Brazen Evasion Manifestation

Posted in Serious Fun on December 30, 2014

By Bruce Richard

Bruce's games invariably involve several friends, crazy plays, and many laughs. Bruce believes that if anyone at your table isn't having fun, then you are doing it wrong.

Hey, Johnnie! Yeah…can I talk to you for a minute? How would you like your mind blown? When I showed everyone Generator Servant, there were a lot of excited people, and the Johnnies all thought it was pretty cool, but it was pretty straightforward. You could see exactly how it worked.

Jeskai Infiltrator is different. And, Johnnie...? You're going to love this!

I know you just heard about manifest…and now we're throwing this at you, so take a minute to really soak this in.

While the Johnnies try and get their brains and hearts calmed down, why don't the rest of us break this down bit by bit.

When you first play this, you are going to pay three mana and get a blue 2/3 creature that does nothing special if you control any other creatures. If you don't control any other creatures, you get a 2/3 creature that can't be blocked. You can control other creatures when you cast it, but if you want to attack with it and use the ability, you can't control another creature when you attack. Picture the guy on the special mission. If someone else is around, the other guy makes a noise and alerts everyone. Better to go solo. The flavor makes sense.

This is a little unusual, but a careful read and you understand it well enough. Jeskai Infiltrator encourages you to play your creatures on your second main phase, something you should be doing anyway unless you have a reason not to. This is a handy teaching tool when showing new players the game. "See how this card gives you a benefit if you don't cast your creatures until after combat?"

The problem for those of us who love some multiplayer is that the ability is only interesting very early in the game, or at very particular times when the board is clear and you can attack with your only creature. You'll be able to add another creature to the battlefield in your second main phase, but I'm always uneasy tapping my only creature to attack. Thankfully there is more.

Now things get tricky. You have attacked and the Jeskai Infiltrator has dealt combat damage to a player. You exile the Jeskai Infiltrator and the top card of your library, face-down. Now shuffle them and put them face-down, untapped, into play under your control.

Art by Cynthia Sheppard

Questions! We've got Questions!

Let me answer some of your questions:

1. What if the top card of my library was flipped (à la Courser of Kruphix)?

Then your opponents will know what the two face-down cards are, but not which one is the Jeskai Infiltrator.

2. How do I turn it face-up if it isn't a creature card?

You don't. If you put a Planeswalker from the top of your library face-down due to the Infiltrator's ability, you can't flip it over. The exception to this comes with morph cards that aren't also creature cards.

3. What if my face-down card is a morph?

Manifested cards with morph can be flipped up by paying the casting cost or the morph cost. If your morph card has an ability, like Ponyback Brigade, you get the effect whether you pay the morph cost or the manifest cost to flip the card. Morph cards say "when it is turned face up." They don't care how that happens.

How does this work?

Let me give you this basic scenario. It should confirm what everyone is already imagining:

I attack with Jeskai Infiltrator and it is my only creature. It can't be blocked and deals 2 damage. I exile it and the top card of my library. I shuffle them so my opponents don't know which is the Infiltrator and which is the top card, and put them into play, untapped and face-down. I peek to see which is which, and end my turn. On my next turn, I attack with both creatures. My opponent chooses not to block either of them, and I pay the manifest cost (casting cost) of the face-down Jeskai Infiltrator. Assuming the Infiltrator did damage again, I exile it and the new top card of my library and do it all over.

Just keep in mind you don't have to use the first ability to get the second! If you attack with the Infiltrator and a bunch of creatures and the Infiltrator does combat damage to a player, you exile it and the top card of your library and shuffle them, then manifest them.

Infiltrator Upside

When looking at new cards I tend to break them down to see what they offer. Jeskai Infiltrator certainly offers something unique!

Surprise Creatures

Jeskai Infiltrator offers extra creatures, but that's not really the upside we are looking at. An extra 2/2 face-down creature is fine,[1] but not too exciting. What excites me is the ninjutsu-like ability this gives to all your creatures. A card like Augury Adept offers some interesting game play. Brago, King Eternal could be particularly miserable for opponents if you have several face-down creatures on the battlefield. You can exile all of them and see them return to the battlefield face-up without having to pay to turn them face-up. Try a Gatherer search of "combat damage player" for creatures and see the endless array of options.

Allows Surprise Attacks

Will opponents block your 2/2 creatures? Assuming Jeskai Infiltrator is face-down with only one other face-down creature, how will your opponents block? Do they assume that both creatures will only do two points of damage, or do they assume the worst, and apply massive overkill? Does that change if you have four mana or ten mana available? Your ability to see the situation from the point of view of your opponents and determine how they will react will be tested with Jeskai Infiltrator. I really enjoy that extra layer of strategy.

Randomness

Your opponent has a single 4/4 creature and five life. The opponent knows that the face-down creatures are Jeskai Infiltrator and a Pearl Lake Ancient. You attack with both, knowing the opponent will block one, but be forced to let the other one through. A flip of the coin will determine who wins the game!

Infiltrator Downside

Combat Damage

It is going to be difficult to do combat damage to a player with Jeskai Infiltrator. The first hit, when you only have one creature, should happen but, after that, getting a 2/2 or 2/3 creature through blockers is going to demand some help. Will the extra 2/2 creature be worth the hoops you'll need to jump through to make it happen?

Manifest

If you plan on manifesting, you'll really want to know what your destiny (aka the top card of your library) is when attacking with Jeskai Infiltrator. If you have a land or sorcery that you desperately need, you'll want to hold back with the Infiltrator, or not turn it face-up if is going to do combat damage to an opponent. When you consider how much of an average deck is actually made up of creatures, you'll realize you are not going to get to flip that card as often as you'd like without help. With Jeskai Infiltrator, you are going to want plenty of Scry cards, and other cards that let you see that top card. Library shuffling and other manipulation would be a good thing as well. Liliana Vess's ability to search for a card and put it on top of your library becomes just a little more interesting with an active Jeskai Infiltrator.

Replayability

The big part of the fun of Jeskai Infiltrator is leaving your opponents wondering about what the card could be. Once your friends have seen your deck a few times, they'll start to get a better idea of what could be face down, making their blocking choices easier and the unknown factor a little less fun. Naturally, swapping cards in and out of your deck resolves that issue, but it is something to consider.

Randomness

Your opponent has a single 4/4 creature and five life. The opponent knows that the face-down creatures are Jeskai Infiltrator and a Pearl Lake Ancient. You attack with both, knowing the opponent will block one, but be forced to let the other one through. A flip of the coin will determine who wins the game!

Manifest's Destiny

I asked folks for creatures that do something a little special when they do some combat damage. You people are nasty!

Online Manifesto

Download Arena Decklist

The deck is mostly ramping and a way to get a land that has been manifested back to your hand using Ninja of the Deep Hours. The deck is straightforward and looks absolutely miserable to play against. My thanks to everyone who contributed cards on Twitter.

Normally, I wrap things up with one deck, but as I was putting the finishing touches on the first deck, I realized that Jeskai Infiltrator lets you get around "enters the battlefield" effects. This is normally a downside, since most cards that have an "enters the battlefield" effect are something good that you'd rather not miss. Then there are cards like Phyrexian Dreadnought.

Ship's Manifest

Download Arena Decklist

The deck tries to control the top card of your library using Sensei's Divining Top, scry, and Liliana Vess to search for the Dreadnaught when you are ready. The deck is creature-light and likely involves jumping through too many hoops, but it looks like a blast to me, and promises a real shock the first time out. After that, even when players know what is coming, there may not be much they can do about it.

Jeskai Infiltrator: release your inner Johnny and see what you come up with! I hope all of you have a safe and Happy New Year!

Bruce Richard

@manaburned

mtgseriousfun@gmail.com

 

[1] I’ll leave it to the pros and Limited experts to determine the value of this card in tournament and Limited play.

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