Hello folks, and welcome back to your regularly scheduled articles, already in progress. This is my traditional Five Color review of the latest set. I’ve done these for years, and you can expect to see me continue for a long time.
Before we go over Five Color and move into the cards, let’s have a final instalment of your favorite London blog.
Abe in London, Denouement
I am back in the States. I’ve had a Magic night at another’s place, and I even played in a Heroclix tournament. I have joined the ranks of the unemployed (in Michigan, a place with a high unemployment percentage). This is very tough for me. I’ve been looking for jobs in my field… maybe I can get lucky. However, this is not the time of year when universities and colleges have many openings, so it’s tough.
Do I find some chump job for now that I absolutely detest in order to make money? I need a job, and a permanent place to stay instead of crashing with a friend. What is next in my life?
When I was in London, I used the analogy of being a plane in a holding pattern with no instruction as to a destination airport. Then, after going to the airport, I still haven’t been told which landing strip will be mine, so I am still circling.
I have no idea what comes next.
Begin Actual Article
What is Five Color, you might ask. Five Color is a casual format wherein player have access to Vintage legal sets and must build a deck of at least 250 cards with at least 20 cards in each color. Due to the uniqueness of the format, we have to have our own banned and restricted list. We also have generous mulligan rules. You can find those details plus sample decklists, strategies, news on the format and more over on the Five Color webpage.
When I do my Five Color review article, I need to explain some things. Reviewing a new set for Block Constructed or Standard can be tricky. The set’s release changes the format, and making predictions often fails because knowledge of how the new set will impact the environment is unknown. However, in formats like Vintage and Five Color, it is much easier to make claims about the power of cards. Cards will be compared to established standards, from Swords to Plowshares to Rancor to Fact or Fiction to Serendib Efreet. With these establishments of power, a card needs to be pretty powerful or very unusual to have a serious chance at impacting Five Color. Please note that the last block introduced several cards that make it to Five Color lists, like Blade of the Sixth Pride, Gossamer Phantasm, and the newly printed Psionic Blast, which gave players enough copies to start playing.
What will Lorwyn bring?
Please note that my set review will not mention every card. I typically will mention several types of cards. I’ll mention cards that I think have a chance, cards that might look like they have a chance but don’t, unusual card that players are talking about, and sometimes I might even bring up a casual powerhouse and see how it translates to Five Color.
With a casual format like Five Color, we need to realize that every card will get play in a deck somewhere. The important part for this article is discussing what is really good in a Five Color context, not necessarily what is acceptable in such.
Let’s begin with an analysis of the new mechanics.
In every set review, I like to talk about the new mechanics. Some mechanics are very Five Color friendly. Examples include transmute and threshold. Some mechanics are at the same power level in Five Color, like kicker and buyback. Other mechanics are simply poor in a Five Color environment, typically because of the number of colors being played, like radiance; or the size of the deck, like ripple or grandeur.
Are there good mechanics in Lorwyn for Five Color?
Evoke – This mechanic allows you to play a creature with a “comes into play” ability for a cheaper cost and then it sacrifices, giving you two ways of playing the creature. This is neutral in Five Color, neither better nor worse in the format than it would be in Constructed. In Five Color, diversity is desired in cards, so having a creature or an ability makes it feel like a split card. Evoke is good enough to see play when the cards are good, but a lot of evoke abilities are too expensive for their price, and their body costs an arm and a leg.
Changeling – Although this mechanic is neutral in Five Color, the uses for the mechanic are not as good, therefore I’d steer clear of this ability except where the creature does something you care about.
Champion – The champion cards that champion a certain creature type are poor in Five Color. This may be where a changeling is decent when it can champion any creature. Please note that a champion card would have to be really good to see play in Five Color, even if it championed anything.
Clash – This is a fun ability made for fun formats like Five Color. I hope a few of these cards make it into Five Color decks. It feels very Unglued-ish, which is fine by me.
Planeswalker – This is simply too new to assess well. How will these play in general? How about in Five Color? I have no idea, but I suspect that they are a neutral mechanic, making them of the same power level here that they would be in more traditional formats.
Tribal – I like tribal in Five Color because it adds ways for you to get answers. Goblin Matron now gets removal, rebel search gets removal, and so forth.
In Onslaught Block, the tribal theme didn’t translate well to Five Color because you had to have the entire tribe in your 250 deck, which means you needed a lot of cards. A mono-color tribe, like goblins, would have had serious difficulty in Five Color. Now you can use changelings to make your deck more colors, plus most tribes have two colors. In addition, you can theme some spells in your tribe as well. However, I don’t think you are going to be at the same power level as other decks, like my Madness 250 or an aggro deck, as examples.
Now let’s start with the individual cards.
White has a lot of beaters that require tribal to be effective. As we just discussed, tribal ain’t that good here. As a result, White’s contribution to Five Color is weaker than normal.
Ajani Goldmane – As a planeswalker, Ajani has an unknown power level. When I look at his abilities, the first isn’t that great, and it takes too long to get to the second, which means you’ll want him largely for his second ability. Giving creatures a permanent +1/+1 each turn he is in play for several turns will allow you to break through creature stalemates. That happens so rarely that I doubt you’d find much use for him even then. Over all, ick.
Austere Command – I like the Commands. As I mentioned above, a lot of Five players look for versatility. This is a scalable Wrath that can also wipe out annoying artifacts or enchantments, and you can often hit your opponents without nailing yourself. It’s a bit on the expensive side, however, and we do have Damnation and Wrath of God in our decks already if we like the Wrathing. Please note that this is the same casting cost as Akroma’s Vengeance, and that does still see play in decks, and this can take out the same things the Vengeance did. This can be very one sided in a lot of situations. When you are not is those situations, you are going to wish you had a simple Wrath.
Hoofprints of the Stag – As a two-drop, this can come down very early. It will give you a 4/4 flyer for three mana every four turns from then on. That’s not that great. However, if you draw cards with various effects, it will start to payoff very quickly. With a Sylvan Library out, you are making 4/4 flyers virtually every turn. One draw step plus a Brainstorm gives you an activation on the fourth turn. This is a card with some potential in a deck that draws a lot of cards anyway.
Militia’s Pride – Since it costs two, you can play it and activate it on turn 3 or 4 when you start to have extra mana open in your aggro deck. Making extra creatures is pretty cool. Your one-drop and two-drop can each make an extra attacking creature with this on turn 4. Not a bad card.
Neck Snap – Why is this not a giant instant?
Oblivion Ring – This is the best card in White for Five Color, bar none. It has almost all of the versatility of Vindicate except without requiring the extra color of mana. Yeah, your opponent can pop the Ring with a Disenchant spell, but then they won’t have said spell for other cards of yours, like Land Tax or Sylvan Library.
Purity – This is crap in Five Color. The many White mana makes it hard to play, while it doesn’t even protect you from creature damage.
The faeries are not the worse tribe I’ve ever seen, and cards that I don’t even mention, like Pestermite, have some value. Blue doesn’t have any power cards for Five Color, because its best card in Cryptic Command needs too much Blue to really use and abuse.
Broken Ambitions – Making an opponent mill four along with a counter might be good in 60-card decks. Here, it just gets him or her to threshold more quickly, while also putting dredge, flashback, and other bad things in the yard.
Cryptic Command – This is a very Blue spell. Play it only in a deck that emphasizes Blue. If you have that sort of deck, however, this becomes a great card. Versatility is key in Five Color, and this exudes versatility. You can smell it from here.
Faerie Harbinger – Since it has flash and a cost easy on the colors, getting this 2/2 flyer in play is not the worse thing a lot of decks can do. Use it to trade with an attacker that would not have attacked had you possessed a 2/2 flyer prior to the combat phase. Since there are a few powerful faerie cards, you can get something pretty good with it.
Faerie Trickery – Like a Dissipate except fetch-able with the abovementioned Harbinger.
Forced Fruition – I just wanted to point out that I think this is the single best example of a card going from good in a 60-card deck to absolutely sucking in an environment of 250-card decks.
Jace Beleren – Many suspect that Jace will be considered the good Planeswalker among players. Play him, then immediately activate the first ability before giving your opponent priority to use a Lightning Bolt. The extra loyal counters are written as a cost, so they go on without any ability to respond with that Bolt. Then leave it at four or higher for the game. Drawing extra cards is fun. Unlike Howling Mine, you are the first to use the extra card from Jace, so it’s not all bad.
Mistbind Clique – With flash and a 4/4 flying body, this may be the only playable champion that requires a specific tribe type to see play. You can get one with a Harbinger and get it into play that way.
Ponder – Like a Portent in every way except you can’t use it on an opponent. You also get the card immediately. Note the simple name suggests this card could be promoted to a basic set someday.
Black is the obvious winner of this set. It comes out with the single best card in the set with Thoughtseize. It also has a new Rend Flesh with Eyeblight’s Ending and a new Goblin Matron with two power for the same cost. It also features one of the best aggro creatures in a while in Oona’s Prowler, and I think the Prowler is the second best card in the set for Five Color. Even Liliana Vess’s ability to tutor, if used twice, can have some serious power.
Boggart Harbinger – Both better than Goblin Matron and worse. Goblins weren’t seeing that much 250 play, but when you add Black to the mix plus the spells, it might put goblins over the edge.
Dread – If you listening to my interview over on moxradio at the Lorwyn prerelease then you’ll know that I am a big fan of the Dread, although that was for the multiplayer table. In Five Color, you have to be Black intensive to play him, but there are a lot of decks out there that run a very heavy Black component, and there Dread fits in. Fear on a 6/6 body plus No Mercy makes for a powerful combo. Your opponent may have used their removal by the time you play this. This will win games.
Eyeblight’s Ending – This is basically the newest Rend Flesh. It can be fetched and reused with all of the elf stuff as well. Note that there are often a few elves in opponent’s decks, and this just shrugs and looks for a target elsewhere.
Fodder Launch – For three more mana than Goblin Grenade, you get the target creature killed and deal five damage to your opponent. That’s pretty powerful. It’s also Black and a goblin card itself, so there are uses to play it if you are able to manage enough goblins, which I doubt.
Liliana Vess – The lifeloss-less Vampiric Tutor effect is good, and you can get that right away, before she is killed. Would you play this?
3BB, Sorcery, Search your library for a card and put it on top. Shuffle. Your opponent reveals their hand. Take a Lightning Bolt spell and discard it. You can take Incinerate too.
Maybe, but maybe not. That’s about Liliana’s value. It’s not bad, and if you get to tutor again, it’s money, but you may not be able to use her twice in most situations.
Nameless Inversion – Note that this kills everything Last Gasp would but also is retrievable with every creature retriever in the game.
Oona’s Prowler – This is one of the single best aggro creatures made in a while. Well, not really, because a lot of great aggro creatures have been getting the nod recently, and this is just another example of that trend. This will see play in aggro decks really soon. Although you allow your opponent to discard a card to prevent two damage, you are not going to see that option commonly used. If you do – a 1/1 flyer for two mana that forces a discard is still pretty powerful. Get these now for all your 5c needs.
Profane Command – It’s a finisher and also an expensive creature killer and also a Falter and also an expensive Zombify. You choose which two you want. Not bad, but very mana intensive, both with the double Black and with the X.
Shriekmaw – This might be the only playable evoke card. We’ll see. Note that your opponent may have Black and artifact creatures in deck or in play regularly in Five Color. That devalues fear a bit.
Thoughtseize – This will be just as big in Five Color as it is everywhere else.
After having several sets recently where Red was really picking up steam, here we get one of the worst selections of Red for Five Color. The burn is unremarkable or worse, the large creatures either don’t have trample, aren’t big enough, or are too hard on the Red mana. This is a very uninspiring selection of Red, with one of the worst Commands, one of the worst spellshapers, and so forth.
Adder-Staff Boggart – This may be the first good Red two-drop ever. With about a 40% chance, roughly, of coming into play as a 3/2, you get a creature that has all of the previous two-drop creatures with two power, but you can often get to that third power. This is a solid card.
Chandra Nalaar – She’s okay I guess. She does have a lot of loyalty, which should help keep her in play. Her abilities just aren’t that great for me, and for her cost, I guess I’d expected something more powerful.
Lash Out – If you want to hit a creature like an Incinerate with a 40% chance or so of hitting your opponent, look no further than this.
Wild Ricochet – If you’ve ever been upset at holding onto a Shunt or a Fork in your hand and wishing that you had the other, now you can do both. This can be really devastating. Imagining using this on a Stone Rain or even a Lightning Bolt. On the other hand, sometimes this is just an expensive Fork, because the copied spell had no targets.
I actually like Garruk better than Jace. Green doesn’t get much else.
Changeling Titan – It’s a five mana 7/7 with no abilities. I think it has potential because there aren’t a lot of decks that can chump block it forever, or even for long. This is one of the better champion cards for Five Color. Note the easy casting cost.
Cloudthresher – No matter how base Green your deck gets, you will never be able to play this when it’s good.
Garruk Wildspeaker – Because of the untapping lands ability, you can still do other things besides playing him when you play him on the 4th turn. It also takes his toughness to four – outside of Bolt territory. It also puts him in Overrun territory immediately, in case you have other creatures out. Then you can start untapping two lands and essentially he is a super Ley Druid each turn. Or you can make Beasts. You can even Overrun. This is a pretty well designed planeswalker, and you might find him valuable quickly in your decks.
Imagine this set of turns:
Turn 1: Play Llanowar Elves
Turn 2: Play Call of the Herd
Turn 3: Drop Garruk. Untap two lands. Play River Boa. Swing for three with Call of the Herd token.
Turn 4: Play Groundbreaker. Remove all counters from Garruk. End the game right now.
This is a very Green set of cards. Your cards might be Llanowar Elves, Call of the Herd, Blade of the Sixth Pride and Centaur Chieftain that you play or something like that. The point is that Garruk can make powerful plays in the early midgame either with the mana or the Overrun. He only costs two mana on the turn you play him if you have a follow up.
Gilt-Leaf Ambush – You might have deathtouched elves maybe 40% of the time. They can still block and trade with a variety of aggressive creatures like Savannah Lions and Jackal Pups. They can also gang block something a bit bigger and kill it, or double chump block if you don’t get the deathtouch. If you do get it, watch out. This is not a bad removal spell for the large numbers of Five Color decks that are base Green.
Leaf Gilder – You get a 2/1 for two mana, which is a solid investment in aggro decks. You also get the Llanowar Elves ability to make Green mana, which is also a solid investment. The result is a good creature that you shouldn’t be embarrassed to play.
Primal Command – This is the second worst command. Search for a creature card is an ability that we have unrestricted. Gaea’s Blessing isn’t that much. Life gain is poor. All that is left is a decent ability to Time Ebb any non-creature. That’s pretty good, better than any of the Red abilities. If there had been a second really good ability, this command would have jumped in power. As it is, this loses some oomph.
Treefolk Harbinger – This is a fine card. You can play it on the first turn, and it will jump in front of ground creatures for about two turns before it is killed. In addition, you get the ability to get a second forest on top of your library if you would like. Being able to choose, on the first turn, if you would like a guaranteed land draw on your second is pretty good. You’ll never get a treefolk with it, of course.
The artifacts here are decent, but not overly powered up or anything. We are a long way from Mirrodin.
Colfenor’s Urn – If you like larger creatures, this is an effective answer to sweeping removal effects, like Wraths and whatnot.
Rings of Brighthearth – Copying activated abilities is new territory for a Mirari clone, so it will be interesting to see how this plays. Paying two mana for it will typically indicate that it has to be a bigger, splashier ability.
Thousand-Year Elixir – This will make your mana creatures better investments, and the untap ability is cool. This is probably a better card for the casual and multiplayer side of Five Color where you can tap your Arcanis immediately and use it again for one more mana.
The tribal legends are nice and all, but nothing that spectacular. Nothing here is amazing for Five Color, but there are some cards with potential.
Brion Stoutarm – As a 4/4 for four mana, Brion is up there with Loxodon Hierarch. As a creature with two abilities, it is very similar to the elephant of love. This is a very playable creature in Five Color, considering that it could fit with control or aggro strategies.
Doran, the Siege Tower – As was mentioned in other articles, this is basically a 5/5 for three mana. The good news is that one of it is Green, which almost makes this read 1BW in Five Color, since you’ll regularly have Green. More good news is that it isn’t Red, which is the least used color in Five. For three mana, this is not going to be regularly played on turn 3, but it may get there sometimes, and when it does, it is a beast.
Gaddock Teeg -Yadda yadda, change the game, yadda. This is fine for aggro decks, but it can be killed by lots of removal from Expunge to Swords to Bolt, so beware.
We have some interesting lands this time.
The Vivid Lands – Not bad for budget players. Better than Tendo Ice Bridge, and that saw some play.
The other lands aren’t that much. The Hideaway lands are pretty crappy and the tribals are worse that multiple lands that we already have.
And there you have it. Another article comes to a close. I’ll see you next week when I may build a few decks around Lorwyn cards, just for you. Have a good one!