I’ve previewed a number of cards in my time here at Channelfireball, but today’s is by far the best. Not only is it powerful, it’s cheap, and that is always a good combination. I’ve made my displeasure with this class of cards known, but this one is actually really sweet. Without further ado, here is Phyrexian Revoker:
Now this is a Pithing Needle I can get behind! The reason I really don’t like cards like Pithing Needle, such as Extirpate, Memoricide, or Meddling Mage, is that you are almost always losing out on the exchange. Needling a Planeswalker after they get a use out of it is a disadvantage, as is Needling beforehand and having them just not draw the card in question. The reason Phyrexian Revoker is so awesome is that it not only is a Pithing Needle, but also a beater. A 2/1 body is most definitely not irrelevant, and is almost a 2 for 1 instead of being a slightly disadvantageous trade. In most situations you are just paying one mana for a bonus 2/1, which is a fantastic deal no matter how you look at it.
There are some interesting differences as well. The first is a downside: you can’t name lands, which rules out naming some Legacy staples, such as Wasteland, Maze of Ith, and Mutavault. Even in Standard, being unable to turn off Raging Ravine or Creeping Tar Pit is unfortunate, though you wouldn’t play Revoker just to do that anyway.
However, that downside is necessary in order to provide an important advantage Revoker has over Needle: it can turn off mana creatures! Answering a Birds of Paradise or Noble Hierarch with Phyrexian Revoker is a pretty sweet play. You essentially get to kill their 1-drop with your 2/1 for 2, and even if they end up killing your guy, you will have slowed them down enough that the trade is probably a good one. You can even go so far as to get cards like Heritage Druid or Elvish Archdruid (though Archdruid is probably not the best card to name, since it still causes problems while in play). Naming artifact mana sources is an option as well, though that’s mostly applicable towards Vintage, and would mostly be after the fact.
So, now that we have this guy, what do we do with him? Just jamming him into a deck as an answer to Jace in Standard could backfire, since Disfigure and Lightning Bolt are commonly paired with the Mind Sculptor for annoyances exactly like this, and he can’t even beat past a Sea Gate Oracle. The way I see it, there are a couple things you want to keep in mind when putting this guy in a deck.
1) Play him in a deck where they have incentive to board out their removal
Against decks with few or no targets, such as control or Valakut, most Jace decks tend to board out a significant portion of their spot removal. In those circumstances, boarding in Revokers could be effective, especially if there are multiple cards you are interested in naming.
2) Play him in a deck full of other removal targets
Instead of trying to play Revokers when they have no removal spells in their deck, you can take the opposite approach and overload their removal spells by playing a ton of guys. If you are beating them down already, adding another threat with a good side effect is pretty sweet.
3) Play him in a deck that actively wants cheap artifact guys
This is the most exciting option, since it hopefully points towards a Standard-legal version of the currently Extended-only Tempered Steel beatdown deck. Mirrodin being the artifact block and all, I was hoping that there would already be an artifact deck in Standard, but no dice so far. If Besieged has enough action, it might be a real possibility, and a 2/1 artifact guy for 2 with a good ability is exactly the kind of card that could make it happen.
Is Phyrexian Revoker the JACE ANSWER we have all been looking for? Not exactly. Answering Jace is a tall order, and this guy is just a little to vulnerable to permanently deal with him, but what he does do is disrupt them. Hopefully, he disrupts them just enough that your other cards can seal the deal, and at the cost offered, you don’t need to get that much out of Revoker to get a good deal. Of course, Jace is but one of many cards you could name, and I’m very interested to see where Phyrexian Revoker fits in over the next couple of months.