My apartment is awash with cardboard.
On each surface, teetering towers of Magic claw hopelessly at the sky. Huge piles of unwanted Legions uncommons, hundreds of nationals-stamped Invasion block chaff and filler. Rares, in boxes, side-by-side and teeming. My mantelpiece resembles the New York skyline, or it would if the New York skyline could fit in a house and was made of Magic cards.
I suspect your houses and apartments are similar.
We collect the cards, read the cards, eat the cards, drink the cards.
It’s about familiarity, you see. The need to absorb the data, the abilities, the magic… Knowledge is power, after all.
Another list, another barrage of decisions… we leap through hoops of fire, searching for the golden promise. But sometimes, the massed catalogue of intelligence is too much to bear. We drown in the cards, in the names and the system, floundering for something tangible.
We cling to the thought that, if we work hard at our game, we can work miracles.
When a new set is unleashed, the process begins afresh. We take the spoilers, the boosters, the wisdom… and we cram it into a fresh box, ready to dissect and disassemble, stumbling forwards on what we hope is the right path for our Pro Tour destination.
Armed with lists and picks and packs, we build what we can and cross our fingers. In articles such as these, we discover our strengths, and our weaknesses. As we share our ideas, we can hope to gain insight into the ideal processes, but we can never truly master the intricate patterns that taunt us.
All we can do is pick up the cards, and play.
For your appreciation and perusal, I present a list of cards. Log your choices, and hand in your decklist at the Land Station.
Kami of Ancient Law
Kami of the Painted Road
Kami of Old Stone
Eye of Nowhere
Field of Reality
2 Sire of the Storm
2 Teller of Tales
2 Wandering Ones
2 Devouring Greed
2 Ragged Veil
2 Crushing Pain
Godo, Bandit Warlord
2 Uncontrollable Anger
Commune With Nature
Shisato, Whispering Hunter
Sosuke, Son of Seshiro
2 Wear Away
Sensei’s Divining Top
Hall of the Bandit Lord
You’ve got twenty minutes. Do your worst.
While we wait, I have a joke for you.
Q: How do you make a bear cross?
A: Nail two of them together.
I’ve made my deck. How about you?
Here are some of my thoughts on the card pool.
Whenever I open my sealed decks, I always pray for decent White cards. Sure, it’s nice to get removal in Black and Red, or flyers in Blue and fatties in Green, but I love having an effective, low-cost creature pool with nifty combat tricks. A deep pool of White guys means that I can lay down the beats with speed, and with consistency.
This pool, while having a few standout men, doesn’t have nearly enough goodness to get my magic juices flowing.
I like the Kabuto Moth, of course. He really is a no-brainer, as his power-boost ability is very relevant with the smallish guys of Kamigawa. Giving your guy +1/+2 is akin to stapling a Zubera to his forehead as he charges to battle. Naturally, the Moth combos well with Kitsune Blademaster, whose omission almost warrants the abandonment of White altogether.
Mothrider Samurai is one of the old benchmarks, a 2/2 flyer for four mana. The bushido is a nice addition, and I’d play this moth-mounted marauder in every base-White sealed deck I’d build.
Complimenting these three cards, we have the distinctly average Kitsune Healer. He serves a purpose, but he’s not as solid as the Loxodon Anchorite of Mirrodin Block.
How about the other guys?
- Lantern Kami may make the cut in a spirit-heavy deck, but frankly he should remain in the box.
- Kami of the Painted Road need to follow them yellow bricks all the way back to Kansas.
- Kami of the Old Stone: If you need to play him, then you’re in trouble. A 1/7 beatdown machine! Start your engines! [I actually like this guy, but that may be me channeling Jon Becker for unknown reasons. – Knut]
- Harsh Deceiver? I’d rather chew my own foot off.
- The Hundred Talon Kami isn’t too bad, but for five mana, I’d appreciate a 3/3 flyer. He’s a soulshifter, which is nice, but even so… if he were a 3/3 with soulshift 4 for 3ww, I’d have his babies.
So the guys miss out on their talisman, as the Blademaster stays at home. Sadly, the White support-card poster-boy, the brilliant Cage of Hands, is also Missing Presumed Dead. And what we do have is lacklustre, to say the least. The only card with true worth is the Indomitable Will, a stout pair of instant-speed pants. And let’s face it, we’ve all been in a situation where some instant pants could’ve spared untold embarrassments.
Ethereal Haze is a nice trick, as a Fog effect will be useful in most games. But for me, it’s too defensive. I’d only play in if I knew my opponent’s deck was far more vicious than my own. If that’s the case, you may mise a win here and there, but the result should remain the same, with or without the foggy pudding. Likewise, Terashi’s Cry is the clarion call of the hopeless. Tapping guys at sorcery speed… where’s the fun in that?
No, for me the White is underpowered and marginal. There are some nice creatures, but on the whole I don’t think I’d even splash it.
Two Teller of Tales.
Two Sire of the Storm.
I’ve gotta play Blue. Those 3/3 flyers are hard to ignore.
I remember the first time I flicked through these Blue cards. After double-taking at the flying fat, I crossed my fingers and prayed that the other guys would be playable too. They’re not stellar, but some of them are randomly passable, the best of which is the airborne Looter that is Soratami Cloudskater. The other guy that caught my eye was the River Kaijin. Sure, he’s naught but a Horned Turtle, but he’s a spirit to trigger the double Teller/double Sire quad nightmare. Importantly, his fat-ass four toughness can block a Kitsune Blademaster, and we know we’ll see a few of them onions during the day.
There are bad guys, naturally:
- The Wandering Ones have wandered too far down Slack Alley. A vanilla 1/1 for 1 is nothing, no matter how many triggers his spirituality can build upon.
- Hisoka’s Guard. I’m unsure of this guy. What do people think?
- Soratami Seer isn’t strictly bad, but I prefer my five-mana flyers to have a power of three. And in this pool, there’s no reason at all to put him in the deck. Yes, his ability is pretty cool… but we’ve four excellent five-mana+ flyers in blue, so the Seer can sod off. I bet he didn’t see that coming.
So, the creatures in Blue have excellent high-end evasion and trick ability, but little to no mid-range strength. But even if the mid-range is weak, I surely must play the Blue 3/3 flyers.
The support spells, my litmus test for Blue, are largely unimportant, as the flying foursome boil my kettle on their own. Still, we have Mystic Restraints and Eye of Nowhere, both strong cards with a double-Blue cost. I doubt Blue will be a splash color in my deck.
The ponce cards are as follows:
- Field of Reality is an incredibly narrow card. Those that play it are far from reality themselves. That said, it makes a fair sideboard card against spirit.dec
- Thoughtbind is a situational counterspell. As I’m not a fan of countermagic in Limited, there’s little hope for a counterspell that only quashes the small stuff. If I’m countering, I want to be countering dragons, damnit!
The Blue in this pool is pretty exciting. As a second color, dependant on the rest of the pool, I think it will be fine
At first glance, Black seems strong.
Hell, who am I kidding? At any glance, Black seems powerful. Some decent mid-range guys, some removal… what’s not to love?
For creatures, we have the old standby combo of Villainous Ogre and Gutwrencher Oni. I believe I have sang their praises before. To recap… while the Ogre’s lack of blocking is poor, a 5/4 trampling Oni on turn 5 is a dangerous guy no matter what his drawback. Of course, if we play Blue (which we will), the five-mana slot may seem clogged at three creatures. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
We have another set of twins, this time of the Nezumi variety. The Nezumi Ronin serves the usual beatdown role. A virtual 4/2 on turn 3 is no slouch, as I’ve covered in previous articles. Alongside the Ronin, we have Nezumi Shortfang, the Disrupting Scepter on a stick. As the Scepter is already a stick, the Shortfang is actually a stick on a stick. He comes down quick and he can strip your opponent’s hand. He’s a good addition to the fray.
New for this pool, we have the Cruel Deceiver. He’s serviceable as a vanilla 2/1 for two mana, but his Tangle Asp ability pushes him up the ranks. Comboing with the much maligned Sensei’s Divining Top, he can make a formidable blocker. And he’s a spirit to boot.
At four mana, there’s the obligatory 2/2 flyer, another spirit called Gibbering Kami. Dictionary.com defines “Gibbering” as “to prattle and chatter unintelligibly.”
Sounds perfect for me, then.
In the bad-guy-bin, we have Numai Outcast. I don’t care how many points of frigging Bushido the fella has, I’m not paying five life and mana to regenerate a 1/1. Of course, I’d happily pay five life to regenerate a 9/9 guy, but at a whopping nine mana, Kuro Pitlord should do nothing but cheer from the sidelines.
Black provides us with dark and brooding boys for the ladies to admire. Of course, while we all like to see the decent creatures, it’s in the quality of its removal that the pool of Black cards will be judged. What do we have?
We have a Rend Flesh.
And… that’s it.
The removal is light, I’ll grant you that. But making up for that are the two- count ’em- two Devouring Greeds!
Primarily, I was unsure of the value of this card. Having played with a couple, I can say that with conviction that the Greed is great. Yeah yeah, I know you all knew this already. Stop being so f**king smug.
If, as it seems, we’re heading toward a spirit-based U/B deck, the Greeds are perfect.
Other than the three cards above, we have 2 Ragged Veins. These can be left on the shelf but I’m pleased to notice that, due to the fact that I had 2 Ragged Veins in my previous pool, I now have my player’s set of four!
I can tell by your silence that you’re impressed.
Aside from the Veins, we have the Midnight Covenant. This is a poor card by anyone’s standards. Let’s face fact: the artwork is too creepy for the card to be viable. What kind of dark contract makes your head shrink? The only pact I’ve made at midnight involved me promising my arresting officer that I’d stop looking through the nurses’ bedroom window with my powerful binoculars.
That was a joke, by the way. Feel free to laugh.
Decent guys, weak removal, and two plain-water bombs. I think the Black is worth a look.
My favorite color in Magic?
I’m from Liverpool. My soccer team, the only team worth supporting, play in red. [Any real football fan knows that the only English soccer team worth supporting not only wears red, but plays its home games in London. – Knut] Red is the color of fire, of passion, of blood! Red is the color of anger! Red is the color of Goblins!
Red is more than my favorite color.
Red is my soul.
Which is why I’m snuffle-pig sick of opening terrible Red cards in my sealed decks.
Let’s start with the Red creatures. In total, we have three of them. Warning, the following may cause nausea and gnashing-of-teeth.
- I suppose the first thing we mention must be Godo, Bandit Warlord, the equipment-fetching, double-attacking, yak-riding inbred. Sure, his ability is powerful, but we have no equipment and few samurai. He’s worthless to me. I hope the yak-saddle is comfortable for his long ride home.
- We have Frostwielder, who is playable but not splashable. Let’s face it, Spikeshot she ain’t.
- Capping it off is the Ember-Fist Zubera. You may not agree, but splashing for the Red zebra isn’t the strongest of tactics. I’d rather play with an empty sleeve.
The guys are bilge. Supporting them, we have some gems but nothing special.
- Blood Rites: never played with it, haven’t formed an opinion. Reusable removal is nice, especially if it can target players. It’s not splashable, of course, and we have nothing to indicate that Red could be a main color. Regardless of this, is Blood Rites any good under other circumstances?
- Crushing Pain. Sorry, I don’t like it. It will take down the biggest of guys, but will almost always be two-for-one disadvantage. Block and burn, you lose the spell and the blocker. Yes, it works well with Frostwielder, but it ain’t worth the effort.
- Stone Rain: this kills a land. If I had seven more copies, then I’d think about running them.
- Lava Spike makes an excellent proxy for a half-decent card.
- While I like a falter effect as much as the next guy, Unearthly Blizzard and pals are only played by the faint-hearted. Blinding Beam was a proactive Falter, but this… into the sideboard it goes.
The good stud numbers three cards. The Yamabushi’s Flame is old-fashioned family-style burn, and it’s splashable. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same for the double Uncontrollable Anger. If they were single Red, I’d make these three cards my mountainous splash color. As they’re 2rr, they stay at home.
As we head for Green, a quick recap: We have weak Red and White, alongside strong Blue and Black. Sound familiar?
Again, the Green cards give us options. There are playable creatures, and quality support spells. While not as impacting as the last card pool, the Green is definitely a solid option.
Onto the roll-call. The Green marines are ready for inspection.
The first thing I notice is the mini snake theme. We have Orochi Leafcaller, Orochi Sustainer and Orochi Ranger. There’s also Shisato, Whispering Hunter. He has a strong ability, but his drawback of “sac a snake each turn” is vastly prohibitive. We simply don’t have enough snakes to cope with this devouring slitherer. Snakes are funny creatures, especially in this card pool. While none of them are impressive on their own, Sosuke Son of Seshiro gives them a dose more tooth and rattle. They are worth considering… mostly.
Keeping pace with the snakes are two monks. Sadly, they are not bald and Green. The Humble Budoka has every right to be humble. He’s little more than a Fresh Volunteer. Of course, a turn 2 2/2 guy is pleasant enough, but he’s not exactly a game-breaker. The same can be said for the Jukai Messenger. Oooh, forestwalk! My favorite ability in the whole world ever!
Green also gives us two playable spirits in the Burr Grafter and the Feral Deceiver. The Green deceiver is perhaps the strongest of the Deceiver cycle, as a 5/4 trampler is a little difficult to dispatch
Supporting the troops, we have the ever-popular Kodama’s Reach, and the ever-controversial Commune With Nature. The Commune is a tricky card to gauge, but I’d be prepared to run it in a bomb-heavy deck, or a deck that ran Green as its main color. We also have the mini-Giant Growth of Kodama’s Might, and the two sideboard Wear Aways.
Overall, I think Green could be good… but there’s something not quite right. Something missing, that I can’t identify. As a splash color, it may make the grade.
Again, this pool throws up the pairing of Nine-Ring Bo and Sensei’s Divining Top. The debate on the value of the Top is still going strong in the forums. Feel free to chime in, especially if you agree that the card is a decent one.
The Bo? Again, a sideboard option if anything.
Now the Jade Idol is interesting. In a spirit and arcane heavy deck, he’s ridiculous. This card is entirely build-dependant. We’ll see his viability in the final showdown.
The other two artifacts in this pool are next-to-useless, especially the Reiko Lantern. At least the Honor-Worn Shaku produces mana, even if it does resemble an S&M spank-paddle. [Sounds like somebody knows this from experience… – Knut, just guessing]
This card pool is overrun with land. The only one worth considering is the Hall of the Bandit Lord. I personally wouldn’t bother.
As for the others… they all produce mana of the weaker colors in this pool. I don’t want Red or White mana, thanks.
I hate getting a rare land in my sealed decks. I feel robbed.
As with the last pool, we have strong Blue, Black and Green, against mediocre White and Red. However, I think the build is a little more transparent than we’ve faced thus far…
To build the tension, here’s a countdown. To aid your enjoyment and excitement, imagine it being spoken by James Earl Jones.
Here’s my deck:
2 Teller of Tales
2 Sire of the Storm
Eye of Nowhere
2 Devouring Greed
1cc = 0
2cc = 3
3cc = 3
4cc = 3
5cc = 3
6cc = 2
7cc = 0
8cc = 0
Overall, I think this is a strong deck. We have nice synergies with the Teller/Sire and the remainder of the cards. Of the twenty-two spells, sixteen of them are spirit or arcane. And one of the remaining six is triggered by spirits and arcane.
I don’t like splashing for mana-fixers, but it seems like the strongest thing to do. Of course, I’m sure there’s a case for U/B/r or U/B/w: the great and good in the forums will explore all avenues.
I went with 18 land here, to maximize the probabilities of hitting five land consistently. It’d suck to be stranded on four while the good spells cascade around my ears.
The last card I dropped was the Sensei’s Divining Top. Maybe the arguments against it are having some effect.
Another concern is the mana-curve. The curve isn’t exactly a curve at all. It’s a plateau. I’d love to drop one of the five-drops for another three-drop, preferably Thief of Hope, who’d be wonderful here.
Nevertheless, I like this deck, and I’d be looking to make top eight.
Another day, another decklist. What do you guys think?
As always, the forums are open. So far they’ve been fabulous. Come over, see what’s going on.
Until the next pile…
Thanks for listening
Scouseboy on MTGO