A Lawyer's Best Friend
I really am glad that Wizards has felt the need to provide us with a set of powerful cards, cards that seem to have resurrected Combo from the depths that it had originally fallen to. Ironworks is just the most obvious, powerful example of the kinds of interactions that you should expect to see again, replacing the constant cycling through cards that you would experience with Skullclamp; raw power has taken the place of the somewhat insidious presence of the Spike that drew a ton of cards.
My absolute favorite card in the set, however, is not the Ironworks by any means. Itís not any of the Bringers or Beacons (though Bringer of the White Dawn does make me feel kinda dirty every time I look at a Mindslaver). Itís almost Guardian Idol, but not quite. Itís not even the Relentless Rats that so many people seem to enjoy.
Itís that lil olí missie Eternal Witness.
Huh? There have been so many attempts at reprints of Regrowth that you would almost automatically assume that this is mediocre and move. Everything from Restock to Elven Cache has just fallen aside with little more than fringe interest; thereís even another attempt at it with All Sunsí Dawn in the newest expansion. So why does this make so much more sense than any of the others?
The mana cost is a big deal, for one. Three mana is a really fair amount to have to pay for this; I actually think that itís more than fair, itís an absolute stealÖin any environment. Compared to the original, you pay a single green mana for a 2/1 creature that can be recurred or simply used to try to smash your opponent in the nogginí. You simply arenít going to find a better deal than that.
The fact that this is a creature, on the other hand, is a remarkably huge deal. It gives this a whole new range of utility, with the result being that this is almost absolutely abusive in a number of circumstances. A good number of other spells that have been converted to creatures have proven to be extremely mediocre; in this case, we have an amazing creature that is going to end up making a huge impact all over Magic.
Letís start with Standard. Weíre looking so far at an environment that is open to a lot of different decks, ranging from things like Big Red to Ironworks to new builds of Affinity, along with new incarnations of decks like Tooth and Nail and Mono-White Control. I can see Witness possibly finding a place in Tooth and Nail, but my first real impulse was to try to fit it into a deck that hasnít really seen much airtime since Darksteel became legal: mono-green LD.
Letís take a look.
4 Solemn Simulacrum
4 Plow Under
4 Guardian Idol
4 Vine Trellis
4 Eternal Witness
4 Creeping Mold
4 Ravenous Baloth
2 Soul Foundry
4 Troll Ascetic
2 Reap and Sow
4 Stalking Stones
This is a first idea for this deck; itís something that Iím planning on testing over the latter parts of this week. The interaction of Witness and the Foundry seems ridiculously potent, giving you the ability to cast Plow Under every turn while generating a constant stream of 2/1 critters. The Idols and Trellises give you the acceleration you need on turns three and four; I am a huge fan of the Idol in slower control-oriented decks. The creatures are pretty stock otherwise, and you donít need the Foundry to cause a ridiculous amount of your opponentís lands to end up either in their graveyard or in on top of their library.
What kinds of alternatives might you consider for this deck? I believe that there probably need to be four Oxidizes in the main deck, or perhaps some number of Viridian Shamans. Itís possible you might also want to run four Blinkmoth Nexus along with the Stalking Stones, giving you eight man-lands to go with the four Idols; thatís a lot of creatures hiding out. The final two Reap and Sow might also make it into the deck, but thatís going to depend on testing (Iíd love to hear some results from you guys, if you take the time to build and test this).
Another standard deck with this guy is the W/G Astral Slide deck with 4 Witness in it, as mentioned by a number of people across the Internet. Being able to Slide this guy out and let him get your Land/Renewed Faith/whatever back when it comes back into play is a pretty dominating board position to be in. This is quite possibly going to cement itself as a solid deck in constructed in a pretty short amount of time; Iím wondering how long it can be until this turns completely back into a three-color deck.
The next place to look at this is in limited; obviously, this is an amazing pick at any spot in draft. This should be a pretty proud first-pick, and should never be allowed to travel around the table if possible. Just think of being able to return spells like Grab the Reins or Deconstruct or any other bomb-ish spells that might have ended up in your graveyard. Thereís not a whole lot of detail to go into here; itís pretty obvious that bringing cards back from your yard to your hand is generally good for you.
The final environment I want to mention regarding the Witness is Extended. Where does this fit in here? WellÖa couple of decks, frankly.
The Rock is a deck that is going to enjoy being able to abuse this guy, especially with Genesis and spells like Pernicious Deed and Cabal Therapy that help to make this a really appealing card to have, especially with access to Living Wish so that it can be retrieved from the sideboard. I think that Therapy is the card that is most able to abuse this, letting you cast this three times instead of twice; oh, yeah, and the Witness hangs out to let you flash back the Therapy.
In my mind, though, thatís actually secondary compared to the other deck that is going to reap the benefits of this: Aluren. Witness ensures that you canít simply discard the necessary tools you need in order to win on a turn where you tap out to put the Aluren into play. Again, just like Rock, you have the really solid synergy of Witness with Therapy, but you can also ensure that you donít completely wreck yourself with Intuition; this might even help to make Intuition heavily playable again.
Iím not really sure what the correct number of Witnesses is to play in Aluren; I would say that you should play at least one main and one in the board, with options to run up to all three in the main deck (though Iím not really sure what to cut to make them all fit). However, I know that from my point of view, I canít wait for a chance to play with these in 1.x; that, in and of itself, is a strange thing to say about an environment Iíve ripped to shreds over and over again in past months.
By next week, I hope to have some playtesting results, along with a possible set of results from a tournament or two. Until then, folks, feel free to let me know whatís on your minds.
Sigmundí on IRC (EFNet)
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