Welcome back to Selecting 10th Edition. We narrowly lost last week’s vote, but we’re going to win this week. Why is that? Because we’re voting for Troll Ascetic! There are compelling reasons to vote Troll Ascetic into 10th Edition, and there are compelling reasons to vote Ravenous Baloth into 10th Edition. As it stands, Troll Ascetic is a much better choice for 10th Edition, for several reasons.
Let’s look at a side-by-side comparison between Troll Ascetic and Ravenous Baloth:
Troll Ascetic = 3.
Ravenous Baloth =4.
Troll Ascetic = 3.
Ravenous Baloth = 4.
Troll Ascetic = 2.
Ravenous Baloth = 4.
Troll Ascetic = Untargetable by opponents. Regenerates.
Ravenous Baloth = Sacrifices beasts (including itself) for four life.
Both have their merits — Troll Ascetic has amazing synergy with Green’s sub-theme of creature enhancement (Moldervine Cloak, Blanchwood Armor, Might of Oaks), whereas Baloth does not. Baloth is great for stopping aggro decks — it is bigger than most weenie creatures, and the four life gain it engenders is not insignificant. Troll Ascetic stops weenie hordes as well, but usually must wait a turn to do so (for regeneration mana).
Ah, a deadlock! So why vote for Troll Ascetic? The reason is simple: there is unlikely to be a creature more aggressively costed than Troll Ascetic which fills the same niche that the Troll fills, whereas if Ravenous Baloth is absent from 10th, there is a greater possibility that there will be a card equal-to or more-powerful-than the Baloth. The proof:
Green untargetable creatures printed since Troll Ascetic:
Humble Budoka (2 for a 2/2, you can’t target it)
Kodama of the North Tree (5 for a 6/4, tramples, you can’t target it, Legendary)
Plaxcaster Frogling (3 for a 3/3, requires Blue mana)
Silhana Ledgewalker (2 for a 1/1, can’t be blocked by non-flyers)
Simic Sky Swallower (7 for a 6/6 flyer, trample, you can’t target it, requires Blue mana)
Green regenerating creatures printed since Troll Ascetic:
Ancient Silverback; Fiddlehead Kami; Gatherer of Graces; Golgari Grave-Troll; Hunted Troll; Isao; Kashi-Tribe Reaver; Sporeback Troll; Tel-Jilad Lifebreather; Woodwraith Strangler.
The regenerating creatures in Green printed since Mirrodin have all been the pits, whereas the untargetable creatures have all been pretty decent. The closest equivalent to Troll Ascetic would be Plaxcaster Frogling — but the Frogling costs some Blue mana, and takes mana to make untargetable. With Incinerate coming in 10th Edition, the synergy between Troll Ascetic’s two abilities is more important than ever!
Let’s take a look at Ravenous Baloth. The two abilities that the Baloth has are a 4/4 body for four, and the ability to gain four life.
How has Green gained life since Onslaught?
Centaur Safeguard (3 for a 3/1 that gains 3)
Dark Heart of the Wood
Dosan’s Oldest Chant (5 for 6 life and a card)
Golgari Brownscale (3 for a 2/3 that dredges for two life)
Gristleback (3 for a 2/2 or 3/3 that gains 2 or 3)
Loxodon Hierarch (4 for a 4/4 that gains 4)
Natural Spring (5 to gain 8)
Nourish (2 to gain 6, instant)
Starved Rusalka (though the less said about it, the better)
Stream of Life
How many 4/4 (or larger) for 4 has Green had since Onslaught?
Iwamori of the Open Fist
Kami of the Tended Garden
Kodama of the South Tree
How many of the above cards have seen serious tournament play? From the first list, two: Loxodon Hierarch and Nourish. From the second list, four: Hunted Wumpus, Iwamori, Loxodon Hierarch and Rumbling Slum (with Stamping Serow and Kodama of the South Tree making guest appearances on the precipice.)
The closest comparison to Ravenous Baloth is Loxodon Hierarch. Both are 4/4 for four mana, both gain four life — one enables you to sacrifice other beasts for four life, the other sacrifices itself to regenerate your team. These are both comparable.
Wizards has stated Green will regularly get four-mana 4/4 creatures with a special ability from this point forward, so it’s not unreasonable to fathom that Ravenous Baloth could easily be replicated or surpassed, whereas Troll Ascetic really hasn’t been matched. Lifegain and fatties are in steady supply for Green — untargetable creatures and regenerators are not.
Insert witty conceit here.
PS: Due to the sheer number of entries, the winner of the Psychatog Contest will be announced in next week’s article instead of this one.