The Shaman Whose Ways Will Never be Forgotten

Posted in Serious Fun on March 3, 2015

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.

Anyone who's been playing Magic for more than a couple years knows the power of Birds of Paradise. A single green mana gets you a creature that can tap for a mana of any color. It can even act as a flying chump blocker in a pinch, but realistically, it was a go-to card because it allowed you easy access to every color of mana. Four Birds and a few lands, and you had the start of a great multicolored deck.

Utopia Tree did the same thing, but it didn't fly and it cost one more mana. It was never as good, but as the Poor Man's Birds of Paradise (I only owned two Birds for the longest time), it did the essential job pretty well.

Birds of Paradise | Art by Marcelo Vignali

Somberwald Sage upped the game, giving you three mana of any one color. In spite of the three mana, the Sage just never caught on with the tournament crowd. An 0/1 creature for three mana who was only helpful if you were playing a creature offered too many restrictions to work well. The casual crowd, with many creature decks and games that are long enough that a mana ramp creature that costs three mana still made sense, took the Sage in and gave it a home. The bummer with the Sage was that it was all one color of mana. I liked to use the Sage to cast bigger creatures and I love my big, multicolored creatures most of all. The Sage helped a little, but quite often I was left trying to find that third, different color of mana.

My troubles are over. Welcome to Shaman of Forgotten Ways!

Now that you've had a bit to take in Shaman of Forgotten Ways, I'm going to ask you to just forget about the "Formidable" part right now. I know…it is amazing, but let's focus on what the card can do without any board requirements beyond being able to cast it. We'll get back to "Formidable" soon enough.


Body

When looking at Shaman of Forgotten Ways, you aren't generally looking at the power and toughness. You're focusing on tapping for mana. However, the 2/3 body offers something we don't generally see in a mana creature. The Shaman can withstand a lot of the burn that is out there, and can even manage a successful block early on.[1] Other mana creatures are usually dead to just about every burn spell out there. The Shaman offers a little cushion there.

Mana

The Shaman of Forgotten Ways is unusual in that you can get two mana in any combination of colors. Somberwald Sage and most other cards that give you multiple mana only give you a particular color or a single color for all the mana. Even Lotus Vale only taps to give you three mana of one color when tapped. This ability makes Shaman of Forgotten Ways particularly useful in decks of three or more. A Forest and a Shaman let you cast Savage Knuckleblade. This flexibility should not be understated. With the number of great, inexpensive, multicolored cards out there, Shaman of Forgotten Ways is even better. Shattergang Brothers; Doran, the Siege Tower; and Rafiq of the Many are just a few creatures that will be getting onto the battlefield a little faster with Shaman of Forgotten Ways in your decks.

With two mana per activation, Shaman of Forgotten Ways will be finding its way into plenty of combos. When you can tap a creature for two mana of different colors, expect the Johnnies in your group to find ways to untap it repeatedly.

The Shaman's mana can only be used to cast creatures. While this restriction hurts in many decks, creatures are dominant in most multiplayer decks. This will help to minimize this restriction to the point where you won't even notice. As long keep the restriction in mind, you'll likely be able to cast your creature using the Shaman, and cast a non-creature spell using your land, all on the same turn.

Cost

So we have a creature with a good size, that has an ability that will undoubtedly be useful, but is the cost too high? Mana creatures that cost three mana tend to survive only in niche decks. The purpose of these creatures is to speed up your ability to cast other creatures. In tournaments, a three-cost creature has been too slow. Most tournaments saw the key plays happen on turn four. Many powerful cards cost four mana. Your ability to cast your four-mana spells as soon as possible was key. The value of a ramp creature that costs one (or even two) mana was that you could play it early so your four-mana turn would happen earlier.

Turn 1: Forest, Birds of Paradise

Turn 2: Forest.

Turn 3: Another land. Ready to cast a 4-mana creature.

A creature that costs three mana demands that you use all your available mana on turn two (assuming you had ramp in the first turn) just so you could get the same effect. You wanted to play a threat on turn three, or have the mana open to threaten a response to your opponent. Three mana, just to ramp up the next turn, was too costly.

Is that still the case in tournaments? How would I know, I'm the Serious Fun guy! For your kitchen table games, I can tell you that Shaman of Forgotten Ways is costed just fine. While 4-mana cards are impressive, the games have barely even started until players have six mana available. Consider this ramp plan:

Turn 1: Forest, Elvish Mystic.

Turn 2: Land, Shaman of Forgotten Ways

Turn 3: Land, Primeval Titan, land, land

Turn 4: Land, nine mana to do whatever you want!

You can have Hand of Emrakul on turn four! You can't have Ugin (remember, the Shaman only gives you mana for creatures, not Planeswalkers) but with all the creature options this isn't a real limitation. You would also be able to get at least one mana of every color at this point too: assuming your land play each turn was a Forest, Primeval Titan could get two other basic lands, and the Shaman could tap for the remaining colors.

Admittedly, that ramp plan is a little overzealous, but even without the Primeval Titan, you have six mana available for a creature on turn three. Change your Elvish Mystic to a Birds of Paradise and even with just Forests, you still have four different-colored mana available. Play any Nephilim on turn three! As I've said, the ability to tap for different-colored mana should not be underrated!

Formidable

But what about the formidable effect? Is it really worth it? For newer players, let me introduce you to the forgotten way known as Biorhythm. For nine mana, you get the formidable effect on the Shaman. This card is a nightmare for your opponents because they are never expecting it. A game where everyone's life totals are more than 20, with a complicated board state; quickly turns when one player casts a mass removal spell, and you hit a Biorhythm next turn with a freshly cast Elvish Mystic gets you the win. I have not seen a game involving Biorhythm that lasted longer than a single round of turns.

How likely will you be able to use it?

1. Activating it costs eleven mana. Eleven mana is a lot of mana, even with ramping. The Shaman's mana ability can't be used here, you aren't casting a creature and you need to tap the Shaman for both effects. We've all been involved in games that have gone on long enough for you to use this ability, but it certainly isn't going to happen in every game.

2. Need 8 power worth of creatures. This is a non-issue. Mosswort Bridge requires 10 power and that has almost never been a problem for me or others using the Bridge to reach. The Shaman has 2 power already, so you only need 6 more power to meet the requirement. A single large creature, with the Shaman, is more than enough to meet the requirement.

When you look at it through that lens, the formidable effect is something that will be an option in many late games, but not always. When it becomes an option, I expect it will behave differently than Biorhythm. If you have 8 power or more worth of creatures, I expect most of your opponents will also have some creatures in play. When Shaman could tap for the effect, you'll be well into games, with plenty of creatures on the battlefield. If you have 8 power worth of creatures, it is also unlikely that a mass removal spell has just cleared the table. The times when you will have the mana to get creatures with enough power to use the effect, and the mana needed to use the effect, are slim. This means that the instant-win, surprise factor that makes Biorhythm so nasty is gone. Everyone can see the Shaman on the table. Everyone can see how much mana you have available and if you have enough creatures to use it. This all means that it will play very differently from Biorhythm; it will be far more group-friendly.

Some may be concerned that since Biorhythm is banned in Commander, that Shaman of Forgotten Ways could be banned as well. While any card could be banned, I don't think this will be one of those cards. Biorhythm plays significantly different, so I just don't see the Shaman getting the banhammer.

The formidable effect gives the Shaman some late-game appeal. Tapping for mana is great in the early game, but the effect becomes less important as the game progresses. It becomes more likely that the Shaman will die, and as more of your lands enter the battlefield, your need of the Shaman's two mana for creatures becomes less. When the game reaches a point where you have eleven mana available, not including the Shaman's mana, you should no longer have mana issues, so having an alternative ability to keep the Shaman relevant in the late game makes the card more valuable and even more fun.


Deck

I normally try to provide you with a decklist that features the preview card, maximizing its abilities. Shaman of Forgotten Ways is not that kind of card. The Shaman helps you do everything else your deck wants to do. Consider this for a moment. I have two Commander decks that use green as one of the colors (Vorel of the Hull Clade and Krond the Dawn-Clad). Shaman of Forgotten Ways will be going in both of those decks. I have six sixty-card decks that have green as a color: Shaman of Forgotten Ways can go in all of them.

This is a utility card like no other. I've included my 60-card Doran list, and my Prophet of Kruphix deck. You can see how both decks will revel in remembering the Forgotten Ways.

Yes, Solidarity is that Good

Step 3: Prophet!

In Doran, the Shaman provides an easy way to get many of the creatures onto the battlefield. With the Prophet of Kruphix, the Shaman untaps on each players' upkeep to allow for extra abuse!

Even without the formidable effect, Shaman of Forgotten Ways is a formidable creature. If I never activate the formidable effect, this is a card I won't hesitant to put into any green deck. Shaman of Forgotten Ways will not be forgotten!

Bruce Richard

@manaburned

mtgseriousfun@gmail.com


[1] Not that I advocate using Shaman of Forgotten Ways as a blocker.  Most of the time, you are just getting suckered. Risking the loss of a creature that taps for two mana is rarely worth the risk.

Latest Serious Fun Articles

SERIOUS FUN

Hedron Alignment by, Bruce Richard

When I first looked at my preview card, I couldn't really wrap my brain around it. The card does so much that I wasn't really understanding its value. Kind of a "forest for the trees" thi...

Learn More

SERIOUS FUN

Eternal Pilgrim by, Bruce Richard

When religious belief turns into religious fervor, things get problematic—particularly on Zendikar. When the Eldrazi were originally imprisoned, stories were told to ensure no one would t...

Learn More

Articles

Articles

Serious Fun Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All

We use cookies on this site to enhance your user experience. By clicking any link on this page or by clicking Yes, you are giving your consent for us to set cookies. (Learn more about cookies)

No, I want to find out more