Jonathan Pechon

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Jonathan Pechon's
Therapy Sessions

Feb 4th, 2004  Clamping Down on Skullclamp

Letís start off taking a quick peak at the Super Bowl. While I had the team and the margin of victory correct, the total score was way over what I (and a lot of other people) had predicted. Frankly, I think the deciding factor in the game may have been the necessity for the Panthers to recover from some jitters at the beginning of the game; Jake Delhomme and his receivers did not appear to be working well together for the first few possessions. That cost them a little too much to make it up by the end of the game; however, I really enjoyed the whole game. Many thanks to Jeff Zandi for providing a good place and surrounding for the event.

Now, letís get down to business. I keep hearing several people talking about how Skullclamp might be the best card in Darksteel. I definitely think it has a place in a few decks, providing some real ways to beat down on people. The amount of hate for artifacts that will exist by the time the block PTQís roll around is going to be disgusting; no one really wants to lose the prepackaged Affinity deck that Wizards was so kind to provide to us in this block. However, I think that in Standard we could definitely see a use for this, giving it some real potential.

While weíre doing this, letís take a look at an archetype that just doesnít have a home in standard for the time being: white weenie. Unless youíre looking at a metagame that is skewed very heavily towards mono-red land destruction, the other decks will tend to treat white weenie as a bye a lot of the time. There are too many ways for this deck to just run out of gas after a Wrath of God, and it simply canít race against the kind of beats that Affinity lays on the table. Goblins just slows down a couple of turns, then proceeds to roll right over them.

This is before Darksteel, however. Before the Skullclamp.

Letís take a look at a quick mockup of a deck:

4 Auriok Steelshaper
4 Leonin Shikari
4 Silver Knight
4 Leonin Skynight
4 Raise the Alarm
2 Whipcorder
4 Suntail Hawk
2 Exalted Angel
2 Sword of Fire and Ice
4 Bonesplitter
4 Skullclamp
4 Chrome Mox
18 Plains

I will immediately claim that I havenít really put this deck through any testing; as a matter of fact, this decklist came right off the top of my head. The idea here is to be aggressive with some ability to drag out a game, obviously; without the ability to control the board, you donít have too much of an option here. However, you have a few things going for you here, the biggest of which involves, of course, Skullclamp.

Say you have a Leonin Shikari, an Auriok Steelshaper, and a Skullclamp out on the board. If you cast an end-of-turn Raise the Alarm, you can immediately turn that into four new cards; repeat process until you feel like youíve been abusive enough. You can very quickly turn that into an offensive force that your opponent should have significant problems dealing with.

The Skullclamp gives you the means to really recoup card loss from Chrome Mox; the Swords are in there for a similar purpose, letting you draw cards while beating on your opponent pretty hard. You could easily substitute Loxodon Warhammer or Mask of Memory for that card, but I like the Sword a lot; I think that all the abilities are definitely more efficient than the Ďhammer, and more robust than the Mask.

Traditionally, this deck has had real problems trying to get ahead in the race for cards, eventually just losing to any deck that can cast more than one Wrath of God effect in a game. However, Skullclamp combined with the Swords gives you a novel opportunity to win through card advantage through an extended game. Even just chumping a creature with a Skullclamp equipped on it can cause a string of events that can have some dire effects on a game; eventually you can wrap up a lot of games by chumping until you get an Angel face-up, then thereís only so much that a deck can do to get things back under control.

So, hereís an example of a deck that can potentially abuse the Clamp. But where else can this thing fit into the game? Well, I think itís possible that we could even see Skullclamp in decks like Goblins, where you always end up with random 1/1ís that you really could do without in favor of digging for a Siege Gang (or a Bidding, depending on your flavor of Goblins). This isnít to mention what happens with all those goblins the Siege Gang Commander brings into play himself.

How about in something like red-green Affinity-hate in block-constructed? Think of casting a Viridian Shaman to eat a Myr Enforcer, slapping a Clamp on it and blocking the Enforcer that attacks the next turn, only to draw into your next Shaman? Putting Skullclamp on a Solemn Simulacrum seems unfair in a multitude of ways. This might all depend on if youíre running Molder Slug or not, but the amount of hate that can exist even without the Slug could make this card worth considering.

The point here is that, with this new card, there exists a cheap, colorless way to turn creatures into something else. We havenít even gotten into the possibilities of what can happen if you have multiple Skullclamps in play with Shikari and Steelshaper in play. Wizards has worked very hard to try to avoid giving colorless cards effects like this, then they go and print this, which provides a mechanism for random creature decks to draw obscene numbers of cards at a minimal cost.

Finally, weíre going to talk about this card in the context of limited, both sealed deck and draft. And the verdict on it is very, very simple: you take it. In sealed, you will ALWAYS play this card. In draft, if you see this card you will almost always pick it; if someone passes it to you, then just say, ďThank you,Ē take it, and ship the rest of the pack. I seriously canít think of a situation where I wouldnít take this card, and your conclusion should be very close to the same.

This weekend, the qualifiers for PT-San Diego begin. Iím hoping that many of you are planning on playing in these events; next week, Iím hoping to have some analysis of this weekendís event, as well as some puzzles for you to work out. The difference between sealed and draft in Mirrodin feels more significant than in blocks gone by; the types of decks you can end up with from deck to deck can be widely varied, with much more identifiable archetypes than in other blocks, depending on things like available equipment and Myr. Itís going to be a challenging season of PTQís.

Until next week, take care.

-Jonathan Pechon
Sigmundí on IRC (EFNet)
Sigmund on Modo

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