I've learned who my replacement is, and I believe it's an excellent choice. I can't (and won't) say any more about it. You'll just have to check in after the Time Spiral previews are done to find out!
Speaking of which…Wizards was kind enough to give me two preview cards this week! Yes, that's right: two! But don't expect the second one to be easy to find. Believe me, I'm not just sticking two images out there for you to scroll past.
I'll get that first one up right away, though.
For now, ignore the cost and sorcery speed. (Casual players and open-minded tournament players are capable of doing this; but most tournament wannabes haven't developed that skill. Try harder.) There are at least three terrific things going on here.
First (and least surprising to those who caught Mark Rosewater's hints last week), buyback is a mechanic we haven't seen in years, since Tempest block (some know it as Rath block). In fact, this might be one of the most powerful key-worded mechanics ever printed. Welcome back, buyback!
Second, stealing just made an appearance in white. In white! To date, such trickery has been largely limited to blue and red. (There are a few old-school black spells, too. Oh, okay, and Willow Satyr.) Red generally gets the sorceries that confuse a creature into temporary treachery, and blue generally gets the enchantments or creatures that make betrayal permanent. But here, we have a sorcery that grants permanent control…in white! Neat.
The last cool thing to recognize is why this spell, in white, has buyback. Why would Wizards do this? What is a card like this doing in a set named Time Spiral? Is this just an expensive buyback effect for kicks and giggles?
Absolutely not. As anyone who's serious enough about Magic to know The Dark knows, white has seen this ability before. Before I give the answer (and without checking the ever-ready Gatherer database), can you guess?
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Overcoming Free Will
I'm super-excited about this card for flavor and power reasons; but none of us are blind. The thing about evangelism is that it's all about free will – the other guy's free will. You can get up in front of a crowd, thump a dais, and see who comes over to your point of view. You can't make people believe what you want them to believe:
YOU (playing Evangelize): I would very, very much like that Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir. And you would like very, very much to give him to me.
HIM (putting a protective hand over Teferi): That's nice. But I think I will give you this 0/1 kelp token instead.
YOU: But I'm directing my best, most convincing evangelism in Teferi's general direction!
HIM (pushing the kelp token across the table): That's nice. Teferi hasn't caught that religion just yet.
Eventually, depending on how many kelp tokens this guy has, you'll get Teferi. That's where the buyback is critical. But realize that Evangelize needs to find an opponent with few creatures. If you're going to invest five – or nine – mana into this spell, you'll want as many players at the table as possible. One of them will be in exactly the position you want: a single, juicy creature, like a lone Silvos, Rogue Elemental.
You can increase the odds of capturing the right creature, from the right player, through one or more of these strategies:
1. Kill the weaklings. How do you get at an opponent's Rimescale Dragon when he's got two dozen 1/1 goblin tokens in play? Easy: play Massacre or Pyroclasm. If you're stuck in mono-white, consider something like Solar Tide, or even Cataclysm if you're brave enough to float the mana.
3. Make everything else untouchable. Who wants to see an evangelizing frog? I do too, so consider Plaxcaster Frogling as a way to pump opponent's creatures and then make one or more of them ineligible for targeting. Goblin Flectomancer can have the same ultimate effect, changing your opponent's target to something more to your liking.
But the best combination here may be Thornscape Master, which is one of the few cards that can both protect opponents' creatures and kill them. Use him to pick off the small fry; then, once your opponent is down to only two or three creatures, have the Master protect the creature you don't want your opponent to select.
4. Encourage audience participation. My regular readers know I'm not a big fan of open politicking during Magic games. The whole "I'll play this if you do that" gig just smacks of pathetic pandering.
Far better, I feel, to play the Evangelize without comment, but when you see other opponents' black and red mana open, and/or when their destructive abilities are on the board, cocked, and ready. Then, target the most obviously powerful player with a few creatures. If you pick your spots well, you'll find the other players thinning out your options. If they kill the bomb creature you were hoping for – well, they were going to do that eventually anyway. If they leave it and kill the lesser game, then your chances of getting that bomb are higher. Either way, you've trained the table to go after the big target – and you've gained a creature in the process.
(Crazy multiplayer dynamics disclaimer: It's possible they'll do nothing. Sometimes, that's the right play. So don't get angry if this doesn't work. Something they shouldn't do, unless you're already ridiculously powerful, is kill the creature you're about to steal. Relative to the other options, it's a waste of their effort, especially since they usually have the option of just waiting and seeing what you do with that converted creature.)
The Rules Of Religion
A few rules notes to keep in mind as you plot your evangelistic strategies.
- When you put the spell on the stack, you choose an opponent, then that opponent chooses the target. Then people can react to the spell on the stack. "Which creature" is not a choice made on resolution.
- This means, among other things, that your opponent cannot respond to Evangelize by creating a crappy little token and then targeting it. The crappy little token has to be on the board before you even get started with the evangelizin'.
- The target of the spell is a creature the chosen opponent controls. As Evangelize resolves, if the target isn't a creature controlled by the chosen opponent, Evangelize will be countered. If Evangelize's target is changed (via Shunt, for example), the new target must be a creature controlled by the chosen opponent.
- Many of us remember buyback. For those that don't, you'll want to check out the Time Spiral FAQ once it's available. For now, it's enough to keep three core things in mind: (1) you choose and pay for buyback when you play the spell, not after you see if it's going to get countered; (2) if it's countered, you lose the card; and (3) buyback costs don't count toward mana or converted mana costs.
The First Card's Prospects
Those of you wondering about the power level of Evangelize in tournament play should proceed with caution. Five mana in white usually comes close to killing everything on the board. Given a choice between mass destruction and begging your opponent for a creature, most tournament enthusiasts are going to select mass destruction for their white decks.
Evangelize may have some specific uses in Constructed duelist sideboards, when going up against decks where the creatures are few and powerful. But more likely, Evangelize will be a useful choice in slower Limited formats, like sealed deck. Sealed decks tend to be pretty unsophisticated, so making it to nine mana is not out of the question. And, whatever the format, if you're working on a slow, stalling sort of deck, Evangelize is an excellent "finisher" in that it will slowly drain your opponent's army away.
But enough of this analysis. No reader of mine with a brain expects Evangelize to tear a hole through the tournament scene. That's not why this card is exciting. Last week I said I'd get to go out showing you "three of the most amazing freaking preview cards" I've written about. Why is this one so exciting?
It's hard for someone who's been playing as long as me, who's got a deep enough collection to have cards like this, to put into words how awesome it is to see a card like Evangelize. But I think I have enough readers who already understand. Go back to that image of Preacher. Preacher was a card that anyone who mucked around with cards from The Dark spent some time with. How many times have I received emails from players who like Magic just fine, but wish Wizards would go back a bit more to "what made the game great"? And here we are: a card that recalls one of the strangest, but still most iconic, cards of one of the strangest but most iconic Magic sets. Evangelize is a card where Wizards is telling the older and more veteran players, "We know why you fell in love with this game. We remember. And this one's for you."
The whole Time Spiral set has cards like this. It's a grand feeling, one that reminds me of a recent family vacation on Cape Cod. I grew up a few miles from Chapin Beach (which is on the bay side – where the real Cape beaches are!). Every time I go back to the Cape, I make sure I get to a bayside beach. Wading through the low tide, hunting for hermit crabs to stay at the little hotel I've dug for them in the mud – there's a sensation that I only feel when I'm doing this. It's like seeing an old friend. (The hermit crabs appear nostalgic, as well. But I might be projecting.)
You want to know why I'm excited about a card that costs nine mana to steal the creature of your opponent's choice? Because old friends are worth it. Old beaches are fun to visit. Old Magic cards are worth revisiting. And I don't give a damn if the thing ever sees a tournament table. Neither does Wizards. Neither should you.
End of sermon.
The Second Card's Fate
The natural question at this point: where's that second preview card?
Well, here's the deal. I've already written all about it. But you can't see it for another four turns…which translates into, oh, about a week. Then the article (and the card) will come into play.
Yeah, I know, a cheap writer's trick. What can I say – I'm a wheeler and a dealer. But even when I pull stuff like this, I always leave you readers with something. Perhaps some of you will put together my clues before next Tuesday.
Anthony has been playing various Magic formats for over eight years, and has been writing for much longer than that. His next book, THE SILVER MOON ELM, was written with his wife MaryJanice Davidson and comes out June 2007.