Something Old, Something New

Posted in Serious Fun on May 21, 2002

By Anthony Alongi

Revised judgments on forgotten gems

One of the greatest things about ignoring the conventional tournament scene is that your world is opened up far wider every time a new set comes out. The (very good) Standard and Odyssey block analyses of cards out there are limited to interactions with cards within a few sets. Meanwhile, players who gather at the kitchen table and slam decks of all sorts together can pull from a larger universe -- and in fact, if you don’t, your opponent will, and she’ll have the advantage.

Let me take an example from Judgment. Wormfang Manta looks interesting, but it has been carefully balanced to avoid infinite turns -- so pairing it with other Odyssey block cards like Engulfing Flames or Aether Burst gives you a net effect of zero. But anyone who harks back to Mirage block knows about phasing; and if they know about phasing, they probably know that what phases in does not trigger comes-into-play effects… but what phases out does trigger leaves play effects. I’ll save you the trouble of whipping through the database for the lowest-cost phasing aid: it’s Vanishing. Within 24 hours of seeing the card, our play group had come up with a probable turn-3 consistent win using the Manta, Vanishing, Oath of Druids, and a bunch of searching and counterspells. Of course, by “turn 3”, we mean, “turn 3+ however many you’d like to take.”

Not all cards end in depressing combos; most of the synergy you’ll find from recent sets is more palatable (read: disruptable). Of all the cards in Odyssey block that play off the graveyard, Web of Inertia may be among the most intriguing. As many times as casual players have suggested Planar Void as a combo in the past year (e.g., with Gorilla Titan), preventing any player from attacking you has got to be high on that older enchantment’s list.

Having fun yet? If so, I’ve got ten more possibilities for you to consider. For each Judgment card, I’ve pointed out a “current” synergy, then some “old school” cards that you might consider using. Since there’s old school and then there’s old school, I’ve divided up “old school” (all expansions from Mirage through Prophecy) and “very old school” (Alpha through Alliances), so that there’s something for everyone.

The three proposed cards for each Judgment card don’t necessarily work with each other as well as they work with the Judgment card itself. That said, I think I have the beginning of a fairly interesting deck for morality shift

In alphabetical order:

ANURID BRUSHHOPPER

Anurid Brushhopper

Current trick: Run a green-white-blue deck and use Upheaval to erase the board of everything but your pet angry frog.

Old School: Board-clearers are the best choice, no matter how far back in time you go. To stay in colors, I’d consider False Prophet, which has the advantage of serving as excellent defense as your pet angry frog goes to town.

Very Old School: Your pet angry frog goes to charm school, and learns the important skill of Balance.

CEPHALID CONSTABLE

Cephalid Constable

Current: Squids can’t find their way out of their own block without the help of a magical Elephant Guide.

Old School: Returning four permanents a turn is for amateurs. Throw a Might of Oaks on that squid for an absolutely punishing 8 damage and 8 returned permanents.

Very Old School: With a Howl from Beyond, you are limited only by the amount of mana you have. Who said the sea was silent?

FLEDGLING DRAGON

Fledgling Dragon

Current: Do a quick Book Burning, and the dragon will come out of the egg as a full-sized Shivan Dragon.

Old School: Dancing around the edges of an Ensnaring Bridge can give you some tasty challenges. You need to have two or more cards when you attack with the basic Fledgling, then you need to find a way to discard them at instant speed so that you can hit threshold, then you need to find a way to use the newly found pump ability. Lion's Eye Diamond may fit the bill…

Very Old School: Enhance the trick above with Surge of Strength, which really helps in the quest for threshold, and gives your dragon +4/+0 and trample until the end of turn.

GENESIS

Genesis

Current: The duh-obvious play with this card will be Wild Mongrel. (Hey, I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it… I’m just saying you won’t shock anyone.)

Old School: While restricted in many formats, Genesis was born to preach Darwinism with Survival of the Fittest.

Very Old School: Anybody remember Casting of Bones? Anybody remember playing Casting of Bones? I didn’t think so. See, not every card from the Very Old School is worth talking about…

HUNTING GROUNDS

Hunting Grounds

Current: In response to any spell, you can drop a Fleetfoot Panther for free and save another creature. (Has anyone else noticed that G/W now has two solid 3/4's for three mana in the last two blocks? Make sure your play group learns this fabulous news, firsthand.)

Old School: Aluren-Equilibrium decks were always five-color, and often fill their graveyard quickly enough to reach threshold. It shouldn’t be too hard to find room for this cheap, gold enchantment.

Very Old School: You know, in olden days, they just didn’t drop creatures out of the sky. So there’s not much here. But I’d get a hold of a Storm Cauldron and see if you can’t make it even less appetizing for your opponents to pay mana for their creatures as you drop yours for free.

MORALITY SHIFT

Morality Shift

Current: As your graveyard runs out of cards to feed Gurzigost, switch it with your library and then place whatever cards you like near the top of your library, for the rest of the game.

Old School: If your Oath of Druids deck has only a few creatures, changing your moral outlook may be an excellent recursive measure.

Very Old School: Before there was Gurzigost…there was Deep Spawn.

NANTUKO MONASTERY

Nantuko Monastery

Current: Combos with land aren’t exactly the most exciting things in the world. Rites of Spring can’t find you your Monastery; but it can get you to threshold faster so that you can generate that 4/4 quickly. It will also get you the GW you need to activate the ability, and thin your deck so you can draw the man-land faster.

Old School: Another way to find the half of GW you need is Grasslands.

Very Old School: This is a good time to remind everyone that combos with land -- not that exciting. Wrath of God has been reprinted since Alpha for a reason. Use the damn thing.

PHANTOM CENTAUR

Phantom Centaur

Current: The way most people will take the Centaur (and all the phantom creatures) from good to excellent will be pumping the defense, on a permanent basis. From Standard-legal sets, Glorious Anthem will be the first place they turn.

Old School: Players who don’t mind picking through Masques block for unexpected treats will find Spidersilk Armor, which will be easier to cast with the Centaur and make it a sky-scraping machine.

Very Old School: Kaysa is a dark horse favorite of many, many veteran casual players. She’s good outside of saproling decks, too.

There are just too many neat options with phantom cards! Let’s do another one…

PHANTOM NANTUKO

Phantom Nantuko

Current: See? We can even use mediocre cards like Blessed Orator on phantom creatures.

Old School: If you want to talk about a mediocre card suddenly hitting the gas, Ley Line becomes stellar with your friendly ghosts.

Very Old School: This whole article started from a desire to compare Juniper Order Advocate with Jacques le Vert. Legislation, sausage, and Serious Fun articles: you just don’t want to know what goes into making any of them.

Another cool move for phantom creatures is Thran Weaponry. Just make sure you have all the phantom creatures you need out before you tap it, since creatures that come out after it’s tapped do not get the bonus (until you untap and retap it).

SOULGORGER ORGG

Soulgorger Orgg

Current: Will we see Orgg - Worship decks in the Standard tournament environment? Probably not, but the few who shoot for the moon will have a blast doing so.

Old School: Having only one life is a great opportunity to sacrifice that Second Chance and take an extra turn. Hey, at least you’ll get to attack with it once before you get axed by a 1-point Earthquake.

Very Old School: Okay, let me get this straight. If I have a Lich in play (zero life), and I play the soulgorger orgg, there's no drawback!

Anthony may be reached at seriousfun@wizards.com.

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