It Doesn't Even Matter

Posted in Top Decks on April 8, 2010

By Mike Flores

"There are no wrong threats. Only wrong answers." —Dave Price, King of Beatdown

If there is one person / character / personification of a Magic card that is worth following on Twitter, it is @Doom_Blade_Guy. Doom Blade Guy takes a humorous look at the destruction of creatures—specifically, the ease with which the card Doom Blade can knock a Baneslayer Angel, say, from the skies into the graveyard. To Doom Blade Guy, creatures are a silly waste of mana that never hurt—or, given the presence of Doom Blade, could hurt—anyone (the only creature that Doom Blade Guy ever expressed a potential fear or healthy respect for being Oracle of Mul Daya).

Doom Blade Guy is the smile and the wink, the love song really, to every naysayer who has ever claimed that a creature "just dies to" Doom Blade / Lightning Bolt / Terminate / Day of Judgment / whatever. Because honestly, they all do. All of them. Even an eleven caster like Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre—indestructible though he may seem—bites it to a Path to Exile.

"Here. Have land number twelve. On me."

So the only logical conclusion to this line of reasoning is obviously to play no creatures.

Creatures stink, right? None of them are good.

They all just die to Doom Blade, right?

Um ... right?

That is just a ridiculous proposition. Creatures are among the strongest cards in modern Magic. We have five-star splashes at every drop. It doesn't matter if a Noble Hierarchmight die to a Lightning Bolt; when it doesn't die, the tiny 0/1 non-Elf sets you up nicely for a second turn Great Sable Stag, Knight of the Reliquary, or Woolly Thoctar. Bloodbraid Elf and Ranger of Eos dominate the four-spot like almost no other weapons in the history of the game. Erhnam Djinn? Size isn't everything when compared to these modern fours. And on five lands, the patron saint of cards that might die to Doom Blade flaps her colossal 5/5 wings over the battlefield, casting a shadow of offensive dominance and spirit-crunching lifelink, a heretofore unseen—and unanticipated—combination of evasion, combat domination, and dragonslaying: The one, the only, the Baneslayer Angel.

All of these cards do die to cards like Doom Blade (okay, maybe not Great Sable Stag) ... and all of them are capable of dominating formats , some all by themselves. The fact that these fine forces can be destroyed by the also good and also mana-efficient creature elimination that has been printed in recent sets has not prevented creature-based strategies from being, by and large, the best for some seasons now. It is simply joyful to me that five-drop "fair" fatties can outsmart "broken" combo decks to win Extended Pro Tours, not just Standard or Block formats.

And yet we continue to have squeaky wheels clamoring on about how such and such just dies to Doom Blade.


Well, finally we have a card, a fast—really fast, actually—beater that should address even the snarky sneer of Doom Blade Guy himself. Meet Vengevine:

This is a bit of an aside, but the first thing I thought when I saw this card was "Giant Solifuge" ... and not for the reasons you might be assuming.

The great thing about official spoilers like we have here on Daily MTG in the product section is that they are, well, true. Years ago there was a "spoiler" for Giant Solifuge that had the big bug listed at 4/3. Can you believe it? And because the card was "only" 4/1 when Guildpact came out, many players were disappointed in it.

"I guess you might play it," some naysayers said. "But it was better when it was 4/3."

GIANT SOLIFUGE WAS NEVER 4/3! Never really 4/3, anyway.

Can you imagine being disappointed by Giant Solifuge? The idea is flabbergasting in hindsight. The card's debut Pro Tour saw it all over the Top 8; not just in the Zoo or Heezy Street decks, in the obvious Gruul-based aggro decks, but in decks like Osyp Lebedowicz's URzaTron at the far opposite end of the metagame universe; Giant Solifuge was a truly surprising "Surprise!" sideboard semi-transformation in that blue-red control variant. Over the next few months Giant Solifuge would be played in mono-red decks, as well as in green-white decks' sideboards ... I mean, how was a control deck supposed to beat the one-two punch of Glare of Subdual and a hasty 4/1 shroud?

But today, we have the realization of the falsely spoiled Giant Solifuge in Vengevine. Still a 4-power haste creature for four mana ... this time actually equipped with 3 toughness. And for the Doom Blade Guy crowd, a resistance to removal that is like nothing else in our current palette of available tools.

Here Comes a Vengevine

The most obvious tool in Vengevine's rattling steel box is as a quick little (well, not so little) screwdriver. Off a second-turn Rampant Growth, or accelerated by the incomparable Noble Hierarch (and maybe on the back of a great three on two), Vengevine can rumble into the Red Zone come turn three. It is going to be annoying at the very least at that stage ... All the power of a Hell's Thunder, and even more Gatling gun potential threatening for future turns (naturally and from the graveyard both).

A third-turn—or even "regular" fourth-turn—Vengevine can be a near game winner by itself. It is the kind of card that will tear away a huge chunk of life points every time the opponent taps out, and will pose difficult blocking decisions with each successive attack, especially when supplemented by removal to clear blockers.

But what about that 3 toughness?

Unlike the Giant Solifuge that preceded it, Vengevine hasn't got shroud.

That means that this energetic Elemental is vulnerable not just to Doom Blade [Guy] but to a pedestrian Lightning Bolt, one mana against four, or even a seemingly disastrous Searing Blaze.

But a dead Vengevine—every dead Vengevine that demanded a card to trade—is like the tick-tock timer of an impending boom boom. Like Governor Arnie, Vengevine promises to be back.

This card is a relentless and raging returner, an Eternal Dragon for the attack oriented set.

At any point you can meet its text box's conditions, your once-dead Vengevines can go ballistic. That's right, Vengevines. If you have two Vengevines in your graveyard ... I believe the term is "uh-oh."

I don't know if anyone would ever do this in a format where Intuition is legal, but you could ...

1) Intuition for three Vengevines.
2) Set up the following turn with the third one, then fill out the conditions with, say, a Llanowar Elves.
3) Queue up multiple Vengevines.
4) Brace for motherlovin' impact!

Vengevines will more likely go to the graveyard the old fashioned way, but given the incredible recursion and immediate attack that Vengevine can threaten, scenarios like the above—sending two or more Vengevines from the graveyard directly into Red Zone (even if not directly directed by Intuition)—will occur thousands of times over the next two years. It may even become a common strategy to throw away Vengevines, to make seemingly inefficient trades, for the purpose of some future Vengevine-driven profit.

A normally ineffectual Elvish Visionary will take years off your opponent's life ... right before your eyes. Baneslayer forbid you draw a cascade creature. Bloodbraid Elf off the top has always been one of the best topdecks when the board looks even. But flipping a Blightning will seem like a pleasant memory compared with a spontaneous Birds of Paradise as the vaunted 3/2 produces one, two, three, or—can you imagine?—four 4/3 hasters.

A Ranger of Eos reload (at five or more mana) will do the same thing. You won't even have to gun for the solo Goblin Bushwhacker ... Your graveyard is going to have haste anyway. Vengevine will compete at the increasingly amazing four spot even as it piggybacks on the vigor of these other iconic fours. But note how cooperative Vengevine is with them ... in particular with Antoine Ruel's Ranger.

Vengevine is going to serve as hellacious planeswalker suppression, whether on turn three or four or (better yet) from the bin. The combination of un-counterable-ness and self-contained card advantage will help keep Jace, the Mind Sculptor off of his ultimate, or batter down the utility of essentially any 'walker. I would guess this Elemental will be an important tool for keeping Jace off an uncontested Standard throne come the rotation of Bloodbraid Elf in a couple of months; much will be expected of Vengevine.

And as good as Vengevine is from a purely card-advantage-driven perspective, it is also the kind of card that can help reward patient play. This card may very well find a home in the kinds of decks Zvi Mowshowitz likes—you know, the kind that are heavy on the Birds of Paradise. These decks often find themselves with an excess of Elves during the middle turns, after the opponent has started to climb back after an initial slaughter of Blastoderms—or, today, Beast tokens. A player armed with that kind of a deck can sandbag the odd Elf in order to trigger back a Vengevine or two for a brutal comeback. And who knows? What happens when you lead with a Vengevine and get it countered or killed, then go all Elf on someone's butt?

There are going to be two. And there is going to be hell.

Doom Blade?

Lightning Bolt?

Path to Exile?

Okay, Path to Exile matters. But the rest of the usual suspects of creature suppression? Doesn't even matter. Don't matter. Not a one; not in the long run.

Welcome to the world of Vengevine.

The rest of us? We just work here.

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