Good Game: Worldwake in Limited
By Andrew Hanson on February 5th, 2010 · Filed in Good Game, Limited · Comments not available just now
Good Game: Worldwake in Limited
by Andrew Hanson
Today's the day! Worldwake hits the shelves and Magic is changed forever... again. I mean, this isn't that unexpected, right? It happens every three months, after all. But that doesn't make any less exciting. Now, like almost all of you, I have no experience with the new cards in any kind of Constructed format. But, if you're like me, then you made it to a Prerelease near you, and that does give you some experience with the new stuff in Limited.
The last month has been very busy for me, so I was only able to make one day of the Prerelease, but I made the most of it, playing in both the sealed deck event, and the big booster draft at the end. For both events, I ended up in black and red. Why? Well, I've talked about my thoughts on Limited before, and the crux of those thoughts still holds true (in my eyes, at least): removal is boss. Though there's a lot of cool stuff in Worldwake, the majority of—and the best of—removal is still in red and black.
But, if I were to sit here and talk about why black and red are great, this article would get boring in a hurry. Plus, I didn't go undefeated at the Prerelease (sealed 3-2, draft 2-1 in my pod), and those losses were quite educational. So, without further ado, let me run through the new cards I encountered last weekend, and the impression they made on me, either swinging from my side or into my face.
Fledgling? What is a mature one like?Fledgling Griffin. This was the first white card that I had the displeasure of meeting. He's good. In Limited, a 2/2 for two mana is solid. One that flies (sometimes) on top of that is good. He dodges all those other 2/X creatures, especially the 2/3 ones, and before you know it, he's clubbed you for 8 to 10 damage. He fits the pace of Zendikar Limited perfectly, and he's got the evasion to get there. Solid.
Guardian Zendikon. Now, at first, I was dazzled by the Zendikons. Truly, they all actually give the creature haste, too, because you can just drop it on a land that didn't come into play that turn, and it can swing right away. Seems good. But not this one. It can't attack. Now, sometimes, a deck will love a blocker that buys it time to drop its big badasses, but white is one of the colors that can be very fast. If you're blue and just splashing white, then this might be okay. But if you're committed to white, you can do better than a wall that takes away one of your lands.
Hada Freeblade. I imagine that everyone and anyone who attempted a Constructed Ally deck with just Zendikar rejoiced when they saw this guy. He's the one-drop Ally! Turns out, he's also pretty good in Limited. If you have some other Allies that is—which seems like a lame qualifier phrase, since that's the case with pretty much all Allies, with the possible exception of Kazandu Blademaster. But this guy is really really good with other Allies. I mean, a 2/3 is still really good in this Limited, and with just one other Ally drop, that's what this guy is. With two Ally drops...
Sign me up!Join the Ranks. One of my friends drafted this deck. It was sick fast. Turning that one-drop into a 3/4? That's brutal. This card makes all the other +1/+1 counter Allies really good. What about by itself? Still good. It's two 1/1 creatures at instant speed. This one card could be enough to turn an opponent's attack into a suicide mission. And when you consider some of the cards available in Zendikar, like Bold Defense, this could be pretty nutty.
Iona's Judgment. It's okay. It gets rid of any creature more or less forever. That's good, right? And it has that flexibility to hit enchantments, too. But it is a sorcery, which means you're probably tapping out on your turn. Of course, that doesn't make it bad, but I originally thought it was instant, which is a lot better. In fact, I think some did play it against me at instant-speed during the Prerelease...
Kitesail Apprentice. Only one guy ever played it against me, and he never equipped it with anything. Which really makes this card seem bad. But it's not unplayable. Like Kor Duelist, this card is actually pretty good if you can reliably equip it. How sick is he (she?) with a Trusty Machete? If you have like three or four playable Equipments, you can run the Apprentice. Can, not necessarily should, and definitely not have to.
Lightkeeper of Emeria. You have to spend a lot of mana to get value out of her. And then she's still just a 2/4. Of course, that's actually a pretty good body, but for the cost? I think you're getting cheated.
Kird CatLoam Lion. He's good. Of course, to play him, you need to be white/green, which is pretty sketchy. But if you got the cards to do it (a Journey to Nowhere or two, with a few white removal Traps), then this guy is the best one-drop in the block so far, with the possible exception of Hada Freeblade. But since the Freeblade is an ally, he doesn't count, and the Lion gets that prestige. I mean, I'm willing to play Kor Sanctifiers unkicked just to get a 2/3. How good is it to only pay a third of that cost?
Marsh Threader. He's Cliff Threader, but for the other most popular color. And if you don't know what that means, he's a 2-power two-drop with an evasion that is relevant more often than not. He's awesome.
Refraction Trap. It's Harm's Way, but for more damage. And mana, unless you're dealing with a burn spell. In most circumstances, this card is going to two-for-one your opponent. It's really good.
Veteran's Reflexes. Only encountered it in Sealed. But, it wasn't the worst card ever. In fact, it's almost like white removal. Certainly not an auto-playable, but maybe decent filler if you're looking to fill out your deck.
Rares and mythics? You may have noticed that there were no rares or mythics on this list. That's because they're rare and mythic, and you don't see them that often. But, with the exceptions of Terra Eternal, they're all good. Well, Stoneforge Mystic is like Kitesail Apprentice and Kor Duelist: she's great if you have the Equipment, otherwise she's trash.
For whatever reason, I didn't encounter that much blue at the Prerelease, so this list is pretty small.
Aether Tradewinds. It's not bad. If you had utility kicker creatures (like Kor Sanctifiers), this card increases in value. Otherwise, most often, it was a Boomerang for three mana that also bounced when of your own lands. Meh.
Convertible TurtleCalcite Snapper. A 1/4 with shroud for three mana? That's not bad for blue. It can crash for 4 damage with landfall, too? Holy... This guy is solid. He blocks all day long and can swing for massive amounts of damage when he needs to. Plus, he's never vulnerable to removal, so that 4 damage is getting dealt to something.
Enclave Elite. Considering I was playing only red and black, he seemed underwhelming. Still, a 3/3 for 5 mana isn't the worst thing ever, especially if its evasion is relevant. Truthfully, I like all the creatures with the multikicker for the +1/+1 counters. They scale with your mana, which is always useful. I suppose now would be a good time to mention Apex Hawks. I didn't say anything above because I never ran against it, but it seems more often better than these guys, so...
Halimar Excavator. Wizards of the Coast sure does love its millers. Whatever. I guess he's a decent blocker for two mana (he's got that 3 toughness), but you need a lot of Allies to get anything out of his ability. That said, one kid at the shop got two of this guy and two Join the Ranks. That math gets really big, really fast. Plus, he had a Hedron Crab or two. The milling strategy can work, but you need to get the cards. And I've seen too many people only get half a milling deck in a draft, and subsequently get blown away, to bother trying for it myself.
X marks the spot.Treasure Hunt. Only saw it get played once, and the guy ripped five lands before hitting his nonland. Seems good. In fact, it seems awesome. Always a solid play on turn two, especially if you're on the play. Auto-playable.
Twitch. Never been a big fan of soft-control. At least this cantrips, so you can't really call it card disadvantage. Filler.
That's it? Like I said, I didn't see much blue, but other blue cards that seem good follow. Goliath Sphinx: huge flier. Horizon Drake: 3-power flier for three mana; sadly, protection from lands is mostly irrelevant. Jace, the Mind Sculptor: doi. Jwari Shapeshifter: if you have the Allies.Mysteries of the Deep: solid draw spell. Sejiri Mefolk: a 2-power first-striker with lifelink for two? Wow. Tideforce Elemental: tappers are always good, and this guy can go more than once in a turn. Vapor Snare: seems less impressive in a format less defined by bombs, but it is Mind Control that enables landfall every turn. Voyager Drake: a 3/3 flier for four mana is actually good; its ability is okay. Wind Zendikon: a 2/2 flier with haste for 1 mana is okay (but really, he's only that in the mid- to late-game).
Anowon, the Ruin Sage. I pulled one, but couldn't really play it. I just didn't have the Vampires to surround him with. That said, if I did have the bloodsuckers, this guy would've been pretty bomby.
Can't block, but who cares.Bojuka Brigand. Aggro enough by himself, if you can get just a few Allies around him, that's pretty angry.
Brink of Disaster. It can't punch a hole for your offense, but it deals with fatties bashing your face pretty well. Also, it can knock an opponent off a color if they're slightly color-screwed, and that's just awesome.
Corrupted Zendikon. Originally, I felt this was the best Zendikon. Now, I'm not so sure. It's just, you really can't play him on turn two—it hurts your tempo too much. Sure, this is a much faster Limited than we've had in a while, but you still need to make your land drops. That said, playing one is probably a solid choice, but more than that can actually begin to clog up your opening hands (that's what happened to me).
Dead Reckoning. It's very dangerous to only "mostly" read a card. At first blush, I thought Dead Reckoning put the creature back in your hand. Which would be sick. Sadly for me, I had already drafted two of them before I caught my mistake. I think one in a deck is good, but you have to have dead creatures to make them good, and like the Zendikon, if you put in too many, they start to mess up your opening grip.
Jagwasp Swarm. It's a 3-power flier for four mana in black. It's playable.
Nemesis Trap. Originally, I thought it could exile any creature, and it trapped with attacking white creatures. But no, it can only exile attackers. Still, this is almost a sure two-for-one. And once and opponent knows you have this card in your deck, leaving six mana up keeps them from swinging too wildly. Playable.
Pulse Tracker. Seems really underwhelming by himself. Maybe good filler for a Vampire deck? Or if you have a couple Urge to Feeds.
Hungry? Why wait?Urge to Feed. Solid removal by itself, just stupid if you have Vampires in play. Auto-playable in any deck committed to black, best card in deck if you have Vampires, but sadly can't really be splashed for.
Quag Vampires. Like I said, I like these multikicker dudes, and this one has a legit landwalking ability. My loss in the draft came because my opponent and I were in topdeck mode, and he ripped this guy with nine lands out. Ouchy.
Ruthless Cullblade. A decent two-drop. Gets nasty when your opponent is bloodied. Playable.
Scrib Nibblers. A 1/1 for three mana? No thanks.
Shoreline Salvager. If you're in blue/black, then this guy seems good. Otherwise, he seems like filler.
Tomb Hex. I passed on this in the draft, and that was probably a mistake. I mean, three mana for a Disfigure is not a good deal, but that -4/-4 shouldn't be discounted, and I probably should have taken this. Playable. Maybe Auto-Playable.
Some others. Bloodhusk Ritualist seems okay, especially since it's a Vampire, and it seems really good if you kick it twice. Butcher of Malakir is simply a bomb. Kalastria Highborn seems playable, even if you're not that heavy on Vamps—she's efficiently sized, and can drain life when she dies.
Akoum Battlesinger. I really like the two-drop allies. Now, sadly, she's just a 1/1, but she does pump the first time she comes down, and if you have a few other allies, you can probably get value out of here. If you're in white, Join the Ranks could really abuse her (not a domestic violence joke).
Claws of Valakut. Sigh. It's the Aura dilemma. If you're heavy red, this card could be gross. But it's still an Aura, and you're still setting yourself up for some card disadvantage. Is it worth it? My verdict: as filler, yes.
Cosi's Ravager. This guy seemed really good at first. I mean, he pings the opponent every time you play a land. How sick is that? But he costs four mana, and he's just a 2/2. It's just not efficient enough for this format. Decent filler.
Like Circus Peanuts. Good in small numbers.Crusher Zendikon. I had the mistake, in Sealed, of putting this in with two Corrupted Zendikons. I often found myself either stifling my land development or not playing anything early. That's why I think one, maybe two, Zendikons can make it into a deck. That said, this is a good one. He's got 4 power and tramples, all for three mana. He's a good topdeck. Playable, but just one.
Cunning Sparkmage. Pingers are always good, and this one has haste. If you are blessed and get more than one, then oh my. Auto-playable.
Deathforge Shaman. Not gonna lie, I got two kills with this guy. He makes for a cool finisher, and even unkicked, he's decently sized for his cost. But, he's still a five-drop or higher. Playable, but certainly no more than one.
Dragonmaster Outcast. Amazing in the late game. If it's been an attrition battle, dropping this guy on turn six or later is often game. I lost to him once in the Sealed, but I won with him once in the draft. Karma?
Not much going on here.Goblin Roughrider. Looks pretty vanilla... but vanilla is delicious. And so is this guy. In a color as fast and angry as red, a 3/2 for three mana is right on the curve. In the draft, I managed to get two of these guys, and they smashed face. Interestingly, the one match I lost, I never saw these guys. Coincidence?
Not much needs to be going on here.
Grotag Thrasher. He's really good. Kind of pricey for a 3/3, but his ability is worth it. It keeps a creature from blocking anything. Playable.
Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs. Like the Dragonmaster Outcast, I saw a lot of this guy. I had to go up against him in the Sealed, and almost lost to him, then got him in the draft, where I almost won with him. Hmm. Doesn't sound that promising, but really, he puts the opponent under a lot of pressure. It gets hard to attack you, and he's no weakling either. A 5/4 for five mana is good. Great, even.
Mordant Dragon. I feel stupid talking about these rares, since they seem quite obviously bombs. This Dragon is no different. If it connects, you probably just won. However, it sucks when you see him in your first five out of your first seven opening hands.
Searing Blaze. Um, let's see, burn a creature and an opponent? Considering that if this was just , sorcery, "deal 3 damage to target creature," it would be playable; this card is nuts. Auto-playable.
It's fun to play. It's more fun to say.Skitter of Lizards. More multikicker creatures, and this one has haste. Don't kid yourself, running this guy out on turn one is legit. Playable.
Slavering Nulls. Another "Kird" creature, he's an efficient two-drop that pretty much must be blocked. If you can clear the way for him, great. If you can't, it's probably best to swing with him when he's at least trading with an opponent's creature. If he sits back too long, he'll get outclassed. Playable, though, for sure.
Anything else? I covered most of the red cards right there, but obviously, some of the rares/mythics I didn't talk about are awesome (like Chain Reaction or Comet Storm).
Why does an elephant hang out with a wolf?[c]Bestial Menace[/b]. Now, I never actually went up against this card, and I'm thankful for that. I had one opponent with it in his deck, but he didn't get it. This card is awesome for raw card advantage. Auto-playable.
Explore. Hard to say if this is good or not. I mean, it cantrips, which is awesome, and it can ramp you up, but is it worth a slot in your deck? How many two- and three-drops are you running? Do you need to get to four or five lands faster than normal? It seems like good filler to me, but that's it.
Feral Contest. It's like green removal, which green desperately needs. Plus, the +1/+1 counter stays. Just make sure you don't two-for-one yourself with it.
Gnarled Pack. More multikicker goodness. No evasion, or even a cool ability like haste, on this guy, but he is the most efficient in terms of cost to power/toughness. He's playable.
Grappler Spider. He's good (that 2 power for two mana thing). And with that reach, he can gum up your opponent's sky, maybe buying you the time to drop a Baloth of some kind. Playable.
A 3/3 trampler for four. And it grows.Graypelt Hunter. Consider that Nimana Sell-Sword is considered playable. This guy has trample. He was hard enough to fight by himself, I'm thankful I never went up against him with other Allies.
Groundswell. I got caught on my heels against a green/white deck. This on that Fledgling Griffin really knocked a few turns of my life span. Still, it's pretty situational, and I've always felt cards like this are filler.
Omnath, Locus of Mana. Obviously a bomb, but I just wanted to say that my opponent, on the play, dropped him on turn three. I dropped a Cunning Sparkmage on my turn. I felt bad for my opponent, but really, not that bad.
Snapping Creeper. I've already mentioned how a 2/3 for three mana is playable, and this guy can get vigilance. He's solid.
Summit Apes. My opponent didn't have Mountains when he played this, so it wasn't that scary. Otherwise, he's like a guaranteed two-for-one. Really, between this and some of the other stuff in the set, red/green is looking like a pretty solid deck color.
Vastwood Zendikon. Truthfully, I was playing a game for fun when an opponent played this on me. We never did get to finish the game, but this one seems good. In fact, because I feel like the Zendikons are at their best when you're in top-deck mode, I almost think that this could be the best of them.
Wolfbriar Elemental. I got lucky: my one opponent who had this, and played it, was running a three color deck, and could only kick it once (I guess he was lucky too, that he could even kick it). This guy is nuts.
Others? I never had to go up against a Leatherback Baloth, and for that I'm more or less grateful. If you managed to get the monogreen draft deck, this guy is going to be absolutely bonkers.
Artifacts and Lands
Hammer of Ruin. Got a creature with evasion? This isn't bad. It's even better if your opponent also plays with equipment. And who wouldn't play with...
Fly, you fools, fly!Kitesail. Fairly cheap. Gives both evasion and a power bump. This card is good, great if you have a really tight curve, since that probably means you don't have fatties, and will need a way around your opponent's. Definitely playable.
Hedron Rover. He's a 2/2 for two mana, which is pretty meh. But he can be pretty good on offense when you make your landfall. Good filler, maybe playable.
Razor Boomerang. Maybe I'm missing something here, but one damage isn't that good that you'd want to be spending five mana on it. I don't like it. Maybe filler, but there's better stuff to fill your deck with.
Dread Statuary. It's a manland, and a big one to boot. What more needs to be said?
Halimar Depths. Seems good. A land that lets you sage it up (a la Sage Owl or Sage of Epityr). Playable.
Khalni Garden. It makes a chump blocker. Maybe a decent pick nine or later.
Sand tastes good, glub glub.Quicksand. Ah, land that's removal. It's just so good. Take them if you can (though be careful if you have heavy color demands early, like Gatekeeper of Malakir or Leatherback Baloth).
Sejiri Steppe. Pretty cool. Not so great for saving a creature, but awesome for giving a dude evasion. Worth taking.
Smoldering Spires. Like the white version, it makes it easier for you to swing in. This, with the Goblin Shortcutter and the Grotag Thrasher means that red really tries to not let other colors block.
Multicolor and others? Obviously Novablash Wurm is bomb-azing. Basilisk Collar may be the best equipment in the block, and may be Constructed worthy, even. And, of course, all the dual land manlands (Celestial Colonnade, Creeping Tar Pit, Lavaclaw Reaches, Raging Ravine, Stirring Wildwood) are just great.
I don't feel like Worldwake really shook up Zendikar Limited all that much. To me, it still seems like red and black are the best colors (they have all the removal), with white coming in at a close third. Blue and green can be good, especially in draft if no one else is taking it, but that's no different than when it was just Zendikar.
Also, the tempo of the game didn't change. It's a very fast Limited format, and you have to be ready and able to keep up or you'll just get killed. I found this out the hard way. In Sealed, I tried making a little slower deck with big plays around turn five and on, and my two losses came from a very fast green/white deck and a fast black/red deck.
Your two-drops are still very important, so when you're drafting, do not neglect them, or you will be sorry. Hopefully, this gives you some ideas for what you'll do at your Release event tonight. And if you aren't going to a Release event... why the heck not? They are great fun, and a chance to play with the all the new cards while they are still fresh and tasty. So go, play, and have a good game (get it?)!
By Andrew Hanson on February 5th, 2010 · Filed in Good Game, Limited · Comments not available just now