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Which is Better?  Part 1 - Finkel or Magpie
By John Hornberg

Hello, everybody! Did you miss me?

- Room is quiet, a cricket chirps -

I thought so! Well, I have to apologize to everyone who normally reads my articles. I did get my computer back, and I’ve had it for almost three weeks now, but I’ve had some “issues” as I shall call them. My writing for my schools paper being one of them. The rest are “Mental” health reasons. I simply needed a longer break. My grades were slipping, and I was extremely stressed. My heart just wasn’t into writing, due to a horrible case of writers block, probably brought on by that stress.

I’ve been on the message board, doing my part there. Still, I haven’t been all there. I’ve been kind of, well, not quite all there. I’ve asked stupid questions to other moderators, and over all made myself look kind of dumb. 

It is with that in mind that I apologize to them here. Sorry!

Well, I’m back, and I should be giving you articles on on a weekly basis now. Was I inspired? Well, you can put it this way. Pojo’s Card of the Week idea got me writing again, and I re-hashed his idea for the basis of this article.

Well, why the heck am I stalling....

By now, all of us know what Shadowmage Infiltrator is, and the history behind it: Jon Finkel created a card, and after having his first selection rejecting with a resounding NO, he went back to the drawing board, and created this little gem. As known by many, anything a pro player like Jon Finkel touches that is related to Magic: The Gathering turns to gold. So naturally, the card became an instant success.

People have continued to buy them by the bushel at outrageous prices purely to trade or to try and fit into decks that don’t need them. It has become the current “Must have” card, joining the ranks of Urza’s Rage and Spiritmonger as impossible to get. With all the hype swarming Jon Finkel’s new bombshell, people have seemingly forgotten it’s predecessor, Thieving Magpie. A 1/3 for 2UU with the same card advantage ability and flying instead of fear, it brings up the question of which one is better.

To nearly two months, the Magic Community has factioned over this. Which one is truly better?

Well, I turned to a few people on Pojo.com’s Message Board for their answer.

Here’s what I got:

The Whammy's Respoonse -

Even though in the current format, flying is a lot better than fear, Shadowmage Infiltrator is a much superior card than Thieving Magpie. Shadowmage Infiltrator comes into play a turn earlier, which is very critical in the current format. The Magpie's casting cost is 2UU, and since most control decks are running at least 2 colors nowadays, the Infiltrator is much easier to get into play since he can get under the 3cc counterspells in a lot of cases. My vote goes towards Finkel. 

Matt Brooks' (Birds of Paradise) Response -

Shadowmage Infiltrator is a lot better than Magpie. For one "Finkel" can only be blocked by black or artifact creatures rather than the Magpie only being blocked by creatures with flying. The "fear" ability is a lot better in today's environment simply due to the rising amount of flyers and the low amount of playable black or artifact creatures. Another point to bring up is the fact that Finkel costs only three and Magpie costs 4. Although the Finkel does require two colors to play, Magpie needs two blue making the Shadowmage four versatile in decks. When Finkel does its damage, it DOES NOT require you to draw a card where on the other hand the Magpie DOES make you draw. The power and toughness negate each other. The Shadowmage Infiltrator wins by TKO 3-0. Only way to go is Finkel. Thanks for your time and good luck with your article.

Baron Sengir85's Response -

I like the reasons stated above, but you also have to look at it from a financial stand point. 4 Infiltrator's on E-bay will range from about $55-$65. That is a hell of a lot of money for 4 cards. Unless I was really serious about Magic, for instance, on the pro tour, I'd shell out the money for the Infiltrators. I think until then, I'd spend the $2 on 4 Magpies. Still, I do think that Finkel is better.

Shogun's Response -

I'd say that Thieving Magpie is better than Finkel for a number of reasons. First of all, Magpie is mono blue, making it much more playable in many of todays mono color decks. Also, It has flying, where as Finkel can't be blocked exept by black or artifact creatures, which are very common in T2, with discard and domain decks running wild. Shadowmage is much more expensive finationaly today. And finally, why do I want a card with some ugly magic-champ shmo's face on it?

Firebird365's Response -

I prefer Finkel for a number of reasons:

1) It has a 3CC, better than Magpie's 4.

2) In today's environment, it's not hard to get 1UB to pay the Mage's CC. Magpie's UU is actually sometimes harder to get. (Not usually).

3) Finkel's Picture is better than Magpie's Picture. It balanced out in this poll to be 5-1 in favor of Shadowmage Infiltrator.

So, it seems pretty lop-sided. Still, some of the points they mentioned weigh a lot more on the Magic community than people think. The category that this predominantly effects is price. Yes that minor detail of how much you need to spend to get that card can be huge. Shadowmage Infiltrator price has hit $20 and upwards, which can be a problem for a lot of Magic players. To get four, that means your shelling out $80 dollars and upwards for just four cards. That’s comparable to Thieving Magpie, which has a price range of anywhere from $2 to $5 dollars for a player set of four. Magpie is clearly for the player on the budget, or the player who simply doesn’t want to pay a lot of money for a card like Shadowmage Infiltrator.

Infiltrator 0, Magpie 1.

When it comes to the card advantage part of the card, one word makes all the difference. That three letter word on Shadowmage Infiltrator makes gives him an advantage. Here, I’ll show you the difference...

Shadowmage Infiltrator Text:

When Shadowmage Infiltrator deals combat damage to an opponent, you MAY draw a card.

Thieving Magpie’s Text:

When Thieving Magpie deals combat damage to an opponent, you draw a card. That absence of the word “may” in Thieving Magpie’s text makes all the difference between the two cards. Score one for the Shadowmage Infiltrator. Infiltrator 1, Magpie 1.

The two tie when it comes to methods of evasion. While flying becomes more and more plentiful in the newer sets, fear still has considerable drawbacks, and can be set back by something like a Spiritmonger, or some other black creature. Still, flying is easily stopped, especially with Amugaba, Mahamoti Djinn, and various other nusiances flying around.

They also tie in power and toughness. Both are 1/3, and are extremely hard to kill. Still, Shadowmage Infiltrator one ups Magpie yet again. Shadowmage is black, which gets around Ghastly Demise, Agonizing Demise, and Dark Banishing. Unfortunately, Thieving Magpie doesn’t have that benefit, as he falls victim to spells like those.

Shadowmage 2, Magpie 1.

Now, when everything is weighed together, at least playwise, Shadowmage comes out on top. Heck, he helps many decks curve better, and he does the same thing as Magpie. 

Then we pull out the price weight. Now, this is no ordinary weight. This is like my pewter roll playing dice - so tiny, yet so heavy! This could be enough to tip the scales in favor of Magpie for all of us who aren’t ardent Magic players, or don’t have a couple million dollars to spend on a player set of Infiltrators. Still, for those of you with the money, and for those of you hell-bent on becoming great Magic players, Shadowmage is your choice, and unfortunately, and I talk from experience with proxy’s, that you can accept no substitutes.

The reason for this is because of Thieving Magpie’s double blue casting cost, along with two other mana. Now, with this format, Blue goes with EVERY other color, yet, there is no viable mono blue deck. Unfortunately, Thieving Magpie and multicolored decks don’t mix.

They REALLY don’t mix. Magpie in place of Shadowmage throws your decks mana curve way off, thus forcing you to add more land.

It is with this, that I have to vote for Shadowmage Infiltrator. It is clearly the better card, although Thieving Magpie is still going to see play, citing the Cheap-People Theorem.

In reality, though, I really like Thieving Magpie, and I loath Jon Finkel for doing this to us. Magpie was fine, and it the redundancy of making Shadowmage Infiltrator is stupid, because it is a carbon copy of Thieving Magpie, just rare.

The End

Thank You to ALL who gave me responses. It allowed me to write this article, and to formulate the 3 principle Postulates for this game (The Cheap-People Postulate, Price Postulate, and the Scale Postulate)


John “The Happy Heretic” Hornberg

I can be reached for comment, suggestions, responses, criticsm, etc at promiseland85@hotmail.com . If you’re interested in putting in a response for my next article like this, which is most likely going to be between Mahamoti Djinn and Amugaba, then feel free to send it to me, just be sure to put “Moti vs. Amugaba” in the title.




Copyright 2001 Pojo.com


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