Walk Through The Valley

Posted in Serious Fun on January 20, 2004

By Anthony Alongi

Last week, we looked at a piece of equipment that required an initial investment of nine mana (and a recurring investment of five), and we concluded that it was still a pretty good deal for casual group games. You know, because of card advantage.

This week, we’re going to analyze a piece of equipment that will require an initial investment of five mana, and no recurring investment. And it will return you a card, and additional bonuses, every turn.

There are five different things going on with this card: the power/toughness adjustment, the protection from white, the protection from black, the life gain, and the graveyard recursion. That’s an awful lot for five (colorless!) mana. Let’s take a look at how we could abuse each aspect.

Power/toughness adjustment. Everything else being equal, larger creatures are better than smaller ones, right? We can make things way less equal and really take advantage of the bonus with at least two cards: Thundercloud Elemental and Solar Tide. Even if we’re equipping a 1/1 featureless token, it still makes it through each card’s filter.

In fact, if we’re using an army of tokens (e.g., Myr Matrix or Squirrel Nest), we can use the “large” mode of Solar Tide to wipe out all large creatures, and then equip one special, privileged token to be master of the board.

The power and toughness adjustment also helps some Mirrodin favorites, such as Spikeshot Goblin and Auriok Bladewarden, work a bit better and stay alive longer.

Protection from white. I often feel that protection from this particular color is underrated. Wrath of God and its ilk have a lot to do with that – but white mages who run Wrath also like running spot removal like Swords to Plowshares, and they like blocking with big, fat white creatures. They also attack with horrific stuff like Serra Angel, and who hasn’t faced down one of those with an Ornithopter and wished they could do better?

Protection from black. This can be good, even if no one else is playing the color. After all, every player eventually makes (or meets) a Pestilence deck that “cleverly” protects its own creatures and life total. Here, in one card, we have both the protection and life gain aspect. Expect to see this the next time someone in your group plays that particular deck type. And, of course, so much spot removal is black it’s not funny. So no jokes here. Move on.

Life gain. This is the least impressive aspect of the equipment; but some casual players swear by life gain, so goody for them. Bear in mind a straightforward Spirit Link would give better results on every creature better than a 1/1. So if it’s just life gain you’re after, look somewhere else. The life we’re gaining here is a nice side effect, but there’s little to build on. (Still, the Sword looks swell on a fully kicked Necravolver.)

Raise dead. Ah, now we come to it. The card reusability portion of our program. If we can come up with something cheap, it’s easy to forsee a continual sack-attack-retrieve pattern, for some increasingly impressive good. Here are some candidates to consider, at three mana or less:

That should get you started, anyway.

The Indominable Swordsman

Graceful Antelope
So back to the sword as a whole. Whom should you equip? Who has the moxie to carry this weapon into battle successfully, again and again? Who’s turning the tables on the next savannah lion that thinks it’s getting an easy meal?

Oh yes, my friend: Graceful Antelope. It comes out turn four, and then you play and equip with the Sword on turn five. (Insert stupid joke about antelopes and swords here.) You then have a 3/6, pro-white, pro-black, color-screwin’, life-gainin’, corpse-raisin’ bundle of love. Folks, this is good on turn five! You smack the white mage and turn his tapped Kor Haven into a plains. (Assume the element of surprise, here. I mean, who sees this thing coming?) Thus endeth the white mage. Turn your attention next to the black mage, and peel away swamp after swamp while wrecking her with a six-point life swing each time.

Then the red, green, and blue mages…well, okay, I got nothing special here; but we can all hope that by then, you’ve played a few more cards and gained enough life to deal with the tragic reality of multi-color Magic.

Here’s my recommended deck:


Notice how the morphs penalize defenders for blocking the equipped creature – and the more familiar your opponents are with this deck, the harder they’ll think. This will help them get through for the Sword’s bonuses.

If you can’t stand the thought of arming antelopes – and don’t think for a second that John Ashcroft hasn’t considered the possibility – then let me suggest some of these most excellent four-mana creatures as fine wielders of the equipment who won’t hurt your deck’s pacing or development:

In green:

In red:

In black:

In blue:

In white:



The list is not exhaustive, not even for the 4-mana slot. But it should get you started.

Whether equipping one of your favorite choices or one of mine, the Sword is mighty good equipment – it’s obvious Wizards is pushing players to make use of this new card subtype. As I suggested above, it’s not everywhere you get double-protection, pump, recursion, and lifegain in one card!

But the most amazing thing about this sword? As great as it is, of the two you’ll see in Darksteel, it’s not even the “good” one. Chew on that, and enjoy the pre-release!

You may email Anthony at seriousfun@wizards.com. He cannot provide deck help.

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