We are officially beginning my first official week on the new site, so as promised, here’s some more on Magic: The Gathering. Below are my favorite ten cards from the first week of Scars of Mirrodin previews. The set is looking to be a doozy.
10. Steady Progress
Proliferate is just cool. It has so many random effects on the board. You’ve got the contagion cards that distribute and grow -1/-1 counters. You’ve got infect creatures throwing out withery goodness wherever they go. You’ve got Everflowing Chalice and Chimeric Mass. You’ve got Steel Overseer and his +1/+1 bretheren. You’ve got these little permanents you might have heard of called PLANESWALKERS. Poison counters too. The point I’m making is the fact that proliferate will create inordinately complex board states very quickly, leading to a true ‘anything can happen’ feeling once the first proliferate effect comes to light. There’s just too long of a list of applications for this to go into (infinitely drawing cards with a well protected Jace Beleren, for example), but regardless, it’s going to shake things up. Steady Progress gets the nod for the proliferate spells we’ve seen so far because it’s instant and draws you a card. Simple enough metric, there.
9. Chimeric Mass
I don’t know what it is that I like so much about this guy. I like the fact that in the old days, he would have been an artifact creature from go and just used +1/+1 counters, but is suddenly the equivalent of a manland that’s immune to sorcery speed wrath effects. I like that he’s searchable with a Trinket Mage. I like that you can grow his charge counters with proliferate effects. He doesn’t have evasion or trample or any other kind of fancy ability. He’s just a dude that scales to the turn, might get bigger and can just wait for his opening. I don’t think Chimeric Mass is going to break the format or anything, but I do think we should watch out for him. It’s a bit like a Protean Hydra that doesn’t suck. Well, maybe it does suck, but I think it looks pretty cool. We’re not wrecking any paradigms with this one, but sometimes that’s okay.
8. Ichor Rats
I’m going with Ichor Rats as the quintessential infect creature we’ve seen so far (opposed to the crazy Mythic dragon, who is good, but I’m not all that thrilled about his constructed applications), mostly because it’s the best way to show us exactly what the potential of poison counters in Scars is. The two power is a good indication that infect creatures won’t automatically be 0/1’s and 1/1’s and 1/2’s like the Pit Scorpions and Marsh Vipers of old. These guys actually have the potential to do something with their poison, like kill opponents. It’s a pretty simple equation. You play a bunch of low cost infect creatures and try to outswarm your opponent. One big attack, and whoever gets through gets Giant Growthed/Vampire Bited/Groundswelled/Virulent Swiped into oblivion. You should be able to drop ten counters on them in one to two attacks. Add some proliferate to taste for those games you couldn’t quite reach ten on your own. It’s a ludicrously fragile deck skeleton, and it’ll probably get blown out a lot more often than it wins, but it can randomly drop 10 counters on turn four or something and steal some games from an underprepared opponent. It’s something to watch, at least.
7. Tempered Steel
This is pretty straightforward. Double Glorious Anthem for the same price as a single Glorious Anthem. This will fit right at home in a Steel Overseer deck that would almost certainly have to be a blue/white base. All the creatures will be artifacts, obviously, but you’ll need the white for this card and the blue for some kind of protection against Wrath effects, as well as the added bonus of proliferate effects to push the Overseer over the top. This is like a Time of Heroes that is actually relevant, and considering the small focus group size of Time of Heroes during Rise of the Eldrazi limited (and it being an absolute BEATING at times), we could have some very difficult to contain silver bordered creatures coming our way very soon. Good thing Open the Vaults won’t be around any more.
6. Myr Battlesphere
Originally, I had Myr Galvanizer in this slot before this beauty was spoiled on Friday. This thing is just crazy. I love the flavor of this giant ball of Myrs careening through the battlefield, jettisoning some guys who couldn’t hold on (i.e. creating tokens when ETB’ing), and picking up more guys en route to some death and destruction (the tap while attacking ability). It’s awesome. It has the best art I’ve seen on a Magic card in a long time. The Myr tribal deck will probably be terrible, but it could easily steal some games on the back of this card (which won’t come down on seven, considering that most of the Myrs tap for mana), the uncommon lord, and Tempered Steel. Plus, there’s a bit of a nostalgia factor here, as the Battlesphere “combo kill” (wherein you attack with every Myr save a Galvanizer, and in response to the Battlesphere’s pump going on the stack, you untap everything and pump the Battlesphere, including with the Battlesphere itself) is heavily reminiscent of an old Vs System deck that abused Roy Harper with Teen Titans Go and Press the Attack for similar results. Simply awesome.
5. Mox Opal
The idea of a new Mox concerned me, as it probably concerned many. Mox Diamond and Chrome Mox, the “fixed” moxen both required you to lose a card in your hand to get the acceleration. This was a fine choice, and both cards were somewhat tempered in their usefulness, but still saw a ton of play. Mox Opal seems like the best mox yet from the perspective of being fair. The smartest idea from the get go was making it legendary. In all of the various random things I brewed up in my head, just the simplicity of making it legendary never occurred to me. It’s a simple and elegant way to guarantee that it never gets entirely out of hand. The actual mechanics of the card, the need to have two other artifacts in order for the Opal to go along its merry Mox Diamond-y way, is more than fair. It’s possible that there are enough artifacts in various decks for it to see play in many formats without necessarily being a lock or super abusable in any of them. My guess is that we’ll see it most often as a singleton being fished out of a deck by Trinket Mage (see below), which is fine, because then you’re looking at a turn two or three accelerant that probably won’t even be able to tap for mana until four. It’ll do a nice job of fixing mana and offering slight acceleration without breaking the curve. I wanted to single out Mox Opal because I think it’s a fantastic design that embodies the spirit of being a mox while retaining the integrity of the game. Bravo, WOTC.
4. Grand Architect
The potential for this guy seems absurd. He’s a color lord, which is pretty keen on its own (really, what we’re dealing with is a roundabout look at Merfolk lords 9-12 in Standard, though they aren’t pumped by the other lords and the non-lord Merfolk in standard right now are, well, sub-standard), but he also has the added bonus of coloring your artifacts, which can allow for paying a single blue for a +1/+1 pump, which isn’t a bad thing. But then there’s the whole ‘Oh yeah, I’m also kind of a mini-Metalworker’ thing that’s discussed in his last type line. You can tap any blue creature to generate two colorless mana that can only be used for artifacts (think of it as “workshop mana”). So you can get two workshop mana out of each blue creature you control. This is just asking for some kind of fast mana abuse. Between this, Everflowing Chalice, proliferate effects (see above), and mana Myrs that can become blue creatures, something nutty is going to happen. We haven’t seen a crazy artifact mana sink of note quite yet beyond Chimeric Mass (see above), but it’s not difficult to predict that madness will ensue. Just not sure how at this point.
3. Elspeth Tirel
I’m not exactly much of a fan of the color white. However, it is impossible to deny the raw power of Elspeth’s ultimate ability. This is, for all intents, a repeatable Nevinyrral’s Disk. We’re not talking a repeatable Wrath here. That would be too easy. We’re talking an effect that only costs 5 loyalty on a planeswalker with a +2 ability that can continually nuke every nonland nontoken permanent except her. It’ll kill artifacts, enchantments, opposing planeswalkers, and conveniently leave behind any soldier tokens you may have created over the course of the game. You are playing white. They do love themselves some tokens. Not to mention the fact that she pukes out three of the suckers at once now, with a little flair of the new and improved from her old design. Sure, it doesn’t add loyalty anymore, but that’s basically necessary to avoid brokenness. Elspeth will almost certainly replace Gideon in the blue/white planeswalker builds (although I guess she would be replacing herself, but the jump from four to five is not insignificant, especially when it leads to multiple five mana walkers). She’ll see play. Lots of play.
2. Trinket Mage
Yes, it’s a reprint, but it’s a damned fine reprint. Trinket Mage is technically only as powerful as what he gets to search, which is a somewhat intuitive position. So far, there are some targets for him to fetch, but right now we’re dealing with more utility creatures than bullets. While we have nothing along the same lines as an Engineered Explosives or a Chalice of the Void to consider as of right now, we do have Everflowing Chalice. We also have Voltaic Key, which currently seems to excel only at untapping Steel Overseer, but you feel a lot better about doing that when you’re only using one slot in the 75 for the Key. Beyond that, we’re going to need to consider something like Chimeric Mass (again, see above) or Mox Opal (also see above) as possible saucy targets for the Trinket Mage. He also represents probably either the best or second best creature to blink with Venser, right up there with Stoneforge Mystic.
1. Koth of the Hammer
See article here
Well, there we have it. Week one, and we’ve already seen some complete madness coming through the doors from WOTC. We’ve seen just about all of the mythics so far, and very few colored cards, so there’s a good chance some of the upcoming spoilers will be a little less exciting, but this week has given us more than enough to get our collective deck building juices flowing into overdrive.
This post was written to the tune of Filter’s Short Bus