In Defense of Hellbent
By Destrius on April 10th, 2006 · Filed in General Magic · Comments not available just now
Well, folks, it seems a little controversy has spread over a recently spoiled card, and I'm here to chip in my two cents. For the highlights of the opposing side of this epic debate, I point you to the humor genius of www.ugmadness.net, which can be found here.
*Looks comic in the eye.* Ha. Hahah. Ha. Funny. BUT WRONG! HAHAHAHAHAH! *cough* *sputter* Ahem...
Of course, this article isn't simply in response to a webcomic. The criticism towards Gobhobbler Rats and Hellbent in general comes from a substantially large section of the internet-debatin', Magic-playin' community. This is to argue, well, in defense of Hellbent.
So, what’s the little card that’s gotten everyone so worked up? Feast your eyes on… the Rats!
Well, okay. I guess the bad initial reaction might make sense. I’m fairly certain I've seen more inspiring artwork and names in my time. However, unlike many people, my “Vorthos” side doesn't seem to affect my ability to judge a card. Assuming it did, I'd just read the flavor text anyways. That is some awesome flavor text.
Er, where was I? Right. An actual estimation of the card.
Okay, folks, let’s start with the obvious. It is a 2/2 for BR. For 1R, I can expect a 2/1. For 1B, I can expect a 2/1. So, for BR, I get the nice benefit of having a 2/2. Enjoy your extra point of toughness for being multicolored. Now, insofar as I can remember, no one has willingly played a vanilla 2/2 in Constructed since Tempest block [People played vanilla 2/2s in Tempest block? -Ed]. Fortunately, Gobhobbler Rats isn’t vanilla. It has an ability. A much maligned, hated, and generally mocked ability, but an ability nonetheless. I'll get more into this ability soon. First I want to look at another card that's generating some hype in the other direction.
Here I have a card with much cooler art and, hopefully, a much cooler name to stare at as I wonder what hideously stupid play mistake to make, which I always approve of. The ability in English, for those of us who haven't read the clever translation of our French speaking comrades, is as follows:
"Infernal Tutor 1B
Reveal a card in your hand. Search your library for a card with the same name as the revealed card and put it into your hand. Shuffle your library.
Hellbent - If you have no cards in your hand, search your library for a card and put it into your hand. Shuffle your library."
Hey, isn't that cool? For 1B, you can get another card in your hand. Visions of fetching a second Wrath so I can make aggro weep leap to the front of my mind, and I'm not the most imaginative of people. I'm sure you folks will come up with something better.
But wait, there's more! This card has... you guessed it! Hellbent! And what a juicy Hellbent it is, giving us our precious Demonic Tutor back. Yes, our preciousssss...
Anyways, I thought I'd use this space less to go over the new cards and more to defend Hellbent, since some people have taken it upon themselves to hate it with a passion. Without further ado, folks!
As we recall from the opening, some people seem to have problems with Hellbent. I’ll try and address them, as well as some other points I've seen raised, as logically as I can.
Problem 1: The bonus isn't that great.
Again, I can’t really make a broad sweeping estimation without seeing more cards. However, and this is important, I can make a general observation using all the same information as people that think the bonus isn't significant. Let's start with the rat.
Take a 2 mana creature. It’s hopping along, all handy dandy-like and 2/2ish. Now, make it multicolor and a 3/3. Suddenly, everyone loves it. It’s the greatest creature ever printed for some reason! And if that creature had been a 3/2? Well, seriously. It might die to Pyroclasm and Shock, but that’s still pretty feisty. Well, Wizards has followed this logic through, and rewarded you for losing that point of toughness by giving you regeneration. Not even Pyroclasm and Shock will knock this bad boy out once you’re in full swing! You have, for most intents and purposes, replicated the success of other great 2 mana 3/3s like Watchwolf and Scab-Clan Mauler. In fact, you not only replicate it, but you eat Watchwolves and Maulers in combat without dying! Yes, it is conditional. However, to say that the bonus is “menial” or “insignificant” is a lie. Assuming the conditions are fulfilled, you have a pretty nice package right there.
Now, let's take a 2 mana tutor. It sits around, hangs out with its pals, occasionally goes to fetch some more drinks for the buds. An all around nice guy, really, that just sits around and gives you tons of redundancy. Need another Wrath of God? Well, Wrath was a turn 4 play anyways. Let's do something on turn 2. No Wraths but have a Faith's Fetters instead? Well, let's be honest. Is that really much worse? Now, what happens when you don't have any buds? What will this tutor do when there's no around to grab drinks for? Suddenly, he's sitting around watching football on his own, getting drunk and eating pretzels! No one likes that, so our tutor does the only logical thing and heads out to a bar to pick up some hot chick. Suddenly, he isn't grabbing another beer for the friends, he's getting his game on! Need a Wrath now? Go for it! Want a creature? Sure! Need a Char? Hey, do whatever you want, hot stuff! Anyone who calls Demonic Tutor a marginal effect probably needs their head examined. Probably. I may be wrong.
Problem 2: You need to play a deck that loses card advantage.
This makes no sense to me, to be fair, so I’ll try to answer it by pointing out the flaw in the logic. Say you have 3 cards in your hand, 3 lands in play, and a creature. Your opponent has 1 card in hand, 3 lands in play, and 3 creatures in play. Does one of you have card advantage in this scenario? In this simplistic world of all creatures and cards being equal, no. Now let’s say you have 7 cards in hand and 2 lands in play. Your opponent has no cards in hand, 4 lands in play, and 13 creatures in play. Does one of you have card advantage at this moment? The correct answer would be yes, and it ain't the guy with 7 cards in hand. Card advantage is more than having more cards in your hand; it’s a way of having more options available by using your cards more efficiently. In a threat oriented deck, the most efficient use is to drop threats and lower your opponent’s life total. The Rats fit this scheme perfectly.
And as to the Tutor, if there is any card currently out better geared for generating card quality advantage, please tell me. It'll grab duplicates of your best cards (or even more mana, if that really becomes a desperate concern) while you have a hand, and grab your best card when you don't. All for the low cost of 1B, eh? I can't think of any card better geared to give you card advantage in a top deck war.
Also of note, there is a classic card that would reward you for having few cards in your hand. For anyone paying attention, this is Cursed Scroll. With one card in hand, hey, a pretty darned good deal. I didn't see anyone complaining that that card generated card disadvantage simply because you had to keep a small hand!
Problem 3: Your opponent can Wrath your Hellbent creatures and you'll have nothing in reserve.
This obviously would only apply to Hellbent creatures. If Gobhobbler Rats (and previous BR decks) are any sort of trend, these Hellbent creatures will usually be going into aggressive decks. In an aggro deck, generally speaking, there are two solutions to the threat of a Wrath effect: either dropping threats as fast as possible in order to kill them before they Wrath (and, hey, empty your hand in the process!), or hold stuff back and cast a second wave of threats post-Wrath (and, hey, whaddaya know… That’ll empty your hand for your second wave, when an aggro deck is usually starting to run light on fuel!). Hellbent actually is better in cases where your opponent might Wrath than, say, Bloodthirst— and I hope we can agree that Bloodthirst doesn’t suck.
This also leaves out the fact that at least some of the Seals are coming back in Dissension! Talk about enablers!
Problem 4: OMGLOLZOR OWN COMBO!
Is that actually a problem? Oh, fine, I guess I’ll cover this, too. One with Nothing still sucks, folks. Move along. We don’t need to hear that it combos with Hellbent a bajillion more times. The number of times you will have to instantly enable Hellbent probably won’t be that great (unless there’s some great card coming out that wins the game with Hellbent active when your opponent isn't expecting it). I’d really rather run another creature and just drop my hand the old fashioned way—into an aggressive stance, not my graveyard. Which runs me into a fair secondary point, really. If you think that the only way to enable Hellbent is with a bad card that has a bad effect, perhaps it’s time you review the concept of a weenie strategy. You’re already dropping your hand in the course of the game in order to put more pressure on your opponent. Hellbent merely rewards you for doing so.
So, to reiterate: You are still not funny, and OwN is still not cool [I dunno, it has started smokin' in the boy's room... -Ed]. Please do not combine these concepts into one mega not. The world may implode and we may approach Big Bang like singularities.
Problem 5: Trust the fungus!
Ignore the nonsensical title. It means nothing. NOTHING! Anyways, the point here is that if you just trust the set to support it, Hellbent will make sense. There's a lot of synergy in this set for the mechanic, just in the cards we've seen spoiled, as well as some outside of it. For instance, it may not be immediately obvious, but the Betrayers Shoals have some synergy here! That's right, you can dump cards AND get good effects with good tempo! In Ravnica, we also have some nice synergy for Limited: Sadistic Augermage is a fine common, with 3 power for 3 mana, and now he'll help feed Hellbent! Within Dissension, now, we already "know" that Seal of Doom and Seal of Fire will be showing up, as well as the Invitational card Jin, Master of Disruption. All of these will help you get your hand empty while performing other functions or leaving your options open.
On this same topic, I've seen the point raised that Hellbent does not work well with Dark Confidant. At first, this seems to be true; however, if you look at it another way, you'll realize that it's more or less a non sequitur. Say you have an aggro deck. Everything costs, oh, two or less. Just for the sake of argument, you know. Now, say it's turn 4 and you have a Confidant in play. You'll draw two cards (one for Confidant and one for regular draw). Then, you'll be able to play two of them, guaranteed! After all, the most expensive card in your deck is 2, right? Now, assume one of them is a land. Not only will you play two cards, but you can play a third from your hand if you still have one! In a highly focused aggro strategy, Dark Confidant will still generate your card advantage, and you can still just play the cards anyways. It all works out nicely, doesn't it?
Admittedly, this is merely a cursory examination of the card and mechanic being presented. I haven’t discussed decks that will break it, or strategies to abuse it (nothing new, anyways), or cool combos with it. I trust plenty of Constructed minds far better than my own to come up with that. No, what I've focused on instead are the merits of a card and mechanic that I think many people are underestimating. There's certainly precedent to make fun of Guild abilities (Radiance - ugh), but this is one that shows promise. Give it time, and I’m sure you’ll find that Hellbent is really much better than you think it is.
By Destrius on April 10th, 2006 · Filed in General Magic · Comments not available just now