At this point in the Standard format, right before a block rotates out, I like to look back and see what things we’ve missed. When new cards come out, the old one’s get forgotten, and often we leave potential untapped. There are usually reasons why certain cards didn’t live up to their original hype, but even these cards can teach us a valuable lesson. If we know why something didn’t work in the past, it can help us in the future.
I tend to scroll through the spoiler card by card, so why not turn it into an article? I’m going to count down the top five missed opportunities of Lorwyn-Shadowmoor block for each color. This is really just a collection of my thoughts on Standard, organized by cards I wish I had sleeved up for a PTQ. Some of these cards will never see the light of day, while others I feel still have a chance, and we’re their last hope.
White – Living in the Shadow
5) Favor the Mighty
This is one of those cards that is interesting on paper. You play it early, then just keep playing more expensive creatures than your opponent. I wasn’t that excited about Favor the Mighty when I first saw it, but now that I look back, I can’t think of a better creature to protect than Baneslayer Angel. Untapping with Baneslayer Angel should win the game, because once you have Cryptic Command mana open you should be fine. Favor the Mighty lets you do that, and you can still attack through a pesky Broodmate Dragon while you kill their token. [Protection from Dragons much? –Riki]
4) Feudkiller’s Verdict
I like to think of this as a big Captured Sunlight. Gaining ten life is pretty significant, but the fact that you sometimes won’t get your 5/5 is disappointing. Primal Command is the better, bigger brother of Feudkiller’s Verdict, so look there if you want to gain life. In a world of two-color control decks, a world without Vivid Lands, this could have a chance. Instead, people are just casting Cruel Ultimatum, a card that actually did live up to its hype.
3) Order of Whiteclay (Personal Favorite)
I used to be so in love with this guy. He gets Doran back! Talk about sexy. I’m not sure what was ever wrong with Order of Whiteclay, except for the fact that he’s a little slow and a tad bit awkward. Ok, you got me, he’s not the best. Still, I think the card is fine, but suffers the curse of a deck that never worked out. I say he’s worth a second look now. Maybe a Doran-focused deck could work in the current metagame, using Order of Whiteclay to get back Doran, Putrid Leech, Great Sable Stag, Kitchen Finks, Treefolk Harbinger, Flamekin Harbinger, and maybe even Wild Nacatl or Figure of Destiny. Most of these cards work with Reveillark, too. Just sayin’. You’ve got a great sideboard card in Burrenton Forge-Tender; I can’t imagine a red deck beating that guy backed up by a recursive Horned Turtle. Throw in Ranger of Eos–why not? Still, I bet the same bad deck curse applies, and I can’t imagine beating Five-Color. Then again, you can get back Anathemancer and Fulminator Mage
2) Endless Horizons
A card that can remove every land in your deck is worth a look. Endless Horizons, however, has two big flaws. The first, and biggest, is that it can only grab plains. When you cast this card you want to grab every land out of your deck, so if you’re running non-plains then you’re wasting a lot of effort. There’s no way a mono-white deck could ever beat a Cryptic Command in Standard, but I think there’s a format somewhere that Endless Horizons would have been a beating in. The second problem this card has is that the second copy doesn’t do anything. If your plan is to take every land out of your deck, you’re going to build your deck in a way that maximizes that game state. Since you want to get to that game state as often as possible, you’ll play four Endless Horizons. Then, when you draw the second one, you cry. The way Endless Horizons could see play is pretty boring and fair. You put it in a deck with a decent amount of plains and use it to thin your deck and give you a land every turn. Not the worst card, but decidedly fair.
1) Baneslayer Angel
There I go breaking my article format in the first color. This isn’t a card from Lorwyn-Shadowmoor block! You know what are? Archon of Justice. Stonehewer Giant. Brion Stoutarm. Divinity of Pride. Battletide Alchemist. I have no qualms directly with Baneslayer Angel’s power level. It’s good, but it’s not unfair or format-warping or anything. Tom LaPille told me that they made Baneslayer Angel wondering how good they could make an expensive creature that doesn’t create card advantage, and they discovered that. Unfortunately, the existence of a creature as good as Baneslayer Angel completely removes the possibility of playing any other comparably-costed creature, and I’m not sure I like that.
Honorable Mention – Mine Excavation
We’ve been given a block full of white artifact creatures – what better way to use Mine Excavation? I can imagine a format where this deck could work, but I don’t think there’s room in Standard.
Unused Combo Award – Brigid, Hero of Kinsbale and Greatbow Doyen
The mini-tribes seem to have always been on the edge of playability. Assassins made a brief appearance in Block, and druids have found a way into some of the recent Elf Combo decks. The tribe that I wanted to explore, however, was archers. As soon as I found the interaction between Brigid, Hero of Kinsbale and Greatbow Doyen, I was hooked. Back when the format was dominated by hoards of tokens, this was an especially attractive combo. Unfortunately, the cards aren’t very good on their own, and the combo is pretty bad against a few big creatures.
Blue – Cool Cards Can’t Jump
5) Drowner of Secrets
There was a States right after Lorwyn came out when my friend Eli was going to play whatever deck we handed him. One of the decks we had in mind went by the name of Millfolk. Centering on Drowner of Secrets, this deck’s goal was to mill the opponent while doing cool things like gain life with Judge of Currents, or make tokens with Stonybrook Schoolmaster. [Or Summon the Schools since Schoolmaster is a Morningtide card. –Riki] I can’t help but wonder if this deck could work now with the help of Drowner Initiate, maybe with a little Ranger of Eos fuel. You’ve got Stonybrook Banneret and Merrow Reejerey to provide decent acceleration, and this deck comes with one of the best counterspells around in Sage’s Dousing. I’m not sure what happens when you don’t draw Drowner of Secrets, and even then, can you outrace an aggro deck? I just want cool merfolk like Grimoire Thief or Surgespanner to make it in the real world.
(Speaking of Surgespanner, I just want to cast him in some random deck and keep my opponent off of their land. Could that work?)
4) Familiar’s Ruse
When Lorwyn came out, Momentary Blink was all the rage around my playgroup. Ok, it was mostly Zaiem Beg who couldn’t stop Blinking, but his desire was infectious. Lorwyn block gave us cool tools like Familiar’s Ruse, Flickerwisp, and Galepowder Mage, not to mention Mulldrifter. Unfortunately, with the rotation of Time Spiral Block, and Momentary Blink with it, “blinking” creatures has never been the same. Whenever I cast a Broken Ambitions, I die a little inside, and I just want to cast something cool like Familiar’s Ruse.
3) Knowledge Exploitation
The prowl mechanic as a whole was a Constructed failure. As Standard began to flesh itself out, rogues fell, in favor of the faerie tribe, which pushed Prowl out of the realm of possibility. Knowledge Exploitation, Notorious Throng, Thieves’ Fortune; these are all cool and potentially powerful cards, but they just aren’t worth the work of connecting with a rogue. I’m still not entirely sure that faeries couldn’t splash rogues to a good effect, but with Great Sable Stag straining faerie decks to splash red the deck’s attention is being focused elsewhere.
2) Declaration of Naught
There isn’t a lot to say here. It’s an interesting card that does something kind of new, but it just isn’t good enough. Runed Halo is the better two-cost-name-a-card enchantment, but one day there will be a job to do, and Declaration of Naught will be the right tool.
1) Ghastly Discovery
I bring up such a relatively uninteresting card because it highlights an important issue: discard in Standard sucks. Seriously. The best way to get a card into your graveyard right now is Ghastly Discovery, Corpse Connoisseur, or Oona’s Prowler (a missed opportunity itself, mostly buried by Bitterblossom tokens). Those are all pretty ghastly options. Kyle Farnam tried, and sent me an e-mail (The only e-mail I’ve ever received with the term “Ghastly Discovery” in it) with an interesting list that involved Makeshift Mannequin, one of the best reanimation spells in a long time, as well as one of my favorite missed opportunities of Shards of Alara block, Kederekt Leviathan. Luckily for the Leviathan, he still has time. Unfortunately, these discard options are a long way from Careful Study, and the deck is just too clunky. Trying to attack with a Spellbound Dragon is just asking to lose to a Cryptic Command. Sorry Kyle.
(I do read and enjoy all the e-mails I get, and I tend to respond to them all, though sometimes I’m a little slow. If I haven’t written back in a week, just poke me again.)
Honorable Mention – Savor the Moment
A cool card in theory, especially with planeswalkers, but it just never worked out. Time Warp has now solidified itself as the extra turn card of choice, but I can’t help but wonder if Savor the Moment could do anything interesting in the Time Sieve deck.
My Favorite Cycle Award – Harbingers
Ok, maybe not actually my favorite cycle, but I’ve been trying to put Harbingers into everything lately. At first I was addicted to Faerie Harbinger and Mistbind Clique loops, but lately I’ve been fixated on Ranger of Eos grabbing both Flamekin Harbinger and Treefolk Harbinger. Do you know how many virtual Reveillarks that deck plays?
Black – We’ve got Issues
5) Maralen of the Mornsong
This card is doing so much that’s never been done before. Taking away a person’s ability to draw cards and forcing them to Vampiric Tutor every turn is just crazy. There’s a lockdown waiting to happen, I just don’t know how to do it. [Um, Mindlock Orb? –Riki] The major problem with Marelen is the Howling Mine problem – they draw first. Their first tutor will just be for an answer to your 2/3, and there goes all your hard work. With an effect this unique, I wouldn’t count Maralen completely out, there are still other formats out there.
4) Raven’s Crime
I guess this one isn’t completely true, Raven’s Crime had its run in Extended. What I really want to talk about, though, is the demise of the retrace mechanic. Raven’s Crime is the simplest example, and it’s easy to see what we first saw in the mechanic. Now every land I draw will trade with a card in your hand? Awesome. Oona’s Grace provides infinite spells. Call the Skybreaker even goes as far as to makes every one of your lands into a dragon! Barring Life from the Loam shenanigans, however, the mechanic at its core hasn’t lived up to the hype. It turns out people are better off playing their lands and using the mana for something else, instead of discarding them. I’m not willing to give up on Raven’s Crime entirely, and I keep stuffing Spitting Image into every one of my decks that can support it.
Corrupt highlights a problem that this whole cycle faces: why fill my deck with one type of a basic land when I can play five colors? Much like Baneslayer Angel, I don’t really have a huge problem with the power level of Five-Color Control. Ok, so it’s a little frustrating sometimes to lose to such a good Cryptic Command deck, but the format is still pretty healthy considering that a deck that can play all five colors with ease exists. What I don’t like about five-color is that it invalidates any mono-color or two-color control deck. There’s no way that Corrupt and Tendrils of Corruption are better than Cruel Ultimatum and Cryptic Command, and that’s just the way it is.
2) Mind Shatter
I must admit, when I first saw this card I was a little upset. In our minds the new format would revolve around Mind Shatter. The first player to Mind Shatter the other player wins! I drew my Mind Shatter, and you didn’t draw yours–oops! I win! I’m still not entirely sure why this didn’t happen, other than that one mana makes a big difference. There are also decent counterspells available, and running a Mind Shatter into a Broken Ambitions is pretty painful. Mind Shatter is such a powerful card that I can’t give up on it completely. It’s got an uphill battle now, though, along with every other X-spell. Cascade makes running Profane Command, another ridiculously powerful spell, hard to justify. One day, X spells will return, but I’ll miss them for the time being.
1) Mad Auntie
When goblins were revealed as a tribe in Lorwyn block there were mixed reactions. Some were scared of the goblin tribe’s return to power. I know I had nightmares of Goblin Piledriver all over again. Other people were excited to once again have little red men to attack with. I’ve noticed a trend where people always want to remake the decks that they enjoyed in a past format. Mono-black control is one of those decks that just never dies, and so is goblins. Unfortunately these goblins never worked out, mostly because Mad Auntie was no Goblin Warchief. But there’s a new sheriff in town, and his name is Goblin Chieftain. I’ve played with this guy just enough to know that he’s bonkers. While +1/+1 is different than making your goblins cheaper, it’s potentially just as powerful. Now I’m looking back at cards like Boggart Birth Rite, Fodder Launch, Knucklebone Witch, Wort, Boggart Auntie, and even Stenchskipper, and wondering where it all went wrong. Goblin Chieftain could be just the kick in the pants this deck needed.
Honorable Mention – Beseech the Queen
There was a time where Diabolic Tutor was fast enough. Tutoring just isn’t what it used to be, but being able to grab something like Mind Shatter, Profane Command, or even [card]Martial Coup[/card] with Beseech the Queen on turn three has caught my attention.
Got There! Award – Necroskitter
I want to be Conley Woods. He’s a rogue deck designer with actual tournament success, including the ultimate goal: a Pro Tour top 8. For a brief moment surrounding Grand Prix Seattle he found a way to make Necroskitter and Dusk Urchins work, two cards that went a long time without being harnessed. Conley Woods, I salute you.
I’ve even got a runner up Got There! Award for Kyle Sanchez and his Colfenor’s Plans and Puca’s Mischief deck. According to the Twitter he just recently hit the top 8 of a PTQ with this crazy concoction. I can’t wait to read that article.
Stay tuned for the rest next week.
Thanks for reading,
Loucksj at gmail