Into the Scrapheap? Episode 13 (Mana Walls)

I was updating my Garruk Planeswalker Jousting deck when I came across a card that had a strictly better version:

Vine Trellis Overgrown Battlement

There’s almost no reason to play Vine Trellis anymore, especially since even if you’re looking for another mana producing wall, there are other (better) options available as well (not considering cost, of course):

Sylvan Caryatid

The slightly smaller body is more than compensated for in its Hexproof. And it’s supplying you with ANY color of mana, not just Green. If you do need a bigger body, you might try this:

Wall of Roots

Although this will shrink over time, you do have the immediate option of getting 4 or 5 mana in one fell swoop. If you really need multiple colors of mana and you’re willing to pay a little more, you can also get this:

Axebane Guardian

CONCLUSIONS: All of this renders the Vine Trellis pretty well redundant and inferior. I am officially tossing it into the scrapheap.

For completion’s sake, here are two other narrow-use mana walls:

Tinder Wall Jungle Patrol

Into the Scrapheap? Episode 12 (White Tappers)

This might be a little different than previous episodes in that I’m not sure anything needs to be completely jettisoned, but it does highlight a problem I’ve commented on before: functional reprints.

I think the beginning of the tradition (W, TAP: tap target creature) goes back to Master Decoy (I know that’s where I saw the ability first).

Master Decoy

It got its first functional reprint in the Invasion set with Benalish Trapper. These two are exactly same, down to creature type. Why, Wizards, why? What did the Master Decoy do to lose your love and confidence?

Benalish Trapper

Yet another functional reprint appeared in the first revamped Core Set, Magic 2010, where Blinding Mage appeared. At least this one was a wizard instead of a soldier, in case that ever mattered, and it didn’t carry the Dominarian-bound designation of Benalish, but again, why not just bring back the Master Decoy—it’s generic enough. And they could have done new art or even just re-used the eighth edition art, which was more serious than the original Foglio art.

Blinding Mage

They have played around with this type of creature a little, and that I don’t mind. Here’ s a more expensive version that in the right circumstances will do more than your average Master Decoy.

Nomad Decoy

Another innovation is the Avacynian Priest who can use colorless mana, but also has a restriction placed on it. That seems reasonable.

Avacynian Priest

They also went a little smaller (as befitting a kithkin), with a 1-drop 1/1, suggesting that the extra mana in the original versions was for the extra toughness.

Goldmeadow Harrier

But then they went and made almost the exact same thing (Human vs. Kithkin), but attached it to the planeswalker Gideon. Really? You couldn’t do anything else with him to spice him up. I guess kithkin don’t fit into every setting, but then again, neither does something associated with Gideon. This is where I start to gripe about their claim to have so many cards in print, when in reality, a lot of them are just the same thing with a name change or other slight twist on a previous version. Lame.

Gideon's Lawkeeper

Instead of an extra toughness for your one mana, you could get flying with a Squall Drifter.

Squall Drifter

Now, the Ballynock Trapper is an interesting take on the trapper. Its a little bigger, doesn’t require mana to do its thing, and can let you do some fun things in the right kind of deck. Of course it’s a bit pricier, but not unreasonable.

Ballynock Trapper

The Whipcorder gets an extra power point for its slightly more mana intensive cost. It also has the morph ability–not sure how great that is on this card, but you never know in Magic.

Whipcorder

I’m not sure the extra potential in Holy Justiciar is worth two extra mana, both to cast and to activate. This only seems useful in Avacyn Restored draft, which no one plays anymore.

Holy Justiciar

Another mana intensive version is Innocence Kami. You still get the classic ability, stapled onto a beefier body (well +1/+1 beefier), with some potential related to its set, but I’m not sure that warrants three extra mana. Maybe I’m wrong, but I won’t be playing this anytime soon.

Innocence Kami

Then there’s the Sunstrike Legionnaire. I’m not sure how to even evaluate this guy, but his ability doesn’t require mana, so maybe in the right deck…

Sunstrike Legionnaire

Then there are the generally worse versions. The only thing going for the Aysen Bureaucrats and the Errant Doomsayers is that there is no mana cost to do the tapping. Everything else is strictly worse for the same casting cost.

Aysen Bureaucrats

Errant Doomsayer

 

CONCLUSIONS: OK, technically nothing here is strictly worse, so nothing needs to be put in the scrapheap, but unless you are making a deck where you want 12-20 “W, tap: tap target creature” creatures, there’s still a lot of chaff here. One more reason not to buy booster packs!

Into the Scrapheap? Episode 11 (Play it again, Sam)

With the return of Archaeomancer in Magic 2014, I was reminded of Call to Mind as a potential card for my Nicol Bolas deck (since I certainly can’t afford something like Snapcaster Mage!), which got me searching for similar cards.

Relearn
The first spell to let you get back an instant or sorcery came in Weatherlight for 1UU.

Call to Mind

Then came a clear upgrade in Magic 2011: In anything except a mono Blue deck, you’d rather have a 2U spell over a 1UU spell, even though the converted mana cost is the same. So, unless you need eight of this effect in your deck, then Relearn has been consigned to the scrapheap.

Mystic Retrieval

More recently, in Dark Ascension, a new option was thrown our way. Pay one more but get a second use out of it if you have red in your deck too.

Archaeomancer

Interestingly, Magic 2013 gave us an even more interesting choice. Essentially for one extra blue mana, you get the spell effect plus a 1/2 Human Wizard (which isn’t shabby considering there is no blue vanilla 1/2 for U even available in the game; the closest thing being a Nivmagus Elemental). So, not strictly an upgrade, but unless you’re trying to turn off people’s Essence Scatter or you really need the spell at the three-drop spot, why not get a creature who can block 1/1s all day long to go with your re-learned spell.

Izzet Chronarch

If you’d like something a little more robust and you’re going the UR route, maybe the Izzet Chronarch could find his way into your deck. Probably not, though. He’s not really that much better than the Archaeomancer, and he costs one more and requires you to play red too.

Mnemonic Wall

If you’re going to spend that much mana, the Mnemonic Wall is probably a more useful option in most decks. It’s not much of a deal, though, as it’s essentially a Wall of Tears plus a Call to Mind, and yet not quite as good.

Nucklavee

As you get to this end of the mana curve, you may want to just go one more to get the significantly beefier Nucklavee: A 4/4 that can net you two cards back from the graveyard for the same price as two Call to Minds is nothing to shake a stick at, although you definitely have to build your deck around this to make sure it’s usually useful.

Conclusion: Bye-bye Relearn and have a seat on the bench Izzet Chronarch.

Into the Scrapheap? Episode 10 (A Farewell Cameo)

The Return to Ravnica block didn’t just make the Invasion Cameos obsolete once, but actually twice. 3 mana for a simple 2-color mana-producing artifact was the old standard:

Seashell Cameo Drake-Skull Cameo Bloodstone Cameo Troll-Horn Cameo Tiger-eye Cameo

Now you get the same thing plus you can turn it into a creature, with the Keyrunes:

Azorius Keyrune Dimir Keyrune Rakdos Keyrune Gruul Keyrune Selesnya Keyrune

Or you get the same thing plus you can turn it into a new card, with the Cluestones:

Azorius Cluestone Dimir Cluestone Rakdos Cluestone Gruul Cluestone Selesnya Cluestone

Not to mention that you get access to all 10 2-color combinations in both of these!

This is a classic example of “strictly better”… which is a little sad, as I’m such a big fan of the Invasion set. At least the art on the cameos is better, IMHO.

Giant Adephage Token

I learned a fun old word from this Magic card: Adephagia, a voracious or insatiable appetite (for food or certain foods).

Giant Adephage

I recognized the ‘phage’ part – it’s from Greek, and means eater, but couldn’t really make out the Ade- part: eater of fruit drinks? Haha. 

The OED to the rescue, then! The word itself is rather obsolete now, but came from post-classical Latin, adephagia, which was derived from the ancient Greek ἀδηϕαγία, gluttony, related to ἀδηϕάγος, greedy. Kudos to the Magic creative team for adapting this word to Magic.  Here are some token copies to play with, complete with some ancient Greek and Latin (mostly) quotes about greed:

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Into the Scrapheap? – Episode 9 (X Marks the Spot)

I’m putting together a Chandra deck, and in my card searches I came across the old Red X damage spell, which got me wondering if there were any obsolete versions of this classic. Surprisingly, Wizards has a done decent job of offering new variants over the years that all offer something slightly different. As far as I can judge, only one of this class of spells is really obsolete, i.e. always worse than something else. So, I thought I would just take a brief historical tour of the available XR cards.

Disintegrate Fireball

Right from the start of the game, you had two options for all that extra mana in your red deck. Disintegrate was meant to be final–exile the creature with no possibility of regeneration. Fireball gave you more flexibility in spreading the damage around without the same finality. Both would continue to be staples: Disintegrate appearing through Fifth edition and Fireball being most recently printed in Magic 2012.

Dwarven Catapult

In Fallen Empires, they produced a watered-down version of Fireball: Dwarven Catapult does operate at instant speed, but you can’t target players. In some situations, though, the fact that you don’t need to pay extra for the extra targets does make a difference – takes out a few weenies much more efficiently (although you probably just want a Pyroclasm unless you have a bunch of weenies too). I would say this one borders on obsolete, but there is actually nothing else just like it.

Lava Burst Kaervek's Torch Rock Slide

During Magic’s adolescence, several new versions of the Red X spell were introduced. Lava Burst was a weaker Disintegrate but designed to thwart those pesky White and Blue mages’ tricks of prevention and redirection. Likewise, Kaervek’s Torch tried to help the Red mage get past those annoying Counterspells. Rock Slide offered a better damage array than the Dwarven Catapult, but with some significant drawbacks.

Heat Ray Ghitu Fire Illuminate

Out of Urza’s Saga, we got another staple of the genre: The instant speed creature removal called Heat Ray. No drawbacks, just make X match the creature’s toughness. In Invasion, Ghitu Fire allowed you the option of targeting the player instead, and for 2 extra mana, to do it at instant speed. Apocalypse brought a slower version of Heat Ray, Illuminate, with the option of getting a two for one deal on the creature’s player for 3 extra mana. Keep in mind, however, that that would have only cost you 1 more with the original Fireball; in the right deck, though, you might also get the option of drawing some cards.

Demonfire Banefire

Moving into the modern age of Magic, we find some new takes on old friends: Demonfire exiles the creature and gives you a chance at making the spell uncounterable and the damage unpreventable. Banefire was a little less powerful than its cousin, but the anti-Blue and White option was easier to achieve. Keep in mind that some sets/formats care more than others about whether that dying creature ends up in the graveyard or not.

Red Sun's Zenith Devil's Play

We also got two new options for the genre in the last couple of blocks. Red Sun’s Zenith gives us exiling power and the possibility of re-drawing the card later. And, finally, Devil’s Play, is a straight forward version that gives you two usages from a single card. Both of these seem like high quality additions to the family.

In conclusion, the reality is that a lot of the early Red X spells are probably not worth playing over the more recent offerings, but they are still not quite obsolete, unlike our last entrant:

Blaze

Disintegrate was replaced by the purposefully simple Portal card Blaze in the core sets starting with Sixth Edition. It is sorcery speed with no bells and whistles, which means that you have plenty of better options available, as we’ve seen above. So, off to the scrapheap with you Blaze!

Avacyn Restored Wishlist

While I can’t say that I’m super excited for the new set, there are always some cool new cards in every set. Here’s what I have my eye on:

Good Cards

Cathars' CrusadeCathars’ Crusade seems like a potentially useful and powerful card, but realistically, by the time you get it out, you’re probably already winning or losing and this isn’t going to change much, since it costs 5 mana. Still, I can imagine this doing some awesome things with some big card like Conqueror’s Pledge. I suppose even a flashbacked Lingering Souls could put your spirit token army out of reach of a lot of targeted removal or big enough to deal with the threats on the other side of the board. I definitely want to try this out.

Archwing Dragon

Here’s a dragon that basically protects itself when it’s not your turn, and potentially combos with stuff that rewards you when a creature comes into play – this guy’s coming in every turn.

Tyrant of DiscordPretty pricey for a red deck, but I love the potential to wreak havoc on the board with Tyrant of Discord.

Abundant GrowthNo card disadvantage with this aura, and it fixes your mana for cheap. Imagine splashing for other colors in a Dungrove Elder deck, for example (Druids’ Repository could do it too, but not as efficiently).

Essence HarvestIf you like playing with fatties, here’s a cool new drain life, or combo it with a shade to really finish them off with a double whammy!

Bonfire of the DamnedIn a deck with Seething Songs, Pyretic Rituals, and Geosurges, this could be really awesome. And it doesn’t kill your guys, just theirs!

Somberwald SageDon’t you think this should be an Elf? I do. But it’s not going in an elf deck anyway. Perfect for casting that RRR creature in your Green deck, though.

Wolfir SilverheartThis is going into my Werewolf deck.

Mill Deck

I’m planning on building a dedicated mill deck soon – love those alternate win-condition decks – and I have a self-mill deck that might find some use for these as well. In the late game, Dreadwaters is 4 mana for 6-7 cards; Rotcrown Ghoul might find a better home UB Zombies, filling your own graveyard with reanimation targets, since otherwise it’s just 5 mana for 5 cards with a delay; Stern Mentor gives you 4 cards per turn for 4 mana, so it may be the best of the lot.

Dreadwaters Rotcrown Ghoul Stern Mentor

New Planeswalkers

I’d like to collect all the planeswalkers eventually (don’t know if I’ll ever get a Jace, the Mind Sculptor, though). I’ve created my own “Planeswalker Jousting” format, and here are some new Jousters:

Tamiyo, the Moon Sage Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded

Crosis, the Purger Deck

I turned my old “Discard Damage” damage deck into a Crosis Commander deck (UBR), so I’m always on the lookout for good discard cards, or reanimate their discarded creatures cards, and even better bounce cards. (An interesting side note: I noticed that I found a lot more Black and Red cards that I want in this set than White ones.) Appetite for Brains is likely to hit something big and good in an EDH game; Mental Agony might be a little pricey at 4 mana; Once Crosis is out, Triumph of Cruelty has a good chance of doing some real work.

Appetite for Brains Mental Agony Triumph of Cruelty

Vampires!

I have a vampire-themed Commander deck, and a Sorin deck based around vampires, so vampire-themed cards always attract my attention. Bloodflow Connoiseur looks like it will combo better with Kalastria Highborn than Bloodthrone Vampire.

Barter in Blood Blood Artist Bloodflow ConnoiseurDark Imposter Driver of the Dead Exquisite Blood

Venser Deck

I have been on the lookout for nice cheap things to flicker in my Venser deck, but I guess Cathedral Sanctifier is just Healing Salve on a stick. Maybe I should rethink that one. Conjuror’s Closet would be an even more perfect complement in the deck if it was a little cheaper.

Cathedral Sanctifier Conjuror's Closet

Zombies

I’m slowly getting the cards together for a Zombies deck – I want hordes and hordes that come back from the dead. I’m not sure, yet, whether to go mono-Black or Blue/Black.

Butcher Ghoul Dread Slaver

Red Deck Wins

Red looks like it got some good stuff in this set. Here’s some decent considerations for aggressive red decks. Pump out the creature rush, and then get some more cards in your hand, and finish them off with a big Fireball!

Battle Hymn Burn at the Stake Dangerous Wager

Elves!

Some people don’t seem to like Elves. I’m not one of those.

Descendants' Path

New Decks?

There are a few cards which do seem to be begging for a deck to built around them, either because they present a unique challenge or just seem really cool.

Otherworld Atlas Rite of Ruin Gloom Surgeon

Others seem like they have the synergy for a deck built right into the set. Demonic Rising is asking for these others to follow him into a deck. That Demonic Taskmaster becomes a 7/4 flying menace, and you have fodder for some other sacrificial outlet like Corpse Trader, Bloodflow Connoisseur, or Bone Splinters in a mono-Black control deck.

Demonic RisingDemonic Taskmaster Homicidal Seclusion Predator's Gambit

What if we built a multiplayer deck with Descent into Madness and Griselbrand? Ouch!

Descent into Madness Griselbrand

New Commanders?

While Black, and Red to a lesser extent, seemed to get some of the best cards, there are some multi-colored Angels with some potential as Commanders.

Bruna, Light of Alabaster Gisela, Blade of Goldnight Sigarda, Host of Herons

Land Collection

I’d like to collect all of the dual colored activation lands from the block. These will complete the collection:

Alchemist's Refuge Desolate Lighthouse Slayers’ Stronghold