Selecting 9th Edition Dilemma: Sandstalker!

Greetings, and welcome to our new weekly debate series, where the Bleiweiss and I take on one of Magic’s more pressing issues: Selecting 9th Edition.

Greetings, and welcome to our new weekly debate series, where the Bleiweiss and I (time permitting) take on one of Magic’s more pressing issues: Selecting 9th Edition. Ben originally wanted to make this series about why White continues to suck, and then morph it into a discussion of which White cards won’t be played in Extended, and eventually talk about why you shouldn’t wear White pants after Labor Day. Rest easy, dear reader, as I managed to talk him out of that flight of fancy by pointing out that there would probably be White cards in 9th Edition, so instead of crazy Bleiweissian issues articles, you get the two of us strategically debating the possible selections for 9th Edition.

Now I don’t know about you folks, but I happen to think that Selecting 9th Edition is a brilliant concept. I thought it was a great idea last year too. Giving players the idea that they are involved in picking what cards will be in the base set not only generates buzz, but it also gives the folks in R&D a nice excuse when people bitch about the set when it finally comes out.”What’s that you say? You dislike the counterspells that are in the set? I’m sorry, but we didn’t choose Rewind over Dismiss, you did.” All of the U/W Control players may now light themselves on fire.

Obviously, I have some complaints with previous choices that have gone on in this series, both this year and last. First of all, allow me to point out that any time a card with the words”Creature – Dragon” or”Creature – Angel” is up for voting, you may as well be an African American in Dade County, because your vote ain’t gonna count. It’s a sham folks. You’ve been Hoodwinked! Bamboozled! You didn’t land on Plymouth Rock – Plymouth Rock landed on you! I guess what I’m trying to say here is that Wizards probably should have saved money on ink by not printing the words”Dawn Elemental” or”Goblin Goon” and”Barbarian Horde” on the ballot, because any sorry saps who voted for those other”choices” were just fooling themselves into believing that vote mattered.

This is what happens though, when you let the people directly elect their spells. I don’t know ’bout you, but I kind of like the idea of an Electoral College of Magic voters. Look, nobody wants little Timmy Johnson saddling your sorry ass with Emperor Crocodile for two more years when you could have had Jade Leech to beat down with, amiright? Maybe next time we should pick a panel of representatives instead, and vote for them (while making sure that gallant, yet misguided individuals like Ken Krouner don’t raise enough signatures to get on the ballot, knowwhatI’msayin?). For the first person on the ballot, I nominate… me, of course. Then I pick Tim Aten, Mike Turian, and Mike Flores. After that, the rest is up to you. We’ll call it Selecting the Selectors of 10th Edition or something equally catchy. Let me know what you think of this idea in the forums.

Aaaaanyway, I was instructed today that I had to convince you, the real voters, that the obvious choice this week is actually the right one. For those of you out of the loop, you can find the details of this week’s crucial Vote 2004 episode here. For those too lazy to click on the link, the battle is between Viashino Sandstalker and Viashino Cutthroat.

These two beasties are essentially the same creature, except the Cutthroat costs you one more mana for an extra power and toughness. Viashinos are clever kids, since their special drawback (returning to their owner’s hand at the end of turn) means Wrath of God and sorcery speed removal spells in general can’t kill them. Once upon a time, this ability was strong like bull, and Sandstalker actually saw a considerable amount of play in its day, even though he can hardly be described as”mana efficient.” Unfortunately times have changed, and the Sandstalker doesn’t see much play these days, even though he’s already in 8th Edition. And yet, it is my job to convince you that Sandstalker is the better choice here.

Luckily for me, while Sandstalker isn’t particularly good in the current environment (mana efficiency is very important, kiddies), his big brother is even worse. Sandy (as I shall call him from now on) is a 4/2 for three mana, which is a nice power for only three mana, in spite of the drawback. It’s conceivable that a good Red deck will blast away any possible blockers nestled in play at the end of turn 2, and then dome their opponent for four the next turn. In addition, casting Sandy on subsequent turns means you’re still only paying three mana each time for another chance to dome your opponent or run over a blocker with what is essentially a creature removal spell. It’s still not a great plan, but it’s workable, and it has worked in the past.

Big Cutts (Sandy’s older brother) on the other hand, has even less going for him. First of all, he’s a 5/3 for four mana, something that any respectable Green deck can usually find for a similar price, and the Green creature stays in play. Additionally, because Green tends to have better creatures, your chances of actually hitting your opponent for that hefty five are considerably slimmer, because burning out a three, four, or five-butt creature is a helluva lot tougher than torching a creature with a two-butt. Instead of smacking your opponent for four like Sandy does, Big Cutts is usually just going to trade for a blocker. Frown.

Big Cutts has the additional problem of being four mana every subsequent time he is cast, which may not seem like a big deal until you think about having two of the damned things in your hand. Sandy plus a normal burn spell can be cast at five mana. Big Cutts and a burn spell usually have to wait until six mana. Two Sandys can be cast in tandem at six mana, making for some techy late game turns, where you manage to kill your opponent with eight points of damage just as he thinks he’s stabilized (swinging with men is a lot easier than doing Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] math, let me tell you). Two Cutts take eight friggin’ mana, and if a Red deck has eight friggin’ mana and isn’t playing things like Obliterate, then it probably isn’t winning. Even if you do get to eight mana, you still only do ten points of damage with it, which isn’t particularly efficient.

Here’s a standard rule to go by when selecting creatures for 9th Edition: When faced with two bad creatures with similar drawbacks, choose the more efficient of the two. If you aren’t certain which creature seems better, there are articles out there to help you.

Tragically, a sexy Red creature like Skizzik is not on the ballot (how good would Sandstalker be with trample, eh?), so when faced with the dilemma of Sandstalker or Big Cutts, do the right thing and pick the more efficient beater. It’s the obvious choice.

Oh, and while we’re here, here’s another rule: Stop choosing sh**ty counterspells like Rewind. If the voters had chosen Persuasion (the more efficient spell when compared to Confiscate), then Rewind would have been out, and we might have had a shot at a decent counterspell, like oh… I don’t know, maybe Dismiss!

Ted Knutson

The Holy Kanoot

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