I have it on good authority that I am going to love this set. What little I’ve seen from MTGNews.com has certainly piqued my interest. Let’s start by looking at the new (rumored) mechanic, Kicker:
(If you pay the Kicker cost when playing said card, said card gets xxx.)
Right now all the rumors are mostly mana costs, as on this white example (all rumored cards courtesy of MTGNews.com):
Benalish Something or Other
Creature – Knight
If you pay the Kicker cost when playing Benalish Something or Other, it comes into play with two +1/+1 counters on it and has First Strike.
It follows the old pattern of ‘upgrading’ cards, that Wizards R&D has been following for at least the last two years: if you add an ability to an established creature/spell, add a generic mana to the casting cost. Fresh Volunteers is 2/2 for 1W; since you’re getting the Kicker thrown on this guy, he gets to be 2W. However, the upswing is that a 4/4 First Striker for 4WW is pretty reasonable really, and a pretty solid finisher in Limited formats.
And it might not be all mana, although seeing how buyback worked three years ago, I’d guess that this set would just have mana Kickers. But the next set might have different kicker costs, like ‘Discard a card’ or ‘Sacrifice a land’. And they might even be Kicker costs of different-colored mana than the card itself.
That brings me to my second topic about Invasion: Multi-colored decks. Invasion is supposed to support multi-colored decks heavily, through permanents with off-color mana abilities (like the Guildmages) and with gold cards. The rumors also have it that there are lands that can be sacced to produce off-color mana.
Now, I’ve always been a fan of two-color decks. The second deck I ever played (and the first deck I ever built myself) was a W/G deck that had a lot of regenerators and pro-red guys. You see … (dream sequence music)
I can still remember it so clearly. I had been playing a Stompy variant, a bad one, with Trained Armodons, and had been run over by a local guy who was playing (at that time it really was) Sligh. So for the next week, I was bound and determined to take a deck that could beat him. I took all the regenerators I had (which at that time was River Boa, I think), and all the pro-red guys I had (whichever Soltari guy that was), and supported the two colors with Skyshroud Elves. I even added what is still my favorite gold card ever, Ranger en-Vec. Needless to say, I never played him in that next tournament. I would have, had I realized that my semi-finals opponent couldn’t activate his Quicksand under a City of Solitude. Uh oh, the music’s ending …
The thing was, I was in love with gold cards back when I first started. I had put Segmented Wurms in my R/G decks, even though they were really bad. I still put Sky Spirits and Tempest Drakes in the U/W decks I build for my wife. And I loved the Slivers, back when they were still in Type 2. And of course, everyone played with Lobotomy. I still try and watch for gold cards, even the bad ones like Zebra Unicorn. So the prospect of having gold cards back in Invasion has me really pleased.
It’s not far off now. New mechanics, gold cards, multi-color decks … what more can you ask for?
TYPE TWO IN FIERY ACCIDENT; FILM AT ELEVEN
Well there is that teensy little detail about the ever-changing face of Type II. Yes, when Invasion shows up, we’ll finally be rid of all those overpowered mistakes they printed in the Artifact Cycle. Will I mourn the loss of Masticore or Morphling? Eh, probably not. Will I sniffle as I put my Yawgmoth’s Bargains and Wills into their little slots in my trade binder? Nope, mostly because I don’t own any of either any more. Will I tear up when I think about having to fight with real creatures, and not enchantments made into creatures by Opalescence? I’ll probably tear up more wondering if I spelled ‘Opalescence’ right two times in a row.
I probably sound bitter. Thing is, I’m not really. There are some cards I will really miss from Urza’s Saga, stuff I played with and have fifty of, things I’ll have to wait until Extended season to look through again. But on the whole, I’m looking forward more to Invasion than I am looking forward to the last month of Urza’s Type II.
You see, back when I first started writing for Star City (wow, I guess that was a year ago!), I wrote a eulogy for the Rath Block Cycle. Tempest is where I cut my magical teeth, and I bought a lot of Stronghold and Exodus (including probably all twelve pre-constructed decks). There were just tons of cards in those sets that I loved, and when it was time for Mercadian Masques to come out, I felt like I was losing an old friend.
Surprisingly, I do not have that feeling about the Artifact Cycle. Yes, I played with a TON of cards from those sets (including probably three-quarters of the deck I took to States this year). But after watching them have to ban Tolarian Academy (and later in turn, Memory Jar), and seeing overpowered cards and turn-three kills all season long, I am happy to have them move to Extended, where there are more varied ways of dealing with those cards.
So what are my predictions for Type II in two months? Well, obviously we are bidding farewell to Replenish and Bargain, as almost every key card from those two decks rotates out. I think it likely that we’ll bid farewell to MSG/Stompy as well, as the 2-power 1cc’s and Albino Trolls move on, as well as Rancor. Trinity Green loses its disruption and its squirrels. Other key card losses include the aforementioned Masticore and Morphling, as well as Powder Keg, which really hurt Blue control strategies; Avalanche Riders and Wildfire and Raze, which put Red’s land-destruction down a notch; and in no particular order or reason: Glorious Anthem, Sneak Attack, Duress, Mother of Runes, oh I could go on.
Rebels move to the forefront in the new Type II. Adding in Crusades, Enlightened Tutors, and Longbow Archers really bulks up the deck, but the major factor there is the return of Lin-Sivvi. I also think that the U/W Angel control decks will probably be strong, using Mageta or Wrath of God as a board-clearer. Again, there’s Enlightened Tutor to search for things like Story Circle or Ivory Mask. The addition of Enlightened Tutor, as well as some multi-color lands, makes a U/W Rising Waters deck possible too, I think.
Well, time will tell. I’ll stop with the verbal meandering and talk real strategy now.
CREATIVE WRITING NO LONGER REQUIRED
I bet you all read my column and think: "Why is this guy only playing in one PTQ? Surely he must live close enough to big cities to play in four or five." And I do. I just haven’t gotten so consumed with qualifying that I can justify messing with scores of open weekends every year. If I played Magic every weekend, I’d go in to work Monday morning even more tired than when I left.
Well, that, and my wife would start feeling neglected. Any of you who are married should know that neglecting your wife falls high on the "Not To Do" list of life.
So I’ve been sponging up every last bit of MBC information I can find. And it’s nice how, in this day and age, one can search through a good number of Magic-related web sites and find deck listings, tournament reports, and metagame analysis. So this afternoon (this is an addendum to my previously-heretofore-completed article), I’m perusing a tournament report that was linked here to Star City, hoping to glean a few pieces of trivia for the ever-growing library in my mind.
And what do I find?
This poor writer can’t even remember what decks he played in rounds two and three, or if they were in fact three and two, or even if his opponent was male or female. And I’m wondering to myself, "so why even bother?"
If you’re going to write a tourney report, you do so knowing (or at least hoping) that other people will read it. And you do it knowing (or hoping) that you’ll provide at least SOME information to your readers. They teach this in Creative Writing class in eighth grade. Forgetting opponent’s names is one thing; forgetting entire matches is truly another.
And don’t get me started about keeping decklists secret. If you’re going through the time and effort to write tourney reports, omitting the deck list is like forgetting the cast of characters in a play. No one wants to sit through a play where the lead actors and actresses are never mentioned by name; similarly, no one wants to read, "I was getting it handed to me, until I drew Super Secret Tech Card #20!"
God bless Becky Hiebert. After reading the aforementioned tourney report, and getting that pink feeling, I then proceeded to read her report from Providence. She stated that she had thought about keeping the decklist secret, but decided to put it out since people were going to be reading her report wanting that information. She said to email her if we were happy she put the decklist in. I’m going to email her. And if you’re reading this, Becky, I hope you’re coming to Edison so I can shake your hand in person.
Right! I did mention I was going to talk strategy, didn’t I?
WORLDS: REALLY NOTHING NEW
With three weeks left in the qualifier season, I think everyone was waiting with baited breath to see what would be unveiled at Worlds during the MBC portion. And surprisingly the answer is … nothing? We just learn what we’ve known for quite a bit already – that there are a bunch of good decks, and it’s pretty much a crapshoot when it comes to metagaming.
More and more, as I’m reading tournament reports, I notice that there never seems to be much repetition. The hero of the story will face off against a B/G, a W/G, a mono-white Rebel, a Waters, and an aggro-Blue deck in the first five rounds. And those are just the five ‘hot’ decks of the day – there’s also R/G, R/B Land Destruction, Angel, and mono-Black control, not to mention the odd Roshambo or Cowardice or other rogue deck.
So there are forty-five good decks, and not one of them really has an advantage over any enough of the others to classify it as ‘dominant’. So what do you play?
Well, you take the sage advice of, er, oh crap. I can’t remember who said this. We need an ongoing database of Magic quotes here at Star City. Ferrett, take note. Find out who wrote "Play a deck you’re comfortable with," and set us up a little database, OK? (I’ll hop right on that one – T.F.)
Right. "Play a deck you’re comfortable with." So that’s what I’m doing. And since you all know how I dislike Rising Waters, I’m contemplating two deck choices.
This is the B/G deck I’ve been testing:
3x Silt Crawler
4x Saproling Burst
4x Vine Trellis
2x Desert Twister
2x Jolrael, Empress of Beasts
3x Thrashing Wumpus
2x Forced March
4x Snuff Out
1x Rath’s Edge
I started with maindeck Distorting Lenses. They seemed really good not only in winning Game One of the mirror match, but also in helping against stuff like Cho-Manno’s Blessing and Reverent Mantra. I do respect the Reverend Toby Wachter opinion that Distorting Lens is pretty much garbage if you just play it from the sideboard (see his article on Neutral Ground), but I thought that if I maindecked a pair, that I might surprise a few people and it would help me win game one. I eventually turned them into the two Desert Twisters that are in there now.
I also debated back and forth about the Jolraels. In recent months, the metagame has shifted the deck more towards 3cc Hill Giants and away from the original synergy of Kowal’s deck. She is just such a tide-turner that I put her back in, along with the Forced Marches. I’m now debating whether I think Vine Trellis or Skyshroud Claim is the better mana accelerant for this deck. Forced March, on the other hand, gives the deck a lot of options, including a way to deal with your opponent’s Black creatures.
The sideboard has the other Thrashing Wumpus, the other two Forced Marches and the other two Desert Twisters, four Massacres, and four Reverent Silences. That leaves me two slots that are undetermined at this time, but might be Predator Flagships or Squallmongers. And the whole thing is subject to change.
However, I also really like the new mono-White Rebel/control decks that have popped up recently, the ones that combine the initial clock of the Rebel engine with the mid- to late-game control of Mageta and Blinding Angel. It seems like it has a lot of versatility, which is something I like.
4x Ramosian Sergeant
4x Steadfast Guard
2x Fresh Volunteers
4x Mageta, the Lion
3x Blinding Angel
4x Parallax Wave
4x Cho-Manno’s Blessing
2x Reverent Mantra
2x Seal of Cleansing
1x Aura Fracture
2x Remote Farm
1x Kor Haven
1x Rath’s Edge
The Remote Farms are iffy, because ideally you want to drop turn-one
Sergeant, and they could even be replaced by Fountain of Cho. (On a side note, I’m surprised more people aren’t using those storage lands as a way to fight against Rising Waters. I guess since they slow down your initial development, they actually give your opponent more time to set up the Waters lock?) There really should be some spot removal, so maybe ditch them for two Last Breaths.
I also would like to be able to chain into some three-casting cost Rebels, so I keep playing with putting Defiant Falcons in there, maybe instead of the Volunteers. Yeah, it’s one less power and toughness, but it has evasion, and will let me pull out Gliders (for Red or Black) or Defenders en-Vec (for Blastoderm) if I put them in the sideboard.
The thing is, it’s getting precariously close to that time where I need to have decided. And I keep putting it off, since we’re nearing the last two weeks of the qualifier season and I keep thinking something breakout will yet emerge. Who knows?
We’re nearing what I call "The Lull", where qualifiers are over and we’re nearing a Pro Tour with no defined format. I say "no defined format" because Chicago will be Type II, but it will be after Invasion becomes legal, so it’s still wide open. There is the Team PT in New York coming up, so we can discuss that, plus another whole week of MBC PTQs will have passed. I’m definitely nearing my breaking point – good thing I get to play soon.
Until next week!