The Magic Show #233 – M12, Commander, and the Sad State of Standard

Hello everybody and welcome to another edition of the Magic Show. Yes, we’re back, my hiatus is complete, my new son Miles is here, SCGMobile is now officially a thing, and we’re ready to talk some Magic. Wanna look at some Commander and M12 goodies while we lament the power level of Stoneforge Mystic? Let’s go!

Hello everybody and welcome to another edition of the Magic Show. Yes, we’re back, my hiatus is complete, my new son Miles is here, SCGMobile is now officially a thing, and we’re ready to talk some Magic. Wanna look at some Commander and M12 goodies while we lament the power level of Stoneforge Mystic? Let’s go!

Commander, M12, and the Sad State of Standard

So welcome back everyone, first let me cover my personal pet project SCGMobile. I designed this sucker from the bottom up and let me tell you I am super duper happy with the results. Thousands of Magic players just like yourself are finding the easiest way to view StarCityGames.com content on the iPhone and are enjoying the most advanced life counter ever produced.

I know, I know, I go on, but it’s my baby! I worked on this sucker for a year. Let me enjoy it, wouldja? No major Magic website, not even the mothership, has their own app. And yes, Premium is on its way. Let me share with you the first ever screenshot of the app accessing Premium. Yup, that’s coming in just a few weeks!

For a quick FAQ, here ya go: Yes, an Android version is being worked on. No, we’re not looking at Blackberry or Windows Mobile or Palm Pre or anything beyond iPhones and Android phones. Yes we’re aware it doesn’t stream SCGLive, or let you deckbuild, or buy cards directly from the website proper.

That said, when you get SCGMobile you WILL get free lifetime upgrades! This means when Premium is added, you’re good to go. When shopping cart features are added, you’re ready on day one. Realtime Pricing was the last feature added, and I trust you traders out there are getting plenty of good results by using it to quickly and easily the find prices you’re looking for.

All right, so enough about my stuff. What about the Magics? Let’s talk shop. First up is Commander. Now let me just say this loud and clear: If Wizards isn’t working on new Commander products for 2012, they’re missing the boat. And by that I mean a boat filled with piles of money. And I mean it, this product is incredibly and I mean incredibly popular. Here at StarCityGames we’ve basically sold out of everything, and everyone is clamoring for these decks. They’re even going over MSRP at this point!

You want fun, wacky effects? This thing’s got em. You want fringe-playable Legacy cards? This thing’s got em. You want an introduction into the most dominating casual format in the game? This thing’s got it!

Let me put it another way: the demand for Commander hasn’t been seen since the reveal of Zendikar hidden treasures. That’s right, only hiding Moxes in the packs can compete with this product! Now that’s awesome.

What do I think? I think it looks fun as hell. The Mimeoplasm has some of the coolest abilities and artwork ever, new format staples like Command Tower are perfect and can only exist as Magic cards in that format, and is that a Sol Ring and a Lightning Greaves in every deck? You bet it is.

This thing is so good, it’s got a guy like myself, who doesn’t play the format and has never warmed up to it, thinking about playing. Ultra Pro has released a sweet new deckbox and oversized sleeves, and player’s all around the world are drooling to get a hold of these awesome new decks.

But how about that M12? Yes, another year another core set, and Wizards is struggling to keep up with the one-two punch of M10 and M11. First up is the new keyword Hexproof. Yes, we’ve been calling it Troll Shroud for years, but now it’s time to get an official keyword. The cards currently featuring the keyword are both green, no surprise, in the form of Dungrove Elder and Gladecover Scout.

This is a card that makes Timmies squeal, as you’re free to play as many Forests as you want and make this guy abnormally large. He’ll only be stopped with Deathtouch or cards like Day of Judgment, so go nuts! Unfortunately it’s not quite Troll Ascetic or Thrun, the Last Troll in that it lacks regeneration, but still a fine rare.

How about the new ‘dies’ terminology? I for one am loving this, as we as Magic players may now quickly and succinctly explain what happened to our dude. That dude, there? He’s dead. He died. In fact, when he ‘dies’, something cool happens. With this terminology comes the info that Archon of Justice is coming back, a neat rare from Eventide. While it saw a teeny, tiny amount of constructed play, I think it’s best to return for its Commander potential, along with being awesome in limited.

But what is the returning mechanic for M12? M11 gave us Scry, which led to Preordain, the most popular card in a constructed Top 8 these days this side of Jace, the Mind Sculptor. M12 however, goes a more beatdown direction–Bloodthirst is back baby! Yeah, getcha beats on and be prepared for +1/+1 counter goodness. Back in the day a wee bit of Bloodthirst actually impacted constructed for awhile, as Scab-Clan Mauler would often follow a Mogg Fanatic or Kird Ape to threaten serious beats on Turn 3 and beyond.

While we haven’t really seen any constructed-worthy Bloodthirst cards yet, I got a feeling we may get one or two powerhouses.

That said, how about some goodies? The card I’m actually most exicted about for M12 is Hunter’s Insight.

Now THIS is a power uncommon ladies and gentlemen. Let me bring up a quick comparison via another card I was excited about: Momentous Fall. Now this Rise of the Eldrazi rare had one big problem with – the words “As an additional cost, sacrifice a creature.” This is simply too much to go in on a spell these days, with Mana Leak and Spell Pierce hanging out kicking butt.

But look at Hunter’s Insight. Yes, it’s an Instant. I’m convinced a year or three ago, this would’ve been a terrible Sorcery and we wouldn’t have said a word about it. There’s no sacrificing involved. It works whether or not you’re attacking a player or planeswalker. Yes, the downside is the creature can die in response. And my answer is…so? Doesn’t every spell that targets a creature have to have a downside? It’s obvious to me that Wizards pushed this as hard as possible, costing only three mana and potentially drawing you a TON of cards. Wait until they tap out, draw a whopping four cards off your Vengevine or Leatherback Baloth or whatever? Sure!

Lastly we have another broken card reprinted as a creature in the form of Jace’s Archivist. Yes, that is IS Windfall on a creature’s activated ability and I do expect some sort of wacky deck to use it. Even if it’s just for casual decks these days, I love the trend of seeing cards that are broken as spells return as activated tap abilities for creatures, with Fauna Shaman and now Jace’s Archivist really showing how cool that can be.

Now we’re just getting started on M12, and while Sorin Markov and Gideon Jura are confirmed to return in their original form, the jury is still out for a possible new Chandra, Garruk, and Jace. Okay, no new Jace please. Really. I’m happy with another year of Mr. Beleren.

Now, onto Standard. Oh, Standard. You used to be so cool. You used to have interested aggro build and control shells; you used to combo out with Open the Vaults and play Naya colors. Now…well, now we have our lame duck format. Dominated by the menace that is Caw-Blade, which is becoming synonymous with “Blue/White Control,” a deck that grew so powerful it has squeezed out most other decks in contention.

Yes, last week’s Denver open was won by Vampires after meeting Red Deck Wins in the finals. Yes, only three copies of Caw-Blade were in the Top 8. Yes, this all sounds promising.

There’s just one problem.

The damage from Caw-Blade has been done and many are bitter about it. Yes, these aggressive decks are winning, mainly because Caw-Blade has spent so many months beating the piss out of them to the point where all they tune for is the mirror match, leaving those silly Day of Judgments and Gideon Juras behind.

You remember that show I made many weeks ago about banning Jace, the Mind Sculptor? You remember when I called Valakut the Phantom Menace in that it was the card actually suppressing the format and keeping Vengevine down?

Boy, was I wrong. All it takes is a set release, and the truth is revealed. Stoneforge Mystic, in all her glory, has broken Standard. Standard is, as best anyone can tell, a completely broken format. While some would call it the best format of all time, I think those people are a little…okay, a lot incorrect. Stoneforge Mystic’s interaction with Batterskull is not to be underestimated. The fact that it completely takes over Caw-Blade mirrors while also destroying any hopes of many an aggro deck means that something is rotten in Denmark.

If you run two Batterskull, you’re effectively running six. Run a Sword of Feast and Famine along with War and Peace? Why you’re only running five copies now, and that’s fine, right? I mean, having a card that tutors up the most powerful equipment ever printed and letting you play it for a white and a colorless mana all while being uncounterable is really fair, right?

What really blows my mind is how Wizards has a card like Stoneforge Mystic, and not only prints it in their Event Deck–which was a pretty good idea six months ago when they made that decision, a very bad idea in hindsight now–but then gives it the most amazing Living Weapon ever created.

Did you know Batterskull’s second ability was originally eight mana colon, put a 0/0 Germ onto the battlefield attached to it? You know it’s funny, part of me thought that would be too good, but then I realized that cycling the entire equipment to hand and back for five mana using Stoneforge Mystic’s ability is way, way better.

It’s funny, the design of Magic cards. Funnier still the development of them. People ask: Didn’t Wizards see this combo? Didn’t they understand how good Stoneforge Mystic was?

Of COURSE they knew how good she was. Of COURSE they knew it was a combo. However, R&D are still human and as such make some big mistakes. They missed Deceiver Exarch and Splinter Twin, for example, but luckily they’ve put enough safety valves like Combust and Spellskite to keep us from being overrun by that dumb interaction.

Next Monday we’re getting a ban list update and trust me the whole Magic community is waiting with baited breath — what will it hold? My guess is at least some bannings. We’re in a position in competitive Magic where you play Stoneforge Mystic or you play anti-Stoneforge Mystic. Jace, the Mind Sculptor is overpowered, don’t get me wrong, but he’s a four mana spell. One that comes down Turn 3 or 4, can be countered, attacked, and doesn’t tutor the best cards in the format directly to your hand, nor does he put any of them into play.

Now the real interesting question is: Who’s to blame? Is it R&D, who do their best to provide us with a fun, balanced game full of surprises and excitement? Is it the Open Series competitors battling with only the very best deck possible in an effort to climb the Player’s Club rankings? Is it rogue deckbuilders who have failed us in making another pillar of the format, leaving the entire thing to hinge on a single Blue/White control deck?

I don’t know, but I do know this — people have stopped showing up to PTQs and Standard Opens like they used to. Compare last year’s Jund to this year’s Caw-Blade. You know, it’s funny, my buddy Ryan noted the other day that when an uncommon is the best card in the format, everyone and their momma is playing. But switch the best card to a Mythic, and you have today’s format.

Words to chew on, no? I’m curious what you think, and I for one can’t wait for Monday and it’s revelations. Do note, there is a chance that nothing happens–sometimes the course of action you are forced to take is none at all. Fingers crossed this isn’t the case.

I’ll leave you this week with the crowning of our latest Invitational champion, Patrick Cox. Congratulations on taking home the $10,000 check, and becoming the first Invitational winner of 2011. Until next time Magic players, this is Evan Erwin. Tapping the cards…so you don’t have to.

Evan “misterorange” Erwin