SCG Daily – Attack of the Week of Lists, Part 3

Mark continues his Week of Lists with a rundown of the “Top 10 Cards I Wanted to Open Last Weekend,” a homage to RGD Limited Champs players everywhere. If you were praying for Cloaks but opened Jokes, then come share Mark’s pain…

Limited Champs didn’t go so well for me last weekend. I opened fine removal in Black, a Galvanic Arc that was worth splashing for because I had opened Infiltrator’s Magemark, and other fine cards including Civic Wayfinder, Moldervine Cloak, Compulsive Research, and Cerulean Sphinx. However, my curve was just about the worst thing ever – I actually ran Vertigo Spawn and Skarrgan Pit-Skulk so that my deck would have creatures with cost less than three.

Afterward, I began to wonder if I had fallen a little too much in love with the Blue cards, especially the Sphinx. I actually could have eschewed Blue altogether, because White provided some cheap creatures to smooth out my curve, as well as Faith’s Fetters, Devouring Light, and Carom (time and space pressures prevent me from giving my cardpool and builds now, but I’ll post them in the forums once this article goes up).

Would have been so bad to cut the Sphinx? I asked myself. It’s not like he’s one of the top ten cards you wanted to open today, right? Which in turn led naturally to…

Top 10 Cards I Wanted to Open Last Weekend

You’ll notice that there aren’t a lot of commons on this list. I actually think that’s the best thing about Ravnica Block; most of the colors are deep enough in quality commons that they are basically exchangeable. I mean, sure I’d like to have Siege Wurm, Ghor-Clan Savage, and Streetbreaker Wurm in my deck – as one of my opponents did last Saturday – but if I were to have Izzet Chronarch, Peel From Reality, and Last Gasp in their place, that wouldn’t be so bad either.

The criteria are pretty simple: if these cards are in my Sealed Card pool, I’m almost surely running them. The ranking measures the smallness of that “almost.” Let’s go!

10. Karoos

It’s hard to know where to put the bouncelands on this list. On the one hand, I couldn’t think of any serious player last weekend that wasn’t hoping to open two or three of them. On the other hand, every other card on this list is a bomb that actually wins games just by drawing it, something bouncelands do not in fact do.

Bouncelands can also lead you astray if you are too tempted by running them. At a recent PTQ at Neutral Ground in New York, I opened a deck that, in retrospect, should have been Green/Blue/Black – this would have allowed me to run the only legitimate bomb in my cardpool, Helldozer. However, I opened three bouncelands in R/W, R/G, and R/U. So, I got scared off of the BBB in the ‘Dozer’s casting cost, and instead forced Red into my build without much cause. Needless to say, my deck suffered for it.

9. Stormscale Anarch

One might not know about this guy, but he’s actually amazing, on a par with Cursed Scroll (only in Limited, of course). I mean, obviously reusable damage is good, but one might think that a random card from hand is a bit high of a price to pay. One would be so, so very wrong.

Of course, by “one” I mean “me.” I learned about the Anarch by passing him to Brian David-Marshall in a 3-on-3 draft. The embarrassing part is that I was in Red, but I had never seen the Anarch in action before and I though that the Wrecking Ball I took was just as good. Boy, I’ll never make that mistake again, especially because when you screw up like that against BDM, he’ll never let you forget it. In fact, I lost one game to Anarch because I was color-screwed for Black mana and thus unable to Wrecking Ball it. Have a little irony, dearie, it’s good for your blood.

8. Angel of Despair

I have never played this guy, the only time he was played against me was in a game where I was mana-screwed anyway, and I have never had a Sealed Deck with mana reliable enough to cast him if I did have him. So, I can’t make a definitive “it’s awesome and belongs at exactly spot X on the list” statement. However, I’m pretty sure a 5/5 flying Vindicate deserves to be here somewhere.

7. Moldervine Cloak

The sad thing, as I mentioned in the intro, is that I got there. I actually did receive a Cloak after the deck swap. The problem was, my creatures were not of high quality: Golgari Rotwurm was my only beef, I had no quality fliers to speak of, and there were some walls Defenders involved.

In theory, the whole reason why the Cloak is so good is that it solves that problem: it shouldn’t matter how bad your men are when you can give one of them +3/+3 at will. In practice, however, you will not draw the Cloak every game, and sometimes when you do your opponents will have Faith’s Fetters, Plumes of Peace, or even bigger blowouts like Dream Leash and Hide / Seek. That’s the only reason why it’s not higher on the list.

6. Selesnya Guildmage

Originally this slot was going to be labeled “The Big Three Guildmages;” I was going to wimp out and group Rakdos, Azorius, and Selesnya together in one entry. However, a voice inside my head demanded, “Damnit, Mark, have some stones! It’s your list, make a decision! Helter Skelter!” Then I remembered to take my medication. Anyway, I chose Selesnya Guildmage because he’s best on offense of the three; I always think that it you have to choose between two roughly equally powered cards, with one being good on offense and one being good on defense, you choose the offensive one.

Or, to look at it another way: you can lose with Azorius Guildmage even if he’s not removed, simply by your opponent drawing infinite men; you could even lose with Rakdos if the opponent was lucky enough to draw infinite three-toughness men. Selesnya can win even those games simply by making tokens, because the Overrun ability makes it near impossible to race. That’s why he’s number one.

5. Ribbons of Night

An important thing to remember about this card is that it is a stone-cold bomb even if you don’t have the Blue mana, because the four life gained is almost like drawing a card by itself. Say your opponent plays a turn 2 Transluminant, which gets in there twice before the ground stalls. If, later in the game, you kill a Streetbreaker Wurm with an unkicked Ribbons, you have virtually two-for-one’d the opponent anyway – in addition to the Wurm, it’s like the Tranny had been killed also, for all the effectiveness it had on your life total.

Of course, Blue is deep enough in this format that you’ll almost always have an excuse to try and go for a “kicked” Ribbons whenever you run it. That’s the reason why people who are better at Magic than I am claim this is the best uncommon in the entire block.

4. Skeletal Vampire

Meloku much? No, you can’t just pick up all of your lands and make infinite bats in one turn, but on the other hand the Clouded Mirror can’t regenerate. The important thing for both creatures is that barring removal from the opponent – and not every removal spell in the block is capable of doing the trick – they can’t be stopped from creating a virtually unstoppable army of fliers.

Also, as Mike Flores pointed out when talking about his “Batman” RBC deck, Blind Hunter is a bat and Belfry Spirit produces Bat tokens. I’m sure at least one person somewhere out there scored a massive blowout last weekend by using that information to their advantage.

3. Glare of Subdual

I hear it’s good in decks that play creatures. If Moldervine Cloak makes all of your guys a little better, Glare turns them into atom bombs. If your opponent can’t remove the enchantment, you could win with 17 Boros Recruits as your creature base (OMG Rain of Embers!). Glare is also on a print run with Tolsimir Wolfblood, which is pretty convenient – like buying a gun and getting the bullets for free.

The only problem with Glare is that it can engender a false sense of security. Let’s face it; the enchantment removal in this block is pretty good. At Champs, I saw someone lose after resolving Glare and Supply / Demand for seven in the same game (Indrik Stomphowler and Rakdos the Defiler were involved). I saw someone else have Selesnya and Azorius Guildmage to go with his Glare, only to go X-2 and miss Top 8 (his Glare got Seed Sparked in one key round).

2. Simic Sky Swallower

Regarding Vigean Hydropon, BDM and Steve Sadin like to say, “Can’t attack, can’t block, can’t lose.” The SSS prefers to think that two out of three ain’t bad: if you are blocking or losing in games where you played him, something’s badly wrong.

I mean, seriously, what more do you want me to say about this guy? He eats all of your fliers for lunch and takes chunks of your life total for dessert. That’s what he does. That’s all he does… he can’t be bargained with, he can’t be reasoned with, he doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear, and he absolutely will not stopever! … until you are dead.

Well, unless you draw Stinkweed Imp.

1. Demonfire

If you have to ask why this card over Triple S, then you are probably not playing Demonfire correctly. The proper usage, as Geordie Tait tells us, is “Demonfire you.” Not “Demonfire your Trygon Predator,” or “Demonfire your Moroii,” or even “Demonfire your Siege Wurm.” No, it’s “Demonfire you.” The best thing about an X-damage spell is that it wins races your opponent thought he was winning. There’s nothing wrong with using a Demonfire as spot removal if you need to, but it should be done as a last resort, where the targeted creature would otherwise win single-handed. If the damage race is even remotely winnable by waiting until the Demonfire can go to the face, then that’s where it ought to be going.

I know that forum people are going to flame me for treating them like they didn’t know all this stuff already. However, between Champs and drafts over the last two weeks, I have had Demonfires pointed at my Rakdos Guildmage (when I was at seven and my opponent had five mana on the table), Dimir House Guard (the opponent was at fourteen), and Cerulean Sphinx (I had multiple Islands untapped!). When stuff like that is happening, the people need to be educated.

Join me tomorrow, when we talk team names.

Mark Young