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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Top 5 New M11 Cards: Casual

Hello everyone!

Today I figured for a change of pace from the "news updates constantly" format you might like to see some opinions on a few new M11 cards.

So I present...Preston Hamill's Top 5 New M11 Cards for Casual Play!

A few hints first...

1) Red Damage or Blue Mill, this handy little helps make you Immortal against both.
2) So she's not the most impressive Turn 1 creature...in some formats.
3) Love taxes? The cold giant loves you, then!
4) Akroma's not the only one who can wield a sword.
5) Hate those pesky "Sacrifice" costs? You can pay them with just a skeleton crew working for you.

The results...after the Jump!

(NOTE: This is not a group-assembled list. This is my personal list of cards that might see some casual play, as most of our stuff is centered around casual fun. Images come from WotC's Gatherer page and previous preview pics)

First up: How can red damage and blue mill can both be hurt by one card. Simple: Become Immortal. :)

I've loved Feldon's Cane when I use it in a deck where I'll use up cards and have to draw to get answers. If I can hold my position long enough, I just Cane everything back and re-use all my answers while not effectively milling myself.

Elixir of Immortality does more than that. For one, it grants a 5-point life boost. If you're up against an aggro deck, 5 life could be the difference between the turn you need and the turn you lose.

It, like Feldon's Cane, also fights blue mill by reshuffling your graveyard into your library. That effect isn't easy to get anymore, so it's welcome on a 1-mana artifact, even at a 2-mana activation cost.

But there's more to it. The key, to me, is that it's reusable. Re-read the effect. You specifically shuffle the Elixir back into your library! Feldon's Cane had the "one time only" limitation of being Exiled when you used it, so you had to have 4 to reliably use it and not risk having to discard it and losing its reshuffle ability.

Let's not forget another aspect of the Elixir (in what came to me as one of those serendipitous "WHOAH!" moments)...look at the Elixir's activation cost. "2, TAP:". Not "2, Tap, Shuffle Elixir of Immortality into your library:." If you've got something that can untap the Elixir, like, oh, I don't know, Voltaic Key, and with enough mana, you could potentially gain 10-15 life before reshuffling your graveyard and the Elixir into your library.

Which makes a nice lead-in to our next card. Sure, at a single white mana you expect at least a 2/1 vanilla creature. The idea is to be able to either attack for 2 on the next turn or take out an opponent's small creature cheaply. A 1/1 doesn't really do much for you, even with Lifelink. But what if a 1-mana creature isn't meant to be a Turn 1 play? Let's see Card #2...

In Standard, Extended, Legacy, Vintage, etc., any format that starts with 20 life, on Turn 1 she's unimpressive. A Turn 1 Lifelink creature is nice, but a 1/1 is too easy to deal with. Even Hornet Sting can deal with her quite easily!

But what if we're not playing a 20-life game? What if we start at, say, 40 life?

Serra Ascendant best shines in EDH, Commander, or any format where each player/team starts above 30 life. Yes, old-school multiplayers, it's good in teams, too. Rules use to have each player divide their team life total by however many players were in a team to get each teammate's life total if a player's effect asked for the player's life total. Now, it just looks at the team life total. Much simpler, much clearer, and much better for some cards, right? :)

Unfortunately, those formats that let you start at/above 30 life also usually limit you to Singleton deck construction (meaning, aside from basic lands and Relentless Rats, you can only have 1 copy of any card in your deck) so she more than likely won't see Turn 1 play. But if you do hit her Turn 1, expect either A) a major advantage, or B) she'll be an easy removal target. But option B isn't that, bad, either. I mean, it keeps removal away from your Baneslayer Angel.  :)

This will be fun in decks that utilize a ton of life gain. Gaining 10 and keeping the total up there through attackers and equips shouldn't be too difficult, especially if you combine it with an aggro theme. In Singleton formats, hope for her Turn 1 but keep a few life gain abilities around to help her be relevant late game. All-in-all, I think she's well worth the price of admission (currently around $2-$4).

Now onto an unrelated card... the hint for this was "Love taxes? The cold giant loves you, then!"

Say hello to Blue's Mythic Titan...Frost Titan!

I love how Blue and White get to tax players! The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale and the creature inspired by it, Magus of the Tabernacle, help ensure that any creature-heavy decks either quit playing creatures due to lack of mana or gets rid of creatures so you don't have to worry about more threats than you need. Force Spike, color-shifted version White version Mana Tithe, and Mana Leak are prime examples of making your opponent pay more to get their spells to resolve, leaving their threat count hopefully low enough to buy you some time. And who can forget Propaganda and Ghostly Prison putting a 2 colorless per creature tax on attacking? Enough tax cards and your opponent will be straining just to keep up!

Frost Titan, especially mixed with Mana Leak-type Counterspells, can be hard to deal with. So they point a Doom Blade at it. That just went from 1B to 3B in a heartbeat. And with Mana Leak trying to counter it, that makes Doom Blade an expensive 6B to make sure it resolves successfully. Oh, and even if it does, I'd say chances are you're running a Ghostly Prison and they need 2 to attack. Whoops! After paying 7 to resolve Doom Blade, your opponent has no mana left. Try again next time!

Its second ability is certainly unimpressive compared to the rest of the Titans, I think. Get a low-cost permanent backget 2 2/2 Zombies, deal 3 damage to a target, get any two lands, ... tap target permanent?? Not that tapping a permanent isn't without its positives, as during combat it can remove a critical blocker from potential combat, but so can Inferno Titan on low-toughness creatures and Sun Titan if its getting back Oblivion Ring-type enchantments, but I'd favor the Red and White titans' removal over Frost Titan's tap ability.

However, I still love having a 6/6 body that will either draw removal right toward it (since "blue" and "fattie" never go together, especially at a power:toughness:mana ratio of 1:1:1) and cost your opponent a chunk of mana for a turn (effectively netting you a Time Walk-type effect) or draws targeted removal to other creatures because it's cheaper but still leaves you with a 6/6 that can get pesky blockers out of your way at combat.

Order up! *ding* *ding* Who asked for a certain sword be removed from the Dominarian War Museum?

Does anyone recognize the sword? I'll show you where you've seen it before...

Still not catching it? Look at Akroma's sword.

Yep! Sword of Vengeance is Akroma's sword!

At 3 mana to cast and 3 to equip, it's not cheap. But then again, neither are Loxodon Warhammer or Behemoth Sledge, both of which saw a fair amount of play (the Warhammer moreso during its time in Standard). So for a total of 6 mana (over two turns possibly), you want to get whatever you can out of it, right?

Warhammer/Sledge both give and power boost and Trample, so we're even with the two so far. But that's where similarities end. Both Warhammer and Sledge "only" give you Lifelink after the boost and Trample. Akroma's sword is much better in that regard as it gives you 3 very relevant abilities that work nicely together: Haste, Vigilance, and First Strike. Haste is one of the biggest compared to Warhammer/Sledge for me, as it means you can use leftover mana after you cast a decent creature to get it up and combat-ready like *snap* that! First Strike works wonderfully with Haste as it helps ensure the creature will survive its impatientness to enter battle. Finally, Vigilance will help you keep a defense up after your presumptuous battler attacks.

Combine everything together like the sword does, though, and I feel you have an Equip that's very underrated right now. Everyone loves Akroma for the value she gives you for your 8-mana investment. Why not give your efficient creature almost all of that (all you're missing is Flying, Protection from Red, and Protection from Black) for only 3 (after casting cost, of course)?

And finally, we have an Uncommon that works wonderfully with sacrifice costs...

Have you ever wanted to play with Eldrazi Monument but hated that "sacrifice a creature" cost? Let Reassembling Skeleton do its work! Turn that "Sacrifice a creature" cost into a "Pay 1B before the next time" cost and all of a sudden it won't seem so bad. And if you can get two of them going, well, you'll just have to find more "sacrifice" effects! (Hmm...maybe Archdemon of Unx can get a little love now? >:-)  ).

The other nice thing is he acts as a near-perpeptual chump blocker! "Go ahead, keep attacking with your 5/5. I'll just block with Reassembling Skeleton, before the end of your turn I'll pay 1B and get it back tapped, on my Untap it'll untap, and we'll go through this whole song and dance turn after turn after turn after...."

I just love that he's a self-reanimating creature (in the sense that you need nothing but him and/or mana to get him back). That's hard to find, and being able to combo with "sacrifice" abilities just makes him that much more unbelievable, I think.

I hope you enjoyed this write-up! I've been working on this for a few days and some PTQ tournament (Pro Tour Qualifiers) and Regionals went on since I started typing this. Remember a post a time or two ago I said "If any of these make top tournament status, well, you're welcome!"? Well, get this: Frost Titan did make the Top 8 of a Japanese PTQ/Regional (I can't remember which one).  HA HA!  I knew it'd be good someday, but I didn't think it'd be this soon.

If you like these cards, come by for our traditional "Release" draft tournament Saturday! $2.50 for packs, $8 entry for the draft. We'll take prizes from the Rares and Foils we open (full details in this post), but the winner is also guaranteed one copy of the Pre-Release Sun Titan and Release Ancient Hellkite. Everyone else is randomly entered for Sun Titans first, then Ancient Hellkites randomly for anyone left after the Sun Titans are distributed. But of course, the most important reason of all for playing in this tournament is having fun with new cards!

We hope to see you Saturday!

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