Basic Training

Posted in Feature on April 11, 2002

By Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar

Aaron the Editor has described my whole column as “helping people get the most out of their collections.” I rather like this description and have recently tattooed it across my chest. Okay, that was a lie. But I really like his description.

If I start to feel like a part of your collection is moving into your trade binder a little too easily, I’m going to stand up and flap my arms around. As my fellow Johnnies know, “unplayed” cards are nothing more than fun deckbuilding challenges.

Which is why today I’m talking about 7th Edition.

When Odyssey and Torment hit the shelves, the mindset of Magic players shifted dramatically. Threshold, flashback, and madness made discard and the graveyard entirely new places to play with the rules. In addition, some cards --*cough* Battle of Wits *cough* -- spawned entirely new deck concepts. Understandably, everyone has been rushing to understand the weird and wonderful world left in Odyssey’s wake.

Yet in everyone’s passion for the new cards, a lot of folks have forgotten to re-examine the base set that has been around since last April and understand how it fits into an Odyssey-focused environment. 7th Edition has, in many ways, become lost in the shuffle.

Ouch, that is one bad Magic pun.

Anyway, I’m here to rattle your thinking a little. I say, be gone fancy-shmancy “expert-level” cards! Be gone alternate win conditions! Be gone complicated rules text! On Donner! On Blitzen!

Let’s re-examine 7th Edition! Yeehaw!

Below are ten forgotten cards from the current base set. These cards don’t even need decks built specifically to support them... They’re just generally solid. And fun. And worth considering. And they feel left out of everyone’s parties, so give them a little love, okay?

Ancestral Memories

Ancestral Memories

Many things are true about Ancestral Memories. It’s expensive, it’s a sorcery and it has in its casting cost. For these reasons, it compares poorly to the one-mana-cheaper-instant-splashable Fact or Fiction. At the same time, Ancestral Memories digs seven cards deep into your library, depositing five of those cards into your graveyard. Play one Memories, and you are one card away from threshold. Deposit flashback cards into your graveyard and you have a veritable armada of spells to play at your disposal.

Use any of the Odyssey lhurgoyfs, and you have a starting point for a deck...

The Sorcerer

Remember, too, that Randy has hinted at a “Fact or Fiction hoser” coming in Judgment. Here’s another hint: It doesn’t hose Ancestral Memories.

Breath of Life

Breath of Life

If you’ve read previous House of Cards articles, you know that I am, shall we say, fond of Breath of Life. I just can’t get over the idea that white has a solid reanimation spell. The fact that it is an uncommon is gravy.

Most of the time, I use Breath of Life in black-white decks with Zombify to give myself eight 4-mana spells that pop creatures back into play. What is great about Breath of Life, however, is that it isn’t reliant on black at all. Neat.

Pinky

Crypt Rats

Crypt Rats

Until recently, Crypt Rats were relegated to weird "protection from black" decks. But the Rats have always been most useful in a deck heavily weighted towards black, where their tiny 1/1 frame can explode in an Earthquake-like effect.

Mono-black decks are powerful again thanks to Torment. Thus Crypt Rats have ceased twiddling their greasy paws, waiting for black to make its comeback. Consider trying the Rats in creature-light black decks or black decks using primarily fatties.

Jalum Tome

Jalum Tome

It all seems pretty unfair that one color -- blue -- gets the lion’s share of fun madness tricks with cards like Compulsion, Merfolk Looter, and Careful Study. Thankfully, Jalum Tome gives any color the opportunity to sift though a library and discard cards. The Tome can’t be used multiple times a turn like Compulsion nor can it attack/block like a Looter. But it is an artifact, and these days many more people are concerned about killing off enchantments and creatures than artifacts. If your deck is control-oriented and can take advantage of the mechanics in Odyssey and Torment, the Tome might just be for you.

Maro

Maro

I’m not trying to suck up to Mark Rosewater here, although that’s never a bad idea. For a fattie costing four mana, Maro is arguably the best deal running (Jade Leech is pretty good too). The question is, how many decks want a four-cost fattie? A reasonably-costed fattie? Sign me up!

Odds are that somewhere around your local game shop or among your friends, a blue-green deck is flexing its muscles. In the first House of Cards Deck Challenge, U/G was surprisingly the second most popular color combination. Could Maro fit into a deck like this? I think so.

rk sewater ("irk-seawater")

Creature (12)
4 Birds of Paradise 4 Gaea's Skyfolk 4 Maro
Sorcery (4)
4 Call of the Herd
Instant (16)
4 Peek 4 Counterspell 4 Repulse 4 Fact or Fiction
Enchantment (4)
4 Standstill
Land (24)
4 Yavimaya Coast 12 Island 8 Forest
60 Cards

In fact, I can think of plenty of decks in which Maro could be the perfect finisher. Try a green-red deck with Epicenter or a green-black deck with Skeletal Scrying and Phyrexian Arena. The possibilities abound.

Megrim

Megrim

Megrim might be the one spell on this list that people are starting to rediscover. Several people have e-mailed me wondering if Megrim is now good given all of the discard from cards opposing cards like Wild Mongrel. Michael Shmitz reports that inserting Megrim into my “Looter” deck has won him several games at his local shop and a “unique deck” award. So I guess the answer is “Yes indeedy!” At the very least, Megrim seems like an interesting sideboard card if you are sideboard-inclined.

Might of Oaks

Might of Oaks

Might of Oaks is an affordable, splashable instant that can quickly end the game. What is particularly amusing about it, I’ve found, is that if my opponent sees me play it ONCE, she will play differently for the rest of the day. Might of Oaks is like Counterspell -- just keep mana open and beads of sweat will begin to trickle down your opponent’s face. For this reason -- and I’m not kidding here -- I will often play with one copy of Might of Oaks in my green decks.

Shivan Dragon

Shivan Dragon

Does anyone really need reminding that Shivan Dragon is a house of a creature? The thing can single-handedly swing a game from a loss to a win with a beat of its mighty red wings. With Chainer's Edict running rampant today, it’s dangerous to run the Dragon as your only creature. But consider this: Shivan Dragon survives Flametongue Kavu. In fact, a five toughness today can go a very, very long way.

A deck like the one below wins no points for subtlety. Then again, sometimes subtlety sucks.

Big Stick

Sorcery (18)
4 Duress 4 Firebolt 4 Chainer's Edict 4 Void 2 Addle
Instant (4)
4 Urza's Rage
60 Cards

Uktabi Wildcats

Uktabi Wildcats

Control Green has always been one of my favorite decks to both build and play. Today, Control Green is missing most of the tools it would need to dominate games -- no Smokestack, no Plow Under, no Eladamri's Vineyard, no Desert Twister. But green does have one very solid creature for a deck with lots of Forests in Uktabi Wildcats. The Wildcats is a classic case of a good creature just waiting for a good deck. It may not fit perfectly anywhere now (although of course I’ll give it a shot below), but always keep it as a possibility in the back of your mind...

Green Machine

Wall of Air

Wall of Air

If your friends like to win via combat damage, walls are a good way to thwart their plans. That’s an obvious point, I know, but walls have been strangely silent of late (forget for a moment that walls should never, ever, talk). Wall of Air not only provides a place to hide while you amass Counterspells, it is Edict fodder once your Thought Devourer, Possessed Aven, or Mahamoti Djinn hits the table. Oh, and remember that it also has a five toughness, shrugging its airy shoulders at Flametongue Kavu. Because of its cost, Wall of Air is probably the best wall in 7th Edition, although Wall of Swords and Wall of Wonder are worth a look as well.

Those are just a few forgotten gems of 7th Edition. I haven’t even mentioned some of the cards that deserve entire decks built around them such as Equilibrium, Grafted Skullcap, Infernal Contract, Seismic Assault, and Verduran Enchantress/Yavimaya Enchantress. To continue the 7th Edition love, next week I’ll take one of these added gems and throw even more deck ideas at you.

Until then, buy low and sell high,

-j

Jay may be reached at houseofcards@wizards.com.

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