Understanding In A MODO Crash: The Cleanup Phase

Any”full spoiler appraisal” information you read anywhere about Scourge Limited will be purely speculative for a few weeks – and while it may help you generate a few ideas about the cards, it will be inconclusive and in some cases quite misleading. And no matter how much you complain, OOL is going to be the format on Magic Online for over a month still, so this is still quite relevant – so let me finish up my Legions review and discuss what notably wrong choices I made in earlier articles.

I’m not feeling very clever or humorous right now, so I’ll be getting into the strategy in short order. It seems like everybody wants to talk about Scourge this week. There won’t be much about Scourge here until next week, as I haven’t drafted it yet. I did play in the prerelease, but I doubt that will give me enough data to make lists that I won’t be embarrassed of in the not-so-distant future. Any”full spoiler appraisal” information you read anywhere about Scourge Limited will be purely speculative for a few weeks – and while it may help you generate a few ideas about the cards, it will be inconclusive and in some cases quite misleading.

(An exception to this is Mr. Tait’s article from Friday… Excellent information about firsthand experience without random speculation).

And no matter how much you complain, OOL is going to be the format on Magic Online for over a month still, so this is still quite relevant.

This week, we’ll be tying up the loose ends (specifically Legions) of some minimums for drafting, and I’ll conclude with some Legions cards that I may have misvalued in my initial appraisal.

But first, a snippet from an amusing IRC chat between two close friends arguing over who’s fatter. The names have been changed to protect the innocent, and if anyone who knows who these people are leaks any information to anyone…. Well, there’s really not much I can do, but I’ll be shaking my finger at you from afar. As a quick aside, I have a few much better logs saved on my other computer, but I won’t have access to those until the fall.

Yes, I know I’m really reaching here.

Walter: if u make ridiculous comments like

Bernard: if you just shut your fat *&$%ing mouth

Walter: i only make truces with 271+

Huge Barn: rofl

Bernard: there would be no problems

Walter: u did

Walter: cry cry cry

Walter: over nothing

Walter: i did

Bernard: you did nothing

Walter: except u continue to bring up the issue

Bernard: the pot called the kettle black

Bernard: and then the pot asked the kettle for a truce

Walter: iv tried to make amends.

Bernard: when the kettle didnt do anything

Walter: but u have not been civil

Bernard: civil?

Walter: the kettle is manifestly insane

Bernard: i came on and you started going off again

Walter: and should seek professional help


Walter: lolol

Walter: the kettle is obviously way too sensitive about his weight

Walter: and cant take any joke

Walter: never intended to be taken seriously

Bernard: at dinner i was eating my shrimp linguini when i was railroaded by a delusional fat man trying to convince one [name omitted] and one [name omitted that there was yet an even bigger man at the table

Walter: are u saying im larger than u

Bernard: i did not fire until fired upon

Bernard: i didnt even say that

Bernard: i was just making the point that i was not the agressor

Walter: you just did

Bernard: aggressor*


Walter: there was no aggressor

Walter: just a playful joke

Walter: which anyone would laugh off


Walter: but not YOU

Walter: even tho u make jokes all the time

Walter: i cant apparently

Bernard: not at your expense

Bernard: i never am like

Walter: thats alie


Walter: i do:)

Walter: apple w/ icecream

Bernard:”walter and his [article of clothing omitted as it was deemed incriminating by the party in question] good lord”

Walter: 🙂

Bernard: i never do that

Dr. Claw: LOL


Dr. Claw: thats nothing

Walter: u have definitely been derogatory in the past

Dr. Claw: once e busted out the [omitted article of clothing]

Dr. Claw: 🙂


Dr. Claw: waltr in [omitted article of clothing] quite the sight 🙂

Bernard: derogatory?

Walter: that [omitted article of clothing] is much nicer than most people’s whole wardrobe

Bernard: i disagree



Walter: they dont make too many designer brands

Bernard: poorly*

Walter: in the big and tall shop

Bernard: om

Bernard: f

Bernard: g

Huge Barn #2: it was always burnin since the wurlds been turnin

Bernard: mark my words you will rue the day walter cunningham

Bernard: rue the day you incurred my wrath

Walter: u should be committed

Walter: if ur actually still upset

Walter: because ur absolutely out of ur mind

Bernard: i’m not the one dwelling on the situation

Walter: u dwell

Walter: like no others

Bernard: i never had any interest in entering into the conversation tobegin with

Walter: brb

Bernard: i would have much preferred to be left alone

Bernard: going to weigh yourself again?

Bernard: see if all that typing got you to 269?

Wasn’t that amusing? Now for my deck from the Scourge prerelease and a few notes:

Bladewing’s Thrall

Cruel Revival

Death’s-Head Buzzard

Fallen Cleric

Grinning Demon

Lingering Death

Nantuko Husk

Severed Legion

2 Twisted Abomination

Charging Slateback

Chartooth Cougar

Embermage Goblin

Erratic Explosion

Goblin Machinist

Pinpoint Avalanche


Spark Spray

Torrent of Fire

Ageless Sentinels

Noble Templar

Proteus Machine

8 Swamp

8 Mountain

1 Forgotten Cave

1 Plains

First, a few general notes about the deck. Thanks to the landcyclers, the mana was as close to perfect as one could hope for. One plains certainly seemed the correct call with a plainscycler to splash what I thought would be a very strong card. I would only plainscycle the Templar if I already had the Sentinel in my hand or needed the”colorless” land; otherwise, I’d wait and see if I would just draw the plains so I could play the monstrous cleric soldier.

I’d also like to point out that, for whatever reason, the Grinning Demon was responsible for many of my victories that day. I don’t know whether I could have won the box without him. It may be the Scourge/Onslaught-only format, or it may have been opponents’ unfamiliarity with the cards and optimal builds that created the unique situation where the unforgiving nature of a 6/6 that attacks on turn 4 led to routs.

(It’s sentences like that that kept me out of the good schools. Oh, sure, I could go back and change it so that it doesn’t span four paragraphs, but I like to”challenge the reader.” Heh. The point is, yes, when I write a bad sentence, or paragraph, or article, I at least realize it. Unlike some of these ‘foons, apparently.)

…Or maybe the sort-of-maligned Demon is once again coming into its own. He’s much less likely to get Pacified now, and there’s a larger leaning toward playing really expensive spells. Green has to spend seven for a 6/6 nowadays, so for the early turns, the Demon could simply dominate. Time will tell.

Now, some brief appraisals of what I got to use.

Bladewing’s Thrall: fairly obvious. It’s good because it’s a 3/3 Zombie for four mana. If you happen to have a dragon, it goes from great to absurd.

Death’s-Head Buzzard: The writing’s on the wall for this, one too. It’s an efficient flier as long as you won’t suffer too much from its death. Obviously better if your opponent has one or more one-toughness guys out, as he’ll be loathe to kill it.

Lingering Death: This is an excellent card, although I doubt it will be first-pick quality. If you play it on an untapped man, they get a turn to block with it and a turn to attack with it unfettered, since you probably won’t be willing to risk a creature blocking something that will die anyway. It doesn’t swing the tempo in your favor like an ordinary removal spell will. Of course, since it can kill nearly every creature in the format, you’ll never regret having it in your deck.

Twisted Abomination: The Man. This guy is insane in Sealed, and probably nearly as good in draft. He bears a striking resemblance to, oddly enough, Jareth, the weakest pit fighter legend. He’s almost impossible to kill; attacking into him will almost always be a bad idea unless you’re alpha striking, and he’s difficult to block effectively. Oh – and he’ll never sit worthlessly in your hand, since you can fetch a land with him early on. I think landcycling on a large creature is better than regular cycling on a large creature, since if you’re cycling something like a 6/6, chances are that you’re looking for land. Landcyclers should be at a premium, as they smooth out mana early or come down as monsters late. Again, it’s too early in the game to tell how landcyclers will affect land ratios, but I’ll let you know when I figure it out. There could be a shift back toward running seventeen lands, what with fewer cycling lands and the introduction of LandCyclers into the environment.

Chartooth Cougar: Similar to the Abomination, but not as much of a powerhouse once it hits play. Still very good.

Scattershot: A decent removal spell. Ideally, it will be used to kill a morph the turn it comes into play. I haven’t seen it used during combat or anything yet, but I figure you’ll probably want to play as many of these as you draft. Good, but not first-pick caliber.

Spark Spray: Again, this card is what it is. One damage is a meager effect, but it can be useful. If not, cycle it. Durr.

Torrent of Fire: I was quite impressed with this card. Often it just doubles as Searing Flesh, but sometimes you can kill a huge creature with it as well. Expensive and slow, yet worth it for its power. There’s the slight chance that you’ll have no nonmorph permanents when you wish to play this, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

Ageless Sentinels: I didn’t get to attack with it, but I suspect that it’s mostly a deterrent. People have to kill it or they simply cannot attack you; I’ve experienced this firsthand. Good in any deck with white,”aggressive” or otherwise. It’s probably not worth splashing in draft unless your mana is spectacular; don’t go out of your way to play this like you would with, say, Windborn Muse or Forgotten Ancient.

Noble Templar: These landcyclers all work well with the Dragon enchantments from Scourge. Plus, they’re all huge and have good abilities. And look at this one’s creature type!

Proteus Machine: As you would guess, this is slightly better than an off-color morph because it’s a creature type of your choice and a trick that can come out of nowhere. This can be useful in throwing off Wirewood Pride math, turning an opposing Clutch of Undeath into a nightmare for your opponent, and so on. During the course of the prerelease, one time I was on the receiving end, and one time the”giving” end of having this guy as a surprise blocker for a fear man.

Like I said, I like to challenge the reader. So I’m going to ask you all – and scour the forum for your answers – about what sort of transition I should be using here. Go ahead, it’ll be fun. Something about Scourge and Legions, the present and the future… I don’t know. Go nuts. But somewhere in your answer, include that we are once again talking about minimum numbers of certain cards needed to fuel tribal and similar effects.

And I know that the”too lazy to come up with a transition” angle is getting old, so I’ll come up with some other creative way to pose as a gifted writer next article.

Aven Warhawk

This is one of the best white cards in the set, regardless of how nice your curve is. (Daru Stinger is probably better, so you’ll want to take the Stinger instead should the opportunity arise.) In any deck with white (and especially if you also have blue), this will be at least a 3/3 most of the time, even without intentionally holding back soldiers. If you can afford to hold soldiers back, this guy can easily be a 5/5 for five mana. In the late stages of the game, this is still a significant threat, as opposed to a 1/1 Stinger or a 2/2 Canopy Crawler. Take this card as early as your curve will allow.

I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve become the very thing I mocked so vigorously mere months ago. I simply love efficient creatures like Glory Seeker and White Knight now. I hate passing them. Which is more powerful: Dragon Roost or Glory Seeker? Obviously the Roost; infinite 5/5 flyers makes for a winning situation. But which is the better card? I’m starting to really like the Glory Seeker.

The point is, I might take White Knight over this guy even if I’m heavily tribal, but I don’t know offhand.

Minimum other birds/soldiers to play Warhawk: 3 (which of course should rarely be a problem in white)

Ideal # of other birds/soldiers to play Warhawk: 6 or more

Celestial Gatekeeper

There really isn’t need for as much card-by-card analysis as I provided for Onslaught cards, as one can simply peruse my Legions articles for what I think about individual Legions cards. I don’t want to repeat myself.

This card isn’t great unless you have a decent number of cards to return when it dies; it’s just a Screaming Seahawk with a worse cost that doesn’t search. Any moderate chance of returning at least one card to play with this warrants its inclusion. There’s no need to take it too early; 5th-7th is about where you can expect it.

I’ll take White Knight over this every time. Playing a bunch of 2/2s for two mana gives your draft decks that unfair”Constructed” feel. But I’m digressing.

What I should mention is that this card and other clerics will be harder to get in the coming weeks with the pros’ endorsement of The Cleric Deck. Many people like to listen to the pros on such matters (and would likely change their brand of underwear if they found out that Finkel wears a Leopard thong – not that I can confirm or deny such an alleged statement), but the strategy can support at most two drafters per table, since everyone’s going to want the Vile Deacons and Whipgrass Entanglers and so forth. But yeah, the Gatekeeper’s very powerful in such a deck. (Hee hee, I wrapped that up nicely).

Minimum other birds/clerics to play Gatekeeper: 3

Ideal # of other birds/clerics to play Gatekeeper: 8 or more

Cloudreach Cavalry

This card has moved up in the world, in power and people’s opinions of it. You can still retain some hope of getting it later than 8th, but if it’s really good in your deck, scoop it up. Generally, the more birds you have, the earlier you’re willing to take it. If it will consistently be a 3/3 flier for two mana, take it as early as second. The”turn 2 Cavalry, turn 3 Wingbeat” draw is legendary and nearly impossible to recover from. And of course, it’s a soldier, which helps your other tribal effects.

Minimum birds to play Cavalry: 4

Ideal number of birds to play Cavalry: 8 or more

Keeper of the Nine Gales

Some people swear by this card; I’ve never seen it be exceptional except for a time when I was land-light and playing white/green. If you play it, you’d better be able to activate it, because otherwise it’s a Goblin Sky Raider. At least on MODO, it will probably be raredrafted before you’d want to take it for your deck anyway. Take it around 6th-7th perhaps, depending on what else is in the pack. There’s usually something better to take, so this one won’t see a lot of play.

Minimum other birds to play Keeper: 6

Ideal # of other birds to play Keeper: 9 or more

Ghastly Remains

In almost every deck, this is total garbage. In a dedicated zombie deck (my favorite, especially if it’s mono), it gets the opportunity to shine. Don’t take it before 10th unless you’re certain you’re going to play more than a dozen zombies. You still have to play it with discretion, as in most cases you won’t want to hold an abundance of zombies in your hand. Thus, it is supplemented nicely by cards like Aphetto Dredging or Infernal Caretaker. Because it has triple-black in the casting cost, and because you’d want to play it early, you’ll have to be playing a lot of swamps. I actually only played this card once, and I never got to cast it; it’s still probably only slightly above average in a zombie deck, so feel free to pass it.

Minimum other zombies to play Remains: 8

Ideal # of other zombies to play Remains: 12 or more

Phage the Untouchable

Phage’s ability is the best conceivable ability a creature could have in the game of Magic:”You win the game.” Unfortunately, her cost is astronomical for a 4/4 body; particularly painful are the four black mana in the casting cost. In most cases, you don’t want to take her at all, and even when it looks like she’ll be good in your deck, most commons and uncommons would probably be a better fit. The important factor to consider (other than number of swamps in your deck, which is hopefully at least ten) when determining whether to play Phage is the amount of cards in your stack that will let her through unblocked. These cards include Dirge of Dread, Cover of Darkness, Choking Tethers, Wave of Indifference, and even Vitality Charm. I would not be happy playing Ms. the Untouchable unless I had at least three of these.

Removal, as Joe Bags just pointed out as he walked by, compliments her nicely as well. Durr.

In a recent draft on Magic Online, I was mostly black with what looked like it might be a touch of green for Explosive Vegetation, Mythic Proportions, and a pair of Vitality Charms. I also had a Dirge of Dread; hence, when I saw Phage in the eighth pack of Legions, I did the online equivalent of a windmill slam (which is, of course, taking it quickly, then gloating to a whole bunch of people in #wisedraft or #pinks who don’t even really care). I ended up playing twelve swamps and six forests, my four”breakthrough” cards, and of course Phage herself. In the first game of the draft, I played Phage turn 5 thanks to Explosive Vegetation because I’m just that good. On turn 8, I ripped the Vitality Charm and sent the opposition home to mommy. The next round, after two tight games, I found myself with the following board position.

**Warning: Gratuitous Gloating Section – Do not read if you have a remotely decent opinion of me, as reading it may significantly lower it. The first”it” in the previous sentence refers back to the word”section,” whereas the second refers back to the word”opinion.” Aren’t pronouns fun?

I ripped a seventh land for Phage and dropped her onto the board. My opponents were at eighteen life (I was actually informed that my opponent was using the”two heads are better than one” approach, hence opponents; also, since I’m already safely in parentheses, I will say that I remember who I was playing but I will not divulge names to protect the innocent) and had a Frenetic Raptor and a morph man. They untapped, attacked me down to four with the Raptor, and played another morph man. I drew an Embalmed Brawler and tossed it out there. They attacked again with Raptor, which I chumped with my zombie. Then they played a 2/3. So with four creatures facing down my Phage, I typed”plsssssssss,” went to my draw, threw down forest #3 – and yes, I Mythic Proportioned Phage the Untouchable for the win. Because I’m that good.

Canopy Crawler

It sucks in the late game if you have no cards in hand, but amplifying it a paltry one time makes it a force to be reckoned with. This is one of the best green cards in the set, and at times can be better than the Timberwatch. There’s no shame in taking this first pick; take ’em early and often.

Minimum other beasts to play Crawler: 5

Ideal # of other beasts to play Crawler: 9 or more

Feral Throwback

This goes from strong with one amplify, to ridiculous with two amplifies, to nigh-unstoppable with three amplifies. Like the Canopy Crawler, this is so good and its conditions are so easily met that there’s no sense in not taking it extremely early. I would only take Timberwatch over it – and on occasion, not even that.

Minimum other beasts to play Throwback: 4

Ideal # of other beasts to play Throwback: 7 or more

Glowering Rogon

I’ll briefly mention the Rogon here since it has amplify, but basically, this card doesn’t rely much on the number of beasts in your deck. If you have none, it sort of sucks but is still respectable as a 4/4 for six mana. If you have a handful of beasts and need one more to fuel Wirewood Savage or Canopy Crawler, this is your man, as he can often be a 5/5 or 6/6. If you have a whole menagerie of beastssstes, this guy probably isn’t special enough to make the cut. This, as I mentioned months ago, is the perfect”filler” beast.

And now, I’ll briefly mention a few Legions cards that I misvalued to a notable extent.

Wirewood Channeler

My only noticeable green goof, I rated this low partly because I didn’t fully understand the fledgling format three months ago. Acceleration that comes out on turn 4 is still good acceleration in this format; there are plenty of monsters and Invokers that will happily gobble down scads of seemingly excessive mana. If you have one other elf in play, you can get access to seven mana on turn 5 of various assorted colors. It’s like a slightly weaker Explosive Vegetation, which we all now realize is quite a potent card.

Goblin Goon

I initially rated this monster fairly low as well. To an extent, I stand by my decision, as most of the times I’ve seen this in play, it was sitting there vertically like the impotent jerk it is. In the right deck, though – that is, one with lots of removal (which is easier in Scourge) or higher-than-normal numbers of creatures – this can be an unfair bomb.

Crypt Sliver

Yet another”false negative,” this may be my most grievous case of bad jadgmint (Teddy KGB voice). Except for these few cards, my lists are still pretty accurate today, so I won’t beat myself up too much.

Anyway, I thought this was worthless because it wasn’t big enough; the truth is, it holds the ground against morph men and large green monsters alike while your fliers and Severed Legions do your evil bidding. It’s best in blue/black, especially with Mistforms, but you can play it in any black deck that needs to gum up the ground for a few turns to give time for your more powerful cards to get online. Nonetheless, despite the Sliver’s power, you probably won’t have to take it before 8th pick or so.

White Knight

On my Legions White list, I rated this 11th. Stupid, stupid, stupid! This card is ridiculous. It costs two mana, is a 2/2, and has first strike. Oh and protection from black. It’s so incredibly efficient that it’s impossible for me not to love. The Swooping Talon is more powerful, obviously, but over turns 2 through 6, there’s no comparison. The Talon sits in your hand, watching the board wistfully and hoping to get in on the action, while the Knight either pecks away on the ground or staves off morphs while you attack in the air.

I love playing Constructed-caliber in draft. These include Ravenous Baloth, White Knight, Anurid Brushhopper, White Knight, Wild Mongrel, White Knight, White Knight, and Exalted Angel. Although the Exalted Angel falls into the category of”so insanely good in Limited that people then try it out in Constructed and find out it’s just as good there although they may not have guessed it just from looking at the spoiler,” but I’m digressing. I digress better than any other.

Sunstrike Legionnaire

“Sunstrike Legionnaire is a disturbing card,” says Joey Bags. In an aggressive white deck, where you try to amass an insurmountable tempo advantage, this card is rather unforgiving. In the early turns of the game, you get to tap your choice of a creature every turn – both yours and your opponent’s. If left unchecked, this card simply wins games in the soldier deck. That, of course, is the perfect deck for it; in slower decks, this is a mere annoyance. And it’s not too keen in the late game; however, these strikes against it aren’t enough to keep it out of the top 10 white cards in the set.

Cloudreach Cavalry

See above discussion. I guess what happened was, most of the colors had a general easy-to-follow pick plan assuming an already smooth mana curve. White is a different story; depending on your deck’s creature-type slant, you could pick Lowland Tracker over Celestial Gatekeeper, Whipgrass Entangler over Stoic Champion, or Plated Sliver over Akroma, Angel of Wrath.*

To the half dozen people who read my articles, I thank you once again for your time. Try not to fall off the edge of your seat in anticipation of my Scourge Limited Reviews!(TM), which will be starting next week. Draft smarter, not harder. Keep your eyes on the prize. It’s all in the hips. Appreciate, don’t playa hate, congratulate. Weshweshwesh. Soooooooo her? D infi STAINZ.

Tim Aten

The Scum of the Earth

[email protected]

* – Durr.