I love bad cards.
There, I said it.
Once I’ve drafted a format to death and figured out all of the best strategies, I start exploring ways to exploit bad cards and win with them. Not only is this a fun alternative to being serious all the time, but somehow it actually works a lot of the time.
While it’s not exactly top notch strategy, it’s sometimes a good thing to do to keep the format from becoming repetitive, as well as to throw people off their games. With that in mind, I’d like to tell you about a few of my latest experiments..
When Mirrodin first came out I constantly joked about finding a way to break this card. Apparently, I’ve come close to doing it, as I’ve drafted”The Hysteria Deck” three times with a total record of 8-1 in matches. Basically the only constraint here is that you need lots of large Green men and you can basically count the Hysteria as a”trick” of sorts, since there’s no way your opponent is going to be playing around it right off the bat. I’ve stolen games with a surprise Malachite Golem or Clockwork Condor before, even when my opponent knew the awful Red rare was lurking in my deck.
One thing about playing the card though is that you don’t want to play it until the turn you’re going to cast a huge creature, or the turn right before it. Since it affects your opponent’s creatures as well, casting it on turn 1 or 2 will really turn the game into a state of hysteria and should most likely be avoided. It really is the poor man’s Lightning Greaves, but it’s quite amusing to beat someone with it.
It’s also quite saucy in combination with one of new favorite trash cards…
Eater of Days
Surprisingly, this guy is actually pretty good. A 9/8 Flying, Trample for only four mana, how can you possibly say no?
He is actually a fine card though, serving to break any game that has stalled out completely, and also being a complete wrecking ball with Greaves or the Hysteria. I’d run this guy maindeck every time I had one of the Haste cards, and also if I was short on cards. I’d also side it in ,if I knew the game was going to go long and likely stall out.
Turns out he’s much better than anyone will ever give him credit for.
Yeah, I won that game.
Seething Song is another janky card that helps to accelerate garbage decks, and is usually present in my Mass Hysteria decks, as it can allow a quick One Dozen Eyes or other huge creature to get out there early.
Now that I’ve had my fun revealing some of my pet cards, I guess we should move on to some actual strategy.
Now we’ll take a look at the Darksteel commons and establish some pick orders along with some other interesting interactions among the cards.
Black gets a huge boost in this set by receiving the Drain and Decay. Both spells are top notch removal, and the pick decision is also very close between the two.
The Drain wins out by a small margin because it can damage players, doubles as lifegain, and also is highly splashable. While the Decay is also splashable, I’d rather be splashing Drains, since you have much more time to draw a Swamp as it won’t come online until turn 5 or later anyway. The effect is also much more powerful. A nice trick with Echoing Decay is when your opponent has lots of Pest tokens from Nuisance Engine and you have Disciple of the Vault. It also works fine to kill all of the One Dozen Eyes Insect tokens.
As far as Chittering Rats, I can’t say enough good things about the card. It really puts a damper on your opponent’s early game plans, and also acts as a pseudo Time Walk later on, when he only has one or two cards left in hand. If you’ve got a way to recurse it (like Crystal Shard), or something like Soul Foundry, you’ve got a near two card lock. Grimclaw Bats is a great deal for the cost, and proves to be difficult to stop especially in a heavy Black deck.
Overall I’d say that Black got a hearty amount of good commons in the set in relation to the other colors, even if it does suffer from other people taking Essence Drains on the splash.
I’m not sure I really need to elaborate on why this is a great card, as Fighting Drake and Azure Drake have shown in the past. One thing most people overlook here though is that the Golem can actually be played in any deck. While it does end up costing six mana in an offcolor deck, I’m pretty sure there are worse cards you could play (like Mass Hysteria) in this spot.
The Vedalken Engineer is where we’re going to need to devote some extra attention. As I said in my article last week, this guy is indeed quite good. In Affinity based decks or decks with an abnormal amount of artifacts, you could easily justify picking this guy first over even a Spire Golem. Besides being an obvious Mishra’s Workshop here, the Engineer has the added bonus of activating offcolor Goblin Replicas and other assorted goodies. Pick him very high and kill him immediately when your opponent casts one.
Last but not least we have Echoing Truth and the Behemoth. Where the Truth is a much-improved Regress, the Behemoth is a Blue version of Myr Enforcer. When the Beast only costs two or three mana, it’s not really a problem that he returns to your hand after combat, and sometimes it’s even a benefit, since it can attack and then also play D.
Surprisingly, the powerhouse color from Mirrodin loses a bit of its steam in the second set, ending up with only four commons that are even worth mentioning. This reminds me of the last block, when Red was an absolute powerhouse in the first set with Sparksmith, Lavamancer’s Skill and others in Onslaught, and then almost nothing worthwhile in Legions.
At least this time we picked up two powerful removal spells in Barbed Lightning and Echoing Ruin. The Lightning wins out simply, because of versatility and the ability to go to the face. It is nice, however, to Echoing Ruin two of the same Artifact Land.
Oxidda Golem is about on par with Vulshok Berserker, unless you’re near mono-Red, at which point it gains a slight edge. The Berserker has always been a happy addition to any deck, and you can never go wrong with more Hasty men.
The Krark-Clan Stoker is actually much better than it looks initially, as it serves as a mini Goblin Clearcutter in accelerating your larger men, especially when you’re saccing Artifact Lands. The Stoker is also another way to sacrifice off something like Grid Monitor or Rust Elemental when they’ve overstayed their welcome.
Another beating was dished out to White in this set, also receiving a small number of playable commons. Razor Golem is clearly the second-best Golem in the set, and an absolute beating in a base White deck. This guy is exactly what the color needed when he comes out on Turn 3. It’s very hard to overcome a non-tapping 3/4 when you’re just casting your first Myr.
Loxodon Mystic is the classic confused creature. On one hand he wants to be shutting down your opponent’s best creature every turn, and on the other he wants to be mucking it up for three damage as a Hill Giant. Despite all of this though, the Mystic does a good job on both fronts and is a powerful all-around creature.
As far as the Glaivemaster and Ghost, both are good weenies, and the Glaivemaster can be picked much higher when you’ve grabbed a number of pieces of Equipment.
Determining the best card in Green is more of a close call, and I’d have to say that Tangle Golem and Echoing Courage are very close to even. If you’re lacking tricks like Predator’s Strike and Battlegrowth, I’d certainly go with the Courage, and if you’re somehow lacking big creatures in a Green deck, go with the Golem. The Golem also goes up in value the closer you are to a mono-Green deck, and should be adjusted accordingly.
Tangle Spider seems about one mana overcosted, but we’ve gotta make due with what we’re given, and he is fine even at this cost. Personally I’d rather have a Tel-Jilad Archer, but beggers can’t be choosers, right?
I already expressed my view of the Outrider, and although he’s still highly playable, he’s a disgrace in comparison to the Chosen. The Wolf is a solid body and hard for many decks to block, so he will make the cut more often than not.
As a whole, I think the commons in the set are pretty mediocre. As with most sets, the number of playable commons per color is low, and the good commons are far and few between. My vote for the best color is split between Blue and Black, with Spire Golem and Essence Drain being the top cards for their respective colors. Barbed Lightning is in basically the same league, but the rest of the color Red is very shallow.
Have a good week.