The world slowly returns to flow and movement, punctuated by the occasional paralyzing images of still life.
The thing I can’t get over is how beautiful the days have been since Then. Except for one day where the we were hit with rainstorms and high winds, it has been the most beautiful early autumn weather you can imagine. Crisp, cool air. Warm sunshine cutting through the breezes. Cloudless skies. Quiet.
Some individuals don’t think these articles should mention anything at all about our recent tragedy; I disagree, for this should be mentioned, talked about, discussed, and processed, and all of us, no matter our age or political beliefs, should mourn the loss of innocents. (Innocents. Innocence. Both words could fit there.) As such, I feel I would be remiss to not take a moment to honor those individuals in various communities that were brilliant motes in the darkness Â— and who have continued to be so.
Perhaps it’s my imagination working overtime, but the release of Odyssey seems to mirror real life when you consider the set represents the aftermath of the devastation wrought by the Phyrexians, their long-standing hatred visited upon the crew of the Weatherlight and bringing out the most heroic and tragic characteristics of those we knew.
I won’t be mourning the loss of that tired storyline, and am ready to move on, in life, in Magic, and in my article, lessons learned, new concepts burgeoning, and outlook forever changed.
After participating in the prerelease on September 22nd, I feel that this set is going to take a while to break open. I saw more people scratching their heads in confusion than ever before, and players who normally are quite expedient in their decision-making, self included, spending half of their day rapidly calculating and recalculating the possibilities for Threshold and Flashback.
I went 5-2 in the main flight before drafting (and quite poorly, at that). Here’s the nuts, kids Â— this set is going to be difficult. Yes, there are some obvious decks out there, but some of the interactions seen at the prerelease hint to this set living up to its”Expert” billing.
Is there anything flagrantly broken? I don’t think so. Are there a lot of good cards? Definitely.
Here’s one of them, a sleeper pick of mine simply because, hey, it’s white, and dammit, I like white.
Aegis of Honor
1: The next time an instant or sorcery spell would deal damage to you this turn, that spell deals that damage to its controller instead.
This card will be played in Standard and Extended. When I read this, I danced a jig before realizing that I currently liked red more than white, and then cursed the fact that once again white gets a hoser for red that red can’t remove in the current set.
That, of course, is ridiculous, and I’d appreciate it if you could remind me again why they didn’t reprint Anarchy. Oh Â— because Disorder is so much better.
How good is Flashback, and how good is Threshold? The two mechanics are in direct opposition to each other, which makes an interesting conundrum. As Scott Forster commented to me, it’s not like we ever said,”Man, Echo and Cycling sure do interact badly.” My initial thoughts are that Flashback is superior simply because of the card advantage gained, but when you look at certain white cards such as Mystic Crusader and Mystic Enforcer, you see very strong finishers. With protection from black and red, it’s even conceivable, no matter how strange it sounds, to build a deck with Crusaders as the only kill mechanism. Last time I heard, 3/2 flyers that have to be killed by another creature are pretty good. More on him in a bit.
Never before has the graveyard been such an integral part of our deckbuilding. I don’t mean”I need to make sure I have Ebony Charm in my sideboard to combat Replenish,” I don’t mean”I need to put Cremate in to avoid Nether-locking myself”… I mean a significant percentage of your deck is likely going to have Flashback or Threshold spells or be geared towards stopping one or the other for a very, very long time.
That means maindeck answers.
The world of Magic is about to pull a 180 and go screeching off as far away from the Cult of Gerrard as it can, because the environment has drastically changed.
It’s just begun Â— we can look forward to more thresholds being reached and more flashbacks, because this is just the beginning.
For the last several months, we’ve seen a great polarization in deck archetypes Â— Fires, of course, dominated for many months because it combined the best of both green and red beatdown in an environment where other beatdown options, Blue Skies notwithstanding, were veritably nonexistent. Skies’ blue fliers would normally have been chewed up like an old hambone if not for the presence of free counterspells and the midgame Wash Out, which allowed the deck to grow a set of cojones that served it well in numerous tournaments no matter how many times everyone said the archetype was dead.
The majority of other decks, by necessity, positioned themselves all up in the Midgame quadrant of the fabled metagame clock, just as expected, and found ways to keep Fires under control. Fires was never broken, it was just damn incredible, and by the time November comes, we’ll be looking back at it and thanking the stars it’s out of the format Â—but while we’ll certainly miss Blastoderm and Saproling Burst (as a nail misses a hammer), the cards we’ll really notice are gone are the ones that powered the decks that put a leash on Fires.
The cards we want now. Instants. Ones that ensure answers or generate more.
To an extent, we’ll miss Vendetta, Snuff Out, and Nether Spirit.
What cards are going to replace these? Who knows? The trick isn’t the kill card Â— everyone and their mother is going to examine Iridescent Angel, and half of us will think it can be done because blue/white can stall for that long if it means that chances are five attacks will win the game, and the other half will toss it in the Unplayable pile and laugh at the people who lose their lone pair of Angels to four Barbarian Rings.
No, the trick is the card-drawing power that existed for blue, backed up by free counterspells. I’ve Gushed into a Foil or a Counterspell more times than I can remember. I’ve sent Rages packing with a Misdirection. AK became the staple blue card drawer to the point where it was a gimme in any blue deck Â— even the mirror.
Let’s take a look at control. Let’s take a look at beatdown. I’m feeling inspired, and new decks have been prancing through my imagination like Le Cirque du Soleil.
In fact, let me take this opportunity to throw out a few generalizations and opinions-disguised-as-fact, and I’ll let you decide what’s worth listening to and what isn’t. There are deck concepts sprinkled in here that I hope to have time to flesh out. I admit, writing this is interesting; I usually wait awhile before commenting on the immediate changes in the environment. It’s been three days since the prerelease, and I’m not a Magic savant by any stretch; I’m just a deckbuilder who’s determined to win.
Ergo, this is my challenge to myself, to take a look at this article months from now and examine 1) how much crack I was smoking, and 2) how much I should have been listened to.
1. This is an anti-control environment.
Force Spike, Counterspell, Rites of Refusal, Memory Lapse, Evasive Action, Syncopate, Absorb, Undermine, Dromar’s Charm, Fervent Denial.
Those are the hard counters available to us. By that, I mean these are the spells that can stop any spell in the game. (Yes, they can’t stop uncounterables, but I’m not in the mood to put a disclaimer after everything I type. Wait Â— this is a disclaimer. Never mind.) Disrupt isn’t a hard counter; neither is Exclude.
Three of them offer your opponent the ability to tap mana to allow their spell to resolve.
One of them buys you a turn of tempo at the most.
Two of them require another color of mana; one requires three colors.
One of them is blatantly unplayable. I’ll leave it up to you to figure it out. Just make sure you exhibit or are marked by great intensity of feeling about refuting my assertion.
Yeah, that’s a wee bit of a clue. If you can’t figure it out, let me know where to send the hand puppets.
Counterspell and Syncopate are the two most basic counterspells that should form the backbone of a counter deck; if a person doesn’t run Syncopate in this environment, I’m really questioning why. With the recursion available and the green flashback critters in particular, Syncopate is a ready-made answer that has already ascended to standard inclusion in my control builds.
Absorb and Undermine are standard fare for the right-colored decks. Evasive Miscalculated Mana Leaking Action and Rites of Refusal are the next best quality-wise, and Rites requires you to either be packing card drawing to replace the card disadvantage or utilizing some sort of aggressive or ever-tricky Threshold deck where, say, you don’t mind filling up the graveyard because it makes your Krosan Beast that much larger that much faster.
Flashback means counterspells are hard to play. If you let that Firebolt through now, eventually it’s going to come back at you like that embarrassing episode from your college days, likely with a full complement of Urza’s Rages and Barbarian Rings to boot. Countering a Roar of the Wurm just means that 6/6 will be recast for cheaper on the next turn Â— or that if you’re busy countering an Elephant Ambush or a Beast Attack that they’ve cast at the end of your turn, you better hope you have Aether Bursts in the graveyard to kill those tokens, or you can start planning to bring in the Hibernations from your sideboard to win games 2 and 3.
What Flashback does is multiply every threat in a deck by two.
I think that means blue/red counter-burn is dead.
Yes, you heard me: Counter-burn is dead. I want someone out there to prove that assertion wrong. I’d love it to be me. I love that archetype. However, you’re going to be spending a lot more time burning creatures than you are sending shots at someone’s head, and if you save mana for counterspelling and attempt to burn at end of turn, you’re leaving yourself open. A first-turn Devoted Caretaker can thwart your entire strategy. A Wild Mongrel can be essentially unkillable until you can bounce it.
You get the picture.
If it can be done, it exists in the form of black/blue/red, because black will enable you access to graveyard manipulation and creature kill that isn’t damage dependent.
A card that might escape people’s notice is Extract. In an environment where your first-turn options are essentially reduced to Opt, Force Spike, Sleight of Hand, or Stormscape Apprentice, Extract stands as an immediate solution in a similar vein as Duress.
Extract out a Rage, Extract out a Flashback card, get rid of land, get rid of counterspells. If you’re not packing Extract and Syncopate, you’re already one step behind the nature of the environment, which is”Out of Game: Good.”
Standstill is another adorable card. It looks silly at first, but when you consider the extreme lack of card drawing, its appeal grows Â— and then you see its strength. This card is worth a turn 2 play, but even more worth a turn 4 play. Examine the card drawing for blue once again. Right; that didn’t take long, did it?
This is the”who blinks first?” card. Chances are, it’ll be the person whose spells you’ve countered in the last couple of turns. If they don’t play, then you accumulate counters, and it’s much more dangerous to let the control player have twenty turns to sit around than the beatdown player. It doesn’t matter if you draw cards, because I’m drawing stuff to stop them. If you give me time, I’ll garner a hand full of seven answers that will neutralize your handful of seven threats.
Our other cheap card-drawing option is Words of Wisdom Â— sort of a reverse Arcane Denial without the benefit of countering a spell. I like Arcane Denial, and have used it effectively to power combo decks because the card drawn is more important than the disadvantage. That’s a focused purpose, however, not merely incidental card drawing. Words is acceptable, but the potential for greater pure advantage clearly lies with Standstill.
2. You can create a viable beatdown deck that has zero creature spells.
This is what makes life most different Â— and difficult. Green doesn’t have to operate at sorcery speed any more in order to generate a beatdown deck with Elephant Ambush and Beast Attack. It can use Roar, Chatter of the Squirrel, and Call of the Herd. Mind you, not using Wild Mongrel to ditch flashback cards into the graveyard or achieve threshold quickly would be a bit silly, but if a person wanted to, he could build Creatureless Green Â— and still be the beatdown.
Do you counter that turn 4 Ambush… Or do you counter the one he flashes back? One spell is soaking up two of your counterspells – and letting 3/3 critters through, for blue, is not always a good thing.
That’s why Syncopate is some good. And, hey, go Aether Burst.
If you want to crank up the speed and aggression, back up these non-creature creatures with Firebolts, Shocks, Fire or Rage, and Reckless Charge.
Yes, that’s right, Reckless Charge. Red is back, and if you want to deem Charge as the equivalent of OBC Fires, be my guest. It’s a cheap, reusable haste effect that provides a tremendous power boost. I witnessed some games at the prerelease where people were regularly attacking for fourteen or fifteen on the fourth turn. Beware cards like Rites of Initiation that can overwhelm you before you’re prepared. It’s worth dropping five cards if you’re attacking for an extra ten damage, no?
Do not underestimate it. And do not underestimate how challenging it is to build a control deck to beat these reusable effects.
3. Speaking of beatdown, it’s everywhere.
Get out your Meekstones.
Of course, if you use Meekstones, then you have to deal with the multiply-efficient bears in the environment Â— and Mongrel can easily swing from these and then untap on the next turn.
Red is back, and to an extent, black is back. Be prepared for the Mogg Sentries to finally be used as additional stress against control and resistance to anything that doesn’t Bolt for a minimum of three. Watch for the Mad Dogs, and watch for the Ember Beasts; the only thing more frightening than efficient burn spells are 3/4 red creatures on the third turn, because you know they’re going to be backed up by removal.
And haste. I’m not necessarily sold on Pardic Firecat, but when he can pump your Flame Bursts up higher than Kindle ever dreamed of being, red has a very strong curve that reads Sentry, Firebolt, Charge, Shock, Dog, Beast, Rage, Cat and ninth card of your choice.
Also, please do the math here: 4 Urza’s Rages = 12 uncounterable damage. 4 Barbarian Rings = 8 additional uncounterable damage. 4 Petrified Field = 4 Barbarian Rings, = 8 more additional uncounterable damage. Firebolt can swing twice.
Whaddaya think? Solid basis for a red deck? For a green/red deck?
What about black, white, and blue?
Blue is difficult because it has lost so many good creatures. Will Merfolk finally make an appearance? Probably not, as it will quickly be engaged in ground stalls. Blue’s uber-efficient fliers are gone, and the top of the mana curve for that sort of deck involves the Thought Eaters that reduce your hand size. While topping out at a Thought Devourer isn’t a bad idea on the mana curve, the lesser ones provide too much of a drawback because they’ll almost certainly cause you to discard at the end of the turn they come into play, and you don’t want to lose the threats that traditionally allow this sort of deck to surprise people.
Black gains Crypt Keeper and Filthy Cur, and already has Hate Weaver Â— but its strengths may not lie in mono-colored strategies. However, having the ability to get rid of a flashback card and generate a contemporary-era Jackal Pup isn’t too bad. Black has some potential in the form of its Threshold critters, such as Frightcrawler and Dirty Wererat.
What shines, however, is white, and black may wind up being a supplement to this strong beatdown strategy.
Why is white so good?
That’s a pre-made deck. What have we learned? White weenie, properly built, can beat other beatdown decks. Why? Because they have 1) protection, 2) varied removal effects, 3) evasion, and 4) first strike.
Red and green don’t have that melting pot of synergies, particularly in the form of evasion. White can generate cheap flyers, but there are few cheap tramplers for green, and if red can’t burn blockers out of the way, haste means it’s just going to sit there impatiently wishing it could penetrate the defense. Don’t underestimate white’s first strike capabilities. White can go from the offensive to the defensive in the space of a turn and stall out the game until it can generate a flyer or someone with the right color of protection to finish you off. Sideboard in Aegis of Honor and you don’t even have to worry about kicked Rages, since redirection is no longer”prevention and then reapportionment”–it is simply a change of target. So much for that”I’ll just wait and Rage the counterdeck strategy.
The card I haven’t mentioned? Mystic Crusader.
1WW, protection from red and black. 2/1. Sweet already just because he’s hard to kill. Doubly sweet and full of milk because he just gets better. Why didn’t they make him first strike just for kicks? He’s only inferior to Paladin en-Brokenvec because he doesn’t kill a Ball Lightning before trample damage is assigned.
Back to Standard Â— if you have seven cards in your graveyard, say, some creatures you’ve traded early or extra lands discard to Patrol Hound, all of a sudden he’s 3/2.
Oh, and he flies.
Oh, look – a handful of first-striking guys with high power and protection from burn.
Yeah, that’s a deck.
4. With control weakened and beatdown strengthened, midgame decks will rise until combo reveals itself again.
And when the pigeon princess is bathed in a red moon, the winds of the deep will strike for the final time.
Suddenly, I’m channeling Nostradamus. (In that case, of course, there’d be an e-mail sent out, egregiously misquoting me, heralding the end of civilization as we know it. Moving on.)
The way to beat the beats is to create decks like God. It’s worked for me in the past, why not now? Wrath of God is still Wrath of God. It may be one of the most valuable cards in the environment, though at times I have the sneaking suspicion that Rout will eventually curry favor because it can be cast as an instant.
Control is weakened, but you can counter and then Wrath and still have reasonable levels of advantage. The recovery period, however, is changed in the faster environment, and midgame needs to be able to handle that Wrathing one turn may result in a pair of 2/2s being dropped immediately following.
People building land destruction decks may be pleasantly surprised at the vast array of cards available. Is there any more obvious LD threat/finisher than Terravore, particularly when Tremble exists? Back up everything with burn. Splash black for Terminates or Deeds. There’s strength there – not in countering spells, but in eliminating your opponent’s ability to play them.
Welcome back, land destruction. I’ve missed you. ::sniff::
No, that’s not more crack.
Balancing Act may seem like a frivolous, hard-to-use white card, but if you’re skilled at resource management, it could be surprisingly effective. Plug it in alongside Wrath, Threshold critters, and midgame effects. Half the time, you only need a Crusader on the board to win anyway, right?
Make the beatdown deck run out of steam. Reach the stabilization point where your cards will net the most advantage… Then crack the whip. I previously used Cursed Totem to hose multiple decks in the environment. There’s no Totem now, but there is Catalyst Stone.
You’re going to see a lot of these, both offensively and defensively. Green decks would be silly not to use them to accelerate their own flashback and to confound the mirror. Control decks should be prepared to sideboard them in or maindeck them and abuse them. I had the benefit of one in my sealed deck, and when it resolved it was nothing less than extraordinary.
Hmm….Recoup is particularly nice with Wrath of God.
See if you can guess where I’m going here.
Stone. Wrath. Recoup the Wrath for 1R, WW. Flashback the Recoup for 3R Â— or 1R again, with the Catalyst Stone Â— when you want to flashback something else. I bet Recoup works well with Earthquakes, too. Or Ghitu Fire.
Wait a second Â— this is how God was built. Same freakin’ colors. White/red. What is it with me? Is this my latent passive-aggressiveness exerting itself? Do I have a lack of imagination in stretching beyond my carefully delineated, self-ascribed white/red fetish?
No, dammit. I like blue, too.
I do not have control issues.
5. Speaking of combo…
One is evident: Traumatize/Haunting Echoes. That’s a ten-mana investment over one or two turns in an environment sans Dark Ritual that will, most likely eliminate the majority of threats Â— including a significant amount of nonbasic lands Â— from a person’s deck. You know, complain about not having Ritual all you want, but I don’t miss it. It’s not because I hate it; if you recall, I said it shouldn’t have been banned in Extended. It’s simply nice to have it gone for once, particularly when there could be a broken combo deck created with blue/black all up in here.
Oh, and listen, boo Â— Mirari is not a combo card. I’ve heard countless individuals raving about Mirari and how they can”fork everything!” The best was someone saying,”Fork my kicked Rage!” Okay, if you have fifteen mana sitting on the table, along with a Rage, and the person hasn’t already beaten you, they deserve to lose anyway, and your Mirari isn’t the reason why, and if you want to take Divert into effect, you need seventeen mana available.
Is Mirari breakable? Potentially, yes, I will not deny that Â— but not in Standard. Show me Tinker, show me artifact mana acceleration, and we’ll talk about a new Stroke deck, a combo-Rage deck, some new Turboland-esque affair that I don’t have the talent to even imagine, much less create.
There are cards that raise eyebrows because at some point in time you expect someone to do something with them. New Frontiers. Nefarious Lich (go Life Burst!) Time Stretch. Holistic Wisdom. Only time will tell if someone’s able to creatively utilize these cards for strong effect, but first glance indicates it’s going to be rough.
(Random aside: Skeletal Scrying, Syncopate, New Frontiers are the only X spells in the set. Nutty.)
I’d like to take Tainted Pact and find a way to use it to set up a combo. It’s possible, with enough deck creativity, to avoid the number one difficulty in using the card. Just put a lot of redundant one-of and two-of spells, and you might have a very fast deck with instantaneous response to a lot of problems.
Too. Many. Concepts.
6. We’re reconsidering card advantage.
These, compadres, are the questions that have been lifting me higher than I’ve ever been lifted before:
How does one measure card advantage when your opponent’s cards have flashback?
I discussed counterspells way up above. But discard, normally a 1-for-1 or better trade, could instead net you a Roar of the Wurm. And we thought Dodecapod was painful. How’s that Duress action, pal? Here’s my hand of Firebolt, Charge, Mountain, Mountain, Ring, Ember Beast, Mad Dog. Your pick. I’m still one ahead.
Sweeping midgame effects are a necessity against beatdown decks, but Wrath of God could result in an end of turn elephant being flashbacked. Please, Mr. Beatdown, attack every turn without impediment.
Rites of Spring. Debate now. Is it a strong Threshold achiever and deck thinner? Or is it a waste of space that’s causing you to lose good spells?
Is card advantage somewhat detrimental if you burying a permanent means that the rest of their deck gets better due to Threshold? Yes, I Shock your Filthy Cur, but now your Nimble Mongoose is a 3/3 untargetable.
Yes, I Coffin Purge your Beast Attack and your Ambush, but now your Gorilla Titan is 8/8.
Is Odyssey going to blow away the metagame clock because only one section of the clock Â— Beatdown Â— is going to take advantage of both new mechanics?
7. A few of the names in this set are hilarious.
That makes me giggle, and that’s a good thing. Every time I think or say”Filthy Cur” I imagine myself with a Tony Boydell voice. For a second, I flashback to old movies, half-expecting someone to call me”knave.”
Have you noticed the dog cycle in Odyssey?
Have you read the flavor text of Patrol Hound?
I’ll never be the same.
But there are other great ones Â— like”Dirty Wererat.” Oooh. ::purr:: C’mere, you dirty wererat.
We’re back to creatures we like Â— minotaurs, dwarves, nomads, and yes, Druids! Druids, did you hear me?
Speaking of which, the auction deck I most enjoyed submitting was this… It wasn’t selected. Did anyone notice that the selection committee apparently decided to ignore its own rules for selection?
//NAME: When Druids Attack!
3 Ancestral Mask
2 Spidersilk Armor
3 Treetop Bracers
4 Briar Shield
4 Squirrel Wrangler
3 Fugitive Druid
4 Verduran Enchantress
4 Yavimaya Enchantress
4 Yavimaya Elder
1 Heart of Yavimaya
1 Treetop Village
I love Druids.
There are twelve Druid cards in this set.
My Everquest character’s a Druid. Ah, Everquest.
Ahem. Oh, what? Magic, yeah.
I like names like”Concentrate.” I wish Fervent Denial was attached to something useful. I like”Iridescent.” I like”Decimate,” and man, do I wish it were phrased like Hull Breach instead of being worthless (great in multiplayer, though.)”Zoologist.””Bearscape.””Still Life.”
Did you notice the spell”Simplify”?
That’s the name I picked for my uncounterable Disenchant card. And they stole it from me.
A small violin plays.
One more thing in this section, though it doesn’t really fit:
What the hell is Nomad Stadium doing in print?”Okay, I’ll tap and sacrifice this land to recover some of the life I’ve lost tapping it for mana for the last seven turns.”
I think there’s a better card out there Â— like, say, a freakin’ Plains.
Colorless lifegain is so broken!
8. Wizards knows what it’s doing after all.
If you’ve not yet completely digested the new cards, I don’t blame you Â— it’s rough. One thing which must be noted is that Wizards put a lot of thought into both Invasion and Odyssey Â— and completely fooled us because IBC and OBC look to be as different as Urza’s and Masques.
Please note that blue has two flashback spells Â— the unplayable flashback counterspell, and an overcosted flashback sorcery that is of dubious usefulness in anything but Sealed.
There’s one Threshold card.
That makes three blue cards with the new mechanic. Why is this important? Why is this notable? Because blue, my friends, is the color of abuse. Because blue can fill up a graveyard pretty damn easily. Imagine highly efficient blue Threshold cards, after they’ve countered your spells for nine or ten turns, as well as spent mana on cantrips. Hi, I not only delved into my deck to get Threshold Bomb, but it’s undercosted and fits perfectly into my strategy.
Um, no. Likewise, giving blue solid flashback likely frightened them Â— so they took this set off. Who knows if the next set will change things?
Personally, I am disappointed in Fervent Denial. I would like to see it at least be playable. If it were 1UU for a counterspell and 3UU to flashback, it seems both balanced and very hard to abuse. I don’t care how broken your deck mechanic is; having 3UU available is harder than you think. Perhaps they feared Extended or Type 1 ramifications – who knows?
Let’s continue the color analysis.
Green gets the lion’s share with twelve fat Threshold critters and nine fat Flashback cards Â— and the majority of them are not only playable, but scary. How good is flashbacking the instant-speed creatures I mentioned earlier? Green can play with the big boys now.
They’ve always teased us with instant-speed creatures in previous sets. I’m glad to see them not only provide more, but to do it in a big way. I want to see green be frightening, I want people to build comboriffic mono-green that kills you before you can say”Oof.”
Green’s the only color that can truly go either way with the new mechanics. Use Rites of Spring to thin your deck by five land, achieve Threshold, and go to town with an increased threat ratio. Werebear is a turn slow for acceleration, but who complains about a 4/4 mana-producer for 1G? Early testing does show flashback green is superior due to its inherent card advantage, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone utilize threshold innovatively and build a strong green/white midgame deck.
Black has nine Threshold cards and five Flashback cards. Please note once again the distinct lack of Flashback cards, which is particularly valuable because black has possession of the graveyard manipulation mechanics. To put black on an equal playing field with, say, green, and to then also give black cards like Coffin Purge, Entomb, Tombfire Â— it would drastically shift things in black’s favor. Black gets to be the hoser color in this set, and it should be rapidly filling up the graveyard combating other decks rather than busting out its somewhat-nice-but-not-really Threshold guys.
White has eleven Threshold, and three Flashback; at least it beats blue in that department. The Disenchant effect (Ray of Distortion) is ridiculously overcosted, but it’s not as painful as Fervent Denial because there are always viable alternatives for white to use. Embolden is a surprisingly effective card, but is it Constructed quality? Throw four of those in your white weenie deck, and you’ll likely find that it is Â— but then you’re cutting a hyperefficient threat. Ah, the dilemmas we face.
White also is denied efficient flashback, for the same reason blue is Â— it would make it too easy for blue/white to ascertain dominance. Cheap flashback Boomerangs and Disenchants would mean bad times for the rest of the world, because it would generate a situation where the U/W player would be able to generate more answers than an opponent had threats. Imagine if Ray of Distortion was 2W, with a 3W flashback.
That’s Extended-caliber, immediately, just for the sake of its ability to be used again. What beats Duress? Flashback, baby. We’re willing to pay one more than we should for an effect if the benefit is evident. Hard to protect Trix when they can’t take away your Disenchant.
Oh, wait, we don’t have to worry about Trix. ::innocent whistle::
That’s another article.
White does, however, have Threshold creatures, and thus has been effectively steered towards beatdown. White has expendable creatures; hard to kill, yes, but expendable. To make up for having no flashback, they get Mystic Crusader and Mystic Enforcer (which it shares with green).
Red has six Threshold and ten Flashback. That’s definitely a significant amount, and very strong in sealed play. Don’t be deceived, though, because a lot of red’s flashback cards are Constructed worthless. You try recurring a Volley of Boulders. Seize the Day wasn’t played when it was Relentless Assault. Scorching Missile will never be cast. Engulfing Flames is inferior to Scorching Lava. Bash to Bits looks around for artifacts and remembers that it’d rather be Overload because there’s not much out there to get rid of. Firebolt, Volcanic Spray, Reckless Charge, Recoup, and Earth Rift are the ones to look at.
(Anecdote: There are always two decks that are archetypes in every environment: mono-blue and mono-red. Any cards introduced in a set contribute to every other environment. Red and blue instants need to be watched as closely as black deck manipulation for potentially abusive effects; the white Disenchant effect is protected as next to godliness. That being said, so far I’m impressed with the way Odyssey is unfolding. The best non-green ones will likely be two sets away.)
Meanwhile, red acquires good-but-not-amazing Threshold cards. Epicenter is the new Armageddon Â— but how much of a drawback is it to have to wait until your graveyard is full? Shower of Coals is a card you may initially chuckle at, but can be devastating simply because it can be twelve damage for five mana.”Um… Elephant, Elephant, You.”
What does that bring the final tally to? Let’s see:
Green: 21 (12 Threshold, 9 Flashback)
Red: 15 (6 Threshold, 9 Flashback)
Black: 14 (9 Threshold, 5 Flashback)
White: 14 (11 Threshold, 3 Flashback)
Blue: 3 (1 Threshold, 2 Flashback)
Gold: 1 (1 Threshold, green/white)
Feel the bias.
Flashback is green and red’s revenge for Corpse Dance, Forbid, and Capsize, methinks.
Are we back in Rath cycle? Don’t make the mistake of underestimating this environment’s speed. I cannot say that enough. I feel that control eventually evolves, over the course of a Standard year, to the dominant deck archetype. But at the start, it’s beatdown that dictates the tune to which we’ll dance for the next Standard season.
I, for one, welcome the challenge of this set, and its timing as a much-needed diversion is fortuitous. I’ll be losing myself in Odyssey for months trying to establish control in an chaotic environment. Control means knowledge of your opponent and recognition of their tactics. Going into the future with our eyes closed is not the way to go about it; the environment we knew has been irrevocably changed, and the future of Magic involves graveyards.
Let’s pray ours doesn’t.
-m / 00010101