Vaults vs. Swamps
The most common theme in reader correspondence over the last week was regarding my inclusion of four Vault of Whispers over four more Swamps with no visible means of exploiting the controversial artifact lands.
Robert Babis writes:
My only real question regarding the deck is the use of the Vault of Whispers. I mean, artifact hate WILL be maindecked and I really don't feel that those lands should be played unless they actually serve some purpose, and I don't find Wrench Mind to be enough of a purpose. Plus, with 4 more Swamps, it more justifies the use of Extraplanar Lenses. I also feel that Stalking Stones is a bit on the slow side and that Swamps are generally going to be better. I have this deck built for Type 2 right now and the Lenses are amazingly good. There is just something rewarding about turn 6 having a 10/10 flyer and an extra 5 cards in hand.
I can certainly appreciate the potential of playing it early and making the nine mana necessary to entwine a Promise of Power but I am also wary of having my opponent set my mana back with an artifact removal spell, taking out both my Lens and the land I imprinted. Also, remember I am relying on Oblivion Stone to clear the way for me. I don't expect to have a lot of time to be protecting my permanents with fate counters and I am going to be popping that Stone at the first possible opportunity. I think the interaction with the Lens is too problematic to run multiples.
All of that said, getting back to the artifact lands… Originally I was going to splash either red for Shrapnel Blast or blue for Thirst for Knowledge and the artifact lands interacted nicely with either of those cards. When I decided to keep the deck mono-colored I should have at least presented some reason for the Vaults continued inclusion in the deck.
I can certainly see dumping them if Wrench Mind does not become as prevalent as Hymn to Tourach and Gerard's Verdict - the two closest spells in mana cost and number of cards discarded - became in their respective heydays. If you are going to be dedicated to playing with multiple Lenses I would also recommend losing the Vaults. I do not recommend losing the Stalking Stones as Robert suggests in the next paragraph.
Stalking Stones come with built in protection from Oblivion Stone - the Stone only destroys non-land permanents - and it gives you four more warm bodies that can be played without any interaction problems with the Grid Monitor.
Turning It Around
A number of reader's wrote in with ways to turn the Grid Monitor's drawback around onto their opponent.
Luke Paloutzian writes:
I wanted to tell you what first came to my mind when I saw the Monitor. Obviously I said to myself that things a hunk-o-junk then I thought, "Hey, why not stick it to your opponent and pawn the Monitor off on him with a Chromeshell Crab?"
I would have never thought Grid Monitor and Confusion in the Ranks would be printed together... dare we say... red creature lockdown? It takes care of the problems counter burn has with creatures... ::shrugs:: All you need is a Fleeting Image to block every turn and 'bam', that thing is taken care of, and they can't do anything :-)
A number of reader's wrote in and they all had rather convoluted ways of dealing with the fact that they were giving their opponent a rather formidable creature. There are a number of problems with this combo starting with the difficulty of playing creatures in a deck with Grid Monitor. If you draw your creatures out of sequence you might as well have mulliganed.
Obviously this problem exists in a deck with multiple Grid Monitors as well such as the deck I posted last week but once you add even more creatures to the deck it becomes more likely that you will experience dead draws with a creature in hand and a Grid Monitor on the table. The original deck that I had constructed was less likely to experience those types of draws and could even get eight other creatures into play to flank a Grid Monitor.(Editor's Note: we asked Brian to edit the article to clear up the confusion *ehem*. The following few paragraphs have been edited from their original content.)
You will still run into problems with drawing your permanents out of order. You cannot play your Grid Monitor without having the Confusion in the Ranks in play, which means - barring mana acceleration - no sooner than turn six. While Confusion in the Ranks seems like a fun card to play with I am not certain it is something I feel comfortable playing with a in a competitive decks. It is certainly the most aptly named card I have stumbled across as it gave me mental gas in the earlier version of this article.
Both players' two card combos quickly became three card combos when they started looking for ways to negate the beefy Monitor. Squarf1's solution was to play it with Fleeting Image. I assume he intended to block and bounce it each turn. the only problem with that is when you play the Fleeting Image it will trigger the Confusion in the Ranks and - assuming for the moment that only the Grid Monitor is in play - one of two things will happen.
While I find these combos intriguing I still think that the Grid Monitor best place is on your side of the table with ample creature removal and additional creatures that are not the product of creature spells. My favorite suggestion came from two different people and went directly to my request for a card to insert into the Necrogen Spellbomb slot. If one Grid Monitor in play is good, how could two or more be bad?
Dan Drapeau writes:
I would add Sculpting Steel to the deck as it would allow to get around the Grid Monitor's drawback while still netting you another 4/6 monster. And the gravy is that Sculpting Steel only costs 3 colorless!
Jason Newcomb writes:
I'm writing in response to your Grid Marks article. I am sure you will be flooded with similar responses, but who knows? Did you consider the option of including Soul Foundry in the build? This would allow for multiple copies of Grid Monitor. It might even play nicely with Leveler, although if I understand the rules correctly, you would still have to remove your library from the game when the token came into play.
The last thought I have, which may or may not work, is the card Sculpting Steel. It is just an artifact, however I am unsure if it would be considered a creature when it comes into play. If it comes into play as a creature, but was not played as a creature, I would believe you could use it.
In answer to Jason's question about playing Sculpting Steel with a Grid Monitor in play; the Grid Monitor only prevents you from playing creature spells. When you cast Sculpting Steel it is not a creature spell. Once it resolves and comes into play it can copy the Monitor and becomes a creature.
You can copy your opponent's artifacts as well should they have any tasty targets. One thing to remember when copying an imprint artifact (Soul Foundry, Isochron Scepter, Chrome Mox, Duplicant, etc.) is that you will not be copying the imprinted card and if you wish to take advantage of the artifact you had better be prepared to imprint something from your hand.
I was surprised by how many people wrote in about the Leveler. Apparently this is a card that the magicthegathering.com community has given a fair amount of consideration. The were numerous e-mails concerning the Leveler and Shared Fate combo. For those of you unfamiliar with it - although judging form the number of e-mails I received there can't be many of you - the combo means that your opponent will never draw another card while you have a 10/10 creature in play. A couple of people thought that this would make your opponent lose immediately but the Shared Fate's effect is a replacement ability for drawing a card. While your opponent does not get a card to play off of your deck they do not lose the game because the normal card draw is being replaced.
At first I dismissed the idea as silly but it could be a devastating combo if it is executed at the right time. I have a feeling that it is too difficult to get the combo down at the right time with any regularity but I am going to consider the possibility in upcoming playtest sessions - I did play with Griffin Canyon after all so I'll try almost anything.
I would probably try and add some card drawing to the following Mirrodin only deck. Maybe take out the Steel Walls and the Crystal Shards for Thirst for Knowledge and Thoughtcast. If you are looking for a fun deck to play with friends this might be up you alley. Fun for you anyway- if you actually manage to pull it off your friends might drag you down the aforementioned alley and show you how much fun they actually had.
Next week I am going to start sorting through the different archetypes that might be viable in the rapidly approaching post-Mirrodin Standard environment. North America has States and Provincial Championships rapidly approaching and we will look at the different decks that you might want to consider playing if you are going to be attending one of those events - or any Standard event for that matter.Brian may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.