You Lika The Juice? – A Casually Competitive Look at the Rest of Conflux

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Friday, February 6th – Last week I focused on the Green cards from Conflux that I found interesting. This week I thought I’d conclude by going over the cards in the other colors that caught my attention, and toss a few more deck ideas out there. The StarCityGames.com $5K Standard Open is coming up quick, so I’m angling for something powerful and new to run.

Last week I focused on the Green cards from Conflux that I found interesting, and this week I figured I’d touch on the other cards. Before I get on with that though, I wanted to take a moment to talk about Scrye magazine. Some of you may have heard, but for those who haven’t, this month’s issue will be the last. It’s probable that most of you reading this column likely haven’t picked up a Scrye in years; if you’re here on the internet reading me, you’re probably getting whatever Magic content you need online, in real time. Still, Scrye did provide a service to people who aren’t as net-savvy and those who still appreciate flipping through a well-made magazine: its portability. I’m guessing with the crappy economy people are buying fewer magazines, making it more difficult for those who are operating on the edge already having to compete with the Internet.

Just this weekend, at the prerelease, I had three guys come up to me. “Aren’t you…” one of them began, smiling bashfully. Writing for StarCityGames.com and working the prereleases, I usually get a few people coming up to me here and there asking if I’m that dude who writes on their website. I was expecting the same here, but he finished with “…the guy who writes about Magic for Scrye? Man, I love the Knowledge Vault, it has taught me so much!” His buddies grinned and agreed, and started pointing out various rules questions they particularly liked over the years. It broke my heart to have to tell them that this month’s Scrye would be the last. One of them vowed to go and buy as many back issues as he could find. I have to admit it was refreshing to talk with players who aren’t necessarily hyper-plugged in, obsessively devouring the latest cutting-edge information the second it hits the web. There are Magic gamers of all stripes out there.

Scrye was the longest-running magazine reporting on the CCG hobby, having launched in July 1993. I started writing articles for them in July of 2000, and in November of that year they made me contributing editor. In those years, I’ve had the honor of teaming up with some great writers, including Star City alumni Anthony Alongi, Sheldon Menery, Laura Mills, and current Ask the Judge extraordinaire Chris Richter. I’ll also miss working with some fantastic editors that have come and gone over the years, especially current editor Joyce Greenholdt. It’s been a heckuva run, guys!

Okay, so last week I did a review of Conflux Green, and intermixed a few rants on the state of Green that seemed to distract people from the deck ideas I proposed, since nobody commented on those – though maybe the deck ideas were just crap… that’s entirely possible too! Still, if nobody’s paying attention, then the chances are good I can ambush people with Dramatic Entrance for a Meglonoth before blockers are declared, or go off with Soul’s Fire on Charnelhoard Wurm! Beware…

This week I thought I’d conclude by going over the cards in the other colors that caught my attention, and toss a few more deck ideas out there. The StarCityGames.com $5K Standard Open is coming up quick, so I’m angling for something powerful and new to run.

Exalted — Critical Mass?
With Noble Hierarch, we’ve got another high-quality Exalted creature to add to the mix, one that also happens to accelerate nicely into three mana on turn 2, and can also help cast Rhox War Monk, one of the best likely targets for Exalted boosts. While Aven Squire and Giltspire Avenger seem underpowered or Limited fodder only, I can’t help but wonder if slightly sub-par might “get there” in a deck that’s focused on maximizing Exalted. I keep going back to my Dredge deck, where I surprised everyone with cards everyone viewed as sub-par like Greater Mossdog, Stinkweed Imp, and Darkblast, but helped create a critical mass of Dredge cards to make the strategy really hum. Of course, Exalted has the problem of wanting to play out more creatures, and making you more vulnerable to mass removal, but Bant has lots of ways to protect against that once you’ve established your Exalted team. Just something to think about.

Celestial Purge
I can’t imagine this not becoming a sideboard staple given the right metagames, especially with so many hybrid cards out there straddling the Black or Red. Stillmoon Cavalier still laughs at it though, doesn’t it?

Court Homunculus
If I’m not mistaken, this is the first Constructed-playable Homunculus out of about five made so far. Milestone! I have to say, having lived through the Affinity madness of Mirrodin, giving Esper cheap beaters makes me a little nervous, but for fans of the Shard I can see them welcoming this fellow. Turn 1 this guy, turn 2 Sigil of Distinction, equip, swing for three is certainly a strong opener.

Lapse of Certainty
This card strikes me as a high-impact card for Standard, giving W/x decks the option of buying another turn whether or not they’re playing blue. Sure, it strengthens W/U/x if they don’t go some other routes at three mana, but you can play this in Mono-White, W/G or Naya too, which is pretty revolutionary.

Martial Coup
I know several guys who seem to really like this card. My jury’s still out on Martial Coup; my gut instinct is that it’s just way too expensive for its effect. At 2WW, 3WW, and 4WW, think about what power level you’d normally get from a spell at that cost, then compare to the two, three, or four 1/1 soldier tokens you’re getting here. It’s only once you pay an eye-popping seven mana that you get the Wrath effect added in that dodges the token creatures you create. I admit it’s an interesting design, but I’m not sold that it cuts the mustard outside of casual and maybe Block Constructed.

Path to Exile
I have to say reading that Adrian Sullivan dislikes this card certainly raised an eyebrow, since I’m with the crowd that thinks it’s pretty amazing. It’s certainly had a huge impact in the way I’m building decks, adding in basic lands and trying to make sure I’m not investing in two few threat creatures. Take a look at this deck I’m working on, an evolution on the Ad Nauseam/Seismic Assault deck I wrote about a few weeks ago:

Knight of the Reliquary obviously has some nice synergy with Seismic Assault, and helps fix your land so that you can cast the Assault and the Ad Nauseam. However, I decided that Worm Harvest seemed like it had too strong a synergy with Knight and Assault that it muscled Ad Nauseam out of the deck (since hitting a Harvest with Nauseam hurts really, really bad). But also I was thinking about Path to Exile, since I can’t necessarily count on my first Knight to stick around as he starts growing to enormous proportions. Worm Harvest for 4-5 or more token creatures each time you cast it is a fantastic Plan B.

The Knight requires Plains or Forests to sacrifice, and Shard Convergence requires basic lands too, so I was already “Exile-ready,” but something else occurred to me: one of the drawbacks of manlands was, if it died to removal you were “down a land.” However, if it was killed by an Exile, you get to replace it with a land. Not bad!

I can totally see Esper boarding this in against Kithkin and Faeries, and control decks might even give it a whirl. Props to Evan Erwin for pointing out this card’s utility.

So to continue the curve above, after attacking with your 3/3 Homunculus on turn 3, drop Esperzoa, during your next upkeep bounce back your Sigil, replay it for four mana, play it again, equip your flying Jellyfish and swing for 7. Ouch!

Ethersworn Adjudicator
I’m with Ben Bleiweiss here, this card seems nuts. Really, you get to cast Mortify each turn? I would use this opportunity to go on a rant about overpowered Blue creatures, but I’m a bit burned out.

Inkwell Leviathan
Path to Exile has me thinking large dudes with Shroud (or protection from White) are certainly what you’d be looking for in a reanimation strategy. This guy’s Islandwalk also benefits from Exile-land, since the odds of your opponent having actual basic Islands in his deck is going to increase.

Master Transmuter
Fragile yet scary… my hunch is that this fellow will bring my pet card Thousand-Year Elixir into the mainstream, since you don’t want to have a 1/2 sitting around with summoning sickness for a turn before you can start doing broken things with him. Say, Inkwell Leviathan is an artifact…

I’m not a hundred percent sold on this guy, but I’m well on my way after thinking about him a while. I like how he keeps your discard relevant; many times when you’re employing a discard strategy, once your opponent gets low on cards he tends to just play out his hand in order to make your subsequent discard cards into dead draws. With this in play, or the threat of him being played, your opponent is encourage to hold onto cards in a nice little damned if you do, damned if you don’t hotbox. The Magic gods apparently figure I’d be won over, since I’ve already opened four copies of him plus a foil for my trade binder.

Rotting Rats
Speaking of discard, I really like this guy; both alongside Nyxathid or in a Reanimator style deck to both get your fattie into the graveyard and to continue attacking your opponent. Older hellbent strategies are bound to love Rotting Rats too.

Scepter of Fugue
I’ve been playing Magic long enough to remember playing and playing against Disrupting Scepter, which was effective in its day but has certainly fallen out of playability with the lower cost, high threat creatures we have to play with today. The Scepter of Fugue, though, really hits a mana sweet spot; drop it on turn 4 and get your first use out of it, then you only invest two mana a turn to use. This naturally feels like it wants to pair up with Nyxathid, but it also occurred to me that it might be a great complement in a B/G Elves deck, helping to make it much more likely to fire off those lethal late-game Profane Commands. Maybe something like this:

I obviously love maindeck Scattershot Archer to preboard against Faeries, Bitterblossom, and Spectral Procession tokens, and they’re nice here because they’re elves, so even “useless” they can still deliver some beatdown. Thoughtseize, Scepter, and Liliana are a solid little discard package for Nyxathid to thrive in, with more in the sideboard for slower control decks.

It annoyed me when Demonfire was selling for double digits, and it’s going to annoy me when Banefire does the same. I guess too many years of having Fireballs and Disintegrates as easily available commons and uncommons have spoiled me, and I’m instinctively annoyed that their children are now expensive chase rares. Still, it’s obviously a good card that takes powerful aim at Five-Color Control and Faeries, and for that I’m certainly grateful.

Goblin Razerunners
He’s certainly got a lot going for him, but he still feels clunky to me. I guess I worry too much about him suckering me into getting two-for-one’d (or worse) by my opponent’s instant-speed removal.

Volcanic Fallout
Another elbow from the sky for the Faerie menace. They’ll fight through it and still be fine, but I appreciate the efforts Conflux is making to try and contain the problem.

Voracious Dragon
Okay, crazy goblin combo shenanigans aside, this card reminds me a bit of Rathi Dragon, a 5/5 flier for four mana where you had to sacrifice two Mountains when he came into play. Sacrifice just one creature and you get a 5/5 flier for five, which is actually a pretty solid deal.

Worldheart Phoenix
If a five-color deck materializes, I’m sure this card will have a role to play.

Child of Alara
I concur with the CW that this dude’s ability isn’t all that amazing for a control deck, since it’s difficult to manage the timing on its demise. It’s obviously not all that great in a more aggressive deck since you’d probably have other creatures in play that would all be undone by an ill-timed Terminate or something. Still, it is a 6/6 trampler for five mana which isn’t bad either. I can totally see this making a decent splash in multiplayer, especially with lands that can sacrifice the Child on demand (Diamond Valley, etc).

If ever there’s a spell you’d want to cheat into play with the Hideaway lands or Maelstrom Archangel, it’s certainly this one, especially since you can get four spells and another Conflux if you want to keep the chain going.

Elder Mastery
Am I a bad man for thinking about slapping this card onto a Vithian Stinger?

Gwafa Hazid, Profiteer
A word of warning to those who might think this would be “cool” to have as a general in EDH because you can pacify everyone else’s general? It’s not cool, and don’t be surprised when people gang up on you. Of course, you’re playing Blue and White, so odds are pretty good you can defend yourself. But just a friendly word of warning.

Maelstrom Archangel
If a five-color deck materializes, it will certainly be because of this gal. I’m dying to figure out what sort of deck comes together around her. I’d love to see crazy splashy spells like Conflux or the Ultimatums run through her, but my hunch is that she’s going to be in Five-Color Control, where you untap with her out there, attack, play Kitchen Finks for free, and keep your mana open to Cryptic Command whatever it is your opponent tries to do. Sigh.

Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker
My hunch is that Nicol Bolas will see play in Standard and will surprise a lot of people. He’s easier to cast than Cruel Ultimatum (if one more mana expensive) and he’s certainly got some impressive abilities. Untap with a Rings of Brighthearth in play maybe?

Last week I talked about Dramatic Entrance with Meglonoth; Conflux has all sorts of goodies you’d love to zap out there at instant speed, from Maelstrom Archangel to this hoss, Mr. Protection from Everything. How great is that ability, just to say “Yeah, my dude’s got Protection from Everything. Nope, stop looking at him, you’ve seen enough of that one.” No other card has had me pull out my Elvish Pipers before and consider the possibilities.

Armillary Sphere
Do you think this might have a place in a Retrace deck?

Obelisk of Alara
Even though this smells of a casual card, being six mana to cast an all, still it gives me that under-rated vibe. As I was building the G/B Elves deck above and perusing through my cards, I considered adding this to the mix. 1B, target creature gets -2/-2, or 1G, target creature gets +4/+4. Ultimately I figured the deck was already demanding on mana with all the manlands, Scepter, and Profane Command, but it did make me realize that you shouldn’t limit yourself to considering this for five color decks only; mid-range two- and three-color decks might find an artifact with reusable effects quite handy.

Ancient Ziggurat
I totally admit to having made decks with only creatures in them, so building another one utilizing this card is completely possible. Elemental decks are already chock full of creatures that act like spells anyway.

Okay, so that wraps up Conflux. As with every new Magic set, I’m intoxicated by the possibilities opened up by the new cards and look forward to giving them a try – as soon as today for Friday Night Magic. Remember, the new rules say you can play with new cards the day you can buy them, so that makes prereleases all the more handy for getting a jump on the new metagame. Join me next week as I go over how some of the new Conflux cards performed in my deck, and we start focusing on the upcoming Big Magic Weekend in Richmond, with the $5K Saturday and the PTQ Sunday. I may even have some interesting EDH news to share too…

Take care!


starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com

Listening to:
Funkytown, by Lipps, Inc.
Battle Flag, by Lo Fidelity All-Stars
Atlantic City, by Bruce Springteen
Do the Panic, by Phantom Planet
Crosstown Traffic, The Jimi Hendrix Experience