You Lika The Juice? - X: Reading Tea Leaves, Part 2
Before we get back to it I’d like to correct an oversight from last time—I forgot to give props to the ever-vigilant gang at MTGSalvation.com whose efforts made the review possible a few days before the release. Thanks guys!
In case you missed part one here’s the overview: I’d like to organize this set review by looking at how certain cards in Ninth have been obviously replaced by a particular card in Tenth and what those selections might tell us about what R&D might have been thinking about when making those choices. While R&D certainly makes some whimsical choices and there are obviously cards that are “what the heck” choices “cool” or nostalgic selections (as well as the randomness of “You Select 10th Edition” votes) we all know that R&D typically spends a lot of time choosing what goes into the base set and that they often have specific goals in mind. These observations are my own but my intention here is more to stir debate with all of you hopefully weighing in with your own opinions and observations in the forums.
I covered Black Green and Red in part 1.
Out - Cowardice In - Sunken Hope
Cowardice was a pretty interesting enchantment and when it was first printed there were a few interesting decks sporting the enchantment that nipped at the fringes of Tier 2 territory. The coolest one used Jolting Merfolk and Defender en-Vec creatures with fading counters you could remove to bounce other creatures and then bounce themselves to reuse. Ninth Edition’s reprint of Cowardice really didn’t stir up anything that hit the tournament radar which is a shame - the enchantment has a lot of potential. Since “splashing” a double colored mana card like Cowardice is no problem in Ravnica Standard I’m surprised it didn’t show up alongside Glare of Subdual or even Telekinetic Sliver. For whatever reason it didn’t spark this time around so Wizards obviously yanked it and swapped in another “flagship” Blue enchantment that demands to be built around. Sunken Hope has got a lot of potential since it supplements Blue’s arsenal of pinpoint bounce spells at the top end of the curve right about when you’d otherwise start to run out of bouncy cards. On a side note an observation: in Tenth Edition Green is given a nifty reprint in Stampeding Wildebeests which makes you bounce just your own creature each upkeep — and not just your own creature but it has to be a Green creature. Sure you can turn that to your advantage with 187 creatures bouncing and you get a 5/4 trampler for your trouble but it’s pretty easy for a removal-heavy deck to nullify this puppy pretty easily. Anyway take Stampy make him Blue and add another mana and you get a global effect on a much less vulnerable permanent. This gratuitous Blue hate is brought to you by a member of the Angry Green Mages Association.
Out - Temporal Adept In - Cephalid Constable
I remember when Time Elemental terrorized our casual playgroup back in the day. It was a quirky little card that really hated attacking and blocking and enchanted permanents. Then came Temporal Adept and we were in full-on Freddy Krueger nightmare territory. It was cheaper to use (if more color intensive) and it could attack or block in a pinch if it had to. The last time it saw serious tournament play was as a nasty sideboard surprise against Tooth and Nail decks since they typically had no way to kill it before it began nullifying the Tooth decks’ Urzatron. Anyway Temporal Adept has been gathering dust for a while now but Wizards obviously has this slot marked for a Blue bouncy creature. Cephalid Constable to the rescue! The Constable is actually a pretty nasty fellow with a ton of potential but the first time around it got caught in the middle of Wild Mongrels and Psychatogs and there weren’t many other creatures left standing in that toss-up. Imagine this time around though with the Constable hitting the board on turn 2 (after a turn 1 Birds of Paradise) on the play. If your opponent doesn’t have an early blocker or removal spell it’s likely game over especially if you’ve got a buff spell to boost its power. Giant Growth never sounded so scary!
Out - Tidal Kraken In - Denizen of the Deep
Ah Wizards’s gigantic Blue beast for eight mana slot! I remember Tidal Kraken being quite a nasty threat in multiplayer; he wasn’t so huge as to put everyone in a panic and if you had a Sword to Plowshares or Terror you felt mildly secure but still the damn thing was unblockable and if you didn’t have a way to remove or nullify it... you did your best not to piss off the controller. Denizen is quite a bit larger and requires half as many connections to take someone from twenty to zero and its drawback can be anything from a mild nuisance to no problem at all to an actual benefit. But with no evasion no trample it’s sadly a downgrade from the mighty Kraken.
Out - Zur's Weirding In - March of the Machines
So now we have Wizards’ four-mana funky Blue global effect enchantment slot. Zur’s Weirding was always the kinda card that deckbuilders tried for years to build competitive decks around and generally failed. It’s seen a little success lately in a few decks but as Evan mentioned in his Forsythee Awards it’s time to “Let it Go Man!” March of the Machines is actually a nice choice to bring back; when Mirrodin was polluting Standard March was used primarily as an Affinity hoser nullifying artifact lands like nobody’s business. But I’m sure I’m not the only person who made use of March of the Machine’s predecessor enchantment Titania’s Song; my old deck utilized Icy Manipulators Serrated Arrows and Mishra’s Helix to control the board before dropping the Song and smashing face with my suddenly animated artifacts. While we don’t have the Helix we do have Icy Manipulator Serrated Arrows and Mishra himself to go nuts on artifacts. I definitely smell a deck brewing there. On a side note: hey this enchantment used to be Green and now it’s Blue!! It’s a conspiracy!!
Out - Baleful Stare Withering Gaze In - Flashfreeze
It’s funny but remember when hosers really hurt? I’m taking about Karma Choke Anarchy Perish and Douse? I’m not so sure we ever really want to get back to those days but man hosers have really gone about as low as can be. Sure Flashfreeze is an efficient counterspell for the right spells but I just don’t see the effect being worth the sideboard space. But something occurs to me that perhaps the neutering of hoser spells plays into some of the other trends that seem to be going on in Tenth Edition - the pulling back of backbreaking hand disruption (Persecute) the further weakening of counterspells and maybe even slowing down beatdown. Is Wizards making an effort at scaling back those strategies because they can tend to make games less fun and less interactive? Is this a subtle shift towards helping people to be able to play their game with less chance of being blown out or shut down?
Out - Confiscate In - Persuasion
In some ways we’re back to the basics here as close to Control Magic as we’re likely to see. Confiscate has seen a little bit of use here and there but with a Split Second version available now Confiscate was pretty well never going to see the light of day so this was a good move by Wizards. One thing that’s interesting after Story Circle going from uncommon the first time around to being rare in the base set we’ve got Persuasion going the other way from rare the first time to uncommon in Tenth.
Out - Rewind In - Discombobulate
It took a while for the sting of the public choosing Rewind over Dismiss for Ninth Edition to heal and people finally began to embrace the card as actually being decent especially with the release of Time Spiral’s charge lands and Urza’s Factory. Wizards rips the wound open with this switch with Discombobulate being considerably worse than the already mediocre Rewind. This could be part of making counterspells worse as part of an overall trend as I mentioned above or it could simply be highlighting Blue’s library manipulation theme to newer players. Or perhaps it’s both. Or neither. Damn these tricky Blue spells!
Out - Thought Courier In - Merfolk Looter
There are two possible reasons to swap these functionally identical creatures. One it’s a “just for the heck of it” move (or possibly just to tease people like me who spend time on the swap). Two it’s because Merfolk are going to “matter” within the next two years. Rumor seems to suggest Lorwyn might have some smattering of tribal themes running through it; whether this is the case or not I do think that something has been brewing with Merfolk since Wizards made a conscious effort to remove Merfolk from the Standard Magic universe for quite a while now. Then we get Lord of Atlantis back in Time Spiral and now we see a couple Merfolk in Tenth... these tealeaves are pretty easy to read. Merfolk fans rejoice - perhaps we will soon have real “fish” decks again!
Out - Treasure Trove In - Arcanis the Omnipotent
I’m not sure these are direct replacements but we’ve got two permanents here that can provide a steady supply of cards. Treasure Trove was an enchantment version of Jayemdae Tome paying eight mana to draw a card and then four mana for each card thereafter hasn’t cut the competitive mustard in a while. Arcanis requires a larger mana investment up front but once you untap with him in play he can really pour on the cards. Of course we know that Wizards likely tapped Arcanis primarily as the “big” Blue legend to build the precon around so there’s not any mystery there. You know actually we have Jayemdae Tome back again so perhaps that’s the true replacement for Treasure Trove.
Out - Fishliver Oil In - Rootwater Commando
I’ve always had a soft spot for Fishliver Oil since I cracked one in a pack of Arabian Nights way back in the day; it was interesting to visualize coating yourself with stinky fish oil and then being able to islandwalk. Sadly I never seemed to be able to use it against Blue mages back in the day and that likely persisted with newer players when it was brought back in Ninth Edition. Rootwater Commando comes with his own fishy oil built in - and hey it’s another Merfolk! Hmmm...
Out - Flight In - Shimmering Wings
Wow it’s an end of an era - Flight’s been in every single base set through Ninth Edition and now it’s been obsoleted by a card that’s superior in every way. Flight’s been around so long that I think the only reason it got the boot was probably due to Limited considerations since I imagine you are much more likely to have Shimmering Wings in your forty-stack than Flight.
Out - Index In - Peek
Here’s your Blue one mana cheap spell small effect slot. Index never saw any use while Peek has been in tournament-winning decks since it’s printing. Seems like a pretty easy upgrade.
Out - Mana Leak In - Cancel
Another blow to control freaks worldwide with the Urzatron leaving and Mana Leak possibly becoming better it gets yanked and replaced by the true “fixed” Counterspell Cancel. I’ve already touched on some ideas on why they are dumbing down counterspelling above so I wont’ do it again here.
Out - Sage Aven In - Sage Owl
This has long been Sage Owl’s spot; Wizards gave the Owl a vacation and had his four-mana cousin stand in for two years but the Owl is tanned rested and ready to have his old job back.
Out - Sleight of Hand In - Telling Time
Both of these are decent search cards for combo decks but Telling Time seems superior for control decks that want to dig for the right answer. Just make sure your opponent doesn’t cut your deck after you resolve your Telling Time with a spell you need sitting on top (though if he does keep in mind that the judge can actually restore your deck back to pre-cut state if you’re honest about the cards you put on top and bottom of your deck).
Out - Time Ebb In - Unsummon
This has long been Unsummon’s spot even longer than Sage Owl - Unsummon had been in every base set since Alpha but Wizards gave him a vacation and had his chubby slow-witted cousin stand in for him for two years. Unsummon is tanned rested and ready to have his old job back and try to restore some tournament cred back to bounce spells.
Other thoughts: Ambassador Laquatus and Rootwater Matron are further hints that Merfolk are making a comeback soon. And all hail the removal of the big blue bunny (Vizzerdrix) from the core set (and more importantly the rare slot)!!
Out - Blinding Angel In - Windborn Muse
These two rare flying creatures have similar functions namely interfering with your opponent’s ability to attack. On its own Blinding Angel is a superior card but it never really caught fire this time around; of course with more than one copy out there Windborn Muses can really gum up opponent’s attack phase. Wizards made this swap as part of their desire to bring over all the Muses to keep the Green Muse company.
Out - Blinking Spirit In - Cho-Manno Revolutionary
Here we have White’s rare four mana hard-to-kill creature slot. I can remember Blinking Spirit being a gigantic pain in the ass way back in the day so it’s been surprising to me that the card has just been gathering dust of late (though Split Second removal spells certainly didn’t help it much). Cho-Manno’s ability is kinda cool but he is just a 2/2 for four mana; being an incredible blocker isn’t a whole lot to write home about though he does have a little sparkle by being a rebel and a possible search target. Of course we know Wizards brought this fellow back for the White theme deck.
Out - Ivory Mask In - True Believer
I like Ivory Mask I really do but I’ve always hated it too because of its dreadful redundancy. The ability to shut off people from targeting you is quite useful against certain decks and so I think Wizards made a good move here powering up this slot with the awesome True Believer. And of course how cool is it that you get shroud?!
Out - Oracle's Attendants In - Kjeldoran Royal Guard
Sigh. You know owns this slot? Veteran Bodyguard that’s who. Was Veteran Bodyguard so broken that R&D feels the need to toggle back and forth between these nearly identical bad versions of the Bodyguard? I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that Wizards made this switch purposely to get us to notice it wish we had the Man himself (absent since Revised) so when they bring him back in Eleventh Edition we will all be stoked (at least until we realized that he isn’t really all that amazing now).
Out - Weathered Wayfarer In - Loyal Sentry
Here we have White’s one mana rare utility creature slot. Loyal Sentry is a “cool” addition to the set since it was last printed in a set that most people have never seen and might have never even heard of. That said... well a creature whose primary function is to block large creatures is actually rather lame as a rare. Blocking is for chumps right? Weathered Wayfarer has been a welcome option in White’s deckbuilding toolbox so it’s unfortunate he’s leaving; this is definitely a downgrade to the card pool.
Out - Worship In - Pariah
Worship has long been a nice card to have and it is devastating to certain strategies that have no way to remove it but it’s always been a card that’s a little nerve-wracking to use since you’ve got to hang down there at one life praying that some minor life-loss effect doesn’t sneak out there and take you down. I was around when Pariah was printed the first time and I liked that card much better; not only could you pair it with similar creatures (for instance Paladin en-Vec against Mono-Red) but you could also use it as removal against an opponent’s creatures. Nowadays you can slap it on their Spectral Force or get cute with Stuffy Doll. I suspect this switch may have been made to help out those decks that either can’t remove enchantments or can’t remove creatures so that weakness isn’t a fatal flaw.
Out - Chastise In - Condemn
Huge upgrade here there’s no question Condemn was made to be the ultimate “fixed” Swords to Plowshares (the best that we’ll likely ever see) so there’s no surprise it got tapped to move into the base set replacing a considerably worse fixed Swords.
Out - Circle of Protection: Black Circle of Protection: Red In - Luminesce
Okay in this case we finally have one of Coldsnap’s two-fer hosers that may actually see some action. While the Circles are flat out more powerful (especially these last two that hose colors that can’t remove enchantments) they sit out there in your face and allow your opponent to know what’s coming and allowing him to plan a way to win through the Circles. Luminesce plays a trickier role jumping out at the worst possible time for your opponent and possibly turning around a critical combat step into a blowout.
Out - Vengeance In - Assassinate
Someone at Wizards realized that being able to kill a creature because they tapped was much more reminiscent of Royal Assassin than another tortured White Swords to Plowshares variant. Color shift!!
Out - Infantry Veteran In - Ghost Warden
Out - Master Decoy In - Loxodon Mystic
These are Limited slots and I suppose Wizards decided to up the mana costs of each White function (one as a tapper one as a power/toughness booster) to make one more useful (as a flier) and one bigger to better hold the ground.
Out - Mending Hands In — Bandage
Out - Sacred Nectar In - Reviving Dose
I mentioned last week the change Wizards has implemented by injecting more cantrips into the set by replacing marginal cards that may not even make the cut in a Limited deck with cards with similar effects that replace themselves. The trend continues here in White.
Out - Pegasus Charger In - Wild Griffin
Common cheap White flier slot... does an extra point of toughness make up for losing first strike? Or does this fellow mark a return of Griffin Canyon in Lorwyn? Tribal Griffin decks? (okay okay - I’m getting a little punchy it’s late.)
Other thoughts: Sacred Ground leaving possibly suggests two motives: either Wizards is pulling back on the threat of serious LD (evidenced by the removal of Stone Rain) so Sacred Ground isn’t really needed or they want to make the LD reliable when it is employed. The printing of Boom/Bust suggests the latter but we’ll probably need to see if there’s a noticeable lack of quality LD present in Lorwyn to be sure. (On the third hand it may be that Crucible of Worlds is replacing Sacred Ground) Also I find the printing of Mobilization interesting on the heels of Sacred Mesa coming back in Time Spiral. This strikes me as a fluke more than anything.
It’s interesting but none of the rares really line up as swaps outside of possibly Jayemdae Tome for Slate of Ancestry. In general the rare artifact choices seem to be moving away from the oddball and narrow to much more general utility - Pithing Needle Razormane Masticore Legacy Weapon Platinum Angel Crucible of Worlds Citanul Flute. All of these cards can serve as role-players deckbuilders can use to fill holes and answer questions and as far as I’m concerned it’s a welcome shift.
Out — Dancing Scimitar In — Juggernaut
On an artwork basis this is a huge letdown since the Ninth Edition Dancing Scimitar rocked hard and the Juggernaut artwork from the Mirrodin reprint... not so much. As far as a quality creature Juggernaut edges Dancing Scimitar but I’m not sure it’s going to make much of an impact on Standard.
Out — Fellwar Stone In — Mind Stone
This is an easy one Fellwar Stone was marked for rotation and You Choose Tenth Edition picked Mind Stone. At the time I know Wizards expressed some concern that Mind Stone may be “too good” to be reprinted. Personally I’m not so sure. I think it’ll see some play but it won’t be popping up all over the metagame.
Out — Vulshok Morningstar In — Leonin Scimitar
The uncommon equipment slot; Vulshok Morningstar had the disadvantage of being severely worse than the rare equipment Loxodon Warhammer which only cost one more mana to cast but with identical equip costs. I’m not sure if there was a reason for this swap outside of “why not?” (though in Limited it’s easier to pass around the Scimitar between an attacker and a blocker)
Next week I open up the starcitygeezer at gmail dot com email inbox among other things so see ya then!