by Brian Eha
Okay, let me say, right off the bat, that I am crazy about Apocalypse. I love (most of) the new mechanics, and I am really, really glad that Wizards finally decided to make unallied colors really and truly viable in the Standard environment. And so, of course, I downloaded the Apocalypse patch for Apprentice as soon as it came out, and quickly opened the Deck Editor. Using the spoiler to help me, I began perusing some of the more obscure cards (I had been following the spoiler's development, and I was already well aquainted with Vindicate, Desolation Angel, and the like). Lo and behold, I came across a little gem named... Dodecapod.
Now, he is pretty much overcosted if you hard cast him, and no two ways about it. (note: he is supposed to be 3/3, even though the current Apocalypse patch has no power or toughness for him) However, look at his text. If your opponent plays a spell that makes you discard him, then you get a 5/5 artifact creature for free. Now obviously this will be worthless against Duress and the like, since your opponent would have to be the better part of a moron before he would even consider using his Ostracize to give you a free 5/5 beat stick. It is also worthless against Addle. So, for Dodecapod to be a good sideboard card, a very good (and thus widely used) discard spell will have to arise; one that lets your opponent choose which cards he discards, but which is good enough nonetheless that it is worth running four of in the appropriate colored deck.
Enter Gerrard's Verdict. For a white and a black, you make your opponent discard two cards. Not only that, but any land cards he discards that way net you three life. People are calling it the new Hymn, and while I don't think it is quite that good (Hymn could be used in mono black and made your opponent discard at random) I have used it personally quite a few times, and it is very, very good. (tip: to get the maximum amount of swearing from your opponent, play a first turn Duress and follow it with a Gerrard's Verdict on turn two. I've done it; it's very nasty) But, look at the vital fact: if your opponent plays a Gerrard's Verdict on you, you get to choose the cards that you discard. Imagine your opponent's face when he plays a turn two Gerrard's Verdict on you, thinking to majorly screw you over, and wham! You get a 5/5 creature out on your opponent's second turn, which can then attack during yours. The day I got the Apocalypse patch, the second deck I made was an aggressive B/W deck with 4 Duress, 4 Addle, and 4 Gerrard's Verdict. It took everyone else about a week or so after that to start making their own, but now that they are, B/W discard decks are in abundance, let me tell you. It's getting so that when my opponent lays a swamp first turn, I cringe in preparation of the coming onslaught of discard spells. And if I'm lucky, I then sigh in relief when I find out it's a B/G deck. Guess how often I'm lucky?
Anyways, back to how Dodecapod fits in. Obviously, it is not maindeck quality. You cannot expect to play only against decks running heavy discard in any given tournament, and having to cast him the normal (read: boring) way, makes him below average at best. I would much, much rather be packing maindeck Chimeric Idols against any other kind of deck. So, let's try to fit him into the sideboard, shall we? I don't even expect to find Dodecapod in every deck's sideboard (although perhaps I'm wrong--perhaps the format will degenerate into two types of decks: discard, and anti-discard...luckily, I seriously doubt it), but I do think he will show up in some of them, especially once people realize just how good B/W discard-based decks can be. Personally, I think he will show up the sideboard of discard decks themselves, as a card to use in the mirror match. On a side note, I am currently trying to fit him into my aforementioned B/W deck's sideboard.
Another thought, which may sound sort of out there to some of you, is that Fires may want to put a couple Dodecapods in its sideboard. Fires already gets badly hurt by a first-turn Duress; think what would happen if that was then followed up with a Gerrard's Verdict! Assuming the "nuts" Fires draw of Forest, Forest, Mountain, Birds of Paradise, Blastoderm, Fires of Yavimaya, Saproling Burst, what would they want to discard? They've already used at least one forest and the BoP on their first turn (and perhaps lost their Fires to a Duress), so what would they then discard to a Verdict? Blastoderm and a Mountain? Saproling Burst and the Blastoderm? Two lands, thus nullifying their early Blastoderm's attack? But if they were able to discard a Dodecapod and a land, or something of that nature, things would not be so bleak after all, now would they? The Fires player would be getting out a 5/5 creature within the first few turns, which, after all, is what they want to do anyways, now isn't it? Yes, I believe Dodecapod could help Fires out quite a bit in that match-up.
Another deck which might make use of Dodecapod is U/W Control. You know, the creatureless (or very nearly) versions, not Counter-Rebel. Discard is blue's worst enemy, because an early Duress or Gerrard's Verdict before the blue deck has counterspell mana strips them of their counters. Without creatures as an option, the U/W player is forced to discard either important spells such as Wrath of God, Absorb, and the like, or else pitch land, possibly screwing up their early game and giving their opponent life, which is a bad thing in almost every situation. (unless there is a good effect attached as well, such as that of Swords to Plowshares--then it's worth it) So, two or three Dodecapods in the sideboard would help U/W as well, and then the control player could use a counter or two to protect his Dodecapod from artifact and/or creature kill, hopefully allowing it to go all the way.
Of course, every silver lining has its cloud. Here's the problem with Dodecapod: you will probably not want to take up more than two, perhaps three slots in your sideboard with him, but at the same time, you want to have him in your hand early on against a discard deck, since a late game Verdict, while still painful, isn't as bad as an early one. By the same token, a late game 5/5 creature isn't nearly as good as one which comes out in the first few turns, especially since a B/W deck will probably be packing Disenchants and Vindicates. A mid-late game Dodecapod (and by mid-late in this case I mean after the tenth or eleventh turn) will probably just become bait for some form of creature or artifact kill, such as: Dark Banishing, Vindicate, Disenchant, Aura Blast, Dismantling Blow, Wrath of God, Obliterate, etc. etc. The list goes on and on. And I didn't even include the more powerful burn spells which could kill him such as Ghitu Fire and Earthquake. Does this mean that you shouldn't put Dodecapod in your sideboard to use against discard decks? Of course not. You can't guarantee that you'll have Dodecapod in your starting hand, but then again, neither can your opponent guarantee an early Gerrard's Verdict in his. If you get hit with a Verdict and you haven't drawn a 'Pod yet, well, suck it up and do it like you would in game one. No biggie, although at such times you may be tempted to curse the topdecking gods. I wouldn't if I was you--they may give you bad draws in the following games as well, just to spite you. Besides, if you do happen to have a Dodecapod in your hand at a time like that, you'll know it was worth putting them in your sideboard.
I was recently talking to some people on Apprentice about Dodecapod. Opinions on him ranged from, "Won't see much to play" to "Incredibly sexy." (the person who said he was sexy at first thought that he wasn't that good. I then began listing the cards that he was good against--Gerrard's Verdict, Blazing Specter, Ravenous Rats, Recoil, etc. He changed his mind quickly) Personally, I think he falls somewhere in the middle. So, yeah, that's my official verdict, (pun not intended) for now at least: definitely playable, but not exactly godly. So, I would say, (depending on the type of deck you have of course) try him out, and see how he does for you. If you find that you're not running into many discard decks, then by all means, take him out.
Until next time, this is Brian Eha (aka Razzy), signing off.
If you wish to contact me, my E-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org; I welcome any comments you may have for me.