Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days of auld lang syne?
Farewell, Classic 6th Edition. ::clink::
I’m not sure about you, but I’m much more excited about 7th Edition being our base set than 6th. Really, did ANYONE call it Classic without rolling their eyes? Did it FEEL Classic? Did it make you feel anything at all aside from a growing sense of disillusionment when you realized that good cards weren’t really going to be brought back and it was a charade perpetuated by Those In Charge in order to limit introducing any sense of change into the Standard environment short of the expansion sets?
Typical deckbuilding moment:
"Okay, I’ll look through the base set now for some cards to add…"
"Hmmm. Looks like Resistance Fighter still isn’t going to make the cut. Feast of the Unicorn sure did SOUND good a few years ago. Wait a second. How come we never see utility creatures like Radjan Spirit and Unseen Walker?"
Because they suck, that’s why.
There was a very short list of cards that were viable in C.E. Standard, and they’re the ones that are ALWAYS included. Birds of Paradise. Llanowar Elves. Disenchant. Counterspell. The standby cards. We had a number of cards that just didn’t FIT, in addition to the great number of cards that were simply not viable. I don’t know why they needed to reprint Phyrexian Vault, my friends, but they can package it up with Spitting Drake and Mischievous Poltergeist and ship ’em all to Barbados.
No, Barbados is NOT a Legendary Land.
We’re losing some good cards–a lot of cards which I’m very partial to, and which I’ve already complained about losing in my Paranoia article. There are cards entering the environment that may revitalize Standard by the time May 1st rolls around. If Apocalypse then introduces the hypothesized opposite-color gold cards and lands, we might see some very interesting decks emerge from underneath the shadow of Fires.
Opposite-color gold makes me shiver with delight. Pass the plate and serve me up a delicious helping, please, and don’t spare the whipped cream. With the delightful gold cards so far, I’m really hoping that there are consistently playable opposite-color ones, where there weren’t in the past.
Ah, the possibilities.
Counter target spell. Put 3 1/1 Saproling tokens into play.
"That’s not what the recipe SAID…"
The thought of new cards is the needle in my vein. Sigh.
Should we forget our old friends and never think of them again?
Should we forget our old friends and the days long past?
Good questions – and Wizards answered us with a hearty "Hell, no!" and kicked Classic to the curb. They got rid of the zer-o, baby, and got themselves a her-o.
7th Edition is a beautiful set. Not only do I approve of most of the card choices, but also they did an amazing job with the artwork. There are very few groaner pictures, the ones that you almost hope you don’t have to play with because you can’t stand looking at them. The colors of THESE cards are vibrant. They have texture and depth and aren’t merely cartoons. Don’t take my word for it. Check ’em out:
Not only is it a handy reference guide, but for newcomers, it’s chock full of, um, strategy.
Okay, that’s pushing it a little.
Seriously, Wizards has done a bang-up job on its website as far as 7th edition goes, and they deserve a healthy round of applause.
Kudos aside, how much of a difference is 7th going to make?
I know that some people – for example, Jon Chabot, one of my favorite writers – can’t stand 7th edition because they see the elimination of certain color hosers as limiting the environment more than it needs to be limited. I’m rather fond of 7th edition, however, because I feel it introduced more playable cards than existed in 6th.
To examine this, I wanted to pick apart the card list, and see which exiting spells actually appear regularly in current decks, and which spells we can reasonably expect to be brought into decks with the introduction of 7th.
What that means is that I’m not going to look at every card that comes in and out. I’m not going to gloss over the entire list and present it as an article. I’m also not going to write long descriptions about cards whose impact was barely felt and won’t be missed. Prosperity’s gone, whoo-hoo. I don’t care – what I care about is how this metamorphosis is going to affect us.
I’ll separate each color grouping into four categories: "Damn!", "Whoo-hoo!", "Hmmm…" and "Shrug." Though you can probably figure them out, here’s a quick rundown:
- "Damn!" means it’s a big deal to see the card go, because it was meaningful or critical in some way. Ankh of Mishra, for example. It’s huge because it eliminates an entire archetype.
- "Whoo-hoo!" is what’s coming into the environment that we can look forward to seeing. That doesn’t mean that it’s going to be highly successful, but people will play with these or try to develop tournament-caliber decks utilizing these cards.
- "Hmmm…" are cards that may surprise people or are on the bubble as far as playability, ones that down the road may be powerful.
- "Shrug" is for cards that are leaving, a sort of "I hardly knew ye" farewell, and a last look at why they seemed good but weren’t played.
For example, let’s take White’s Shrugs. Is Exile useful? Yes. Is Tariff? Yes. Were both of them widely played and something you’d expect to see in any given tournament? No. These were cards that didn’t quite make the cut into standard construction, or had some drawback in the current environment that made them particularly suboptimal choices.
There were other cards like that as well.
DAMN!: Armageddon, Crusade, Enlightened Tutor.
Goodbye, staple card. Gone, baby, gone, my love is gone. Armageddon makes a quick exit out of the environment, making green/white deckbuilders shake their heads in chagrin. W/G always counted on Armageddon against control – its weakest matchup. One of the strengths of W/G is its useful and hard-to-kill creatures, but being able to seize an advantage and reestablish board position before its opponent with use of ‘Geddon and mana creatures was crucial.
Is Global Ruin a sufficient replacement? It’s obviously an inferior card. The initial inclination is to say no, but people are playing with a significant number of non-basic lands nowadays. Ruin destroys all of them, leaving a plains and a forest on your side of the board – and if you already have accelerants out, can provide a quick change in tempo. I’m sure someone’s going to give it a shot, but the best and brightest land destruction spell has left the building.
Crusade, one of the most frequently used white enchantments ever, was showing up in Rebel builds as a counteragent to Simoon, and allowing Lin Sivvi to be a bit more secure when she reviewed her troops. Crusade, which I thought was strangely left in while Bad Moon was removed, has now gone away. Crusade had a way of making mono-white a bit more threatening, so that its opponents didn’t point at their creatures and say "Oh no! 1/4! Please, don’t attack! I can’t take the abuse!"
With opponents taunting you like that, you can see how easy it was to gather up the muster for a crusade and sally over. (Momentarily, by the way, I’m missing Jihad. Old school and mean, just the way I like it.)
Enlightened Tutor was powerful and prevalent. My God deck relied upon them for its various tricks. Tutor! Fetch me a Totem. Tutor! Bring me my Parallax Wave. Tutor? A Chimeric Idol, please. Blue/white control used it to gather its lockdown cards and color hosers. With most effective sideboard options being enchantments of some sort, it enabled blue/white to have a very strong and flexible reaction to whatever deck it faced. Run some Tutors maindeck and you can splash all kinds of sideboard cards (Hmm, I’ll take one Ivory Mask, one Light of Day, and a couple of Chills to go, please) to mix and match as needed, confident it’d be backed up by counterspells.
I discussed these above, but have some further thoughts. Personally, I think that Tariff was a very solid and underused card – particularly in a creature-filled environment. Particularly with the untargetable Blastoderm. The necessity of having a response to Blastoderm in your deck probably sent a lot of creature removal packing. Indeed, it took black and red a rather long time to regain viability as an allied color pairing. Though Tariff fit the bill nicely, with the dominant white-packin’ decks being Rebel variants – which certainly didn’t want to bury their own high-end searchers – and Blastogeddon, where it’d mostly garner a trade, Tariff simply wasn’t used. If the White Weenie of old existed, Tariff might have been a solid removal choice. In C.E. Standard, though, it just doesn’t quite FIT.
Exile suffered from the fact that it was 1) targeted, and 2) not useful against white creatures. Who wanted to face down a Blinding Angel and have an Exile in hand? Facing Rebels? Instant dead card. If it wasn’t limited to nonwhite creatures, I’d venture a guess that Exile would have been used a bit more, but being dead against two of the top critters in the environment relegated it to the Classic Dustbin.
WHOO-HOO!: Serra Angel, Glorious Anthem, Worship
Do I really need to discuss a 4/4 nontapping flyer that ranks among the most popular cards, ever? Probably not. At one point in Standard, she was too powerful. At another point, she was too slow and weak. Right now? She fits in the environment perfectly. Her casting cost is right, her powers are right, and I have the suspicion that based on popularity alone, she’s going to want to get right out there and announce to the world that she’s back. No Blinding Angel here; Serra wants your eyes wide open, proclaiming her glory.
Blue/white control gets another threat. Air Elemental, the two Angels; that’s a load of 4/4 flyers to choose from. I only wish that Sengir Vampire had come back as well; however, I suppose it’s a bit out of flavor for black nowadays and we’ll have to make do with Serra’s evil twin. Aside from blue/white, though, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Serra appear in a wide variety of decks – maybe even some newfangled BlastoRuin. Perhaps Rebels will start to splash her to give them more offense, and the Rebel engine will thin out a bit. Perhaps Aggro U/W will be developed. All sorts of options – and no matter your opinion on Serra herself, you know that people will try them, just because, well, hey – it’s Serra. Beware the Danger of Cool Things.
No sooner is Crusade gone than Glorious Anthem replaces it, however. It’s a bit more expensive, and probably more balanced – doesn’t get out as quickly, still has the ol’ double white, but doesn’t make you roll your eyes when you’re facing an opponent who also happens to have white creatures. A nice swap made by Wizards in this case.
Worship? Now, here’s a card for you. This fits in all sorts of places. It has pleasurable results against a multitude of decks. With black removal being rather low, a lone Crimson Acolyte could hold down the fort for a rather long time. Facing Fires? Drop this and you might be able to hold down the fort until you can catch up. I think that pro-red creatures may make a comeback with the addition of Flametongue Kavu to many Fires builds, and Worship may dictate that Fires needs to start paying attention to Hull Breach, Reverent Silence, Tranquility, or Thunderscape Battlemage.
HMMM…: Pariah, Gerrard’s Wisdom
One card that I think might surprise people, is Pariah. Somewhere down the line I see someone trying the Pariah/Cho-Manno, Revolutionary lock. Overall, I think that Pariahs will wind up going the way of Exile, except as a potential sideboard card against red/black. But blue/white with Pariah/Manno? Keep an eye on it. Pariah/Voice of All? Very possible.
Gerrard’s Wisdom is an excellent card for blue/white control, and against some of the faster clocks out there, may provide the extra turn or two of life that will enable the deck to establish control and swing the momentum in its favor. Usually good for ten to twelve life, this plus Absorb give the blue/white mage some serious stalling mechanisms against even the fastest decks.
DAMN!: Mystical Tutor, Power Sink
Mystical Tutor was not uncommon in variants of Draw-Go and the emerging Turbo-Chant archetype. Turbo-Chant, of course, is dead before it even establishes itself, as it loses spells like Recall and Relearn that are too critical to be able to effectively replace. In fact, there are a few archetypes that are dying – Turbo-Chant, Ankh-Tide, NetherHaups, God – and I don’t recall that happening when 5th rotated out. Of course, I didn’t pay attention as much then.
With Mystical Tutor joining the mass Tutor exodus (apparently, they found better pay elsewhere), you’ll note that library manipulation seems to be at an all-time low. While there are some efficient drawing engines in the environment in Accumulated Knowledge, Opt, Brainstorm, and Fact or Fiction, removing the Tutors means that the environment takes yet another step away from supporting any sort of combo deck.
Does anyone miss combo yet? We’re caught with the polarization of Beatdown vs. Control. I miss combo. ::sniff:: I miss Ankh-Tide. ::wiping tear::
Not gone yet, Mason, get a grip. Be a step above.
Seriously, though, the difference between being able to LOOK for a certain card and being able to GET a certain card is subtle but huge.
Power Sink is one of the most frequently-used counterspells, and I was rather surprised to see it leave. Its ability to drain your opponent’s mana pool and stop them from trying to run you out of counters by casting multiple spells in one turn was a very underappreciated side effect. In addition, it was the most easily-splashed counterspell for decks wanting to pack blue but having colored mana considerations.
Recall may raise a couple of eyebrows, but it was a very useful card. In fact, on a regular basis we ponder why Nether-Go didn’t pack Recall to solve the number of uncomfortable Spirit situations. In black/blue versions, Cremate is available, and superior. Recall was expensive, but I always thought that it was an excellent late game card to get back one or two key counterspells or utility effects.
WHOO-HOO! : Mahamoti Djinn, Arcane Laboratory, Opposition, Force Spike
Laws! Blue certainly picked up a bit here. A number of viable spells, all of which will show up in one form or another. Where to begin?
Mahamoti Djinn, known to close personal friends as Fat Moti, is blue’s largest flying threat – and without the disadvantage of Sibilant Spirit. Now, wait a second – what about Sibilant Spirit? Why wasn’t that ever given a shot? My instinct is that it was its cost moreso than the card disadvantage. With blue’s drawing engine, it should be able to keep up for the four turns of attacking (or, in the Spirit’s case, sssssavage beatsssssss) necessary for the win. It must be the casting cost – in that case, why are people so excited about the harder-to-cast Djinn? Interesting. Sometimes, letting your opponent draw a card is irrelevant; Indentured Djinn taught me that.
Anyway, Moti is likely going to suffer from "He’s Back, I Must Play With Him" syndrome, and I think many people will consider him worth the effort. Personally, I’ll stick with cheaper creatures.
Arcane Laboratory just begs to be put in sideboards or turned into a freaky deck. Blue’s card drawing potential right now is strong. How good is Lab against Fires in a Draw-Go variant? They’re not going to be packing too many Disenchant effects. I just had some freaky image of Arcane-Nether-Go mirror matches where two blue mages sit and stare at each other until one of them discards a Spirit, both knowing they can’t cast anything without it being countered.
Speaking of counters, Force Spike is a welcome addition. I love those types of counters. It doesn’t have the temporal disadvantage of Daze, and being able to stop a turn 1 Birds of Paradise or Seal of Fire or Ramosian Sergeant is pretty darn nice. Is this a game-breaking spell? No. Will it be seen? I think so.
Opposition is a card that I think begs for abuse. If you package this card with green, you have it out quickly and can immediately begin locking your opponent. Prison decks may exist once again. There’s no Deranged Hermit, but there are Saprolings to be had and Rebels to be recruited with which this could be abused.
I automatically consider potentially powerful blue enchantments to be a notch above any others because of their natural counterspell protection. People may have forgotten about Opposition, but I doubt it – look for something around Opposition to arise.
HMMM…: Fleeting Image, Temporal Adept, Thieving Magpie, Equilibrium
Fleeting Image is an underrated creature that may wind up in Blue Skies or similar aggro decks. It has solid power and evasion, and its ability to preserve itself is useful. People play with the Gliders because of their evasion and protection, after all – hard-to-kill 2/1 flyers are generally solid in Standard.
Temporal Adept really doesn’t seem to have a place right now, but with Equilibrium in the environment, someone may try and develop a permanent denial deck. Put in various Rishadan pirates and you may have a burgeoning archetype. Heck, throw in Arcane Lab and you might have something.
Thieving Magpie was once the centerpiece of an archetype. With the plethora of flyers clogging up the skies today, I’m not sure if Magpie-Go is going to come back. There are other superior creatures and strategies that the deck naturally evolves towards. At four mana, other people are dropping Blastoderms. Magpie, you’re too slow. However, I never quite believed that Magpie-Go worked in the first place, and it obviously did, so I’ll keep the jury deliberating over this one because I was proven wrong before.
Equilibrium has seen better days – I remember a particularly enjoyable Equilibrium–Aluren combo that had an amazing number of tricks to it – but it could possibly make a comeback. Since it’s not triggered off of creatures coming into play, it may be a bit rough to make it work, but I’d love to see someone give it a try – and chances are, someone will.
DAMN!: Vampiric Tutor
When was two life better spent? I don’t need to say too much more about the tutors being gone, but realize that this was the best tutor in the environment, and arguably one of the best ever created. The ability to grab any card you wanted for a minimal payment is going to be missed, and this was a staple card for decks with black mana available.
SHRUG : Terror, Stupor, Derelor, Zombie Master, Necrosavant, Hidden Horror, Syphon Soul, Hecatomb, Feast of the Unicorn, Pestilence
Good cards. No room. Terror really isn’t used much at all. People go crazy over Terminate, but when was the last time you saw Terror played? Mind you, this is even an environment where until recently there were very few black creatures being played. Terror’s a classic, but it’s out.
There’s a host of decent creatures going by the wayside. Hidden Horror or Necrosavant? With the death of Suicide Black, and the ability for decks to bust out 5/5 Blastoderms by turn 3, Horror was too small at 4/4 and Necrosavant was too slow to be of any effect. Zombie Master suffers from not having many zombies – until recently – and now people prefer Lord of the Undead, despite the fact that regeneration is more useful nowadays than +1/+1 and recursion. Derelor seems nice until you remember that green gets a larger creature out of it AND has the acceleration to make up for it. Black doesn’t want to pin itself down after its 4th land drop.
I love Necrosavant (The Black Hammer), and always tried to fit it into decks, but just couldn’t do it. Sigh. Goodbye, old one.
Syphon Soul is too weak for Standard, as a two-point life swing isn’t worth it. Gimme an uncounterable Rage-like effect for 2B – a three-point lifesteal instead of damage – and we’re in business. It’s underdeveloped, dammit. Work it, Wizards. (It was meant for multiplayer, Mike, but we’ll play it regardless of what set it’s in because us multiplayer homies don’t play dat Type II – The Ferrett)
Hecatomb and Pestilence are both nice cards. Hecatomb was a pet card of Scuta Forster’s, and tres annoying to lose to, but its cost was too high in an environment chock full of enchantment removal and quick beats. Pestilence suffered from being too slow as well – see how wonderfully Blastoderm defines an environment? Turn 4, drop Pestilence, he swings for 5. Turn 5, Pestilence it, so you’re already at 10. That’s no good – that’s no good at all.
Feast of the Unicorn I had to put on the list simply because it looks good at first glance, but in reality is quite inferior to other creature enhancers. For that price, it should have a television installed on the card.
It doesn’t. No real shrug here. Just good riddance.
WHOO-HOO! : Duress, Ostracize, Megrim, Corrupt
Whoa, Nelly. (No, not you, Miss Furtado. We’ll talk later.) Black beatdown may have been weakened lately, but the pendulum has swung towards discard effects, as you can tell with recent cards such as the gold Specters, Bog Down, Recoil, and Marsh Crocodile. It looks as if when handing out the gold abilities, they decided to finally focus on this very strong element of disruption. I’m glad to see it return.
Duress is one of the most powerful cards in Extended – and seeing it reprinted was initially very disturbing to me. However, after thinking about it, I’m glad to see it return. It’s the natural counter to counterspell decks and cards that black normally doesn’t have any answer to. Saproling Burst, anyone? Well, if I Duress you and grab that, maybe I can follow it up with an Addle for green next turn to nab that Blastoderm you’re holding.
Duress affects what black cannot affect. Enchantments, begone. Artifacts, begone. Instants? Sorceries? Get away with your bad self.
Ostracize, however, was Duress’s bastard cousin. People looked at it, shook their heads, and tucked it safely away, only bringing it out on occasion to show their friends. "Have you seen Ostracize? Poor thing."
Ostracize never FIT. But, wait a second – what sort of environment are we playing it right now? A creature-oriented one.
Suddenly, it just might work. Ostracize that Airship away. Get rid of that mana critter or ‘Derm. What? Is that a Ramosian Sergeant you were just holding? The existing archetypes are relying heavily on early creatures because everyone knows you have to have an answer to the ‘Derm.
Ostracize isn’t dead anymore.
Will one or both be played? I think Ostracize may still find itself shackled to the walls of the barn, but if there’s a good time for that card, it’s NOW.
I’m very thrilled, as I’ve alluded to previously, that Megrim is back–with a vengeance. Asymmetrical negativity, peeps. Reasonably priced, it can be Ritualed out and followed up with discard the next turn. I already mentioned the combo of Urza’s Guilt and Megrim, and just the other day sent Jay M-S to the showers early with by Guilting him for sixteen lost life. Mmmmm, life is a sweet fruit.
Megrim is an enchantment that isn’t going to be the sole method of victory, not in this environment. But it’s a complementary strategy that can be coupled with some solid creatures and bounce to keep your opponent’s board clear and their hand full of targets for your discard.
Guilt/Megrim’s just crying out for synchronous development, by the way, much like any Opposition decks. I look forward to seeing what people come up with.
Corrupt is back, which is very good for the base set. I think that black’s lifestealing ability should be developed more, and this is a solid late-game card. Black has been developing its late game, which compensates for its previous early-game dominance, and it’s interesting to watch the color slowly metamorphose over the last few sets. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Corrupt assist the emerging red/black archetypes as a finisher or a stall mechanism until they draw additional threats.
HMMM… : Engineered Plague, Unholy Strength
Engineered Plague has long been one of those cards I always look to find a place for. I’m not sure if it’s going to have too much of an effect, but it’s one to keep in mind should any strange archetypes start developing. God forbid someone come up with a wacky Saproling deck or Elf deck. Green has more than Blastoderm, dammit, and I’m certain someone’s going to realize that someday.
It’s also good to see Unholy Strength back. If you couple Unholy Strength and Sinister Strength, we have some serious creature boosting that black has been lacking. Real boosting. Efficient boosting. Ones that can take creatures like Phyrexian Battleflies and turn them into monstrosities. Yes, creature enchantments are inefficiency personified, but every now and again I stumble across some rogue mono-black deck in Standard and think "Hmmm… You never know."
Of course, that’s why they’re in the "Hmmm…" category, simply because you want to note these cards in case something comes up.
DAMN! : Jokulhaups
Really, red hasn’t lost too much that’s going to devastate people aside from Jokulhaups. ‘Haups is one of the cards that gets grouped into "favorite cards we never play." However, NetherHaups has been making waves recently – just in time to appear at Regionals – and it’s certainly going to be a short-lived experience.
At least Obliterate is still there.
SHRUG : Hammer of Bogardan, Balduvian Horde, Goblin Recruiter, Volcanic Geyser, Giant Strength
Hammer of Bogardan may have been a Utopia Tree when it came back into the environment. People, myself included, were excited. The control-beater is back!
Well, it didn’t do much. It’s still slow at sorcery speed, and with a double red in its cost no one has the five mana to spend during upkeep bringing it back. It still appears, but usually there’s only one in a deck as a "just in case". Hammer’s a good spell. Just not quite as good as we thought.
Balduvian Horde surprisingly wasn’t used more, as well. It trades with Blasty, after all, and Phyrexian Scuta hasn’t been around for that long. You’d see the Horde pop up in a few mono-red or Ponza decks, but it never really got a fair shake as a quick 5/5 beatstick. It’s surprising, really, that red didn’t make more than a token effort in the current environment. Mono-red is always worth investigating. With Burst so prevalent, it could splash white or green for enchantment removal and go to town.
Oh, wait. Splashing green means that you might want to give your guys haste. Which means that…
Sigh. And this, my friends, is how decks evolve into their highest form.
Goblin Recruiter is such a cute card. I mention it mostly because, well, there aren’t many good goblins out there. However, I’d like to think that with Coat of Arms out there, a lot of cute little inefficient decks are made possible. I’d also like to think that someone will invent a Shrieking Mogg/Embargo deck, but that could be the crack I’ve been smoking.
Goblins, though I hate the buggers, haven’t been worth talking about since the days of Lackey and the Moggs, which sounds like some garage band gone horribly awry. I kinda miss ’em now.
Volcanic Geyser is interesting as "the card that was never played." Everyone just raves about Ghitu Fire, because it can be cast as an instant for only two extra mana. Geyser can be cast as an instant and is only one extra red. Ghitu Fire isn’t really a "splash for red" sort of card where you’d be short that red. So, the obvious question is: Why is everyone so hyped about Ghitu Fire all the time while the Geyser is largely ignored?
The obvious answer is that Geyser’s hard to cast in the early game, when you may not have the double red to spare. But you knew that. Stating the obvious must be a talent of mine. Still, Geyser never saw much use before Ghitu Fire. Some cards just never get a chance.
Giant Strength just doesn’t have a place. It’s a red creature enhancer. Eh? Red doesn’t need that. Red needs burn. Burn good. Me want instants, me want damage, me no want little creature with Giant Strength.
That’s really the only reason I mentioned Giant Strength, by the way – it might have been the only red local enchantment to ever see much play – and that wasn’t much at all.
WHOO-HOO!: Shivan Dragon, Pyroclasm
Shivan used to single-handedly cause people to fold. If you weren’t holding a Swords to Plowshares, you were toast when he dropped on the table. When I saw this 5/5 monstrosity hit, I ducked and covered and wished that I played an aggressive color instead of white.
Shivan’s back. And, remarkably, now he’s just one of the guys. Is he going to be played? See Angel and Moti. He WILL be played. It’s important to note that the decision between Shivan and Two-Headed Dragon in Fires decks may be difficult. Shivan dodges opposing Flametongue Kavu. Two-Headed Dragon dodges opposing blockers. Their pump abilities are relatively equal.
Which do you play, the evasive one, or the tougher one? It’s a tough call. Right now, with the Flametonguer out, I feel 5/5 is best. At least make them use it in concordance with their Simoon instead of trading outright.
Pyroclasm is a very nice card for red/black’s sideboard. Another old favorite of mine, I was very happy to see it reappear. Being able to sweep the board on turn 2? That’s good. Cave-In was too high of a cost (two damage and either five mana or a card) to really be heavily played. All that for two damage isn’t good. However, Pyroclasm is efficiently costed and won’t kill you with its backlash. What, turn 1 and 2 you summoned mana creatures, Fires? Kill them. Excuse me, Skies, what’s the toughness of your fliers? Thought so. Thanks!
Sergeant and Lieutenant, look over here! ::explosion:: D’oh. This is the sort of efficient large-scale removal that Red’s been lacking for awhile. Welcome back.
HMMM.. : Seismic Assault, Sudden Impact, Wildfire
I love these cards. These are the cards that I find ways to win with. That doesn’t mean I make top tier decks, but it means I can have some fun. Seismic Assault is a pain to get out, but it makes for a very fun finisher. It turns a third of your deck into Shocks. Is this possible to abuse? Surely there’s a way. Muahahaha. I just hope I can find one.
Sudden Impact is a bit easier to fit into the metagame, though. I’m already using Blood Oath. When Ankh-Tide rotates out, I’m going to need to tune my blue/red into something else. I wonder if blue/red could possibly fill up a hand so that I could Impact and kill him.
Put on your party dress, send the kids to Aunt Ellie’s, get out your Tangle Wires, and let’s go to town, li’l blue/red deck o’mine. Don’t mind the Seals and beware the Brawlers you’re going to see along the way, because there’s nothing they hate more than you leaving your land untapped in public.
Maybe we’ll have a red/white Impact-Chant deck. Put out some Howling Mines, Impact after they draw the cards… See where my mind goes when I’m not watching it?
What to say about Wildfire?
One, this isn’t the Wildfire your mother told you about. There’s no Grim Monolith, Voltaic Key, Thran Dynamo, Win setup here. No Covetous Dragon to fly over and win. Wildfire as an archetype is mostly dead.
But, you just know it’ll be played. I would love to see it emerge, as it was one of my favorite decks from the time of Urza’s Block. Blowing up the world is cool. Huh-huh, huh. There doesn’t appear to be the mana acceleration to support it. Man, what I wouldn’t give to have Birds of Paradise balanced for the rest of the world with something like this:
T: Add 1 colorless mana to your mana pool.
Sisay’s Ring doesn’t really excite me. It’s possible that Tinder Farm and Sulfur Vent can be used to accelerate. However, without artifact mana, there’s no way to establish the sort of advantage that Wildfire requires. It is a good card. Maybe it’ll find its way into red decks as a surprise against Counter Rebels. Hmmm. Nah.
DAMN! : River Boa
The best two-slot creature in Standard is leaving. River Boa has been a staple card that has only recently been phased out due to Fires skipping from one to three with their mana curve. Green/white builds everywhere will mourn its loss – and while it’s not as prevalent as it once was, this card was well loved and shall be missed. Its ability to take over against blue decks was huge. This makes Horned Troll the cheapest regenerator for green. I’m thinking something’s being phased out or weakened.
SHRUG: Uktabi Orangutan, Tranquil Grove, Fallow Earth, Worldly Tutor
Why do I have the feeling that we’re going to be missing Orangutan? It seems like one of the cards that should always remain in the basic set, but it’s gone. It’s leaving right as a few very interesting artifacts enter the environment, which I’ll list below. A small miracle, perhaps. It would have been interesting to see what new picture they came up with in 7th, since the first one went over so well with everyone. With the dearth of effective artifacts, Orangutan wasn’t played, but knowing it was there was very reassuring. Having to decide between "Damn!" and "Shrug" was a bit rough. He deserves a listing of his own.
Likewise with Tranquil Grove, which is one of the cards that you always say is a good sideboard option but never wind up actually using. There are always better options, Reverent Silence, Tranquility, Hull Breach, Aura Mutation; Tranquil Grove won’t be missed because green had so much enchantment removal it’s ridiculous, much like white.
Fallow Earth disappears, which saddened me because I loved the concept of temporal advantage that it gave to me. Tempo cards fascinate me. Cards that are awesome on turn 3 and horrible on turn 20 are horribly interesting. Tangle Wire is a perfect example of this. Veteran Brawlers is. Flailing Soldier even is. Fallow Earth was, at one point in time, a valuable deck component. Its day came and went, and it deserves a respectful nod.
Worldly Tutor, the least used of the Tutors. The strangely least-used tutor. Considering the wealth of great creatures green has available, I’m surprised that this has never really seen play. It’s never mentioned in the same breath as Enlightened, Mystical, and Vampiric. Never. Yet how many times do we wish we had a specific creature? "Man, if I’d only draw my Flametongue Kavu…" "Where’s that River Boa when I need him?" The answer lies in people preferring to draw another threat than tutor for a threat. If you make Worldly Tutor a creature to begin with, it should serve the same purpose.
WHOO-HOO! : Elvish Lyrist, Might of Oaks, Reclaim
Lyrist’s appearance may surprise you. Mason – look, man, this isn’t Extended. It’s not all that in Standard.
True, but I’m thinking we’ll see it at some point in time should any sort of Worship or Pariah lock deck get going, as those would likely involve counterspelling, which means Lyrist would be able to slip under the radar. Likewise with Opposition. Thus, I enjoy Lyrist’s presence because it’s a perceived response to a perceived metagame evolution. At the same time, it’s another answer for something that might give Fires trouble.
There’s always an answer for something that might trouble Fires.
In the mirror matchup, however, Lyrist could possibly be significant. Lyrist is removal at pseudo-instant speed with Fires out. Simoon, mirror match sideboard card of choice, still kills Lyrists. I’m curious if the ability to have a Lyrist out, ready and waiting for a Burst to drop, will cause people to use it.
Might of Oaks fits in Fires quite well. People may chuckle, but Oaking an unblocked Elf rather than waiting to cast a Wurm or Dragon might be the way to go. Have Saproling tokens? Chances are they can’t block all of them. +7/+7. Think about it.
Yep, that’s going to be played. It’s just powerful enough (and, interestingly, cheap enough) to fit into a faster, sleeker version of Fires.
Turn 1: Forest, Birds.
Turn 2: Land, Idol.
Turn 3: Land, activate Idol, draw mana and cast Might of Oaks, attack for ten.
Oof. Maybe Llanowar Elite will get played just because it has trample. Sure, he’s a 1/1 trampler, but hey! Make him 8/8.
Reclaim I thought would be an exceptional surprise card to replenish those Bursts and Blastoderms.
"Disenchant your Saproling Burst."
"Counter your Blastoderm."
"Block with Scuta."
It’s cheap, and considering the threats it could get back, it’s something to seriously consider. It’s not a disadvantage to redraw something half-broken. Especially if it has haste.
HMMM… : Ancient Silverback, Scavenger Folk
You know, there are a number of good creatures at that six-mana slot for green. The problem is that they’re often disdained for other creatures. Like, say, Two-Headed Dragon. Silverback slides next to Nemata, Rhox, and Verdeloth in my mind as cards that I really wish I could justify playing. A 6/5 regenerator? I like that. That’s some good. Saproling producers? 4/7 guys? 5/5 regenerating "block me, I don’t care" Rhox? I mean, geez. You’d think that they’d fit into decks.
Nope. But you know, one day Blastoderm won’t be around. And, you’ll start to remember some of these "hmmm…" cards. I promise.
Scavenger Folk, which will always be affectionately termed "wild-eyed Crazy Mary" by myself and approximately zero other people, fits into the same vein as Elvish Lyrist. It may not seem important right now, but if any artifact-centered decks arise, it’s a very strong opening drop against them. Right now, the only significant and common maindeck artifacts seem to be Chimeric Idols and Millstones. It seems as if it’s time for artifacts to begin an upswing again after being low impact for Masques and Invasion blocks. Is Wizards foreshadowing things to come by introducing certain cards back into the base set? Food for thought.
DAMN!: Ankh of Mishra, Cursed Totem
Man, do I hate to see Ankh of Mishra disappear. I won’t repeat my mourning of that or Cursed Totem, as I went on and on about them in the Paranoia article. However, a quick synopsis is that Ankh-Tide dies, and the best answer to Rebels and Fires’ early acceleration is gone. God deck, which I’ve seen appearing in a few Top 8’s, is gone as quickly as it arrived, because Glittering creatures aren’t quite as impressive without the asymmetrical abuse.
SHRUG: Primal Clay, Snake Basket, Crystal Vein, Svyelunite Temple et al.
Primal Clay I’ve started noticing in decks as well, though not enough to be missed too sorely. It sucks that it’s gone because it was an easy blocker for Blastoderm, which means it gets the nod. Artifacts in general have been weak for quite awhile, probably a reaction to the Urza’s Block that is understandable.
Snake Basket always seems to be something players are intrigued and excited by. However, there’s not enough fast mana in the environment to abuse it. When you have Priests of Titania, that’s one thing. C.E. Standard? Looks at Snake Basket on turn 4 and rolls its eyes.
All of the "sacrifice for two mana" lands are gone, as well. Rather, all of the ones from the base set, since Sulfur Vent and Friends are still in existence. This puts an immediate crimp into NetherHaups as an archetype. Not quite as much as losing, um, well, Jokulhaups, but still, it’ll be tried with Obliterate, right? Well, without Vein and Dwarven Ruins powering it, its flashpoint is much, much higher than before. I was always a fan of Crystal Vein, but there wasn’t anything worth using it for until NetherHaups came around.
WHOO-HOO!: Ensnaring Bridge, Static Orb
Now, this is what I’m all about. Two cards that will have decks built around them. Static Orb has "Serra Angel" written all over it – and we all know there are other nontapping creatures. Ensnaring Bridge has "weenie evasion deck" stenciled on its forehead, and could be backed into Blue Skies with a minimum of difficulty. Not only are both of these viable centerpieces of new decks, but also they both fit perfectly into the current environment. Everyone has been focusing on high-power creatures that can trade with Blastoderm. Run them up against Ensnaring Bridge and catch them at their own metagame.
Ensnaring Bridge. Ahh. Doesn’t it work well with pumpable creatures like Phyrexian Battleflies? Even Nakaya Shade. Hmmm. You know I have a soft spot for rhystic creatures.
::moment of silence for God deck::
HMMM…: Grafted Skullcap, Coat of Arms
The Skullcap is an interesting card because it generates an odd form of card advantage. I wonder what this would be like in a burn deck. I know that’s the simplest and least creative application of it, but some cards that cry out "I’m a skill tester" and cause people to avoid them deserve a second look. There’s something here. We’ll find it.
Remember that Saprolings/Elf mention when discussing Engineered Plague? Look no further than Coat of Arms than to see that someone’s going to be tempted to make some rogue deck busting out huge Elves and giving them Coat of Arms bonuses and +7/+7 when you don’t block.
Overpowered color hosers are slowly making their way out of the environment, which I’m very pleased to see. The moment Chill left, I danced a jig – and not simply because I play red. Rather, it was because there’s a definite imbalance as far as the colors’ ability to deal with hosers.
Hosers aren’t bad, per se; however, ones that are unanswerable disrupt game balance. Chill and Light of Day are the most offensive, because Black and Red simply can’t deal with them. Balanced color-hosers are difficult to create, but possible. Take Mother of Runes, for example. You have an opportunity to kill it; you may suffer card disadvantage later on to get rid of it. But you CAN kill it.
Traditional Scott input: "On the other side of the scale would be Brutal Suppression. This card would indeed be brutal if it were Brutal Suppressors – a 1/1 creature with the same card text. Instead, it’s an enchantment, which means white goes, ‘Oh gee, I guess I’ll just spend two mana (or one, if I have green and Wax/Wane) and THEN go ’bout my business.’"
I agree. That’s why cards like Anarchy and Flashfires are so valuable to an environment – they give red answers to the unanswerable. Having to cast huge spells to get rid of a color hoser, however, is ridiculous. Hosers should impede a deck’s ability to win, not completely shut it down.
There ARE solid color hosers for red and black. But they’re not as powerful as Chill and Light of Day. And heck, blue can always at least BOUNCE whatever sideboard you have against them.
Unless it’s Blurred Mongoose. ::grin::
Let’s see what 7th edition changes.
OUT: Chill, Light of Day, Warmth, Dread of Night, Stromgald Cabal, Dry Spell, Perish, Manabarbs, Flashfires
The moment I saw this, I felt like I was in the middle of an Herbal Essence commercial. (Minus the hordes of hunks following me around. I think I’m glad about that.)
Chill and Light of Day, the imbalanced hosers, are sent packing. No more drastic imbalance, right? Whoo-hoo! Dread of Night is a great idea, but no one used it, which surprised me. It stops Sergeants, at least, and does so even if they Disenchant it. Creature’s already dead, mate, sorry. Those Gliders bothering you? Feh. Scared of the dark, are they? Damn. However, once again, it’s an enchantment. The real loss is Stromgald Cabal, which was something that white had TROUBLE dealing with.
Dry Spell was an excellently underutilized card that was showing up in black/red builds as a symmetrical Simoon. It was valuable (along with Plague Spitter) in stopping Fires’ early mana production and eliminating Ramosian Sergeants and Defiant Falcons.
Perish is a turn too slow against Fires, but was still one of the few answers that was available for black against it and Blastogeddon. Some decks would splash black just to have the ability to bring in cards such as Perish or Tsabo’s Decree. I think that Fires has taught all of us the value of instant-speed responses.
Sideboard cards for red are odd because they’re not normally demarked clearly. For example: Sudden Impact, which I’ll discuss below. If you consider for a moment, it’s a spell that blue will typically want to counter. Likewise for Manabarbs and Citadel of Pain – cards no one recognizes as being sideboard cards, but which have single-handedly won me games against control decks. Even Planeswalker’s Fury, once it drops, can do much against a control deck that has few threats of its own. Hammer of Bogardan is an excellent anti-control strategy. These are the types of cards that should be developed a bit further, I feel, for all colors. Subtle color hosers. These cards are vastly different than Chill – and while painful for the opposition, they can be gotten rid of.
Ah, well. Manabarbs is gone, but will anyone notice? Probably not. Its only real purpose is this little mini-discussion on sideboard options.
Though white is my color, and I hate Flashfires, I’m sorry to see it leave.
I was really hoping Anarchy would find its way in, but as you can see by peeking below, it didn’t. Flashfires was devastating, but considering the advantage that goes to white in this matchup, I think it’s understandable. Going head-to-head, white beats red, if you play with both color’s strengths. Extended White Weenie looks at Sligh, looks at their protection from red guys and Honorable Passages, and chuckles. Red’s best path to victory is punishing white mages for overextending. Unfortunately, that sort of punishment is no longer available. Imagine Anarchy against Rebels. Oh my god! An effective sideboard! ::faint::
No, Anarchy isn’t there as many of us hoped, but at least they do seem to be catching on.
Unless you have a deck full of black and red enchantments along with artifacts, whatever you put down is, essentially, the only target for white’s disenchant effects. That’s one reason the sideboard options for black and red are generally weak.
There are two directions to go with the color hoser theory. One is that decks should have the type of cards that are their strengths. Thus, white can have Warmth and red can have Anarchy. Unanswerable options. The second is that decks can have cards that the other color CAN deal with. Thus, white gets Mother of Runes, and Red gets Havoc. What it needs to be is consistent. Decide one way or the other, Wizards.
Unless, of course, that’s part of how they maintain the waxing and waning of colors, by deliberately imbalancing the sideboard options available. Hmmmm..
I feel that red’s sideboard options should primarily be instants and sorceries, and Seventh Edition seems to have realized that.
IN: Hibernation, Baleful Stare, Sanctimony, Sudden Impact, Disorder, Starlight, Yawgmoth’s Edict, Thoughtleech, Compost, Bereavement
Speaking of instant-speed responses, Hibernation is in. Whoo-hoo! I’ve always been a fan of Hibernation, as bounce in general is one of my favorite strategies. It can be a large tempo swing in the early game, and a lifesaver in the end. If you’ve paid attention, you’ll see that blue/white control decks have really gained a significant number of options, and that Counter Rebels, while currently a very solid archetype, may eventually cede to a more traditional blue/white build.
Baleful Stare fits the blue vs. red sideboard matchup. It’s a Portal card that gives you a card for every mountain or red card in your opponent’s hand. Interesting concept, but I don’t think it’s going to be too useful. Good, dammit. In Extended there are better options, and in Standard you’ll probably net two or three cards for 2U, and that’s not worth taking out something else for.
Blue still has to fear red casting Boil, which can often be devastating even with the non-island sources of blue mana running around out there. Disorder is red’s anti-white card, and is effective, even if it can’t kill some Rebels. It’s asymmetrical, and strong but not overpowered. And, it’s a sorcery. Yes! No enchantments against white! Thank you, Wizards, for paying attention.
An instant and a sorcery – excellent examples of balanced sideboard options.
Sanctimony, white’s answer to red, is far more balanced than Warmth; instead of negating red’s burn to the head almost entirely (let’s give more of an advantage to white, please), Sanctimony merely gains life when mountains are tapped. With the plethora of non-mountain sources of red, it’s not going to get out of hand. It’s amazing, actually, just how many sideboard options white HAS against red, and how few red has against it. I suppose the ability to endure harm DOES outweigh the ability to inflict it. Name the flavor text.
Meanwhile, white acquires Starlight versus black. Another Portal card brought into the main set, Starlight dictates that you gain three life for every black creature your opponent controls. Fascinating. Too bad nowadays it’s fairly useless. Maybe if Hatred was still around. Starlight is one to remember for Extended in case black decks seize momentum, but it’s not going to have much of an effect currently. Still, it’s a nice non-enchantment color effect.
Black, in return, DOES get an enchantment against white; I’d rather they kept the Cabal in. Yawgmoth’s Edict is a mini-drain life for every white spell. However, you have the feeling that it’ll only garner one life as it’s Disenchanted very quickly.
Black also gets Bereavement, an interesting enchantment versus green. Despite Blastoderm’s presence, black does have some efficient creature kill in the environment; with the growing possibility of a strong discard strategy, this may see some play. I wonder what sort of clock Bereavement and Megrim could place on decks packing green.
Compost is green’s counterpoint, and looking at these two side-by-side is interesting. Card-drawing ability for green is something I personally think should be emphasized a bit more to balance out against blue, and being able to fill your hand with more threats is definitely strong when your threats are of the green variety – imagine what fun cards you could draw into.
Finally, Thoughtleech is green’s option against blue. The original picture of Thoughtleech was one of my favorites; I haven’t taken a peek at the new one to see if it’s comparable, though. I’m unsure how effective this card is going to be. Sure, gaining life is nice – but really, are your matchups against blue in Standard concerned much with how much life you have? You want to present threats, not watch your life skyrocket to sixty as your library slowly is Milled away. If only it enabled green to draw a card like Multani’s Presence, one of the underappreciated sideboard cards of our time (in addition to Hidden Gibbons, which was never played as much as I thought it should).
There are also some effective generic sideboard cards that aren’t geared toward a particular color. In addition to Pyroclasm and Arcane Laboratory for red and blue, both of which I mentioned above, Seventh brings us Nausea, an effective Dry Spell replacement that will hopefully fall into the same role for early black removal. White gains Blessed Reversal, which could be yet another excellent stall mechanism – gaining 3 life per attacker can add up in a hurry. Finally, Wing Snare enables green to deal with a number of large, annoying fliers, including Blinding Angel and Dragon Legends, which are frequently out of the range of whatever burn is splashed into Fires.
Seventh Edition, I believe, will introduce interesting changes to the environment. There are plenty of cards that are potentially archetypal in nature and disruptive in effect. I’m glad that Regionals is soon, or I wouldn’t be able to contain my enthusiasm for too long. The deckbuilding bug has bitten me, and you can bet that I’ll share some of the creations here. Only three weeks until the environment changes, everyone.
-m / 00010101