My Two Cents About Planeshift
by Spike

Well, you've been listening for the past few weeks about what Planeshift is expected to bring. I've refrained from commenting on it for two reasons. Firstly, everyone else is already talking about it, and there's little I can add to the debates seeing as how I mostly agree with what's being said. Secondly, I've only been writing a Magic column for a few weeks, and my primary focus at first has been the people who are coming to Magic from the Pokemon card game. But starting this weekend, when most of us will probably play March T2 for the first time, things will be different for anyone who plays in tournaments, regardless of skill level or experience. As such, I should probably throw my own two cents into the pot right about now.


(Side note: I highly encourage anybody who is relatively new to the game of Magic to play in at least one tournament a week, if possible. Tournament experience is, in my opinion, one of the key factors that help to make anyone a better player. Even if you don't do well at first, the experience gained is invaluable and will serve to increase your skill at a much faster rate than you would see otherwise. End side note.)


First let me discuss of some of the cards that have been talked about in the past month or so, both on an Internet-wide level or within some of the smaller circles of gamers that I belong to. Some of these cards still seem good a month after they were released, some no longer seem viable. We'll see some of both.


Doomsday Specter. I used to think this card was good. Then somebody pointed out that in order to consistently bring it out before turn 4 or 5, you have to play with bad cards. Generally speaking, 1cc and 2cc black and blue creatures are bad cards these days, at least in the sort of deck you'd play the Specter in. So you have turn 5 or 6 Coercion, which is not great against the fast decks. The sort of decks it would be good against will probably just counter it. You'll see some people try to play with this card for a week or two, but in the long run I think Abyssal Specter is just better.


Phyrexian Scuta. This was the other overhyped card back around the time of the prerelease. It's still a great card, in my opinion, but it may have been printed at the wrong time to be used for maximal effectiveness. Trying to beat Fires or any of the other beatdown decks at their own game is a risky proposition for Black right now. Against control, it definitely has its merits, but it seems like it has to come out with a Ritual to do much good. The jury is still out on this one, as far as I'm concerned.


Shivan Wurm. In my opinion, this is the only card in Planeshift to have fully lived up to the hype. It's a monster in a Fires deck, as everybody already knows, and it also works wonders in R/G or R/G/x decks without Fires, such as Red Zone. It's too big to reliably burn off the board, which makes Dark Banishing or Wrath of God effects just about the only way to deal with it. Oh, and all those cards that were being played because they blocked Blastoderm, like Glacial Wall and Evil Eye? They suck now. Build your decks with the Wurm in mind, or lose.


Fleetfoot Panther. Remember how much fun Simian Grunts was? Okay, maybe you don't, but let me assure you that this is just as much, if not more, of a blast. Being able to play this as an instant is much more powerful than it sounds. Summon a surprise blocker, put combat damage on the stack and then save your own creature, sneak it in under counters, or just throw off your opponent's math by summoning it at the end of his turn. Revitalizing Blastoderms and other such creatures is a bonus. Oh, and it's cute, too!


Horned Kavu. The first few times I saw this card, it was in Limited. And I thought it sucked, so I pretty much dismissed it. Bad move on Spike's part, I guess. It may still suck in Limited-- I suck in Limited, too, so don't take my word for it-- but in Constructed, it has the potential to be amazing. Just about any green creature-based deck worth its salt has four Elves and four Birds already, so the gating ability is usually easy to deal with. Second turn 3/4 is pretty good, I hear, especially since you don't disrupt your mana curve at all (you should be able to play the mana critter back out immediately after gating it, assuming you didn't miss a land drop). It's not a Fires card by any means, but Fires is not the only green deck out there.


Terminate. It's good; no question. The question is whether or not it and the other cards in this set are enough to make B/R good. I'm doubtful. When compared to the other Dark Banishing effects, it doesn't really do that much more than the cards that were already available. Sure it kills black creatures, but how many of those were there? The ones that tended to get played (Specters, Wumpus, etc.) were usually well within reach of commonly played burn. The only thing I can see that you might need it for is a kicked Scuta. Okay, it's a good spell, but in and of itself it's not a reason to play these two colors.


Orim's Chant. People say this card is good. I am not going to try to venture an opinion, because I simply do not know enough about the style of deck that this card supports. My only experience with the proposed Turbo-Chant deck has been watching it get rolled by a B/R Invasion Block Constructed deck. This is not, of course, a statistically significant sample. The bottom line is that anything I said about this card would be wrong, so I'm going to keep my hole shut.


Meddling Mage. There are two problems with this card, as far as I can see. First of all, most of the decks that are being played will not be stopped just by naming one card in particular. That's not a huge problem, since most U/W decks have a heavy counterspell component, and the Mage acts as just one more "virtual" counterspell, effectively reducing the work your other control components have to do. The worse problem is that just about anything can remove him, meaning that you have to work to keep him alive. All in all, I don't think this will be huge.


The Battlemages. The green battlemage is the one everyone is talking about, with two extremely good kicker abilities and a color that it fits well into. The others are not so good, it seems. While the red one might be useful in a R/B deck, the others seem either overcosted in terms of abilities or unsuited for the types of decks that seem feasible in their colors. The situation is similar for the Familiars. The white one is the only truly bad one, but the green one will probably be the only one to see any Constructed play as all the others seem unsuited for what the colors in question want to be doing for their mana and card slots.


Anything I missed?


To be honest, I can't see Planeshift forcing a complete transformation of the Type 2 environment. The good decks will still be good, and there's nothing powerful enough to bring any of the previously bad decks up to par. The only thing remaining to see is whether or not any completely new deck will be competitive.


As always, you should take my arguments with a healthy dose of cynicism. One of the unifying characteristics of Internet writers is that they are almost always dead wrong about what a new set will bring. Any writer who is consistently on target when judging the new metagame is probably also banned from Las Vegas for life.


So what am I playing this weekend?


I had planned to continue playing my G/R/b land destruction deck when Planeshift rotated in, with the sole initial change of removing Flowstone Overseers in favor of Tahngarth. That was before the last tournament I played in. At that tournament, I finally realized what I should have known all along: that the deck a killer when it works right, but far too random to consistently win. Weeks of tuning had failed to rectify this. I drove home and had a little talk with my brother, who also plays Magic, about the deck's possible future.


<Spike's Brother> So, how'd the tournament go?


<Spike> If I ever think about playing that deck again, SHOOT ME.


So I needed to make a new deck for this weekend. I also decided that I was tired of trying to make a good, competitive deck, and that I just wanted to screw around and have fun for a while. If I could win a bit while doing it, so much the better, but I was going to stop beating myself up when I lost.


As it so happened, I had been tossing around a couple of ideas for a while prior to this. One was a B/R contraption that worked, among other ways, by endlessly recurring Highway Robbers for the win. The other was a sort of Sligh deck that I'd cooked up awhile back just for kicks. It was made mostly of commons, with a few other cards that I had lying around. It was fun to play. The only problem was that my Fallen Angel was in the B/R deck. I had traded for the Angel a while back and really wanted to get some use out of it (never mind why I traded for the Angel; that's another story altogether.) After a while, it hit me: Splash the Angel into the Sligh deck! Bingo! I was already running some cheap multicolor lands to facilitate the addition of (probably futile) green enchantment removal in the sideboard, so it seemed workable.


Here's the decklist:


4x Kris Mage

4x Flailing Soldier

4x Mogg Toady

4x Chimeric Idol

3x Lava Runner

3x Kavu Aggressor

1x Laccolith Whelp

1x Raging Goblin (Should be another Whelp, probably.)

1x Skizzik (All I have.)

1x Fallen Angel

1x Crypt Angel


4x Shock

4x Rhystic Lightning

2x Hammer of Bogardan

2x Pillage


4x Geothermal Crevice

3x Archaeological Dig

1x Keldon Necropolis

14x Mountain


Should be 60 cards.


The sideboard is currently nonexistent and will probably look something like this:


4x Tranquility

4x Dark Banishing effect (probably Agonizing Demise)

Some other random cards


A few words about some choices that appear highly questionable at first. Flailing Soldier is good when played early. If you go first, you can almost always make it at least 2/2 if you need to. Even if your opponent does get the opportunity to kill it, they will often have to choose between doing so and playing a spell of their own that turn. Later on, it becomes Mage fodder.


The Mage herself is excellent. In playtesting, she shoots down Birds, Elves, and smaller Rebels, forces River Boas to regenerate, and takes out a huge portion of Blue Skies' offensive force just by herself. This deck just loves a 1/1 for one mana with an incredible ability.


Mogg Toady is a card I decided to try when I was first assembling the deck. After a bit of play, I realized just how great it is. A 2/2 for two mana is just about as good as red can hope for in this day in age, and the drawback usually isn't a drawback because you will so rarely have fewer creatures than your opponent during the beginning of the game.


Chimeric Idol gets around color hosing, evades Wrath of God, and is solid at a 3/3 for three mana. The drawback is usually negligible. What more could you ask for?


At any rate, that's what I will be playing as Planeshift rolls in. Note that there are no actual Planeshift cards, although some might find their way in the sideboard. At first glance, Flametongue Kavu seems like a natural, but I'm not sure I want a huge amount of 4-drops in the deck. We shall see. I hope to write a tournament report on this deck's debut performance, so watch out for that. Hopefully by then I'll also have composed a cool name for the deck-- I have a few under consideration already.


Best of luck to everyone this weekend and for the rest of Planeshift's reign!