Torment, the newest expansion, is now available to purchase for fun and profit. And believe me… The fun that we as players will have with this set will no doubt reap profit for those who provide it! As you can see, I love Torment – I think it’s great! Why? Well, let’s take a look.
First things first: Madness. When I first saw this mechanic, I had to say I was disappointed.”Duress only nabs instants, sorceries, and enchantments,” I exclaimed, not seeing the point. Then I saw Basking Rootwalla. For those of you who are yet unfamiliar with this common:
Creature – Lizard
1G: Basking Rootwalla gets +2/+2 until end of turn. Use this ability only once each turn.
What doesn’t this beast do? Let’s take a look at it, madness aside. First turn 1/1’s usually aren’t much to sneeze at unless they sac to destroy an enchantment or tap for G. However, on turn two, it’s a potential 3/3.”Potential” is just as good as actual when it comes to threats. Your opponent won’t block with an 2/3 or less, because its not worth it to get rid of a”1/1.” So, you’re gonna hit for one no matter what, and, if you have nothing else to do on Turn Two in this environment of Calls of the Herd, you can crush for three. Basking Rootwalla also acts as a beast of a blocker, staving off smaller creatures indefinitely as long as you have two untapped lands.
But wait, there’s more. He has a madness cost of zero. Zero! As in”nothing.” As in”can be played for free.” But unfortunately, this only works when you discard it. Is there anything in green that I can use to discard a creature from my hand? Preferably something that attacks and benefits from the discard. Preferably something that blocks Shadowmage Infiltrator. If you’re thinking of Wild Mongrel, give yourself five points and move on to the next paragraph.
So, upon seeing this, I was sold upon the idea of building a Standard Stampy deck (something I have yet to accomplish). But, before I got a chance, Matt Eddleman (whom you’ll remember as a co-author of Casual Magic at its Best) was saying something about Quirion Dryad (which grows as you cast non-green spells) in Extended and wanting to transfer it to Standard. Since Quirion Dryad is a beatdown creature, I mentioned the Basking Rootwalla/Wild Mongrel mini-combo to work as a sort of beatdown deck base. He went back to the Dryad, saying we could use cheap blue card-draw to make the Dryad get huge -and I mentioned Obsessive Research, a madness card-draw spell. As the deck became more synergistic, we, of course, decided to add Mystic Snake and the madness counterspell, Circular Logic. Going even more insane, we decided to add Equilibrium to have a reusable Mystic Snake (that all the while makes Quirion Dryad grow). (That only works if you cast another creature, not the Snake itself, but still – The Ferrett, who’s been burned a lot by rules questions these days.)
Here’s a preliminary decklist:
Wild Madness v1.2
4x Wild Mongrel
4x Basking Rootwalla
4x Quirion Dryad
4x Mystic Snake
4x Obsessive Search
2x Fact or Fiction
3x Circular Logic
3x Temporal Spring
4x Birds of Paradise
4x Yavimaya Coast
Although I’m a huge control freak, I like to go crazy beatdown sometimes just to let my aggressions out. So I stuck with this list, as Matt – an even more traditional control player than I – came up with:
(You can tell this is Matt’s first”off the top of the head” decklist, because it has no specific land and sixty-four cards.) Matt also likes the idea of Equilibrium + Wild Mongrel + 2 Basking Rootwalla = a Mongrel that reads”1: +1/+1 until end of turn,” not to mention a clear board on your opponent’s side.
I’ve taken my deck through a few test runs, and I can tell that it doesn’t work just as I want it to (though that may be in part to my amazing ability to draw gluts of lands every game). More tweaking will definitely make this deck more playable in the future. Of course, any helpful advice on either deck is appreciated.
So as you can see, I’m sold on Madness, especially in conjunction with Wild Mongrel. Look out for a huge discard engine in the next set, as well as several more Madness spells and spells that give cards Madness. It’s only a matter of time…
So aside from a totally awesome mechanic, what else does Torment have? A whole friggin’ bunch of black cards! I know that this has a huge effect on Limited, but I don’t play Limited very often. So what does this mean to me? R&D has guts. I’ve always wanted Magic designers (or is it developers?) to push the envelope on Magic, suggesting several different ways for it to be done. But, not only was this drastic and cool, but it shows that R&D and the DCI are willing to change Magic as changes are needed.* Does this mean that there will be a blue, red, green, and white set in the future? It’s possible. But, and this is by far the coolest part about Torment, it goes along phenomenally with the storyline!
Anyone who’s read my articles before knows that I’m a stickler for Magic’s storyline, and I must say that Torment does a fantastic job of following the story, even down to Empress Llawan’s microscopic bodyguards (Hydromorph Guardian). Chainer, as a card, is an excellent representation of the Chainer of the novel, and Laquatus’ Champion (Burke, by name) is a stick as a card, just as he is in the book (and the fact that it isn’t a legend also goes along with the plot!). The only real problem that I see with Torment (small spoiler ahead) is that Major Teroh not only is not an Aven (and, therefore, cannot fly), but he’s also not nearly strong enough to sacrifice himself to obliterate all black creatures. Oh, and Skeller (see Haunting Echoes), who is Chainer’s master (as in, Chainer is his apprentice), isn’t mentioned on any card. He was one of my favorite characters! Oh well, at least they hit Laquatus’ proverbial nail on the head.
So, those two aspects, the awesome mechanic and the excellent following of the storyline (showing extreme promise for the future), are, to me, the best parts of Torment. But there’s still much more to this set! For instance, the Dreams cycle (Vengeful, Turbulent, Restless, Sickening, Insidious, Devastating, and Nostalgic) are all excellent cards reflecting their characters (Teroh, Laquatus, Braids, the Cabal Patriarch, Chainer, Kamahl, and Seton, respectively) with fine flavor texts. The other cycles in the set are interesting, but nothing more than we’re used to in a set. The art is masterful, and the flavor texts… Well, tune in next week for The Real Story Behind Torment, which will continue my tradition of examining the sets’ flavor texts.
So, there it is, Torment in its glory. I love this set, and I only hope that Wizards provides us with many more like it. And, let us not forget the driving force behind not only Odyssey but also Torment: The Mirari. The Mirari really is that important, causing global changes in its seemingly innocent wake. Cabal Coffers put it well: Deep within the Cabal’s vault, the Mirari pulsed like a dead sun — and its darkness radiated across Otaria. Don’t forget to see how it all comes together next week!**
** – Shameless plugs aren’t that bad, are they? 🙂