Recently Stromkirk Noble sat down with Michael Flores and Top Decks to talk about his role in Innistrad, where he sees Standard going, and why "they" so often say "it's good to be king" (and he should know).
Top Decks: Headlining the upcoming Innistrad expansion is (among other soon-to-be breakout stars) brand-spanking superstar-to-be, Stromkirk Noble!
Let's have a hand for Stromkirk Noble!
Stromkirk Noble | Art by James Ryman
Thanks for being here, Stromkirk. With the new expansion coming up, I know you must be...
Stromkirk Noble: You know nothing, mortal.
Furthermore, your "thanks" is irrelevant to me. It is well known that a responsible king walks among his subjects. However, I consider this interaction more like walking into a cow pasture (except not at night, which would typically be the time one would do that).
Can you elaborate on that?
I am calling you a hamburger with a notebook.
Those are strong words. I apologize if I did something to offend...
As if you, a mortal—and a human at that—could do anything to offend one such as myself. Ha! I walk among my subjects—that's O-T-H-E-R V-A-M-P-I-R-E-S by the by—because it is the responsibility of a competent monarch. I actually enjoy walking among humans, though, to be honest. My favorite part is that they can't block me! Sometimes I will walk right into a village to seduce an innocent (or something)... It depends on whether I have another engagement that
day evening. I really can't get enough of the guards impotently trying to get in my way waving pitchforks or some such. So diverting! Ha! It really is good to be king!
Can you tell me more about walking past humans? "Getting in unblocked" as it were?
That's for sure! The answer to your question is "yes."
You asked if I can tell you more about walking past humans. I can. I said so. I really don't see what your problem is. My Renfield said you looked delicious, not mentally deficient.
Let me rephrase. Please elaborate about walking past humans.
Many Planeswalkers foolishly hide behind humans. For example, Azure Mage has become popular among a certain crowd of such. Many Planeswalkers with similar illusions will employ a Mirran Crusader or Puresteel Paladin as a front-line fighter. The so-called Heroes—Hero of Bladehold and Hero of Oxid Ridge—are current favorites as well. Before I go on, I must say Hero of Oxid Ridge is a fine Knight... for a human / mortal. He has done some severe damage with some of my black-mana cousins recently, and that should be acknowledged. In any case, the list goes on and on: Trinket Mage, White Knight, even Vulshok Refugee... Humans, all humans: Point being, none of them can get in the way of The King. It will get even worse for your kind when Innistrad proper is fully revealed! There are humans aplenty, and some of them seem quite playable (if a Planeswalker were into that)... But still, none of them can get in the way of The King!
Fascinating. What kind of implications would you say that your ability to bypass potential human blockers will have on competitive play?
It will be a very good day for any Planeswalkers who choose to pay homage yours truly, and a very bad day for everyone else.
I think your reigning Player of the Year Brad Nelson (a human, yes... but a formidable one as humans go) said it best. Brad claims that having a large number of one-drops can give strategies with creatures their biggest edge. At your Pro Tour Amsterdam, Brad lost to perennial human champion Kai Budde in contests where Kai had the Steppe Lynx first turn, but beat him otherwise... and let's be honest with one another,
hamburger Michael: I am going to be one of the premier one-drops to come out of Innistrad.
Your particular list of abilities is indeed impressive, Stromkirk... Can I call you Strommy?
I prefer "Your Magnificence," actually.
Anyway StromBomb, you do seem to have it all: an evasion ability, and a fine post-combat bonus. You've talked a bit about the first already, how about the second?
I was not actually done speaking about my first ability.
All right... Go on?
As if I needed permission from a Creature — Human Hamburger! Ha!
Look. I am trying to make you look good so people will be excited about you in the new Innistrad expansion. Your calling me a "hamburger" every other sentence is really distracting me from that goal.
And your looking so succulent is distracting me. You realize that I am not only a vampire (i.e. "I eat people like you"), but that I am a king, and that makes me kind of an entitled [CENSORED] on top of that, don't you?
I don't really care. I am just trying to get on with my role here. Are you going to talk about your evasion and / or one-drop-ness more, or should we move on?
As long as you're leaving it up to me, I would actually like to talk about both. As Brad said, having a large number of one-mana plays can be very desirable for an aggressive configuration. His examples utilized white mana, but in a Red Deck (where I will mostly likely find Planeswalker engagement), I can do even more. First of all, making an impact so early in a game is an advantage all its own. I will have a high likelihood of making combat contact on the second turn, which will set up not only my own +1/+1 trigger, but can do even more for my Planeswalker collaborator.
I am glad you asked! A great pairing with a one-drop / King / really great and impressive individual like myself might be Stormblood Berserker. Typically I wouldn't associate with a Renfield / walking ribeye like that (particularly one clad in animal skins and no shirt), but his name is Stormblood Berserker, and he commands the power of bloodthirst, so I can look past the obvious—just this once—to see that we have some things in common, which is a great comfort to me.
What do you mean by that?
The +1/+1 counters, obviously! I am a fast and aggressive one-drop. He has an overall blood theme. I am a vampire, so I also enjoy things related to blood. I actually think we have a lot in common.
You mean that you can both fit into a fast and aggressive Red Deck?
I knew you weren't mentally challenged (for a hamburger)!
Let's move on to your own +1/+1 counters ability. How can you see that working as part of your overall package?
Again—I am glad you asked! Personally, I think the +1/+1 counters are really iconic... which is perfect for, well, me.
Iconic, as in reminiscent of the bloodthirst mechanic?
Actually I was thinking back... way back to your very first human Pro Tour, and the first great topdeck.
I know this story!
Yes, yes... Human Bertrand Lestree had "sided in" Whirling Dervish (a human monk—pish) against human Michael "Loco" Loconto. Now a Whirling Dervish is substantially inferior to myself, obviously, but Lestree had hit Loconto sufficiently that the Whirling Dervish would soon be lethal...
... And Loconto drew the Swords to Plowshares to stabilize!
Yes! It was the talk of The Duelist at that point. Now imagine that instead of a two-mana human monk, a Planeswalker were able to work with me instead. I am twice as fast a Whirling Dervish, and I'm not green! Ha!
Your +1/+1 counters actually work a bit differently. Whirling Dervish never got them until the end of the opponent's turn, but you get them immediately.
Yes, and that is a great innovation, I think we can all agree.
Actually I think it is designed to—gasp!—protect humans. In the old days, a cagey player could ask if the Dervish attacker wanted a counter for the Whirling Dervish... and then when they placed it, that was an indication that the Dervish player's turn was over... whether or not that player was actually done with his or her turn.
Do you really think I am going to sit here and empathize with the incompetent?
I was only saying...
I know what you were saying. Instead, let's talk about a card more likely to produce an impact, today.
You mean like Bloodcrazed Neonate?
No, no. Elder Vampires... Kings like myself... We select our meals with care. She attacks at the first whiff of a pulse! No care of whether there is a human blocker or not... All attack there (though I can see why you would consider Bloodcrazed Neonate as being more desirable than random green human monk). She could be 6/5 and still it will be "brb, attack phase :)" with that one! Can you imagine that she texted me that message? At 6/5! I was actually thinking more along the lines of, say, a Lightning Bolt.
So you don't think that Bloodcrazed Neonate is going to make as practical a pairing as Stormblood Berserker on the two?
Honestly, it is not a question of your outdated human concepts of good and evil (or good and "bad" in this case), but more a question of what is appropriate. Can I, in my infinite capacity for profound, expansive, and royal thoughts, imagine a situation where Bloodcrazed Neonate is highly appropriate to the task of tearing an opposing Planeswalker to bloody pieces? I have seen her gorge herself over and over relentlessly. She can be brutal! You recall a predecessor of ours? The Slith Firewalker? The two share quite a bit (except the Slith had more self control if you can believe that). However—and this depends a great deal on context—if opposing Planeswalkers are just going to drop gigantic green sides of beef onto a battlefield, and from an early age, she will prove less appropriate to a task.
And the solution?
It is all tied together, hamburger. What if the opposing Planeswalker is hiding behind something other than a human? Same answer in both cases...
I think I know where you are going with this... What do you do there?
That is when The King is going to go to work with his Planeswalker to determine the correct course of action. Typically we like to see some fireworks and some singed blocker-wannabes... and then we go in. I mentioned the Lightning Bolt already. There are many such fiery magicks that Planeswalkers of our alignment can use to help us walk among the subjects, as it were.
So... Bolt the blocker.
So you can see how some removal spells—and this is one of the keys to being red instead of some more mediocre color, like green—is so relevant. Even a hamburger like yourself can see!
You certainly offer some exciting possibilities with Innistrad; one in particular.
I trust you humans crowned a red "King of Beatdown" some years ago...
You think he would be proud?
I think he has arrived. Ha! So... What are you doing for dinner?