"Aerodynamically, the bumblebee shouldn't be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn't know it so it goes on flying anyway."
-Mary Kay Ash
Some people like to build decks, some people like to play decks, and a lot of people like to do both. Spoiler season leaves people who want to do both with an annoying problem—one that I find myself encountering all too often.
I finally get on—now show me some spoilers!
Friend: "Meh. He does Bolt twice, but the tap will probably never be relevant. I guess ramping is cool."
Friend: "In dreamland. Calm down. He's fine but definitely overpriced. He'll be $10 after two months."
Me: "But…I preordered a set. :P"
New cards get spoiled every weekday during spoiler season, and when I see them my head immediately starts filling with sweet ideas, both for competitive play and this column. Typically, I can contain myself when random commons and uncommons get spoiled, but when Wizards starts showing us things like split cards with fuse and planeswalkers, I can't contain my excitement. Sometimes my mind even wanders out of normal realms.
When I first saw Toil // Trouble, the first thought that came to my head for no particular reason was fusing it with a Mirari in play. As I said earlier, I often run into a bit of a problem during spoiler season. With all these sweet ideas in my head, I want to test them, but I really can't. Sure, I can brew up two decks, force a person to test with me, and get an idea of how they play, but I've always felt that to be a poor representation. With only 23 nonland cards spoiled thus far as I'm writing this, we still have 122 left to see. With each new card, things change drastically.
The first time I ran into this was during the Scars of Mirrodin spoiler season. They spoiled the mana Myr cycle and Myr Galvanizer. For those who aren't aware, if you get two Myr Galvanizers and two mana Myr (or one Palladium Myr) into play, you can create infinite mana. You tap the Myr for two mana, use one mana to untap them, and then tap them for two mana. If you keep using Galvanizers to untap each other, you net one mana each time. I built a deck to use the Myr combo and started testing it immediately. Much to my surprise, the deck was doing insanely well. After some tweaks, I was convinced I had broken the format a month before it even existed. I was sure I should keep this a secret, though others would inevitably discover it. I was pretty naive back then.
While in hindsight the combo was probably not very good, Wizards spoiled more and more cards, and as new cards got added to the decks I was testing against, mine seemed to get worse and worse. So towards the very end of spoiler season, I binned it. At least I still got to assemble Palladium Myr, double Myr Galvanizer, and Chimeric Mass once in a draft.
My new outlet for getting out these ideas without wasting a month testing them is to use this column. Each Friday I'm going to try to discuss at least two spoiled cards and how I might integrate them into some cool decks. I will also normally include the typical article I present you with. So each week you'll get the usual sweet deck (either a video set or article) along with some cool ideas involving Dragon's Maze spoilers. There normally won't be full decklists for the new cards, rather just ideas. This not only leaves the ideas more open-ended, but it gives you guys a bit more of a challenge to send me decklists. I have some pretty awesome reader submitted decklists that I plan to use before Dragon's Maze comes out, so I can't forget those.
Something to note as well is that there is typically a layover between a set's release and the point when I can start actually playing with it online. This is because sets are released later online and it takes me a bit to get access to the cards after they are released. Those are the weeks that I will present you with some cool decklists. If you have any ideas for other things I could do during this layover, feel free to let me know. Also, if you have any remaining decks that you want me to try before Dragon's Maze, don't be afraid to send them my way. I have two or three decks lined up right now, but I could use a few more. Anyway, let's get to some spoilers!
I'll be honest with you. That Facebook conversation up top is not an actual conversation I had. It was just an example of similar conversations I've had. I'm typically wary of preordering cards, in part because I like to borrow everything but mostly because card prices are crazy and I never know what I'll end up playing. I prefer to wait until I settle on a deck before I start purchasing cards, and that usually doesn't happen until around a month after the set is released. The only exception was Bant Control, a deck I determined was insane in testing a week before Return to Ravnica came out and decided I was going to grind, which I did all the way until the release of Gatecrash.
Anyway, Ral Zarek is a sweet card for sure. Whether it really has a place in competitive play is left to be seen, but for now I have some thoughts on where the card might fight within the decks I like to play in this column. He is an interestingly versatile planeswalker in the places where I think I'd want him. As I exquisitely illustrated earlier, he is pretty sweet as a ramp spell that can remove threatening creatures.
While he seems less than exciting against Blitz style decks that deploy five creatures by turn 3, he seems sweet against some of the midrange and control decks. He removes many of the early creatures your opponents might deploy to try to kill him like Centaur Healer, mana dorks, and Lotleth Troll if you get good timing. Then, if you get to untap with him, he can act as a ramp spell. While the tap a permanent part of his +1 seems less than exciting in the decks that want Ral Zarek, it can definitely have some impact against stalled boards in the late game.
Most of the ideas I have for Ral Zarek that I like include green for Farseek. I really just want to get this guy out on turn 3 and start going crazy. Another idea I have is to use him in a Burning Vengeance shell. Not only can he act as quick additional damage and help push through any Snapcaster Mages you may have played, but he can really help just accelerate your deck. A large problem I had with Burning Vengeance decks was that they could really only cast one spell before turn 6. With Ral Zarek, you can start that a turn earlier and have access to more mana and Lightning Bolt things during turns where the extra mana won't matter.
Overall, I am definitely a skeptical fan of Ral Zarek. He seems sweet, and I really want to put more thought into the Burning Vengeance idea as more cards are spoiled. But I think we'll need to see some better six-drops in red, blue, and green before he can be called insane. Prime Speaker Zegana is a cool six-drop, but not when you've only cast Farseek and a planeswalker before casting her. Again, only time will tell.
Have you seen this card, it is so insa… Wait, this card isn't in Dragon's Maze? Well, that's good because I think it could completely warp Standard. Wait…it exists already? But this seems like the perfect set for the card. Have you seen all the sweet enters-the-battlefield effects they are printing? And we are only a few cards into the spoilers.
In all seriousness, though, so far we have seen a lot of awesome creatures that make me want to try a "Blink" based ramp decks. Using white as the base color, you could take mana dorks, other ramp spells, Blink effects (the most relevant being Restoration Angel, but don't give up on Cloudshift and Conjurer's Closet yet), and some sweet creatures to Blink. We already have some awesome ones like Acidic Slime and Thragtusk, and Dragon's Maze only adds to that awesome pool.
Deputy of Acquittals is an interesting Blink type effect, and some new creatures to Blink include Lavinia of the Tenth, Sin Collector, and Trostani's Summoner. For a little while before Gatecrash, I tried to make a Naya Conjurer's Closet deck work, and it was pretty close. Maybe with the new cards it could become the real deal. Restoration Angel, it's your time to shine! Oh wait, you already shine. Awkward.
That's all for me today. As I said, usually I'll include the normal TGIFNM article along with my thoughts on some spoilers, but since this was the first week, I wanted all the focus to be on the new cards. I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on spoiler season as well my ideas for the cards I decided to talk about. If you have any ideas for pre- or post-Dragon's Maze, I'd love to see them as usual. You can either email them to me or post them in the comments. It doesn't have to be a decklist; it could be just a general idea if you'd prefer. Any thoughts you have are useful. Thanks for reading ladies and gents. See you next week!
@AJKerrigan55 on Twitter