Understanding In A MODO Crash: The House Wins

Isn’t it enough that Magic Online is selling fake cards for real money? Nope. They need a bigger real return on their fake investment by offering this new 4/3/2/2 piece of crap. I encourage people to boycott the new prize structure by staying in the 8/4 queues. Sick of losing? Here’s a thought: Get better. Oh yeah, and why don’t I help you to not suck by outlining Legions Black?

Take a second, now take the rest of your life. What’s integrity when you can ooze on through the other side? Take a second, now take the rest of your life. What’s integrity when you can ooze on through the other side? And if I put my mind to it I can figure it out. If I put my mind to it I can figure it out, if I put my mind to it I can figure it out, if I put my mind to it I can figure it out.

That was a song.

Today’s topic is, of course, Legions black in Limited. Before I get to that, there are a few issues that need to be addressed.

Because the”additional” MODO queue will be added in the awkward space between when I’m writing this and when it will be published, I’m bound to look like even more of an idiot than usual. Nonetheless, I will put my three cents in.

The additional queue is a blatant case of The House Wins. Even if you win the entire tournament under the new prize structure, you barely break even unless you rare draft heavily. Thus, the”n00bs” (even though I’m being sardonic, I still shuddered as I typed that) seeking refuge from the”sharks” will simply be throwing their money away less slowly to The Man. Also, there will arise a new school of sharks to go with the 777 sharks (no offense, Flyy) and the OTJ sharks – the 4/3/2/2 sharks. Where the 1800s dare not shame themselves by treading, the 1700s shall rule. Not to even mention the fact that this wonderful new prize structure involves the payout of only eleven packs instead of the usual twelve.

The house wins.

Isn’t it enough to be selling fake cards for real money? Nope. They need a bigger real return on their fake investment. I encourage people to boycott the new prize structure by staying in the 8/4 queues.

Sick of losing? Here’s a thought: Get better.

The last statement applies to most, but not all people. If there are some people out there that want to spend a few bucks for a nice enjoyable fun-deck draft, then I have no problem… But it’s not feasible. No matter where you go, the opportunists will follow. I guess the casual draft people should – gasp! – draft in the casual room. If you’re paying money and playing for a prize, then you’re playing competitive Magic, and the Aven Envoy deck just ain’t gonna cut it.

And now, the Nick Eisel fiasco.

You know what, screw it. I’m sick of talking about it, you’re sick of reading about it, no one will ever know the real truth,”I’ll just believe what the DCI tells me” blah blah blah. I was pretty good friends with Eisel… I say”was,” because we talked a lot less after his career took off… So this news surprises me personally. The Starstorm decks weren’t at all suspicious in my mind… Until now. But I’m digressing, as usual. The point of the Nick Eisel fiasco is:

“Who knows? Who cares?”

And also, since the decision may be handed out between the writing and publishing of this article, I may need to tack on:

“And RyanG, while crazy and um… strange… is never ever wrong.”

That said, it’s time to get down to brass tacks, gentlemen. (Pulp Fiction) One almost forgets that there’s supposed to be a point to my writing – and by”one” I mean”me.”

In draft, Legions black is on par with, if not better than, Legions red. Despite being composed of all creatures, there is actually a fair amount of”removal.” There are several cards that reward a zombie tribal element that, of course, rise on the list if you have a lot of them. I actually had a little help from my brother on the order of these, so if you disagree with the list (and you’re not flat-out wrong), then it’s probably Mike’s fault.

1. Bane of the Living

Probably one of the best cards in the set for Constructed, definitely THE best card in the set for Limited, the Bane does it all. And by does it all, I of course mean that it does three things extremely well.

First, it provides a large body for a reasonable cost. Four mana for a 4/3 is not too shabby in this environment, and it’s a huge surprise morph when X=0; you’re paying BB to flip over something that trades with a Treespring Lorian.

Second, it can act as a more powerful Starstorm once it’s face down in play (“more powerful” because it costs the same but can’t be prevented).

Third – and this may be the best option – you can make X equal one or two to hopefully wipe out your opponent’s board while leaving the Bane in play. Extremely versatile, ridiculously powerful, probably worth some money; never ever pass this if you’re black.

2. Havoc Demon

As I mentioned in my last article, large flyers, even for seven mana, are rather good. This particular seven -mana flyer comes with a peculiar ability that will sometimes be a drawback but will usually work to your benefit. In most cases, your opponent will take five a turn or, if he’s lucky, chump block for a few turns, until he’s dead. If he happens to be able to kill the Demon, he does so at the peril of losing his entire squad. If you happen to have a Nantuko Husk, and a 5/5 flyer isn’t enough to secure a victory, you can…

Well, I’ll let you figure it out.

Needless to say, if you think your opponent has a chance of sending this to the graveyard, don’t play any more creatures.

As an aside, whenever I mention an opponent, I use”he,””him,” and other such masculine pronouns. I do this because, chances are, your opponent is a”he.” Most Magic players are in fact males. Saying”she,” while displaying my Enlightened Status, would just seem out of place. It reminds me of an old Eddie Murphy SNL skit where Eddie says to Ron Howard,”It was a movie about pimps and there weren’t any brothers in it? I don’t know whether to kiss you or punch you in your mouth.” (I must be a poor researcher because I gave up on trying to find out whether this is a slight misquote after about two minutes).

3. Graveborn Muse

Like the Lavaborn Muse, the Graveborn Muse is a 3/3 for four mana, which is good in its own right. Its ability can get out of hand though (usually in a good way). While you don’t get the choice of whether to pay life and draw cards, you do get to pretty much choose how many Zombies you have in play.

All things considered, the Muse is probably at its best when you have zero or one other zombies in play. You have to manage your resources carefully. If you only have the mana for two spells per turn, but you’re paying five life and drawing a total of six cards per turn, your opponent should have no trouble racing you. If however, you pay eight life over four turns and draw eight extra cards, you should be able to win the game easily. If you think the Muse will end up killing you, try to send it to its death in combat before your opponent catches on.

4. Hollow Specter

It was difficult gauging whether this belongs above or below the removal-morphs. In the end, the combination of its ability with there being slightly fewer ways to remove 2/2 black flyers than there were in all-Onslaught drafts won out. A 2/2 flyer for three mana is always welcome in your deck. Ideally, you’ll play this on turn 3; then on turn 4, you can attack for two, pay one mana, and drop a morph. In the midgame, left unchecked, the Hollow Specter will have a devastating effect on your opponent’s hand. In the late game, if for some reason your opponent still can’t defend against it, he’ll have to play every card as soon as he draws it or lose it to the Specter.

5. Skinthinner

If you are playing black and have little removal, you should probably take the removal-morphs over the Specter. They’re really good and can give you temporal advantage, but they are rather cost intensive. That said, the Skinthinner has an ability that reads”destroy target nonblack creature.” Always a good thing (although it won’t help you against Mrs. The Dreadful). Getting one of these back with Infernal Caretaker or Cruel Revival can be a little too sick. And unlike the Skirk Marauder, there is a great enough disparity between morph cost and casting cost that you will actually have an incentive to play this on turn 2 sometimes. Ideally, you’ll have another two-drop so you won’t have to”waste” this as a 2/1 for two, but the fact that the option is there makes this card quite versatile.

6. Aphetto Exterminator

Unless your opponent has just cast a Thoughtbound Primoc, foolishly believing the coast to be clear against a non-blue deck, always play this one face down. Even in that scenario, you should still probably not play it as a 3/1 for three.

A lot of the time, you will just use this as a spot removal spell. Opponents will be hard-pressed to recover from turn 2 creature, turn 3 morph man, turn 4 unmorph Exterminator to kill your morph man, attack for 5. It is a nice combat trick, too; your morphs destroy your adversaries’ Barkhide Maulers and live to tell the tale. Creature removal is good, people. You need answers for Wellwisher, Sparksmith, flyers, and the like.

7. Corpse Harvester

Another black wizard. How very odd!

The Harvester is slow, but it’s the right size. It can result in ridiculous amounts of”damage on the stack” card advantage. Even when you’re not sacrificing in response to a creature dying, you can still”power up” by fetching a powerful zombie (like Skinthinner or Soulless One) and thinning a swamp out of your deck. Needless to say, this is great with insect tokens.

8. Noxious Ghoul

This one’s not so great with insect tokens, but you can fetch it with the Corpse Harvester. On its own, it kills Sparksmith, Wellwisher, Wingbeat Warrior, and maybe even Mistform Dreamer, while leaving several of your creatures unscathed. You can play a zombie before combat to weaken your opponent’s team, then attack with your other zombies. If you have a few cheaper zombies holed up in your hand, you can play them in the same turn to Infest your opponent’s side of the board.

Pay attention to the creature types on your side of the board; Goblin Turncoat will not live through this. Cards like this one have made zombies my favorite tribe, surpassing both clerics and elves.

9. Spectral Sliver

It has been said of Severed Legion that it’s sometimes a relief to see it on turn 3 rather than a morph. The same will usually not be said of the Spectral Sliver – or, as I like to call it, the black Snarling Undorak. This fits in the all-important category of”good every single turn of the game.” In a format where lands are held only for bluffing and not for discarding for benefit, any card that makes good use of excess lands in play will be highly regarded. A lot of my analysis involves”morph this, morph that, blee blah,” but hey, those little buggers are everywhere. And the Spectral Sliver kills morphs without dying. There, I said it. Unlike most slivers, this one is powerful enough to stand on its own.

10. Toxin Sliver

Okay, so there are a bunch of cards that can kill vanilla 2/2s without dying. What if I told you there was a card that could trade with two vanilla 2/2s, without dying, for four mana?

Well, I’d be lying, since this would die in the exchange. But if your opponent decides to block, he’ll probably have to trade either two cards or a more expensive creature to take it out. If not, well, it’s two damage a turn. This is a nice creature on offense, but it can be a great deterrent of attacks as well. And, at the risk of sounding like the end of”All Apologies” (that’s just fancy talk for”a broken record”), this works well with Mistforms.

11. Scion of Darkness

From #9 to #12, there is quite a dropoff. The Scion is a little too expensive for what it does. That’s its only drawback, although it can be a major one; by the time you cast it, if you’re still alive, your opponent may be able to defend against it. That said, you can always cycle it if eight mana doesn’t look very attainable. It will probably cost your opponent two cards to eliminate or contain it. And if by chance, you have some way to get this into play much much earlier than its casting cost would dictate (what could I be talking about?), this becomes quite a threat.

R&D probably just laughs at some of the cards they make.”We’ll make a 10/10 with trample and free regeneration that destroys all other creatures when it blocks… But it’ll cost fourteen mana!”

12. Sootfeather Flock

A simple evasion creature with morph. It’s a little expensive and quite replaceable with cards like Screeching Buzzard or Dive Bomber, and it does have a toughness of two for five mana… But you have to win the game somehow.

Evasion is powerful, and morph means versatility and the potential for misinformation, so this is still a pretty good card. If it looks like your opponent’s off to a slow start, you can start an early aerial assault by playing this face-down on turn 3 and morphing and attacking on turn 4… It seems like this would be a good play sometimes, but I’m not sure.

13. Vile Deacon

The Deacon is a card with a heavy tribal element that nonetheless stands on its own. Even with no other clerics, it’s a 3/3 attacker. If you have a lot of clerics, it’s often 5/5 or even larger. If your opponent is playing clerics too, well… That’s game, boys. Naturally, this is rather vulnerable at every point other than when it is attacking, which lessens its value.

14. Smokespew Invoker

The Invoker has a nice creature type as well as solid stats for its casting cost. Since Legions is all creatures, there is less removal now than in all-Onslaught; this makes the Invoker doubly good. It’s a little harder to kill than a one-toughness creature used to be – and should you reach that crucial eight-mana mark, it will start picking off your opponent’s creatures one by one. As far as Invokers go, the Smokepew is the second-fastest at finishing the game, behind only the Flamewave Invoker.

15. Goblin Turncoat

The Turncoat is ahead of the Wretch for one major reason: Its casting cost. When considering two-power creatures with marginal abilities for two mana, the card’s major function in your deck is to be played on turn 2. It’s easier to have 1B than BB on turn 2; if you’re heavily into black or need zombies or clerics, the Wretch becomes better. The Turncoat’s ability is even better than the Wretch’s, as it becomes more resilient with goblins in play and provides an outlet to sacrifice Festering Goblin in a pinch.

16. Withered Wretch

As mentioned, the Wretch has a better tribe than the Goblin Turncoat in most decks. It also has an extra point of toughness, which cannot be discounted. In some situations, you may actually be able to put its ability to use; your opponent may have Aphetto Dredging, Misery Charm, Entrails Feaster, or the like.

17. Deathmark Prelate

Surprised that this is this low? Don’t be. The usefulness of its ability is obvious; killing several non-Zombie creatures in a game can go a long way to helping you win.

However, it is extremely expensive. You have to have a zombie to sacrifice… And when you do, you have to spend three mana to sacrifice it. This can seriously hamper your other options for the turn. You can’t do it in response to removal, since it must be played as a sorcery.

That”sorcery” line is pretty much what ruins this card. I’ll be unlikely to play it very often, since other people will probably pick it early… But if I get one, I’d probably put it in the main deck.

18. Infernal Caretaker

Never play this face-up, of course. Any morph represents a significant threat, whether or not there actually is something dangerous underneath. I would hope you would know enough not to play a 2/2 for four mana when you could play it for three unless you really needed a cleric fast. Its morph cost is high for something that doesn’t alter its stats, and it can be bad against other black decks, but it’s still very powerful. If you trade this for your opponent’s morph or turn while retrieving a zombie or two, you’ve gotten your mana’s worth.

19. Embalmed Brawler

The card the Brawler is most similar to is actually the Shepherd of Rot. Whenever it attacks, you’re basically Rotting; if it’s 4/4 and is unblocked every other turn, you each take four, for instance. It can provide quite a disincentive to attacking if it’s 4/4 or 5/5; you’re paying a small amount of life to pick off an attacking creature of your choice. Of course, you probably won’t want to leave it on defense.

Unless you have a lot of removal or a lot of pressure, I’d advise against amplifying this much more than one; a 3/3 for 3 that makes you lose one life every turn is perfectly respectable. Much larger, and you risk losing the race to a chump block strategy. I could write quite a bit more about this seemingly innocuous card, but it would take up much more space than a 23rd card deserves.

20. Gempalm Polluter

The Polluter is a Zombie that you can cycle early or play late. It can even make a nice finisher, removing the opponent’s last few life points unexpectedly and unpreventably. That said, it’s not too impressive when in play, although it makes a better topdeck than a Glory Seeker in the very late game when each player controls only land. The cycling cost is an”expensive” BB, meaning that the ideal”turn 2 cycle” is unlikely with this card.

It’s versatile, but it doesn’t do anything particularly well. On the bright side, this is one of the cards I mentioned in the introduction whose value obviously increases above”marginal” with lots of Zombies.

21. Drinker of Sorrow

And there will be… Sorrow no mooooore… Sing it with me!

Actually, don’t. You probably sing as badly as I do. I’m honestly not sure how good the Drinker of Sorrow is. It would never cross my mind to play it, but maybe it isn’t that bad. In my mind, it just gives your opponent too many options – and since it doesn’t block, it doesn’t really give you enough. It can stunt your mana development too much in the early game; even if the opponents chump block, it’s still a one-for-one trade for them; and in the mid-to-late game, they can easily two-for-one you. I’ll keep passing this one until someone gives me a good reason to do otherwise.

22. Phage the Untouchable

More like Phage the Uncastable!! Ahahaha. Mm.

If you can manage to get her into play (from your hand, of course), she’s a very good creature…but far too expensive. The worst part of her cost is that unless you’re heavily into black, you’re unlikely to be able to even play her on turn 7. I’d probably take Phage a lot higher if I had two or three Dirge of Dreads or dirge-like effects.

Well, let’s face it: I’ll probably take her a lot higher anyway, and play her every time I draft her… But at least I know that it’s not a good idea!

23. Crypt Sliver

As a 1/1 for two mana, this won’t be doing any attacking, making it a purely defensive creature. It’s pretty good against green monsters unless they happen to have a Vitality Charm, but its low toughness makes it susceptible to removal. I would probably play one of these if I had some other quality slivers in my deck, like Spectral Sliver or Essence Sliver.

24. Zombie Brute

Why this card has amplify is beyond me. The fact that I once witnessed Pergola from Compendium play this as an 8/7 perplexes me further. By the time you get to seven mana, you usually don’t have a lot of creatures in hand since you’ve probably been, I dunno, playing them?

Five mana is the most I would happily pay for an average creature whose sole purpose is to attack and block. Once you get up to the realm of seven mana, creatures have to be enormous (like the Enormous Baloth), have evasion (like Kilnmouth Dragon), or have a powerful special ability (like Crowd Favorites). Even if you amplify it once on a consistent basis, it’s still a less versatile Krosan Tusker, even if it does trample.

All right. The horse is clearly dead. So it’s time to relent.

25. Ghastly Remains

The potential for card advantage is offset by the fact that you need to keep zombies in your hand to effectively cast and recast it. It’s very mana intensive to play or bring back from the dead; you’d need to be virtually mono-colored to make this work. This would need”amplify: 2″ to be competitive.

26. Blood Celebrant

This is basically a 1/1 that doesn’t do anything. The splash potential isn’t worth the wasted slots in your deck or the uselessness of a 1/1 for one mana. Sometimes 1/1s win games. Then again, sometimes your opponent mulligans to four and discards three times before playing a creature.

27. Dark Supplicant

The same as the Blood Celebrant, except without the ability. Of course, all the rules are thrown out the window if you happen to have a Scion of Darkness. You should probably not take this the first time you see it; no one else will want this but you, so it will likely come back. If the pack is bad you can take it as early as 6th, perhaps.

If the Scion was passed to you, the person feeding you may cut off the Supplicants, so use your better judgment. And the Supplicant search won’t work unless you have plenty of Clerics. Extremely situational, but very powerful in the right situation.

Joey Bags actually drafted a reanimator deck in a three-on-three recently. While he never got to pull off Blackmail/Patriarch’s Bidding/Akroma, Angel of Wrath, the Supplicants were an integral part of the deck. Here is a list of the deck, with which he actually went 3-0 (his teammates went 1-5):

2 Dark Supplicant

1 Festering Goblin

1 Blackmail

1 Boneknitter

2 Dirge of Dread

1 Doomed Necromancer

1 Severed Legion

1 Nantuko Husk

1 Swat

1 Infernal Caretaker

1 Cabal Executioner

1 Deathmark Prelate

1 Aphetto Dredging

1 Cruel Revival

1 Gluttonous Zombie

1 Patriarch’s Bidding

1 Tribal Golem

1 Havoc Demon

1 Scion of Darkness

1 Akroma, Angel of Wrath

11 Swamp

1 Barren Moor

6 Plains (may have been 5, with a 12th Swamp)

(Gravespawn Sovereign just missed the cut).

Don’t try that at home. A remarkable number of things had to happen for the deck to come together, including a ridiculous run of rares, two Dark Supplicants, and someone without enough common sense to hate the 11th and 12th pick Supplicants after passing the Scion. (I’m not going to name names, but it rhymes with”Rand, a Buffoon”).

28. Earthblighter

Worthless in all but a dedicated Goblin deck… And even then, I’m not sure that land destruction is a viable strategy. But this card shows the beauty of Legions: Most of the cards are main deck worthy, and all but the Nut Low could see play in some form of quirky, often tribal, deck.

29. Dripping Dead

The Nut Low.

That’s all for this week, kids. On next week’s installment, Jerry’s girlfriend, for one reason or another, just isn’t good enough; George whines about his life; and Joey Bags gets his head stuck in a honey pot. Oh, and Legions Blue for Limited!

Peace, love, empathy,

Tim Aten

The Scum of the Earth

[email protected]

(P.S. If anyone cares, the lyrics at the beginning of the article are from”Adriana,” an excellent song by the band Headstrong.)