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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Jul 03 2008 7:35am
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Eventide Preview Card: Designing a Bomb Rare

Designing a card for a Magic set is quite tough. I know – I have tried it, on occasion, and I have been an official Wizards playtester. The full creation, design, balancing and tweaking is work. Making a list of what you want on a cool card is much easier. Let’s do that.
 
The first step is deciding whether you want to make an instant, sorcery, enchantment, artifact, creature or some mix of the above. Any of these can be cool, but creatures have just a bit more cache'. Let’s make a creature. (And the card I get to preview is a creature, so that works out pretty well.)
 
The first choice for making a cool rare creature is deciding whether to make it big and splashy or small and easily castable.  Both options can create very good, highly playable creatures. Dark Confidant and Tarmogoyf are great examples of the little guys, while Darksteel Colossus, Cloudthresher and Platinum Angel are examples of the big'uns.
 
Personally, I like big critters. Let’s go big.
 
The creature has to have a reasonable casting cost. Creatures like Krosan Cloudscraper are true fatties, but you will never get to 8.5 pazillion mana in a normal game. In practice, you want a really powerful, game-ending fattie to have a mana cost in the five to six range. More than six mana mean you have to cheat it into play (usually via some form of reanimation, or a spell like Tooth and Nail.)   You can also have a fattie that costs far less, but that usually involves some stupid disadvantage that completely nerfs the card – Sky Swallower and Deep-Slumber Titan are great examples of cards that have amazing stats to mana cost ratios, but are completely hosed by their disadvantages.  
 
Occasionally, a creature comes along with a disadvantage that turns out to power a great combo. Worldgorger Dragon is a perfect example: it is either completely unplayable or the core of an infinite mana engine that can go off on turn one. Creatures with these sort of potentially breakable disadvantages are generally either 1) total trash or 2) part of an annoying combo that most players will just hate playing against. Let’s not go there.
 
So, the target so far is a fattie with a converted mana cost of 5-6.
 
The creature should have good stats. It should be reasonably tough to kill, and have the ability to end the game in a few hits.  That means either a power or at least 4 – making it a five turn clock. More is better, but less than that and it suddenly falls into the realm of Redwood Treefolk and other late draft picks.  
 
The creature also needs some evasion.   A reasonable power is useless if it cannot connect with your opponent’s face. It needs flying, unblockability, fear, shadow – heck, even horsemanship. (For those of you who may not have mastered horsemanship, it was included in the Portal III expansion, which was an Asian-themed set. Horsemanship is basically like flying: creatures with horsemanship can only be blocked by other creatures with horsemanship. Point is, it’s evasion.)
 
Finally, the creature needs some nifty special ability. Without that ability, the above list describes Air Elemental or Mahamoti Djinn. While these are fine creatures, they are really not all that special.
 
Oh, yes – throw in some good art. The card should look cool.
 
So, here’s what we need to have:
 
·         A creature
·         Converted mana cost of 5-6
·         Good stats
·         Evasion
·         A useful ability
·         Cool art
 
And here’s what we actually have:
 
 
I think this fills the bill.
 
The first question, when I saw the card, was whether the Shroud ability was really any good in this metagame. After all, we have True Believer, which is completely unplayable. Then I thought about the deck I took to Regionals last month. It was a BR aggro deck that opened with some small beaters, but won the game by throwing burn spells at my opponent’s head. Since True Believer died to every one of my burn spells, it was irrelevant. 
 
Spirit of the Hearth survives every burn spell I had in that deck. True, I could kill it with certain combinations – but the opponent’s deck would, presumably be doing other things in addition to Spirit of the Hearth. The odds of being able to handle something like Spirit, plus the rest of the a synergistic deck, were not good.
 
Then I had a really bed thought. I imagined playing against something like Quick N’ Toast deck, beating through all the defenses, draining the opponent’s counters and firing off the final, lethal burn spell to the head.
 
Only to have my opponent use Makeshift Mannequin back into play and counter my spell.
 
Shroud seems pretty good.  Of course, what Spirit of the Hearth has is better than Shroud. True Believer could prevent you from playing a lot of useful spells that target a yourself.   For example, having True Believer in play when Ancestral Vision resolves means your opponent gets the cards. (Don’t laugh, I’ve seen it happen.)   Ancestral Vision works just fine with Spirit of the Hearth, however.
 
Here’s another reason that Shroud will be important in formats with Eventide:
 
 
Target player discards a card.  Next turn, the opponent discards a land, pays B and target player discards another card.
 
Did you see that part about removing Raven’s Crime from the game when it is played with Retrace? No, me either. Raven's Crime is the Energizer Bunny™ of discard cards: it just keeps going and going.
 
Now imagine coupling this with Crucible of Worlds. In return for playing your lands from the graveyard instead of your hand, you can power this again and again. 
 
Did I mention that there is also a burn version of this. It’s called Flame Jab.
 
It’s another reason that Shroud is going to be good.
 
Let’s look at how Spirit of the Hearth would fit into the existing metagames. True, they may change a bit once Eventide is released, but not all that much. More importantly, since we don’t have a full spoiler, we have to use what we have – and what we have is the current metagame.
 
Limited Play
 
In limited, a 4/5 flier for six mana is a great card, even if the ability were “Cards named Squire cannot be played.”   This is a limited bomb even without the Shroud – and the fact that it is in the best color combination going (U/W – the colors of Silkbind Faerie and Steel of the Godhead) certainly does not hurt.
 
The Shroud ability is also important.
 
Black, in Shadowmoor limited, pretty much sucks. The one playable archetype is a mill deck, which revolves around Drowner Initiate and Memory Sluice.   Both of those target a player –and they can’t target you when Spirit of the Hearth is in play. 
 
The other “playable” black card is Cinderhaze Wretch, which can be useful hand destruction. When Spirit of the Hearth has your back, it is just an overpriced 3/2.
 
In RB and RG builds, one of my favorite ways to win is Ember Gale. I have won literally dozens of Shadowmoor limited games (and lost a few as well) when Ember Gale suddenly made the declare blockers step irrelevant. Unfortunately, Ember Gale targets a player – or no, with Spirit of the Hearth hanging around.
 
Other prime Shadowmoor finishers are equally hosed when the opponent cannot be the target of spells or abilities, including Jaws of Stone, Flame Javelin and Corrupt.
 
If I’m white, or even if I can splash for WW, I will be quite happy to open Spirit of the Hearth in a Shadowmoor / Shadowmoor / Eventide draft. Opening one in a sealed pool will be even better.
 
Block Constructed
 
The big deck in block, at least for now, is Faeries. Let’s look at what Faeries can do to you when Spirit of the Hearth is in play.
 
Well, first of all, Mistbind Clique is less of a problem. The backbreaking ability is “tap all lands target player controls.” Perfect – if you opponent resolves a Mistbind, your opponent will have to tap out.  Mistbind Clique also loses to Spirit of the Hearth in a fight (unless Scion of Oona intervenes, so watch out for that.)
 
Thoughtseize and Cryptic Command’s “tap all creatures” options are shut down by Shroud.  (Okay, Cryptic Command's tap all creatures should target a player, but it does not.  Wizards wanted to make sure that Cryptic was da nutz.)
 
Nothing in the current Faeries build can kill Spirit of the Hearth. Nameless Inversion can shrink it, and Cryptic Command can bounce it, but it will take at least two cards to get rid of it. Faeries does have Eyeblight’s Ending and/or Shriekmaw out of the sideboard, but that’s about it. 
 
Getting Spirit of the Hearth in play may be a challenge against Faeries, but if you do, Faeries is in trouble.  About their only out is Sower of Temptation, but when you are only worried about one card, you can build around that. Crib Swap seems like a fine answer. 
 
Looking at recent PTQ Top 8 decklists, the next up-and-coming deck may be Reveillark / Makeshift Mannequin.   That deck does not have the infinite combos that the Standard  card pool provides, but it is still a decent source of card advantage. However, nothing in the current Reveillark builds can actually survive a fight with Spirit of the Hearth. With a Spirit (or two – they are not Legendary), you can hold off any of the Reveillark deck’s creatures.  That leaves just eliminating the Reveillark card advantage. Once again, Crib Swap can help, as can Wheel of Sun and Moon, to name just one on-color option.
 
The third big block archetype, at through the first month of PTQs, is the Kithkin deck with Mirrorweave.   This is a very fast white weenie deck, but one with a nasty little trick (Mirrorweave targeting Wizened Cenn to end the game.   Spirit of the Hearth may be a bit slow in this matchup, but if you untap with it in play, you should win. Just remember to keep mana up to Crib Swap the Cenn when they hit it with Mirrorweave (and hope that they are not smart enough to make everything a Spirit of the Hearth instead.)
 
The rest of the decks have not been putting up all that good of numbers so far. Quick N’ Toast, however, appears to be making strides. Spirit of the Hearth does not do a lot of great things to this deck, but it might fit into this deck. It’s worth testing.
 
All of the other archetypes (Elementals, Shamans, Merfolk, RB Aggro, etc.) have just not had enough strong finishes recently to make them worth analyzing. That may change, and part of that change may be that some decks adopt Spirit of the Hearth. Time will tell. 
 
Standard
 
The last big Standard event was Grand Prix Buenos Aires, which happened last weekend. Let’s look at the top eight for that event.
 
The winning deck was a GB Elves / Rock deck. It had the usual mix of beatdown elves and so forth, plus some really good non-elves (*cough* Tarmogoyf * cough*).   It also had Profane Command to the head as a finisher. That’s not quite so good when Spirit of the Hearth is giving the opponent Shroud. 
 
Spirit of the Hearth cannot stop a GB Elves deck all by itself. However, a mix of Spirit of the Hearth, Teferi’s Moat and some countermagic to protect those two should stop Elves cold.
 
The second place deck at GP Buenos Aires was a Gassy Knoll deck, which features Pyromancer’s Swath, burn spells and Spinerock Knoll.  Spirit of the Hearth has only one thing to say to this deck.
 
Hahahahahahahahahahahaha
 
Or maybe
 
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
 
Spirit of the Hearth gives you protection from their deck. It say “Opponent, you have no chance while I remain in play.”
 
You may need something like a Whispersilk Cloak and/or Pact of Negation to make sure they can’t burn Spirit of the Hearth out, but if they can’t, that’s game. Their only hope is to cast enough burn spells to get a high storm count and the make a bunch of Goblin tokens via – Empty the Warrens – which will be painful when the only legal target for the burn is their own face.
 
The third place deck was another Rock deck, and the fourth was Faeries. I addressed both of these above. 
 
Fifth place was a GR deck. The GR deck has only two ways of getting rid of an a Spirit of the Hearth – double Firespout or being able to block with Cloudthresher.   Otherwise, five (or six – they run Kitchen Finks) attacks by Spirit of the Hearth will be game over.
 
Sixth place was Quick N’ Toast. Once again, Spirit of the Hearth does not do a lot against this deck (other than attack and block), but the big cat might be a very good addition to this deck. The special Shroud works well in Quick N’ Toast: Careful Consideration targets, but you can target yourself while Spirit of the Hearth is in play. Wall of Roots, Careful Consideration and Makeshift Mannequin can combine to ensure that you have Spirit of the Hearth in play as early as turn four. That’s not at all a bad thing, and could be backbreaking against some decks.
 
The last two decks in the Buenos Aires Top 8 were both Reveillark decks. The Standard versions do have the infinite combos, and they can bounce all your permanents (including you cat), so they are problematic. The best on color options are probably still Crib Swap and Wheel of Sun and Moon, which can shut off the combo. With it off, the only card that can win a fight with Spirit of the Hearth is Greater Gargadon, but you should be able to play around that. Besides, the mana bases in block and standard are so amazing that you really don’t have to limit yourself to on-color answers.
 
Extended
 
Well, this may not be the format for this card. Six mana is a lot. On the other hand, if you could reanimate or otherwise cheat this into play, it could be very good. Being immune to spells that target you could be really good against any of the storm decks, and against burn decks. The problem, of course, is that the big cat costs six mana. That is a lot for Extended.
 
In short, I don’t know. The format will change a lot next fall, with another new set and a big rotation. We will see. Spirit of the Hearth is a big, expensive, powerful tool. We will have to see whether the expense  is too much to justify the power.
 
Conclusions
 
Let’s recap. To be cool, a rare creature needs  to have:
 
Converted mana cost of 5-6: check
Good stats: 4/5 - check
Evasion: flying - check
A useful ability:  Super-Shroud: good in limited, Block and Standard for sure, Extended – maybe,  that’s a check.
Cool art: well, look for yourself.
 
 
I’m looking forward to opening the cat in drafts and limited, and starting my testing. 
 
I just hope the MTGO Eventide release events work better than the Shadowmoor mess. 
 
PRJ
 
“one million words” on MTGO
 
 
 

7 Comments

by whiffy penguin at Mon, 07/07/2008 - 13:18
whiffy penguin's picture

omg how origenal to bash a creature that can be killed. listen buddy everything dies. are you looking bor a card like this.

Retarted good creature     0

retarted good creature is all colors, has shroud, can not be countered, haste trample, poisoness 10, if placed in a graveyard from anywhere must be put into play, and has a swiss army knife.

                                                                                     6/20

 

is that good enough? or is the fact that you cant equip a warhammer to it make it unplayable?

by Anonymous (Unregistered) 76.66.68.32 (not verified) at Sat, 07/05/2008 - 08:12
Anonymous (Unregistered) 76.66.68.32's picture

Yeah it's the perfect counter to a 1 mana discard spell.  All you need to do is play land for 6 turns praying he doesn't make you discard your 6 mana 4/5 creature (already overcosted compared to the dieties)

by Anonymous (Unregistered) 98.242.113.148 (not verified) at Sun, 07/06/2008 - 11:21
Anonymous (Unregistered) 98.242.113.148's picture

Here kitty, kitty, kitty..... meet my friend Terror.  Waste of mana.

by Anonymous (Unregistered) 75.68.218.147 (not verified) at Fri, 07/04/2008 - 12:05
Anonymous (Unregistered) 75.68.218.147's picture

I used to like mtgo, but now i have a non-inflatable girlfriend

by Anonymous (Unregistered) 68.3.77.26 (not verified) at Fri, 07/04/2008 - 16:36
Anonymous (Unregistered) 68.3.77.26's picture

I like it, I think it's going to make an impact.
limited: 6 mana is easily castable in limited and it's a big flyer with a good ability that must be answered immediately.

Constructed I'm not so sure, it will be played in block constructed for sure I'm not convinced it will be in standard though, and it is way too expensive to be played in extended. 

by SpikeBoyM at Thu, 07/03/2008 - 09:00
SpikeBoyM's picture

It's a flying Simba!

by hamtastic at Thu, 07/03/2008 - 10:35
hamtastic's picture

Cool, With Windbrisk Heights mana costs in white decks are largely irrelevant.  Which means that any card just needs to be important to the deck to see play.  I'm not sure if what this card protects against is enough to give it play, but I can see a lot of fun casual uses on this guy for sure.