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By: jamuraa, Michael Janssen
May 14 2008 12:15pm
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Well, it's official. Magic Online has been a whole month since I played in the last PE, and that means four weeks without regular Premier Events. Granted, one week of that month was the version 3 blackout period, but I'm starting to get a little annoyed at the marked lack of competitive outlet for my play. I don't really like to play eight mans, not because they're not good enough, but just as a general distaste for them. I might have to man up and try out one of those new 5-3-2-2 queues which have sprouted up in the past week. I don't have to tell you, probably, but these queues are not a bad deal. Winning only half of your matches will provide you with an expected value of.. let's do the math:

Half of the time you lose in the first round, and get nothing. A quarter of the time you lose after a win in the first round, and get 2 packs. An eighth of the time you lose in the finals, and get 3 packs, and another eighth of the time you win it all, and get 5 packs. That's 1/8 * 5 + 1/8 * 3 + 1/4 * 2 + 1/2 * 0, and that equals 1.5 packs. Funny how that works out huh - it's about the same as when you play 4-2-1-1s which have an expected value of 1 pack and cost 4 tix. The extra half pack of course costs you 2 tix in entry fee. Okay, so those new fancy queues aren't exactly a good deal either, but hey, you can win more in a short amount of time if you have the tech, get lucky, or just are better than your opponents.

However, I'm not here today to talk about the new constructed queues. Today I'd like to take a look into the future, and that means Shadowmoor. Now everyone and their brother are writing about Shadowmoor right now, mostly because it's the new hotness and there is a Pro Tour in Standard coming just around the corner and people are trying to work out the secret tech that they can use. There is also a Block Constructed PTQ season coming directly after that, so it's getting the attention it deserves. But I'm not here to dish out the secret tech today, because I've been looking through the set, and I think I can predict better the other end of the spectrum - the jank. So let's take a walk through the dark depths of the new set and find some of those cards that you are sure to find littering the 4 for 1 bots when the new set comes out on MTGO. I'm strictly looking at these cards from a Constructed view, with a tilt toward Standard. Many of these are limited bombs (although some of them aren't).

Hollowborn Barghest

Now normallly a 7/6 for seven mana would be a good thing - big creatures don't generally come cheap on the mana scale, and this cycle of creatures is pretty mana efficient. Unfortunately, if you have seven mana and are playing black, you can probably get something that regenerates and/or will grow in size like Nightmare or Korlash, Heir to Blackblade. The special ability on this card isn't exactly easy to trigger. Granted, I understand that this card's ability needs to sync with Howltooth Hollow in order to sync with the rest of the cycle, but there's a reason that people weren't using that impulse land that often - emptying your own hand isn't usually a good strategy. I was trying to think of ways to abuse this card, and the best thing I could come up with that would trigger this guy consistently was Bottled Cloister, and that isn't really in Standard anymore are they?

Impromptu Raid

Free creatures are good, right? Wait, you might not get a creature. Remember, if you're playing a constructed deck, at least 20 of those cards in your deck are lands, and paying three mana to flip a land into your graveyard isn't exactly the best plan. The only things you would really want to flip from an impromptu raid would be perhaps a Bogardan Hellkite or one of those fancy new creatures with Persist. If you could somehow stack your deck to flip over a bunch on the same turn, and you for some reason had an inordinate amount of mana on the board with which to pay repeatedly.. you're probably winning the game anyway. All in all, any strategy which depends on you getting something from your randomized stack of cards to win will usually get trumped by something that is more consistent.

Knollspine Invocation

I lambasted this card a bit in my Shadowmoor Red review, and got a comment that I underrated it in limited. I would posit that I underrated a lot of limited cards in that review, mostly because I don't really know a good limited card when it comes and smacks me in the face until I've played a while with the set first. I'm definitely not one of those strategists that memorizes the common print run and recognizes signals. At any rate, in constructed, you most likely want to CAST that three mana card in your hand that deals five damage to wherever you want, or does something like destroy a land as a bonus. Damage comes at ratios a lot better than one in constructed of any caliber. As some kind of bonus, this card costs 1RR to hit the board, and doesn't do anything right away.

Puca's Mischeif

There seems to be a lot of global enchantments in this set, but I don't really like a lot of them. Puca's Mischief is interesting because it is a repeatable change of control effect, which can sometimes be powerful - just take a look at Next Level Blue's Vedalken Shackles for a cue. Unfortunately, this effect makes you trade one of your permanents for the swap, and it has to cost equal or more in order to actually do the set. What kind of strategy would you employ in order to exploit this card? Your cards would have to cost more, and not mind your opponent having them. This means that you're playing cards that are inefficient in order to try to make this work. You're also somewhat relying on the opponent actually playing permanents that you want to swap for. At least this can swap with something cheap like a Tarmogoyf on the upkeep after you play it. Too bad you can't attack with it on the turn that you get it, and they can steal it right back next turn.

River Kelpie

Now, this card could be really good. You get to draw a card every time a persist creature comes back from the dead. It's unfortunately just a little too expensive for the effect that you get. It's also quite the heavy blue commitment - and last time I checked there are only two blue cards with persist in the entire set. You can play it in blue/black hybrid perhaps, but that only ups your creature count to three creatures with persist. Splash some of the blue into a green and white deck, and you might be able to draw a bunch of cards from this guy. Then again, you're playing BLUE, draw some cards for cheaper please, or use some card selection. Blue has Ponder and (Ancestral Visions), which are much better ways of getting card advantage. Let's exploit this card though and play Haakon, Stromgald Scourge, and Nameless Inversion. You can then draw cards for machinegunning your opponent. Unfortunately it's not a viable strategy even before this card.

Spawnwrithe

Replicating creatures - they're nice, and can sometimes do broken things. We've seen a few of these in the recent months though and they haven't exactly been the caliber that would get you to a top table, or even to the third round, of a constructed tournament. This one isn't any different - if he's replicating, that means that your opponent is losing, but then again, he doesn't have any blockers around, and you just paid three mana for a 2/2 with Trample. Trample isn't good on creatures that are 2/2 last time I checked. We can abuse this card by making him hard to block, and in that case, I would have rather made something else which is larger more blockable so that the damage will go through.

Thought Reflection

Drawing cards is a great effect, and drawing two cards for every one of the cards that you normally draw is pretty awesome as well. The only problem that I have with this card is it's casting cost. At seven mana, there are some other cards that could also give you some nifty card advantage like Future Sight and have two extra mana to actually play that card that's sitting on top of your library. It also has a pretty stringent blue requirement, and blue isn't exactly a really good strategy right now. That is, outside of faeries and merfolk, and both of those decks would rather win on turn seven with seven mana instead. This is another card in a cycle of cards. I appreciate the symmetry which is presented by the amount of cycles which exist in this set, but it also generates cards like this one.

Tyrannize

Seven life for five mana is on the right side of the damage ratio, as opposed to one of our earlier cards. Normally I'm all in favor of cards that give your opponent a choice of two unfavorable outcomes, because it's like an exquisite form of torture. Browbeat is one of my favorite burn cards ever because of it's favorable ratio as well as a couple of cards if they are low on life. At two turns later and almost half of the damage that you have at the beginning of the game, this card is just a little too slow. On turn five, your opponent will probably have played a lot of the cards that they want to play. This metagame has a lot of aggro around, which means that they'll have a clock or more waiting to beat you down, and you're making them discard the two or less cards that they still have around. This puts them into topdecking mode, but that's not too far away for an aggro deck anyway. I guess this card might be okay against some Faeries because they actually like to respond to your spells, and play more like a control strategy once their inevitability engine Bitterblossom out.

Honorable Mention: Guttural Response

Guttural Response isn't a rare, so it can't qualify for jank rare status, but I would like to rant about this because it's something that has been bugging be for a little while now. This card is bad in context, specifically the context of standard and block. The reason is because it has no targets in the metagame. No one is playing blue control. That's right, no one, and cards like this are the reason why. This card singlehandedly will ensure that a deck like Guile won't be viable for the next two years. It also doesn't counter the spells that are being played at instant speed that you actually want to counter, all the Faeries. It seems to me like the power that be at Wizards don't want this archetype to be playable anymore. They already gave people a lot of ammunition against control based decks by making a whole set of cards which are basically uncounterable with Split second. Then they print cards like this, which give aggro a silver bullet in their color. Don't even get me started about Vexing Shusher

Well those are the cards that I think are the worst rares in the new set for constructed. Am I totally out of my skull here, or did I hit them all on the mark? I always welcome jeers from the crowd, just comment. I'm crossing my fingers that we will have another round of successful Premier Event testing this week, and we will see some more actual metagame for me to participate and analyze before the month is through. At any rate, you can be sure I'll be tracking the status of version 3 and keeping you apprised of the situation. If they come back, Good luck in the PEs!

6 Comments

Guttural Response by Anonymous (Unregistered) 71.182.146.202 (not verified) at Fri, 05/16/2008 - 00:32
Anonymous (Unregistered) 71.182.146.202's picture

Guttural Response is good tech for Red, Green, or R/G decks when they run into newer Faerie decks that run 8 maindeck counterspells and 11 after board.  I'd be more than happy to trade a Response with one of these counters to assure that I get my creature on the board or my burn to their face or Mistbind Clique, especially if that counter happens to be a Cryptic Command.  Cryptic Command is actually the best reason to run this card in your sideboard, because when this card drops it is such a painful tempo swing and can usual stabalize things for a realing Faerie player.  This card is stricly better than Shusher IMO because it ISN'T attached to a body, which is a good thing in a format swarming with spot removal.  Yes you MAY get more uses out of a Shusher, but chances are you won't have it there when you need it most because your opponent will be sure to deal with it before that time comes.  The overall strength of Faeries and its infestation of the metagame constitutes playing Guttural in your board if you are playing R/G Ramp, Dragonstorm, and other Green or Red decks that plan on making a high mana cost drop on one turn that swings the game, because Guttural can assure that your bomb WILL hit the table and not get Cryptic Commanded leaving you to far behind to ever recover.

River Kelpie by Anonymous (Unregistered) 24.58.199.237 (not verified) at Thu, 05/15/2008 - 11:23
Anonymous (Unregistered) 24.58.199.237's picture

Will be in a broken infinite combo reanimation deck sometime in the next couple years.  I suspect the reason it costs 5 instead of 4 is because R&D made this deck already.

Also Guttural Response is the bomb as long as decks continue running Cryptic Command.  I even got a Commandeer with one in my r/g Tarmo-burn deck.

by iceage4life at Wed, 05/14/2008 - 19:00
iceage4life's picture

I like the 5-3-2-2s because they are basically the same payout but more at stake.  Honestly running 8 mans where you plan on batting .500 makes no sense.  However if your deck or playskill puts you at all over .500 they are good to play.

 I also feel the need to point out that Sonic Boom was rendered unplayable before Response/Susher were printed.

Yeah by JXClaytor at Wed, 05/14/2008 - 13:04
JXClaytor's picture

The reason the cards are not linked is because we are still waiting for the programmer to get the files to update our image library.      

Spawnwrithe by HydraLord at Wed, 05/14/2008 - 13:07
HydraLord's picture

I think you missed on this on It seems like a really nice play on turn 2 with some help from an Elf. If Faeires doesn't kill it right away, can they really win? That trample gets you over their X/1's...it just seems like a nightmare.

Other than that, I agree with you.

helpful by Stu Benedict at Wed, 05/14/2008 - 12:48
Stu Benedict's picture

It would be helpful if you linked those cards or write out what they do. Without the key to this article, it does not compute.