February 18, 2015

Leadership Conference

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This week we are talking Kings, Presidents, and Khans.



Also known as leaders.



I have broken down this discussion into three parts. We'll be talking about what it means to be a leader in your local Magic community and why it's important. We'll also be taking a closer look at some of the leaders of Tarkir. The present and past leaders, that is. And we'll be examining a sub-cycle of leaders in their field: The "mythic uncommons" from Fate Reforged.



Ready?



Just follow my lead.



Leader of a Community



Magic is many things to many people. It's easy to get caught up in the minutiae of the game (heck, that may be my favorite part), but it's important to remember that Magic is just as much a lifestyle as it is a game. One only need to go to a local Friday Night Magic or visit one of the many thriving Internet forums to find the kind of thing I'm referring to.



And with these social structures, certain values and responsibilities emerge.



Foremost on the list is inclusion. This part can be hard. Games like Magic often attract the offbeat, different people conventional social groups reject. Nerdy, geeky, weird, different—we've all felt that way at school or work or in various social situations at one time or another. Some people have felt that way their whole lives.



Most people grow out of that stage, or at least stop caring so much what other people think. But those memories can linger, impairing future relationships and friendships. This is where a great community like the Magic community comes in. The Magic community is one where everyone is accepted because we all share a common ground: something about this game, this little world, hit a chord with us. And that is enough to shed all preconceived notions about age, appearance, gender, background, status, or anything else.



As someone who is in that community (that's you), you have a responsibility to make sure that nobody ever feels the way they may have in the past when it comes to Magic. They are a part of this community, and even if you don't share the same exact interests within this game, they deserve to be here and be welcomed.



It can be tempting to reject someone who is new, or different, or doesn't get the game the same way that you get the game. After all, many of us were rejected in similar ways outside of the game; this could be the one place we get to be the monarch. Where you get to be the one to flex your social muscle on someone deemed lesser than you.



Don't fall for it. Looking back to your past experiences, you'll remember the people you respected the most were the ones who had the social capital to reject people, but chose not to. That's what a leader is.



That's who you have to be so our community can continue to grow and reach out in new directions.



I remember when I was young that playing video games was considered a pretty nerdy thing to do. I didn't care, my friends and I loved it, and ten years later so did everyone else.



Magic is on the precipice of a similar transformation. More people are playing and being more open about it. Famous people, successful business people, old, young, everyone. I truly believe that Magic is poised for a big mainstream breakthrough in the coming few years. But it's going to take leaders like you at the grassroots level to open up our world and be accepting of new people, regardless of any personal trait of theirs.



I realize that my message here may seem obvious. But I also realize that some people haven't thought about it, and that me saying it's important may show them that it is. I know you'll do your best to pay it forward and open the door for someone who needs a door opened.



Current Khans and Past Khans



Ok, who wants to talk some cards?





Mythic rares like Surrak Dragonclaw don't get talked about too much in this column, and for good reason: since they are so rare, they don't get much play in Limited. But since we are on the subject of leaders, I thought I'd point out how awesome this guy is. (Tough sell, I know.)



Besides the fact that he is wearing a bear's head cut in half as a shirt, he's also a massive 6/6 for just five mana. Now, the "can't be countered" thing isn't super relevant for Limited, but the "flash" thing certainly is! Since Surrak tussles nicely with almost every morph in the format (*looks at the elephant in the room*), it's trivially easy to get a two-for-one with him.



Just flash him in and block. Easy.



But he's also very good at changing combat math.Flashing in a massive 6/6 on the end step is great enough, but he also gives your other creatures trample. So now your Alpine Grizzlys and Bloodfire Experts aren't so chump-blockable.



Lastly, he's a Warrior!



Okay, well, that doesn't really matter.



We'll have to just rely on all the other stuff I already mentioned, I suppose.





Zurgo smash. And when Zurgo smashes, he smashes hard.



Zurgo is one of the hardest-hitting creatures in the game. He's really interesting to play against as well. When he hits the battlefield, you can't help but flinch a bit. You know you are either taking a whopping 7 damage, or you are throwing away a creature to block him.



It's after that where you either breathe a massive sigh of relief or your palms start to sweat. If you have a removal spell, you are in the clear. Most removal spells will get the job done, but you need one now. Because if you don't have one, Zurgo is gonna smash again and again and there aren't many decks that can race that kind of power.



Zurgo demands an immediate answer.



Or he smashes.





Back in the day, Tasigur lived a pretty good life. He had his throne, his whip, his fruit bowl zombie head guy. It was good to be Tasigur.



It's also quite good to open a Tasigur in your Fate Reforged booster pack. His stats really impress, especially the 5 toughness part, since that gets him around some common removal spells like Throttle, Bathe in Dragonfire, and Arrow Storm. He can hold the ground or beat down. He can be a card-advantage engine late in the game, or you can turbo him out with Scout the Borders early.



He kind of does it all. It's also important not to overlook the fact that you can just play him in any black deck. If you've played Bellowing Saddlebrute on turn four, you'll know how good an early 4/5 creature is. Don't be afraid to run him even if you can't activate his ability.





I feel like poor Daghatar doesn't get the props he deserves. His ability is a little slow and feels not as immediately impressive as some of the other early khans. By now, you probably know that you can use his ability to steal counters from your opponent's creatures and put them on your own.



You can, of course, also just throw around Daghatar's counters in combat to really mess things up for your opponent. But I feel like a 4/4 with vigilance for four mana—only one of which is colored—is a bonkers crusher of the French Vanilla Test. It's so easy to overlook raw power like this if you focus on the clunkier activated ability in the text box. Don't fall for that trap.



Mythic Uncommons



It's used in jest, that term. But it's a sort of slang designation that is aptly descriptive of some uncommons in a set. The first one I remember was Vampire Nighthawk in Zendikar. While technically an uncommon, it had more impact on the game than most of the rares in the set.



There are four such cards in Fate Reforged. Five if you want to stretch it a little. We'll cover all five, with one representative from each color.





This is the mythic-est of the mythic uncommons. The card is insane once in play, and affects the game in an immediate and dramatic fashion.



I like to think of worst-case, best-case, and average-case scenarios for cards like this.



Worst case is you don't have any other creatures and you only get a 4/5 that taps down a creature when it attacks.



Best case is that you are in Abzan anyway and have a bunch of outlasted creatures with counters on them lying around ready to be turned sideways.



Average case is that you get some smaller creature to be bigger and attacking right away while still adding to your board.



All of these scenarios are great. This card is better than most of the rares in the set (and that's saying a lot: the rares in Fate Reforged are very good).





Next on our list of mythic uncommons is Temur Sabertooth. This card is such a powerhouse. It's remarkably difficult to kill thanks to its activated ability, and it both attacks and blocks very well. Once we stretch our view away from the big cat itself, we see the opportunity for a lot of value. Returning Aven Surveyor, Sandsteppe Outcast, Mardu Heart-Piercer, or any other value creature quickly gets out of hand.



While not quite on Elite Scaleguard's level, Temur Sabertooth is a beast of a card and should be taken over many of the set's rares.





Four-for-one.



It rolls off the tongue quite nicely. Pyrotechnics is one of the only cards in recent memory capable of this monumental feat. More commonly it's used as a two-for-one, also known as the best way to put yourself in a position to win a game of Limited Magic. In aggressive decks it's used to clear away blockers in order to facilitate large chunks of damage, or just as a finisher going to the dome for 4 damage. In defensive decks, it does a great job of clearing away fragile evasive threats, or even just one big beater.



It actually says something about this format that Pyrotechnics isn't the best uncommon, period. But it's not. You won't find yourself in the position to pass one often, and you will usually be incorrect to do so.





As you may have seen in the capable hands of Luis Scott-Vargas at the team Grand Prix in San Jose a few weeks ago, Mistfire Adept belongs in this group in a big way. It's one of the scariest cards to play against, as once the opponent has it down, you stand to take so much damage if he or she gets to untap with it.



It's somewhere in the realm of a 4/4 flier for four mana, which is no small shakes. Once you get multiple prowess triggers flowing, the damage potential skyrockets.



With low downside, and sky-high upside, Mistfire Adept simply delivers.





Some of my Limited aficionado contemporaries don't consider Orc Sureshot in the same category as the four cards listed above. If it's not in that same class, it's certainly close.



The prospect of letting your opponent untap with an Orc Sureshot is terrifying. I've seen people get their board destroyed by cards like Sandsteppe Outcast and Take Up Arms numerous times already. Once your Sureshot starts picking off full-fledged morphs, you know you are onto something. When you combine that with the fact that it has 4 power rumbling over into the red zone, you realize you have a winner.



So why is it a little lower than the rest of this class? Mainly because it's fragile. At 2 toughness, it dies to a LOT of removal and it doesn't block well enough to even kill a morph and live to tell the tale. It's also not a Warrior so it doesn't get the benefit of that subtype.



Still, its ability to enable big attacks and even sometimes just outright kill an opposing creature scores big marks with me.



In Closing



The column took us all over the place this week, but either way I'm glad I had you along for the ride. Be a good leader, pick leaders highly in draft, and always remember your mythic uncommons!



Until next week.



@Marshall_LR








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