Take Another Look

Say, whatever happened to Utopia Tree? When did Rishadan Port get so big? Why is Charging Troll whipping people’s butts when Daniel plays it?

Good {insert time of day here} to you. As always, I’m here to share my thoughts with you good people. However, this week, my thoughts are going to be directed to be outside the norm. This week, I’m going to present to you six cards. They are relatively well-known, and most people have an opinion about them. My purpose is to show you another point of view so that you might look at these cards differently, thus making you cast a critical eye on all cards you encounter. I’ll be pulling old ideas out of your head and sticking new ones in their places. And you’re gonna like it…

Ready? Then we begin.

We’ll start with a card that was huge when it came out: Utopia Tree. Many players thought that this would make a huge impact on multicolored decks. Well, for those of you who haven’t been following along – it hasn’t. Is it still a good card? Not as good as it was expected to be. When Invasion came out, everyone thought that things were going to start getting REALLY multicolored. I’m not talking R/G or even R/G/w; I’m talking W/U/B or G/R/B/w. Therefore, an extra Birds of Paradise (with a slightly higher casting cost) was welcome in the ranks. As time passed, though, and things evolved into the metagame we have now, we see that almost all decks are two colors with perhaps a splash of a third. That makes multi-colored mana producers that aren’t Birds of Paradise just not good enough. Once again, green gets the shaft.

Now, let’s take a look at a case opposite that of Utopia Tree: Rishadan Port. For a long time, Rishadan Port has been one of the best cards in Standard. Unlike Utopia Tree, it was maligned when it was first printed and then boomed in popularity. Recently, however, I’ve noticed a decline in Rishadan Port’s popularity. People seem to think that cards like Teferi’s Response and Tsabo’s Web keep Port at bay. In order to counter these cards, some players take the Ports out of their decks. But look around. How many Teferi’s Responses do you see, even in sideboards? Tsabo’s Web replaces itself, but many decks would rather just spend the two mana on something good. Plus, Rishadan Port isn’t as devastating as everyone thought it would be; because of new duals, painlands, and lairs, it’s a lot harder to shut down one color of mana. So, there’s even less reason to put in Response and Web, thus making the only reason to take Port out of a deck invalid! So keep your Ports, and fear not the illusions of anti-Port technology.

Let’s see some creatures now. Who remembers Ball Lightning? {every reader raises hand} So, I guess you were all pretty excited to hear that a new Ball Lightning was created in Skizzik. {Every head nods.} Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but Skizzik’s not as good as people might think it is. Once again, it’s a matter of environment. What’s basically the only extremely successful deck running red right now? Fires. Now, when Fires has four mana, it can cast Blastoderm or Jade Leech, and those stay around for quite a bit longer. At five mana (the cost of Skizzik with kicker), the Fires player has Saproling Burst open to him, and two 5/5s is better than one 5/3. Even better are three 4/4’s running at your opponent. In a non-Fires deck running heavy red, I still wouldn’t run Skizzik; instead, I’d run Flowstone Overseer, which gets rid of River Boa, can trade with Blastoderm if need be, and can smack your opponent around for seven. Skizzik’s just not all it’s cracked up to be.

On the other hand, there’s one particularly amazing four-cost creature in Invasion that I just love: Charging Troll. This little dude’s a stick! He serves for three every turn while still being able to block Blastoderm and live to tell the tale. The only downside to this beast of a stick of a beating of a monster is that it’s green-white. However, if the Magic public would just start listening to me, it would realize that BlastoGeddon is the best deck around. Then being green-white wouldn’t be a liability of the oft-forgotten Troll. This guy is an absolute stick, and just IMAGINE what he can do with an Armadillo Cloak on him…

Moving along to more recent times, let’s take a look at Meddling Mage. This card was supposed to be relatively amazing as well, but it’s just not as great as everyone thought it would be. Why not? Again, it’s due to the environment; there just aren’t any super-amazing cards that MUST be stopped at all costs. Parallax Wave, Exclude, Shock, and Terror are only some of the ways that most colors can get around the Mage, and Green is always accompanied by white or red anyway. Though Meddling Mage my stall an opponent for a while, it’s still a creature, and it will eventually die, thus making it not all that great as a preventative measure.

On the other hand, an oft-overlooked preventative measure is Lobotomy. I’m surprised to see this isn’t in a lot of Nether-Go decks. This card’s the bomb! Playing in a Nether-Go mirror match, my opponent tapped out, and I took four Counterspells from him with Lobotomy. To make things more amazing, he cast Lobotomy the next turn, taking out four of my own Counterspells. Do you see just how good this card is? It gets rid of Blastoderm, Underground River, Teferi’s Moat, Wash Out, or anything else you could want. Since most of the decks in today’s environment run four copies of the good cards in them, a Lobotomy will often net three- or four-for-one card advantage – and due to the huge number of strong cards in decks today, you’ll almost never be disappointed when you cast the card. Overall, Lobotomy is amazing, and it should be played at every opportunity.

Well, that’s about it for this week. What should you have learned from today’s article? Learn to see past the first impression of cards and what "everyone else" says is good. I’ve gotten extremely few good feedback about Charging Troll, yet it’s taken me to several top eight victories. Additionally, you have to take into account the environment the card’s going to be in to decide whether or not it would be good. Stroke of Genius was so good that it was a kill feature for many decks. However, if it were in print now, I doubt it would see much play, what with Fact or Fiction and Accumulated Knowledge around. You’ve got to see the whole picture before making a judgment. Keep that in mind when Apocalypse comes out.

Daniel Crane