How Could You?

Posted in The Week That Was on January 21, 2011

By Brian David-Marshall

It is preview week and, judging by the cards we have seen so far, the war between Phyrexians and Mirrans is shaping up to be quite the brouhaha. As you should already know, when you go to the Prerelease you will be asked to choose a side and will get factionalized booster packs based upon your answer. Do you know which side you are going to pick? I have been listening to both sides and I really like what the Phyrexians have to say. When it comes to Prerelease weekend I plan to vote Phyrexian—and vote often.

Years ago, Mike Flores started the habit of calling me BDM and it kinda caught on to the point where it can catch me off guard if someone calls me Brian at a Magic event. Mike, being the contrarian that he is, had to tweak my nickname further and riffed it into Greedy-M. This name has some root in my style of play, apparently, as Mike claims I am among the greediest Magic players of all time.

And he says this like it is a bad thing.

Needless to say the acquisition-based strategy of Phyrexia appeals to my greedy side and is no small factor in which side will get my support come election/Prerelease day. My preview card is a perfect example of those greedy Phyrexians refusing to be satisfied within the boundaries of their own deck. Get a good look at Gruesome Encore and be prepared to give your Titans the boo-boo face and ask "How could you?" as they smash your aforementioned face courtesy of this little Phyrexian sorcery.

Yeah. I love this card. I am not saying it will become a tournament staple—which is not to say I won't be jamming this card into multiple sixty-card creations as soon as I get my allegedly greedy paws on a playset of them—but it is just the kind of "nyah-nyah" card I really enjoy playing with. A card I have always wanted to see get more play in Constructed is Memory Plunder, a.k.a. the fifth Cryptic Command.

Many, many years ago I brewed up a Mirage Block Constructed deck up with "I-Came-to-Gamer" Dan Burdick that revolved around Miraculous Recovery. There was nothing quite as exciting as returning a 3/3 Man-o'-War to the battlefield mid-combat. The deck was not very good, but it is at the root of my fondness for cards that find ways to interact with the graveyard and the red zone that your opponent might not have been expecting when they sleeved up their deck.

Here are some of my favorite cards of this ilk and lets see where Gruesome Encore stacks up against them.

I am not sure what the exact impetus for putting Puppeteer Clique into sideboards was but stealing someone's Mulldrifter, drawing two cards, and smacking them with it could very well be the inspiration for whoever thought to add the card to Faeries and White-Black Tokens decks. A couple of years ago I interviewed Melissa DeTora about her win at a local Pro Tour Qualifier while playing Faeries and about a specific play involving her sideboarded Puppeteer Cliques. Here is her description of the play from that interview:

"He evoked a Cloudthresher, killing my Scion and tokens, then played a Mulldrifter. His board was Mulldrifter and Plumeveil. He was completely tapped out on 14 life," said Melissa, setting the stage for her big play. "On my turn, I played Puppeteer Clique, taking his Cloudthresher from his graveyard. We each took 2 and he lost his Mulldrifter. My Puppeteer Clique also died and returned due to the persist ability. I took another 'Thresher from his graveyard. It did 2 more damage to flyers and each of us, finishing off his Plumeveil. I then attacked with both hasted 'Threshers, dealing him 14—18 damage total—killing him."

Obviously the persist on Clique played a huge role in this huge play, but it is a good example of how you can turn your opponent's cards against them. I would not be surprised to see a Faeries deck use Gruesome Encore to deal the final 9 points of damage following an opponent's evoked Cloudthresher.

You can call it what you want—Ray of Command, Mark of Mutiny, Grab the Reins, or any other card that borrows a creature from an opponent and turns it against them. Personally Act of Treason is my favorite card name of the bunch because it perfectly captures the feeling you have as your opponent rumbles into the red zone with your best guy.

You need to look no further than the black-red Vampires deck that Caleb Durward popularized prior to this year's World Championships to find an example of this type of card—in this case Mark of Mutiny—playing at the top tables. Mark of Mutiny was there to clear the path of obstructions—namely Inferno Titans and Primeval Titans. Not just clear the path but to end the game with the giant monsters turning against their owners.

People still play Titans and they still do awesome things when they attack. Assuming you have some way to make them be in the graveyard at the time then Gruesome Encore has a good chance of seeing play. Whether it is Mana Leak on a Grave Titan or Doom Blade on a Primeval Titan, the second act for your opponent's Titan is not one they will be happy to see.

Here is a card that I have played in a Constructed deck this week. Granted, the format was Commander, but I played it nonetheless and used it steal a Linvala, Keeper of Silence that had been Hindered to the bottom of my opponent's deck. If there was ever a format that will not have a dearth of targets for Gruesome Encore to do something spectacular Commander is that format. Even doing something less than spectacular, with little impact in the red zone, will justify the presence of this card in a Commander deck. Taking an opponent's Genesis, Filth, Wonder, or other card that has an ongoing effect on the game from the graveyard is going to be a highly desirable outcome.

    Creatures Matter

There was certainly a time where the question of whether or not to play Gruesome Encore might have been more difficult, but these days—as Aaron Forsythe has said, pounding his fist on his desk and sporting a monocle, on many occasions: "Creatures matter."

Not only do they matter, they are really good and sometimes they come back. We already talked about the possibility of stealing a Mulldrifter—a card that has sat in the graveyard ready for any ol' Makeshift Mannequin to bring it back on a second go-round—but what about something more relevant to today's Standard player? How about taking a Vengevine that your opponent has worked so hard to get from their deck to their hand to their graveyard and is threatening to be online attacking you next turn?

It is important to note that often the key word on Gruesome Encore is going to be "exile." Once you resolve your card the target is going to end up out of the game after your turn is over. They can't bounce the creature back to their hand, kill it to put it back in their bin, or Momentary Blink it to make it come back home to where it belongs. If the creature would leave the battlefield for any reason you exile it instead. Bye-bye Vengevine, so long Squee, see you later Extractor Demon. Even taking an early Bloodghast—not your ideal target—while it is resting in the bin can dramatically alter your opponent's game plan when it is not there to attack at next landfall.

If Reveillark rears its ugly head in the current Extended format Gruesome Encore would be among the sweetest plays you could make to have your opponent regret that decision. Not only would you have their 'Lark out of the game and away from the reaches of those pesky Makeshift Mannequins but you would get to return a couple of creatures—Fulminator Mages maybe—to play when it left the battlefield on its way to exile.

Gruesome Encore seems like the perfect closing act to a show featuring hand destruction and counter magic—is blue-black viable in any Constructed formats? How about taking your opponent's Wurmcoil Engine and smashing back for a 12-point swing after you Thoughtseized it a turn earlier? Have I mentioned how good this is with your opponent's dead Titans? I am excited to play with this card and bring the greed platform of Phyrexia to a tabletop near you.

    Player of the Year Playoff Details Announced

The date and format for the playoff for Player of the Year between Brad Nelson and Guillaume Matignon is now set. You may recall that coming into the World Championships in Chiba, American Brad Nelson had a healthy lead in the Player of the Year race. When asked before the start of Worlds what it would take to wrest the title away from Brad, Guillaume explained that he would need to win, do well in teams, and win the "Brad Nelson Falls in a Hole Championship."

Guillaume did what was under his control to do—winning the World Championships and boosting his team up in the standings—and ended Worlds in an unprecedented tie for the PoY title. Brad managed to catch the edge of the hole and will now have to hoist himself up out of it during Magic Weekend Paris.

The two players will square off on Saturday during the three rounds of byes that both players have for Grand Prix Paris starting at 9 a.m. in the feature match arena. They will play a best-of-seven match across two formats. The first two and last two rounds of the showdown will be Standard using the decks that they registered for the Pro Tour earlier that weekend. The middle three rounds will be super-sized Scars of Mirrodin / Mirrodin Besieged Sealed Deck. The two players will get six boosters of each (twelve boosters total) and have up to forty-five minutes to build their decks.

The first player to get to four game wins will be the 2010 Player of the Year.

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