The Counter Before the Storm

Posted in Serious Fun on July 6, 2010

Mana Leak is being reprinted. It's finally settled in to the minds of the more competitive crowd that, yes, a flexible early general spell deterrent is back. While Cancel, Deprive and Negate (and to a lesser extent Essence Scatter) have served well those who choose to suit up in blue, Mana Leak is something a little different.

I won't unload about the strategic implications of Mana Leak but it suffices to say that the excitement about a reprint is a demonstration of just how much any card can be really exciting in some ways. While I'm not as excited about Mana Leak as others, there is something else that always makes me smile: how many of you remember Leviathan?

This thing was absolutely massive when it first hit the scene. While The Dark was released a little before my time in Magic it wasn't hard to find a copy or three of Leviathan floating around thanks to its appearance in both Fourth Edition and Fifth Edition. What made Leviathan awesome was that it was both an enormous 10/10 with trample and it was everything you expected the greatest titan of the sea to be: hungry.

Losing lands is a tough pill to swallow—I do like having access to mana and all—but once he hit the table you didn't really need to keep casting spells as Leviathan would inevitably hit your opponent's weak point for massive damage. I know I pitched away my fair share of islands running him into the soft defenses of my friends, and I'm sure many of you did similar things.

Leviathan was the true biggest fatty for a while and he received the "tweaked and printed" treatment as well: Marjhan, Polar Kraken, Thing from the Deep, and Denizen of the Deep all pay homage to the original big blue baddie of the depths.

But it wasn't to stay this way—blue was about to see its biggest creatures morphed in a decidedly different direction. Broodstar played a brief role in competitive decks before Arcbound Ravager came along. Grozoth and Sky Swallower didn't come with price tags and costs as steep as their predecessors. Supreme Exemplar only asked to borrow an Elemental for a while. And most recently, our easy-to-Mentos-parody Lorthos, the Tidemaker comes as a completely awesome sea king—without any real negative to running him out.

It isn't that blue's creature "have gotten better" per se—I've used nearly every one mentioned today and been pleased to do so—but that there are less and less reasons to ignore blue when it comes to the fatty department: green's staple theme. Magic 2011 gives us, in my humblest of opinions, something that will give you even less of a reason to look away:

Leviathan, meet your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson.

    Changing Tides

Stormtide Leviathan invokes the name of his oft-forgotten forefather but carries the weight and duty of an Olympic champion. What does Stormtide Leviathan bring with it?

  • An 8/8 body, which is a delicious helping of beef
  • Islandwalk—one of my favorite landwalk abilities
  • Making every land an Island too—which seems pretty nice considering the above
  • Making the entire battlefield a giant Moat-like trap

When it rains, it pours baby and Stormtide Leviathan literally floods the world. If you can't fly or swim you're stuck at home behind the vast seas our new favorite underwater champion brings with him.

But there's a special little treat in store for anyone who loves rules intricacies: you can't stop the flow of water. Right from the rules notes:

If Stormtide Leviathan loses its abilities, all lands on the battlefield (including those that enter the battlefield later on) will still be Islands in addition to their other types and will still be able to tap to produce . The way continuous effects work, Stormtide Leviathan's type-changing ability is applied before the effect that removes that ability is applied.

That means fellow Magic 2011 newcomer Diminish and classics like Humble don't stop everything from getting wet. Which got me thinking about all the smaller Island-loving critters out there too:

Off The Deep End

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Just when you thought it was safe to go out into the water the unsafe water goes out to get you. Sygg and his many Merfolk friends create a ground presence to be reckoned with. Silvergill Adept and Merrow Reejery set an aggressive tone, with Sejiri Merfolk and Lord of Atlantis providing even more bodies. The real kicker comes in two ways:

  • Lord of Atlantis grants islandwalk to all of its merry Merfolk friends
  • Halimar Wavewatch gets to be quite large for a Merfolk while carrying its own islandwalk ability

Between these two solid sources of islandwalk goodness it's only a matter of time before Stormtide Leviathan pops up to lay the low down: islandwalk is good. To get to that point, if it's needed, both Counterspell and Path to Exile will provide the ways to sidestep blockades and both Jace's Ingenuity and Halimar Depths give some card management. And a few Everflowing Chalice to help accelerate the final endgame of our Leviathan flooding the world seems nice too.

Merfolk were my first flavorful grab for Stormtide Leviathan. Pelakka Wurm is my next. Wait, "What?"

Green is the obvious king of fatties and aside from particular cycles and exceptions (I'm looking at YOU Magic 2011 Titans!) to skip out bundling up our new friend with some fellow beef would be a mistake.

Where's the Beef? (It's Here!)

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(Not familiar with the new M11 cards in this list? You can see them and over a hundred of their pals in the Visual Spoiler.)

I like some variety in my decks, which is why things probably look a little different (I'm not a full-time member of the "always four-of your best-of" club) than you may expect. There is quite a bit of mana and land acceleration: Sylvan and Borderland Rangers grab basic lands while the Oracle of Mul Daya lets you dump them out, Arbor Elf untaps both regular plain Forests and snazzy dual lands, and Treespeaker feels like an Everflowing Chalice on legs.

But mana dudes are pretty tame compared to the big baddies lurking behind. Primeval Titan continues the ramping theme to new heights while Frost Titan and Pelakka Wurm provide nice spell-like effects (tapping things as well as life gain, respectively). Jace's Ingenuity, Brainstorm, and Worldly Tutor help fill your hand with more of the cards you want.

The final piece of the puzzle is the oft-left-languishing Levitation. Giving all your beef flying is usually awesome enough but in conjunction with Stormtide Leviathan you can continue to swing even after the world is all wet! Even better, if things get hairy Stormtide can buckle attacks down until you recover—and drop Levitation to go back on the offense.

And really, what would you do if you saw a pair of flying, mythically rare giants swinging over to you?

Aside from supporting the beatdown Stormtide Leviathan can help set up some other things that maybe aren't apparent outright.

Once our big, fishy friend is in play you can drop a game-changing bomb with Boil and get a red Armageddon. You can also try Choke if you don't feel like being as provocative.

Taking a trip back in time, Mystic Decree forms a two-card lock-out of combat. Surely with cards like Jace's Erasure, Tome Scour, Memory Erosion, and Mesmeric Orb you'd never have any reason to stop combat, right?

Maddening Imp is a mean little guy, poking a player's dorks into taking a swing and perishing if they can't. Once Stormtide is on the battlefield your Imp can make combat a very tricky place for opponents. Note: this Imp also works well with last week's Angelic Arbiter.

Most of the varied and diverse species of Serpents really want lots of islands. Like the Merfolk who can pick up islandwalk, these serpents will gladly slither over your opponents as soon as Stormtide sets the world a-flood.

Stormtide Leviathan | Art by Karl Kopinski

There's a Magic 2011 Prerelease For You

If you're itching to get the heads-up on how Magic 2011 actually feels in your hands, this weekend's Prerelease Events are the time to do it. I shared how amazing Grand Prix–DC was, and gushed over the Worldwake Prerelease as well, so if previous experience is any indicator Magic 2011's show should be just as amazing. As it's the closest one to home I'll be gun slinging a few decks at the big show put on by Dream Wizards in Maryland. The handy box to the right will show you which ones are close to your home as well.

And that's where I'll leave you this week. Join me next week when you I show you some of the wonderous things I—and I hope you—encountered this weekend! See you then (or sooner)!

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