Archive for September, 2010

Scars of Mirrodin Set Review

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Alright, I’m gonna do things a little differently this time. Frankly, I don’t care to evaluate every single card this time around, because many of them aren’t worth talking about. You already know undercosted creatures are good in limited and that removal is even better. This has always been the case, but I did it anyway because, at the time, no one else would. Instead, I’m going to only talk about the cards that I think are worth talking about (Which has to include all the rares), followed by some thoughts on the set as a whole. And lists. Everybody loves lists.


Elspeth Tirel – This is an incredibly powerful card. I don’t think anyone has attempted to dispute this fact, and they’d be wrong to do so. I don’t believe it’s the best planeswalker in the set, but it’s going to be the one with the strongest showing out of the gates. Be it draft, standard, or EDH, this card will always have a home.

Glint Hawk – This card makes me want to build a constructed white weenie deck with Memnite in it. No, I’m not joking. In fact, it’s one of the five decks I’m currently testing for states. A non-legendary 2/2 flyer for a single mana who’s only drawback is that you also have a 1/1 in play (Or Mox Opal) seems pretty damn good.

Indomitable Archangel – This will maintain some popularity because it’s an angel and in a white EDH deck can protect your equipment and such, but it’s really disappointing for a mythic rare. Still a first pick cause, hey, 4/4 flyer for 4!, but very disappointing as a card.

Kemba, Kha Regent – This is another card I’d first pick in draft just because of the abundance of equipment in the set. Someone’s going to try to utilize it in standard, but it’s too slow and inefficient for that format. However, I think Raksha’s going to have a lot of competition as the hallmark of any cat or equipment based EDH deck.

Leonin Arbiter – This is the best attempt they’ve made at this card so far, because it only costs two mana and it’s also a bear (Metaphorically). A lot of people are saying what a great sideboard card this is, and to those people I have one question: Why aren’t you running it main deck?

Myrsmith – Another really high draft pick. Somebody’s going to do something stupid with this card in constructed as well. It’s going to be infinite and stupid and I’m gonna punch them in the dick.

Razor Hippogriff – I really like this card for EDH and for draft, but especially for EDH. I like the idea of popping a Disk, then recurring it at the steep cost of gaining life and having a 3/3 flyer.

Revoke Existence – Don’t wait for the metagame to form. Just put this stupid card on your sideboards for states. You KNOW you’re gonna need it. I also like this card from a design standpoint to clear up any confusion about why green gets Naturalize but white can’t have Disenchant.

Soul Parry – I love the wording on cards like this. It’s like you’re trying to negotiate a trade or something:
Me: “This trade looks good, but can you throw in a damage prevention spell?”
Maro: “Sure. How about a white instant that prevents damage from some creatures?”
Me: “Hmm…that might work. How many creatures can I prevent?”
Maro: “I dunno, one or two. Whatever. Just trade me that fucking Phelddagrif already!”

Sunblast Angel – This card is definitely going to see some standard play, and is a ridiculous bomb in limited. I like the card when it was Righteous Fury and I got to gain life for the creatures that died. I even liked it when it was Guan Yu’s 1,000-Li March that just destroyed the creatures. But to get that effect on a 4/5 flying body for the same cost? Every U/W control deck should be running two of these, and they should be running Venser as well which will make it terrifying to run up against.

Tempered Steel – I will be excited about this card as soon as they give me some artifact creatures to be excited about.

True Convinction – A powerhouse in both limited and EDH to be sure. Too slow for my taste for constructed, especially since, unlike the somewhat similar Finest Hour, it requires heavy white instead of being part green which allows you to easily ramp with a Lotus Cobra. Someone will try, someone might even top 8 with this at states by catching someone off guard, but it’s probably just a win more card in constructed.

Argent Sphinx – If you’re running a deck that can ensure you have three or more artifacts, this thing is amazing. It’s a better Rainbow Efreet. However, that requires jumping through a lot of hoops and I’m confident from my design/testing thus far that this won’t be worth the trouble. In limited, however, metalcraft will be much easier to ensure, so this could still be a high pick. And by could, I mean 4/3 flyer for 4, so it is.

Dissipation Field – I love this card for EDH, since it’s just the blue equivalent of No Mercy. Seems strong in limited as well, but for constructed the power level just isn’t there. In fact, it could work against you still take the damage before bouncing the creatures, so while you die slightly slower, your opponent won’t be able to overcommit into your Wraths as easily.

Grand Architect – This card is amazing. Honestly? I think it does too much. I’m not complaining, but this is a really strong card both as a Spike and a Johnny. This is a big part of another deck I’m testing, which is also the deck that appeals most to my Johnny/Spike/Timmy sensibilities.

Inexorable Tide – Oh, I guess I promised I’d talk about every rare, huh? Umm…sell them for 50 cents while you can cause soon they’ll be bulk?

Quicksilver Gargantuan – This will be at least mildly popular as an EDH card, but I’m pretty unimpressed. Seven mana is just too expensive for this. It’d be a cute creature to cheat into play, but there’s better options, and if you’re cheating it in early than there’s unlikely to be anything worth copying.

Riddlesmith – Much like Myrsmith, I’m gonna hate this guy. The constant looting is going to make stupid combos far too easy. I’m looking at you, infinite mana myr!

Shape Anew – I’m torn on this. I want it to be good, but I know it’s not. I can’t think of any efficient ways to get an artifact token into play without actually running artifacts in your deck, and I can’t think off an artifact worth cheating into play this way. Polymorph wasn’t even that good, and that cheated in Emrakul. What does this guy have to offer? In extended you can cheat in an Inkwell Leviathan, but that’s still harder than cheating in Emrakul, so why bother?

Steady Progress – This card has a lot of potential, and I expect it to see some serious play. It’s a blue burn spell against a poisoned opponent, it buffs your planeswalkers, and it buffs those creatures that Ajani just put +1/+1 counters on. And it’s an instant. Oh yeah, and draw a card.

Thrummingbird – This seems really solid for limited. There’s going to be counters everywhere, and this guy could be a real difference maker. If he was black then it’d be great for constructed, but it’s not.

Trinket Mage – This is a proven commodity, but the reprinting of this guy just vindicates me for my seemingly unhealthy love with how awesome Brittle Effigy is.

Volition Reins – Fuck you, Mind Control! Volition Reins is where it’s at. One of the big problems with Mind Control is that if your opponent just swung at you and you topdeck the Mind Control, it doesn’t help. This solves that problem by untapping it! Oh yeah, and now you have a way to steal Planeswalkers. That’s probably useful too. Unless you steal Koth. He’s not gonna do shit for you, blue mage.

Carnifax Demon – This is pretty ridiculous in limited. Like game over ridiculous. Seems like a solid card for mono black control, but MBC has been given lots of solid cards and people refuse to play it, so whatever.

Exsanguinate – Looks like my famous “Swamp-Go” multiplayer deck has a new win condition to replace Bond of Agony! This is no great shakes for anything beyond multiplayer, but I’m still really happy they printed it. Me, and five other people (Not my friends though, they’ll be pissed).

Geth, Lord of the Vault – This guy is a pretty awesome EDH general. He’s big, he’s evasive, he gets more stuff for you, and he even mills so you both have an alternate win condition and ensure you’ll keep having things to steal! Game over in limited, not gonna see the light of constructed.

Hand of the Praetors – If poison is playable, this guy will be in the decks. Is poison playable? We’ll find out October 7th at states, cause everyone’s gonna try. This card also gets bonus points for creepy artwork!

Ichor Rats – If poison is going to be viable, this is possibly the most important card. I hate that it’s 1 toughness, but it gets past a ground stall to get that last point of poison in since black and green don’t proliferate.

Memoricide – This is a really important card to print. First of all, it helps stop combo decks which is handy, but mostly it will force decks to diversify their threats. Most of the decks in the current meta (Which is meaningless now) would be absolutely wrecked if you removed a key card from it. I’m not sure how much play this is going to see in the end, but I think its very existence will help guide the format in a positive way; the fear of Cranial Extraction is often more deadly than the Extraction itself.

Necrotic Ooze – This card has a lot of potential. That’s the nicest thing I can say about it at the moment, but that’s still a nice thing to say. Now what activated abilities do I actually want to copy?

Painful Quandry – Every time this card is ever cast, it will result in someone posting on Twitter with the hashtag: #edhdouchebaggery

Plague Stinger – Did I say Ichor Rats was the most important poison guy? Actually it’s this one. This is the one that will actually get in there on turn 3 and get double Groundswelled because who the fuck has a flyer that early?

Psychic Miasma – This is a well designed card. It creates some interesting tension for the target, and is guaranteed to (eventually) hit a business spell. I don’t think it will see play, or minimal anyway, but I like it.

Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon – This may be black’s new favourite general for EDH. Why try to kill someone with 21 general damage when you can do it with 10? This is also strong enough in limited that it’s worth playing even without a dedicated poison strategy.

Tainted Strike – This card is so weird. I mean, why does it exist? Poison is an all in kinda deal, so your creatures should already have infect if that’s how you wanna win. I guess it helps round out a limited deck if you were unable to draft enough infect creatures, and I guess they were obligated to print something like this, but blah.

Arc Trail – This card is ridiculous. I want to play this card. I want to wreck people with this card. Seeing this card spoiled is the reason I designed one of the five decks I’m testing.

Cerebral Eruption – I like that this spell can’t whiff, but why return it to your hand? Why not just keep digging like Erratic Explosion, Kaboom!, and Explosive Revelations? I mean, sure you can hit your opponent and all his guys for 15 for only 4 mana, but if that happens then your opponent fucking deserves it for playing Emrakul anyway.

Hoard-Smelter Dragon – I would draft this because it’s a dragon which means it’s a big flyer, but honestly? Viashino Heretic is better. WAY better. In fact, why couldn’t they just reprint him? Or Mox Monkeys. Those things were awesome! Oh, even better, they could reprint the Sex Monkeys! How did that art even sneak by R&D? And what’s up with Clergy en-Vec getting “blowies” (As you Canadians say) in the middle of a church service? Wait, what were we talking about again? Oh yeah, that dragon. It sucks. Get it out of my face.

Finally they printed a red Planeswalker worth playing. He costs four, he has three relevant abilities, and he’s a pain in the ass for control to deal with. That being said, if anyone uses him to cast Destructive Force on turn 5 and then drop their 5th mountain, I WILL punch them in the face. If they do this whilst declaring that is is indeed “hammer time”, I will ensure that they will never have children.

Kuldotha Phoenix – This is the one card in the set for which I think it’s worth jumping through the hoops of metalcraft. A Hell’s Thunder that you can unearth EVERY TURN is amazing.

Molten Pysche – Winds of Change + Sudden Impact = Worthless Bullshit. I do like that they just used a still from Fox’s “Alien Autopsy” for the artwork, though.

Spikeshot Elder – Do we have enough playable goblins for Sligh? If so, this guy is better than Cursed Scroll if you have a Goblin Chieftain out! Oh wait, no he’s not, cause unlike Cursed Scroll, he gets Wrathed away with the rest of your shit leaving you dead in the water. It’s an improvement over Magus of the Scroll, but if they’re so intent on giving us that effect again, why not just reprint Cursed Scroll? Oh yeah, cause it’s too good. So stop giving us half-assed replacements.

Tunnel Ignus – See also: Leonin Arbiter.

Asceticism – Awesome for EDH, too expensive for anything else. Also, a real word. Who knew?

Engulfing Slagwurm – I really dislike this card. I’d much rather just have a 7/7 trampler for 7 than this ability. It’s cute with Lure, but that’s about it.

Ezuri, Renegade Leader – I’m sure this will see play, but it feels so weird that he doesn’t give +1/+1. Even so, I’m sure it’s better than I want to give it credit for, which is pretty much not at all. It’s saving grace is that there’s enough elves that you can use him as an EDH general. Then again, green has better creatures to play than a lot of the elves.

Ezuri’s Brigade – Show me how you consistently reach Metalcraft by turn 4 when he’s attacking without wasting 16 slots in your deck with subpar cards, and I’ll be impressed by this guy. I’m sure it’s absolutely lights out in limited though.

Genesis Wave – This seems good in an elf deck as a finisher. You can power it out quickly with Elvish Archdruids and flip over a ton of permanents, hopefully hitting an Eldrazi Monument. I also like that it says you MAY put ANY NUMBER of them into play, so you can still run your 4x Nissa and not fear killing it to this. I don’t think it fits in any other decks right now, but we shall see. Maybe this is what those stupid Myr decks will do with their infinite mana.

Liege of the Tangle – Here’s how every game with this guy is going to go outside of limited:
Player 1: “Swing with my 8/8 trampler, bitch!”
Player 2: “Sure, I’ll take 8.”
Player 1: “All my lands are 8/8’s now! Your fucked!”
Player 2: “Wrath.”

Putrefax – Oh Festergut, you were always my favourite. Next to Putrefax, that is. I still refuse to weigh in on if poison is viable at the moment, but if so this guy will surely be a big part of it.

Untamed Might – So first we had Howl From Beyond. Then they decided the ability was red and that it needed to be worse. Then it disappeared. Now it’s back, but it’s green and it’s better. Whatever. That said, it’s a strong limited card, and, umm…it’s a strong limited card.

Withstand Death – Don’t be fooled by the word “Indestructible” on this card. I know that’s an exciting word, but now that bury effects no longer exist, this is just a functional reprint of Death Ward. Were you excited when you first saw Death Ward? I didn’t think so.


Venser, the Sojourner – When Jace was spoiled, it was to mixed reviews. When I first read Jace, my immediate reaction was that it was the best planeswalker they had printed (You can check my Worldwake set review if you don’t believe me). When Vesner was spoiled, it was to mixed reviews. When I first read Vesner, my immediate reaction was that it was the second best planeswalker they had printed. Just sayin’.

Argentum Armor – I like this for EDH and if Scars limited is going to be slow enough for you to use this it’s pretty devastating, but unless they make a reasonable way to cheat equipments onto guys to pair with Stoneforge Mystic, this is far too expensive for constructed.

Chimeric Mass – Good limited card and a nice improvement over Chimeric Staff, especially with proliferate. Hell, it could even be a constructed finisher since you can Wrath and then animate/swing with this.

Clone Shell – Somewhere someone is trying to combo with this in standard. They really shouldn’t be.

Contagion Shell – Amazing for limited, and that’s about it. I understand why it has to be so expensive, but it’s SO expensive!

Darksteel Axe – Any Phylactery Lich’s best friend. Still don’t think the Lich is playable yet, but it’s a start. Nice replacement for Trusty Machete for any white weenie decks using an equipment toolbox. Indestructibility on the equipment is well worth losing out on the 1 toughness boost. Also, sick in limited, especially if you’re going for poison.

Darksteel Juggernaut – Meh. I don’t even want to play this in my Karn EDH deck because it will force me to be on the aggressive at all times, and I don’t like to draw that kind of attention to myself.

Etched Champion – Wow, these artifact rares are really unimpressive so far, huh? Even with metalcraft, it’s just your choice of Phantom Warrior or a slightly improved Wall of Shadows. It’s sucks that they wasted awesome art on a crappy card that’s a throwback to an amazing card and is only rare because it’s too good in limited to show up at uncommon.

Grindclock – I like this. If it cost even a single mana to activate either ability I would hate it, but between Voltaic Key and proliferate, this can get out of control pretty fast. You know, unless they’re running Emrakul. Break out those black spellbombs!

Horizon Spellbomb – Wizards, I would’ve forgiven you if you gave us a strictly better Wayfarer’s Bauble.

Infiltration Lens – THIS IS NOT THE NEW FUCKING SKULLCLAMP. Yeah, it costs 1 to cast and 1 to equip and you can draw 2 cards, but you have no control over whether or not you draw cards without resorting to playing cards that are so bad they would negate any card advantage you could gain. I’m not saying it’s a bad card, cause it’s decent, but I swear to God if one more person compares this to Skullclamp I may have to choke a bitch.

Kuldotha Forgemaster – More ways to cheat artifacts into play! And this one is even slower and less efficient than the rest! This card is total crap, but my prayers go out to @JayBoosh who is still trying to recover from the horror induced coma he suffered after reading how “broken” this card is.

Livewire Lash – I like this card a lot, and I think it’s being underrated. Then again, I like it for poison decks because it’s best in decks where you actually will cast spells on your own creatures, but I think this has potential regardless.

Lux Cannon – This is mythic? I thought mythics were supposed to be huge, splashy cards like Godsire or All is Dust that have an immediate impact on the game, not cards that are either too slow to be useful or require jumping through ridiculous hoops that water down your deck’s design to make them passable. Maybe I’m not cut out for The Great Designer Search afterall.

Memnite – I always wondered how long it would take for them to print this. I knew there was no reason they couldn’t, I was just wondering if they’d ever bother. I mean, a 1/1 for 0 isn’t really worth it. Compare this to Khalni Garden. This is 1/1 creature that costs you 0 mana and 1 card. Cards are you most important resource, so since it’s vanilla that’s kinda crappy. Khalni Garden, however, effectively gives you a 0/1 for 1 mana and 0 cards. I’ll gladly pay a mana I wasn’t going to use that turn anyway for a creature, even if it is a 0/1, so long as it doesn’t cost me any cards! But yeah, if it weren’t for metalcraft and things like Glint Hawk and Kor Skyfisher, this would have 0 chance of seeing play. Of course, there are those things, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this does see some play.

Mimic Vat – I’m going to build a casual deck that drops this thing down, then Flashes Emrakul and proceeds to annihilate every turn. Seems fun! This has some potential for constructed, but it’s 4 am so I don’t dare try to concoct a viable example.

Mindslaver – It’s just like last time, isn’t it Steve! I love Mindslaver, even if it is responsible for me calling my opponent a “fucking douchebag” in front of the judge who would later train me. To be fair, our match went to time and he Mindslavered me on both turns 1 and 3 of our 5 turns. He couldn’t win the match, but it was irritating. And hilarious. Let the record show I was also laughing when I called him that, as was everyone else, so I wasn’t given a warning or anything.

Molten-Tail Masticore – See, this is what a mythic rare should look like, Mr. Lux Cannon. This thing is strong. REALLY strong. Stronger than the original Masticore. Not entirely sure what to do with this yet, but I do know that mono-red finally has an answer for Kor Firewalker that they could maindeck if they wanted.

Mox Opal – This will see standard play. Maybe it should, maybe it shouldn’t, but it will. It also seems like an auto include into Vintage decks, where it will be promptly restricted. It’s a neat card with cool art, but as a Mox it’s a little specialized for my liking.

Myr Battlesphere – This card’s silly. I think it’s pretty awful, but that’s not gonna stop someone from casting it turn 4 at states and killing someone turn 5 with it.

Myr Galvanizer – Because Wizards doesn’t even want to make you think to find infinite combos anymore.

Myr Propagator – This is a fun card and should be really popular for casual, much like Sprouting Phytohydra. I still wish they had named it Myr Fornicator though.

Myr Reservoir – Because Wizards want to make you think about tribal aggro decks either.

Nihil Spellbomb – This is an important card because Relic of Progenitus is gone. I like the design on the spellbombs where anyone can use them this time, but they reward you for being in a specific colour.

Nim Deathmantle – Definitely strong in limited since it’s repeatable recursion. Really expensive though so won’t see constructed play, but I imagine this will be pretty popular for EDH, especially as a way to recur your general for cheap.

Platinum Empirion – I guess this is better than Platinum Angel cause it’s harder to kill? It’s really just the same thing though, except you can still lose the game if your opponent has a “you win” card. Oh, and I WILL get both this and Yawgmoth’s Bargain in pay at the same time, and I will laugh. I guess that’s something the angel won’t let you do.
#edit: It has been brought to my attention that this doesn’t work. My fault for not bothering to read reminder text. Now I hate the card cause I can’t even do anything funny with it.

Precursor Golem – People are dicking around with this card trying to find stupid combos like Rites of Replication kicked and stuff (Which IS hilarious for EDH or casual). I think people are missing the important part of this though: this guy is basically a 9/9 for 5. That’s a pretty damned good deal. With the exception of a couple burn spells, any removal that would kill one of the 3/3’s would also have killed a 9/9 anyway, so whatever. Just remember, if you need one of them to either chump block and trade, use the real card, not the tokens. That way you then have two 3/3’s without that quasi-drawback.

Prototype Portal – They made Soul Foundry and Panoptic Mirror, so this was the natural progression. And yes, I will attempt to Mindslaver lock people with this.

Ratchet Bomb – Hey look! It’s just like Powder Keg but better! It kills enchantments and (theoretically) planeswalkers as well! And yes, it is like Powder Keg. I know Powder Keg didn’t tap to add counters, but it didn’t get a counter the turn it came in either, so barring any Voltaic Key or Paradox Haze shenanigans, the clock to kill a permanent of converted mana cost X by either card is the same. I think it’s odd that they’d give us a bunch of crappy rares, but then give us improvements on popular cards like Masticore and Powder Keg. I’m still convinced that this, along with Reverberate, is their way of saying “fuck you” to all the whiners who made them close the foil loophole on the reserve list. It’s not technically a functional reprint if you reword it to do the exact same thing in a slightly different way, bitches!

Semblance Anvil – Here’s another one people thought was amazing. But yeah, this will see as much play as Extraplanar Lens did. Less, actually, cause the lens at least sees play in EDH.

Steel Hellkite – See, THIS is what a mythic rare should be. Why isn’t this mythic? A 5/5 flying, firebreathing Pernicious Deed isn’t mythic? I mean, yeah it’s too expensive for constructed, but at least it’s a big, splashy effect! Big fan of this card, and this one WILL be going into my Karn EDH deck.

Strata Scythe – This is too expensive for what it does. I know it can give a huge pump, but that’s all it does. No evasion, no other abilities, just pump. People want cooler abilities on equipment, unless they’re cheap like the axe.

Sword of Body and Mind – Unimpressive in terms of the sword cycle and with the two least relevant protections possible, but it’s important because it means in the next two sets we should hopefully see Sword of Order and Chaos and Sword of Life and Death. Very excited about the red/white one since those are the two most relevant protections.

Tower of Calamities – About damn time they finished that cycle. Twelve damage seems like a lot, but it’s 12 mana to do it once so whatever. If you pull a foil one of these, find your nearest type 4 player!

Venser’s Journal – I hate to break it to everyone, but this card is correctly costed. That doesn’t mean I’m happy it’s so expensive, but it’s still correct. I don’t expect this to see play anywhere though. Why would I waste an EDH slot on this when I have Reliquary Tower?

Wurmcoil Engine – I don’t understand the price tag on this one, but it’s certainly a cool card. Gonna be a casual favourite, but I don’t expect it to make a big splash on the tournament scene.

Dual Lands – These are my favourite duals since the Ravnica lands. Every set has new dual lands, but they all lack one thing. One VERY important thing. In fact, to me it’s the most important thing, which is why I like these so much. Any quality dual land should be able to tap for either of two colours of mana on turn 1. These lands provide that, and the provide that with no drawback or additional requirement. They may take a while to catch on, but these lands are the real deal.

That’s all for now, but check back as I will be updating this with the set overviews and lists throughout the day!

Imprint – The returning mechanic from Mirrodin. I was really hoping that mechanic would be affinity, but no such luck. It’s a shame, too, because the imprint cards in this set don’t really expand the design space. It’s almost like they’re just leftovers from the previous block that got cut for one reason or another. Not a bad mechanic, but it has an exceptionally weak showing in this set. Maybe the rest of the block will give us more to be excited about.

Metalcraft – This is a terrible mechanic. It can work for limited, but it’s extremely linear and uncreative. You can get some powerful creatures at a good value, but the lengths to which you must go to make that happen simply aren’t worth the effort. They also went completely overboard and this set is over-saturated with metalcraft creatures. The worst part is that most of the metalcraft creatures wouldn’t be tournament playable even if they permanently had the bonus.

Infect – I love this ability because I’m a big fan of alternate win conditions. However, I’m largely unimpressed by most of the infect creatures. I know that they need to be costed roughly the same as double strike creatures, but I still think they could’ve been a little better. Despite all this, however, infect is my favourite keyword in the set. Not the best, but my favourite.

Proliferate – The best new keyword in the set. This works extremely well with infect and planeswalkers; that much is obvious. However, the casual applications of this card are astounding. Magistrate’s Scepter can no net infinite turns even easier. Goblin Bomb can be a real threat without having to rely on your friends being kind enough to let you play Giant Fan. The Myojin can now make you lose all your friends. The possibilities are limitless!

The Top 10 Cards of Scars of Mirrodin
As with all my lists, these cards appear in no particular order.
1. Elspeth Tirel – This is no surprise.
2. Koth of the Hammer – This isn’t either.
3. Venser, the Sojourner – Planeswalkers rated highly? What are the odds!
4. Grand Architect – As I already touched upon, this guy does so much. It seems like he would be very specialized, but it works in a number of different ways and should see a lot of play. Oh, and in extended this guy with Pila-Pala is a two card combo that generates infinite mana of any combination of colours. Seems good.
5. Arc Trail – Two for ones are really good, especially at two mana. If this one card had been in M11, it would have reshaped standard.
6. Dual lands – People can keep bitching, but these dual lands do what dual lands are supposed to. You will learn to love them.
7. Mindslaver – I hate to have to put a reprint here, but if you’ve ever been slaver locked then you know how good this is.
8. Ratchet Bomb – This isn’t the answer to planeswalkers cause it’s too slow, but it’s a nice answer to creatures in blue or black based control decks.
9. Molten-Tail Masticore – This thing is an all around powerhouse. It does require you to play creatures so it’s not as good as the other Masticores in a straight control strategy, but its drawback also fuels its damage ability, which is nice.
10. Riddlesmith – Free, continuous looting seems really, really strong.

Top 10 Underrated Cards of Scars of Mirrodin
1. Venser, the Sojourner – Don’t let his current price tag fool you: people don’t like this guy. Everyone’s afraid of missing out on the next Jace so they’re buying it, but the majority of people don’t think this guy’s any good. They will be proven wrong.
2. Kuldotha Phoenix – I haven’t spent enough time to know if there’s a viable metalcraft deck for this guy yet, but I do know that if you have it, this thing is sick.
3. Livewire Lash – I don’t care what anyone says, this card is good. That’s basically the same thing I said about Brittle Effigy, and people are finally asking to trade for all the ones I picked up thanks to Trinket Mage.
4. Dual Lands – Seriously, quit bitching about these! These are the best dual lands we’ve had in years. I’ve already explained why, and if you still can’t understand then I’ll trade for every one you open at a $1 each.
5. Grand Architect – There’s no shortage of love for this guy right now, but it’s still not enough.
6. Steady Progress – FINALLY! I like putting commons and uncommons on these lists, and it’s about time there was a common worth mentioning. Proliferate at instant speed that cantrips is amazing. I already discussed the many things it can do, competitively and otherwise, and this is just a fantastic card.
7. Arc Trail – Is there really such an abundance of burn that no one’s talking about this card? Seriously? Get on the ball, guys.
8. Volition Reins – It’s Confiscate but better. What else needs to be said?
9. Memnite – It’s not the best, but I think it’s better than people are giving it credit for.
10. Dr. Jeebus, Planeswalker – Yeah, nothing jumps out at me as a 10th card for this list, so here you go.

Closing Thoughts/Overall Opinion
All in all, this site is, kinda…I dunno. I was really excited as cards were being spoiled, but then as I saw the commons and uncommons I became less excited. Limited will probably play well, but it’s all too linear, being either metalcraft, infect, or unplayable. My mind is very standard oriented right now as I prepare for states, and there’s just a lot of cards that are impossible to even attempt to build with. I do have several decks I’m testing that involve cards from this set, but unless you’re going for the poison kill, each deck is only really gaining one or two cards. Overall I think it’s a little weak, but at the same time there’s just enough good cards to keep people buying packs. And those cards are predominantly mythics, so they need to buy LOTS of packs. As always, time will tell, and I hope that states is able to show us all some things I missed. Well, I’d rather be right about everything all the time instead of just most of the time, but it’d be interested if states is able to show us something I missed.
So until next time, enjoy your prereleases, launch parties, and states. And by all means retweet this, comment here, and hit me up on Twitter or the forums to discuss the set review!

3-D Is The Future of Movies, Just Like it Was 60 Years Ago

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Put on your 3-D glasses,kids!
Actually, 3-D has been the future of movies for almost a century, but the supposed golden age of 3-D didn’t begin until the 50’s. As it turns out, focus groups are nothing new, and the very first 3-D reels were shown to a test audience at the Astor Theater in New York City in 1915. The test audience clearly find these shorts to be retarded and wanted nothing to do with them. Those responsible for the test screening gave up on 3-D completely, and while there were others attempting to make the process work, no one really cared. THAT, however,was all about to change…in 38 years.

I've had a strooooooke
Welcome to the golden age of 3-D cinema: 1953. Here we see Vincent Price in the first 3-D release from a major studio: House of Wax, from Warner Bros. This movie had a lot of things going for it: It was a horror movie, which were all the rage, it starred Vincent Price (And is responsible for typecasting him), it was the first movie released with stereophonic sound, and, most importantly, it was full of ridiculous 3-D gimmicks like ping pong games as pictured above. You see, even in 1953 producers realized that total immersion into the movie experience isn’t what the viewing audience wants. What’s the point of making incredible technological advancements in cinema if they can’t be exploited at every turn to actively pull the audience out of the scene by needlessly throwing random shit at their face? As House of Wax director André De Toth famously said, “Who put this fourth wall there? I didn’t pay for this wall! Not my wall, not my problem.”
In 1954, Universal Studios released their second 3-D movie, and what would become the most famous and successful 3-D movie of the generation: The Creature From the Black Lagoon. This was the only 3-D movie to actually spawn a sequel, also in 3-D. And even that movie spawned a sequel! That one wasn’t in 3-D though. Much like James Cameron thinks today, movie makers of the 1950’s thought that 3-D was the future of movies. They would live to see the day when all movies were in 3-D, it would rain chocolate, and Hitler would rise again. Alright, maybe Walt Disney was the only movie maker hoping for that last part, but whatever. There was just one little problem with this theory, however. While the 3-D in these movies was actually very good, the projection process was a little complicated. It required two reels running simultaneously, and if the minimum wage projectionists were unable or indifferent to make sure they were perfectly synced, then the audience would experience headaches and eye strain. Basically, 3-D movies were like the 1950’s version of the Virtual Boy: “It seemed like a good idea! And that’s when the seizures started…”
After a four year glut of 3-D movies, the craze was finally laid to rest for all eternity. Until the 80’s. Sure, there WERE 3-D movies in between, but no one noticed or cared. I mean, there were 3-D movies in 1922, and that timeline perfectly fits my thesis, but no one gave a shit about those movies so they’re not worth mentioning. Anyway, the 1980’s brought us a bunch of awful 3-D movies, mostly horror. The highlights of this time period include Amityville 3-D, Friday the 13th III, The Man Who Wasn’t There, and Captain EO. That’s right, these are the highlights. I don’t dare list the really bad movies from that era for fear that you’ll do independent research and willfully subject yourself to that shit. Again, though, filmmakers were convinced that 3-D was the future and that all movies would soon be in 3-D. As much as I want to say how stupid a notion that is, I’ll let Marty do the honours:

So here we are again. As has happened every 30 years for the past 90 years, though only relevantly so for the last 60 years, 3-D has once again become the future of movies. There’s always a 3-D movie here and there, but 2010 saw a surge in them, and 2011 promises to have dozens of 3-D movies. Having just seen Resident Evil, I have to say that it’s not going to happen. The technology for 3-D movies has come a LONG way since the first patent was filed for 3-D projection in the late 1890’s, however simple minded directors have not. I just saw Resident Evil last weekend and much of the 3-D looked really nice, but they still insist on throwing crap at the screen . Maybe once directors learn how to incorporate 3-D into movies so that it strictly adds to the experience, not detracts, then there’ll be a chance for it to become the industry standard.

Or maybe Nintendo just have to figure out how to get their 3DS technology to work on a large screen so we don’t have to wear those ridiculous 3-D glasses. More likely, however, I’ll see you all again in 2040.

Hiatus from a Hiatus from a Hiatus

Monday, September 13th, 2010

So I had taken a hiatus from the blog to start writing a book, which I did and it went well. Then I started getting involved in other shit, and it went slowly. Then I basically took a hiatus from writing, which sucks. I now intend to get fully back on track and should be writing every day again. However, I should also have time to keep active on Twitter on to update my blog frequently, and this new format makes updating MUCH easier, so I’m excited about that as well. Basically, you have a lot more Jeebus related content to look forward to, and to the many, many people who left me positive, encouraging, and exciting feedback regarding my novel, know that it is indeed coming, and if all goes well it will be completed before the end of the year. Published is another story entirely, but one step at a time.

Future League: Designing Post-rotating Standard

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Vesner, the Sojourner

With only 80 cards from Scars of Mirrodin officially spoiled, and with ¼ of those being basic land, it’s probably too early to start designing decks for after rotation. Well frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. States is just one week after rotation, so it’s never too early to start designing decks and testing them out to see what improvements they need. If the improvements they need are in the remaining spoiled cards, that’s fantastic! If not, either find them in the existing cards or go back to the drawing board.
So the basis of this deck is the fact that Venser is ridiculous. There was a lot of uncertainty when Jace, the Mindsculptor was spoiled, but I read it and immediately said “Oh, it’s the best planeswalker they’ve printed.” Well I had a similar reaction to reading Venser, although admittedly I only declared it the second best planeswalker. I know this card is going to be amazing, and I want to be one of the first to top 8 or even win an event using this guy. I only spent about 5 minutes designing this last night at like 3 am, but this is the deck I started with. The quality of the deck is reflecting in that, but there’s still something to all of this:

4x Halimar Depths
4x Celestial Colonnade
4x Mystifying Maze
6x Plains
6x Islands

3x Venser, the Sojourner
4x Jace, the Mindsculptor

4x Day of Judgment
4x Mana Leak

4x Brittle Effigy
4x Everflowing Chalice
1x Mox Opal

4x Aether Adept
4x Thrummingbird
4x Trinket Mage

I playtested this a little today against Mythic Conscription, and the deck definitely has some flaws. For starters, it’s really inconsistent. I never seem to draw any of my creatures, and if I do I don’t draw Venser. Mox Opal was a cute idea, but it’s not active oftened enough, not relevant often enough, and frequently gets shut off when I activate a Brittle Effigy. Thrummingbird is interesting and works great with a Chalice out, but I never had a planeswalker or more than one chalice out while a Thrummingbird was out.
I will say, however, that Brittle Effigy and Mystifying Maze were absolute champs in the games I played. I’d frequently be drawing land after land because I have NO card draw and almost no library manipulation, but the mazes, effigies, and colonnades made sure I stayed alive. All is Dust seemed like it would be good, and I think I may focus more on a Trinket Mage toolbox style control deck.

In short, yeah, the deck needs an assload of work. There were far more cards I wanted to run than there was room for. That said, I encourage people to start preparing and thinking about the new standard. You’re not going to win states with a Zen block deck, and there won’t be time for any proven netdecks to exist before you show up, so it’s all on your shoulders. I also encourage anyone who likes this style of deck to make comments and suggestions, and to post your own lists and any testing results you have.

The times they are-a changing

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

This website is undertaking a massive layout overhaul. To view the old index page with active links to all the articles, click here.

Playtesting is Overrated

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

If you read a lot of Magic articles, then by now you should know that you’re a terrible player. You should also know that the people who write these articles are all terrible players, and that there is nothing anyone can possibly do to become a better player. If that sounds like a ridiculous statement, then perhaps it’s time to stop reading all those worthless articles on how everyone sucks. I am a good Magic player. I dare say I’m a damn good Magic player. And what’s more, I’m going to tell you how to be a better Magic player as well. The one thing that holds back a lot of competitive players back when trying to improve their game is one simple fact that no one wants to admit: playtesting is overrated. In fact, playtesting is borderline useless.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that you should ignore the metagame entirely and live with your head up your ass. What I am saying is that playing 100 games of Super Friends vs. Mythic Conscription isn’t going to make you a better player. In fact, it could have a severely detrimental effect on your game. When you playtest, you’re not actually playing Magic. You’re focusing on rote memorization of every possible situation two decks can wind up in against each other and trying to identify the correct play in these situations. However, this process fundamentally breaks down when you play against an altered version of a popular decklist or when your opponent pilots a deck in a way that your playtesting partners had not. When this happens, you wind up in a situation that you had not prepared for, and since all you did was prepare for specific situations and not prepare to play Magic, you’re pretty well fucked.

So then how does one become a better Magic player? My answer is going contrary to all conventional thinking so instead of disregarding it immediately, at least hear me out on this. The key to becoming better at this game we all love is casual multiplayer. Is your mind blown? Do you think I’m out of my fucking mind for suggesting such a ridiculous notion? Well read on, and perhaps you’ll become a believer as well.

There are a few principles at work in multiplayer that help improve your game. Possibly the most important is that aren’t throngs of websites dedicated to posting the top casual multiplayer decks. The notion of netdecking for a multiplayer game is not only foolish, but doing so would make you a total dick who no one would want to play with anyway. Being forced to build your own deck from scratch is something that many players haven’t bothered to experience since they discovered online decklists. I’m not saying that a few multiplayer games and you’ll be the top deck designer in the world, but after building your own multiplayer decks and being forced to make tough card choices, you will be able to immediately pick up a decklist and understand exactly why every single card is there, even if you disagree with some choices. While deckbuilding skill is the most important thing that most players need to work on, it’s still not actually related to your play skill. Admittedly, my best results at large tournaments were not with decks of my own design. However, they WERE with decks that I spent one hour or less playtesting, so I do actually know what I’m talking about here.

This brings us back to the original question: what about multiplayer improves your actual gameplay skill? To start, you will find yourself in absurd situations that will never happen in a constructed game. The less focused your deck is the more likely this is to happen, so I recommend grabbing a stack of 40 lands and 60 spells that you like, shuffle them up, and see what happens. This is how many of my decks start, and they’re the ones that will help teach you the most. Afterall, a combo deck in multiplayer is no different than a combo deck in standard: what you do is not related to the opponent in any way. However, a deck of good cards and little discernable strategy will ensure that you frequently wind up looking at the board and looking at your hand and wondering “How the Hell did this happen, and how do I get out of this situation?” This is where your skill starts to improve. Memorizing how two decks frequently play against each other doesn’t make you a better player, but winding up in ridiculous situations that you have to somehow reason your way out of with the resources available will. This directly leads into my next important point.

In multiplayer, your back is always against the wall. No matter how strong a board position you have, you still have multiple opponents who actively want to kill you. When you have a superior board position to your opponent, it’s easy to get away with play mistakes and not lose a game. When you’re fighting from a losing position, however, you can’t afford a single mistake or it just sets you back even further. This is even truer in multiplayer where every mistake you make can result in five people exploiting it and setting you back, or even killing you. Basically, a play mistake is like leaving yourself open in a boxing match. If you misstep you eat a haymaker to the face. In multiplayer, however, one misstep and you have one dude landing a haymaker, another guy putting a vise grip on your balls, and a third guy fucking your girlfriend. Needless to say this principle of compounded pain and suffering will severely reduce the number of play mistakes you make.

Believe it or not, multiplayer will also teach you to metagame. If you play with the same group of friends every week, you start to know each other’s decks, and you start to know which decks to fear. Instead of just fearing those decks, you start to figure out how to beat them with minor alterations to your current deck. If you don’t understand the parallel, this is EXACTLY what you should be doing when you netdeck. You take a stock decklist, figure out what the metagame at an event will be as best as you can, and then make alterations to the deck to prepare yourself for said metagame. This is not restricted to choices of sideboard cards. Metagaming in this way is important for a couple reasons. It prepares you for the real life metagaming that I just described, but it also will introduce you to cards that you didn’t even know existed. My first EDH deck was Ku Klux Karn (No colours allowed), and it dominated my new playgroup to the point where they almost didn’t want to play EDH anymore. Then one day something happened: one of my friends dropped down a Damping Matrix. Game over, Jeebus. Game over. Months later when the thopter combo decks became popular in extended, my friend didn’t even need to wait for someone online to figure out the solution, which took surprisingly long; he showed up at the store and bought three more matrices.

The final skill that multiplayer will teach you is more subtle. It’s hard to learn, but extremely powerful if you do. That skill is the art of the mind fuck. There are a couple components to this, and I will address each separately. The first component is learning to read your opponents and know what they have in their hand, as well as what it will take to make them cast it. In a multiplayer game recently, I was preparing to cast a Rites of Replication kicked with Doubling Season out…but what to target? There were some beastly creatures out. Creatures that said “If Jeebus gets another turn, everyone dies to these ten tokens.” However, there were also five other players still alive. Did any of them have mass removal? If so, would they use it, or were they in a position where they assumed I’d take out a few other players first giving them an opportunity to save it until it was more advantageous? Ultimately, I decided on my Primeval Titan. I got ten tokens, searched for twenty land ensuring I drew nothing but gas for the rest of the game, and promptly watched them all hit the graveyard the next turn. The other component of the mind fuck is controlling what your opponents think you have in your hand, what they think you’ll want to cast, and in multiplayer situations controlling who they target instead of you. There’s really no way to describe how to do any of this, but I will say you will get better at reading opponents in multiplayer faster than you will in one on one circumstances for the simple fact that there’s more of them to read, so you get more practice in.

Now we’ve covered all, or at least most, of the reasons multiplayer will make you a better player. You will also note that none of this carries over to standard playtesting techniques, as there is really nothing to be learned from such a practice. But you may be asking yourself, “Dr. Jeebus, what if I choose not to improve? What if I’m happy playing bad multiplayer decks and losing because I’m just having fun?” The answer to that is simple. Playing Magic is fun. Watching other people play Magic seldom is. When you scrub out at a PTQ, you go home and drink with your friends, and fun is had by all. When you scrub out in a multiplayer game, you sit there for potentially hours watching everyone else play without you. I think most people will agree that’s a far worse situation to be in than just leaving a tournament earlier than you hoped.

I hope you’ve learned a lot from this and that for many of you it has been an eye opener. Play some multiplayer with your friends and watch as you become a better player, a better deckbuilder, and probably even better friends. Just make sure you don’t make any play mistakes, or I’m fucking your girlfriend.

© 2010 by Dr. Jeebus

What to Expect From Magic’s Grab-and-Go Event Decks

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

There has been and still seems to be a lot of confusion regarding Wizard’s announcement of their new competitive preconstructed decks, related to both price and content, so I thought it best to take a moment to clear all of this confusion up.

These are clearly aimed at newer/casual players both as Arcana implies and because any real competitive player already has a tier 1 deck. Because of their target demographic, there is a very clear price point that cannot be violated. There has been a lot of talk about these decks being $35 or even $50, but the realistic range is $15-20; for the sake of argument we’ll say $20 is the correct price. So what other $20 products are marketing at this same demographic? Duel Decks, which is our best indicator of the expected value in one of the Grab-and-Go event decks. While there’s been a huge range, the Duel Decks are capable of packing quite a value in the $20 as Elspeth vs. Tezzeret and Jace vs. Chandra have shown us. That is also the maximum value you can try to cram into a $20 deck before retailers just say“fuck it” and start cracking them open to sell as singles.

Before anyone tries to argue this price point, which is really the crux of all other decisions, consider the Premium Deck Series: Slivers deck. That deck was marketed at the exact same demographic, and cost $35. That deck has been rotting on shelves for nearly a year now. Star City has 100 copies in stock marked down to $20, and Channel Fireball has dozens as well with them marked all the way down to the break even point. If an all foil sliver deck isn’t good enough for this demographic to spend $35 on, no preconstructed deck will be. (Note that this is also why the new Premium Deck Series product this year is showcasing cards like Chain Lightning; they’re targeting a different demographic to see if this product can work)

So what should we expect from the Grab-and-Go decks? I’d imagine something like this:

* $15-20 price point
* 2 mythic rares, 6-8 rares
* 3-4 ofs on all or most of the commons and uncommons
* A competitive deck that is unlikely to take first place

That’s right, these will NOT be tier 1 decks. Despite the fact that on the Wizards website they direct you to tournament results to check out the top decks for ideas, WotC doesn’t want to just hand you a tier 1 playable deck. First of all, it makes no business sense to sell a product that invalidates all their other products. Second of all, deck building is part of the fun of Magic. Also, they tell you to look to those lists for ideas, not to copy those decks card for card.

You may be wondering what the point of this product is if they’re not tier 1 decks, and what competitive means. Well it means just that, competitive. Many people show up to their first FNM or Game Day with an unplayable pile of shit that may be fun at the kitchen table with their friends, but gets anally raped before they’ve played their second spell. These decks can provide a solid, competitive shell of popular archetypes with standard sideboard cards for other various archetypes. It would be an excellent starting point for players, and allow them to really experience the game at a competitive level, even if it isn’t handing them the keys to victory.

So will some lazy competitive player be buying one of these Grab-and-Go Event Decks, getting a current tier 1 deck worth $400, and winning a Grand Prix? Not a chance. Will a player who wants to make the jump from casual to tournament player buy one of these decks on February 25th and then excitedly make the top 8 at Mirrodin Besieged Game Day on February 26th encouraging them to investigate upgrading their deck to something that is not only competitive, but dominating as well as scoring them a cool full art foil? I would wager that not only is that extraordinarily likely, that’s the entire point of this product.

© 2010 by Dr. Jeebus