Working at a game design company, especially with a bunch of Magic players, you can imagine that Magic comes up a lot. We share stories of epic matches or trips pretty regularly. Many of the stories are tough to relate to though. When talk about how we started playing Magic comes up, I hear stories about [card]Craw Wurm[/card]s and dusty old comic book stores in 1993, but my return story is not nearly as exciting. I started playing in 2003, just as Mirrodin was being released.
When topics switch to our favorite cards ever, then, while others offer up [card]Juzam Djinn[/card] or [card]Stone-Throwing Devils[/card], I need to jump forward all the way to the modern day to pick mine. Maybe it doesn’t have the history of those other iconic cards, but there will always be a special place in my heart for [card]Wee Dragonauts[/card]. The elegance and grace of the card impressed me from day one. I was given a clear goal and my reward for meeting that goal was satisfying. You can imagine my thought process when I first saw Spellheart Chimera then:
This effect is not typically the least expensive thing in the world. [card]Magnivore[/card] had haste, only checked for sorceries, but checked all graveyards, did not come with flying, and cost four mana. Possibly more telling is that the instant version from the same cycle, [card]Cognivore[/card], came with flying and was apparently deemed a heck of a lot scarier, as it costs 8 mana.
Let’s see how Spellheart Chimera measures up.
Checking your graveyard for both instants and sorceries is usually going to be better than checking both graveyards for a single one of those types. You can build your deck to take advantage of an ability that checks your ‘yard, whereas counting on the opponent to fuel your synergy can be a bit rough. Sometimes it will matter, like in mirror matches, but in general I want to be the one controlling my own synergies.
Costing a mere three mana is possibly the biggest steal ever, as we have already mentioned, but it is locked in at 3 toughness. While this certainly is a strike against the card, that’s not because the card won’t do what you want it to do.
Think about it. When you built your [card]Magnivore[/card] decks back in the day (or your [card]Cognivore[/card] decks), you really only cared about how much damage you were dealing. Magnivore would eventually want to hit 5 toughness to survive a [card]Wildfire[/card], but the deck could have easily existed in a world where Wildfire is replaced by another [card]Stone Rain[/card] and Magnivore has his toughness locked in at 4.
With a card like this, you need scaling power. That exists. You might also need scaling toughness to pull out of [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] range, but with a card as cheap as this, perhaps it isn’t all downside. At three mana, if the toughness also scaled, there might be times where on the turn you cast it, it is either smaller, or going to die to a nonexistent toughness. [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] gets played as a 0/1 some amount of the time and that is in a world with fetchlands! Not every player is going to have a one- or two-mana spell that they want to cast and the ability to still deploy your Chimera can be huge. While that might not make up for the lack of unstoppable toughness in the late game, it is at least a trade-off.
Remember, we just had [card]Runechanter’s Pike[/card] in Constructed for two years, and it saw plenty of play during that time. Spellheart Chimera does not have the resiliency that the Pike does, but it is also a self-contained package. This is especially important because both cards ask to be included in a deck with card types that they themselves are not.
This leads to 4 cards in your deck not being the type you most desire, but on top of that, Runechanter’s Pike needs a host to rest on. While there are a few instants and sorceries that provide bodies, in general, people needed to play actual creatures for the equipment. This meant even less room for instants and sorceries. Spellheart Chimera sets the number of non-spells at 4 for itself, and allows you to come up with the rest. You can very easily end up with a 15-land, 41-spell deck including a bunch of cantrips, and then four Spellheart Chimera as your win condition, assuming the support is there.
Compared to recent cards that went along the same path, Spellheart Chimera is extremely consistent. [card]Kiln Fiend[/card] is a good example of a recent card that cared about spells being cast. It demanded you cast those spells all in one turn and on top of that, had no way to ensure it connected with the opponent’s face. That meant you often needed help, like [card]Distortion Strike[/card], to turn the combo into anything meaningful. Chimera does not come with the type of explosion that Kiln Fiend does, but he is so much more consistent and such a better top deck in the late game.
Spellheart Chimera is unlikely to be rampant everywhere due to the somewhat niche deck-building restrictions it requires, but it is certainly powerful enough to build around I would expect to see decks using this on and off, much in the way that [card]Puresteel Paladin[/card] was used during Scars of Mirrodin’s time in Standard. And even if all of that fails and the card doesn’t end up being very popular, you can be sure that at least one fan of Wee Dragonauts will be giving the Chimera his best shot. Thanks for reading!