Attention to Detail #7 -
Days Gone By Part
by Jordan Kronick
December 30, 2005
Welcome back to
Attention to Detail. This week I’m bringing you the second
half of my overview of some of the Cards of the Day from
2005 that I didn’t get the chance to review. It’s good fun,
and we all know the format by now. So I won’t spend too much
time on exposition, but rather just get right to the cards.
Erayo, Soratami Ascendant (reviewed May 31st)
I have to say right off that bat that I love Erayo. I’ve
always been a fan of Arcane Laboratory combos, and Erayo
represents the ultimate in Arcane Lab technology. I knew
Erayo was going to end up unused for the most part. He’s
just not the kind of card that shows up in big tournaments.
Even with the Lab, it’s a fragile combo. And with the
Channel cards that were released at the same time, everyone
was given something to do even if they couldn’t cast spells.
Erayo isn’t too good in limited, either. Except maybe as a
1/1 flying legend. Having extra legends can sometimes
matter. Of course, Erayo did get his day in the sun. When
Two-Headed Giant was codified as a format, Erayo stormed (no
pun intended) the scene briefly until it earned the
distinction as the first (and so far only) card banned in
I couldn’t go through all these cards without a word about
the Hand. Ever since Alpha came out, white and black have
had dueling mirrored creatures. Black Knight and White
Knight. Order of the Ebon Hand and Order of Leitbur. Order
of Stromgald and Order of the White Shield. Black seemingly
got the long end of the stick when it came to these
creatures, as they were getting a discount over what a black
creature for two could usually do. The same thing happened
when the Hands of Honor and Cruelty showed up. For the first
time in a long time, however, both side of the coin got some
time in the sun. When Kamigawa Block Constructed ramped up,
there was a quick black deck and a quick white deck, and
both utilized the Hand. How does Hand of Honor stack up
against other creatures for WW? Honestly, not so well. The
pump knights clearly have the edge, and White and Silver
Knight each have First Strike, which is arguably more useful
than Bushido. Still, there’s nothing wrong with the Hand.
The Impostor represents the newest level of Cloning
technology. Ever since Alpha, we’ve had Clone, Vesuvan
Doppleganger and then all the copies of copiers throughout
the years. While Clone seemingly holds the title for best
static copy, it’s been a long time since we had a really
decent changeable copier. Past shapeshifters to attempt this
have either been awful (Escaped Shapeshifter or Shifty
Doppleganger) or way, way too good (Morphling or Volrath’s
Shapeshifter). Sakashima sits somewhere between these two
extremes. While I don’t think we’ll be seeing the Impostor
dominating extended any time soon, he’s proven to be tricky
enough for some fun. And he does something new – he copies
legendary creatures. Since Sakashima keeps his own name, he
can let you get extra copies of your legends. That’s always
fun, isn’t it?
Enough with the new cards. Let’s talk real power. Land Tax
seems simple and harmless to a lot of new players. It seemed
that way to most people when it first showed up in Legends
boosters, way back in the early 90’s. And then someone,
somewhere, realized that getting 3 extra cards every turn
for a one-time commitment of one white mana is downright
ridiculous. It sounds pretty crazy when you say it that way.
Land Tax has been combined with just about every conceivable
strategy, and almost always produces strong results. Whether
it’s being used for the intended role of stripping land out
of your deck or used in combination with Scroll Rack to
generate ridiculous amounts of non-land cards flowing to
your hand, Land Tax is among the best of the best. I don’t
think they quite knew what they were printing when it went
into 4th edition.
Once upon a very long time ago, Bazaar of Baghdad was a
“bad” card. It’s value was mostly in nostalgia. It does
nothing but generate card disadvantage, after all. Then,
similar to Land Tax (and often in conjunction with it),
people realized what it was. Bazaar draws two cards for no
mana. Sure, the price is hefty, but sometimes that doesn’t
matter. Whether you’re discarding three lands that you
pulled with Land Tax or three Madness cards or big fat
reanimation targets, Bazaar has been proven to be broken
beyond reason. If this card has a really big flaw, it is not
the discard but rather the fact that it doesn’t tap for
mana. Library of Alexandria produced lots of card advantage
(once again, a favorite friend of Land Tax – is there
anything Tax isn’t good with?) but it also provided a point
of colorless if you needed it. That doesn’t mean Bazaar
isn’t incredible. I want to make a special note here that
the Limited rating I’m giving the Bazaar isn’t just
speculation. I’ve had the chance to play Arabian Nights
limited, so this is from experience.
‘taal has long been a player favorite, both for casual and
constructed. Combining a Terror with a 2/1 First Striker is
powerful in itself, and the cost can’t be beat. Back in
Mirage-era play, Nekrataal was huge. And now it’s huge
again. It showed up in both 8th and 9th edition, and has
proven just as popular now as it ever was. My favorite thing
about the resurgence of Nekrataal is his new creature type.
First there’s the Human part. We never really were sure
whether or not it was human, but I guess so. And then
there’s the Assassin part. Nekrataal makes Assassin tribal
(a favorite of mine) way more effective. Simple, elegant and
I have to start this one with a complaint. My favorite part
of Karplusan Yeti was the beautiful Ice Age art by Quinton
Hoover. His beautiful smooth tones and sharp lines have
always been favorites of mine. And the Yeti is particularly
hilarious. The focus of the art is the two characters in the
foreground. It takes a moment to notice the Yeti sneaking up
behind them and crunching one of their friends. Because the
art is so pretty, this card always came up high in my list
of cool old cards. But the 9th edition art just leaves
something to be desired. It’s very literal. There’s the
yeti. Yep, he’s just standing there looking ugly. Ah well.
When it comes to power, the Yeti actually does have some
significant numbers. He wasn’t the first card to utilize
this kind of ability (or the best – that would be Contested
Cliffs). But creatures that can smack other creatures for at
least 3 points every turn are real strong in limited. Yeti
can control the swarms of little guys very well and take out
problem creatures like Master Decoy. He gets an A for
Ah, Hyppie. I imagine that somewhere in the world, a pack of
Alpha was opened and someone found both a Dark Ritual and a
Hypnotic Specter together. And that person gets the title of
first person to recognize how powerful this could be on the
first turn. Back when the number of cards that could quickly
deal with this were limited to Swords to Plowshares and
Lightning Bolt, Hyppie was a dominating force. Then he
disappeared for years. With 9th edition, a whole new crop of
players get to dream of the first-turn Hyppie (or they
would, if they knew what a Dark Ritual was). He’s shown up
in tournament decks already and the price on Magic Online is
absolutely out of control. The new art puts Hyppie in line
with the other specters, and looks pretty sweet to boot. I
must say I don’t like that we didn’t get the old flavor text
back, but I guess you can’t win ‘em all.
Counsel represents something of a sore spot for me. I think
R&D has gone a bit too far when it comes to toning down
blue’s instant-speed card draw. Counsel entered 9th edition
as a replacement for Inspiration. Was Inspirating really
that powerful? Did it really need to get the axe? I don’t
think so. Sure, this way we get a cheaper spell, but blue
mages like to keep their options open and the lack of that
makes Counsel just a little too junky. When, for one more
blue mana, we get Concentrate, Counsel just seems
outclassed. I didn’t play Counsel in my Kamigawa draft
decks, and I don’t play it in my 9th edition decks either.
Consider it a form of protest.
For years, Berserk was my favorite Magic card. Those years
started when I opened my first one about a week after I
started playing and ended when I discovered the mind-bending
sillyness that is Chains of Mephistopheles. Back before the
Chains warped my brain, I was a huge fan of incredible
aggressive red/green decks. Ball Lightning, Blood Lust,
Berserk. Six mana for a 20/1 hasted trampler. I came up with
a million ways to make it happen on turn two. Orcish
Lumberjack was the last piece to that puzzle, for sure. For
years, Berserk remained restricted in Type 1. It was a
holdover from a time when green decks with big creatures
actually had a chance in the format. Then they unrestricted
it and everyone drew a sharp breath. But nothing happened.
Berserk is a product of a bygone era. Sure, it’s still way
too powerful by today’s standards. But compared to the
things that dominate its legal formats, it just can’t
Another old favorite of mine. It was banned for years due to
its unusual effect. Then they unbanned it in Vintage. And I
jumped on that opportunity. I built a strong version of my
Chains of Mephistopheles deck, notorious for supplying long
games. Then I loaded up the sideboard with four copies of
Shahrazad and four Burning Wishes. I played a couple matches
only in the one tournament where I tried this deck that this
came into play, but it was a blast. The tournament was using
a 50-minute round structure, perfect for my deck. I would
spend half an hour at least winning my first game. Then I
would board in the Shahrazad engine. I created so many
sub-games that there was no way for my opponent to win the
one game that mattered. I got three 1-0 wins in that
tournament. Then I sold my Shahrazads because I knew that I
could never use them again and avoid getting beaten up in an
Constructed Rating – 1.0 (or 4.0 if you like getting dirty
looks from your opponent when you win on a technicality)
Casual Rating – 5.0
Limited Rating – 1.0
Blood Clock (reviewed August 15th)
Here we are, back in the modern era. Blood Clock is a
functional reprint of an old favorite of mine, Umbilicus.
It’s got a lot of little things going on with it that makes
it lots of fun. It lets you reuse your comes-into-play
effects. It (probably) slows down your opponent. And when it
doesn’t, it drains their life. Umbilicus was a big friend to
Sarcomancy, back in the day. We don’t have any 1-mana Zombie
generators these days, but there’s some fun choices anyhow.
Blood Clock isn’t going to break any records on the Pro
Tour, but it’s a fun favorite for casual, and I’m glad a new
crew of players get a chance to try it.
I’ve always liked the Pet. I’ve never had much use for it,
but I think that might change. Pet has a couple things going
for it. First of all, and most simply, it provides a decent
blocker in the early game. That’s something blue can often
really make use of. Secondly, it’s a decent sized creature
that comes into play repeatedly. There’s a number of ways to
take advantage of this. Thirdly, it plays nice with
aggressive decks. Blue isn’t usually known for aggressive
strategies, and likes to keep lots of cards in hand. But if
you can keep those cards on the table, instead… well, then
the Imaginary Pet becomes very, very real. Among the 4/4s
for 2 mana that exist, this is not too bad.
Remember that big Berserk-powered red green deck I was
talking about earlier? Stormbind was the backup plan. A
cheap reusable source of direct damage. Just what the doctor
ordered. If only we’d had madness cards back then, I coulda
been a contender! Stormbind is also really cool looking.
It’s not too often that a red/green card gets some cool
wintery looking art (even in the Ice Age). Stormbind isn’t
too effective in tournament play anymore. It’s far too slow
and outclassed by later cards that used the same theory.
Still, I keep one in my 5-color deck. It’s just too cool not
The first Ravnica card to show up in this pair of articles.
I want to make mention of it because I think my opinion has
shifted. Back in September I was of the opinion that the
Boros Legion was going to be outclassed in Ravnica drafting.
I’ve had my change of heart. I’ve seen the way. Boros
Guildmage is now a very high pick for me. First strike is a
huge asset and even the haste ability matters. The hybrid
mana cost makes it easy to cast, and even splashes into non-Boros
decks. That’s going to matter even more once Guildpact comes
out. All three of the Guildpact guilds (the Gruul, the
Orzhov and the Izzet) can make use of Boros Guildmage. Sure,
it’s a little harder to cast, but each will find a use for
it, I guarantee.
Back when I first saw this card, I was ecstatic. I thought
that finally milling was going to return to the fold as a
reasonable constructed archetype. I was wrong. The Dimir
have proven valuable, but for aggressive creature strategies
of all things. I’ve only owned one or two Glimpses. Both
were drafted very high, as I firmly believe that Dimir
Milling is still the best draft archetype out there for RRR.
However, I sold them quickly. I’m glad that Glimpse the
Unthinkable exists. But it’s just not going to get its
Here’s another one that people thought would really take
off. And it hasn’t. Plague Boiler turned out to be just what
it advertises. It’s a slightly uncontrollable time bomb.
Sure, it can clear the board... but can it do it when you
want it to? The boiler is still a huge draft card, where any
board sweeper is in high demand. And it’s certainly useful
as a cheap sweeper for people who can’t afford the more
expensive options in their Prismatic decks. Like Glimpse
before it, I’m glad it exists.
Who’d have thought this would turn out to be a
format-defining card? For those of you who don’t know what
I’m babbling about, I’m talking RRR drafting. Glare of
Subdual is generally regarded as the best limited card in
the set. And the Guildmage is certainly the best uncommon.
It not only combines with the above-mentioned Glare, but
provides a game winning scenario all on its own. It splashes
into both Boros and Golgari decks with strong results. When
Guildpact comes out, it goes into the Gruul and Orzhov with
equally predictable results. Selesnya Guildmage is going to
remain a top pick for the entirety of Ravnica block limited.
I love the Kudzu! I was a huge fan of Quirion Dryad, back in
Planeshift. The Kudzu is a card in the same vein. Maybe not
quite as ridiculous, but certainly just as neat. It’s cheap
and it gets progressively larger. That’s the kind of card
that green has always had, but usually hasn’t had a use for.
Kudzu actually shows that this kind of slow-building card
can really matter. I fully expect at least two different
Ravnica Block Constructed decks will be sporting the Plant
Attack, in the coming year.
They can’t all be winners. Blood Funnel is awful. Sometimes
it’s a good cleanser for the mind to look at something that
just stinks. And I’ve looked at this card a lot. It’s such a
seemingly powerful effect. Cost reducers have been broken
over and over again in Magic’s history. But not the Funnel.
Some day, someone is going to put the ‘Fun’ back in Funnel,
but it won’t be today.
I want to come up with a personal title for Darkblast. It’s
not my favorite Dredge card (that’s Life from the Loam).
It’s not my favorite Ravnica removal card (that’s Last
Gasp). It’s not my favorite black card from Ravnica (that’s
Dark Confidant). But I really like it. I really do.
Darkblast has worked its way into my RBC Dimir deck as an
answer to little problem guys. It’s worked its way into my
BU control deck for Standard as a way of controlling WW
decks and killing Dark Confidants. I think Darkblast is one
of those blue collar cards that just does it’s job and does
it well. Here’s to you, Darkblast.
Firemane Angel (reviewed November 4th – Pojo’s 1000th card
of the day)
I had to get in on the 1000th review, even if it did happen
the week before I arrived to the writing pool. So what can I
say about Firemane? It’s great. It’s seeing lots of play in
block and it’s a huge draft bomb. It gets a lot of casual
play and nobody seems to think it’s overpowered. It’s
classy. It looks good. It’s fun. It’s everything you could
want in an angel. Kind of a dull note to end on, I suppose.
But it is what it is.