Scourge on Constructed!

Posted in Learning Curve on July 2, 2003

By Brian David-Marshall

Brian David-Marshall is a New York–based game designer who has been involved with Magic since 1994, when he started organizing tournaments and ran a Manhattan game store. Since then, he has been a judge, a player, and one of the longest-tenured columnists on DailyMTG.com, as he enters his second decade writing for the site. He is also the Pro Tour Historian and one of the commentators for the Pro Tour.

July is finally here!

I have been waiting impatiently since before the Scourge prerelease. The last two weeks were particularly rough. I was in Montreal and San Diego providing online coverage for the respective Nationals tournaments and I didn't know if could stand to look at another pre-Scourge Standard decklist. There was nothing wrong with any of the decks; I just wanted to see something different. (Japanese Nationals, on the other hand, did sport a high finish from a combo deck with Leery Fogbeast.)

Yesterday was the first day that Scourge was legal for use in Constructed events and I thought we could peruse the set together for Constructed-worthy cards. When I say Constructed-worthy, I am mostly talking about cards likely to see play in Onslaught Block Constructed and Standard. To a lesser extent I am also talking about Extended and Vintage formats. I am not talking about multi-player or casual play.

Ark of Blight

Working through the list alphabetically, the first card that leaps out is a controversial one. On the same day that Ark of Blight was suggested as playable in Onslaught Block Constructed as a possible answer to Contested Cliffs on one of the various mailing lists I belong to, a handful of people on the list left the list. Coincidence?—I think not. I also think they are incorrect. Arc of Blight is narrow and expensive—would it have been too much to ask to draw a card when it came into play?—but Contested Cliffs is one of the most game dominating cards in the format and it must be addressed. Currently Lay Waste, Steely Resolve (naming "Beasts"), Dwarven Blastminer, and the dismal Earthblighter are the other possibilities.

Brain Freeze is already an obvious favorite among MagicTheGathering.com's readership. Not since Ambassador Laquatus has a card appeared in so many emailed decklists. More than one reader pointed out that you could use the infinite mana in the "I am Supermana" deck to Cunning Wish for Cunning Wish a few million times before capping the chain off with a Brain Freeze. My only problem with that combo is that it does not finish off your opponent—he doesn't die until he fails to draw a card. Obviously he is going to die on his next draw step but he will still have a chance to untap and either try to save himself with a flashed back Krosan Reclamation, or kill you during his upkeep with something like Violent Eruption. I think that once you have infinite mana their are many better ways to finish off your opponent. In older formats and more casual play Gaea's Blessing is also a big problem here.

Break Asunder (and Wipe Clean) will certainly see some use as they are just mild tweaks on existing cards that saw play. Break Asunder is a little more exciting than Wipe Clean because it destroys artifacts. Three-color Astral Slide decks can play this card with no difficulty at all to cope with Stabilizer.

Call to the Grave

I vaguely recall The Abyss seeing some Constructed play. Maybe the vagueness of my recollection is the result of trauma caused by having my face bashed in by the powerful enchantment time and time again. In fact, I had successfully blocked out those painful memories until a recent Sealed Deck tournament when I lost two rounds in a row to Call to the Grave. In some ways Call to the Grave is better than its esteemed ancestor—provided you are playing Zombies, of course. Since Call doesn't target, you can kiss your opponent's Morphling goodbye. The downside it has versus The Abyss is that you must sacrifice it if there are no creatures in play, which gives your opponent more outs than just enchantment removal.

Carbonize kills Silvos dead. Yes, you need to do two more points of damage to the pitfighter but that's not hard for red to muster up. The new three point damage spell also deals nicely with Krosan Warchief and Twisted Abomination.

Dawn Elemental is perhaps one of the most exciting cards in the set. There has been rampant speculation online about mono-white control decks featuring this nearly unkillable creature in Onslaught Block Constructed. The only cards that can dispatch the Elemental are Call to the Grave, Skinthinner, Cruel Revival, Aphetto Exterminator and Death Pulse. As with most creatures, Wrath of God-type effects work as well but it is obvious that Dawn Elemental will dominate the skies of OnBC.

When the Decrees were first revealed to the Magic community, Decree of Annihilation was the most heralded. The buzz for that card has quieted down recently but I am not sure why. It is an uncounterable—except by Stifle—instant Armageddon that draws you a card. I don't see how this card won't be a factor in constructed. You will see this card hard cast as well in the Astral Slide decks. At the end of your opponent's turn after his end of turn effects have resolved you can cycle out your creature and it won't return until the end of your next turn. During your turn you can cast Decree and both players will have nothing except enchantments—no hand, no land, no graveyards—and your creature will come back into play with little hope of your opponent dealing with it.

Decree of Justice

The Decree of Justice is a must-have card for the sideboard of Burning Wake—a Mirari's Wake deck that uses red to Burning Wish for Firecat Blitz or Crush of Wurms as the kill card. The deck has faded in popularity in the face of more efficient Cunning Wake decks that don't have to cast their kill cards on their own turn. Thanks to the cycling ability of the white Decree, the Burning Wish deck only has to cast the Burning Wish on its own turn and can make Soldier tokens as an instant.

Is Eternal Dragon the best card in Scourge? It gives you early game mana consistency, mid game card drawing, and a late game finisher. It goes right into the same deck as the Dawn Elemental and will also find a home in Astral Slide decks. I can't see how any white deck won't run four of these—its not even a Legend.

You made the card, now you make the deck. Can Forgotten Ancient be playable in Constructed or does the four mana cost offset its power? I don't see the people's card getting much in the way of Constructed play in either the new Standard or OnBC. In Extended any deck that he might see play in would probably be better off using Quirion Dryad. Sorry folks, maybe after Mirrodin comes out.

I'm afraid I have more bad news. Form of the Dragon is not going to equal its billing. There is not doubt that the card is extremely powerful once it is in play. The problem is going to be getting it there. Maybe once Counterspell has rotated out of the base set it will become more enticing but for now its going to sit on the bench.

“The best two Warchiefs are in green and red,” claimed Captain Obvious. The Goblin Warchief is simply nuts in the OnBC Goblins deck. It can lead to a theoretical third turn kill with a turn one Skirk Prospector. You can sacrifice the Prospector to play the Warchief on turn two and then you can play three hasty Goblin Piledrivers on turn three. They each get +6/+0 and you can finish off a creaturless opponent. He also powers up a turn-three Goblin Goon and a turn four Siege-Gang Commander—more on him later!

Krosan Warchief

Krosan Warchief goes right into the Beast deck and accomplishes a number of tasks. Reducing the mana cost of your Beasts is a small part of its responsibilities. The Beast player can now play out a few creatures and sit back on its mana without fear of Akroma's Vengeance thanks to the regeneration ability of the Warchief. It also makes the Contested Cliffs even more ridiculous. This card alone makes Carbonize playable.

Mind's Desire was powerful enough to earn a pre-July 1st restriction in Type 1. In Standard it is not quite so powerful but I have own games as early as turn three with my Tight Sight deck that includes four copies of Mind's Desire. The deck uses cheap blue cantrips, Early Harvest, and land searching cards like Rampant Growth and Far Wanderings to go off with Mind's Desire. The only problem with the deck is that you must hit a second Mind's Desire when you play the first one or the deck fizzles. Most of my fast wins with the deck have come due to a leap of faith with only three or four spells played for storm. Once Early Harvest rotates out we will have to hope Mirrodin offers some global untap ability. Expect this card to see some play in Extended in Argothia Enchantress, Tinker, and modified Future Sight decks with mixed results.

Pemmin's Aura has already been discussed extensively in this column. If a creature taps for a decent ability it is a likely target for this enchantment. If said ability results in two or more mana—one of which is blue—you are going infinite.

Siege-Gang Commander

I salute you right back, Siege-Gang Commander! (On second glance it actually looks like he is shielding his eyes form the sun in the art, but I salute him nonetheless.) This card may seem to be costed rather high at five mana for a 2/2, but then you look a little closer. Not only do you get an additional three 1/1 Goblins when he comes into play but you get a devastating ability. With both Skirk Prospector and Goblin Warchief to accelerate you, this guy should see play on turn four quite often in Standard and Block. In Extended he is ridiculous with the Goblin Lackey; coming down on turn two for no mana with the mana to shoot something if necessary.

The mono-white control deck in OnBC did not exist before the release of Scourge with at least three of the cards that will be played in it coming from this set. The third card is the Silver Knight, which might be enough to stand arm-in-arm with Dawn Elemental (and Eternal Dragon) to keep the Goblin deck from dominating the block format. Legions' White Knight MIGHT make the sideboard, while the new kid pulls an “All About Eve” and lands the starring role.

Is Astral Slide dead? Every deck, regardless of color of mana, has an answer now in the form of the much-hyped Stabilizer. Is that going to be enough to bring down the deck that won Pro Tour – Venice? Probably not. Standard has already seen a variety of three color Slide decks using Krosan Tusker. It is easy enough for them to run Naturalize or better yet, the cycling Break Asunder. Stabilizer also falls to Akroma's Vengeance and does not have anything to say about an Exalted Angel. Obviously it is a good sideboard card and it will certainly see more than its fair share of tournament play but it is not the death knell for Astral Slide decks that people were predicting early on.

Stifle

I wrote an article for the Sideboard Magazine about Stifle and I was amazed at how many uses it had. Looking back on that article I am now amazed by how many uses I overlooked. I mentioned last week that you could Stifle a Polluted Delta but did you know you can use it to prevent a creature form returning to play after being removed by Astral Slide? Or that you could prevent the Siege-Gang Commander from making his three footsoldiers? Or an Eternal Dragon from returning from the graveyard? There is almost no end to the uses for this card. About the only thing it does not counter is a spell—although it does prevent the storm ability of a spell from triggering.

Sulfuric Vortex shuts down Renewed Faith, Teroh's Faithful, Ancestor's Chosen, Ravenous Baloth, Delusions of Mediocrity, and any other life gaining effect that will outrace a goblin or burn deck. The only question about this card is whether it will be relegated to the sideboard or just be played main deck as a permanent source of burn.

Did I say three cards for the mono-white control deck? I meant to say three creatures because Wing Shards is going straight in the deck. Always good for removing a single attacking creature, the storm ability means you also have an edge against haste creatures. If on turn three your opponent plays a Goblin Goon and attacks you with it and Goblin Warchief, you can dispatch them both with a single Shards. untapped will probably negate the haste ability of the Warchief in tournament play before long.

This list is far from comprehensive and I am sure that I have overlooked a few goodies, but it's a good gauge of what to trade for and what you should expect to fact in the coming months. Let me know what cards you think I have either rated improperly or failed to include. Be warned, your comments may be included in a future column. Next week we will start looking to the future of the Core Set and how Constructed play will change again on September 1st.

I have included two post-Scourge Onslaught Block Constructed decklists by Pro Tour Champion Osyp Lebedowicz—I figure he might know a thing or two about the format. These decklists are taken from TOGIT.com.

OnBC Goblins

Download Arena Decklist

OnBC Mono White

Download Arena Decklist
Brian may be reached at brian@fightlikeapes.com.

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