Attention to Detail #34
Feel Unlucky, Punk?
by Jordan Kronick
August 4, 2006
Let's take a trip in the wayback machine,
everybody. And if you don't get that reference, ask your
parents. We're going to take a trip all the way back to the
year 2005. The world was a different place. Everyone still
thought snow-covered lands were awful and “ripple” was just
a variety of potato chip. The information on what Ravnica
would give us was just beginning to appear and everyone was
getting excited. In the midst of all this, the Magic
Invitational was held and, as we all know, the result ended
up being Rakdos Augermage. But there was another winner from
that crowd of player-created cards. One card, as selected by
a vote, would be printed in addition to the winner's card.
This one wouldn't feature a player's likeness on it, but
it's still quite the honor. The result of that vote gave us
Unluckyman's Paradise. Well, a couple weeks ago we found out
what that card was going to become and when we'd be seeing
it. It's in Time Spiral and it's called Gemstone Caverns.
Not to be confused with Gemstone Mine or Hall of Gemstone.
If you haven't seen this information, here's the text of the
card. It's going to take some getting used to.
If Gemstone Caverns is in your opening hand and you're not
playing first, you may begin the game with Gemstone Caverns
in play with a luck counter on it. If you do, remove a card
in your hand from the game.
T: Add 1 to your mana pool. If Gemstone Caverns has a luck
counter on it, instead add one mana of any color to your
It seems really simple at first. It's a bit like a Mox
Diamond, after all. It costs you an extra card, but it
produces any color of mana. Then there's all that rubbish
about putting it into play at the start of the game, but
that can't matter much, can it? Well, yes it can. It matters
a whole lot, in fact. Although the mana fixing power of Mox
Diamond was one of its great facets, the real power was in
acceleration. And the Mox came down a half a turn later than
the Gemstone Caverns can. Everyone's first thought, of
course, is that this accelerates you to 2 mana on turn 1.
What can you do with 2 mana on the first turn? Well you
could play a Vinelasher Kudzu or a Watchwolf. You could play
a signet and increase your acceleration a little bit more.
The options for 2-mana spells that would be strong on turn 1
are nearly limitless, especially when you go beyond the
realm of what is currently in Standard. A look at the
Selecting 10th Edition vote this week shows that Mind Stone
has the potential to come back next summer. That's an
awfully good 2-drop. It even lets you play another 1-drop
right off the bat. And next turn? Next turn you're humming.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. All the great things that
you can do with a Gemstone Caverns on turn 1 are nothing
compared to the great things you can do with Gemstone
Caverns on turn 0. That's right, don't forget that the
Caverns come into play untapped. Our options for 1-mana
instants on turn 0 are somewhat limited in Standard at the
moment. Here's some of the more interesting options:
Darkblast – Kill that Birds of Paradise without screwing up
Shock – As above, but a bit more versatile. With all the
great red cards coming back in 10th, a very fast deck could
reasonably be casting Shock before they ever have a turn.
And then there's... oh, wait. No, there isn't. Standard is,
unfortunately, not the right place for this card to truly
shine on turn zero. The way Wizards has tightened up on the
speed of the game has resulted in a lack of particularly
impressive one-mana cards. Fortunately, we're not limited to
the realm of Standard. Instead of that, let's look at Magic
Online. What can we do on turn zero in the digital realm?
Annul or Force Spike – Want to stop that turn 1 artifact or
that turn 1.. well, anything? Here you go. Force Spike has
never been this powerful before. People used to always have
the option to playing something before you got a land to get
around the spike. Now there's no hope at all.
Mental Note, Opt, Peek, Brainstorm etc – For a few years
there we got a whole lot of 1-mana blue instants that did
something small and drew a card. Those days seem to have
passed, but the cards are still around on Magic Online.
Being able to Brainstorm in response to a first turn Duress
is a pretty impressive move. The Mental Note can propel you
into Dredging on turn 1 and all the others can help smooth
you out a little more, after starting the game with 5 cards
in hand (though one in play).
Stilfle – Here's a fun one. Even stifled a fetchland
activation before? It's good fun. And now you can do it on
turn zero. Fetchlands have never been more useful than they
are now that Ravnica's full set of dual lands are around. A
stifle on a turn 1 fetchland activation with a Gemstone
Caverns in play can be a huge tempo swing. Suddenly you've
got 2 mana to play around with and they've got none. Not bad
for playing second, huh?
So that's a look at turn zero. Turn one is really
elementary. The number of cool things you can do with two
mana is really only limited by your imagination. So, you're
asking, is it worth it? After all, you're ditching a card
from your hand right from the start of the game. That can be
a dangerous situation. Well, yes it is worth it. The key to
remember with Gemstone Caverns is that its special ability
is only going to come into play if you're playing second.
That means that the card you're losing is essentially
replaced by the card you'll draw on your turn. There's the
genius behind Gemstone Caverns. If you lose the coin flip,
it doesn't matter. In many respects, it'll be like you won
the coin flip. You lose the ability to play a permanent or
sorcery on your first turn, but exchange that for the
utility of having a land that taps for any color of mana. In
this supremely multicolored environment, that's a darn fine
It's not all rosy, though. There's a reason that this card
isn't being hailed as the greatest thing since sliced Mana
Drain. It has some flaws that are hard to overcome. The
first of which is that it's legendary. You're not going to
be able to get more than one of these in play from the start
of the game, but that's probably not too big of a concern
after all. You probably don't want to go down to 3 cards in
hand right off the bat, anyway. However, the Legendary
status can still get you into trouble. Let's say you're
playing against someone else who's using Gemstone Caverns in
their deck. They play first and you put your Caverns into
play, removing something from the game. Well, your opponent
is feeling a bit cruel and so their land drop on turn one is
– you guessed it – Gemstone Caverns. It negates your play
and sets you back a card. They've just moved one card up in
the overall card advantage scheme. You'll get to play the
first mana producing land that sticks around on your turn,
but you're already down two cards. You get to draw first,
but even so. It's like playing first but down a card. It's a
dangerous situation, to be sure. And you can bet that a lot
of people will be running Gemstone Caverns in their deck, so
it might not be as rare a circumstance as you might think.
There's a good side to the Legendary status, however. If you
do play a Gemstone Caverns on turn zero, you can remove
another one from your hand. After all, the second one isn't
going to be too terribly useful to you, so it makes a great
card to remove from the game.
But what about the game after turn one? Legendary lands in
constructed decks are nothing new. The assorted legendary
lands from Kamigawa block have all seen play in the past
couple years. The difference is that those were almost
always played as one-ofs in decks. With the exception of
utility lands like Boseiju or possibly Miren and Mikokoro,
there wasn't much reason to run multiples. Gemstone Caverns
definitely wants you to play more than one of it. Otherwise
you're only getting a small chance that it'll ever show up
in your opening hand, and you might as well just be playing
a basic land (or a Quicksand or something). The key here is
in having something to do with those extra Caverns. Well,
Ravnica has given us the perfect answer for that tricky
situation. One of the card drawing spells currenly on the
market is Compulsive Research. This fits Gemstone Caverns
like a glove. You want to be discarding land to it anyway,
and this way you can do it without feeling like you're
really setting yourself back. The Compulsive can also help
recoup a bit of the lost card advantage you suffered from
playing a turn zero Caverns, too. Play something fun on turn
1, play the Compulsive on turn 3 and suddenly you've got a
full hand and a mana advantage. That's a good place to be.
There's one more thing to think about when you talk Gemstone
Caverns. And that's sideboarding. This can be a fun (or not
so fun) game of reading your opponent's intentions. If you
win the first game of a match, do you sideboard in some
Gemstone Caverns? Your opponent is getting the chance to
play first, but will they? For that matter, if you're
playing a deck with Gemstone Caverns in it, do you choose to
play first or draw first? It seems like drawing first must
be the right choice here, as the Caverns will be fairly
useless otherwise. So do you maindeck them? Or do you put
them in the sideboard, leading your opponent to believe that
maybe you're not running any – hoping to catch them offguard
when they play first on the second game. There hasn't been
this much interesting stuff going on before the first turn
in the history of the game. Sorry, Serum Powder. You just
don't cut the mustard.
For such a simple card, this raises a lot of questions. And
clearly, the power is impressive. It won't be long before
type one feels the power of the Gemstone Caverns. Playing an
Ancestral Recall on your opponent's turn 1 during their
upkeep is pretty huge. In a format where the game is often
decided by the first turn, things can always get faster.
Gemstone Caverns is going to be one of the big question
marks of Time Spiral. So, do you feel Unlucky, punk? Well,
Copyrightę 1998-2006 pojo.com
This site is not sponsored, endorsed, or
otherwise affiliated with any of the companies or
products featured on this site.
This is not an Official Site.