By Aaron Forsythe
Planeshift’s five familiars have two things in common: they all cost two mana, and they all act like the two Medallions (from Tempest) in their allied colors – reducing the generic mana cost of spells by one.
Now, I have no doubt that if they were all 2/1 for two mana, they would all see play in IBC and possibly Type 2. But only the green one gets to be that lucky.
The Nightscape (black) Familiar shows up in several IBC decks as well, since he regenerates for 1B, meaning he’ll be around for a while, and he provides fantastic defense against most attackers, including Spiritmonger.
The blue and red familiars – well, let’s just say that you don’t get much bang for your buck with this pair of 1/1’s.
Which leaves the white one. The dumb one. The 0/3 Wall that will never attack and never kill anything in combat.
I think it’s pretty good. The idea is that it accelerates you while providing early defense, not unlike Wall of Roots. Imagine this early game in IBC.
You: Coastal Tower
Them: Salt Marsh
You: Island, Sunscape Familiar
Them: Island, Vodalian Zombie
You: Island, Sunscape Familiar #2, with a blue up for Exclude, Repulse, or Prohibit.
Any deck with lots of 2/2’s is going to have a hard time getting a jump on you with a start like that. And once you have up the defenses, the fun begins. Obviously the Familiars get better in situations where you can cast multiple spells per turn. In the above scenario, even if you miss your 4th land drop, you could cast Fact or Fiction for 2 mana, and still have one blue left for Exclude or Repulse. And chances are you haven’t taken any damage yet!
The key difference between the Sunscape and Nightscape is its ability to protect you early without tying up mana for regeneration. If you had cast two Nightscape Familiars in the first 3 turns in the above example, you probably wouldn’t be blocking right away. Plus, you open yourself up to get wrecked by a Bloodfire Dwarf, Plague Spitter, or more commonly Fire/Ice.
Don’t get me wrong – Nightscape Familiar is definitely superior in the midgame, when you can start sneaking in a few points of damage here and there, and you have leftover mana to regenerate. And he can hold off larger threats like Spiritmonger indefinitely, long after the white wall would have been reduced to chump-blocker mode. But for sound early defense, control decks would be wise to try out the innocuous little Wall.
What deck does this actually work in? My teammate Mike Turian played this in the Barcelona Masters, which was pre-Apocalypse IBC:
Go-Mar (featuring Angry Dromar)
4 Coastal Tower
4 Salt Marsh
1 Dromar's Cavern
4 Nightscape Familiar
2 Sunscape Familiar
3 Dromar, the Banisher
4 Dromar's Charm
4 Fact or Fiction
2 Yawgmoth's Agenda
Granted, he had twice as many Nightscape Familiars as Sunscape Familiars. But against creature decks, he’d cast the Wall first. Mike’s theory was “The more familairs, the merrier!” He would often cast Lobotomy for just UB, Probe with kicker for UB, and even Dromar for UWB.
Now that IBC is a little different and Flametongu Kavu isn’t as popular, the Wall seems even better. With Meddling Mages, Goblin Legionnaires, and Spectral Lynxes everywhere, a mana-accelerating 0/3 has never looked so good.