The Swat Dilemma

I feel it’s time to write another Dilemma article in response to the last segment by my partner in crime, Ken Krouner. I think KK mistitled his article, as it should have been”The Swat Dilemma,” instead of the”The Screeching Buzzard Dilemma” – and once again, I’m on the opposing side of this dilemma.

Well, it’s time to start crackin’.

Pro Tour: Chicago is only a little over a week away, and all the talking and debating in the world isn’t gonna get you a title. When it comes down to it, it’s all about who can rack up the W’s – not who can rant and rave the most about pick orders or dilemma cards.

Last week was definitely one of the better weeks in all my life, and I have only Mandy to thank for that. Despite what anyone may tell you about me and the priorities in my life, Magic is definitely not number one (*wink*). Anyone who talks to me on a regular basis will tell you that I constantly talk about her and how happy she makes me in everything she does. So I just wanted to take some time to publicly thank her for being the love of my life and the sweetest girl I’ve ever met.

By the way, sorry to disprove the rumors that have been going around, but my girlfriend’s last name is Biondo, not Moore. That’s a mere coincidence with the Mandy Moore Fan Club thing on MODO, as that’s sorta an inside joke. Anyway, this doesn’t mean Mandy B isn’t amazing because she’s not a pop singer; if you know her like I do, I think you’ll agree that Mandy Moore is trivial in comparison, and I do not exaggerate, I swear!

But wait – this is a Magic article, right? Oh yeah, almost forgot for a minute there. My bad.

Anyway, as I was saying before I got all mushy there… This week is time for me to get my head back in the game, since it’s been off on vacation with Mandy for over a week. Chicago is very important to me because of my love for this format as well as the confidence I have in my preparation and strategy, so I want to make sure I get in enough practice time for it to become routine again. Regardless of the fact that I should just be constantly drafting, I feel it’s time to write another Dilemma article in response to the last segment by my partner in crime, Ken Krouner.

This time, it seems I am on the opposite side of the issue with the card we are taking a look at. Unfortunately, I think KK (also known as Ken Krouner; all of us call him KK, so I see no reason not to here) mistitled his article, as it should have been”The Swat Dilemma” instead of the”The Screeching Buzzard Dilemma.”

The things he said about the Buzzard in comparison with Severed Legion are all in agreement with my own opinions, so there’s really no dilemma there. You see, what we’re trying to do is find cards that we greatly differ in opinion on and then debate those differences here in pairs of articles. This, in turn, lets you the reader decide who you agree with more and base your drafts and picks on those decisions.

The Buzzard really is a great creature in that it will almost always net you card advantage unless it’s really late in the game and your opponent can empty his hand. These situations are few and far between, so most of the time he’s simply a nice two-for-one. The fact of the matter is, when you compare him to the Severed Legion, our initial impression was always that the Legion was better simply because fear is far superior to flying in terms of evasiveness. The thing I’ve learned though through my endless streams of drafts is that when my opponent plays a Legion on turn 3 instead of a morph creature, I am often very relieved – simply because a morph threatens to be so many things, and a Legion is just a 2/2 evasion guy that I have no pressing need to deal with right away.

However, when a Buzzard is cast, it’s often highly annoying. Now you have to have a card set aside in case the Buzzard dies or is sacced to a Nantuko Husk or something like that, or you have to let it through for a while until you can find fodder for it. Either way, it is more than doing its job if this is the effect that its creating.

To get even deeper into it, KK goes over the difference in quality between Buzzard and Legion depending on whether it is a Booster or Rochester draft. The things he says here are all correct – but I fear that maybe he didn’t go deep enough into it. My thoughts lately have been that the Buzzard is also better in Booster draft simply because it’s just a stronger card. There are so many reasons that it’s virtually set in stone, and KK has gone over many of these, like the flooding of the three casting-cost slot, the double black, not giving the two-for-one that Buzzard does, etc. I think it is very safe to say that Buzzard surpasses Legion on all fronts and is quite simply a better card.

Next, we get to a point that KK didn’t even mention in his article – and that is the decision between Severed Legion and Festering Goblin. Here, the Legion gets pushed down again for many of the same reasons. Uncle Fester is simply nuts with the Husk, and also a very cost-efficient dude that will always be a nuisance when it’s on the board. Though he’ll most often be trading for morphs after getting a few pot shots in on your opponent, this guy always give the bang for his one-black-mana buck. He’s just a little worse than Buzzard, however, because of the evasion and card advantage potential of the Buzzard. I would, however, consider taking him over Buzzard if I had multiple Husks and was lacking in the removal department or some type of situation like that.

But now that we’ve beaten around the bush about other top black commons, I believe it’s time we get to the actual purpose of this article – which is The Swat Dilemma. Up until this point in KK’s article, I had very little reason to disagree with anything he was saying… But as soon as he started talking about taking Buzzard and even Legion over Swat, I started to have issues.

So let’s talk about Swat, shall we?

The Good

1BB, Destroy target creature with power 2 or less. This alone would make the card a worthy and necessary component of every black deck. Throw in the fact that it has cycling, and it becomes very much a staple.

You see, it all starts with the entire basis of the format. In Limited games, removal has always been the most important thing to have in any given draft deck, followed by evasion and then creatures. I can’t stress enough how much the triple-Onslaught draft format is the biggest proponent of this principle of any draft format ever. The utility creatures and things like Lavamancer’s Skill that are available in this format are very unforgiving if they are left unchecked for any significant amount of time; you need to have the removal to deal with these things or you’re gonna find yourself packing to Wellwisher about the same number of times that you are actually losing to the more powerful things like the Sparksmith and Skill.

I realize this point has been stated many times in articles – and even plenty of times by myself – but if you’re taking Buzzard and Legion over Swat, it obviously has not been stated enough yet.

Sure, Crown of Suspicion is a fine answer to Wisher or Smith – but the problem is that unless you’re taking the Swats as well, you’re not gonna have enough total answers. Also, what about the Mistform Wall with Skill? It only fears Swat and Pinpoint Avalanche from the common slot – which is very little to fear. When I’m the blue/red mage and I’m playing against black, the only card I’m worried about is Swat most of the time because I know if I can draw it out early enough I can just drop my combo and win because they can’t Cruel Revival it.

Removal in this format is simply a must, regardless of the quality. That’s all there is to it.

The Bad

Well, now that you mentioned it, Swat isn’t exactly the best removal out there… However, it does solve a number of very important problems like the morph creatures and utility guys. The problems are not as numbered in my eyes as they are in Ken’s, with the only real drawbacks I can see being the double black mana, the inability to kill some of the bigger guys, and costing three mana in a format that is so tempo oriented.

First, the double black. Sure, this can be annoying, but please remember that Swat is equipped with cycling for a reason. It definitely can put a dent in your colored mana though, especially in a green black deck that also runs Elvish Warrior. This could cause holes in your manacurve where you are attempting to find a break to cycle it or it gets so late in the game that it doesn’t really kill anything of use anymore.

The second and main argument that KK has is that Swat is very unproductive in creating tempo in a format that is basically centered around it. I agree that the format is pretty fast and tempo-oriented, but I also believe that you need to fill a niche in your deck to deal with these stupid utility creatures. Sometimes, yes, Swat is in fact very slow. However, I think it’s the price you pay to make sure you can answer the utility that is out in force.

The third argument is the inability to kill some of the larger guys like the bigger green beasts. This is definitely relevant – but that’s where your Cruel Revivals should come in, and Swat can’t really be expected to do everything.

Honestly, I find this card far from amazing – but at the same time, I find it very necessary and important in every deck with swamps. KK’s main argument is about the tempo, which definitely has validity. However, I can’t ever see taking a Screeching Buzzard or Severed Legion over a decent removal spell that cycles. It’s as simple as that, and I don’t think I’m in the minority on my viewpoint here.

Here’s my Black pick order for comparison with Ken’s:

1. Cruel Revival

2. Nantuko Husk

3. Swat

4. Screeching Buzzard

5. Festering Goblin

6. Severed Legion

7. Crown of Suspicion

8. Dirge of Dread

9. Shepherd of Rot

10. Haunted Cadaver

11. Fallen Cleric

12. Spined Basher

13. Aphetto Dredging (Moves up if you are more tribal)

14. Wretched Anurid (Moves up significantly in R/B, or in G/B with multiple Wirewood Savage)

15. Anurid Murkdiver (A good sideboard card, as Ken said too)

16. Disciple of Malice (Though it can move up, it’s sorta static where it is; obviously if you have Lightning Rift or a cleric deck, its better)

17. Misery Charm

18. Profane Prayers

Nick Eisel

Team CMU

[email protected]

ThatsGameBoys and Soooooo on MODO