Why the hell did you wake me up?
By Stefan Preiml on June 6th, 2005 · Filed in General Magic · Comments not available just now
Maybe you have experienced this before: You see a new card and think "That card is awesome, it will see lots of play" and even tell this to your friends. Some agree, but most don't. Then a major tournament comes up and you wonder why nobody plays the card. You wonder "Where did I go wrong?".
The next major tournament comes up, and still nobody plays it. You wonder, "But the card's so good! Why is nobody playing it?" It only popped up in some sideboards. Then comes the third tournament, and suddenly everybody plays it maindeck.
So maybe you were the first to experience the greatness of the card, and you promoted it. These cards are dubbed "sleeper cards," cards nobody takes notice of until their full potential is revealed.
Some of the more famous examples are such cards are The Skull, Demonic Consultation and most recently AEther Vial.
(Editor's Note: Necropotence was so undervalued when Ice Age was released that Inquest actually called it the worst card in the set.)
To a lesser extent even Skullclamp was such a sleeper card. I remember it being underplayed for about a month and a half after its release, and then starts popping up in almost every deck in Standard and Extended.
Today I want to talk about some of those sleeper cards from Saviors of Kamigawa. It might seem a bit early for this, but part of the joy is realizing you saw the potential of a card before anyone else. Also, I'm not going to talk about cards everbody knows to be tournament material, like Hand of Honor or Pithing Needle. I don't think I need to tell anybody these cards are great and will see tournament play.
Furthermore, I want to clarify that I'm not promising any great success by playing the cards I'm introducing today. I'd only like to show some of the hidden potential that some players are overlooking or ignoring.
So let's move on with the first card:
Murmurs from Beyond
The first thing that sprang into my mind and was to read in the forums when I saw this card was "bad Intuition". But it's rather unfair comparing a common from the newest set with a $20 rare and one of the best tutors in the game. Also, the only thing that is shared is the casting cost and the number of cards involved.
One of the main differences, except the fact that the cards are coming from the top of your deck instead of being your choice, is that the Murmurs give you a two-for-one advantage, with the "drawback" of putting the card most useful to you at the moment into your graveyard (more on that later).
A more fair comparision would be Fact or Fiction, The power level is a clear statement against it, with Fact giving you a possible four-to-one card advantage and you choosing what cards you get.
But both cards have a number of things in common, such as the random selection of cards from which to choose, but the most notable is that you are testing the skill of the opponent with it.
Forcing your opponent to make a decision is one of the most evil (and fun) things to do in Magic. It becomes especially gruesome if you have ways to negate the "drawback". The drawback of Murmurs is putting the card into your graveyard, which can easily be negated by cards that let the cards in your graveyard matter.
I think you know where this leads us to. Yes its Odyssey's time again. With the origin of both, Psychatog and Madness, in addition to some illustrious cards as Cephalid Illusionist, Odyssey has one of the biggest contributions to the Extended format at this time, and it will continue after the rotation this October.
Speaking of Madness and the rotation, Madness loses the aforementioned Intuition and might be searching for a replacement. Murmurs seems fitting for it. Madness is infamous for using both cards in hand and cards in your graveyard as equal resources, more often than not putting cards from hand into the graveyard or making a detour on the way (after all, this is what the deck is all about).
The typical Intuition in Madness looks something like Wonder, Genesis and Roar of the Wurm. Whichever card your opponent chooses for you to keep is probably landing in the graveyard next anyway. With the Murmurs you get two cards in hand, having an additional card to discard for your Mongrel or Looter.
Another thing the Murmurs works fine with is library manipulation, such as Brainstorm or the now-infamous Sensei's Divining Top. Casting the Murmurs with a Top in play gets you a new three cards to view, and you don't have to dig into green for Sakura-Tribe Elder or Kodama's Reach.
Plow Through Reito
Many experienced players will tell you that this is a bad Strength of Cedars, but I think these players didn't look deep enough into that card. Everybody knows what to expect in a draft when the opponent attacks with everything, despite being outnumbered, with 4G open.
This might not seem like a great argument, since there are plenty of combat tricks for 1W or less in the Limited formats, but none of these can have such a devasting impact as the Plow.
The Plow's usefulness grows with the number of lands in play, therefore it's more useful later in the game when you have only a small amount of spells left in your hand. You could lose a major amount of temp if you play it too early.
Later in the game you also might have more possibilities to negate the drawback of bouncing lands, or even make an advantage out of it. One example is Kiyomaro, First to Stand, who doubles the effect of the Plow if you play it on him in addition to switching on his other special abilities. Another example is Hokori, Dust Drinker, which you can use to secure your land drops and access two untapped lands every turn instead of just one.
Plow Through Reito might also find some sideboard use to negate the effects of cards such as Flashfires or Thoughts of Ruin.
Plow also aids White Weenie decks that sometimes struggle to deliver the final blow to the opponent sitting at 1 to 5 life points with a superior board position.
So what do we have here? A three power regenerator for three mana, with a little drawback that can be easily made into an advantage.
Since Black, unlike Green, is not exactly the color for creatures (some exceptions always happen), we have to settle with a lesser version of another certain regenerator. In exchange, this guy got another point of toughness, taking him out of Laughter Range.
Actually if you didn't recognize it yet, this guy is part of a cycle, with Stampeding Serow sticking out as the best one at the moment, thanks to Eternal Witness and some other green creatures with comes-into-play abilities.
The key to utilizing the guys in the cycle is making the disadvantage of bouncing a creature every turn into an advantage. If you can do that you get an aggressively costed creature, normally with a large body.
To capitalize on the drawback of these creatures, you can play cards that follow the "wisdom" mechanic such as Deathmask Nezumi or Thoughts of Ruin. You can also exploit repeated "spiritcraft" triggers, which is easy for Black bearing some very fine Spiritcrafters.
The easist and most abusable method uses creatures with comes-into-play abilities. Black has a tradition of these creatures, including the original 187. A similar card to this, but one mana cheaper is Bone Shredder, which "combos" with our ogre friend since you can stack it so you don't have to pay the echo.
For the last two of our methods, and to a lesser extent the first one as well, the creatures you want to return should be cheap. Being a spirit should be a bonus to abuse the Spiritcrafting strategy. Unfortunately, except for the expensive Kemuri-Onna there are no Spirits in Black with comes-into-play abilities that don't represent a drawback. So I think we would need to get back to Bile Urchin and Ghost-Lit Stalker for cheap spirits, since I don't believe you would like to return your Wicked Akuba every turn.
Black creatures we could use in T2 are our discard rat friends, the 187 or Maggot Carrier. If you have accumulated enough mana, you could also go for a Gravedigger pseudo-lock, making your creatures virtually unkillable as long as you have the Skull Collector and the Digger.
Having cheap creatures to bounce lets us capitalize on another high profile card: AEther Vial. Everybody should have realized how good this card is, and with a Maggot Carrier we get to drain everybody on the table for 1 each turn while attacking with 3/3s, and whatever else you bring along. Note that the Vial doesn't help you if you're on the Spiritcrafting train, since you need to actually play those spirits for your crafting.
Haru-Onna follows a long tradition. Some people asked why this card is Green and not Blue. Although blue is number one in card drawing, according to Wizards Green in supposed to be in second, with the difference that Green's card drawing is tied to creatures and lands. This is also the origin of Nantuko Cultivator and Greater Good.
So here we have a cousin of Wall of Blossoms, a high-profile card that still sees lots of tournament play as a 2-mana cantrip with a 0/4 body to boot. Some people say that everybody's favorite Wall is too strong, and Wizards seems to have listened to them. Here we have a similar card, that is out of Aluren-range and vulnerable to Night of Soul's Betrayal but has power and can be repeatedly bounced in the right deck.
Please, don't even get me started on Solemn Simulacrum. A guy that can be played in every deck and provides an at least two-for-one advantage is very good in my humble opinion (just like an invitational card should be ). If you could bounce him, you normally get a five-for-two advantage.
Speaking of bounce, the earlier mentioned Stampeding Serow seems to be a natural duo with Haru-Onna, such as Stampeding Wildebeests and Wall of Blossoms were before. Having a 5/4 trampler and drawing a card every turn looks pretty fine. The only problem with this is the steep cost of every turn.
Since we don't have a tool to reduce this cost, we should at least take some measures to speed our combo up. Birds are always a nice addition to every Green deck, and with the soon-to-return Llanowar Elves we'll have the high quality mana-creatures back, and some spare creatures for our Serow if we don't have a Onna at hand.
Adamaro, First to Desire
One advantage this guy has over the other Maros is that he only costs 3 mana. You may think of him as a blockable Black Vise that costs more, but can still do damage when the opponent has 4 or less cards in hand. Normally this guy is a 5/5 or bigger when he comes down, and thanks to Birds and Mox he can hit the table as early as turn two.
Adamaro hurts the opponent when he plays correctly, meaning meaning that if the opponent tries to gain card advantage, he normally gives Adamaro +1/+1 or +2/+2. I really like him to be seen as an anti-Blue card. Thanks to his low casting cost, Adamaro might outrun some countermagic as well.
Once Adamaro comes into play, you need to ensure that your opponent will always be stuck with at least one card in hand to keep him alive. The easiest way for a Red player to accomplish this is land destruction. Thanks to Saviors, we have another card for that task: Thoughts of Ruin. This card was called the new Armageddon when the public saw it for the first time, and I think it will satisfy.
The second and more "rogue" way of slowing down the opponent is using Arcane Laboratory or Rule of Law. Technically you are preventing the opponent from giving Adamaro anything more than -1/-1 a turn, between his mandatory card draw and the possible land drop.
So, what do you do while Adamaro kicks some butt and you are only allowed to play a spell a turn? Of course, you could nuke some lands, but what about using some burn to clear the way for Adam? Remember that you are allowed under Rule of Law to play an instant during the opponent's turn, so grill a creature with Magma Jet and fetch the next burn spell or creature.
Mixing in Slith Firewalker could also be a nice strategy. Firewalker can become overwhelming quickly, and with Adamaro in play, the opponent might not know what to handle first.
Ayumi, the Last Visitor
Livonya Silone was probably the grandma of this. Anyone who knew of Livonya was probably awaiting a version of her for Kamigawa block, and here it is, so let's check the stats. We get 3 additional points of power and a lower mana requirement while sacrificing first strike and a point of toughness.
Seven points of power that stays around for longer than a turn is nothing to sneeze at. If your opponent was unlucky enough to play his Minamo or Shizo, he really has a big problem.
Even if your opponent is able to block Ayumi, you'll probably get a two-for-one out of it. The fact that she is out of range for Echoing Decay and Hideous Laughter makes her good enough for me, although an extra point of toughness wouldn't be bad. On the other hand, nobody plays three-damage burn spells at the moment, and it doesn't matter for an Arc-Slogger to shoot her twice if she is 3 or 4 in the backside.
A fun way for casual Extended players to try out Ayumi is Donate. Thanks to a whopping 22 different Extended-legal legendary lands, you have plenty to choose from. Untaidake, the Cloud Keeper is an especially evil card here, since you can power out Ayumi a turn earlier, and Donate a very useless card to your opponent.
There are some very interesting cards in this set, that most people haven't really explore yet. I think of Kamigawa overall as a sleeper block, where you can only see the real power that lies within a card of the block when you experience it first hand by playing it.
Maybe you will find a card everbody thinks of as sucky or useless overall, but that is really quite good!
By Stefan Preiml on June 6th, 2005 · Filed in General Magic · Comments not available just now
About Stefan Preiml
I was born in a small town in southern Austria and went there to school till I was 14. Then I transfered into a technical school in carinthias capitol Klagenfurt making my "Matura" (A-Level Exam) at the age of 19. I'm currently studying Informatics at the University of Klagenfurt. I started playing Magic in the summer of 2003 after some friends from school played in the school and I played a small scale CCG about The Simpsons before.