‘Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!’
-Lewis Carroll “Through the Looking Glass”
All I have to ask is… what was Mr. Carroll smoking when he wrote this? It sounds like something out of Star Wars because the only thing I can relate it to is Jabba the Hut. The funny thing is that it’s a great piece of literature simply because it’s so strange. [Back when I was dating, I was all about the search for the frumious Bandersnatch. – Knut, nerdy in ways you can hardly conceive]
Speaking of strange pieces of literature, I’ve got a random bag of thoughts and some new pet cards to share with you guys this week. Unfortunately there are no Jabberwocks or Jubjub birds included. Maybe next time.
A Close Call
During one of my MTGO drafts last week, I stumbled upon a difficult pick that I thought I’d share with everyone. Let’s set the stage first:
It’s pick 1 of pack 2 in an 8-4 draft on Magic Online. So far my deck looks like this:
2 Orochi Sustainer
Kami of the Hunt
Order of the Sacred Bell
2 Burr Grafter
The rest of the picks from the first pack were completely unplayables. The booster I open in pack 2 contains the following:
Reach Through Mists
Kami of the Hunt
Soul of Magma
Counsel of the Soratami
Order of the Sacred Bell
Honden of Cleansing Fire
Sosuke, Son of Seshiro
Take a few minutes to gloss over those lists and figure out what you’d take.
Looking back over the cards I’ve drafted up to this point, the only thing that really seems certain is that I’m going to be base-Green (who would’ve guessed?) and definitely splashing the Prison if I don’t end up playing White. The Vortex is also likely to be splashed if I don’t enter Blue.
With that in mind, this pack presents a few options for me. Obviously Kami of the Hunt, Decoy, and Sacred Bell are out of the picture, since Sosuke is just better than all of them. The only three cards I even considered taking from this pack were Moth, Honden, and of course Sosuke. So let’s break it down.
Kabuto Moth offers a nice utility creature and also covers the air pretty well. With no defense against fliers, this may seem appealing at first. However, I quickly dismissed it for a couple of simple reasons. First off, the deck is built around playing four-drops on turn 3 with the pair of Sustainers, so a large number of creatures in the three slot is actually discouraged. It’s also White, which I’m not sure if I’m going into heavily yet, and will constrain my mana if I just splash it and the Prison. Moth is something that wants to get out early so that it can hold the board down and you really don’t want to be splashing for early plays. Next, the Honden does just as good a job in my opinion as Moth at “holding the air.” Granted, there are times when this isn’t true, but the Honden is simply more versatile and also a better pick overall. But there are actually times I’d pick Moth over Shrine, such as in a highly-aggro U/W build or something of that nature.
Moving on to the White Shrine, which is also clearly the best of the Shrines, I think we all know what it’s capable of doing. The card is simply nuts and something I’d want in virtually any deck, even on the splash. It also offers a nice power boost should I get passed another Shrine (which I could easily splash due to my Reach).
So what’s the big problem here, I should just take the Shrine right?
Well, it’s not that simple. If you look back over the stuff I’ve already picked up, you’ll notice that Sosuke is actually quite good with the Sustainers. While I’m more of a fan of the White Shrine in general, Sosuke’s power level is certainly not far behind that of the overpowered Sun Droplet.
The real question is which is the better pick for this deck. I think both sides have good arguments since the Shrine goes on the splash with the Prison if I don’t play it and Sosuke is just an excellent addition to a Green deck. In the end, I went with Sosuke simply because I wasn’t sure what my other color(s) were going to be and I could splash Prison off of just one Plains if need be. I’m not sure this pick was entirely correct and no real situation came up in the draft where I’d have rather had Shrine or vice-versa, but I think it’s a pick that’s at least worth discussing. What would you take?
More Underrated Cards? You’ve got to be kidding
I’ve been doing an abnormal amount of MODOing lately, and with that I’ve done my usual experimenting with cards that most people consider to be junk. This usually lets me find one or two sleeper cards that people haven’t picked up on even this late in the season.
With Champions, however, I’ve actually found a ton of cards that most people would never even consider playing, let alone picking high. This wouldn’t normally be odd, except that much has been written and analyzed already and most people feel they have a firm grasp of the environment. Well guess what, here’s a small wakeup call. Think of it as a stocking stuffer from me for the holidays. Though I can’t say that I’d be pleased if I found a Ragged Veins in my stocking, I think you may find the information valuable.
“Wizards has to make some bad cards right?”
Rip it up and use it for Snake tokens!
What can I say, you guys are missing out. This card has single-handedly won me many games by acting as a tricky dome spell. Think of it as a tricky version of Soulblast. The initial response most people gave to this card was to compare it to Contaminated Bond from the last block, which was pretty much unplayable unless you put it on something like Yotian Soldier. It’s human nature to compare things to what we’ve known from the past, and I really can’t blame you for the association. Unfortunately though, the association isn’t true at all this time.
So now that I’ve told you that it’s actually playable instead of being 15th pick garbage, what exactly do you do with the card?
The first obvious use is that whenever your opponent attacks with a creature you simply gangblock with your entire team and then toss Veins onto it for a nice kick to the chops. Veins also works well with Green and big men like Moss Kami, since it virtually makes them unblockable. Pump spells are a plus if you can’t find evasion or trample to force the damage through, and when all else fails, this is a card that nobody expects or even considers playing around. At least not yet.
Reverse the Sands
Trash Rare? Think again.
Probably my personal favorite from this list, this card is excellent and should make the cut in any deck that can possibly make it to the long game (Hint: White is good at doing this). The basic idea is that if your opponent is beating you down you just get to Fireball him for nineteen with this and then attack him with a flier or throw a Glacial Ray at his dome to finish the job. The nice thing is that you can just manaburn on his end step and most people have no clue what you’re up to until it’s too late. [The Japanese use this card in both Sealed and Draft consistently. – Knut, who learned a lot at Grand Prix: Yokohama]
This is also something I’d love to have in a deck with multiple Kodama’s Reaches since you can accelerate to it and also find the two necessary White mana for it if you’re splashing it. Everything about it just has a dirty combo feel and I’ve had a number of decks that relied on this card as a victory condition. Trust me, eight mana is not that much to pay if it wins you the game. Try it for yourself and see. I’ve picked this as early as second and would be willing to first pick it if there wasn’t much else, though you’ll usually get it late because nobody knows it’s any good except for a select few.
Apparently Darksteel Ingot was just too good that it had to be toned down. I promised last week that I’d talk about this little niche card, so I’m not gonna let anybody down and leave it out. This card is great in a non-Green deck that needs a form of acceleration to play bigger and more powerful spells. If you have a lot of five-drops, I’d pick this relatively highly as it can make your deck a lot better all by itself. A nice interaction too is that you can use your Shrines to add a mana since they don’t mind being tapped anyway.
Don’t overlook it simply because it looks awful – it’s really not.
Commune with Nature
Here’s a card that I really am not a fan of. I mentioned this in an article a few weeks back, about how I hate missing with this card and I really don’t think it serves that big of a purpose except in a few specific cases. The deck that I like this card in is one with a large number of two drops, specifically Orochi Sustainer and Sakura-Tribe Elder so that if you don’t have a mana accelerator in your opening hand, there’s a good chance Commune will find it for you. The other time I think this is good is when you have a couple of bomb creatures that you need to find to win and don’t have a Time of Need.
In all other situations I think this card is played too often and really doesn’t do enough to warrant a slot in your deck. So here I am advocating that you play Ragged Veins and don’t play Commune with Nature. Sounds odd doesn’t it? But you can’t argue with testing.
I like this card less and less every time I play it or have it played against me. I’m not a fan of the lock down Blue cards like Psychic Overload or the prehistoric Thirst in general, and while Restraints is Blue “removal,” I think it’s still being picked too highly.
While I’ve been over this before, I’m gonna hit it one more time to try and drive some of these ideas home. Teller of Tales, Call to Glory, Psychic Puppetry (ummm yeah…), Kami of Ancient Law, and a number of other cards just invalidate the existence of the Restraints. It costs four mana, which is pretty hefty, and I’d rather be spending that sort of mana on a Soratami Mirror-Guard or Peer Through Depths splicing Dampen Thought. The card just does not do enough for me and I keep taking it lower and lower.
Since I’ve been drafting Dampen Thought a lot recently, I’ve warmed up to this card in other archetypes and I think it’s actually pretty solid if you have enough things to splice it onto. I played it tonight in a deck with double Moth simply as a versatile Call to Glory that could also act as a one shot Icy. It’s great in the Dampen deck obviously because you can cast Reach Through Mists on your opponents turn two upkeep and splice the Puppetry to tap down one of their lands and really slow down their development. You can also deny them a color of mana later in the game, or a number of other things. The more Arcane spells, the better this guy becomes, but that goes without saying.
I used to consider this to be a mulligan whenever my opponent drew it against me, but I have since realized the error of my ways. This is another thing I’ve learned about the format from the Dampen deck, and it’s actually playable in other decks as well, especially with a good amount of splice. No longer do I pass it along without notice… I’ve started picking it much higher as I draft some sort of splice deck pretty regularly nowadays.
This is another card that falls under the same category as Mystic Restraints. I still think people are overrating it, and in general I don’t even want it in my deck. The trick is so obvious and bland that anyone who loses to it should be ashamed. I mean yeah, there are times when you just can’t play around it and it’s going to wreck you. But most of the time it’s just like Battlegrowth and has little to no impact on the board. I’d much rather have Blessed Breath or even Ethereal Haze in my deck as they both are more versatile and actually do something.
A New Archetype?
As I said, I’ve been drafting splice decks a lot, mostly in part to the discovery of the Dampen deck. Basically I’ve realized that a splice control deck is not only possible, but actually very powerful in this format. It’s usually based in U/W or U/R and splashes for bombs like Strength of Cedars or Blind with Anger or what have you. The deck usually looks like a huge pile during deck construction but actually ends up playing really well. You’ll have multiple copies of Haze, Puppetry, Peer Through Depths, etc and a bunch of crappy creatures. Reverse the Sands is great in this deck and you can usually just lock up the board with 1/4s and win with some fliers. It’s hard to explain how you go about drafting it, but basically the deck came about during the times where I was trying to draft Dampen Thought and just didn’t get and Dampens and ended up with a pile of crappy Arcane spells. If anyone is interested though, maybe I’ll write a brief primer and post some of my decklists for the archetype next week. Lemme know.