Smoke and mirrors. That is how they fool you. Smoke and mirrors. Mike is an intelligent man, I wasn’t expecting him to use the smoke and mirrors tactic. Mike has argued, successfully, his points on previous dilemmas. While I am still of the opinion that he was wrong on all of them, he managed to argue himself to a winning vote on all debates besides Annul or Wizard Replica. This time, he weaves his arguments into a Thanksgiving tale of turkey and word processor hardship. He also makes it more than twice the size of his normal dilemma…
I smell fear… and it smells good.
While I thought I was a heavy favorite on the dilemmas, I managed to lose almost all of them. While this dilemma is the clearest of all to me, I don’t see myself winning it. Why is that? Conventional wisdom of course. This is why I lose all the Mirrodin Dilemmas. People simply refuse to accept the fact that Mirrodin is unlike any set before. Not only is it artifact-based rather than creature-based, but it is the first draft format since Ice Age where a beatdown deck didn’t rise to the top of the limited metagame early on.
When you think about it, how could it? With decks rarely sporting more than thirteen creatures, it is difficult to make a consistent aggressive deck. Like it or lump it folks, this is a creature-light, slow format. You need creatures, they need to be big, and they need to do a lot for what you pay. I am going to have to do a better job of convincing than Nick Eisel did to Mike Turian.
I loved Searing Flesh. Not as much as Jeff Cunningham, who I once saw draft it over a Solar Blast, but I loved it. Seven mana, seven damage. Nice, neat, clean, direct, powerful, just as Richard Garfield intended. Consume Spirit looks on the surface to be a lot like this card with the bonus of being able to target creatures, and you know what? In mono-Black, it is. If you are already committed to mono-Black, I implore you draft the Consume Spirit. You will not find a better spell. In fact, draft it over Terror in this deck. The card is that good.
Okay, now it is time to leave fantasyland. You will never be mono-Black. It is too weak and too shallow. You would need no less than four Consume Spirits to make this deck work, and even then your time is better spent elsewhere. In this reality, the one where mono-Black is an unnecessary risk, Consume Spirit is merely a solid card.
I want to take you back to Onslaught Block again for a minute. I want to know if you remember a little card called Twisted Abomination? I don’t need to run down why this card was good. What I do need to apparently point out (to Mike and the rest of you), is how similar it is to Pewter Golem. One less power, one less toughness, no landcycling, one more to regenerate: These are the ways he is worse. Can the one benefit be worth it?
The one benefit is the removal of the colored mana symbol in the casting cost. Were you to put this card in Onslaught block, there is no way the drawback would outweigh the benefit. It would be a very similar card to Fallen Cleric. Not very exciting. The Golem could be blocked by a lot of green creatures, and just doesn’t do what we want him to.
If I have said it once though, I have said it a hundred times. This is a new format. There are no common creatures with a toughness greater than four. This means the Golem can punch through any of them and live to tell the tale. From Steel Wall to Fangren Hunter, Golem is going to come out on top.
So, you already know how much I like creatures in this format. I have been spewing that theory from the beginning. This dilemma goes beyond that though. Lets look at it from a draft theory standpoint.
Early on in the draft you generally don’t want to start out drafting the weakest color. For one thing, it is the weakest color. For another thing, should your neighbor go into it, you are really screwed, because you will be getting the worst of the worst. For this reason you don’t want to be taking Black cards early… it is not healthy to your draft. So let’s say around fourth pick you are faced with this dilemma. Both the Consume Spirit and the Pewter Golem are in the pack. You most likely have three cards in your first color in your pile, or at least two. Now you see that the two best cards left in the pack are both Black. This is a fairly clear signal that Black is clear on your right. What’s the pick?
Obviously you take the Golem here. If you pass a pack with a Pewter Golem as the best card, the person on your left will take it, as he will see it as a signal to go Black (he may have received similar signals in earlier packs). You then have a whole set of packs in which the player directly in front of you is drafting the best cards in the worst color and you are all but forced into two colors making your Consume Spirit very unexciting.
The other scenario that is more favorable (but still unpleasant), is that the person behind you hates Black so much he passes on the Golem. Then you are clear on both sides and you get to be mono-the-worst-color-in-the-set and you abandon your early picks. And you don’t have the best creature for that deck.
Rochester is all about sending signals. And despite what Mike says, Pewter Golem will make the same”I am the Black mage” statement that Consume Spirit does. The difference is it leaves your draft open. You can still go mono-Black if you want and pick up later Consume Spirits, you can go two colors like a normal human being, or you can splash the Golem and a late pick Terror.
So without taking a cheap shot at Nick like the edges on that Baloth look mighty worn, Here is my Black pick order:
The best common removal in the set. There is no reason to pass on this card if you are in Black, and there are few times to pass on it when you aren’t Black yet. This card deals with some of the best cards in the set for little mana and at instant speed. You can’t ask for much more from a common.
2. Pewter Golem
3. Consume Spirit
4. Nim Shrieker
Creatures, particularly evasion is at a premium (hint, hint!). This card can get out of hand really fast. He is easily taken out by a lot of cards in the set, but they need to get those cards out in a hurry. These guys are great, but don’t rely too heavily on them. If you don’t draw a Myr or a Talisman, four is a very clunky casting cost.
Black is very artifact-friendly and that is really the only way you can draft it. Of you aren’t loaded with artifacts a lot of the best cards in Black will be useless. This particular card can be really good, as there are times that it will simply kill any targetable creature in the set.
6. Leaden Myr
Everything costs four and loves artifacts, sound like a deck where Myr will shine. I have downplayed these guys a lot, but in Black, they are incredibly powerful. Black is also more creature-light than the other colors, and while small, the Myr are still creatures.
7. Vault of Whispers
Sad but true, Black is so bad that a card that does nothing but produce one Black mana is number seven. While it doesn’t actively do any more, it does power up a lot of your other cards.
8. Nim Lasher
I have this card higher than Mike because I think I draft Black a little differently. I think that the best way to win with Black is to exploit your Nims. This means picking up cards like Slagwurm Armor and Neurok Hoversail. Both of these cards make this guy pretty powerful.
9. Moriok Scavenger
Gravedigger he is not. In Red/Black (where you can pick up Goblin Replica), sure take this guy over the Myr, or at least the Vault. Other than that he is truly unexciting. What he is, is a solid creature with a bigger toughness than most of your other creatures, so while not great, he’s certainly solid.
10. Nim Replica
Have you ever heard the expression”It looks good on paper?” Well that is the story of this card’s life. By the time you can activate him the best use he will have is killing a Myr when your opponent in mana screwed. Every now and again you can hold off an attack from a Fangren Hunter or a Myr Enforcer, but these situations are few and far between.
11. Wail of Nim
This card can be tricky. It kills Myr and can do some really neat stuff in combat. Where this card really shines is in the mirror match. It can often be a one sided Wrath of God in the Black on Black match-up. While I don’t normally start this card, you should have at least 1 in your sideboard.
12. Disciple of the Vault
This guy is definitely underrated. He is played out turn 1 and attacks for a point or two. He then lies dormant for a while dealing a point here, a point there. They never want to kill this seemingly low quality 1/1. By the time he has dealt his last point of damage, he’s usually taken five or six little chunks of life from your opponent. That’s nothing to sneeze at. He is not a bomb, but don’t be embarrassed to play him.
13. Dross Prowler
This is another card that should be sitting near the top of your sideboard. Green is the best color in the set. Why? Because it’s best commons aren’t artifacts. Not only that, but Green’s top commons are some of the best cards in the set. Where am I going with this? Green decks won’t be sporting as many artifact creatures as most other decks and this guy becomes a pseudo-Neurok Spy.
14. Contaminating Bond
Have you ever been beaten by a card that is so bad you can’t believe your opponent is playing it? Well that is Contaminating Bond. Sure it will hurt you until the creature it is on is neutralized. It also becomes a Pacifism late in some games. Make no mistake, this card is bad. You are spending a card to make it tougher for your opponent to allocate resources… never a good bargain.
15. Wrench Mind
Yeah this card would be marginal anywhere but the artifact set. Here it is bad.
16. Necrogen Spellbomb
Hi, I draw a card.
17. Chimney Imp
Hi, I don’t draw a card.
And that is Black in a nutshell. Hope you are enjoying the revival of the series and if you take nothing from this article, take this: Smoke and Mirrors.