Selecting 9th Edition Dilemma – Hammer!

Since Phoenix is a creature, I figure it will win this week’s vote regardless of whatever silly words Ben and I put on the page discussing the merits of each card, but this is a vote the mtg.com readers may get right. For once.

If I had a hammer

I’d hammer in the moor-or-nin’

I’d hammer in the evenin’

All over this land.

I’d hammer out danger.

I’d hammer out war-ar-nin’

I think you get the point. I could have gone with the ubiquitous”Stop! Hammer time!” and won this argument right away, but I wanted to give Bleiweiss a chance this week.

Anyway, welcome back to our oh-so-fresh Dilemma series where we tell you which card you should be voting for in the Selecting 9th Edition vote over on magicthegathering.com. Of course, since it’s a Dilemma, one of us has to argue for the bad card, but Ben and I generally agree on which card is better and clearly detail our real opinion between the lines of text. Just put on your secret decoder glasses when peeping our articles, and the answer will readily become apparent.

As most of you are now aware, the debate this week is between two playable cards, which came as a bit of a shock to both of us, let me tell you. Both Shard Phoenix and Hammer of Bogardan have long histories of play in competitive decks (and are perhaps best known in decks named Counter-Hammer and Counter-Phoenix), so it’s not like last week’s debate between bad card and worse card. This week I actually have to do work to win. (Note to self: rig card choices next time.)

Bleiweiss will probably attempt to convince you his card is better with nothing more than smoke and mirrors, and I have to say, it’s hard to compete against that. He’ll be zany and you’ll love him for it. He’ll give you one side of the argument, while avoiding telling you the exact same thing is true about his own card. The Bleiweiss is a trickster my friends, but luckily you have me here to provide well-reasoned arguments from both sides of the fence. Even when I get the card that is obviously worse in this series, I won’t stoop to his insane Bleiweissian levels just to try and win an argument. Besides, I’m taller than Ben, fitter, and I bear no resemblance whatsoever to a penguin, meaning you are more likely to listen to me regardless of what I actually say about the card choices at hand.

Like I said, no shady antics, just the cold hard truth.

This week, I’ll start by telling you why Shard Phoenix is bad, mostly because in an environment with Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author], it may be difficult to tell you why Hammer is good. (Let’s just pretend I didn’t say that for a bit, shall we?)

First of all, the Phoenix is a 2/2 flier for five, something that would very rarely be played in Limited without a solid special ability. Basically it’s an Airdrop Condor, except instead of sacrificing goblins to ping things, you sacrifice the Phoenix to double Tremor the whole board. Yep Tremor… another exciting card that only sees play in Limited, and even then only rarely. When choosing cards for the base set, you want to avoid choosing cards that look like they are only good in Limited, amiright? We need solid Constructed cards for 9th Edition, not more filler cards to open while hoping you pop a Wrath of God or Birds of Paradise in your 9th Edition draft queue on Magic Online. So you see, the Phoenix is five mana for a bad Pyroclasm or a 2/2 flier. Is that really what you want? Having a choice is nice, but it’s a bit overcosted by any standards.

Luckily for mister Phoenix, he’s got an ace up his sleeve. You see, just like the Hammer, he can be recurred from the graveyard. That’s right folks, for the low, low price of thirteen mana, you can have a bad Pyroclasm and a 2/2 flier that can turn into another bad Pyroclasm. What a bargain! Unfortunately it will cost you RRR in order to buy the Phoenix back, and RRR isn’t the easiest to come by, especially in a two-color deck with nerfed dual lands. If you can’t resurrect the Phoenix, then we’re back to the overcosted choice of just a bad Pyroclasm or 2/2 flier for five. Oh frabjous day!

I can see some of you out there aren’t convinced yet, and I can understand that. I see you squinting your eyes, skeptical that my argument carries weight. I understand that and I have no quarrel with skepticism – it’s the sign of an intelligent reader. In order to further allay your doubts, let’s take a peek at what exactly two damage to non-fliers (on turn 5, no less) will affect, shall we?

It kills Disciple of the Vault and Arcbound Worker, but almost nothing else in the Affinity deck, especially if there’s an Arcbound Ravager on the board. Not a particularly useful device when Ravager Affinity decks kill you on turn 4. Goblins will be gone by the time Phoenix comes out, so while the Phoenix could represent both a threat and a removal spell against a Goblin matchup, that’s a no-go. White Weenie will still be bad (I’m of the opinion that they can’t make it good and will continue to believe so until Wizards either reprints the Rebel mechanic or shows me a viable WW deck that works outside the Future Future League), so that’s out.

What other weenie strategies exist? I suppose it is a nice hedge against Rude Awakening or Beacon of Creation bugs, so there’s a point in its favor. Phoenix also sends Eternal Witness and Jens to the graveyard, but by that point those cards have already done their damage. At the moment there simply aren’t a lot of useful targets for the Phoenix’s ability. Of course, if you have two Phoenixes or a Phoenix and a Pyroclasm… now we’re talking big game. Tragically that’s two cards and we can only vote for one today, so put that idea right out of your minds.

Hammer of Bogardan, my dear friends, is where the real action is at. First of all, Hammer only costs you three mana up front to dome anything (including fliers) for three. If that was all you got from Hammer, it would be worth consideration for Standard play. However, in addition to efficiency, versatility, and burn (fire, Fire!), you also get the ability to buy it back from the graveyard. Yes – the buyback cost is a hefty 2RRR, but recursive burn is ugly, so it deserves to be that expensive. Plus, in a format that includes Eternal Witness, you may as well just say the buyback is 1GG. That’s right friends, recurring Hammer is directly associated with”GG.” I ask you, with this very fact in mind, how can picking the Hammer be wrong?

Since Hammer is recursive, it allows you to build a deck with fewer win conditions and more answers, giving you more options as a deckbuilder. In addition, the picture looks fabulous when foiled out, which is something you might not be able to say about the Phoenix. You gotta have the bling, peoples. Style is everything.

To recap, both cards are actually pretty good this week. While Shard Phoenix is a bit overcosted, it’s still strong, even though the projected environment may lack targets for its ability. Hammer of Bogardan will never lack for targets, and since Red seems particularly strong at the moment, it will always have a deck to be played in. The only real question is whether Hammer has basically been made obsolete by the printing of Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]. Pulse doesn’t target creatures, but there are plenty of cards available that do, and having Phoenix around seems like a pretty good plan when playing with Pulse.

Since Phoenix is a creature, I figure it will win this week’s vote regardless of whatever silly words Ben and I put on the page discussing the merits of each card, but this is a vote the mtg.com readers may get right. For once.

Unless, of course, they can’t resist the allure of”Stop! Hammer time!”

I know I can’t…

Ted Knutson

The Holy Kanoot

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