Saturday, February 25, 2012, 8:52 AM
Categories: Magic: The Gathering
One of the major reasons that I'm active on this forum is my desire to grow better at Magic. I've read an article by Sam Stoddard at StarCityGames which touched on a crucial element at making progress at something - especially something you are at least halfways competent at.
In short, it's about admitting the flaws of your game. It's perhaps the most obvious way of moving outside your comfort zone. It isn't asking the question, "am I doing anything wrong?", it's asking the question, "what am I doing wrong?".
Because you need to know if you want to know the answer to the question, "how do I get better?"
Now that that's all clear, I think I am going to plunge right into it. These are the flaws of my game, as is:
1: I play too fast, especially online. I tend to never have troubles keeping within the allotted time, yet even at crucial points during a game, I feel uncomfortable stopping to think for more than 15-20 seconds before deciding upon a course of action. This has cost me at least one game that I noticed it in right afterwards, but probably a lot more that I cannot point out.
2: I'm bad at mulliganing. I hate to go down a card, and when I do mulligan to six, I often keep a hand that I should have thrown back and gone to five. On the other hand, I sometimes mulligan a "merely adequate" hand in a good deck and end up having to go to five or fewer cards. I also have a hard time telling exactly what does and does not make a hand keepable.
3: I tend to assume that I am better than my opponent. This happens especially online, as well as when playing with some of my more casually-interested friends. I rely too much on an opponent's shot at making the wrong play instead of spending energy finding my own right play.
4: In continuation hereof: I often calculate assuming my opponent will do as I would have done in his position, which is obviously not always the case.
5: I get excited by "fancy plays" and cute interactions, as well as really impactful plays, often not stopping to check if there is an even better line of play.
6: Related to 5, I often become impatient when I have good cards in hand, even if it is removal or counterspells that are (probably) better spent later in the game on spells that are sure to make a significant impact.
7: Related to 6: I sometimes blow removal and counterspells on targets that do not deserve it because I feel stupid keeping up mana and not advancing my board position, even when I have no other plays. I also tend to use counterspells at the first given opportunity instead of actually considering whether the spell I counter will have significant impact.
8: I sometimes make riskier plays than I ought to (especially if I am playing a significantly better deck than my opponent). When it pays off, I'm happy, and when it doesn't, the excuse of "well it was a worthy gamble" is an easy one to fall back on.
9: I am extremely hesitant to invest in cards for constructed play (I mostly play Limited), even though I really want to try and construct good decks in constructed. Especially a good mana-base is essential to try some deck builds and I am cheating myself of a lot of constructed and deckbuilding experience by not coughing up the money to get the cards I want/need.
10: I run a lot of simulations (partly to kill time) of drafts against bots that are nowhere as good at picking cards as real opponents. On top of that, I often quit these simulations midway through if nothing interesting is going on in them. This is a really bad habit to bring into actual playing.
11: I have a pretty good grip of the rules (and is a Rules Advisor) primarily as a result of playing online, yet I (a) assume that I know the rules of even difficult situations or situations including cards I have little or no experience with myself and (b) am not studying the rules closely enough to actually be able to judge, even if it is something I'd like to try.
12: I can become unfocused and think of something else in the middle of a match if things are moving slowly, especially online where reading stuff on the internet instead of following the match closely is possible.
13: I feel overconfident if I've won the first game of a match, leading to sloppy play and/or mulligan decisions.
14: I sometimes fail to compute the impact of a big change in the board situation (such as an opponent resolving a big Spider Spawning from backfoot, suddenly changing the roles of the game).
15: In draft, I commit too early and too often to specific archetypes because of my inherent like of those archetypes. This also leads to...
16: I undervalue/ignore some of the more mediocre cards, both leading me to not playing them enough and to somehow think that they are useless when facing an opponent who plays them.
17: I tend to focus more on the abstract strength of colors than on their openness in draft.
18: I am too proud to ask a judge a rules question that I feel I should know, even if it can sometimes be of critical importance.
19: In draft, I tend to assume that people have the same evaluation of cards as I do, which can cause disparency between the signals I think I am sending and the ones I am actually sending.
20: I am too confident in my knowledge of (new) cards. I need to always read a card that will have a major impact on the game.
21: To some extent, I tend to not spend enough time/energy on fixing "small mistakes" of my play or making "small improvements", thus losing out on a lot of "getting better".
22: I do not lend enough credit to "fringe cards" in Limited (I've faced cards like Pollenbright Wings and Dune-Brood Nephilim in Ravnica block drafts online and not realized their full potential, per example).
23: On the other hand: I tend to fall in love with the potential of these "fringe cards" once I've seen them turn a game around once, lending them more credit than they are worth (they are "fringe" cards, after all).
24: I often rely a bit too much on my "really good" cards and suffer the consequences when my opponent actually has the removal to deal with them.
25: I tend to forget upkeep effects (especially if I am winning).
26: I don't play enough constructed and when I do, I play mostly "gimmicky" decks that I put together from what I have lying around. When I lose with these decks, I often tell myself it's because they're "gimmicky" and ignore that part of the problem could be in the way I piloted the deck or that the execution of the gimmick I was hoping for is not the optimal one available to me.
27: I use my relatively short time in competetive play (I've been paying in events/online for less than two years, but casually for most of my life) as an excuse for not being as good as others instead of focusing on getting better.
... That's a whole lot of stuff! Some of it was hard to put into writing, especially at first, but once the dam cracks, I felt like I kept spotting other areas that needed improvement. I will keep this list in mind (and it's out here, now, so I can't run from it) in the future.
If you want to improve your own game, I can strongly recommend putting down all your weaknesses in text (and publish it somewhere) like this. Now my flaws are exposed, not only to others but (most importantly) to myself. It makes them that much easier to deal with. Let's get cracking!
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One of my favourite writers in the Magic community, Patrick Chapin, pointed out in his articles on the top ten deckbuilders on Star City Games that a great point of entry to "breaking" a format (or just doing really well at it) is to pick out the most powerful card that isn't played.
Well, I think I'm ready to play some standard, and my online collection, I happen to have two copies of a really powerful card. And now, I've build a deck that can actually play it. The deck just had its virgin venture into the 2-man standard queues (an easy 2-0 victory even against a T3 Geist of St. Traft in game 1) and has a batting average of around 70% in my tests in the tournament practice room. And that's my first take on the shape of the deck, with the cards (and especially lands) that I have lying around.
The card is Blightsteel Colossus . And my deck can get it down as early as turn 4. It's a Blue/White deck, and it's not playing Grand Architect .
It's playing Shape Anew .
And no other artifacts.
Here is the rough-hewn decklist that I am currently playing:
2 Glacial Fortress
2 Moorland Haunt
Win Condition Combo: 6
2 Blightsteel Colossus
4 Shape Anew
Artifact token generators: 9
2 Blade Splicer
1 Master Splicer
4 Master's Call
2 Wing Splicer
Draw Smootheners: 8
4 Merfolk Looter
4 Apostle's Blessing
2 Grand Abolisher
3 Leonin Relic-Warder
4 Mana Leak
3 Mental Misstep
Current Sideboard: 15
2 Day of Judgment
1 Djinn of Wishes
2 Oblivion Ring
1 Phantasmal Image
1 Snapcaster Mage
2 Urgent Exorcism
1 Venser, the Sojourner
1 Wurmcoil Engine
Especially the sideboard is kind of haphazard at the moment, but the deck's raw shape has shown the kind of potential I was hoping. I've considered the maindeckable answers to a resolved Colossus, and the most dangerous seem to be Oblivion Ring and Beast Within . The Oblivion Ring is one of the reasons for the maindeck enchantment hate in Leonin Relic-Warder , and the risk of counterspells or instant-speed kill spells of the target such as Gut Shot and Dismember is the reason for the Grand Abolisher s. Mental Misstep counters Dispatch es, Vapor Snag s and Unsummon s. I have considered adding some Turn Aside s to the sideboard. The Apostle's Blessing s are doing double duty of acting as 1-mana protection and pseudo-unblockability if the opponent is tapped out.
The Merfolk Looter s are essential for digging for a missing Shape Anew (or seldomly, a token generator), and is a good way of getting the Colossus from your hand (where it will always be stuck and uncastable) and back to your Library.
I'd love to hear, what people think of the brew, and if anyone can use it, please do (as long as you give credit where credit is due ). I'd love to see what other cards people think are viable; I'm thinking including a few Dismember s in the board to deal with Fiend Hunter s or just opposing creatures that might be threats, and Inkmoth Nexii would probably be a better inclusion for colorless lands than the Haunts (but I don't have any, currently) since it can act as an emergency Artifact (it can activate itself so it can be used to cast a turn 5 Shape Anew if other things fail. What do you think?
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I've taken a liking to new format - not an official one, mind you - called "Filth Casserole". It's a very interesting format, invented by Magic artist and personality Inkwell Looter. In a nutshell, one could say that it's a 50-card singleton Modern format - All cards legal in Modern are playable as single copies (basic lands are allowed in multiples, of course), and you have to construct a deck of at least 50 cards. There is no sideboard.
My first shot at a deck for this format is pretty clunky and, arguably, not exactly an example of streamlined design:
BUG-GY Deck Show
1x Darkslick Shores
1x Drowned Catacomb
1x Hinterland Harbor
1x Terramorphic Expanse
1x Woodland Cemetery
1x Birthing Pod
1x Clone Shell
1x Culling Dais
1x Moriok Replica
1x Solemn Simulacrum
1x Sphere of the Suns
1x Wurmcoil Engine
1x Back from the Brink
1x Civilized Scholar ( Homicidal Brute )
1x Dreamscape Artist
1x Forbidden Alchemy
1x Memory's Journey
1x Murder of Crows
1x Skaab Ruinator
1x Augur of Skulls
1x Bitterheart Witch
1x Blind Zealot
1x Brain Gorgers
1x Curse of Death's Hold
1x Life's Finale
1x Liliana of the Veil
1x Necrotic Ooze
1x Rise from the Grave
1x Sheoldred, Whispering One
1x Birds of Paradise
1x Garruk Relentless ( Garruk, The Veil-Cursed )
1x Kessig Cagebreakers
1x Llanowar Augur
1x Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
Creatures in total: 18
The deck seems a bit all-over-the-place, even more than is probably justified by the fact that my collection is made up of almost only cards opened in Limited events (a reason I like singleton formats, by the way). It revolves around a "creatures in your graveyard"-theme, with cards like Back from the Brink , Garruk, The Veil-Cursed and Kessig Cagebreakers as the main win conditions.
As I said, this was my first Filth Casserole-deck, and I feel like brewing and building and cutting cards taught me a lot - not only about this relatively narrow format, but also about deck construction in general which was emphasized especially well by the low card count. Here's the most important one:
Every card has to play into your deck's theme.
This is important! There are 31 non-land cards in the deck, yet only 18 of them are creatures despite the creature count being absolutely essential to the theme of the deck. A few of these cards are important enough to include, but there are easy cuts such as Culling Dais and Rise from the Grave as well as a few unobvious but probably correct cuts like Curse of Death's Hold (and with that, the Witch ) and perhaps even Tezzeret .
These cards could be replaced by cards like Splinterfright , perhaps even Deranged Assistant and Armored Skaab , too - all of them creatures that also help the theme of the deck.
I played the deck a bit, and apart from the suboptimal synergies, the mana also struck me as quite bad; Why play three colours when I simultaneously have problems keeping myself to 50 cards? I took all this, and made another deck, in the two colours I hadn't tried using:
WR Tokens Show
1x Clifftop Retreat
1x New Benalia
1x Terramorphic Expanse
1x Mimic Vat
1x Myr Battlesphere
1x Origin Spellbomb
1x Shrine of Loyal Legions
1x Solemn Simulacrum
1x Thopter Assembly
1x Throne of Empires
1x Wurmcoil Engine
1x Accorder Paladin
1x Blade Splicer
1x Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
1x Hero of Bladehold
1x Honor of the Pure
1x Intangible Virtue
1x Marshaling Cry
1x Master Splicer
1x Master's Call
1x Mausoleum Guard
1x Midnight Haunting
1x Selfless Cathar
1x Sensor Splicer
1x Timely Reinforcements
1x White Sun's Zenith
1x Chandra, The Firebrand
1x Chancellor of the Forge
1x Goblin Wardriver
1x Hero of Oxid Ridge
1x Instigator Gang ( Wildblood Pack )
1x Magus of the Moon
1x Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer
Total Creatures: 19
... It doesn't take a lot to recognize that this deck is a lot better, but let's compare how many cards with no relevance to the main theme each deck has:
BUG-GY: Cards that do not care about the Graveyard or doesn't contribute to it in any major way: Birthing Pod , Clone Shell , Culling Dais , Moriok Replica , Solemn Simulacrum , Sphere of the Suns , Wurmcoil Engine , Augur of Skulls , Bitterheart Witch , Blind Zealot , Brain Gorgers , Curse of Death's Hold , Birds of Paradise , Llanowar Augur and Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas .
15 of the 31 non-land cards in the deck do not contribute in any major way to the deck's major theme (a few of these are arguable, and a few are mana sources). That's a lot. Now...
WR Tokens: Cards that do not have anything to do with tokens directly or mass-boost creatures: Solemn Simulacrum , Chandra, the Firebrand and Magus of the Moon .
3 of the 31 non-land cards are unrelated to the theme of the deck; A mythic rare Planeswalker, a "free" card in Simulacrum and a quirky rare that will probably do really well against people who own more than the few nonbasics I do. That seems much more acceptable to me. And I can assure you that the deck plays better.
Talking of playing; Filth Casserole is a new and relatively unknown format - I would recommend everyone who has an MTGO account with any kind of collection to try their hand at constructing a deck and play a few matches, to test the waters if nothing else. I would be more than happy to play against anyone interested in trying the format, so by all means write a comment or a personal message if it sounds like your kind of format!
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Evaluating Morbid cards in Innistrad Limited
After having played some Innistrad Limited, I want to re-evaluate my opinions on some of the cards. Now, instead of just tackling the entire list head-on, I figured I'd limit myself to some sort of category system. The first of these categories, which is actually pretty format-defining, is the ability word, morbid.
Morbid appears on a meagre nine cards in Innistrad, so I am just going to walk through them alphabetically and describe my opinion on the card and how and why it has changed since I first saw them spoiled, and perhaps make a few general observations about morbid.
The first card of the bunch is perhaps my favourite; Brimstone Volley is a common burn spell which has almost double the effeciency if it is played with the morbid trigger. This card seemed really solid from the beginning, for several reasons, the most obvious one being that it's instant speed removal. It can also go to the dome, which turns out to be very relevant indeed.
The card has only improved in my opinion. It's a worthy first-pick in a draft situation, and I'm not at all adverse to splash it as the only card of its colour in both draft and sealed. Morbid works really well on this card for several reasons; First of all, it's instant speed, which means that if you really need to deal with a huge threat on the other side of the board, you can chump-block it and blow it up almost no matter how tough it is.
Second, it fits really well into almost all decks that run it because often when aimed at creatures in the early turns (if you've got it in your opening hand), 3 damage will be enough to deal with most things, whereas if you need to push the final damage through with a low-curve and aggressive red-based deck, having this in your hand means that your opponent has to block unprofitably and really awkward if he wants to avoid the morbid trigger to grant you some extra reach.
Third; very few morbid enablers are free if you want to activate it on demand; Stitcher's Apprentice and Disciple of Griselbrand are some of the most reliable way to activate it, and that adds something to the mana cost of the morbid spell, effectively. When you need this to deal 5, however, you will most likely have more than the needed to cast it "unblooded".
The next card with morbid is a far less interesting common sorcery, Caravan Vigil . This will almost always be cast without the morbid trigger and still be relevant. That said, it serves its purpose well enough without the morbid trigger, and it is effectively free if you manage to trigger it (or haven't played a land), since it puts the land into play untapped.
Counting on this to accelerate you is optimistic bordering on the naïve, and it should be treated for what it is; A common green fixer.
Now, we get to the first creature with morbid; It's the green common Festerhide Boar . This card looked really impressive in the visual spoiler, and the potential for power is certainly there if you can get the counters - 5/5 trample for four mana is a really legitimate threat.
With that out of the way, this creature is nowhere near the power-level I imagined it would be when I first saw it, simply because more often than not, you're not going to play it with morbid on turn four. There are a few reasons for this.
The primary reason is that triggering morbid "for free", mana-wise, almost always requires the permission of the opponent, and if your opponent knows what he's doing, that's not going to be cheap. You can either offer a trade while holding back your mana (begging a block, basically, since you could also have a combat trick), which most opponents won't accept, or you can just throw away a creature in a suicide attack. There are several reasons why this is bad.
The first is that you're basically setting yourself up to be 2-for-1'ed (if the opponent deigns to block your suicide creature), since the suicide creature will basically act as an aura that grants +2/+2. The second reason is that the creature you attack with has to be worth killing, since your opponent will know what you're up to. Any villain worth his shoes will know not to block that 1/2 spider token attacking into certain death unless he really can't afford the one-point life-swing.
If you're otherwise triggering morbid, you almost always have to spend mana on it (as well as making a creature, most likely your own, die), which sort of negates the inherent power of this card. a 5/5 trampler for is sweet. For ? Much less so.
Granted, the Boar is still a decent creature, because it's always going to be at least a War Mammoth , which is a respectable creature in and of itself. You just have to be willing to play it without morbid if you're including it in your Limited deck, and I think that's something most players will have a hard time doing.
Another aside on the boar's playability/pick-iliciousness in draft is that Innistrad seems to be swimming in 4- and 5-drops, which sort of raises the bar for creatures in that territory.
The next morbid creature is also Green, but it's an uncommon, Hollowhenge Scavenger . This, I feel, is a whole other cup of tea than the Boar. What is impressive about the Boar is that it can be great with its morbid effect. The good thing about the Scavenger is that it's great even without the trigger.
A 4/5 for five mana is quite impressive, and Innistrad has proven to be a format with a suite of removal a bit on the scarce side. This beast (well, Elemental, really) will certainly go a long way towards turning the non-flying part of the board greatly in your favour.
Its morbid trigger is actually just gravy, which is where lifegain is best in Limited, since it doesn't take up an entire card in and of itself. This makes the Scavenger a pretty good (and grossly underrated) 5-drop. And it excels at giving you an edge in a racing situation, where you swing in with the team and then post-combat add a brutal blocker and potential future attacker to your board while often consolidating your own staying power in the game.
This is by no means a first-pick-quality card in draft if you can avoid it, but I've found that it will sometimes actually table and be there ninth pick, which is great if you've moved into Green by the time your pack comes back around.
The next card is also an uncommon five-drop creature, but it's black, and it's gotten far more press than its Green cousin; the starlet I am referring to is of course Morkrut Banshee .
This lady, at first glance, looks like she might be Skinrender 's bigger sister. And that's a sweet place to be, power-wise.
Only, it turns out she's not. Her body, while not quite that of the Scavenger, is still perfectly acceptable for five mana in Black, but her morbid ability, which is what most people pick her for, is not nearly as consistent as one could wish for. She's Skinrender 's very moody older sister, it seems.
Most opponents will be absolutely aware of this card and keep it in mind when declaring blocks when you have up, which prompts the whole "suiciding something worth blocking"-dilemma. While her effect might occassionally be worth sacrificing a decent dude for, it certainly makes it far less appealing. And if you need to Altar's Reap or Stitcher's Apprentice in order to trigger her, you're suddenly looking at a converted mana cost of seven instead of five. As most Limited players know, that's not just two turns of development; most of the time, reaching 7 mana from 5 will take three to five extra turns of drawing cards to hit your lands.
And that's why, in my experience, it's right to play the Banshee without its morbid trigger if it's not easily obtained around three-fourths of the time you find yourself with it in your hand and with five lands on the board. Mind you, there are still times to sandbag it (if all it will do is stare down a Terror of Kruin Pass or a Makeshift Mauler , by all means wait until you can trigger it).
The next card probably won't have a whole lot of relevance in most of the Limited games you'll play, since it's a Mythic Rare, but I am going to cover it anyway. It's the Reaper from the Abyss .
I love 6/6 fliers for six mana, even when they're as mana-intensive as this one is. Its body just without the morbid is more than enough to first-pick this in a draft, which means the ability is just gravy.
And it's delicious gravy, too! Potentially killing an extra creature every turn, enhancing all your removal and basically nulling the opponent's (unless it can deal with the Reaper, of course) is a huge plus, and it also makes both blocks and attacks really awkward for your opponent. This is a legitimate bomb, no doubt about that.
Now, it can be forced to destroy your own (non-Demon) creatures if you kill the last creature your opponent controls, since the trigger is not volountary. However, most of the time, this still means that you're left with (at least) a 6/6 flier against an empty board. There are worse board states to be imagined.
From Mythic Rare to Rare; another Black creature with a morbid ability that is visible on the board in order to trigger, which means the opponent can play around it, we have the Skirsdag High Priest .
While I haven't played with this personally (yet), it strikes me as a perfectly fine utility creature. Sure, its ability is pretty conditional, but the upside is definitely there, and while a 1/2 body for two mana is not a great investment, it's okay in a pinch and will often act as a lightning rod for removal exactly because of its potential power-level. Getting just a single activation out of this seems worth the investment, and the ability can be used at instant speed, which is really important.
The ability is also free, mana-wise, which means that the "enabler problem" is non-existant in this case; often, any sacrifice outlet that will let you enable this (even if all you get for the creature is an equip activation of Demonmail Hauberk or a few points of life off Disciple of Griselbrand ) will be worth it, and there are serious shenanigans to be had with cards like Village Bell-Ringer that lets you abuse this card's potential to great extent.
Next, we're back in the more Limited-relevant common rarity with another creature much like the Boar (and with all the same problems): Somberwald Spider .
I'm not as downed by this as by the boar in terms of expectations to morbid, but the truth is that I'd be much happier to just have a Giant Spider .
The reasons for this might seem obvious; Triggering the morbid effect on this is even harder than on the boar (since it costs one more mana already), and the payout is actually less useful, since you're probably going to be blocking with this creature a lot more than attacking. Now, I just praised a 4/5 for five mana, and I'm not saying that I'd not rather have a 4/6 with Reach for that cost, but the reason that I even play this card is because Green in general hasn't got a lot of answers to fliers.
Playing this without the pump dodges Smite the Monstrous , which is not irrelevant against a flier deck that has a white element, since really, a 2/4 is enough to deal with most common fliers (and safely block all of them). Of course, if you are facing a larger flier (like a Murder of Crows or an Angel of Flight Alabaster ), you do want (or, need) the larger body, of course, but then you've also relegated your 5-drop to purely defensive duty.
I like my defensive creatures to come down early, and that's not what this spider is doing. You'll have to play it now and then because you'll need the answer to fliers, but it's not a card you're generally happy to include in your deck with a decent pool of cards.
The most likely scenario for this to trigger is on your fourth turn, if your opponent decides to block your 2- or 3-drop and trade, in which case you can then play this and recur the (hopefully only) creature in your graveyard. Which gives you... A 3-drop to play on turn 5. Where you'd want to play your 5-drop.
Now, a creature is a creature, and even a 3-drop on turn 5 will probably have some sort of impact on the board (especially if it's something like an Elder Cathar ). But it's often not impressive, especially when you've spent your fourth turn casting a creature that Green could probably have on turn two .
In general, the morbid creatures at common (and uncommon, to some extent) have been underwhelming in my experience. That is not to say that you are not correct to play them, and definitely not to play around them (since the awareness of the morbid trigger is exactly what weakens the cards it's on), but you need to be realistic about your expectations for these cards.
The only (non-Rare) exception to this is really the Red Brimstone Volley , which as mentioned is an absolutely wrecking ball of a spell, and one you should be happy to include as many of as possible in your Limited deck.
Keeping an eye out for morbid will help you minimize the upsides of the opponent's morbid cards and teach you when you can exploit the upsides of your own. You should be aware of enablers that are worth sacrificing a creature even without playing morbid cards, such as Skirsdag Cultist , since these are the cards that work best with the morbid cards, too.
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An explanation of the term, and its applications to strategy games in general, limited Magic illustrated with M12 examples, and special relevance for the newly-released Innistrad set.
The term opportunity cost is originally used in economics. The Wiki definition of the term is as follows: "Opportunity cost is the cost of any activity measured in terms of the value of the best alternative that is not chosen (that is foregone). It is the sacrifice related to the second best choice available to someone who has picked among several mutually exclusive choices (...) The notion of opportunity cost plays a crucial part in ensuring that scarce resources are used efficiently."
The bolding is my own and illuminates why I think that the term is relevant to strategy games in general and to limited Magic in particular. I will start by explaining, briefly, the application of the term in strategy games in general, before narrowing the focus to applying the term to limited Magic and then the things in the newly released Innistrad set that are especially relevant for the set in terms of opportunity cost.
A quick disclaimer: I am not an economist, and my experience with the term comes primarily from another strategy game (Sid Meier's Civilization, for those interested). What I'm saying here is my take on the term and its applications in the mentioned arenas.
A short illustrative example of how to understand the term in general is that if you're offered $10 for doing a piece of work that would take an hour, but instead you choose to do nothing that hour. That would be an opportunity cost of $10, and in economics that loss is just as "real" as the $10 you've actually had in your hands.
The general application of opportunity cost in strategy games is evident in almost any strategy game - especially in turn-based ones, since turns/moves will be one of the most important resources in such games. A really classic example would be the game of Chess; your resources in the game are, basically, turns (tempo), pieces (abstract strength) and position (concrete strength). These intermingle nicely in that you must sometimes sacrifice some of a certain resource to gain another (sacrifice a pawn to get the board into a more favorable state, per example). The thing to note about these resources is that they are all assets whose purpose is to assist you in reaching your ultimate goal in the game (in this case, checkmate the opposing king). The importance of your endgoal will always trump the importance of resource maintenance (ie. sacrificing even a Queen in Chess is the right move if it guarantees you the victory).
Another illustrative example could be the very first move of the game (still staying in the chess example); Say that you have decided to move the king's-row pawn. You can either move it one space forward, or two spaces forward. Moving the pawn one space ahead isn't a bad move (it's arguably better than not doing anything), it's just not as effective as moving it two spaces right away (assuming getting your pawns forward is a good idea, which might be a tiny simplification).
The relevance of the term in Magic is, I feel, more relevant for limited formats than for constructed (also, I am more of a limited player, so my natural focus obviously is on limited) because the restrictions of resources is much more explicit in limited games. While the term could obviously be applied to draft picks and deck construction, I will be concentrating on the play-part of limited. A simple way of illustrating the application of the term is to say that if you use your Doom Blade on a two-drop (like a Crimson Mage ), you can't use it later on their six-drop (like a Volcanic Dragon ). This doesn't always mean that casting it turn two is wrong, mind you. More elaborate examples will be available later in this section.
Precisely defining one's resources in a Magic match is harder than in Chess, I feel, but I am going to give it a try: In Magic, your primary resources are card potential (abstract power) - that is, the potential of cards in your deck, primarily in your hand - board position (concrete power), life count ("staying power", perhaps) and a somewhat vague and overlying "tempo" that among other aspects include mana efficiency.
A short aside; Cards (in your hand) is in and of itself a resource (hence the focus on card advantage in Limited games), and this is (indirectly) the reason that some cards are outright "unplayable"; To be exact, if an extra basic land would serve you better than a particular card (think Taste of Blood in M12), there will always be a "negative" opportunity cost of including the particular card in your 40.
Opportunity Cost is an inherent part of many decisions in a Magic game. I am going to walk through a few examples of M12 situations to illustrate the different resources' interdependency and how knowledge and awarance of opportunity costs can help you make the best decision in certain situations.
Case 1: Bloodthirst
Now, imagine that you are playing a red-based bloodthirst deck, but that your opponent has sweeped the board clean with a Day of Judgment on his fourth turn, destroying your early enablers as well as your first bloodthirsted creature. On your fourth turn, you have the opportunity to drop your Gorehorn Minotaurs as a 3/3.
You're quite clearly conceding some amount of abstract power by making this move, but that does not mean it is always the wrong play, because you are impacting the board state significantly; you are giving up power in the abstract (the "cost") to win concrete power right now. That 3/3 might just win you the game if your opponent cannot play a matching threat on his next turn - on the other hand, if he follows up with a Siege Mastodon , your 3/3 presence on the board is definitely neglicable. This is where it gets really interesting - because, on that turn four, onto a clear board, what are your alternatives to playing the Gorehorn Minotaurs? If it is playing a creature that can reasonably trigger the bloodthirst, the choice seems pretty obivous, but a creature like a Goblin Piker is obviously also more mana-inefficient - and easier to block than even just the 3/3 Minotaurs.
Case 2: Removal
If you're holding a Wring Flesh , you quite clearly will want to cast it before the turn is passed back to you. This is because the concrete value you get out of the Wring Flesh is really close to the maximal potential value you could get out of it (as the Lawkeeper is one of the best creatures it can deal with). On top of that, you'll use your mana efficiently since you will still have two mana to cast something on your second turn.
If you're holding a Sorin's Thirst , you're probably still really happy, even if you spend your second turn killing the Lawkeeper (and gaining two life) because the Thirst's potential, while slightly higher than the Wring Flesh's, isn't in any way "wasted" dealing with the Lawkeeper. You also stay on curve, meaning you're managing your "mana" resource effectively.
If you're holding a Deathmark , you're probably still killing the Lawkeeper, and while you're happy to actually have a target for it, your opponent being in White means that it will probably have the potential to deal with something much larger later. Also, since it is a Sorcery, you're not using your mana effeciently; You're not even curving out unless you're playing another one-drop alongside it. Your opportunity cost is more significant here.
If you're holding a Doom Blade , you might even consider not killing the Lawkeeper at all, since Doom Blade has such huge potential to deal with larger threats later in the game. If you have another two-drop, such as a Reassembling Skeleton , you're probably playing that instead and hoping to deal with the Lawkeeper in another way. The opportunity cost of Doom Blading a Gideon's Lawkeeper if you have other alternatives is really significant.
Case 3: Life Total
This applies the other way around, too. If you're in a Blue/Red aggressive deck and the only creatures in your hand are Skywinder Drake and Aven Fleetwing , you might have to use your first-picked Fireball on turn one to deal with an opposing first-turn Phantasmal Bear , since it will otherwise be doing a significant amount of damage - potentially as much as 8 - before you can get even something that can trade with it onto the board. Letting the Bear hit you once before casting the Fireball on it might be right. Letting it hit you four times seldom is.
The relevance of opportunity cost in the Innistrad limited format is exemplified especially well through a few of the format-specific mechanics. The first of these is actually pretty straightforward following the above examples from M12.
The next example might be less obvious, but it has a lot to do with a discipline that limited players are very concerned with; Mana efficiency and curving out. Is there any reason not to play out my Silver-Inlaid Dagger on turn one? Well, yes, there is.
The player playing werewolves will want creatures such as the wolves so that they have a way of putting their mana to use while casting no - or only a single - spell each turn. Even overcosted abilities such as the Kessig Wolf 's First Strike becomes relevant if the alternative is nothing. And that's the primary concern for the werewolf player in terms of opportunity cost; The dilemma between casting spells or transforming/preserving werewolf states becomes far more harmless if you have some other way to spend your mana.
On the other side of the table, the player who knows (or fears) he will be facing werewolves needs to re-evaluate his "instinctive" need to curve out and spend his mana in the most effective way; playing a small spell like a Silver-Inlaid Dagger or a Caravan Vigil early might be slightly more mana-efficient (and will often be the right move), but it also means that you will have a harder time keeping the opposing werewolves "locked down" in their day-form or transforming them back after an opponent's conceded to spending a turn transforming them. The opportunity cost of not playing out something like a Silver-Inlaid Dagger on the first turn depends a lot on what is in the rest of your hand; If you've got a Vampire Interloper or an Invisible Stalker , playing the Knife seems worth it, but if you're curving out already with no room to equip the Dagger, you might just be better off sandbagging it.
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Saturday, September 24, 2011, 3:44 PM
Past in Flames (Mythic): This card seems really cool - but sadly, not in Limited. Four mana is a lot to enable the casting of a handful of spells for one round. Even if you can recast one spell of this, and another off its flashback cost, you've basically only gotten the same (double) effect as you would of any normal Flashback spell. If you end up in heavy-black with loads and loads of Victim of the Nights or something, it might be playable, but it is not going to be much better than a Call to Mind , not exactly a Limited star.
For this reason, I don't think I'll be picking this highly in drafts, and unless people really have the discipline to not care about picking a money rare, that means I won't ever end up with this in my pile. I'd consider picking this up if it ever makes its way all around the table and back to me, say, tenth or so.
Pitchburn Devils (Common): This actually seems like a really fine creature. It's not exactly exciting on the vanilla-test (a 3/3 for five is too expensive!), but the rider ability is really nice: If you need a creature to sacrifice, getting a free bolt out of it might just make this a volounteer, and it can profitably block creatures with as much as 6 toughness, or trade on the ground and shoot a decent-sized flier out of the sky and get a 2-for-1.
I don't know exactly how well this fits into an aggressive Red deck, but it can provide some reach if your opponent can't profitably block it, sort of like an overgrown Goblin Arsonist . It would've made a fine creature, perhaps even Uncommon material, if it had been costed more aggressively, like , but as it stands, it's still a decent card. I'm probably going to pick it over the 4/4 for 5, so around 6th thru 10th or so.
Rage Thrower (Uncommon): This seems like another late-drop that can give the Red decks some reach, allowing a "reckless" assault that might otherwise not be profitable, but which can just push the last damage in through raw burn.
That said, it's expensive, and it's fragile. It can trade with most things (and will get an activation off that), both up and down, but I just think you'll want more for a 6-mana investment. On the plus side, it's easy on the colour requirement, so it's perfectly viable as one of a few Red cards in, per example, a White aggro deck, where there are creatures that want to die and loads of small, aggressive and fragile weenies that can become living projectiles. It's also one of the (apparently plentiful) cards that make the Stitcher's Apprentice better...
In a draft, I won't be happy about picking this until around fifth pick, and preferably even a bit later. But perhaps recurring removal is worth more when the normal suite of removal seems somewhat underwhelming?
Rakish Heir (Uncommon): I really like this Red Vampire "Lord" at Uncommon! It's always going to be a Grey Ogre , and its ability applies to itself, too, but where it'll shine is along with a bunch of those two-drop Vampires that fly or just are hard to block. Following a Bloodcrazed Neonate up with this against an empty board seems devastating!
This is a card I'll first-pick if I really have to, but it's going to be far more exciting just a few picks later. I don't think you'll see this later than fourth or fifth, and if you do, be sure to pick it up and be on the lookout for Vampire Interlopers and Neonates!
Reckless Waif (Uncommon Transformer): This is the poster child of the Aggressive Red deck: On the play, this can be a really wrecking start against an opponent who stumbles, but there is a fair risk that it won't actually transform until later in the game, at least on the draw, and that's a really huge drawback, because that 3/2 body will no longer be great or even just good later than turn three or four. You really need to consider this and make sure that you're in a deck that can keep the pressure up for this to effective past turn two.
Its human form is also kind of fragile - there are a few effects that will kill 1-toughness creatures in the set, although if the opponent is actually casting something and wasting it on this, I actually think of it as a fine trade.
In drafts, I'm not looking to pick this up even in the first half of packs, unless I really am sitting with that Red beatdown deck in my pile already. I won't be happy running this very often, but neither will I be happy playing against it. Harsh to evaluate!
Riot Devils (Common): A vanilla 2/3 seems like a fine defensive card in a format with a whole lot of 2/2s in it. Emphasis here is on defensive, because that's going to be decidedly unexciting in many Red-based decks. It's body will always be decent and playable, but often, you'll find yourself prioritizing creatures that more actively promote your gameplan (turning them sideways!).
In drafts, this is probably going to go around late (but not "dregs"-late) - meaning around 9th thru 12th. Where it'll be a fine pick if there are no other cards that deserve inclusion in your deck.
Rolling Temblor (Uncommon): Sure, most things will die to 2 damage. But in Red, you're not going to have a lot fliers, so most of your stuff will die too. Now, obviously, you're deciding when to cast this, and it might be a fine first play on turn three before opening up the aggro, but I'm not a huge fan.
I think it's going to be much better in a less aggressive (read: Less Red) deck or in an aggressive deck where you're lucky enough to get a bunch of Black fliers. Which are perfectly fine decks - it's just something to consider before "auto-picking" the mass removal spell.
With that out of the way, it is a powerful card, perfectly splashable and worth its card even without the Flashback (which might wreak havoc post-combat later on if an opponent doesn't pay attention!), so there's nothing wrong in picking it relatively early, perhaps even first.
Scourge of Geier Reach (Uncommon): In worst case, this is going to be a 3/3 for five - facing an empty board! If that's the worst case, I'm liking this card already! It's often going to be a powerhouse all by itself, and although it could really use trample against those hordes of enemy creatures, even a regular Wurm at 5 mana is pretty great.
One thing to keep in mind when you've resolved this and is scheming how to best abuse it is combat maths. The opponent doesn't have to deal lethal damage to it as long as he is also losing creatures in combat, since it will then shrink and die of the damage already taken. Keep that in mind, especially if this thing is not attacking alone, since the maths will get complicated really fast. It's also going to be sort of depressing to have this facing a single 3-power creature.
In drafts, I am expecting this to be picked within the first few picks for obvious reasons. Power!
Skirsdag Cultist (Uncommon): Here we have a nice card to combine with the Rage Thrower! Stop thinking about other creatures in forms of living bullets and start thinking of them as living missiles!
It is a bit more Red-intensive, though (or, a lot), but on the other hand, the Reach it provides the Aggressive deck seems a bit more tangible (and faster to enable) to me. Picking this up around fourth or fifth doesn't strike me as unreasonable - you might even pick it up earlier if you see it.
Stromkirk Noble (Rare): Another really aggressive one-drop! This, however, isn't nearly as swingy as the Waif. Even if an opponent gets a blocker down in one of the first two turns, there's a good shot it's Human and that you can swing in with this right under their nose. And even in the late-game, it can be jarring for your opponent's blocks that he has to assign a non-Human blocker to this when most of the Human 2/2s would be perfectly capable of dealing with it.
That aside, it is a 1/1 when it comes into play, and there will be games where you'll topdeck it and just never have the chance to profitably attack. In that case, it's going to be about as bad as any other one-drop 1/1. But the upside is there.
I don't think it's enough of an upside to justify a first-pick, though. I'd much rather have a large Uncommon flier, or a good common piece of removal, but once all the most exciting stuff is gone, this is flashy enough that it's probably going to be picked up before it can table back to whoever opened it.
Tormented Pariah (Common Transformer): A Vanilla Werewolf... In and of itself, unexciting (It's a Vulshok Berserker minus the haste, below even Red's curve, in its "daylight" side), but there definitely isn't anything wrong with a Craw Wurm . You just need to know that that's what you're getting: Most of the time, this won't come online until such a time where you could reliably have cast a Craw Wurm instead. Not to mention that until then, it is going to be pretty vulnerable to most kinds of removal.
What I'm trying to get around to is that this might be exciting because it's a werewolf, because it certainly isn't because of its stats. I'm not hoping to pick this up earlier than on the wheel in my drafts, although I could reasonably see it being snatched just before then, around seventh or eighth pick.
Traitorous Blood (Common): So, the set has an Act of Treason - neat(?)! I'm glad that it's more colour-intensive than the standard "Act", because in a set with a whole bunch of sacrifice effects, an Act of Treason is going to be more than just decent. The addition of Trample to not make it strictly worse than the normal Act of Treason is very cute and might even occassionally be relevant.
All in all, this looks like a decent card, especially in those low-curve, aggressive and Red-based decks that are actually looking feasible (take that, slow format!). But the cost is a commitment, and unless you've already picked up something pushing you towards the archetype, I don't think I would advice picking this up until perhaps around fifth-sixth pick or even later, in an average pack.
Vampiric Fury (Common): A nice spell for the bloodthirsty, Red Vampires! What might look like a desperate attack can easily turn into a total bloodshed that will either cost the villain a whole lot of creatures, or a whole lot of life (while simultaneously boosting your "thirsty" Vampires). It is, of course, Instant-speed, so you can also use it on the defensive (nothing wrong with that, only the Red Vampires really look like the kind of creatures that are more comfortable attacking!). Opening a few of these can seriously up the value of any Vampires compared to other creatures you're considering running.
It does require a serious tribal commitment to be truly powerful, though (and it could've used an expensive, black Flashback cost, in my opinion), and it's probably going to be taken late in drafts - perhaps something like 8th thru 12th. A last-pick Fury is going to be a gift if you've picked up any amount of playable Vampires in the first pack.
Village Ironsmith (Common Transformer): A 3-power first-striker for two mana! These keep getting cheaper!
... And more conditional. I don't like the "dayside" part of this card (perhaps at one mana), and odds are its other side won't come online until much later in the game, where most of its relevance will be long gone. I'll run this if I need Red creatures, but I fully expect it to be underwhelming in a majority of games.
Pickwise, I think this'll tend to be a bit overrated. I am hoping to pick it up on the wheel, if at all, but it might begin being picked at around sixth or seventh pick in an average pack (and that's too soon, in my opinion).
Red in General is shaping up to be the rebel kid who mucks up the otherwise pretty comfortable and slow speed of the format if it reaches critical mass - or runs good. It also has some quirky, controlly elements, a few late-game deciders, and an okay suite of removal. Not the strongest colour, in my opinion, but definitely the fastest, and that might be enough to get there!
Ambush Viper (Common): I like! Being able to Flash this is obviously awesome when you're planning on using it as a blocker (where it'll basically eat anything that hasn't got First Strike), but it's also great to avoid casting spells in your own turn to transform your werewolves. Brandishing two power for two mana certainly isn't anything to scoff at, either, although that will probably not be too relevant in and of itself, considering the likely speed of the format.
Being pseudo-removal is certainly great in Green, too, a colour which traditionally lacks that. This has loads of upsides, but most of them are defensive in their nature, which might be a strike against it. Nevertheless, I think it'll be worth a retail pick in draft - say, around fifth, in an average pack.
Avacyn's Pilgrim (Common): For some reason, I'm really excited about this! White/Green looks like a decent spot to be in in my opinion, and acceleration/fixing is always nice. For all that, though, this is a body that is fragile in the early game and utterly inconsequential in the late game. At least it's a Human, which has some Tribal bonuses, but you don't want to have to send this into combat except as a late-game chump. For this reason, it is going to play the same role as Llanowar Elves , albeit in a slower format than the recent M12.
I doubt it's going to wheel a lot in drafts, but it's certainly no early pick either. I think right around eighth pick is where these might start disappearing from draft packs of average quality. Perhaps a bit later, depending on the other kinds of acceleration/fixing in Green.
Boneyard Wurm (Uncommon): Now we're talking! This wurm's got some huge potential in such a Morbid set as this, even if you're probably better off sandbagging it in your hand until later instead of dropping it onto the table on turn two (where it's rarely going to be more than a 1/1, if anything). It has a really quirky interaction with the Blue zombies, since it is going to be generally pretty large, but shrink once the Stitched zombies start being played. That's fine if you're playing the Blue zombies, but not too hot if it's the villain...
Because of the huge potential this has, I am counting on it being taken early in drafts, basically just after all the "always powerful" cards are gone, which is often going to be around 3rd-5th.
Bramblecrush (Uncommon): This strikes me as really bad in Limited. It can destroy artifacts and enchantments, sure, but paying four mana for that at sorcery speed seems really lame. Especially next to Naturalize , which is also in the set. The added ability to destroy lands isn't exciting at all to me, and as far as I can tell, this means that this is relegated to the sideboard in case of Planeswalker emergencies.
For that reason, I expect to see this floating around in the bottom of draft packs. If your Green deck is shaping up to be really powerful and you're actually worried that facing a Planeswalker might be the only thing seriously threatening your dominance, by all means feel free to pick this a little higher than you might normally, but picking it up the first time it comes around is going to be a waste pretty much always.
Caravan Vigil (Common): I like this card as a one-drop. It can be a Rampant Growth (but probably won't, at one mana sorcery speed), but it's perfectly fine otherwise, especially if you're planning to splash some business. Comparing this to Avacyn's Pilgrim is hard; In the end, I think the body is going to mean that the Pilgrim will be more popular, but this is still going to be a fine card, especially if your splash isn't White, even if it'll rarely be outright acceleration.
This will probably almost always be in the latter half of a pack, possibly even in the "dregs" around 12th thru 15th, which is understandible, but keeping an open mind about when you might actually need this (all Green so far and hitting it 12th in pack 1 will probably be pretty satisfying, allowing you to splash/main a second (or third) colour easier).
Creeping Renaissance (Rare): I think this is going to be a pretty great card in a colour that cares so much about Creature combat. Dudes will be dying left and right, and topdecking this in any match where you still have any board presence is basically telling your opponent that he really needs to hurry if he wants to have a shot at winning, because getting all your dudes back (potentially twice, if you need it) is going to be backbreaking.
You probably won't want to pick this over a really bomby creature, but I don't see many other cards that will be reasonable picks over this. We'll have to see how powerful Green is in the set, because if it's looking underwhelming, this might actually show up third or fourth every now and then. But it is such massive card advantage, that is going to be a rare occassion.
Darkthicket Wolf (Common): And we've got the third Wolf with a mana outlet, a lovely bear with a Rootwalla ability. I'm pretty positive about this critter, even without the Werewolf synergy; playing this early and attacking the following turn with a threat of activation is probably going to get you some free damage (or eat their blocker, which is a fine deal too), and in the late game, it'll be basically like drawing a 4/4, which is decent.
This versatility makes me think people will value this quite highly among the "pedestrian" cards of a draft pack, so don't count on seeing it wheel - it'll probably go somewhere between 5th and 8th.
Daybreak Ranger (Rare Transformer): A Grey Ogre with flying hate (again, the magical two damage!) doesn't seem like such a bad deal, which is good, because its "night side" isn't really impressive unless you've got a bit of Red mana in your deck somewhere. That said, if you do, this is perhaps some of the most potent recurring removal in the set, let alone in Green! And if that, at three mana, isn't potential, I don't know what is!
It's day side has the kind-of-annoying two toughness, meaning it'll often be dying to removal, because sticking this will just wear down the villain's board. In that way, this will probably be a lightning rod in a lot of games - if the opponent has that removal, that is!
In drafts, I won't be sad first-pick this, even if I am silently hoping that I won't have to. I'd like my rares to be bigger and bombier right off the bat (even if they have to cost more than three mana!). But on the other hand, there are actually going to be relatively few cards, even in the "normal" rare slot, that can compete with this in terms of potential.
Elder of Laurels (Rare): This might compete, though! For the same mana cost, you get a significantly better body (that third toughness is going to be crucial, I feel!), and with an ability that feels a lot like that of a Wildheart Invoker . This is going to wreak havoc in stalled games, it's going to make you feel happy about not playing a spell (instead using your mana to go to town!) to transform your werewolves, and the threat of activation from this will just make any blocking a lost cause if you decide to alpha strike for the win.
I'm absolutely willing to first-pick this in a draft. Heck, if I'm ever passed it, it's definitely ending in the pile, and my first pick(s) will have to be really good for me to not start looking for other green cards immidiately.
Essence of the Wild (Mythic): Man, the Green rares are shaping up to be just a bunch of Limited bombs! A 6/6 on the ground for six mana isn't a gamebreaker in itself (although it's elegant), but the ability on this makes me drool. Especially with that Creeping Renaissance... Basically, playing this will assure that any creature you draw after that will just be plain gas, and villain will have to deal with it before the first copy comes out, because the copies will also, obviously, have the ability.
This is just waiting to be broken with some of the token-generating cards in Black and White, methinks! This is an obviously first-pickable card in draft, and if it's going later than second, I'm going to be dumbfounded (but not enough to not snatch it!).
Festerhide Boar (Common): Green is shaping up to be really powerful! A War Mammoth is nothing to sneeze at, but this is obivously going to be so much better when played with morbid. A 5/5 trampler for four mana? Where do I sign?
This feels like a slightly better Gorehorn Minotaurs in a format with much worse removal. And it has trample. How sick is that?
I'm excited to see if this makes the top 10 common/uncommons of the set in terms of first-picks, because I can see taking this first pick (in a pack without a thrilling rare or one of the better Uncommons, obviously), and I'm going to be perfectly happy taking it third thru fifth. Later than that and you can consider me in Green!
Full Moon's Rise (Uncommon): This looks unplayable in Sealed decks, since you will, at most, have six Werewolves, which isn't really enough to support this taking up a slot, I feel (unless you're aching for playables). In draft, it might be a different beast, but I remain unconvinced. It's fine if you can hit that critical mass of werewolves, but the werewolves that are worth playing in and of themselves are picked early, and are mostly Rare anyway.
I don't predict this being a desirable pick, so I'm strongly counting on this making it around the table and ending in the "dregs" of draft packs. Going earlier than tenth seems unreasonable, at least in the first pack.
Garruk Relentless (Mythic Transformer): Okay, so everyone has seen this card. It's pretty easy to cast, it's spitting out wolves left and right, and it is even splashable. If you transform this (and you might never need to/want to), it goes all-in on the "stuff dies" theme and start spitting out tokens with deathtouch. It can tutor for creatures (while triggering Morbid), and it can ultimate in a wicked "necro-overrun" that is going to be absolutely brutal.
So what are you waiting for? Windmill slam it, play it, break it!
Gatstaf Shepherd (Uncommon Transformer): Another decent werewolf! This guy's always going to be a Runeclaw Bear - in both the Human and the werewolf tribe - and eventually, he is going to turn into a 3/3 with semi-evasion. That doesn't strike me as an especially bad deal!
This is an absolutely solid card (even if the 2/2 side seems a bit unexciting) as far as I can see, and therefore, I think it's going to be picked relatively early in drafts. Say, fourth thru seventh in an average pack.
Gnaw to the Bone (Common): Lifegain... Is just really, really bad in Limited. I don't think this is really playable, it's simply far too defensive and inconsequential, although its potential is closing in on how much life a spell needs to give to be worth a card (this could potentially give you around 40 life in the late-game with flashback, which arguably is a lot). Against the "Curse of Pierced Heart" deck or some other deck that just gradually wears down your life total, this might actually be correct to board in. But I am really hoping to have cards to play over this in all matchups.
For those reasons, I think this is going to really late in draft - we're talking "dregs" late.
Grave Bramble (Common): Urgh, Defender? That doesn't bode well for this card. It is a pretty great board clogger, sporting a pretty deadly 3 power for three mana, which seems really solid. This will often be right to play against decks with few fliers even if they don't have any zombies, but it should probably start in the sideboard in most decks.
I think this will go relatively late in drafts, and the players that might want to take it will probably be content with one, and since it's common, there will probably be more, they'll probably show up really late. The colour requirement seems really restrictive (but is probably clever development, this is too strong to be splashable in a fliers deck!). Think around 10th pick or so.
Grizzled Outcasts (Common Transformer): Another vanilla werewolf! This seems like a pretty decent curve-topper, coming around just when people are running out of spells (unless the format is really slow) and even its "day" side is okay, if a bit unimpressive in Green. Its "night" side is huge but is really asking for Trample, in my opinion.
This'll probably be picked about midways through packs, once the "exciting" cards are gone and it's down to the solid playables, say fifth thru eighth. I wouldn't count on this wheeling.
Gutter Grime (Rare): This looks like a decent enchantment at first glance, and against some decks, it's going to be really good (the slow, combat-heavy matchup). But it is really vulnerable to any enchantment removal (which the set seems to have quite a bit of), because if the enchantment ever dies, all of the Oozes will become 0/0s and die too. That might be fun if you have a couple of Hate Throwers, but otherwise it'll just decimate your board completely - so watch out!
I won't be happy to open this in drafts, because it doesn't strike me as first-pick material, but I'm sure it won't wheel all the way back to me. Being passed it second or third is probably going to sting since there will still be cards I want to pick over it most of the time, but fourth or fifth, this seems a really solid choice - and it's splashable!
Hamlet Captain (Uncommon): A human lord Runeclaw Bear ! That seems really solid (especially in Green/White), although not gamebreaking. Humans seem like a tribe of weenies, so this being cheap is probably a really good thing, but the fact that he has to attack or block for the effect to trigger means that the opponent can just block to kill him (the bonus will still linger until end of turn, though, so no shenanigans about blocking him and then dealing almost lethal damage to the other human attackers and have them die post-combat from their wounds).
This is not exciting enough to pick early in a draft, but it's definitely a fine card to pick around 4th thru 7th or thereabout in an average pack.
Hollowhenge Scavenger (Uncommon): Another decent, if unexciting, five-drop, this one has a vanilla body that is probably fine for its cost, but really nothing special, and its morbid rider is fine, but in no way really exciting. Perhaps I'm too "off" on lifegain after having been drowned in it in Scars where it didn't matter half of the time.
I'm not excited about this, and it could probably have been common in my opinion, but it's always going to be a decent late-drop in Green, so it's probably not going to wheel, but I am counting on it going just around the 8th pick in drafts.
Kessig Cagebreakers (Rare): 3/4 for five mana seems underwhelming, but you're basically always getting at least one pack of 2/2 wolf off it, and that's certainly not shabby right there. But the really sick value is going to be if this can actually survive attacking. Right there, every turn will just be harder on the villain, and it will be harder to try and find enough blockers to actually kill the Cagebreakers (if he isn't just instantly buckling under the pressure and has his throat torn out by the wolves, of course!).
And it's easily splashable. So go for it - first pick, easy!
Kindercatch (Common): Traditional Green vanilla fattie, this laughs at the former set's Alpha Tyrranax . But it's harder on the colour commitment, and while a 6/6 should always inspire a bit of respect, this just seems so unexciting compared to a lot of other creatures, and with the werewolves around, it's not as if the lategame will be lacking large monsters.
I won't be surprised if this doesn't get picked up until 10th-12th pick in an average draft pack. It's not even that exciting with Heartless Summoning...
Lumberknot (Uncommon): This seems like a slow, but solid creature. Your opponent can't really kill it while it's small, and it'll just grow throughout the game until it can start "harvesting" by itself. That's the best-case scenario, though. As a topdeck, this is not at all exciting! In fact, it might be the most expensive Gladecover Scout you have ever played! Be sure to think about that as well before slamming it in a draft or adding to to your Sealed deck!
In drafts, it has enough potential to be an interesting pick, but it's not overtly powerful and should not be treated as such. I'm thinking it will fit nicely at around 5th thru 9th pick most of the time.
Make a Wish (Uncommon): This seems pretty decent, although its interaction with "amoung of dudes in the bin" is going to be pretty sketchy because of the randomness of the recursion, but this is basically always going to be a really good play since the only things that end in the graveyard normally (unless you're being milled by either side) will be stacked with instants and sorceries you've played and creatures that were good enough that the villain felt he needed to deal with them. It tempo of this might be awful, but the format is looking a bit slower than it has in a while, so I'm almost certain it will be worth it most of the time.
I don't know exactly when to pick this... Its quality depends a lot on the quality of the rest of your deck, obviously, but you can't count on it going really late, so I think it's understandible to pick it around 4th thru 7th if there isn't anything too exciting on-colour to compete with it.
Mayor of Avabruck (Rare Transformer): Oooh... A Human Lord that turns into a Werewolf (and Wolf) Lord? With the same basic cost, even if it seems somewhat fragile? That looks really good! The human side isn't good in itself, but will make your other guys (including untransformed werewolves, obviously) stronger until it's time to go into action. It's "night side" is really great, mostly for the wolf-spawning combined with the fact that it boosts those very same werewolves. Just having this sitting spitting out 3/3s seems really great, and if you can actually swing in, the game is going to end really fast..!
It is obviously better if you can more werewolves (or just wolves, they support the werewolf race nicely, remember?), but it's actually pretty good on its own, and for that reason, I won't mind picking it up really early. Make sure not to pick "lame" werewolves just because this is in your pile, though. It's fine on its own and playing subpar cards to try and accomodate this seems like a really bad plan.
Moldgraf Monstrosity (Rare): Woah, Green is really playing up a theme of "random recursion", here! Not that that will be the selling point of this (although it is really great, should an opponent have the removal for it). The selling point is, of course, 8/8 trample!
Seven mana is a steep price, but this is really, really worth it unless you're facing a really fast deck or you're about to die to fliers. It can block almost anything the turn it comes down, and then it's time to go on the offensive! 8 power trample is not something you want to have hitting you over the head longer than is absolutely necessary, but expending several guys to kill this only to be facing two new threats is not exactly an inspiring cause of action. Basically, if this ever resolves, it is going to raise hell.
That out of the way, it's expensive, and it's colour-demanding. Green is looking strong so far, so that might not really be a concern, but it certainly is a commitment, and the value of this plummets if you force yourself into Green and build a subpar deck around it, so yes, do first-pick it, but try not to let it colour your picks too much. You want Green to be open, of course, but that doesn't mean it will be.
Moonmist (Common): If you ever end up with that werewolf deck, be sure to include a couple of these. The Safe Passage effect might not matter a lot, but casting it in your opponent's turn in order to just eat his attackers and be ready to swing in return seems like such a blowout that this is a trick you should always have in mind when facing Green playing werewolves.
Notice, however, that while it only lets Werewolves and wolves thru its Fog , it actually transforms all humans, and there are a few (in Blue and White, namely) that might benefir a whole lot off this (I am naively dreaming of the Green/Blue Insect-Guy/Moonmist deck). It's certainly an important detail to keep in mind.
Due to the relatively low amount of Transform cards, and the fact that this affects both sides of the table, this is probably going to go late in drafts, especially in the first pack. Probably around 10th.
Mulch (Common): This seems like a pretty decent card in the early game where you want a few creatures in the bin and some more land in your hand, but it is going to be a horrid topdeck, always, barring some sick graveyard recursion that you haven't already played...
For that reason, I think this will be borderline unplayable in most Green decks. And it's probably going to be around the "dregs" limit in drafts packs, say, 11th and down, most of the time.
Naturalize (Common): We all know Naturalize, an old classic! The set, which we're almost through, looks like it has the same minor enchantment theme as M12, albeit it's a bit slower, so it might better shine through. There are a few fine artifacts, too, which we're getting around to after Green, but I'm still not sure I'll want to maindeck this - that is the eternal questions about Naturalize. It was right in ROE most of the time and wrong in M12 most of the time, in my experience, and I'm currently leaning on the side of keeping it in the sideboard in this format.
Still, it's a solid sideboard, borderline maindeck card, so it's not "dregs". If you're in Green and see it around tenth, snatch it up and be happy that you have some board tech if you ever run into a villain with some wicked curses or a great artifact or two.
Orchard Spirit (Common): A 2/2 flier for three mana - in Green? At common?
Okay, so it's not flying, strictly speaking - only on the offensive. But that is not at all shabby, it's White/Blue quality wings right there! That's certainly attractive, even if it doesn't really fit into Green. Still, a solid creatures deserve some respect, and I'm certain that drafters will see the potential in this, so I'm counting on it being picked roughly 4th thru 8th in an average pack.
Parallel Lives (Rare): This is a really swingy, really quirky enchantment. I find it very exciting and I'm hoping I can find a way to break it for great effect, but it's not going to be possible very often in Limited. Most of the token effects are in White and Black (although the Cagebreakers and the Mayor will be really good with this - but they're also rare, so you can't count on that interaction reliably), and you're probably not going to splash for this in a White/Black deck due to inconsistency (Black and White are both somewhat demanding colours), although a really heavy White or Black with a Green side colour could probably make fine use of this.
In a draft, I would pick this up late in the first or second pack or early in the third if I was shaping up to be token-heavy and seems like I can reasonably play it, too, but especially early, this should be one of those Rares that go late, possibly even wheeling.
Prey Upon (Common): This has gotten some buzz, which is pretty understandible, since it's often going to be Green removal, sometimes a Green Fling instead. It's aggressively costed (as cheap as it can be, really), which means it works nicely with Morbid cards, which Green seems to have gotten a fair share of.
It's not going to be very good in the early game, obviously, unlike most other pieces of removal, and it has some tension when played with werewolves since you're casting one spell for one mana (having one of your wolves fight an opponent's creature) and you're then left with quite some mana that you'd really like to cast a second spell with, but that'd mean flipping back the werewolves (luckily, not until damage has been reset).
I think it's a reasonably fine card, and it's probably going to go in the first half of draft packs, though exactly how high people are willing to take it will probably swing a bit. I'm thinking 4th thru 7th at the moment.
Ranger's Guile (Common): A nice way of saving a large guy from some removal, this trick seems really decent and pretty flexible. It's not going to swing board states around, but it is going to keep them in your favour if you manage to land the largest creatures - something that seems doable in this colour.
For those reasons, this is actually a reasonable pick mid-pack, like, sixth thru ninth or tenth, most of the time, I feel.
Somberwald Spider (Common): A Giant Spider that can become a Humonguous Spider! This, if cast with Morbid (which it should be, and which won't be particularly hard, I feel), will eat almost any fliers and be resistant to all but the most devastating of removal spells. A really, really great common creature. Green is just shaping up to be a monster, here.
In drafts, I'm thinking this might go as early as around third pick, and it's probably not going to rear its face later than fifth or sixth pick barring some seriously powerful pack.
Spider Spawning (Uncommon): In and of itself, this is not too impressive, but it can combo with a lot of other stuff to grow better. Black is the obvious choice, since it can then fire twice, but where you should really look out for this is if you ever manage to get that Essence of the Wild... Although the token-doubling enchantment and the Cagebreakers are also going to be decent pairings just for overwhelming purposes. Effects like the Hate Spitter that trigger whenever things die will also be great with this since the tokens can block virtually everything.
This is not first-pick material in my book, but it certainly has lots of potential, and it's a really interesting card which isn't hard on colour (not counting the Flashback which is in a second colour), and the cost doesn't matter a lot as it is best late-game anyway, so I'm guessing it will probably go around the fourth or fifth pick in most packs. Perhaps a bit earlier, even.
Spidery Grasp (Common): This strikes me as a really expensive Mighty Leap (which doesn't grant evasion). It looks like an okay combat trick and can certainly put creatures out of burn range easily enough, but it's also pretty costy (keeping three mana up is going to cause some suspicion through most of the game, I think), so I'm not really a fan.
That said, pump spells do have a place in most decks, and if your dudes are going to be fighting, +2/+4 seems a decent boost to make sure they survive and still kill the opponent's creature. This is probably not going to be picked up very early in drafts, but it's not "dregs" either. I'm guessing 7th thru 11th in most packs...
Splinterfright (Rare): A slightly larger Boneyard Wurm, with Trample - and an attached self-milling effect. That seems just bonkers to me. Dropping this early, you'll have an ever-growing attacker that is just going to go to town on the opponent every turn and which he'll probably not really be able to deal with, and playing it late-game will start it out in the Pelakka Wurm -size, ready to cause havoc. By its own, I don't see its milling effect to be enough to mill you out before it has won you the game, but it's probably going to be really weird to face a mill deck with this in hand...
That's all dependant on the opponent, though. For your own deck, I don't think you can find a much better 3-drop than this, so go ahead and first-pick it. I know I will!
Travel Preperations (Common): I really like this card, even despite the obvious risks that it shares with Auras, and its sorcery speed. It's going to be marginally playable in mono-Green, but as soon as you can just splash the white, it's probably going to be solid. Even if its initial target dies, you've only spent half its effect, and unlike Auras, the counters can't die to Naturalize mid-combat and upset your combat math.
Noncreature, nonremoval commons are often in a hard place in drafts, and I don't think will be drastically different, but it's not going to end in the "dregs", at least not on my watch I'm counting on picking this up say around ninth or tenth, possibly a bit earlier if there are no creatures I like.
Tree of Redemption (Mythic): This... Is so weird! I don't know how much it does for Limited - a 13-power defender seems okay, especially when it can double as life reserves, but nothing overwhelming. But it's so cool! And it's splashable... Hmmm.
I don't know how to properly evaluate this, and it's probably not going to be relevant, but I'd be up for picking it early in a draft just because of its rarity and the quirkiness of it. Not over a powerful flier or another bomb, but within the first few picks.
Ulvenwald Mystics (Uncommon Transformer): A Hill Giant is not too inspiring (although by no means unplayable) in Green, but its "Night side" seems really, really powerful. Swinging in with this 5-power beast isn't even going to be a risk as long as you have a single Green mana up! That's some serious offence, even if it doesn't come online until turn seven or eight. This is a werewolf I can get behind!
It does have some colour intensivity, though, so picking it early is somewhat a commitment. A commitment to what is looking like one of the best colours, but a commitment nonetheless. Despite that, picking this up within the first four picks seems reasonable - perhaps not first every time, or even most of the time, but definitely not much later!
Villagers of Estwald (Common Transformer): I've talked about the importance of that third point of toughness when it comes to creature combat, and I'm going to again, because I feel that is what makes this much better than its Red mirror image. It might not be as aggressive, but post-transformation, it's going to be almost impossible to kill in creature combat while still swinging for a really decent chunk of life if left alone.
It's not an early pick, but I don't think I'll see this wheeling a lot either. It's probably going to go around fifth thru eighth or perhaps even a bit earlier in an average pack.
Woodland Sleuth (Common): A random, Morbid Gravedigger in Green - and again, with that magic third point of toughness! This looks really good, for all the same reasons that Gravedigger normally is, even if it is sort of conditional. It's not too aggressively costed, but at least it's common, and easy on the colour commitment. A fine card.
In drafts, I am counting on this going around roughly in the same window as the Villagers above; Fifth thru eighth seems reasonable, although it might slink down a bit lower because of its conditional ability as well as its body, which, by itself, is really unimpressive for four mana in Green.
Wreath of Geists (Uncommon): I'm not sure if I would like this effect more on a pump spell, to be honest. Auras have so many drawbacks that they have to be really great to make the cut. And this Aura is close, mainly because there seem to be some tramplers in Green that can really use a good, permanent boost. The graveyard theme helps too, of course. Sticking this on a Lumberknot or a Splinterfright is just going to be downright cruel.
But most of the time, especially early-game, it is not going to have a lot of an impact, and it's a constant 2-for-1 liability. So I'm not going to pick this very highly in drafts - probably around eighth or ninth pick. Perhaps even later.
Green in general seems like a collection of just rock-solid creatures of all sizes and costs. There might not be a whole lot more than that, but creatures win Limited games, guys! I'm going to be glad to open a pool with a good Green colour at my Prerelease!
Artifacts, Lands and Multi-coloured Cards:
Evil Twin (Rare, Black/Blue): This is a really, really evil Clone. It's always going to be really, really good, and it's going to be downright nasty if you're copying a creature with Haste and can leave up to immidiately kill the "good twin".
This is definite first-pick material, even if it does push you into two colours (splashing the black for some removal might be an option).
Geist of Saint Traft (Mythic, White/Blue): This is also a really great card; 2/2 is sadly a bit of a fragile body, but it recieves the bonuses from the Spirit tribal effects you might have, and it has Hexproof, so it's not going to get killed unless you attack with.
And there's some solid motivation to do just that, since it'll bring a cute little 4/4 flier along every time it does attack - not too shabby, a 3-drop that swings for 6! This is probably also first-pick material, even if it does push you (forcefully) into White/Blue (which looks like a decent archetype), and even if it is a bit fragile.
Grimgrin, Corpse-Born (Mythic, Blue/Black): What an absolute bomb! Once you get it untapped (sacrificing a dude seems a fine price), it's going to be a 6/6, and when it swings, it turns into a 7/7 and throws an Exterminate at a defender to boot. Rinse and repeat. For five mana.
This is a gamebreaking bomb and a clear first-pick. It's worth moving into two colours for, even if it isn't really hard on either colour - you'll want to be able to cast this as soon as you can!
Olivia Voldaren (Mythic, Black/Red): Another wicked Legend! A 3/3 flier for four is a really good deal in itself, and with a repeatable pinging ability that also makes her larger, this lady is an absolute bomb. And then, she can enslave anyone it has pinged. How sick is that?
First-pick worthy, that's for sure. Be ready to move into Black and Red with elbows and claws, because unlike the former multi-coloured creatures, this one clearly benefits from having a solid mana base in its colours (since its abilities will be that much more effective).
Blazing Torch (Common Artifact): An equipment that grants pseudo-removal - and also acts like a Mortarpod -like effect. In a deck where death is a thing to be abused, I'm thinking this might just have a home in plenty of decks. The Hate Thrower springs to mind as an obvious combo with this; why to two damage when you can do four?
That said, because there are going to be so many of these and you can only play so much removal, it's probably going to belong in the second half of draft packs, 7th thru 11th.
Butcher's Cleaver (Uncommon Artifact): A slightly better Greatsword , this looks like a really great inclusion in a Human-heavy deck. And it is begging to be abused with the Blue Invisible Stalker!
This is probably seldom going to wheel - I can see it being picked up 6th thru 8th reliably. But it might go a bit later, sometimes.
Cellar Door (Uncommon Artifact): This doesn't strike me as playable in a lot of Limited decks. A blue Milling deck might want it to simultaneously mill and spawn defenders, but apart from that and perhaps some matchups where it can slowly but surely grind out advantage in a control mirror, I don't see this performing very well.
Therefore, I count on seeing it taken around 10th or 12th. Not in the absolute "dregs", but certainly not instead of anything solidly playable either.
Cobbled Wings (Common Artifact): This has the bonus over the Blue Aura that it can be used again if its first wielder dies, but on the other hand, it doesn't give a power-boost. I can see some creatures (huge Green ones and "bloodsucking" Red ones) that could really use this, but they are going to be a lot to demand one of these before it deserves inclusion.
I'm counting on this regularly making it to the bottom of the draft packs, partially because of its rarity.
Creepy Doll (Rare Artifact Creature): This strikes me as underwhelming for its cost - but really, really scary to be facing on the other side of the board! I don't know how good it is going to be in practice (it'll probably appreciate the Cobbled Wings!), but against ground-based decks, it's probably going to be really, really mean.
I'm not sure I'm ready to first-pick this, but it goes into any colour and any deck, so perhaps I will. It's certainly going to be a nice pick just a few spots down the line!
Demonmail Hauberk (Uncommon Artifact): This looks pretty decent, to be honest! Its equip cost is really harsh (before of the possible two-for-one if villain has removal!), but its effect is really great (again, especially on the Invisible Stalker), especially if you can stick on a flier (or a first-striker, or a trampler).
This is definitely not wheeling! I think taking it as early as fourth or fifth might be correct most of the time, but I won't gripe if I'm passed a Hauberk seventh or eighth, either
Galvanic Juggernaut (Uncommon Artifact Creature): This looks ridiculously powerful! If it's blocked, it's going to kill the blocker and untap in almost any case, and if not, well, it's a cheap Lava Axe every time something dies. That is really, really cruel at four mana!
I might not be first-picking this. But I might. I have that much trust in its power - and it keeps colour issues out of the question.
Geistcatcher's Rig (Uncommon Artifact Creature): This is much less overpowering, although it's still really good against a flier deck. Its mana cost is more oppressive, its stats aren't fantastic for a 6-drop, and without the rider, it's probably not worth it. But if you are facing a heavy-fliers deck, you're going to be happy if you can board one or two of these in.
Sideboard material usually belongs around 10th pick, but I'm going to be nice and say that this is probably going to go earlier than that, around 7th.
Ghoulcaller's Bell (Common Artifact): Another tool for the Mill/Selfmill deck, this artifact seems really underwhelming, but it might have some utility in some decks. It's an awful topdeck, though, in any deck, and there are going to be enough of them floating around the draft that you can grab the ones you want late. Like, 12th and later.
Graveyard Shovel (Uncommon Artifact): Doesn't strike me as playable, not even against a Flashback deck or a Stitched deck. I'll be happy to be proven wrong, but I'm not going to even give this a chance in my own deck. Or in my drafts. It's garbage.
Grimoire of the Dead (Mythic Artifact): This is probably insanely powerful, especially if you have the patience/bad luck to punt lands to it lategame. It obviously requires a bit of time to "load", which gives the villain a living chance of destroying it, but Artifact removal is not really maindeckable in my opinion, so those turns are probably more likely to look like a desperate struggle to get your life total to zero. If it doesn't work... Hell breaks loose!
This is obviously first-pickable, if nothing else then because of the colorlessness of it, which means it can go into any deck.
Inquisitor's Flail (Uncommon Artifact): This doesn't strike me as worth playing in a lot of decks, the exception probably being a really flier-heavy deck, preferably with lots of smaller fliers which it will enable to trade up. The first-striking creatures will probably like this a lot, too.
I don't see myself picking this until, say, seventh or eighth, although it might actually be worth picking up a bit earlier. It's not really to my tastes.
Manor Gargoyle (Rare Artifact Creature): A 4/4 indestructible blocker for five mana seems pretty decent, but the ability to turn it into a flying attacker at will, and for a single mana, seems really great. This is probably first-pickable because it is colour-neutral, and it most likely goes in almost any deck.
Mask of Avacyn (Uncommon Artifact): Hexproofing creatures is always great on equipment, even if this has a kind of costy equip cost, It also boosts stats nicely. Because a deck can only have so much equipment and this doesn't strike me as really powerful, I'm probably aiming to pick this up in drafts at around seventh thru tenth.
One-Eyed Scarecrow (Common Artifact Creature): This strikes me as a really decent defender in a fliers deck (the 2/3 body is great, and its ability just makes air combat so unfair on the opponent), or in just any deck against fliers (racing fliers becomes much easier with one or two of these in play).
With that said, it's probably going to go late since it's such a defensive card. I'm going to be content snatching it 12th, because I think that's how late it will come around, but I might even pick one up a bit earlier.
Runechanter's Pike (Uncommon Artifact): First Strike alone on this is almost worth it, and the (somewhat random) power boost certainly won't make it worse. I don't find this really exciting (or, at all), but it is going to be a fine addition to some decks. It'll probably go too early for my tastes, say 6th thru 8th, where I'd be a lot happier taking it around 11th or 12th.
Sharpened Pitchfork (Uncommon Artifact): I actually like this a lot better than the Pike, simply because you know where you've got this at all times. Its extra bonus with Humans is marginal, but it's going to be nice whenever you get to use it. I'm probably going to be fine picking this around 8th thru 10th, if it'll ever make it back to me that late in a draft.
Silver-Inlaid Dagger (Uncommon Artifact): This is an equipment I can get behind! Boosting power, power and then, conditionally, more power. This might actually be worth picking up a bit earlier than the other equipment because of the low cost; Say, sixth thru tenth?
Traveler's Amulet (Common Artifact): This is a slightly more expensive version of the Green fixer sticked onto an artifact; It's great colourless fixing, even if it isn't acceleration or anything. There are going to be quite a bunch of these in a draft, so if you open anything you really want to splash, you can probably pick up a couple of these in the bottom five of the packs.
Trepanation Blade (Rare Artifact): This mills and kills! That's interesting, but mostly in a mill deck; Getting a few cards into the opponent's graveyard might actually be a drawback in such a format as this if you're not planning on milling him out. For that reason, I think this is going pretty late in drafts. I'm tempted to say 10th, but it's probably going to go a bit earlier most of the time. I'm not sure, though.
Witchbane Orb (Rare Artifact): This doesn't seem Limited playable, but if you open it in Sealed, you might end in a matchup where it's worth boarding in every now and then.
In a draft, I'm not touching this until there are literally no other playables in the pack in my colours. That's probably around 11th or 12th most of the time.
Wooden Stake (Common Artifact): Fine sideboard tech against Vampires, but unplayable in main deck and against anything else, so this is another card that is smart to pick up late, around 11th or 12th, and keep in the board in case you'll need it.
Gavony Township (Rare Land): This looks awesome! A stalled situation pretty quickly becomes a completely unfair board state if you can just grow all your creatures every turn! I'm definitely excited to play this in Green/White (or just in one colour, splashing the other). In a Draft, I might not be super excited to first-pick this as it is rather committing, but third or fourth if you look White or Green isn't unreasonable.
Ghost Quarter (Uncommon Land): This doesn't look Limited playable to me, although you could reasonably board it in against one of the Rare lands in the cycle with the Township above. In a draft, this is probably "dregs" material.
Kessig Wolf Run (Rare Land): Another solid land! This would actually work best with fliers, but since it grants Trample, it's also going to be pretty great with the large bodies in Red and especially in Green. Another unlikely first-pick, but fine to pick just a few places downt he line.
Moorland Haunt (Rare Land): This looks a bit less impressive than the other lands in the cycle we've seen so far. If you're already in White/Blue fliers, by all means pick it up, but normally, I won't be looking at this with excitement before, say, sixth thru ninth.
Nephalia Drownyard (Rare Land): Like the Haunt, this also seems less exciting than the first lands of the cycle. It's obviously fine in the mill deck, but it might actually serve as an alternative win condition even if milling isn't your deck's plan. This is probably also worthy of third- or fourth-picking in drafts.
Shimmering Grotto (Common Land): And we have another great common source of splashing all five colours, sort of like the Amulet on a land. This is great if you need it and there are probably enough of them to go around. It'll probably go tenth or later most of the time, so it's not even like you're losing a lot by snatching a couple.
Stensia Bloodhall (Rare Land): This is much like the Black/Blue land in terms of Reach, except it's damage instead of milling, which obivously fits great into Black/Red. Probably another land which is fine to pick third or fourth if you're looking to end in one of the colours.
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Saturday, September 24, 2011, 3:42 PM
Blue in general seems to have several things going for it; It's part of a nice W/U Wings tribe deck, it has the potential to be a Mill deck, and it can also be a fast (if swingy) Stitched/Skaab monstrosity. I am very excited to see how the colour works out, but it looks absolutely playable to me currently.
Abbatoir Ghou (Uncommon)l: This seems like a really solid card to me... 3 power first strike for 4 mana is really good, especially in a format where the "magic toughness" seems to be a mere 2. The lifegain clause is marginal but still worth noticing. It is the best kind of lifegain in Limited; The "free" kind, sugar coating of a card that it definitely playable without it.
In drafts, I wouldn't be adverse to picking this in the first few picks, probably not as the very first, but around 3rd-5th.
Altar's Reap (Common): This card looks very swingy. In some decks, it is going to be a poor man's Vivisection , but with all of the "death matters" that is just dripping from this set, it might be a fine card with a drawback that isn't hurting you a lot some of the time. In its essence, this spell is a 2-for-2 (unlike Sign in Blood ). But also unlike Sign In Blood, it's an instant. I can't think of a much better response to targetted removal at two black mana than this...
I'm not sure when this will go in drafts; I have an impression that it will go late, especially since even decks that can use its utility might quickly saturate on sacrifice effects. It is probably going to wheel most of the time. I will place it at like 8th to 11th, but I am very unsure about this.
Army of the Damned (Mythic): I think this card is one of the poster children of the "Zombie Horde" feel of the Black zombies, and it sure looks awesome! However, 8 mana is a whopping lot (and, believe it or not, ten is even more). The effect seems really powerful, however, possibly enough to justify running this in Limited (we'll have to see exactly how slow the format is going to be). But I think it is very important to attack this spell from a critical angle.
It is an eight-drop, and one that will quickly end the game in your favour if you live to untap (barring a Wrath effect). However, it is not the "I win" button. You can lose after resolving this. It has two major problems. The first, and most serious, perhaps, is its non-interaction with fliers. Sure, you might be able to swing for the win in a turn or two, but if that's all the time that a flier deck needs to deliver those last points (and that's very plausible considering the mana cost on this), you will really wish you just had a normal "dragon". The second swing against it is the fact that these zombies enter the battlefield tapped. It might not make a lot of difference in terms of offence (they will still be able to attack next turn), but it gives the villain a crucial single (late-game) turn to Alpha-strike for the win. Against decks brandishing something as simple as a Rally the Peasants, that can be enough of a window.
I don't know how to evaluate this in terms of draft picks; You could pick it first and live the dream (it might have a place in Black-Green, with the flier-hate and ramp that Green brings to the table), or you can go with a more solid choice. It is really going to depend on what else is in the pack; How much guaranteed power are you missing to gamble on the potential that this spell clearly presents?
I think this will be gone before most of the "decent playables", but other powerful Limited cards (removal and such) might go before this. By all means, snatch it up if it comes around like fifth or so and you're looking to be in Black anyway, but just know that committing to this card can be really dangerous.
Bitterheart Witch (Uncommon): So far, the Curses strike me as a relatively mediocre theme, and the body on this is certainly not worth its cost alone. Obviously, if you open a pool with some powerful curses (the Black rare which we will see in a bit being the most obvious), this can be an almost guaranteed two-for-one. I would really like for this to have more power, since the easiest way to get some decent value out of it is by turning it sideways and hope that the opponent blocks it.
Mind you, against non-fliers, this is going to be pretty depressing to attack into, but ultimately it is going to trade with whatever the opponent does dare attack with. If you get a curse out of it, nice bonus, but ultimately, I would like my five-drops to have a larger active impact on the game.
I might be unfair to the card, but I can see this wheeling in some drafts. Obviously, if you open the rare black curse, it becomes a fine pick, but otherwise, it is just going to be an expensive Daggerback Basilisk , and it's going to be picked like that; Late.
Bloodgift Demon (Rare): A real "dragon"! If I ever saw a bomb requiring an immidiate response in this set, this is a top contender! I has a recurring Phyrexian Rager effect on an awesome body, and it has evasion. I don't think there is much need to reiterate how valuable such a card is. If you can play this and make it stick (just for a few turns), it will swing the game massively in your favour.
In drafts, this is going to be a windmill slam unless Black really ends up getting the short straw, and that is not my impression of a set with so dark of a theme. So, go ahead and first-pick it. And be happy about it!
Bloodline Keeper (Rare Transformer): And another large flier that just generates a massive advantage from the moment it comes online! Repeatedly getting (on-tribe) Wild Griffin s at instant speed? Nice! Turning these into Air Elemental s for the Alpha (if you haven't won yet)? Outright wicked! The black bombs are shaping up to be pretty powerful.
In drafts, this is going to be gone within the first two picks (remember, it will appear in the DFC card, so there might be a rivalling rare!), probably by the very first pick. If I am ever passed this, you can be sure I will be doing a little happy dance in my mind as I slam it (for all to see), a devillish grin on my face.
Brain Weevil (Common): At first, this card struck me an expensive Mind Rot on legs. That's not a great place to be, but in a slow format, a 4-mana Mind Rot might actually be pretty decent.
And it triggers Morbid, too. And even if you're not in a situation where you want to sacrifice it, it is still going to be a hard-to-block ping every turn. It has a purpose in all stages of a game. I'm at the point where I won't fault a Black mage for playing more than one of these buggers in his Limited deck.
I might be overexcited about the utility of this, but I don't think most drafts will be. It will probably go as late as 6th through 10th, kind of around where you pick Mind Rot in M12. And that's a great opportunity to snatch a couple of them. Notice that this creature will rarely (if ever) win a game by its own, so don't overstock them, but it will certainly have a role to play. I am excited to see how it will do!
Bump in the Night (Common): This might not look exciting. And oftentimes, it won't be exciting. But I don't want to discount it off the bat. Thinking of this as a 1-drop might not be doing it justice. I think the real evaluation of this is more of a Lava Axe equivalent (in Black-Green). As far as I can see, Black-Red is going to be the "aggro" deck in an otherwise pretty slow format, and having some reach in such a deck is going to be very important because once the slower starts are stabilizing, bad things will start happening if you can't end the game fast.
And this can help you do that! If you don't start with another 1-drop in your grip, feel free to get the first three from this in initially and then just have it loom in your graveyard; at turn one, your opponent will be at a virtual 14 life! Now, you can follow that up on turn two with an aggressive creature, and you're in a good spot. But just following it up with another Bump is going to see an opponent navigating a slower deck break sweat, I promise.
That is its role in the optimal deck, though, which might not be easy to get, and you'll probably still be happier playing more creatures if you can. Outside of BR Aggro, this seems pretty unplayable, which means it will go around late, though. Scoop it up late in the drafts (say, 9th-10th or later) and see if you can reach critical mass. I would be thrilled to see three of these resolve (and Flashback) in the same game - unless I'm the victim!
Corpse Lunge (Common): This is a spell I have a hard time evaluating; It looks like removal. But it looks like really conditional removal. In the Black-Blue "mill yourself" deck, it is going to be pretty decent. It is probably going to be fine in other decks too, but I've got an idea that I would really just rather have another decent dude. It can't go to the face, which was one of the nice effects on Fling , which seems sort-of like this ("Corpse fling ?").
The card is not exciting, in my opinion, but it is going to get played, possibly even a lot, and it's probably going to go around mid-pack in drafts, once the "real" removal and the best creatures are gone. Say, sixth through eighth, or around there. Unlike other removal, though, more of these actually make the next one less attractive. How many are you willing to run?
Curse of Death's Hold (Rare): This is the rare curse I was referring to. It seems pretty decent, obviously - it will absolutely wreck the "spirit token" theme and probably grant you a pretty good edge in any game where it comes down and sticks.
But, really. A five-drop rare that might only have a marginal effect? I mean, most creatures that have survived to the fifth turn of the game will probably survive the single toughness loss, and you are very unlikely to get copies, much less get them in play together. This can be a decent strike against your opponent, but so can the 5-drop creature that you are playing it instead of. I'm really torn on this card, but I'm leaning towards "go with it if you open it", and then see how it performs. If it is horrible, siding it out for an average 5-drop dude is not emberassing, even if it feels a bit stupid.
For those reasons, I don't see this being first-picked very often. Targetted (but powerful) removal and solid dudes are probably going before this. That said, later than about fifth pick, this is really going to be the "elephant in the pack"; Do you take it over a decent dude? Over a playable one? When exactly is the non-creature rare worth it?
I think one of the problems about this is that it's at its best against the fast, race-y decks, and against those, you are really hoping to land something with a better board presence on turn five, instead of just trying to stem the bleeding a bit.
Curse of Oblivion (Common): This strikes me as outright bad! Sure, you are going to be facing a flashback/yard matters deck every now and then, but those will be decks that will require your attention on the board turn four, and not on the yard (you need to advance your own goals instead of trying to spoil your opponents', is what I'm saying). The flashback deck probably won't have a lot of creatures, which means getting out and hitting the villain will be relatively easy, and the "Stitch" deck will probably have at least one of its large guys online by the time this effect becomes relevant. Something you'll want to focus on taking out instead of investing in a future that might never come around if you can't interact with their fattie on the board.
I am expecting this to wheel, and probably to be found in the "dregs" of booster draft packs. Feel free to take one (or even two) for the sideboard if you think they will have a serious impact, but I will be looking at even marginal cards and hoping I won't have to have this in my pile by the end of the draft.
Dead Weight (Common): Oooh! A Weakness +! That seems like really powerful removal in a set where I've got the impression that the magic toughness might just be 2. It might be Sorcery speed, but it's sticking, too. You might just have to put this on a werewolf - and then perhaps play a second spell alongside it to flip the wolf back to its fragile form where, hopefully, it perishes from the -2/-2.
I... I could see myself first-picking this, eventually. It will be right to do so every now and then. But I will be much happier if I can pick it up 3rd-4th pick or later in drafts.
Diregraf Ghoul (Uncommon): This is a great way to open the game if you're in BR Aggro - it might even be powerful enough to include in slower decks (starting out with this in UB might provoke an answer that will put it in the yard where you'll be able to use it, per example). It's obviously, like other cards of its type ( Elite Vanguard , per example), not a great topdeck (especially since it literally can't impact the board until your next turn).
One can question the viability of early aggression in a format that looks like it will be pretty slow, but I'm convinced that it is not impossible to achieve. That said, many people will probably gloss over this in drafts and pick a later drop instead, and for that reason, I think it will be picked a bit later than the one-drop we just discussed; Sixth through tenth seems like a fair assessment, although if the aggression strategy proves to be too much of a risk, it might just sink to the very bottom.
Disciple of Griselbrand (Uncommon): A 1/1 for two mana seems like a really bad deal, and its ability might look pretty underwhelming, but its ability to be a sac outlet might just prove to be the justification this card needs; Once again, the "on death"-triggers that were especially present in White spring to mind. It can also prolong your endurance in a race (chumping and then consuming the chumpers for life) - and it can enable Morbid for a single mana, something that might not be all that irrelevant in Black!
That is all the best-case scenarios, though, and it requires some surrounding cards that can abuse this or be abused by it. For these reasons, I don't really imagine this as an early pick in drafts; it is probably going to go around the seventh or eighth pick in an average pack, perhaps even a bit later, but it is a fine card to pick up around then if you happen to be in the colour.
Endless Ranks of the Dead (Rare): This seems Limited unplayable to me; it really requires a huge dedication to the Zombie tribe (you'll only benefit from it if you have two or more zombies in play, and even then, it will start slowly and allow your opponent plenty of time to reach). If you do get the critical mass of zombies and you open this (or is passed it late), by all means, go for it! Its best case is definitely a pretty good spot to be in (play it onto a board with two zombies on turn four and then just advance your board at double speed from then on!), but it is not going to happen often.
I don't know how huge this is as a topdeck in a stalled game, but I'm guessing it can be pretty powerful. Just, if you end up playing it, make sure you have an answer to fliers, because you need time to build up critical mass on the ground undisturbed. A few Stitched Drakes would be the best solution, obviously.
In a draft, I am not picking this early unless it's the third pack, and zombies have just been landing in my lap all the draft. It's probably going to travel the table a lot, eventually finding a home when a player in black is willing to bet on its potential over a marginal card. Say, 8th thru 12th.
Falkenrath Noble (Uncommon): Another 2/2 flier, with another pretty marginal rider ability. Not that it is at all irrelevant; by now, it is pretty clear that stuff will be dying in this set. The question is, how much? And how much of it after turn four? I had no trouble playing a Suture Priest or two in Scars block, and this looks like much of the same effect (with an admittedly much more useful body!). Even if it eats a removal spell right when it comes down, you get a two-point lifeswing off the 1-for-1, which might be relevant.
The deck where this is going to shine is, I feel, the red-black aggressive deck where ultimately, it will be used as reach; swinging in with your 1-, 2- and 3-drops after dropping this is offering some pretty unfavourable trades to the villain, where even blocking the attackers will cost him a 2- or 4-point lifeswing. If he is already reeling, that might just be enough to wipe him out.
In drafts, this is probably going to go fairly early, simply because of the evasion: I'd be looking to pick this up a bit earlier than the white Abbey Griffin - say, 3rd thru 6th in an average pack.
Ghoulcaller's Chant (Common): A Disentomb + seems okay in a set that cares so much about the graveyard; it is obviously best in a zombie-heavy deck, where it might actually just be a very cheap Morbid Plunder , which was a pretty great card. I am a bit concerned that the Black zombies are not quite powerful enough that this card will gain a lot of value on that front, and that the blue zombies mostly requires dead creatures in your yard, which really doesn't go well with this spell.
But that said, it can always be a Disentomb, and there will be plenty of bomby non-zombies that will justify including this. The zombie clause will then just be gravy, and who doesn't like gravy?
In a draft, I am counting on this to wheel pretty much always. It's not absolute "dregs" material, but it's going to go late. Tenth and later, most of the times, is my estimate.
Ghoulraiser (Common): Now we're talking! A cheaper, tribal Gravedigger ! Sure, the word "random" might've snuck in there, but you're pretty much always going to be happy about getting another creature alongside what is basically a Grey Ogre (on-tribe). Pressuring early with the 1-drop 2/2, forcing a favourable trade, and then playing this turn three seems like a really aggressive start and if you have any way of pressing your advantage, is going to put you ahead by a mile.
That said, it is oppressive on the mana cost, and it really wants to be in a heavy-black deck for that reason as well as the Zombie-recursion one. So it might go around a bit later than Gravedigger usually does - which is going to be lovely for the Black mages at the draft tables all over the world! I'm not expecting this to wheel a whole lot, and I'm probably happy picking it around 5th-7th if I'm shaping up to be black, though I feel like I'm saying that about a lot cards recently...
Gruesome Deformity (Common): This doesn't look playable. Black seems to have a fair bit of evasion, and spending a card to grant another creature a pretty mediocre kind of evasion and setting yourself up for 2-for-1 seems an exceptionally bad play. You want to avoid playing this if at all possible.
That said, Black and Red has some powerful aggressive creatures, and in the aggressive Black-Red deck, you might just have to play stuff like this to get in for those last points of damage. But hopefully, you're picking this up in the very last picks of drafts.
Heartless Summoning (Rare): This is a quirky rare! It certainly screams to be abused, but that might not be that easy. I am thinking that the best shot at playing this in Limited is in a Green/Black deck with lots of fatties - and perhaps a bit of Green enchantment removal?
Most of the Black creatures are very fragile, and will combo extremely badly with this, so you really need to plan on throwing around lots of Dinosaurs for this to be worth its slot. It is obviously a completely useless topdeck, too.
It is probably going to be in the "dregs" of draft packs, and for good reason. If the choice is between this and marginal hatepicks, and you're looking Black/Green, I'd take it and if I end up with a lot of dinosaurs, even consider playing it. But don't let it sway your pick order.
Liliana of the Veil (Mythic): Oomph! This Planeswalker is actually interesting in Limited. It is obviously powerful (always being able to kill off at least one enemy creature), and if you can build around her (and protect her), Liliana is going to be a powerful presence on the board. But it is not as overtly powerful as many other Planeswalkers have been in Limited traditionally.
With that said, and all pretense aside, you are going to be first-picking this at least in packs one and two, barring another Mythic in the transform slot , and then trying to build around it. And that seems like a really good reason to be in Black!
Manor Skeleton (Common): This looks like a Drudge Skeletons version, but not an attractive one. Black looks like it wants to be aggressive, and it cares about creatures in the graveyard. The low power and (somewhat expensive) regeneration seems like a really poor match for those themes.
For these reasons, I am expecting this to go very late in drafts, probably 10th pick or later.
Markov Patrician (Common): This seems like a really good card! Lots of power, and Lifelink, means it will be in some fairly decent trades, and while a low toughness obviously isn't outright good, the graveyard theme will mean that you can be pretty aggressive in how you apply Child of Night 's older sister here. Three power for 3 mana is also a really decent place to be in the aggressive decks! So, a fine, if fragile, creature!
In drafts, this is probably going to be picked in the first half of the pack; I won't ever first-pick it, I feel, but I don't think it's going to table, either, so start picking these up around fifth unless it is a deep pack.
Maw of the Mire (Common): Land destruction for five seems really bad in a set that cares about having a stuffed graveyard, and paying more than one mana per life is certainly not desirable. I don't think this is Limited playable, at all. If your games are going long enough for an opponent to apply one of the Rare "ally colour effect" lands, this is still not going to do a whole lot for you. Sure, if its the only land destruction you have, and you're facing someone who's really greedy with those lands, and splashes, and you have a card that is worth sliding out for this, do it. But that's a lot of (subpar) ifs!
This is draft "drivel" and not worth picking up unless you really dislike the art on Innistrad basic lands
Moan of the Unhallowed (Uncommon): This is the smaller and much more likely-to-be-cast Army of the Damned, and it's a fine card. Paying four mana for two 2/2 dudes is fine, even at sorcery speed, and the Flashback can be pretty important for overwhelming an opponent later in the game.
Exactly how good this will be will be exciting to find out, but I am not thinking of it as first-pick material. It's probably going to be picked in drafts around 4th of 5th in an average pack, I think, as both removal and decent creatures will be more exciting than loads of Scathe Zombies will. That said, there seems to be a bit of a token theme, and striking up on this (most likely in White-Black) will make this an absolutely decent addition to a deck and might up its pick ranking quite a bit.
Morkrut Banshee (Uncommon): Oooohm! Skinrender 's gotten a sister? And she's a pretty tough girl, it seems! This is just the top shelf of what you can hope to pick up in the Uncommon slot, and then a bit more!
It might be interesting to notice that this is actually a Spirit, a tribe that traditionally belongs in White and Blue. It's not going to matter very often, as it's not especially splashable, but Black/Blue looks pretty good already, and some added tribal synergy is always nice.
You are going to be happy to first-pick this most of the time, and incredulous if it's ever passed to you in a draft, it's just that good. One of the better reasons to be in Black - it seems pretty understandible that this was even a preview card for the Limited Information coloumn!
Night Terrors (Common): The choice discard cards are always strange to evaluate in Limited; They certainly have their applications (and exiling is a nice bonus and might just make up for the relatively high cost), but ideally, they are not what you want to be playing. Certainly, it might be the only answer you have to a bomb that wrecks you game one, and you have to play it, but it's never going to be exciting and not the optimal way to spend your third turn even in a slow format.
I am counting on seeing this in the "trash" part of the draft packs and that's the only time I'm planning on picking it up, too.
Reaper from the Abyss (Mythic): A 6/6 flier for six mana is devastating in and of itself, but the extra ability on here has potential to be really, really backbreaking. From what I can tell, playing this postcombat if something died will still earn you your first free Exterminate - immidiate value!
Now, we can keep worshipping this wicked Demon (he seems fond of that), but I think there are a few details to be adressed here. The first is the least serious; The mana is very restrictive on this guy. You are going to be heavy black to play this - but it's definitely worth it. The second might be important to remember: The morbid ability is mandatory. Luckily, it can't target the Reaper itself, but you have to remember this if you have other creatures on board that are worth keeping around (although this does of course imply that all the opponent's remaining creatures must be Hexproof, or Demons. Not at all likely unless you're facing an almost empty board, and then a 6/6 flier might make it on its own).
The colour is a serious commitment early in a draft, but one I certainly think is worth it to first-pick this and hope Black is just remotely open.
Rotting Fensnake (Common): This might look really bad. It might also be really bad, but I'm personally not ready to pass judgment on it; Five power for four mana is sweet in an aggressive deck, and it'll make a pretty potent blocker, too, if that's what you need.
The reason the one toughness doesn't really bother me is that this is a zombie; we've seen some pretty fine Zombie-centered recursion (at common) so far, and trading this for any decent creature is great if you can get it back. It is a threat that certainly needs to be respected for its presence; If you can ever clear the board, this might just be what you need to go the distance. It is also one of the few creatures you should ever consider giving Intimidate with the sucky Aura we were looking at earlier if you've taken some kind of bet to see if you can win with those.
In drafts, it's probably going to go around midpack, possibly a bit later. Say, the 7-11 zone.
Screeching Bat (Uncommon Transformer): Now we're talking! for a 2/2 flier is not bad at all right there (take that, all you 4-drop 2/2s!), and then it has this nice little ability... Which can turn it into a 5/5 if your opponent gives up on defending the ground since you're flying in anyway. Pay attention to the transformation cost, because it's only available in your upkeep, which means you can't, per example, use it to save this from a burn spell. Still, even in this form, it is great. It is even greater if you're in the B/R aggressive deck and you have a couple of werewolves that need to transform. Breaking out a 5/5 doesn't feel like wasting a turn four, especially not if a few of your other dudes also grow.
I see no problem first-picking this some times, but I am really hoping to have it passed to me a few picks later (if I'm looking like I'm Black), unrealistic as it may seem. Later than fourth or so, this definitely stands out.
Sever the Bloodline (Rare): Unconditional removal with the added chance of being more than a 1-for-1? With Flashback? Really? Why not make it instant speed, too?
No, perhaps that's going overboard - but you can see what I'm getting at. And it is even relatively easy to splash. It might cost four, but it might also be the best removal in the whole set. So go for it - I won't blame anyone for first-picking this in a draft. And I certainly won't blame whoever decides to pass this to me as a second pick, because I am going to slam it if that happens!
Skeletal Grimace (Common): This is an Aura, with all the drawbacks that that comes with. It might be fine if you can stick it with regenerate mana open (especially on something like a Fensnake), but even then, there seems to be a decent about of Exile-removal in the set to balance out the Death-matters theme, which somewhat weakens regeneration. I don't really see any decks where I would be happy to run this, but it might be a fine way to protect some powerful creature if you're facing a deck that isn't in Blue or White (where most of the non-killing removal is).
In drafts, I am hoping I will never have to pick this the first time it comes around, because it probably belongs in the bottom five of almost any pack.
Skirsdag High Priest (Rare): This looks like a really, really solid two-drop in a Black/X control deck - if you can ever get three creatures online (only the priest needs to lose summoning sickness), any removal is going to have a "bomb rider". That is wicked!
However, this will rarely live that long if you do play it turn two. It might actually be much better as a topdeck later - if you've got any other business early game, you should probably keep this guy back, because he has a target on his forehead the size of a Stormtide Leviathan.
In drafts... I'm tempted to pick this early, because everything else aside, he is going to draw removal or suddenly just hand you the game, and that's a pretty great effect on a two-drop - but if there is one of those pieces of removal along with him, the pick might be harder than I like. I'm definitely not seeing him coming back around, though - or, I'll be happy if he does, at least. I think the best place to pick this guy is as soon as the cards that are in themselves "obviously powerful" are gone. Whether that's third or sixth depends a lot on the pack, of course.
Stromkirk Patrol (Common): This might be the first we see of the "Bloodsucking" ability of many of Innistrad's vampires, and it's on a decent body. A 4/3 for five mana might be just a bit less than what you'd ideally want, even in Black, but the potential upside (4/3 by itself is not an unreasonable attacker, and if it grows every time it isn't blocked, it's going to trade with something decent most of the time) has me kind of excited about this. It's a pretty standard high-end filler, but those are definitely worth granting some respect, in my opinion, because they are often the cards that grind out your wins in all those games where crazy synergy or bombs just don't happen.
In drafts, this is probably a great pick when most of the really "exciting" stuff is gone, so around fourth-seventh. It depends a lot on what colours people are already in, though, so you might see it go late eventually. If you see these go late, perhaps a move into Black is viable? They are easily splashable if it doesn't prove to be wide open, after all.
Tribute to Hunger (Uncommon): A Diabolic Edict with added lifegain for an extra mana seems like a wholly decent deal; Removal is removal, after all, and that in a set all about things dying! It might be best in the Black/Red aggressive deck, but it is certainly nothing to be shy of in other archetypes either. Notice that it is instant-speed, too, so you can cast it at the end of an opponent's turn, or after they've attacked and traded off some of their less-than-stellar targets. Straight up fine removal is always great.
As such, don't expect to see it late in drafts; It's relatively light on colour, and its potential is pretty obvious, so I am counting on this being picked within the first four or five picks, easily. Later than that would signal a pretty powerful pack or might just be a great reason to move into Black. Possibly even both
Typhoid Rats (Common): This critter is actually hard to evaluate; I can't for the life of me decide if it is something a controlling deck would want (to lock down opponent's offence) or if it should look for it's place in other decks (it doesn't look aggressive enough to me). Ultimately, such a slow format might just not be too great for combat one-drops.
For that reason, I think these Rats will go relatively late, and it's partly going to be my fault, because I won't be happy picking them up, and I won't be happy running them. But I guess you will just have to, every now and then. It might win a bit of extra value if you ever face an aggressive deck as it is an early blocker that can eat a much bigger creature.
Unbreathing Horde (Rare): Another tribal rare; If you can hit critical mass of Zombies, this is probably a fine inclusion (though any zombies you might have to exile to "stitch" new ones won't be counted, sadly), but in most decks, it's not going to be that great; It's almost depressing in an opener since you will not get a lot out of playing it out early (a Grey Ogre really isn't good, and even a Centaur Courser will feel kind of mediocre with this potential). On the other hand, as a late topdeck, it might just do the trick. It could really use some Trample, though.
It's going to have an even better potential in the Black/Blue "mill yourself" zombie deck, obviously, but you still need a truckload of zombies for it to be even somewhat reliable.
In terms of draft picks, I won't first-pick this; It's more the kind of card that will make it into the pile of the first player that has picked cards which look like he might already be headed in that direction in the draft. If it wheels (and it might?), consider picking it up if you can reasonably shape up to be in Black, preferably Black-Blue. Normally, though, I suppose it won't quite wheel although I will be surprised if it's among the first picks of a pack. My own evaluation is more like 5th-8th although I may be overly critical of it.
Unburial Rites (Uncommon): This might look like a Rise from the Grave +, but it has a very important differance; It can target only creatures in your own graveyard. That said, stuff will be dying, even stuff that you will be happy to bring back, and five mana is not unreasonable for that effect. But the real kicker is if you end up in the (somewhat odd) White/Black colour combination (or you're splashing White, of course - the fixing seems decent in this set). Suddenly, that perfectly mediocre White 2/2 for four that spawns two 1/1 fliers when it does is looking a lot better with a double recursion..!
I've got the impression that very few drafters are really happy to dedicate to two colours, especially two enemy colours, early in a draft, so in the first pack, this might actually float around a bit longer than it actually should (even without considering the Flashback). In the later packs, colours will be more clear, and people might've picked some creatures that they could see bringing back, so it's probably going to swing a bit. Initially, I am tempted to say it might go as late as fifth or sixth in an average pack, which obviously won't be the case in later packs if anyone (else) moves into Black/White.
Vampire Interloper (Common): In around 90% of situations, this is going to be a black Stormfront Pegasus . A 2/1 flier is not something you are hoping to block with a lot of the time (the many 2/2 might prove me wrong, but it is the X/3+'s I am really worried about), especially not if you can drop this on turn two, which might be one of the best plays that an aggressive deck can pull off in this format.
For that reason, I am going to be happy if this goes later than, say, fifth in an average draft pack. I am fond of aggressive flier decks, and this certainly fits the bill whether you're in B/W, B/R or even B/U.
Victim of Night (Common): I'm not sure how much of a drawback the conditions on this (otherwise really cool) piece of removal will be. There will be decks where this literally can't kill anything, probably, and there are going to be match-ups where it will be a 2-mana Exterminate .
Talking of mana; Its cost is kind of restrictive - or at least, committing - but that's actually less of a worry than it might look to be, since this will still be a decent play (in the right match-up) on turn 4 or turn 7, even. It is instant speed, which is great.
It should be noticed that Werewolves are werewolves even on their "Day" side, so this is blank against these at all times. Despite all these drawbacks, however, removal is removal, and there are limits for how late they will go in drafts. Black shapes up to be an exciting (and possibly also quite powerful) colour, which will obviously mean something for the pick ranking of a spell. I don't want to be too harsh, but I've seen Sorin's Thirst wheel in M12, and I'm fearing I might see this wheel in Innistrad too - but it might also go as high as, say, fourth or fifth pick. We'll see.
Village Cannibals (Uncommon): The more aggressive your deck is shaping up to be, the better this becomes. A Grey Ogre will be decidedly bad in a slow format, and its ability won't be too relevant if there isn't a lot of combat happening, but as soon as you can kick the game up a gear and force some blocking and some trading, this becomes much better than a standard Grey Ogre. I've got an impression that in some colours, most of the Humans are on the low side of the curve, which is a great asset for this card, since it can grow a bit before all the Spirits, Angels and other late-drops hit the table.
In draft, I don't think this will be among the first picks. It's a solid card, and is probably not going to wheel, but I'd be a bit disappointed if I had to pick it up before around fourth or fifth.
Walking Corpse (Common): And we end Black on a note that is both very pedestrian and very defining: A black (on-tribe) Runeclaw Bear . This is a bit more than we normally expect in Black for two mana, but that doesn't make the card automatically good; It has something going for it in aggressive Black/Red or the Zombie deck, but the slow format will be harsh on random Glory Seeker s.
For that reason, this is probably going to wheel almost every time, although it will seldom be among the very bottom "drivel" of draft packs, in my estimate. 9th thru 12th is probably about right. If you see this in your first pack and it doesn't come back around, there are probably lots of people at the table who're looking to play the spooky colour of Innistrad. And one can understand that...
Black in general is looking pretty aggressive. There is a clear zombie-tribe subtheme which might do quite a bit for the right Limited deck, but most of all I feel that Black will be picked for its powerful bombs, its great removal, and its shot at outracing the decks that will take the slower format of this set for granted. A fine colour, although I don't think it can quite measure up against the first two colours in terms of strength in Limited.
Ancient Grudge (Common): Even with the Equipment-subtheme the set has for Humans, I am not considering this maindeckable, not even in Red/Green. It's certainly one of the cards that are considerable in some match-ups (smashing a Butcher's Cleaver or a few Cellar Doors seems like a nice play), but even boarding in against the one or two artifacts that villain might show you in game one is pretty unexciting if you have anything decent that you might play instead. It's funny that the card can be said to be strictly better than Shatter which was a top-notch card in Scars block, but it's almost always unplayable in Innistrad as it looks now.
Obviously, that means it should be in the "dregs" of draft packs. Perhaps you might consider picking it up if for some reason you have to pick the Mythic Rare artifact, the Grimoire, but even then it's a late pick.
Ashmouth Hound (Common): This seems like a really decent aggressive card; A vanilla 2/1 is commonplace in Red, and the extra ability actually means it can deal with the otherwise problematic X/3's that will slobber up your 2/2s a lot of the time, and guarantees that all those 1/1 tokens and other small creeps can't pounce on its single toughness. Decent!
Decent, but in no way overwhelming. In drafts, this is probably going to go just around the wheel-limit. Say, 8th thru 11th, or thereabout, because it doesn't do a whole lot later, and the format is looking slow.
Balefire Dragon (Mythic): And we have the only "true" dragon of the set! At seven mana, this is a pretty heavy creature to handle, but if it ever comes down (and the format might just be slow enough that you can reliably pull that off), it's an absolute bomb: It's a 6/6 flier that just inferno es the opponent if it ever gets through for damage. That is insane!
I'm definitely counting this as first-pick-worthy in draft, but I'm trying to make up my mind about how good an easier-to-cast card has to be for me to not blame whoever would take that above the Dragon. I'm leaning towards thinking that there are few, if any cards I would pick over this P1P1 (barring a transformer mythic and foils, of course). So, slam that Dragon!
Blasphemeous Act (Rare): I had this down as "target creature" when I initially saw it, and I actually like it better that way. I'm not too happy about Red "wrath" effects (which is what this basically is), especially since Red looks like it wants to win with creature, and it's not the colour that has the most amount of those "on death" effects that would be great with this.
For those reasons, I am probably not going to be the one who picks this up in drafts. I am counting on it to go relatively early, earlier than I am willing to pick it. I'll probably pick it up if it wheels, but I'm not sure, and it's probably not going to be relevant.
Bloodcrazed Neonate (Common): Here we have a red Vampire with the "draining" ability. It's obviously either going to be pretty great or a pretty irrelevant creature, depending on the blockers available to your opponent. It is also going to be vastly superior on the play than on the draw, and it is almost useless after turn two in most match-ups, which means that it's a really subpar topdeck. Some really, really aggressive decks might want to run these, but most decks should probably shy away from it. We will have to see exactly how many decks will reliably have a blocker (that they will want to trade with this) down by turn two or three, but even then, you'll need to have it in your starter.
That's a lot of conditions for a relatively minor upside, and I think that will be reflected in the drafts; I am counting on this wheeling almost every time, and if it doesn't, there is probably going to be a really aggressive Red/something deck out there.
Brimstone Volley (Common): seems to be a bit of a steep price to pay for a Lightning Bolt , but it looks capable of killing most of the commons and uncommons around, even without the Morbid trigger, and the ability to be used as a Lava Axe every now and then is certainly worth paying a little extra for. The set is shaping up to be a bit light on removal, which is definitely going to be a plus for this card.
On that note, I don't think you'll see this much later than third or so in drafts; it's perfectly first-pickable if you don't open a bomb or another really exciting creature.
Burning Vengeance (Uncommon): This is a card that looks really interesting to me. It's sort of like a "build around me" type of card, much like the Furnace Celebration of Scars block. Only, this is an Uncommon, so you might actually see multiples (in Sealed perhaps, but especially in drafts), which makes it really, really good. It seems a really great card to build a Blue/Red deck around, since the blue tempo/bounce spells will all have a free shock attached to their Flashback effect.
With that out of the way, this is not a traditionally "good" card, and it shouldn't be treated as one. It's an off-beat quirky card that is every now and then going to be able to become the core of a really powerful, alternative deck. People might pick it early in drafts and hope to build around it, or they might let it pass until very late in a pack - personally, I am hoping to pick this up around sixth-eighth if I look like I can use it. I am obviously going to weigh any second copy that might come around in later packs highly if I already have one and has started building a deck around it. These decks will still need decent removal and some defensive creatures, though - they will probably be a rare breed.
Charmbreaker Devils (Rare): This looks like a pretty great curve-topper in Red, to be honest. Bringing back a spell, even a random one, each turn, is going to generate some serious advantage, really fast. I don't know if I would call this an outright "bomb", but it's a powerful card, and it's not even hard to splash if you're cut off in red after picking this. We've already seen one instant definitely worthy of returning in Red, let's keep this card in mind as we progress through the rest of the colour.
In drafts, this is obviously not going to be picked later than the first few picks unless Red proves to be a really bad colour to be in. I'm not sure I personally would be a great fan of first-picking this, but I'm probably going to anyway if I open it. And I'm certainly going to accept this if it's passed, barring really ridiculous packs.
Crossway Vampire (Common): This looks like a decent aggressive creature in the really aggressive decks, mainly on turn three, obviously, but its falter effect can be really helpful later on, too. Its colour requirement is a bit restrictive, but it's my impression that you're not really going to want to run this outside of heavy-Red anyway, so that might be a moot point. It has the dangerous 2 toughness, which might mean that it's actually going to trade down most of the time.
In drafts, this is another okay creature that will pass in the "unexciting but playable" part of the draft, around 7th thru 11th.
Curse of Stalked Prey (Rare): This might actually be better than the Black rare curse we saw earlier; It certainly plays right into the aggressive feel of Red, it combos well with the ability that some of the Vampires already have, and suddenly, an opponent stumbling in his board development for even just a single turn might find himself seriously on the backfoot, especially if you can bring either some removal or just bounce or falter effects to the table.
This is a card that, if I opened it, I would be tempted to first-pick it, look to go aggressive, and never look back. It is probably going to make almost any Red deck, even if it is far better in the aggressive kind. It might be wiser to pick something more reliable, but I don't see myself passing this later than, say, around fourth.
Curse of the Nightly Hunt (Uncommon): This does not look Limited playable to me, but it might actually have a place in a Red aggressive deck where "ground racing" is a viable strategy (you're really not worried if their 1/6s are suddenly swinging in instead of keeping back on the defensive, are you?). It's certainly a fine addition to such aggressive decks, at least as a sideboard card against the more controlling, blue-based decks.
But that is a very narrow application, and I am not seeing why it shouldn't wheel - you can probably almost count on it even if you are in a deck that could actually use it.
Curse of the Pierced Heart (Common): This might actually be a decent Curse to give the aggressive decks some reach, or to simply wear down an opponent piloting a control deck. It has some inbuilt tension, as it really is a card that wants to be run in multiples, but that works against an aggressive, creature-heavy deck. It's not a creature, which is obviously a huge drawback, and its effect is, everything else aside, pretty minor. I expect it to go very late in drafts, but it seems like the kind of card that if a deck can somehow run lots of these and still stay in the game, inevitability will be a legitimate risk.
Desperate Ravings (Uncommon): This looks pretty swingy to me. It's a weird cycler for , which can become even weirder card advantage if you also have Blue mana available. Its value is really going to depend on how much utility you can get out of your graveyard (as well as whether you have acccess to blue, of course). It's probably moving from borderline playable to decent in R/U, and with the Burning Vengeance thrown in, it's going to be an auto-include.
In drafts, this is probably going to be passed around late because of the random discard as well as the the effort needed to turn this into Card advantage. We're talking 10th pick and later.
Devil's Play (Rare): And here, we have Blaze +! Now with Flashback. This is really great removal, obviously, it can go to the dome, too, and then it can flashback to be a 2-for-1. Not bad at all! In fact, really, really, good.
So good that it is probably going first in a lot of drafts - it's probably good enough to play without enough red to reliable fire the flashback, and I think it will be almost always be one of the first two picks in a pack. One thing to notice, though, is the Sorcery speed. You can't have everything, it seems.
Falkenrath Marauders (Rare): Well, it isn't a Dragon. But if you can land it in a turn without blockers or anything that can kill it, it basically becomes a Volcanic Dragon . Which grows every additional time it hits the opponent. That seems like a pretty sweet deal to me! It obviously also benefits from any Vampire tribal effects there might be, but we haven't seen any of them yet.
This seems like an obvious inclusion in any Red deck - the colour restriction means it won't be pretty to splash, but in and of itself, it's a pretty decent motivation to be in Red. I'm definitely going to happy with slamming this first in a draft and hoping that Red will be open. As always, you need to be prepared to abandon your first pick if things really aren't shaping up, but I definitely think the upside of this card is there and its potential is worth the risk.
Feral Ridgewolf (Common): This body in and of itself looks really unimpressive, but I think the Trample is definitely worth noticing because of the power-pumping ability. This has an obvious synergy with werewolves; if you can effectively spend your fourth or sixth turn swinging with this for some serious damage and transforming your werewolves in preperation of the big alpha swing the following turn, things are looking pretty good.
Dropping it early might not be the most impressive turn in and by itself, but if the game goes long, this will be a thorn in the eye of a villain as the mana count on both sides of the table grows - eventually, it will become either a lightning rod, or a Crumbling Colossus -like beast.
I'm not sure red decks will want to be that slow, though, so I am hesitant to count this as more than a decent filler creature, so in drafts I am estimating this to go around 7th-10th, although werewolf-excitement might initially eschew people's judgment of this and cause them to pick it a bit earlier.
Furor of the Bitten (Common): This looks like a pretty unimpressive aura; you'll either want to put it on one of your own dudes, but everything else aside, I doubt the format is going to be that aggressive. And you don't really want to enlarge an opponent's creature to have them swing into you. Even an annoying utility creature will probably require a trade if enchanted with this, and 2-for-1ing yourself is not a play you're hoping to make.
Red doesn't look like it has a lot of evasion outside of Rare (and Mythic), so I don't see this having the same kind of utility as Dark Favor could occassionally have in M12, although it seems to combo nicely with the black 2/1 flier, the Vampire Interloper. But it has all of the traditional weaknesses of Auras.
For those reasons, I think this is going to go very late in drafts, probably in the "dregs", tenth and later.
Geistflame (Common): This seems like the ultimate proof that removal in Innistrad is going to be subpar. This is half a Shock , which is probably going to be played since a few utility/aggressive creatures in the format will die to it, and the Flashback is okay - it can, theoretically, be a 2-for-1. Or it can be a 5-mana Shock . Euugh.
I don't know how highly this will be picked in drafts: It's removal, but it's really shoddy removal. I'm leaning towards actually thinking that it might wheel in some packs, and I certainly won't be excited to pick it earlier than sixth thru ninth unless I am running the "Burning Vengeance" deck. It's funny to compare this to the Silent Departure of Blue, as their cost and Flashback cost are a lot alike, but even though the Blue spell doesn't permanently deal with anything but tokens, it might actually be better than this despite that.
Hanweir Watchkeep (Uncommon Transformer): This looks like one of the better werewolves to me; its "day" side is pretty good in and of itself, and at some point in the late game, it is going to transform and you'll have a pretty powerful attacker on your hands. Its exact place in a deck - it doesn't seem too aggressive compared to Red cards in general - might be kind of awkward, but I don't think you can do much better than this on turn three except perhaps against fliers.
In drafts, this is probably going to be among the first picks, probably not going later than, say around fourth. It's exciting, and it's looking powerful to boot!
Harvest Pyre (Common): I really want this to be able to target the opponent, but that would probably be broken in a deck with so many ways to get things into your graveyard. Even without that, though, it is shaping up to be some of the best burn-based removal in the game; early, you're probably only going to need a couple of damage, and later in the game, it can easily be a Flame Slash or even larger.
Exactly when this is worth picking up will be exciting to find out - I won't be thrilled to first-pick it, but I'll probably be flabbergasted if it's still in the pack around pick four or five. It might actually be better as a topdeck than in your starting grip.
Heretic's Punishment (Rare): This quirky rare enchantment actually looks pretty decent; It can give your aggressive deck some reach (pointing this at the dome every turn is probably going to end the game soon if you've had any luck on the offensive earlier), and it might even perform better in a more controlling Red deck where it can really shine in the long game.
Remember that there is no top-of-library manipulation in Innistrad, so you can't guarantee anything, and there will be times where you hope to get rid of that 4/4 flier and you just can't hit a 4-drop for the life of you. Also, it is obviously going to be a poor tool against a Blue milling deck!
In drafts, I am really hoping to have a more traditionally powerful card to first-pick over this, but it is not at all an unreasonable early pick, and it's obviously going to be even more powerful in the "Burning Vengeance" deck where spells going to the graveyard just speeds up your clock.
Infernal Plunge (Common): This looks absolutely unplayable to me, period. I can see sacrificing a creature to draw two in a Morbid colour, but the acceleration this brings just isn't going to cut the mustard. It's a sorcery, it combines incredibly bad with werewolves, and it's card disadvantage if I ever saw it.
I'm hoping I never have to pick this in drafts. I'm taking the basic lands over this because of the art.
Instigator Gang (Rare Transformer): A Hill Giant with Battle Cry isn't too bad at four mana, but the real upside of this will obviously be its "night side". Here is a Werewolf worth playing - and worth transforming!
It's always going to be in a pack along with another rare (because it's two-faced), but there are many standard rares that are far less interesting than this. It's definitely first-pick-worthy; It's not even harsh on colours! You could top off a Heavy White/Bit of Red aggro deck with it to great effect, I feel!
Into the Maw of Hell (Uncommon): Mmmh, burn removal! This is the kind damage I'm ready to pay 6 mana for (unlike the 6-mana shock from before), especially since there are actually a few creatures in the set that won't die to a mere five damage. The land destruction clause is more flavourful than anything, but I'm complaining about gravy on a fine removal spell, not even at sorcery speed.
Its high cost is going to be a bit of a deterrent in drafts, though, even if good removal is pretty hard to come by. I might be perfectly happy first-picking this, but every now and then, I think it will be going later than that, and I am going to be much more happy getting it second, or third.
Kessig Wolf (Common): I was pretty delighted by a three-power first-striker at 4 mana, so even if this is swingier (fragile and costy), I'm actually thinking it's quite decent. It will of course be especially good along with some werewolves so that you can prioritize mana to spend on this without having a bad conscience about it - this seems to be a general theme for the Wolf creatures, by the way.
This is probably going to be picked once all of the truly interesting cards are gone from the packs, from around fifth to around tenth, most of the time. You might wheel it in a strong pack, but not reliably.
Kruin Outlaw (Rare Transformer): A lot of things die to two-power first-strikers in this set, so the Blood Ogre side of this is really decent - and the "night side" is certainly nothing to sneeze at either! Turning this over might just be the signal to get the alpha swing in right away, since blocking any of your creatures will be hard, and blocking this itself is going to be outright suicidal.
The colour commitment is a bit oppressive, of course, but the card seems to fit right into the aggressive theme that especially Red promotes, so I don't see anything wrong in first-picking this in drafts and trying to make the aggressive deck work. I certainly won't need to be passed this particularly late to convince me that moving into Red aggro is worth the gamble!
Night Revelers (Common): A Bonebreaker Giant + might not be all that exciting, but it's certainly a fine body to put on the table turn five - it's also a Vampire, although the actualy mechanics that care about this seem to be pretty limited so far. This is a card that you're not going to be excited to run (especially not compared to the sizes of some of the werewolves), but it's often going to be really good when you do and the opponent doesn't have an answer. It's not an outright fattie, of course, but some of the "weenier" decks will have a whole lot of trouble dealing with a creature of even this size.
It is probably going to go late in drafts, as people are always more concerned about the early part of their curves than the latter (and arguably, there are lots of flashy rares that belong on the high end of the curve), so I don't think seeing this wheeling will be unreasonable. It's probably going to go around like 7th thru 12th.
Nightbird's Clutches (Common): A flashback-able Falter effect - this seems decent for tempo in a really aggressive deck, and even against a villain with more than two creatures on the table, you can still sort out the two worst blockers and offer the villain some really unfavourable trades or some serious damage and the prospect of the same choices the following turn (because of flashback) - which seems really good. As a topdeck, this can also act as a stallbreaker, since six mana definitely is a cost you can overcome in the late game, and removing four blockers out of nowhere can pretty much just win the game for you.
It's not a creature, though, and the effect might useful now and then, but it's not in any way flashy. I think this will go in the latter half of draft packs, but not in the absolute "dregs" - around 8th thru 12th, possibly.
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Saturday, September 24, 2011, 3:36 PM
This might be a bit ambitious. I am going to open the (now complete) Innistrad Card Image Gallery. I am going to start at the first card, and end at the last. These are my thoughts on how Innistrad Limited might look, and how the cards will do. I will be wrong about some of this, but I want to put my impressions into words, and if at all possible, to have a base from which discussions can be taken (in the comments, on Twitter, whatever).
If people for some reason don't want to know the cards of Innistrad yet, please stop reading now since I will be referencing the stats and abilities of cards as they appear in the spoiler.
Abbey Griffin (Common): We like evasion a lot, which is a plus on this card. I am not sure how relevant the Vigilance will be on such a relatively fragile creature, because this here bird is not large compared to its cost. I think I would prefer an Assault Griffin to this almost always, but we'll have to make do with what we've got. This will almost only be a relevant blocker against White's own 1/1 flying tokens.
I predict that this card will be played, possibly even a lot, but not as something you're excited about. In drafts, it will probably fall in around the middle of the pack, say 5th thru 8th pick in a relatively mediocre pack.
It is also worth noticing that it does not play into any of the tribal themes of White (Humans, Tokens), although Flying is definitely on-theme.
Angel of Flight Alabaster (Rare): Now we're talking! A 4/4 flier for five (notice the really light colour requirement here, too) is lovely all in itself, and the ability is certainly relevant (especially in its colour and archetype), even if it does not combo with tokens (and is mandatory; I've seen at least one Spirit that has a positive impact from the Graveyard, but that's probably not going to be an issue, ever).
This card is almost a must-play if you open it, and there are very few cards I can see myself picking over this P1P1 (or later) in a draft.
Angelic Overseer (Mythic): Three out of three for fliers so far! 5/3 Flying for five (even if this is a bit more colour-intensive than the above) is a really great body, and the "Guardian Angel" clause is pretty great as well; Having a single Human on the board seems doable (but be sure not to be blown out if you only have one). It is worth noticing that werewolves are only Human in their "day" forms, which means that this may lose its Indestructibility and Hexproof if you're playing those (and have no other humans in play).
This is another obvious pick even if it is more committing to White. You will seldom have to pick between this and the Angel of Flight Alabaster, but if I ever had to pick, I actually think I would go with the 4/4 on P1P1. Later, it depends on which of the two White tribes you are most heavily invested in.
Avacynian Priest (Common): While I have the impression that a tapper is less poweful in Expert sets than in Core Sets, and even less in a relatively slow format (as Innistrad is looking to be, in my opinion), this is still a great common. The second point of toughness is not at all irrelevant (there is at least one 1-damage spell in the set that I can think of). The colourless activation is another change from earlier Blinding Mage s, and one I think might be relevant since one will almost always be playing (at least) two colours.
This, I think, will be picked relatively early. I would be a bit disappointed picking it the first couple of picks, and happy later than, say, fifth, in an average pack.
Bonds of Faith (Common): When I first looked at this card, I immidiately thought, "Wow! Pacifism +!"
That is not the case. Despite the likeness to Pacifism, this is not exactly the same, and even though it is definitely going to be played like Pacifism a lot the time, one needs to look at what makes this different from Pacifism; The Human clause, to be precise.
The clause is going to be great in those certain pinches where two extra damage will swing the game more than a Pacifism , but those are rare indeed. I am more concerned with the other side of the medallion:
There are Humans in all colours. I think it is a fair assumption that there will be at least a few Humans in almost any Limited deck. Against those, you cannot use this as Pacifism (so make sure not to try!). You also need to consider the interaction with Werewolves; In their Human forms, they will not be pacified by this, but they will in their Beast shape. Think about this before you play this on a transformer (be it yours or villain's).
I would be surprised to see this get picked later than third or fourth in an average draft pack.
Champion of the Parish (Rare): I have a hard time rating this card. As I said above, almost all decks will be playing at least a few humans, and with this card, you will be able to build around it. In that case, starting with it in your opener will be a huge benefit (but it makes for a pretty unexciting topdeck). This clearly belongs in another deck than the Wings (since no humans are flying, obviously), and I imagine that it will be pretty powerful in White-Red Aggro or White-Green Ground Pounders - Remember, all Werewolves enter the battlefield as Humans, even if they may become something else later.
This might go later than seems intuitive, but I am still going to say that it will probably be first-picked every now and then, and otherwise not make its way to the player opposiite the one who opened it.
Chapel Geist (Common): Despite all the talk of Spirits, this is the first one we actually see. A 2/3 flier for three seems like a fair bargain, but the double-coloured cost is pretty oppressive here. This strikes me as a wholly decent flier, and I think I like it more than the Abbey Griffin; the third point of toughness and the lower CMC as well as the tribal inclusion does more for me than the vigilance and easy colour of the Griffin.
This probably goes just around the same pick as the Griffin, but I am going to say 4th thru 7th in an average pack because I personally like it better (at least until I get a chance to play with the cards).
Cloistered Youth (Uncommon Transformer): I am going to go with my gut and say that this will play underwhelmingly. I don't think that a 3/3 on the ground (even on turn 3 and ready to swing) is going to be very good, and its drawback (and loss of Human subtype) puts another crack in the image of what might be a beautiful card.
Don't get me wrong, there are lots of matchups where this will be a serious threat when it hits the table on turn 2, but even then, the villain has a turn to deal with it in its fragile form before it can swing in. One thing to watch out for with this is creatures like M12's Amphin Cutthroat that can stop it without killing it.
In draft, this might go as early as 3rd, but I will be pretty uninterested in it until midway through the pack (or if I am looking like a White Weenie deck already, of course).
Dearly Departed (Rare): This was the Spirit I mentioned earlier which has a beneficial effect in the Graveyard. Though I would argue that it has even more of an impact on the board; 5/5 flying is huge, and that is before any tribal bonuses it might receive. The six mana feels like a lot, but that's because I'm used to the much faster format of M12. In Innistrad, I think I will be much more willing to play late-game pounders like this, so this is a great card to fit into any White deck (it interacts with both major White tribes, too).
This is another fine, first-pickable card. I can see taking a faster powerful card over this every now and then, but I won't ever be sad to open it.
Divine Reckoning (Rare): This looks like it is Innistrad's "Wrath". Now, there are some "on death" triggers in White (the first one is just around the corner), but I don't think that makes up for the weakness of this card compared to the "original" Day of Judgment . In most situations where you would play this, you would probably be happier playing a real Wrath, in my opinion. Sure, if your single guy is holding off loads of enemies poised for attack, this will make things more fair, but the villain still gets to keep his strongest (or most useful) dude. And giving an opponent a choice is always bad.
You might pick this first and try to build around it (with the "death matters" theme, this seems perfectly doable), but you might also see it go second, third or even later in drafts, I think.
Doomed Traveller (Common): This seems pretty decent for a one-drop in my mind. It is another card that interacts with both White tribes; it's fine as a chump-block, great with Morbid cards (which aren't really in White, though), and can actually deal some damage if you open with it before eventually picking up wings in some meaningless combat or chumpblock later.
Notice when playing against this; Allowing it to get through because you don't want the opponent to get the flier is a really poor move unless the opponent is taking the Spirit tribe to its max.
This will probably go pretty late in drafts, and sometimes (often?) wheel, but might also be picked up as early as say, sixth thru eighth pick. Basically, hope it wheels, but don't count on it to happen every time.
Elder Cathar (Common): This card looks really swingy! In some decks and situations, it will simply be a Grey Ogre (not good for White!), and in other situations, it can be absolutely brutal. Attacking with this with other Humans on the table really puts the opponent in a tough spot; Do you take the two damage or give one of my other guys +2/+2 permanently? Trading with this will feel so bad even when it is the right play.
Be aware that the ability is targetted, and as such, instant-speed removal can nullify it. So don't throw the Cathar away just because you can. That said, attacking with this seems like a good move almost always, and that's a nice thing.
I think this will be picked up just above the Traveller in drafts. I would raise my eyebrows if it wheels and definitely at least consider whether that means White (Humans) is open.
Elite Inquisitor (Rare): 2/2 First Strike, Vigilance, and what is basically protection from Black and Red, all for two mana? That is pretty sick, right?
Well yes, sure, it is - but those are two White mana. That is very committing on a two-drop. You need a really strong White colour to actually play this on turn two (not that it's not decent or even good on turn 3 or 4, but you should aim for turn 2 if at all possible). This might scare people from first-picking it in a draft as long as there are other, more conservative good picks in the pack. That said, seeing this later than, say, third or fourth, should be either a cue to move into White or cue that this card is overrated
Feeling of Dread (Common): This is a pretty great tempo card - or it sure looks like one! It would be an awesome spell in M12, but I feel that the slower format of Innistrad makes this card take a hit, and I wouldn't be thrilled with playing this without the Blue for the Flashback. Perhaps in an all-in aggressive weenie deck, it would be justified, but I think the real value of this is in a mid-range White-Blue deck (Blue often has lots of these tempo cards too), where it can be a great spell two turns in a row to get in for some early damage, or be cast twice in one turn in the late-game to enable a game-altering Alpha strike.
I suspect that this card will often wheel in drafts and might occassionally be found among the "bottom five" of packs, and I think that's about where it belongs, too.
Fiend Hunter (Uncommon): A White, Wimpy version of Faceless Butcher ! This seems totally solid in Limited, especially in an aggressive deck, where even temporary removal is a great asset. The three toughness is comforting, but not solidly out of burn range. There will be some interesting choices about whether to block a 2/2 with this or not.
Again, two coloured mana symbols on a 3-drop is kind of oppressive, but I've got a feeling that this card is just more attractive than the french vanilla flier, and for that reason, this is certainly not going to wheel. While it might not be a first-pick that often, it should definitely not go later than fourth or fifth in Drafts.
Gallows Warden (Uncommon): This is "one half" of a Spirit-boosting duo (its mirror image is in blue). The boosting ability seems decent, even if power-boosting is far more preferable, especially on fliers! That said, it is always an easily splashable 3/3 flier for five, which is great and will probably always be played on-colour.
I don't think I would be sad to first-pick this in a draft, although I wouldn't be exalted either, but being passed it even second will probably be a pleasant surprise, since it's so easily splashable.
Geist-Honored Monk (Rare): Oooh! Straight off the bat, this is a 3/3 Vigilance and two 1/1 fliers for five mana. That's not bad. But often, it will be much larger than the 3/3, and Vigilance is definitely relevant on such a large creature. It will probably fit right into both tribes and archetypes of White (Spirit Wings and Human Aggro) since it can be such a solid ground clog (or clock!).
Be careful when attacking with other creatures that may die alongside this, since damage does of course stick around until the end of the turn; the same goes for blocking, obviously.
Even with the double mana symbols, this seems like an obvious first-pick in draft, and a gift if you're ever passed it. Even if an opponent throws removal (and it has to be good removal most of the time) at this, you've still gotten value out of it. Sweet!
Ghostly Possession (Common): This card strikes me as being really bad. I can't figure out if it's worst when used to make a durable blocker for you or your opponent, but it is such a defensive card that I will feel bad playing it, even if it is right to do against huge bombs where just neutralizing them is an achievement.
I won't be surprised seeing this float about in the bottom five of the draft packs. I am certainly not going to do anything to avoid it.
Intangible Virtue (Uncommon): This looks really good if you can get a critical mass of the white token cards, but I think that will be hard, and for that reason, it will probably go pretty late in drafts, which is a great balance for a niche card like this to have. Make sure you are not ignoring this when you are in a place where it can do something for your deck.
Mausoleum Guard (Uncommon): Talking of tokens...
This card strikes me as cute, but ultimately underwhelming. It's a fine ground-clogger in a fliers deck, since once it dies, your airforce is immidiately bolstered, which is awesome in a ground-skies race, but for a four-drop, it ultimately looks disappointing.
I can't really see this wheel in drafts, even if that might ultimately be fair to it, but I think it's easy to see it in a very positive light because of the best case situation (like the Cathar above, trading and then getting loads of value off the death trigger).
Mentor of the Meek (Rare): This card has gotten a lot of attention, which is understandible, Card Advantage is really powerful in Limited, and the obvious place for this is in the fast, aggressive deck that can use it to refuel. This will always be at least a Grey Ogre and without any hard colour commitment, so I predict that it will be picked early in a draft for its pure potential, even if there are some decks where it might not be a lot more, a single trigger off this is probably enough to justify it, and after that, the rest is just gravy.
Midnight Haunting (Uncommon): This card reminds me of Master's Call which I personally fancied pretty highly, even if it was not a gamebreaker in any way. I don't think this suffers a lot from the slow speed the format will probably have (the tokens do have evasion, after all - a nice improvement), so I am counting on this card as being pretty good. Instant speed is great in a set with werewolves, since you can play it in your own turn or in your opponent's as is needed.
There is a bit of tension since the spell is obviously useful as a combat trick to get rid of an opposing Homicidal Brute, Rotting Fensnake or another fragile basher, but you also want to use the evasive tokens on the offensive. You need to make sure that the flying ability does not somehow convince you to play this card the wrong way.
I would probably expect this to be picked around fifth, perhaps even before that, in draft packs.
Mikaeus, The Lunarch (Mythic): This card is the nuts. It's great in your opener, it's great on turn five, and it's great to topdeck, ever. It requires only a single White mana and works well with all creatures. There are going to be some decisions about when (and how) to play this, but not when to draft it; It is the windmill slam and goes in a lot of decks (even if it synergizes best with Green and its ally colours because of the +1/+1 theme).
If you're not first-picking this, you will need a very good excuse.
Moment of Heroism (Common): This is the first combat trick (well, apart from the instant tokens) and it looks a bit underwhelming to me. Sure, combat tricks are nice, and you will want a couple in most of your decks. Two mana for +2/+2 is not too shabby (well, compared to Green pumps, it is, but White gets it and an ability for two mana - think Mighty Leap ). The Lifelink looks underwhelming, but is probably going to earn you a fair share of life as an added bonus to saving your creature while killing the opponents. Even to the dome, two extra power and Lifelink turns a 2-point lifeswing into an 8-point one. If you are racing, that is not neglectible.
In drafts, I think this will go pretty late because you'd rather have most of the creatures we've seen so far (and creatures, in general). So, it probably wheels in an average pack, but shouldn't be the last card left alongside the basic land.
Nevermore (Rare): This is... Interesting. I think it is too quirky to function properly in Limited, especially as a main-deck choice. It might be fine to sideboard in against something absolutely gamebreaking that the opponent has shown you in game 1, but even then it will only rarely matter. The mana cost is also pretty restrictive.
This is one of the rares that will probably make it around the table in booster drafts a lot (and provoke a lot of sighs when opened in Sealed pools), but luckily you may go an entire event without seeing it because of the rarity.
Paraselene (Uncommon): The same cannot be said for this mass enchantment removal. I am guessing this is in the set as a tool to get rid of the Curses, but that is rarely going to be relevant in Limited, and that's about descriptive of this card too. Another word would be "unplayable".
Picking this in a draft should be purely for sideboard purposes, if at all, and preferably almost as the last card in the pack as it is not worth picking over even just a playable body.
Purify the Grave (Uncommon): I am very relieved that this is not a common despite its rather pedestrian effect. This is another card that will have only a fringe function (against Stitched and Flashbacks) in Limited. Another "last option" sideboard card that should be passed around a lot in booster draft. Man, we've hit the weak Whites now...
Rally the Peasants (Uncommon): This feels common, but not in White, so I don't mind it being Uncommon in any way. It definitely has a place in the white/red aggro deck where it can push in a ton of damage early (and then again!), but is otherwise a pretty low-tier card in my opinion, although it can definitely prove to be very powerful in the White wings and/or tokens decks, so don't discount it and keep it in mind against these decks even if the villain is not playing Red.
The inclusion of enemy-colored dual lands will make sense to splash flashback costs like this easier, even if the lands are rare.
I suspect that this will often be picked late, perhaps even later than it deserves (sort of like M12's Guardians' Pledge , perhaps), and every now and then, you might be the red-white player who will punce on the opportunity to defy the slow format and rack up turn 5 and 6 kills with a bunch of these and a low curve.
Rebuke (Common): Oooh. When I first looked at this, I though of Dispense Justice . Only they are not the same at all. First of all, the caster chooses the target for Rebuke. And second, it's common. You need to know that this card exists if you're playing against a White mage, or you'll get some nasty surprises.
Playing this in response to a combat trick seems like a really, really wicked play. So watch out for left open when sending your dudes into the red zone.
As solid (if conditional) removal, I assume that this will be picked relatively early, but like counterspells, this is purely reactionary. Innistrad strikes me as having some decent ways to spend mana in other places, which means that this might not be a huge problem. This may go as early as second or third and as late as seventh or maybe eighth, though I doubt it.
Selfless Cathar (Common): This one-drop, I don't like. Sure, it has some utility (it's decent for chumping and then saccing to upset combat maths, and the threat of activation alone may be a serious deterrent), but it requires mana left open to be considered. It is not really great early in the game, and it's not a great topdeck either (unless you're doing the wings/ground race and need the boost desperately). Notice that its ability does not require tapping.
In drafts, I expect to see this late, probably around 9th-12th pick material. Being a human is not enough to justify playing these, I feel.
Silverchase Fox (Common): Another Enchantment-hoser, this time attached to a Silvercoat Lion . As I've said, the format is looking quite slow, which means that two-drop 2/2s will probably not matter a whole lot. It's definitely playable, it's just not too exciting.
In drafts, this will probably also be passed around as late as 8th thru 12th pick most of the time.
Slayer of the Wicked (Uncommon): This looks powerful. Powerful, and easy to play/splash. Remember that Werewolves are werewolves in both of their "forms", which means that basically any Red or Black (as well as some Green and Blue) creatures will be targets for this, making it a 2-for-1. Even without considering its ability, the card is playable (if unexciting), but with some serious removal thrown in "for free", this card is definitely one that excites me.
Don't expect this to survive more than the first few picks in draft; It's not colour unintensive, and it's removal and a body.
Smite the Monstrous (Common): This is removal. Somewhat conditional removal, and at four mana, but instant removal is instant removal, and this is going to deal with most of the things worth dealing with. Especially destroying a problematic Transformer seems like a good play, plus a lot of the truly good creatures (White and otherwise) seem to have exactly four power.
In a draft, I would probably expect this to be picked within the first five picks in an average pack, perhaps even within the first three picks.
Spare from Evil (Common): This card took some time to grasp for me... In some match-ups, it will be almost blank (there will probably be a few humans in every deck, but they might never be relevant in combat), whereas against other decks, it's basically a mass combat trick or a mass Distortion Strike , which seems a really great way to break a stallmate in a White mirror (where you're facing a fair portion of Humans). I'm kind of sad that this cannot protect against removal spells, but you can't get everything.
In drafts, this is another card that will probably go pretty late most of the time, but that would actually be pretty decent to have, at least in your sideboard, if you're in the colour anyway.
Spectral Rider (Uncommon): If you're forcing (or being forced into) heavy White, I see absolutely no reason not to pick and play this lovely Spirit, but as soon as your commitment to White is less than that, it means that it will be harder to cast (it's still fine on turn 3, not so on turn 5) and that there will be more blockers out there. In Sealed Deck, this seems really swingy, since you will most likely not have the heavy White density to fully support it, and that you will most likely be facing White in almost half your matches.
In drafts, this might be snatched early or it might be too committal for many's tastes and wander around the table until it hits someone who drafts White. I would not expect it to wheel, but I can see passing this fourth of fifth without scruples.
Stony Silence (Rare): In Limited, I don't really think this has any home. You may find yourself facing a deck with Cellar Door and some wicked Equipment where it would make an okay sideboard card, but the effect is universal, and most of the equipment in the set seems to reward playing humans - and therefore, playing White, so you need to consider your own Equipments first.
In drafts, this will probably always table and most likely belong in the last of the pack-dregs.
Thraben Purebloods (Common): How does Siege Mastodon fit into the set? I think it's going to be a pretty solid creature; It looks like it can kill off many of the ground pounders and even contend with a few of the transformed Werewolves. You're never going to be excited to play this, but you'll often be happy that you did.
In a draft, this is probably 6th-10th pick material in an average pack.
Thraben Sentry (Common Transformer): We already discussed the value of a 2/2 Vigilance for 4 mana, and this one doesn't even have Flying! While I'm as excited as anyone about the Transform mechanic, I just don't like the looks of this. There are undoubtedly shenanigans to be done with instant sacrificing and stuff like that, but most of the time, you're getting a 2/2 Vigilance for 4 and then some point in the future, it turns into a 5/4 Trample, which is a fine heavy-end creature, but nothing awe-inspiring. I found myself comparing this to Thundering Thanadon , and that seemed to make it somewhat more exciting, but the problem is that it's not going to transform on the turn it's down very often. I will say, though, that it has the potential to be solid (play this and swing in with all the "small guys"; Take all of it or give me a Thanadon?).
In draft, I'm thinking this will probably be picked 4th-7th in an average pack, perhaps even a little earlier since it is easy on the mana restrictions and can be combined with sacrifice shenanigans in other colours.
Unruly Mob (Common): A 1/1 for two mana is pretty underwhelming, and I don't find the ability of this very exciting... It might prove to be fine if the format is as slow as it promises to be (and with the same sacrifice shenanigans as the former one). In fact, the "death matters" theme seems to be large enough in White to occassionally justify picking and playing this.
Nevertheless, I think this will probably go a little later than the Transformer. It might not wheel most of the time, but it is going to every now and then. I don't really see picking this for my first four picks.
Urgent Exorcism (Common): This seems like too niche to be played in the main deck, but it looks like an excellent sideboard card both as a kind of Combust and Demystify . It's going to go late in drafts, probably almost always wheeling. Think of the Combust and Deathmark cards of M12.
Village Bell-Ringer (Common): Another "Instant" to be aware of, this looks like a decent defensive card with some serious ETB shenanigans. It might not in itself be a great card, but it's one that you need to have in your mind when playing against a White mage. It's also the kind of creature I was talking about when discussing Cloistered Youth's transformed form, since it can easily block the Horror without ever killing it to rid the controller of the Numbing Dose -like effect.
Voiceless Spirit (Common): Fragile, but powerful. This is the kind of flier I like! It's fairly costed and it deals with a lot of the creatures (in the air and on the ground) we've seen so far, which is great. And on the offense, it's a first-striking Stormfront Pegasus ! The toughness might've been problematic against the many 1/1 tokens if it wasn't for the first strike. I really like flying and first strike together, right?
In a draft, I see this getting picked as early as the first couple of picks. If it shows up past fifth, something is amiss and you should probably pick it up and be very happy.
White in General seems to be a pretty solid colour, excelling in Flying for a slow strategy or weenies for a faster one. It has decent removal and is just waiting to get exploited on the "death trigger" scene.
Armored Skaab (Common): Okay, welcome to Blue! I've definitely gotten the impression that the "self-milling" is an important aspect of the colour (and its part in the Zombie tribe), which means that this card is not actually terrible. Or, it's only terrible if you're not doing what this card does in your deck. As soon as you have a few Stitched creatures, some flashback, and some Graveyard interaction, its ability might actually become actively good.
Concerning draft, this is a card that probably will go late simply because people who are not in Blue simply because it is not at all dangerous in and of itself, and it is useless outside of the colour/theme it promotes. This might be picked as early as 5th-8th but might initially scare people away and got a lot later.
Back from the Brink (Rare): This enchantment seems like a really nice curve-topper. "Remember every spell I cast or milled during this game? You will soon!". I consider this kind of analogous to Mind Unbound in M12, only there are several significant differences; This card is not dangerous to yourself (Mind Unbound can mill you to death), there are loads of ways to get things into your Graveyard in the set, and the format looks slow enough that you can actually get some value out of this after casting it in most games.
In drafts, it might not be windmill-slammed first every time, but I will certainly be surprised to see it later than third or fourth.
Battleground Geist (Uncommon): This is the better half of the Gallows Warden we saw in White. This, on its own, is clearly more interesting, but it is in a colour with fewer Spirits. It will obviously be a really great card in Blue-White, and a fine (and easy) splash in a flying White deck, too. By its own, a 3/3 flier for five is okay, and it can be so much more in the right deck. I've found myself comparing it to Chasm Drake , but again the slower surrounding format means that it will be far better.
And if you can get multiples..!
In a draft, I would be surprised to see this make it past the third pick in a normal pack, although every now and then there will be a rare and a few pieces of removal relegating this to fourth or fifth. But later than that is probably the best signal that W/U Wings is open you can ask for..!
Cackling Counterpart (Rare): Talking of Multiples..! This looks like a really powerful spell, decidedly backbreaking, in fact. Its mana cost might seem oppressive, but there are very few situations where you actually want to play this on turn three, so that's mostly a non-issue. The only thing that seems to be awkward about the spell is the blue Mirror match, since bouncing is actually removal against token creatures. On the other hand, it ties nicely into the minor token theme we saw in White.
I don't really see this going later than a second pick in drafts unless there are some really stunning cards with it in the pack, because two copies of any creature on the board (one now and one "in the bank", which might also be of a better creature that comes down later) is just so powerful.
Civilized Scholar (Uncommon Transformer): Everyone loves a Looter! Especially in a block that has so much focus on the graveyard, where binning a card isn't that much of a deal. discarding a Flashback spell with this basically means having drawn half a card, and its "aggro mode" is a nice option to get in for five against a careless or slow-starting opponent.
This card has been pretty hyped (and perhaps for good reason), and I'm counting on people to pick it up early in the draft. Seeing this later than, say, fourth or fifth, will be pretty unusual.
Claustrophobia (Common): A pretty brutal piece of removal here, unfortunately a bit colour-intensive perhaps, but still definitely a great card. This deals with almost any creature in the block, painlessly and pretty much permanently.
In drafts, this will be a perfectly understandible first pick at times, and definitely should be gone within the first four or so picks.
Curiosity (Uncommon): This card is really hard for me to evaluate. A single hit off it and it has replaced itself, which is not unreasonable, especially since Blue has plenty of evasion. After that, it's pure and cheap Card Advantage. But there are also going to be times when this is a dead draw, and you're going to hate it. I'm even wondering how often this is correct to maindeck at all, and I'm coming up with a guess that says "not too often". Blue often has a bit of trouble with its creature count, which hurts this card a lot.
In a draft, this is probably going to be passed around late and wheel most of the time. This is another kind of card that fits in a narrow niche of decks, and it will probably be available to be picked up if you realize that you're sitting with the pile that is going to become such a deck.
Curse of the Bloody Tome (Common): Alright, perhaps Blue is not all self-milling. There is going to be a fair bit of milling for the win, too, and I think this card is going to be the Jace's Erasure of that strategy whenever it is actually viable. A single one of these might give your deck some temporary power by casting it on yourself, but I feel Blue is looking at a serious risk of milling itself to death, so you really need to have the deck to support such a play. Otherwise, stick with putting this on your opponent.
In a draft, this is going to be passed around very late, and that might enable a player to gather enough for a serious milling strategy, which is definitely a thing to look out for and have a sideboard that can deal with it.
Delver of Secrets (Common Transformer): I see what this card is trying to do, and I'm loving the dream of a 3/2 flier that can attack on turn two. But you need to know that that is not going to happen very often. First of all, you need to have this card in your starting hand. That's about one-sixth odds right there. Then you have to hit an instant or sorcery spell with the ability, which is (at most) going to be one fourth of your deck (17 lands, 13 creatures, 10 other spells). That's about a 5% chance of starting this as a 3/2 flier. By the fifth turn, it's closer to 50%, but by then a 3/2 flier is far less amazing (but still decent, mind you!).
I think this might be picked up relatively early in a draft, like 5th thru 8th pick, but it could easily show up later (or be gone earlier). It goes very well with Moonmist, by the way, if you can get some of both...
Deranged Assistant (Common): An accelerator in Blue, clearly playing into the "self-milling" theme... This is going to be great occassionally (on Turn 2 into a 4-cost Stitched, per example), but even then you need to get lucky with what you hit with it, and it is a horrible top-deck, a 1/1 for two mana with an ability that will often be irrelevant.
This is another card I imagine will go late in the draft, but which is ultimately dependant on the strength of the "self-milling theme". I don't see myself picking this up before 8th-12th pick outside of pretty specific circumstances.
Dissipate (Uncommon): The set's first counterspell; A Cancel that eats recursive dudes and Flashback spells at no extra cost. Like Cancel, this might go late because of its colour-intensive cost and reactive nature, but the slower format and the fact that there are many more ways to spend mana that you're otherwise keeping up should be a big swing in favour of this.
I would be surprised to see this on the wheel more than occassionally, and I don't think I would fault anyone for picking it up already fourth or fifth if it fits their colour.
Dream Twist (Common): Another milling/selfmilling card! This is going to be the set's Tome Scour , but the surrounding set supports a dedicated milling strategy much better than M11 did, so it's definitely a card to be aware of. It obviously also allows you to mill yourself for the stitched-zombie theme.
What is perhaps most interesting about the card, though, is its interaction with Werewolves. The card alone can, at a relatively low cost, keep werewolves untransformed for two turns where an opponent chooses not to cast any spells, or can by itself, for transform all werewolves back to their weak side. That is actually a decent piece of work, even if Werewolves will never dominate the Limited scene because of the scarceness of transform cards.
I don't see this going earlier than, say, sixth through eighth, in draft packs, although it can certainly go much later now and then. That's your cue to try out the mill deck!
Forbidden Alchemy (Common): This is a sinister twist on Sift , but with the utility of the Graveyard (especially in its Flashback colour-combination), it might actually be stronger. This will probably be playable (if unexciting) without any Black mana, but it gets a lot stronger (graveyard resources, 2-for-1 and sifting) in Blue/Black, which is where it will belong primarily.
I don't think this will wheel in drafts, at least not reliably, even though its almost two-colour nature may be too oppressive for some drafters, it is a solid Blue card. Seeing it later than tenth will probably be a fine signal that you can get a decent shot at blue/black (zombies!).
Fortress Crab (Common): Need time to conduct your sinister experiments in peace? This huge blocker ain't no easy snack to crack, that's for sure. I'm not sure this will be very relevant for the part of Blue that relies on self-milling and stitched zombies, because that strategy strikes me as both aggressive and short-lived since any game that goes long will end in the blue player milling himself out, and this is not the creature for such a deck.
In the opposite deck, the "milling for the win" deck, however, this is going to be a great clogger that can keep even some werewolves out while you churn the grindstones and watch your enemies break sweat as their library dwindles at an alarming rate. It is also a great ground stopper for a Wings deck, obviously.
This is probably most often going to be picked around mid-pack, say 6th through 10th. It will never be super exciting, but it will often be the right pick in those spots nevertheless. It's a more useful Amphin Cutthroat in a format where very few decks will be curving out at four.
Frightful Delusion (Common): Eugh. Counterspells and discard? Really? I principally don't like this card, even though it certainly has some merits. The window in where it is useful, though, is pretty marginal, and after that, it is (at best) going to be a 1-for-1 and at worst a useless card stuck in your hand. Notice that it needs a target, so you can't simply instant-speed force a discard in your opponent's draw face.
I'm hoping this will be in the dregs part of draft packs and that people won't play it, because it seems like a card that would annoy both the player who puts it in his or her deck, and the opponents that player is facing.
Grasp of Phantoms (Uncommon): This is the tempo card! It can put the opponent in some awkward spots without being card disadvantage in and by itself, and the flashback (though expensive) will be a great way to dislodge a stalled late-game. Don't be worried that most of the creatures you are going to bounce will cost the same or less than this card; Drawing your 3-drop on turn 5 is pretty annoying even if the opponent spent four mana to make you do that.
Notice the Sorcery speed. For the same reasons that instants are really good, this is going to be a little minus on this spell's resume.
In drafts, this is not going to be a very early pick, but it will probably not be in the "dregs" either. I am going to say sixth through tenth, or around there.
Hysterical Blindness (Common): This is Turn the Tide 's big brother in a format that shapes up to be less aggressive. I don't really see playing this as a viable cause of action outside of some really, really weird scenarios (Blue-Green "Fight" deck?).
In drafts, this is going to be among the dregs. 12th thru 15th pick, probably.
Invisible Stalker (Uncommon): Something inside me wished that this was Common, but I really don't think it would be healthy. As it is, though, it is a pretty decent card in and of itself. It is a human, which means it will make good use of the equipment of the set (Butcher's Cleaver is going to be great on this, per example. Drain Life for four each turn is nothing to sneeze at!).
This looks like it might fit into quite a lot of colour combinations, although not the black-blue one, but the exact amount of ways to "break" this card is going to dictate when it will be picked. Off the bat, I think people will see the potential in this and go for it around 3rd-5th in drafts.
Laboratory Maniac (Rare): This looks so good in the abstract, but there just needs to be so many things that "click" for it to actually do what it promises. First of all, it will need to be among the cards you actually draw and not the ones you mill off your deck (Forbidden Alchemy seems really good in this combination), and then it needs to stick. Two toughness is not a whole lot when this is the Platinum Angel that keeps your whole game from collapsing.
Don't get me wrong, though. At worst, this is a Grey Ogre in the Human tribe, which is not unplayable. And it is every now and then going to be a wrecking ball when you are facing the "mill for the win" deck. I'll probably include this in any blue deck in Sealed, but I'm not too sure about when to pick it in draft. Some players may pick it up really early and hope to build around it, and that might actually be a viable path, but personally I would still be taking "traditionally" good cards over it, so I'll be adverse to picking it before, say, fourth through eigth, probably.
Lantern Spirit (Uncommon): This looks like a really good card to me. It's two power in the air, and as long as you can keep up a single blue mana, it is effectively hexproof. It also fits into the Spirit tribe, and it isn't hard on the mana. There are anti-werewolf shenanigans to be done here with 8 mana, too, although that really is more of an afterthought than anything else.
I'll be happy to pick this up after the first few picks in a normal draft pack. It probably isn't decidedly first-pick material, but it can be a serious threat that is hard to deal with or a repeatable chump-blocker in the air. Mentor of the Meek and Divine Reckoning seems like they might like this, too.
Lost in the Mist (Common): A very expensive counterspell, but also a great tempo swinger. I find this card hard to evaluate without hands-on experience about the set, because it might be a complete blank or it might be just what your aggressive Blue-X deck needs to keep getting in there for damage. An opponent spending his turn to have one of his creatures unsummon ed seems like a potentially backbreaking play, but again, this is a card that needs a target in order to be cast, and costs five mana. It is not going to make the cut a lot of the time, but it might still be useful to keep in mind if you're ever staring down a Blue mage with mana up and your board actually doesn't urgently need that extra guy you're holding in your grip. It's hard to keep up mana for this while simultaneously advancing your own board, after all.
In drafts, this is probably going to go 9th-13th or around then. I'd be surprised to open this and not have it wheel.
Ludevic's Test Subject (Rare Transformer): This is one of those cards that are droolly and every now and then will be absolutely backbreaking in a game. But often, it's going to be a rare lightning rod/mana sink.
Don't get me wrong; spending mana on this when you don't have anything else to cast is obviously a fine play, even if it is killed in response to that fourth activation, and a 3-toughness lightning rod is not bad at all for a 2-drop. Often, an opponent will either throw a piece of removal after this or at least keep one back so that he can deal with it when he needs to.
I actually think this card will be decent in Limited. Starting with it in your opener is going to be a funny play, even if the opponent does have the removal to deal with it, and topdecking it will often be gamebreaking (the ability does not require tapping, meaning that you can activate it the turn it comes down, and multiple times each turn). It might just be a 13/13 with Echo, which arguably is a great late-game draw
I don't know if it's first-pick worthy, but I don't think I'd blame anyone for slamming it and living the dream. It certainly doesn't last past the first three picks in most packs, in my estimate.
Makeshift Mauler (Common): This is a pretty large creature at a pretty low price, no doubt, and it will often be castable on turn four in the "self-milling" deck. Reaching a critical mass of this might just be one of the easiest ways to get a really aggressive deck in Innistrad.
That said, it's not an auto-include in any deck. Yes, most decks will have a dude in the graveyard by turn 4, and most decks will benefit from the board presence that this brings, but there are other big, undercosted creatures out there, most noticably the werewolves. I feel like this can be compared to the Phantasmal Beast of M11. In some match-ups, a fast and aggressive pounder with a drawback (two is even better) will just be game-breaking. In others, it will turn out to be a bad deal.
In drafts, this is probably going to be picked a bit earlier than most other common creatures, and for good reason. Letting this go late is asking to have your behind handed to you by a horde of 4/5 four-drop zombies. Never allow this to wheel even if you're not in blue (sort of like the Griffin Rider in M12). If you are in blue, though, this might be worth picking up second through fifth in an average pack if you're ready to go for the Stitched deck. Otherwise, a few picks later is probably about right.
Memory's Journey (Uncommon): This looks unplayable in Limited, although the all-out self-milling card with some of the Green "the yard matters" cards thrown in might see themselves playing it simply to avoid milling themselves (and throwing six pieces of gas into a library of three cards seems like a really great late-game play, too).
This is the best-case scenario, though. Mostly, this is not going to be worth playing, which is why I predict it floating around late in the draft for those few players who might actually find a use for it.
This is another cheap instant to keep werewolves out of your backyard too, by the way.
Mindshrieker (Rare): Woah! A 2-drop 1/1 flier on its own might not be very threatening, but the ability of this thing works wonders with all the three major archetypes I can see Blue fitting into; fliers, self-milling and "milling for the win". Later in the game, this is going to be a Tome Scour ing dragon and just ridiculously powerful.
I don't know if there is anything else to say. Windmill slam this in drafts, because you won't get a second shot at it
Mirror-Mad Phantasm (Mythic): This seems very, very swingy in Limited. five power in the air for five mana is a whole lot, but a single toughness means that this is really fragile. Notice that its ability is a kind of Momentary Blink , not able to be activated from the Graveyard (so a single blocker will lock this down since it can't trade and then come back).
I don't have to mention how bah-roken it will be alongside the Angel of Flight Alabaster, though, do I?
This might be first-picked in a draft, and it might be right to do so, but I'm not too sure. It is incredibly fragile, especially in the turn it comes into play (if you tap out to cast it). It won't be in the pack for long, though, even if not first-picked. The upside is too large to ignore.
Moon Heron (Common): Here's the Assault Griffin I asked after, and it's even in the Spirit tribe! Lovely! I don't know how much more there is to say on this, though; the two toughness seems like it might trade with most other fliers, which is pretty bad, but on the other hand, it might make more of a difference on the offensive since the surrounding format is a bit slower than the format around the Griffin.
I wouldn't feel bad about picking this around the third pick in an average pack, and I'd certainly be happy to receive it later than that. Three power in the air for four is pretty great.
Murder of Crows (Uncommon): I love the flavour tie-in of this card (if there is a "looting bird", it's the crow!), but that's not why it's awesome. In Blue, a 4/4 flier for 3CC straight up is a pretty fine deal, and things are going to die every now and then, and looting seems like really good ability in the graveyard set (as was already said on the Scholar above).
I can see myself first-picking this without regret, and it certainly shouldn't show up past third of fourth pick in a draft.
Rooftop Storm (Rare): This seems like a pretty bad card in Limited. There are few zombies you can't cast for the 6 mana you have when you get this down, and it's probably going to be in the top end of your curve any ways. I just don't think this is viable in a lot of Limited decks.
That said, off-beat enchantment rares like Warstorm Surge and Call to the Grave have found their niches in M12 Limited. If you end up with this in your draft pile and you're in Blue-Black zombies, by all means, try it out! Just don't pick it up over anything playable...
Runic Repetition (Uncommon): This card seems really good initially, and it might have a place in certain decks, but I'm not sure that it is going to be more than a fringe card in Limited. Sure, there is a decent amount of Flashback, but only on non-creature spells, which is a pretty huge concern in most Limited decks, and this spell itself also takes up a non-creature spell slot, mind you.
Most of the time, though, I feel like this should be wheeling, Call to Mind -like, and I'd not be surprised to see it in the "dregs" of draft packs some of the time.
Selhoff Occultist (Common): The ability on this rarely seems relevant to me, but I would like to point out that 2/3 seems like a really decent place to be, power/toughness-wise, as the ground will have a lot of 2/2s all over the place. This is another decent filler card that can help hold off a ground assault while you take to the wings or mill out your opponent (in which case its ability actually becomes relevant). It also seems decent (although not impressive) in the self-milling deck, even if it is a bit on the slow side.
In drafts, this will probably be picked about mid-pack, though I can certainly see some interactions with other cards that might make this rise slightly in value. But I'm never going to be happy picking it before, say, fifth, and I'd rather pick it ninth or tenth if I can.
Sensory Deprivation (Common): This... Is not as unplayable as it looks, I feel. It is a poor man's Guard Duty and might actually be downright fine against Red and Green, with their high-power Werewolves, the fighters, and the "when this deals damage to a player"-triggers.
That said, it is an Aura, and not a good one either. It might not be quite Defensive Stance -bad, but if this isn't wheeling in your drafts, someone is overvaluing this card, I feel.
Silent Departure (Common): This Flashbacky Unsummon strikes me as a pretty decent card. It has all the utility of the traditional bounce spell, while also having the anti-Werewolf capabilities (ruining an "empty" turn or bounding a transformed werewolf), as well as the shot at being a fine stall-breaker late-game by firing twice in the same turn.
In a draft, I'm not interested in this for the very early picks, but it might not always wheel, either. It will probably go around 7th-10th most of the time.
Skaab Goliath (Uncommon): This is basically a slightly larger version of the Mauler from above. Even if we are in blue, I really like the Trample on this guy. It is definitely a solid 6-drop, easy to splash, and the "stitched" clause doesn't strike me as being a problem on turn six, even if it requires two creatures in the bin. Blue looks to be shaping up for some serious aggressive potential! There are few things in the set that can deal with 9 toughness, and this can often attack into several blockers without fear of dying. It seems like a good target for bounce spells, though, so be careful in the Blue mirror!
In a draft, I could see myself taking this first, and I'd latch onto it if it went much later than second or third, probably. It seems like it doesn't need a lot of help to be a real beating.
Skaab Ruinator (Mythic): Woah, a 5/6 flier for three mana? That is absolutely crazy! On this, though, the "Stitch" clause is going to be an issue, and most of the time, you're certainly not casting this on turn three. But it's still going to be decent on turn six - or nine!
In drafts, I would have no issue at all with first-picking this and then try to shape the rest of my draft to accomodate for it (ie., picking a few self-milling 1- and 2-drops a bit earlier, and some cheap and fragile creatures).
Snapcaster Mage (Rare): This has gotten a lot of hype, and for good reason, but its applications are probably mainly in constructed. It's still an okay card in Limited, both early and later in the game - Flash is great against Werewolves, and it enables you to cast something cheap out of your graveyard to transform werewolves if that's what you need.
And a 2/1 for two is actually okay in and of itself, especially if you need some creatures in your graveyard. Playing a card this powerful like that seems like a waste, but that's not a good mentality to have (think of the times you need to trade your Azure Mage on turn two in M12, per example). It's just added flexibility; This effect would still be great on a instant, but the body matters in a lot of games.
This is going to get first-picked often, if nothing else then for money purposes. And I don't see a problem in picking it up early, especially if it's passed to you...
Spectral Flight (Common): Blue so far doesn't seem to have quite its normal amount of fliers, which means that this aura might actually have a bit of utility, but it is still unexciting in a Blue/White deck and not really on-theme in a lot of other decks. I don't think this will see a lot of play, but it is of course wrong to ignore a card completely, because this might be what makes your opponent's turn two Bloodcrazed Neonate (coming in Red) turn into an unstoppable powerhouse.
In drafts, I am counting on this to wheel. Whether it will be in the "absolute dregs" (ie. 12th or later) remains to be seen - it could go both ways, is my impression.
Stitched Drake (Common): I'm a bit sad that the colour restriction on this is so harsh, but at the same time, it is very understandible; Giving all colours a good chance of playing a flier of this caliber would certainly muck up the game. Because this is a great flier, and in Limited, that's pretty good all in itself. The "stitch" drawback seems easy to overcome in Blue, and you're going to be in Blue if you're playing this. Its Common rarity means that you're going to have a fair shot at getting more than one, which really, really helps this, I feel. You just need to be ready to prioritize it highly, because it is going to be a great card in almost any Blue deck.
I'd be surprised to see this go later than, say, fifth pick, in drafts, and I can certainly see come players picking it up a lot earlier and gambling on the blue stitched deck, which looks like a fine "archetype" to be in.
Stitcher's Apprentice (Common): The inner Johnny in me has been excited about this card since it was spoiled, but after going through almost two colours of cards that just scream out "we care about dying", the Spike in me is stirring, too. This seems perfectly breakable with cards such as the 2/3 that mills when something dies, or the many white "husks" whose real benefit comes from their death (since replacing a 2/2 vigilance with a 2/2 and getting his effect seem very much worth it). Not to mention that it can slowly grind out value from enemy removal, get some chump-blocking done, and can always enable Morbid for .
In drafts, this is not going to go very early, since it needs some cards that interact nicely with it, but I'm not adverse to picking it up like, say, fifth or sixth, in an average first pack, and try to break it later in the draft.
Sturmgeist (Rare): Uhm... Ehh... This seems like a flying Psychosis Crawler , a card I never really liked, so I'm not too sold on it. That said, it is a slower format, and a format with some decent ways to spend your mana on other things than casting spells, so I might too hard on this.
I won't be excited about opening this, and while it might not wheel a lot because of its rarity, I'm relegating it to 6th-9th pick status in my personal ratings.
Think Twice (Common): The Instant Speed of this just does so much for me here, because otherwise, this would be a pretty expensive Divination . As it is, though, it can still be a Divination (and Werewolf daybreak) in the late game, or you can spread it out over two turns, keeping the mana up for counterspells or other instant-speed shenanigans meanwhile. I think a lot of players are excited about this because it is a reprint (out of, what, Future Sight?), but I've personally never played with it before, and I remain somewhat critical of it. Or, I try to. Card Advantage at instant speed seems pretty good in a slow, Limited format.
In drafts, this probably isn't wheeling a lot, but it's a pretty un-splashy card and not one I am hoping to pick too early, either. I'd say it's fine around the seventh pick and good to get tenth.
Undead Alchemist (Rare): I see what this card is trying to do, and it might even do it every now and then, but it has two toughness and no evasion. It is not going to have any serious impact in terms of its ability unless you're casting it after a Stiched Drake and then start grooming your own personal horde.
There is some tension here since the effect only concerns Zombies, which actually can be a drawback in my opinion unless your deck reaches a critical mass of those, because its 4/2 body would be an otherwise fine deal in and of itself, but that's just not the case if it can't damage your opponent and you don't have the tools to mill him.
I'd be sad if I had to pick this first in a draft, and I wouldn't be happy to see him until perhaps fourth or fifth pick, but I might be too harsh on this.
Saturday, September 17, 2011, 7:04 AM
Categories: Magic: The Gathering Online
Hey there I normally mostly play Limited (and mostly write about it, too), but my last few Draft walkthroughs, I've submitted to RareDraft and posted to a blog run my a MTGO Clanmate, so I figured I'd write a different sort of article/blog post on here instead - a deck I recently constructed and which I think is really quirky and fun (and offbeat).
I'd like to disclaim that I don't play Standard competetively and that I don't have four-ofs of all cards and so on; This deck is made of cards already in my card pool from my Limited games. Without further ado...
14 Swamp s
6 Mountain s
I think it should be pretty obvious what is going on in this deck, but I'll still point out the the most effective interactions...
The deck has a turn 3 kill under the right circumstances; Immolating Souleater on turn 2 into Fling (spending 18 life or 16 life and a red) against an undeveloped board (after villain has played, say, Cultivate or some other noncreature spells). Sometimes, they might not even block ( Birds of Paradise , Puresteel Paladin , etc.) - whoopsie, victory.
Mortis Dogs is probably the most potent Hound here apart from that; All the noncreature spells interact with it in one way or another, and the tribal bonus from the Automatons just makes it even more powerful in the right circumstances. Swinging for 7 on T5 due to a Trigon activation and then fling ing for lethal has been known to cause some havoc.
The Whipflares are pretty great at clearing out early blockers/acceleration, and might double with the Mortis Dogs (ie. villain has a 2-toughness guy he doesn't want to trade with the Dogs, so he takes 4 from the swing and then "trades" anyway for an additional 4 from the Dogs). They do kill the Fiery Hellhound s if there are no Automatons in play, but that's a pretty narrow and not gamebreaking risk.
The Corpse Curs might seem out of place here, and I admit that I've yet to win off infect in this deck, but they're hounds (potential 6/6s), they can be used for sacrificing fodder (Fling for regular damage, or the Piston Sledge ). This is especially important combined with their recursive nature when you have more than one active. They also make excellent blockers.
The Sideboard is just a mish-mash of things I imagined would suit the deck well; the Praetors are great (especially Sheoldred what with the heavy death theme), and the Ratchet bombs are fine early plays that can become really unfair if they clear the 4- or 6-cost slot. I have no 5-drops at all, which is also nice to keep in mind. The Tainted Strikes are thrown in because I figured infect could be an alternate win (again, T2 Immolating Souleater into T3 Tainted Strike (perhaps with Pyroclasm if there are blockers is a fast if unlikely win).
The deck's strengths, in my experience, are: A solid creature count that works well together and brings a lot of damage to the table pretty fast, regularly. The death triggers on the late-drops can bring those last point in when the villain seems to have stabilized. It has the potential for some really fast victories due to the firebreathers in combination with Trigon, Sledge and Fling. And few people see a "spend 18 life and then fling for lethal" coming.
The deck's weaknesses are fairly obvious (and manyfold): It has no interaction with flying creatures (then again, perhaps racing is what I want to do!), and it doesn't do well on defense, which is really painfully obvious against fast decks, since board presence the deck can manage in the very first turns is pretty marginal.
If you found the build interesting (or would like to point out something you think could be better), please leave a comment Also, apart from the four Automatons, the nonbasic lands, the Deathmantle and the Whipflares, the maindeck should be pretty easy to replicate. Feel free to take the deck for a swing and tell me what you think of how it plays!
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Tuesday, August 16, 2011, 5:31 AM
Categories: Magic: The Gathering Online
So - I figured it was time to walk through an M12 draft, and luckily, I have just finished a very interesting one of the kind. Let's see if it will confuse you as much as it did me...
This is an M12 8-4 Online Draft, by the way.
PACK 1: M12
Pick 1: Slaughter Cry , Cancel , Naturalize , Trollhide , Aven Fleetwing , Dark Favor , Goblin War Paint , Sacred Wolf , Armored Warhorse , Wring Flesh , Hunter's Insight , Serra Angel , Oblivion Ring , Archon of Justice , Plains .
So, woah! The best three cards in here are clearly White, with absolutely no other cards of notice (apart perhaps from the Fleetwing and the Wring Flesh, but they're still far inferior to the three top-notch cards). What to do? I say pick the best one! Archon of Justice and hope people know that taking a rare means signalling is void. Not that that will make the non-White cards in the pack better, so I'm still counting on people picking White right after me...
Pick 2: Stormfront Pegasus , Blood Ogre , Greater Basilisk , Wring Flesh , Benalish Veteran , Rampant Growth , Unsummon , Manalith , Manic Vandal , Rusted Sentinel , Lure , Celestial Purge , Garruk's Horde , Swamp .
Oh-kay, the rare's still here, and it's Garruk's Horde, a pretty powerful creature. But it's also hard to cast! I end up following my first pick and choose a creature I know I will be able to cast and get value out of, the Stormfront Pegasus.
Pick 3: Plummet , Lightning Elemental , Tormented Soul , Goblin War Paint , Sacred Wolf , Armored Warhorse , Wring Flesh , Ponder , Fiery Hellhound , Scepter of Empires , Levitation , Thran Golem , Forest .
Not a lot of gas here either - the best two cards are both Artifacts, which is great for colour neutrality, I guess. With plenty of picks to go and an incentive for the aura-heavy White, I pick Thran Golem here.
Nothing too impressive here either, I'm afraid... The Cage and the Skeleton are both perfectly fine picks, but I like Turn to Frog better. Also, what a sad bunch of high-rarity enchantments...
The Enchantress is intriguing for an aura-heavy deck, but ultimately, not worth running even with the Thran Golem already in my pile. That leaves the easy pick between the uncommon Master Thief and the common Chasm Drake. Carry me to victory, fliers!
Ultimately, I think, this pick is between a 2W 2/2 and a WW 2/2. They both have an ability that is clearly worth something in corner-cases. Even if I'm hoping to get some Auras to play on my Golem, this is too early to be picking a Grey Ogre. I take the Grand Abolisher.
Not much to see here - I have a fancy for the rare Quicksilver Amulet since it basically allows you to Flash in any creature, any time, for a fixed cost. Attacking into one of these and open mana is terrifying!
I don't want a duplicate Turn to Frog already, which means the pick is between the two White cards here... Stonehorn is great for holding down the ground, which I am beginning to suspect is a necessity, but I still want to give the Auras a chance. Auramancer.
So, all of the Auras have returned..! Both the green, the black and the red are fine, but I figure that the Trollhide is best, and easiest to cast in terms of colour density.
Two decent Green cards that fit very well together... But no, I don't have a clear colour here (although White is shaping up to be a main colour) and I want to be able to play my best cards. I want acceleration and fixing. I want Manalith.
I don't want to commit heavily to blue, I have no red or black cards, and I'm considering the Green splash. I pick the Plummet, it's a fine sideboard card.
Okay, okay, I'll take a black card! I guess the Reassembling Skeleton is the least useless, it can at least chump repeatedly (if I ever end in Black).
I am never playing Lucky Charms. Lifelink is an Aura, at least...
I'll let someone else test their skill with the Taste; I pick the Plains.
Pick 15: Island.
Review after Pack 1:
This looks to be going okay, I guess. My colours are really all over the place, with only White as a really solid one, and I might get cut on that in the next pack because of the first pack I sent in that direction... I need basically everything; More creatures, a few more Win Conditions, a decent second colour, etc. Let's see what we can do about that...
PACK 2: M12
Pick 1: Chandra's Outrage , Lurking Crocodile , Gideon's Lawkeeper , Gorehorn Minotaurs , Drifting Shade , Aether Adept , Distress , Phantasmal Bear , Tormented Soul , Mighty Leap , Vampire Outcasts , Jade Mage , Consume Spirit , Flameblast Dragon , Forest .
This is a pack! Outrage is great, Crocodile is decent, Lawkeeper is excellent and so is Minotaurs, Aether Adept is a fine card, the Jade Mage is great and... Who am I kidding? This is the bombiest card in M12, and I have no solid second colour. Consider Flameblast Dragon taken!
Pick 2: Divination , Incinerate , Vastwood Gorger , Chasm Drake , Mind Rot , Devouring Swarm , Ponder , Griffin Rider , Goblin Fireslinger , Titanic Growth , Greatsword , Volcanic Dragon , Master Thief , Plains .
Okay, there is another Dragon, albeit less powerful, in here... This might very well be the pick, but I feel like my curve has its high-end guys now, two 5-drops and 6-drop after 16 cards is good, especially of this quality. But I want to gather Red cards that are playable. And Incinerate definitely is.
I think I mispicked here. I figured, I wanted to be in White-Red, and there are some fine cards of these colours in here, but ultimately, I think I should've taken the Jade Mage over the Grand Abolisher, because I might still have to play some Green, too, and in any case, the Abolisher is a duplicate and a mana-intensive one at that... Honorable mentions to the Blood Ogre, but my deck so far is not supporting Bloodthirst, especially not on a 3-drop.
I think an argument can be made for both the Cage and especially the Stave Off (which might be I should've picked!), but I went with the arbitrarily more powerful Arbalest Elite. It's also a body, something that might come in handy...
The only White/red card here is an Auramancer... Underwhelming! I might've been better off picking it (or the Basilisk despite my amoung of 5+-drops), but I went with the Buried Ruin to get back my Golem or Amulet (plus any later finds), perhaps even the Manalith if I can play a deck that needs it but does not need all lands to have colour...
Uhm, ehm... eh... I guess the Bear is okay, and the Demystify is an okay sideboard option... But I pick the Acidic Slime in case I end in Green (and need more 5-drops? What?).
Also, count on that Foil to wheel. What an exciting 14th pick I will have.
Early defense and Aura subtheme? I guess the Divine Favor will have to do, there's nothing else in the pack..!
I am seriously considering both the Circle (for early defense) and the Pledge (a sub-par White card with the density I've got). Eventually, I decide that Negate isn't too bad and perhaps I can play my Blue cards too. Who knows.
Uhm, eh, Lurking Crocodile? What is my second colour?!
Ehm, Umh, is it Green? Titanic Growth is decent.
Or Red? Fling.
Slaughter Cry is the only playable here. And it's even on-colour(?).
Black is the one colour I am not playing, which means I don't have to take the easiest playable one. I am hating the Drifting Shade here.
Ooooh, Shiny! Swamp.
Pick 15: Swamp.
Review after Pack 2:
Starting on another bomb and then unfolding practically as the first pack; with too few viable on-colour picks. This pile has potential, if I can just find the glue to bind together that W-R(-?) deck. Time to look out for low-costed creatures and removal!
PACK 3: M12
Pick 1: Shock , Gravedigger , Garruk's Companion , Jace's Erasure , Benalish Veteran , Rampant Growth , Divination (FOIL), Manalith , Manic Vandal , Warpath Ghoul , Arbalest Elite , Fireball , Belltower Sphinx , Drowned Catacomb , Plains .
Red removal, coming up! I slam the Fireball, no doubt about that!
Pick 2: Coral Merfolk , Slaughter Cry , Brindle Boar , Amphin Cutthroat , Guardians' Pledge , Llanowar Elves , Aven Fleetwing , Dark Favor , Goblin War Paint , Sacred Wolf , Kite Shield , Oblivion Ring , Personal Sanctuary , Island .
... Followed by White removal. Oblivion Ring!
Pick 3: Distress , Act of Treason , Stonehorn Dignitary , Blood Seeker , Negate , Fling , Bountiful Harvest , Devouring Swarm , Goblin Fireslinger , Aven Fleetwing , Master Thief , Redirect , Plains .
What a sad third-pick. I need White/Red playables that can stall the game till I hit my bombs. Stonehorn Dignitary fits the bill, even if it feels sad to 3rd-pick it.
Sigh. And an even sadder fourth pick. My deck needs cards like Pride Guardian, though, so it's actually decent here.
Ugh, these third-packs are not impressive. Peregrine Griffin is decent defense, if slightly overcosted.
... Really? I was close to picking the Scepter, but the Ice Cage is slightly more likely to actually make the deck (if I end up having to resort to Blue as a third colour).
I think they are doing this on purpose! Goblin War Paint is most likely to see play in my deck, the Hellhound is too colour-intensive. (also, the dream of War Painting the Golem is amazing!).
I am never going to be playing two Amulets, so I take the Stingerfling Spider which is a great card to go this late (again; imagine Amuletting it in at instant speed to crush a flying assault!).
I definitely need some fixing to make this work. Wheeling a second Manalith is not bad at all.
I was actually torn between the Boar and the Wolf here. Since they were mostly going to be holding the ground and not attacking, I ended with the (arguably sub-par) Brindle Boar. At least I can sac it to gain life, that's a kind of Hexproof too, I guess...
A fine sideboard card if I should bump into some game-changing artifact-wielding opponent. Master Thief.
Levitation, I guess. The Visage is worth hating, but whatever.
Putting a Lure on a Thran Golem is a kind dream. But I need the Runeclaw Bear more.
Pick 15: Plains.
Oh-kay, and we're through! Building this deck took some fiddling around... I ended up giving Green and Red an almost equal presence in the Deck. And I was glad to have the Manaliths!
The Deck! Show
Grand Abolisher x 2
Other Spells (10):
Manalith x 2
Forest x 3
Mountain x 4
Plains x 10
... I was extremely happy with what I've put together here! Now as you remember, this was an 8-4 queue. How did I fare?
I lost my first match! I played against a White/Red semi-aggressive deck where I overcommitted in the first round (Stormfront Pegasus, Thran Golem and Flameblast Dragon on the board and three noncreature spells in hand) and was shown a Day of Judgment . I struggled in vain to come back from that one (hard to do without creatures!).
I absolutely eradicated him in the second round, once again playing my Dragon but this time with a castable Archon in hand if the DoJ showed up; It never did, and he crumbled before the might of the bomb.
In the third game, I mulled an unkeepable 1-lander into a keepable one, and decided to keep it (on the draw); I had a Pride Guardian, a Stormfront Pegasus, a Manalith, a Titanic Growth, a Trollhide, and another card (Quicksilver Amulet, perhaps). I played the Guardian first turn, and drew a mountain to play the Pegasus second turn. And then the lands dried up. Slowly, my opponent began to advance; Whittling me down with a Griffin Sentinel and eventually landing a Gorehorn Minotaurs as 5/5. I O-ringed them when I got my third land and worked the best I could to stabilize, but my Manalith was destroyed by a Manic Vandal, and he got a Tunneler onto the table (along with a Fireslinger). I got a Peregrine Griffin down and elected not to chumb it when he dropped and attacked with a Volcanic Dragon, and the next turn he Act of Treasoned the Griffin, my only flier, and swung for lethal without me being able to block.
Ultimately, I think I did an almost perfect job of drafting and crafting the deck, and I never saw the DoJ in the draft, so I am adverse to saying that I should've played around it Game 1. I also think my Mulligan decision was right in Game 3. Still, being eliminated in an unlucky matchup with such a deck stings. Hopefully, it won't happen again for a long time!
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