I’ve just returned from spending the better part of two days in a crowded room with hundreds of men, and there’s nothing I like better after such a weekend excursion than to sit down at my keyboard and get the whole experience on the record. This article is going to focus on some Scourge cards in Limited – my Saturday and Sunday were dominated by fifteen Swiss rounds over the course of two events and an overall record of eleven wins and four losses. The format? Sealed deck – the special prerelease variety, with a starter of Onslaught and three boosters of Scourge.
Crack a beer and settle in. Here are ten notes on some cards from Scourge, with an eye towards Limited play:
I played Black at both prereleases, and in both cases I ended up running at least one Carrion Feeder. Now, Carrion Feeder might not look too exciting at first glance – but in reality, the card is like a weaker Entrails Feaster in the common slot, and that’s not terrible by any means.
When you play this cheap little beater, try to think of it as a garbage can where you throw your creatures when they’re going to die anyhow. In this way, the Feeder is unlike Nantuko Husk (where sacrificing a dying creature is usually irrelevant) or similar”B” casting cost cards like Entrails Feaster or Vebulid. Though I managed to forget about his ability two or three times over the course of the day, the Feeder still served me well over the course of both tournaments, sneaking in early points of damage and sometimes becoming a massive threat in the late game.
That said, there is nothing more useless on defense than a Carrion Feeder. My board of Carrion Feeder and lands had to stare down a turn 5 Menacing Ogre in the final round of the Sunday prerelease, and I was none too pleased. Of course, I misplayed pretty much every turn of that game in order to get into that position, but that’s beside the point.
Carrion Feeder was definitely playable in the prerelease format, but whether or not he’ll make your draft deck remains to be seen. There’s a lot of untapped potential with Carrion Feeder and token generation – and in addition to that, I had great success with first-turn Carrion Feeder, second-turn Wirewood Herald! At the prerelease, though, this incremental card didn’t have to face the greatest enemy of counter-hoarding cards everywhere – bounce. Echo Tracer makes Carrion Feeder cry.
Zombie Cutthroat can pop up at just about anytime – and that can play havoc with fourth-turn morph scenarios that are usually fairly safe.
Here’s an example from the Prerelease: My opponent, playing G/W, played a third-turn morph off two forests and a plains, which I matched with the face-down Cutthroat. He then attacked and unmorphed Hystrodon when I blocked.
Under normal circumstances, he gets to hit me for one, draw a card, and kill my morph… Or just hit me for three and draw a card if I decline to block. Instead, though, I went to fifteen and pulled his tempo right out from under him. No card for you! Sure enough, he missed his land drop and passed the turn. He drew his fourth land next turn, but it was too late – the game was won almost single-handedly by Zombie Cutthroat.
The ZeeCee is going to be really interesting. Not only did this card and Proteus Machine almost single-handedly prevent good prerelease players from trying to kill morphs with Clutch Of Undeath (whoops! Thanks for the 6/7 beater!), but many otherwise-unstoppable early games are going to be just destroyed by Cutthroat power as the OLS draft season gets into gear! An enemy Daru Lancer is like a Time Walk for you, Battering Craghorn is Time Walk + a card up. Swat fizzles, Smother likewise bounces off, and Shock is a Blazing Salvo. Infest doesn’t wreck you as badly, and Sparksmith-powered openings require more gas to start attacking. Heck, if you stack damage before flipping like a good little boy, even the nightmare scenario of Echo Tracer isn’t so bad.
The last thing I’m going to touch on with this guy is the fact that you can play him in any deck, and that is significant. Decks from U/R to W/R to R/G can run the Cutthroat and experience the wild ride through Tempotown. Have five life? Will travel.
#3: “Mana Burn For Dummies”
I don’t know about anyone else, but I forgot about the cost-reduction abilities of Krosan Warchief, Undead Warchief, and the like pretty much 100% of the time on the weekend. I’m sure I’ll get used to it eventually (and on Magic Online, I’ll be reminded that I’ve spent too much when the game asks me to specify which color I want to use) – but until then, I’ll be out in the shed, manaburning with the rest of the shmoes. My one saving grace was that my opponents managed to forget as often as I did.
Well, EDT didn’t. In fact, he made me manaburn twice (OMG pros are such rules lawyers!!!!), once while casting Kamahl, Fist of Krosa and once while casting Elvish Aberration. Yes, I was keeping it tight that day – and if you think the manaburn was bad, you should have seen how poorly I played in the third game of the final match of the evening while sitting at 6-0! However, for the protection of my already sullied reputation, I’ll leave the details of my choking to your imagination. Eric“Danger” Taylor and John Honea were both watching me play and they have likewise been sworn to secrecy.
That said, Krosan Drover went above and beyond the call of duty not only in bringing out early fatties for my opponents, but also in sticking around in the late game and allowing morons like yours truly to manaburn while casting Kamahl. Other than manaburning when I already had six land in play, I don’t think I used the card all day – but it did help the guy across from me play Wirewood Guardian on turn 5 with startling consistency.
I think it’ll be interesting to see what effect the Drover has on OLS draft – imagine the fun of turn 5 Aven Fateshapers, Goblin Dynamos, or Krosan Groundshakers! That said, I doubt I’ll be picking it too high – essentially it reads,”Tap: Add two colorless mana to your mana pool” – and while such a creature is good, it’s not nearly as good when you can only use it to cast fatties. Wirewood Channeller and Explosive Vegetation are strictly better – Channeller because of the color fixing and Vegetation for that reason AND because it can’t be killed.
Q:”How did the R/G player manage to beat his older sister in the Swiss at the Prerelease?”
A:”He Drover nuts!”
Thanks, I’m here all week!
#4:”Serene Sunset On A Stick”
Ever get smacked around by a Fog? Serene Sunset was fairly sweet trick in OTJ, but you needed to keep about a million mana open. Now, Soldier decks only have to keep W open to really jam up your opera.
I speak, of course, about Frontline Strategist.
The Strategist is a beater in the early game, a Soldier in the late game, and somewhere in between he’s going to pop up and turn your fortunes around. It’s taken a while, boys and girls, but the format finally has a Fog – and it’s a huge beating, because this Fog can bite you.
Now, obviously I don’t have to draw you a diagram, but let me pile a few examples onto your already-overflowing plate – Frontline Strategist is a veritable smorgasbord of strategic delights. Dirge of Dread and Wave Of Indifference-fueled attacks are blunted or completely nullified for a bargain-basement price. Combat trades become massacres. Alpha strikes for the win have become a game of deadly roulette, and racing becomes almost impossible. Would you like to be staring down six damage a turn in the air with the knowledge that you have to deal twenty through chump blockers, W/R tricks, and Frontline Strategist?
I lost the one game that I had a Strategist played against me at the Prerelease – my lethal Gluttonous Zombie with Clutch of Undeath on it was twice foiled by a duo of Strategists wielded by a G/W opponent, while he used his spare mana to crank out Centaur tokens to run me over.
#5:”The New Searing Flesh”
Torrent of Fire. I don’t know if this is going to carry over to draft, but having to go up against people with three boosters full of this toasty little number in their card pools had me in constant fear of my life. My friend John Labute had two of these and a Searing Flesh in his deck and won many of his games at the Prerelease without really ever attacking more than once – he’d empty his hand, swing with the Dragon Mage in his deck, and then dome the guy for fifteen over the course of the next couple of turns. Of course, he also had Decree of Pain in his deck – so hey, the man had a fine backup plan as well.
At first I thought the Torrent might be a little unwieldy, but the simple fact is that these allegations are baseless. Something as simple as Daru Lancer or Zombie Cutthroat means that you can wipe out Rorix or Visara should they appear – and that’s a rare thing. Mana-accelerated R/G decks are even scarier thanks to this card and Titanic Bulvox, which costs 6GG but morphs for 4GG and punches through to the tune of seven trample damage. The green card that uses the same mechanic, Accelerated Mutation, is likewise a beating, though not quite as good as the Torrent since it can’t go to the dome.
“Deal seven to you?”
I can imagine that a lot of”bad beat” Torrent stories are going to surface over the course of the next while – one minute you’re winning, the next minute you’re taking eight to the head. Get those Willbenders ready – nothing turns the tide of a heated conflict so much as causing a cavalier mage to immolate his own meal-ticket. Blasting yourself in the face for seven isn’t much fun either.
#6:”Here Comes The Pain”
Anyone remember the shenanigan-basket that was Plague Wind? Well, the best card in the set for Limited play is, like in Legions, the Black Wrath. Even better than Bane Of The Living, Decree Of Pain isn’t fun to play against – all you can really do is play around it, keep the pressure on, and hope for the best. Make sure to side in some discard, too, if you’re playing Black (which, at a prerelease, is pretty much the accepted state of affairs).
I don’t know if this will be true in draft, where the cantrip Infest effect will likely see more play than the hard-cast board-sweeper – but during the Sealed deck event, those lucky few playing with the Decree Of Pain weren’t having much trouble reaching the eight mana needed to unload a knapsack full of hurt.
I personally saw John Labute cast this to wipe the board and draw five cards. Yeah, he won that game. Really, what more is there to say? How many cards can put”Like Infest, but better” on the ol’ resume?
“Play my eighth land. Tap ’em all. THUD. Good game.”
I’m going to enjoy pulling games out of the fire with this card – games that no other card this side of Starstorm would win. That”sigh of relief” feeling that accompanies such an act is one of the true joys of Magic, and it always brings a smile to my face to see someone rip off the top and scream “YES!!” Ontario’s own Mike Ferneyhough would know what I mean – at Canadian Nationals last year, he was getting beat down by my Dirty Werewolf and Cabal Patriarch with no cards in hand and no creatures in play and at seven life, and ripped Faceless Butcher.
Mise well rip. What a sack, amiright?
#7:”You Make The Bomb, Part 1″
This is not the title of an al-Qaeda training manual, but in fact my own suggestion for what”You Make The Card” should have been called. Forgotten Ancient is the best creature in the set, and I will go so far as to say that casting fourth-turn Ancient in Limited is even better than flipping a fourth-turn Exalted Angel or a fifth-turn Silent Spectre. I mean, it’s close, but as far as I’m concerned the Ancient wins out – it has no foil outside of a Cruel Revival or a Death Pulse that follows immediately as the next spell, or maybe something like Visara or a Wrath of God-like effect slightly afterward. Otherwise, you are winning.
Opponent has Pacifism? Doesn’t matter. Burn? Won’t kill it. Echo Tracer? Spread the counters out. Whipcorder? Doesn’t matter… Ship those counters like they were Break Opens in a Top 8 draft. Forgotten Ancient is right up there with Visara and Rorix when you talk about the best creature in the entire block – it can win games that you have no business winning.
One of the funniest stories from the prerelease was the plight of my fellow Sarnia player Jean-Marc Babin, who, after a strong showing at the Saturday event, stumbled through a disastrous Sunday prerelease that saw him get pounded twice by Forgotten Ancient – both times early on and in back-to-back games. After the offending round, he simply walked up to me shaking his head and showing me his scoresheet (provided, as usual, by the fine people at Professional Events Services). The numbers reflected the steady march of his own life total towards zero. The commentary was chilling and succinct:
“Game 1 – Forgotten Ancient turn 4.”
“Game 2 – Forgotten Ancient turn 4.”
I asked him if there was anything he could do, and he just shook his head – in game, 1 he had to put Clutch of Undeath on it and then kill it with Pinpoint Avalanche, and by then there was a 6/6 Barkhide Mauler beating him down. Game 2, well… He just got wrecked.
What’s worse than that? Well, he later entered a flight and received an even worse thrashing. I beat my Round 5 opponent in about five minutes in order to go 5-0 in the main event (I had a strong G/B deck with Nefashu, Kamahl, Fist of Krosa, good elves, and three copies of Lingering Death, which I will talk about in a moment), and I thought I’d be the first one out of my seat. Nope. I turned around with the match slip in hand – and imagine my surprise when I met JM Babin, also apparently done his match.
“Did you win?”I asked.
He could only show me his score sheet.
“Game 1 – turn 3 Forgotten Ancient.”
“Game 2 – turn 3 Forgotten Ancient.”
Forgotten Ancient is even better with Wirewood Elf, apparently.
#8:”The Slowest Kill Ever”
The card name brings bad connotations – when you think of the word”lingering,” which is most often used to describe doubt, flatulence, and visits from annoying relatives, very little good comes to mind. Still, the card is solid if you get used to the idea that the enemy creature will, indeed, be overstaying its welcome by at least a turn.
Lingering Death, really, should be called”Tainted Weed.” Kills you after one hit.
Yes, the 1B creature enchantment was too strong to leave in the sideboard, but it has some glaring weaknesses. Ideal for killing things like Callous Oppressor, Glarecaster, and Sparksmith, it is terrible against hasted bombs like Rorix and Menacing Ogre, both of which I had to face on Sunday. I also had to use it twice to kill Dragon Mage, and both times the Mage was able to refill both hands before biting it, leaving me in mortal terror of Torrent of Fire.
I was likewise nonplussed when holding two Lingering Deaths against an opposing Wirewood Elf, third-turn Snarling Undorak opening – Lingering Death on the Elf would still allow the Undorak on turn 3, and should I enchant the Undorak, I have to miss my morph drop on turn 3 and still get nailed for three. Bad times.
That said, Lingering Death kills things that many other cards cannot. It kills regenerating Zombies like Twisted Abomination, which are not vulnerable to other black kill spells like Swat, Smother, Clutch of Undeath and Cruel Revival. It kills Silvos eventually. It kills mirror match terror Anurid Murkdiver after a scant four damage. The card will find a place in your deck more often than not, but it will be better against some deck types than others – I know that when I was facing down a deck with Menacing Ogre and Siege-Gang Commander (two of the weakest Lingering Death targets possible) I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy.
#9:”The Best Storm Spell”
It’s a close race. Hindering Touch is mediocre at best, Dragonstorm is a joke, and Temporal Fissure is too slow. Tendrils of Anguish is great, but it falls just short. Scattershot is just a bad Shock, Astral Steel a bad Inspirit. Sprouting Vines is great for avoiding the screws, but it’s a dead draw on occasion and doesn’t help you if your deck is underpowered. Wing Shards is really very good and might top the list…
But I have a special place in my heart for the card that seemed to decimate people every time I cast it over the course of the weekend: Reaping the Graves.
Reaping the Graves was nuts for me during both events. It is what Aphetto Dredging should have been. One time, after trading Undead Warchief and Nefashu for an opposing creature and a removal spell, I untapped, played Wirewood Herald, sacrificed him to my Carrion Feeder, got my Elvish Aberration, played a Festering Goblin, then cast Reaping the Graves to return the Herald, Undead Warchief and Nefashu to my hand.
Yeah, I won that one.
Even”end of turn, return two guys to my hand” is good. If your opponent casts more than one spell, even better! Raise Dead effects have always been too slow or too unwieldy or (in the case of Raise Dead itself) too weak. Aphetto Dredging was the closest to playable they have been, with the possible exception of Urborg Uprising (which was slower than Christ on a crutch) but now they have a new champ – Reaping the Graves! Trust me readers – give this card a try and you won’t be disappointed in the gasoline it gives you in the late game.
“I’ll play a morph. Go.”
“I’ll cast Reaping the Graves, returning Twisted Abomination and Kamahl to my hand.”
When you compare this card to Aphetto Dredging, the cost, the speed and the absence of a creature-type restriction are all significant improvements over the Onslaught sorcery. When I play Black in any capacity, I think I’m going to want one Reaping the Graves in my deck. In actual practice, Wing Shards may prove to be stronger (having multiples in your deck is much better than having multiple Reaping the Graves) but I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for the 2B instant that is just one big bundle of graveyard love.
Bonethorn Valesk and other”face-up trigger” cards were pretty awful during the prerelease – much worse than I thought they would be, and I’ll chalk that up to my own overestimation and also to the fact that Legions, the true”morph trigger” set, was absent from play on both afternoons. That said, I’ve cooled a little bit in my expectations for Aphetto Runecaster and friends – time will tell whether or not the effects they generate ever have any measurable effect on the games where they show up.
In any case, Bonethorn Valesk, which shows up the latest, seems to be the weakest of them. Aven Farseer was in my Saturday deck (which went 5-3, much to my chagrin) and it didn’t receive even one counter all day – though this will doubtless change as it begins to participate in OLS Soldier draft decks. The Runecaster remains an enigma – I never played it or saw it played the entire weekend.
As a disincentive to turning morphs face-up, the Runecaster is the best one, so I think it has the greatest potential. That said, the body it bears (a 2/3 for 3U) is unremarkable.
Yadda yadda yadda… Like with most every card, time will tell. I’ll be watching for signs of limited prowess in all of the Scourge cards in the coming weeks, with great interest.
Well, that’s about it for this week, gang. I hope this gave you some ideas for OLS drafting – I know it did so for me. Personally, I can’t wait for Scourge to show up on Magic Online – once it does, I’m going to start writing the series of ten drafting strategy articles that I promised myself I would do!
Do you have any observations of your own on Scourge limited, based on what you saw at a prerelease? Chime in on the forums!
One comment I want to make is that I have been terrible about answering my email for the last couple of months. I want to take this time to thank all of the nice people who wrote during that time with props, advice and criticism, and to those of you that didn’t receive a response, I’m sorry – I’ll do better next time… From now on, I’m going to be sure to answer all of my mail. So, if you want to contact me about an article or about any other thing, you can use the address listed below or comment in the StarCityGames forums, which I am pretty good about reading (and I’m ever better at making dumb remarks while bored).
Thanks also to all of the fine people who have messaged me on MODO with words of encouragement – I really appreciate you all taking the time to do so.
I’ll see you guys later – keep it tight.
FP_GLyM on MODO