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Since the release of Mirrodin, I’ve overheard a number of conversations focusing on the topic of Spikeshot Goblin and its power level in comparison to the Limited wrecking ball from Onslaught that we all know as Sparksmith. Every one of these discussions has been concluded with statements like”While Spikeshot is clearly very good, he’s nowhere near as powerful or dominant as Sparksmith was.” Let me give you many reasons why those people are wrong.

(Editor’s Note: Nick Eisel is currently suspended from playing in sanctioned tournaments. He has not been compensated for this article. The details of his writing arrangement can be found here.)

Just when you thought it was safe to go in the water…

Jaws is back in a thrilling new episode! The highlights of the film include a number of scenes where the massive shark manages to eat entire families of people for no particular reason at all. And don’t worry; we didn’t forget the obligatory ending where Jaws is miraculously killed, only to come to life again in the next installment.

Wait – isn’t this supposed to be a Magic article?

Let’s try that again.

Just when you thought the days of Sparksmith and Timberwatch Elf were over, a new menace has arrived to threaten the balance of Mirrodin Limited.

Now we’re talking.

Since the release of Mirrodin, I’ve overheard a number of conversations focusing on the topic of Spikeshot Goblin and its power level in comparison to the Limited wrecking ball from Onslaught that we all know as Sparksmith. Every one of these discussions has been concluded with statements like”While Spikeshot is clearly very good, he’s nowhere near as powerful or dominant as Sparksmith was.” When I started thinking about it, I realized that I totally disagree with this conclusion for a number of reasons.

Before we get into the reasons why I believe Spikeshot is superior, let’s first take a look at the few arguments the Sparksmith side has. Sparksmith was undoubtedly a nightmare for us all at some point – and most of its power was drawn from its speed. Games were often decided as early as turn 3 if the Onslaught common was not answered. My suspicion is that Wizards took extra time templating Spikeshot Goblin in an attempt to slow him down enough so that he wouldn’t dominate like our old buddy ‘Smith did. The results of their attempt to weaken the new kid on the block were adding an additional colorless mana in the casting cost and requiring a small fee of R to activate. These additional costs also granted an extra point of toughness to Spikey.

The main argument for ‘Smith being better, then, is because of the lower casting cost, which would often enable a premature (and seemingly unfair) win for its caster. This statement is then easily compounded with the fact that Morph creatures were the standard for that block, and ‘Smith can start blowing them up with the help of only one supplementary goblin.

The second point of contention for the Sparksmith side is that the”enhancements” that make both of the Goblins broken (additional Goblins for Sparksmith or Equipment for Spikeshot) are much easier to get for ‘Smith. Simply, it’s much easier to get extra Goblins than it is to get good pieces of equipment (which should be obvious; everyone wants equipment). Unfortunately for the Sparksmith supporters, that’s the end of their relevant points in this debate.

Now that we’re aware of the few reasons why people are claming ‘Smith was far better than Spikeshot, we can proceed to prove them wrong.

I also want to make it clear that we’re talking about the relation to the card and its impact on the format in question, not just overall card power. Essentially, I’m saying that Spikeshot is better in the Mirrodin environment than Sparksmith was in the Onslaught one.

The good news at this point is that we can move on to the more interesting side of the argument (we all know how good ‘Smith was and I’m sure you’re as sick of hearing about it as I am). As you all know, though, good news doesn’t come alone – and the bad news is that if you’re sick of having to worry about Sparksmith crushing your dreams, the nightmare may have just gotten worse.

The first thing that comes to mind when reading the text on Spikeshot Goblin is that it can damage players, unlike its predecessor. This draws parallels to past pingers from the original Prodigal Sorcerer (some call him Tim) to 8th Edition’s new standard Anaba Shaman. If Anaba is the standard for Tim’s nowadays, Spikeshot Goblin is absolutely off the charts as the effect gets bigger with an increase in power. Can you say Lava Axe? How about Searing Flesh?

Combined with the fact that it can hit players, Spikeshot’s ability also doesn’t damage you like Sparksmith did. This is a huge plus, as in some instances it was easy for your opponent to just play enough creatures to overwhelm your ‘Smith or bring you low enough to burn you out. Another factor here is that Sparky was always much less frightening in the late game when the board has been established and bigger threats have been cast. Spikeshot, however is always going to be an excellent addition to your team, and even puts your opponent on a clock – though how slow or fast that clock is depends on your equipment.

This brings us to the next line of reasoning in that Sparksmith had a very difficult time taking down large creatures. This is clearly because it required a large force of Goblins to do so, as well as a good amount of life. Cutting down even a 4/4 with the ‘Smith was simply unheard of in Limited. Our new friend, however, can cut down large men with ease if equipped. A Bonesplitter, Vulshok Gauntlets, or Leonin Scimitar turns the Goblin into a live wire – and all of these are common. When you start talking about uncommons, it just becomes obscene with things like Loxodon Warhammer (deal four, gain four) or Vulshok Battlegear. The important thing here is that a single piece of equipment will turn the Spikeshot into a killing machine while Sparksmith would require more to do this same task. Let’s not forget that an equipped Spikey will also kill a player rather quickly while Sparksmith can only attack for a measly one point of damage.

A major problem with Sparksmith that came up from time to time was that he really wasn’t any good by himself. The complete opposite is true for our fresh candidate. Spikeshot is just fine doing one point of damage a turn – and although that won’t win you the game on your own most of the time, it’s far better than a Sparksmith that can’t kill anything and is relegated to chump block duty. Another thing here is that Mirrodin games often go very long, and Spikeshot will always give you the advantage in a stalemate as your opponent has to find a way to break it or kill the Goblin in a set amount of time.

Speaking of formats, while the ‘Smith was very good at crushing Morphs, Spikeshot is very good at devastating the Myrs that populate Mirrodin Limited. While you can argue that Morphs were much more important than the Manakin breed, mana acceleration is incredibly potent in a format where the game is surely going to take a while. When both players are trying to build up to a huge threat or assault of men, killing Myrs with Spikeshot is better than you’d initially think. You have to realize that players are also running lower land counts because of this set of creatures – and by denying them access to their Manakins, you are effectively disrupting their land base. Myrs also happen to be excellent targets for equipment in the mid-late game, with Viridian Longbow immediately coming to mind.

In terms of supplementary measures for our broken Goblins, I would have to say that Sparksmith again loses. Equipment on its own is far and away better than any Goblins that would help to supplement a Sparky in its duties. Equipment makes the rest of your creature set better, while extra goblins are more likely to go out for a lunch break…

Seriously, though, Equipment is an addition to your deck that helps every part of it while Goblins are just dorks that happen to help Sparksmith.

In terms of bombs that can help out one of these goblins, in Onslaught there were basically none. You could say Siege-Gang Commander would help out a ‘Smith, but the ‘Smith would most likely just kill you in the process. The Commander’s is better off doing its own thing – sacking the Smith for two damage. Mirrodin offers a number of bomb rare equipments that will make a Spikeshot end the game within a couple of turns. Nightmare Lash, Empyrial Plate, and Scythe of the Wretched all cause huge problems when loaded onto a Spikeshot. All I can say here is that I wouldn’t wanna be staring down the barrel of that gun.

Another important format based argument is that there were tons of common ways to deal with a Sparksmith in Onslaught block. While it made you play either Red or Black most of the time, there were still a good number of answers and even the lowly Crown of Suspicion could do the job. For Spikeshot, there are exactly four common answers to it.

That’s right – I said four.

This is likely the most pivotal distinction in the argument as the only Commons that can deal with a Spikeshot Goblin are Terror, Arrest, Pyrite Spellbomb, and Electrostatic Bolt. That fact alone should illustrate to you that when your opponent drops a Spikeshot, it’s going to be a very depressing affair. If you do have any copies of the answers in your deck, it’s almost certain you won’t have many.

Remember, this is the Artifact set. Your deck can be solid as a rock upon initial review, as it’s packed with Shatters, Deconstructs, and the like. But you won’t have many answers to that annoying three-mana Goblin. That much is for sure.

Let’s go over the Pluses and Minuses again in bullet form to help more clearly present the argument:

Reasons Why Spikeshot is Better

  • Can Target Players

  • Doesn’t Damage You

  • Very Few Answers to It

  • Works Better by Itself

  • Shoots Myrs (basically Lands)

  • Equipment is Far Better than Extra Goblins

  • Takes Down Larger Creatures with Ease (if equipped, obviously)

  • Compare to Anaba Shaman

Reasons Why Sparksmith is Better

  • One Mana Cheaper

  • No Activation Cost (whoopee..)

  • Kills Morphs

So now that you know where I stand, what are the practical applications of this article to your own Mirrodin drafting? First of all, if there was any question in your mind, Spikeshot Goblin is clearly better than the other two contenders for Top Common in the set – Shatter and Bonesplitter. (Incidentally, Shatter is better than the Splitter unless you’ve already got a Spikeshot in the bag.)

Should you be worried?

I’d have to say that based on my experience in the new environment so far, Spikeshot is far more annoying that Sparksmith ever was. I realize that’s a big statement to make this early on and could be based on personal encounters… But I think as the format grows older, it will become evident to anyone who experiences firsthand how hard it is to remove a Spikeshot from the board, and just how much it hurts when one has been equipped. It’s a sad thing when you can recall the contents of your deck and realize there is absolutely no way to stop the Goblin.

The main thing you should realize here is that if you open a Spikeshot Goblin, you should almost always take him. This format is one of the easiest to run three or more colors in the history of the game simply because of the huge amount of artifacts. It’s far better to take him and splash for him if need be, as you definitely don’t wanna see him on the other side of the table.

It’s also debatable at this point that you’d even take him over some of the”bomb” artifact rares, simply because of the huge amount of focus on artifact removal. This position, I’m sure, will become clearer as we all get more experience in drafting the set – and for now, it might be worth going out on that limb to see what happens.

In most normal circumstances, though, if you open a Spikeshot, you should take it. It’s as simple as that.

Nick Eisel

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