get to play the cards, I’m sure I’ll reassess what’s "good" and what’s "bad." But for now, my first impressions:

In General…

The Avatars are kiddie cards, and are probably going to be game breakers in limited. For Constructed play, I imagine only the black one might see some play, with a possibility of the blue one showing up in some sort of U/B discard deck. The green one is terrible; what’s the use of having a big trampler if he’s going to have to be held back to block the swarm of opponent’s creatures? In casual/group play, I imagine the Avatars will make a pretty big splash since the reduced casting cost conditions will be much easier to meet. The Winds are pretty much the same, though probably only the green one might see Constructed play as a super Might of Oaks while Gaea’s Cradle is still with us.

I really like the Rhystic spells and their ilk; I think they add a nice new strategic element to the game, and encourage deckbuilders to really think about their deck and the metagame to decide whether to use some of them. Of course some of them are no-brainer good, like the Rhystic Tutor – there should have at least been a life loss associated with this. Others are situationally good, which I think is good for Magic; the powerful effects may not always be there for you if your opponent has got a lot of mana. They also blend nicely with the cards that get better if your opponent has a bunch of tapped lands, a real nice cross-mechanic synergy.

The land-sacrifice theme is a nice one and R&D has done a decent job of exploring this. Some of them downright suck (Jeweled Spirit?!?), but a lot of them are good or downright powerful. The legendary spellshaper cycle is interesting, with all of them having fairly powerful abilities that might see constructed play, and will certainly increase the stock in Squee! I have to say I am disappointed that Flickering Peddler did not make it in the set, I really like that card’s possibilities.

Anyway, on to the individual stand-out cards (for me, anyway):

1WW, Instant, Uncommon
You can discard a Plains from hand to substitute Abolish’s casting cost. Destroy target artifact or enchantment.

Wow, we now have three really good Disenchants! I imagine this might very well tip the balance away from the powerful enchantment/artifact-based juggernauts from the Saga block. I imagine this will prove to be one of the more popular cards in the set.

Mageta, the Lion
3WW, Creature – Spellshaper Legend 3/3, Rare
2WW,TAP, Discard 2 cards from hand: Destroy all creatures in play other than Mageta the Lion. Creatures destroyed this way cannot regenerate.

He’s creature control, AND a beating stick. A Wrath at instant speed, whenever you want it? What’s not to like? Five mana for a 3/3 might be a little expensive in the current speed-driven environment, but look for Mageta to be a force come post-Urza block.

Mirror Strike
3W, Instant, Uncommon
During this turn, all unblocked creatures’ combat damage done to you is redirected to the creatures’ controller.

Ouch! This could really hurt a swarm deck! The first version of this card I saw did the damage back to the creature, which I thought was downright broken. This version is more reasonable, but still good.

2UU, Instant, Uncommon
You can discard an Island and another card from hand to substitute Foil’s casting cost. Counter target spell.

This card is a great new Force of Will. Seriously! Think about all the ways blue has to get an Island back to your hand… Gush, Daze, Thwart, Trade Routes. Blue can tap out all it wants to nowadays and still counter when it needs to.

2U, Instant, Common
Unless target spell’s controller pays X, counter that spell. X equals the converted mana cost of that spell.

Another powerful counterspell for all you blue mage doofuses that have been complaining about lack of quality counters. Well, they saved the best for last. Rethink calls back to the days of Arcane Denial, when you could easily splash counterspells. This one will be very popular.

Rhystic Study
2U, Enchantment, Common
When an opponent plays a spell, unless he pays 1, you may draw a card.

This could probably slip right into a blue bouncy deck as a nice way to feed your Waterfront Bouncer. Everybody plays spells, right? So it’s rarely not going to be useful. And just imagine this is group games! Thank god it’s a common so I can get 4 of them easily.

Greel, Mind Raker
3BB, Creature – Spellshaper Legend 3/3, Rare
XB, TAP, Discard 2 cards from hand: Target player randomly discards X cards.

I know people are dismissing Greel’s power, but… an instant-speed Mind Twist is something to think about. Black can get him out early enough to make a 3/3 decent beat down, punched through counters with a Duress if necessary, and he will give control decks fits. I’d say he’s a fair swap out for Thrashing Wumpus against control decks.

Nakaya Shade
1B, Creature – Shade 1/1, Uncommon
B: Unless any player pays 2, Nakaya Shade gets +1/+1 until end of turn.

Black has gotten a few decent beatdown critters of late, and this is one of the better ones. A 4/4 critter attacking on the third turn could be a pretty good followup up to a turn 1 Negator.

Rhystic Syphon
3BB, Sorcery, Uncommon
Unless target payer pays 3, he loses 5 life and you gain 5 life.

Great. Just what we needed, a card to make Bargain better. 4 Syphons in your deck at 5 life a piece = 20 points of damage! No longer is Yawgmoth’s Will critical to the deck winning. Joy.

Rhystic Tutor
2B, Sorcery, Rare
Unless any player pays 2, search for a card in your library, put that card into your hand, shuffle your library.

Unbelievably good; Demonic Tutor is back and almost as powerful. I predict this will be one of the big money cards in the set, so get your four quick. Design your deck right, and never worry about your opponent paying that 2 mana. I really wish they hadn’t printed this; Omeed is 100% correct, Tutors and Tutor-like spells and effects are what’s fueling the combo craze we’ve been suffering through. It’ll continue until someone wises up and jerks the Tutors from 7th edition… and until they stop printing cards like this.

Keldon Arsonist
2R, Creature – Soldier 1/1, Uncommon
1, Sacrifice 2 lands: Destroy target land.

He’s probably pretty good; much like Tectonic Break, in the right deck you should be ahead on lands to make this a solid play. Another card that begs to be in a deck with Groundskeeper.

3G, Creature – Beast 5/4, Uncommon
At the beginning of your upkeep, unless you pay GG, sacrifice Darba.

Remember, green mages– the upkeep is not a drawback, it’s insurance against theft by pesky blue mages who don’t want to summon creatures themselves! He’s big, and his drawback is neglible. I’ll take it!

Elephant Resurgence
1G, Sorcery, Rare
Each player puts a green elephant creature token into play. These tokens get "This creature’s power and toughness are equal to the number of creatures in its controller’ graveyard."

Green-Black is one of my favorite combinations, and here’s a card that’s liable to be perfect for that style of deck. Along with Carrion Beetles to make sure you don’t get Elephant-envy…

Jolrael, Empress of Beasts
3GG, Creature – Spellshaper Legend 3/3, Rare
2G,TAP, Discard 2 cards from hand: Until end of turn, all target player’s lands becomes 3/3 creatures, they still count as lands.

I think Jolrael is pretty good, it gives you some nice tricks. She should probably be in the Squirrel Wrangler deck as insurance against Powder Keg. Think about it – if your opponent tries to pop the Keg, turn all their lands into zero-cost critters. Sure, your squirrels are dead, but they just one-way ‘geddoned themselves. Heh. On the more beatdown front, it would be nice to tap a couple of Elves and animate a bunch of 3/3 beating sticks; mix with a Cradle and you easily cast the green Wind to make ’em all 10/10’s. Now, that’s green power!

Living Terrain
2GG, Enchant Land, Uncommon
Enchanted land is a 5/6 green Treefolk creature that’s still a land.

This is going to be a beast once Powder Keg is gone. A four drop 5/6 is pretty good in most everyone’s book.

Mungha Wurm
2GG, Creature – Wurm 6/5, Rare
During your untap phase, you can only untap 1 land.

Another green fattie that your blue control opponent is not going to want to steal! A bit dangerous in a world filled with Ports, but in the right deck (with lots of mana critters); it should operate just fine.

Spore Frog
G, Creature – Frog 1/1, Common
Sacrifice Spore Frog: Prevent all combat damage this turn.

Post-Urza’s, this is liable to be a pretty decent one-drop green critter. Particularly nice that it doesn’t have to tap to activate it’s ability, so it’s immediately useful.

Thresher Beast
3GG, Creature – Beast 4/4, Common
When Thresher Beast becomes blocked, defending player sacrifices a land.

Could prove to be a great beatdown critter in control green, backed up with Creeps, Ports and Plow Unders. Hate to have it stolen, though…

Wild Might
1G, Instant, Common
Target creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn. Unless any player pays 2, that creature gets an additional +4/+4 until end of turn.

Okay, everybody knows this is amazing. I only mention it so you don’t think I missed it or something.

Chimeric Idol
3, Artifact, Uncommon
0: Tap all lands you control. Chimeric Idol becomes a 3/3 artifact creature until end of turn.

This is like a mini-Masticore. How, you say? Well, I imagine it’s going to find its way into all sorts of decks, both aggressive and control-oriented. Both style decks can work around its "drawback," and for some decks the drawback helps. It’s beatdown! It’s control! It does it all.

Rhystic Cave
Land, Uncommon
TAP: Unless any player pays 1, add 1 mana of any color to your mana pool.

A nicely balanced card that will give multicolor decks a much-needed boost. Early in the game it’s very likely to give you the colored mana you need; later on, you’ve probably got the colors you need and they won’t bother denying you the mana. If nothing else, it can act like a self-activating Port.

Overall, I’m very pleased with the set. Sure, there are some downright unplayable, bad rares, but most of them are at least interesting and playable. But what I really like about it is that there’s a nice distribution of power through the commons and uncommons, too. To me, having good playable cards throughout all the commonalties (instead of being top heavy in the rares like some sets of old) is the mark of a decent set. I look forward to getting my hands on some of these.

Bennie Smith