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By: Cheater Hater, Vincent Borchardt
Sep 07 2016 12:00pm
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Welcome back to the Modern Flashback Series! Though I don't know if the exclamation point is warranted here, as it's by far my shortest article in the series so far—there's a reason I chose this week to write my initial 2016 Prize Pack article. That could be bad timing though, as the MTGO Announcements this week allude to a “special limited time League event” being announced Wednesday. The timing means it should be the traditional “paper-to-MTGO lag time” Cube for Kaladesh, but it could be a way to surprise-release Conspiracy 2 cards and get them on MTGO in time for Eternal Champs, especially now that a Bant Stoneblade deck with Leovold, Emissary of Trest Top 16-ed a SCG Legacy Classic. The other good news for this series is that finally updated with everything, up through Conspiracy 2—there are a couple of glitches (the Oath of the Gatewatch Expeditions are still missing, and Standard is still Khans-forward), but presumably those will be fixed in the near-future, and it means the links in my articles shouldn't break anytime soon. Anyway, on to Magic 2011.
After the excitement around Zendikar block, Magic 2011 was an attempt to continue the trend in the resonant core sets people enjoyed in Magic 2010. The main difference is that M11 was the first core set to include a non-evergreen mechanic. However, that's a lot less exciting now, as the mechanic chosen was Scry, which has now become evergreen—heck, Scry only appears on five cards in M11 (most of which are blue), while it appears on ten cards in Magic Origins (spread through all colors but white). There is also an effort to promote the Planeswalkers (which are still the Lorwyn 5 at this point), as they each have a common and uncommon spell aligned with them. Otherwise there isn't much to cover, so much so that I'm going to link to the M10 Review—seriously, over 40% of the non-rares are direct reprints from M10, and that doesn't count all the reprints from previous core sets (or other sets we've covered in the Modern Flashback Series). That's what sinks these early core sets, despite the potential: most of the “rank-and-file” limited cards are the same from year to year, and while that's an inherent problem with core sets (as you can't just use the new mechanics to vary the basic effects), the later core sets will get better with that (especially as the “guest mechanics” become more meaningful for limited). Anyway, onto the colors!
Infantry Veteran Assault Griffin Ajani's Pridemate Roc Egg
Commons Uncommons
Unfortunately, white is one of the colors hit most by the repetition—15 of the 29 cards are reruns, and standouts like Blinding Mage, Pacifism, Stormfront Pegasus, Serra Angel, and Armored Ascension are among them. One important card is Infantry Veteran, which promotes aggression in the color (along with Inspired Charge ). There are also a lot of common fliers, as generic cards like Assault Griffin and Cloud Crusader are joined by Squadron Hawk, which unfortunately doesn't have as many payoffs as when it appeared in Eternal Masters a few months ago. Moving up to uncommon, Ajani's Pridemate is fine as a bear, but there isn't much support around it (Child of Night and Brindle Boar are fine, but the best enabler in white is Tireless Missionaries, and that isn't saying much—please don't play Ajani's Mantra). Roc Egg is also good, but only becomes great once you have sacrifice outlets (more on that later).
Augury Owl Aether Adept Jace's Erasure Air Servant
Commons Uncommons
As would be expected from the color with Scry, blue has become the color of card selection—Foresee is just as good here as in Future Sight, Preordain is better than Ponder in limited, and Augury Owl upgrades the completely unplayable Sage Owl to a quality pick. Aether Adept introduces a large tempo component to blue when combined with Scroll Thief and Mana Leak. Mill also gets a large boost, as while Tome Scour isn't playable on its own, Jace's Erasure gives you a sustainable source of mill, and both cards are common. At uncommon, Mind Control and Sleep return, but Air Elemental is upgraded to Air Servant, which trades a single point of toughness (which does make it weak to Lightning Bolt) for an easier mana cost and ability to dominate the skies.
Quag Sickness Liliana's Specter Stabbing Pain Reassembling Skeleton
Commons Uncommons
Black continues to want to be purely black, as Quag Sickness and Corrupt directly scale off Swamps (though Quag Sickness is fine in a two-color deck), while Liliana's Specter gives you a great three-drop if you can stomach BB early. On the rest of the removal front, Doom Blade and Assassinate return, but Stabbing Pain is a personal favorite as a Melvin, as it borrows tapping from Black's Planar Chao's color pie to make the standard -1/-1 for B interesting. At uncommon, only three cards aren't from M10 (and one of those is the upgrade of Megrim to Liliana's Caress), but Reassembling Skeleton is worth mentioning, as it's one of the reasons why the pair of Bloodthrone Vampire and Viscera Seer are better than expected in this format.
Chandra's Outrage Act of Treason Fire Servant Chandra's Spitfire
Commons Uncommons
You may remember how I ravaged red in the M10 set review, and unfortunately not much has changed: Lightning Bolt and Fireball are still bombs, and while they're joined by Chandra's Outrage, the rest of the set is warped around those removal spells, especially the creatures (the best common creature might be Vulshok Berserker). However, the biggest change comes from a card that isn't even new: Act of Treason was downgraded to common (setting a new trend for temporary stealing effects). While Act of Treason by itself is still a fine aggressive card, the fact that black has both Bloodthrone Vampire and Viscera Seer means that red/black is an actual archetype, as we'll cover in a bit. Up at uncommon, the pair of Fire Servant and Earth Servant are both decent creatures, Chandra's Spitfire is an okay creature (especially for red) worth building around (even if most of the enablers are cards you want already), and Shiv's Embrace is swingy, but makes your terrible creatures worth something by turning them into dragons.
Cultivate Yavimaya Wurm Garruk's Packleader Plummet
Commons Uncommons
Green returns to its ramping roots, as Cultivate is much better than Rampant Growth for getting to six or seven mana, Yavimaya Wurm and Duskdale Wurm are better creatures to ramp into than Craw Wurm and Enormous Baloth, and Garruk's Packleader gives you added cardflow when you're wasting cards on ramp spells. Other than that, the main benefit for green is the introduction of Plummet, which is easily maindeckable if you have no other solution to fliers. The one problem is that there are a lot of worthless green commons—sure, Wall of Vines is a decent improvement on Wall of Wood, but in exchange Dryad's Favor and Primal Cocoon are even worse.
Juggernaut Gargoyle Sentinel Crystal Ball Warlord's Axe
While the “lucky charms” are still here (joined by fellow near-worthless lifegain card Elixir of Immortality), there are actually some decent artifact creatures this time around—sure, Stone Golem isn't anything special, but Juggernaut is as strong as always, and Gargoyle Sentinel is actually good as well. As for non-creatures, Crystal Ball is slow but very good, and while Warlord's Axe looks awful, it's not awful in a format of fliers.
Now it would be time for some archetype talk, except that there isn't much to talk about, as most of the archetypes are the same as Magic 2010. The main differences are that green's ramp plan is a lot better (which makes the green/blue deck more-cohesive than M10) and red is a lot better overall (replacing Seismic Strike with Chandra's Outrage makes the two-color red decks a lot better). However, the biggest change is that the black/red deck moves from a color combination where all your removal is stolen from you to an actual archetype built around the combo of Act of Treason and Bloodthrone Vampire/Viscera Seer. The combo is clearly strong, especially when combined with the rest of the removal in red and black, but I don't know what the numbers should be, especially of Viscera Seer, which isn't a great card in isolation.
That's all for Magic 2011—it's boring, but at least it lets me spend more time on the interesting sets. Speaking of which, next week we rejoin a plane in crisis with Scars of Mirrodin.

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