Yes, I’m back. Back again. Geordie’s back. Tell a friend.
This time we’re doing the artifact rares, and once again I’ve divided these gold-symbol treasures into four categories for your reading enjoyment.
- Tier 1 Anchor Cards
- Tier 2 Anchor Cards
Again, I’ll give you a quick rundown of what each label means. If you already know, feel free to skip it – but I don’t want to hear any complaining if you hear me talking about Tier 1 and Tier 2 later on and get all confused.
A Tier 1 Anchor card is a card that you will never pass if you open it in Pack 1. They are cards that you can build a deck around. You will take a victory lap when you see one of these in a pack, and sportsmanship be damned. These cards are unparalleled in power, and you will never take any common or uncommon over them, with the possible exception of Loxodon Warhammer.
The Warhammer tends to cause a lot of exceptions.
A Tier 2 Anchor card is a very powerful card that will almost be a first-pick, but on a power level that is a step down from the truly unfair cards in the Tier 1 bracket. If you see one of these cards in your booster pack, you want to flip back through the uncommons and commons, looking for stuff like Spikeshot Goblin, Loxodon Warhammer, Grab the Reins, Crystal Shard, Icy Manipulator, and Viridian Shaman. If none of those are present, your choice is easy. If there are good commons and/or uncommons in the pack, then you have to think twice. I’ll try to help you make these decisions.
Playables are rares that fit somewhere in the grand scheme of Mirrodin Limited… but not anywhere that important. Because many of these babies are borderline bombs or borderline brutal, it’s important to know exactly what you’re going to do with one if it does show up. You can really improve your drafting just by understanding that Soul Foundry is not necessarily a windmill-slam first-pick.
Unplayables are just that – unplayable. If you want to be a good drafter, do not play these cards. Don’t give me any excuses – you don’t need to”try them out”, I’ve already done that for you. If you trust me, you’ll pass them.
Tier 1 Anchor Cards
Bosh, Iron Golem
Tier 2 Anchor Cards
Altar of Shadows
Leonin Sun Standard
Sword of Kaldra
Scythe of the Wretched
Tower of Champions
Tower of Fortunes
Chalice of the Void
Gate to the Aether
Tower of Eons
Tower of Murmurs
Card Evaluations – The Tier 1 Cards
Bosh, Iron Golem
Calling Bosh a Tier 1 card was a tough decision. After all, Molder Slug is a Tier 1 card, and it’s just better than Bosh is. Of course, Molder Slug is better than a lot of things. It’s actually on tier zero, the mystical hidden tier above”Tier One”. It’s partying up there with Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper. Bosh is a horse of a different color. He too can dominate games, but he comes out much later than the Slug. It’s a longer wait, but the payoff is a solid one. If Bosh was a breakfast cereal, he’d be a giant pillow of shredded wheat, ready to crush your opponent’s house while simultaneously remaining delicious in milk.
Bosh is a game-ender, and he finishes the contest even if he’s nullified by a tapper, or if your opponent has Blinding Beam. That’s why it is Tier 1 when other creatures that sometimes say,”I win” (like Megatog and Clockwork Dragon) are not. They all have evasion (trample or flying), but only Bosh allows you to send punches right to the face, without fear of your cardboard fists being intercepted during that bothersome”declare blockers” step.
The only card you should take over Bosh is Loxodon Warhammer. The other uncommon powerhouses, as good as they are, just don’t carry the raw firepower that the big golem provides.
Such cheats. Empyrial Plate makes games dumb, as if you draw it in your opening hand and your opponent doesn’t have removal, you win. It lacks the late-game swinging power of the Loxodon Warhammer, which is the only comparable piece of equipment, but in the early game, there is nothing you’d rather have. Bonesplitter is good because it can turn even the wimpiest Myr into a significant clock, and Empyrial Plate does that and more. Do you like beating down with 7/7 Iron Myr on turn 4? What about 7/10 Wizard Replicas?
You take Empyrial Plate over any common, so the only real strategic decision to be made is whether or not to take it over cards like Loxodon Warhammer, Grab the Reins and Crystal Shard. In my opinion, the Warhammer is the better piece of equipment, just because it’s still amazing if you topdeck it in the late game. The other two, though, don’t really compare. Like an uncooperative churchgoer, I would seldom pass the Plate.
Writing blurbs for the Tier 1 cards can get a little tiresome after a while. Eventually, the cards get so good that the very discussion of just how good they are becomes redundant. No one knows there are cards this good in the world. When I bust this out of a pack, it’s like a team of pixies flew by, dropped their pants, and crapped a rainbow into my brain.
This is one of two cards that would cause me to pause if I were to see a Loxodon Warhammer in my uncommon slot (Molder Slug is the other). Oblivion Stone can function as a straight-up eight-mana sweeper, or, given time, as a one-sided Akroma’s Vengeance. Unlike most Wrath effects, the Stone is amazing not only when you’re getting your face rearranged, but also when the board is stalemated to hell and back. In exchange for your first pick, you get all the power of a Vengeance (which would already be enough to render the card Tier 1) with the option to make the effect asymmetrical if you want to invest a couple of turns. One of the top three cards in the set.
Card Evaluations – The Tier 2 Cards
Altar of Shadows
Slooooooooooooooooooooooooow. If you open Altar of Shadows and a strong uncommon or Spikeshot Goblin, you really can’t afford to take the Altar. It’s sad, but true. It takes like nine hundred mana and two turns to kill your first creature. In Sealed I’m happy to see this in my card pool, sure… and if I draft it, I’ll definitely play it. That said, there’s no way you should be taking it and passing top tier commons. The environment is slow, but that doesn’t give you carte blanche to wedge your ass in the window and moon the entire concept of tempo.
Don’t take it over Bonesplitter, Neurok Spy, Shatter, Electrostatic Bolt, Deconstruct, or Arrest. Those are the most clear cut examples, but there are dozens of other commons where you have to think twice. Black is interesting, though – if you’re going to play Black, you might as well take the Altar early. Altar of Shadows is best in a Black deck where you have a boatload of removal to keep the pressure off until turn 7 when you really start winning the game. To be more specific, I think B/R is the perfect deck for this sort of thing.
You don’t expect something this big to hit on turn 7 if you’re on the other side of the table. It’s like the proverbial gorilla that comes out of nowhere. Clockwork Dragon is a step behind Megatog because it’s easier to remove, and a step behind Bosh because tappers and the like can nullify it, but it remains a beating in anyone’s book. The counter-building ability is mostly irrelevant – when you slap down this concentrated chunk of McNasty, the only thing you care about is the fact that you’re getting a 7/7 flyer for seven colorless mana.
This ends the game in a heartbeat if not dealt with. That earns my *Seal Of Approval*. Sacrifice Seal of Approval: Play target card.
Duplicant reminds me of Flametongue Kavu, in that it kills a creature and generally leaves a sizable body behind. It’s not as good as the Kavu was, but later in the game, this devious doppleganger has the potential to be even stronger, sometimes taking out a massive creature (Fangren Hunter is a good example) and leaving *you* with the fatty instead!
Just remember that the power and toughness of the Duplicant is contingent on the power/toughness printed on the removed card. Your Duplicant is 0/0 if you use it to take out Clockwork Dragon, 0/1 if you nail a Nim Shrieker. Even if you remove a Wurmskin Forger with six +1/+1 counters on it, you only get a 2/2. Despite this minor shortcoming, you still want the Duplicant in your deck as opposed to anyone else’s. The card is very good, and with Aether Spellbombs, Regress, and (god forbid!) Crystal Shard, it’s almost criminal. Like, if you get Duplicant/Shard going, you should literally be arrested and jailed. No jury in the world would excuse that sort of broken behavior.
Take it over everything except the big three Pick 1, Pack 1 (Crystal Shard, Grab the Reins, Loxodon Warhammer). Later on, it’s probably better to take Duplicant than to take the Shard or Grab the Reins if you’re not in those colors. Obviously the Shard is very splashable, but it’s best in a Blue deck, and that small loss in utility makes the Duplicant a better pick if you’re not running the islands.
From all indications, I’d say that DupliCAN! Heh!
Yeah, that was pretty clever.
Let’s move on.
I haven’t seen this much violent regurgitation since the last time the Sarnia Red Lobster had a salmonella scare! Right on the edge of Tier 2. A reusable source of removal, the Charbelcher is about as good, overall, as Spikeshot Goblin – probably a bit worse because of the higher activation cost. With a stalemated board position, this will win you the game, especially if you’re running a nice selection of Mountains. In fact, the card is really only”Tier 2″ if you’re playing ten Mountains or so – it makes your activations much more reliable. Otherwise, it’s merely playable.
When it comes down to it, the Charbelcher is not something your opponent wants to see on the board. Take it very high if you’ve got Mountains to burn (and think twice about playing those Great Furnaces!), and even if you don’t, be glad when it falls into your lap. It will almost always make your deck if you draft it.
Leonin Sun Standard
Pseudo-equipment. The Sun Standard requires a fairly heavy White commitment to be good (I’d say about 7 or 8 White sources), but once you’ve got that established, the card is backbreakingly powerful. Like all good pump effects, it makes combat pretty much impossible for your opponent, and impossible combat will lead, more times than not, to a W in your column. The Sun Standard is essentially a White card and should be taken as such (and no splashing, ladies and gentlemen), but when you do take it, take it high. Leagues better than any White common or uncommon when played by a heavy White drafter.
I guess you might call it the….”Standard”… by which other white cards area measured? *Ba-zing!*
Yes, I’m in the zone like Slith Firewalker on turn 2. *Rimshot*
Let’s move on.
Quite the house. Lodestone Myr is a tremendous creature, better any common or uncommon creature in the format with the possible exception of Viridian Shaman. If you have even a few artifacts, the Lodestone becomes almost impossible to block effectively. Don’t forget that you can tap your equipment to boost him up! Furthermore, there will be none of this”announce all my activations in response to each other” business. Electrostatic Bolt lurks out there – make sure to announce each activation and let it resolve if it looks like your opponent might have tricks up his sleeve.
Very close to being a Tier 1 card, Mindslaver falls short only because it can, at times, be cumbersome. That said, Mindslaver will win you games that no other card can, decimate boards that no other card will, and generally cause the impossible to become possible. People who think you should take Spikeshot Goblin over this are generally wrong – I wouldn’t take Spikeshot over Mindslaver unless I already had two pieces of good equipment (Vulshok Gauntlets, while fine, doesn’t count).
I could go over a million Mindslaver scenarios, but none of them prove anything, as Mindslaver detractors love to point out. Whatever. Do these asshats think they’re proving anything by taking a common over a rare? Congratulations, you don’t need the *Fivebux*, I get it. You’re a pro. Now go and sit down and take your Goblin like a good little boy – I will take Mindslaver, and I will beat you.
Mindslaver all the way. It takes two Bonesplitters to make me change my tune.
Given seven mana and the time to untap with this in play, Pentavus is actually better than Clockwork Dragon. Pentavus is the Morphling of the format. It can fight off entire armies by itself (just take the tokens off… *Scramble!*… and put them back on again), and generally takes a bunch of removal spells to eliminate completely. I had a Pentavus in my otherwise middling Sealed Deck at the last PTQ I attended (the other big boy in my deck was Crystal Shard), and it was completely insane all day. If I was able to untap with it in play, it was over.
During that same PTQ, I was facing down Platinum Angel and Goblin Dirigible while landflooded, and what did I draw? Pentavus! No more eight damage per turn for you!
Opponent has a fat blocker? No trouble – the Pentavites are going to get in there!
Opponent casts Deconstruct on it? No trouble – the Pentavites are still going to get in there!
Pentavus. It’s all about”getting in there”. I’d only take the big three uncommons over it, nothing else.
Like Mindslaver, Platinum Angel will win you games that you had no business winning. It’s been an oft-repeated axiom that while the Angel is in play, you have to play like it isn’t there, assuming that zero life will kill you, but that’s a judgment call that’s not so cut and dried. If you can throw caution to the wind and give your opponent less time to draw those Angel answers, it’s often the right play to do so. The Angel is obviously quite good with cards like Leonin Abunas and Lightning Greaves, and a Razor Barrier or two never hurt anyone either. You could do worse for a 23rd card (the Barrier, not the Angel).
Don’t take Platinum Angel over premium uncommons and possibly premium commons (in the case of Spikeshot Goblin, the Goblin is likely the pick if you have any equipment worth noting), but never be afraid to add her to your pile if the pack doesn’t present anything ridiculous. You’ll be surprised how often she’ll swoop down to rescue your outless butt!
Sword of Kaldra
One disturbing thing I’ve noticed recently in my drafts (and also in some forum discussions about Mirrodin limited) is that some people don’t think the Sword is anything special. People look at Sealed decks with Sword in it and say”You have some fairly good equipment” and then they move on and start talking about how you should play Black for your two Pewter Golems or something.
Now me…if I saw a Sealed Deck with Sword of Kaldra in it, I’d probably say”Hey look – you’ve got a Sword of Kaldra!”
Vulshok Battlegear is one of the better uncommons in the set, and yet Sword of Kaldra is just that much better. I don’t think people are giving the Sword its proper due. This is a first pick in 90% of the packs it is in. The only common that might give you pause is the Spikeshot, and even then I think Sword is the pick – it really lets you dominate games. Sword is about on par with Grab the Reins and Crystal Shard in terms of pure power, though I would take either uncommon over it in a pinch.
Card Evaluations – The Playables
I took some advice from other limited writers and took a closer look at this card. On their recommendation, I have moved it from”Unplayable,” where it previously was, to”Playable.” The circumstances under which the Matrix is playable actually seem to occur more often than I first imagined. As long as there are activated abilities to be stopped on the opposing side, while you yourself have few to get in the way, then it’s a candidate to go in the deck.
See, even a shmoe like me can learn something!
Never a high pick, you could do a lot worse for a color fixer/mana boost. Gilded Lotus blasts you right from five mana to eight or nine, and for that reason it can find a place in some decks, particularly those with some high casting cost bombs, but a shortage of Myr and Talismans. The ability to produce any color can’t be overlooked, either. All in all, the Lotus is only a small step up from something like Journey to Discovery, but still quite playable if the cards fall the right way.
You need quite a few artifacts to play this, but those artifact heavy, three-color decks are the ones that need it the most. Particularly in Sealed Deck, where you’re more likely to have to play three colors, Glimmervoid can be a fine addition. The exact number of artifacts needed for safe Glimmervoid play is anyone’s guess at this point, but odds are if you’re in the single digits, it’s not the right call. I’ll leave the specifics to Tim Aten, who wrote an excellent article on such”dependant” cards for Onslaught Block, and might be persuaded to do so again.
While the Monitor will sometimes be left in your board and sometimes be boarded out (Auriok Transfixer, Arrest, and Icy Manipulator are bad news), it is still playable if you need a creature. You just have to use your brain and play it out last. Give your opponent a choice – he/she takes four/turn, or kills the Grid Monitor. Best against U/R (which is one of the more popular archetypes), you could run into trouble with White tapping effects and Green regenerators, so be careful.
Don’t take it high, don’t play it if you don’t need it, but don’t hesitate to play it if you do need it. Where exactly should the Monitor be taken? Take it over any mediocre creature – I’m of the opinion that Grid Monitor has enough potential to get the nod over other”23rd card” type fare.
Honestly, this is just a bad Serum Tank. Liar’s Pendulum won’t make your deck all the time, but it’s not completely unplayable. If your deck needs a Serum Tank sort of card, but you don’t have a Serum Tank, then the Pendulum gets the nod. And be careful when you’re playing against that shifty Dynamite Jackson – you can’t beat the master at his own game.
That’s for sure. That’s for sure.
Wow, is this one close to the edge. You need a huge number of artifacts for this to be playable – I’d say at least fifteen (not counting the Incubator itself), maybe more. Even then it’s only a 23rd card. The reason it gets the nod in this case if because of the potential to singlehandedly win games – a potential that more conventional, less exciting 23rd cards just don’t have. Don’t take this over anything good, and don’t play it unless your deck is pretty bad, and don’t play it if you need a creature in your 23rd card slot, because this isn’t one by any stretch of the imagination.
Still should probably be in the”unplayable” category.
A fine card and not a Vedalken abdominal exercise device, as the name might suggest. Sculpting Steel in Mirrodin is just like Clone was in Onslaught – a fairly strong card that I wouldn’t be ashamed to pick first. You’ll almost always get a copy of something good, be it your own bomb or an opposing powerhouse.
Scythe of the Wretched
If you’re trying to get a handle on the Scythe, it’s comparable in power level to Vulshok Battlegear, making it a strong pick indeed. The ability will seldom come into play, but when it does, it can really swing the game. I think the pick is the Battlegear, unless you’ve got a Spikeshot Goblin or two in your pile. Or a Triskelion.
Heck, if you’ve got a Spikeshot and you’re given the choice between Scythe and Battlegear, you shouldn’t waste your time being vexed, you should be down on your knees kissing the unholy butt of Satan for using his infernal favor to engineer a ridiculous pack for your sorry, lucksack behind.
The Lash is also comparable to the Battlegear, and again it falls just short in a two-color deck. Nightmare Lash only gets the nod over the uncommon if you’re mono-Black. Also, just in case you’ve forgotten, you don’t take either Scythe or Lash over Loxodon Warhammer, Crystal Shard, or Grab the Reins.
Jens Thoren – amongst European players, you’re known as”the funny one.” Is that reputation justified?
JT: “Yes. Yes it is.”
The Simulacrum is a solid card that will always make your deck. Though it falls well behind the top creatures of each color in those respective pick orders, the Simulacrum shouldn’t be overlooked, not only because it is a possible *TenBux,* but because the land boost it provides can steady your colors, help you splash, and get those true bombs out earlier. I generally don’t want to see a pack where I have to take this first, but you gotta go what you gotta do.
The Foundry is not the unconditional first-pick bomb that some people seem to think it is, but it will always make your deck because it has the power to win games all by itself. Everyone has a favorite Imprint scenario here, so I won’t strain your patience by going down the list of dream Imprints. Suffice it to say that this card can do some ridiculous things. I saw it do Looming Hoverguard once at a PTQ – that was pretty nifty.
A quick note about the Foundry. Unlike something like Isochron Scepter, where you’ll generally get off a shot with the instant you are Imprinting, you won’t have the luxury of waiting until you can both cast and activate the Foundry. If you’re going to get two-for-oned, then you have to bend over, grab a desk, and make the best of it. That’s the price you pay for playing a card that, if unchecked, can dominate the game like few others can.
Where do you take it? Not over Spikeshot Goblin, probably not over other top tier commons. Right after that, though.
Tower of Champions
About as marginal as it gets. Tower of Champions does nothing until turn 8, and then it starts to require all your mana. A 23rd card that you’ll get late, you have to examine your deck closely to see if it’s the right 23rd card for you. There’s no denying the effect is powerful. But it won’t help you stop those fliers, get through those regenerators, or sing the complete Gilbert & Sullivan.
Three little girls from school are we!
Sorry, I lost my train of thought. [And your mind. – Major-General Knut]
Tower of Fortunes
The best of the towers, Tower of Fortunes will make your deck more often than not, and if you start using it, the game is over. One use gives you a big edge. Two uses? Ridiculous. Three uses? Way to go, dingleberry! I bet you just decked yourself! While you won’t be first-picking this bad boy (the Tower doesn’t exactly tear up the fourth turn when it hits the table), it’s safe to take it over marginal cards and cards that, while perfectly playable, do not possess the game-winning potential of the Tower.
That’s an important thing to remember about rares. Often times, you’re drafting them for the potential. Elf Replica might be solid, but it sure is…boring. Even the best player can only squeeze so much out of a 2/2.
Triskelion is a very solid creature that will probably go in the first three picks of any pack. It’s not as good as the Red removal cards, Bonesplitter, or Spikeshot Goblin, and it doesn’t hold a candle to the big three uncommons, or even the big six if you include Viridian Shaman, Icy Manipulator, and Vulshok Battlegear.
Once those cards are out of the way, though, you can feel free to put the Triskelion in your pile.
Like another six-mana rare creature (Duplicant), Triskelion is quite good with Blue bounce effects. Crystal Shard + Triskelion is fun little machine gun, isn’t it?
That concludes the Mirrodin Rare Power Rankings – I hope you’ve found something here that can help your game (stop taking that Soul Foundry over Spikeshot Goblin!). Feel free to chime in on the forums, but don’t get too ornery – I don’t want to have to raise up out’ my seat and grab my nine.
I’ll leave you with some humorous names for all the horrible artifacts in the set. Use these on your friends!
Stinkmoth Urn- because it stinks!
Chalice of Annoyed – because that’s what you’ll be when you draw it. Annoyed!
Chrome Bux – because the only reason to take it to get *TenBux*!
Culling Fails – because it always fails to be of any use!
Blechstraplanar Lens – because that’s what I say when I see it in someone’s Limited deck. “Blech!”
Bait to the Aether – because if you play it, you’re a fish!
Jinxed Choker – no name change needed! If you take this early in a draft, that’s just what you did! You choked! Nice pick, dumbass!
Krark’s Dumb – because if you take it, you’re dumb!
Zeveler – because that’s who you have to be to play it! Zev!
Frightening Coils – because it’s frighteningly bad!
Blowteus Chaff – because it’s chaff, and it blows!
Psychogenic Probe – it’s a probe! Need I say more!
Sticksilver Fountain – because if you play it, that’s what you are! A stick!
Smellweaver Helix – because much like the aforementioned Urn, it stinks!
Dimesifter – because if you’re taking this, you need to head to the subway station and give some vagrant a dime to teach you how to draft!
Tower of Peons – because the people taking this are… you guessed it… peons!
Sour of Murmurs – because that’s the taste in my mouth I get when I see someone pick this abortion! Sour!
Hurledslayer – because that’s what I did the last time I saw someone pick this! I hurled!
See you next week!
FP_GLyM on MODO
GT__ on #mtgwacky