This concluding portion is late, and I apologize. An uncle of mine died, and the entire family dropped everything to comfort our cousins (and since my mother had ten brothers and sisters, I can say they were pretty comforted).
(And Ferrett… maybe you can stop unformatting my card names now.) (No — The Ferrett, who has his rules and sticks to ’em, though he says a big”sorry” to Tan and family)
Two weeks ago in Part I, 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, and if it does, is this new card playable?
We found that Apocalypse creatures just didn’t have the power-to-mana ratios to dislodge staples such as Savannah Lions and Morphling via Rule #1. In Part II, we found that practically every Apocalypse enchantment and artifact that seemed interesting did not do enough for a deck compared to existing staples.
RAKSOBOLIC Arena, 1UU, Enchantment
At the beginning of your upkeep, you draw a card and you lose 1 life.
(The answer is at the end of the column, so you don’t get annoying white”thinking space.” The name is a rip-off from a Beyond Dominia joke, by the way.)
Also, to really keep you on your toes, try to gauge the enchantment that was intentionally left out of Part II because of its trickiness. Would you use:
X, Sacrifice Pernicious Deed: Destroy each artifact, creature, and enchantment with converted mana cost X or less.
Flavor Text: ”Yawgmoth,” Freyalise whispered as she set the bomb,”now you will pay for your treachery.”
We mainly applied Rule #1 to creatures and Rule #2 to permanents, as discussed in Parts I and II. This blurs for the sorceries and instants, especially in Apocalypse where some spells do resemble older cards, but with gold casting costs.
We separate the sorceries because the difference in flexibility between these and instants is larger than initially obvious, and especially in a format as fast as full-blown Type I. As a control player by temperament, I dislike tapping out in my main phase, and an effect would have to be really good to encourage me to do so (such as Yawgmoth’s Will, for example). Besides, too many Type I players enjoy stack tricks.
Destroy target permanent.
Flavor Text:”Don’t mourn for me. This is my destiny.”—Gerrard
Let’s start with the sexiest sorcery of them all: the new Desert Twister.
Phyrexian Arena is not really a Necropotence. Overgrown Estate is not really a Zuran Orb. Is Vindicate really a Desert Twister? Color aside, yes. At a far more realistic mana cost at that, especially since white and black are solid main or support colors.
Next question: So is this good?
First, we have to qualify”good.” Although”Destroy target permanent” is as simple and straightforward as it gets, on a more abstract level, all this does is trade one card for one card. In other words, it is hardly as broken as it looks.
But this does not mean it is not solid. All Necropotence decks of the past did (the real Necrodecks, not Trix) was trade cards with the opponent, then come out ahead because they could just refill their hands when the opponent ran out. In the first Extended tournaments, white and black weenie-based decks splashed red Lightning Bolts to kill the other’s protection creatures, but Necropotence decks came out ahead here because they traded one Bolt for one Order of Leitbur, and used the life saved to draw more Orders of the Ebon Hand and Bolts.
Working Vindicate into existing decks does not look too hard, either. Black-based decks (based around cheap discard and cheap fat) can try to splash white for this one to make their removal more flexible. With four Sinkholes and four Vindicates, plus four Wastelands and a Strip Mine, you can even make a land destruction deck with practically zero dead cards. I also want to try Vindicate in my Nether Spirit-based Pox deck, since traditional black staples such as Spinning Darkness, Contagion, and Diabolic Edict have not satisfied me. (I would have tried Swords to Plowshares, but Salt Flats was too unwieldy. Now we have Caves of Koilos.) And with Tithe and Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrublands[/author], Vindicate can also supplement Swords to Plowshares in white weenie without creating more useless cards against creatureless decks.
Control decks will also have fun, since they use the black toys and Balance anyway. Playing more casually, I keep healthy levels of Swords to Plowshares, Disenchant, and similar cards in my deck, even Moat. Other people, however, dislike drawing these against an opponent with no creatures or even no permanents. Vindicate may take the slots of these cards. It is never a dead card because it can target lands, and it adds a new level of flexibility to be able to Mystical Tutor for a Vindicate to kill a Library of Alexandria. Adding four, however, will probably be unwise since a three-mana sorcery is still awkward, even if the card drawing of control decks makes one-for-one trades good. Also, three mana is still three mana, and this is not very easy to use against a first-turn Hypnotic Specter.
In summary: Good card, but remember it is not broken.
Target player discards two cards from his or her hand. You gain 3 life for each land card discarded this way.
Flavor text: A heart of light and a soul of darkness cannot coexist.
In Part I, we said that Duress and Hymn to Tourach form the core of Type I discard-based decks. Clearly, we have to apply Rule #1, compare this to Hymn to Tourach, and conclude that it is worse. And since we rarely need more discard than four Duresses, four Hymns, and four Hypnotic Specters, we may not find a use for the Verdict.
Not quite. Verdict and Hymn are actually two very different cards, but the difference is subtle (thus, we need Rule #2). It has something to do with a deck’s mana base.
What Verdict actually does is allow a white deck to use something close enough to Hymn and take advantage of other white strengths. WB and BB are very different, because your mana base is going to kill you before you can cast White Knights and Hymns reliably on your second turn.
What is the impact of such a splash? With Duress and Gerrard’s Verdict, a white weenie deck (powered with Tithe and other supporting land) can have a strong discard subtheme. White weenie used to be a reliable combo-breaker, able to call on four Disenchants and four Auras of Silence (in Mirage-era Type II) against locks based around enchantments, or simply Cursed Scroll. Many control decks today have less permanents — but imagine a white weenie deck that can cast discard spells, can Disenchant The Abyss and Powder Keg, has Vindicate to mop up, has weenies with good combat abilities that cannot be affected by The Abyss, and easily uses the black power cards (Demonic Tutor, Vampiric Tutor, Yawgmoth’s Will, Demonic Consultation).
Certainly something to try. Just make sure you remember that black should be a splash (no BB and BBB). You may even give Spectral Lynx another look if you are in a creature-heavy area. Although Duress is less effective in such environments, backing Swords to Plowshares with Vindicate may lead to white weenie decks that are even more flexible than the old W/r Type II decks. (Against blue, you also have Abeyance and Orim’s Chant. My colleague Darren di Battista prefers the latter because it is cheaper bait against blue for Armageddon.)
Target player removes all cards in his or her hand from the game face down. At the end of that player’s next turn, that player returns those cards to his or her hand.
The new Abeyance? Obviously, our reasoning for differentiating Gerrard’s Verdict and Hymn to Tourach no longer applies, since Abeyance is white — and it is far better, since it is a cheaper cantrip instant.
Reveal the cards in your library. An opponent chooses from among them a creature card, a land card, and a noncreature, nonland card. You put the chosen cards into your hand. Then shuffle your library.
This is clearly a Rule #2. You can assume that you will be handed a land you do not seem to need, and a Mox (or Sol Ring, if you are on a budget). Revealing your library may or may not be a disadvantage, depending on the deck, and a good player can get around this. So the question is whether a three-for-one card drawer where the opponent picks the cards is good.
Some in Beyond Dominia initially thought of using this in control, to pull out a Morphling and two mana sources. These decks have just one Morphling, anyway. I thought, however, that you may as well play a second Morphling.
Darren and I had a more interesting discussion: I felt it was a three-mana sorcery that fetched only one business card, but he felt it was a very solid card for Zoo (5-color weenie-based decks) because it would give extra momentum along with the creature.
So would you want a cantrip Jackal Pup in your deck? I did not think it was worth it and would rather have a first-turn 2/1. Besides, if you have three mana in a Zoo deck filled with one- and two-mana spells, you should have better things to do than tap out to go up to five mana. If you want to try it, just remember that you may be handed a Gorilla Shaman (if you have it) by an opponent with no Moxen.
Put target permanent on top of its owner’s library.
Flavor text: One splash of the spring’s water knocks you clear into last week.
Not quite Vindicate, but a welcome twist on Time Ebb and Fallow Earth. For those of you who missed what Memory Lapse really did, this card really bounces an opponent’s permanent back to his hand and makes him lose his next card draw. Even if you just bounce an insignificant land, you gain part of a turn on your opponent, an extra turn that may allow you to attack before the opponent topdecks that Balance.
Temporal Spring is a solid card, but my problem is that I am unsure what to do with it. Some Urza-era Type II decks made it big with Plow Under, but Type I beatdown decks with blue and green may have better things to do. JPMeyer from Beyond Dominia wanted to try it in his Oath of Druids-based deck so he could remove the white, but that does not seem convincing, either.
A good card looking for a good deck. You may find it.
Target opponent loses 2 life for each swamp you control. Last Stand deals damage equal to the number of mountains you control to target creature. Put a 1/1 green Saproling creature token into play for each forest you control. You gain 2 life for each plains you control. Draw a card for each island you control, then discard that many cards from your hand.
Everything else in Apocalypse, unfortunately, just costs too much. Urborg Uprising, for example, is like cheating in Limited, but the more expensive a spell, the much higher we need out of it in Type I. Again, you can just cast a Morphling for your five mana and end the game.
This is why I was very disappointed with Last Stand, since it might at least make a casual Domain deck (based around dual lands) look appealing. I would rather have Coalition Victory, and even Cromat is less boring than this one.
In Type I, green is NOT the 5-color base (and even then, you could make more Saprolings with a mono green deck). It is blue. And this blue ability is hardly anything to look at. The black ability would have been fun to try in casual play (a”super Corrupt”), but a black deck with all those swamps would kill the opponent before needing this one.
Instants, as mentioned, are preferred in Type I over sorceries, but it seems that R&D is printing the interesting spells as sorceries. Type I players should be happy with Fact or Fiction and Misdirection, since very few spells can compete with the extremely simple and efficient benchmarks such as Counterspell, Giant Growth and Lightning Bolt. (Incidentally, Apocalypse instants are also disappointing for Type I because blue was very weak in the set. You may look at another set differently.)
Fire / Ice
1R / 1U
Instant / Instant
Fire deals 2 damage divided as you choose among any number of target creatures and/or players. / Tap target permanent. Draw a card.
Perhaps the only interesting thing about Apocalypse instants is Merchant Scroll, a Homelands sorcery that fetches a blue instant for 1U (deceptively narrow — but it covers Ancestral Recall, Mystical Tutor, Fact or Fiction, and counters). Some control players use this card as a second Mystical Tutor, and I use it with reservation, and no one I know uses more than one.
Blue/red itself is an okay color combination. Many Type I decks are based on blue, and they can accommodate red to use Pyroblast, Gorilla Shaman and Dwarven Miner, among others. But the cards themselves seem too weak.
Fire/Ice is clearly the best of the lot, and as EDT said, you can kill two Jackal Pups or maybe a Pup and a Shaman. (Incidentally, the card really reads: Deals two damage divided as you choose. Cycling: 1U.) But is cycling worth dealing one less damage compared to a Lightning Bolt (or to the Urza’s Rage I use in my control deck for Ophidians, pro-white knights, and as an extra kill card)? I didn’t think so; I found it too narrow for a control deck, and that an aggressive deck would rather have Lightning Bolt and Incinerate and deal more damage. Moreover, many players feel that Impulse is too weak in 5-color control decks because you may not have enough business cards left, so what good is more cycling?
It may see play, however, for the same reason that Serrated Arrows was good back in its day: Too many good one-toughness creatures out there. Think about it. Sligh has Pup, Shaman, and Goblin Cadets. White and black decks have pump-knights and Savannah Lions. Green also has a few, and you cycle when you play against blue.
Again, I prefer power to a more expensive but more flexible spell (see my opinion on Guided Passage), but this may work in some cases.
(As for the other blue/red spells, I just do not see the point. Suffocating Blast is clearly useless in Type I because it is expensive and looks for a creature in play. Prophetic Bolt is too expensive for creature removal, and you will need the Impulse effect before turn 3 and not when you already have five mana.)
The rest of the instants are more geared towards Limited play, and require more than one target or an opponent having a creature in play. In Type I, neither is preferred. And with no interesting counterspells in the set (yes, Mystic Snake is still too expensive), that pretty much wraps up this review.
And now for those two cards at the beginning of this column…
#1: Raksobolic Arena is junk. It is interesting as a black card and would also be worth looking at in any other color — but blue? What you now have is a mix of Juzam Djinn and Ophidian that cannot block 2/1 weenies. Fact or Fiction is considered stronger than the venerable Ophidian because a three-mana permanent and a four-mana instant are comparable, but the latter gives you more cards NOW. With blue’s existing spells, you do not need a slow card drawer. Also, the steady life loss can kill a blue player, given how blue decks often win at one life.
#2: Pernicious Deed makes for a very challenging call. Its closest equivalents are Powder Keg and Nevinyrral’s Disk, but it is still a bit different. First of all, the nature of all three clearly point to control decks. Pernicious Deed allows you to selectively destroy cheaper permanents — but as discussed in Part I, your aggressive Type I decks will have the cheapest possible ones anyway.
Looking at control decks, now, black/green looks like a tough color unless you are a big fan of Sylvan Library (and Gaea’s Blessing, in Darren’s case). In cases where I would want this, I would probably just use Keg. Even casual and rogue decks I play do not have enough enchantments to make it worth the trouble of the colors and the activation cost.
Nevertheless, this is certainly not a bad card, and may be another solid card in search of a solid deck. Steven Holyfield (or Nameless on Beyond Dominia), for example, e-mailed me that it was the latest word in budget control decks. Patterned after the 5-color control decks, these replaced some power elements with Sylvan Library, Gaea’s Blessing, Duress, and other spells. Pernicious Deed can blow away Moxen and weenies at the same time, while preserving the control deck’s Abyss, Moat, and/or Morphling. Also, there is the subtle difference that Null Rod does not affect it (Null Rod is being touted by Darren as a card that kills not just Moxen, but Cursed Scroll, Powder Keg, and Masticore, and can give certain decks he designed fits).
To end, remember that the most important things in this article are the reasons I gave. I could easily be wrong, but if I am, you have to understand which of my reasons proved wrong. Again, looking where certain reasons do not apply is a skill beyond Type I. It is the same thing that tells you if a block strategy may work in Type II, and if a Type II strategy may work in Extended.
And at the very least, these two simple rules should save you the money you might have spent on too many tempting new cards that you will not end up using anyway.
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)