I managed some actual, card-flopping playtesting in this weekend, but before I get down to it, I wanted to toss a question out there to ya, something that’s been kicking around in my noggin.
Why aren’t Planeswalkers legends?
They function just like legends. Here’s the rule: “If two or more Planeswalkers that share a subtype are in play, they’re all put into their owners’ graveyards as a state-based effect.”
I know Planeswalkers are nifty new card creations, but there’s no real reason to create a new rule that appears to be functionally identical to the legend rule… unless…
…Unless there is a real reason! I think there’s a clue lying here in plain (plane?) sight, and so I’m going to speculate that sometime in the very near future we’re going to get updates to the five Planeswalkers, brand new cards that are going to share a subtype with Jace, Garruk, Liliana, Ajani and Chandra. You heard it here first! Not just top-notch deck tech, but also prognostication here at The Juice.
Currently, the legend rule only kicks in if two cards with the same name are legends. So Kamahl, Fist of Krosa and Kamahl, Pit Fighter can stand side-by-side or toe-to-toe and the rules have no problem with it. From a flavor perspective, the idea is that you can summon various incarnations of legends from different times or different dimensions because you are a badass Planeswalker, and these are just glorified creatures.
I think Wizards developed this new rule because, when you’ve actually called another badass Planeswalker to come to your aid, you’ve got the Planeswalker there, and there aren’t any other incarnations or versions of him or her in the multiverse that you can call to your aid too.
So now I’m wondering… will Morningtide have evolved versions of the Planeswalker gang, or maybe these will be alternate versions, with a different mix of spells – kinda like us as players switching decks? Bennie the Dredge Master Planeswalker would play different than Bennie Squee Survival Planeswalker, even though my “stats” would be the same. Or maybe they will wait and show up in the next block, helping to loosely tie Shadowmoor to Lorwyn/Morningtide? What do you think?
Okay, on to some initial observations on the new Standard. First and, likely, most importantly – Kithkin are seriously fast and deadly. In fact, Jay’s stock Kithkin deck – he’s been calling it KDW for Kithkin Deck Wins – pretty much kicked the excitement I had regarding my Deathrender deck right out of me; having White Weenies annihilate you before you get set up over and over and over and over will do that to you. I’m not sure if Kithkin are going to be “the” aggro deck of the new format, but you discount them at your peril. Jay’s build is Mono-White with no added cuteness; it just does as you’d expect, drops weenies, pumps them up, and overwhelms you before you have a chance to set up. Militia’s Pride is absolutely bonkers, giving the deck a lot of reach in a very aggressive way. I need to check with him to see if he’d mind me sharing it with you all, but I think you can probably build a close approximation by just building around the tribal synergies.
I then switched up to trying out my Fiery Justice build against those vicious little Kithy bastards. Here’s the version I’m currently running:
I actually think this deck has a lot of game against aggro decks like Kithkin, but my testing opponent seemed to constantly draw his maindeck Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tenders before I could cast Fiery Justice to wreck him, so I struggled more than I think I normally would. We ended up roughly splitting our games, due in no small part to having non-Red removal such as Condemn and Pariah. Moonglove Extract was added during testing as a way to handle the Forge-Tenders since I’ve heard plenty of people talking positively about that card, and it’s good to squeeze a self-sacrificing artifact into a Tarmogoyf deck.
The techy cards are Pariah and Tamanoa. I remember when we had Pariah available to us the first time around, and it was always surprisingly effective as removal, a Fog, or both. Its presence here makes me want to run Troll Ascetic, a perfect complement to Pariah so long as you keep regeneration mana up. Tamanoa is also surprisingly effective in a deck that’s looking to have mana to cast Fiery Justice already. I had an epiphany with the card recently when it occurred to me that Tamanoa could offset damage from pain lands, and if you’ve got more than one Tamanoa in play your pain lands could actually gain you life. In the sideboard you can run Manabarbs and Tamanoa breaks the symmetry.
I had a funny game state while testing against the Kithkin deck. My opponent was at 37 life due to a few activations from Ajani and a couple Condemns, when he cashed in his Ajani for a gigantic Avatar token. I had a Kavu Predator out when he attacked, and Condemned the Avatar, doubling my opponent’s life and giving me a 39/39 Predator. 39/39 – with Trample!! Sadly, I didn’t win that game due to the pesky Goldmeadow Harriers that are such a royal pain to the “stop weenies with fatties” plan.
Interestingly, I had a funky deck idea I threw together as a lark that actually crushed the Kithkin deck fairly well as I cast about for something to stop the White Weenie menace. It’s a weird mutant blend of Haakon/Nameless Inversion recursion with Slivers, tied together by an innocent looking Bear named Woodland Changeling.
- 4 Haakon, Stromgald Scourge
- 4 Gemhide Sliver
- 3 Harmonic Sliver
- 4 Mindlash Sliver
- 4 Darkheart Sliver
- 4 Dormant Sliver
- 3 Changeling Titan
- 4 Woodland Changeling
This is one of those deck ideas that wouldn’t have normally seen the light of day, but I just happened to have it as Deck #4 in my Four Decks In One Proxy deck and, after Kithkin beat the crap out of decks 1-3, I said what the heck. The engine of the deck is Haakon and the Changeling cards – Nameless Inversion and Crib Swap (of course), but then also Woodland Changeling and Changeling Titan, who are both Knights and Slivers. There are few things as disheartening to aggro decks as having a Haakon and Darkheart Sliver in play, a Nameless Inversion in the graveyard, and a Woodland Changeling that can chump block, sacrifice to gain 3 life, and then be played again from the graveyard. Or sacrificed to Mindlash Sliver over and over.
The last addition to the deck was Dormant Sliver, which seems counterproductive given the number of Slivers/Changelings in the deck, but if you’ve played Sliver decks you know just how powerful Dormant Slivers are as a ridiculous card-drawing engine. You will either get to the point you can just sacrifice the Dormants away with a fistful of cards, or simply clear away blockers with Inversion/Crib Swap and just pound away with Haakon.
I have no idea how this thing will play against other decks, I tried it as a lark late in the night not really expecting anything, but I’ll report on its progress as I get to play it some more. If anyone of you wants to give it a whirl please let me know how it performs for you, either by email or in the forums.
Another deck I’m going to give a whirl next time is this Tribal Elf deck, pretty much what you’d expect but with the potential to gain infinite life from out of nowhere.
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Essence Warden
- 4 Elvish Harbinger
- 1 Imperious Perfect
- 4 Shriekmaw
- 4 Wren's Run Packmaster
- 4 Wren's Run Vanquisher
Here’s how it typically goes – you’ve drawn a Harbinger and Packmaster, play the Harbinger and put another Packmaster on top of your deck, draw it, and play a Packmaster, using the Champion mechanic to remove the Harbinger from the game. Play your second Packmaster to Champion the first, and your Harbinger comes back into the game, so you search up the third Packmaster. If you’ve got an Essence Warden out, you play the third Packmaster and Champion your second one; this lets you pop the first Packmaster back into play and you Champion your third one, over and over, and each time your Warden gives you another life. Just be careful you have another elf out there to stop the loop after an arbitrarily large number, or else the game ends in a draw.
What’s appealing to this combo deck is the fact that it is perfectly capable of winning without the combo ever firing off, so even if your opponent scrambles to stop you from “going off” you can still just beat down. Wren’s Run Vanquisher can be quite scary in the early game.
I also like Rizzo’s Elf idea sticking your opponent between the rock of Magus of the Abyss and the hard place of Nath of the Gilt Leaf. Prowess of the Fair, Imperious Perfect, and Packmaster also nicely break the symmetry of the Magus. Maybe something like this?
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Magus of the Abyss
- 4 Imperious Perfect
- 3 Nath of the Gilt-Leaf
- 4 Shriekmaw
- 2 Wren's Run Packmaster
- 4 Wren's Run Vanquisher
This actually looks like a hoot to play. How can I resist playing green/black at Champs when Wizards goes and makes green/black one of Lorwyn’s main tribes?
Speaking of Rizzo, he was responsible for a one of those surprising LOLs that earns you strange looks by your coworkers in the cubes surrounding you. Last week’s quote* of the week: “How come when Patrick Chapin writes about a deck he can make it feel like he’s lying in bed beside you and whispering his sweet version of Internet pillow talk?” This is both ridiculous and yet dripping with the truth; there’s a reason why people pay to read Mr. Chapin. And Rizzo.
Speaking of Rizzo (again) and ridiculous, does his picture ever evoke these lyrics in anybody else’s mind every time you see him?
I looked out the window and seen his bald head
I ran to the fridge and pulled out an egg
Scoped him with my scopes he had no hair
Launched that shot and he was caught out there
Has it really been 18 years since that masterpiece album came out?
Driving Around, King of the town
Always got my windows rolled down
Tell me I’m not so old that you all are scratching your head wondering what this geezer’s talking about?
Up on the roof, in my car
Up all night, I’m pulling through signs like Dolomite
Okay, enough of memory lane- I’ll leave you with one final thought until next week: Have you noticed that Wizards has brought the metagame around so that non-burn creature kill and Disenchant are both maindeckable and, in fact, nearly required to survive? “Tarmocash” demands attention, and burn decks are just not going to cut it against His Royal Fat Ass. I’ve regularly been swinging with 6/7 and 7/8 Goyfs in testing. Then of course there’s also Gaddock Teeg, ready and willing to steal your kidney and leave you in a bathtub full of ice. You have got to have cheap creature removal.
And then there’s the case of Disenchant, Naturalize, Krosan Grip, and Seal of I Don’t Think So. If you haven’t noticed yet, Militia’s Pride and Glorious Anthem will kill you quick on the aggro side of the equation, and on the control side Coalition Relic is absolutely ridiculous. I know not all of the decks I’ve talked about have enchantment/artifact kill in there, but from here on out they will. I strongly suggest you do too.
It does this geezer good to see old-school Terror/Disenchant stylings coming back into vogue, even if it does eat up slots that could be used for more interesting stuff.
See you next week as I continue sharing what I’m learning in testing, and also open up my neglected mailbox.
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com
* Evan, you came close though, coining the name “Cashseize” for the ridiculously overpriced and over-rared Thoughtseize, which was hilariously apropos…