September 15, 2015

Ugin's Insight

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Seeing the big picture can be hard, especially when you're in pain.

If a hornet sneaks into your room and stings you on the nose, your reaction is probably going to involve a rolled-up newspaper or a flyswatter. Even if destroying the hornet's nest outside your bedroom window should be your first priority, taking down the bug that stung you feels like the most important task in the world at that moment.

What does this have to do with the Battle for Zendikar? I'm glad you asked! Let's take a look at my preview card for the week:

From a story perspective, Ugin's Insight depicts a moment of disagreement between two of Magic's most dynamic protagonists as they debate solutions for the Eldrazi threat.

Jace has spent a lot of time watching Zendikar burn. He was there for the aftermath of the Eldrazi attack that destroyed Sea Gate. He's seen Ulamog's brood rampage across the countryside, consuming anything and everything in their way. He believes that destroying Ulamog is the only way to save Zendikar and what remains of the Zendikari.

Ugin is thinking long-term. It's been thousands of years since he trapped the Eldrazi on Zendikar in order to prevent them from continuing their tear across the Multiverse. And when you're old enough to have seen the rise and fall of many civilizations and wise enough to have transcended the very idea of colored mana, your loyalties are going to be both broader and more abstract. Ugin's Insight is that the Eldrazi need to be trapped once more; he knows that that all three titans need to be factored into the solution, regardless of Ulamog's current antagonism.

Jace and Ugin are similar in many ways, but it's not hard to see why they disagree here. To get a better sense of their different viewpoints, check out the flavor parallel between Ugin's Insight and Jace's Ingenuity.

Both of these cards have the same converted mana cost, and both contain the text "draw three cards." Jace's card-draw spell is an instant, though, while Ugin's is a sorcery. This mechanical difference does a pretty good job of representing the differences in their approach. Both Ugin and Jace value knowledge, but Jace is far quicker to act than the methodical Dragon.

In this case, Ugin is greatly rewarded for his patience. While Jace's Ingenuity draws you three random cards from the top of your library, Ugin's Insight is far more likely to draw you exactly what you need.

Ugin's Insight isn't all that powerful on an empty board, though. While Jace's Ingenuity doesn't care what you have in play—it's completely centered on the power of the mind to cast the spell—Ugin's Insight demands certain ties to the physical world in order to be effective. This represents Ugin's approach of wisdom over knowledge. The more experience you have (represented, in this case, by having increasingly expensive permanents in play), the deeper your insight will be. Cool, no?

The fact that Ugin's Insight is a draw-three makes it a nice counterpoint to Jace's Ingenuity, but it's also really evocative of the conversation taking place on the card. After all, Ugin is trying to come up with a solution to the problem of the three Eldrazi titans—not just Ulamog. In a perfect world, then, each of the three cards drawn with Ugin's Insight would be able to eliminate an Eldrazi titan by itself.

Hmm. . . . What can we do to make that happen?

Purely from a gameplay perspective, Kozilek, Butcher of Truth isn't that hard to kill. Most standard removal spells will do the trick.

Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre is a little tougher—indestructible creatures are pretty resilient, after all. But there's a variety of spells available to you that will exile creatures instead of destroying them. Any one of those will ruin Ulamog's day.

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is the hardest titan to deal with. Protection from colored spells is a very strong ability. If you want to destroy Emrakul, you generally need to play a permanent with a targeted ability, a sacrifice effect, or a board wipe.

Killing all three titans with just three cards isn't impossible, then. One copy each of Doom Blade, Path to Exile, and Banishing Light will do it. Three copies of Journey to Nowhere will do it. A single Final Judgment can take out all three titans at once.

None of these options make much flavor sense in a vacuum, though. If any of those simple spells could take down an Eldrazi titan, Gideon or Jace or Nissa would have done it years ago.

Hey—what if we summon the crew that took down the Eldrazi titans last time?

I love the fact that Ugin's Insight can act as an Avengers Assemble spell, now that all three of these Planeswalkers have their own cards. Unfortunately, no single one of those cards is capable of taking out an Eldrazi titan without having to jump through, like, nine different hoops. Oh well.

If you go this route then, I'd suggest backing up your coalition with a spell or two that can actually take down an Eldrazi. Oblivion Ring is my favorite choice from a flavor perspective. It's the Magic card that most closely mirrors the idea of Eldrazi imprisonment, and it's one of the few cards that can actually answer each of the three titans.

Don't forget that Oblivion Ring isn't a perfect answer to wayward Eldrazi, though. Even if you've got several Leylines in play and all of your basic lands have hedrons on them, some careless mage might come around and destroy all of your Oblivion Rings at a later date. And if that happens, all bets are off.

Join me next time, when we delve even deeper into the flavor of Battle for Zendikar.

-Chas Andres



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