Going back to the card rating rules
I keep going back to two rules in these expansion reviews, as explained in the very first review:
- 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, and if it does, is this new card playable?
Because a card has to compete for a slot against so many other cards in the Type I pool, yes, we do end up throwing out a lot of them. But I emphasize that knowing if (or when) a card sucks is as important as knowing when it’s pure gold.
A novel way of teasing your critical deckbuilding senses is to critique the Type I-related commentary on Pojo’s long-running”Card of the Day” review. For example, the card for July 8 was an obscure elf that once featured prominently in Inquest’s “Bayou Lightning” Killer Deck:
Elves of Deep Shadow
The Dark uncommon
Tap: Add B to your mana pool. Elves of Deep Shadow deals 1 damage to you
It was an Inquest-featured card, so don’t expect much – but was it so bad?
Fletcher Peatross said:”Very playable in a Rec-Sur type deck, she’s very solid. A 3 in Constructed.” If you’re familiar with casual Survival of the Fittest–Recurring Nightmare decks, though, you know that the key card is Survival, not Recurring Nightmare. Thus, green mana is the most crucial, not black. In fact, Wall of Roots isn’t half-bad there, because you get an extra Survival in your opponent’s turn.
Wall of Roots
Put a -0/-1 counter on Wall of Roots: Add G to your mana pool. Play this ability only once each turn.
In fact, with no early double-black costs to pay, you wonder why a RecSur deck needs black mana acceleration. So a green card that makes black mana doesn’t automatically go into every deck with green and black, does it?
Other writers said it’s playable but not advisable because Birds of Paradise and Utopia Tree did the same thing and more. You again wonder, though, why they mentioned a two-mana creature (a two-mana creature for acceleration isn’t so fast, is it?) that isn’t even common or uncommon.
Tap: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool.
So… Talking about an Inquest marquee card isn’t as simple as it looks, is it?
But remember that the two rules are relative, and you don’t have to peg them to a full-blown Type I tournament. You can use the same two rules to have as much fun as Bennie Smith.
People would do well to take a page from Bennie and talk about casual play without the picayune, random comments. I hope you didn’t miss the inaugural piece of his new MagictheGathering.com column.
The Initial Judgment: Instants
The Torment forecast was generally on point, except I saw Alter Reality as a casual card while some players tried it as a Blue Elemental Blast substitute (against Red Blasts) that didn’t work out.
Play Seedtime only on your turn. If an opponent played a blue spell this turn, take an extra turn after this one.
This is a funny card – and not just because of the hype. First, some Internet contributors posted that it’d be as broken as Library of Alexandria in Type I while it was roundly dismissed on Beyond Dominia and elsewhere. Then, a group of my friends from the New York and Virginia area got into a lively debate about the”useless” card.
Approaching Seedtime, we need to keep two things in mind:
First, Time Walk effects are often overrated by the inexperienced, hence the hype. Always remember that a Time Walk is made up of:
- An extra untap
- An extra card draw
- An extra attack phase
- An extra land drop
If you’re not in a position to abuse any of these components, then all you have is a fancy cantrip.
Second, the damn card is green.
Seedtime in aggro
The most interesting component is the extra attack phase, and the logical starting points are aggro decks with green.
This leads us to mono green – meaning Stompy. It can make good use of another attack, since it often has five power of creatures on the board. Problem is, it doesn’t have the mana. It won’t always hit even three mana, and taps out early on when those end-of-turn Ancestral Recalls, Mystical Tutors, and Impulses are cast. It might catch a midgame Impulse or Fact or Fiction, but the game should swing one way or another by then.
Moving to multicolored aggro like Zoo, these have less creatures and you want your Time Walk to do more damage than an extra burn spell. Moreover, Seedtime has to compete with the powerful red sideboard cards, and it can’t.
Taking these objections, we move to aggro-control. Type I Gro decks, for example, can’t accommodate red by nature and are usually blue/green. They can also hit hard in just one attack, especially when a Quirion Dryad suddenly grows to 10/10. Still, you wonder how much better a sideboard card that’s good when the beatdown is already on the board is.
Seedtime in combo
Moving away from the”obvious” analysis, JP”Polluted” Meyer e-mailed:
“Don’t think Stompy, think Academy. Old combo decks like ProsBloom played Final Fortune. When the control deck would tap out for Whispers of the Muse, Bloom would Final Fortune and win. One of my favorite plays of all time was when Tommi Hovi did that to Jakub Slemr at Worlds ’98. (well, first he cast Vampiric to put it on top and cast Abeyance to draw it, but you know what I mean.)”
I defer to the man who refined Neo-Academy, Matt D’Avanzo:
“I can’t imagine why I’d want a conditional Time Walk over the move versatile Abeyance, which actually eliminates a lot of potential problems. Seedtime looks so pointless and so bad that I’m reserving judgement until I hear their reasoning over why a Time Walk (and a bad one) is worth SBing.”
Matt cites Suicide Black as an example, where Abeyance buys an extra turn against Duress, Hymn to Tourach and Sinkhole.
Seedtime in control
The fun began when Steven Holyfield a.k.a. Nameless, Darren Di Battista a.k.a. Azhrei, and JP voiced it for the”The Deck” mirror. I disagreed, along with Matt and Joshua Reynolds, and my main objection was that it was functionally a Mana Short and only Brian Weissman uses that in 2002.
Tap all lands target player controls and empty his or her mana pool.
First of all, it’s definitely not better than anything red can offer – so the only control people who should be thinking about it are those who use green over red. These are the people who sideboard in Duress plus something permanent like Scrying Glass, with very few other selections such as Christian Flaaten a.k.a. CF’s Abeyances.
Now, Mana Short works when you have a good hand and there’s a stalemate. It forces the counter war in your opponent’s turn, leaving you to untap and play a bomb. Seedtime works the same way, except you wait for your opponent’s play and he’s the one who gets to untap if Seedtime gets countered.
Seedtime doesn’t cut the opponent’s mana completely, but you’ll still have the mana advantage in the next turn, plus a free draw phase. In an extreme case where you’re about to be overwhelmed, you can actually recur Seedtime and Time Walk to kill with a flying 5/1 Morphling right away.
Now, looking solely at control decks with green but no red (which the six people in the discussion fortunately clarified), Seedtime starts looking better because it cantrips. Darren pointed out the funny case where Seedtime defeats Mana Short in a mirror. However, on first impression, Matt, CF, and myself would just consider another Duress.
While green fans consider the possibilities, perhaps the funniest answer came from Neutral Ground’s Robb Williams. He said he’d just pick up a foil copy for his sideboard of Duresses and Nether Spirit. Why?
He thinks it’d be stylish – and this is a guy who wouldn’t mind sideboarding Goblin Balloon Brigade for style points.
Anyway, in case you find control players trying out Seedtime, remember that the threat of some cards being played such as Disrupt and Teferi’s Response is often worse than those cards actually getting played, and you’ll unconsciously find yourself trying to play around Seedtime. Remember, however, that Mana Short is good only when certain conditions are met – and not before.
Sure, if you tap out on your opponent’s turn 4 with Fact or Fiction and hope to draw a counter, Seedtime can make it backfire and get you Mind Twisted instead. But don’t psych yourself out and do your opponent’s work for you.
Also note that everyone in that”pro-Seedtime, against Seedtime, could consider Seedtime if I don’t have red” debate talked about Seedtime only as a one-of, like Mana Short.
Ray of Revelation
Destroy target enchantment. Flashback: G (You may play this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then remove it from the game.)
This could look useful in certain decks, such as multicolored aggro decks that need to overcome an Abyss or Moat. Thing is, green/white isn’t a particularly aggressive combination.
Damage can’t be prevented this turn. Flashback: R (You may play this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then remove it from the game.)
Flavor text: “I don’t rub salt in wounds. I use sulfur.”-Maloc, lavamancer
No one is sure why this got printed, and JP”Polluted” Meyer quipped,”I get the feeling this only exists because they rotated Anarchy out of Extended.”
That said, I freaked out over AIM when I first read the spoiler and ranted about how cheesy R&D was getting. On the other end of the connection, Matt D’Avanzo calmed me down and said this was hardly a concern. The following day, he reread the spoiler, caught me, and cried bloody murder himself.
To state the obvious, this is good only in decks that can deal a lot of damage in one turn and only against decks that rely on Circle of Protection: Red for defense. In other words, it’s only good in Sligh with Price of Progress against”The Deck.” That’s why it cheeses the living hell out of me, and you can’t just Mind Twist it away like Red Elemental Blasts.
In practice, though, you have to draw both the Price and the Flaring Pain and have at least five mana, which takes a bit of time. In that time, if the control player is still alive, he’s bound to have stocked up on counters, played a Morphling, or done something.
Even worse, Flaring Pain is a lower priority anti-“The Deck” sideboard than Red Elemental Blast, Pyroblast and Price of Progress itself. Even if you maindeck Price, you’ll end up with eight Red Blasts and three or four Flaring Pains. That leaves only three or four slots for anti-aggro cards such as Pyrokinesis or some other anti-aggro card, and no room for other cards such as Anarchy.
Of course, every online tournament will feature the kid who will sideboard 15 hate cards and end up taking you down with him. I had Brian Romano a.k.a. Feverdog simulate this brainlessness, and he took a Sligh deck with maindeck Price plus eight Red Blasts, four Flaring Pains, and three Scalds to board in. Needless to say, Flaring Pain and his fifteen-card board didn’t help. Brian cursed the simulated sideboard, and that was before he played every non-control matchup where he couldn’t side in a thing.
But even if half the kids in your area suddenly switch to Sligh with fifteen-card Flaring Pain hate sideboards, you still have other tricks. I was searching through my list of rejected white sideboard cards such as Warmth, but Matt e-mailed:
Aegis of Honor
1: The next time an instant or sorcery spell would deal damage to you this turn, that spell deals that damage to its controller instead.
This is strictly inferior to Circle of Protection: Red, but if you really hate Flaring Pain, this redirects damage instead of preventing it. You can swap one or both COPs, and be more careful with early creature damage (you have Powder Keg, The Abyss and other sideboarded removal).
Of course, you might have more fun just taking a nonblue deck and watch the clueless hate players stare at their ridiculous sideboards.
Counter target spell. If the spell is countered in this way, instead remove it from the game then put it in a graveyard. As long as it is removed from game, you may play it as though it were in your hand without paying its mana cost. Treat X as 0.
This looks like the set’s overcosted fun card, and there will always be players who want to goof off with it – like me.
Still, six mana is six mana, and I like my previous blue goof-off choices better:
Urza’s Destiny uncommon
Counter target instant or sorcery spell. Search its controller’s graveyard, hand, and library for all cards with the same name as that card and remove them from the game. That player then shuffles his or her library.
Counter target spell. If it’s an artifact or creature card, put it into play under your control instead of into its owner’s graveyard.
The Dragon that isn’t for kids
In the first part of this chopped-up expansion review, I said Worldgorger Dragon was a pathetic lapse that fits in nothing but cheesy combo decks. It may not a very strong Type I combo, but it can sure cheese an unpowered eight-man store tourney. Read how it can cheese Emperor of all things, according to my colleague [author name="Peter Jahn"]Peter Jahn[/author].
I rest my case.
You’ll probably read Mark Rosewater alleged Type I column on www.magicthegathering.com next. I certainly hope it’s not filled with more PR spins to humor the more mature Type I crowd, who won’t buy any of it. Remember, the explanation for how Dragon slipped through the cracks left much to be desired.
The Initial Judgment: Lands
Judgment’s land mechanics are definitely more interesting than Torment’s, and the Tainted Lands and Cabal Coffers just couldn’t compare with the venerable originals.
Krosan Verge comes into play tapped.
Tap: Add one colorless mana to your mana pool. 2, Tap, Sacrifice Krosan Verge: Search your libr