Understanding In A MODO Crash: Scourge Green And A Pirate Rant

Ambush Commander is master of the alpha strike. Instead of throwing all your creatures at your adversary in one last-ditch effort to break through, you’re throwing all your creatures and a good portion of your lands. Both times I’ve seen this in play, it happened to be instant death because its controller also had what amounted to a superpowered Timberwatch Elf; however, the Timberwatch is clearly not necessary to make this card insane. You can even send forests into the red zone if it makes sense from a mathematical perspective.

Izzy kizzy lizzy go.

I’d like to start by apologizing to Morgan Douglass. My last article bored him, and this one probably will as well. It used to be that I only wrote when I had divine inspiration (read: important lingo updates to present to the waiting public), but now I’m a slave to the grind like the rest of you. This isn’t to say that this is a bad article (brilliant recovery – 5 pts), but it’s going to be higher on the strategy and lower on the attempts at humor. It’s my least favorite type of article, too.

So if you’re Morgan Douglass, feel free to stop reading this article. If you aren’t, then sit back while I regale you with a tale of black cards, green cards, and lots and lots of pirates.

I might as well get the pirate stuff out of the way first. Awhile back, I concluded an article by saying,”next week yadda yadda yadda and pirate songs, pirate songs, pirate songs.” Although the reference was in jest, such songs actually exist. The man responsible refers to himself only as the”Tightastic Kipper.” I’m only mean-spirited enough to post one or two of these, but not enough so to reveal his real name. They’re really embarrassing. But they may be copyrighted, so don’t try to steal them!

And no, as one of the people who read this speculated, a baby did not write this. It was written by an actual grown man.


18 and it seems I’ll base my life on a dream

Gotta another mad scheme up my sleeve I aim to deceive or is it please?

my mad prophecies have got the world on top of me

Ain’t no label droppin me now that i’m on mtv and got mp3’s

Flow with style and rap freely still [name censored] and i’ma stay me

betray me and i will slay thee cos i am carefree yet deadly

sleept with ten girls with hiv but got no stds.

So download ScottK- 18.mp3’s


Why do I have to fall in love with just one girl

why can’t I fall in love with the whole world and

have the whole world fall in love with me and

download [name censored] 18.mp3

18 and it seems I’ll base my life on a dream

Anothe mad scheme has got me thinking I was like a rock slowly sinking

Took up the binge drinking

Nah i’m kidding but reality is hitting me

My dreams are bidding me good day

look back at the replay and search for a way to make the world pay

get a record deal and sell my soul on ebay

Give people no lei way on the freeway’s create a pile-up that goes on for 3 days

look out for 18 on cd and long plays


18 and it seems I’ll base my life on a dream another mad scheme requires pirates for my team

allowing me to make waves on the rave scene.

So what does the game want me to do next make a claim for fame and be the first pirate of safe sex?

Relax pick up my cheques?

after my dog kills the postman”good boy rex”

can I peel make my dream be real impossible’s the way I feel but I can make the world kneel

before me and have the universe adore me and not wanna bore me cos I can make things stormy.

so untill next time please don’t ignore me or pirate my cd,

cos pirate piracy is sleazy and generally beneath me, ya see.

[name censored] 18 on dvd.

chorus finale

So I’m guessin that you all learnt a lesson or 2

one, don’t be messing with my pirate crew and as for number 2 create a mad

cheme and live out yer dreams and go back to see line fourteen which mentions

omething bout downloading [name censored] 18.mp3

Pirateade. Pirate on (end)

In the end, I chose this one for the phrase”first pirate of safe sex.” It was either that or the one that goes”starstorm bloody starstorm.” If enough interest is expressed (read: one person says they want to see more), I will give another one next week. And then we’ll never speak of it again.

Now that that’s out of the way, I suppose I’ll skip the black and head right for the green. The”black” portion was supposed to be a GP Trial report. There were only five teams, but my team of John Hunka, my brother, and myself went 6-0, so it was worth mentioning. I played monoblack in both sealed and draft, splashing only for a Forgotten Ancient in the draft portion.

Of course, you know by now that there is a staggering of when I write and when the article is published. I’m writing this before the Grand Prix, but it will be published after. Assuming my team did well at the Grand Prix, I’ll include the trial report as a prelude to the actual article. If we didn’t, you’ll just never get to hear about such wonderfully interesting things as losing to Bane of the Living and topdecking Anurid Murkdiver. Attacking. Blocking. Using the stack. Doing the bull dance. Working it. All good things.

And now, for the moment you’ve ALL been waiting for: the return of the lists. Remember, this is just a general guide. Don’t just look at the card names next to the numbers. Read the commentary. You may learn something. Or I may lose my job.

1. Forgotten Ancient

I’d like to spend a moment here to talk about one”Mr. Babycakes.” How on earth did that nickname materialize? It seems like the dumbest thing ever, something Mark Rosewater just created at random that really has nothing to do with the mechanics of the card.”I’m going to start a really stupid piece of lingo that makes no sense and see how many people use it.” Like some sort of nickname alluding to how it grows or something would at least make sense. It’s sort of like the set codenames.”I’m naming this set BACON! Heh heh heh.” Personally, I would rather listen to Roseanne-ecdotes 24-7 than have to hear another stupid nickname for a set, or hear anyone call this card Mr. Babycakes ever again.

That said, Mr. Babycakes is a force to be reckoned with. (I hate having to explain this here, but yes, I did that on purpose. If I don’t specify, I’ll get some sort of posting in the forum about how stupid I am). He’ll grow to monstrous proportions in no time, as you and your opponent will both presumably be playing spells throughout the duration of the game. That’s how Magic’s played, after all. The worst thing that could happen to the Ancient is for it to be Cruel Revivaled after a flurry of spellcasting, before you get to move the counters around. It’s very difficult to kill with burn spells and quite versatile. You can power up an evasion creature on upkeep, leave a few on the Ancient to make it a huge blocker/attacker, spread the love all around so as not to leave yourself susceptible to spot removal, and so on. Of course, if you’re not playing against a black wizard, there’s very little spot removal that can handle a 7/8 Keeneye Aven.

And I’m pretty sure there’s no way to”lose” counters. The ability triggers at the beginning of upkeep, and you decide on resolution if and where to move counters. There’s no way to respond once you’ve chosen where the counters are going. And you could pants up a Gigapede if you wanted, since it’s not targeted. I would probably never pass this card, playing green or otherwise. If you were U/R, well, you’re U/R/g now.

2. Krosan Warchief

This card is excellent. It grants two abilities that beasts can really benefit from, and it’s good both early and late. Obviously, it’s nice to drop this turn 3 and then start cranking out discounted beasts for a few turns. If you play this later, it’s still a great blocker on its own, and it makes all your other beasts forces to be reckoned with. Beasts are formidable creatures on their own, but they’re susceptible to being double-blocked. With this out, your opponent’s options become Chump or Take Damage. If you’re playing defense, attacking for a few a turn with some form of evasion creature, your opponent will need an evasion creature of his own to break through a wall of regenerating beasts; good luck to him if you have a Gourna of some variety.

3. Root Elemental

Like the Elvish Soultiller before it, there’s not a lot of flash to this card. It’s a large creature for a reasonable price. But why drink Faygo when you have Vanilla Coke? If you’re going to pay six mana for a monster, would you rather have it be 4/4 or 6/5? The nongreen colors can’t have anything remotely that big out on turn 5 or 6. Oh, plus it has a morph ability. Sometimes you’ll just play this facedown and eventually trick your opponents by morphing it into something enormous; other times you’ll actually have a creature in your hand to benefit from the ability, often in the form of a surprise blocker. Having a cost of six can be beneficial nowadays, anyway, with the Dragon enchantments and Fierce Empath. A 6/5 for six mana is better than a 5/4 for six mana; but it could also be better than a 5/4 for five mana!

4. Ambush Commander

The master of the alpha strike. Instead of throwing all your creatures at your adversary in one last-ditch effort to break through, you’re throwing all your creatures and a good portion of your lands. Both times I’ve seen this in play, it happened to be instant death because its controller also had what amounted to a superpowered Timberwatch Elf; however, the Timberwatch is clearly not necessary to make this card insane. The amount of havoc you can wreak depends only on your untapped green mana. You can even send forests into the red zone if it makes sense from a mathematical perspective.

Yes, there is a slight drawback to this card. If your opponent uses some sort of mass effect, you risk losing not only several of your men, but also half or more of your lands. There’s an easy way to circumvent disaster, though. If you think your opponent will cycle Slice and Dice or cast Infest, simply leave 1G open. If you sacrifice your Ambush Commander in response, your lands will instantly revert back to their non-creature form. The sacrifice itself cannot be responded to. And as a bonus, one of your other men will get +3/+3 and hopefully live through the mass removal effect.

5. Primitive Etchings

I may as well get the word”Rowen” out of the way, since every person who writes about this card is obligated to mention it. Presumably, you’ll have enough creatures in your deck where this will be a personal half-Howling Mine. It won’t reliably draw as much as a Slate of Ancestry, but it will give you lots of long-term card advantage for a small investment. The information your opponent gains is a small price to pay.

6. Hunting Pack

Seven mana is a lot, so you can’t really expect to Storm it off your own spells. Thankfully, it’s an instant. As long as you can find yourself with a decent board where it makes sense to leave seven mana open on their turn (namely, you have an advantage or you have morphs to flip up in case they don’t play any spells), this card should be very good. I’d imagine you’ll average two beasts per casting of this spell. If you can’t afford to wait, an instant 4/4 blocker isn’t too shabby. In the late game, there is more of a chance for you to play two spells in a turn, even expensive ones like this, but it’s still best used during your opponent’s attack step or end step.

This card brings up an important point about Scourge. Scourge spells are, naturally, powerful but rather expensive. There are few other green cards that can have as an explosive effect as the Hunting Pack… But you have to be able to play it. This means early drops and acceleration in the first few packs, since there really isn’t much in this pack. At a quick glance, it seems there is one quality one-drop, and no quality two-drops, for green in Scourge. These are hence at a premium in the first two packs. Wirewood Elf got even better; Elvish Warrior may now actually be as good as [author name="Ken Krouner"]Ken Krouner[/author] initially gave it credit for; Explosive Vegetation may in fact be a windmill-slam first pick. In a world filled with spells costing six or more, you have to make sure yours are better (which is really dependent on the packs), come out faster (via acceleration), or make sure the game doesn’t get to the point where Glowering Rogons and Titanic Bulvoxes can have an impact.

7. Decree of Savagery

If you manage to cast this instant mid-combat with three or four creatures in play, the game should be yours for the taking. But that costs nine mana, and since this card cycles, you’re unlikely to pay the full amount unless you have eight or more lands in play when you draw it.

That said, let’s talk about the cycling ability: It’s a six-mana uncounterable instant that will probably take an opposing creature out and leave a giant unstoppable monster in its wake. Four +1/+1 counters at instant speed is significantly better than an enchant creature, which is sorcery-speed and can be negated with enchantment removal. It’s also not insignificant that the counters remain for future turns, as opposed to say, Primal Boost. Oh, plus you draw a card. That’s more than reasonable for six mana. And as I mentioned, woe befalls any opponent should you happen to have the full nine out.

8. Elvish Aberration

There’s something of a dropoff between 7 and 8; you really wouldn’t want to pick this card first. It does make the top 10, though, because it’s versatile and can be useful early and late in the game. Early on, it helps fix mana, and later in the game it’s a large monster that helps fix mana. As strange as it sounds, some of the time you’ll actually be using this for its mana ability. There are a lot of expensive spells out there, and you can”go off” if you have an appropriate Storm card. It has a nice creature type (Elf, to the layperson) which makes it fetchable with Wirewood Herald and Fierce Empath. Unfortunately, it won’t draw you a card off Wirewood Savage like most green six-drops, but that’s getting greedy.

9. Wirewood Guardian

This card is very similar to the Aberration, right down to the creature type. It’s larger, comes down a turn later, and doesn’t produce mana. It’s that simple. If you have Channeler, Vegetation, or something else that makes you ramp right up to seven mana, I’d take this instead of the Aberration. But they really are basically the same card.

10. Wirewood Symbiote

A seemingly innocuous little insect, this card becomes an actual bomb in the right decks. Its untap a creature ability is almost incidental; the part of the card that is most powerful is its activation cost. You can save elves from removal or combat at a speed that cannot be responded to. Untapping your biggest attacking monster so you can block with it too, reusing Timberwatch Elf; there are infinite possible applications, all for the low, low cost of returning an Elf to your hand. So what if you can only use it once per turn? First of all, you can use it once on your turn and again on your opponent’s – and second, any more than once would be patently unfair.

But back to the”return an Elf to your hand” part. We’ve discovered numerous great two-card combos with this already. Pair it with Taunting Elf for an infinite loop of alpha strikes. If you’re fortunate enough to get a Tribal Forcemage or Caller of the Claw, you can reuse the morph trigger and comes-into-play trigger ad nauseam. If you have a bunch of elves in play, you can return your Gempalm Strider to your hand to draw a card and pump your men. That’s a lot for a little 1/1 for G. It’s this low on the list because it is fragile and reliant on other cards for it to reach its full potential.

11. Ancient Ooze

The Ooze has a pair of liabilities. First, it costs seven. As long as you don’t have too much on the extraordinarily high end of the curve, this shouldn’t be a problem. Second, it’s reliant on your other creatures. I’ve heard tales of woe where a player’s other creatures were dealt with, resulting in a pathetic 0/0 Ooze. If you don’t control any creatures, this is not the late-game topdeck you were looking for. That said, in your average green deck, this can grow to epic proportions, easily becoming 12/12 or larger with only three other creatures on your side.

I may as well toss out the obligatory”Too bad it doesn’t trample” here. Also, too bad face-down creatures don’t help the Ooze at all.

12. Accelerated Mutation

Like all the casting-cost related cards, this spell has a slight chance of sitting worthless in your hand. In green, which I imagine you’re playing if you’re using this card (durr), this can give nice bonuses like +4/+4, or even +7/+7, on a regular basis. That makes it a nice finisher for most green decks. Sometimes you can use it to take down an opposing creature in combat, too. You know how creature pump works by now. This spell is better than a Vitality Charm or Wirewood Pride in that your attacking monsters can take out several gangblockers while living to tell the tale; unfortunately, it’s not really on par with the Charm since it costs five times as much and may use up all your mana for a turn.

13. Fierce Empath

This creature has all the bonuses of being an elf but with a really strong ability. Yes, it’s a 1/1 for three mana, but the body is not the important part. It can chump for a turn or whatever…but think of all the things you can tutor for. All the common landcyclers cost six or more, as does Krosan Tusker. You could get a random large monster like Krosan Groundshaker or Spitting Gourna out of your deck. You could find your fattest flier, like an Aven Fateshaper. And if you have a bomb, the Empath gives you twice as much chance of drawing it. The most recent time I had the Empath, I was fortunate enough to have a Dragon Mage and a Kamahl, Fist of Krosa. I will play this every time as long as I have three search targets for it in my deck.

14. Claws of Wirewood

Rather than a third Gourna for flying protection in Scourge, green gets this. It can sweep out several fliers at once and cannot be Pacified like the Mr. Needleshot and Mr. Spitting. You run the risk of Astral Steel or Sunfire Balm ruining your day, but that’s nothing to be that afraid of. Sometimes it can get the last three damage through to your opponent unexpectedly. And if it’s worthless, just cycle it away.

15. Alpha Status

This is a hard one to gauge, and is obviously rather deck dependent. If you have a strong tribal element, this is a nice pair of pants for your man to have, on par with Improvised Armor. Of course, Improvised Armor gives its love unconditionally, so it’s a better card, but I’m digressing. This counts your opponent’s creatures too, you have to be careful of your opponent killing the creature you play this on in response, and so on and so on. Creature enchantments are somewhat less powerful now. There are fewer creatures and more spells to kill them regardless of size, like Lingering Death and to an extent Torrent of Fire. Also, there are so many enchantments flying around nowadays that people should start maindecking Nantuko Vigilante, Daru Sanctifier, and possibly even Naturalize on a regular basis. Better with Provoke, but whaaaaat isn’t?

16. Kurgadon

Oh joyous, glorious day. Another huge stupid nontrampling green monster. If you play this turn 5 and start churning out the other fat monsters on turn 6, you’ll have a nice juggernaut to pound through defenses. But that’s if you get it on turn 5. And even then, most five-drop beasts in conjunction with a six-drop beast will be enough to give your opponent a headache. It’s not like it totally sucks as a 3/3 in the late game, though. Take this higher if you have both a lot of six-drops and several ways to get them out before turn 6 or 7.

Would I rather have a Barkhide Mauler? I don’t know. That’s a tricky question. The presence of such beasts as this in the last pack combined with the absence of good early drops means that, as I said, you should focus on early drops in the first few packs and pick up the late-game pieces in Scourge. Barkhide Mauler may or may not be better than Kurgadon, but the two are fairly interchangeable. Barkhide Mauler is replaceable in the third pack with cards like this and the Aberration; Elvish Warrior is not. The point is, don’t do anything crazy like taking Elvish Warrior over Kamahl or Snarling Undorak, but keep in mind that if you don’t have an early game after the first two packs, you aren’t gonna get one in green.

17. Titanic Bulvox

I love this card like a fat kid loves cake. Look how stupid this card is. Look at the picture, the casting cost, the morph cost, the power and toughness. How could you not love this oaf? And yes, it does trample!

You almost never want to play this face up. Just play it as a morph and treat it as a 2/2 with no abilities until you reach the crucial 4GGG threshold. In other words, if this has to die face-down, so be it. Don’t protect it until you can morph it like you would with an Exalted Angel or a Quicksilver Dragon. As a combat surprise, if you happen to be in a good position to flip it and reverse it, Big Voxes should take out a creature, deal some damage to your opponent, and stick around to do it for another turn.

18. Sprouting Vines

This card is at its best in three- or four-color green. It really has no place in aggressive decks, though. Unless you have a really powerful late game and/or splash, you don’t want to be wasting your precious third or fourth turn getting more lands into your hand; that’s right, they don’t even come into play like they would for Vegetation. In the late game, thinning your deck, especially for three or more lands, is very nice, but I’d rather just have a creature. You don’t want to draw this later on with an unfavorable board position.

19. Woodcloaker

Boring! You’ll rarely play this face-up, of course. And when you morph it, it becomes something little more exciting than a Spined Basher. Sure, giving trample can get some extra damage through, but this card is so bland that I’d almost always rather have something else in its stead. It’s fine if you need another elf, and it’s certainly better than an off-color morph, but that’s about it. Multiples of these are probably the sign of a below-average deck. You can fetch it with either elf-search card, but do you really want to?

20. Dragon Fangs

As you may have guessed, we’ve arrived at the realm of borderline sideboard cards. Since green creatures don’t trample much anymore, this is a useful ability to give them. There’s no inherent card disadvantage if your enchanted creature gets killed, since the Fangs can come back. In fact, that’s the most important criterion I use when deciding whether to run it. I like to have four or so cards that can bring it back to good effect before I’ll maindeck it.

You could also play this in the aggro black/green deck. This deck, also known as the Jose or the BillF, sacrifices everything for tempo. Yesterday, BillF first-picked Unspeakable Symbol, and used it to put three or more counters on a creature to deal damage as quickly as possible. If the opponent can stabilize, you simply lose; hopefully, your initial rush of pressure will be enough. If I go into more detail about this archetype, which I personally despise, it will be in a future article.

21. Treetop Scout

It’s an evasion creature from a good tribe, but we’re still in the Magical World of Morphs. If it can’t trade with a 2/2, it’s dung. While you’re pecking away for one a turn, your opponent just bashes back with vanilla 2/2s. This becomes maindeckable if you really have no other way to break through, or if you have Timberwatch Elf or another card that needs more Elves to fuel it.

22. Break Asunder

A fine sideboard card; if you’re at a loss for playables, there’s no shame in maindecking it; it does cycle. Heck, you may want to maindeck it anyway, since there are a few good targets for it out there. It’s a relatively expensive sorcery, and as such, I’d rather maindeck a Vigilante or sideboard a Naturalize. But you’ll know by the time you get to Scourge whether you need one of these or not, so it’s all good, G.

23. Krosan Drover

This is a bad Channeler, a bad Vegetation, a bad Wirewood Elf, and so on down the list. It only helps pay for creatures that cost at least six mana. Not multiple cheaper spells, not Invoker abilities, not anything else. It doesn’t even help pay for colored mana. If you have a significant quantity of six-drops and no way to help you get them out, play this I guess. Just don’t be too happy about it. And of course, this sucks late game.

24. One With Nature

Let’s break this one down. It’s a useful ability, no question. However, it’s best in the early game. In the early game, though, your creatures are more fragile; they are smaller and easier to kill with removal. Also, your opponent hasn’t used his removal yet, so if he has any, he probably has at least one representative in his hand. There aren’t too many cheap evasion creatures to put this on, and if you put this on an evasion creature, you run the risk of giving your opponent a two-for-one off something he probably felt compelled to kill anyway. In the late game, a land-searching creature enchantment isn’t the Topdeck of a Lifetime. Yes, if you play this, you will sometimes get the miracle draw of turn 1 Treetop Scout, turn 2 this. Not often though. Unlike Extra Arms, this card doesn’t do enough to merit the risk that comes with a creature enchantment that doesn’t boost the creature’s toughness or otherwise make it harder to kill.

25. Upwelling

You could go crazy with an Upwelling theme deck filled with Invokers and expensive cards, hopefully paired with a mana sink like Snarling Undorak or Mistform Dreamer. It’s a risky card, though, since your opponent can use it. And presumably he can use it first, even if you can make a somewhat better use of the mana. You play Upwelling turn 4, which is presumably the ideal case. Your opponent can then float mana on his turn before you get a chance to. And imagine if your opponent isn’t tapped out when you play this! Even if the perfect deck for this card comes along, you won’t be likely to play it because it will probably get raredrafted. Find a good way to break the symmetry and this becomes a bomb; in Limited, this will be hard to do. Let me know if you get this to work for you.

26. Divergent Growth

This one may have applications in a constructed combo deck of some sort, but it’s a horrible mana fixer in Limited. It costs you a card and doesn’t have a lasting effect. I certainly wouldn’t try to use this to help a splash, even if the splash were Sliver Overlord.

27. Xantid Swarm

I don’t feel as bad for the last card on the list when it seems like it could be playable in Constructed. This Birds of Paradise without the mana ability can’t attack for damage, and its ability is largely negated because of the lack of counterspells in the environment. Even if my opponent had three or more Dispersal Shields, I’d be more inclined to try to play around them than sideboard in the Swarm.

That’s all folks (Porky Pig). I’d ask for good luck at the Grand Prix, but I wouldn’t know what to do with it if I got it (Glengarry Glen Ross). Oh, that and like I said, BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS THE GP WILL BE OVER. Durr. (anonymous)

Until the joy drops again,

Tim Aten

The Scum of the Earth

[email protected]