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Attention to Detail #33
Perfect Ten
by Jordan Kronick
August 4, 2006

It's been a few weeks since I last mentioned the goings on with the Making 10th Edition votes and what our next Core Set is going to shape up to be. Today I thought I'd take some time to go over the changes we've seen so far and those yet to come. 9th Edition has shaped the Standard format for the duration of it's time with us. The inclusion of the Urza's Lands, Wildfire and full array of painlands have all given steam to some decks which would otherwise never have existed. 10th Edition will do the same thing. Long gone are the days when the contents of the core set were just a sideshow next to the powerful cards of the expansions. They're giving us a reason to crack white-bordered packs these days. Let's see what's on the menu.

When I last mentioned the Selecting 10th Edition vote, we were headed into Week 3 with a decision between green fatties. Anyone who's been following the voting knows that Troll Ascetic won out over Ravenous Baloth and Erhnam Djinn. Many agree that this is one of the most potentous votes so far. There hasn't been a Standard format in recent memory where a quality green creature – or the lack of one - didn't make a difference, one way or another.. Although I encouraged people to vote for nostalgia on this one and bring in the Djinn, the people chose Troll Ascetic by a hefty margin. I'm not particularly surprised. Ravenous Baloth is made somewhat redudant by the presence of Loxodon Hierarch. And the Ascetic never truly got time to shine because of the presence of Affinity and Tooth and Nail. Compare this to the Baloth who was stomping all over the place for a full two years while Onslaught block was a part of Standard. I certainly understand the vote, but what ramifications does it have? Well, I think that it simply adds fuel to a fire that has slowly been burning with Moldervine Cloak. This one simple aura has proven that making creatures bigger is not entirely the domain of limited and casual games. With Silhana Ledgewalker, the cloak found a happy target. Troll Ascetic plays the same game. A cloak turns him into a huge 6/5 regenerating beater that your opponent can't stop with anything short of the Wrath of God. Is this combination going to propel the Ascetic into a position of power? I don't think it has to. Troll Ascetic is an excellent building block. Any creature-enhancing card (Graft creatures, perhaps?) loves an already-enchanced body to put it on. The Ascetic provides this in spades. It greatly prevents two-for-ones (the bane of all auras) with it's untargetability and regeneration. And it has a size and cost that are hard to beat. While I can't say for sure what Time Spiral is going to add to this mixture, there's definite potential for the Troll to take a strong point position.

The next big card vote came down between Loxodon Warhammer and Empyrial Plate. My vote went for the Plate, but once again I was in the minority. The Warhammer won by a hefty 62% to 37% margin. What is it about that elephant hammer that people like so much? Trample, spirit link and a big power boost are all great things. I think, however, that the vote was weighted down by people who never got to experience the awesome power of Empyrial Armor. The plate costs only slightly more than the aura it mimicks, but in exchange you get to reuse it if they kill the creature. Loxodon Warhammer is never going to make it in Standard, but the Plate had a shot. Do people really enjoy its presence in draft that much? All I seem to hear are complaints about people who open Warhammers and win drafts without thinking about it. This is just going to have to be one of those votes that I don't understand. I know what the consequences will be – minimal – but the reasoning escapes me.

The Hammer and the Plate are two big splashy effects that can turn the tide of a game. The next vote, from Week 5, was about the smaller cogs of the big machine. Kird Ape pitted against Mogg Fanatic. Two of the best 1-drops in the history of Magic and we're forced to choose between them. 10th Edition is already shaping up to be a dream for red players, with Incinerate's return to the fold. This week, the players chose to bring the burn up another notch by nominating the Fanatic. Is this little goblin really that good? Some people never got a chance to see the Mogg in action, and it's a big hard to tell just how strong this card is. After all, Bile Urchin and Frostling were printed only slightly over a year ago and neither of them turned into a powerhouse worthy of a vote. The answer, of course, is in the combination. Choices are what make Magic a great game. And the more choices (cards, turns, permanents) you have, the more games you're likely to win. Mogg Fanatic could take down a 2-toughness creature. It could take down a pair of 1 toughness creatures. It could shoot an important creature at an important moment or it could just throw itself at your opponent's head for the point after touchdown. The versatility of 1 point of damage wherever you want it is a special thing. But this is so much more than just the damage. Mogg Fanatic is a one-drop. And it's not one that your opponent wants to trade for. That creatures situations where the Mogg can get in a couple points of damage before it's neutralized. Then it can create an unfavorable trade or simply chump block for you. That's a lot of versatility for one red mana. On the other hand, we've got Kird Ape. For the past year, the Ape has had it's time to shine in Standard. The existence of Stomping Ground has given us the return of the turn-1 2/3. And has it mattered? Yes and no. Yes, the Kird Ape is a powerful creature like it's always been. However, it's power has been somewhat eclipsed. While red/green loves the 2/3 for one, white/green has been taught a new trick called the 3/3 for 2. Watchwolf makes Kird Ape look positively silly. Any hope of a quick beating while your oppnent stutters on 2-toughness creatures is lost when the Watchwolf drops – half the time before the Ape ever got to attack. Kird Ape is also pigeonholed into reg/green. It simply has no use anywhere else. And while that combination will always been very popular, it is by no means always the most powerful. The Mogg Fanatic was the better choice here. Both in terms of power and in terms of being the safe bet. Stomping Grounds isn't going to be around forever.

After a week of voting on the small stuff, we were once again given a vote on two big flashy rares. This time it was the player-created vote between Forgotten Ancient and Crucible of Worlds. Neither of these cards really got a chance to see Standard play during their time. The Ancient showed promise, but the presence of Astral Slide in the format neutralized it to a large extent. The Crucible was just simply never meant for the competitive side of things – at least not without Strip Mine or Wasteland around. In a close vote, the people chose the Crucible. It didn't bother me too much, though I did pick the Ancient to win. All in all, I'd be more happy to give Crucible a shot at long term effect. In many ways I also think it represents a more successful attempt at a player-created card. You Make the Card was a learning process, after all. So what does the Crucible bring to the table that it didn't bring a couple of years ago? In a word, Dredge. I strongly believe that Dredge-based decks are going to be right at the top of the Standard metagame in the next year. The presence of Gemstone Caverns (which allows for Dredge into and casting of Life From the Loam on turn 1) seems to support this claim. The Crucible might be a bit slow, but it replaces the utility of cycling lands in many ways. Of course, the rumor is that cycling could be a part of Time Spiral, so it may turn out to be outdated yet again. The only other use for it these days seems to be reusing Mouth of Ronom. Don't count on that to burn up the PTQ circuit.

The second vote that week was between two blue powerhouses – Time Stop and Spelljack. I voted firmly for Spelljack, as I've always loved the card. It was a huge game-turning card which makes Comandeer look pretty silly. The 6-mana cost was high but not unreasonable. However, it was a product of Judgement – a set which was released into an environment still swimming with Counterspell, Undermine, Absorb and Circular Logic. A 6-cost counterspell was simply unreasonable back then. Nowadays, this may be less true. 6 is still a large number, but the effects have gotten larger as well. There's very few cards worth Spelljacking in a Psychatog deck, but Heartbeat decks are a whole different thing, Of course, because I'm always on the losing side it seems, Time Stop got picked over Spelljack. Time Stop is, in many ways, the more powerful card. It has a slightly easier casting cost and is one of those unique cards. It can do things which no other spell can. It can simultaneously stop spells, combat damage, abilities and even uncounterable things from happening. Like lumber, it has a million uses. I don't think the players will be unhappy with Time Stop in standard, though I don't think it's ever going to attain a huge position in Standard. Voidslime does almost everything Time Stop does at half the cost. It's not exactly a Time Walk, but it gets most of the jobs done. I'll be happy if I'm proven wrong and the format is one where Time Stop matters, but I wouldn't count on it.

Card Vote #8 was the big Dragon run-off. The choices were between Brimstone Dragon, Clockwork Dragon, Crimson Hellkite, Dragon Mage, Hunted Dragon, Rathi Dragon, Shivan Hellkite, Two-Headed Dragon, Tek, Thunder Dragon and Volcanic Dragon. I voted for the Thunder Dragon mostly because I'd never seen the darn thing before. In the end the Shivan Hellkite won. Does it matter? No, it probably doesn't. The only card on that list with a ghost of a chance of making a dent in Standard was Rathi Dragon. The Rathi had it's chance in 9th edition and didn't step up to the plate unfortunately. For that, it deserves to be benched. When it comes down to it though, each of these cards is just a big flying creature to open in draft and the question of which to put in 10th is really a question of which do you want in draft. That being said, the players probably made the right choice.

The ninth (and current) card vote is between Nantuko Husk (scourge of the Standard scene at the moment) and Fallen Angel – one of the coolest black creatures of all time. What did I vote for? Well, the vote's still happening but I don't mind saying I voted for the Angel. The Husk never really struck me right as a fit for the core set. It's an extremely swingy card and also one that had to be moved up in rarity for inclusion in the core set. Fallen Angel can be swingy too, but it's rare and rares deserve to be swingy. I have one caveat to my voting, however. I'm voting this way because I hope that perhaps we'll finally get the old Legends-era Fallen Angel artwork back. If it gets voted in and we're stuck with one of the more recent 7th or 8th edition arts for it, I'll be disappointed. The reason that Fallen Angel was so cool is that it was flavorful. A black angel should be. The more recent art for the card struck me as somehow incorrect. In neither picture did the angel look particularly “Fallen”. And yet in Anson Maddock's original piece, you see a creature of despair which is most definitely fallen. Incidentaly, if you go to look at the art to see what I mean, make sure you look at the Legends verson of Maddock's art rather than the later versions. The colors were meant to be more subdued, I think, and the piece just looks better the way it did in 1994.

That's it for the card votes. Aside from those, there's been a lot of art voting and land voting. And I have to say that with very few exceptions, the players have made the right choice on each of those. They may have a bit of trouble knowing what the best card it, but they can sure pick the prettiest. On that note, I'll leave you for the week. If you haven't been voting in these selections, I urge you to do so. It's a way of making Magic what you want it to be. Whether you're voting for cards because they look cool or because you want to dominate Standard with them for a couple years, make your voice heard.


 


 

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