I'll Besieging You in Philly

Posted in The Week That Was on January 28, 2011

By Brian David-Marshall

Buried under almost twenty inches of snow it would be easy to succumb to cabin (co-op?) fever. Fortunately I have ample food supplies, a wife who looks nothing like Shelley Duval, and the full Mirrodin BesiegedVisual Spoiler to keep me sane. I am going to be in Philadelphia this Saturday as a guest of my old business partners at Gray Matter Conventions for the Mirrodin BesiegedPrerelease. I am going to be the gunslinger and if you beat me with your Sealed Deck—or a Standard, Extended, or Commander deck—you can win a booster pack. (It also means I will be having a pastrami sandwich from Reading Market Terminal—something you can sample yourself when you come to Magic Weekend in Philly this fall!)

So I have been listening to the sounds of snow shovels and thinking about what cards from Mirrodin Besieged I am hoping to open, I can add to my Constructed decks, and what might be able to earn a precious slot in my Commander deck.

And before you ask—Phyrexian.

I am going to be expecting to see a lot of turn-one Ardent Recruits in people's sealed decks. What percentage of them will manage to get fully 'crafted? That is the big question about this card and I suspect that it will not be too often. With Auriok Sunchaser—its closest comparison from Scars of Mirrodin—you find yourself using your first turn on a Spellbomb or a piece of Equipment so you can get your 'craft on ASAP. You will get a fully grown Recruit on turn two once in a Memnite's birthday. Even on turn three it is going to be tough to do since it will require playing two artifacts in one turn on one of those turns.

Of course with the release of this set there is some added tension to metalcraft since you can get there mid combat. In the Scars-only format if someone attacked their Auriok Sunchaser into your mana Myr on turn two it meant either Seize the Initiative or—more likely—a willingness to trade. I am going to be very leery of that trade now that Master's Call is in the mix ... although the actual master's call is when you block and they don't have the instant-speed supply of artifact creatures to push them over the top. Master's Call also means you will occasionally need to make some otherwise bad blocks or get killed by instant-speed metalcraft.

Your opponent does not even need to show you white mana to threaten to boost their artifact count. With four, or five, mana a Shimmer Myr could come down and then instant-speed Spellbombs could rain down after it. A lot of attention is being paid to the Phyrexian side of Limited at the moment but it feels like metalcrafty players will have plenty of new resources at their disposal.

Ever since Thrun, the Last Troll has been previewed I have been looking for ways to cope with him in whatever formats I happen to play. I have already been looking at -1/-1 counters and proliferate as one way to whittle him down to size (and before you go creating a forum account, proliferate does not target) but Contagion Engine might be showing up late for the party and how many times will I be able to get Thrun to attack into my infect creatures? Choking Fumes looks like a fine way to get my proliferate started and I could easily see it becoming a Standard sideboard card for white-blue control decks.

Cards like Sandstorm and Simoon have always found a place in sideboards against weenie decks but Choking Fumes does something unique that allows it to multitask against bigger creatures, weenies, and, in the case of Thrun, shrouded enemies. Mike Flores recently wrote about a White-Blue Control deck by Kurt Spiess that abused proliferate. With Contagion Clasp already a part of the deck it is not insane to think that a deck like this could play Choking Fumes out of its sideboard. Even landfall creatures like Steppe Lynx and Plated Geopede will die to this once their bonuses expire at the end of the turn and Kuldotha Rebirths will end tragically often leaving only a 1/1 Goblin Guide in their wake.

Another card I have been looking out for answers to is Blightsteel ColossusLeonin Relic-Warder is a cheap response to that question. This card is essentially a legged Journey to Nowhere that can only target enchantments and artifacts. I fully expect this guy to see play in formats ranging from forty cards all the way up to one hundred cards. It deals with indestructibles, springs creatures from under Arrests, and recalculates the math on metalcraft. Plus it attacks for 2! What more could you want from a creature? Well they don't call me Greedy-M for nothing. Anytime I see a permanent that has an ability to remove something upon entering the battlefield and returns it upon leaving, I look for ways to bounce that permanent in response to the first trigger.

Imagine for a moment that you have a Blightsteel Colossus in play and I have no creatures, but four mana. I can play my Leonin Relic-Warder and, with the "enters the battlefield" trigger on the stack, play Disperse to return the Relic-Warder to my hand. Now the "leaves the battlefield" trigger goes on the stack only there is nothing to return to the battlefield. When the "enters the battlefield" trigger finally resolves I can remove the Colossus and it will not be able to come back for the remainder of the game. And I still have the Relic-Warder in hand. Don't worry, you still win the game with your twelve mana to my four—but I have the moral victory to comfort me.

Mind's Eye is already a Commander staple card and I can't imagine that blue mages won't be scrambling this weekend to get their hands on a shiny copy of Consecrated Sphinx for their decks. In a four-player game—assuming it is not insta-killed—you can draw at least six cards by the time the turn comes back around to you once you play the Sphinx. I can even see this guy getting played in sixty-card decks with Jace Beleren. "We'll both draw" will become a much more commonly uttered phrase in the wake of this card. You will draw three cards to one with the plus ability of Jace and then another two cards on their turn. Who cares if they kill it at that point when you have just drawn five cards to two?

Unless you were looking to sneak in an extra 2 points of damage with your Kor Spiritdancer it is highly unlikely that you would ever Mind Control your own creature. I imagine that happening a lot more frequently with Corrupted Conscience. Imagine a game against a player piloting Soul Sisters—the life gain deck that was created by Conley Woods prior to U.S. Nationals. It is quite conceivable that the only way you can beat the deck is by poisoning them with your Baneslayer Angel over two turns. Or in a proliferate deck getting in for one hit with your own creature and then finishing them off with your Contagion Clasp.

If you are a traditionalist you can also just use it to steal their best guy. If that is your kind of thing. Personally, I can't wait to steal an Inferno Titan. Once you deal them three poison counters with an attack they are in full blown Abyss mode for the next few turns although it is unlikely that the game is going to last that long. Mind Control has already seen sideboard action in some high profile decks and I expect that this card will make an appearance at some point as well.

Steel Sabotage is one of my favorites—and one of the best named—commons in this set. I talked earlier about the mind games you can play with metalcraft now that you can get it as an instant but this card gives the player across the table a chance to get inside your head as well. Imagine that you play your third artifact and your opponent, with only one blue mana available, does nothing and you get your metalcraft on. Do you attack since they did not show you a Steel Sabotage? Or are they sitting back on the Sabotage to bounce something mid-combat and essentially -2/-2 your team? There is a lot of play in this card and I look forward to seeing how the Pros use it come the Limited rounds of Pro Tour Paris.

Black Sun's Zenith: See Thrun, see Thrun die. Die, Thrun, die!! Hmmm ... perhaps the snow and thinking about Magic cards all day is getting to me after all. All play and no work, etc. ... Or maybe it is just the ferocity of the black cards.

How good is Go for the Throat? This card kills pretty much everything short of a Wurmcoil Engine that you want to kill. It is a Doom Blade that kills black creatures! Drives a stake in the heart of Vampire Nighthawk, returns a Grave Titan to whence it came, and still kills the vast majority of blue, white, red, and green creatures to boot. Grasp of Darkness saw main-deck play in Faeries this past weekend in Atlanta but I have to imagine that it will be quickly displaced by this card. This is one of the first uncommons I want to lock up my playset of on the weekend and as such will be first-picking it every draft I can. You know, just for my collection.

A more subtle removal spell that I love in this set is Virulent Wound. It is ideal for killing turn two mana Myr and a great way to deal with pesky Ichorclaw Myr. I also like that the -1/-1 counter sticks around and is not just a debuff until the end of the turn. It also gives you a non-combat way to get the poison/proliferate engine going.

Flores and I have talked about a Standard black proliferate deck that poisons people to death with only an Ichor Rats to get things started. With the ability for this card to kill Arbor Elf, Llaonwar Elf, or Bird of Paradise while advancing a victory condition this just became a hypothetical sideboard card in our hypothetical deck.

The Mirrodin Besieged Bingo board would almost certainly have "Killing your opponent with Burn the Impure when they have no infect creatures" as a square if:

  1. It would fit in a square.
  2. The Bingo board existed.

I am sure just mentioning this is going to cost me at least one match during spellslinging but keep in mind that you can sneak in those last 3 points of damage with Burn the Impure if you use Tainted Strike or Phyresis on your opponent's creature.

I cannot figure out how good Into the Core is for Limited. I mean it is obviously quite good but is it insane, first pick-run-around-the-room-and-get-an-unsportsmanlike-conduct-warning good? Probably somewhere in between and it is for sure something you need to plan for on both sides of the spell. Metalcraft decks will have little choice but to get wrecked by this but other decks will have to think about this much the same way they do Turn to Slag. The difference with this card is that there is no way to protect your artifacts other than to only give them one target. Since the card needs to have two targets to be cast that is your only way to steer your opponent. And not even indestructible artifacts are safe!

I have already carved out slots in my Momir Vig Commander deck for a handful of cards from Mirrodin Besieged and most of them are green. Blue Sun's Zenith (so long Stroke of Genius), Consecrated Sphinx, and possibly Treasure Mage are the blue cards I am looking at but the first card to go into the deck is going to be Green Sun's Zenith. So many of the creatures in my deck draw a card, steal a creature, become a copy of a creature, or counter a spell when they enter the battlefield that Green Sun's Zenith will truly shine here. (Again, no need to register for the forums, I am fully expecting to have my Vedalken Orrery in play when I cast this to find my Mystic Snake.) One of the most frustrating cards in my deck for opposing Commanders has been Ixidron but my brief fantasy of being able to fetch it with Green's Suns Zenith was cut short by actually reading the card. I do have a Dyrad Arbor in the deck which I can now fetch on turn one and that seems awesome.

Mark my words. Despite his vows to not play green decks anymore, Green Sun's Zenith and Lead the Stampede will push a certain Top Decks author to build a Forest-powered sixty in the near future. At last count there were thirty-three creatures in my Commander deck and the underwhelming Seer's Sundial may be replaced by this green draw spell. More likely though is that I will be replacing the Sundial with Praetor's Counsel since creature-heavy decks will often find their graveyards very well stocked in Commander with so many board-sweeping effects running around.

Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas is one of my favorite cards in the new set and is sure to be the focus of multiple deck brews for me over the next few weeks. I have been looking at Throne of Geth as a potential Constructed playable card for the past few weeks and Tezzeret is one of the reasons why. Throne is one of the only ways to proliferate for free and lets you get an ultimate-sized Tezzeret on the turn you play him. I can even just sacrifice the Throne but I would much prefer to do it to an Ichor Wellspring and draw a card.

One of the interesting aspects of Tezzeret is that while he can let you attack with your noncreature artifacts he can also turn existing artifact creatures into bigger versions. It is not as easy to sit back and take a hit from an Ichorclaw Myr when it is becoming a 5/5 infect creature. Another thing about Tezz is that he does not necessarily need to do it to your artifacts. Imagine playing some as-of-yet nonexistent Blue-Black Vampires list. Your opponent is threatening you with Mimic Vat and can untap and kill your creatures and then copy your best one—maybe even your Vampire Hexmage which will kill your planeswalker. Orrr ... you could animate that Mimic Vat with the Agent of Bolas and then use Consuming Vapors or Gatekeeper of Malakir to make your opponent sacrifice it. Unlikely, but something to keep in mind when playing with Tezz.

Shriekhorn at common means that decking will become a real way of winning drafts assuming you can find ways to proliferate. Otherwise you are looking at six cards per Shriekhorn without the aid of Glinthawks and Glimmerpoint Stags to reset them. The number of Shriekhorns I expect to have played against me this weekend is well into the double digits. How good is the strategy? I will let you know when I tally up the remaining packs in my box at the end of Saturday.

If you happen to find yourself in Philly on Saturday be sure to come by and say hello and maybe play a game of Magic with me!

    Five Cards from Atlanta

When we look back at Grand Prix Atlanta it will be impossible to do so without talking about the card Scapeshift—and it has become impossible to talk about it without mentioning it's partner in crime Prismatic Omen. They were in three of the Top 8 decks and all three of those decks advanced to the semifinals. The Finals were ultimately decided in a showdown between two different takes on how you can build the deck with Ben Stark opting for a more traditional red-green version while first-time champion Jason Ford played a version with blue that included Oracle of Mul Daya and was able to Mana Leak key ramp spells in the Scapeshift mirror.

Much like the Dark Thepths decks of the previous Extended Pro Tour Qualifier season it does not seem like the evolution of the Scapeshift / Prismatic Omen combo is fully upright yet. Just look at all the different takes that made their way through the Feature Match area, in addition to the ones we saw in the Finals. There was the contentious sixty-six-card version by James Zornes:

James Zornes's Sixty-Six Special

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And the Knight of the Reliquary-fueled version that was played by Jonathan Smithers. Smithers, who finished 17th overall, won Grand Prix Toronto and was part of the cadre of Canadians playing the Steel Artifact deck that did so well at Worlds. Smithers version can even take advantage of a clear path through the red zone with Knight of the Reliquary getting a turbo charge from Scapeshift putting lands in the graveyard.

Jonathan Smithers's Scapeshift

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Vampire Nighthawk was a card that was not on a lot of players' radars coming into the weekend—and certainly not as part of the Faeries deck. Luis Scott-Vargas and company have completely changed what the terrifying optimal draw is for the Faeries deck. Thoughtseize into Bitterblossom into Vampire Nighthawk may not have been giving anyone a fitful night's sleep on Friday but for the 150+ players coming back for more Magic on Sunday had a different experience in the land of nod on Saturday. And that is just out of the sideboard! Don't be surprised if you see the Vampire make its way into a hybridized Faeries main deck.

Owen Turtenwald's Faeries

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It may not have made it all the way through to the top tables but there were more than a few decks playing four copies of Ezuri, Renegade Leader this weekend, including Matt Boccio, who was featured in a deck tech earlier. It is rare that you see a player sporting the full set of a legendary creature but once he hits the table his threat to overrun the board on the following turn makes him a must-kill creature for the opposition

Matt Boccio's Elves

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The all-star rookie from the Magic 2010 season was a pleasant surprise from Guillaume Wafo-Tapa's Top 16 take on Five-Color Control. While Wurmcoil Engine has become all the rage among the life-gain set GWT went to an old favorite to not only put a lock down on the air and ground but to be able to do so at five mana. The angel also smiled on Jody Keith who got as far as third place with a White-Blue Control deck that was sporting the flying powerhouse as his main finisher.

Jody Keith's White-Blue Control

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