Understanding In A MODO Crash: Where’s My Cheering Section? (Legions White)

Cloudreach Cavalry is the most situational card on the list in terms of when you draft and play it. I wouldn’t recommend playing this with fewer than five birds/mistforms in your deck, but if you have eight or more birds, especially if a few of them cost three mana, this card becomes a powerhouse. And please, don’t play Aven Envoy to make this card more powerful. For that matter, don’t play Aven Envoy to Amplify your Stingers and Warhawks. Just don’t play it. The Envoy, I mean.

So let me get this straight:

My computer is dying…I am utterly broke… A herniated disc or something is once again rearing its ugly, um, head, I guess, in my back… School is really ticking me off… I’m surly from starting a diet again… The right side of my body is continuing to grow while the left side is not… I hate my life… I’m going to die miserable and alone…

…and you expect me to help you by telling you how good Legions white cards are in limited?

The very nerve. But fortunately for you, I really don’t have much else to do. Procrastinating with my schoolwork leaves lots of free time.

Tonight, I found myself at Buffalo Wild Wings with my brother, Jason Opalka, Bill Fegan, and Nate Clarke, watching Wrestlemania XIX (or 19, to the layperson). This is odd for a few reasons.

First, what is Nate doing in Ohio again? I’m sure there will be more whacky hijinx than you can shake a stick at in the ensuing months. Stories of the drinking, the gambling, the whoring, and so on, all the random snide comments mumbled to the King, etc.

Second, I haven’t watched wrestling in years. It just doesn’t interest me anymore. I’m sort of surprised that I watched it at all after I turned thirteen, but I guess there wasn’t much else to do. That said, it was a good show. Some of the performers (seems like an appropriate title, as opposed to athletes, even if they are athletes) are still very charismatic, able to keep the audience rapt. Shawn Michaels’s entrance was absurd, and Vince McMahon, the mastermind of the whole shebang, has perfected the Villain facial expressions and mannerisms.

But it was actually the opening match that reminded me I had to write another article. One Rey Mysterio was wrestling in the bout. First of all, he was dressed in a plastic-lookin’ Daredevilesque outfit, which was funny because it was so sad. But more importantly, when he came out, they obviously flashed the camera on fans with pertinent signs. One such group of people were holding up signs that said”619,” which surely enough, matched the number on Mysterio’s tights.

Now I don’t know what this means. Probably never will. I could look it up, but you know, I really don’t care. All I thought was, I should get four people to hold up signs that say”1 0 2 4″ at the next Magic event.

I need a cheering section. I need spectacle. I need hordes of buffoons in my corner, hopefully to intimidate my opponents, but at the very least to get some double-takes and disgusted/perplexed looks in my direction. I’m not afraid to make a fool of myself if I think it will make others laugh. My”image” in that regard isn’t of much concern; I wore sweatpants with a hole in the crotch to my last PTQ (Hi JoshR).

It’s probably a harebrained scheme that will never work out. Even though I can take a jab at myself in the interest of the greater good, I will not cross a certain threshold. There’s a certain unspoken divide of”laughing at” and”laughing with.” Often, some event or action will be composed of a portion of each. I don’t want to physically be the joke like so many before me. I don’t want to be known as StarCity Writer Tim Aten; I want people to have read my articles, but I don’t want to be pigeonholed as”that crappy guy who writes crappy articles for that wonderful website with competitively-priced singles and other goods.” I don’t want to be the guy people talk about in hushed tones behind my back to feel better about themselves. Although it’s probably too late for that. Peter Szigeti is something of a master of the spectacle, with the ridiculous white”pimp coat” and other such antics… I want to do something along those lines, but not exactly.

So to recap, I want to be talked about, perhaps mocked, but I don’t want it to be malicious. Probably too late for that. Someone needs to bring signs to Regionals or something. I hate my life.

Now that we’re up to speed from yet another ludicrous spur-of-the-moment tangent that’s likely to get me mocked by my friends and associates, as well as people who have no business laughing at me themdamnselves because they’re no walk in the park either, it’s time to get to the”strategy article.”

In the past, there were some comments about my method for rating the cards.

Allow me a moment to defend the”list” system. I think it’s actually more beneficial and makes more sense to list the rares with the commons and uncommons. After all, sometimes you’ll have to choose between a rare and common of the same color. As far as rating the rares against each other, I feel it’s a necessary evil (and by”evil,” I mean”a sometimes meaningless distinction”) involved with having cards of all rarities in the same list. And if you want a list of just the commons, all you have to do is ignore the other cards on the list.

It doesn’t make much difference now whether the system was good or bad, since this will be the final article in the Legions Limited series. But unless there’s severe protest and/or a better method suggested, I’ll be using the same method for judging the Scourge cards in a few short months.

That said, I’d like to briefly mention Gary Wise Onslaught sideboard articles. His editor (or whoever) suggested to him to write his Limited strategy articles by tribe rather than color. This, of course, was a Bad Idea, so he wrote the articles by color as well. In the case of Legions white, tribal lines may be a better way to discuss pick order. White varies greatly depending on your strategy (and of course, your curve), and all of the cards are playable in some way or other. Some cards, like Cloudreach Cavalry and Daru Stinger, range from abysmal to absurd depending on what you have and expect to get in your draft stack. But listing the cards tribally or alphabetically seems complicated. I’ll list them in their approximate power/playability level under the assumption that it is more likely to hurt than help. But there will be a great degree of variance, and hopefully a decent amount of explanation.

1. Windborn Muse

Fortunately for all parties involved, the list doesn’t get complicated until all the way down at #3. And since the first two are rare, even though the Muse is better in draft, there is no need for headaches over deciding which of those to take. The reason the Windborn Muse is the best is because it provides a good-sized, efficient (for Limited) evasion creature that gives a significant drawback to your opponent. Where 2/2 fliers for four mana and 2/2 ground creatures for three are the norm, a 2/3 flier for four mana is a good deal. Combine that with the fact that, in the early and middle game, it severely limits opponents’ options, and you’ve got a powerhouse. Opponents simply can’t attack with their creatures, morph them, and play more spells in the same turn; often, they’ll have to choose only one of those options. If he wants to play a spell, he may only be able to attack you with one creature; if he attacks with the creature, he won’t be able to morph it; and so on. This makes it difficult to race, which in turn makes it difficult to win.

2. Akroma, Angel of Wrath

I’ve been saying the Muse is better in draft than the Angel since the very beginning. That Gary Wise agrees is vindicating – yet irrelevant, since they’re both rare and won’t be in the same pack. As to which is better in sealed deck, I’d imagine it’s Akroma… But again, what difference does it make? If you crack both of them in the same deck, I want your deck.

So why is Akroma so good? Try reading the card. Unless you’re very low on life or are in some other sort of dire straits, she reads”5WWW: You win the game.” She can’t be killed, she’s extraordinarily difficult to block, she attacks the turn she comes into play, she memorized all the words to AFI’s”The Leaving Song Part I” with only one listen, and hey, she’s worth a decent amount of money, tickets, or what have you.

3. Swooping Talon

The Talon may not look like much, and it was sort of maligned by another Limited strategist on this site – but when all is said and done, the Talon can win games. All three of the provoke soldiers are potentially devastating with all the combat tricks white has to offer: Gempalm Avenger, Piety Charm, Daru Encampment, Grassland Crusader, Inspirit, and so on; this bird soldier is no exception.

On its own, the Talon can kill most opposing fliers on its own before swooping in to damage your opponent. Also, it can run interference with annoying Keeneye Avens or Needleshot Gournas while your Gustcloak Harriers and Dive Bombers do the dirty work. Sometimes, even on turn 6 and after, the ground isn’t sufficiently cluttered with men to stop the Talon from losing flying and picking off a creature that way. Its cost is a little high, but work your curve around it a little to compensate. Its cost even makes it fit naturally with a curve involving amplify soldiers, although naturally you’d rather have it cost less. Finally, the turn you play it, you probably won’t have to worry about much in the way of attacks from your opponent, since Talon got a big ol’ butt.

4. Aven Redeemer

A solid 2/2 flier for four. If all you need are a couple points of evasive damage, then you might as well attack with it. If your board position is not conducive to such simplistic tactics, leave this Sanctum Custodian back and screw up your opponent’s combat math. The”prevent two” ability is quite a powerful one, and I’m sure you’re familiar with the implications. Your creatures are more difficult to kill with damage, often requiring two sources to finish the job, and you die a lot more slowly to an onslaught of your opponent’s legions of creatures.

(Side note: The first word that came to my mind when describing an opponent attacking you just happened to be”onslaught,” which in this context was an unfortunate coincidence. Rather than leave it in question whether or not it was an intentional dork pun – which, as I just said, it wasn’t – I figured I’d go the whole nine and sink my own ship).

Granted, the Redeemer can’t attack and use its wonderful ability on the same turn – barring an Akroma’s Devoted in play – but let’s not get greedy. The best common in the set.

5. Aven Warhawk

This card is somewhat situational, and it will only be potentially useful to a few of the drafters at a table. It’s good enough in those decks that you can’t pass it and expect to see it back. What makes the Warhawk especially quacktastic is that it amplifies with two different types of creatures, increasing the odds that it will be larger. Often, this amounts to a 4/4 flier for five mana, which is a quick clock for your opponent. Even with one creature in hand to amplify it, it’s a 3/3 flier for five; that’s still very good. In the late game, when many a card has been played from each player’s hand, you may not have anything to enhance the hawk. That being the case, a 2/2 flier will still come in handy if you need a creature right away (as opposed to say, a 1/1 Daru Stinger or a 2/2 Canopy Crawler); if it won’t, simply wait until you draw an appropriate creature. Most white decks will have an abundance of birds and soldiers, making it likely that the hawk will rule the skies when you play it.

6. Essence Sliver

We all know how good Hill Giants are by now; if you don’t, read my other articles. We also are pretty good at noticing that a six-point life swing in your favor every turn could be rather beneficial. We’re pretty smart!!

If left unchecked, it can quickly make the game unwinnable for your opponent when combined with flying Mistforms. The most important thing to remember is that it stands well on its own. When combined with other such Slivers – like the Spectral Sliver or the Blade Sliver – it gets even better. Duh.

7. Wingbeat Warrior

The only real downside to this card is that it has 1 toughness when it’s face-up. That said, it’s quite versatile. Sometimes you just toss it out there as a 2/1 flier and start pecking away at your opponent’s life total at a rapid rate. Other times, if it looks like you have a chance to fool your opponent, you can play it as a morph and give something first strike mid-combat. It makes an excellent surprise blocker for two-toughness fliers. On top of that, it’s a soldier, meaning it gets pumped by various soldier tricks, and works with Stingers and Warhawks. Perhaps white is still underdrafted, as I see these fairly late, often around 7th pick. I also frequently see Mistform Seaswifts with only five cards left in the pack. **solemn, disapproving head shake**

8. Stoic Champion

A 2/2 soldier for two mana, this card gets better with – *gasp!* – more cyclers in your deck. I don’t like to run otherwise useless cyclers, like Aura Extraction, to fuel Lightning Rift… So needless to say, don’t play any extras just because of this. Often the threat of having them is a sufficient deterrent. When you actually do have a cycler, the damage adds up quickly, and large beasts are felled easily. Especially nasty with the Gempalm Avenger. The double white in the casting cost is rarely prohibitive, since a lot of the white soldier-heavy decks I’ve played run ten white sources or more.

9. Daru Stinger

This card, naturally, gets better with more soldiers in your deck. A lot of this stuff seems to be intuitive. Oh well. If you think you can reliably play this as a 3/3, consider taking it over everything but the top rares. Anything bigger than that is simply out of control. If you have to play this as a 2/2 for want of a better play on turn 4, it’s not the end of the world. Try not to ever play it as a 1/1 and only as a 2/2 when absolutely necessary, and you’ve got a really powerful card. I don’t know if I would even play this card if I only had five other soldiers in my deck, though; it can be tricky to play this card correctly. You want to make it as big as possible without sacrificing your early turns. If your hand has Glory Seeker, Gravel Slinger, Daru Stinger, Gempalm Avenger, it’s probably in your best interest to have a play on either turn 2 or 3; but if those are your only soldiers, you probably want to hold one back. Apparently, since I’ve taken to repeating myself, I can’t stress enough that 3/3 is the magic stat for this card.

10. Deftblade Elite

The Deftblade Elite is a provoke soldier, so it works well with all the cards mentioned in the Swooping Talon section. It’s an excellent one-drop for those players who are mindful of their curves, as well they should be.

The Elite’s second ability is what pushes it into the realm of Masterful. Basically, it can function as a tapper for two mana. Forcing your opponent to block it to no effect is like tapping a blocker; blocking a non-trampler then using its ability is like tapping an attacker. Combine it with Catapult Squad for a brutal, unfair beating. It’s still sort of susceptible to removal spells due to its one toughness, and two mana can be too expensive to pay every turn, but all things considered, this is one of the best one-drop Limited creatures ever made.

11. White Knight

It’s a 2/2 for two mana, it kills a morph in combat while living to tell the tale, and it’s immune to most black removal (well, not Infest or Bane of the Living). It’s sort of like a white Elvish Warrior in that regard, albeit slightly more susceptible to burn. There’s a major problem with the Knight though; in order to preserve its flavor and original card text, it’s a knight and not a soldier. This means that, barring Inspirit, 2/2 is as just about as big as white can make it, making it a little worse later in the game. But come on…First strike, protection from black, all for two mana? Always a welcome addition to your draft decks.

12. Celestial Gatekeeper

This card is somewhat slow, costing one more mana than you would expect for a 2/2 flier. Its ability is quite powerful, though. If you have it in your opening hand, trade birds and clerics for your opponents’ creatures more aggressively than you otherwise would. It’s pretty small for its cost, but in the late game, you’ll definitely be able to use its ability to greater effect. As far as drafting it goes, unless you’re going to have plenty of creatures to return with this, it becomes a singleton Screaming Seahawk, which sucks (little bit of alliteration for you literary types).

13. Defender of the Order

Here is the first of the Incredibly Boring creatures. The Defender’s value goes up when your opponent doesn’t know about or expect it. If you attack four creatures into four opposing creatures of similar size with two white mana open, your opponent probably expects a Gravel Slinger or a Daru Sanctifier, not something that will wreck him. It’s a cleric, its morph cost is low, its ability is helpful in combat or in response to most removal spells. This card is good in any deck, really, but is rather replaceable in terms of size and cost. It’s probably the best at what it does, but if you have to make do with a Liege of the Axe because you passed the Defender for something else you needed for your deck, the loss won’t be appreciable.

14. Gempalm Avenger

This moves up the list in a soldier deck, as far as its effectiveness goes. Chances are that you’ll see one or two of these late, though, so you usually won’t need to pick them the first time you see them. Its cycling ability is downright unfair in the right circumstances, and later in the game, it provides a sizeable (albeit expensive) body that can effectively block a Barkhide Mauler. Kill a morph and draw a card on turn 3 in conjunction with Deftblade Elite, save your Harrier from a Shock, attack with Glory Seekers with reckless abandon… You get the point.

15. Sunstrike Legionnaire

This soldier is a very tricky card to gauge. It’s a rather solid card in aggressive decks, allowing for key taps to punch through early-game damage. The”doesn’t untap during the untap step” drawback is unlikely to matter, since on an average set of turns one player (or usually both) will play a creature. It combos well with Mobilization – but then again, what doesn’t? It can tap a creature as it comes into play, making all opposing morphs come into play tapped; when the creature comes into play, the Legionnaire’s untap ability is put on the stack, so tap the creature in response, then get a free untap. Don’t think of it as a creature, but more of an enchantment. Of course, you can’t Shock enchantments, so the analogy isn’t perfect.

Is there anything this card can’t do? The answer is, of course,”Yes…it can’t tap anything that costs four mana or more.”

16. Liege of the Axe

Yet another creature that, as a face-down 2/2, will kill another face-down 2/2 without dying for the investment of a paltry two mana. It’s a soldier, and thanks to its ability, even when it is in morph form, you can attack with it and still have it back to block. On turn 4, you could attack with this and play a Glory Seeker, leaving two mana open to ambush your opponent. I’m usually wary of not playing a morph on turn 4 simply for the purpose of leaving mana open for this, because you will suffer a significant tempo loss if your opponent doesn’t attack into it, instead opting to play another creature.

17. Akroma’s Devoted

Like the Liege – except instead of morphing, it has an extra toughness and affects all clerics. Needless to say, this one’s better in a cleric tribal deck, and the Liege is better in a soldier-themed deck. Depending on who is likely to get better use out of it, you may want to side this out in the cleric mirror. That this card is roughly 17th out of twenty-nine cards goes to show white’s depth in Legions.

18. Beacon of Destiny

Make no mistake about it – the Beacon of Destiny is an excellent card. It comes out on turn 2, filling out your curve nicely. Then – and here’s the tricky part – never ever block with it, and you’ll ensure its survival as a constant damage prevention source. If they attack with a morph, you block with Beacon, and it becomes something large, the Beacon dies. If you block an elf, it could get Prided.

So don’t block with it. Put damage on the stack, then if the morph is locked in at dealing 2 damage, redirect it to the Beacon. If the Beacon would die, unless you would die yourself otherwise, don’t redirect it. This gives white an answer to Severed Legion, and it can suck up some damage from fliers before you play your own. On the last turn of its life, it can suck up a Searing Flesh, or it could block a Treespring Lorian and also take on the damage from an unblocked Mauler. It has more of a place in a cleric deck than a soldier deck due to its defensive nature.

19. Whipgrass Entangler

The Entangler suffers from the stigma of”costs three mana but isn’t a morph” that led some to rate Severed Legion rather low in Onslaught common lists. It has a toughness of three, which isn’t too shabby. And due to its tribal nature, it can range from awful to incredible. Two mana per activation is a significant investment; it’s not something that you’ll be able to do multiple times every turn if you want to play spells. With two clerics in play, your opponent merely has to match your mana investment. With more than two clerics, the Entangler becomes much more of a nuisance. Often in the mid- or late-game, an opponent will tap low, and you’ll be able to use its ability as a white Falter. You can use this multiple times on the same creature; its effect is cumulative, so if you really need to stop something from attacking or blocking, you can do it. Personally, I only like to play these in dedicated Cleric decks: those with around ten clerics that can support cards like Profane Prayers and Doubtless One. Like the Daru Stinger, three is the magic number. If your opponent must spend three mana for every two you spend, you clearly have the temporal advantage.

20. Daru Mender

Some people swear by this card – but in a set this solid for white, it’s not too hot. Like the Patron of the Wild, it’s an excellent combat trick that unfortunately leaves a tiny 1/1 chump blocker in its wake. There’s no reason to take this card early, but it is a lot better than an off-color morph. Whether you take this or a card with similar power, of course, depends on your mana curve.

21. Daru Sanctifier

Yet another creature that can morph for two mana (with damage on the stack) and survive battle with an opposing 2/2. You’ll often want one of these main deck to deal with pesky enchantments, but sometimes, in a tight deck, it doesn’t do enough to make the cut. Like the Gempalm Avenger, from my experience, you can reliably get these late, so unless you have some compelling reason to require enchantment removal, pass these around until the end. Better in a cleric deck, of course, but it does a good job of stalling the ground while your fliers get the job done. Usually, you’ll want to play this face-down, but if you’re the only one who controls enchantments, it may not be a good idea, since the ability isn’t optional.

22. Starlight Invoker

I actually lost to one of these the other day since I was blue/white and my opponent had this plus Aurification in play. It’s a decent two-drop, but its effectiveness as a blocker decreases as the game progresses. It turns into something that sits on the sidelines and does nothing unless you have eight mana available. This isn’t to say it’s unplayable; anything with uses in the early and late game warrants consideration for your deck. But these go sort of late – and rightfully so. I’m usually not unhappy about playing one of these, but a little wary of playing more. I’ll leave it to you to figure out the best kind of deck for this card.

23. Cloudreach Cavalry

Probably the most situational card on the list in terms of when you draft and play it. It’s at its best in blue/white, which will likely have a whole flock of birds and mistforms. I wouldn’t recommend playing this with fewer than five birds/mistforms in your deck. I personally wouldn’t play it without at least six. If you have eight or more birds, especially if a few of them cost three mana, this card becomes a powerhouse. And please, don’t play Aven Envoy to make this card more powerful. For that matter, don’t play Aven Envoy to amplify your Stingers and Warhawks. Just don’t play it. The Envoy, I mean.

The Cavalry can be pretty good in the right deck. Of course, if they kill your only bird mid-combat, the potential for devastating card disadvantage arises.

24. Wall of Hope

In theory, this is a pretty good card in this format. Like many other defensive white cards, it creates a nice ground stall. It blocks morph creatures, forcing them to spend mana to morph their guys or allow you to gain a little life every turn, which can entirely negate some attacks. That said, it doesn’t attack, and it’s usually not something you want to topdeck in the late game. It’s only a temporary solution to whatever your problem happens to be. But sometimes it can give you the extra push you need to win the damage race. Like the Starlight Invoker, I’d run one of these, but probably not two. And, as should be evident from their placing on the list, I’d rather have one Invoker than one Wall of Hope.

25. Planar Guide

This is a 1/1 creature, so it won’t affect the battlefield much. Its ability is pretty interesting, though; for four mana, you can get a one-time Fog. Unfortunately, your opponent will see it coming. If your opponent has token creatures, this provides an answer for those. Also, if you have some expensive morph creatures, you can flip and reverse them all at once for four mana and a card. Be careful of opposing morphs, though; you never know what you could turn up.

If you have a feeling your opponent has a lot of morph-trigger men, this could be a good thing, though. The creatures get removed from the game face-down, but come back face-up; they never actually turn face-up while in play, so your creatures won’t die to a Skinthinner removed in this way, Willbender becomes a pathetic 1/2, and the Imperial Hellkite won’t search out another dragon… Although that would probably be the least of your concerns. This one doesn’t always make the cut, but in some decks, I’d imagine it would be very good.

26. Lowland Tracker

Yes, it’s a soldier with first strike with that oh-so-powerful provoke ability. No, I’m not thrilled to run it; it’s five mana for a 2/2 that doesn’t fly. Sure, you’ll be able to kill a 2/2, but your opponents will probably just double-block it, negating the benefits of first strike. Better in a deck with a lot of soldier tricks; it doesn’t stand well on its own compared with the other white provokers. I may have played this roughly once in my life when I had about eighteen playables, but it’s still not awful, and can be a solid card with the right support.

27. Ward Sliver

Another five mana 2/2. The protection ability is okay, but it will still die in combat with generic 2/2s that only cost your opponent three mana to play. I might sideboard this in against green monsters. This even moves to the realm of maindeck-worthy if you have good slivers that stand on their own or an abundance (and I do mean abundance) of Mistforms. Protection from one of your opponent’s colors for some of your creatures still isn’t that exciting.

28. Glowrider

Nut-lowrider. Derf. The ability is negligible, so what we’re looking at here is an inferior Nosy Goblin. Only playable if you are absolutely desperate for another member of the cleric tribe.

29. Plated Sliver

The worst white Limited card in the set, yet still possibly playable under the same circumstances as one would play the Ward Sliver. You still really don’t want to touch this with a ten-foot pole. Like, you never ever want to really play it, but you could do worse, I guess. Worse than even the Glowrider, since the Glowrider at least trades with 2/2s.

Well that wraps up the basic set overview of Legions in Limited. In the coming weeks, I hope to get into more detail about deck archetypes and other, more advanced strategies. And not too far in the future, I’ll get to write about Scourge.

Join me next week when: Eric Taylor provides a guest commentary on what can only be described as the Biondo Bulge; Ryan Golden reveals another name from his list of soon-to-be-banned gamers; Joey Bags and I do the ridiculous dance that was in the trailer for The Rules of Attraction, but wasn’t in the actual movie; and I take a look at a draft that can only be described as Pugg Fuggly.*

Tim Aten

The Scum of the Earth

[email protected]

“This is my line, this is eternal.” –AFI,”…but home is nowhere”

* – What this last part means is that a MODO drafter who assumes the handle”Pugg Fuggly” sent me an account of a Magic Online draft that I will be picking apart for its merits and mistakes.