Drover Enthusiastic

Posted in Feature on May 15, 2003

By Mark L. Gottlieb

Here's a brainteaser for you: If an expensive creature becomes cheaper to play, is it still an expensive creature? The past couple of weeks, I've been previewing cards that facilitate playing high-cost creatures. Two weeks ago, I showed how Dragon Breath would reward your mana-intensive creatures. Last week, I gave you a peek at Upwelling, a card that lets you save your mana until you can afford a gargantuan spell. This week, let's take the direct route. How about if creatures that cost a lot just didn't cost a lot?

Wasn't that simple? Oh, wait, I didn't mean simple -- I meant ridiculous. seems like a fair price to pay for a 5/5 flying superassassin (hiya, Visara). Paying more than for a 7/7 trampling, Spirit Linked, nigh-invulnerable creature, such as Phantom Nishoba, is clearly a rip-off! With the Drover calling the shots, Exalted Angel costs as much to play it face up as it does to flip it face up. You can pay for a 5/5 flying Dragon that can redirect spells targeting it, which is just one more mana that it costs to play that Quicksilver Dragon face down as an ability-free 2/2 creature.

For the past two weeks, I've been describing part-green decks that enable you to take advantage of large creatures, and doing so again would just be repetitive. So I'm going to tell a story. It's part history lesson and part rousing triumph of the underdog, and the movie rights have already been sold to Jerry Bruckheimer. Pay close attention, because most of what I'm about to tell you probably really happened.

Why Dinosaurs Went Extinct

Since the birth of the Magic game, card set designers have included oversize creatures, and players have loved them. The Force of Nature I busted open in my first-ever box of cards blew my mind. Shivan Dragon and Lord of the Pit were seemingly unstoppable powerhouses. But the problem was that they weren't unstoppable at all. On the contrary, players quickly learned how easily stoppable they were. Terror, a two-mana black common, and Swords to Plowshares, a single-mana white uncommon, routinely sent my rare Force of Nature back to the locker room. Even worse, by the time the Force was removed, I had spent 10 mana on it ( to play it and for the upkeep). In the meantime, while I was building up resources to play my game-winning monster that never actually won me any games, I was getting slapped around by efficient pipsqueaks like Black Knight and Savannah Lions. You can argue that Force of Nature, for all its brawn, was never a tremendously good creature, but the same fate of Counterspell, Terror, or some other cheap solution befell the Force's hefty frat brothers as well. The time and mana investment required by these creatures wasn't worth it when the countermeasures were so simple to acquire and play.

Now, the mismatch of cool behemoth vs. efficient removal didn't happen in every game. But it occurred frequently when Timmy played Spike, and that match-up happens all the time in casual play. Timmy would either have to abandon his beloved giants or grow discouraged. The slaughter of oversized creatures happened less frequently in tournaments because the percentage of Spikes there is much higher and the number of Timmys is correspondingly lower. There have been exceptions throughout the years, of course. Some environments encouraged giant monsters to make guest appearances in top-tier decks, but even then the creatures were rarely played as intended. They were tinkered out with Tinker, reanimated with Reanimate, or sneaked out for an attack with Sneak Attack. Tapping a lot of mana for a huge creature, letting it sit around for a while, and attacking with it the following turn has rarely been a tournament-winning strategy.

How Dinosaurs Were Resurrected

R&D had been noticing this for a long time. They always included giant creatures to appeal to Timmy, but they never really took those creations that seriously. That changed with the Onslaught set. The pit fighter Legends were intentionally undercosted at 6 mana. Countermagic was weakened. Bounce was nearly nonexistent. The most efficient black removal spell, Smother, was designed to kill off tournament weenies (Psychatog and Wild Mongrel) and thus promote fatties. The Legions set only upped the creature-oriented stakes. The results were seen at Pro Tour - Venice when, facing an Onslaught Block Constructed environment, the Spikes were all suddenly reborn as Timmys. Cards you'd expect to see flying back and forth across your dining room table (Silvos! Akroma! Rorix! Kilnmouth Dragon!) were the spotlight of a premier tournament. And R&D wasn't done.

The Scourge set has a simple message: Play with huge creatures! Revert to when you just discovered Magic and you were still a Timmy! (Or reward yourself for staying a Timmy!) Look at Krosan Drover again. When you remove the "expensive" part from a big, expensive creature, all that's left is the "big" part. So put on your smashin' gloves and drove some fat critters.

Burden of Proof

Both of today's decks are going to have three things in common: Krosan Drover (duh), Wirewood Herald (to fetch the Drover), and Krosan Tusker (to fetch some cards or smash some face). After that, there's some open space. The first deck is packed with so many ideas that it's not all that good. (That's just what you want to hear from a supposed deckbuilding specialist, right?) Hey, I have only a limited amount of space to cram my thoughts into, and I figure the more ideas I share, the better. You can look at the deck, decide what you like about it, and rebuild it with a focus on just those parts.

My initial idea was to take advantage of Beast of Burden. It's not so hot at 6 mana, but 4 mana is a lot more reasonable. To pump it up, you need lots of creatures, and that's what Symbiotic Beast (when eaten by Wayward Angel) and Nut Collector provide. All of those creatures cost the magic number of 6 mana, and Mirari's Wake helps pay for them if you don't have a Drover while it boosts the Insects and Squirrels. Silver Seraph provides an even bigger boost if you get to threshold, and Kamahl can make more creatures for the Beast of Burden and give your weenie swarm +3/+3.


Download Arena Decklist

Back to the Suture

Let me be the first to suggest an unholy alliance between Sutured Ghoul and the huge new landcyclers Mark Rosewater previewed last week. Landcyclers can either come out cheaply with Krosan Drover in play, or they can cycle to get you a land and put themselves on the donor list to be Sutured Ghoul's spleen or pinky finger. I know a lot of the cards in this decklist won't have links up because the veil of secrecy hasn't been lifted yet . . . but it won't be long now.

Suture Fight

Download Arena Decklist

I know there are a lot of Scourge cards in those decks, but come back and reread this article after Saturday's prerelease and all will be made clear.

There's a Beast deck just begging to be built around a discounted Feral Throwback, but Krosan Drover's role in that deck is probably better filled by another Scourge card that I can't spoil quite yet. Not to worry; you'll see it soon. Until next week, think big.


Mark may be reached at houseofcardsmail@yahoo.com. Send rules-related Magic questions to ask@wizards.com.

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