Reviewing the photos from my little jaunt to Los Angeles, I asked myself: Which is the most important star on the Walk of Fame?
Yes, I touched it. I touched Marilyn Monroe's Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. [He even included a picture of it, but it didn't quite make it past censors. Next time wear more clothes, Oscar. - Knut]
Hey, I know my Playboy history. I have to take a break from having Magic theory to as far back as 1995 on the top of my consciousness, you know. Besides, while they haven't inaugurated a Magic museum yet, the Erotic Museum is right in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard.
Firing Up Fifth Dawn: Artifacts
Again, our two rules for sizing up new cards:
1) Is the card more efficient than an established benchmark? (Or, do I get more bang from my buck?)
2) Does the card do something no past card ever did, and if it does, is this new card playable?
And, for the more general discussion, refer to"Shadow Prices" (see"Counting Shadow Prices").
We went through the creatures last week, and now move to the artifacts. These are the most interesting permanents of the Mirrodin block, and we'll tend to use Rule 2 now.
"Will anyone build the Crystal Vein/Fastbond/Crucible deck? Obviously this card is best used with Fastbond (which is restricted). Will it be used in any other deck than a Fastbond combo deck? Probably not, but you never know - a Goblin deck might want to recur Wastelands every turn of the game - or some deck might want to bring back a slain Mishra's Factory every turn. Zvi's Turboland deck has never been accurately translated to Type One, even though it has a bazillion more tools to work with in this format and has been a proven winner in several Extended metagames. Look Type One people - another deck for you to stea... errr, borrow and retool!"
First of all, however, the combo has it tough since you can get infinite mana off just two cards. For example, you have Grim Monolith / Power Artifact, Animate Dead / Worldgorger Dragon (and a land in play), Metalworker / Voltaic Construct, and most recently, Auriok Salvagers / Black Lotus (or Lion's Eye Diamond).
Now, if you shrug off the urge to do some fancy combo, you'll look to some slower deck where Crucible can play midgame support.
But then you have to think in increments (see"Back to Basics XIII: Incremental Thinking, and How to Say No to Cute Combos").
An early Wasteland or two can be significant disruption, but for a purely aggro Goblin deck, another threat to kick the opponent while he's down is likely better than a combo card that makes a third, fourth, and fifth Wasteland. In other decks,"The Deck" and its"Land Destruction Option" can wipe out an opponent's mana (see"The Rubies") even without a combo piece. Similarly, a second Mishra's Factory might be better than a pseudo-Consecrate Land in a deck that kills with Assembly Workers.
I think these are the major Type I interactions for Crucible:
2. Consecrate Land effect on Mishra's Factory, Faerie Conclave, and friends
4. Sacred Ground effect against land destruction
6. Draw engine with Horn of Greed
Right now, I have the impression that the best place for Crucible is a deck that can give it a good set of these interactions, so that the increments can add up and it's less dead. Turboland fans can hope it'll spawn some Son of TurboNevyn, perhaps something with a combo mode for when the first few items on the list are just too slow or roll over to early beatdown.
If it doesn't come together, as it doesn't seem to right now, then at least you get a refreshing casual deck (or maybe something to board into the control mirror).
But come on Acheson. You can do it.
So this is the little combo engine that has all the Block players wetting their beds? Here's a rough sample from the Star City Forum's presticle, dated
4 Myr Incubator
4 Krark-Clan Ironworks
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Pentad Prism
4 Talisman of Dominance
4 Serum Visions
4 Night's Whisper
3 Thirst for Knowledge
4 Welding Jar
4 Seat of the Synod
4 Vault of Whispers
4 Great Furnace
3 Ancient Den
2 Tree of Tales
This sounds fancy, but it's the incremental thinking bit again.
For those of you playing in 1997, these two were the mana engines for the now obsolete ProsBloom. You'd play Squandered Resources, tap and sacrifice the two lands for Natural Balance, and keep going until you eventually cast Cadaverous Bloom and a big Drain Life.
At first glance, Cadaverous Bloom is the explosive component, but DCI correctly banned Squandered Resources in Block. See, it's the early boost that's key to the combo.
Going back to 2004 and Krark-Clan Ironworks, you'd probably build a combo deck that aims to open with fast artifact mana, play Ironworks, play restricted bombs to draw into more artifacts, then go wild with Ironworks. Thing is, by the time you're set to play Ironworks, you probably won't need it to set up a kill with your bombs. The deck you come up with has to be better than Belcher and Draw 7, for example.
I'm strongly hoping that my initial gut feel is right and Ironworks is superfluous in Type I combo. Remember, for it to work, the Ironworks deck has to end up stronger than Belcher and Draw 7...
Ben had this to say: "Another expensive piece to a Hurkyl's Recall/Power Artifact deck. It won't see play, but will be considered for play. Gives you more of what you don't need, unfortunately. Watch me eat these words when this card is used to power turn 0 kills after the entire Type One community has been sufficiently motivated by my words to build innovative and new decks."
Again, incremental thinking.
Let's do the math.
If you have six mana after playing Cube, you break even.
If you have nine, Cube helped as much as a Grim Monolith did.
The obvious comparison is to Powder Keg, a well-loved, strong removal card. Since it's faster and since all but mono-colored decks can get it up to at least two counters, it seems better overall. Let me again quote Ben:
"More colors equal more pinpoint accuracy, and so this card will see play in decks that already play or consider playing Powder Keg - it works faster, better, and stronger than the Urza's Destiny card."
However, the question might not be"Is it better than Keg" as much as it might be"Is Keg still good?"
Especially after Chalice of the Void was printed, individual decks' permanents have had pretty diverse mana costs. It's not as simple as it used to be, when you could expect it to hold all of a Sligh or Stompy deck's men at bay. Cards like Mishra's Workshop and Wild Mongrel have only added to this.
Given this, and since Explosives asks for an extra two mana to pop it anyway, the real sweepers like Pernicious Deed (Psychatog) and Nevinyrral's Disk (Landstill) seem better. It may well end up just killing one permanent a lot of the time, and that draws comparisons to the more flexible Cunning Wish.
Its biggest strength seems to be how it can kill two permanents of different types in one stroke, such as Wild Mongrel and Survival of the Fittest against Oshawa Stompy. It doesn't happen against every deck, though.
All in all, it's a solid card, but I'm just not sure where it should go just yet. You could try it as a support card in"The Deck" but note the activation cost means its tempo isn't as good as the real removal. Note that it isn't exclusively for a four- or five-color deck, and Explosives is still good at a cap of two counters. Thus, you might also try it in decks that want removal but have no access to Swords to Plowshares or Fire / Ice, or need more. This was the role of Powder Keg, too, and you saw it in Darren Di Battista's Old School Expulsion after he dropped white from"The Deck."
A few subtle points.
First, note Explosives doesn't kill man lands.
Second, note that you the total mana you pay has nothing to do with how many Sunburst counters it gets. This means Explosives is a foolproof way of getting rid of Chalice of the Void. No, that doesn't add much to Sligh.
Third, it gives certain decks access to artifact or enchantment removal they normally wouldn't have.
This is a nice enough card, but there aren't a lot of decks overflowing with Islands right now, and five mana to neutralize a single creature is a hefty tempo payment. Still, Blue players get the chance to give their opponents the chump block frustration of Preacher.
Years back, Relic Barrier was a good friend of Winter Orb and Icy Manipulator. Today, the Prison archetype has gone through Stasis and Smokestack and is currently settled on the Mindslaver lock. Besides, Gorilla Shaman came just a couple of sets after Barrier.
First, the mana cost is considerable even with Mishra's Workshop, meaning you'll have to rely solely on Goblin Welder. Second, that said, Portal has to earn its slots by outshining both Mindslaver and Sundering Titan. Even if it's a hard lock combo with Squee, Goblin Nabob, remember it's not a complete solution. It won't be able to race early threats, for example.
Although Portal seems an incredible addition to an obsolete lock, do note that it gives decks with Welder but no black access to the Chains of Mephistopheles effect.
Instead of playing something that makes good cards better, why not play more good cards? The last Back to Basics column used Orrery as a central example (see"Back to Basics XIII: Incremental Thinking, and How to Say No to Cute Combos").
Chimeric Coils and Goblin Cannon
Goblin Cannon is an improved Rocket Launcher, and the two are new kill options with lots of colorless mana. They likely replace Magma Mine, wherever that's useful right now.
Blasting Station, Grinding Station, and Salvaging Station
The first two are artifact analogs of Goblin Bombardment and Brain Freeze. Given this, there's a small chance that this'll make them work in some new, outlandish combo. Goblin Bombardment, for example, went with Enduring Renewal and Shield Sphere, so Blasting Station lets you cut a color (yes, this old combo is too clunky today). As for Salvaging Station, you'll probably think of something cute, too.
This has to fit into some flashy combo, too. At worst, those Stasis players will absolutely insist on using it. Or maybe someone will find some cute Cumulative Upkeep card like Glacial Chasm, Infernal Darkness, Reality Twist, Tombstone Stairwell, or Dreams of the Dead.
Urza's Bauble is the original cheap artifact cantrip and it hasn't beat manipulation spells like Brainstorm for effectively playing less than sixty cards. A deck that wants to pad its artifact count for some reason may turn to this, though, because it draws the card immediately.
Not bad, but we have fetch lands and duals, and a mono-colored deck won't have the mana to spare early and would just use fetch lands if it wants thinning.
Still another little gem those old school players with Spike decks will find cute.
This, of course, suffers from what I call the Sneak Attack problem. If you don't draw Fist or it gets destroyed, what are you going to do with all those dead cards?
Door to Nothingness
Okay, it actually says,"You Lose," making it the flashiest win option yet. That doesn't make it practical for competitive play, but style does count for something.
Helm of Kaldra
I fondly remember the sight of people opening Mirage booster packs and trying to get a Feral Shadow, Breathstealer, and Urborg Panther together on the table just to see them. Kaldra was frankly underwhelming in the flavor department.
Oscar Tan (e-mail: Rakso at StarCityGames.com)
rakso on #BDChat on EFNet
Paragon of Vintage
University of the Philippines, College of Law
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Author of the Control Player's Bible
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