A new set is out, so it’s time for set reviews. Since I doubt Ted has seen enough of these so far, I’ll write one. However, I’m writing from the perspective of multiplayer and casual. That means I will simply skip all the cards aimed at limited, and many of the constructed-worthy but un-amazing cards. If I want a Blue flier for 2U in casual games, I will play Serendib Efreet or Skywing Aven before I consider Neurok Prodigy.
That does make the review a lot shorter, so I will flesh it out with some deck concepts.
I started this article before the prerelease, and started with the MTGNews.com spoiler. Kudos to them for the early info, but be warned that I may not have caught all the errors in card text.
Hallow – W
Prevent all damage target spell would deal this turn. You gain life equal to the damage prevented this way.
Reflect Damage (not Reverse Damage) can be very good in multiplayer to extract vengeance on the player casting Earthquake, or activating Pestilence. However, Reflect Damage is two colors, older and a rare. Hallow is more limited (spells, not abilities), but it is common and one color. It will see some play in group games, but the caster is not going to get the cheers Reverse Damage can produce – Hallow saves everything from a board-clearing Starstorm, but becomes, effectively, a Congregate. More often, however, it is just going to be insignificant.
Big, almost unkillable fliers are fine in multiplayer, and this one is even better with Serra’s Blessing, which is pretty good in multiplayer games all by itself. Indestructible would be even better, but this will be good enough for Timmies everywhere
Purge – 1W
Destroy target artifact creature or black creature. It can’t be regenerated.
Ritual of Restoration – W
Return target artifact card from your graveyard to your hand.
If you are even considering this, click on search the store box, enter Argivian Find, the Weatherlight uncommon, and buy four. Both Find and Ritual cost W, but Find also fetches enchantments, and does so at instant speed.
Soulscour – 7WWW
Destroy all nonartifact permanents.
Ten fricken mana? It is Wrath of God, Armageddon, and Tranquility in one card, but it is ten fricken mana! You can generate that when going off with some of the infinite mana combos – but if you are doing that, why not just win? If you really want this type of effect, try Apocalypse – it’s half the price.
A note to people trying to build the indestructible artifacts, mana acceleration and Obliterate / Soulscour decks: make sure you have early defenses. Once the rest of the table figures out what you are doing, you are going to be Public Enemy #1.
Echoing Truth – 1U
Return target non-land permanent and all permanents that share a name with it to owner’s hands.
I won’t be the only person to mention this, but it is an excellent answer to decks that generate large numbers of tokens. I could see including one in the sideboards of any of the multiplayer decks that run Cunning Wish.
When it absolutely, positively has to be countered right now. Not always that useful, but if your group likes combo decks with counter protection, this is an answer.
Neurok Transmuter – 2U
Creature – Human Wizard (U)
U: Target creature becomes an artifact in addition to its other types until end of turn.
U: Until end of turn, target artifact creature becomes blue and isn’t an artifact.
Aether Snap – 3BB
Remove all counters from all permanents and remove all tokens from the game.
In certain group games, this may be worth playing, but Spike Cannibal is more fun. This card needs to be an instant – and Blue – to really make sense.
If you really want to be hated in multiplayer, cast this. You will tick off everyone. However, combining it with Dingus Staff and Dingus Egg can kill a lot of people at once, and if you build around it, you should be able to break the symmetry. Part of that should be playing this with Geth’s Grimoire, which should draw you a ton of cards in multiplayer games. (More on Geth’s Grimoire later.)
Shriveling Rot – 2BB
Choose one – Until end of turn, whenever a creature is dealt damage, destroy it; or until end of turn, whenever a creature is put into a graveyard from play, that creature’s controller loses life equal to it’s toughness. Entwine 2B
This is one of those cards that can really swing games – especially if you cast it, entwined, when you are not involved in the combat. Play this with creatures like Wall of Souls, that tell players to go elsewhere, or with cards like Pestilence or Noxious Field. It’s not as persistent as Death Pits of Rath, but it has the same basic effect – and does a lot more entwined.
Echoing Ruin – 1R
Destroy target artifact and all other artifacts with the same name as that artifact.
It may not be better than Rack and Ruin or Shattering Pulse, but this is the kind of card that can really bother some decks, like Power Conduit and Affinity. The fact that it is common and current means that some new players can get these, even if they don’t have the other two. That’s a plus for the casual newbie.
Ho hum, another overcosted dragon. The remove all artifacts from the game can be very powerful in multiplayer, but Shatterstorm is a whole lot cheaper. I cannot conceive of a reason to play this – even against indestructible creatures, Duplicant is just better.
The exception, of course, is sideboard for the Affinity mirror match – but this article is supposed to be looking at the set from the perspective of multiplayer and casual, where that is not really a concern.
Shunt – 1RR
Change the target of target spell with a single target.
In multiplayer, there are a lot of targeted spells flying around, and people will take some time before they learn to expect a Misdirection from the Red mage. This can deflect Terror, retarget that discard or put the Control Magic on their own creature. Nice card.
I also find it amusing that the only card that can counter Last Word in T2 is Red. (For those of you going”huh?” change the target of Last Word to Shunt. Shunt is off the stack when Last Word resolves, so Last Word is countered by state based effects.
Some of the most powerful spells in multiplayer games are Pernicious Deed, Nevinyrral’s Disk, Living Death, and Akroma’s Vengeance, and this helps you survive them all. It doesn’t make you immune, but it helps.
If this had trample, it would be playable in practically any format, but that’s what Loxodon Warhammer is for. It looks like Wizards is trying to feed us a lifegain deck, using this, Nourish, and Well of Lost Dreams. I’m not sure it will be all that competitive in Constructed tournaments, but a multiplayer deck with this card, plus cards like Hero’s Reunion, Well, Congregate, and Armadillo Cloak could be a lot of fun to play.
I like the idea of playing this in a Green deck with Verdant Force. I like balancing +1/+1 counters on tokens, since I use glass beads for both. Seriously, however, this card is reasonably priced – the first attack, it is a 5/3 for four mana, and it just keeps getting bigger. This could also be fun in an Elves deck, or anything that generates lots of little potential attackers.
Infested Roothold – 4G
Creature – Wall (U)
Protection from artifacts. Whenever an opponent plays an artifact spell, you may put a 1/1 green Insect creature token into play. 0/3
It looked good, until I looked at the casting cost. For this price, it should trigger on your artifacts as well. At this price, you can have much better cards.
Oxidize – G
Destroy target artifact. It can’t be regenerated.
They improved Crumble. It is another answer to Masticore, but it is not quite as good as Seeds of Innocence, unless you are playing Isochron Scepter. Of course, if you are playing Isochron Scepter, Naturalize or Swords to Plowshares is better.
It’s not a great strategy, but this would be fun with Mycosynth Lattice: all creatures are artifacts, so you can declare attackers, then all other creatures will be tapped by the time blockers could be declared. This is so clearly a casual play gimmick that I expect to see it tried a couple times during casual nights over the next month or so. However, the creature is nothing special – it’s like Crash of Rhinos, but without Trample.
Tanglewalker – 2G
Creature – Elf Shaman (U)
Creatures you control are unblockable as long as defending player controls an artifact land. 2/2
Opponents have a lot of artifacts, and if they don’t, play Forge[/author]“]Thran [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] or Neurok Transmuter. Oh, wait…those don’t work to make lands artifacts, do they? Never mind.
Viridian Acolyte – G
Creature – Elf Shaman (C)
1,T: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool. 1/1
It isn’t Birds of Paradise, but it is a common that makes multicolored decks more playable for new players who don’t own many cards. I expect to add these to my box of”deck fixers.” I don’t expect to actually play them much, however. (Unlike most newer players, I own Birds of Paradise.)
Another welcome addition to Survival of the Fittest and Living Wish decks – this will replace Nantuko Vigilante in many cases. The Vigilante costs one more mana, and on rare occasions the extra point of power and/or toughness could be useful, as could the morph ability, and the Zealot is a rare, but otherwise the Zealot is just better.
Aether Vial – 1
At the beginning of your upkeep you may put a charge counter on Aether Veil.
T: Put into play a creature card from your hand with converted mana cost equal to the number of charge counters on Aether Vial.
Aether Vial is a cheaper (both in dollars and mana cost) version of Quicksilver Amulet or Dragon Arch, but the need to match mana costs to the number of counters makes it much worse. I don’t see it replacing the Arches, Amulets, or Elvish Pipers in the decks that run those cards.
Angel’s Feather – 2
Whenever a player plays a white spell, you may gain 1 life.
There are a whole cycle of these. They are not really all that more playable than Wooden Sphere, et. al. The only exception might be a deck that also ran something to make all spells cast by all your opponents the right color, and even then I’m not sure how useful the life gain would be. You still need something to kill your opponents.
This type of card drawing can fit into any deck. It is not amazing, but it is pretty good, and readily available. It is nice of Wizards to make playable card drawing that new players can actually get their hands on.
The Arcbound Crew
Modular is a nifty mechanic, but there just isn’t much you could do with it in casual play. The Arcbound creatures are generally slightly to massively overcosted creatures that trade passably well in combat. I’d much rather have Spikes, which at least allow for combat tricks. The only applications I could see for Arcbound creatures would be in a Lifeline / Altar of Dementia deck, where you could keep accumulating counters. However, there are far better creatures for that deck.
I see one positive result of these creatures, at least for the first month or so. Lots of casual players will try them, and I have Spike Cannibals.
Chimeric Egg – 3
Whenever an opponent plays a nonartifact spell, put a charge counter on Chimeric Egg.
Remove three charge counters from Chimeric Egg: Chimeric Egg becomes a 6/6 artifact creature with trample until end of turn.
This is a really nice multiplayer card – it should get a lot of charge counters pretty quickly in larger games. I could see this in Power Conduit decks as a source of counters, and as a nice potential blocker in any deck. It will fit nicely in decks packing global removal, and can make for some nice politics:”If he attacks me with that Spiritmonger, and you Incinerate it, I’ll have three counters and can block it and can kill it off…”
Another addition to the Power Conduit / Magistrate’s Scepter deck, although that deck already works reasonably well. Other than that, it’s not that exciting in multiplayer. However, I expect future sets to bring us more artifacts needing charge counters.
Darksteel Colossus – 11
Artifact Creature (R)
Trample Darksteel Colossus is indestructible (“Destroy” effects and lethal damage don’t destroy it.) If Darksteel Colossus would be put into a graveyard from anywhere, reveal Darksteel Colossus and shuffle it into its owner’s library instead. 11/11
It costs eleven mana. I have seen whole decks that don’t cost that much. It is a pain to cast, although I have seen some decks that can cast that in multiplayer (it depends a lot on whether your group plays fast combos or land destruction – if not, you can get to eleven mana.) However, you really don’t want to cast it – you want to play it without paying full cost. That means Tinker or Oath of Druids (not Reanimator, since even Stifle won’t stop the shuffle back into library replacement effect). That effect can be useful if opponents try to win via milling effects, however, the best use for this in a casual environment is probably as trade bait.
I would note that best and cheapest way of getting this into play is casting Bribery on the player you traded it too.
I would also note that the Darksteel creatures – especially the Gargoyle, which flies – can make Worldslayer a playable card. Cast, equip, beat (and get through), blow up the world and repeat. That deck would be amazingly slow and extremely annoying, and that is not the best option for a multiplayer game, but it could work. Casual players will try anything.
Forge[/author]“]Darksteel [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] – 9
Artifacts you control are indestructible. (“Destroy” effects and lethal damage don’t destroy them.)
It is an answer to Akroma’s Vengeance and Pernicious Deed and so forth, but it is unbelievably expensive. The only plus side is that, if you get it into play, you can animate it with Karn, Silver Golem, slap a Loxodon Warhammer on it and beat down.
On the other hand, a deck with lots of artifact mana, and even Gilded Lotus for colored mana, could play Soulscour and Obliterate, and this, in an attempt to blow up the rest of the world. More on that later.
I am glad to see this card printed. It is a bit overpriced for competitive decks, but pain free access to multiple colors, in a splashable common, is a great thing for all new players.
Darksteel Reactor – 4
Darksteel Reactor is indestructible. (“Destroy” effects and lethal damage don’t destroy it.) At the beginning of your upkeep, you may put a charge counter on Darksteel Reactor.
When Darksteel Reactor has twenty or more charge counters on it, you win the game.
With Power Conduit and Coretapper, this could win the game in six or seven turns – faster if your also have ways of untapping the other artifacts. I cannot see a practical way of getting twenty counters in under four turns, and during those four turns any artifact kill wrecks the whole plan. That make it too fragile for even casual play. The Reactor could work in a any of the decks that take infinite turns – but if you can take infinite turns, you should not need something this bad to win.
Death-Mask Duplicant – 7
Artifact Creature – Shapeshifter (R)
Imprint – 1: Remove target creature card in your graveyard from the game. (The removed card is imprinted on this artifact.) As long as an imprinted creature card has flying, Death-Mask Duplicant has flying. The same is true for fear, first strike, double strike, haste, landwalk, protection, and trample.
For seven mana, this should be able to imprint any creature in any graveyard. In short, it should be both a big beater and a Withered Wretch – at which point 5/5 is too powerful, but it would be playable. This isn’t, outside of Limited.
I find that the flavor text says a lot:”When Mirrodin’s varied civilizations developed ways to fight the levelers, Memnarch upped the stakes.” This is a better Leveler. Given that Leveler is unplayable in any format anywhere, and Leveler is only decent if you resolve a Stifle targeting the comes into play trigger, it really is a better Leveler. However, in multiplayer groups, you could consider playing something like this, probably with some mana acceleration, Lightning Greaves or Leonin Abunas and Serra’s Blessing (in group, you need to be able to block with this as well as attack) and hope that no one can kill you during the two skipped turns. It can also work if you like to play prison decks, featuring cards like Smokestack, that make it an advantage to skip turns.
If you enjoy strange combo decks, try a deck with Humility, Eater, and Soul Foundry, rounded out with Enlightened Tutor, card drawing, Swords, some random stuff and Oblation. Humility will negate the skip turns trigger, so you can pump out a bunch of Eater tokens, then Oblation away the Humility and beat with a mass of 9/8 fliers. Clearly that’s not a world-beater of a deck, but it does have a certain style.
Gemini Engine – 6
Artifact Creature (R)
Whenever Gemini Engine attacks, put an attacking Twin artifact creature token into play. Its power is equal to Gemini Engine’s power and its toughness is equal to Gemini Engine’s toughness. Sacrifice the token at end of combat. 3/4
They reprinted Stangg, but the bleached version is not much better than the original. This would only be playable if you could find something that triggers on a creature coming into play each attack phase – something like Angelic Chorus. However, Angelic Chorus is still better with cards like Phyrexian Processor or Lifeline and Serra Avatar.
Geth’s Grimoire – 4
Whenever an opponent discards a card you may draw a card.
This could be pretty good in Type 2 with Words of Waste. (That gives you a draw, which you skip and they discard again. Repeat until they run out of cards.) It should be insane in multiplayer with the same combo – you can empty everyone’s hands and draw lots of spare cards with the first activations. Thereafter, if you can get Mind’s Eye down, you can force opponents to discard after drawing their cards, but before their main phase. Unless they have instant speed disenchants, that’s a lock.
Lich’s Tomb – 4
You don’t lose the game for having 0 or less life.
Whenever you lose life, sacrifice a permanent for each 1 life you lost.
Wizards has been reprinting old classics, and now they have reprinted Rakalite. Seriously, this is that bad. You drop below zero life, and start sacrificing permanents. You don’t gain life or anything, you just get an additional one life per permanent – and when the last permanent is sacrificed – the last permanent being Lich’s Tomb – you die. Short of a combo with Mirror Universe, I cannot see any reason for this to see print. (Of course, this will be the most common rare I open in any Darksteel pack from here forward. I have now opened about eighty packs of what Ingrid and I got at the prerelease, and we already have four.)
Memnarch – 7
Artifact Creature – Wizard Legend (R)
1UU: Target permanent becomes an artifact in addition to its other types. (This effect doesn’t end at end of turn.) 3U: Gain control of target artifact. (This effect doesn’t end at end of turn.) 4/5
I have never been a fan of the stealing cards theme in Magic, and this is no exception. Memnarch is somewhat expensive, and dies to a lot of removal spells. However, it is a bomb in practically any format – once you get it into play, it can steal everything. It can even beat, if absolutely necessary.
Mycosynth Lattice – 6
All permanents are artifacts in addition to their other types.
All cards that aren’t in play, spells, and permanents are colorless.
Players may spend mana as though it were mana of any color.
In casual games, you can find several ways of breaking the symmetry of this card. One option would be to play Fountain Watch (not Leonin Abunas), then this, then Radiate an Artifact Mutation. A second option is to play this, then Spidersilk Armor, then Titania’s Song. At first glance, all their lands become 0/0 creatures and die, while yours are 0/1 critters. Then someone will note that Titania’s Song makes Spidersilk Armor a 3/3 creature with no abilities, so your lands die. About that time, people will begin trying to figure out how Titania’s Song and the Lattice interact, and you can all have a nice, therapeutic argument. The game is, effectively, a draw. (Actually, it isn’t, but the rules stuff is pretty complex. The short answer is that Titania’s Song and the Lattice is a nonbo.)
Panoptic Mirror – 5
Imprint — X, T: You may remove an instant or sorcery card with converted mana cost X in your hand from the game. (That card is imprinted on this artifact.)
At the beginning of your upkeep, you may copy an imprinted instant or sorcery card and play the copy without paying its mana cost.
This card is completely insane. At the beginning of upkeep, Panoptic Mirror triggers. In response to the trigger, you can imprint a card, then cast it – or just cast anything previously imprinted. Yes, it is expensive, but you don’t have to imprint anything on it until it has triggered. Think of all the unfair cards it would be good to cast every turn: Time Walk, Ancestral Recall, Bribery, Blatant Thievery, Insurrection, Regrowth, Congregate, Roar of the Wurm, Grab the Reins (you can pay the entwine cost), Syphon Soul, a Wish, whatever.
I think it says a lot that I am writing a casual play column, and even I have nothing to say about this card. I don’t foresee playing it in any deck, whatsoever.
Skullclamp – 1
Artifact – Equipment (U)
Equipped creature gets +1/-1. Whenever equipped creature is put in a graveyard from play, draw two cards. Equip 1
This is great card drawing in most weenie decks, as the Limited specialists will tell you. In casual play, I could see this going nuts in my Gravepact deck, in a Saprolings or Squirrels deck as a way to refill your hand, or in a number of other decks. Put it in any deck where you like to see your creatures die, or would willingly trade creatures for cards.
Spellbinder – 3
Artifact – Equipment (R)
Imprint – When Spellbinder comes into play, you may remove an instant card in your hand from the game. Whenever equipped creature deals combat damage to a player, you may copy the imprinted instant card and play the copy without paying its mana cost. Equip 4
I don’t plan on building decks around this, but I would point out that this triggers once combat damage is actually dealt. That means that imprinting regeneration or creature pumping cards on this is a waste. Likewise, imprinting Shunt (as I saw someone do at the prerelease) is also pointless. On the other hand, if you imprint Savage Beatings, and get can combat damage past blockers, you should win.
Sundering Titan – 8
Artifact Creature (R)
When Sundering Titan comes into play, choose a land of each basic land type, then destroy those lands. When Sundering Titan leaves play, choose a land of each basic land type, then destroy those lands. 7/10
Yes, you can choose your opponent’s lands. In multiplayer, there is a pretty good chance of not having to nail any of your own lands, but if you want to make sure, dig out your Invasion box and get some of the land changing creatures, like Dream Thrush. If you really want to increase the pain, play Sundering Titan in a cycling deck with nothing but non-basic lands and Astral Slide. Sundering Titan does trigger when it gets slid out, and when it comes back in.
Sword of Fire and Ice – 3
Equipped creature gets +2/+2 and has protection from red and from blue. Whenever equipped creature deals combat damage to a player, you may draw a card and have it deal 2 damage to target creature. Equip 2
Sword of Light and Shadow – 3
Equipped creature gets +2/+2 and has protection from white and from black.
Whenever equipped creature deals combat damage to a player, you gain 3 life and you may return up to one target creature card from your graveyard to your hand. Equip 2
Very good cards, but you really want the creature carrying them to have serious evasion, since they do practically nothing if blocked. That means that I would consider build decks around these cards with shadow creatures, true unblockable creatures, Beebles or even fear dudes. (In multiplayer, at least one player usually won’t have Black or artifact creatures in play. Unless, if course, you are facing the mighty Mycosynth Lattice deck.)
Trinisphere – 3
As long as Trinisphere is untapped, each spell that would cost less than three mana to play costs three mana to play. (Additional mana in the cost may be paid with any color of mana or colorless mana. For example, a spell that would cost 1B to play costs 2B to play instead.)
This is a metagame hoser, so whether it has any place in your multiplayer or casual games depends entirely on what types of decks your opponents play. Affinity and Goblin decks are obvious targets, as are things like Aluren. In other matchups, Trinisphere might serve as a means of slowing other decks down, to allow you to develop, for example, an artifact mana base.
Voltaic Construct – 4
Artifact Creature – Golem (U)
2: Untap target artifact creature. 2/2
Here’s the heart of a lot of those artifact mana bases. Turn 1: Ancient Tomb / City of Traitors, Lightning Greaves. Turn 2: land, Metalworker, equip and tap, reveal three artifacts, Voltaic Construct = infinite mana. Voltaic Construct also works with a lot of other artifacts to produce mana, if something like Karn, Silver Golem or March of the Machines animates them. Gilded Lotus will give you infinite colored mana of any flavor. Urza’s Blueprints or even Jayemdae Tome, can be animated and powered to draw the deck at that point, and practically anything can be used as a kill – Aladdin’s Ring, Granite Shard, Millstone, etc. Infinite mana and infinite untaps of any artifact is pretty amazing.
I keep looking at this for T2 – the combo of Words of Worship and the Well is pretty insane. The combo could fit nicely into the Words of Worship / Zur’s Weirding deck I wrote about last fall, but the problem that deck had was gaining early control, not late game card drawing. No matter how I build it, Well just winds up being a wins-more card, or something that would work better in pure U/W control.
I have the same impression of Loxodon Warhammer / Well based decks. In duels, if you have a deck that can get Warhammer down, plus the mana to equip a creature and beat – and then draw cards – you should be winning. It is more playable in multiplayer, however, since a few hits from a Warhammer equipped creature is rarely enough to win a multiplayer game. However, beating down with a Spirit Linked shadow or fear creature, and drawing extra cards, may pull out the win.
Well of Lost Dreams would also fit into base Green decks that can run Nourish, or decks that can run Spirit Link. The Well would provide midgame card drawing that can be important to keep up the pressure in beatdown decks. I don’t know if well will work in a T2 WW or other beatdown deck, but it seems to work. More testing is necessary.
Whispersilk Cloak – 3
Artifact – Equipment (C)
Equipped creature is unblockable and can’t be the target of spells or abilities. Equip 2
Quick test – if you thought about putting this on Phage the Untouchable, you have potential as a casual player. This is pretty good with any creature that reads”if this creature deals combat damage to a player”, or”when this creature attacks and is not blocked” – well, not Ebonblade Reaper, but most other creatures. I have had an opponent play this on a Living Hive – I did not win that game.
T: Add 1 to your mana pool.
1: Blinkmoth Nexus becomes a 1/1 Blinkmoth artifact creature with flying until end of turn. It’s still a land. 1, T: Target Blinkmoth gets +1/+1 until end of turn.
Mishra’s Factory is useful because it can be a 3/3 blocker – and having two in play can make a 4/4. Having two in play is not unreasonable. Flying does not make up for the loss of toughness. That said, Blinkmoth Nexus may be playable as a kill card in some Voltaic Construct / infinite mana deck.
It looks to be playable in many formats, especially in control decks, and it is an uncommon. I’m happy that Wizards has started making the playable multicolored lands uncommons, so newer players can get their hands on them.
I have a couple multiplayer decks using Darksteel cards – if they pan out, I’ll provide decklists in the future.