Tribal Thriftiness #107 – Rise of the Previews

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Friday, April 2nd – Rise of the Eldrazi previews have started in earnest, and while Wizards has started by showcasing their flashy mythics, there are still a few common and uncommon preview cards that deserve some attention – namely, the Eldrazi spawn.

I can’t believe we’re already into the Rise of the Eldrazi official spoilers. It really does just seem like yesterday that we were cracking open Worldwake packs. Why is that? (Besides, obviously, if you actually were just cracking open a Worldwake pack yesterday.) The set’s been around long enough for Super-Jace and Stoneforge Mystic and Basilisk Collar to make impressions in various tournament formats, and for the manlands to be “too good to still be cheaper than M10 lands” for going on two months now. (They still are, if you were wondering. Cheaper than M10 lands, on average.) So why does it feel like nothing from this set has sunk in?

It’s not to say that Worldwake hasn’t made an impact into various formats. But I’m thinking that when the focus of a block is “lands matter,” that we’re conditioned to… well, “ignore” might be harsh, but we’re looking for the flashy spells and the big impacts, and not so much at the lands. Lands like Tectonic Edge and Dread Statuary (and the manlands) have been an important part of Worldwake’s donation to Constructed Magic, but I think it gets glossed over. Everflowing Chalice falls into this category as well; in a game, you’re much more likely to remember the Martial Coup for 5 that wiped your board, and not the fact that a Chalice helped him cast it on turn 5.

And the rares and mythics, beyond the ones already mentioned, had even less of an impact. I still have yet to see that Suicide Black aggro deck sporting Abyssal Persecutor!

Well, I don’t have time to rest of my laurels and bemoan what “could have been” with Worldwake…

Rise and Standard

Another 228 cards to process, and about a month to do so. Most Standard players will be prepping for some tournament whose name I won’t mention, but whose initials are “Regionals” – quite possible the worst-kept “best-kept secret” in the tournament calendar this year, even though there’s no official announcement about WHEN it will be. But I gotta do it harder better faster stronger (with appropriate apologies to Daft Punk) because… I have a Standard PTQ on May 1st.

Sink that in. Rise Release Date: April 23. Dave’s Standard PTQ: May 1. About a week to get whatever Rise cards I need.

No pressure.

Sure, I could shortcut it, play Jund, make minor tweaks if I see anything I like in the next two weeks, and call it a day. But I think you know that’s not how I roll. I mean, I played Dragonstorm at a PTQ! In 2010!

So I expect to spend the next three weeks thinking about Rise of the Eldrazi previews, trying to find those cards that will give me an edge before I even know what the new metagame looks like. And while this column normally focuses on common and uncommon previews, this time around there’s an even more important reason to do so – I will only have two weeks to find these cards before my Q, and only one week of the product being on shelves, so I’m planning on focusing on cards I feel like I will be able to get my hands on.

The Eldrazi

One of the problems I always seem to have when building control decks is figuring out what the win condition is going to be. I’m not about to drop the cost of a month’s worth of groceries down on picking up a playset of Baneslayer Angels, but they still always seem to be the first thing suggested by my deckbuilding peers. But tap-out control is en vogue right now, Blue/White Control sporting Mind Springs and Martial Coups and completely forgoing countermagic. If you’re going to tap eight mana to make six 1/1 tokens, wouldn’t you also be willing to tap eight mana to make an 8/8 Eldrazi?

Ulamog’s Crusher
Creature – Eldrazi (C)
Annihilator 2
Ulamog’s Crusher attacks each turn if able.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the Annihilator mechanic by now – whenever this guy attacks, your opponent has to sacrifice permanents equal to the Annihilator value – in this case, two. I love the flavor of Annihilator… and simultaneously I’m glad it will likely only be featured in one expansion, ever. It will probably come to bear more often in Limited than in Constructed, but you just never know. But I’m envisioning playing against Annihilator Eldrazi much like playing against Wildfire – I’m sure that I will invariably sacrifice the wrong things. I wonder if “making correct sacrifices to the Eldrazi” will become a regular playtest discussion. I bet the flavor team loves that sentence.

There’s nothing fancy about Ulamog’s Crusher – it’s a giant beatstick that blows up stuff and has a very real chance of putting your opponent on a downward spiral towards his or her doom. Casting him on turn 6 or 7 after you’ve wiped the board will erode your opponent’s chances of being able to produce (and keep!) chump blockers, and eventually he’s going to get there. Is eight mana too much to pay for a win condition? I don’t think so – UW Control is casting Martial Coup for 5 or 6 regularly, and while this does concentrate your win condition down into one easy-to-block package, I still think he’s got potential.

But if eight mana is feasible, why wouldn’t you skip to 9 mana and play this guy:

Artisan of Kozilek
Creature – Eldrazi (U)
When you cast Artisan of Kozilek, you may return target creature card from your graveyard to the battlefield.
Annihilator 2

“Congratulations, Mr. Bond. You’ve dealt with my monstrous henchman Igor. Now, please meet Igor’s twin brother Ivan … and Igor’s reanimated corpse.”

Artisan of Kozilek gives you a lot more for that extra mana. 10/9 vs. 8/8 doesn’t seem like much of a difference, but it’s the difference between a two-turn clock and a three-turn clock, and that’s important. The fact that he could be bringing back another Artisan that was previously Doom-Blade’d off the field turns it into a one-and-done – and who doesn’t like attacking for 20? And, I guess, you can keep him back on defense, although it’s hard to imagine that scenario happening. The only question that this has left me with is, is it necessary to have other creatures in the deck in order to get full value out of this? Or is 4x Artisan of Kozilek enough of a reason in itself? The only way to permanently deal with them would be Path to Exile… makes me wonder if Carnage Altar would be a good way to prevent having multiple Artisans exiled. Yeah, you know you’ve stepped too far when you’re working out sideboard plans for a non-existent deck featuring an unreleased card – but to be fair, I’m also the guy who saw a listing for “UW Gymnastics” and wondered what “Blue-White gymnastics” might entail.

The last uncommon Eldrazi spoiled so far is Pathrazer of Ulamog:

Pathrazer of Ulamog
Creature – Eldrazi (U)
Annihilator 3
Pathrazer of Ulamog can’t be blocked except by three or more creatures.

I think, given the choice between the Pathrazer and the Artisan, I’m opting for the Artisan. While nine mana may not be much more than eight mana, eleven mana feels like it’s MILES away from nine mana, and you aren’t really getting that much back on the additional investment. You lose a point of power, you gain another Annihilation and the ability (essentially) to avoid the scenario where you opponent somehow manages to continuously come up with additional chump-blockers off the top of his deck.

Artisan Control

In the same vein as Tap-Out UW Control, I’m thinking of a base-White control, only I think I will forego the Blue and pick up a different secondary color to better set the stage for a game-victory plan molded around hard-casting the Artisan. Either Black or Red seem better suited to this deck, since they give us removal options to prevent perpetual chump-blockers and to continue to cut down on the opponent’s resources. Picking an enemy-color pair also gives the option of using the Zendikar fetchlands, if they’re within the budget. I’m leaning towards Black because we can use Night’s Whisper … holy cow, I mean Sign in Blood to give us a little card-drawing. Sorry for the random Fifth Dawn flashback.

4 Tidehollow Sculler
4 Artisan of Kozilek
1 Iona, Shield of Emeria

4 Path to Exile
4 Sign in Blood
4 Smother
4 Overflowing Chalice
3 Oblivion Ring
3 Day of Judgment
3 Martial Coup
2 Rise From the Grave

4 Terramorphic Expanse / Marsh Flats
3 Tectonic Edge
4 Arcane Sanctum
8 Plains
5 Swamp

Rare Cost Summary:
Iona, Shield of Emeria ($7.99 x 1 = $7.99)
Day of Judgment ($9.99 x 3 = $29.97)
Martial Coup ($4.99 x 3 = $14.97)
Marsh Flats ($11.99 x 4 = $47.96)

Smother just keeps gaining in value, in my opinion – now, in addition to black creatures that normally hassle Black removal (like Sprouting Thrinax or Vampire Nighthawk), it also kills manlands for a fraction of the mana that it took to animate them. I really like Tidehollow Sculler, who plays a good early game and (once dead) can be brought back to nab any targeted removal that would take out an Artisan… before the Artisan even hits the board! Rise From the Grave just continues the “reanimation” theme of the deck, although I must say that I look forward to the day that I can reanimate an Artisan and have the fact that it’s a Black Zombie Eldrazi protect it from Doom Blade.

Next Week

The previews will keep coming on the mothership (and various other sources around the Internetz, including this here site here) and hopefully we’ll start seeing some more spectacular non-rares to dig into a little bit. At the very least, there’s always Totem Armor…

Until next week…


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