The Kitchen Table #230 – Abeth Edition, Part Four

Read Abe Sargent every Thursday... at StarCityGames.com!
Thursday, April 24th – Abe continues his exploration of the creative process behind Core Set card

selection, and turns his eye toward the Limited game…

Hello all, and welcome back to edition four of the five part series. Stupid me sent this in without the normal intro and

conclusion, so Craig had to send it back to me. Silly me. Anyway, I am jotting this down just before it has to get sent out.

As such, there won’t be my normal badinage. That’s alright though, because the article tops 18 pages. You don’t need any extra

fluff for this baby. Let’s get right to it.


I went through the original set and made sure that we had some cards that are throwbacks to the cards in the original set. Such

throwbacks include Thran Dynamo to Basalt Monolith, Diabolic Tutor to Demonic Tutor, Cave Sense to Burrowing, Berserk to Fatal

Frenzy and Recollect to Regrowth. In some cases, I reprinted the original card, like Phantom Monster or Cursed Land.

Reprint Policy Violations

The following cards are violations of the reprint policy, if they were to get reprinted:

Blaze of Glory
Two-Headed Giant of Foriys
Veteran Bodyguard
Juzam Djinn
Mold Demon
Thunder Spirit
Shallow Grave
Liege of the Hollows
Urborg Justice
Null Rod
Avenging Angel
Commander Greven il-Vec

And this is why the Reprint Policy is silly. Now, I can understand why Blaze of Glory is on the Reserve List, because it was a

rare from long ago whose only value is because of its collectability, not because of its value in the game.

Let’s suppose I want to play a Blaze of Glory type card in my rares as an homage to the original. I take a look at Yare, a bulk

rare from Mirage, and want to put it into my set.

I can’t, as Yare is on the Reserve List too. Why? Are there massive numbers of collectors holding onto this rare which has

virtually no trade value at all?

I can understand the Reprint Policy when it comes to cards like Recurring Nightmare as well. Recurring Nightmare is a really

good card, and its value is derived from both playability and collectability.

None of the cards I print above are uber-powerful tournament cards. Although I can understand the argument that reprinting

Juzam and Blaze of Glory might lower their values, you can’t really say that of most of those cards.

Note that Wizards cannot print this card, as it is a violation of their Reprint Policy:

Happy Djinn
Creature — Djinn
Take a damage during your upkeep

However, they could print this card:

Happy Efreet
Creature — Efreet
Take a damage during your upkeep

They could also print a Blaze of Glory that’s better than the original by removing the requirement that the targeted creature

has to block every creature it can. Then print it, and it’s available as a reprint. Print a new Two-Headed Giant as a 3RR and

give it the Goblin War Drums ability too. (Can’t be blocked except by two or more creatures). Then you can reprint it. (Name

it Two-Headed Giant of Abe or somesuch. Heck, put the giant in the Lorwyn blocks). You could do these things to get new


Some of these cards are classic examples of my argument. Take cards like Veteran Bodyguard, Urborg Justice, Zephid, and Liege

of the Hollows. The values of these cards would probably go UP if they were reprinted, and all have junk rare value. What

exactly is being protected here? Instead of having all of these nifty cards available to future sets, they are closed off.

Again, I doubt cards like Juzam and Blaze of Glory are ever coming off the reserve list, but Wizards needs to remove a bunch of

these cards.

It was over five years ago in 2002 when Wizards posted on their website the possibility of pulling the alpha/beta commons and

uncommons off the Reserve List. 91% of people who responded in the poll wanted this, and that is overwhelming support. Since

then, there have been no moves despite positive feedback on the reprinting of cards like Invisibility and Juggernaut (both of

which made it to the newest version of Abeth Edition).

The point of the List is to protect the secondary market value of a card. How can a card with virtually no value be protected?

No one cares if Veteran Bodyguard is removed. Just go through and remove all low value cards, and put them in a big list. Then

have a poll again to see if people agree with pulling the Low Value List off the Reserve List. I bet you will find massive

support for that.

Note that there are some rares from these sets which are available for reprinting, like Show and Tell, Thundermare, Time Warp,

and Sphere of Resistance. This includes Serra Avatar. It is not on the Reserve List.

Of the cards that have super high values and would never likely be pulled off the Reserve List (Blaze of Glory, Juzam Djinn,

Braingeyser, Two-headed Giant, Hellfire), I would replace them with these cards:

Mind Spring
A generic good flavorful Red creature
A generic good flavorful Black creature
Plague Wind


Cantrips are only in the set in those places where a good replacement for the effect is hard to find, such as Refresh, Stun, and

Shelter. Otherwise, I steered clear of Les Cantrips.

Cards From the Original Set That Have Been Gone

These are cards that have been gone from the original set for a while. If they have not been in since 7th Edition or earlier,

then it has been over five years since these cards were in print. What are they?

Blaze of Glory
Cursed Land
Hurloon Minotaur
Shanodin Dryads
Spell Blast
Fire Elemental
Stone Giant
Keldon Warlord
Phantom Monster
Veteran Bodyguard
Blaze of Glory

Although it may feel like I am trying to roll back the clock, there are just 13 cards on this list.

The Holy 16

There are 16 cards that have been in every set. If Abeth Edition were printed, what cards would leave?

Scathe Zombies — you are out. Your time has come. There are so many other zombies for the Lord of the Undead to play around

with, that you have lost your value as a zombie.

And that’s it. All of the remaining 15 cards are in. In addition, most of the cards out of 10th that had never been out are

back, like Shatter, Stream of Life, Raise Dead and Disrupting Scepter. Others stay out, like Verduran Enchantress, Circle of

Protection: Red, and Flight.

Changing Commonality

Some of my cards moved up in commonality:

Shelter — to uncommon
Raise the Alarm — to uncommon
Vine Trellis — to uncommon
Merrow Reejerey — to rare
Spell Blast — to uncommon
Mental Discipline — to uncommon

Shelter and Raise the Alarm were bumped up because of the complexity of their abilities. Vine Trellis was moved to uncommon

in order to avoid having both it and Llanowar Elves at common, and to give me an uncommon wall. Merrow Reejerey was moved to

rare to fit the cycle of lords. Discipline felt uncommon.

For Spell Blast, I had it at common and Discombobulate at uncommon, but then I remember the (no X spells at common) rule about X

spells being confusing, so I swapped it with Discombobulate. That gave the set two hard counters at common, which I believed

would play with Blue being better in Sealed than I had intended. You’ll see how I changed that in a moment.

And some cards moved down:

Thunder Spirit — to uncommon
Mold Demon — to uncommon
Rain of Blades — to common
Uktabi Wildcats — to uncommon
Fervor — to uncommon
Psychic Membrane — to common
Last Word — to uncommon
Daring Apprentice — to common
Corrupt Eunuchs — to common

All of these were moved down because I felt they fit better at the lower commonality, except for Rain of Blades and Fervor.

Fervor was moved down to fit the cycle of uncommon enchantments and Rain of Blades was moved down because there were too many

uncommon spells in White. Sandstorm was once common, so having Rain of Blades as common suits it.

I had Stifle at uncommon but realized the difficulty in knowing what an activated ability is could cause a little problem, so I

swapped it with Last Word, which moved Last Word down a step. Not being counterable is on another uncommon, Kavu Chameleon, so

I was okay with Last Word at uncommon.

The result was that I had Spell Blast, Last Word, Discombobulate, and Cancel at common and uncommon, and that felt too counter

heavy. I pulled Discombobulate, which gave me an empty spell slot at Blue common.

I still had one too many Blue spells at rare. How could I manage this? Was there a card at uncommon I could move to common,

and then move a rare to uncommon? There were no spells. So, how did I handle this problem?

I moved creatures.

Phantom Warrior doesn’t feel out of whack at common, but it competes with Rootwater Commando. I looked at cards I cut that

almost made it. Could I force Daring Apprentice into a common slot? Actually, in the pantheon of common creatures of Magic, it

would sit next to cards like Vodalian Mage and Disruptive Student pretty well. The three mana 1/1 with an ability is an icon of

Blue common creatures. It would also supplement the loss of Discombobulate with a countercreature.

How does this fix my rare problem?

Because I took out Temporal Adept. A three mana 1/1 Blue creature at rare, so I could add one at common.

Consequence —

Blue is the only common color with a 14/10 breakdown of creatures to noncreatures, when everybody else was at 13/11. At higher

rarities, Blue is the color with the least
number of creatures to noncreatures, so being loaded with one additional creature at common is not an issue.

As you can see, one issue with one card had a rippling effect throughout the entire set.

I moved these cards back to their original commonality after not being happy with where they were in 10th:

Drudge Skeletons
Stream of Life (In 9th and 8th it was uncommon)

All of these cards make little sense at uncommon, especially Firebreathing.

Invisibility and Jade Statue were returned to their original commonality after upgrades in commonality in 8th.

Neither of these is tough to figure out at its old commonality. Why have Jade Statue as an uncommon after pointing out the

complexity of the five manlands in Tenth? Excellent question! First of all, note that I only have one “turns into a creature”

as opposed to five, so players will encounter it less often. Second, they are already used to the concept of an artifact

creature, so an artifact that changes into a creature fits into their understanding of the cards, as opposed to a land that

changes into a creature.


I love Armageddon, but it needs to be in the right environment. I’d love to see Armageddon get printed in an expansion set

along with these common lands:

Ragnarok Reef
Land – Island
Comes into play tapped.

They are not basic lands, but they do count as that basic land type, so they cannot be found by “search for a basic land” but

they could by “search for a forest.” Their presence would help to counter Armageddon strategies (or supplement it) and thus

reduce the value of the card. Then you could reprint it for a couple of years.

In a base set, without such safeguards, Armageddon should not be printed, and I agree with Wizards on that one. I didn’t agree

with it at first, but after seeing the environments without it over the years, I came around to their way of thinking.

Ball Lightning

Ball Lightning was originally pulled from the core set because all trample was removed. It has not returned, despite trample’s

return. Could Ball Lightning make the cut here? Sure, it could. I considered it. Ball Lightning is not just a nifty Red

card, but it inspired a whole sub-genre of Red creatures, from Skizzik to Spark Elemental. Ball Lightning is the granddaddy of

them all. Why not include it?

The fear is that Ball Lightning would dominate a generic Standard format too much. However, note that Groundbreaker did no such

thing, barely even showing up in Standard decklists. Thus, Ball Lightning itself does not appear to be a problem. Burn, on the

other hand, does.

I have Char and Incinerate in my base set, and with those two cards, Ball Lightning would immediately have a space. Toss in a

Shock variant that inevitably appears in the various expansion sets, and you have a serious deck. Thus, for power reasons,

Ball Lightning does not make the cut.

The Fog Issue

I believe the Fog effect is suited for Green, despite the Color Wheel moving it to White. I go with the modern Color Wheel on

almost everything else, from Prodigal Pyromancer to Shunt to Twincast to Naturalize, but this one strikes me as bad.

Green and White share the element of life. Green gains life through cards like Stream of Life and Nourish. White gains life

through Soul Warden and Congregate. White prevents damage through effects like Redeem, Samite Healer and Reverse Damage. Green

prevents damage through effects like Fog. Both prevention and life gaining are aspects of the Life element that they share.

Each color attaches to the Life aspect in different ways, but they both should have all elements of Life.

Green’s lifegain should be raw. Green should gain life through cards like Natural Spring, Nourish, and so forth. For pure,

massive life gain, see Green. White’s life gain should be more situational, like Congregate, Soul Warden, and Spirit Link.

White gains life as a side effects of its cards (Chastise and Reverse Damage), whereas Green has a raw tap into pure massive

life gain.

On the other hand, White should have access to all sorts of damage prevention. Prevent spells, prevent creatures, prevent to

players, prevent to creatures, whatever. Healing Salve, Samite Healer, Reverse Damage, and Pay No Heed are all surgical ways of

preventing damage. If White is attacked by ten creatures, it can choose which ones are prevented like a tactician at a


Green should be less specific about its damage prevention. It prevents all combat damage, period. That includes your own, your

opponent’s; all creatures in combat, period.

Ergo, Green should have Fogs, and White should have Remedy.

Thus, Fog should be in the basic set, and not Holy Day.

I Like My Color

I was happy to include some cards that get better the more of that color’s basic land you play. There should be some cards

wanting to team up with other colors, and some cards wanting to stay exclusive. Remember, the first set had cards like Aspect

of Wolf, Gaea’s Liege, and Nightmare that liked playing their own color as much as possible.

Nightmare and Mind Sludge like being in Mono-Black decks.

Spitting Earth likes being in Mono-Red

Uktabi Wildcats, Blanchwood Armor and Traproot Kami are a fan of many Forests on your side.

Obviously, creatures like Looming Shade, Capashen Templar, Luminous Guardian, and Firebreathing are better the more of that

color you play.

On the other hand, Persecute and Chameleon Spirit both like being played against players who commit to just one color.

Also note that every color except for White has at least one walking threat (two Islandwalkers, one Mountainwalker plus one aura

and one lord, one Swampwalker, and two Forestwalkers with one giving it to others plus one lord).

Non-Blue Card Drawing

There should be ways in each color for that color to draw cards without having to splash Blue.

Jayemdae Tome
Howling Mine
Grinning Totem, sorta
Gift of Estates
Nature’s Resurgence
Enchantress’s Presence
Phyrexian Rager
Siphon Mind
Night’s Whisper
Moonlight Bargain

Finding White cards that draw was particularly difficult. Gift of Estates and Oblation was about as good as I could do.

On the other hand, Blue has some solid raw card drawing:

Counsel of the Soratami

One at each commonality with an extra creature at rare. What it also has is card filtering with Ponder, Mental Discipline, and

Strategic Planning.

A Note on Stream of Life and Healing Salve

These are cards that were pulled because of their perceived difficulty. I don’t think they are difficult at all.

When I first saw Stream of Life, do you want to know what I said?

“So I can put any amount into this and gain that in life?”



Gain X Life is the easiest text a card can have. I moved Spell Blast out of the common slot because I agree that its complexity

is higher than a mere Stream of Life, but SoL is easy to understand. It should be in print and common.

Wizards used to believe that understanding an X spell was so basic to playing Magic, that not only was Blaze created for Portal,

but it was included in the starter Portal decks so you would be exposed to it immediately. I feel the same way with Stream of

Life. There should be one simple X spell at common, and SoL is perfect for that role.

Healing Salve is different. Modal spells can be difficult from a rules standpoint. However, new players don’t care about

corner cases and exceptions. As written, Healing Salve is easy to understand. You either gain three life, or you prevent up to

three damage. Note that there are common life gaining spells and common damage prevention spells in every subsequent set after

pulling Healing Salve. The abilities are not difficult.

Now yes, there is a question once you get to a higher level of play. If I Twincast a Healing Salve causing someone to gain

three life, can I use it to prevent damage? Okay, fine, that’s a legit question, but the point I have is simple.

It does not matter.

These are two abilities which are on common cards already, combining them does not significantly amp up the difficultly of the

card, but it does allow me to put another card in the common slot like Congregate

A new player does not notice the modal nature of the spell, and does not realize that it is something special according to the

rules. They just play the card as written and everybody moves on.

Healing Salve can be a common. As can Stream of Life.

Final Tweaks

After playing with the cards in real live decks, I made some adjustments.

Krakalin — Ivy Elemental. The Ivy Elemental is a bit more elegant in design, so I pulled the Krakalin out for it.

Whip SergeantViashino Sandstalker. Whip Sergeant competed for space with Fervor when it was moved to uncommon to fit a

cycle. It was eventually pulled for the next card on my list, the Sandstalker.

Liege of the HollowsCarnassid. I like Liege of the Hollows for numerous reasons, but ultimately, I felt I had to pull it.

This was a late pull. I felt the Liege was too similar to Snake Basket, and gave me three cards that made 1/1 Green token

creatures, each with their own creature type. Here is what I considered as a replacement.

Ageless Entity
Primordial Sage
Copperhoof Vorrac

I like the Ursapine because it demonstrates Green’s continuing pump abilities. Primordial Sage gave even more creature based

card draw, which felt natural to me. Ageless Entity gave Green a card that linked it with its own life gain mechanic, and I

loved that. The Vorrac was another large beater, and the first to get cut on this list. I then cut the Sage, because Green had

enough card drawing already. That left the final three, and I liked all of them.

I went with Carnassid because it gave me a rare trampler for Green, and also pushed the regeneration theme. It also feels Rhox

-like, and since I did not reprint Rhox, it has that feel. (Rhox was not reprinted because I wanted my trample creatures to

actually have trample).


There is no perfect base set, and any set will have issues. I have spent hours, and days poring through these cards, so I know

a lot of the issues, and I am willing to admit them upfront.

Quirion Dryad — This may be a popular card, and it may have a good value, but I am not sure that the mechanic belongs in the

base set.

1/1 Tokens — Green makes 1/1 Green squirrel tokens from Liege of the Hollows (for a while, before I pulled it), Snake Basket

makes 1/1 Green snake tokens, and Verdant Force makes 1/1 Green saproling tokens. Problem? Possibly additional math required,

and it could be confusing for new players until they see how older players do it, with two separate dice and so forth. I don’t

think it is as big of a deal as Wizards does, obviously. This issue was one of two that led me to pull Liege of the Hollows for


The Lords — All of the lords except for Merrow Reejerey have their ability pump all creatures of the given type, but the

Reejerey only pumps your own merfolk. I simply could not add Lord of Atlantis, it is too good at just UU. The Reejerey’s

ability is the weakest of the group. Instead of Mountainwalk, Forestwalk, recursion, or first strike, you can just tap or untap

something when you play a merfolk, which is a minor ability. Therefore, the ability to just pump your own merfolk does balance

it against the other lords in terms of power, but it still feels awkward. Oh, and I don’t care that it reads “merfolk spell”

because even a new player will get that a creature is a spell and understand what is going on. Note that the Reejerey is the

only lord affected by another lord (Field Marshal).

Trample — I want a big Green trampler at rare. At the time, I had Liege of the Hollows at rare, but then I pulled it for

Carnassid, which gave me my trampler. Unfortunately, I am attached to all of the bigger Green creatures there, and each serves

a purpose (Verdant Force, Lhurgoyf, Multani). I could pull Lhurgoyf for Child of Gaea, or Multani for Kodama of the North Tree,

but that gives me too many expensive creatures in the rare slots if I pull the Goyf and Multani is much splashier. So, I will

stick with the Carnassid.

Big Sea Critters — I have two big sea creatures at Blue rare — Tidal Kraken and Benthic Behemoth. Do both belong? Could I cut

one, and in so doing, find space for another Blue rare, like the now missing Temporal Adept? Sure. However, Benthic Behemoth

works with the Tidal Warrior, Wu Admiral, Rootwater Commando, Sea Monster theme, and Tidal Kraken proves that Blue has the

unblockable ability on more than just small creatures. Blue is the only color with any bounce spells, so I have no doubt that

new players will think Blue has bounce even without the Temporal Adept, but other colors have creatures that simulate

unblockability, such as landwalk and fear. Thus I felt I should push the Blue is unblockable theme.

Strategic Planning — I fear this may be too good as a reprint, and may dominate Extended.

Artifact Hosing — Should I give Red one more artifact hater? It has Shatterstorm, Goblin Tinkerer and Shatter, but would one

more feel out of place?

Big Critters — Timmies love big creatures, and so do a lot of newer players. Are there too many big creatures in the set? I

wanted to have a nice number for the newer players. Imagine seeing Serra Avatar for the first time, as an example. Big

creatures will be popular, but I hope I didn’t push too hard.

Fire Elemental and Frost Ogre — Note that these are both vanilla creatures with the exact same casting cost, but the uncommon

one is strictly better than the common one. Is this a problem? Maybe not. I could not print Fire elemental as a common, it’s

too good and too similar to Green’s beef. Still, I recognize the problem it presents.

Black at Rare- Is Black’s rare removal too good? I fear the combination that Extinction, Urborg Justice and Hellfire might

have. Remember that this would be a generic Type Two, so Extinction would not be the Deus Ex Machina against half of the field

like it is now. However, with the winnowing of creature types, it has gotten much better.

Keldon Warlord — This card is in 10th as a rare, in Green, and cheaper to play, plus it counts walls. Why go back to the old

standard? Because Red needed more mechanics. You can see my argument about that last week in a section about the lack of Shock

in Abeth.

Goblin Soothsayer — It sacrifices a goblin, which makes it tribal. It is the only non-Rat tribal card at a commonality below

rare. However, it does suit Red, and fits the goblins fine.

Shelter — Even at uncommon, one protection card may be one too many. There are only three cards in the entire set that have

protection — Paladin en-Vec, Akroma and Shelter, but it might still be too much as an uncommon.

Insidious Bookworms — Sometimes, when I play around with decks, these are pretty powerful. Other times, they are chaff. Did I

include something too good here?

Aven Mindcensor — Flat out, this is the weakest card in the set, and the one closest to leaving for other cards. There will

always be a weakest card, by definition of the word, “weakest.” Is this weak enough to get yanked?

Rule of Law — I hate this ability in the basic set, it’s not fun.

Wu Admiral, Corrupt Eunuchs — I admit that the flavor on these cards is not normal, but neither was Peach Garden Oath. Their

abilities are good in the set, so they got added, and I am not ashamed that Wu Admiral is running around, but I’d understand if

you found it jarring.

Kavu Chameleon — The addition of this card adds a subtle hoser for Green when no other color got a second hoser. It hoses both

Blue (Can’t be countered) and Black (Oh look, no Terror, Hellfire for you). Is it a problem? I consider it in the same vein as

Paladin en-Vec, which is also a creature hoser, but it represents the color well.

Double BlazeCinder Elemental is easy to kill, and suffers from all of the classic weaknesses of creatures, but it is,

technically, another Blaze. It’s not good enough for constructed tournaments, but is this an issue for limited? It was

originally Flame Elemental, but I decided to amp it up a bit. It could also be Ghitu Fire-Eater.

Reign of Chaos — It destroys a creature, instead of dealing damage. Is that in flavor for Red? Well, I can count numerous

destruction of creature cards in Red, especially in hoser form. Hosers often do things the color doesn’t normally do. See Acid

Rain, Choke, Karma, and so forth. Since Red has destroyed creatures before, just rarely, it’s fine by me if it does, but again,

I’d understand the argument that it shouldn’t.

Chaos — Should there be a second card to demonstrate Red’s chaotic nature?

Hellfire — Is Hellfire in flavor for Black? I think so. Plague Wind has been in the base set for three sets now, which shows

me that Black killing a lot of creatures in one fell swoop is in flavor. Other cards that do that include Hellfire, Decree of

Pain, Damnation, and Overwhelming Forces. Hellfire just replaces Plague Wind.

Is X Too Good? – A lot of cards in here might tweak your interest. Is Empyrial Armor too good as a common reprint? What about

Akroma? Or Raise the Alarm? Or whatever, insert random card. I play around with the cards, building decks, random packs for

limited and more. We playtested decks from the set in both duels and multiplayer games. I believe that the cards here are fine,

but I can’t say that about modern day Extended or Standard. Reprinting Extinction tomorrow might hurt Standard badly.

Strategic Planning might be too good for the current Extended graveyard oriented format. I can’t speak to that, because this is

designed in a vacuum. We don’t know what cards will be printed in expansion sets surrounding 11th, and Wizards doesn’t even

know many of them yet. Thus, I have to build in a vacuum. All I know is that careful time and deck building and playing with

my friends went into making this set internally balanced, and that is all I can do.

Limited Balance

If you were to open a pack, what common would you most want? Terror? Incinerate? Do the colors look decently balanced at the

common level? I can handle one or two colors being better than others, or a weaker color, because that happens. What I don’t

want is an environment that is not fun.

Let’s go over the commons with an eye for draft:


With an accelerant and a lot of beef, the Green creatures tend to be bigger than the other colors can have, but with fewer

abilities. King Cheetah can act like removal at times. We have Giant Growth and Refresh as decent enough combat tricks. You’

ll want to grab those as an adjunct to the beef. After that, the strength of this color is in the creatures, not in the spells.

By far, Green has the strongest common creature base of the colors, but with weaker spells and less abilities, it should have a

few foils out there.


White rules the sky, and against Blue, Red and Black has one removal spell (Pacifism) and a pseudo-removal spell, especially if

the guy enchanted is on the ground (Heart of Light). You want to jump your Trainee in the air if you can, and both Holy

Strength and Empyrial Armor are there to help. You also have combat tricks like Pay No Heed and Healing Salve. Goldmeadow

Harrier and a few defensive creatures help to hold the fort while you soar overhead. While White has solid spells and

creatures, it lacks significant beef, and has a lacking defense. Sure, you can drop Angelic Wall and Harrier, but the creatures

that it keeps back to block are usually pretty poor. Capashen Templar is too mana heavy and Pious Warrior just dies. Green

would run through it, while other colors might have more problems.


With a few flyers, Blue can go overhead if needed. Blue also has the Rootwater Commando, Sea Monster, Tidal Warrior combo. The

Sea Monster is the only common creature on par with the larger Green creatures, and will trade with any Green creature that is

not protected. Blue has some solid utility creatures, with the Looter, Tidal Warrior and maybe even the Pathmage and Apprentice

being of some help. Its spells are alright, with some counters and bounce cards. It lacks Remove Soul, Mana Leak or other

cheap, early game counters. It has all of the tricks of the current Blue, only less of it.


Red still has burn, from Incinerate to Corrupt Eunuchs to Spitting Earth to even Tremor. Its creature base is among the

weakest, with no flying, and no beef. It does have a cheap 2/1 Mountainwalker among the better cards. Ekundu Cyclops gives it

a bigger body that normal, while Halberdier gives the color more punch than the vanilla Hill Giant and Frost Ogre allows it a

chance to plow through opposing defenses.


With Terror, Enfeeblement and Essence Drain giving the color a bit of removal, we also have a pair of two power flyers to either

combat the other flyers or peck a few life away. Severed Legion provides a bit of feared damage as well. Cards like Mind Rot,

Phyrexian Rager, Siphon Mind, Ravenous Rats, Gravedigger, and Insidious Bookworms keep pecking away at the card advantage of the

game until you are significantly ahead. Mass of Ghouls is your pounder while you have Drudge Skeletons for defense. People

will fear (literally) a Severed Legion or Feral Shadow on the third turn, followed by a Feast of the Unicorn on the fourth and

six damage.

Note that the biggest Green creature, Whiptail Wurm at 8/5, trades with Frost Ogre, Mass of Ghouls, and Sea Monster, while

getting tapped by the Goldmeadow Harrier, so every color has a creature that can keep it from being a threat.

Strongest color (considering only commons)? Probably Black, led by Terror, and featuring enough cards to keep the game going

for a while. Worst color? Probably Red, which lacks the staying power of other colors. I’d arrange them thusly:

Black > Green > White > Blue > Red


What is the best uncommon to open? Ballista Squad? Blaze? Famine? Air Elemental? Ivy Elemental? Each color offers a

marquee selection.

Then each color has some serious firepower. Pyroclasm. Kavu Chameleon. Nekrataal. Phyrexian Defiler. Cinder Elemental.

Tidings. Overrun. Condemn.

Blue is casting counters and drawing a bunch of cards, after joining the flying club.

Green has several more beefy options, from Uktabi Wildcats to the Green Blaze, Ivy Elemental. Green also features the virtually

unblockable Sylvan Basilisk, pure removal in Wing Snare, the best (or send best if you think Empyrial Armor is better) creature

enchantment with Blanchwood Armor.

Black features more reliable removal than the commons had (except for Terror), as well as a generally beefier creature stock.

Screeching Harpy is a godsend to Black who needs the flying and the defense.

Red gets two Blazes, the basic Blaze plus Cinder Elemental. It features beef on a level with the Green commons (almost) with

cards like Fire Elemental and Wild Wurm and Stone Giant. The spells here are much more powerful than at common.

White is rewarded by even more flyers, securing its role as flyer-boy. You get more tricks, better creatures, and some of the

most powerful spells yet.

In uncommons, I’d go this for power:

Red > Blue > Black > White > Green

Blue gets that on the strength, in part, of the two best flyers in uncommon, Phantom Monster and Air Elemental.

At rares, there is no sense comparing the Limited cards.

Let me generate a random pack of this set. Hold on, I need to grab random.org.

Phantom Wings
Severed Legion
Fertile Ground
Canyon Wildcat
Drudge Skeletons
Manta Riders
Heart of Light
Goblin Raider
Fire Elemental
Consume Spirit
Cave Sense
Serra Angel

What do you grab? The best card is Serra Angel, but you aren’t going to get the other White card on the wheel. Any other White

player will take the solitary Heart of Light. If you don’t take it, you hand the drafter downstream a great second pick, and you

know you aren’t White for sure. Is there a color here deep enough to take and guarantee yourself a good wheel?

Probably Black. You could take Consume Spirit, committing to Black as a main color, but expect to get either Severed Legion or

Drudge Skeletons on the rebound. Sure, Consume Spirit is a heavy commitment to Black, but the Serra Angel is a commitment to

White, and not just as a splash.

I’d go Consume Spirit for the depth it offers me, or Serra Angel for the raw power of the card.

Let’s do another.

Commune with Nature
Pay No Heed
Aven Cloudchaser
Giant Spider
Shanodin Dryads
Psychic Membrane
Capashen Templar
Suntail Hawk
Giant Crab
Spineless Thug
Spined Fluke
Phyrexian Defiler
Mental Discipline

This time the White is deep with four commons, two that have flying and a decent enough trick with Pay No Heed. Giant Spider is

great for Green and a top card for that color. Black has the uncommon Defiler. Blue is not good in this pack. Neither is the

only Red card, Stun. That leaves it to the Defiler, Giant Spider and Aven Cloudchaser, hoping for a good wheel. In this case,

the Spider and Defiler are just much better than the White card, so no Cloudchaser. The Fluke won’t wheel, which leaves Black

with, at best, a Spineless Thug wheel, which is crappy. On the other hand, either the Commune or the Dryads could be around, in

case you want either. Commune is solid when your creatures are your best cards, so I’d take Giant Spider here, and hope for

Commune with Nature on the rebound.

Of course, all of this is without knowing the environment or playing it, but that’d be my assessment right now.

Fun stuff!

Next week we have some decks coming your way from Abeth. Then I’ll follow with my Shadowmoor Five Color Review. Hope to see

you here again!

Until later…

Abe Sargent