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By: Lord Erman, Nafiz Erman
Sep 27 2011 2:02am
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My Innistrad
Part I
by Nafiz Erman

Hello dear readers and welcome back to Rogue Play. A new page in our Magical lives has been opened. Rotation in Standard is about to happen and we are about to lose Zendikar block and Magic 2011 in Standard. But in return, we are receiving a new set full of goodies; we are about to enjoy Innistrad.

The first thing I must say about this set is that it is BY FAR the best set of Magic in terms of flavor and art. Surely I saw marvelous art on Magic cards before but Innistrad is something different. The art on each and every card of the set is amazing. I mean, there are some cards in the set which are really below average but their art really makes me want to play them!

Art is amazing even on the "meh" cards.

And the flavor of the set is also incredible. WotC really did an awesome job in covering all the aspects of horror and also managed to put them all in a beautiful set with a very nice story. So apparently every time Richard Garfield gets his hands on some new Magic product, the result happens to be something amazing! Keep doin' it Mr. Garfield, we love 'ya!

So yes, this set clearly gets six fireballs out of five from me in terms of art and flavor. I am truely and totally and absolutely amazed and impressed.

But there is also one other aspect of Magic cards and that is playability. Which is maybe the most important part of a Magic card. "Appeal" is surely very important but no matter how beautiful the art of a card is (or the flavor of it), it will only see play if it's worthy of playing. And in this first part of my My Innistrad articles, I will start talking about the new cards of Innistrad and will try to evaluate them.

In my previous "My Set name" articles, I made some bold statements and when I look back I see that there were some cards that failed me horribly (what was I thinking when I named Realms Uncharted as the best Green card of Rise of the Eldrazi?!). But thankfully some of my other predictions weren't that bad (yup, Pyromancer Ascension turned out to be a very powerful card, Sarkhan the Mad saw serious play eventhough LSV said otherwise, and I'm glad that I named Splinter Twin as the best Red card of Rise of the Eldrazi).

And now let's see together how accurate my predictions will be this time.


Walking Corpse

Most of you didn't even notice this card; some of you didn't even know until now that it even existed. But what we actually have here dear readers, is a first in the whole history of Magic. Yes, Walking Corpse is actually that important. 

A first in Magic's history.

So finally Black received its Grizzly Bears. This card may not seem much to you at first but in reality it's incredibly important for Magic as a whole. So far only Green and White had their "2/2 for two" vanilla creatures and now Black joined them as well. By the way, I'm talking about  here and not . Because for  you can get cards like Kalastria Highborn, Black Knight or Dauthi Slayer.

But if you pay  and want to get yourself a 2/2, then all you got until now was cards like Fledgling Djinn, Spineless Thug, Exiled BoggartFallen Askari or Filthy Cur. Now Black has a 2/2 for without a drawback. This is a dramatic change in my opinion and I just had to mention it here.

Now we only need to have our upgraded versions of Coral Merfolk and Goblin Piker.


Cloistered YouthCivilized ScholarCellar DoorLudevic's Test SubjectDelver of Secrets

Just above I said that Innistrad is by far the best set of Magic in terms of flavor. And these cards show you why. I mean, look at Cellar Door for example! You open the door -and you know you shouldn't do that- and right behind it you see a Zombie! Or look at Civilized Scholar. I simply cannot think of a better way of converting Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hide into a Magic card. And hey look, they also did The Fly as well!

Perfect job WotC. Simply perfect!


Rooftop Storm


And here we have something for Johnnies. And just because a part of me is a Johnny, this card immediately started my engines so to speak. Well, there are actually two ways you can go with this card. You can play this enchantment and then play all your Zombies for just like the card tells you to do.

Or you can combine this with Conspiracy and cast your Emrakul, the Aeons Torn for ZERO!!!

Oh and please note that Conspiracy is a Timeshifted card meaning it's legal in Modern. You may think that this sounds too casual but I believe that with the help of some mana ramping, it's perfectly possible to cast Conspiracy on turn four. Then on turn five you will play your Rooftop Storm and right after you do that, you can get all your creatures out for zero.

Cards like Kozilek, Butcher of Truth or even a simple Mulldrifter will get you even more cards and thus more creatures. Just don't forget to get your Urabrask the Hidden out so that your army can swing the turn they come into play.


Army of the Damned

To be honest, I don't think that this will see serious play due to many facts (its casting cost being one) but it doesn't mean that it's an extremely powerful card. Considering you can somehow manage to cast this, it will basically mean "Day of Judgment the table now or die the next turn" for the opponent.

As I said, I don't expect to see this card in tournament winning decks (a Massacre Wurm in response to this would be very humiliating) but I DO expect to see it A LOT in my future Commander games. In Commander eight mana is not much (it's even nothing when you have your Cabal Coffers active), and there this card will most definitely be a superstar. I have no doubt about it at all. 


Prey UponBramblecrushAmbush Viper

Yay! Tons of great Green removal. Bramblecrush is basically a very nice and upgraded Creeping Mold, Prey Upon will be crazy in a heavy creature deck but the real winner here is Ambush Viper in my opinion. WotC first tried this idea in Alara Reborn and printed Winged Coatl but back then the amount of removal in Standard was crazy and that poor flying Snake never saw any play. But times have changed and I do believe that Ambush Viper does have a chance to see some constructed play now.

First of all the casting cost of Ambush Viper is perfect; there was (and always will be) a big difference between two mana and three mana. And Winged Coatl was a two colored creature whereas Ambush Viper doesn't have that problem. So I cannot speak for Standard, but I'm sure we'll see this Snake creature in Block constructed.

And now mono Green has a whole new look. Beast Within is still in Standard. Oh and the best Green removal of all times is also still in Standard:

Without doubt, the best Green removal of all times!

And now we have even more. I don't think Bramblecrush will replace Acidic Slime but the other two, especially Ambush Viper, have potential. So yes, mono Green has a whole new look. Mono Green doesn't mean "thirty eight pointy eared creatures plus twenty two lands" anymore. Which is nice for a change, don't you think?



There will be a lot of Werewolves in my My Innistrad articles and this is just the first one. As we know, to transform a Human Werewolf into a pure Werewolf, most of the time we have to technically skip our turn. Of course our Werewolf creatures will transform if our opponent doesn't play a spell on his turn, but we just can't rely on this. So basically we have to assume that they will do all they can to prevent us from transforming our Werewolves. Which leaves us only one option; to play nothing on our turn so that our Human Werewolves can transform into pure Werewolves.

And this is where Moonmist comes in handy.

But Moonmist has another use as well. Even if we're not playing any Werewolves in our deck at all, we can still play Moonmist as another copy of Fog. As you know Rites of Flourishing has been reprinted in M12 as well as Fog and maybe, just maybe, Moonmist may also see play in a TurboFog deck that has zero Werewolves in it. 


Reaper from the Abyss

What is the easiest way of achieving Morbid these days in Standard? Yup, the answer is activating your own Birthing Pod of course! So I do send my Acidic Slime into my graveyard and get me this. And then at the end of my turn, the reaper will "take one soul" from my opponent's part of the table. If I luckily have a second pod, I will then use it during my opponent's turn and sacrifice a Birds of Paradise this time. The result? Yup, another soul from my opponent's army will "fade to the otherside". Do I like it? You bet I do!

Oh and you better be careful with this demon because he may end up eating your own souls(!) if your opponent has no creatures around! 



Most probably you weren't expecting to see this card this low in my list, but here it is. Nevermore surely is a good card but it could have been a lot better if it costed instead of . Three mana is a lot and especially in Modern, where this card will be needed the most, it will always arrive too late. So all in all, this is a nice sideboard option against decks that rely on one single card to win (such as Pyromancer Ascension for example), but I think we have better more playable options in Modern.

And in Standard I cannot see a reason why one would want to play this. Surely at least in theory you can name Tempered Steel with it and simply have a much more relaxed and relatively easier game against that Steel deck. But again, this enchantment costs three mana to cast which will be most of the time simply too late.

It's nice to have Nevermore (it really is!), and I really want to be wrong about this card, but I don't think it will see a lot of "hot" Magic action.

I would gladly apologize if it turns out that I'm wrong about it, but as I said, I don't think I am.


Unburial Rites

This is absolutely not the best resurrection spell ever printed (it's not even close) but the problem here is not the quality; it's quantity! We simply didn't have anything playable around (and no, Marshal's Anthem wasn't playable) and this is the reason why this one excites me.


Cackling CounterpartEvil Twin

WotC surely loves Clone and these two are perfect examples of this fact. Phantasmal Image was a very nice Clone variant, as was Phyrexian Metamorph, and now we have these two.

Cackling Counterpart is interesting because it's an instant with flashback. Imagine this with all those hexproof creatures around. Angelic OverseerDungrove Elder? The new invisible man called Invisible Stalker? Yes, there are lots of options around.

And as this is an instant, you can play this at the end of your opponent's turn and copy your Sun Titan for example, which will bring back Phantasmal Image copying the Sun Titan, and then on your turn you can now "go to town" with those three Sun Titans!

As for Evil Twin,  an Esper colored deck built around Venser, the Sojourner would be very fun with it for starters.

But also the fearsome  Birthing Pod deck might try this one as well.You can "pod this out" and copy your opponent's Wurmcoil Engine AND kill their Wurmcoil Engine with it. Then you can sacrifice pod your Wurmcoil Engine and get you your two tokens as well as Sheoldred, Whispering One. Wouldn't it be nice?


Kessig Cagebreakers

Oh look, a Green Hero of Bladehold... kind of... in a way... sort of. And I like it!

People on various forums are already building their new Birthing Pod decks and already putting this one as a one-of in it, and I can see why. At least in theory you can "pod it into play" when the time is right (the right time = when there are lots of creatures in the yard) and if your opponent allows you to untap with it, it's basically "gg"; or at least something very close to it.

It will also be very interesting in ISD Block as well. A  deck can dump a lot of creatures into its graveyard in no time, and then even just one single swing with this one will mean "gg"; for sure this time!

Besides, you can also pair this one with Essence of the Wild for some casual silliness!


Geist-Honored Monk

She would have been a lot better if only she had flying instead of vigilance. But even without flying, this new Cloudgoat Ranger looks promising.

Cloudgoat Ranger meets Kithkin Rabble. 

She will absolutely be the superstar of a  Tokens deck. White gives the deck this one, Hero of Bladehold, Blade Splicer and Elspeth Tirel. And Blue has Venser, the SojournerPhantasmal Image and Phyrexian Metamorph and it has the new Clone variant called Crackling Counterpart. And all those cards with Geist-Honored Monk can only be described as "ridiculous"!


Parallel Lives


Just above I said that  Tokens may have a chance in the next Standard season. But now look at this one! This card alone is a good reason to at least consider Green for a splash for this deck. At four mana this "half Doubling Season" looks serious enough to me. Of course you can also pair this one with Army of the Damned to do some really silly things!

Joking aside, this enchantment seriously pushes  Tokens. Surely the  version also has some nice toys, but look at what Green is offering here! Besides, Parallel Lives and Mentor of the Meek together with any token generator will be simply nuts. Either Garruk (any version of him) or Elspeth Tirel or both would be perfect. Tons of creatures and tons of cards! 

So yes, do not underestimate Parallel Lives. It may look like a nice Commander toy at first, but it has much more potential than just being a casual toy.


Mikaeus, the Lunarch

To be honest, what interests me the most about him is his casting cost. Oh and his power and toughness as well. Surely his TAP abilities are nice too but the casting cost is more important. Because I'm sure that he will be great in Modern as you can fetch him with Ranger of Eos and sink as much mana into him as you can. Which, when played at the right time, will be huge!

Not your usual one drop.

He also reminds me of those Green Hydras in a way and I can also think of playing him in a Midrange deck. And in that kind of a deck, his TAP abilities might have a use. Maybe even as useful as Steel Overseer was in its own deck. And that is exactly what differs this creature from those "mindless" Hydras of Green. They are big bodies and surely they are scary, but most of the time you can even stop them by chump blocking them with your tokens. But this one effects the board in a different way.

Most of the time he will come down with a Hydra-sized body and then if the opponent doesn't deal with him immediately, he will start pumping your other creatures. And that dear readers, is not something you can do with your Hydras.

Also a food for thought: How about using him in a deck with some proliferate cards? Pump your creatures with Mikaeus, the Lunarch and then proliferate and make them even bigger. Sounds like a decent idea to me! 


Divine Reckoning

There are two things about this new Wrath of God variant; one good and one bad thing.

1- It has flashback, which is extremely important. So now, even though we will dedicate only four slots to mass removal in our decks, it will feel like we're playing with eight. And that's good.

2- Divine Reckoning doesn't kill everyone on table. The best creature of your opponent will survive Divine Reckoning. You know, the one over there, the one you really want to see dead; that one sadly won't die. Just like it happens with all cards that give your opponent a choice, you will once again get the worst bargain here. Meaning your opponent's two Birds of Paradises will die but his Primeval Titan will survive. And that's bad.

So even though this Wrath of God variant isn't Martial Coup or Rout or Hallowed Burial, it will still see play just because you can flashback it which is a huge bonus.

Especially in ISD Block, Divine Reckoning will be the king of removal most definitely.


Stony Silence

Oh look, Null Rod is now a White enchantment. Interesting! At the very least Enchantress decks in eternal formats would love to have this one in their sideboards. I have zero knowledge about Classic and how playable Enchantress decks are in that format, but in Legacy I can think of many reasons why one would like to have it in his sideboard.

And let's think about why we would need Null Rod in more "younger", non-eternal formats. At first it looks promising in Standard against Birthing Pod decks as well as decks with Swords. But upon closer examination and some careful thinking, I personally come to the conclusion that Torpor Orb is still a better hate card than Stony Silence. Surely Torpor Orb cannot shut down Swords whereas Stony Silence can, but I think I will still continue with Torpor Orb.

The only deck this card can really hurt in Standard is that Puresteel Paladin equipments deck.

If that deck ever becomes a serious deck (which is very likely), then we can start seeing Stony Silence in sideboards instead of Torpor Orb. But until that happens, Torpor Orb is the better sideboard card.


Full Moon's Rise

This is actually a very good card and I can understand if some of you would rate it higher than I do. So basically this is a card that saves the Werewolf player from Day of Judgment which is quite important. Mass removal is the biggest fear of any Aggro deck but now Werewolves have a serious answer to them.

But this card is not a simple protection from sweepers; it's also a half-Rancor for every Werewolf you have out there! The +1/+0 part is not that important but the "trample to all" part is actually what matters. So when "full moon rises", you will not be able to stop those Werewolves with your mere 1/1 tokens. You will need to find a way to deal with them. And that will be a problem because Full Moon's Rise protects them from sweepers!

So yes, this card is very important. I'm placing it here at number twenty four just because I like playing Control and this card will be my biggest enemy in my games against the Werewolves.

Oh and please also do note that those Werewolves are Human Werewolves before they transform. So Full Moon's Rise protects them and pumps them even before they transform!



Now this is a counterspell that makes me very happy to see coming back. If I'm paying three mana for a counterspell, then it should be either this one or Forbid or Hinder. Those three deserve that one extra mana I'm paying for them. Cancel does absolutely not! 

And let's wait and see how the return of Dissipate will impact Standard. 


Kessig Wolf Run

All of those new nonbasic lands with an activated ability are very good but the best of the bunch is surely Kessig Wolf Run.


It's surely an upgraded version of Skarrg, the Rage Pits but that "upgrade" here is something very serious. During late game, Kessig Wolf Run even turns your Birds of Paradise into a vicious predator! Which actually scares me a bit.

Looking at Kessig Wolf Run, I do understand why WotC brought back Ghost Quarter. This land can be very dangerous and can turn any late game top-decked "mana dork" into a possible game finisher. Which is most probably the worse case scenario if you're playing Control. This land MUST BE dealt with and Ghost Quarter therefore will be important.

Speaking of those new nonbasics (I'm not talking about the new duals here of course), I must also say that even though they all are nice, none is as nice as Kessig Wolf Run. Gavony Township and Moorland Haunt will be played in token decks surely. Nephalia Drownyard and Stensia Bloodhall both will also see some play in some decks, but it's just Kessig Wolf Run that worries me a bit.


Bloodgift Demon

I placed this Demon here at number twenty one, but in reality it is my favorite card of Innistrad. Yes, I said my favorite and no, I'm not drunk!

I have always been a big fan of Phyrexian Arena and having it back in this new form and shape feels great. And now it even has legs; oh and wings too! So yes, this is clearly my favorite card of Innistrad. It doesn't mean that it is the most powerful card of the set though; it's just the card I like the most.

I really don't know whether or not this Demon will see play in Standard where he has to compete with the Titans as well as Consecrated Sphinx, but for ISD Block I have some very sinister(!) plans. His body is decent, his mana cost is acceptable and "payable", and sets a clock of four turns for the opponent. And in the meantime he gives you cards! Simply awesome.

In two weeks I'll write my ISD Block article and there I will show you how I intend to use him. I'm sure you'll like the idea.

And now, just before I get to the "Wrap Up" part...


NUMBER #20,5
Moldgraf Monstrosity

Okay now I'll do some speculation. Hereby I'm declaring this card as the most important sleeper card of Innistrad.


Basically this card is clearly designed with Birthing Pod in mind. Just "pod this into play" after sacrificing your Wurmcoil Engine, attack with it and then sacrifice your Moldgraf Monstrosity to Birthing Pod and... well, and do nothing!

What will you get after you sacrifice this? Surely the "get two random creature" part of its game text hurts a bit as all you can get could easily be two Birds of Paradises as well. But there is also the chance that you may get your previously "podded" Wurmcoil Engine and Phantasmal Image back to the battlefield. But that's not the point; the point is what will you get from your deck? What good eight mana creatures are there? 

Well, as a matter of fact there are only two eight mana creatures in Standard as of now and they both aren't exactly playable ones. 

Birthing Pod won't need these.
Liege of the Tangle Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger

None of those two are playable in a Pod deck. And this is why I named Moldgraf Monstrosity as the biggest sleeper of Innistrad. This card will not be played until the next two sets of this block will give the Birthing Pod deck a playable eight mana creature. And when that happens, if that ever happens, Moldgraf Monstrosity will become a very important part of Pod decks; maybe even more important than Sheoldred, Whispering One.

So my advice to you will be to get your copies now while their price will be "dirty cheap". I'm 100% sure that there will be a bomb eight mana creature somewhere in the next two sets (could be even in M13, who knows?), and then you will thank me!



And this is where I will end part one. The cards I talked about this week were all very interesting and I'm sure that most of them will see play in one or another format. Most of them will be seen in ISD Block, but cards like Kessig Cagebreakers, Full Moon's Rise, Divine Reckoning, Kessig Wolf Run and Geist-Honored Monk even have the potential to be seen in Standard lists.

I like most of those cards personally but the ones I'm eagerly looking forward to play are Bloodgift Demon (as I mentioned above) and Rooftop Storm. They both look gorgeous to me!


My 'Innistrad', Part II

Next week I will go over the remaining cards of Innistrad and will conclude my set review. Is Snapcaster Mage really as good as people think he is? What do we have to think about the new Red Dark Ritual? Are the Werewolves really playable? What crazy things can we do when all our creatures cost  less to cast? Are the new Liliana and Garruk playable cards?  

We will talk about all of those things and more next week dear readers.
And one last note: The card you think will be at number one next week is not at number one. I actually fall in love with another card. More on this next week!

And as always, thanks for reading.

See you online,
Nafiz Erman, aka Lord Erman


Sadly today of all days by Paul Leicht at Tue, 09/27/2011 - 08:26
Paul Leicht's picture

Sadly today of all days Gatherer.Wizards.com is down (along with much of the rest of the site) as people are working on stuff so all the links do not work at the moment. Hopefully later this will be fixed.

I love the idea behind storm conspiracy (aka Zombie apocalypse) I look forward to designing something along these lines.

One thing I caught here that I am sure you did not mean: "If I luckily have a second pod, I will then use it during my opponent's turn and sacrifice a Birds of Paradise this time." No, you could do this on your turn but pod is done at sorcery speed.

I too am happy to see Dissipate back as I like having the option to play real counters. Particularly in an environment where countering something does not usually mean it is gone for good. Exile is really important imho.

Where is your podium??? I miss the podiums as a summary.

Innistrad Flavor by Fred1160 at Tue, 09/27/2011 - 09:18
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I also think the flavor of the set is good, but they definitely had some misfires.
Fortress Crab? That was the best they could do?
At the prerelease, we were discussing the similarity of some
of the names in the set to real-life places.
Does this mean anything? Probably not, I just threw that out there for free.

just a note: birthing pod by StealthBadger at Tue, 09/27/2011 - 09:55
StealthBadger's picture

just a note: birthing pod only works at sorcery speed. So your reaper from the abyss shenanigans aren't quite as exciting as you suggested. Still pretty cool though!

Also, I think what's most exciting about unburial rites is that if you mill yourself, you don't mind hitting your fatty and your reanimation spell, because it flashes back!

"what was I thinking when I by Kumagoro42 at Tue, 09/27/2011 - 15:01
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"what was I thinking when I named Realms Uncharted as the best Green card of Rise of the Eldrazi?!"

Eh, I had forgotten about that one! :) I remember being kinda convinced by you about it. I still have my four copies somewhere, although I never played with them a single time! :)

Everybody makes wrong calls, anyway. I think your choice for the sleeper is interesting (btw, even Splinter Twin was a big sleeper, it was just a casual card until Deceiver Exarch showed up; in fact, I bought 4 of them for 0.1 each, then sold months later for 4 tix. Good times).

My most recent prediction success story has to be Consecrated Sphinx. In the beginning, everybody - you included! - doubted it could be even played, let alone become a staple. But I had seen right, and ended up buying my full playset for a little more than half the current price of a single copy!

I knew twin was big waiting by Paul Leicht at Tue, 09/27/2011 - 18:08
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I knew twin was big waiting its time until they fixed extended. But even so I didn't expect exarch.

My choice for a sleeper card by ArchGenius at Tue, 09/27/2011 - 15:10
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My choice for a sleeper card is Prey Upon. When I first saw Prey Upon, I thought it was a moderately playable limited card. Then I remembered that Phyrexian Obliterator and Wurmcoil Engine are in standard, and now I'm beginning to rethink things. Fight is a very powerful keyword ability and I can't wait to see if there is a "fight" equipment in the next set.

That's true - especially for by Kumagoro42 at Wed, 09/28/2011 - 13:45
Kumagoro42's picture

That's true - especially for Wurmcoil (life gain + deathtouch + I don't care if your titan will kill my wurm). In Obliterator's case, that would be very sweet but I don't know if the standard manabase will allow a green splash in what would need to be a nearly monoblack deck. We'll only have 4 Innistrad dual for that. Terramorphic + forest doesn't seem a good plan when you want to hit 4 black mana on turn 4.

There's also Sphere of Suns by ArchGenius at Wed, 09/28/2011 - 13:53
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There's also Sphere of Suns and Traveler's Amulet.

Traveler's Amulet (such as by Kumagoro42 at Wed, 09/28/2011 - 14:00
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Traveler's Amulet (such as Mycosynth Wellspring as well) doesn't prevent you for drawing a forest when you need a black mana source for sealing the deal with the Obliterator, which is what I would try to avoid.
And we just lost Prophetic Prism too.
Sphere of of the Suns is viable.

Birthing pod. by Paul Leicht at Wed, 09/28/2011 - 14:18
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Birthing pod.

Unless we are talking about by char49d at Wed, 09/28/2011 - 22:13
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Unless we are talking about Pauper, Prey Upon is unplayable. Not only is it a blank when you have no board presence, but you can get blown out by removal in response to it. There is no reason to play cheap removal if you are going to use it after you cast your 4 or 6 drops, and you will rarely need removal in these instances.

I think Geist Honored Monk and Mayor of Avabruck are the two most likely cards to see widespread play that aren't being heavily talked about. Poor man's Cloudgoat Ranger and Bitterblossom might be good enough.

I totally agree about mayor by StealthBadger at Thu, 09/29/2011 - 11:16
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I totally agree about mayor of averbruck. Geist honoured monk would need a very very specific deck to pop up for her to be good (note that it is a her. I thought female monks were nuns?).

I see mayor being used in a tarmogoyf role, i.e. a 2-mana finisher for control decks.

"Mayor" is the new "King" by apaulogy at Thu, 09/29/2011 - 11:19
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In my testing, the Mayor is quite ridiculous in pretty much every deck that can have him.

I think "Bitterblossom" is a fair comparison, Jimmy.