So I have to admit that KK is definitely right, and I was going to talk more about this in my format summary next week, but I might as well do it now since he just mentioned it in his article this week.
Moonlit Strider is certainly much better than I gave it credit for in my White review, and I’ve come to realize this after getting a few more opportunities to play with the card. The ability to sacrifice in combination with Soulshift is one of the reasons that Scuttling Death has always moved up in my pick order, and this guy has arguably a better ability than that of the Death. So my mistake there, and Moonlit Strider is definitely the 3rd best White common, and a high pick for any controlling deck.
This week I’ll be covering the last of the colors in my review, Green, and hopefully helping to shape the card values for you guys. In Tim Aten review of Green, he seemed very adamant that Matsu-Tribe Sniper was simply the best Green common, and I actually think it is a lot closer than that, with Gnarled Mass being very important to most Green builds. Anyway, lets get on with the reviews.
Child of Thorns
This little man is almost on par with Frostling.
Not quite since he can’t kill an opposing Nezumi Cutthroat, Mirror-Guard, or other powerful one-toughness man, but he’s still a nice one-drop that can be Soulshifted and also mess up the combat math a little.
Gnarled Mass [Or in local parlance, Bob Gnarly. – Knut, who still loves nicknaming cards]
In triple Champions, Green was always heavy on the four-drops and exceedingly light in the three slot. This was acceptable though, as you have three whole packs to get your Elders and Sustainers to ensure that you’ll be able to play a four-drop on turn 3. Now that we lose a pack of Champions though, it becomes very important for Green to pick up a good three-drop beater.
Gnarled Mass is exactly what Green needed to transition to the new format, and it’s as good if not better than Kami of the Hunt. This is definitely the best Green common, though there are times when you have no defense against fliers and have enough three-drops thanks to your other color that you will take Sniper over him. Most times though, this guy is what you want.
Harbinger of Spring
For some reason my friend here has been getting a bad rap when he really is much better than people are giving him credit for.
Obviously the main argument of the nay-sayers is that he’s a measly 2/1 for five mana.
“This is Green, the color of creatures, you know you can do better than a 2/1 for five!”
While I do agree with the above statement, I think the reason many people don’t like him is that they just haven’t given him a chance yet. His ability is amazing, since many of the other colors have lots of non-spirit ground guys. He will either shut them out of the attack step, or walk right through for two unblockable damage a turn. He also has Soulshift 4 which is excellent in a color that contains the likes of Burr Grafter and Feral Deceiver.
It’s annoying that he only has one toughness and can be taken out by things like First Volley, Yamabushi’s Storm, and Frostling, but other than that I think he’s a really solid man. Most Green decks don’t have many five-drops anyway and this guy is a great companion to Burr Grafter. I generally only like playing one, but could see some decks where playing two would be reasonable. I’d also side them out frequently if my opponent was heavy on spirits and I had stuff to bring in. This doesn’t mean they should flee in the face of a deck with four spirits, so make sure you have enough evidence to believe your opponent has a ton of them before you board em’ out.
Green doesn’t usually get commons this good.
This guy is simply outstanding. It is game over for most Blue decks, and can hold down as many as two fliers per turn regardless of size. Don’t forget that it still will lock down a guy even if you simply chump block with it.
As I said earlier, this and Gnarled Mass are pretty close in comparison, though the Mass will usually be better. If you’re low on removal though, and have no way to stop fliers like Orbweaver Kumo or Gale Force, I’d definitely pick this guy up, and early. Multiples are also welcome.
If Harbinger of Spring was underrated by the general population of Magic players, this guy is certainly overrated and overplayed.
I thought I was going to like this guy when I initially read it on the spoiler, but I realized almost immediately after playing with him for a few drafts that he wasn’t very good. Anyone using this with the intent of producing mana needs their head examined.
He will serve one very specific purpose, and that is being a worse Orochi Leafcaller. Sure he may produce a mana or two here and there, but generally you’re going to want him in your deck if you have a good deal of Spirit and Arcane spells and are splashing some things that he can help with. The reason I say that he’s worse than Leafcaller is that you need counters to activate it and it won’t be all that reliable. So he’s a fixer, not a producer people.
It’s still fine to play if you need a two-drop or you need a way to help facilitate a splash, but it’s definitely seeing more play right now than it should be and I think most people will realize that after playing with it a few times and having it not do anything for them.
Roar of the Jukai
This is a decent combat trick, but nothing that really impresses me and makes me want to take it highly.
When you look at it on the surface, no good player is going to let you two-for-one him with this, so it essentially becomes a much worse Kodama’s Might. It’s still reasonable though, since Green doesn’t have an overwhelming amount of tricks and you’ll usually kill a good blocker with it.
The splice cost is interesting because it’s free and giving your opponent five life is definitely worth it in exchange for some card advantage. How will five life help him if all of his creatures end up dying to Roar?
Basically, this is a fine addition to most Green decks, and we have to take what we can get so it will end up being a nice combat trick. Just don’t go thinking any good opponent is going to walk into it and block two creatures is he doesn’t have to.
So this is what we get? Another four-drop?
I have a few friends that really like this card since it lets you cast Moss Kami or Scaled Hulk on the next turn, but I’m really just not seeing it. I don’t mind playing this if my four slot is shallow, but doesn’t Green already have tons of great four-drop men?
Honestly, wouldn’t you rather be playing Feral Deceiver, Burr Grafter or Order of the Sacred Bell over this?
In the end, it’s playable but I’m not a huge fan of four mana Llanowar Elves with a big behind.
This is a solid fatty for Green. The Kami of the Hunt ability magnified is also pretty good.
Make no mistake though, this is no Moss Kami. Trample is absolutely vital on a creature this big or else a deck with fliers can just chump block your man and attack you back in the air and you’ll never win the race. This is why Moss Kami is such a great fatty and should be taken even higher now with the loss of one Champions pack. This guy is still just fine though, as he’ll make short work of anyone who doesn’t have removal or an armada of fliers to counterattack with.
The only bad thing here is that he’s only 4/4 base stats so he can be smoked by a simple Torrent of Stone. A nice card for Green, and just insane if you cast Unchecked Growth on him.
One thing to note with this guy is that it counts all Forests in play and can be effectively indestructible by way of damage in any Green mirror match. It’s for this reason that it’s a great sideboard card that can silence Moss Kami and give you time to set up your own board.
Besides the mirror, this is also good against Blue and White fliers provided you have enough Forests in your deck to get it up to a reasonable amount of toughness. Having Kodama’s Reach helps here too.
I wouldn’t maindeck this unless you have upwards of 10 Forests as if it doesn’t get up to at least an 0/3 regularly, it’s not going to do much. In a very heavy Green deck I could see running multiples of this though, as it is a good way to give yourself time to build board position.
This is mainly a sideboard commodity.
I can’t really think of a time where you’d want it maindeck unless you really needed an Arcane spell. Obviously the purpose here is to kill one of those annoying Genjus. And this doesn’t just temporarily relieve the problem, it stops them for good. No returning to hand, driving over 15 mph in a school zone, or eating meat on Sunday.
And Joyous Respite is still much better than this unless you’re able to splice it almost every turn.
Body of Jukai
“Hello, I heard that you needed something to pitch to Nourishing Shoal?”
“Who is this??”
“Well you see we have this extra body laying around, you can pitch it to Shoal for 9 life!”
This is grossly overcosted for what it does, and is relatively easy to kill since it only has five toughness. If you’re paying nine mana for it, it needs to do a lot more than this, sorry.
This guy is a straight up bomb.
If it flips with two counters, it is a guaranteed 8/7 trampler for one turn which is just sick.
It also leaves behind a hefty 4/3 trample body even after all of the counters are gone. If the game ends up stalling out you can just accumulate counters and voila, you have Narcissism. The only card I would even consider taking over this if I was in Green would be Iwamori of the Open Fist, and that too is a close call.
Double Soulshift is quite nice, and it’s the right number too since it can shift the ever-important Burr Grafter.
This is better than all of the commons, and a very good card even if it was just a 4/4 for five. Remember Fangren Hunter? Well the Soulshift ability is far better than Trample if you can make use of it.
Genju of the Cedars
This card is so annoying to play against.
If it comes down early it will just start attacking you every turn. This may not seem problematic at first, but realize that it is a very quick clock unless you have some way to shut it down like Consuming Vortex or Kami of Ancient Law. This is certainly better than all of the commons, and pretty close in comparison to Budoka Pupil. I think if you have enough Spirit and Arcane that the Pupil will come out on top though if you do ever have to make that pick. Like Pupil, it is also better than a good deal of the rares.
So here we have a Hill Giant with an interesting ability.
Even if you can’t use the ability, this is a nice Spirit beater for any deck. You also have to realize that your opponent is going to be worried about you searching for Oyobi, Who Split the Heavens or some other ridiculous bomb with it, so he may value it higher than normal and use a kill spell on it instead of on what is actually a more important creature. So you have the threat factor working for you here too which isn’t something that should be ignored.
If this guy were simply a Spirit Grizzly Bears with no ability, I think it would still be quite good in this format. The reason being obviously that there aren’t a huge amount of cheap Spirits and Green has tons of Soulshift now. He’s also a 2/2 for two which is excellent for those times you don’t have an Elder or Sustainer on turn 2.
I’d pick this pretty highly, and you’ll know when it’s right to take it over Gnarled Mass based on your curve.
As far as the semi-useful ability, it hasn’t proven to effect the game much yet in my own drafts, but it’s still something that can help you accelerate to that Moss Kami in a deck that can trigger it regularly enough.
Mark of Sakiko
I once considered playing this just to have another Enchant Creature for Kitsune Mystic.
What the hell was I thinking?
This doesn’t do anything, so don’t get cute and try to play it. Maybe if you combine it with Kumano’s Blessing, Vigilance, and a bunch of other useless creature enchantments they will combine to form Megatron or something, but I just don’t see it happening.
Here’s a nice one for those of you out there who aren’t consumed by Spirit and Arcane spells.
A nice little toy for the Snake player, this thing can get out of hand in a hurry. The nice thing is that most of the Snakes are cheap and you can reuse this thing a bunch of times in the early game. Just watch out for Yamabushi’s Storm, but besides that this is a very solid card that you should pick highly if you’re in the Snake deck. This is also just sick if you have Sosuke or Seshiro and I don’t think I have to explain why.
So what if this was reprinted in Mirrodin block instead of this one?
It would still suck!
Okay, my bad, it wouldn’t be horrible, but it wouldn’t be great either.
Compare this to Wear Away and you’ll notice that the Champions common is better in each and every way. I will say however, that I’m still boarding this in to deal with Jitte or some other stupid Artifact if I have no other way to do so.
I was recently drafting BBB on MTGO and had to choose between this and Faithful Squire twice in the same draft! Talk about a tough pick when you’re a G/W Spirit deck.
I ended up taking one of each, because I really wanted to get two Faithful Squires (already had one from earlier in the draft) since they just dominate once they flip in triple Betrayers. The only real answers are Horobi’s Whisper or possibly Throat Slitter or Mistblade Shinobi if you’re able to get a guy through.
Unchecked Growth is certainly an excellent card though, and only slightly worse than Strength of Cedars. Both are fully capable of ending a game that your opponent thinks he has won and that’s exactly what you want from a pump spell. As I mentioned earlier, this is extra spicy when cast on Scaled Hulk for a whopping ten points of trample damage.
I’m still undecided on this one.
There are some who swear by it, and others who claim it’s trash. I personally think it’s pretty good, but not a bomb. You do need to have a relatively high creature count, but this will be excellent in the mid-late game, hopefully drawing you into three or more guys which should easily win the game. Those of you who know my dislike for Commune with Nature will be happy to know that I like this one much more than Commune.
Isao, Enlightened Bushi
Troll Ascetic this is not.
It’s usually just a 2/1 regenerator with Bushido 2. If you have other Samurais, it obviously becomes that much better. Unable to be countered isn’t really a good ability in Limited though, and definitely not as good as the ability on Troll Ascetic.
So if you’re one of those people out there calling this the “new Ascetic,” I’d love to know what you’re smoking.
Beyond all of that, this is still an excellent man for draft and certainly better than all of the commons, and your only tough picks will be when you open it along with Budoka Pupil, Genju of the Cedars, or Unchecked Growth. At that point, it all depends on your deck.
Iwamori of the Open Fist
This is right up there with Blastoderm if you ask me.
Trample is such a great ability to have on a big, cheap body like this, and the drawback really isn’t all that important except in Block Constructed where they will almost definitely have a Kokusho or other badass man to play. I think this will end up having a big impact on Constructed, and an even bigger one in Limited.
It helps that it’s easy to get to four mana on turn 3 in this block, but even if it wasn’t, a 5/5 Trample on turn four is pretty formidable. Don’t pass this if you want to win.
Kodama of the Center Tree
Clearly this was inevitable.
Anyone who read the Soulshift mechanic knew that eventually Wizards was going to print a creature that was capable of Soulshifting itself back. This guy is exactly that, and unfortunately not much more. He’s still alright if you have enough Spirits to play him, but he doesn’t trample and he’s really not that exciting in general. I’ll be taking commons and uncommons over this unless almost my entire creature base is Spirits.
I think this may see more use as the format drags on.
It’s clearly good in U/G or any other deck that has ways of replaying lands or searching out a bunch with a few Kodama’s Reaches. The only thing really holding this card back is the fact that it wants to be played early and you generally need to play a guy on turn 3 in order to keep up in the tempo war.
I still like this card, and will almost definitely play it in any deck with multiple Soratamis or some other way to control the game and let this gain me a ton of life.
I can’t see myself ever needing a Stream of Life in this format, but if I did, I know where to find one.
I prefer Joyous Respite personally, but if you’re feelin’ a little crazy it may be time to break out the Body of Jukai and gain some life.
I honestly can’t ever imagine feeling this way, but who knows, there could be a time and place for it.
Patron of the Orochi
The offering ability is very nice here since there are plenty of Snakes going around in any given draft. So it’s a pretty good card, but nothing amazing.
If you do manage to get it in the same deck with Hankyu though, it’s pretty sick how many Aim counters you can accumulate each turn by untapping men and lands. So I’d probably take this really high if I had enough Snakes to get it out early, but it’s basically just a big man since the ability won’t be hugely relevant unless you have some way to change Frostwielder to Green (none exist, sorry) or some other way to abuse it.
Sakiko, Mother of Summer
My guess is that everything that comes from Sakiko just plain sucks.
If you use this and Mark of Sakiko as evidence, neither is playable in most situations. Now I can understand if you’re just being goofy and you want to construct the entire Snake family, at which point the Mother becomes a necessity.
In the real world though, the mother is a 3/3 for six with a do nothing ability and shouldn’t make the cut unless you fell asleep during the draft.
Shizuko, Caller of Autumn
Boy do I wish this was Eladamri’s Vineyard and made you manaburn.
Then it would actually be good!
As it stands, your opponent gets to use the mana first and that can be what makes or breaks this card. If he puts out a Dragon on turn 4, I’m betting you’ll wish you left the Caller in the pack instead of drafting and playing it. If you just have a deck that uses a ton of mana to do something ridiculous, say Sway of the Stars, I can understand playing this with the mindset that you will not be casting it on turn three but rather waiting until your opponent cannot use the mana boost effectively. I’d also advocate running it if you had a large number of Moss Kamis and other big men, and just gamble that he won’t put a Dragon out.
So you’ll definitely be getting this late unless Timmy is in the draft and is raredrafting, so don’t pick it early.
Many people have said that they thing Green is the deepest color in Betrayers. While this may be true in some ways, I don’t really feel that Green has improved that much with the new set. I’d honestly rather have another pack of Champions to get my Elders, Reaches, and Sustainers.
Betrayers does bring a boastful set of Uncommons for the color though, and I think that’s the main reason people say the color has gotten better. Sniper and Mass are also good additions, but in general I think Red got the best of the deal with the new set in terms of commons.
Next week we’ll finally wrap up this long series with the Artifacts, Lands, Genju of the Realm, and a bunch of insights into the overall format.
Soooooo on MODO