Monday, July 6, 2009

Grim Tidings #6: The Top Ten from M-10 for 5-Color

(Contributed by John Kozlowski)

Its that wonderful time again when every Magic author writes their obligatory review of the upcoming expansion set. I’m no different, but rather than expound upon why the majority of the crappy rares aren’t going to be included in your deck, I’ll just do a Top Ten list of the good cards that might make an impact on 5-Color.

5-color Magic is a format that requires you to build a deck of at least 250 cards, with a minimum of 20 cards from each color. I encourage everyone to go to the actual link, but basically All cards are legal, except for the Unglued/Unhinged expansions, and the is a special Banned/Restricted list specific to this format. Highlander is optional, but extremely fun.

Its obvious that there are a lot of great cards in M-10 (such as Silence, Elvish Archdruid, and Goblin Cheiftain) that are going to make an impact on Standard. I won’t even mention them other than this paragraph. Isochron Scepter is restricted, and the nature of a 250 card deck makes tribal decks very difficult to consistently work amongst all five colors. Besides, everyone else will talk about them, so why should I waste my time?

I’m also going to exclude all of the reprints, because they were already available ito us n the 5-color card pool, and they are nothing new. Instead, I’ll only talk about new cards that are particularly relevant to this format. Let’s get started!

#10 - Magma Phoenix - 3RR
Creature - Phoenix (Rare)
Flying. When Magma Phoenix is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, it deals 3 damage to each creature and each player. 3RR: Return Magma Phoenix from your graveyard to your hand. 3/3.

I would feel bad if I wrote a 5-color article and didn’t mention at least one card from each of the colors. The flavor problem with Red is that it is so impulsive and chaotic that the cards tend to be too much for a 5-color deck to handle. As a result, Red is often minimized in 5-color, because there is so much other better stuff available in the other four colors. Nonetheless, I chose Magma Phoenix as the #10 card just to get Red in the countdown. I admit its really not that great, but it does have built-in recursion AND a board sweeping effect for control, bit of which are useful in 5-color games. Plus it’s a Phoenix, a cool creature type I’ve always thought was representative of Red.

#9 - Gorgon Flail – 2
Artifact - Equipment (Uncommon)
Equipped creature gets +1/+1 and has deathtouch. Equip 2.

As mentioned a few weeks ago, I think Deathtouch might become the next “super-ability” for its unique ability to circumvent the new ordered blocking rule in M-10. The Gorgon Flail might not be better than Quietus Spike, but it is cheaper, and provides another way to exploit the rules revisions. It may prove itself worthwhile over time.

#8 - Lurking Predators - 4GG
Enchantment (Rare)
Whenever an opponent casts a spell, reveal the top card of your library. If it's a creature card, put it onto the battlefield. Otherwise, you may put that card on the bottom of your library.

This card seems pretty interesting. I suppose I tend to play my 5-Color decks in multiplayer games more often than not though, so Lurking predators is probably better in my eyes than it actually is. With that in mind though, the ability to “cheat” big creatures into play for free might put this card in the same ranks as other similar enchantments, such as Wild Pair. Anytime you can get something for nothing, it’s worthwhile to consider.

#7 - Harm's Way – W
Instant (Uncommon)
The next 2 damage that a source of your choice would deal to you or a permanent you control this turn is dealt to target creature or player instead.

White Shock! Harm’s Way though is different than Shock though, because it has the potential to produce some clever form of card advantage when you use it. Cast it in response to blockers, redirect 2 damage to the attacker. If your opponent casts Lightning Bolt on your Scuttlemutt, redirect 2/3 of it back to his Wayfarer. There are many obvious uses for this card. What makes it better is that you can target a player with the redirection just in case there isn’t a valid creature target in play.

#6.1 through 6.5 - Drowned Catacomb, et al.
Land (Rare)
Drowned Catacomb enters the battlefield tapped unless you control a Island or Swamp. TAP: Add U or B to your mana pool.

I’ll include the entire cycle of M-10 dual lands in this slot since they are all essentially the same. When analyzing new cards in the 5-color, you must compare it to all other existing cards in the history of the game, which is sets a pretty high standard to match up to. Obviously the M-10 lands aren’t as good as the original Beta dual lands, nor are they as good as the Shock lands from Ravnica block. Are they better than the Shandowmoor block cycle of Hybrid-lands? I don’t think so, but they might be next in line.

The problem in 5-Color is that in your typical 90 land manabase, you have so many non-basics which dilute your chances of playing the M-10 lands untapped. Compile that with the need to have access to all five colors, and your chances of having one of your seven Islands in play on Turn 1 when you want to play your Drowned Catacombs on Turn 2 are less.

The M-10 lands are certainly respectable, but you need to consider how many of each corresponding basic land are in your deck to determine if they would be any better than Salt Marsh cycle the from Invasion.

#5 - Planar Cleansing - 3WWW
Sorcery (Rare)
Destroy all nonland permanents.

Anytime a new set comes out, I always look for the next incarnation of Wrath of God. There always seems to be a creature sweeper in some form or another, and M-10 is no different. Planar Cleansing is actually more similar to Akroma’s Vengeance than Wrath, but the purpose is the same. It will probably see some play, but the triple WWW in the casting cost might prevent it from being used in non-white heavy decks.

#4 - Baneslayer Angel - 3WW
Creature - Angel (Mythic Rare)
Flying, first strike, lifelink, protection from Demons and from Dragons. 5/5.

The power curve seems to continually get better and better. When the original Beta set came out, 3WW would get you a 4/4 flying, vigilance, angel. Now for the exact same cost you get a 5/5 with five abilities! What a difference 15 years makes. Granted the two protection abilities are pretty narrow, but flying, first strike & lifelink are top notch. I expect this versatile beatstick to be seen in many 5-color deck for years to come. Nice artwork too, I can't wait to see it foil!

#3 - Sphinx Ambassador - 5UU
Creature - Sphinx (Mythic Rare)
Flying. Whenever Sphinx Ambassador deals combat damage to a player, search that player’s library for a card, then that player names a card. If you searched for a creature card that isn’t the named card, you may put it onto the battlefield under your control. Then that player shuffles his or her library. 5/5.

Wow! What an original idea! I like it! (I’d rank it higher if it didn’t cost seven mana.) Regardless, I really like its ability, because in 5-color, you really cant predict what you are stealing because you will have so many choices to choose from. I don’t recommend getting Darksteel Colossus the first time, every time, though. You’ll have to play some mind games with your opponent first to throw him off-guard. Perhaps choose some utility first, like Shirekmaw. Then confuse him with random jank like Guardian of the Guildpact. Then go for the Darksteel Colossus! Keep it interesting, and you’ll have him guessing incorrectly all game. What fun!

#2 - Acidic Slime - 3GG
Creature - Ooze (Uncommon)
Deathtouch. When Acidic Slime enters the battlefield, destroy target artifact, enchantment, or land. 2/2.

Creeping Mold reborn! This is a pretty potent card, and well deserving of my #2 slot. It provides an option of a disenchant effect or land destruction, which is actually pretty useful in 5-Color when you are trying to get past a Maze of Ith or Academy Ruins. It has a Deathtouch ability, which I feel is the best new ability in M-10. Plus since its only 2/2, it is recursive with Reveillark. I admit it’s a little pricy at 3GG, but overall the abilities should make up for the cost. In this case, you do get what you pay for.

#1 - Cemetery Reaper - 1BB
Creature - Zombie (Rare)
Other Zombie creatures you control get +1/+1. 2B, TAP: Exile target creature card from a graveyard. Put a 2/2 black Zombie creature token onto the battlefield. 2/2.

I said before tribal decks are pretty tough to play in 5-color, mostly because most tribes don’t have representative creatures in all five colors. Cemetery Reaper is no different. Other than a few multicolor zombies, you’ll have a hard time finding enough good zombies outside of Black. So why is this card #1 then? The answer: Versatility.

Cemetery Reaper seriously disrupts graveyard manipulation. In response to Dredge, or Reveillark, or Eternal Witness, or Recurring Nightmare, you can repeatably target and remove problem cards before they are regrown. Similar to Nezumi Graverobber, this ability is a very useful tool in 5-color, where the graveyard is frequently exploited.

Secondly, it makes Zombies. Not only is useful when you need to chump block a few turns until you top deck an answer, it makes creatures that over time that will attack and kill you opponent. Note the tokens are Zombies, so they benefit from the Reaper's first ability actually making them 3/3!

Cemetery Reaper combines elements of Control, Defense, Offense, and Card Advantage into a neat efficient package, making it very attractive for 5-Color decks. Not bad for three mana. I think I will find a place for this “gem” in my First Reminder deck very, very soon.

(Then again, I suck and my deck is junk.)

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