A couple of points before I move on to the new dilemma. Remember; these dilemmas are being written with a certain archetype in mind. We aren’t comparing two cards straight up anymore, but we’re comparing cards within the context of a specific color combination. It’s my feeling that the value of Mistform Seaswift rises in an aggressive deck like White/Blue while the value of Echo Tracer falls. But if you look at them in a vacuum, Echo Tracer is certainly the better card.
As Kai succinctly pointed out in the StarCity Forums, it somehow slipped my mind that Choking Tethers is one of the key cards in White/Blue. This allows the deck to have a chance in the late game due to the fact that, as Kai says, Choking Tethers can even be better than Dirge of Dread in some situations. However, if you ignore the fact that sometimes Tethers will allow you to steal a win that you otherwise couldn’t have gotten, most of what I said still holds true.
I’m an idiot, but at least Kai Budde was the one to point it out. Moving on…
The archetype for this installment is Green/Black. It’s common knowledge that both Green and Black got a nice boost in Legions, so this is a very viable combination. Timberwatch Elf is a monster for any Green deck, while Skinthinner and Krosan Vorine add some removal to the mix. The deck also gains a couple of two-drops, which is where we come to our present dilemma: Stonewood Invoker vs. Crypt Sliver.
Now, if I thought I was crazy for accepting the last dilemma, I think Ken is even crazier for accepting this one, but he feels strongly enough about his high ranking of Crypt Sliver that he’s willing to defend it. Ken is certainly right about his theory of Green being the control color in this set, so I can see where he’s coming from… But I still don’t agree.
Green/Black is a deck that wants to put on steadily increasing pressure in the form of larger and larger creatures backed by removal and some amounts of evasion. Creatures with an efficient ratio of power-to-casting-cost are paramount to this strategy, as there is no better way to make your opponent fold under your pressure. You can afford to take some early damage from fliers as long as you are eventually winning the race by hitting harder on the ground; unfortunately, the continued lack of green evasion (namely, trample) in this block means that judicious use of chump blocking can keep the other player ahead. This is why cards like Vitality Charm and Dirge of Dread are very important.
Crypt Sliver has no synergy with any of the cards in Green. The slivers that Green offers are Quick Sliver, Root Sliver, and Brood Sliver, none of which are very playable. Worse, you will sometimes be helping out opposing creatures, especially when you are playing against Blue. Suddenly all their Mistform Dreamers and Mistform Seaswifts have the option to tap to regenerate each other for a mana or two. If you have a Spectral Sliver or a Toxin Sliver in your deck, things are a little better, but it’s not very often that you can expect the Crypt Sliver to be much more than 1/1 regenerator for two.
The next question: How much do we want a simple ground regenerator? Not too much, in my opinion. Against other Green decks it can be fairly solid later in the game, as it allows you to be more aggressive without as much fear of a counterattack – but it’s still not something you want to drop on turn 2. Against White and Blue decks, Crypt Sliver will usually just sit on its behind (do slivers even have one?), peering up at the sky as the home front battle rages on overhead. Crypt Sliver is a fine sideboard card against decks that have more fat than you do, but I don’t see it as a great maindeck choice in this archetype. Blue/Black, on the other hand, abuses the Crypt Sliver much more efficiently.
On the other hand, Stonewood Invoker shines in both the early game and the late game, with its status as a bear being important either as a counter to opposing Glory Seekers or as an aggressive tool in its own right. It’s much more difficult for opposing evasion decks to start their clock when you come out of the gates swinging on turn 3. As for his ability, R&D included the Invokers to discourage stalls in a format that was all creatures. While his ability certainly doesn’t measure up to the red or black one, the threat of a 7/7 creature usually can’t be ignored. The midgame is the only point where the Invoker is slightly sub-par… But even then, he still trades with freshly-cast morphs.
Something that has gotten even better with Legions is the fact that the Invoker is an elf. Besides the usual benefits of being searched out by a Wirewood Herald and providing mana with Birchlore Rangers, now elves can assist the ridiculous Timberwatch Elf or be pumped by a cycled Gempalm Strider. There are few better starts for a Green deck than turn 2 Stonewood Invoker, turn 3 Timberwatch Elf. On the other hand, having a Sliver in your Green/Black deck doesn’t add anything on the tribal front.
Below is the pick order for Legions commons when you’re drafting Green/Black. There are a surprising number of playables, as I’d be fine with having any of the first fifteen cards in my deck. Smokespew Invoker may prove to be a little better than I think he is, but the fact that he’s only great in the late game made me put him down at sixth. Patron of the Wild is definitely a little disappointing due to the fact that he leaves behind a 1/1 body, although at least it is an elf. As for Crypt Sliver, I don’t even especially want him in my deck, although as I said above I will sideboard him in against other decks with large ground creatures.
- Timberwatch Elf
- Krosan Vorine
- Stonewood Invoker
- Sootfeather Flock
- Smokespew Invoker
- Needleshot Gourna
- Patron of the Wild
- Berserk Murlodont (moves up with multiple Vorines)
- Embalmed Brawler
- Goblin Turncoat
- Crypt Sliver
- Gempalm Polluter (moves up with more zombies)
- Nantuko Vigilante
- Infernal Caretaker (moves up with more zombies)
- Vile Deacon (sideboard it in against clerics)
- Glowering Rogon
- Hundroog (Hundroog! – The Ferrett)
As always, send me feedback if you disagree or want to discuss something, and I’ll do my best to respond in a timely fashion. Thanks for reading.