Welcome back to the Daily Shot, where we’re always between two worlds. This time, our voyage has stranded us not between casual and high level play, but between the respective realms of Onslaught Sealed and Onslaught Draft.
The two could not be more different – and as a result, the set is bear-trap for unwitting columnists. Beware! If you try rating the set in absolutes, the result will be a train wreck of a review.
Case in point: Josh Lytle wrote an article over at Brainburst reviewing the commons of the new set for Limited play. I think his article is a proof positive that you need to give cards in this set at least two different ratings – one for Sealed, one for Draft, and maybe something else on top of that.
Alternatively, you can endlessly, endlessly leave your reader with the caveat: “Well, this could be good if you have a lot of (insert creature type here).”
Considering how annoying that would become, I think just giving two or more different ratings is better. Or eschewing ratings altogether, and just giving a nice summary.
Now, I’m certainly not infallible – I’ve already made a few suspect observations in my set review, observations that aren’t valid when you consider the strange environment that is Onslaught Sealed. Draft is faster, though, and more like the Invasion/Odyssey Block environments to which I’ve grown accustomed. I think my assessment of the cards stands up better when you keep draft in mind. For just one example, consider Crowd Favorites. It’s very playable in the slower, bulkier, removal-light Onslaught sealed environment… And less so in draft.
So Josh Lytle was up on the soapbox (mentioning in his front-page teaser, of course, that he wouldn’t”waste your time” by spreading his Onslaught Commons Analysis over multiple articles…I guess that’s my job) and the first thing I noticed is that he had Daru Healer as one of the top white commons (a four pointer, to use his rating system). I didn’t read past the white before deciding to write this, because when an idea gets in my head, I just have to get it out.
Daru Healer? Four points? The healer, as far as I can tell, is mediocre, as one point of damage prevention is not going to stop much of anything. 16/4 Shaleskin Bruisers don’t brake for nuthin’ but a set of garters and some fiery red hair. I had one Daru Healer in my Sealed Deck, and his damage prevention helped me out on occasion… But I would have traded him in a second for a Gustcloak Harrier, or even a Glory Seeker! A 1/2 for 2W that prevents one damage is just not that good.
Still, Daru Healer is a fine pick in draft when you’re trying to overload the Clerics. He can power up Profane Prayers, mesh well with your Cabal Archon, and bolster the activations of a Battlefield Medic. In draft, he might fit the criteria for one of Josh’s”4-point commons” – cards he describes as “Great. Always makes the cut and you usually want as many of these as you can get.”
Or maybe he’s just wrong, and each card needs two ratings.
Daru Healer always makes the cut? I want as many as I can get? Nah. Ranking this on the same tier as Gustcloak Harrier just doesn’t seem right. I’ll take as many of those as I can get, sure… But the Healers can ride the pine while I try to squeeze in useful cards. Like I said before:
“If only he prevented two. I miss The Janitor.”
The Janitor was a pimp. He had chicks like Akroma on his lap, he rolled his own, he lived in Nevada and bathed in the Jack to the D and the Jim to the B.
Who is Daru Healer? He’s a nobody. He’s got his thumb out on Telegraph Road.
“Will prevent damage 4 food.”
My next issue is with Gustcloak Runner. Josh calls the little guy totally useless… But Gustcloak Runner is a playable card in draft, especially in R/W Soldier decks. I mean, is he writing about Draft, or Sealed? He mentions PTQs, so I guess he’s looking at Sealed, but he shouldn’t call it a”Limited Review” then; it’s a Sealed review. There is no way you can use these rankings for draft, because Onslaught draft is a different planet.
Gustcloak Runner is a 1/1 for W that you can untap if it becomes blocked. Why is this not a useless card? Because of Crown of Fury (the best one), Piety Charm, and especially Gravel Slinger and Catapult Squad. And never forget: He’s a soldier. A Runner is as good as a Harrier when you draw Unified Strike, or when the Catapult Squad hits play. Actually, the Runner might actually be better than any other one-drop when you take Catapult Squad into account, because it untaps when blocked.
Once a blocker, always a blocker. Gustcloak Runner is just great with Catapult Squad – especially, because you can wait until it gets blocked, untap it, and then use it with the Squad to smoke the blocking creature. I killed a Barkhide Mauler like this during a recent Limited match. Eventually, most people won’t bother blocking at all.
The Runner really fits the mana curve well, too: First-turn Runner, second-turn Crown of Fury is a strong start that is a sort of poor man’s Savannah Lion; just watch out for those Lavamancer’s Skills! Yeah, he can get the business from a cycled Death Pulse or Solar Blast, but he might get four damage in first – and against Green, White, and Blue, he’s as good as gold.
Gustcloak Runner knows no fear. There’s no room for wusses in this man’s army.
Anyhow, the last draft I played I drafted three Gustcloak Runners and two Crown of Fury and a Lavamancer’s Skill, and I always had some tough business going on on turn 2. (I also had Catapult Squad, Glory Seeker, and two Whipcorders.) I was very happy with it, and barring a few color screw issues and the unfortunate appearance of an enemy Crowd Favorites in the late-game, I think I would have run the table.
Now, don’t get me wrong: If I happen to get three Glory Seeker and three Runners, the Glory Seekers are going in should the choice arise. I’m not saying a 1/1 is better than a Bear. But Gustcloak Runner is not the one-point waste of space that Josh says it is… Not by a long shot.
Daru Cavalier is another example of this askew limited view. Josh has the Cavalier pegged as a two-pointer, which he describes as “Sideboard. A card that gives you an edge against certain deck types. Hardly ever included in main deck.”
Here’s the non-tobacco-related truth, grasshopper: It’s a two-point card in Sealed if you open only one, or in draft if you only see one, but if you set out to gobble up every Daru Cavalier at the table, this thing is a four-point card. Remember when Mike Long had the deck with six Howling Wolves in it? (I remember the feature match coverage – Darwin Kastle was none too happy that afternoon, and neither were the judges, who confiscated Mike’s deck and delayed the match for the better part of an hour).
Anyhow, the point is the six Howling Wolves. This is the same idea. It’s hard to win a ground battle when your opponent has played a 2/2 first striker for four straight turns. Likewise, if you open two or even three in Sealed, you’re going to play them: That’s no two-point card.
Piety Charm is in the two-point category too, which is just ridiculous. I played two of these in my R/W draft deck, and they were amazing. When did a +2/+2 combat trick become bad? Sure, if you have few Soldiers it’s a two-point card, but come on – you’re screwing people over if you just review in absolutes. What if some poor shmoe comes in, reads the Lytle review, and then drafts and passes six Daru Cavaliers because there were Daru Healers, Renewed Faith, and Demystify in the packs? Will Josh refund his money?
Sure, there are some cards in Onslaught that you can review in absolutes: Centaur Glade is an absolute bomb uncommon. Exalted Angel is an absolute bomb rare. Visara is the nuts, with cream and sugar on top. These are 5-point cards, and no further insight is necessary.
But what about Profane Prayers and Unified Strike? In my draft, I used Unified Strike to kill a Towering Baloth. That’s pretty good for one white mana. You’re saying Daru Healer is absolutely better? Unconditionally better? Come on. The W/B Cleric drafter would argue that the 3-point Profane Prayers that killed off a Rorix and gained him seven life was a stronger pick than the supposed 4-point Haunted Cadaver.
Haunted Cadaver is better than Profane Prayers… If you really need a Zombie. If you’re playing Clerics, though, Profane Prayers is such a Busty Johnson that it’s scary. The ratings are all over the place. You can’t nail them down to tiers, or confine these oh-so-situational, tribal dependant cards to a single point or pick or star rating.
Gary Wise has seen fit to split some parts of his Limited analysis into ratings for each deck archetype; he had to do this because some cards are amazing in, say, a R/G deck, and god-awful in R/B. Onslaught is going to take this to a new level.
Josh Lytle is not going to be the only one guilty of a train-wreck review before all is said and done. Truth be told, I’m starting to wonder what Gary himself is going to do: Historically, he has included ratings with his card reviews, a practice he has only abandoned when circumstances warrant it. I think he’ll be going ratingless again this set.
Some ratings I reject on general principle. When did lifegain start tearing up the environment? Renewed Faith is ranked on the same tier with Glory Seeker and Unified Strike, and ahead of Daru Cavalier, and I don’t think that’s even close to correct, because Renewed Faith is garbage. I’m reminded of my Invasion Block “no Dose, no Charge” rule, which stated that I would never, under any circumstances, draft a Vigorous Charge or Reviving Dose.
Like Reviving Dose, Renewed Faith is just lifegain that sometimes draws you a card if you want the lesser effect. Since when is that good? Why is it a 3-point card? Lytle says that his 3-point cards are: “Filler. Doesn’t always make the cut, but is playable in the right deck.”
Well, Renewed Faith is filler, all right, but how do you explain the presence of Gravel Slinger, Glory Seeker, and Unified Strike, all of which are one thousand times better than the Faith – especially in draft?
He must be talking about Sealed. If he’s talking about Sealed, he needs to be clear that he is talking about Sealed. There is no way his rankings hold water in draft. Even in Sealed, some of them are wrong. I mean, Bears aren’t filler; they should always make the cut, especially in a watered-down format like limited.
Then we read down further and it all goes out the window.
From his review of Wirewood Pride:
“This card could become amazing if you draft the right deck.”
If he’s talking about draft as well as sealed, his article might as well be on calligraphy or knitting for all the good it is going to do you. Is Piety Charm a 2-point card? Yes. Sometimes. Is Wirewood Herald a 3-point card? Yes. Sometimes. Is Screaming Seahawk a 3-point card? Yes. Sometimes.
Can you take that sort of advice to the draft table? To the PTQ? For your sake, you had better not. Man with unconditional rating speak with forked tongue.