A Look At Planeshift

      Welcome back everyone!  Now that Planeshift has been out a little
 while, we've had a couple weeks to look over the Planeshift set, do a
 playing, and examine the cards in more detail.

      What I'm going to do this week is provide some comments on cards I
 think are decent, or at least have potential.  As is my style, I tend to
 stay away from the obvious, and go for some of the less popular cards, so
 you won't see me sqwaking about how good or bad Shivan Wurm is, instead, I
 may try to come up with a use for Meteor Crater.  Ok, maybe not.  I'll also
 harp on a couple of overrated cards, as every set has their share.

      On to the cards!

      Orim's Chant
      Kicker W (You may pay an additional W as you play this spell.) Target
 player can't play spells this turn. If you paid the kicker cost, creatures
 can't attack this turn.
      So I say that I'm not going to state the obvious and then I bring up
 this relatively hot rare.  The reason I mention it is because people I talk
 to seem to know this is a good card, but they don't know what to do with it
 exactly.  To me, it is obvious.  There's a small number of mono-white
 control decks running around that feature Howling Mines, Wrath of God,
 Disenchant and others.  Orim's Chant seems to be a natural for this deck,
 the style of the old Turbo-Abeyance decks.  The four Chants aren't quite
 enough on their own, though.  That's where blue comes in, namely, the card
 Recall.  You simply use Chants early, drop Mines, Recall the Chants, and so
 on and so forth.  Your kill method would probably be best in the form of a
 Millstone or two.  They're cheap to cast and just one activation will win
 the game for you.  I'd build the deck with all white producing sources of
 mana, making use of Adarkar Wastes and Coastal Tower for the blue mana you
 need.  While you won't need blue mana right away, you will need tons of
 white mana immediately.

      The Familiars.  For those of you who aren't aware, the Familiars are a
 cycle of five creatures that each cost two mana to cast and reduce the
 casting cost of allied spells by one mana each.  The Stormscape Familiar,
 the blue one, reduces the cost of black and white spells by one.
      These guys have potential, but I'm not sure if they're worth it.
 Tempest had the Medallions, which were similar, and the only one that saw
 play was the blue one in a mono-blue deck.  How good is it to be casting a
 small creature second turn to reduce the casting cost of spells of a
 different color?
      I've seen people try various styles of decks with these creatures, all
 based around a Familiar hitting turn two that is followed by two spells the
 next turn.  For example, I saw someone discussing a black/red deck that
 would drop a second turn Nightscape Familiar, followed the next turn by two
 Stone Rains.  To me, this seems exceedingly fragile, at best.
      I think the most potential lies in a deck that has the ability to make
 up for the relative loss of cards that the Familiars create for you, which
 of course means blue is in order.  Accumulated Knowledge for U instead of
 and reducing the costs of counterspells like Thwart and Foil would seem to
 be the most advantageous.

      Diabolic Intent
 As an additional cost to play Diabolic Intent, sacrifice a creature. Search
 your library for a card and put that card into your hand. Then shuffle your
      Wow.  Anything that lets you search and put the card in your hand
 deserves a serious look.  The question is, how good is sacrificing a
 creature?  Well, when you need a Decree to stop Rebels, or a Perish to slow
 down Fires, it's pretty dang worthwhile.  As I mentioned last time, I think
 this card also has synergy with graveyard recursion effects like Twilight's
 Call.  I'm looking at this card for a U/B discard deck featuring gating
 creatures and Ravenous Rats.  When the Rats have served their purpose, pop
 it to go get something you really need.  Without playtesting much, I'd be
 inclined to say you don't run more than three of these in any single deck.

      Phyrexian Scuta
      Creature - Zombie 3/3
 Kicker-Pay 3 life. (You may pay 3 life in addition to any other costs as
 play this spell.) If you paid the kicker cost, Phyrexian Scuta comes into
 play with two +1/+1 counters on it.
      This is one of those overrated cards I was talking about.  Everyone
 calls him "The New Juzam", and while he does fit that bill rather well,
 doesn't mean he is a good card in Type II right now.
      The simple fact is that the major decks in Type 2 can all handle this
 guy with relative ease.  Rebels will either Parallax Wave him so that he
 comes back stuck as a 3/3, or they will just block it forever with a
 Nightwind Glider.  Fires looks at its army of 5/5 creatures and laughs.
 Scuta may come out a turn faster with Ritual than a Blastoderm will, but
 Fires will definitely have the long-term advantage as it throws down
 Saproling Burst and Shivan Wurm to follow.  Nether-Go can block the Scuta
 forever with a Spirit until it draws a Recoil or some other, more permanent
 answer.  This is definitely a card to keep an eye on as Type 2 evolves.
 When Mercadian block drops, or 7th comes in, the cards may be around to
 this guy into a beating.  But on March 1st, he's just an over-valued rare.

      Gating creatures.  These creatures all cost two colors of mana to cast
 and force their caster to return a creature of one of those two colors to
 their hand when the creature comes into play.  I'll just go over the ones I
 think are the best briefly:
      Cavern Harpy.  This is UB to cast for a 2/1 flier that you can return
 to your hand by paying one life.  It has natural synergy with Ravenous
 and can taking three or four from a Blastoderm as opposed to 15 or 20 is
 always nice, too.
      Shivan Wurm.  He costs 3GR to play for a 7/7 trample.  This guy is
 downright nasty in Fires, allowing you to pick up Blastoderms and crusing
 your opponents.  The gating might be problematic, I would consider two or
 three of them in a typical fires deck so as not to get stuck with too many
 in your hand early on.
      Doomsday Specter.  This beastie is 2UB for a 2/3 flier that, when it
 deals combat damage, you get to look at your opponent's hand and make them
 discard a card.  Actually, again, this is an overrated card, at least at
 this point.  I love the card because the art is absolutely amazing, but it
 just isn't very playable right now.  theoretically, you could fit it into a
 U/B control/discard deck.  You can't cast him with Dark Ritual unless you
 play something like Maggot Carrier or Nightscape Apprentice, and then
 playing with bad creatures.  If you wait to play him until turn four, what
 are you going to return that makes this guy wirth your time besides
 Rats?  This guy could become a force, but until then, don't go trading your
 Rishadan Ports for him.

     This is taking longer than I expected, so I'll trim it here and pick
back up next week with the rest of the Planeshift cards I think are worth
looking at.

Tim Stoltzfus