July 15, 2015

Gideon Week, Featuring White

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I hope everyone had a great time at their local Magic Origins Prerelease. I took a trek up to the beautiful city of Victoria, B.C., in Canada to visit friends and get my Prerelease on. I chose blue for my pool, opened a Harbinger of the Tides, a Separatist Voidmage, and some other less important cards and was happy. I got to try out some of the "question mark" cards that I couldn't quite pin down before actually playing with them, and I even walked away with a bunch of booster packs for my troubles. A great start to what looks like a really fun format.

You may have noticed that this week is Gideon Week here at DailyMTG. Gideon is awesome—has been for years—but Gideon Week kind of puts you and me in a bit of a bind. You see Gideon is a mythic rare Planeswalker, and not the kind of thing us Limited players tend to focus on much. How often are you really going to play with Kytheon in all the Origins drafts you do? Even the luckiest among us won't get to that often.

So I'm putting a little twist on the whole Planeswalker Week thing, just for us. (Spoiler Alert: Gideon Week is just the beginning of a series of weeks highlighting each Planeswalker.) I'm going to walk us through what each color is doing in this set, and some of the highlight cards to keep your eye out for as we start drafting and doing Sealed pools of Origins.

And yes, we'll also take a look at each of the Planeswalkers for that week as well. After all, you will probably get a chance to play with some of them at some point. Or against them.

Anointer of Champions | Art by Anna Steinbauer


Big Picture

In Origins, white is a solid all-around color. It's often like this in core set. In this set white leans toward the aggressive end of things with renown creatures and combat tricks, but also has the mid-, and late-game punch to go for a longer approach. The removal for white is typical for what we see these days: conditional and a little clunky, but overall pretty good.

White is perhaps the most well rounded color for Limited. It doesn't do any one thing particularly well, but each card stands nicely on its own. I wouldn't be surprised to often look to play white as my base color, with another color providing a more specific stance in my deck. And if given the chance to be aggressive or controlling, I would opt to be aggressive.

Traps, Tryouts, and Trumps

For this series, we'll be highlighting a few cards that I've chosen from each color. I've organized them into three categories: Traps, Tryouts, and Trumps. Traps are cards that look ok but actually aren't. Tryouts are cards that we'll need to play with in the format a bit before deciding that they are good or not. Trumps are the cards that may get underestimated, but shouldn't.

Naturally, I'll be pulling these from the commons and uncommons in the set.


Traps

Our first trap is Akroan Jailer:

I've written before about how removal in Limited has shifted dramatically over the past few years, and how it affects everything. Removal has gotten more expensive. As it turns out, tappers (creatures that can tap other creatures at will) have also taken quite a plunge in power level. As we found out in the last block with Dromoka Dunecaster, tappers are getting more expensive and more conditional right along with the regular removal.

Tappers are fantastic cards because they are flexible. Unlike a normal removal spell, they scale with whatever the best threat your opponent has. In exchange for this scalability, your removal comes attached to a fragile creature body that can be killed.

You may have scoffed when I said that these tappers were getting more expensive, since both the Jailer and the Dunecaster cost one mana each. But much like any Equipment, my eye first goes to the cost of actually activating the card rather than its casting cost. With Equipment, I look at the equip cost first; this is what we will have to pay multiple times during the course of a game.

With our friend the Jailer, things have gotten quite out of hand at a whopping 2W just to tap something down. It wasn't that long ago that we had this fellow in Magic: 2011:

Now this was a price I could get behind. When it went up a notch (and got more conditional) with the Dunecaster, I was already weary and almost never ran the card. But three mana? No way. Don't be fooled by the fact that it's a tapper. Akroan Jailer is not a card that should find its way into your starting deck.


Our other trap this week is Murder Investigation:

Like the Akroan Jailer, I saw a few too many of these running around the Prerelease for my comfort level. I totally get the appeal: You play the Murder Investigation on your best creature, and if they happen to kill it, you don't feel as bad.

There are many problems with this card, but the primary one is that sometimes your creature gets killed in response to an Aura. And this Aura encourages you to put it on your biggest creature, which is often your best creature. And even if you do manage to stick the landing and get a Murder Investigation on a creature, there are still ways for your opponent to deal with it without giving you the tokens.

Don't fall for the security blanket that is Murder Investigation.


Tryouts

In its prior printing, Totem-Guide Hartebeest was great. That was in Rise of the Eldrazi, a slow format with a heavy enchantment sub theme. Time will tell if this Origins format will be as accommodating. One thing I know for sure is that there are legitimate targets to get (see previous paragraph for just a couple of examples) and that the 2/5 body it leaves behind is quite annoying for the opponent.

Still, it's slow. You are paying five mana for a big, slow creature that doesn't pack big punch when it hits the battlefield. But if you can get a sweet Aura out of the deal (especially a removal spell) then it will be worth it for sure.

Make sure you don't play bad Auras just because you have a Hartebeest, and also make sure you have at least two Auras to get. Three is better. Looking at an opening hand with the Hartebeest and your only Aura in it will be kind of depressing, so make sure you avoid it.


This one is sketchy. My original assumption is that this card is not worthy of inclusion in our sacred twenty-three spells. I still think that it's true, but I do have to wonder if you could set up some type of crazy combo where you get a bunch of tokens at once or play two or three creatures in one turn.

I'm still guessing this one is not worth it, but I'll probably try it out once I lose to it a few times.


Trumps

The good stuff.

First up is Anointer of Champions.

This card so much looks like a Trap, but it's not. It does require that you are the aggressor, and it rewards a solid, sensible mana curve with seventeen or more creatures in the deck. But the reward is insane, especially in a world with renown.

Play your Anointer on turn one, and watch your opponent's shoulders slump. Any two-drop is good from here, but if you play one with renown, you have a massive advantage over your opponent. There just isn't a realistic way for them to interact at this point in the game. The removal spells mostly cost three or more mana, (sometimes five) so you get to run rampant on their life total.

It's not all fun and games, though. You do need to make sure that you're an aggressive, curve-based deck to make this card worth it. After all, it doesn't do anything on defense, except for maybe chump block once.


Patron of the Valiant is next:

We don't need to go super deep on Patron of the Valiant, as for most of you Vanilla Test users out there; you'll know already that a 4/4 flying for five mana is excellent. I actually wanted to point out this card because of the fact that it's a great candidate for why the Vanilla Test exists.

You see, its special ability has a high setup cost, and is kind of weird to boot. It's easy to get caught up in the potential upside of the card. How many renown creatures do I have? Are there any spells that give me +1/+1 counters on my creatures?

The answer is: Who cares? You have a 4/4 flying for five mana here (we call that an Air Elemental, after the original). What else do you need to know?


I saved the best for last. Sentinel of the Eternal Watch:

Wow, this card. Sentinel of the Eternal Watch got an A- from me (and Luis) during our set review on Limited Resources. That is a very high mark for a six-mana creature at uncommon.

So why is this card so good, and why should you virtually never pass it and always play it?

We have to look at the Quadrant Theory for the answer. As many of you know, the most important quadrant is the "We are behind" quadrant. Meaning, we are behind in the game; how does this card fair in that situation? And as it turns out, Sentinel of the Eternal Watch is fantastic in this situation.

You play her, and immediately have a 4/6 blocker on the ground. That's pretty good, but the real kicker comes in when you read her second ability. That's right, at the beginning of combat, as in the next combat, the combat where your opponent was going to kill you with a massive ground creature or big flyer, you get to tap one of their creatures down. Then whatever is left has to get through the big 4/6 on the ground.

On top of all that, she's got vigilance and can start beating down the next turn, since, you know, their best creature is tapped down still.

Unreal card, do not overlook it!


Giddy Up

I said we'd take a look at Kytheon, Hero of Akros, and that we shall do.

*If there's a way to avoid using the flip-card thing on this one, that would be most appreciated since the Planeswalker side follows immediately.

A 2/1 for one mana in Limited is ok. It's not great, and often doesn't make the cut, but sometimes they do and they are usually ok. Kytheon, on the other hand, is quite nice. The ability to get indestructible until end of turn is a nice one, if a bit expensive at three mana.

The real fun starts after you attack with Kytheon and two other creatures, though.

*Having the flip functionality on this one wouldn't be bad, but isn't necessary.

He's all growns up.

As you can see, Gideon, Battle-Forged brings some solid abilities to the table. You can use his +2 ability to force your opponent to attack with their smaller creatures into your bigger ones. Or his +1 ability to set up a nice blocker with indestructible. (Remember, it's until your next turn, so that means all the way through the opponent's turn)

But in the interest of beating down, you can use his 0 ability. A 4/4 that can attack the next turn, has indestructible and has all the damage prevented to it is a tough one to deal with for sure.

You'll have to examine each board state after transforming Gideon to see which ability is best in that instance, but rest assured that Gideon will have an impact.

Until next week!

@Marshall_LR



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