A few days ago, in Part I of this series, we talked about Type I”benchmarks” and two simple rules for gauging new cards:
- Is the card more efficient than an established benchmark? (Or, do I get more bang from my buck?)
- Does the card do something no past card ever did Â— and if it does, is this new card playable?
We tried sifting through various Apocalypse creatures, and came up empty. We need creatures mainly to deal damageÂ—forget every other fancy abilityÂ—and very few new creatures are ever going to be more efficient than Savannah Lions, Morphling, and the other staples.
Going through the rest of Apocalypse, however, we move from Rule #1 to Rule #2.
And now the fun begins.
Apocalypse: Artifacts and Enchantments
Hello, Rule #2.
The key is not whether the card is more efficient than a similar card, but whether it is more efficient than the card you would have to remove from your deck. Thus, when looking at an interesting new four-mana enchantment you need to remember that for four mana, you get effects as powerful and global as Abyss, Moat, and Ivory Mask. You have to keep asking yourself:”Will I actually cut a card from my deck for this?” (Or,”Can I build a completely new deck?”)
Now Â— what might make the cut?
Phyrexian Arena, 1BB, Enchantment
At the beginning of your upkeep, you draw a card and you lose 1 life.
Many effects are hard to gauge, but card drawing is always a no-brainer. This is simple and straightforward, and the question is not,”Is this good?” but”How good?”
One thing is for sure: This is not the new Necropotence. You can only get one extra card per turn, and this is far less broken than the bursts from The Skull. This means you have to structure decks differently, and can no longer just throw together a few hand and land destruction spells and still be able to destroy all of an opponent’s permanents and cards in hand.
The most logical deck is the mono-black deck with Duress, Hymn to Tourach, restricted black spells, and big creatures. The first beginner’s mistake will be to dilute the deck and add passive lifegain spells such as Ivory Tower and Peace of Mind. (Old Necrodecks worked well enough without a lot of life gain, and many life gain spells do not affect the board.)
Would you cut a card to put one of these in some decks with heavy black, a color that has no strong (unrestricted) card drawing spell so far?
No; you would cut four as soon as you figure out exactly how to abuse it.
Wild Research, 2R, Enchantment
1W: Search your library for an enchantment card and reveal that card. Put it into your hand, then discard a card at random from your hand. Then shuffle your library.
1U: Search your library for an instant card and reveal that card. Put it into your hand, then discard a card at random from your hand. Then shuffle your library.
This is arguably the most interesting new mechanic in the entire set, and it looks too much like Survival of the Fittest to be ignored. In a control deck, one can swap land for various utility spells. In a combo deck, one may use it to pull out combo components such as Saproling Burst and Pandemonium. Though interesting, all this seems too awkward and too slow to replace more straightforward cards such as Fact or Fiction to get your utility, or Intuition to get combo parts.
In Type I, a mere two- or three-card advantage wins games. You have to spend at least a turn to play and use Wild Research, and it may be one turn too many when your opponent forces through a Mind Twist. Never forget how fast Type I is, so if you need the blue ability, you may as well just use Fact or Fiction or something else and get cards faster. Yes, you might milk at least four or five cards from Wild Research, but the point is, getting two or three immediately is just better.
(And note that Wild Research only replaces cards in hand; it does not draw new ones unless you have Squee.)
One solution may be to add Library of Leng to give you a”second chance” to tutor up the card you want… But this still does not make Wild Research work faster. And, it means you have to rely on a two-card combo just to set up your deck, and Library of Leng does nothing relevant on its own.
Legacy Weapon, 7, Legendary Artifact
WUBRG: Remove target permanent from the game.
If Legacy Weapon would be put into a graveyard from anywhere, reveal Legacy Weapon and shuffle it into its owner’s library instead.
This card’s effect is so powerful that it is up there with Planar Portal and Timmy, Power Gamer. It looks simple, straightforward, and downright broken.
Or is it simple and straightforward? It costs seven mana to play, which will at best eat up one whole turn and at worst be too late. Its activation cost is tough even for Type I… And even if you get the right mana, a single Wasteland can screw that. And even if you get it running, you will be able to remove just one permanent per turn at best. And to top it off, it still cannot kill Morphlings.
You will have fun trying this one out Â— but remember that in real play, your opponent will not wait until you can actually use this funny thing. (But I still want one for my collection.)
Overgrown Estate, BGW, Enchantment
Sacrifice a land: You gain 3 life.
The new Zuran Orb? The Orb, in the first place, is a control deck’s stall card. Despite the extra point of life, the color and far higher mana cost is just more difficult. Imagine having to tap three extra mana while fighting off a Sligh deck; easily three mana too many.
As stated in the Part I: the cheapest effect is often the best. So far, this is only better than Zuran Orb in Luk Schoonaert’s Lich deck on Beyond Dominia.
Necra Sanctuary, 2B, Enchantment
At the beginning of your upkeep, if you control a green or white permanent, target player loses 1 life. If you control a green permanent and a white permanent, that player loses 3 life instead.
This is one card whose use is being discussed on Rogue Deck Clinic at the moment, but it is yet another that is too cumbersome for Type I play. Using The Rack, Cursed Scroll, or a creature is far simpler.
Ice Cave, 3UU, Enchantment
Whenever a player plays a spell, any other player may pay that spell’s mana cost. If a player does, counter the spell. #(Mana cost includes color.)#
Again, this looks interesting in a 5-color control deck, but it just does not do enough. Remember, for 3UU, you can just play a Morphling.
Symbiotic Deployment, 2G, Enchantment
Skip your draw step.
1, Tap two untapped creatures you control: Draw a card.
This is another interesting spell that looks abusable, but is too easily disrupted (by Balance, for example). One can probably put together an interesting combo deck using cards such as Intruder Alarm and Aluren, but setting up would take too long outside casual play. And for something such as an Elf or Thallid theme deck, Recycle is simpler.
Dragon Arch, 5, Artifact
2, T: Put a multicolored creature card from your hand into play.
This one is for the boys at the Casual Player’s Alliance. 😉
Now THIS looks like a card worthy of a casual theme deck, right? It has”Sliver Queen” practically written on it.
Think closely on what this card really does. Aside from turning every gold creature you draw into an instant, it just evades colored mana costs. That is not very helpful because a good deck should be able to cast its creatures if Dragon Arch is not in play, so the advantage is marginal when Arch IS in play.
And since it costs five mana, it may even get played AFTER the creatures, because packing your deck with fat gold creatures will be too slow. Getting Arch in play faster using artifact mana or tricks like Tinker will not work with the gold theme, too. (Show and Tell might be getting too fancy.)
Remember, even casual players have to know if a card is good or not. (And the CPA people generally do, by the way.)
So after going through about two-thirds of Apocalypse, we have exactly ONE card that MAY make the cut: Phyrexian Arena. You might think this is why people write off Type I as a stagnant format.
But again, knowing why cards do not make the cut is among the most important lessons in Magic (and not only because it saves you money). For starters, the same selection rules are applied in different formats. Consider the following, in decreasing order of power level: Type I, Extended, Standard, Block Constructed, Limited. Anyone familiar with Standard and Block Constructed knows that what is thrown out of the former may be broken in the latter. So knowing why Wild Research may be too cumbersome for Type I may tell you why it may be amazing in Type II.
(Before I end Part II, let me just thank some other Net writers who graciously sent in their comments on my first attempts at writing a Star City column. I’d like to thank people from Eric“Danger” Taylor to Nate Heiss to Mike Mason. Of course, Darren DiBattista a.k.a. Azhrei, treasured friend that he is, was first as usual. Thanks, too, to the regulars of Beyond Dominia and Casual Player’s Alliance; every comment helps me since I have not been writing for quite a while.)
Watch for Part III, which will open with a little quiz on what you should have learned so far. It will also wrap up this Apocalypse discussion with the new sorceries and instants, possibly the most interesting part of the set from the Type I perspective.
Oscar Tan a.k.a. Rakso
Type I, Extended and Casual Maintainer, Beyond Dominia http://www.bdominia.com/discus/messages/9/9.shtml)
Featured writer, Star City Games (www.starcitygames.com/magic.php)
Proud member of the Casual Player’s Alliance (www.magic-singles.com/cpa)
Moderator, Bad Magic Tech e-group (www.groups.yahoo.com/group/badmagictech)
Clinician, Rogue Deck Clinic (www.groups.yahoo.com/group/RogueDeckClinic)
P.S. — I recently entered law school and have had much less time to play Magic, even casually. Thus, I treasure the few times I do get to play, and my favorite decks have become all the more sentimental. The other day, I received a very special addition to my control deck: Eric“Danger” Taylor, with whom I regularly correspond about Type I play, mailed me a Yawgmoth’s Will with a dedication that read,”For my friend Oscar, Eric Taylor.” The choice is special, because EDT used to e-mail certain ideas based around the card, but the card itself is special because it was the one he drafted in the Urza block draft of Pro Tour LA. It even bears the stamp.
It joins a signed Japanese black-bordered Strip Mine Alex Shvartsman (another friend and fellow writer), sent after my entry was noted in the Meridian Magic Deathmatch contest. Not only are they wonderful people to correspond with, but I followed the work of both back when I knew very little about this game and The Dojo was still run by Frank Kusumoto.
The joy of Type I is that I can play such sentimental cards for as long as I want.