August 12, 2015

Nissa's Traps, Tryouts, and Trumps


This week marks the final stop of the journey along this color pie path we've been on. Green is considered by some professional players to be the worst color in Magic Origins for Limited. The good news is that the colors in this set are well balanced, therefore even if green is the worst of the five, it's not that far behind.

Green is marked by some great cards, with a slew of just okay cards backing them up. The main mechanic for green is renown, and renown has proven to be a key mechanic in the set. It tends to set the tone for how the games play out. The things that green is missing when it comes to renown are cheap, common, renown creatures.

As we've noted before, cards like Topan Freeblade set a very strong early tone in a game of Limited. When your Topan Freeblades come down a turn later, they are still good, but they set a much different tone than their two-mana brethren.

Green has two solid combat tricks in Titanic Growth and Might of the Masses, both of which have proven playable. Since a lot of your plan revolves around getting a renown creature renowned, combat tricks can be an important piece of the puzzle. It's worth noting that neither of these cards are particularly exciting—they don't hold a candle to Enshrouding Mist, for example.

Let's get into the Traps, Tryouts, and Trumps for green.


First up is Elemental Bond.

Oh, you enticing build-around-me uncommon, you. It's easy to see the dream with Elemental Bond: You start dropping biggish creatures and use the extra cards from the Bond to draw more of them, eventually flooding the board with creatures. If only it were so simple.

I'm going to draw a comparison you might find a little strange here, but bear with me.

Besides costing three mana and drawing cards (at least theoretically in one case), these cards don't have a lot in common. They are in different colors, one is a sorcery and one is an enchantment, one is common, the other uncommon. The list goes on.

So why the comparison? I think it's interesting to note here that Divination always gets you two cards, and that it's a mid-level include for blue decks. That's right; there are decks that don't even want to play Divination in most sets it's been printed in (Magic 2014 being a major exception).

Looking back at Elemental Bond, we see that in order to get us merely equal with the usually-playable Divination, we need to cast it and then cast two creatures with power 3 or greater. That's a tall order! Usually once you start casting 3-plus power creatures, you are pretty happy anyway.

All that work, and all we got was this lousy Divination? No thanks.

The appeal, of course, is that you can draw more than two cards over the course of a game.

Unfortunately, this proves very difficult in the real world, as you have to draw and play multiple 3-power threats. How many 3-power creatures does your average deck have? It's usually in the range of five or so, but can go up or down depending on the colors of the deck.

Adding to the problem is that many of the cards you think have 3 power actually don't. Namely, the renown creatures start out smaller, and though they often grow to 3 power or more, they don't start that way and won't trigger the Bond. Other sneaky cards like Charging Griffin look a lot like 3-power creatures, but they aren't.

All told, Elemental Bond is a trap to be avoided.

Next up is Reclaim.

It's really interesting watching a newer player reason through a card like this. They usually come to the conclusion that the card is pretty good, as getting back things from your graveyard can be a powerful effect.

Experienced players know to avoid cards like Reclaim.

The first knock on Reclaim is that the setup cost is kind of high. You need a card you actually want to get back sitting in your graveyard. That doesn't always happen.

Next knock is an even harder one: Reclaim is card disadvantage. That's right, you are actually down a card when you cast Reclaim. The key, of course, being that the card goes on top of your library rather than into your hand. This is important because it means that instead of drawing whatever you were going to draw for the turn, you have to wait on that card and draw the targeted card in its place.

Since you expended a card (the Reclaim itself) and are postponing your next draw step, you are effectively down a card.

No me gusta.


For my first tryout, I have selected Zendikar's Roil.

I overrated Zendikar's Roil during our set review show on the podcast. I was operating under the assumption that the Draft format would be "normal" speed. As it turns out, the format can be quite quick—which punishes cards like Zendikar's Roil that take a while to really get going.

That said, there is something really great about a card that can continually pump out relevant 2/2 bodies deep into the late game. Revisiting the cool feeling you get when you have a landfall card out and are drawing cards off the top of your deck is sweet as well. Land or spell, you're happy.

The question I have is whether I can build a deck to take advantage of the grindy-but-slow nature of this card. Green isn't well suited for a control deck, but there has to be a build somewhere that can support it.

Our other Tryout this week is Gather the Pack.

First things first: I am always intrigued by cards like this, but for some reason I almost never end up actually running them.

I generally try to avoid spells that don't affect the board directly, but Gather the Pack with spell mastery is a reasonable card to play in your green creature deck. It's a way to get ahead on cards sometimes as well.

Casting Gather the Pack without spell mastery is significantly less exciting, but at least you get to dig toward your best creatures.

I don't expect Gather the Pack to jump up to Awesome Status or anything, but it may end up being more playable than it looked at first glance.


Trump number one is a nice one: Skysnare Spider.

I love cards like Skysnare Spider. At six mana, it's not cheap—but once it hits the battlefield, it usually can stall the opponent out offensively, even if they have flying creatures. When it comes time to attack on your turn, it does so very well, easily able to attack into multiple creatures without much fear.

Oh, and it has vigilance, so it will be ready to block again the following turn.

If you are going to spend six mana, Skysnare Spider is a darned fine place to put it.

Next is Wild Instincts.

Green doesn't get "real" removal. It never gets the kind of reach-out-there-and-deal-with-a-threat type removal that, say, black gets (unless the creature has flying, of course).

What it does get, though, are "fight" cards. These are the kind of card that has two creatures battle it out in a little arena fight of sorts. And these can be very powerful, with Wild Instincts being no exception here. Although it's expensive to cast, the payoff is great. You'll often kill a blocker and swing with a huge attacker, because your creature gets +2/+2 until end of turn.

Wild Instincts is a powerful removal spell in a color that doesn't get removal, which makes it a very solid performer.

Nissa, Vastwood Seer

TTT wouldn't be the same without talking about a mythic rare double-faced planeswalker in the Limited column would it!?

Nissa is excellent. She comes down and affects the board early in the game, while still enabling your land drops to power you through to the later game. She doesn't help you fix your mana colors though, as you are obliged to get a Forest.

That card would see play in this format. But instead of stopping there, Wizards decided to tack, oh, you know, a PLANESWALKER onto this little value train. That's right, if the games goes long, you get a 4/4-making card-drawing machine, with a relevant ultimate ability as well.

I have first-picked Nissa and have been very happy with how she plays out every time I drew her. The early game consistency combined with the late game domination makes for a very potent package.

Back to your regularly scheduled programming next week!


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