Onslaught – I Bet You Never Saw This Coming!

Even though the Sealed format is sometimes dragged down by ridiculous rares, the draft format may be the most interesting draft format ever. In drafting strategy, the power of Tribes outweighs many of the broken rares in the set.

When Wizards put out a set that was base black, we scratched our heads. When they put out a set that made all the green/white mages happy, we were a little confused, but accepted it. Now they have done it – they have achieved what they were looking for: They made a set where people play half of their cards face-down.

I love face down cards. I kept hoping they would reprint Camouflage or Illusionary Mask, but in a new, more powerful way. This isn’t exactly what I had in mind – but one thing is for sure: Morph is fun.

Morph is not the most powerful mechanic around – it will probably see very little Constructed play. However, it gives the Limited environment a special something that it hasn’t really had in a long time – sheer joy.

I think there is a vast difference between Sealed and Draft limited formats, but for this set, the rules apply doubly so. Sealed deck seems to be about playing the colors of whatever rares you busted open. Even so, with the morph mechanic and powerful cycling cards, it makes deckbuilding very interesting. Questions like”Should I splash these double-color spells?” and”Is it better to play an off-color cycling card over a mediocre card in my color?” arise more often than not. You might be surprised at the answers – Limited Magic is starting to work in a whole different way!

I often find myself splashing red for Sparksmith and Goblin Taskmasters – I don’t feel bad about splashing the taskmasters because I know they can at least be a 2/2 for 3 Morph creature, and sometimes they will power up the Sparksmith! I have put Lay Waste or a Disciple in my deck solely for the Cycling ability. Finding your bombs and lands faster than your opponent is a vital strategy to winning at Onslaught sealed!

Even though the Sealed format is sometimes dragged down by ridiculous rares, the draft format may be the most interesting draft format ever. In drafting strategy, the power of Tribes outweighs many of the broken rares in the set. Since you can be more selective about which creature types go into your deck, you can build a powerful Tribal deck that becomes a near unstoppable juggernaut! For instance, drafting many elves will let you abuse cards like Wellwisher and the Everglove Courier; the elf strategy can be complimented with Wirewood Savage, making it more attractive to draft beasts. The end result will be an Elf/Beast deck that could be Green/Red or Green/Black. Also, the Creature Type Lords become very powerful in Draft – when you get them in sealed there is a good chance you will not have nearly enough of the required creature type to effectively activate the Lord. However, in Draft, you can pick those creature types much higher in order to make your deck have a super-good card!

There are many draft strategies, but I think it is great that people can counterdraft cards and still possibly play them in their decks because they have morph. This may institute a large amount of color splashing/switching. Often, I will have one main color and two other colors – but I will have no idea which one is the splash. A lot of this is due to morph – it lets you cheat on your colored mana ratios is a very important way. Remember when I asked about splashing double-color spells? This is how it happens! Some of the Morph creatures will have a double Colored casting cost, but only a single colored morph cost – for instance, the casting cost for Spitting Gourna is 3GG and the morph is 4G. You might be interested in drafting Gournas if you are going blue and already have a few fliers, this will help you make sure there is nothing in their way!

Evasion is another interesting issue in Onslaught – Green, Red, and Black have very few fliers among them – and the ones that they have are very mediocre (aside from Silent Specter, who falls into the bomb rare category). Black’s major method of breaking through is Fear, and Green forces damage in via Fattie. Red had some tricks and burn. I still am trying to gauge the effectiveness of Wave of Indifference and Taunting Elf. The fact that Taunting Elf is an elf gives it play value in this format, but a card like Wave of Indifference – a”Bad Falter,” for all intents and purposes – has won many a game. The Dirge (a black cycling card that gives all of your guys fear) is extremely powerful but mostly because of the cycling effect. My guess is that Wave will be much like Demoralize – play it in a deck that tends to stabilize in a creature standoff after an early beatdown game. Eventually, cast Wave at their team while yours comes in for the win. Remember, while there are no Fogs in the format, there are cards that gain life as an instant, and there are creature removal spells that are not worth casting in a standoff situation. You might run by their team and come up just a little short – then you can watch their team come in for the win.

There are many nuances in the limited format – but Onslaught’s impact on Constructed will be nothing short of monumental. As it has already been pointed out by Mike Flores, the new saclands are positively insane. However, they are insane in such a way that is good for Magic. I can applaud Wizards for producing very powerful cards and then giving them to all the colors equally. It is normally very difficult to do this and stay in flavor, but the lands to exactly that. Also, I think that the new cycling lands may see some play. They sort of present a way to fit four Obsessive Searches into a tight deck without sacrificing your mana base, thus making the deck tighter. There have been no extremely tight decks in Standard for a long time, but now I think we will see a lot more appearing. This also gives deckbuilders to be more creative in their color selection.

People will be asking themselves if they should play an extra color, since it won’t really cost them anything to do so. The new Standard may reflect the old Extended more so then the new Extended in that respect.

Another invitational card has hit print – Kai Budde, six-time Pro Tour winner has come to Magic in a new way. Unfortunately, I think he might opt for a mulligan on this one. I am not sure exactly what went wrong – but somehow, his card ended up being a lot less spectacular-looking in more than one way. At least Jon Finkel will always know that four Shadowmage Infiltrators will go into the deck before four Voidmage Prodigies. A small consolation if anything – considering Kai is now #1 on the all-time money list (he had to actually win this Pro Tour to get it). Everyone is buzzing about is the Wizards deck. Is it good? Well, that all depends. I believe that the Wizard deck will, in fact, be good. However, it may take more invitational winners than you think to make it into what it needs to be. I just can’t wait until Dave Price wins the Invitational. I mean – Goblin Wizards are really where it’s at!

If Morph won’t see play in constructed, then cycling certainly will. Cards like Slice and Dice are particularly interesting because their effect cannot be cannot be countered. Cycling Wrath of God seems appealing against the control decks in the format – no more dead cards in that matchup!

I suppose a lot of the new Standard environment will be determined by the prevalence of Blue/Green. Will the Quiet Roar deck rear its ugly head again? Probably – but Standard has the tools to defeat it handily. The metagame will quell and then the new cards will shine. I personally want to see Reanimator back in full force.

These days, anything is possible but one thing is certain: Magic is more fun than it was two weeks ago.

Nate Heiss

Team CMU