Sometimes you get a day so bad, it sours the entire week. Or sort of.
We have professors who get so lazy in class we end up having to double class hours right before final exams, so today meant I had to be in school before 8:00 a.m. and get stuck there till late afternoon. Ugh.
I passed one professor on the way to class, and he told me he received the cell phone messages I sent him the previous night. See, he appeared on primetime television along with three congressmen to discuss constitutional issues about the extradition of a controversial congressman to the USA. And he was the only one saying our treaty with the US didn’t violate our Bill of Rights. While it was airing, I sent things like,”Sir, I think you need to learn to look at the TV camera while you talk before they appoint you to the Supreme Court,” and”Sir, you know you have the best TV voice on that panel.”
The following morning, I find out it was a live telecast… He was reading the jokes during the show.
So I walk into class and the heavens appoint me”Patsy of the Day.” I raise my hand and:
Oscar: Ma’am, I wanted to clarify…
Real Senior Prof: Well, Mr. Tan, why don’t you discuss the entire chapter first? I wanted to discuss exactly that part, but you beat me to it.
After an hour of grilling, she asks me why I wanted to clarify that part… And I joke it was because the girl behind me didn’t want to believe me. So she asks the girl to tell the class about everything I said, especially any juicy parts.
I wasn’t sure which lady wanted to kill me more.
And so I run into the library, figuring I can cram everything for the last class over lunch. Then my classmates show me the pile of readings, complete with antiques from pre-American Revolution English courts. I give up, go get lunch, and hide in the back of the auditorium.
So naturally, the last professor walks in and says,”Oh! I think Mr. Tan wants to discuss…” and has me talk the entire period. At least I got to change positions, strategically placed to receive whispers, notes, and textbooks with highlighter marks turned to the right page.
Honestly, I’ve never seen an auditoriumful of law students smile at a guy who spent the entire day standing up instead of sitting down. (At least they could smile… With the heat on me, the guy beside me in the auditorium even dozed off.)
Anyway, when I got home, a Dutch guy named Rubicant- asked for an Apprentice game, and switched to Forbiddian with red when he saw me playing”The Deck.” Without me sideboarding, his new deck showed Red Elemental Blast, then Pyroblast, then Dwarven Miner. After cleaning out his Ophidian, hand and land with a timely Balance and leaving my end of the board well-stocked with artifacts, I dropped Morphling and he dropped maindeck Blood Moon. I got him down to five life, but he Monkeyed my Mox Sapphire along with the other jewelry so Morphling couldn’t fly. He amazingly chumped with Shaman, then topdecked Morphling, then topdecked Dwarven Miner, until he topdecked Ancestral Recall to topdeck another Pyroblast for the unprotected Morphling.
When I ask him how on earth he almost lost, he asked what was wrong since he”won fair and square..”
Maybe it’s not too late to ask Alex Shvartsman how to sell foils to the Japanese for a living…
I never got where this came from, and I didn’t think it was an issue until I saw [author name="Bennie Smith"]Bennie Smith[/author] refute it in an article.
Guess there’s no pleasing some people… Do you really want to have to choose between a first-pick Ancestral Recall and Balance in your first Onslaught draft? Honestly, it looked like a fun, creative little (or not so little) set to me.
Recycling Cycling is a welcome new plane of nostalgia for R&D to explore that should grab newbie and old school player alike. They managed to give the new batch additional subtlety, and though cycling cards tend to be less efficient, you can’t ignore the success of Fire/Ice even in Type I.
Tribal is probably something for the Limited and the Casual players, but you just might get critical mass for more cohesive decks after a couple more blocks. Note, for example, a number of key Sligh creatures are Goblins, and a number of key White Weenie creatures are Clerics.
Mechanics do get expanded in the second set, and you may yet get a cycling card on the level of Fire/Ice, and a tribal card on the level of Goblin Grenade.
But the mechanic that caught me was Morphing.
It’s not because of the combat tricks, the new dimension in Limited or the nostalgia it draws off Illusionary Mask. I think this will be an important ability (well, depending on what other Morphs get printed) in Type I because it blurs the lines between aggro and utility.
Take a look at what is probably the best Type I Morph in Onslaught: Dwarven Blastminer.
Now compare it to its illustrious predecessor, Dwarven Miner.
Let’s play Spot the Differences.
Going down from 1/2 to 1/1 is no big deal, since blocking Ophidians and dodging Mogg Fanatics get a much lower priority than the devastating ability. It’s almost impossible to believe they’d give an already lethal creature a free boost. But aside from the opportunity to get foil Miners, what exactly does the new Morph version give us?
An early Dwarven Miner that goes wild can kill a multicolor deck, simply put. You have to realize, though, that Miner can be a useless one-power creature in other situations. For example, against a monocolored deck, when it’s too late in the game to make an immediate impact, or even when you smell Teferi’s Response.
Now you can appreciate the beauty of the free Morphing. You’re at least assured of a lousy 2/2, and a puny 2/2 at least finishes better than a pathetic 1/2. Picture your midgame topdecked Elvish Spirit Guide, for example.
The mediocre beatdown option is extremely attractive for weak utility creatures, and imagine if Stompy gets a Morphing Druid Lyrist in the next set. It makes it much easier to maindeck utility creatures, and especially something as situational as Miner in Sligh and Zoo.
Moreover, Matt D’Avanzo pointed out that you suddenly get a free colorless damage source, which helps against Circle of Protection: Red in”The Deck” and Story Circle in Deck Parfait. (But breathe, Matt… it’s still not an artifact creature that dodges The Abyss.) Your lousy midgame beatdown option even annoys Powder Kegs.
And heck… You can have fun scaring your opponent into believing it’s a Blistering Firecat.
Incidentally, high-level judges are speculating how Illusionary Mask will be reworked to mesh with Morph. I doubt they’ll do anything about the crucial dodging of comes-into-play costs, though, meaning the Mask-Dreadnought combo will probably be intact.
The Onslaught Creatures (Blue and White only)
I hope you remember our two rules:
- 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?
You know the drill, but do give me a bit more time. It’s a big set and it’s a long final exam stretch…
Well… what else do you expect from something with Kai’s likeness on it?
This is arguably the best blue weenie ever printed, and it’s welcome in a color with notoriously lousy weenies. Thanks to its pathetic creature pool, blue creature decks can’t aggro and have to channel their color’s natural strengths into aggro/control combo breakers. You’ve called it Merfolk, Baby Blue, Fish, or Blue Skies at one time or another, but the deck structure has hardly changed.
Kai fits right into aggro/control with its Seal of Counterspell ability. The trend that climaxed with Gro was to import beefier green creatures, but we might just see a resurgence of mono blue. Note that Kai’s ability is uncounterable, meaning the intended targets can’t just force a key spell with counters; they’ll have to rely on brute force to grind down aggro/control and its inherent card disadvantage.
Do note that the ability isn’t”sacrifice Kai”; it’s”sacrifice Wizard.” Fortunately, the weenie Wizards to date are all too weak for aggro/control beatdown, so it shouldn’t get out of hand.
Thank the French Kai wasn’t printed to lead the Merfolk.
This double creature type business is getting old fast, but it looks like White Weenie slipped R&D some extra crack for Extended. No one would’ve paid as much attention to yet another 2/2 for WW if it weren’t a Rebel, but its defensive ability beats everything the low end of the Rebel chain has to offer: Ramosian Sergeant, Steadfast Guard, Fresh Volunteers…
The use of a full Rebel chain is slow and control decks have far simpler options such as Morphling, but some Extended White Weenie decks have successfully used only Ramosian Sergeant as a good one-drop and as midgame insurance. If you find a deck or metagame where the abbreviated chain works, you just got yourself a better Grizzly Bear.
Arcanis, the Omnipotent
It’s very tempting to write off this fattie as trade fodder for the kids. Don’t, though, since the only real problem with Kai’s big brother is the casting cost. If he cost half as much, you’d all be drooling, right?
Thing is, there are decks that can get around these awkward casting costs. You could see this, for example, as a surprise option in a Survival-based deck. Something along the lines of Full English Breakfast or reanimation with Anger’s haste could actually turn him into a virtual Ancestral Recall.
This old-school card is memorable for a lot of reasons that have nothing to do with strategy. First, our old national champion and TO Dean Alfar used to tell the story of his Level III judge exam. Imagine something like,”Explain all relevant rulings and errata for the following cards… #1: Clone.” (Got to love how he used to be a Level III.5 judge.)
Second, I once bought a single Revised pack for fun at a high school fair, but that was the time you could slide the cards up and peek through the semi-transparent packing. I didn’t take the time to push the rare up with my nail, but the last uncommon was easily seen. I bought the pack because I didn’t have a Clone, and it came with two other nice uncommons and its big brother Vesuvan Doppleganger.
Fun aside, though, Clone was never a key card. For four mana, you get a card that’s only as good as your opponent’s creatures – if he has creatures. (Yes, these days, add one more and you get Morphling.) Unless you’re sure all your opponents will be playing with six-mana-and-up fatties, it’s just not worth the trouble to set up this fun card.
But I bet Dean will love the new, compact Oracle text…
Third, the ability itself is a bit expensive, and won’t be there in the earliest turns. It’s also a slot devoted to half a Disenchant effect, and the one power may not look like a good trade in the face of Powder Keg, Phyrexian Dreadnought, and Juggernaut…
Having said all that, you now need to compare it to arguably the most popular White Weenie one-drop after Savannah Lions: Mother of Runes. Momma is the staple utility creature, and it hoses The Abyss, which is the main target of all the Lyrists. While Nova Cleric also hits other problems from Moat to Oath of Druids, Momma’s more flexible ability hoses problems from blockers to burn.
Looks like the search for the second White Weenie one-drop goes on. Eric Rouge, a.k.a. Redman, e-mailed to say,”Cute, but only for the truly paranoid!”
The ability looks very attractive, but this is one rare I hope you don’t lose good cards on in the weeks before Onslaught’s release. I recently played a White Weenie deck that tried to update using this, and I proved to him that the ability was thoroughly useless against control. It doesn’t look like it does anything in combat, either.
So what does a living Ivory Mask do for us?
It’s useless against burn since they’ll just kill the creature (just Pariah a Soltari Priest like everyone else). It looks good against discard, but you’ll probably use this in a deck with Land Tax anyway. No, the only thing this looks good against is combo decks that kill with a million-point Stroke of Genius. Consider it a more playable Obstinate Familiar: Now this was an anti-combo card I hyped as a joke, but there’s a good reason you don’t see it in Sligh. As mentioned, it’s pathetic in every non-combo matchup. Plus, a combo deck like that goes off will easily find its token bounce (especially Academy, which has Capsize built with Candelabra of Tawnos), can kill your creature (like Pande-Burst), or simply isn’t affected (every Earthcraft-based combo out there).
A lot of White Weenie abilities are simply irrelevant; sorry.
Jarrod Bright, a columnist for that other Magic site, wrote in to comment,”The only reason it seems playable is the word ‘basic’ that is missing from in-front of the word ‘land.’ ‘Fetch my Library of Alexandria for one mana? Yes please.'”
When I talked about Living Wish, however, I explained why tutoring for land has never been that high a priority. Sure, you can fetch Library, but you still wasted a card to get it and still have to set up a seven-card hand. May as well use Land Tax/Scroll Rack for all your trouble, right?
Definitely, the mana-fixing potential of this one is nothing compared to Land Tax and Tithe. Other than that, a clunky way to set up a Bazaar of Baghdad engine or a wave of man-lands doesn’t look too attractive anyway.
Again, the search for that crucial second one-drop goes on. And I don’t see this, say, getting a crucial slot in Academy-based combo, either.
Don’t lose money on it.
Quicksilver Dragon strongly resembles an old control fattie, namely Silver Wyvern… But Silver Wyvern wasn’t so hot on a board where it was the only creature. If you stuff either into a control deck, that’s not an uncommon situation, right?
There’s nothing special about this, except I just had to add insult to White Weenie fans’ injuries… Hey, at least the cute but mana-intensive original, Zhalfirin Crusader, made it to Inquest’s Top 10!
Mageta, the Lion it ain’t – but Eric Rouge, a.k.a. Redman, and I just had to share a nostalgic laugh over this one. The original, Hand of Justice, was honestly amusing when it got going in White Weenie many years back, so the best of luck with your Soldier theme decks. In fact, you can even begin your conscription with Fallen Empires, since there are a few cute Soldiers in there: Icatian Lieutenant, Icatian Javelineers, and Icatian Infantry. These last two have great alternate art, so at the very least, your casual deck will be fun to look at.
Eric Rouge e-mailed to say that if you have this in your deck for some reason and use it to counter a Mishra’s Factory pump ability, let us know. Hey… it could happen, you know. We’ll even forward it to Alex Shvartsman Play of the Week for you if it wins the game.
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Forum Administrator, Star City Games
Featured writer, Star City Games (http://www.starcitygames.com/php/news/archive.php?Article=Oscar Tan)
Author of the Control Player’s Bible
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