Serrated Arrows (Homelands Common)
Those of us drunk from the heady days of Umezawa’s Jitte are going to be seriously hung-over trying to adjust to Serrated Arrows, but the Arrows are both much fairer yet still very good. I’m glad they changed the rules where -1/-1 counters go all matter/anti-matter with +1/+1 counters, as that will keep the paperwork manageable. I did want to point out, again, that Clockspinning (with buyback) can be used to keep a steady supply of arrowhead counters available.
Shadow Guildmage (Mirage Common)
Some deck strategists have been making noise about this fellow and for very good reason – drop this on your first turn and suddenly your opponent is in a tough spot with his weenies. If you’re playing small creatures, you are going to have to figure out a way to handle this fellow.
Sinbad (Arabian Nights, Fourth Edition Uncommon)
Sinbad worked pretty nicely back in the day alongside Sylvan Library, so he’s obviously pretty nice with Sensei’s Divining Top. One thing I find interesting is that you actually “draw” the card with the ability, so if you’re playing with Dredge you can “draw” a Dredge spell and toss it back if you’re looking to mill more cards into your graveyard.
Sol’kanar the Swamp King (Legends, Chronicles Rare)
Soon after I first started playing Magic, one of the good friends I sucked into the game talked his roommate into learning Magic too. His incredibly hot, bi-sexual, tattooed art-chick roommate who was named after one of the worst hurricanes to hit the U.S. back in 1969. She didn’t have many rares, but one of the few Legends packs she bought yielded a Sol’kanar, who was nearly as sexy as she was. I used to play Swamps in my deck simply so she could beat me down, and play Black spells to watch her move her dice. Sigh. A 5/5 for five mana isn’t a bad deal, though today’s creatures are much better than they used to be and Sol’kanar’s shine has faded a little. Still, it is ridiculously easy to splash Red and Blue into an otherwise heavily Black deck, and with Black’s themes of trading life for cards he might be a techy move.
Spike Feeder (Stronghold Uncommon)
Oh, how I loved me some “peaches,” and they’ve only gotten sweeter with time! Not only do we now have “damage on the stack, sac for four life” but we’ve also got Graft counters to toss around. Need I mention Clockspinning? Yeah, I know shaddup about Clockspinning whydon’tya… One last thing – turn 2 Spike Feeder, turn 3 Loxodon Hierarch is a pretty humongous life buffer against beatdown and burn decks.
Spitting Slug (The Dark Uncommon)
Back in the day, a 2/4 for three mana was actually not a bad deal, especially with Swords to Plowshares as the removal spell of choice. Creatures have gotten much better since then, and with all the quality burn spells that have stepped into the format, giving opposing creatures first strike is probably a bad idea.
Squire (The Dark Common)
*shakes geezer fist at Forsythe and the boys*
Stormbind (Ice Age Rare)
Back then we used White Out to fuel Stormbind. Then we used Squee, Goblin Nabob. Today we’ve got Life from the Loam – boom, boom, boom! It’s not quite Seismic Assault/Life from the Loam, but it’s a Standard close approximation.
Swamp Mosquito (Alliances Common)
I gave poison decks a whirl but they were rather tricky, because the creatures with poison were usually not very large and it was tough to punch them through. The best I came up with Marsh Viper, Fire Whip, and Awakening. Now we’ve got Fire Whip and Seedborn Muse… and Swamp Mosquito! Sadly, Swamp Mosquito requires an unblocked attack in order to deliver its poison, and I can’t see getting a 0/1 through ten times. This has Mark Rosewater mitts all over it – “see, I told you I’d bring back poison!” Bah!
The Rack (Antiquities Uncommon)
For a while now, fans of discard only had Megrim around to punish people, but back in the day The Rack was quite a fierce little trinket. I remember it being a vital component to a Pox deck I ran way back during an early Extended season. And looky here – Smallpox is here to put something similar together.
Tormod’s Crypt (The Dark Uncommon, Chronicles Common) and Withered Wretch (Legions Uncommon)
Boo! Hiss! Curses!!! As someone who loooooooves graveyard-centric strategies – Rec/Sur back in the day, Dredge recently – having these two graveyard hosers is a real low blow. I realize that they’re here primarily to shake up Extended, but as someone who’s been considering Dredge for another appearance at Champs this month, I have to admit to a little bit of The Fear here.
Uncle Istvan (The Dark, Fourth Edition Uncommon)
Two little words… “by creatures.” If only Uncle’s rules text was truncated by two little words, he’d be a loving trick. Back in the day, Uncle Istvan was not a bad budget creature in Black casual decks, but now even casual creatures have gotten much better. Sadly, mean face or no, Istvan can’t hang with medium dogs, much less the big’uns.
Undead Warchief (Scourge Uncommon)
>From Knutson’s recent review: “The first time around, Undead Warchief barely made a dent in Block Constructed and he had an entire tribe of undead minions around to try and make him work. This time… notsomuch.” Well, first time around the Zombies got outclassed by the Goblin tribe; if you wanted to play aggro, you played Goblins. This time around we’ve got a metric effload of quality two-drop zombies, some solid three-drops, and Undead Warchief and Bad Moon to top things off and make zombie beatdown quite fierce. You can even maindeck Withered Wretch to break the symmetry of Crypt Champion – a 5/4 double-striking Crypt Champion can get out of hand very quickly. Beatdown is not my cup of tea, but I would ignore the potential here at your peril.
Unstable Mutation (Arabian Nights, Revised — Fifth Edition Common)
Back in the day, turn 1 Flying Men, turn 2 Unstable Mutation was some serious beatdown, and here we go again! Moldervine Cloak is already interesting with Simic Guildmage, but Unstable Mutation is even better because it’s so cheap – you can cast it and leave up enough mana to move it and swing with your dudes. We could have critical mass on a WW/u beatdown with Psionic Blast, Unstable Mutation, and a couple of counterspells to foil any responses.
Uthden Troll (Alpha — Fourth Edition Uncommon)
Back in the day, the best thing about this fellow was his flavor text. The removal spell of choice – Swords to Plowshares – didn’t care about regeneration. Nowadays, creatures have gotten much better, and even a regenerating Gray Ogre is still just a regenerating Gray Ogre. His flavor text is still funny though.
Vhati il-Dal (Tempest Rare)
Vhati actually has several advantages it did not enjoy back in the day. First, you can block with Vhati, and then tap to use his ability before damage is put on the stack, making him able to block and survive or block and kill just about any creature. Second, thanks to Ravnica, Green and Black decks have plenty of good cards to build decks around, and Vhati can feel right at home with the Golgari. He also combos nicely with Darkblast, Desert, and Serrated Arrows. Is Vhati an all-star? Nah, but he could be an excellent role player.
Wall of Roots (Mirage Common)
Ah, Wall of Roots! Before Wall of Blossoms came along, Wall of Roots was the premier playable Wall. Remember how good Mirrodin’s artifact lands were with Affinity spells, how they were basically pain-free City of Traitors? Wall of Roots is like that, giving you a mana on your turn and a mana on your opponent’s turn, all without tapping. Speaking of tapping, you can even get triple duty out of this fellow with Convoke. Rootsie can nearly pay the startup cost of Chord of Calling all by his own bad self.
War Barge (The Dark Uncommon)
Aside from the cute combo with Merfolk Assassin I mentioned above, the Barge was also used with bounce like Boomerang to kill off multiple creatures. You can sacrifice it to do the same thing, so fans of Krark-Clan Ironworks might find this handy as an anti-beatdown measure.
Wildfire Emissary (Mirage Uncommon)
Back in the day, Emissary’s biggest boon was being immune to Swords to Plowshares while being a decent sized creature. Sadly, the protection ability and size doesn’t cut the mustard now.
Witch Hunter (The Dark Rare, Chronicles Uncommon)
This fellow makes an interesting sideboard choice against decks without direct creature removal. Between Psionic Blast, Serrated Arrows, and even Arena, those decks are few and far between.
Whew! Okay, that wraps things up on the Dailies. As always, it’s been a lot of fun, and special thanks to Craig for the opportunity. But before I go…
If They’d Asked Me…
One of the best things about Time Spiral is just how chock full of nostalgic flavor it is, and I’m enjoying running across the “easter eggs” R&D has hidden. One thing I’d have really loved to see that I haven’t run across yet though, is a creature where the creature in the artwork looks like it’s flying, but the card itself does not. In the early days, there were a couple cards like that – Blinking Spirit, Frozen Shade. One of the first tournaments I went to back in the day, a buddy of mine had dumped Nicol Bolas into his graveyard, and then cast Shallow Grave to reanimate it and give it haste for the turn. His opponent declared blockers with his Blinking Spirit. When my buddy pointed out the creature did not have flying, his opponent objected, stating that the picture clearly showed the creature had wings for flying. They argued for a few minutes, and my buddy finally called a judge over. The judge listened to each side, and then ruled for his opponent, decreeing “well, according to the picture the card should have flying, so I’ll allow it.” Yes, the quality of judging has definitely gone up since 1996 or so.
If they’d asked me, though, they definitely needed to reprint a creature with wings in the artwork that didn’t actually fly…
Until next time…