Finally, I’m writing this one from the comfort of my home computer in Manila. Damn, it’s hot out here.
But I’m glad to be back, since everything is at least twice as expensive in the United States, not even counting all those sales taxes. Heck, I still have no idea why a soft drink costs almost as much as the burger over there!
Funny thing is that since there was nothing to buy – all the United States’ designer clothing for example is manufactured in East Asia or some third world country elsewhere – all I brought home was a fifty-pound box of old science fiction novels. As readers know, my bedroom contains several bookshelves that add up to over a thousand sci-fi and fantasy novels (see”The Man Under the Hat“), including:
BattleTech / Mechwarrior / Mechwarrior: Dark Age
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman
Dragonlance / Forgotten Realms / Greyhawk / Ravenloft
Legend of the Five Rings
Vampire: the Masquerade
Pretty much the only guy I didn’t want to read was Terry Brooks. With most of the newer series complete, I’m hoping to fill out the smattering of Orson Scott Card, Robert Heinlein, Piers Anthony, Jerry Pournelle, Timothy Zahn, Greg Bear, Poul Anderson, David Drake, Dan Simmons, and Harry Harrison novels.
Trust me, if you thought organizing a thousand Magic cards into boxes and binders was a chore…
You can see that we don’t get as much of the non-bestsellers in Manila as I’d like, so I’d appreciate suggestions on what the remaining shelves should be devoted to. A lot of what other Magic players like turn out okay for me, too. Darren Di Battista a.k.a. Azhrei actually mailed a set of Melanie Rawn’s first Dragon Prince trilogy over because no Manila bookstore carries them, and they remain in a visible perch beside Goodkind’s Sword of Truth line.
But it was a pleasure to finally bring home the last books in the Classic BattleTech line. Now I know what happened to Victor Steiner-Davion, the sketchy hints in the last Mechwarrior video game aside!
Firing Up Fifth Dawn
Again, our two rules for sizing up new cards:
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?
And, for the more general discussion, refer to”Shadow Prices” (see”Counting Shadow Prices“).
As the tradition in these reviews goes, we begin with the creatures since they’re usually governed by the simpler Rule 1. The goal here is not just to identify new standouts, but to articulate the premises and frameworks relevant to each new card. Reviewing Darksteel (see”Deconstructing Darksteel, Part I“), for example, I mentioned Thirst for Knowledge and Goblin Welder, but it’s now obvious that I underrated them in conjunction with Mindslaver, Sundering Titan, and even Memnarch. So now we know which premise to tweak.
I think its best quality is the extra point of power, which means it kills a turn earlier, and makes it slightly more expensive for the opponent to use it as a Sylvan Library (see Masticore’s appearance in”The Control Player’s Bible, Part V.”)
Moving to the other points, Razormane doesn’t regenerate. First strike roughly compensates in combat, but not against Rack and Ruin and other removal.
As for the main ability, Razormane doesn’t demand mana and, as Josh Reynolds points out, is immune to Null Rod. However, it only works at the start of your turn, creating issues with timing and Faerie Conclave. Further, there aren’t a lot of three-toughness targets that maximize the free effect, and the late game ability to do an end-of-turn cleanup of a bunch of 1/1 tokens or a five toughness creature will be missed.
Especially given the vulnerability to removal, I still think the original is better in general, so you have to find a deck where the pros listed are maximized.
Note that in some cases, though, the more straightforward Flametongue Kavu might work better.
Okay, Ben Bleiweiss told us that this is a stupendous two-card, infinite mana combo with Black Lotus (or Lion’s Eye Diamond, actually), so we should get off our stagnant Type I asses and innovate up a Salvagers deck (see”Some Words About Fifth Dawn in Type I“).
But first, let’s try Rule 1.
Salvagers with a Lotus generates infinite mana, which is great. However, Academy Rector with some unrestricted way of committing suicide fetches Yawgmoth’s Bargain, and anything with”Yawgmoth” in the name beats anything with”infinite.” The Salvagers deck doesn’t look easier to set up than a Rector deck, or a Grim Monolith / Power Artifact combo. In fact, a Chalice of the Void for zero shuts down the combo instead of merely slowing it down, and so might Coffin Purge or Tormod’s Crypt.
You have to justify a Salvagers deck not with the infinite combo, but by proving that it’s smoother, faster, or harder to disrupt than every combo deck we already have. Some cards Ben also liked such as Artificer’s Intuition might help, but I just don’t see how this particular engine is better.
Nevertheless, here’s a decklist someone sent me, and good luck seeing if you can take it beyond the novelty level:
Too many decks won’t have the luxury of spending the better part of a turn to fetch a used spell. Either they maximize the first use or they find a second copy. I haven’t even missed Regrowth in”The Deck,” except when I have a very early Ancestral Recall in the graveyard.
Mono-Green decks are likely too redundant to have the time to spare for this 2/1, so I think its best use will be as a utility creature for a Survival of the Fittest arsenal. Fellow Paragon Josh Reynolds e-mailed that he sees it as a solid support creature in a Blue/Green aggro-control deck. However, I felt these decks can filter into another copy of the key card (or simply use the Eternal Witness slots on more) and would rather have a beefier threat in one of the scarce creature slots.
This is an early leak that looked very flashy to a lot of people. The Rule 1 comparison, though, points to Birds of Paradise. The Birds cost half and provide their own mana, which Joiner’s two-power hardly outweighs. Further, when you review multicolored mana base construction, you just need to make one mana of the right color to start using your splashes (see”Building a 5-Color Mana Base“).
Bringer of the White Dawn
The much cheaper Goblin Welder is worlds better than Bringer of the White Dawn. You can say as much for the rest of the other abilities in the cycle, none of them game-breaking enough to justify the hassle of playing the Bringers, or even animating them.
I’d like to quote Abe Sargent (see”Fifth Dawn in Five“):”I’ve heard a lot of Five Color players being really jazzed about all of the Bringers’ alternate costs. Seriously, though, how often do we play Cromat?”
Ever used Strip Mine to unexpectedly kill an early Echo creature? It’s fun, but anyone who’s played against Type I Ravager (see”Head to Head: Ravager“) realizes it’s harder to pull off the same cheap kill against a Glimmervoid. Thus, Synod Centurion is arguably better than Su-Chi.
For converted mana cost games, we have Draco, and for power/toughness we have Darksteel Colossus. It seems to be maximized when treated as a glorified Sapphire Medallion for artifact creatures, and you might get a lethal stream of them going with something like Survival of the Fittest. However, Vengeur Masque can use the same Survival to bring out two Phyrexian Dreadnoughts with less hassle (see”Head to Head: Vengeur Masque“).
That’s a lot of abilities on a White weenie, but Rule 1 is brutal in Type I. If it doesn’t pack a mean power/mana ratio, it’s not what we want, barring the most spectacular support abilities such as Goblin Welder and Wild Mongrel.
Simply, a two-mana 1/1 is not going to get far, especially not in a metagame where traditional Sligh and Suicide Black are obsolete.
If you play White Weenie in a more casual corner store infested with these two annoyances, however, then by all means dust off your Pariahs and have fun.
But put it this way. If you put Britney Spears in a nun’s habit, she’s still a skank. In the same vein, a three-mana 2/1 is just not an offensive machine, and neither is White Weenie. It should be fun in a more casual deck, though.
Blind Creeper and Ebon Drake
These creatures are only good when you have nothing but the Black card pool to work with, and Suicide isn’t exactly the best deck right now. Further, although Blind Creeper conjures memories of Flailing Soldier, it’s not better than Nantuko Shade, and the two-mana slot of Suicide is its most cramped (see”The Nantuko Conspiracy“).
The Sunburst creatures don’t seem very interesting in that if you can maximize them, you can play a Bringer anyway. Etched Oracle is probably the most interesting, but the combination of a clunkier Concentrate and a clunkier Su-Chi just doesn’t seem to justify the mana headache.
Fellow Paragon Josh Reynolds feels that aggro is inherently weaker in Type I anyway, but,”a 4/4 for four, that nets you cards when it dies is hardly something to laugh at.” I feel, though, that it’ll be much slower coming out than, say, an Arrogant Wurm backed by Survival of the Fittest and Bazaar of Baghdad for midgame drawing.
Aside from the Oracle, Solarion is the cute ability, but it’s light years from Psychatog and Phyrexian Dreadnought. Arguably the best Sunburst creature is Star City’s John Liu, whose longtime column tag just hit gold… er, rainbow (see”Mining the Crystal Quarry: Finally! It’s useful!“). I guess John said it for me when he wrote,”Sunburst is, quite frankly, the most casual mechanic I’ve seen in a looooooong time.”
Abe Sargent was, incidentally, happy as well (see”Fifth Dawn in Five“), and said,”With a name like”Fifth” in the title, I just have to wonder how good this set will be to Five Color.” I completely agree with him on Sunburst, and note he’s commenting for a format where every deck will have all five colors at some point:
“Sunburst – Obviously, the more colors in your deck, the better Sunburst is. As such, you might think that Sunburst would be a valuable ability in Five Color. That is not necessarily so. A card with Sunburst would still only be good in Five Color if other cards did not do the same thing better. Additionally, a card with Sunburst needs to still be good with only three or four colors available, and not all five. You cannot always rely on having one of each color of mana available, after all.”
The flavor text says it all. I’m making a mental note about the off chance that this can be used as a Dark Ritual with Goblin Welder or Tinker, somewhat like Gilded Lotus. Since it’s a creature, a few other things like reanimation work, too. I’m making another note about how it might be used to filter colorless mana into colored in some combo where Chromatic Sphere isn’t enough somehow.
This caught my eye, too, since I had fun with the original Invasion golems. Once, at a draft, I sacrificed one to pull a trick when my opponent thought I was tapped out, and won the following turn.
My first stray thought was whether this might act as a Moat for artifact decks, but I figure they’d run something like Crumbling Sanctuary if they needed such a hedge. The second stray thought was that Silent Arbiter would’ve been cooler with flying.
Mephidross Vampire and Raksha Golden Cub
Very interesting theme deck additions, and Raksha is probably the most intimidating”Lord” type creature we’ve seen yet. There are actually more interesting cats than you might remember, from the newer Leonin to Spectral Lynx and Glittering Lynx. You might even be able to think up some sordid storyline with Mirri in it.
Note Raksha combos with the most powerful card in Type I: Noble Panther. OMG.
Well, that’s it for this week. Again, if you have any recommended science fiction or fantasy authors that you think should belong on my shelf, feel free to drop a line. Of course, do tell me where to find the things, though, or I’ll be reduced to waiting for them in the small sci-fi sections of Manila used book stores. (And Manila used book stores are nothing compared to the ones you have, and I was completely awed by California’s Bay Books, for example.)
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