The Weekly Timeshift Sift: When Old Friends Return

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StarCityGames.com!The new set is out, and it’s time y’all knew how I did at the Prerelease, futzing around with the glory of old cards… And the wonder of Time Shifted cards!

Time Spiral has left me adrift. The Weekly Guild Build was so catchy, but “Time Spiral”? Nothing good rhymes.

Oh, not that you folks didn’t try. “The Weekly Timeshift.” “The Weekly Sublime Time.” “The Weekly Spiral Schpiel.” “The Weekly Time Crime.” “The Weekly Spiral Tap.”

And, the most oft-suggested idea:

“The Weekly Spiral Pile.”

Not so much. Okay, I grant you, it’s funny. (As was “The Weekly TS BS.”) But the problem is that as a guy who has to theoretically offer strategy every week, it’s not doing much for my image to say right in the title, “Oh, before you even read this article? I suck.”

Osyp and Aten can get away with silly stuff like that, because they’re good. But a mediocre player such as myself cannot undercut what little authority I have. Alas!

In the meantime, you should all congratulate magnificent forum member killamjig for providing this week’s current title. It’s not bad. But I’m still looking.

And speaking of looking, what cards do we have for you folks to look at today? OMG, it’s….

I will be discussing this further over at MagictheGathering.com, where I’m now writing a casual column… But suffice it to say that I had remained unspoiled on this set, aside from Ben mentioning something to me about “Timeshifted cards.” But I asked him not to tell me what the heck those were….

…and so when I opened the cards and discovered old printed cards, I darned near wet myself.

It felt like time travel, for me. I remember back when they changed the face of the card, and I heard all of the arguments telling me how this new card face would be the death of Magic. “People will leave in droves,” they said. “Who could face that ugly card frame time and time again? Surely, this is when Wizards goes bankrupt.”

(That’s what happens every time some big change sweeps across Magic, you know — Wizards goes bankrupt. I’ve lived through so many solemn premonitions of the collapse of Magic that I feel like I’ve lived to the end of the world.)

They were wrong about the bankruptcy, of course, but they were right about the old card face. I never warmed to the new look of Magic — oh, it’s all right, and a little more functional, but it’s also more inhuman. It looks like a grid. It wasn’t enough for me to get enraged about — I play to have fun with the cards, not to attend a miniature art fair every time I fan open seven cards. But it was a little disappointment every time I looked at them.

Now my old pals were back.

And I mean way back. Not only did that ancient art look downright tuxedoed and elegant next to the new frames, the Timeshifted cards were old in flavor. We got Psionic Blast back? We got Darkness in the set? We got former brokenness like Avalanche Riders and Enduring Renewal and The Rack?

If I sucked up this hard to Wizards on their own site, it’d look like a puff piece — but lemme tell you why this is so great. It would have been really easy for Wizards to look at the old cards and play it safe, sticking closely to a color pie that they’d gone to great lengths to establish and keeping out the cards that everyone knew were just too annoying or powerful to ever reprint.

But instead, they took a fresh look at the environment and said, “Without all of the other cards around to that combined to make Funeral Charm annoyingly above-the-line, is this nearly as dangerous?” And even though instant-speed discard’s no longer in fashion, they took the chance and brought it back.

For that, I love you, Wizards. And not just ‘cause you’re paying me to write for you. (To keep it fair, next week I’ll rhapsodize about how great StarCityGames.com is in my MagictheGathering.com column.)

But that said, what did the actual cards bring me?

Well, a boatload of removal. It doesn’t take much to look at this and see a well above-average assortment of creature kill — Strangling Soot, Orcish Cannonade, Tendrils of Corruption, Phthisis, Lightning Axe, and even Feebleness. That put me squarely into B/R territory. But there’s one problem:

I never win with Black/Red.

Every time I’ve tried to build a B/R deck in Sealed, it’s just died on the spot. I have a lot of removal, but the finishers in B/R are never enough to capitalize upon it before I get swarmed under, and the thunderous “I KEEL YOU NOW” tricks always seem to need some augmentation from Blue’s bounce, or White’s protection, or Green’s pump spells.

So instead, I began to wonder whether I should pair Red or Black with something else. Blue was a little weak, and White was good but didn’t have the critters I was looking for… But what about Green?

As I said last week, when I looked around the tables while I was waiting for my flight to start, I saw a lot of fatties smashing through hordes of little 2/1s. And given that my Green had some pretty big stuff contained therein, I could have justified going G/R for the fatties and some cool Sliver action.

Then I looked at my card pool again — and what was I thinking? Most of the time, B/R is bad because you lack finishers, but I had a flying unkillable 4/4, an Orgg, and Lim-Dul! If I didn’t get mana-screwed, I’d be golden.

So I put together this deck:

Endless Removal
Strangling Soot
Orcish Cannonade
2 Tendrils of Corruption
Sulfurous Blast

Coal Stoker
Basalt Gargoyle
Call to the Netherworld
Bonesplitter Sliver

Sengir Nosferatu
Lim-Dul the Necromancer

Mogg War Marshal
Two-Headed Sliver
Venser’s Sliver
Viashino Bladescout
Viscid Lemures
Blazing Blade Askari
Flowstone Channeler
Bogardan Rager
Deathspore Thallid

My One Combat Trick

Molten Slagheap
8 Swamp
8 Mountain

The land base is a little weird, given that there are actually more Red cards than Black in here, but given that a) I had two removal spells that depended upon the number of Swamps in play and b) I had two really pricey Black creatures that hogged Black mana, I maxed out on Swampage.

Cutting down to the requisite number 40 was hard — really hard. Some of the last-minute leave-outs were:

I thought it was way too expensive to justify maindecking, but I warmed to it over the course of the day — it was really, really hard to cast, of course, but as I’ve just said I had a deck that was geared for heavy black. I never suspended it for fear of some ugly global removal removing all the other guy’s stuff and forcing it to kill me, but even at umpteen mana I got it off three times from the sideboard. And it decimated them every time.

Lightning Axe
I’ve already admitted that this was a terrible card to leave out, and I sided it in for every game. I know Lava Axe, my friend, and you are no Lava Axe! And thank God for that.

Urza’s Factory
I almost always showed my card pool to my opponents after the game — what the heck, it’s a Prerelease! — and a couple of them wondered why I didn’t put this in. My answer was that I needed mondo swampage, and I already had enough bombs in the seven-mana slot without needing this. There are decks where this could be quite nice, natch, but in this deck I have a feeling I’d never get to use it.

Actually, a surprisingly good card, and one I sideboarded in when my opponents had combat tricks to match mine. I won one game because my opponent cast Lightning Axe on my remaining blocker to destroy it — and in response, I copied the spell twice, destroying his attackers. I then won the topdeck war and the game.

It’s expensive, and does nothing without another instant in my hand. I was betting that I’d be using most of my instants in the early game, which I was, and if I needed to copy a spell I could do it faster with Reiterate, which I did.

But How Did It Go, Ferrett?
I’ll keep it short and sweet, like Danny DeVito.

In round one, I faced off against an older gentleman — well, older by Magic standards, anyway — who had a strong R/G deck with a bunch of fatties. The guy was absolutely fun to play against, being a cool dude and all, but unfortunately his play wasn’t that good. He’d built it right, but was too hesitant on the attack — he probably could have wrecked me a few times if he’d been willing to make the right trades. As it was, I killed him with a Basalt Gargoyle, killing anything that got in the way in the air while he held back on attacking for just a little too long.

The next game featured one of the funniest plays of the entire day — I had an Orgg out, and he had a Penumbra Spider, and was getting uncomfortably close to death. I attacked with my Orgg, and he blocked…

…and then cast Tromp the Domains, cast Thrill of the Hunt, and then flashed back Thrill of the Hunt.

“In response to the last Thrill of the Hunt resolving,” I said, “I’ll Phthsis.”

He took thirteen damage, and my Orgg lived. This was the best play I made all day, which was in no way mitigated by the fact that it was completely illegal, as neither of us realized that Phthsis was a sorcery.


Fortunately, he trumped my error with his own, since after all of that pumping, his Spider had only five power — not enough to kill the Orgg, which went all the way.

I will kill you with what I think the cards do at prereleases. It’s like the ultimate Jedi mind trick.

In round two, I faced off against a kid — they all look like kids to an old man — who had that nervous air of “I do this on MODO all the time, but real people make me nervous.” He had a solid knowledge of play with enough Black/Red destruction to match my own… But I had more firepower, and killed him.

He might have won, though, but for one inexplicable play; on turn 2 of game 2, he wasted a Lightning Axe at my Deathspore Thallid. I’m not sure why. He knew what other fatties were in my deck. I asked him after the game, and he wasn’t sure, either. Go figure.

Round three was where it got serious, since I had a hyperactive guy who was obviously out to have a Very Good Time. He goofed around, yelled at me to attack him harder, and essentially spent his time smiling and pounding the heck out of me.

Unfortunately, for all of his quickness, I didn’t see him make any obvious mistakes aside from saying, “I shouldn’t, but I’ll run this” in the game where he face-plowed me.

He had a U/B deck that was a beating, since it seemed to contain every fattie in the damn format, plus significant card drawing. The first game was a squeaker, since he had Plague Sliver as an early fattie, plus Errant Ephemeron in the air. I managed to just beat him with scads of removal and a Gargoyle that managed to somehow live.

The second game, he pounded me. Fourth-turn Plague Sliver, fifth-turn Skittering Monstrosity. And all I was drawing was Slivers, which wasn’t helping much.

The third game was ridiculous. He was drawing cards like there was no tomorrow, but I was drawing removal to match it. It came down to a very close stand-off where I was at three life and he was at eighteen with an active Errant Ephemeron whacking me like it was Weasel Stomping Day, but I stalled the ground and topdecked Sengir Nosferatu. I got out some other airbound chump blocker and began to serve, and he didn’t dare block because good ol’ Lim-Dul was sitting at the ready. Finally, when he was down to eight life… Phthsis.

Wow, that hurt.

The fourth game was against one of the Two-Headed State Champions, which presents a pleasing image, don’t you think? He was one of the coolest folk I’d ever met at a prerelease, but he played like he was at a PTQ; it was a very tight match.

The first game was a manascrew blowout. I mulliganed to five, and wasn’t in it. That was bad.

The second game was incredibly close, and it is where he single-handedly showed me the Power of Thallids. He had Thelon of Havenwood, Thallid Shell-Dweller, Thallid Germinator, and two Durkwood Baloths. Hard to recover, especially when he had just enough Black for a touch of removal….

…but I did. I got Lim-Dul out among a sea of creatures, prompting a standoff, and for the umpteenth time began pecking away with my Gargoyle. I was maneuvering for advantage, since an all-out attack might just kill me depending on what he had, but if he committed everything and lost the battle then I would take all of his stuff with Lim-Dul.

Eventually, at the end of his turn, I fired my salvo: Lightning Axe at his Durkwood Baloth. He had Stonewood Invocation to counter it, and then realizing that time was on my side, he attacked with everything his next turn. And I had…?

Darkness. Mel Torme may be the Velvet Fog, but Darkness is the Black Fog, and it saved my bacon. I killed him with my counterattack.

The third game was a slight risk; I kept a handful of removal, and no creatures. Unfortunately, ten turns later I had drawn no creatures that were really any good, and his Thallids were starting to swarm me. I was down to five, and he was at eighteen.

And then I heard the sweetest words I’ve ever heard:

“That’s time!”

It was on his turn. He’d have to kill me in two turns, which changed my strategy; as opposed to winning, all I had to do was not lose. He attacked, but I burned up the remainder of my removal spells to take the edge off of his offensive, and the game wound up at a draw with me at two life.

Whew. 3-0-1.

My final opponent was the other guy’s friend, and seemed happy to play me… At least, until he drew his cards. He had a most excellent Blue deck, with two Ancestral Visions and a bunch of Suspend-y stuff, but he never got to draw any of it; though he put up a solid fight after mulliganing to five, I killed everything he had and wrecked him with Orgg.

The second game? A little more even, but he got land-flooded. I, on the other hand, had enough fatties to take first place.

Whee! A box of cards I love! And that’s all she wrote, folks.

The Weekly Plug Bug
This week, we’re starting the storyline “Murder (Or An Art Attack),” wherein Tom the former punk musician and Izzy the artist decide that they’re being stifled by their corporate lifestyles. And to awaken the Artiste Within, they must…

…oh, hell, go read it.

Signing off,
The Ferrett
The Here Edits This Here Site Here Guy

P.S. — Because we’re traveling back in time, I’ll say it just this once: