Good Thursday to you all! I hope your week has gone well so far, and that it will only get better as it nears its conclusion. Welcome to the column that focuses on the casual.
Today is my normal scheduled article assessing the latest set according to the Five Color format, finally getting published. My computer is back so I have the extra articles I wrote available to me. In addition to Five Color, I will also be highlighting cards that I like for multiplayer, when one is good enough to get some press.
For those to whom this may be your first time reading one of my “SET and Five” articles, allow me to go over the round rules.
Five Color is a casual friendly format with a minimum deck size of 250 cards and at least 20 cards of each color, with gold and hybrid cards counting as any one color they have, but not more. It uses all Vintage legal sets, but is quirky enough o require its own B&R list, which you can find over here. You can also find things like our generous mulligan rules and forums over there too.
For my review, I like to just highlight the cards that are getting press, or that I think have some value. Now, in a casual format, every card can get played, but I will be focusing on those cards that have value when compared with older cards. We have established standards in a Vintage card pool. For example, any burn will be compared with Lightning Bolt, Incinerate, and Chain Lightning for value. Thus, few burn spells get printed today that are introduced to Five Color decks, but there are cards that compare favorably elsewhere.
For example, in the Shadowmoor and Five article, I said that I believed Tattermunge Maniac was the single best aggro one-drop for the format ever printed. I stand by that today (since it can be played by two colors, making it much more reliable than Jackal Pup or Isamaru).
An Asterisk beside a card means that we are considering it for our Essentials deck (a highlander 250 Five Color deck designed to show off some of the best goods for Five Color and multiplayer).
I will start with White, and move around the color wheel, ending at Blue. Then I will go into Hybrid, and then artifacts and lands at the end. Are you ready? Here we go.
There are not many cards in each color in this set, because a lot of cards are hybrid. As such, there are not too many cards to discuss in each color, and this section will be quick. There are four White cards worth mentioning, but of them, none are really Five Color strong, they are bound for casual and multiplayer decks.
Archon of Justice — In multiplayer, there are two Fundamental Enemies — Akroma the White, and Darksteel Colossus. Although the Archon does not stand up to them, it can take out one when it dies, and that gives it some value in multiplayer.
Endless Horizons — In multiplayer, I like this because it has a low chance of getting whacked by opposing enchantment removal, unless someone plays sweeping removal, which happens occasionally. It gets you an extra card per turn, which is strong.
Hallowed Burial * — If you are looking for another Wrath effect at your table, here you go. It hits Darksteel, which is good for a Wrath variant. It prevents graveyard recursion tricks, which is strong. However, it allows tutor tricks, which is weak. Against some decks, this would be better than Wrath of God. Against others, it would be worse.
Spirit of the Hearth — In multiplayer, having shroud yourself is solid, so I don’t laugh at cards like True Believer and Ivory Mask, and this is another one to add to your toolbox, only this one is big in battle.
There’s not much in Green to recommend.
Bloom Tender — In a Five Color deck, this can tap for three, four, or five mana. It’s a little too slow for aggro decks, but combo decks might find a nice use for it.
Helix Pinnacle — I think this is the best alternate win condition I’ve seen since Coalition Victory. Very nice. I love the little Shroud tossed in. It’s not a real contender for multiplayer or Five Color, but I thought it was fun enough to mention.
Red has traditionally been the worst color in Five Color, and this set is no different. There are not many good cards for Five Color. However, there is a bomb for multiplayer.
Stigma Lasher * — I am about to say something I have never said in a review before. Stigma Lasher could become the new Fundamental Enemy of Multiplayer, along with Darksteel Colossus and Akroma the White. Decks may change so that they have an answer for a 2/2 beater that gets dropped on the second turn.
If you get hit with Stigma Lasher, then you will almost assuredly lose the game at a multiplayer table. While only a few decks actually have powerful life gaining elements, like Wellwishers in an elf deck, almost all good multiplayer decks have some sort of life gain. Whether it is through Drain Life or Radiant’s Dragoons or Congregate, most decks have some way of gaining life, in order to keep them in the game. This shuts that person down for the rest of the game, with no chance to get back.
Darksteel and Akroma have skewed the removal people play, so that they can make sure they can kill those two creatures. Now people will start packing removal for the early drop Stigma Lasher.
Imagine playing a Stigma Lasher on the second turn. Now you untap and it is the third turn. Are any of your opponents defenseless? I bet at least one or two are. Attack and hit one, and they are done, and they know it. You have real power in your hand. With an Anger in a yard, you can play and attack with a Stigma Lasher at any time after a board sweeping effect. You could use a Nevinyrral’s Disk, drop the Lasher, and then hit any person at the table you want.
It is brutally powerful. It would make the cut in a 60 card highlander deck showing off multiplayer goodies. It is going straight up to #3 on my list of most powerful multiplayer creatures. I could write articles about its power. This creatures is amazing, and the wither is good too.
I previously put Steel Wall as one of the best commons and uncommons to play in multiplayer because it can block anything and every deck can run one. Suppose you play a Steel Wall, or Wall of Blossoms or something. If you drop a Stigma Lasher, you can still get through. It will take you a few turns, but this is a creature that keeps knocking. Stigma Lasher attacks and you block. The Steel Wall gets two -1/-1 counters. It attacks again and you block again — dead wall.
Wither is on a lot of creatures, and on most it is alright, but nothing major. On Stigma Lasher, it is pertinent in a major way. I cannot overestimate the power of a Stigma Lasher, but you need to be prepared for two things.
1). If you hit someone with Stigma Lasher, they will unleash wrath upon you in vengeance. Beware.
2). If you know someone is packing them, beware this first turn: Mountain, Mox Diamond/Chrome Mox/Mox Ruby/Simian Spirit Guide — Stigma Lasher. That’s deadly. You can get hit before you have two mana available, so make sure you are packing those Lightning Bolts, Chain Lightnings, and such. You need to kill this guy immediately.
There are a couple of creatures here that I think are solid, but not spectacular.
Ashling, the Extinguisher – Everyone likes 4/4 creatures for four mana, especially if you can force someone to Edict a creature of your choice if you hit them. This is not in the normal colors for 4/4 beaters for four mana, as such is has some value.
Umbra Stalker — I can definitely see a deck getting built around this, whether Five Color or traditional. It has some strong power. Simply casting Buried Alive, and putting three of these in your graveyard, and then reanimating one, will give you a 6/6. Then when you add other sources, the creature’s power increases significantly.
Like several previous colors, there is not much here. Wait until we get to hybrid…
Glen Elendra Archmage — I like all of the “Sac this creature for an effect” + persist cards in the set, but this one makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Two virtually uncounterable counters while also being a decent enough flyer makes me happy.
Idle Thoughts — I believe the printing of this card was a serious mistake. Wizards regularly talks about wanting to put card drawing in non-Blue colors, and here is a great choice for another color. The Fool’s Time card drawing had never been on a non-artifact, so you could tie it to another color, such as Black or Red, which shared hellbent. Red would make even more sense because Squee was mentioned as someone who could use the Fool’s Tome on the flavor text. This is a very poor choice for a Blue card, because it could have been used to give other colors card drawing. Imagine how powerful this would have been as Red. You could have even made it Blue/Red hybrid in this set, but they didn’t. I feel it was a missed opportunity.
Because there are so many hybrid cards here, many will be mentioned in the review. Also, because Hybrid is easier to pay in a Five Color deck, it is a mechanic that is oriented towards the format.
Pyrrhic Revival — Now this in an interesting take on Twilight’s Call. Bring them all back, but a little smaller. The smallest creatures will die, and everyone will be diminished. I like it, because it has been so long since we saw a Twilight’s Call effect, and Living End was really bad, not worth playing.
Unmake — This is good because it is a permanent answer to Darksteel Colossus, which I good, but it is not a permanent answer to either Akroma, because of its colors. As such, we should not overemphasize its value. In a White deck, Black deck, or White/Black deck, it’s really good, and I’d recommend considering tossing in a few, especially in a Black deck where it does not compete for space against Swords to Plowshares. As you add more colors, it becomes more and more difficult to play. In a Five Color deck, it simply costs too much, and is too unlikely to be played to have much value against Swords to Plowshares.
Doomgape — Everybody likes 10/10 trampling creatures, and of course this has the sac a creature each upkeep disadvantage, but at least you are gaining life from it. If you build your deck right, you might even want to sac the creatures.
Hag Medge-Mage — Although all of the Hedge Magi have various abilities that are solid, this is the first worth mentioning here. The Hedge Magi are almost the new Battlemagi. Almost, but not quite. The restriction of having two lands of that type out means you cannot splash the mana like we could with the kicker of a Thornscape Battlemage, for example. On the other hand, they are a bit cheaper, only costing three mana, but it will usually need to be your fourth turn before you can get both abilities, barring Rampant Growth type effects getting you an extra basic in play.
Sapling of Colfenor — Note that you will often lose life by using this. There are two redeeming qualities of the Sapling. First, it’s pretty cheap for the indestructible ability, so you get some value there. Second, you can draw the creatures after you gain/lose life, so it can net you a few cards.
Dueger Hedge-Mage — Of the Hedge Magi, this is the one that comes closest to mimicking the old Battlemagi. The reason is simple — if you trigger both abilities, you get card advantage. There no tapping or bouncing or pumping here, just two targets gone. Note that this is basically an Uktabi Orangutan in Red decks.
Figure of Destiny — Hey, at least this is fun. It can be a 2/2 creature attacking on the second turn, with an easy to play first turn, so it might have value in a Five Color aggro deck, but it slows your mana down, much like a Goblin War Patrol or Pouncing Jaguar.
Rise of the Hobgoblins — I know a lot of people in my playgroup who like this card, and I might end up building a deck out of it for one of my articles, because it is cute. This is not great. Supply/Demand is great, because you can use it as a tutor when you need to, even though you usually play it for the supply of 1/1 tokens. In this, you are forced to make 1/1s, with no other outlet. It does have the ability to give your creatures of Red- and White-ness first strike until the end of the turn, so there is some value there, but that’s not much. It’s fun, but it is not as super powered as some might think.
Cold-Eyed Selkie * — I adore the artwork. It’s a strong card, and in a Five Color environment, it should usually go unblocked, which is great. However, it lacks the impressive backend that cards like Ophidian and Shadowmoor Infiltrator have, which makes is vulnerable to removal like Fire/Ice or Pyroclasm. It’s good, no question, but it does have some restrictions.
Overbeing of Myth — I like drawing cards, and combining card draw with a Maro is not bad (and not the first time this was done either). In fact, it seems like a powered down version of Soramaro, which can make itself much bigger. Only the fact that the card draw here is automatic instead of activated by four mana makes this mentionable.
Snakeform — This is a really expensive Humble or Ovinize. It’s worse because it costs more mana, and then it kills your blocking creature with a single toughness. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve Humbled or Ovinized an attacking creature and then blocked with a 1/1 elf or Wayfarer or Mangara or another 1/1. This will kill my 1/1, and it costs more. They only thing this gives you is it strips creature types as well, which could have some marginal value occasionally, but since you usually use this to kill the bad guys, stick clear of this unless you are just rocking a Green deck and don’t have access to Humble or Ovinize.
Spitting Image * – This is a Clone that keeps spitting out more Clones as you discard lands. It kills legends dead. It makes big creatures, and it keeps remaking them. Clone a Darksteel Colossus, then discard a card and keep doing it, each turn another Darksteel. Clone your Kokusho so they both die, and you get double life, but you can keep Cloning later. We like cards that kill both Akroma and Darksteel, right? This kills Akroma, and gives you your own Darksteel, which effectively stops theirs from hitting you, plus you can keep going. This is a very strong card.
Artifacts and Lands
Scarecrone — I like this for decks that have a solid amount of artifact creatures. What I really like is that they are returned to play. That’s something you can abuse right there.
Ward of Bones — Let’s be upfront about this card right now. This is not a nice card in multiplayer. It has all of the tact of Armageddon. It’s better than Land Equilibrium, although it costs two more. It affects lands, creatures, enchantments, and artifacts, so it is not a friendly card. It will get you targeted very quickly. On the other hand, it is very powerful, and you might want the heat this brings.
Springjack Pasture — I love goats. Who doesn’t?! I like them almost as much as Prism tokens. (You need to see Diamond Kaleidoscope to get that).
And with that, we come to the close of another happy article. Next week I will be bringing you my normal follow-up to this article, five decks built using the new cards as inspiration. I hope you enjoyed today’s article, and we’ll see you next week!