Today we take a break from the theory articles to talk about the new cards that have been spoiled so far. Originally I was going to talk about Miracle,but I ended up throwing in a couple of cards that I consider interesting as well.
I am not a fan of this mechanic (surprise!). The first reason is that it’s just not good – the cards are great if you can miracle them out, but they’re very very bad if you can’t, and this is not the sort of thing I’m looking for, especially when, in many decks, the chance of drawing those cards and not being able to cast them is actually bigger than that of triggering them. Take, for example, Temporal Mastery – assuming you’re on the play, you’ll see 8 cards before you have a chance to cast it, so unless the game goes to turn 17 you’re under 50/50 to “profit”. Sure, they’re not unplayable without Miracle, but they’re certainly not good, and I don’t think they’re powerful enough with Miracle to make up for the times when you won’t have it.
It’s not just that you have to hit them when you can play them – you have to hit them when you want to play them. With Temporal Mastery, you’re very rarely going to skip on it, since you can do whatever you were going to do on your extra turn instead, but often it’s not going to be how you’d use it – imagine, for example, you’re playing Delver. On turn three you were planning on playing [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card], but instead you draw Temporal Mastery – you’ll play that and then play Geist on “turn four”, but had that been a Timewalk, you’d have just played the Geist and saved it for a time where it did more than replacing itself and allowing you to play a land. The other cards are even worse – Banishing Stroke, for example, is just horrible to hit half the time anyway, because they either won’t have a guy in play or it won’t be a guy that you’d choose to kill with your spell. Even Thunderous Wrath, which you can pretty much always play, is sometimes going to be a nuisance – imagine it’s turn four and you’re about to play a four drop, say, [card]Hellrider[/card] – if you draw Wrath that turn, you probably do not want to play it anyway, and then you take the risk of never being able to play it. Even drawing it on turn two could destroy your curve and you might have to hold it back…
Let’s assume we have a 50% chance to draw Thunderous Wrath naturally and a 50% chance to draw it in our opening hand (which means the game lasted 7-8 turns). If we average the casting cost, we get to 3.5 for 5 damage, which is pretty decent. The problem with this, though, is that when it costs 6, you likely can’t cast it, and when it costs 1, you didn’t need it to cost 1! It could have cost two or three, and you’re spewing all that extra mana. Imagine if it cost 0 and 7? It’d be worse. Now, what if it cost 2 and 5? That’s the same average, but a better deal than 1 and 6 – 1 and 6 is basically “I don’t need it to be this cheap” and “can’t cast”. (yeah, yeah, I’m aware that if it cost 2 or 3 then you wouldn’t be able to miracle this out on turns two or three, but if hardcasting it was easier then you wouldn’t need to).
Another problem, of course, is that to maximize drawing this throughout the game, you’re maximizing drawing them in your opening hand, which you absolutely do not want to do – there is no way to do one but not the other. It’s like Leylines – the more you have the more they’ll be awesome, but then the more dead cards you’ll have throughout the game. The only Leylines that saw play were the ones with devastating effects to make up for it, and so far I see no devastating effects in the Miracle cards. So, my impression is that, at least so far, none of the cards are good enough “for value” (yes, even the Red one) – there is no deck in which I’d just choose to jam some miracle cards in the hopes of mising. I might be wrong and they might turn out to be staples (other than in block, which clearly doesn’t count – everything is fair game in block), but I wouldn’t bet on it right now.
Things change when you build your deck around them, though – particularly with Temporal Mastery. In older formats, we have [card]Brainstorm[/card]s, [card]Personal Tutor[/card]s and [card]Sensei’s Divining Top[/card]s to make sure we trigger them more often, and even in newer formats one could, for example, try to build a Mastery deck with a bunch of Reclaim effects ([card]Noxious Revival[/card] and [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] for example). What you’re going to do with all your extra turns I don’t know, but it could theoretically work. Another place where Temporal Mastery can be of use is a heavy-mana deck, that can use it early on as an accelerator but can also hardcast it once it plays some sort of big guy, but it’s unclear whether a) it’s worth it b) this deck is any good. Historically speaking, UG fatties aren’t.
The other reason I dislike it is because it’s way too swingy. It feels, to me, like a cross between Delver and Cascade – it’s very frustrating to play against someone who hits the card they need in the only possible turn, and this is pretty much what it is. Normally you’ll be like “well if they have Bolt I’m dead”, but with this it’s going to be “well if they draw the Thunderous Wrath this exact turn I’m dead”, and it’s a lot worse because it’s hard to justify playing around it when it’s so unlikely to happen, but from time to time it will happen and you’re going to be angry. And, the worse thing is, there is nothing you can do about it – it’s not like Cascade where you could just play your own Cascade spells, because those Miracle spells are bad! Assuming I am right and we agree that Miracle spells have, say, a 40% chance of being good and a 60% chance of being bad – I’ll not play them, but if my opponent plays them, then it’s like we’re flipping a 40/60 coin – either they do nothing or they win the game. Sure, the odds are in my favor, but it’s still a flip, and I don’t play Magic for the flips.
One problem I do not have with the cards is the mechanical aspect of it – I’ve seen plenty of people complaining that “it’s very annoying to look every turn”, but I don’t think it is – it takes pretty much zero effort to look at the card before you shuffle it with the rest of your hand. I’m obviously not going to know for sure until it gets to actual games with it, but, from what I imagine, it’s not going to be a big deal.
I like Soulbound a lot – it might not be very good, but it’s interesting, and I think it improves Limited games. There haven’t been many cards spoiled with it so far, but the Paladin is somewhat promising – as a beater, it’s better than [card]Mirran Crusader[/card] on average, so it’s just going to depend on whether Protection is relevant. Did you know that you can use Soulbound when the second guy comes into play? I.e. you can play Wingcrafter on turn one, then on turn two you play a bear and “pair” them. This is not at all intuitive, and I needed someone to tell me that before I figured it out, despite reading the wording multiple times.
Nooooooooooo, please stop. Seriously. Let’s have a talk about the punisher mechanic… First, the wrong way to look at it: “Both R for 4 damage and R for a 4/3 are good, therefore, even in the worst case scenario, this is a good deal”. This is technically correct (the first part anyway), but that’s not the point – individual parts of a card don’t make a card. Take, for example, [card]Cryptic Command[/card]… would any of those be played?
1UUU Counter target spell and draw a card
1UUU Counter target spell and tap all their creatures
1UUU Counter target spell and bounce target permanent
1UUU Bounce target permanent and draw a card
1UUU Bounce target permanent and tap all their creatures
1UUU Tap all their creatures and draw a card
It’s a fair assumption to say that none of those cards would make big waves in a constructed format, yet [card]Cryptic Command[/card] was one of the most powerful cards of its time. Why is it so good if none of the effects is worth the cost? Because we’re paying more for the choice, the choice is key. With Devil and other punisher cards ([card]Browbeat[/card], etc), you are giving them the choice, and there is a very real cost to that.
That doesn’t mean Devil is unplayable, or even bad – just that it’s likely a lot worse than you think it is. To see if it’d be good, look at it the opposite way – R, 4 damage to them unless they want you to have a 4/3, which is what is going to happen most of the time. You have a slightly higher payout than Lava Spike, but you run the risk of drawing it later when they’re at low life but can deal with a creature, especially if you don’t have many, and then it’ll be a very bad card. My original impression was that any deck that wanted [card]Lava Spike[/card] would want this too, but that’s not even true – I think this card is best in a deck that wants to play a bunch of creatures as well as burn, so that if you draw this it’s not going to automatically eat their only removal spell. You can certainly not consider this in your “1 drop slot” either, for whatever it’s worth. Also, for whatever it’s worth, I predict I’ll never play this card in any format that is not block.
Ah, now we’re talking… to give you an idea of how good this card is, Luis seriously tried to get us to play [card]Spire Monitor[/card] as a kill condition last year.
This card plays many roles, which doesn’t mean it can fit in many decks – in general, you’d need to find a deck that uses more than one of the roles before this becomes good. Its body is certainly “fine”, but not enough to justify playing just because of that. The two main uses are resetting some important creature of yours or making use of the instant speed (if you don’t want to tap out, for example). The first deck that comes to mind is the Naya deck, with or without Pod – it has [card]Strangleroot Geist[/card], [card]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card], [card]Blade Splicer[/card], and even the occasional [card]Acidic Slime[/card] or Titan. Another deck that has multiple uses for this is Delver – in a deck that doesn’t really want to tap out, this card is great, and resetting Snapcaster gives it yet another dimension. Like [card]Mistbind Clique[/card], I suspect this card will be misused a lot, particularly in the beginning – that’s always the case with something you can play at Instant speed and has a lot of effects. One application, for example, is attacking with your [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] and blinking it, so that your Angel gets through, and there are many more – attacking with two 2/2s into their 3/3 and blinking whichever they block, blocking and blinking, etc.
Tibalt is an enigma – I don’t think there is any way to evaluate him properly before playing with the card. Right now, I’d say he is a role player – he is good (decent) against control decks, but not very good against aggro, so probably a sideboard card. I’d certainly not rule him out, since he is so unique, but I wouldn’t expect him to be making any waves.
I very dearly hope this card is bad, because, if it isn’t, I’m going to yell at Wizards “DIDN’T YOU LEARN ANYTHING WITH [card]INVISIBLE STALKER[/card]” every time I lose to it. It’ll probably be an important card in Block, but I don’t think it’ll see much play outside of that.
This card is not as good as its Blue Red counterpart, I don’t think, but that’s not saying much considering that card is just great. I think that, perhaps, this will cause this card to be overshadowed when it’s in fact also very good. The selling point here is that it’s so cheap that it’s actually feasible to just play a guy and use this to give it haste, translating into 4 or 5 damage as opposed to 2. Imagine if you get to 7 mana and have this and, say, Hero of Bladehold – that’s 9 damage this land is dealing. It also makes their life very hard, not only because it makes combat math complicated but because they won’t know what to expect – if you have this in play, can they attack? Do they wait around to block a potential guy? What if you have this in hand, instead of in play? The mere fact that this land exists is enough to change how they play if this card becomes played, and I think that’s very interesting.
Well, this is about it for the cards spoiled so far – there are many other good ones, of course, but those are the ones I think are the most interesting. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and see you next week!