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Breaking Through – Magic 2013, and Hall of Fame Standouts

With no tournament of substantial size last week due to the prerelease events, I decided it would be a good week to go back to the old ways and just write about what was on my mind. So, with M13 coming out in a matter of days, I thought talking about some of the rogue standouts from the set would be a good idea, as a decent number of cards warrant further consideration. Then, with the Hall of Fame voting coming up, I thought I would share my ballot just briefly at the end. Before that though, let’s dial it back to M13.

So, now that everyone has had time to look over the full spoiler, everyone seems to be claiming their favorites. For the most part, I think most would agree this is a slightly lower-powered set, compared to say, M12, in which the Titans almost single-handedly power up the set. That said, people still narrow down the cards they enjoy or want to build around, and this pool of cards tends to be around 40-50 cards from the set I would say. But then, in the back of every player’s mind, there are those cards that they know are bad, but get the wheels turning. You can’t help but see a card like [card]Eye of the Storm[/card] and not try to dream up what the intent behind the card was, if not what happens to be the most powerful thing it could be doing.

We all have interest in cards that never see the light of Constructed play, and that is fine. What really sucks though, is when we miss out on a class of cards that have playability, but were passed over because people were too conservative with their estimations. So, to help prevent that, today we will be discussing some of the more fringe or quirky cards from the set that I think have a sliver of hope, should they be executed properly. These will definitely not be the most powerful of Constructed cards, clearly, but they possibly have a niche and are definitely fun!

[draft]Diabolic Revelation[/draft] Diabolic Revelation

I don’t know if you have been paying attention to recent tournament results, but it appears that an old favorite just might be viable once again. Mono-Black Control has been picking up steam lately, backed by a load of artifact accelerators. These accelerators allow the deck to play things like [card]Griselbrand[/card], [card]Karn Liberated[/card], and [card]Grave Titan[/card] with ease. Now, it is likely going to be the case that playing [card]Griselbrand[/card] as your card advantage engine is better than playing [card]Diabolic Revelation[/card], but that might not be true.

Consider the scenario where [card]Diabolic Revelation[/card] is played as [card]Griselbrand[/card] 3 and 4, as it can actually tutor the Demon up before it is time cast it. Factor in that this does not require a life payment, so it is better against aggressive decks that can instantly [card dispatch]kill[/card] a [card]Griselbrand[/card]. Expensive tutors are usually bad, but this actually has card advantage tied into it — so I hold a glimmer of hope.

[draft]Worldfire[/draft] Worldfire

Yes, I am aware that this costs just shy of one million mana, but what should one million mana get you? Hope about the win? Seems fair right? I mean, yes, nine mana is a lot, but if it won you the game every time it resolved, it would at least need to be a consideration. Now, clearly by itself, this cannot be a card. The card, if anything, would probably lead to more unintentional draws than wins of any kind if just cast without setup. But what if you do set this up?

What if the turn that you cast this, you also blink something out of the game with [card]Venser, the Sojourner[/card]? It almost doesn’t even matter what you blinked out, as one of something is a huge leg up on 0 somethings — but we can presume that a creature of at least 1 power is going to be among the better targets. Now that [card]Worldfire[/card] that was so bland before is: nine mana — win the game. This also works with [card]Oblivion Ring[/card] on your own permanent, suspend cards in Modern, and leaves play triggers that create something like a token (I’m looking at you [card]Thragtusk[/card]). None of these scenarios are that difficult to set up, as the first part is all things you want to be doing anyway. Casting the nine-mana sorcery is definitely a barrier to entry, but I will be looking into it, if nothing else.

[draft]Jace’s Phantasm[/draft] Jace’s Phantasm

Now, I know this guy has been mentioned once or twice. Someone may have even called it good. But I still don’t think this is getting the respect it deserves. When [card]Scute Mob[/card] first game out, there was a lot of talk about playing it in true control decks as a win condition. The thought was that you would play it on turn five or six, and still have the mana to protect it — unlike a traditional five or six mana win condition. [card]Scute Mob[/card] would grow gigantic and win the game.

Well [card]Jace’s Phantasm[/card] has much of that same utility, but with a step into the modern era. It now has evasion, which is amazing. It comes down as a 4/4 most of the time, rather than as a naked 1/1 for a turn. It is blue. This means you don’t automatically have to commit yourself to blue/green to play this in a control deck. And yes, there is a real condition on this, but you have to think that meeting it is not that difficult, especially if you aid it in any way.

[draft]Stormtide Leviathan[/draft] Stormtide Leviathan

We have gotten spoiled pretty quickly over the past six months. At first, we went quite a few years where there was just no viable reanimator list in Standard due to the poor quality of the [card]Zombify[/card] effects. Basically, between [card]Makeshift Mannequin[/card] and [card]Unburial Rites[/card], there was just not much of anything. Then [card]Unburial Rites[/card] was printed, already with great targets in the format thanks to the Titans and Praetor cycle. Cool, new archetype, and everything was good.

Then, within another six months, the best reanimation target of all time saw print. Now, with this flurry of events, reanimator went from off the market to tier 1 or 1.5 in multiple formats. Because of this, a lot of the nuances of the archetype were glossed over, as everyone chit-chatted about how powerful [card]Griselbrand[/card] was. As a result, some of the utility targets, the 1- and 2-ofs that sit next to [card]Griselbrand[/card] in the fatties department have not received much attention. Well, [card]Stormtide Leviathan[/card] can easily make these decks, and provide much of what [card]Blazing Archon[/card] does in Legacy. Heck, I have played this before in a [card]Genesis Wave[/card] ramp deck! It really is a powerful card once you figure out where it fits best, but I can’t imagine this not getting along with the occasional [card]Unburial Rites[/card] or two.

[draft]Spelltwine[/draft] Spelltwine

This card can be a bit confusing at first, but it essentially only does one thing if you are including it in your main deck. If this is in your main, the intent is to use this as a Zombify for spells, similar to [card]Sins of the Past[/card], with the draw back that your opponent must have an instant or sorcery in their ‘yard to work. Yes, you get to play your opponent’s spell, but since you cannot reliably know what spell that is going to be, you should not expect anything in particular.

So, how should one go about using this? Well, probably pretty much the same as Zombify effects. You want to dump the biggest and best spell you can into the ‘yard and then get a discount on it. In M13 alone there are some spicy targets, such as [card]Worldfire[/card], which is much more impressive as a six-mana card. Obviously a lot has to go right for this card to be good, but it could be a neat one to keep your eye on moving forward.

[draft]Disciple of Bolas[/draft] Disciple of Bolas

This may be my favorite new card from the set. Back when Rise of Eldrazi came out, I fell in love with [card]Momentous Fall[/card]. I tried playing it in everything from [card]Vengevine[/card] decks to decks with [card]Thought Gorger[/card] in them, as the idea of gaining a bunch of life and drawing a bunch of cards just seemed awesome. [card]Momentous Fall[/card] was tough to abuse though, as it was difficult to find cheap creatures with high power and toughness both. With Disciple, you are only worried about the power, making abusability much higher.

Imagine for example, triggering a [card]Zektar Shrine Expedition[/card], attacking for 7 and then playing this to draw 7 and gain 7 life. That is something [card]Momentous Fall[/card] could never do for only a 2 mana investment on the creature. Disciple also has the huge benefit of being a [card]Birthing Pod[/card] target, which is the most likely place he will end up. Even just sacrificing a [card]Blade Splicer[/card] token is still huge, and you can make a lot of different plays that are better than that. This should be a fun card, and I am looking forward to building around it for the next year, as I will be unable to help myself from not doing just that!

Hall of Fame

This year was actually a pretty easy year for my ballot in terms of whom I decided to vote on. You see, in my opinion, and the opinion of many others, there are two locks on this year’s ballot in Paulo and Kenji. I guess I could see someone coming up with a reason to not vote for Kenji, but right when I was starting to get into the competitive scene, Kenji was everywhere, and his success definitely had an impact on my views toward the Pro Tour. Paulo on the other hand, is actually a lock, and it will be awesome to see another teammate and friend move on to the game’s biggest honor.

After those two, I had a hard time not voting for Masashi Oiso. Six Top 8s is such an impressive number, and ten Grand Prix Top 8s is nothing to shrug off either. I think most people have gotten on board with voting for Masashi, and I know a lot of Japanese players who fully support his potential induction, which is always reassuring.

For my last two slots, I did the same research on the five or six potential choices, but ultimately, I had to revert back to where I was at last year. Last year I decided that William “Huey” Jensen was worthy of being on the ballot and my opinion has not changed. His stats are still just as incredible, and players who I respect a lot say he was one of the best players of his era. While there are a lot of worthy candidates this year, I just found Jensen to be in a slightly higher tier than most of the other options.

My other remaining slot also goes the same way it did last year: to Patrick Chapin. Four Pro Tour Top 8s is still quite strong, and since the voting last year, Patrick has Top 8’d two different Grand Prix — including an appearance in the finals of GP Orlando against yours truly. His four Top 8s are quite respectable, and his contributions to the game have far surpassed those of just about anyone else. Again, plenty of worthy people to vote for, but my mindset ended up going right back to where it was last year. So, my ballot in summary form:

Paulo Vitor Dama da Rosa
Kenji Tsumura
Masashi Oiso
Patrick Chapin
William Jensen

I know that doesn’t make my ballot the most original, but ultimately this is about showing respect to the greats of the game, not going rogue for its own sake. Good luck to all of the candidates though! It should be quite the class! Thanks for reading.

Conley Woods

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