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03.03.03 - The Peasant Legions

The Peasant Legions

First, I want to apologize for my temporary absence. Life occasionally blindsides all of us and I just happened to be the chosen victim but itís time to get my feet back under me.  That means I am back to writing regularly and doing the card of the day. However, I very much doubt I will be able to keep up with all the PEZ decks I promised to post in the deck archives. I will do my best to get decks up there but I donít think I am in a position to guarantee all the decks I want to post will be put up.

Okay Ė that is out of the way and it is time to turn our focus over to the new set, Legions. I must say that I had high expectations for the set. After all, a large number of PEZ decks revolve around creatures so what could be better for the format than an all creature set. The answer is a lot. While the recent sets have been great from Limited the high casting costs really hurt these cards for many Constructed formats including PEZ. That doesnít mean that there arenít real gems in here but not as many as I had hoped for. Maybe in the future, WotC will decide the format has slowed enough and present another breakout fast set like they have in the past.

Anyway, while some cards really jumped out at me Ė others really left me puzzled (more than usual) and still others seemed good but fell a little flat. Anyway Ė lets hit some of the themes and then move onto color-by-color analysis. As Honor would say, ďLetís be about it!Ē

Abilities

Provoke is one of the new abilities in Legions and I have to say it is one that I personally really like (and the fact that I thought a similar mechanic should have been released earlier has nothing to do with it). In any creature battle the ability to manipulate combat math is one never to be scorned. The flexibility of this mechanic is amazing and provides a huge range of advantages.

Double-Strike has almost no impact on PEZ. Only one creature has Double Strike and it is an uncommon which means it would have to be amazing to see play. I think this ability in general is decent but not without a larger number of creatures with access to the ability and not for the cost.

Amplify seemed like a good idea at the time but it really seems to fall flat. First of all, the cost of most Amplified creatures is generally prohibitive and the ability gets progressively weaker as the game goes on and your hand is diminished. Your deck also has to be designed around a theme although recent sets make this a much smaller point than in the past. Here, there are some good cards but most arenít worth it.

Morph activated abilities are also a new twist. Here there is not a lot to say since cards need to be taken on an individual basis. Still, these cards are generally weaker than playing the Instants or Sorceries that they imitate since they are, in some ways, more vulnerable and much more expensive. There is some card advantage and occasionally some other bonuses as well, but Iím not sure if I would include these cards in most of my decks.

Themes

Invokers really caught my eye. It was primarily because they were among the few cards with a fairly standard cc:pow/to ratio. In all cases, their abilities are darn expensive for PEZ but the effects are pretty decent and in an affordable body I am not about to dismiss all of these cards in decks designed to take advantage (either because they can delay the opponent until the late game or because they have massive mana acceleration).

The Gemplam family is the opposite of the Invokers. These cards are pretty clearly overcosted, but much larger bodies, with generally well costed cycle activated effects. I think these cards may also see play since they tend to be beefy enough that they can make a difference when played as a creature but mostly because their cantrip abilities are very playable. Again flexibility provides the greatest incentive for these to possibly see play.

Slivers are also reintroduced in this set and I had actually intended to have an entire Sliver article before this review, I still may write one. Compared to their predecessors, these Slivers, overall, are weak and overcosted. They do, however, provide enough extra bodies and abilities so that aggressive two-color Sliver decks are a possibility in PEZ.

Black

In my opinion Black gets, by far, the best of Legions. Lets go to the line by line:

Blood Celebrant is maybe the most interesting card for PEZ, although it does retain the possibility of being a dud. This card, however, is the first glimmer we have of a Bird of Paradise for the format. That means that this card may make multi-color decks a real possibility in PEZ. Iím not sure that I would take it to the extreme and start designing multi-color decks, but this card takes us much closer. Three color decks with this card and Greenís mana searchers are the best bet and it is an intriguing possibility.

 A more traditional card choice for Black is the Embalmed Brawler. I had my doubts about this until I tossed in a few copies to a deck I was fiddling with. This card is huge. There are enough solid Zombies to justify the deck as a theme and with Dark Ritual this is Blackís best early threat, taking the place of Skittering Horror for Zombie builds. As an early drop, through Dark Ritual, he almost always comes out at 4/4 or better, which is enough to bite a bolt. The disadvantage is easily regulated and only a real nuisance against Red and Black. Dropping him at better than 4/4 is not the best move against these decks in most games Ė it is good, however, in games against Green. In games where he doesnít come down early, he still represents a decent drop as 2/2 for 3 is not unheard of.

Even better than Embalmed Brawler is Gempalm Polluter. With a very decent Cycling cost this card can be amazing for mid to late game wins and during a creature stall. Even better, as a creature he can be recurred with cards like Tortured Existence. Also, since the damage is a life loss, it canít be prevented.

It is rare to get an Uncommon pick that can compete with Chainerís Edict and Demonic Tutor. Noxious Ghoul, even with its high cost, is one of those cards. Access to repeated mass removal, which doesnít affect any of your creatures, is an amazing advantage. The fact that he can also swing for 3 doesnít hurt either. The fact that he steals spots from Cabal Coffers, which would help to cast him, means he is not for every deck but he does enable useful mid game Rituals. A judgment call but a potentially useful card.

I almost hesitate to include Skinthinner in the list of best cards but it is certainly solid. With a respectable cc:pow ratio it is playable and the late game advantages of its morph ability make it a better pick than some other 2 cost creatures for Black. Smokespew Invoker has a similar advantage. Iím not looking for these to show up often but I can at least see them being played and wouldnít laugh at someone who did include them.

Vile Deacon is a good nod for Cleric decks even with his high cost. This is mostly because these decks lack aggressiveness and this guy is powerful enough to present a good clock.

Blue

Blue was disappointing but at least the section will be short. I think that until something really new comes down in the Uncommon slot for Blue, probably a powerful enchantment that would have a deck built around it, that there will continue to be very few exciting developments here.

As much as it has drawn derision I feel that Aven Envoy is a playable card for bird decks. This is really only because it is only the second 1 drop bird, which may make it playable with an Aerie. It may also see play in Unstable Mutation type decks. Otherwise, this card is abysmal.

Also for Bird decks, Crookclaw Elder may provide a filler for that elusive 5th uncommon slot. I know that many players prefer Battle Screech but I have always preferred an additional card drawing engine and this really fits the bill. Still, Iím not sure if I would play him but I feel that I should write something about some Blue cards.

Echo Tracer is another mediocre but playable card for Blue. Possibly a card for UG Tempo builds, this card is not hideously overcosted and is a body, even if only a bear.

Green

Greenís problem in this set is the fact that it already has access to superior cards almost across the board.

Gempalm Strider may see play but only because this Gempalm is worth casting as a creature, as we all know bears arenít bad. His Cycle effect is weak compared to the usual Uncommon pick of Overrun but there are some possibilities for decks with Taunting Elf. Not the best a possibility for some builds.

I was surprised that I liked Hundroog as there seems to be little to commend this beast. He is costly and lacks the punch one would want for his cost. On the other side, he is big enough that he can survive as a powerful Blocker or a dangerous attacker to whittle away the opposition. The fact that he can Cycle is what makes him playable, however he still doesnít deserve more than a few slots.

Another iffy card is Krosan Vorine. Once again, I was hesitant to include this guy in my list but I really like Provoke and this guy acts as direct removal with Giant Growth or Invigorate and it can also pick off the annoying 1/1ís. Not to shabby but not an automatic inclusion either.

Timberwatch Elf makes the list for Elf decks, if only because it grants the ability to allow the other elves a chance at survival and a late game pump with Overrun or Taunting Elf.

Two more elves round out the pack. Wirewood Channeler is an overpriced Priest of Titania but it also provides color specific mana which is key for Elf Ball decks. Finally in Elf decks with Overrun, the Wirewood Hivemaster is attractive for 1 or 2 slots as he comes down early and can magnify the next few turns worth of drops.

Red

Just as nothing in Green reached out and said ďPlay meĒ there is very little in Red that is any better than what we already have.

Goblin Grappler has many uses for Sliegh decks and is a very decent 1 drop although nothing compared to Mogg Fanatic. The combat math for these decks is always important and it may allow an extra turn to get a 2/2 or better through. For Sliver decks, Hunter Sliver fills the same role only better since it gives the ability to all Slivers.

Skirk Marauder is definitely worth a look for the 2cc slot in similar decks. With an acceptable cc:pow ratio and a built in Shock ability if Morphed this card could easily see play although it is just short of the aggressiveness I prefer for these types of builds (Morphing is of course slower than any of the instants it would replace). Although, this card is definitely a strong pick.

Lastly, Warbreak Trumpeter screams for action but Iím not sure exactly how. I feel like there has to be a role for him but if so I have yet to make it work. Please let me know if you discover a way to break him.

White

So, while the last 3 colors were all let downs at least White has some real special stuff to offer.

For Cleric decks, Akromaís Devoted may act as an enabler. Almost all Clericís have important tap abilities and this card allows them to attack without losing those advantages and putting their lives at risk. Still this card really strays from the strengths of Cleric decks so it remains, for me, an outside possibility to see play.

Daru Stinger is one card that I am very excited about. Although his high cost lacks synergy with his ability, if you can manipulate a decent sized Amplify he is a game breaker. With a decent pump he becomes both harder to kill and his damage ability becomes much more serious. The ability to deal direct damage is perhaps the greatest strength of running Soldier themed white decks and this card can really shine in that capacity.

Another amazing card is Deftblade Elite. In my book, this is one of the single best 1 drops in the game. As a Soldier, he enables all the other cards like Daru Stinger to act almost as if they were true direct damage. Even without taking advantage of this, the card is both hard to kill, so he makes a great blocker, and he can manipulate combat math in your favor, which is always key to White Weenie builds. 

Lastly, Gempalm Avenger should get consideration in Soldier builds. A decent Cycling cost is grafted to an extremely powerful effect that maximizes the strengths of Soldier decks.

Summation

Legions provides us with new cards to work with even if that is primarily restricted to Black and White Ė the other colors really donít receive anything truly potent. To me the last few sets also seem to show that WotC has been slowing down the format, which only means that future sets will speed it up again. That is an event all PEZ players can look forward to since speed is really the backbone of the format.

Next up, I plan on dealing with White Weenie and probably continuing on with a discussion of the old standby decks that still rule in PEZ.

Jason Chapman Ė chaps_man@hotmail.com


 


 

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