Jonathan Pechon

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Jonathan Pechon's
Therapy Sessions

What to Do With Middle Sets

1.28.04  With the way that blocks are created in Magic of late, the middle set seems to be designated as the place where all the weird-to-marginal cards end up being placed.  Itís something that has been true for a while, I think.

Legions definitely fits that bill.  There wasnít a great deal of power in the set as far as constructed goes and Wizards took the opportunity to experiment with some new mechanics like Amplify and the morph triggers.  Planeshift also had a similarly weak power level (comparatively speaking), but did contribute Flametounge Kavu and some other goodies.  Nemesis and Stronghold similarly failed to provide much in the way of good impressions.

There are a couple of slight exceptions in there, obviously.  Urzaís Legacy existed in a time where ridiculous cards grew like weeds, but was still probably weak in comparison to its siblings of Saga and Destiny.  Memory Jar, Tinker, Rancor, and Grim Monolith are all absolutely overpowered cards nowadays.  Torment probably ended up redefining an entire block, and establishes a strong impact in Extended with cards like Arrogant Wurm and Basking Rootwalla.  Circular Logic, Mutilate, and Chainerís Edict saw a great deal of play over time as well.  While the overall level of power in the set waned considerably from there, these cards really were influential, with the help of a certain Mongrel who shall remain nameless.  Without that little card, perhaps some of the other cards (Compulsion, Temper, Eruption) might have gone up a bit in power.

That brings us to our newest set, Darksteel.  Looking over the set, Iíve been trying to come up with impressions about the set.  Overall, I have to say that I think that this really isnít a terribly powerful set for constructed purposes.  As usual, though, there are a few gems in here thatíll make a dent in what we play.

Iím going to just list off a few of them here, in no particular order; let me know if you absolutely disagree with me on any of these.

1) The Swords (Light and Shadow, Fire and Ice)

I think both of these have some potential in constructed.  They are both absolute bombs in limited, as far as equipment goes.  In limited, I think itís possible that Light and Shadow might be better simply because the two colors are more pertinent as far as protection applies; otherwise, the two effects are very similar.

In constructed, Fire and Ice is probably a bit better.  Looked at from a certain way, it costs five mana to give a creature five separate abilities (Pro Blue, Pro Red, +2/+2, card-draw, damage).  The second you put it onto a second creature, youíve made the card pretty ridiculous; beyond that, itís fairly broken.  While the ability to deal damage to creatures may not be terribly relevant, the card-drawing and protection from red, along with the +2/+2, make this really strong.

So how might these fit into constructed?  White weenie could easily stick anywhere from one to three or four of these into a deck and use it to fuel their rush of attacking creatures.  With the addition of Leonin Shakari and the presence of Auriok Steelshaper, you could see these being extremely useful.  I think that itís possible that other decks could end up using these as possible sideboard options, depending on what the metagame looks like.

2) Trinisphere

This card may have been made specifically to irritate the people who play Type 1.  I sat and played around with another playerís control deck against a Stax deck that used these instead of Spheres of Resistance.  The result was that the deck absolutely sputtered and died; for example, Isochron Scepter is absolutely horrid when this card is in play, as (from what we could construe) you would have to pay two to activate the Scepter, then three to play the spell.  Affinity decks in standard may end up suffering similarly when they are trying to have their explosive third or fourth turn and have to deal with this little beast.

3) Furnace Dragon

His home may be in the most unlikely of places:  sideboard for the Affinity mirror matches.  If he resolves, he kills every single permanent on the board for the opposing player and allows you to drop something in order to save your Glimmervoids.  The game should probably end shortly after that.  The RRR in the casting cost will probably end up being surprisingly easy to work around, all things considered; watching random versions of Affinity in play, Iíve realized that you can play practically anything in the deck.

4) Pulse of the Fields

The various pulses are all being debated regarding their playability.  I think that this one might be disgustingly good, providing the white-based control decks an incredibly easy method to get back ahead in the race and in control.  Forcing opponents to have to manaburn at times in order to keep up with your ability to gain life seems like a ridiculous situation to be in, but that just might be the kind of thing that ends up happening.  It certainly provides another end-step use for all the mana you can accumulate with Eternal Dragons.

5) Death Cloud

This card might take a little more creativity to really make work in constructed as it currently stands.  However, the ability of this card to completely annihilate a board and hand canít be ignored.  Personally, the only problem that I have with it is that I canít see the synergistic cards that might possibly fit in with it.  Pox has things like Mishraís Factory and Chimeric Idol to work with, along with Steel Golem back in the day.  I donít think that Grid Monitor and Blinkmoth Nexus will fill those roles with any sort of ease.  Iím giving this card a solid rating simply based on pure power; either someone else will find a niche for this card, or weíre going to be waiting for something in a future set.

6) Mirrodinís Core

My initial review of this card in Card of the Day was not terribly positive.  Since then, Iíve actually put a lot of time thinking about this card and gathering opinions about it.  Since then, Iíve been working pretty hard to put together my playset of four of these.

Why the change of heart?  This is the kind of card that is extremely beneficial to the control archetypes that currently exist.  You can compare it to a vastly improved Gemstone Mine, a card that saw huge amounts of play during the time in which it was available.  While the Mine was playable in more decks, this one is limited to control decks because of the lack of ability to be used for colored mana on turn one; aggressive decks  need the goods immediately, and canít afford to wait for charge counters.  In the slower control decks, waiting isnít generally much of a problem; this ends up replacing the lands that come into play tapped like Coastal Tower.  They also possibly make it more viable to run a third color in control decks (though for what Iím not really sure at the moment).

Well, youíve got a half-dozen cards out of me that will see some sort of play in constructed; I left out quite a few other picks, including what appear (to me, at least) to be obvious picks such as Oxidize.  Iíll see what comes up over the next week to determine if thereís another articleís worth of picks in there.

As a final note, I think Iím going to make a couple of comments about the Super Bowl.  I really feel like this is a fantastic game coming up; these really are two very good teams coming to play.  I think that, on the whole, New England is the better team; Brady keeps the offense rolling to complement a fantastic defense.  Bill Belichick earned his pay this year and deserved to be coach of the year.

Carolina is a fantastic story, thoughÖ John Fox took this team and really gave it the heart that it was lacking.  They have the role that the Patriots held when they played against the Rams a couple of years ago, and that gives them a really big margin for error to work with; that could end up bringing them into the game as the more relaxed and mentally prepared team.  The fact that they have a running game to fall back on gives them a really strong crutch to fall back on, if need be.

In the end, thoughÖNew England is just so talented.  And I think Brady has, by now, shown himself to be a proven winner.  Iím guessing a 17-14 game, probably in the favor of New England.

Later, everyone.

-Jonathan Pechon

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