Dear Magic players,
My name is Coastal Tower, and I’m a Magic card. Some of you may know me from my role in the sets Invasion and Eighth Edition. I have lost the will to live.
I always understood that being one of the generations that followed shortly after “The Greatest Generation” of dual lands meant that my life would be measured against the lives of truly transcendent lands like Taiga, Tropical Island, and, though for years I didn’t want to acknowledge it, my father Tundra. The generation right before mine seemed clearly overcome by a similar pressure. Lands like Adarkar Wastes and Thalakos Lowlands created a counter-culture of self-inflicted pain and the highs and lows of a narcotics-induced escape from reality. I was content leading a relatively successful, anonymous, happy life, even if it meant letting go of the dream of being part of the next “Great” generation.
My contemporaries, such as Skycloud Expanse and Flooded Strand, may have enjoyed more success than me, but in a way they occupied a different place in our society. I could always rationalize my relative shortcomings by reminding myself that I didn’t have the drawback of costing 1 life, and I didn’t need the help of another land which I fetched to do my work. If you drew 3 of me as your only lands, I would still let you cast White and Blue spells, something Skycloud Expanse always regretted not being able to achieve.
My descent began, appropriately perhaps, in Dissension. Hallowed Fountain had arrived, and there was no ignoring him. It felt as if he could do everything I could do, and more. His alliance with Flooded Strand and others wasn’t helping matters. Only the very occasional Choke or Boil seemed to humble Hal. His meteoric rise to the top wasn’t followed by any tragic downfall. Reality set in; the Tortoise doesn’t stand a chance against the Hare, the princess has an arranged marriage, and only those who couldn’t afford to hire Hallowed Fountain would consider hiring me.
Vivid Creek’s success bothered me, but I took some comfort whenever she was reduced to half my functionality in the middle of a game. This seems silly now, looking back on the widespread success of the Vivid Generation, but it worked for me at the time.
If Hallowed Fountain meant a step down in my self-esteem, Arcane Sanctum and Seaside Citadel meant stepping off a cliff. I was completely outdated. Only the most tragically optimistic of my childhood friends clung to the idea of being hired so that when someone else stole you with an Annex or the like, it would be a less treacherous betrayal. These friends were content to move into one of Magic’s footnotes: the Mindslaver/Control Magic caveat to total obscurity. I was content to drink. At first it was with friends, over stories about times like these:
W/U – PT Tokyo 2001
When I tell the story now, the deck had 8 Coastal Tower, an exaggeration no less pathetic than the fact that I still tell the story at all.
Some part of me had hope still. These new lands would rotate out and join me in the shadow of the fetch-land/dual-land/shock-land cartel, and I had a decent chance of being reprinted in the new Core Set! The first time I contemplated suicide was the night I read about Glacial Fortress for the first time. Someone at my group therapy meeting began to console me “But if they Mindslaver you and need an untapped land to be in your hand She realized mid-thought, as I had years ago, that straining to define my relevance was really just another way of defining my irrelevance.
Sejiri Refuge’s existence was revealed to me at Salt Marsh’s funeral. I was too drunk to keep abreast of current events, and thankfully I was also too drunk to appreciate them when others filled me in. Sejiri Refuge’s obvious contribution to my irrelevance is almost comforting now. You seek the company of the others in the breadline, even if it means waiting in line. Sejiri Refuge would have to learn the same lessons I had learned. Momentary productiveness in Standard and Block Constructed, and then the next day you’re buying lottery tickets, i.e. clinging to the hope of being reprinted in the core set.
Today, that hope is gone. I can no longer cling to it or anything else. I no longer have faith that winning that lottery and being reprinted in Magic 2011 or 2012 would even change my life. So what, I move to back to Main Street and live just as invisible a life? The card that struck the final blow:
The first thing you might be thinking, if you see her at the same bars and AA meetings that I do, is that Serra Angel herself has fallen on hard times, so why should this card be relevant? The answer is too obvious. Apparently, instead of trying to convince Serra to come home with me from our favorite bar, I should have been convincing her to come to work with me for no pay! At the same cost of my old salary (having one your lands come into play tapped and be non-basic), you get everything I could do, plus nearly everything Serra could do.
They’re selling a 2004 Mercedes C230 for the price of a 2001 Toyota Corolla. It doesn’t matter that the 2009 C350 (Baneslayer) has made the C230 (Serra) obsolete, you’re only paying for an ’01 Corolla!
The cost of my drawback is one deckbuilders have become very comfortable with. In the past year, we have seen all manner of control decks, and even various beatdown decks, turn to enters-the-battlefield-tapped-lands. Control decks enjoy them in particular because playing a spell on the first turn of the game is not as relevant in a reactive strategy. Pat Chapin’s vision upon the spoiling of Lightning Bolt in M10 was “Tap my Vivid Creek for Red, Bolt your Wren’s Run Vanquisher.” Bolting something on turn 1 isn’t necessary, and things that cost 1 mana are perfect for fitting into any subsequent turn. The timing doesn’t need to be perfect; Force Spike hasn’t been around for years. This is what is so exciting to others, and depressing to me, about Celestial Colonnade. White-Blue wants to be a control deck, and enters-the-battlefield-tapped wants to be in a control deck.
Love of “man-lands” doesn’t play favorites; control and beatdown players both want to attack without investing a spell. Gargoyle Castle has been seeing some play thanks in large part to Knight of the Reliquary. Control and Beatdown can both afford to play Knight of the Reliquary. Do you think a Knight player would ever want to find me over Celestial Colonnade? Do you think I find it easy to get out of bed in the morning?
Will anyone even read this note? Will anyone even notice I’m gone? I imagine they’ll be too busy attacking for 4 with Vigilance. Now if I can just hold that thought while I scratch “Brooks was here” into the ceiling beam.
[ENTER MATT SPERLING]
Thanks for reading what guest author Coastal Tower had to say. Now I’ll give my thoughts on some potential applications for Celestial Colonnade. I’m excited about this card making UW and UXw control decks better, and somewhere GerryT is excited that Spreading Seas will be somewhat effective even against the Blue decks.
The card does have several weaknesses working against it in the current standard. Bill Simmons of ESPN.com describes what he likes to call a “Let’s not go sucking each other’s popsicles just yet” moment, after a quote from Mr. Wolf in the cable-TV version of Pulp Fiction. Here is a quick list of the reasons to leave our popsicles in the freezer:
The speed of the fast decks in the format (your land is just a land until at least turn 6)
It requires even more mana to attack with a Colonnade and still have countermagic mana available
Cheap removal is plentiful (Terminate, Doom Blade, Path, etc.)
There aren’t presently many decks with needs for both White and Blue mana
The prevalence of Goblin Ruinblaster, and to a lesser extent Spreading Seas
The format legality of the card Bituminous Blast, coupled with the fact that if this card is ever cast targeting your Colonnade, you’re probably a massive favorite to throw your deck/mouse/laptop across the room.
The easy fit: here is a deck people have been talking about recently:
Shaheen Soorani’s White-Blue Control
Standard – 5th place, Virginia 2009s
As Coastal Tower predicted, replacing 2 Sejiri Refuge and 2 Kabira Crossroads with 4 Colonnade is an easy move for this deck. Certainly the one or two life per game isn’t better than the one or two Serra Angels you have access to per game. But what about the trickier question: Can this deck now afford to run less threats because it has 4 Colonnade? The answer is complicated. The finishers in this deck are all doing something besides finishing that Colonnade cannot. As you know by now, Baneslayer can turn around a game like no man-land can, holding off 4 or 5 creatures by herself. The Sphinxs and the Iona do something important; they ignore all the Terminates, Maelstrom Pulses, Path’s to Exile, and Bituminous Blasts in the opponent’s hand. Colonnade ignores only the sorceries and O-Rings among the opponent’s removal suite. Martial Coup is a win condition as an afterthought to it being Day of Judgment numbers 5 and 6. If any card can now be cut because of the additional threats your Colonnades provide, it’s Elspeth. Again though, Elspeth is not there just to finish off the opponent. Her most common function in the deck is to create a blocker a turn and force (or entice) your opponent to attack her with creatures or direct damage, saving you life along the way. Colonnade is not very well suited to this role. You can’t block with it until turn 6, and when you do, nearly every kill spell in their deck will be ready to take her out, often for no value gained (e.g. “before blockers are declared, Terminate the Colonnade”).
Perhaps one Sphinx or the Iona can be cut, because you just won’t need to have an un-killable threat to win as often now with 4 more threats in the deck. I’m skeptical. In sum, I like having the Colonnades in this deck; in fact I like them a lot, but that doesn’t mean I can remove the deck’s other win conditions which have been hand-picked for reasons that the Colonnade cannot live up to. It does let me sideboard out some or most of my creatures if I want to against a particular deck, such as Cruel Control, that I imagine will be boarding out much of its removal in an attempt to win a counter-war.
Bant is also a natural fit.
You definitely want to add 2, or perhaps more, Colonnade to this deck. When the opponent’s Terminates and Paths are already working overtime to handle all your threats, you are going to simply win games by attacking with the Colonnade. Knight of the Reliquary is fixing your mana and giving you a nice threat by fetching a Colonnade, and the Knight gets slightly larger on average when some of your lands perish more frequently.
The more difficult task would be to build a deck around the Colonnade. This doesn’t seem profitable to me, unless other cards emerge making draw-go a viable strategy. Look to work a card like this into existing strategies, especially all the flavors of the Bant strategy. Draw-go is several cards away from being viable in Standard.
One strategy I have been trying to make work in the present standard, without much success, but which is helped by Colonnade, is Identity Crisis-centered control. The idea is that you react to your opponent’s threats without playing anything for them to Pulse/Terminate/Bolt, then you Crisis them, then you kill them. The Colonnade plays very well into this kind of strategy. You don’t have to spend as many precious spell slots in deck construction on what will kill them. You can just play 4 Coastal Tower that do the job, and some Baneslayers for good measure. Crisis knocks out the Terminates and Paths almost as collateral damage while your are trying to get rid of everything else. Once the coast is clear, the Angels won’t need that many attack steps, and thus the opponent won’t get that many topdeck opportunities.
I’ll wait for more of the Worldwake spoiler to emerge before providing a Colonnade Identity Crisis list, but it’s something to think about.