Shanah tova, everyone! That’s "Happy New Year," more or less, in Hebrew, and it’s appropriate now because Jews have recently celebrated the beginning of a new year. It’s exciting to be off to a fresh start, and the year ahead looks promising. One of the reasons the year 5763 will be so interesting is the release of what I expect to be a very cool set: Onslaught.
Last week, I touched on the new mechanic: Morph. This week, I’d like to talk a bit about the triumphant return of the Cycling mechanic. Personally, I think it’s great. I didn’t heavily play with Cycling when it was first available, but I’m sure that I’ll find uses for a few of the cards that are coming out in Onslaught.
But, before I get to that, I’d like to redirect your attention to a prediction I made two full years ago. I wrote an article entitled Rehash Central: The Savior of Magic. In it, I said that, due to the ever-expanding nature of Magic, new mechanics would eventually become difficult to produce. I said that unless R&D started reprinting old mechanics, sooner or later they’d either have to change the rules of the game to spice it up or let it die. Now, I’m not saying that Magic is on the way to the grave and recycling Cycling is a last gasp for breath. On the contrary, I think that the relatively-speedy reprint of such an important mechanic shows that the Researchers and Designers know what they’re doing.
And, who better to reflect this sentiment than Mark Rosewater? In his latest article, Mark basically says what I predicted two years ago: He affirms that, in order to keep the game alive, some old ideas will have to be reused. Personally, I totally agree with his rationale of using as little as necessary. Sure they could print a set of ba-roken cards, but the next set would be puny in comparison. If they wanted to keep up momentum, they’d have to use all their good ideas, and they’d be gone in a few years. Even if there are four different tweaks of Cycling altogether, we’re looking at stretching one good idea over ten years. If every other mechanic can be reused in such a fashion, a mixture of old and new mechanics will allow Wizards to produce Magic almost indefinitely. This is definitely a good thing (and a good topic upon which to expound in the future).
But, without jumping into the universality of mechanic reproduction any further, let’s stop and take a look at the new Cycling cards. Like I said before, I think that the Cycling mechanic is a very interesting one and will definitely interact well with existing mechanics such as threshold. Like Madness, though, it appears that Cycling has a few bombs and a few duds. For the remainder of this article, I’ll be taking a look at what I consider to be the best or most interesting cycling card in each color. Note that this information is taken from the unofficial spoiler at http://184.108.40.206/tracing/on/. Any misinformation there will, of course, affect the remainder of this article.
Akroma’s Vengeance 4WW
Destroy all artifacts, creatures, and enchantments.
Cycling 3 (3, Discard this card from your hand: Draw a card.)
Akroma happens to be an angel created by Ixidor in his sleep… But this angel’s wrath is even stronger than God’s! Granted, this sorcery is more expensive than its creature-killing grandfather, but the ability to take out artifacts and enchantments may (or may not) be worth it. Personally, I think that Akroma’s Vengeance will go the way of Kirtar’s Wrath – but Cycling definitely needs to be taken into account. Maybe three Wraths of God and an Akroma’s Vengeance could grace a decklist, capitalizing on the ability to get rid of the superfluous reset button if necessary.
Counter target spell unless its controller pays 3.
Cycling 2U (2U, Discard this card from your hand: Draw a card.)
When you cycle Complicate, you may counter target spell unless its controller pays 1.
Now, this I’m excited about! It’s Circular Logic and Compulsion without the Compulsion. Yes, it’s easier to pay one than, say, thirty – but as Force Spike has shown, it still works. The way I see this card working is as an expensive Mana Leak with the added bonus of you drawing a card if your opponent is tapped out. Plus, like its cousin Miscalculation, if you’re in the late game without a need for the card, you can always pitch it for a better one (hopefully).
Finally, this card may be just the ticket I’ve been looking for in my deck: An uncounterable counterspell. I don’t know the rules for the "when you Cycle CARDNAME, you may do X," but it would appear that the spell is not actually played. Whereas Madness removes the card from the game and then returns it to the stack as if you’d played it, Cycling puts the card directly into the graveyard with the added bonus of some effect. If this is indeed the case, then that makes this a counterspell that can’t be countered! (It is – The Ferrett) Of course, though, if they don’t have the 1 to pay they wouldn’t be able to counter Complicate anyway, but it’s a nice concept, right? Sure, it doesn’t do anything (aside from not letting them get closer to threshold by discarding Circular Logic to Wild Mongrel), but I’m glad that we’ve finally gotten an uncounterable counterspell. The ice is broken, R&D – now give us a good one!
Undead Gladiator 1BB
Creature – Zombie Barbarian
1B, Discard a card from your hand: Return Undead Gladiator from your graveyard to your hand. Play this ability only during your upkeep.
Cycling 1B (1B, Discard this card from your hand: Draw a card.)
I think that this is a very well-designed card: It has many uses, not the least of which is giving every card in your hand Cycling 2BB during your upkeep. Like Nether Spirit and Ichorid, this creature could give control decks fits. Unlike both of those cards, though, the only condition necessary to get the Gladiator back is a card in hand. Counter to your heart’s content; it won’t stop him as long as I get a draw phase! Personally, this card scares me, but I definitely see how black players (among whom I count myself every so often) can use this card to great advantage. Either as a deck-thinner or face-crusher, Undead Gladiator is going far.
Slice and Dice 4RR
Slice and Dice deals 4 damage to each creature.
Cycling 2R (2R, Discard this card from your hand: Draw a card.)
When you cycle Slice and Dice, you may have it deal 1 damage to each creature.
So this is the best Cycling card red has to offer – and people think white gets screwed? Sure it’s cool that Lay Waste got reprinted, but Lay Waste is just a glorified Stone Rain. Personally, I feel that Slice and Dice is a bad Wildfire with the ability to kill small (really small) creatures. In an environment not so heavily reliant on cheap mana producers, this spell isn’t so fantastic.
Krosan Tusker 5GG
Creature – Beast
Cycling 2G (2G, Discard this card from your hand: Draw a card.)
When you cycle Krosan Tusker, you may search your library for a basic land card, reveal that card, and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library.
It’s not Tithe, but it is. For one card, you get two in your hand – but only one of them has to be a basic land, and you can use the ability whenever you want with no counter interference. In an environment with few mana producers, I see this as a fairly solid way to thin your deck… And, if push comes to shove and you don’t need those lands anymore, you can use them to create a 6/5 beast – though that’ll happen about as much as Roar of the Wurm gets hard-cast!
Cycling Nonbasic Lands
Remember the Cycling nonbasic lands from Urza’s Saga? There was one from each color, and they came into play tapped and tapped for the appropriate colored mana. Well, they’re back, and, I believe, better than ever. The Cycling cost is cheaper but color appropriate (no Fluctuator decks – sorry…), but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. If you’re cycling it, it means you don’t need that color anyway, so you might as well be tapping only one Mountain to get rid of that land instead of two. I think that these have a place in all non-black mono-colored decks (should those re-arise), though I don’t know how useful they’ll be in dual-colored decks. Only time (and pros) will tell, I guess!
So that’s my take on a few of the new cards. I think Onslaught is going to be a really cool set, and I’m very excited about Morph and Cycling. Regardless of the fact that Wizards seems to be killing permission (another time, perhaps…), I can still deal with the changing face of the environment. Here’s to evolution!