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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Jun 26 2017 12:00pm
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I love this game. I love writing about it. Compiling lists about it. Evaluating it. Sometimes, I even play it. I'm an Accidental Player.

> summary <

 Fifth Dawn, the final set in the original Mirrodin block, was released in June 2004. The percentage of artifact creatures here has slightly decreased from the previous sets of the block, with only 23 of them out of 74 creatures. No legendary artifact creatures this time, either (after Mirrodin had Bosh, Iron Golem and Darksteel had Memnarch).

 The storyline sees our elven heroine Glissa Sunseeker and her group of misfit heroes bring about the dawn of the five suns (so now you finally get why she was nicknamed "sunseeker"), defeating the malfunctioning guardian Memnarch. One mechanic, sunburst, and lot of names and flavor (Suncrusher, Suntouched Myr, Solarion) directly reflect this theme.

 Time to have a look at the new creatures and their tribes, to find out how they fare compared to our contemporary ones. As always, the focus is on all the Constructed applications, the tribes are listed alphabetically, and you'll find a hypertextual list at the end.

 Infodump

  • Cards: 165
  • New cards: 162
  • New creatures: 73
  • Reprinted cards: 3
  • Reprinted creatures: 1 (Magma Giant)
  • Creature types affected: 41
  • Tribes with more than 5 additions: Human (+10), Construct (+8), Beast (+6)

Artificer: +1

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Goblin

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: This guy takes 2-for-1 very seriously. Except he does it to the opponent's advantage exclusively. Definitely not the Artificer you'll remember from this block.


Beast: +6

  

  

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Hellion, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Beast ended the Mirrodin block with a grand total of 20 new members, including the best creature in the block, Arcbound Ravager (although, that's not one that's going to play well with other Beasts). The final serving is not particularly exciting, but remains extremely varied, both in colors and mechanics, as it's been the Beasts' wont across the entire block.

 We get a new blue affinity flyer in Qumulox, which sort of works, positioning itself midway between Somber Hoverguard and Chromescale Drake. Fangren Pathcutter is similar but worse than Fangren Firstborn, though, and Cosmic Larva is just an oddity, trying too hard to come up with a way to have a 3-mana gigantic trampler (a hint: this is not the way). Better success has Blind Creeper in giving yet another take on the black early creature with sizeable body in exchange for a downside.


Bringer: +5

  

 

> summary <

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: More than a tribe, the Bringer cycle it's a plot device: they're the physical manifestations of the five suns of Mirrodin, which bring about the titular Fifth Dawn (the green sun was originally missing, Glissa took care of it). So yeah, they should just be Avatars. Or Elementals or something like that. I guess it seemed flavorful to create their own creature type, but it's useless now (what else could be called "bringer", and how would it even be related to these guys?), so I'm mostly lamenting the Grand Creature Type Update not erasing this type. It'd be really time for a new update.

 This said, they're colossal creatures, more in effect and cost (although it can go down to 5 mana if you manage to engineer a way to have all colors available, which is not so hard these days) than in body size. In fact, unusually enough, they're all 5/5 tramplers for 9, but what they bring (see what I did there?) to the table as a free recurring effect every upkeep varies according to their mana affiliation, with the white Bringer resurrecting an artifact; the blue one drawing two cards; the black one casting Vampiric Tutor; the red one casting Act of Treason (or Threaten, as it was called back then; this is actually one of the early examples of this effect, which would later become very frequent in red); and the green one creating a 3/3 Beast. They're all useful, to different degrees, but none of them is so over the top powerful to be entirely worth 9 mana or a pentacolored setup or a reanimation spell. Just look at the blue one, which is arguably the most universally rewarding: he still can't hold a candle to a card like Consecrated Sphinx, which does the same thing but costs less and has a larger evasive body.


Cat: +4

   

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 Related Tribes: Knight, Soldier

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The Mirrodin block had a really careful economy of characters: there are only 5 legends across the 3 sets and they're all major protagonists in the story (Glissa, Slobad, Bosh) or their antagonist (Memnarch). Except for this guy. Raksha Golden Cub (which should actually be "Raksha, Golden Cub", shouldn't it?) is neither really important in the storyline nor a really good creature. Sure, he's able to give a huge boost to other Cats, but 7 mana are nonsensical in white aggro, and on top of that, you'll need at least an equipment, otherwise he'll just be the most underwhelming 7 mana you ever paid.

 The other Cats continue the intra-Mirrodin theme of being French vanilla flying Knights, or doing stuff with artifacts, as Leonin Squire is a cheap Gravedigger for small artifact cards.


Cleric: +2

 

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Elephant, Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: Next to yet another poor Loxodon, here she is, the Soul Warden taken to the next level, the protection creature so versatile she made the leap from sideboard to maindeck. With Auriok Champion, it goes like this: if you're facing the colors of her protections, she's game-changing (especially against red); if you don't, you'll maybe sideboard her out, but in the meantime, she's a bear that gives you life, so she's still pretty amazing. Side note: her infamously silly bikini is another instance of poor taste in Magic art where women representation is concerned, and this is the second particularly blatant case in this block after Auriok Transfixer. What is it with scantily clad white ladies on Mirrodin? The weather can't be that hot around there with all that metal. (Maybe it is, though: to be fair, there's a few males wearing skimpy outfits, too, like Auriok Steelshaper, creatures in other colors like Joiner Adept, Eternal Witness, and Vulshok Sorcerer).


Construct: +8

   

   

> summary <

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: I have two confessions to make: the first is that I hate the sunburst mechanic with a passion, especially on colorless creatures. I know that you can use tricks to have all five colors on the battlefield (even old ones, like Crystal Quarry). But that negates the beauty of playing colorless decks. And I loathe that the largest number of counters you can accumulate this way is just five. It doesn't help that most of the sunburst creatures have enormous casting costs and ridiculously small bodies, like Sawtooth Thresher, Solarion or Suncrusher (who are you trying to fool, dude? You won't ever crush a sun with that attitude!)

 The second confession is: I played a lot of Construct tribal over the years (mostly in a Cloudpost shell). So trust me when I tell you that of all the Constructs Fifth Dawn retroactively provides, only three are worth considering. In ascending power level: Synod Centurion is a solid beater in a midrange artifact deck, not amazing but okay to generate a sturdy presence on the board. Next, there's Summoner's Egg (yeah, don't ask me how an artificial egg even works), which can be amazing in a deck with ginormous threats and sac outlets. And then, Silent Arbiter is outstanding when you play control versus aggro, or if you're waiting for a combo piece and need to stay alive: he'll strip down the combat phase to a bare minimum, and is able to block a vast range of non-evasive lone attackers on his own. Also works pretty well as an anti-aggro sideboard card in a variety of formats.


Crocodile: +1

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Oh-kay, there's a Crocodile. Functional reprint of Skeletal Crocodile, but with more meat on its bones. What is with this game and undead crocodiles?


Dragon: +1

> summary <

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Furnace Dragon had a child, and it's your regular Dragon Whelp, except with less toughness but able to breathe fire to its heart's content with no harm to its health. I would have liked a better link between the two cards, though. Like, maybe Furnace Whelp could have exiled just one artifact.


Drake: +1

> summary <

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The things they have to come up with to give these black above-curve creatures a different crazy drawback every time they design one. How soon does this particular one offset entirely having a 3/3 flyer to attack with?


Drone: +2

 

> summary <

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Seriously, Hoverguard Sweepers? Is a double Man-o'-War really worth EIGHT freaking mana? I get that you have Mahamoti Djinn stats, on top of that, but still. The common Advanced Hoverguard is actually more playable, with that nice Morphling-like "shroud on demand". By the way, three sets in, and I still haven't figured out what these Drones are supposed to be. Are they organic lifeforms rather than robots? They look like crustaceans here, which would support the fact that they're all blue.


Druid: +2

 

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 Related Tribes: Elf, Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: These Druids work really hard to fix your mana. Joiner Adept is one of the main ways to achieve maximum sunburst, both in the block or elsewhere (Shadowmoor's Prismatic Omen is better for a variety of reasons, but it's worse when facing Sundering Titan). Sylvok Explorer pales in comparison, but it beats Darksteel's poor Viridian Acolyte. Also, it marks our first encounter with the Sylvoks, Mirrodin's green Human tribe. Also, that's a really weird dress. Also, shouldn't an "explorer" be a Scout, too?


Elemental: +4

   

> summary <

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: I'm always peeved by the overlap between the Elemental and Avatar types (Spirit is sometimes involved, too). Like, plasma, spark and tornado work, as they're physical phenomena, but desecration is an abstract concept; it's not that there is an Elemental actually made of desecration – what does that even mean?

 Anyway, these are all kinda cool and all come with their specific brand of cheesy. Plasma Elemental is overcosted, and that minimal toughness is very likely its fatal flaw, but at least it's flavorful. Desecration Elemental more so, but even more flawed, since there are ways to achieve inevitability on the board that don't involve turning everything your opponent does into removal. Spark Elemental is the most genuinely playable; it's not the best Ball Lightning variant, but it's the cheapest, and sees play sometimes in burn decks that want more ground-based damage spells.

 And I love just about everything about Tornado Elemental. I love that it's mass removal for flyers, which is something green decks always find a dark pleasure in playing; and I love that it works in larger-than-life, Natural Order-style toolbox builds; and I sincerely respect that its role doesn't end with that aspect, but it's also a super-trampler, sort of a strictly better Thorn Elemental, even with the smaller body. I admit it's a best fit in Commander, though. Mirrodin block has contributed significantly to that format.


Elephant: +2

 

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 Related Tribes: Cleric, Soldier

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Okay, these are just terrible. Very old-school Magic creatures terrible.


Elf: +3

  

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 Related Tribes: Druid, Scout, Shaman, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Joiner Adept is a creature with a very important and unique role in decks that need to go five colors. The other Elves here are utterly negligible.


Fish: +1

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 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: A robo-Fish, uh? Unsurprisingly, the artifact members of a lot of tribes come from this block (and its follow-up from 2010-2011). This fisherman's technological terror can be a 5/5 for 5 in a consistently pentacolored deck (it's actually for 6 in a deck that uses Crystal Quarry to that end). It's literally all that there is about it, and it's close to unplayable elsewhere.


Goblin: +2

 

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Artificer, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: The bad creatures parade continues.Goblin Brawler is a Gray Ogre with first strike, and to pay for that, he loses the capability to be equipped, which, okay. Krark-Clan Engineers is the awful 2-for-1 for the opponent already discussed under Artificer. I expected more by the Krark-Clan, which had a history of successes (well, upon review, maybe it's more of a hit-or-miss thing).


Golem: +5

  

 

> summary <

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Modular and sunburst: together at last! Yeah, Arcbound Wanderer is still not good, and Lunar Avenger is kind of a joke. Fifth Dawn's Golems couldn't go anywhere but up from there. Battered Golem is playable enough, being one of the fastest Golems, but it's too inconsistent to be really good. But after that, at least we get two combo-oriented members. Composite Golem sacrifice at instant speed for WUBRG, and that's relevant in certain minor combo builds that recur it. And Mycosynth Golem is the ultimate affinity lord. You don't expect to drop it quickly, and you'll need some way to replenish your hand at that point, or its ability will be essentially moot, but if you manage to pull it off, it'll be a Timmy Christmas miracle. Mycosynth Lattice is a great companion piece for this guy (and a super-fun card in general).


Hellion: +1

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 Related Tribes: Beast

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Yeah, a 5-powered guy who can't block is not going to buy your trust only because it has haste. Besides, Hellions are known for mass destructive effects, not to just turn sideways and be all vanilla-like.


Human: +10

   

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Cleric, Druid, Rogue, Rigger, Shaman, Soldier, Warrior, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: After a lackluster showing in Darksteel, the Human tribe kicks it into high gear in Fifth Dawn with some of the all-time greatest members of its species. Although, interestingly, Auriok Champion, Eternal Witness and Trinket Mage very rarely go together in the same deck: they don't share a secondary tribe, nor a color, nor a function. The extreme variety of the Humans is in full display here.


Imp: +1

> summary <

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: The perfect ability for when you aren't able to swing for 2 in the air. Yeah, maybe not for 4 mana, though.


Insect: +2

 

> summary <

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Ferropede basically reads "Taps to deal 1 damage to the opponent and remove a counter from target permanent". I guess there are decks that care for that second part, but 3 mana and 1 toughness tell me it might not be the best way to accomplish it. But it's still more advisable than trying and doing it via Spinal Parasite, which basically asks for a full mana wheel and then has to kill itself in order to remove TWO counters. It's also particularly horrendous in that it might effectively be a 1/1 for 5 that does nothing. Or a creature that enters the battlefield dead for 5. In fact, it might have the dubious honor of being the only creature with native negative power and toughness (I can't even check, since Gathering doesn't allow to search for negative stats). (I found Char-Rumbler from Future Sight, which however only has native negative power).


Knight: +2

 

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Cat

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Once again, Cat monopolizes the Knight tribe. These aren't terrifyingly bad, but they're certainly nothing more than Limited fodder.


Masticore: +1

> summary <

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: The second Masticore ever printed is not as good as the tribe's namesake from Urza's Destiny, nor has been widely played as the third one from Scars of Mirrodin will be. Razormane Masticore just doesn't have that mana dump or graveyard dump quality the other two have. Also, it costs one mana more and can't regenerate. Being at the bottom spot of its micro-tribe doesn't mean it's a bad creature, though. There's something to be said about a 5/5 first striker for 5, and those Lightning Bolts are entirely free. By the way, what is a Masticore (is it a play on words between "manticore" and, what, "mastic"?), and why is there even a whole tribe of them to begin with?


Myr: +3

  

> summary <

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Last Myr we would see for a few years, and not the best of them (all things considered, the Myr tribe came into itself only with the second Mirrodin block). Although Suntouched Myr, even in its simplicity, is not the worst sunburst creature in the set, Myr Servitor is the actual notable one here, as a quick combo piece for recurring sacrifices, though it's a bit hindered by the need for at least two copies. Ranger of Eos could help, but does he want to?


Ogre: +1

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 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: No. Just no. C'mon.


Ouphe: +1

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 Related Tribes: Rogue

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Ouphe had made an appearance in Mirrodin already, with the reprint of artifact-hoser Brown Ouphe from way back in Ice Age, so we knew these little guys were on the plane. What Ouphe Vandals do is similar to what their older relative was known for, but adds mutual destruction to the deal. A very, very specific brand of artifact hate.


Rat: +1

> summary <

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: You would think a full metal plane was more hygienic than most environments, but apparently Mirrodin has a Rat infestation problem like every other place in the universe. Indeed, Relentless Rats is the ultimate example of rat infestation, and it's the kind of rule-breaking card everyone knows of, even if they might have never actually seen it played. The Relentless Rats deck is really a thing anyway, but before becoming playable, it had to wait for its missing combo piece Thrumming Stone to be released two years later.


Rigger: +1

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Human, Rogue

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: Oh, c'mon, Mark Gottlieb! You got to be kidding me! You had to go on and add Rigger to this guy, only because Rosewater created a gag card in Future Sight earlier that same year? It's so painfully clear there will never be an actual Rigger tribe in the game. I have to admit it's a good joke, though. Moriok Rigger didn't need to be part of it, though. Also, the Moriok "scavenge for their souls"? Seriously?


Rogue: +2

 

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Human, OupheRigger

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: This could be the weirdest pair of Rogues ever printed together. Kind of complementary, though: one kills artifacts, the other profits from artifact being killed. None of them is particularly playable, unfortunately.


Scout: +1

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 Related Tribes: Elf, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: 7 mana to kill that pesky Hypnotic Specter. I swear green had gotten better than this at dealing with flyers.


Shaman: +4

   

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Elf, Human, Troll

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: Between "sacrifice a forest to regenerate a creature" and "pay 4 mana to give a boost based on how many artifacts the opponent happens to have in play", you would start to doubt these Shamans were going to leave a mark on Magic history. But then here she comes, in all the glorious and defiant sexiness only the great Terese Nielsen can convey: Eternal Witness is not just one of the best Shamans ever printed, she single-handedly defines Shamans, as the tribe collecting creatures with the strongest specialized abilities that you want to have at hand in any situation. I mean, she is a Regrowth on legs, back in a time when Regrowth was still restricted in Vintage. She actually helped making the case to ultimately unrestrict Regrowth, because even at one mana more, she's just so much better. In fact, she's a prime example of why a creature could be stronger than the sorcery it mimics. Consider this: you drop her, regrowth; you return her to battlefield, regrowth; you flicker her, regrowth; you bounce her to hand and recast her, regrowth. The number of way she can provide card advantage is huge. And then you get a body to swing, trade or chump block with. She's mostly an utility player, but she even got to be the start of its own list, a ramp engine where she would keep regrowing the Primal Command that would fetch her next copy, rinse, repeat.

 And while not as groundbreaking, Vulshok Sorcerer was also a innovative card, redefining the pingers (and bringing them into the color they should have been to begin with): no more hopelessly waiting for your Prodigal Sorcerer to shred that summoning sickness! The pingers for the new era must be able to drop and get to business right away! Ultimately, she will be made obsolete by another Shaman, the more splashable Cunning Sparkmage from Worldwake (then also by Return to Ravnica's Izzet Staticaster). But she's still in the annals as the first 3-mana creature to launch the new pinger paradigm, taking the lesson of Jeska, Warrior Adept and reworking it down to Prodigal size.


Snake: +1

> summary <

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: This is actually an older version of deathtouch that is stronger than deathtouch itself, because it works even if the creature didn't deal any damage. So, while this Snake is nothing memorable, it's still better than it would be if it just was a 1/2 deathtouch for 2.


Soldier: +4

   

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Cat, Elephant, Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Raksha, the entirely forgotten one legend from Fifth Dawn, does nothing for Soldiers (not that they would ever care about a 7-mana lord). And the other Soldiers look more interested in retrieving artifacts than in actually soldiering. How is a salvager a soldier, anyway? These creature types were all over the place.


Spider: +1

> summary <

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Behold once again the excessive weight given to generic mana. You can just compare this Spider with a modern specimen for the same converted mana cost, like Skysnare Spider from Magic Origins, which gets +4 power and vigilance, just like that. Also, reach really needed a keyword.


Troll: +1

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Shaman

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: No, I won't sacrifice a forest and tap my 5-mana creature to regenerate my other dude, thank you very much.


Vampire: +1

> summary <

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: This guy is really only famous for his combo with Triskelion: he turns Trisk into a Sengir Vampire (which is something I would really like to see depicted), so he becomes an infinite pinger. Played straight, Mephidross Vampire is just too expensive, you can't justify including him in your deck just for the occasional counter.


Vedalken: +1

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: This is a powerful effect, able to both save your stuff from removal and get to recast it. The fact that he targets any permanent is juicy, since you can just pair it with a bunch of little artifacts with ETB triggers (even if he'll have to wait a few more years to cross path with the likes of Kaleidostone, Prophetic Prism, Elsewhere Flask or Ichor Wellspring). He's probably too frail and slow to be entirely effective, though.


Wall: +1

> summary <

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Little 1-drop Wall that curiously aim to be more of a removal in the form a trade than a blocker. Not a terrible idea, actually.


Warrior: +3

  

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Elf, Goblin, Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Fleshgrafter is a "discard to pump" creature that exclusively cares about artifacts, unsurprisingly. The other Warriors range from "meh" to "ghastly".


Wizard: +5

  

 

> summary <

 Related Tribes: HumanVedalken

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: The Wizards get to a good finish in the Mirrodin block. First of all, we have Trinket Mage, that would go on to become one of the most widely played cards in the block, because, as Eternal Witness simultaneously proved, card advantage on legs is awesome, and tutoring more so, even when it appears so specific (but the Mage's targets are actually many and relevant). Trinket Mage would also generate two future follow-ups: Mirrodin Besieged's Treasure Mage, who works at the opposite end of the spectrum, and Aether Revolt's Trophy Mage, who positions herself right in the middle of the previous two.

 Among the others, Vedalken Mastermind has a strong potential as a repeatable bouncer of your own permanents, and Thought Courier is a handbook looter.

 Auriok Windwalker might be too midrange and narrow for his own good, but his effect sure is powerful, as it's able not only to move equipment around at instant speed, but to circumvent equip costs entirely, and over the years, there have been more and more expensive ones, so the Windwalker is actually getting stronger over time, although he's almost never played outside of maybe Commander.

 And as far as my dislike for sunburst creatures goes, I must admit Etched Oracle awakes some degree of interest in me, possibly due to the words "draw" and "cards". Unfortunately, its future upgrade Etched Monstrosity from New Phyrexia does the concept better justice, because the card-drawing mechanic via prismatic mana doesn't kill the guy: on the contrary, it makes it bigger. By the way, how is Etched Oracle not a Golem or a Construct? What does it even mean that, according to the Grand Creature Type Update, it's just a Wizard?


Zombie: +3

  

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Beast, Crocodile

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: A grand finale, this is not. The Mirrodin block was really meaningless for Zombie.


SUMMARY

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KUMA'S TRIBAL EVALUATIONS