What’s In A Name?
A reader e-mailed regarding”The Control Player’s Bible, Part XXII.1: Head to Head: Vengeur Masque” with a very obvious question: Where did fellow Paragon Carl Devos get the name?
Carl explains that it’s the name of one of his favorite”rock francais” songs from Ludwig von 88. He e-mailed:
Here are the lyrics:
// VENGEUR MASQUE
Vengeur masqué troisième
Il vole aux riches pour donner aux pauvres
Pour voler aux pauvres pour garder pour lui
Un deux trois quatre!
Vengeur Masqué! (x 3)
Roule en Rolls Rohïce
Mange chez Fauchon
Avale la fumée
Habite à Neuilly
Va nous éclater
Vengeur Masqué! (x 6)
For those of you who haven’t mastered French, here is the translation:
Masked Avenger third [take]
He steals to the rich persons to give the poors
to steal to the poor to keep for himself.
One two three four!
Masked Avenger! (X 3)
drives a Rolls Royce
eats at Fauchon [www.fauchon.com]
Aldo Maccione [Italian actor famous in France]
lives in Neuilly [nicest suburb of Paris]
Vengeur Masked will burst/explode us
Masked avenger! (X 6)
Thank yoooou… Goodbyyye…
I love it 🙂
Speaking of names, I was asked to insert a shout-out for Jeremy Cook, who plays at Dream Wizards in Maryland. Sometime while piloting Stax to Top 8 in a small Type I tourney over there, Jeremy was telling his fellow competitors about the Paragons. He said something like,”They’re only like the best Vintage Magic players in existence.”
Well, Jeremy happened to be delivering this lecture to a Blue/Red Fish player who later split in the finals. This Fish fanatic happened to be Marc Perez, the Paragons’ Fish specialist (and second-newest Paragon, with the recent addition of Beyond Dominia veteran Abe Corson, a.k.a. Katzby).
So, Marc says hi on behalf of all of us. Thanks so much for the kind words, and we’ll try to live up to them.
Dragon Gets Its Day
Most people believe Entomb was restricted in Type I to weaken Dragon (Worldgorger Dragon/Animate Dead) in Type 1.5. Nevertheless, Richard Mattiuzzo, a.k.a. Shockwave, took a Bazaar of Baghdad-based rebuild to an impressive Top 4 at the GenCon Vintage Championships, stopped only by eventual Champion Carl Winter triple-Coffin Purge complement.
At the time, I expressed disagreement with Richard’s choice of deck, given how you could expect”The Deck” and its Swords to Plowshares and Wastelands, and given how everyone had ready graveyard hate for Academy Rector that would catch Dragon as well. In the past months, however, one should note Dragon’s steady performance in various tournaments. Most recently, Beyond Dominia old timer and Dutchman Hero ‘t Mannetje won the October 26 Eindhoven:
Dragon, Hero ‘t Mannetje, Champion, October 26, 2003 Eindhoven
Fish took second place in that tournament, with another Dragon deck in sixth, and”The Deck” Mishra’s Workshop-based decks filling out the Top 8. A Dragon deck also placed second in the October 19, 2003 Dülmen.
Discussing Vengeur Masque, I noted aggro is at a low point right now (distinguished from disruption-filled aggro-control, which presently covers Growing ‘Tog variants, Fish, and mono Black Mask). Aggro archetypes have to deal with their traditional bad matchup, combo, and you saw how Shane Stoots had to splash black (for Duress) into the original Vengeur for GenCon Vintage Champs.
Back to Mirrodin
Mirrodin is apparently the new Urza’s Saga, and the Pandora’s Box of issues this expansion opened sidetracked the column for quite some time. We left off with the second installment of the artifacts commentary in”Maximizing Mirrodin, Part III,” and I’d like to go back to the second installment of the creatures. Although it’s a bit late and people have explored the expansion (not to mention its effect on Extended) by now, I like to be thorough and finish the job.
Going back to our mental weighing of each card and application of the game’s theoreticals, let me first cite once again my two rules:
1) Is the card more efficient than an established benchmark? (Or, do I get more bang from my buck?)
2) Does the card do something no past card ever did, and if it does, is this new card playable?
Again, creatures are usually checked against Rule Number 1, and very few abilities are more important than a simple high power-to-mana ratio for beatdown purposes.
You have to admit that War Elemental is one of the spoiler entries that immediately catches your eye. You’re tempted to do some mental weighing. You can just attack with your first-turn creature or fire off an extra Lightning Bolt like a cumbersome Chain Lightning, then every other burn spell in your hand deals at least twice its damage.
Normally, its triple-Red, three-mana cost would be enough to merit it just a passing comment, but things have changed with Chalice of the Void. With a Sligh deck punished for using too efficient a mana curve, you might consider three-drops. The classic occupants of the red three-slot are Cursed Scroll’s activation, Ball Lightning and Viashino Sandstalker (with the next best being obscure cards like Ydwen Efreet and outdated favorites like Suq’Ata Lancer).
So is War Elemental better and does it raise the value of the three-slot in Type I?
In practice, War Elemental is cumbersome. First of all, you can topdeck it in an aggressive red deck and have it sit dead while you wait for more damage sources to go with it; these decks dislike cards that need to be set up. (Thanks to Ruben Geerlings, a twenty-four-year old computer science student from Amsterdam, who proved this point after a few Decree of Justice Soldier token chump blocks several weeks back.)
Second, Sligh decks have been cutting back on burn, and it will probably take a couple of turns to make War Elemental big enough to count, or even to get a good return on its counters’ growth. Even without considering the way Type I is going now, a couple of turns is an eternity.
A Mox aside, the best-case scenario is probably to attack with a creature on Turn 3, then play War Elemental, untap and unload all your burn to finish. In this best-case scenario, if War Elemental survives, having a Ball Lightning instead probably wouldn’t make any difference, and the original isn’t a dead card if it’s topdecked later when you have no cards in hand. Although War Elemental can grow to monstrous proportions, you’d rather have just the first few points of damage more quickly.
Note that War Elemental still has all the weaknesses of Ball Lightning, most notably the tempo loss at the hands of spells like Mana Drain and Swords to Plowshares. War Elemental doesn’t even evade The Abyss, though this is far less relevant with the rise of Chalice of the Void. Ball Lightning isn’t used now, and War Elemental doesn’t look like it’ll revitalize the three-slot.
Chalice of the Void nevertheless forces structural changes in Sligh, and one idea might be to cheat the mana curve with an accelerator like Chrome Mox (still unrestricted). Instead of using this and three-drops, though, one might as well go back to Mishra’s Workshop. In Stacker 2‘s earliest days, after all, I remember telling JP”Polluted” Meyer the deck felt like a Sligh deck on steroids.
The two-drop was the workhorse slot of the classic Sligh curve:
Geeba, Paul Sligh, Second Place, Atlanta Pro Tour Qualifier, 1996 (PT1 Format)
4 Brass Man
2 Goblins of the Flarg
2 Dwarven Trader
3 Dwarven Lieutenant
4 Ironclaw Orcs
2 Orcish Librarian
2 Orcish Artillery
2 Orcish Cannoneers
2 Brothers of Fire
2 Dragon Whelp
Burn and Damage (11)
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Mishra’s Factory
2 Dwarven Ruins
1 An-Zerrin Ruins
2 Serrated Arrows
1 Zuran Orb
The printing of Jackal Pup and then Goblin Cadets made the two-slot less relevant, but Chalice of the Void makes a better Ironclaw Orcs or Goblin Raider welcome (aside from non-creature two-drops such as Ankh of Mishra and Pyrostatic Pillar). This is especially true in”classic” builds that don’t have the enlarged creature base that goes with Goblin Piledriver and Mogg Flunkies.
If War Elemental is the flashy new Red creature, Slith Firewalker is the grunt… But it’s a very effective grunt. Haste gives Firewalker an edge over the other Sliths, since it gets a free point of damage in and attacks as a 2/2 the following turn. From most angles, this makes it better than Ironclaw Orcs on the first attack, and it gets bonus damage if it sticks around.
Although a regenerating fattie has its appeal, this other two-mana Slith illustrates the tempo problem. Compare this to the ready power of Nantuko Shade or Flesh Reaver, or a more specialized ability like Withered Wretch’s. Basic understanding of tempo recommends a lot of damage up front than a lot more two turns later. Note that the Sliths’ inspiration, Whirling Dervish, was good in old Type II not solely because of its counter-adding ability, but because it was good against Black (read: the Necrodeck).
This early leak drew a lot of attention before Mirrodin’s official release, but ironically, despite Type I’s many free artifacts, it’s not the combo engine you might think it is.
First of all, this is a four-mana card, meaning you need to get some acceleration out if you want to set this up as an early engine. That means playing your artifacts before the Archmage. Second, if you add some draw engine to refill so you can use your Archmage, then maybe the Archmage is chaff, right? Simply, once you set up early acceleration, there are a lot worse things to play than a four-mana Boltable creature that you need to set up even further.
Some comparisons were made to Enchantress, but note that this is a Type I control deck that runs on Argothian Enchantress, plays out its cheap enchantment threats, then backs them up with Replenish. If you have cheap artifacts, which are usually cheap artifact mana producers, there’s simply no reason to go with this slow controllish route over an explosive combo flurry.
This card might have been more interesting if you could choose the phase your opponents lose. As it is, it’s easy enough for most decks to choose to skip the combat phase – not a surprise in a format with so many creatureless archetypes – or the main phase if they’re set up to beat down.
I didn’t like the shift from Merfolk to Wizards, incidentally, and the explicit addition of the”Human” race just tickles to old school player in me.
Affinity, Randy Wright, 2003 Ohio State Champion
It’s unlikely to catch on in Type I, though. The above reads like a fat creature going in under a counter wall, and the deck structure is vaguely similar to Teletubbies’. In Type I terms, that means Mishra’s Workshop beats having to set up all these artifacts. On another note, Fish’s weenie strategy is just as effective but less clunky.
Even simpler, if you can set up a mana base of fast artifact mana, then you want to do nastier things than putz around to play creatures. Just compare the complaints generated by Stax and Tools ‘n’ Tubbies, for example. Then compare the reaction to the later builds of Burning Desire.
I don’t think Affinity caught on in Extended, either.
The few commonly-played Type I creatures with activated abilities cost far less than 3UU, and you wonder what this one has over Vesuvan Doppleganger and Clone. It’s always good to keep quirky abilities grafted onto creatures in mind. If, one day, you find the need to splice two creatures’ abilities on a third, for example, you can combine Quicksilver Elemental with creature-specific abilities like Survival of the Fittest.
If anything, this card deserves an honorable mention for illustrating how losing irrelevant resources doesn’t matter. These are usually life and cards outside play aside from the hand. Cards in your library are irrelevant until you draw them, and understanding this is the key to understanding why Demonic Consultation is arguably the most dangerous tutor in the game.
Arc-Slogger isn’t going to see Type I play, but I hope you realize that the ability isn’t as bad as it first looks.
Another fattie to challenge Verdant Force, Thorn Elemental, and Multani, Maro-Sorcerer. If you don’t need the untargetability of Multani, I wonder if Living Hive beats The Best Fattie Ever Printed (Verdant Force). Both kill in three turns, but the new card has built-in trample.
Oscar Tan (e-mail: Rakso at StarCityGames.com)
rakso on #BDChat on EFNet
Paragon of Vintage
University of the Philippines, College of Law
Forum Administrator, Star City Games
Featured Writer, Star City Games
Author of the Control Player’s Bible
Maintainer, Beyond Dominia (R.I.P.)
Proud member of the Casual Player’s Alliance