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Silvestri Says – First Impressions of Mirrodin Besieged

Originally today I was going to discuss Mirrodin Besieged applications in Extended, but after looking through the full set listing, I realized the options actually viable in Extended were almost nonexistent. Oh sure there are a few cards that’ll definitely see play and a couple with a possibility of seeing play, but there doesn’t look to be any major changes coming on the horizon. I reserve the right to change my mind though, I mean once upon a time we actually debated if Cryptic Command was too expensive to run as four-of.

The Removal

Right now the only card I see seeing a major impact is Go for the Throat (aka: Gloom Blade, aka: Better Doom Blade, aka: GTFO) which will replace the 2-drop removal in Faeries, but Disfigure will probably still remain in the deck for curve considerations and the benefit of killing Noble Hierarch on the draw. Other than Go for the Throat, I suspect the only card that’s an easy inclusion is a Contested Warzone into Knight of the Reliquary decks, since it’s such an easy card to slide in and get use out of later.

As long as Scapeshift and Faeries are the decks to beat (add Red if playing on MTGO), Phyrexian Revoker will probably see more play in legacy than Extended, though against Naya, it’s one of the better cards you could have since its best creatures have activated abilities. The biggest problem with most of the cards in the set are that the vast majority involve creatures in one way or another, and the main decks in Extended don’t really care about fighting a fair creature war. Heck, even IN an unfair creature war like the one-sided battles against Jund and Naya, Omen decks just don’t care and Red is more of a bootleg combo deck than anything else.

That said, one of the few cards I do like in just about every format is Green Sun’s Zenith. I definitely think it’ll end up in Elves and Matt Nass will spend the next 2 weeks testing GSZ decks for Paris, but I’m not sure where else the card is going to go in Extended. It wouldn’t surprise me to see it in a Knight of the Reliquary / Fauna Shaman deck as additional tutor power and just another thing to do with 700 Birds and Noble Hierarch. Same goes with GR Valakut, but it isn’t the slam dunk in there like it is in Standard, since the deck runs far fewer creatures, still I could see it as a one or two-of.

A card some people were excited about was Hero of Bladehold in WB Tokens or WW, but as a four drop that does nothing when it hits play it faces some stiff competition at that mana cost. First to clear up a potential rules pitfall that some people have made in articles, Hero will not single-handedly trigger a Windbrisk Heights. What it will do is become a cheaper Cloudgoat Ranger if it has the chance to start attacking, but I suspect that’s just not very good. While it feels like a cross between an attrition card and aggressive one, what with battle cry and all, it feels too expensive to fit into most aggressive plans and too much like a pig fortress facing down a sky of angry plushie like objects.

Green Sun’s Zenith and Go for the Throat have the best chance of seeing play in the current metagame, but as with any new set, things could quickly shift in the metagame and make some of these others good.

So that’s the Extended breakdown of Besieged and with no other tournaments going on due to the pre-release weekend and general lack of new results after the GP, I figured now would be a fine time to look at Standard and how Besieged impacts the format.

I started with the Basic Aggro Strategies which for those who don’t know are WW, Mono-Red and some form of Green/X aggro. All of them gained cards from Besieged and it was easiest to test those since they didn’t require any refined opponents to battle against. Throw up barriers for them to overcome, see if they do so consistently and you have your answer with very little grunt work.

Red in general didn’t gain a lot, lacking the staple burn spell or efficient aggro creature one would normally expect to see in a new set. Rather the powerful Red cards come for potential swarm decks like Goblins and Kuldotha Red which gained the various battle cry creatures including Signal Pest, Goblin Wardriver, and Hero of Oxid Ridge. All of these have potential in a swarm Red deck and especially when they have help from their land base as-is the case with Contested Warzone.

Since I’m going to be referring to Contested Warzone a lot, let me get it out of the way now, I think it’s a sleeper card and one of the best in the set. The actual best card honors belong to Green Sun Zenith, but the amount of early damage a Warzone enables while not costing spell slots is really impressive. Considering the distinct lack of aggro decks in the format, it’s drawback is also negligible instead of a deal-breaker, sure you might lose the land later in the game, but for the turns it matters it’ll be safely on your side thanks the creature damage only clause. The only card people play in most decks that might force it to swap sides early is a Lotus Cobra, not exactly a major threat. Against Vampires it becomes more of a liability, but effectively having a battle cry land does so much for your other matches that right now it’s probably worth maxing out on for testing purposes.

The problem I quickly found with Goblins was that it wasn’t any faster than the normal Red deck and it lacked any of the card advantage its successful cousin in Legacy enjoys. You’re basically all-in on the battle cry plan with no way to protect yourself against sweepers and a single Slagstorm, Day of Judgment, or Arc Trail can completely ruin your day. Obviously the answer then was to go even faster with Kuldotha Rebirth and with more goobers, taking Arc Trail and Day of Judgment out of the question. Yeah that worked about as well as you’d imagine. Unfortunately the red swarm decks just lack effective ways to keep their creatures alive and lack the burn to keep them in the long game. Perhaps a correct margin can be found and personally that’s what I’ll be looking at, because the heavy creature builds are just too soft to sweepers.

One may suspect WW would have the same issue considering that it mostly consists of creatures, pump spells and a small bit of removal, but one card saves the whole strategy.

 

Brave the Elements 

While an opposing Day will ruin yours, other major sweepers and spot removal all gets countered by a one-mana spell which is something no one else can boast. Normally I wouldn’t be content with a reactive spell such as this, but the tools WW got in Besieged encourage over-expansion and you can reasonably race the removal Brave doesn’t stop. By adding Brave, the dynamic changes in the Valakut match where you normally wouldn’t be able to afford to slowly play out your resources and then get trumped by Pyroclasm or Slagstorm. Instead this is one of the few decks that can boast an effective counter while losing a minimal amount of speed in the effort.

As for actual Besieged cards which are good, Signal Pest, Accorder Paladin and Contested Warzone all fit the bill nicely. Mirran Crusader is another card that could be impressive, but being a three-drop really hurts the value in any deck that wants to abuse battle cry. Sure a pumped double strike creature is pretty nutty, but that just doesn’t happen often enough to justify the inclusion. If the deck moves in a slower direction, then I could understand the appeal of the card as bashing for 4 a turn is decent enough and more than that puts it into a class by itself.

While I knew Accorder Paladin was a fine addition to the deck, originally I wasn’t a big fan of Signal Pest. But the more I used it in WW, the more powerful it felt. You don’t have the token generation of Kuldotha Red or Nest Invader green decks, but you need to curve in this deck and with a high number of one-drops, Memnite, and Squadron Hawk, it isn’t difficult to assemble a creature army. While some of the battle cry cards feel situational and slightly underpowered, the benefits tend to outweigh the drawbacks in any match where racing or forcing through damage is of the utmost importance.

I’ll even save my diatribe on the green deck as it was a rehash of what I talked about for the WW and various red decks. Essentially I am equating the power of all of these decks to the power of battle cry in the current format, because at the moment nearly all the traditional aggro decks have been decimated. Vampires is by far the last remaining real aggro deck with any hold or sway over the metagame, while other aggro builds have had modest success the only one with numbers enough to matter for people is Vamps. I also think G/W Quest and Elves are valid strategies, but unfortunately they all struggle against Valakut. A deck with a very good clock and a sweeper which causes so much disruption to these aggro decks that they’ll usually lose before recovering.

As a result, there are only two ways around it: build in such a fashion that you can protect yourself against it, typically with blue or black to counter or to force the opponent to pitch his sweepers or Titan. Or go the other route of simply racing the opponent and killing him through his sweeper, usually losing all your men in the process, but winning through quick turnaround (Vengevine) or additional reach cards like burn or Mark of Mutiny.

That’s why I’m focusing on battle cry, I see a strategy that could potentially be quick enough to race Valakut through sweepers or protect against them long enough to win the game. Additionally by being consistently quick, it means the games where the opponent doesn’t have a Slagstorm or multiple Overgrown Battlement they’ll simply be dead before any of their high-cost cards matter. Some would say, ‘Why not play Mono Red in its current incarnation if that’s all I care about?” Long story short, current control decks are built in such a way that only a few sideboard cards make it an unfeasible strategy. Any good life gain card just hurts a deck like RDW so much more than the other aggro strategies at our disposal. While you could make the argument that this is just as true of any sideboard card and with some dedication my funky fresh battle cry decks will be just as hosed, I find people subconsciously hate out Red even when it’s bad. See anytime you have a few extra board slots, I find people tend to throw in a couple of cards that hose whatever strategy they hate losing too. In some cases that’s the most popular deck at the time, but in many cases they seem to be long-seeded fears like RDW, WW, U/W Control or some other archetype which seems to always transition successfully from format to format.

So I’m not worried about how quickly these decks get outmoded from the metagame, I’m shooting for one or two weekends where these decks can shine in a field full of slow removal and a metagame that’s largely written off non-Vampire aggro. After that, they can hate token decks and WW and all the awful terribleness they represent and once again, reduce them to beggar status with some modifications to your Jace deck. Just before they do that, go and smash people for six on turn three, and ten on turn four, and your opponent whines about not drawing his one sideboarded Ratchet Bomb. Then start talking about who has all the chips, even though you have no idea what that possibly means. Double points if you do this with infect; dump a pile of poison counters onto the table, autograph one and give it to your opponent as a sign of good will and sportsmanship.

Moving on…

Really at the moment the elephant in the room is Valakut, which likely gained the most from Besieged of any existing deck in Standard. Not only is Green Sun’s Zenith the best card in Besieged, but it makes Valakut even more consistent in both ramping and fetching up Primeval Titan on a consistent basis. Throw in the potential beatings Thrun can give out to Jace owners and Slagstorm replacing Pyroclasm as a non-dead card and things don’t look so great. It’ll take some time to figure out the best configuration of ramp spells to make room for the rest of the card

To those who don’t think Green Sun’s Zenith isn’t an instant four-of in Valakut, here’s my simple logic in favor of it. GSZ is almost never a bad card in the deck, there are times where it may not be the best card for a situation or where it’ll sit around waiting for the proper time to use it, but as soon as you hit 1G, you can actively use the card. A short-list of targets maindeck:

X=1 – Joraga Treespeaker and Birds of Paradise
X=2 – Overgrown Battlement
X=3 – Glissa the Traitor (I kid, but if you ever wanted a super blocker, here you go.)
X=4 – Oracle of Mul Daya and Thrun, the Last Troll
X=5 – Acidic Slime
X=6 and above – Primeval Titan, Avenger of Zendikar, and Terastodon

Throw in potential sideboard options and other options you can add Viridian Emissary, Lotus Cobra, Viridian Corrupter, Gaea’s Revenge, Pelakka Wurm, Rampaging Baloths, and Novablast Wurm to list along with any others I skimmed over.

Now while many of these won’t make the deck, having the options available to diversify the base at a low cost is a huge boon that shouldn’t be overlooked. Having a single Terastodon for those situations where you need an immediate army or a planeswalker dead is a nicety you likely couldn’t afford in old Valakut. Using it as a bootleg Rampant Growth by fetching up Birds of Paradise is a nice one and being able to have a single Treespeaker in removal-light matches or G2 can give you a big mana advantage early in the game that none of your other ramp cards can match.

In summary it’s a card that can accelerate, fetch silver bullets and Primeval Titan at a reasonable cost and is useful in every phase of the game. Sign me up. You don’t necessarily need to drop [card]Summoning Trap[/card] off the face of the earth, as anyone who countered an early creature and faced down a Primeval Titan instead can attest to. Still it was a card with unknown power at the best of times and fraught with variance, up to being a complete brick at the worst. Excuse me for not being excited to keep the card around.

So with that final thought, let me close out with some of the initial test lists I’ve been using. These should fill some of the gaps for aggro decks in the meantime and throw around a little bit of what’s possible now.

Josh Silvestri
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom

Decks and bonus stuff!
The Creep (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLPZmPaHme0)

 

 

Valakut!

 

WW

 

Kuldotha Red

 

GES

 

IRC banter:
LeeSharpe> GO STEELERS
Tranderas> GO PACKERS
Datatog> Go for the Throat {1B} |Instant| Destroy target nonartifact creature. • MBS-U,NewStd,SOMBC
Veggies> WHO DID THAT
Tranderas> i have no idea who just datatog’d
Veggies> damn you yawg!
[RoXaS]> putting people on ignore is for cowards
Tranderas> yes, i agree. however, the drama and stress saved is worth the confusion
Datatog> Infectious Horror {3B} |Creature — Zombie Horror| 2/2. Whenever Infectious Horror attacks, each opponent loses 2 life. • ARC-C,CON-C,Vin,Leg,Ext,ALABC,Cla
[RoXaS]> ok Yawg’s definitely just ****ing with us
Tranderas> yawg is an infectious horror
Datatog> Dance, Pathetic Marionette |Scheme| When you set this scheme in motion, each opponent reveals cards from the top of his or her library until he or she reveals a creature card. Choose one of the revealed creature cards and put it onto the battlefield under your control. Put all other cards revealed this way into their owners’ graveyards. • ARC-C

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