The Bruisers: Black, Blue, and Green
If you haven't read last week's intro you should do so, especially before you provide feedback or ask questions.
The Darkest Hall Of All
Black has historically been my favorite color, in part because of the risks it takes. It can be exhilarating to play a mono-black, watch a horrific opposing enchantment like Subversion come out, and realize you have a race on your hands.
The past year has been pretty good to black, from a multiplayer perspective. Two new cards from the last three sets are in the Top Ten, and two more in the Top 20. What placed where? Click here to find out. For those who just want to skim, here are the new entries:
I've talked about most of these cards by now – and what I haven't discussed, other writers have explored quite well (e.g., Horobi, Death's Wail). It's still worth noting that Seizan, Perverter of Truth continues the revived tradition Endless Whispers began: black cards with a strong "pigeon" element. I always appreciated the way cards like Living Death and Tombstone Stairwell proposed benefits to everyone while not necessarily helping them, and it feels very flavorful for black. I hope Wizards continues to explore cards that share black's perverse outlook on the game.
Here are "ten plus" common & uncommon staples for black mages, based on primary strategy:
Utility - Spot Removal: Terror is the baseline. Seal of Doom can be several times more effective in most situations – you can't even measure how many Terrors it actually saves you from having to cast. Bone Shredder attaches removal to a creature, an increasingly common tactic for black. Befoul is likely to stay strong as Wizards continues to enhance lands and multi-colored strategies.
Utility - Discard: Beyond the group-focused stuff in the Hall, Hymn to Tourach is still amazing (so amazing they'll never reprint it). Funeral Charm is interesting instant-speed discard, notable in this age of certain potential rat legends.
Early Offense: Black's got a million, so pick your poison: Dauthi Slayer, Carnophage, Withered Wretch, Black Knight, Knight of Stromgald, etc. Dark Ritual – Hypnotic Specter is still the standard for turn one plays; but Hyppies can be hard to find even though they're technically uncommons.
I've recently rediscovered the joys of Fallen Askari. What a great card in a deck that doesn't mind a bit of early return damage. It gets a lot of people to deploy their heavier guns (3/3 and better) sooner than they probably want – which helps the mass removal card you're holding back. Absolutely ferocious with stuff like Bad Moon (which I'm not counting as a staple since it's rare).
Early Defense: Fog of Gnats, Nightscape Familiar, and Wall of Souls are perennial favorites; but don't forget stuff that doubles as spot removal: Festering Goblin can be great on both defense and offense.
Finishers: Non-rare finishers in black aren't necessarily flashy, but are still among the most effective. Consume Spirit is the new benchmark for life drain. Twisted Abomination is good both early and late. Abyssal Specter is a more obtainable version of Hypnotic Specter. And Grotesque Hybrid still impresses me with both ability and artwork.
No Hall Is An Island
Many blue mages have difficulty shifting from duel to multiplayer. As a largely reactive color (you play a spell, I counter it or bounce it or steal it), blue finds many of its cards and strategies underpowered when it faces more than one opponent. But it can still find success in group play – often by using cards no self-respecting tournament junkie would touch.
You wanna see the amazing list of new Hall entries blue compiled over the past year? Okay, here it is, in alphabetical order:
Last week, I made clear that blue really does have two other cards – Memnarch and Vedalken Shackles. And blue continues to get very flashy cards like Time Stop and Gifts Ungiven that should work fine as utility in group. So this isn't as pathetic as it looks. But this is certainly a switch from the days of Quicksilver Dragon, Blatant Thievery, and Willbender – all in Onslaught block, and all in blue's Top Ten overall. See the entire blue Hall here.
This site hasn't touched much on either card yet, so a few notes on each:
Keiga, the Tide Star is beautiful – and not just because of the artwork. It does exactly what you want out of a rattlesnake card: give you an excellent chance of striking back. Sure, opponents without much in play won't be as worried, and something like Spinal Embrace will totally ruin your day; but 90 percent of the time, this fellow will work as planned and intimidate the board into acceptance.
Uyo, Silent Prophet takes another road toward intimidation: imitation. Mischievous Quanar is still great fun – heck, so is Fork – so seeing the ability attached to a durable flyer works for me. You might consider combinations with Seismic Assault, for additional retaliation.
Blue's "staples" include some of the best cards in the game:
Utility – Countering: I find variants like Exclude and Dismiss more useful than the original Counterspell, since they replace themselves and give you a greater shot at keeping up with the board. In a recursion-heavy environment, Syncopate and now Hinder are worth a look.
Early Defense: Here's where blue can shine. By the second or third turn, Fog Bank and Wall of Air can stop most threats decks are still producing on turns four and five. Man-o'-War still represents one of the best cheap bouncing cards in blue's history. And Seal of Removal can go a long way toward making sure an attack from something like a Shivan Dragon heads elsewhere.
Finishers: In blue, you generally think of big flyers when you think of finishers. Most are rare, but among commons and uncommons you still have Air Elemental, Breezekeeper, and Cloud Djinn packing some punch.
The Hall's Greenery
Green is the color most casual players love best. Part of it is the stompy-creature aspect; part of it is the acceleration; and part of it is the way green can facilitate creative endeavors in 5-color decks. However you analyze it, most casual players like to see green do well.
As with one or two of the other colors, green didn't gain as much from an artifact-dominated year. What it has gained appears quite solid:
Pulse of the Tangle also gets a "similar" listing (to Oath of Druids). Molder Slug also came quite close; but the problem there is obvious – in a game with few artifacts, the slug is merely a decent fattie. Waiting in the wings of the Hall: Jugan, the Rising Star and Nature's Will. Right now, neither looks like it has a powerful enough effect to make it in; but I'll entertain stories (actual experiences, mind you: not fantasies of seven-card combos) to convince me otherwise.
Here's the entire green hall.
I'll comment on Myojin of Life's Web before moving to green "staples". At first, this myojin appears to get the rawest deal of the five. After all, what green creature can't you play if you have ? Are you really going to have a hand full of creatures just dying to get out of your hand and into play?
But then, you think about stuff like this:
1) Accelerate (with the method of your choice) to the Myojin of Life's Web by turn five pretty easily. (Elves, Fertile Ground, Seething Song, whatever.) Play Wrath of God. Keep the divinity counter on the myojin while Wrath resolves. Then remove the counter and drop the rest of your army. Bear in mind you still have an 8/8 as well.
2) Accelerate (with the method of your choice) to the Myojin of Life's Web by turn five pretty easily. Play Nesting Wurm on turn six. Go find three more Nesting Wurms and put them in your hand. Remove the myojin's counter at will to jump from 4 to 16 trampling damage on the board. Bear in mind you still have an 8/8 as well.
3) Accelerate (with the method of your choice) to the Myojin of Life's Web by turn five pretty easily. Remove the counter and drop two copies each of Keiga, the Tide Star and Kokusho, the Evening Star. Let the new legendary rule do its magic, resulting in a 10-life drop to your enemies, a massive boost for you, and two new creatures as shiny parting gifts. Bear in mind you still have an 8/8 as well.
4) Accelerate (with the method of your choice) to the Myojin of Life's Web by turn five pretty easily. Bear in mind you still have an 8/8 – and it's indestructible!
Here are staple cards to consider for green:
Utility – Permanent Removal: Most people have come to accept Naturalize as being in the "right" color (as opposed to Disenchant), and in mono-green decks there's no reason not to substitute Wear Away. Desert Twister at sounds slow, but it does hit any type of permanent. And let's not forget how good Splinter still can be, with Mirrodin block cards still running around.
Utility – Pumping: Invigorate and Predator's Strike are both useful tricks that still catch people off-guard. Also consider spike creatures like Spike Feeder – lots of players forget that you can use these to enhance another creature.
Early Defense: Green doesn't often go here. Wall of Blossoms is there when it does.
Finishers: In the uncommon slot, you have some real dark horses that ought to see more play. Most of these add trample and other bonuses for an alpha strike. Centaur Chieftain can be amazing. Brawn and Stampede Driver free up other creatures without trample to enter your deck. And Yavimaya Wurms still work well on the high end of just about any green deck.
That's it for this week. Next week will conclude the Hall with white and red.
Anthony cannot provide deck help. Another copy of him has come into play, causing both to go to the graveyard as a state-based effect, thereby resulting in an impressive double triggered effect.