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By: Godot, Ryan Spain
Oct 01 2009 12:20am
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WaitingForGodotSmallest Zendikar isn’t online yet, so perhaps an article on Zendikar limited isn’t truly “Pure MTGO,” however, using the lead time between a set’s paper release and its online release to assess the upcoming limited environment is most definitely part of being a good online player. By learning from the paper world now, you’ll be much better positioned to succeed when Zendikar arrives online.

I actually made it to the Zendikar prerelease this weekend, something that's far from a given for me—in fact the last paper prerelease I attended was for Eventide. I love fall-set prereleases, though, as they are the only prerelease (in a typical year) where everything you are playing with is new. I went in only partially spoiled, which is how I like it when I have the discipline to avoid the full spoilers—I want a good idea of what the set is about heading into the prerelease, but it’s fun to read a card for the first time looking at it in your hand instead of on a screen.

image One of the things that made this prerelease special—and one of the things that made it possible for me to go at all—was that I took my almost-seven-year-old son Oliver with me to his first Magic event of any kind. I’m raising my children as gamers, and we play everything from Settlers of Catan to Rock Band together, so it has always seemed inevitable that Magic would eventually be part of the canon. Seven felt a little on the young side, but he showed the interest and willingness, and since my alternative was not going at all, I decided why not? I explained to him that the event was scheduled for four rounds, but that we could leave after any round, and that it would be entirely up to him. I certainly didn't want his first Magic experience to be, "Dad made me sit in a chair for four hours," so I was fully prepared for a one-and-done day.

I signed Oliver up for his own DCI number and bought him into the event, then promptly dropped him, what with him never having played a game before and being only a year or so into the whole “reading” thing. He was thrilled to have his own pool, though, and poured excitedly over each card, just like everyone else at the shop. I checked his packs for "priceless treasures," but also like everyone else at the shop, he came up empty on that front. I also told him to put aside any scary cards, and a small pile of mostly black cards appeared face-down to his left.

I did my best to build my own deck while answering Oliver's many questions, and ended up with a solid greed-blue deck with the fixing to splash some removal from any of the other three colors, be it my two Disfigures, two Pitfall Traps, or singleton Burst Lightning. I didn't take any notes so I'm not even going to attempt a walkthrough of the matches themselves, but Oliver was having a great time, and when he heard that I might win packs if I played all four rounds, and that I would share them with him if I did, he happily stayed for all four rounds. What a trooper!

I went 3-1 (I always go 3-1 at prereleases), finishing third out of about 20 at the shop. I lost in the third round to the eventual second-place player, who lost in the finals to the first-place player. The first- and second-place players were both poker/Magic buddies of mine, so it was cool that my playgroup swept the medals on the day.

Everyone was friendly and having a good time, and Ollie was made to feel very welcome, which no doubt contributed to his willingness to stay for the duration. (One MTG: Pants pet peeve, though: when I pick up a card to read it, and my opponent summarizes the rules text for me while I’m trying to read the card, causing both methods of rules absorption to fail miserably. If your opponent picks up your card to read it, just let them read it. You are trying to be helpful, but you are having the opposite effect.)

Yes yes, Godot, but what about the cards?!

Sorry, right, the cards. Let me disclaim the rest of this article a bit: I've played ten total games in the format, and probably still haven't read each and every card yet. As much as you can use past cards as a barometer for some new cards (Journey to Nowhere is going to be similar in power to Oblivion Ring: it doesn't deal with non-creatures, but costs a mana less), to understand the power level of many cards in a new set, there is simply no substitution for playing them. I have some solid opinions on cards I played with or against, but a lot of it is my sense of things based on a ton of past experience informing a small amount of present experience.

Rather than going through colors, I'm going to be a little more archetypical, taking a look at Zendikar's common and uncommon allies, and its common and uncommon landfall cards.

Allies

imageSlivers are back! Kinda.

Of the eight common allies (green, white, and red each have two common allies, black and blue each have one), Umara Raptor is the only one that I’m happy to play without another ally in my deck. A 2/2 flyer for is super solid and has been welcome in any base-blue limited deck I’ve ever had. The Nimana Sell-Sword and the Oran-Rief Survivalist are a Hill Giant and Grizzly Bears without allied company: serviceable, but far from exciting.

The question is, then, how many do you need in your deck for these to be reliably good, and more than just underwhelming vanilla men?

At this point, I'm thinking it will take seven or eight quality allies in your deck to make the "+1" allies consistently great. For example, if you can play Oran-Rief Survivalist on turn two and Umara Raptor on turn three, that’s solid—you are attacking with a 3/3 on turn three, and you’ve made a Wind Drake to boot. Or, in a blue-black deck, if you’ve gone turn-three Umara Raptor, turn four Nimana Sell-Sword, you’ve made as efficient a flyer for as has ever been printed without a drawback, and you have a Hill Giant to go with it.

To see that kind of early chain consistently, though, you will need those two allies in your first 10-12 cards, which comes out to around seven or eight allies in a 40-card deck. My plan for my early drafts as I refine my take on allies is to take Umara Raptor early since I'm happy to play it anyway, and to take Oran-Rief Survivalist and Nimana Sell-Sword more in the middle of pack one if they come to me, and look to make my way to that threshold of 7+ through the remaining packs. If I finish pack one with three or more allies, I will look for them aggressively as higher picks in packs two and three. If I have two, I will see how it goes but keep an eye out. If I only have the one, I will probably bail on the ally plan.

Some thoughts on other common and uncommon allies:

image Hagra Diabolist: He seems expensive, but that's my reaction to pretty much every ally that doesn't give itself +1/+1 counters. As I read these allies, I have to keep reminding myself is that they fire again and again with each new ally that hits the table. At first blush, this guy looks like a bad Singe-Mind Ogre, but the ability triggers with every ally played, not just himself. Three Hagra Diabolists and 10 other allies is going to be a pretty potent mix against an opponent without the removal to contain it.

Highland Berserker: Another underwhelming trigger on an underwhelming body, but the archetype will need its early drops, and later on, the real ability of this guy is, "When Highland Berserker enters the battlefield, trigger every ally you control. Oh yeah, and they get first strike."

Joraga Bard: Terrible in multiples, this is more allied weaksauce whose best feature appears to be increasing your ally count for the ones that cares about the number of allies you have in play. Add up enough allied weaksauce, though, and it starts to taste like awesomesauce.

Kazandu Blademaster: Now we're talking! The blademaster is another ally I wouldn't mind as the only one in my deck, but that means he will be taken by non-ally white drafters. The cost is annoying, particularly since I see allies as a Harrow-driven, three-color-minimum strategy, which likes spells that are easier on the color requirements.

Makindi Shieldmate: Not all the +1/+1 allies are going to be big winners. All of these underwhelming allies are still going to make it into many ally decks because of how important it is to have high a high ally density, but you would pretty much always trade this guy for an Oran-Rief Survivalist or an Umara Raptor in a multicolored ally deck.

image Murasa Pyromancer: The counterpoint to Hagra Diabolist that looks like it could take over a game if its controller plays allies in front of and behind it. The high casting cost has me concerned about the ability to have any gas left in the ally tank when he finally hits without sandbagging allies in a way that leaves you vulnerable to early aggression. Still, if you can string together a couple allies in a row after he lands, you ought to win the game. It just concerns me that these expensive uncommon allies we're trying to ramp up to and take over with die to common, one-mana black and red removal spells.

Ondu Cleric: This might actually be the ally that keeps you alive long enough to make it to abusive-synergy enablers like Hagra Diabolist and Murasa Pyromancer. One life on turn two, two on turn three, three on turn four, etc., could be quite useful for the ally player looking to stabilize against aggro.

Seascape Aerialist: Clearly not splashable in non-ally decks, but that's great, it means the ally drafter should find them late. Could end games faster than Hagra Diabolist and Murasa Pyromancer if the opponent has no defense against flying.

Tajuru Archer: An unimpressive maindeck ally that will nonetheless crush souls against heavy flying decks, provided with enough allied support.

Tuktuk Grunts: How often can a 3/3 haste for five profitably attack the turn it comes into play? I'd put this guy in fourth place, ahead of the Makindi Shieldmate, in the ranking of the common +1/+1 ally cycle.

I have to say, I'm going into Zendikar drafting quite skeptical of the ally strategy, but open to being convinced. A lot of the one-shot ally effects are underwhelming and leave behind a marginal body, so it feels like you need a lot of allies in your deck before the mechanic gets abusive enough to match the power of the aggressive strategies apparent in the set (see: landfall).

I trust R&D, though, and I don't think they would have dedicated so many common and uncommon Zendikar cards slots to a heavily-linear strategy that wasn't viable in limited. There is probably an amazing four- or five-color "all-in allies" archetype to be drafted, but it seems like one of those archetypes where you really have to be the only one going after it or it will blow up in your face, because splitting up the good allies with another drafter seems like a disaster.

My early sense is that any all-in ally deck is going to be base green for the Harrows and Khalni Heart Expeditions needed to spread into 3+ colors. From there, it's going to be somewhat pick-dependent as to what your base colors are. You are going to need ally finishers, which to me means, red for Murasa Pyromancer to clear the board, black for Hagra Diabolist to go to the dome, or blue for Seascape Aerialist to win through the air. I really like blue behind green for allies, because you'll want early Umara Raptors if possible, and a kicked Into the Roil on your own utility ally seems like good times. Besides green, I would head into whatever color you find a finisher in as another base color.

While I'm not heading into Zendikar drafting specifically looking to go allies, the first time I open an obviously bomby rare ally like Kazuul Warlord, Sea Gate Loremaster, or Turntimber Ranger, I intend to force the archetype hard and see how it goes.

Landfall

19 commons and uncommons in Zendikar have a landfall ability, triggering when a land enters the battlefield under your control. That's a pretty sizeable chunk of cards going by in drafts that want you dumping lands into play. It has been all the rage this past week to come up with dream scenarios for Lotus Cobra abuse, but you don't need mythic rares to get silly with landfall. Following are some all-common, two-color landfall sequences to help illustrate the potential power of the mechanic in limited Zendikar:

imageimageimageimage

Turn One: Plains, Steppe Lynx

Turn Two: Forest, Khalni Heart Expedition, swing for 2.

Turn Three: Forest, (Lynx is 2/3), Harrow for two land lynx is 6/7), play and equip Adventuring Gear, crack the Khalni Heart Expedition, swing with a 14/15. Oh, and go ahead and have six land in play, too.

16 damage by turn three isn't too shabby for a four-spell, three-land opener containing nothing but commons. Throw in a fetch land for your second- or third-turn land drop to crank it to 18. What about red-green?

Turn One: Mountain, Adventuring Gear

Turn Two: Forest, Plated Geopede

Turn Three: Equip gear, play land, swing for 5/5 first strike, play Khalni Heart Expedition.

Turn Four: Play Teetering Peaks (geopede is 7/5 first strike), Harrow (geopede is 15/13), crack Khalni Heart Expedition (geopede is 23/25), and, I don't know, let's go ahead and play a Goblin Shortcutter with our remaining two mana to thwart that pesky blocker, or maybe give it +4/+4 and shroud with Vines of Vastwood in the face of an untapped Plains and a potential Pitfall Trap, then swing for 27.

Turn-four kill? Turn-four overkill.

Those are two pretty mind-blowing scenarios, and when you consider the components are all common and use only two colors, it's safe to say that landfall sequences along these lines will come to pass in triple Zendikar drafts with some regularity, as players will be able to draft multiple copies of the enablers.

While I didn't pull off anything quite as spectacular as those sequences on Saturday, I did have a solid sequence of:

image

Turn One: land

Turn Two: land, Welkin Tern (2-power flyers for 2, especially one colorless, are always going to be good)

Turn Three, land, Grazing Gladehart, swing for 2

Turn Four: land, gain 2, Windrider Eel, swing for 2 (ground blocker preventing profitable attack with gladehart)

Turn Five: Land, gain 2, (4/4 eel), Harrow, swing for 10, gain 4, second main cast Khalni Gem to set up more landfall, with Disfigure and Into the Roil at the ready to cast off of the gem to protect my impending turn-six win.

Note the one card repeated in all three powerful landfall scenarios doesn't have landfall written on it: Harrow. Sometimes Wizards reprints a card in a set because they have a hole to fill. The new keyword ability has already been applied to the set's Giant Growth, and reprinting the elegant Naturalize simply makes more sense than making an overcomplicated Naturalize variant instead.

Other times, a reprint just feels so at home in its comeback set, it feels like it was designed specifically for it. Terminate making a comeback in the all-gold Alara Reborn, for example. Or, Harrow reappearing in the landfall-laden world of Zendikar. Harrow is so perfect for Zendikar, it actually feels out of place in Invasion to me now, as though it had been waiting nine years for its real home to see print.

Back in Invasion block draft, where the fixing was pretty terrible by modern standards for a multicolored block, Harrow was a justifiable first pick for someone looking to make a base-green four- or five-color good-stuff deck. Fast forward to Zendikar, and Harrow will again be a justifiable first pick and an easy 2nd – 4th pick for any base-green landfall deck. It has so much going for it:

  • It fixes not one but two colors
  • It accelerates
  • It triggers landfall twice, frequently for the third time in the turn
  • It's synergistic with Grim Discovery and chains into abusive, quintuple-landfall Khalni Heart Expedition shenanigans like those described above
  • It effectively costs one mana provided you have three mana sources in play
  • It thins your deck of two land (although that may qualify as neutral or a drawback in Zendikar)
  • It's an instant, turning it into a legitimate combat trick

That's quite a list. I love landfall, I love Harrow, and I expect it to be one of my most-drafted cards in the set. Here are some quick hits on other common and uncommon landfall cards:

image Windrider Eel: I expect this to be the defining blue common of the format, with red and black mages saving their Disfigures and Burst Lightnings for this flying fish when their opponent leads with an Island. Welkin Tern into Umara Raptor into Windrider Eel is going to cause some headaches for opponents without reach or flying.

Adventuring Gear and Explorer's Scope: There's only so much room for equipment in a deck once you have a solid creature count and some tricks, removal, and card-drawing spells, but I like these cards. Both pass my first test for equipment, which is that its ability raise power, enable direct damage, grant evasion, or produce card advantage (Sword of Fire and Ice is probably my all-time favorite equipment, as it does all of the above, if protection can be considered a form of evasion).

The casting and equip costs are another plus for this pair. Relevant one-drops are hard to come by in limited, and both of these seem like solid first-turn plays for any deck, and they become excellent in a landfall deck. When you are ready to equip, the one-mana cost means you won't suffer a tempo blowout if your opponent has removal in response. They also help maximize your mana each turn by providing a use for spares you have lying around.

Another way to assess Adventuring Gear—and equipment in general—is to consider what you pay to have the equipment's ability built into a creature. For example, take away Windrider Eel's landfall ability, and you get a Wind Drake, so the +2/+2 landfall ability adds a cost of 1 to the eel. 1/1 first strikers in red are one mana, so the +2/+2 landfall ability again adds a cost of 1 to Plated Geopede. Other +2/+2 landfall creatures follow this trend of adding about one mana to the cost of the creature, and Adventuring Gear costs the same to add the ability to a creature, so it's a fair equip cost. The casting cost and the fact that it takes up a card slot generally balance out the fact that it is reusable, and can grant an ability to creatures weren't specifically intended to have it.

There's not such an easy comparison source for Explorer's Scope, but it seems pretty incredible in aggressive decks where you are reliably attacking. Accelerating, triggering landfall, and gaining card advantage on 45% of your turns is strong. On the other hand, it's a waste of space if you are on defense, but the upside on it is sky high for the right deck.

image Surrakar Marauder: This guy reminds me of Nezumi Cutthroat, and that rat was absolutely fearsome on turn two in Kamigawa block if you didn't have any Swamps in your deck. The marauder exchanges persistent fear for high-percentage fear and the ability to block. That's a great trade, and I expect Surrakar Marauder to intimidate (see what I did there?) non-black Zendikar drafters just as Nezumi Cutthroat intimidated non-black Kamigawa drafters.

Steppe Lynx: Despite it being part of one of the sick sequences above, I don't like it except as a late pick in a green-white heavy-landfall deck. The better +2/+2 landfall creatures are the ones that have relevance beyond "speed bump" when you don't have a means to trigger them, such as the eel and the super solid Territorial Baloth. Plated Geopede is better, at least being a 1/1 first striker when not being abused by green landfall enablers.

Khalni Heart Expedition: Speaking of green landfall enablers, the green expedition can clearly get abusive with Harrow, but it's not nearly as good on its own, or as a topdeck with landfall permanents in play. I'm heading into Zendikar limited a little concerned about the deadness of expedition and quest cards in the late game, but I'm ready to test to see if the tradeoff for the early-game power is worth it.

Sunspring Expedition: Even 8 life isn't enough when it does nothing else and costs a card. Could be useful as sideboard material against burn decks in Pauper, though.

Ior Ruin Expedition: I like it a lot—a half-priced Courier's Capsule, a 33% off Divination, again for the tradeoff of being a less-than-stellar topdeck. The good news for topdeck mode is, you've either drawn a spell, or you are one land closer to completing your expedition.

image Zektar Shrine Expedition: Common Ball Lightnings for and playing out some land seem like they could have a home in green-red landfall. One of the games I lost on Saturday was to this card, although it had more to do with the almost-unfair Vines of Vastwood turning it into an 11/4 with shroud in response to my kicked Into the Roil.

Soul Stair Expedition: Broken expedition record: an amazing bargain in exchange for being a terrible topdeck. The quests in general may prove to be the swingiest aspect of the format, providing game-swinging discounts for mages fortunate enough to draw them early, and frustrating blanks for those who turn them up while digging for answers.

Turntimber Basilisk: Clumsy green removal or a fragile blocker. Reasonably costed at 3, but the double green is somewhat prohibitive. I like it wearing Adventuring Gear

Baloth Woodcrasher: Where Territorial Baloth pays 1 to get +2/+2 landfall, the woodcrasher doubles up both the payment and the effect. I don't know if it's that much better than the Territorial Baloth, though, since both hit hard with a landfall trigger when there aren't blockers, and both will prompt chumping when there are.

Geyser Glider: The glider is like a Skyclaw Thrash without the gamble, since you know before you attack whether or not you have liftoff. It's quite strong for an aggressive color like red to have a part-time dragon like Geyser Glider at uncommon.

image Hedron Crab: Now this is an interesting little crustacean. In a past article, I compared running a singleton Mind Funeral to running the queen of spades, but the Hedron Crab is clearly better than that. For starters, it's a body, and it's a third of the cost. Further, where Mind Funeral could be expected to mill for about 10—not nearly enough to win a typical limited game via decking—a Hedron Crab dropped in the first few turns with 6 or 7 subsequent landfall triggers is going to mill twice the cards that Mind Funeral would. I'm still not willing to say a singleton Hedron Crab is a good play, but multiple-crab decks could certainly be viable when drafted and built correctly.

Grazing Gladehart: I wasn't sure what to make of this guy, but he made the cut in my prerelease deck, and performed quite serviceably. In the game I recapped above, though, you can see the problem with life gain on an otherwise sub-par effect or permanent: if the life gain doesn't actually affect the outcome of the game, you've simply played a sub-par effect or permanent. That being said, I will definitely play it again. He generates a large amount of life hitting the table early, he can trade with a lot of relevant creatures, and decks trying to race you will either lose that race or have to spend removal on a Gray Ogre.

Hagra Crocodile: The croc is a bit on the expensive side in the relative cost for the +2/+2 landfall ability, as a 3/1 that can't block in black should really cost about 2.5 mana. Blocking is underrated, so I don't like this guy very much.

Shoal Serpent: This may be my favorite Sea Serpent variant yet, but that's not saying much. Landfall decks should be playing green creatures that outclass this, and non-landfall decks shouldn't be excited about six-mana landfall cards that don't have bomby landfall effects. 

I hoped to hit more cards before wrapping up, but once again I find my word count growing and my time shrinking. I'll break down more Zendikar cards and archetypes next week, and leave you today with an ending (beginning?) to Oliver's Magic story.

After having fun at the prerelease, Oliver naturally wanted to learn how to play, and big sister Clara decided to try as well. I described the philosophies of each color to them, and asked each of them to pick two colors they wanted to try. In a result that would surprise nobody who knows both Magic and my children, Clara ended up in green-red, and Oliver in blue-white. I whipped together two fairly straightforward decks from tenth edition cards I had around, and dove in by refereeing a face-up tutorial game.

It went fine for about twenty minutes, until Clara decided she was bored and moved on. I took over her game, continuing to explain the game to a fully-engaged Oliver. He eventually stabilized and began to take over with card drawing, although he crumbled to the ground on the verge of tears when I resolved a Shivan Dragon. When I pointed out his Pacifism in hand, his frown turned upside-down, and he marched on to victory. He was positively beaming, and spent the rest of the day talking about his intentions to make all sorts of decks, and to start playing me with the hands hidden.

When I came home from work on Monday, my wife told me to look at the homework page Oliver had completed that night:

imageCome on, how awesome is that? He pointed out to me that some of the cards are tapped, and some are untapped. Following the "play what scares you" approach to Magic deckbuilding, he has decided his next deck is going to be "All red, with that dragon, all the good red cards from Clara's deck, plus, you know, anything else." Coming right up, son, coming right up…

I'll see you all next week!


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27 Comments

Ok, even if everyone else is by mrgeode13 (not verified) at Thu, 10/01/2009 - 01:09
mrgeode13's picture

Ok, even if everyone else is afraid to admit it, I will: that's pretty darn heartwarming. An excellent write-up, as usual. I look forward to using your vastly superior card evaluating prowess to unfairly dominate some Zendikar events.

[Baloth Woodcrasher: Where by Anonymous (not verified) at Thu, 10/01/2009 - 01:20
Anonymous's picture

[Baloth Woodcrasher: Where Territorial Baloth pays 1 to get +2/+2 landfall, the woodcrasher doubles up both the payment and the effect. I don't know if it's that much better than the Territorial Baloth, though, since both hit hard with a landfall trigger when there aren't blockers, and both will prompt chumping when there are.]

Woodcrasher over Territorial anyday... one word. TRAMPLE. Having +4/+4 and TRAMPLE off a land is great because blockers aren't going to be as much of a problem against an 8/8.

Oops! I told you I was still by Godot at Thu, 10/01/2009 - 01:27
Godot's picture

Oops! I told you I was still reading the cards. ;)

I just missed the trample part. That makes the woodcrasher insanely good, as if my opinion of green landfall wasn't high enough already, let's send the power of one of its uncommons even higher!

Baloth Woodcrasher by Anonymous (not verified) at Thu, 10/01/2009 - 01:28
Anonymous's picture

Based on your comment, I think you misread the card. It gains +4/+4 and trample, which means no chump blocking for you. I got this in my pool on Saturday and everytime it landed I won. The card is insane

awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww by plarp (not verified) at Thu, 10/01/2009 - 02:35
plarp's picture

awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww :3

Its great to play Magic with by Who me ?> (not verified) at Thu, 10/01/2009 - 03:01
Who me ?> 's picture

Its great to play Magic with Kids , My 7 years old daughter also shows interest on MTGO , i think thats a good idea to take her to some paper event..
nice preview , i will play the beta on the next few weeks so i can have good drafting when ZEN comes out :)

Very nice first by Lord Erman at Thu, 10/01/2009 - 03:15
Lord Erman's picture
5

Very nice first impressions/thoughts about ZEN draft but the coolest thing is your son's drawing! It's awesome! My daughter also shows interest in Magic cards (my real paper cards) but we have another problem: English is a foreign language for her so until she learns English, we will only look at the art of the cards and enjoy them like that.

Good job as always.

LE

I have the same language by Who me ?> (not verified) at Thu, 10/01/2009 - 04:24
Who me ?> 's picture

I have the same language problem with my kids (they speak Hebrew) we need to wait a bit.
for now i play and try to explain the game , but reading the card is very important for understanding..

Totally awesome. I really by Grisu (not verified) at Thu, 10/01/2009 - 06:22
Grisu's picture

Totally awesome. I really enjoy your writing and this must have been one of your best texts until now. Actually, I think that I liked the parts about you and your son even better than the magic content (which was also excellent as always). Thanks for sharing that story.

Great Article by laughinman at Thu, 10/01/2009 - 08:56
laughinman's picture

Well written.
But i think your son needs to improve his "S" ;)

Maybe he was being by Rick B (not verified) at Thu, 10/01/2009 - 11:34
Rick B's picture

Maybe he was being "ghetto"...?

As for Hedron crab, could serve as a nice reanimator deck enabler as well - it's 'target player' not opponent. Graveyard abuse is always fun, and can be surprising.

Excellent Article as always by Paul Leicht at Thu, 10/01/2009 - 11:38
Paul Leicht's picture
5

Excellent Article as always Godot. Your son sounds like a prodigy in the making :) 7 is probably the perfect time to catch him as it is an age of rapid learning and development. Thanks for the preview. Landfall does indeed seem to be terrific if its on your side of the board and terrifying on the other side.

Awesome! by Jacobs at Thu, 10/01/2009 - 13:14
Jacobs's picture
5

Ryan - Your articles are always awesome. I really appreciate you taking the time to write them. I'm a daddy of a 19 month old son, and I'm already eager to see what his interests are going to be. I'm hoping he's into sports and magic like his dad. He already seems to have a QB's arm, and is super smart. Thanks for sharing a bit of your personal side with us readers. Little things like that every once in awhile help us to connect with you even more. Looking forward to your next article. Thanks!

A Fellow Dad by Luke (not verified) at Thu, 10/01/2009 - 14:47
Luke's picture

Just wanted to say your article brought a smile to my face as well :)

You are one of the best by badluckchuck (not verified) at Thu, 10/01/2009 - 21:46
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You are one of the best writers for Magic around! Keep it up! And I hope your son gets better than you! LOL

awwwwww by MConstant at Fri, 10/02/2009 - 16:52
MConstant's picture
5

At first I was skeptical about an article that didn't have 27 walk through type pictures and descriptions, but this thing was great.

I would even look forward to seeing more articles like this occasionally.

Regarding Allies: I think my biggest question/concerns are these:

1. What colors are best for an ally strategy, and can we reliably run 3+ colors in this format?

2. What about the allies that are playable by themselves? Won't the other drafters be taking these as decent creatures when you really need them for your deck to get that critical mass of allies?

Regarding point 1, it seems like you have to be base G just to be able to fix for more colors. #2 seems really problematic as you could be dedicating your draft to these allies and then not even get the best ones..

Will be interesting to see how it all pans out.

Regarding Landfall:

Landfall. Land. Fall. Dang this is a strong mechanic. It's like, you typically do this anyhow, but now you are being rewarded for it. I thought your scenarios were amazing, as they involved commons only and could and will be pulled off in draft from time to time. Sick. Very notable that Harrow is a key element in many of these exchanges... Harrow looks to be a really high pick.

Landfall seems strong as a normal mechanic but ridiculous when abused properly.

I was fortunate enough to be at the same shop as Godot and his son Olliver this weekend (I have known Ryan for years but only started playing magic again after he encouraged me about a year ago). It was great to see Ollie at his first event, he was a real champ and was encouraging the whole way. Really fun times had by all and I left with far more questions than answers about Zendikar..

That picture is the best, I waz prowd is going to be like my new catch phrase for if I won or not. So awesome.

Can't wait for your first draft report!

"I was fortunate enough to be by Godot at Fri, 10/02/2009 - 17:19
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"I was fortunate enough to be at the same shop as Godot and his son Oliver this weekend."

He's being modest, he wasn't just at the shop, he's the poker/Magic buddy of mine who took first place. 2x Baloth Woodcrasher, Hellkite Charger, and Oracle of Mui Daya certainly didn't hurt his chances, but 2-0, 2-0, 2-0, 2-0 is pretty impressive no matter the card pool.

Also, mconstant and I just launched a podcast, "Limited Resources." Check it out! http://mtgcast.com/?p=2703

Excellent Article by tempesteye at Tue, 10/06/2009 - 23:48
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A pleasure to read.
The writing was terrific; clear, concise, interesting. I enjoyed it immensely.
I'm glad that your were able to convey your love of Magic (and games in general) to your son. And just wait until he realizes how good some of those 'scary' cards can be ;)
I look forward to reading much more.

Shieldmate... by Shaterri at Wed, 10/07/2009 - 13:08
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5

Great article all around! My one nitpick (hey, I have to nitpick *something*) is that I think you're underrating the Shieldmate and quite possibly underrating Sell-Sword a bit. Neither is amazing, but I think both of these guys suffer (more than average) from having misleading printed stats; nobody thinks much of a 2/2 for 4, or a 0/3 wall for three. But 'Hill Giant with upside' is actually a bit above-average, and Shieldmate is Horned Turtle with upside (be honest, you never *really* attack with your Turtle), and as you've pointed out x/4 is really good in this format of Geopedes; x/4s with an actual power are that much better. He's probably better in the Skies deck than in Allies, since he holds the ground well and occasionally even gets to pack an extra counter onto your Umara Raptor, but I'd still say he's better than e.g. Puma.

Thanks for the by Godot at Wed, 10/07/2009 - 14:05
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Thanks for the comments.

Maybe I'm underrating shieldmate--good ground cloggers always have a place in decks that intend to win through the air--but defenders without flying are such utter blanks against decks trying to kill *you* through the air or with intimidate. Horned Turtle in this set can at least strap on Adventuring Gear, Explorer's Scope or Trusty Machete and crash in for a solid effect. I like Kraken Hatchling more than shieldmate in a non-ally WU deck for that reason (and the two-mana discount).

I described Nimana Sell-Sword as "serviceable" as the only ally in the deck, but needing 7+ allies to be consistently great (with 2-6 allies putting it somewhere between serviceable and great). I still stand by that. In a dedicated ally deck where most of the creatures are allies, it is excellent.

after playing the beta of by ShardFenix at Wed, 10/07/2009 - 14:52
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after playing the beta of zendikar, i can say there are some insane strategies out there. allies are really strong and surprisingly monored is really strong. But then i had warren instigator, goblin guide and assorted other gobbos with 3 burst lightnings

Reading Mark Rosewater's by Godot at Mon, 10/12/2009 - 13:43
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Reading Mark Rosewater's article today reminded me that Harrow originated as a Tempest card, not as an Invasion card, as I suggested in this article. I'd totally forgotten about that! I played a lot of Invasion limited, so I've always remembered Harrow as an Invasion original...

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