I was able to squeeze in a bit of practice last week (translation: Reading hundreds of pages of Labor Law turns your mind into mush), and had a couple of funny matches. Both were best of three, unsideboarded, against mono black Mask. That’s hardly a good matchup, but the worst matchups make for the most enjoyable practice.
Game 2 against Mike Skolnik from Canada (Atreides on Mana Drain) had me successfully beat his opening wave, but he got two Illusionary Masks out and added an unorthodox Nevinyrral’s Disk to complicate the board situation. I hit the first Phyrexian Dreadnought with Dismantling Blow – teasing him to use the Disk to counter the Blow’s kicker – and then a second with Swords to Plowshares. I broke the standoff with Vampiric Tutor for Braingeyser, tapping out for six cards.
Unfortunately, he topdecked an unorthodox Winter Orb.
We topdecked and slowly untapped our lands until he played another Masked creature with twenty-three cards left in the library. I had a full hand, but the only relevant cards I had were The Abyss and Balance.
I checked the graveyard and removed from the game zones. Three Dreadnoughts accounted for.
But, I was at eleven life.
Balance would kill the possible Dreadnought – but would also kill all but three of my land and my entire hand, and I’d most probably lose the topdeck war since he’d Disk away my Moxen, too.
I told him,”BALLS!” and played The Abyss instead.
He flipped… Skittering Horror.
He knew he only had one Dreadnought left, too, so I Disked away the Orb, the Abyss, his Masks, and all our artifact mana. I untapped and ask him to guess my topdeck.
“Um… Yawgmoth’s Will?”
Well, you know the drill.
As for the other match, Game 1 against Benny Meyers, an Oakton Community College freshman from Chicago (Dancing Joker on E-League), saw him with a Swamp–Dark Ritual, Swamp–Black Lotus–Yawgmoth’s Will–Black Lotus–Dark Ritual opening sequence. I threw it right back at him in Game 2 with tricks like Black Lotus–Mind Twist, then Yawgmoth’s Will-Lotus-Ancestral Recall and some other stuff.
Game 3, though, had him cast Demonic Consultation for an Illusionary Mask and lose three Phyrexian Negators in the process. His test version had more discard and less threats, so that hurt his topdecks. Nevertheless, he laughed when I tutored for Braingeyser and got three lands and two Moxen out of seven cards, and cast Fact or Fiction and turned over five lands.
He cast end-of-turn Tainted Pact to get his offense going again, but I took a dramatic moment.
“Before you Pact, note that I have three Moxen, a Sol Ring, and eleven lands in play.”
“And you have thirteen cards left in your library.”
I show the first of my three-card hand: Chainer’s Edict.
“This is for Dreadnoughts #3 and #4.”
I show the second: Mana Drain.
“This is for what you get off Pact.”
Then, I show him my last card.
“Okay. You may resolve Tainted Pact now. Take your time.”
Easiest Tainted Pact ever…
(Benny and I stuck in another game while he was judging an E-League mini, and this one had an equally funny ending. I got a Vampiric Tutor-Ancestral, Regrowth-Ancestral opening, while he played an Illusionary Mask.. He played a third-turn Phyrexian Negator, but I was ahead in hand size 7-1. I got The Abyss and should’ve won, but he topdecked a Dreadnought.
(Uh-oh. At twelve life?
(I slid the Swords to Plowshares on top of the facedown Dreadnought to his great disbelief and…
(…at that moment, the power in Manila went out. Sorry, Benny, if you’re reading this…)
Onslaught Enchant Creatures
Last week, we finished up with a long list of possibles from the Onslaught creatures. Again, 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?
What… You actually expected something in this much-maligned category?
This was just to check if you’ve been clicking on the links!
May your”scroll down” jokes actually be funny, or whatever Rosewater imitation ending you want me to slip in.
But is that bad?
The classic Lightning Bolt is still the best burn spell… But did that make Chain Lightning and Incinerate useless? Same with Hymn to Tourach, which was followed by Stupor, and eventually Duress much later on.
No, these were hardly bad because they gave a player four more slots for that effect, and added redundancy to decks that wanted them.
Now, the standard discard complement of your average mono black is Duress, Hymn to Tourach, and Hypnotic Specter. Each member of the trio is the most efficient in its class and rarely replaced, except in special cases like Pox decks (which obviously use Pox over Specter).
With respect to Blackmail, that seems to close the book (deck box?) on it, unless you figure a deck wants four more discard slots. You know, though, that no deck wants all that discard, the simplest reason being it sucks to Hymn an empty hand while a weenie beats down on you. Discard is just disruption; you need other things to win you the game.
So to use it, all we have to do is look for a deck that wants another one mana discard spell, probably one where Hypnotic Specter can’t fill the last of the roughly twelve slots.
Real easy, Ben…
Running down the list-Suicide, no… NetherVoid, no… Pox, no… all combo decks, no…
I figure, though, that Unmask is better at disrupting an opponent’s hand, even if you have to pitch a crucial black card to it. Duress just trades one-for-one, so the only way to get advantage out of it is to snag a better card, like dismantling a”The Deck” opening hand by removing a juicy Ancestral Recall or Balance. It isn’t so good after the first few turns, and you don’t want to topdeck it in a lot of situations.
Benny Meyers and I did get an early Blackmail situation (he was testing, providently, Blackmail) in our games. I had a four-card hand and showed him land, land, unplayable card.
I don’t think he liked the result.
After reviewing this draft, Norweigian Mask developer Chris Flaaten e-mailed,”Blackmail is still a decent card in other decks though – very mindgame-oriented. That probably means it will be best in more control oriented decks (in formats that don’t have Duress, at least!”
But… And to clarify Ben’s comment: If you do that first-turn Dark Ritual–Hymn to Tourach, you lead Hymn with Duress, not follow up Hymn with Duress… Otherwise, you might see Misdirection and trade four of your cards for two of his (Duress can’t be Misdirected).
Moreover, it might possibly backfire against a faster deck with something in play already and wouldn’t mind killing both hands.
Chain of Acid
This is a rehash of the venerable Creeping Mold, which was fun in your old casual Land Destruction and Erhnam Burn’Em decks, but is just too expensive compared to today’s more specialized utility cards. Chain of Acid doesn’t look much better, and you again risk the opponent starting a chain when it’s to his advantage.
Incidentally, the original Chain Lightning from Legends had a cost to chain, so the new cards give the opponent a lot more latitude.
I’ve seen some players drool over this, so it demands some dissection.
Simple math: You cast the card (-1 card in hand) to draw four (+3) but give your opponent two (+1).
Assuming your opponent doesn’t give you more cards (and he probably won’t), that’s as good as Inspiration.
That said, Trade Secrets only becomes more appealing if you can neutralize the two cards you give your opponent. Barring some exotic way to set up your opponent, like donating Thought Devourers, this usually means using Trade Secrets to start up a combo deck’s winning turn.
The simple question is, why not Meditate? This has its own drawback, but it doesn’t give the opponent a free shot at Force of Will at the last minute-summing up the drawback, JP”Polluted” Meyer e-mailed,”Trade Secrets actually reads: ‘Opponent chooses one: Draw two cards or lose the game.'” Plus, Meditate asks for one less colored mana, which is crucial for combos that rely on (colorless) artifact mana acceleration.
(Right before this article was sent in, JP added these thoughts:”Seriously, in just about every format except maybe Onslaught Block, this card will most likely kill you once your opponent untaps. You will die in Type 2 if they have out a card like Wild Mongrel or Psychatog or Upheaval. Hell, they could draw thirty cards cards or so, drop Zombie Infestation, and make twenty power worth of guys. With the heavy amount of mana acceleration in Extended, you can easily have your opponent assemble their kill and off you in one
turn – imagine Tinker drawing twenty cards and playing half of them.. And in Type I, any control deck will grab a full complement of counters, any aggro deck will pull enough damage and/or disruption, and any combo deck will obviously win the next turn.”)
Raphael Caron, a.k.a. K-Run, chimed in for Deck Parfait:”This card reminds me of Do or Die, since your opponent gets to choose which creatures he’ll keep. I’d rather pay an extra W and deny that choice to my opponent.”
Some beginners will probably use this as a Thran Foundry that you can pitch to Force of Will. If you’re a beginner, remember that reshuffling your graveyard back in is nice and all, but you get no card advantage.. And, even if you lost a one-of, it might get reshuffled to the bottom of your library anyway.
Further, note that you get half of Timetwister for the same price. (Okay, so not half the dollar price…)
This looks fun, too, but I’ll leave it to Anthony Alongi. Maybe we’ll see a future Syphon cycle, drawing off the reprinted Syphon Soul. But never forget… we Type I players are the segment that makes the most noise.
I honestly wonder if this is someone’s idea of a joke masquerading as another alternate win. It looks like a fun card for Elf decks to try, and it’s a sure way to humiliate any control or combo player (especially if you play it in SquirrelCraft instead).
Besides… It’s a green alternate win.
Just checking if you’re actually clicking on the links… No, this didn’t get reprinted and that’s all for this week.
rakso on #BDChat on EFNet
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