Playing Musical Equipment

StarCityGames’ latest Featured Writer returns to her old stomping grounds to talk about Mirrodin Limited! Specifically, Laura wants you to know that Passing around that equipment – or, as she calls it -“playing musical equipment” – opens a world of strategy that will help you take control of a game. SO let her show you some examples of plays that can be won with careful attention to your equipment…

It is turn 4 of your first game in the Prerelease. Your opponent has just declared her attack with a 6/6 Slith Predator. There are no creatures on the table with which to block, but you maintain your composure – a Terror in your hand will deal with the menace. Triumphantly, you announce the spell, targeting the Predator. Your opponent merely shrugs and puts the creature in her graveyard. The Empyrial Plate that was attached to the Slith Predator stays on the table. Your opponent continues with her turn, casting Alpha Myr and equipping it with the Empyrial Plate. Now there is a 6/5 creature to be dealt with.”Confound it!” you scream silently, as the raw power of this new mechanic dawns on a sleep-deprived brain. You suddenly realize the artifacts are the problems now, not the creatures. The desire to scream obscenities at Wizards of the Coast wells up inside – but you are too polite to release the anger. Instead, you utter,”Nice card,” as you wait for your inevitable downfall.

Welcome to Mirrodin, a world where the creatures dominate not through their own physical prowess, but through their ability to wield weapons of power. For those who have immersed themselves in the world of fantasy roleplaying, the ability to gather tools and equipment to make characters stronger may seem like old hat. For the rest of us, there is a new world of strategy we need to embrace. Using equipment shouldn’t be limited to the notion of someone else picking up a piece of equipment that has been dropped after a creature has expired. Passing around that equipment – or as I have dubbed it,”playing musical equipment” – opens a world of strategy that will help you take control of a game. Let’s look at some examples of how you can utilize this new artifact type to its fullest extent.

Anyone Got an Extra Arrow?

Your opponent has just cast a Clockwork Dragon and passed his turn. He is at 4 life with only artifact creatures on his side of the board – Clockwork Dragon, Copper Myr, Hematite Golem, and Yotian Soldier. You are at four life, and you don’t have any fliers – only a Tel-Jilad Chosen, Copper Myr, Yotian Soldier, and Taj-Nar Swordsmith. Your land consists of four Plains and two Forests.

If you can draw a flier, you will be able to stave off damage from the Clockwork Dragon long enough to attack twice with the Chosen and take the win, provided he doesn’t cast a non-artifact creature on his next turn. You turn away as you slowly remove the top card off the library, not ready to be disappointed by the answer. A sideways glance tells you it is an artifact – Viridian Longbow, in fact. Before you decide to pack it in, you survey your side of the table to see if there is any way to win. You count the available mana, then the available creatures. Yes, there is one chance. You attack with the Tel-Jihad Chosen and your opponent marks down his life total as two. You tap a Forest and lay down the Viridian Longbow. You smile at your opponent and say, simply,”I win.”

Can you see how?

A good way to think about any equipment that gives your creatures activated abilities is to realize that it can give all your creatures this ability for an entire turn, provided you have the available mana (and the creatures aren’t”summoning sick”). In this case, it means you can turn all your creatures into active Prodigal Sorcerers during your main phase. Keeping this in mind, you can win by doing the following:

Tap your lands for three mana to equip either the Yotian Soldier or the Taj-Nar Swordsmith with the Viridian Longbow. Tap the creature to do one point of damage to your opponent.

Tap your remaining lands and your Copper Myr for three mana. Use the three mana to move the Viridian Longbow to your untapped creature. Tap the creature to do the final point of damage to defeat your opponent.

There’s a good chance your opponent didn’t see this coming the first time, either.

Assisting in the Attack

Your opponent has just played a Fireshrieker, which he immediately paid the equip cost to put on his Slith Ascendant. Seeing this setup again is already starting to cause nightmares to form in your head. Last game, the 1/1 Slith with Doublestrike did three points of damage and became a 3/3 in one attack. Next attack, it did seven damage and turned into a 5/5. The third attack, the game was over. You don’t want to let this happen again.

Fortunately, your Yotian Soldier is equipped with Neurok Hoversail, ready to block the deadly Slith Ascendant. The only other creatures on the table are your 3/3 Slith Predator and another Yotian Soldier controlled by your opponent. With no cards in either person’s hand, your initial assessment is a stalemate until someone draws into another creature. This prospect slightly worries you, since you remember your opponent having both a Bonesplitter and Loxodon Warhammer in his deck. Either piece of equipment could make the Slith Ascendant unstoppable. Your best bet is to try and start attacking to get some damage through while making sure his Slith Ascendant doesn’t get the opportunity to damage you. Is there a way you can get around the Yotian Soldier while keeping his Slith Ascendant at bay?

Of course there is.

Always keep in mind that as long as you have mana available, a piece of equipment can serve double-time as an artifact that can provide offense when attacking and then be switched over for defense. In this example, you need to give flying to the Slith Predator in order to get past the opponent’s Yotian Soldier. Then you need to give back your Yotian Soldier flying to provide defense. With the board in the current state, you want to do the following:

Spend two mana to put the Neurok Hoversail on the Slith Predator. Attack with the Predator. Since your opponent can only block with the Slith Ascendant and it will not survive, the Predator will be able to do damage and attain an extra counter.

After combat is over, spend another two mana to re-equip your Yotian Solider with the Neurok Hoversail. This will give you the flying defense you need to prevent the Slith Ascendant from attacking.

You can start to see how much more versatile equipment is when compared to its counterpart enchantments. You might never consider playing Flight, but Neurok Hoversail can become invaluable in Limited play.

It Only Looks Bad on the Outside

You’ve been waiting all game for this card. With only three life to spare, you draw Spikeshot Goblin. You survey the table to see if there is enough time to reduce your opponent from fifteen life to zero before he activates his Granite Shard three times – once at the end of this turn, once at the end of your next turn, and then once at the beginning of his second turn. Your only creature currently on the table is a Yotian Soldier, who is equipped with both Vulshok Gauntlets and Lightning Greaves. You have Predator’s Strike and Spikeshot Goblin in hand. The mana you have to work with consists of five untapped Forests and five untapped Mountains. A ready Troll Ascetic equipped with a Bonesplitter sits on your opponent’s side of the board. He has plenty of mana to regenerate the Troll Ascetic and to activate the Granite Shards. Fortunately, his hand is empty so you don’t have to worry about playing around any fast effects other than the Granite Shard. Staring at the table for several minutes evokes a question from your opponent – but you let him know you are thinking. After running through a few more scenarios in your head, you think you’ve got the answer.

Do you?

First and foremost, it is important to note that you can move equipment on and off a creature as many times as you wish, provided you have the available mana to do so. In order to win this game, you need to swap your equipment often between your creatures to get around the drawbacks that could prevent you from potentially doing the complete fifteen points of damage to your opponent. If you do the math, you will see that you need to attack with the Yotian Soldier and cast Predator’s Strike targeting the Soldier. This will make the Yotian Soldier a 8/9 with trample. If your opponent blocks with the Troll Ascetic, you will be able to do five points of damage. Since the Yotian Soldier doesn’t tap to attack, it will still be available to block the Troll Ascetic during your opponent’s turn. Putting the Vulshok Gauntlets on the Spikeshot Goblin will allow it to do five points of damage as well, and then another five points when you have the opportunity to untap the Spikeshot Goblin, which needs to be on your next turn.

There are two complications that you need to work through. First, you need to be able to target your Yotian Soldier with the Predator’s Strike, which is currently prevented by the Lightning Greaves. Secondly, you need to be able to untap the Spikeshot Goblin during your next turn, which will also be prevented if you leave the Vulshok Gauntlets on the Goblin. When dealing with equipment, keep in mind that the abilities granted by equipment only stay with the creature as long as that creature is equipped. Once the equipment has moved, the abilities granted by the equipment are gone as well. This game can be won if the scenario is played out as follows:

Cast the Spikeshot Goblin before you decide to enter combat. Move the Lightning Greaves from the Yotian Soldier to the Spikeshot Goblin so that you can target the Yotian Soldier with the Predator Strike. (Remember, you can’t just remove equipment from a creature by paying its equip cost.) You need to have another creature in play to move the equipment onto.

Attack with the Yotian Soldier. After blocks are declared, cast the Predator Strike. Assuming your opponent blocks with the Ascetic Troll and regenerates it, he takes five points of damage.

In your second main phase, you need to move the Vulshok Gauntlets from the Yotian Soldier to the Spikeshot Goblin. Since the Goblin can’t be targeted while wearing Lightning Greaves, you need to move the Lightning Greaves back onto the Yotian Soldier. After this is done, pay three mana to equip the Spikeshot Goblin with the Vulshok Gauntlets. Since you need to do damage with the Spikeshot Goblin this turn and the Goblin no longer has Haste without the Lightning Greaves, move the Greaves back onto the Spikeshot Goblin.

Although it goes against the grain to play activated creature abilities during your turn, the Spikeshot Goblin needs to untap on your next turn. This requires the Vulshok Gauntlets to be removed from the Spikeshot Goblin before the beginning of your next untap phase. Activate the Spikeshot Goblin with one of your remaining untapped Mountains and do another five points of damage to your opponent. Use your remaining three mana to move the Vulshok Gauntlets back on to your Yotian Soldier.

At the beginning of your next turn, untap the Spikeshot Goblin and then re-equip it with the Vulshok Gauntlets during your next main phase. Activate the Goblin’s ability to do the final five points of damage to your opponent.

In the space of a day, my friends had already dubbed the Vulshok Gauntlets”Musical Gauntlets.” The next time you look at Vulshok Gauntlets and decide that its drawback is too great to put in your deck, just remember to think about it by its nickname.

Lastly, I’ve added one more example, just because it reminded me of an Onslaught card.

Goblin Sharpshooter, Part 2

It’s been a long, drawn-out game with plenty of creature and artifact carnage. You are sitting at a skimpy two life, with your opponent at a solid eight. It looked as though you had the game in hand when you wiped your opponent’s board clean of large creatures with Solar Tide – but your opponent caught your Neurok Spy and Cobalt Golem in an attack with an entwined Blinding Beam. An untapped Psychic Membrane equipped with a Viridian Longbow and a Lightning Greaves was left to guard your side of the table.

With your attackers immobilized for more than a turn, your opponent casts the creatures in her hand that she was saving against the threat of the Viridian Longbow: Alpha Myr, Gold Myr, Leonin Elder, and Auriok Transfixer. You think about tapping the Membrane at the end of her turn to kill one of her creatures – but your brain gives you a good swift kick to let you know that the Membrane also won’t untap at the beginning of your turn. You admonish your brain for its crude behavior and let it know that two damage will still get through unless you draw a creature. A little more bickering ensures, but you side with your brain and decide not to tap the Psychic Membrane at the end of your opponent’s turn.

After a few vain taps on the deck to get the creature to rise to the top, you draw the card and find it is only a Scythe of the Wretched. You read the card. You read it again. One more time, just to make sure you understand it. If you have fifteen available mana, you can take complete control of the game. It’s been a long game, and there are eight Islands and eight Swamps on your side of the table. The frown on your faces creaks into a smile. You’ve just found a way to take complete control.

Can you see how?

Play Scythe of the Wretched. Move the Lightning Greaves onto another creature so you can equip the Psychic Membrane with the Scythe. Do one point of damage to the Leonin Elder with the Psychic Membrane. The Leonin Elder comes into play equipped with the Scythe of the Wretched.

Move the Viridian Longbow onto the Leonin Elder. Now move the Lightning Greaves to the Elder. Use the Elder to deal one point of damage to the Alpha Myr. Gain one life when the Myr comes back into play on your side with the Scythe of the Wretched attached to it.

First move the Viridian Longbow from the Leonin Elder to the Alpha Myr, and then move the Lightning Greaves from the Leonin Elder to the Alpha Myr. Use the Alpha Myr to deal one point of damage to the Gold Myr. Gain one life when the Myr comes back into play on your side with the Scythe of the Wretched attached to it.

Repeat the same steps with the Gold Myr and gain control of the Auriok Transfixer. You now have complete control of all the creatures, and are sitting at a more comfortable four life.

Tools are only useful to those who know how to use them. Now that you’ve learned different ways of using your equipment, don’t let it sit on the table like any old artifact, lifeless and unattached. Put it on a creature and make the most of it.

Just don’t let me catch you trying to equip a creature with protection from artifacts.