10/6/2009 LI: "Let the Lands Fall Where They Will"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Limited Information, which goes live Tuesday morning on magicthegathering.com.

Explorer's Scope is an excellent card in limited. Beyond enabling landfall, the feature that it makes it much less likely to draw a land card with your turn really helps, and it also sometimes allows you to play a spell-land (Soaring Seacliff is particularly attractive in this regard). It is true that the deck you built had little which benefitted overly from it, but it wouldn't have been bad in it. I would have run Bold Defense over it with so many weenies and so little top-end, though.


Conversely, I've been throughly unimpressed by Spidersilk Net. It is pretty underwhelming; while it seems cheap, the trouble is that it does nothing for you offensively and there are a lot of ways to shut it off. A 2/1 or 2/2 cannot use it to safely block a windrider eel, and blue has lots of ways to punish you for playing the card - both Into the Roil and Whiplash Trap are quite unpleasant already, but when you spend an extra two mana on your creature and think you can block, only for that creature to vanish and you have to replay him, pay 2 again, and hope he doesn't have another removal spell, every one is basically Time Walking you (not to mention granting what amounts to card advantage). Moreover, the creature remains vulnerable to Merfolk Seastalkers (one of the best blue cards in limited, if not the single best). It also is difficult to use effectively against a Vampire Nighthawk, as you have to put it on a three power creature to even trade, and you better hope they don't have removal as they punish you even more heavily for paying that extra 2 mana. Yeah, it gives them a bit bigger back-end, but really, I'd rather run another creature or removal spell. Maybe if someone had some sort of nutty multiple-Umara Raptor and Welkin Tern deck, but even then, I'm dubious. I actually had a deck like that, and played someone with TWO of them, and won the games precisely as I stated above - bounce + removal meant that they simply couldn't use the cards effectively, and my terns and raptors and eels (and vampire nighthawk) were flying over every turn, or I was tapping down with my seastalkers or swinging in with a shade.

Is the machete THAT good?  I guess I'll have to try it.

I'm very surprised indeed by your suggestion that Adventuring Gear is a high pick. I've been leaving it in my sideboard and haven't yet seen it be good against me.


For an investment of 2 mana it gives a damage boost of less than one point per turn on average. The vast majority of the time it's useless on defence. I suppose it might sometimes get a creature through that would otherwise have been blocked, but on the other hand it will often be chump blocked when the creature equipped would have been chump blocked anyway.


What am I missing here? Seems very weak.


 


What am I missing here? Seems very weak.




It's better if you're built to exploit it, which just means "can get it to be more then +2/+2 for more then one turn per game," it's not to hard to pull that with green, if you mix that with blues pretty solid evasion in the set you've got some beats comming inbound. Adventureing Gear on a Welkin Tern can hit for 4 two turns before the eel.


It relies on the synergy the rest of your deck has with it really.

I'm very surprised indeed by your suggestion that Adventuring Gear is a high pick. I've been leaving it in my sideboard and haven't yet seen it be good against me.

For an investment of 2 mana it gives a damage boost of less than one point per turn on average. The vast majority of the time it's useless on defence. I suppose it might sometimes get a creature through that would otherwise have been blocked, but on the other hand it will often be chump blocked when the creature equipped would have been chump blocked anyway.


What am I missing here? Seems very weak.



It isn't weak, per se, so much as it isn't strong. Machete is obviously worlds better, but that is often not an option. Honestly, though, I see it as filler rather than something I really want to play - its not bad, but I'd rather have a solid creature or removal than Adventuring Gear.


The odd deck with a bunch of explorer's spyglasses and cards like harrow and Khalni Heart Expedition might value it higher, but honestly I have to say it isn't a high pick for me, and I think that's right. I don't feel bad MDing it, per se, but I don't think of it as a high pick at all; its a middling pick, something which is playable but replaceable.


It isn't "very weak" - +2/+2 is nothing to sneeze at, and is wonderful on a 2/2 as it turns it into a 4/4, which is not something your opponent wants to have to trade with. The trouble is that it, like all landfall cards, is somewhat situational - there are times when you don't have the ability to landfall - and it in and of itself doesn't do anything, requiring TWO cards (a land and a creature) to be useful. This is why solid creatures and removal are both better - they're good no matter what, and often add up the same way. An evasive creature like a Welkin Tern, or even something like a Surrakar Marauder will give you the extra damage, and necessitates a removal spell for itself, rather than grouping up with a creature. A solid creature, like the 4/3 giant, is more consistently powerful and can probably race it. Kor Sanctifiers blow up an annoying enchantment or, more likely, an artifact like a Khalni Gem or a piece of equipment and are an okay body. I don't think the removal really needs an explanation.

insightful as ever Steve. always enjoy reading your column.


its true about speed. my sealed pool rares included a ridiculously synergistic trio of [acrd]armament master[/card] (with three equipments), conqueror's pledge and beastmaster's ascension


trouble was, the pool did not support a monowhite-splash-green deck. it was too slow and unreliable.


i went red-black aggro, lots of 2 drops, and didn't lose a match.

I'm a huge fan of the Scope in Limited.  While it "hits" only 40% of the time on average, it can get you through dead draws and if you have Landfall creatures, especially if you've already played a land this turn, it can be huge.  Turn one Hedron Crab, turn two land, Scope, equip, swing with your 0/2 and drop a land is hilarious.    The additional information you get regardless of whether or not you hit a land is a nice bonus too.


In fact, I like a lot of the equipment in this set, like the Machete and the Gear.  When you add in the various enchantments that are useful, I honestly think this is a set where you may have to maindeck artifact/enchantment removal.


I'm very surprised indeed by your suggestion that Adventuring Gear is a high pick. I've been leaving it in my sideboard and haven't yet seen it be good against me.

For an investment of 2 mana it gives a damage boost of less than one point per turn on average. The vast majority of the time it's useless on defence. I suppose it might sometimes get a creature through that would otherwise have been blocked, but on the other hand it will often be chump blocked when the creature equipped would have been chump blocked anyway.


What am I missing here? Seems very weak.



It isn't weak, per se, so much as it isn't strong. Machete is obviously worlds better, but that is often not an option. Honestly, though, I see it as filler rather than something I really want to play - its not bad, but I'd rather have a solid creature or removal than Adventuring Gear.


The odd deck with a bunch of explorer's spyglasses and cards like harrow and Khalni Heart Expedition might value it higher, but honestly I have to say it isn't a high pick for me, and I think that's right. I don't feel bad MDing it, per se, but I don't think of it as a high pick at all; its a middling pick, something which is playable but replaceable.


It isn't "very weak" - +2/+2 is nothing to sneeze at, and is wonderful on a 2/2 as it turns it into a 4/4, which is not something your opponent wants to have to trade with. The trouble is that it, like all landfall cards, is somewhat situational - there are times when you don't have the ability to landfall - and it in and of itself doesn't do anything, requiring TWO cards (a land and a creature) to be useful. This is why solid creatures and removal are both better - they're good no matter what, and often add up the same way. An evasive creature like a Welkin Tern, or even something like a Surrakar Marauder will give you the extra damage, and necessitates a removal spell for itself, rather than grouping up with a creature. A solid creature, like the 4/3 giant, is more consistently powerful and can probably race it. Kor Sanctifiers blow up an annoying enchantment or, more likely, an artifact like a Khalni Gem or a piece of equipment and are an okay body. I don't think the removal really needs an explanation.




I think its better then you are giving it credit for. Its fairly close to bonesplitter when you are attacking, and this format (at least draft) seems to favor fairly aggressive decks. Most of the creatures before turn 5 or so are 2/x's, so it makes trading very difficult for them, and helps put you ahead in the race. It costs 1 to equip, so its doesn't set you back all that much if you have to equip and then attack.  It seems like a card I'd want to play in most of the decks I'd draft in this format.


Is the machete THAT good?  I guess I'll have to try it.




Oh yes, it certainly is THAT good. If you weren't playing draft or sealed when Mirrodin, the only other truly equipment-heavy block, was around, you may not be aware of the power that a simple, efficiently costed p/t boosting equipment gives you in Limited. But think about it : with one such equipment in play, every one of your smaller creatures can become a fattie that your opponent either has to make a bad trade with, or let go trough and take big punches, often very early in the game. You never get two-for one'd because of an equipment, unlike with auras; if you lose your equipped creature, the next critter can get the beef. It's obviously great on an evasive creature, which can seal the deal twice as fast. An other big advantage of cheap equipment is that with free mana, you can use it on an attacker, then move it on a potential blocker, every turn.

For all of those reasons, the closest equivalent to Trusty Machette, Vulshok Morningstar, was a very 1st-pickable card in both limited environments it was printed in (Mirrodin block and 9th edition). The fact that implies no color commitment makes it an even better 1st-pick.  Trusty Machette is no different. I think I even like the Machette better, because it's a one-drop. Having something good to do on your first turn is rare enough in Limited that it's really appreciated when it comes up.

Magic The Gathering DCI Lvl 1 Judge Don't hesitate to post rules question in the Rules Q&A forum for me and other competent advisors to answer : http://community.wizards.com/go/forum/view/75842/134778/Rules_Q38A


 It's obviously great on an evasive creature, which can seal the deal twice as fast. An other big advantage of cheap equipment is that with free mana, you can use it on an attacker, then move it on a potential blocker, every turn.



Absolutely.  Turn one Machete, turn two Welkin Tern, turn three fly in for four seems pretty good.  Your opponent's gotta take that down quickly or things are going to ugly fast, which means he burns a removal spell earlier than he wanted to and then your next creature has an increased survival rate.

Going from M10 to Zendikar limited was shocking for me.  I had no idea how blisteringly fast this environment was, and the glacial pace of the base set made that contrast even more stark.  The first deck that I made was a U/G/b deck splashing for some removal and the Hill Giant ally.  It starred three Harrows, two Windrider Eels, and a Baloth Woodcrasher and got soundly beaten by a very fast mono-Red deck in the first round.  The tempo decks in the format can potentially win on the fifth or sixth turn, so the slower Harrow based decks are going to need plenty early defence to survive until they can play out their broken hands.


Just last night I drafted a R/U deck with 5 two drop creatures, six allies, and double Whiplash Trap plus Trapmaker's Snare that was very good and seems to be a lot closer to the model of a successful deck.  Whiplash Trap in particular is pretty ridiculous in this format.  I don't think that I've ever been able to play it at a discount and it's still one of the best cards in whatever deck I play it in.


Adventurer's Gear is pretty solid, especially if you have plenty of 2 drops in your deck.  The only match I lost with the R/U deck involved Vampire Lacerater with the Gear attacking by turn 3 in both games.  Is don't think that it's as good as the Machete, but it's cheap to play and equip which makes it synergistic in the type of strategy where it really shines.

I'll admit that I haven't played sealed deck with Zendikar (will be this week) so I might not be appreciating the speed of the limited format that everyone is talking about.  I will also admit that I'm more "Timmy" than anything else so when I open Rampaging Baloths with a bunch of land tricks and support to go with him then there's just no way I could build a deck without that.  To me it seems that White is easily the strongest color and can cover all of the early drops and that green is the second best color and covers all of the late drops and landfall so they are perfect together.  Here's what I would have built with your card pool:


Creatures


1: Steppe Lynx


2: Cliff Threader, 2 Kazandu Blademaster, Kor Aeronaut


3: Kor Sanctifiers, 2 Makindi Shieldmate, Noble Vestige, Greenweaver Druid, Stonework Puma


4: Pillarfield Ox, Joraga Bard, Timbermaw Larva


5: Territorial Baloth


6: Rampaging Baloths


Total: 16 (6 Allies)


Non-creatures


Journey to Nowhere, Pitfall Trap, 2 Harrow, Khalni Heart Expedition, Khalni Gem, Adventuring Gear, Bold Defense


Land


1 Graypelt Refuge


9 Plains


6 Forest


Strong sideboard cards are Trailblazer's Boots against a deck with some non-basics and Zendikar Farguide against other green decks.  In this deck I'm not sure what's better, the Bold Defense's or the Shieldmate's Blessing.  Could also try to make room for the Explorer's Scope, but it seems like overkill with all the other fixing/landfall cards.


I think its better then you are giving it credit for. Its fairly close to bonesplitter when you are attacking, and this format (at least draft) seems to favor fairly aggressive decks. Most of the creatures before turn 5 or so are 2/x's, so it makes trading very difficult for them, and helps put you ahead in the race. It costs 1 to equip, so its doesn't set you back all that much if you have to equip and then attack.  It seems like a card I'd want to play in most of the decks I'd draft in this format.


No. Its not "close to bonesplitter when you are attacking"; it is massively worse. Why? Because it is inconsistant, and only activates half as often. And it doesn't work on defense.


Yeah, a lot of small creatures are 2/xs, but there are giant scorpions, the 4/3 for 2RR giant, the black ally, the black shade, and Hagra Crocodile, not to mention any landfall creature with Harrow and probably some stuff I'm forgetting. And a removal spell hurts even more.


Absolutely.  Turn one Machete, turn two Welkin Tern, turn three fly in for four seems pretty good.  Your opponent's gotta take that down quickly or things are going to ugly fast, which means he burns a removal spell earlier than he wanted to and then your next creature has an increased survival rate.


The downside of that approach is turn 1 machete, turn 2 welkin turn, turn 3 equip and swing only to be Disfigured while your opponent has out two 2/2s who swing in for four damage. People overestimate equipment.


I'm not saying that Machete is bad; it is a very strong card in limited. But it isn't as strong as a lot of people think, and ruining people's tempo is very possible. You don't have to be 2-for-1ed to be really hurt bad. I remember many games back in Kamigawa-Ravnica standard where someone played a Jitte and lost the game because of it; they wasted oodles of time and mana trying to get one of their creatures to swing and get counters on it, and they kept getting shot out from under it.


No. [Adventurer's Gear]'s not "close to bonesplitter when you are attacking"; it is massively worse. Why? Because it is inconsistant, and only activates half as often. And it doesn't work on defense.




It actually is pretty close to Bonesplitter in an aggressive deck.  They both have the same cost to play and to equip.  It provides a two power boost and, at the cost of reliability, it also provides a two toughness boost (plus an additional bonus if you put an extra land into play).  Bonesplitter would cetainly be better, but it isn't in Zendikar.



I'm not saying that Machete is bad; it is a very strong card in limited. But it isn't as strong as a lot of people think, and ruining people's tempo is very possible. You don't have to be 2-for-1ed to be really hurt bad. I remember many games back in Kamigawa-Ravnica standard where someone played a Jitte and lost the game because of it; they wasted oodles of time and mana trying to get one of their creatures to swing and get counters on it, and they kept getting shot out from under it.




The Machette is pretty darned good, but there is also the possibility of using it poorly.  The same is true of Burst Lightning.  If you aim it at your oppenent turn 1 every time you draw it, you are probably not playing it as effectively as you could.  This argument against the Machette can be used against virtually any card.  If you assume that you have to use it in a way that it gives your opponent an advantage, then of course it's going to look bad.  With all equipment, you have to determine whether it's more advantageous to equip or play another spell and the fact that it gives you more options while coming down on a turn where most decks do nothing makes both the Gear and the Machette early picks.


In fact, the cost to play/equip is half of what makes them good early picks.  They can be played on the first turn or, say, alongside a 2 drop on turn 3.  They can then be equiped at any time that you have the mana to spare.  The other half is that they are colorless and good in most decks in the format, meaning that if you spend an early pick on one, it will almost always be able to make your deck.

The downside of that approach is turn 1 machete, turn 2 welkin turn, turn 3 equip and swing only to be Disfigured while your opponent has out two 2/2s who swing in for four damage. People overestimate equipment.



Odds are something like that was going to happen anyway, if your opponent is holding a Disfigure.  Obviously if you have a better turn three move than "equip, swing" you're going to do it.  And the Tern quite possibly couldn't have blocked those two 2/2's anyway, since they're likely to be ground pounders.  I don't know if there's a card in Magic you can't say "Well, it loses to such-and-such." What matters is how often it works vs. how often it doesn't.  Dismissing a powerful play because one time in five it fails is hardly a reason to poo-poo it.


The downside of that approach is turn 1 machete, turn 2 welkin turn, turn 3 equip and swing only to be Disfigured while your opponent has out two 2/2s who swing in for four damage. People overestimate equipment.



Odds are something like that was going to happen anyway, if your opponent is holding a Disfigure.  Obviously if you have a better turn three move than "equip, swing" you're going to do it.  And the Tern quite possibly couldn't have blocked those two 2/2's anyway, since they're likely to be ground pounders.  I don't know if there's a card in Magic you can't say "Well, it loses to such-and-such." What matters is how often it works vs. how often it doesn't.  Dismissing a powerful play because one time in five it fails is hardly a reason to poo-poo it.


Right. One time in five, they have a Vines of Vastwood to cast with that open mana; the rest of the time they get Time Stretched :P


More seriously, people overestimate equipment. I'm not saying that OMG Machete sucks, I'm saying that, in my experience, a lot of people rate equipment higher than they should. Equipment mitigates the card loss of auras, but not the tempo loss.

I love the kor + equipment = sweet. For standard constructed i'm building a kor deck around Master of armments, kor outfitter and a bunch of equipment cards.


Master of the armaments makes a great kor lord giving all other kor +2/+2 for each eqiupment attached and the Kor outfitter gets around the equip cost of cards, especially card with equip costs of 3 or 4 like grappling hook and quietus spike.


It also makes spidersilk net useful, as you can cast AND equip it for 0.

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