You Lika The Juice? – Shadows of Standard, Part II

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Wednesday, April 16th – Last week I talked about how I’m totally bored of current Standard, and I’m wanting to make decks for future Standard, the Standard of the upcoming $5K Mega-Magic Weekend tournament that Star City’s holding on May 10th right here in Richmond. To facilitate that, I began going over the cards officially spoiled as chronicled on the Shadowmoor minisite, and I appreciate all the great comments and feedback from you all in the forums.

Last week I talked about how I’m totally bored of current Standard, and I’m wanting to make decks for future Standard, the Standard of the upcoming $5K Mega-Magic Weekend tournament that Star City’s holding on May 10th right here in Richmond. To facilitate that, I began going over the cards officially spoiled as chronicled on the Shadowmoor minisite, and I appreciate all the great comments and feedback from you all in the forums. I need to make a couple corrections: first, I had Augury Adept incorrectly costed at four mana, when it’s actually only three. Obviously, that makes the card much more playable as a gray ogre with a solid ability, and I could see running 6-8 one mana accelerants, and 6-8 Ohran Vipers/Augury Adepts to drop on turn 2, and then load up on bounce, Remove Soul, Cryptic Command and such to pound away and draw cards.

For the card Thought Reflection, I said “cleverly worded so that multiple copies are not cumulative” but some folks who are likely more knowledgeable of the rules than I mentioned that the card is cumulative, so with one copy you draw 2 for each 1 card drawn, with two copies you draw 4 for each 1 card drawn, etc. Still strikes me as too expensive for tournament decks, but if it is cumulative it’s obviously much better.

Okay, so let’s get back to the preview!

Midnight Banshee — 3BBB
Creature — Spirit (Rare)
At the beginning of your upkeep, put a -1/-1 counter on each nonblack creature.

You know, this card is one word away from getting immediate play in Standard, and that word is “nonblack.” Otherwise, it would be a decent, permanent answer to Bitterblossom tokens if you didn’t want to run the White Crovax. Ah well… This card takes me back though… I used to run Harbinger of Night from Mirage as a silver bullet in my Survival builds to take down White Weenie decks that otherwise could swarm around me and get in enough damage despite my slow and steady card advantage. I ran Oath of Ghouls and always had more creatures in the graveyard than my opponent, so I could always recover as the Harbinger slowly killed itself along with everyone else.

At six mana, this is definitely way too slow to be an answer to weenie decks, and without evasion it’s probably not going to be connecting anytime soon, especially not through Bitterblossom. And I wonder about the Wither ability – I mean, what are you going to be smashing into that you need to permanently shrink down that you wouldn’t otherwise pulverize anyway? Are there that many Troll Ascetics running around the metagame? From a flavor perspective, Wither certainly pairs up nicely with its upkeep ability, but for a competitive card you’d certainly rather have flying or trample or heck, even fear.

Puncture Bolt — 1R
Instant (Common)
Puncture Bolt deals 1 damage to target creature. Put a -1/-1 counter on that creature.

Blame Incinerate for the high expectations, but I keep looking for the extra point of damage in the equation, especially since this can only hit creatures. So you can kill Boas with it…

Mana Reflection – 4GG
Enchantment (Rare)
If you tap a permanent for mana, it produces twice as much of that mana instead.

When my buddy Jay saw this card previewed, he said something along the lines of “a Mana Flare is going to be broken no matter what the cost” and I certainly think Heartbeat of Spring and Mirari’s Wake prove that these sort of enchantments can be quite dangerous as combo enablers. For 1-3 extra mana, Mana Reflection offers quite a significant increase in power, doubling all mana producers, not just lands or basic lands. So your Birds of Paradise, Wall of Roots, Coalition Relic, Cabal Coffers, “karoo” lands and the Urzatron can all get reflected. I think this qualifies as a card that says “untap and win.” Combo players the world ‘round rejoice!

Knacksaw Clique – 3U
Creature – Faerie Rogue (Rare)
{1}{U}, {Q}: Target opponent removes the top card of his or her library from the game. Until end of turn, you may play that card. ({Q} is the untap symbol)

In a vacuum this seems like a decent card; being able to play cards from the top of your opponent’s deck can be both fun and powerful. But in a macro sense, this card has a lot of tough competition in the four-mana slot, starting with Cryptic Command and then jumping over to Mistbind Clique and Sower of Temptation. It doesn’t strike me as being able to compare to those cards for competitive Standard decks, and makes me wish it had been costed differently, perhaps as a three-drop.

Tattermunge Maniac – {rg}
Creature – Goblin Warrior (Uncommon)
Tattermunge Maniac attacks each turn if able.

I have to agree with Mike Flores‘ preview of this card – it does indeed evoke double-takes, looking more closely, and scratching your temple. I remember the days when seeing your opponent drop a Jackal Pup on turn 1 snapped you into an entire different mode of playing, scrambling to conserve every possible life point you had and yet knowing in the pit of your stomach that 20 life is just not enough. Mike hit all the notes on this card – the drawback isn’t much of a drawback, the cost is ridiculously good, and the creature types are very relevant. Thank god this didn’t get the commonality upgrade that Thoughtseize got or else we’d be looking at another $15 rare here.

Mirrorweave – 2{wu}{wu}
Instant (Rare)
Each other creature becomes a copy of target nonlegendary creature until end of turn.

This card definitely gets the Johnny juices flowing for setting up some fun board situations, like making all your creatures Ohran Vipers and drawing a bunch of cards, or get really sick and super-Cytoshape by using 0/0 creatures that have +1/+1 counters on them, wiping out all your opponent’s creatures while turning yours into the best of the bunch.

Deep-Slumber Titan – 2RR
Creature – Giant Warrior (Rare)
Deep-Slumber Titan comes into play tapped.
Deep-Slumber Titan doesn’t untap during your untap step.
Whenever Deep-Slumber Titan is dealt damage, untap it.

Is it just me, or doesn’t this thing feel like it should be a Blue Kraken creature? There’s no doubt that a 7/7 for four mana is something every Spike would want to take a hard look at, but there sure are some cumbersome drawbacks. The natural pairing in my mind is Pyrohemia, a card that’s already getting some buzz as a way to combat the Faerie menace; drop one of them on turn 4 and the other on turn 5 with enough mana left over to do a 1 point fiery Pestilence to untap the big guy (assuming a land drop each turn). Reusable damage is the key to making this work, so I might even look at Orcish Artillery and Firewhip (don’t forget that classic card was Timeshifted into Time Spiral!).

Oona, Queen of the Fae – 3{bu}{bu}{bu}
Legendary Creature – Faerie Wizard (Rare)
{X}{ub}: Choose a color. Target opponent removes the top X cards of his or her library from the game. For each card of the chosen color removed this way, put a 1/1 blue and black Faerie Rogue creature token with flying into play.

Wow, here’s another six mana untap and win card, but one that doesn’t necessarily dictate an entire deck built around it like Mana Reflection. I could see this going into any U/x or B/x deck as a fattie creature of choice to top off the mana curve (right behind Teferi, whoot!), giving you an enormous evasive attacker that will generate some number of 1/1 flying tokens behind to play defense. It obviously could benefit from playing in a faerie or wizard-themed deck also.

Dire Undercurrents – 3{ub}{ub}
Enchantment (Rare)
Whenever a blue creature comes into play under your control, you may have target player draw a card.
Whenever a black creature comes into play under your control, you may have target player discard a card.

“Under” currents? I can’t help but look at this card in conjunction with Oona, Queen of the Fae, giving you a combination Stroke of Genius/Mind Twist with some 1/1 fliers attached. Sure, I can see playing this in a Merfolk deck and having fun drawing tons of cards while making a bunch of little Merfolk, but this card gets just insane in a Blue and Black deck. Shadowmage Infiltrator? Bitterblossom? Vendilion Clique?

Sygg, River Cutthroat – {ub}{ub}
Legendary Creature – Merfolk Rogue (Rare)
At end of turn, if an opponent has lost 3 or more life this turn, you may draw a card. (Damage causes loss of life.)

Okay, so Sygg is a Merfolk goes right in with Dire Undercurrents… Seems like a decent enough fellow in a beatdown Merfolk deck, where you can beef up your fish so that if one or two hits you get to draw a card. Hm, he helps negate the card disadvantage of Unstable Mutation, don’t he? He’s obviously quite nuts in a multiplayer environment, where you can reap the benefits of other players slugging it out… and the timing is such that they may not even notice how many cards you draw until it’s too late to do anything about it. Another subtly good thing about Sygg is his three toughness, considering how many Sulfurous Blasts (at instant speed) and even Pyroclasms are working their way into maindecks of late (I’m lookin’ at you, Mr. Feldman).

Hey, waitaminute… Unstable Mutation adds -1/-1 counters to creatures. In Shadowmoor, that’s VERY interesting!!

Din of the Fireherd – 5{br}{br}{br}
Sorcery (Rare)
Put a 5/5 black and red Elemental creature token into play. Target opponent sacrifices a creature for each black creature you control, then sacrifices a land for each red creature you control.

This is expensive, but man it backs a wallop, especially if you set it up right; with enough Red and Black creatures out there, this is essentially a one-sided Wildfire, and its scales in power to multiplayer games. I think it’s obviously more devastating on its Red side, since nuking your opponent’s lands are going to make it difficult to deal with the 5/5 fattie you just received.

Godhead of Awe – {WU}{WU}{WU}{WU}{WU}
Creature – Spirit Avatar (Rare)
Other creatures are 1/1.

I just can’t get past the idea of playing cards like this with Graft-type creatures, so while your opponent’s creatures become a team of midgets, yours actually all get +1/+1 bigger – Hoo Ha!! Okay, I know that’s kinda silly, but don’t you like the idea of 5/5 Epocrasite? What’s even sexier is following up Godhead of Awe with a Crovax the Ascendant, pretty much blanking all non-White creatures out there!

Swans of Bryn Argoll – 2{wu}{wu}
Creature – Bird Spirit (Rare)
If a source would deal damage to Swans of Bryn Argoll, prevent that damage. The source’s controller draws cards equal to the damage prevented this way.

I feel a little silly. When I first saw this card, what leapt to mind was a sideboard or maindeck card (depending on the metagame) to bring in against burn decks if you’ve got a way to blank direct damage to your dome (I dunno, maybe toss a Pariah on this bad boy). Then I started hearing about putting this in a counterburn snow deck, pointing Skred at your own Swan to draw a crapload of cards, and then Patrick Chapin puts out an infinite combo deck with Swan as an engine. I guess that’s why he’s premium; over here on You Lika The Juice, I cook up some cool ideas. Over there on premium they’re breaking things and playing unfair. This is like another Reveillark, another card I wanted to play fair with and then people come along and break it in half. Between Reveillark and Swans, I’m definitely going to pick up a playset of Sudden Spoiling ASAP!

Order of Whiteclay – 1WW
Creature – Kithkin Cleric (Rare)
{1}{W}{W}, {Q}: Return target creature card with converted mana cost 3 or less from your graveyard to play. ({Q} is the untap symbol)

Oh yeah, this is my kind of card for sure! I only wish it was Green of course. You know, Springleaf Drum was certainly nice in Merfolk decks that wanted to get their tap on, but now we’ve got Q popping up across the colors, and Springleaf Drum seems like the perfect way to get your Q creature tapped and giving you a mana to pay towards the Q cost. I could see Order of White Clay teaming up with Martyr of Sands and being a really, really, really annoying thing to deal with.

Over in Extended, Opposition and Glare of Subdual seem like they’d love this fellow to have in the mix, getting double tap action while brining back additional weenies to fuel the broken enchantment.

Curse of Chains – 1{WU}
Enchantment – Aura (Common)
Enchant creature
At the beginning of each upkeep, tap enchanted creature.

So here we have an odd little Pacifism variant that you can also use on your own Q creatures if you don’t have other ways of tapping them (and don’t necessarily want to run them into the red zone to get eating by nasty Tarmogoyfs, etc). I doubt this breaks out of Limited but you never know, it could be a role player.

Inkfathom Infiltrator – {UB}{UB}
Creature – Merfolk Rogue (Uncommon)
Inkfathom Infiltrator can’t block and is unblockable.

Prickly Boggart was a nice little Prowl enabler for Rogue decks until everybody and their brother started cramming Bitterblossoms into their decks. This guy costs twice as much, but hits twice as hard and simply can’t be blocked. Merfolk do a good job of clogging up the board, so this could work well as a finisher, especially if enhanced by a Lord of Atlantis. Random thought – I wonder if there will be Rogue Ninja decks kicking around in Extended with the help of this fellow?

Wingrattle Scarecrow – 3
Artifact Creature – Scarecrow (Common)
Wingrattle Scarecrow has flying as long as you control a blue creature.
Wingrattle Scarecrow has persist as long as you control a black creature. (When this creature is put into a graveyard from play, if it had no -1/-1 counters on it, you may return it to play under its owner’s control with a -1/-1 counter on it.)

Let’s see, best-case scenario you’ve got a Blue/Black creature out, so this guy is a 2/2 flier with persist for three mana that becomes a vanilla 2/2 if the other creature dies. Strikes me as pretty much Limited fodder, though Pauper Magic fans take note it is a common, eh?

Leech Bonder – 2U
Creature – Merfolk Soldier (Uncommon)
Leech Bonder comes into play with two -1/-1 counters on it.
{U}, {Q}: Move a counter from target creature onto another target creature. ({Q} is the untap symbol)

Here’s a perfect mate to Springleaf Drum, since the mana cost of the Q ability is a single colored mana, and in a Merfolk deck you may want the Drum anyway. Leech Bonder offers a nice way of killing off creatures while it grows in size to become a decent beater. It can also keep your Persist creatures persisting, coming back into play and giving you -1/-1 fodder to shrink and kill off your opponent’s creatures.

Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers – {GW}{GW}{GW}
Creature – Elf Knight (Uncommon)

Last week I talked about Wilt-Leaf Liege, and how my buddy Jay thought Shadowmoor might give me the opportunity to explore my inner beatdown; turn 2 Wren’s Run Vanquisher, turn 3 Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers, turn 4 Wilt-Leaf Liege is some serious beef in a hurry! And Green/White has some seriously good mana support, between Brushland, Horizon Canopy, and the presumed GW “Graven Cairns” and Reflecting Pool. It was interesting reading Patrick Chapin article last week when he was interviewing Zvi Mowshowitz and they were discussing what holds back players from winning the big PTQ-level tournaments. They were talking about having difficulty winning in the later rounds against better players, and Zvi listed off 5-6 reasons why this happens. #4 on that list is one of those blinding lights of self-discovery, something that is writ large within my Magic DNA:

4. Steering games towards stalls and complicated boards.

People who’ve played against me can attest this totally describes my Magic play. When I design decks they often produce this effect. I am very good at producing complicated boards!

That is why you fail, whispers Zvi in my head, sounding a lot like Yoda.

I suppose this might be a good time to exercise my atrophied beatdown muscles. A 3/4 for three (with Vigilance) is hard to argue with.

Demigod of Revenge – {BR}{BR}{BR}{BR}{BR}
Creature – Spirit Avatar (Rare)
Flying, haste
When you play Demigod of Revenge, return all cards named Demigod of Revenge from your graveyard to play.

Could this be viable in Extended? Leading off with Duress, maybe Augur of Skulls, and then playing Buried Alive to put three copies of this in the graveyard, assuming you’ve got one in hand. Then when you play this, no matter whether it’s countered or not you’ll have 3 hasty 5-power creatures swooping across the red zone. Huzzah! Even if you’re not going nuts with this sort of set-up, it’s certainly an efficient beater in its own right, with the nightmare of being even scarier the more copies you draw into. Not a bad choice for your top-of-the-curve creature in Black decks.

Why not Red? Well, would you play this guy over Siege-Gang Commander? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Lastly, I see that this is going to be the prerelease card given away this weekend, and the alternative art is AWESOME! I certainly hope you all will be able to attend one close to you, and if you’re going to be in Richmond, come by the administration table, say hello, and show me what cool new Shadowmoor cards you’ve gotten in your sealed deck.

There are a couple of other preview cards at the time of this writing, but I decided not to talk about cards that didn’t seem to have any Standard applications. If you think I’ve grossly underestimated the potential of Aethertow, Plumeveil, Burn Trail, Tattermunge Witch, and Ballynock Cohort please let me know!

The plan this Friday coming up is to get together, proxy up some Shadowmoor and start playtesting the new Standard. With any luck I’ll have a new deck or two to toss out into the mix next week.

See you then!


starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com