Welcome to the final installment of the Onslaught Dilemma articles. Sadly, Nick Eisel is no longer with Star City. His presence will be missed, but we have the good fortune to have hired another fantastic player from CMU to pick up where Nick left off: Paul Sottosanti. Paul and I have been friends for a while now, so it should be nice to go at each other’s throats about Limited. Paul comes from a similar school of thought as Nick and is every bit as competent a writer, so don’t feel robbed; you are still getting the best of CMU here.
(Nick leaving, incidentally, has nothing to do with the events in GP Boston. An investigation will be conducted, and I am sure justice will be served.)
A few brief comments about Grand Prix: Boston. While Joe Crosby did say that he had analyzed upwards of fifty sealed decks between two PTQs and the GP and said mine was the worst he had ever seen, a good craftsman never blames his tools. I, in fact, built my sealed deck improperly, as I missed the interaction of Sunstrike Legionnaire and Lavamancer’s Skill. This interaction made the red worth splashing. I also made a couple of play errors in the tournament; I threw away my round 4 match against Paul Jordan with a poorly thought-out block. It just goes to show that no matter how weak your card pool may seem, or how much bad luck seems to find you, skill is still the most important aspect of the game.
That finally brings us to the worst color in Onslaught: White. It was formerly thought that this was the fourth-best color and only moved down because Blue was under-drafted. The truth of the matter is White is the worst color because it is underpowered. White is fairly deep, but the best cards in White are just worse than the best cards in the other colors.
If you look at the number one card, Pacifism, it is strictly worse than the other cards of its ilk. Despite the fact that this card pales to cards like Cruel Revival, Shock, Solar Blast – and in most cases Erratic Explosion, Pinpoint Avalanche, and Swat – it is still the best card in this color. This means you are often taking 4th-6th picks in other colors over the best pick in White.
However, that is not what we are here to discuss: We are here to talk about the dilemma of the second-best card in White. While Paul is going to show you a different road, I believe there is only one card to put here: Daru Lancer. The card didn’t bowl me over the first time I saw it. I mean it seemed nice and everything, but I had previously been exposed to Exalted Angel, so it s no mystery why this guy fell short. At the time I had no idea how much more powerful the rares were going to be than the commons.
I was also coming from a world where 2/2 fliers for four had dominated. If you look back to most limited formats before Onslaught, 2/2 fliers for four were the cards that powered many decks. When I saw Gustcloak Harrier, it was obviously the 2nd best common – but times have changed. I see both of these cards in a clearer light now and I am confident that Daru Lancer is just a better pick.
When these dilemma articles started, I was Mr. Speed and Tempo – which I still am, and Lancer seems to contradict these ideals, but closer examination shows Lancer is better at these than Harrier.
Both cards come out on turn 3, but Lancer always comes out on turn three. Both require double white to be at their best, but Harrier is not functional at all without it. If your opponent should block the Lancer, you not only maintain tempo when you turn him face up, but you also gain card advantage. And spending a turn to give +1/+2 and first strike is hardly a waste.
Unmorphing Lancer game 1 gives you a huge advantage in game 2. White in general makes blocking a poor prospect, but Lancer is particularly harsh and people do not want to walk into it. You can always be sure that your morphs that you want to get through, will. While Gravel Slinger dissuades blocking in the early game, Daru Lancer stops it until all morphs are face up.
There is also the benefit of hidden information. Nick said that he has found himself glad when someone plays a Severed Legion on turn 3; the same is true for Harrier. Later in the game, Lancer is immune to such removal as Swat and Shock. I am not trying to tell you that there aren’t situations where Harrier is better, but I will leave that side of the argument to Paul.
Anyway, here is a guideline for white picks. These picks are now adjusted for Onslaught/Onslaught/Legions draft:
- Daru Lancer
- Glory Seeker
- Gustcloak Harrier
- Daunting Defender/Gravel Slinger
- Daru Healer/Dive Bomber
- Battlefield Medic/Daru Cavalier
- Piety Charm (moves up to 5th if you have a lot of soldiers)
- Disciple of Grace
- Renewed Faith
- Grassland Crusader (moves up in Green/White)
As you can see there are more playables on this list than any other. Why then do I call it the worst color? Despite its depth, the cards in general are weak. I have several cards at the same pick spot. These picks should be guided by your tribal commitments.
My next article will work on adjusting the other lists for Legions Draft. I think that Legions has shaken up pick orders more than any other second set in Magic history.
Until then, enjoy learning the new format!