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A Limited Look at M10 (by A10)

It’s Monday night, I’m bored with all the draft queues currently available on Modo, and the USA network has decided to show gratuitous mini-marathons of NCIS in lieu of gratuitous mini-marathons of Law and Order SVU. Hence, it looks like I may actually find the time to finish an article for an unprecedented second week in a row!!

It didn’t take long to remember why I stopped writing. Compounding the problem of a dearth of unexplored Magical topics are my adverse reactions to forum responses. If people respond positively, I assume they’re humoring me or have low standards. In the 2000s (or “aughts,” if you will), people’s attention spans are at an all-time low, and everyone’s willing to settle for less. On those rare occasions when I do consider my work to be quality, the praise creates stress about living up to expectations with my next article.

Naturally, I don’t take kindly to negativity either. Sometimes I feel comfortable brushing detractors off as ignoramuses, but usually criticism makes me question my worth as a writer and a human being. The realization that I’m failing to live up to expectations is bad enough; failing publicly and being reminded of it repeatedly borders on the unbearable.

Nor does the solution to the conundrum lie in absence of response. When the forums are quiet, I wonder why no one cares enough to read my writing anymore. Until I do something controversial like start a flame war with Mark Rosewater, or come out of the closet (finally!), or say that ANYONE WHO’S MOURNING THE LOSS OF MICHAEL JACKSON IS A SHEEPLIKE TOOL, my hit counts will continue to dwindle as the excitement of my splend’rous return dissipates.

But hey–this is a Magic strategy website. No one needs to hear me whine about nothing and everything all at once. I may be a melodramatic fool–neurotic to the bone, no doubt about it–but regardless of whether I’m cracking up, I have to weather the storm of this soul-crushing but ultimately pointless negatively-skewed ambivalence because, hey, I really need the money.

Oh and because I love writing, and helping people with their game, and crap like that.

This week, I’ll be appraising the Limited worth of a few dozen M10 cards. I plan on making a full-set pick order once the spoiler is completely verified (if only to provide catharsis for my list-making compulsion), but for now I’ll focus on head-scratchers, oddballs, and cards I think people might misevaluate. For the “format” of this article, I’ve opted for the time-tested Card Name in Boldface with Comments Underneath technique. After all, it’s easier to read, it’s easier to write, and I’m not being graded on style.

Some of you may find this shameless disillusionment off-putting, but others may be refreshed by my unbridled honesty. Besides, I imagine that some majority of the people in the hypothetical “off-putting” camp has already given up on my series–possibly as early as one paragraph into my first article.

For those of you who don’t play Magic anymore and only click on my articles to observe my attempts to pummel the English language into submission, now might be a good time to stop reading.

Griffin Sentinel

Notoriously difficult to push through in Tenth Edition drafts (hereafter abbreviated as XXX) as [card]Skyhunter Prowler[/card], Griffin Sentinel’s value should hold steady. It fends off all manner of bears and awkward 2/1s, and as was not the case in XXX with its [card]Afflict[/card]s and [card]Aggressive Urge[/card]s, the opponent will need to burn a card to get it out of the way. It’s hard to gauge how far its non-Soldier status will push Sentinel down the pick order, but it’s good for getting you to the late game while sneaking in a few tings.

Harm’s Way

If you haven’t read other people’s discussions of this card, it’s gonna be ill like CPhil on a Saturday morning. At worst, it’s a “situational” Shock contingent on you or someone you love being dealt damage; at best it’s a 3-for-1 that will induce much deck-throwing and caterwauling. It can even save two of your x/2s from a Pyroclasm! (Right, Luis and/or Riki?)(Yes, yes it can – LSV)

Indestructibility

Core Set staple Regeneration in disguise, Indestructibility is slightly better because you don’t have to leave mana up and people may be less likely to maindeck Unsummon because of the rules change. Still, Indestructibility is but a creature enchantment, so you can get 2-for-1ed by a Pacifism or by an in-response Doom Blade, and it’s an awkward pluck if you need to develop your board. All told, I estimate that this will be a “begrudging 23rd.”

Safe Passage

It counterspells Fireball and Pyroclasm; it Fogs when you’re racing; and it helps you gang-block a monster without fear. Passage seems too versatile to ever leave on the bench, but 3 mana is at the upper end of what you want to pay for a trick, so I’m not sure whether I’d be happy maindecking two.

Solemn Offering

Naturalize was a reasonable main deck inclusion in XXX, but there were about twice as many good targets then as there are for Solemn Offering. Keep this (and Naturalize) in the board unless you specifically remember passing an inordinate amount of targets.

Wall of Faith

Bombs notwithstanding, the power curve in this set is rather flat, despite what some intelligent pundits with remarkably non-stupid-looking hair may lead you to believe. Even something like this is acceptable if you’re planning on winning in the air.

Alluring Siren

This is probably the card giving me the most difficulty to evaluate. Its most effective use seems to be removing a frustrating blocker. Against green, for instance, you can force an opposing spider to leave its guard detail, thus allowing your assorted birds to swoop in unimpeded. Beyond that application, to make the Siren worthwhile, you need a blocker larger than the unwitting attacker or a profitable gang-block. In some cases, you’ll be able to Abyss your opponent with a Craw Wurm. In others, your monster’s mere presence is enough to discourage attacks, and you don’t need to spend a card to remove opposing creatures from play when they’ve been effectively neutralized. In still others, your opponent may have wanted to attack with any potential Siren target anyway. In the end, I anticipate that this will be solid in U/W and U/G (if U/G is a real archetype) and mediocre in most U/B and U/R decks.

Disorient

The poor man’s Neck Snap, er, “Divine Verdict.” Unlike the Verdict, Disorient is markedly better on your opponent’s turn, and four mana is an awkward amount to leave up. Plus, it’s hard to get more than a 1-for-1 unless your opponent is ballsy enough to toss a Giant Growth into all that untapped mana (In which case their guy might survive anyway – LSV). I’d consider this another 23rd, although not quite as begrudging as Indestructibility.

Essence Scatter

Remove Soul was “the boots” (in other words, “groovy”) in XXX, and I don’t expect much has changed.

Illusionary Servant

Blinding Mage and Harm’s Way kill this outright, and it turns Giant Growth and Unsummon into removal spells”¦but beyond these, the Servant’s drawback is surprisingly negligible. Since any targeted damage spell will kill it, just treat it as a 3/1 that gets +0/+3 when it blocks or becomes blocked, and, uh, lives through Pyroclasm. Look, it’s good, okay? I’m not sure it’s strong enough to pull you into blue, but take it early if you were already leaning in that direction.

 

Levitation 

Worth its weight in gold in the elusive U/G archetype; otherwise, probably scarcely worth bothering with.

Merfolk Sovereign

Don’t go into autopilot and slam the Merfolk, Goblin, or Elf lord into your pile. The Zombie and Soldier lords are good on their own and great first picks, but the other three lack the support needed for them to truly shine. Do you really want to fill your deck with Raging Goblins and Goblin Pikers to jack up the relevance of your Goblin lord? That said, the Goblin dude is playable if unexciting on its own, and Elf-san is likely worthy of a rare-draft.

 

Negate 

Fine to main deck, but nowhere near as good as “Essence Scatter.” I’d only play one of these, whereas I’d run as many copies of “Essence Scatter” as I got my hands on.

Polymorph

While too erratic to maindeck, Polymorph is a reasonable sideboard card against multiple bombs and/or Oakenforms and Armored Ascensions.

Traumatize

The Traumatize/Tome Scour deck is a dead end. Stop trying to make fetch happen.

Unsummon

Unsummon is obviously worse than before, but I’ll still be happy to play it. It still saves your guys from removal, Disenchants auras, messes up double-blocks, counters Giant Growths, removes key blockers, etc. etc. ALL FOR THE LOW LOW COST OF etc. etc.

Wall of Frost

It’s not as good as Wall of Swords was in XXX, but Wall of Frost should still be a very early pick. In my estimation, it’s only a half-step below the premium removal spells.

Diabolic Tutor

Don’t play this without a bomb. Blah blah tempo hoozle wuzzle.

Duress

Duress is somewhat worse than Negate, and the disparity is probably just large enough to prevent me from maindecking it. Negate can cause mid-combat blowouts, and it’s not dead in the late game when the opponent is in “peel n’play” mode.

Looming Shade

This is where I’ve chosen to mention that there seem to be some pulls to play a main color and a secondary color in M10. White wants a critical mass of Soldiers, and a lot of plains will enhance Armored Ascension and let you cast Veteran Armorsmith on turn 2 more reliably. Blue doesn’t seem deep enough to be a primary color (I’m sure there’s a pun to be made there, but can we all show a modicum of discipline?), but many of its best cards have two colored mana symbols. Green lends itself to being a “main” color because of its mana fixing and Howl of the Night Pack. Black has Looming Shade, Tendrils of Corruption, [card]Consume Spirit[/card], and a good amount of doubles. Long story short, if you want some of these cards to reach their maximum potential and/or castability, you may often end up in the realm of 10/7, 11/6, and beyond.

Underworld Dreams

Gee, this looks familiar.

Ball Lightning

In Constructed, I expect (and hope) that Ball Lightning will reclaim its former glory. In Limited, though, it’s a downgrade to Lava Axe. Lava Axe was, in fact, a solid finisher in XXX; but throw in a less manageable casting cost and the opponent’s option to absorb some of the damage with creatures (not to mention what happens if your opponent has a first striker) and you’ve got the makings of a less-than-impressive Limited card. And for the record, the artwork is embarrassing. If you’re summoning forth a powerful barrage of lightning, why do you need to take the time to give it a little mask? I guess it’s so new players can “grok” (don’t know if I used that word correctly, don’t care) that it’s a creature, but couldn’t there have just been a face embedded in the lightning itself, or something? It’s a shame Wizards isn’t allowed to use old art for cards like this and Shivan Dragon.

Berserkers of Blood Ridge

I don’t anticipate the “attack every turn” clause as being much of a drawback. Enjoy your monster.

Capricious Efreet

The Efreet is nice and large, and its “random” trigger is a bonus, not a drawback. It’s like you’re playing Deal or No Deal, or whatever? And there’s four cases left, and you have to pick one? And it’s among the $.01, the $1, the $100,000 and the $1,000,000? But like, the $1,000,000 found the hidden immunity idol? Except like, if you get the $1 case, you’ll probably get attacked for 4 by the $.01 case? Yeah, it’s like that.

Kindled Fury

This wasn’t strong enough to make the cut in Lorwyn, but then again, Trained Armodon wouldn’t have made the cut in Lorwyn. Casting Fury leaves you susceptible to instant-speed removal, but if you exercise a little caution and try to get a read on your buffoon opponent, you’ll be fine. There aren’t that many tricks available in this format, so if your choice is between Fury and a 17th guy, you may want to opt for Fury.

Lava Axe

See above. Deceptively good.

Manabarbs

Could be awesome in a really aggressive deck. If your opponent’s on the back foot when this hits play, it’ll be quite difficult for him to recover.

Panic Attack

A great finisher. I imagine every Red/Green deck wants one of these.

Deadly Recluse

Also known as Seal of Neck Snap. A higher pick than most of the arbitrary, interchangeable fatties.

Lurking Predators

Between the card selection and potential long-term mana gains, I expect this to overcome its clunkiness and behind-on-board awkwardness. Not an early pick, but playable.

Might of Oaks

This was a near-bomb in XXX and should still be, especially with that 4/4 trampler at common.

Mist Leopard

Shroud is virtually a drawback on non-evasive creatures with 2 toughness. The opponent can’t target it with removal, but he can block and kill it with just about anything. Avoid playing it if possible.

Oakenform

While this may seem to fly in the face of what I said about Indestructibility, I think Oakenform will be quite serviceable in M10. The difference between the green aura and Indeslongannoyingwordtoype is that form exerts additional pressure–all the while taking the enchanted creature out of the range of many of the removal spells Indianapolisindiana would protect it from. The white one on a 2/x flier is just removal insurance, whereas Oakenform turns aforementioned (have to use that word at least once per article) flier into a 4-turn clock all by itself.

Gorgon Flail

In XXX, Leonin Scimitar was an early pick, enabling one creature each turn to hit for an extra damage or “trade up.” Deathtouch more than compensates for the additional mana in the costs; assuming you remember to move this after combat, your opponent will be hard-pressed to find good attacks or blocks. In addition, because it’s one of few good artifacts/enchantments in the set, it’s unlikely that your opponent will maindeck anything to destroy it. A 1st-2nd pick, in all likelihood.

[card Whispersilk Cloak]Whippersnapper Coat[/card], as Aaron Lipczynski once called it

Clunky and barely relevant in Mirrodin draft; a force to be reckoned with in XXX. Expect this to be more comparable to the latter in M10, because, ya know.

“¦and, to the surprise of no one, I’ve droned on for too long again and won’t be getting to my primer on prize splits until next week. I swear to you on Calosso Fuentes’s life that I’ll have it next week (Calosso might not like that – LSV, who can’t ever resist).

Oh and for real? I won’t be unburdening my existential anguish over “having to write” every week. As much as I like to keep it rrrl, it would get tedious for you to read (and more importantly, for me to write) (and yes, I know I used the “me to write/you to read” parallel already this article) (and how many parentheticals are you allowed to have in a row anyway?) every week, and quite frankly, it’s annoying to hear someone complain nonstop, Mouth.

Join me next week when I paint my room black, put My Chemical Romance on repeat, and cut my wrists the wrong way just to get attention.

Timothy James Aten
Dr. Lisa Cuddy on Modo (This will take a while to get old.)
ecks pie read eights ten twenty-four @ yaw who . kawm

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Post-Signoff Bonus: Some Grammatical Things That Bug Me

I would have made this a Top 5, but I’d have to really wrack my brain to come up with that elite list from the millions of candidates, so here are a couple I’ve thought about recently, in no particular order:

1. “definately”: Why is it that 85% of forum posters think “definitely” is spelled with an A? Didn’t anyone go to school? I loathe “your” when people mean “you’re,” but at least that’s shorter and somewhat easier to type than the proper spelling, and at least it’s a homophone. It’s not like definitely is pronounced “deff-uh-NATE-ly,” so where did everyone pick up this bastardized spelling?

2. “all of the sudden”: Special shout-out to [card Chatter of the Squirrel]Zac Hill[/card] for this one. Until I corrected him on this (and then he continued to write/say “the” instead of “a” anyway), I never realized quite how many people make the error. This sums up my feelings nicely.

3. Jaguar: Why do some people pronounce this noble cat’s name “jag-wire”? There’s no I in team, and there’s no I in jaguar”¦but there are two in “idiot.” Go f%$&ing figure.

4. Wolf: While I’m on the subject of animals, has anyone else noticed that some people pronounce it “woof”? Mind-boggling.

5. Drown: I’ve run into this one less and less after graduating high school, but I hate it when people pronounce the present-tense form of “to die from your lungs filling with water, emo-style” as “drownd.” Not once in the history of mankind has anyone ever drownded. Really.

6. Else: These last two were inspired by commercials. In some ham-fisted medical commercial, some dumpy old broad asks, “Is there anything ELTS I can do?” or some such. Likewise, I had an elementary school teacher who said “true or FALTS.” These people can make an L sound, and they can make an S sound; why are they incapable of combining them without tossing a T in there?

7. Str- words: Speaking of adding extra letters, why do people feel the need to throw extra consonants into the already-somewhat-burdensome “str” string? Such people pronounce “strong” as “shtrong” or even “shtchrong.” (I’m pretty sure Diddy pronounces “strength” as “shtrumpf.”) The commercial that hammered this home harder than usual was for Toaster Strudel. I might have even been willing to let it go if the little $%^# didn’t sound so smug when she said it: “You have that lame old Pop Tart, but I have a waaaarm shrawberry toashershrudel.” Some people have speech idiosyncrasies, and I can handle that–I don’t like it, but I can handle it–but can’t we keep these people off commercials?

I don’t know why I still watch TV; it just infuriates me and saps my creativity. Unfortunately for me, Detective Olivia Benson is just so damned endearing.

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