Like Rocky, I gotta fly now.
At the prerelease, it all came down to fliers — lots of fliers, or lots of flier defense. Considering that this weekend had the release tournaments with two packs of juicy Dissension, I was not expecting that to change much.
I’m not much on introductions this weekend thanks to a late night at my favorite and classiest bar in the world — the Velvet Tango Room in Cleveland, Ohio, home of $14 drinks that are worth it, live jazz music, and the amazing secret back room that you can only view if you’re a member — so instead, let me just shake off the pleasantly fuzzy feeling I got from a pair of Ramos Gin Fizzes and show you my card pool:
- 1 Snapping Drake
- 1 Goblin Spelunkers
- 1 Autochthon Wurm
- 1 Benevolent Ancestor
- 1 Boros Recruit
- 1 Civic Wayfinder
- 1 Dimir Doppelganger
- 1 Dimir Guildmage
- 1 Ethereal Usher
- 1 Frenzied Goblin
- 1 Golgari Brownscale
- 1 Golgari Rotwurm
- 1 Golgari Thug
- 1 Greater Mossdog
- 1 Junktroller
- 1 Necroplasm
- 1 Screeching Griffin
- 1 Sewerdreg
- 1 Terraformer
- 1 Transluminant
- 1 Vedalken Entrancer
- 1 Viashino Fangtail
- 1 Votary of the Conclave
- 1 War-Torch Goblin
- 1 Zephyr Spirit
- 1 Absolver Thrull
- 1 Burning-Tree Bloodscale
- 1 Crystal Seer
- 1 Droning Bureaucrats
- 1 Lionheart Maverick
- 1 Ogre Savant
- 1 Ostiary Thrull
- 1 Scab-Clan Mauler
- 1 Skarrgan Pit-Skulk
- 1 Spelltithe Enforcer
- 1 Wee Dragonauts
- 1 Aquastrand Spider
- 1 Assault Zeppelid
- 1 Azorius First-Wing
- 1 Coiling Oracle
- 2 Demon's Jester
- 1 Flaring Flame-Kin
- 1 Freewind Equenaut
- 1 Helium Squirter
- 1 Kill-Suit Cultist
- 1 Novijen Sages
- 1 Ogre Gatecrasher
- 1 Simic Initiate
- 1 Transguild Courier
- 1 Verdant Eidolon
- 1 Vesper Ghoul
- 1 Smash
- 1 Compulsive Research
- 1 Conclave's Blessing
- 1 Convolute
- 1 Cyclopean Snare
- 1 Dimir Machinations
- 1 Dimir Signet
- 1 Dogpile
- 1 Flash Conscription
- 1 Gaze of the Gorgon
- 1 Incite Hysteria
- 1 Last Gasp
- 1 Leave No Trace
- 1 Moldervine Cloak
- 1 Quickchange
- 1 Scatter the Seeds
- 1 Selesnya Signet
- 1 Sundering Vitae
- 1 Hypervolt Grasp
- 1 Primeval Light
- 1 Wildsize
- 1 Delirium Skeins
- 1 Flash Foliage
- 1 Leafdrake Roost
- 1 Ocular Halo
- 1 Psychotic Fury
- 1 Street Savvy
- 1 Taste for Mayhem
- 1 Vision Skeins
- 1 Writ of Passage
So let’s take a look at the base colors, as usual:
Solidly playable cards: Absolver Thrull, Benevolent Ancestor, Droning Bureaucrats, Freewind Equenaut, Screeching Griffin, Spelltithe Enforcer
I’ve never played with or against the Enforcer, but it seems like a pretty darned powerful effect on a slightly overpriced body. Aside from that, though, this White runs strong but shallow; we have no offense to speak of outside of a few fliers, and the defense is restricted to two cards. Plus, there are no combat tricks.
I could play White, but even now it’s not my first choice. Let’s see what happens when we venture into….
Solidly playable cards: Aquastrand Spider, Civic Wayfinder, Greater Mossdog, Moldervine Cloak, Scatter the Seeds, Sundering Vitae, Transluminant, Verdant Eidolon, Wildsize
Now that’s the kind of Green I like to see. There aren’t a whole lot of big fatties here, but like a shipment of [email protected]@, Moldervine Cloak makes anything big — and if we can pair the Cloak with some form of evasion, we’ve got a nice winner.
Solidly playable cards: Flash Conscription, Hypervolt Grasp, Viashino Fangtail
The problem with Red is that the cards are frequently excellent, in the right place. I like Ogre Savant, but not if I’m not playing Blue. Dogpile works as a decent (and occasionally decimating) trick in a token-heavy Selesnya deck, but good luck finding one of those these days. I’ve even seen Kill-Suit Cultist used well — not in combat, but in combination with things like the Fangtail or a Seal of Fire. This makes it hard to rate the “solidly playable” cards, since usually they’re fairly deck-specific.
That said, the three cards we have are droolworthy. I quite love Hypervolt Grasp, even without Blue, and I like the way the Fangtail works. I probably wouldn’t maindeck Red, but this would be a fine and strong splash (leaving out the Fangtail, of course).
At this point, I should add that the Ogre Gatecrasher and Flaring Flame-Kin seem like decent (if unexceptional) cards, but I’m not entirely sure yet. Testing will see.
Solidly playable cards: Demon’s Jester, Last Gasp, Necroplasm, Sewerdreg
Last Gasp is one of my favorite cards from the set, since it’s so darned flexible. Demon’s Jester isn’t the greatest card, but it does fly — and having flying things seems to be important at a release tournament with two packs of Dissension.
I looked at Vesper Ghoul and immediately thought, “Jeez, if I get to three mana I should have faith that my mana base will work.” Then I realized that wasn’t quite fair, since I’ll cheerfully play Silhana Starfletcher. Then I realized that Silhana Starfletcher is a useful creature that can block, whereas this is a 1/1 that dies to anything.
I’m still not playin’ it.
Solidly playable cards: Compulsive Research, Convolute, Ethereal Usher, Helium Squirter, Snapping Drake, Vedalken Entrancer
Not bad. And even leaving these time-tested cards, there are a few untested cards that look good at first glance, including Ocular Halo and Novijien Sages. Once again, we’re a little low on combat tricks, though, which is always tricky.
Solidly playable cards: Azorius First-Wing, Gaze of the Gorgon, Golgari Rotwurm, Assault Zeppelid, Coiling Oracle, Leafdrake Roost, Dimir Doppleganger, Dimir Guildmage
Man, I get three split cards, and all three are near-unplayable? How unfair.
That said, three guilds rear up and show their strength: Dimir gives us a Guildmage and a Doppelganger, both of which are very strong (assuming you can kill or discard something to make the Doppelganger work). The Golgari give us a cheap 5/4 with a nice ability. And the Simic are downright generous, giving us a great flier, a nice accelerator, and a bob-omb in the form of an enchantment that gives us endless 2/2 fliers.
Up until now, the two winners were clearly Green and Blue, and the great Simic cards darned near beg us to go U/G as our two main colors. The big question is, what’s the splash color?
Well, we could go White and pick up a few fliers — which is not to be scoffed at in this air-heavy environment. We could go Red and get us some removal/air-clearing in the form of Grasp and Flash Conscription. Or we could go Black and go for all three strong Guild cards.
There’s an argument, and not a bad one, to be made for going Red. But in the end, I had to go for the gold. Here’s my deck:
Golgari Rot Farm
2 Demon’s Jester
Scatter the Seeds
Simic Growth Chamber
So how’d it do?
My opponent goes Daggerclaw Imp, Snapping Drake, Trygon Predator/Seal of Doom. My start of Dimir Guildmage and Vedalken Entrancer just aren’t enough; by the time I manage to get a Helium Squirter down, he’s swinging for fatal damage.
I stall a bit on mana, losing two land drops, while my opponent grafts a Golgari Rotwurm and then Flight of Fancies it. (Meanwhile, the same thing was basically happening repeatedly at Pro Tour: Prague.) Surprisingly, I’m still in the game for a bit since I have enough on the board to sorta-race him and he’s burned up most of his tricks on the Rotwurm. A Leafdrake Roost lands, which can help me to stabilize the board with a fresh supply of chump blockers and a Scatter the Seeds allows a chance at perhaps winning the race, but a Seal of Doom ensures that I have no token to block with when the critical turn comes. I lose.
I’m playing Black and Blue, and I am black and blue. What a delightful combination.
“I have no tricks,” he says. “But everything in my deck flies, or gives flying.” Which, if you’ll recall, was the reason I lost at the prerelease. Hmm.
We play two more games for fun, and of course I win both of them now that it doesn’t count; the first one is one of those stupid-dumb games where I Moldervine Cloak a Demon’s Jester and swing for the win in four turns (Wildsizing over his defense for the win), and the second is one of those close games where he could have stabilized, but I drew just a few more tricks.
My opponent is a jovial guy and he plays a Moroii, so I tell him that it’s a shame that he’s playing with such a scrubby card. “Why would you play with a card that damages you?” I ask, shaking my head. “Such poor, poor play.”
As it turns out, he’s playing some weird R/B/U combination with a lot of bounce and a little burn, but I’m drawing my creatures while he’s drawing tricks, so it turns into a reasonably tight race. (It’s one of the reasons I don’t like Izzet in Sealed — I can’t get enough creatures to stick, and when they do they’re 1/1s versus 3/3s. In Draft, where I can control the quality of the cards in my deck? I’d rate ‘em higher.)
I chump block with an Aquastrand to buy me a turn, then punch through with enough damage to get him down to one. His Moroii then kills him, which just proves that it’s a terrible card.
…Except that he kills me with it in this game.
I started out with an interesting hand; full of gas, but my only lands were two bouncelands and a Swamp. That would have been fine under a lot of circumstances, since his deck was slow and I hadn’t seen Wrecking Ball…. But his third-turn Vedalken Plotter stole my Golgari Rot Farm on turn 3, leaving me with a Mountain which I would return to his hand!
Yeah, that hurt. But he was real happy about it, since he was hoping for just that play. And you know, even though it shafted me, I’ll always be happy to fulfill someone’s Johnny needs.
Anyway, I drew more lands, but now he was ahead on mana and I was way behind. He put out another Moroii and a War-Torch Goblin, which made life tricky; I had a Last Gasp and wanted to block, but the Snapping Drake I had just cast wouldn’t live long enough to deal damage. Fortunately, I could withstand two more hits from the Moroii, and he bounced my Snapping Drake. I cast an Aquastrand Spider, and the next turn I finally had six mana to cast the Drake, stealing a +1/+1 counter to make it a 4/3, which could kill the Moroii and leave him with just two 1/1s to try to kill me with.
Then he cast Schismotivate for fatal damage, forcing me to blow my Last Gasp prematurely.
Then, with his remaining mana, he cast Golgari Guildmage.
Then I scooped.
This was one of the stupid games you play, where you know you’re going to lose but you keep trying in the faint hopes that you can bounce back. But when I miss three land drops starting on turn 4 (a hand with Bounceland, Swamp, Civic Wayfinder seemed playable), I didn’t have much hope. I got in a Moldervine Cloak and hit for five, but after he Disemboweled it I was struggling to find anything that looked like land.
Just as I got out the Leafdrake Roost and Moldervine Cloaked something on defense, he hit me with a fatal Schismotivate. Ouch.
I probably would have stayed and played just for fun, but I had an engagement at the Velvet Tango Room for drinks with friends, and the celebration of the end of my wife’s stint in law school.
So what did I learn today?
As good as advertised. The whole “showing your opponent” thing can be troublesome (I revealed both a Wildsize and a Convolute, which sorta took the surprise right out of them), and the 1/1 body is almost inevitably resigned to chump blockage duty, but hey. I don’t mind drawing a card or getting a land.
Sean McKeown been saying they’re good, as have other writers, and upon playing with them I agree. I only played with the mana Eidolon, which isn’t the strongest, but it came in handy in a bunch of places; “Oh, I’ll discard this to go down to seven after the second-turn Karoo” was a classic, as was the “I’ll discard it and another big creature to Compulsive Research to let my opponent think I’m mana-screwed, and then I’ll cast Dimir Doppleganger to return it and eat the huge fattie.”
I never even sent them into combat. But they were decent. I’ll be playing them from now on.
I never got to play them, but I sure looked at them a whole lot. And I kept asking myself: “If I do eventually get up to six mana, is this what I want to spend it on?” The answer was invariably no, since they were a large creature but their effect didn’t notably change the board beyond that. It’s decent, mind you, but I wouldn’t rank it awfully highly.
Given that I was playing a mana-hungry deck, I have no one but myself to blame for not cutting another card and going to seventeen lands. This is really, really powerful when it works, but it’s a pure late-game card, to be cast after you’ve stabilized. Whereas I kept drawing it when I needed to stave off a Moroii or a trio of 3/x fliers, which wasn’t quite enough to turn the tide.
That said, I’d include it every damn time. No questions asked. It’s a bomb, oh yeah Bob. But make sure you put in the lands to make it work.
I’m not sure whether this is good or not. I mean, it’s good to swing a little tempo in your favor, since it can pretty much block anything, and it does net you a card, meaning that it can fill a vital role when you’re down to the wire, looking to win a damage race. On the other hand, a 1/1 is never going to kill anything that you want to be blocking.
My gut tells me that since I never want to be in a situation where a single block is all that stands between me and victory, I do not want to play this card. My heart tells me that it’s a cool card and I should play it, meaning that my internal organs are now at war. Thanks, Flash Foliage.
Every bit as powerful as it looks. The perfect topdeck. As I witnessed when I saw a man being harried by….
Rix Maadi, Dungeon Palace
For the record, if your opponent is using this to keep your hand empty, do not play lands when you draw them. I saw a game that was lost in part because the guy had eight lands out, and every time he got a land he slapped it on the table. Whereas his opponent, who had three cards in hand, not only got to avoid spending 1BR that turn, but also did not have to drop a card of his own just to clear his opponent’s hand.
I’m just sayin’. That’s all.
In my Prerelease card notes, I had this to say:
“I hesitate to state the obvious, but there were a few kids who hadn’t picked up on it; if you have a Spitter and no creatures it can kill, zap them anyway and make your opponent lose life. It’s embarrassing to say this in public, but someone might not know.”
In fact, one game I witnessed went to time and the kid lost because — you guessed it — he forgot to hit his opponents’ creatures with the Ickspitter. Sometimes, it seems obvious, but people don’t see it.
Then again, I suppose a lot of what the pros see is obvious to them, and the things that I do would make them weep in shame. So it goes.
I know, I know, it’s a Guildpact card, but I’d never had it played against me. I always heard it was good, but it’s nice to see the rumor mill confirmed once in awhile.
The Weekly Plug Bug
This week’s Home on the Strange — which, if you may recall, is a comic I write detailing the lives of a couple of middle-aged nerds — deals with the difficulties involved in proper wish design. When the genie comes, will you be prepared?
The Here Edits This Here Site Here Guy