The Combat Phase – Scars and the Lucksack

Thursday, October 7th – Scars is a weak set. I like weak sets. I just wish they made more of them in a row. Power creep is a bad thing. The most powerful cards of old are crap compared to cards available in Standard? Really? That seems wrong.

I have trouble committing to a course of action. I’m truly a child of the information overload age. In my free time, I’ll watch ten minutes of The Ultimate Fighter, then feel like I’d rather watch some Magic replays and load up MODO to do so. Five minutes later, I’ll feel like doing some writing, then decide I’d rather read some political boards or maybe some web comics. Then I’ll decide what I really feel like doing is reading some more of
A Clash of Kings
. For the fourth time. (Side note/question: Who do you think is smarter/more cunning — Tyrion, Littlefinger or Varys the Spider?)

I need to learn to commit to an activity and stick with it.

I think a lot of people have this problem these days.

I have the same problem when I get up in the morning and head to work (which means, walking ten yards down the hall to the living room where my computer is.) Each day, I have to choose between doing a blog update, writing about Magic, playing Magic, transcribing voice notes about South America, trying to find a way to promote my books, answering email, reading the new spoilers so I’m up to date on Scars of Mirrodin, and applying the editing changes that Dave Meddish sent me for my next Magic book,
Secret Force: Quest for the Pro Tour II

Another Magic writer told me that he thinks blogs are a waste of time. They don’t generate income. They’re self indulgent. I think if you aren’t a writer, this can be true.

For someone like me, who someday hopes to actually


a popular writer on a number of subjects, I feel it’s important to generate as much interest in me, my life, and my writing while making people laugh as much as possible. Hopefully this will someday generate sales of books. Books like, say,
Secret Force

Perhaps if people like my writing enough, they’ll even buy a book on a subject they have no interest in just to read my take on the subject. Like, say, “I’m not an Alcoholic; I’m just a European.” Also, if the Magic writing draws people to my blog, and they happen to click a link to the entry “A Day in the Life,” they might find they like my writing about this strange land they find themselves in and want to read more.

I’ve been addicted to editing lately, so, not so much new Magic writing getting done.

When I’m playing Magic, it’s an emotional experience. I’m either smoothly, satisfyingly playing out Baloths and Cultivates while holding a Summoning Trap and eager to use it, or screaming

because I drew the card I needed, or praying for another land, or praying for an All Is Dust, or else I’m just gleefully laughing at how much fun playing Lucksack is.

I showed you another version without either type of Baloth but with Explore and Elvish Visionary in hopes of burning through the deck faster to get to more lands and a big combo. I found it to be more consistent in terms of the fact that I had less land problems, but it relied on “one big turn” instead of constantly throwing new threats on the table. And sometimes, that one big turn didn’t happen. Turn 4, you cast a Summoning Trap, and the biggest thing you’d see is a Llanowar Elf. Or you don’t draw enough land fetch and just get steamrolled by aggro.

I thought Red would be smashed by this deck 100% of the time, but they’ve adapted well to the new environment. It’s not a lot of fun when someone casts Act of Treason on, well, pretty much any of your fatties, especially since you’re usually low on life by the time you stabilize and get a fatty out, which then turns on you and swings for your opponent’s win. That’s not fun.

I think I need to add some more land to the deck. All Is Dust is still a wrecking ball, and Vines of Vastwood in the side gave me a very satisfying win over a Polymorph deck in a two-man tournament. Tectonic Edges in the side have been good against Valukut decks, but the rest is iffy. I might take out the Naturalize and Hornet Sting for Overgrown Battlement and three other walls to shut down Red.  

I’ll be interested to see how the deck changes when Scars of Mirrodin rotates in.

Scars is a mixed bag for me. There are so many things about it that are right, and so many things about it that are wrong.

I’m excited about some of the artifacts, and my initial thought was, “I can add the best artifacts to my deck, cast All Is Dust, and then wreck my opponent.” There are two problems with that thought.

1.       Obviously, what if my opponent is playing a bunch of artifacts or even a deck focused on metalcraft?

2.       The number of times I’ve actually cast a huge Eldrazi and then had and needed to cast All Is Dust can be counted on one hand. You don’t Summoning Trap into an Eldrazi or Titan and then need to destroy everything else. Your opponent just concedes. If I cast Artisan of Kozilek, I either win, or he’s killed before I can even cast All Is Dust.

All Is Dust is excellent as a way to get you out of trouble. It’s not a way to make your already excellent creatures better. If you Summoning
Trap into (or cast) Artisan or Emrakul, and you get to attack, you’re already winning. You don’t need to win


How good will metalcraft be? That’s the real question. If it’s excellent, All Is Dust loses a lot of its effectiveness. If everyone is focusing their deck on being X/colorless or X/X/colorless, then the game is going to speed up a lot, and All Is Dust isn’t going to be effective.

I’ve read a lot of reviews on cards, but no one is making any predictions on how big of a deal metalcraft will be. Will metalcraft be a new dominating mechanic in Standard? Or will it be a UFO blip on the radar that turns out to be a weather balloon?

Scars is a weak set. I like weak sets. I just wish they made more of them in a row. Power creep is a bad thing in my humble opinion. When my most powerful cards of three years ago are never going to see play because my current Standard deck is more powerful than my Extended deck of three years ago — that just bugs me. When I watch a Legacy match, and I recognize 25% of the cards, and I’ve been playing since Fallen Empires, that bugs me too.

The most powerful cards of old are crap compared to cards available in Standard? Really? That seems wrong.

A long time ago, as power creep was just starting to become insidious to Magic, Chris Pikula said, “Ban everything until Necro is good again then ban Necro.”

That was a different time, of course, and games were nothing like they are today. I love the current Standard environment where there’s actually a combat phase, and games last longer than two, or even possibly three, turns. At the time Chris said this, games were decided by your opening draw. Magic isn’t like that now, and for that I’m grateful.

About the only thing I don’t like about the current Standard right now is the cost. I have money, and I get paid to write about this game, so I’m essentially getting paid to play this game. And even I can’t justify the costs of making the decks I’d like to make. There are a lot of cards I’d like to experiment with in Scars, but I know I’m going to have to pick the ones I think will be most effective and ignore the rest. In the past, I could spend a fraction of my income and make ten playtest decks and experiment. That same fraction of my income today would make me half of a competitive deck.

Overall, I think Scars is a weak set (which I like) with some super powerful, soon to be super expensive, cards (which I don’t like) that will keep even more people out of the game.

This really can’t be good.

Who wants a Mox Opal? Anyone want a Mox Opal? I know I do. Do I want to shell out $160 (soon to rise in price, I imagine, since it’s valuable in every format) for four cards out of the sixty I need for a deck? Want to combine that with Elspeth Tirel since metalcraft works best in white? Add another $200 to your deck.

Breaking Scars prices down currently:

There are 259 cards in the set.

There are three cards worth fifty dollars.

There is one card worth forty dollars.

There are two cards hovering around twenty dollars.

There are two cards hovering around twelve dollars.

All of these cards are mythic. You’ll have to open a lot of boxes to see even a twelve dollar card.

There are 212 cards worth less than a dollar. Of these, 186 are worth less than fifty cents.  


There’s going to be a glut of crap uncommons and rares and a few chase mythics. I’d imagine players and companies are going to be opening boxes and boxes of cards, and the mythics they get aren’t going to make up for all the dreck they keep opening that will never sell. As a retailer, if each box you open nets you a profit in individual sales, you can open hundreds of boxes. In a weak set with a few chase cards, you’ll be losing money if you do this. Hence, you won’t. This will make those chase cards even more rare and drive their prices even higher.

I stand by my opinion that mythics are very bad for this game.

Looking over green, I see a few cards that look great, a few that look interesting, and a whole lot of crap. Poison has always been a Tier 4 strategy, and making it slightly better as infect isn’t going to make a whole lot of difference. Sure, there will be some decks that it can beat, just like a Relentless Rats theme can beat some decks. That doesn’t make it good.

Let’s take a look at what I think about green for Constructed Standard:

(Please read the above sentence again. My review is based on how this set benefits Mono-Green in Constructed Standard, nothing else.)

Acid Web Spider

WotC had the chance to finally make a Spider worth playing, and they blew it. Change “equipment” to “artifact, enchantment or land,” and you have a good card. Not even a stunning card. How much play does Acidic Slime see? Not very much I’m afraid, and this is about equal to that with my changes, but without them, yet another completely worthless spider. I think WotC is a bunch of Spider racists.

Alpha Tyrranax

I don’t think there’s any need for me to talk about generic creatures that will only see play in Limited. You don’t need my insights into slightly better Craw Wurms.


I would never use this card. At five mana, you have much more powerful cards you could be playing, and defensive cards are never as good as aggressive cards. Would you rather have this or Overwhelming Stampede? Both are only good when you have creatures on the board, and both are useless if you don’t. One wins you the game; the other doesn’t.

Bellowing Tanglewurm

Green gets intimidate during the artifact cycle… That doesn’t seem that good. Right now the focus is on multicolor. If they’re not playing green or G/X, they’re playing a way to kill this guy immediately, or they’re playing with artifacts. He’s a 4/4 for five with a marginally special ability for the upcoming environment.

Blight Mamba

Like Alpha Tyrranax, I don’t think there’s much reason to talk about the infect creatures. All of them are generic and over-costed for the infect ability, and the only reason to play them is in a deck totally focused on infect. The deck builds itself if you want to go that route. I’m not dissing anyone that does want to go that route, but you don’t need my help or opinion on the matter.

1.    Make a deck with all poison creatures.

2.    Find a way to make them unblockable or clear a path for them.

3.    Profit!

Blunt the Assault

For the mono-green mage, this might turn out to be a great sideboard card. Creature combat is bigger than ever these days, and in the second game, if you predict a stalemate, this is a great card. You can sit until your opponent thinks he has the edge and attacks, and you not only gain a lot of life but swing for the win on the next turn, hopefully. Life gain is always iffy to begin with, but Fog has been in my sideboard, and so has some form of life gain. Combining them into one card might turn out to be very effective. I’d go with three in the side.

Carapace Forger

This is the beginning of the new Elf deck. I like this guy. A 2/2 for two isn’t awful, and if you’re playing a metalcraft deck, combining him with Ezuri’s Brigade seems like a natural fit. A 4/4 on the second turn and an 8/8 on the third seem like the start of something beautiful. Add in some artifacts (Mox Opal, Ornithopter, and Adventuring Gear, to start), Baloths, and Overwhelming Stampede, and you’ve got a deck.

Carrion Call

This card just makes me long for the good old days of Beacon of Creation, Sosuke’s Summons, and even One Dozen Eyes. I think that’s sayin’ somethin’. The token generators of today’s Standard are very expensive without enough bang for the mana.

Copperhorn Scout

The only time this card is going to be good is in the new Elf deck. Alan Webter used to say these decks were built by WotC. They give you all the pieces that obviously go together,
like Prosperous Bloom.

Forest, Llanowar Elf.

Forest, Arbor Elf, Copperhorn.

Forest, Elvish Archdruid or equipment or Joraga Warcaller or Elvish Visionary or Fauna Shaman. Attack with Copperhorn, empty rest of hand into play. Or, you could team her up with Omnath, Locus of Mana and generate a lot of mana, attack with a big Omnath, and then cast something huge.

The trouble with these thoughts is: she has to attack. As a 1/1, I don’t think she’s going to be doing that too often. If her ability were activated by, say, tapping herself, she’d be stellar.

Enter the card that makes her, and every other Elf, worthwhile — Ezuri.

Engulfing Slagwurm

While it isn’t a bad creature, it’s certainly not a good one either. At first glance, visions dance in your head of gaining a bunch of life off of him with very little able to block it and survive. “It will be unstoppable, and my life will soon approach the hundreds!”

Actually, no. In reality, he costs seven mana, may be killed pretty quickly, and will give you nothing if he dies. Or you’ll attack, and he’ll be blocked by a 0/1 or 1/1 token, and you’ll get one life. But don’t worry, the token is gone! Anything costing seven mana better have a damn good effect, preferably as it enters the battlefield, like say, Pelakka Wurm, who always gives you seven life, has trample so that even if he’s blocked, he still damages your opponent, and when he dies, gives you a card. The gaining life part of this card is worse than lifelink. While it’s cool that almost no ground creatures can block or attack and survive his might, how many things can survive a 7/7 anyway?

Ezuri, Renegade Leader

Huh. An Elf with an Overrun attached. Kind of cool.

Actually, he’s way better than “kind of cool.” Think of him as an instant Overrun with buyback {0}. While his 2/2 body is both an advantage and a disadvantage, making Overrun an ability that can be used every turn, on either attack
or defense

, is

. On top of that, he can regenerate your other Elves like the Elvish Archdruid that’s providing you sick amounts of mana or protect a whole bunch of guys from mass destroy effects.

Honestly, I think this is the Elf that’s going to make Elf decks viable. Add in some Vines of Vastwood and some Withstand Death, and you can protect him while he protects everyone else. Load up your Llanowar Elves, Joraga Treespeakers, Elvish Archdruids, Fauna Shamans, and anything else good you can think of. Add Copperhorn Scout into this deck, and now she can attack and regenerate. Use Ezuri’s ability for Overrun, attack with everyone, untap everyone, have the ability to cast Overrun again.

The thing this deck would fear the most is All Is Dust. Luckily we have the only card in Standard that can stop that — Tajuru Preserver.

The age of a viable mono-colored Elf deck has arrived.

Okay, actually, it hasn’t, but I do think he’s good enough to try.

Ezuri’s Archers

You can keep these guys out of your Elf deck. I’d really like to see some cards with reach that don’t suck.

Ezuri’s Brigade

Ben Bleiweiss:

“Thoughts: Green doesn’t have as much of a metalcraft theme as white, but Ezuri’s Brigade is undeniably huge when it gets going.”

A 4/4 for four is good, regardless, and one who can become 8/8 with trample with a mere three artifacts is insane. God, I’m building the Elf deck as I write this article. It’s sad that we don’t have utility Elves (like we used to) that can destroy artifacts and enchantments, but we sure do have some huge Elves now! Combine these with Carapace Forger, their renegade leader, and some weapons, and you’ve got some cheap, big, regenerating, Overrunning Elves coming your way.

Genesis Wave

As others have pointed out, this just isn’t a good card. It wouldn’t even be a good card if it were XGG and an instant. If you hit instants, sorceries, or anything costing more than what you’ve spent, it all goes into the bin. For what you need to spend, the luck factor involved in getting anything good, and the fact a card integral to your deck might have just ended up in the discard pile… the card is garbage.

Liege of the Tangle

Wow. Another worthless green mythic. I would be upset if I opened a mythic in my pack, and it turned out to be this guy. While he wins you the game two turns later, there are a lot of cards that do a lot more for the same amount of mana. Or less. I’d much rather cast Eldrazi Conscription or Terastodon or Ulamog’s Crusher or maybe a Baneslayer Angel and keep three mana open.


Situational at best. I generally tap all my mana, and If I don’t, it’s because I have an instant I want to play at the end of my opponent’s turn. If I have one mana open, it’s usually reserved for Vines of Vastwood. It’s also not an Elf. It requires specific opponents or a deck built around him. There is better life gain pretty much anywhere else. He’s just not playable.

Molder Beast

This guy would be great if you could, I don’t know, find a way to destroy three artifacts in one turn for some benefit

if he didn’t have three toughness. I find this card to be just lazy. It really wouldn’t take much mental energy to make this at least playable in some decks.

Slice in Twain

In general, I dislike the card. There’s a reason some people play Nature’s Claim over Naturalize. Upping Naturalize’s cost to four and adding “draw a card” seems a mana too much. On the other hand, adding this to your arsenal so green has even more ways to destroy your opponent’s plans in this block is a good thing. Imagine game 2, with your deck having twelve anti-artifact spells against some decks.

Tel-Jilad Defiance

Being the big, lesbian girl that I am, Wendy has gotten me addicted to America’s Next Top Model. I’m sorry, but the main cast is so funny, so supportive, so kind, so interesting, and Tyra Banks is so knowledgeable, crazy, and lovable that we can’t stop watching her. She’s the next Oprah. We laugh out loud at most of her antics, and when we’re not laughing out loud, we’re surprised at her kindness and wisdom. Why am I telling you this? Because it’s way more interesting than this card.

I don’t even think this card will see play in Limited.

Untamed Might

While interesting, I’d really rather get +4/+4 and shroud for two mana instead of having a flexible Giant Growth that can cost two and give a creature +1/+1, or three and give a creature +2/+2, or four and give a creature +3/+3. Giant Growth seems better to me. You’ll have to have a lot of mana and an unblocked creature to ever make this better than almost any of the other pump spells.

Viridian Revel

What I don’t understand about America’s Next Top Model is when the set director says, “That looks too posed! You look catalogue! You’re posing again!”

Aren’t models supposed to pose? Isn’t that their whole deal?

How does that make sense? I can only think if in Top Chef, they had Tom Colicchio come into the kitchen and tell a contestant, “It really seems like you’re just cooking. Stop cooking. You’re cooking again!”

How does that make sense?

Once again — more interesting than this card.

Sideboard card only, and it doesn’t match up to more powerful, flexible cards that need to be there.

Wing Puncture

Three men walk into a bar… nevermind.

Sideboard card only, and it doesn’t match up to more powerful, flexible cards that need to be there.

Withstand Death

Vines of Vastwood is an excellent card. While this doesn’t give any bonus, it gives even more of a survival boost, protecting against non-targeted removal. I think this will find uses in decks that rely on one or two key creatures (Ezuri) that make the entire deck work. In a deck full of creatures, none more important than the other, it’s better just to have another creature. You could put this in a deck with Baneslayer Angels as the only creatures; this and Vines and just keep sweeping the board, eliminating their creatures, and as long as Baneslayer stays alive, you know you’re going to win. I can definitely see this being played in Standard.


I feel like green is losing its identity again. While I love a lot of the current green cards in Standard right now, I’d like to see a return to lower cost creatures with some special abilities not related to mana. Land destruction has always been a subtheme of green, and we don’t have any of that unless you count Acidic Slime (5), kicked Pigmy Hippo (6), or Terastodon (8). I miss cards like Uktabi Orangutan, Viridian Zealot, Elvish Lyrist, Viridian Shaman, hell even Scavenger Folk! Returning things from graveyard ala Eternal Witness, and as I mentioned earlier, I miss a good way to generate tokens that doesn’t cost seven mana. This set gives green mages more spiders with reach, more fatties that will never see play, more cards to destroy flyers that will never see play, and more +x/+x spells.

I’m not saying Green is weak, because it’s not. What I’m saying is that it’s getting a little lost again. R&D needs to remember what makes green green in the same way they have a firm grasp on what makes red red and white white. Green has always struggled with this problem, and this set is a perfect example of that.