Blazing a Trail

Posted in Limited Information on April 8, 2008

By Steve Sadin


This is Steve Sadin and I'm your new full-time host for Limited Information.

Wow. Being able to say that feels pretty great.

About a year ago I went through a lot of self-introspection, during which I realized two very important things about what I want to do with the next stage of my life. The first thing I realized is that I want to take Magic more seriously. The second thing I realized is that I want to take writing more seriously.

While it was fairly easy for me to figure out what steps I needed to make in order to take Magic more seriously—steps like focusing more, working harder, going to more tournaments and a wealth of other things that I will talk about in upcoming articles. I was having a lot of difficulty figuring out how I was going to take writing more seriously.

Sure I was doing a bit of writing here and there, mostly about Magic, but I didn't have anything other than essays for school that constantly drew me to the page. I was having a lot of trouble forseeing what type of a consistent writing outlet I was going to find for myself.

This of course changed a few weeks ago when I heard that was looking for someone to take over Limited Information. The first thing that popped into my head when I found out that the column was available was "This is perfect for me! Not only will I be able to write about Magic, I'll get to write about nothing but Limited."

I emailed site manager Scott Johns and he was impressed enough with my resume to give me a shot at writing an audition article.

I was as excited and as nervous as can be, I was about to write a piece for! Eventually I was able to calm myself down enough to write a pretty good article. The article received great feedback from my friends and in the forums so I felt pretty good about myself.

After nine days of agonizing over whether or not I would get the job I got an email from editor Kelly Digges telling me that the column was mine. When I read this I couldn't contain my excitement! I literally jumped with joy and howled so loud that I woke up the person in the dorm next to mine (sorry about that Ben).

My First Preview Card

Last Tuesday I got a call from Kelly asking me if I wanted to do a preview article a week before I was scheduled to take over the column.

While I'd like to think that I waited patiently for Kelly to finish explaining exactly what a preview article entailed I'm pretty sure I cut him off mid-sentence to blatheringly let him know that I obviously wanted to preview a card.

After Kelly gave me some tips on writing a preview article we got off the phone and I waited patiently him to send me my first preview card (and by patiently I of course mean I was hitting refresh every 15 seconds until I got the email). A few minutes later I got the email from him and this was what I saw:

Burn Trail?

After I spent a few minutes agonizing over how I was supposed to write an article about a good, but completely generic burn spell the light bulb flashed in my head. It was April Fools Day.

I complimented Kelly on his gag and he sent me the full card.

Burn Trail!

Burn Trail Baby, Burn.

***New Keyword Ability: Conspire***

Conspire is an ability that appears on instant and sorcery cards. It lets your creatures team up to create one extra copy of a spell.

The official rules for conspire are as follows:

502.78. Conspire

502.78a Conspire is a keyword that represents two abilities. The first is a static ability that functions while the spell is on the stack. The second is a triggered ability that functions while the spell is on the stack. "Conspire" means "As an additional cost to play this spell, you may tap two untapped creatures you control that each share a color with it" and "When you play this spell, if its conspire cost was paid, copy it. If the spell has any targets, you may choose new targets for the copy." Paying a spell's conspire cost follows the rules for paying additional costs in rules 409.1b and 409.1f-h.

502.78b If a spell has multiple instances of conspire, each is paid separately and triggers based on its own payment, not any other instance of conspire.

  • If you choose to pay a conspire cost of a multicolored spell, the two creatures you tap don't need to share a color with each other. Each one just needs to share a color with the spell that has conspire.

  • You may pay a spell's conspire cost only once. (If a spell has multiple instances of conspire, you may pay each conspire cost only once.)

  • A copy created with conspire will have a conspire ability itself. However, since that copy wasn't played, its conspire ability won't trigger. You won't get another copy.

  • The copy you create with conspire is separate from the original spell. If either one of them is countered, the other remains on the stack.

  • If conspire's triggered ability is countered (by the Scourge spell Stifle, for example), no copy will be created. The original spell will be unaffected.

While four mana for 3 damage at sorcery speed is certainly good, it's not particularly special. Card like Lash Out and Galvanic Arc were regularly first picked and frequently splashed because they provided a great effect for a bargain price AND they gave you a little something extra to go with their primary effect of nugging something for 3.


If, on the other hand, you are able to pay Burn Trail's conspire cost, you are going to get an effect that is absolutely devastating no matter what stage of the game you are in.

Imagine a scenario where you've just began your fourth turn. You have a red 2/1 and a red 3/2, and your opponent has a 2/3 and a 3/3. You play your fourth land, tap all of your permanents, and calmly point your Burn Trail at both of your opponent's creature.

If you have another removal spell in your hand the game could easily already be over.

Imagine another scenario where the game has gone long. You had a fairly good offensive start, but your opponent stabilized the board at 6 life and has since started moved to the offensive with a Merrow Wavebreakers. You draw for your turn and tap four of your lands and two of your otherwise irrelevant red creatures to deal the final 6 damage.

Last scenario: It's once again late in the game and the ground is locked up. Fortunately, you have an Inkfathom Infiltrator that is gradually whittling away at your opponent's life total. Then, your opponent taps out for a monstrous 6/6 flying creature.

No problem! You just move into your turn and tap your four lands and your two red creatures, and his flier is no more for the world.

Just How Good Is Burn Trail?

Every so often there comes along a common that is simply in a different league from most of the rest of the set. These types of cards frequently get assigned numerical ratings like 8 and 9 out of 10, ratings that are normally assigned only to top uncommons and rares. Burn Trail is one of these exceptional commons.

Sometimes exceptional commons are easy to splash, like Mulldrifter or Magma Burst, and are taken extremely highly by almost anyone who sees them.



Other times exceptional cards require a fairly large color and/or tribal commitment to reach their full potential. Cards like Crippling Fatigue and Sparksmith come to mind as good examples of this class of card.

While Magma Burst's effect is obviously very similar to the effect offered by Burn Trail, I believe that Burn Trail actually has more in common with Crippling Fatigue and Sparksmith in that it offers a very powerful effect for those who are prepared to take full advantage of its requirements.

While opening a Burn Trail is obviously a good reason to draft red, just the existence of Burn Trail is going to make me want to go red. One reason for this is that while Burn Trail is still a pretty good removal spell to splash, it's nothing special for a player without a lot of red. This means that red drafters are likely to get chances at second- or third-pick Burn Trails (in packs two and three that is). This means that if a player has one Burn Trail, and the people around him aren't base red, then he's got a good chance to get another. And that's just a frightening thing to think about.

As difficult as it is going to be to beat a single Burn Trail, imagine what would happen if you draw two of them.

Got four creatures?

Too bad, they're all dead.

Completely stabilized the board at a healthy 12 life?

Too bad, you're going to be dead in two turns...

So, when you're at the Prerelease and you ask your friend how his match went and he tells you: "I got Burn Trailed." Don't press him for any more details. He's already had a hard enough day without having to relive it in detail.

Thanks for reading and be sure to tune in next week for the last Limited Information before the Shadowmoor Prerelease!

Can’t wait for Shadowmoor’s release on May 2? Don’t miss your first chance to play with Shadowmoor cards at the Prerelease on April 19 and 20!

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