(Editor’s Note: This content was formerly published on Quiet Speculation, and the former Downloadable Product has since been made available free here with the permission of the author and QS. Enjoy!)
Welcome loyal reader! In this article I continue my long tradition of reviewing new sets for Vintage format (the greatest format!) applications. As always, I will also provide a checklist of cards from Mirrodin Besieged that you will want to acquire to complete your collection and enable you to play any deck in the format. This checklist will give you a heads up over the competition, and allow you to make better trades. I will tell you which cards you should pick up now, which cards you should wait to pick up (because I expect them to fall in price), and which cards will be the sleepers you can make a killing on.
This set review marks a major change in my approach. In the past, I have selected for review only those cards that I perceived to be either clearly Vintage playable, borderline Vintage playable, or were otherwise mentioned or discussed by others in the Vintage context. In this article, I review every single card in the set. I do so for a number of reasons.
First of all, while my previous approach has proven successful, there have been a few times where I have overlooked, underestimated, or failed to mention cards that later became Vintage staples or otherwise saw Vintage play. The two critical examples of this in the last five years are Empty the Warrens and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I dismissed the former, and did not mention the latter. By reviewing every single card, I will avoid such omissions, even if my conclusions turn out to be wrong. Second, by forcing myself to analyze every card for Vintage playability, I will reduce the chance that I inadvertently dismiss a card based on existing standards of playability.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, by reviewing every single card, I am compelled to explicitly confront and describe the boundaries of Vintage playability, to explore the range and mixture of functions that matter in Vintage, and to more directly compare new cards with pre-existing cards in terms of utility and efficiency. This process of trying to draw a line between playability and unplayability and of more explicitly identifying functions that matter in this format, and trying to measure them, is valuable in itself for a number of other reasons, the least of which will be to help you better understand the limits of Vintage playability, and to see what kinds of differences actually make a difference.
In short, this article will be more analytical, and broader in its sweep. When evaluating whether a card is playable or not, I will as a consequence also consider what changes would make it so. There will be more comparisons to existing cards, and a broader view of the format as a whole. This should make for a deeper and more insightful read. This will be the most analytical, and longest set review I’ve ever produced. This would not be possible had I been bound by the deadlines of a weekly column. My goal is to make this the best Vintage set review you’ve ever read, and certainly the best set review of Mirrodin Besieged.
Mirrodin Besieged is a thinking man’s set. It’s a set of many Pithing Needles. By that analogy I mean that Mirrodin Besieged is a set with many playables, but whose application and usage is highly contextual, and very skill dependent. Pithing Needle is a card card whose utility is often a sum of its individual applications, rather than a single, obvious application. This set offers many cards in that mold. It’s also a set of complicated cards. Knowledge Pool is symbolic in this regard. Knowledge Pool is arguably the most complicated single card ever created, even more than the infamous Chains of Mephistopheles. It involves more specific zone transfers than any card since Mind’s Desire, and it has one of the arguably most confusing triggers ever printed. The type of review I offer here befits the nature of this set.
II. Scars of Mirrodin Recap
In my Scars of Mirrodin set review, I identified the following cards as Vintage playable and likely to see Vintage play.
4 Contagion Clasp
4 Galvanic Blast
4 Leonin Arbiter
4 Mox Opal
4 Nihil Spellbomb
4 Precursor Golem
4 Ratchet Bomb
4 Steel Hellkite
4 Sylvok Replica
4 Vedalken Certarch
Contagion Clasp has shown up in multiple Vintage Top 8s, and has proven itself Vintage playable. If Goblin Welder picks up in popularity, expect to see this card in even more Top 8s.
Galvanic Blast has not, as of yet, appeared in any reported Vintage Top 8. That does not mean that it is not Vintage playable; it just means it has yet to show up as such. As I said in my set review, this is Vintage playable, but that doesn’t mean it will see play. I am confident that it eventually will, however, if mono-red Workshop decks ever see more than marginal play again. Currently, the dominance of mono-brown Workshop decks is keeping this card from seeing play.
Leonin Arbiter has appeared in multiple Vintage Top 8s, and has most frequently shown up in G/W/x beats decks. It has proven itself Vintage playable.
Mox Opal has appeared in many Vintage Top 8s, and has proven itself Vintage playable. If multi-color Workshop decks begin to see more play, expect to see this card’s value rise.
Nihil Spellbomb has appeared in many Vintage Top 8s, and has also proven itself to be Vintage playable. It’s appeared in 45 reported Vintage top 8 decklists, making it the second most played card from the set thus far. I stated that this card would be great in Vintage in my set review.
Precursor Golem has appeared in multiple Vintage Top 8s, and most recently has become a go-to answer for the Workshop mirror because of the permanent advantage it generates.
Ratchet Bomb has been enormously popular, appearing in 28 different decks in reported Vintage Top 8s. It is clearly Vintage playable.
Steel Hellkite has been even more popular, appearing in 60 different reported decks in Vintage Top 8s. It is a Vintage staple. Steel Hellkite has, thus far, proven the most successful card in the set.
Sylvok Replica is appearing in Vintage Top 8s where Workshop decks are using green. It has proven itself Vintage playable, and will become more popular if multi-color Workshop decks see play again.
Vedalken Certarch has, as of yet, made no Vintage Top 8 appearances. But as I explained in the last set review, this card is Vintage playable, and has a lot of potential, but is much less obvious. This card is only playable in Workshop decks that run blue. Like Galvanic Blast, this card is held back by the current dominance of mono-brown Workshop decks. If, and when, Workshop decks begin to emerge once again that run multiple colors, expect to see this guy begin to appear. For example, if Lodestone Golem is restricted some day, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it were, this card would become very playable. If you can acquire foil Certarchs, and hold onto them, you might be able to make a good profit a year from now. Certarch arguably gains value with Mirrodin Besieged and the threat of Blightsteel Colossus.
In addition, there was a list of cards I identified as playable, but wasn’t sure would actually see play:
4 Arc Trail
4 Darksteel Juggernaut
3 Myr Battlesphere
4 Rusted Relic
4 Tunnel Ignus
4 Kuldotha Forgemaster
4 Wurmcoil Engine
Arc Trail has not yet appeared in any reported Vintage Top 8s. Darksteel Juggernaut has appeared in a reported Vintage Top 8. Myr Battlesphere has appeared in 15 reported Top 8s, and has become an excellent Tinker target. Riddlesmith has been advocated by Andy Probasco, but it has yet to appear in a reported Vintage Top 8. Rusted Relic has not yet appeared in a Vintage Top 8, nor has Tunnel Ignus. Kuldotha Forgemaster has appeared in multiple Vintage Top 8s. Wurmcoil Engine has appeared in 30 different Vintage Top 8s.
All of the cards I identified as Vintage playable have so far appeared in reported Vintage Top 8s except for Galvanic Blast, Vedalken Certarch, Arc Trail, Rusted Relic, and Tunnel Ignus. Of those cards, I maintain that each is Vintage playable, and I continue to expect that Galvanic Blast and Vedalken Certarch will eventually see Vintage action.
Steel Hellkite has proven itself to be the most successful card from Scars thus far. My prediction regarding Steel Hellkite appears to have come true: “Decks with Hellkite are going to be a force in the new Vintage, and is a contender for the best 6 cc artifact creature of all time!” Hellkite is indeed a force in this format, and is a clear contender for top 6cc artifact creature.
Arguably the biggest surprise has been Wurmcoil Engine, which I identified as playable, but as a niche playable. It’s the third most successful Vintage card from the set.
One card I discussed that I didn’t add to the buy list is Palladium Myr, which has appeared in a few Top 8s.
If you haven’t picked up those cards, now is the time to do so.
III. The Mirrodin Besieged Set Review
There are 155 cards in Mirrodin Besieged, and 13 cards are reprints (including the 10 basic land). That means there are 142 cards to review.
Bladed Sentinel – One of the recurring themes of this set review is what makes a creature playable in Vintage. A refrain you’ll hear over and over again is that creatures in Vintage are generally only playable if (1) they disrupt the opponent’s game plan (e.g. Aven Mindcensor or Gaddock Teeg) or (2) generate some advantage (usually card or mana advantage) for the controller (e.g. Dark Confidant or Lotus Cobra). Some creatures do both (e.g. Tidespout Tyrant).
There are a few exceptions to this general rule. The first exception is creatures that are cheated into play with cards like Oath of Druids, Tinker, Dread Return, or Show and Tell. These creatures can serve as pure beaters. The second exception is cards that are in the top .002% (to be exact) in terms of mana efficiency of the nearly 6000 unique creatures in the Vintage card pool. These are the Tarmogoyfs of the format. What’s interesting, however, is how many cards that might seem to fit into one of the exceptions also provide unusual advantages. For example, Precursor Golem, and Myr Battlesphere are both important because of the permanent advantage they generate, not simply the power to mana cost efficiency.
Disrupting the opponent or generating some advantage (mana, card, or permanent) is not sufficient, but it is generally necessary for a creature to be playable. The other major consideration is cost. The vast, vast majority of playable Vintage creatures cost 1, 2, or 3 mana. There are a few creatures that see play that cost more, but they are extremely rare: Glen-Elendra Archmage, Sower of Temptation, Auriok Salvagers, and, very rarely, Meloku the Clouded Mirror. These creatures each generate card or mana advantage.
Artifact creatures can cost more because of Mishra’s Workshop. So, as a general rule of thumb, artifact creatures can cost two more mana on average than non-artifact creatures and still be playable for the same kinds of advantages.
A four mana 2/4 is well below Vintage standards of efficiency for a pure beater. In Vintage, a combined 8 power and toughness is expected for that mana cost, with Juggernaut and Su-Chi as examples. The additional ability of vigilance does not compensate for the loss of power. Unplayable.
Blightsteel Colossus – Blightsteel Colossus is not only Vintage playable, it is going to become a Vintage staple. Nearly every Vintage player will intuit this, and I would not be adding much if I were to leave it there. Clearly, Blightsteel Colossus is Vintage playable. Clearly, Blightsteel Colossus is going to see plenty of Vintage play. The more important questions are: How much play is Blightsteel Colossus going to see? What will Blightsteel Colossus replace/displace? What will be the effect or ramifications of Blightsteel Colossus in the format? To answer those questions, we need to have a more nuanced evaluation of the card.
Vintage players have more Tinker target beatdown options than ever, especially with the recent printing of Myr Battlesphere. Myr Battlesphere, Sphinx of the Steel Wind, Inkwell Leviathan, and Darksteel Colossus each offer particular advantages and disadvantages as a Tinker target and win condition. Add Blightsteel Colossus to the list.
Monster (Turns to Kill)
Darksteel Colossus (2 Turns; 11 damage per hit)
Sphinx of the Steel Wind (4 Turns; 6 damage per hit)
Inkwell Leviathan (3 Turns;7 damage per hit)
Myr Battlesphere (2 Turns; 12 damage/life loss per hit)
Blightsteel Colossus (1 Turn; 11 poison counters per hit)
As you can see from this table, Blightsteel Colossus is the fastest Tinker summoned creature win condition ever printed! From the resolution of Tinker to the combat phase, Blightsteel Colossus takes the fewest turns to win the game. Unimpeded, it offers the quickest victory. To appreciate the advantage Blightsteel Colossus offers, we need to evaluate, with some precision, the role of speed in Tinker-based win conditions.
If speed were the only or predominant consideration in terms of Tinker target selection, then Darksteel Colossus would see more play than Sphinx of the Steel Wind or Inkwell Leviathan. But for most of 2009 and 2010, Sphinx and Inkwell saw far more play than Darksteel Colossus. Why?
First of all, defense. Sphinx of the Steel Wind takes twice as many turns to win, but unlike Darksteel Colossus, it can play defense while dealing damage thanks to the vigilance and lifelink abilities. Thus, you need not fear that attacking your opponent will allow them to counter-attack with a lethal army. Even if an opponent has more than enough damage, the lifelink will prevent you from losing the game. This life also matters when generating card advantage with Dark Confidant. An opponent will have a very difficult time making an alpha strike if Sphinx is on the board, even if they can easily overwhelm it. Because of first strike, Sphinx will almost always survive combat.
Second, resilience. Darksteel Colossus may be indestructible, but that doesn’t count for much in a format where the primary forms of removal do not involve damage, but bounce permanents or cause them to change zones. Thus, Darksteel Colossus can be Echoing Truthed, Swords to Plowshared, or Goblin Welded out of play. Inkwell Leviathan can’t be touched by any of these. Not even Jace, the Mind Sculptor can get at him. Sphinx of the Steel Wind effectively has protection from Goblin Welder, and can’t ever been killed by Tarmogoyfs or Rack and Ruin. Inkwell Leviathan is the most resilient, followed by Sphinx, and then Darksteel Colossus.
Third, permanent advantage. The primary advantage that Myr Battlesphere has over every other Tinker target is that it can’t be stopped by Tangle Wire or easily answered by Smokestack. Nor can Jace remove it all with a single bounce, as tokens will still remain to kill Jace. With the rise of Workshop decks and the predominance of Tangle Wire in both Workshop Aggro and Workshop Control strategies, Myr Battlesphere has become arguably the best Tinker target option.
These advantages, together with the situational advantage of being blue, and therefore pitchable to Force of Will in hand, more than compensate for the additional turns needed to win the game. This is why Sphinx of the Steel Wind and Inkwell Leviathan see more play than Darksteel Colossus, and the permanent advantage explains why Myr Battlesphere is seeing more and more play as well.
Now, let’s analyze how these various factors affect Blightsteel Colossus. Being a one hit-wonder (that is, winning in one-swing) actually renders the “defense” point pretty much irrelevant. Consider this two turn sequence:
You: Tinker for a Darksteel Colossus
Your Opponent: Play a Tarmogoyf and a Dark Confidant.
You: Attack with Darksteel Colossus, sending your opponent to 8. On your end step, your opponent Flashes in a Vendilion Clique.
Your Opponent: Attack you with two 5/6 Tarmogoyfs, a Vendilion Clique, a Qasali Pridemage, and a Dark Confidant. You are dead.
Now, substitute Sphinx of the Steel Wind for Darksteel Colossus, and you probably win this game. The key point is that Sphinx has the advantage of being able to play defense while killing your opponent. From the turn it hits play, it is a deterrent to attacking, and prevents your opponent from alpha striking while your creature is tapped.
The critical turn was the turn after your first attack. Notice that Blightsteel Colossus, by potentially winning in a single turn, renders this quality irrelevant. Direct comparisons to Darksteel Colossus will obscure this point. It’s only in context that we can see that Blightsteel Colossus, by winning so quickly, actually has the quality that Sphinx provides: defense. It does so through the cliché: the best defense is a great offense. Consider if Blightsteel Colossus were used in the sequence above. Your opponent would be forced to block to avoid acquiring lethal poison counters. They would have to throw at least two toughness in front of the Colossus rather than simply sucking up all of the damage. This may not seem like much, but it can make the difference between winning and losing, especially since the Aggro player must mount a lethal strike while the Colossus is tapped!
Granted, an opponent can still launch an alpha strike the turn after Blightsteel Colossus arrived on the battlefield, and this is one of the few areas where Sphinx of the Steel Wind still has a slight advantage. Blightsteel Colossus should give Myr Battlesphere a run for its money. Blightsteel is faster than Myr Battlesphere, and that is a clear advantage. On the other side of the ledger, Blightsteel Colossus does not create a permanent advantage like Myr Battlesphere, and that is one of the key features that will hold it back. In addition, it can be removed with Duplicant, Welded out with Goblin Welder, bounced with Jace, and and held at bay with Tangle Wire. In that respect, Inkwell Leviathan, and to a lesser extent, Sphinx of the Steel Wind, still offer advantages over Blightsteel Colossus. Blightsteel Colossus’ main impact will be to displace or cause Darksteel Colossus to disappear. Secondarily, it should reduce the amount of play that Sphinx of the Steel Wind sees. However, it may inadvertently make Inkwell Leviathan a better option, as opponent’s adjust their Tinker counter-tactics for Blightsteel Colossus.
The things that have been identified that matter: speed, color, permanent advantage, defense, lifegain, resilience – these are all important qualities that endow a card with utility. It is only through the array of options that we see how each of these elements matters. Unfortunately, these elements can’t be directly compared because they are qualitative, not quantitative. There is no way to measure the value of being blue against the value of 2 turns versus 3 to win the game. This is a good thing. Judgment, and therefore player skill, matters more than ever. With more Tinker options than ever before, the player that gets it right, who correctly identifies how each advantage or disadvantage counts in the metagame, will be rewarded over those who don’t.
Blightsteel Colossus, welcome to Vintage. You will be around for a while.
Bonehoard – Bonehoard is not Vintage playable. The bar is pretty high for a 4 mana artifact in Vintage. Currently, the top examples are Smokestack and Lodestone Golem, cards that are highly disruptive. In order for this to be playable, it would probably have to start with 5 power, and probably 6-7 to be more than marginal. As it is, in Vintage, there are very rarely more than a few creatures in graveyards. Getting more creatures into the graveyard to make this a lethal or at least threatening play would require more resource expenditures and tactical effort. Even with effects like Dredge or Hermit Druid, this card would produce a fragile, inefficient, and ineffectual win condition.
Brass Squire – The merit of this spell is the ability to move equipment from creature to creature at instant speed. There is virtually no utility to be gained from changing equipment in Vintage. The only equipment that really sees play in Vintage is Sword of Fire and Ice and Umezawa’s Jitte. With that in mind, this creature is for almost all intents and purposes a 3cc 1/3, which makes it just worse than Bottle Gnomes for the same stats. Bottle Gnomes sees no current Vintage play. This will see no Vintage play.
Copper Carapace – The very best equipment has proven to be Vintage playable. Umezawa’s Jitte sees play because of its versatility and dominance in combat. Sword of Fire and Ice sees play because it is a source of card advantage and tremendously accelerates your clock. A four mana equip to generate two additional damage per attack is probably below Vintage standards. If the play and activation costs were reversed it would be much stronger candidate for Vintage, since it could be played off of a Workshop and then equipped using any other mana source. Whether such a card would be Vintage playable may be unlikely, but it is not a question we have to decide today. As it is, this card is not Vintage playable.
Core Prowler – At first glance, a 4 casting cost 2/2 does not appear to be a very efficient creature, by any standard, let alone Vintage. That’s worse than a Grey Ogre, let alone Grizzly Bear. However, this creature has infect. Delivering 2 poison counters per swing can win the game in 5 swings, the same amount of turns a 4/4 (think Su-Chi) would deliver a death blow. A coup de-grace, if this creature were to leave play, it would deliver another poison counter.
Unfortunately, in terms of killing the opponent, the additional poison counter is unlikely to matter, since it wouldn’t supply the critical 10th counter, unless another means of poisoning could be produced. That means that this would likely need to swing in at least five times, without being destroyed or blocked, to win the game. That’s simply too slow. As a point of comparision, Su-Chi doesn’t even see play in current Vintage, and it has the same clock speed. Like Su-Chi, however, Core Prowler can trade with a Lodestone Golem or a Juggernaut, so it has that going for it. This card is simply too slow to be Vintage playable.
It does raise an interesting design question: how fast would a creature have to be to be a pure beater in a Workshop deck to see play? Juggernaut does, from time to time, see play, but the relative utility of slightly more expensive creatures like Precursor Golem, outshines it. Precursor Golem has begun to appear in Vintage Top 8s, as I forecast. The main advantage of Precursor Golem is permanent advantage in the Workshop mirror, and that’s why, for example, Ben Carp has included 4 in his sideboard. Precursor Golem offers 9 power for 5 mana, a standard that is pretty high. I would expect that Core Prowler would need at least 3 power to be considered for Vintage play. If it had 5 power, it would definitely be Vintage playable, since it could win the game in two swings. With 3 or 4 power, it might be Vintage playable. We need not answer the question definitively since we can conclude in any case that 2 power is not enough. Core Prowler is not Vintage playable unless Workshop Aggro decks can pair it with very efficient ways to generate poison counters.
Darksteel Plate – This card brings into focus the value of indestructibility. There have been plenty of cards with indestructibility that have seen play in Vintage: Darksteel Citadel, Darksteel Colossus, and Darksteel Ingot, among others. Indestructibility clearly has some utility. But in Vintage, although creatures frequently deal combat damage, they less frequently do it to each other. Creatures in Vintage either attack, provide special utility, or serve as a speedbump to an opposing attacker. In that particular respect, indestructibility is not particularly important.
The other benefit of indestructibility is some degree of immunity from permanent removal. With cards like Ancient Grudge, Nature’s Claim, and Trygon Predator seeing plenty of play, indestructibility can be an important answer. However, there are two critical caveats. First, while there are plenty of permanent destruction spells in Vintage, an appreciable number of such answers are either bounce spells or spells that ignore indestructibility. For example, Hurkyl’s Recall, Swords to Plowshares, Goblin Welder, and Jace the Mind Sculptor each deal with a permanent in a way that indestructibility is no shield. In many of those cases, other forms of protection generated by similar equipment is superior or just as effective. For example, Lightning Greaves will protect a spell as well or better against many of the cards from both lists. Similarly, Sword of Fire and Ice will stop many of those as well. However, Lightning Greaves is more efficient and Sword of Fire and Ice does much more. For Vintage purposes, both of those equipment would seem to offer better value than Darksteel Plate. This shouldn’t see any Vintage play.
Decimator Web – This card is not Vintage playable. The flavor text should be “It does everything, but nothing well.” Cards with multiple functionality are usually better in Vintage. Staff of Domination sees more than its fair share of play. Decimator Web’s functions are largely substitutes for each other, rather than complements, and that’s the first problem with this card. The multiple effects generating by its activated ability do not synergize or build towards a common goal. The other problem is this card’s enormous expense. Eight mana for this effect is egregiously overpriced. Staff of Domination offers a counterpoint for affordable activation costs in Vintage.
Dross Ripper – See Bladed Sentinel.
Flayer Husk – Generating two permanents for one mana is noteworthy, but I don’t see a practical use for this effect. If the germ token were an artifact, it might be good in an affinity style shell, since it could be sacrificed to Arcbound Ravager, and then the equipment would still be around. Shouldn’t see play.
Gust Skimmer – For two mana you can get Arcbound Ravager in Vintage. This card is not Vintage playable.
Hexplate Golem – This is a better deal than Ebony Rhino, but for 7 mana, you can get Myr Battlesphere, Platinum Angel, Pentavus, Triskelavus, or just spend six and get Steel Hellkite, Wurmcoil Engine, or Duplicant. This guy shouldn’t see any play.
Ichor Wellspring – We’ve come a long way since Jayemdae Tome. This is a potential component to a creative Vintage draw engine. There are only a few artifacts, like Tsabo’s Web, that have this Comes Into Play trigger. I’ve mentioned Tsabo’s Web, and cards like Jester’s Scepter, in connection with cards like Esperzoa before, and this is yet another possible application of that idea, and others similar to it. What’s most interesting about this card, however, is the application with Goblin Welder. Wellspring immediately replaces itself, so no additional cost is necessary. But by sacrificing it to a Smokestack, Tinker, Transmute Artifact, or even an Arcbound Ravager or Kuldotha Forgemaster, you can generate an additional card. But the really busted potential begins when you begin Welding it. Weld it out, draw a card. Weld it in, draw a card. And on and on.
Ichor Wellspring is Vintage playable. This card is a natural fit in any Arcbound Ravager deck in Vintage (although there are precious few of them these days), and a serious consideration in any Workshop Welder deck.
Knowledge Pool – This card is bound to confuse. Knowledge Pool is a complex multi-functional, chaotically symmetrical, multi-zone-changing card. Knowledge Pool requires solid knowledge of many of the most difficult areas of the rules, save the layering of state-based effects. I would argue that Knowledge Pool is the most confusing card ever printed, even ahead of the notorious Chains of Mephistopheles. If you doubt this, consider which card is more confusing in multiples. The final trigger requires an FAQ to understand. I am more than a little surprised that Wizards would print, let alone design and template, a card of this complexity and inevitable confusion.
To analyze this card for Vintage playability, we need to get a handle on this card’s functionality in the Vintage context. Unfortunately, this card has many functions. It exiles cards, it may allow you to ‘cheat’ spells into play, and it prevents players from resolving spells from the stack.
Let’s begin with the last item. This card actually prevents players from resolving spells they put onto the stack! Every new spell added to the stack is exiled, and may be replaced with a previously exiled spell, frustrating the attempts of players to resolve important spells. Let me provide an example.
Suppose Knowledge Pool is in play. 6 Spells are exiled by the Knowledge Pool. Your opponent wants to play a game-winning Yawgmoth’s Will. They play Yawgmoth’s Will. Knowledge Pool triggers. When the trigger resolves, Yawgmoth’s Will is exiled, and they must play another spell instead from the Knowledge Pool. To play the Yawgmoth’s Will, they must expend mana or other resources to play another spell, frustrating their attempts to win the game with Yawgmoth’s Will. This is the simplest scenario illustrating Knowledge Pool’s disruptive influence.
The important point here is that Knowledge Pool does something very powerful: it frustrates player’s attempts to resolve spells from the stack. The ability to prevent the opponent from resolving spells is unbelievably potent, in theory. Players attempt to win games by resolving spells in pursuit of strategic ends. This card prevents players from doing that. To the extent that it does so, it can actually serve as a strategic trump, preventing the opponent from achieving strategic objectives! In Magic, the ability to thwart the opponent from achieving such objectives is the essence of the “control” role. From that perspective alone, this card is potentially enormously powerful and useful. It is can serve as a complete control trump. On the other hand, Knowledge Pool doesn’t totally prevent the opponent from resolving relevant spells. To resolve a spell, they’ll first have to remove it with the Knowledge pool, and then play another one. So, for example, if an opponent wants to resolve Yawgmoth’s Will, they will first have to exile the Yawgmoth’s Will onto the Knowledge Pool, and then play another spell and resolve the Knowledge Pool trigger before the opponent steals the Yawgmoth’s Will by playing a spell themselves.
That may seem like a minor hoop to jump through. However, you can – in theory – perpetually thwart an opponent’s attempt to resolve a critical spell such as Yawgmoth’s Will. Suppose, continuing the example above, that the active player follows up the Yawgmoth’s Will with another card from hand, say a Mox, which then triggers the Knowledge Pool. In response, the opponent may play an instant to trigger the Knowledge Pool, and ‘steal’ the Yawgmoth’s Will before the active player may resolve their Knowledge Pool trigger and cast their own Yawgmoth’s Will.
There are a few cards that produce this kind of effect, with Dovescape being the closest analogue. Other cards include Zur’s Weirding and Counterbalance. Eye of the Storm is superficially similar, but it doesn’t shut down the opponent to the same degree, because you can’t ultimately stop the opponent from resolving their critical spells. For example, you can’t stop an opponent from eventually resolving a Krosan Grip on the enchantment. Dovescape does, but Dovescape isn’t as totalitarian because the tokens can win the game.
Of course, like Dovesecape, this card is symmetrical. In practice, the symmetry of Dovescape is usually practically asymmetric, hurting one player more than another. Similarly, Knowledge Pool’s superficial symmetry can be broken. Players with more instants will have the advantage in being able to resolve their Knowledge Pool triggers first. For example, suppose you resolved Knowledge Pool, exiling one of your opponent’s Jace, the Mind Sculptors. You attempt to play a Mox, which triggers the Knowledge Pool. Your intent is to replace the Mox with your opponent’s Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Recognizing your intent, they decide to play Force of Will, targeting your Mox. Their Force triggers Knowledge Pool, which exiles it, and they instead play their own Jace. Now your plan has backfired.
This example, and the underlying principle, pretty much rules out Workshops as a home for this card, although it is a potentially game-ending control effect that Workshop Prison decks might otherwise enjoy. Workshop decks are also the place where most 6cc artifacts find a home: Duplicant, Steel Hellkite, and Triskelion each see a lot of play.
On the other hand, this example, and the underlying function of the card, also suggests that the advantage definitely goes to the active player, which is defined in the rules as the player whose turn it is. The active player will have a broader range of spells they can play to trigger Knowledge Pool in the first place. But as the example above also illustrates instant speed spells can negate this advantage because of the card’s symmetry. That makes this card unpredictable and chaotic. But it is not as unbounded or unpredictable as many critics or readers may think.
There is a limit to the number of triggers that Knowledge Pool can or is likely to generate during a turn. Further, there is a limit to the number of Knowledge Pool triggers that can go on the stack at the same time. The factors that constrain this are the number of cards in each players hand, the potential instants they may have, and their mana and hand resources. Each player can only play so many spells at a time. This makes Knowledge Pool a known unknown, like counting the number of counterspells your opponent may have. You don’t know exactly what they have, but you can calculate an upper limit and estimate a likely number. To that extent, Knowledge Pool is not as chaotic or unpredictable as it may seem. Even when you pass the turn, it is possible to thwart the opponent from resolving their most important spells if you have enough instants in hand or happen to have a counterspell in the Pool.
It’s my assessment that a blue player with a carefully designed deck should be able to deploy Knowledge Pool as a strategic finisher to win the game by preventing the opponent from achieving their strategic objectives. If this is playable in Vintage, I think it would be in a blue based control deck as a finisher. Once resolved, the blue pilot would then use this to take complete control over the game, preventing the opponent from resolving anything important. As a big finisher, this card can take complete control over the game. It’s expensive, and using it as a finisher will require a strong defense in the interim, including the ability to survive the early and mid-game. I don’t expect it to be played in Vintage in the near future, but it is, at least in theory, potentially playable.
There is another, less likely, potential application. This card also functions like a mana cheat spell, like Eureka or Sneak Attack. This card allows you to play cards for free or for a much reduced casting cost. But it doesn’t just allow you to play any card for free, but cards that were exiled when Knowledge Pool came into play or subsequently. In terms of immediate, practical application, this means the top 3 cards of both players libraries. So, if you have an Emrakul on top of your library, you can play a Mox and then play Emrakul instead. So, for example, Worldly Tutor can be used to put Emrakul on top, and then a subsequent Knowledge Pool can allow you to play it for just a few mana.
Knowledge Pool is an unlikely Vintage playable, but it generates effects so powerful that they cannot be discounted. Knowledge Pool is a theoretically playable card, but I don’t expect it to be showing up in Vintage Top 8s near you. If it does appear, I expect it to show up as a singleton or 2-of in blue control decks as a strategic trump.
Lumengrid Gargoyle – Strictly inferior to Stell Hellkite.
Mirrorworks – If this copied opponent’s artifacts, it would be Vintage playable. Neither Mirari nor Minion Reflector see play in Vintage. However, a five mana artifact that just copies instants or sorceries is too expensive for Vintage play, and an equally expensive artifact that just copies creatures is too narrow for Vintage play. Mirrorworks copies the best card type in Vintage: artifacts, and it is not too expensive for a Workshop deck.
The problem is that the main application of this kind of card would be to copy opponent’s artifacts, not yours. Copying your own spells is relevant, particularly in the Workshop mirror match. The Workshop mirror match is often defined by the struggle for board superiority. When the board is overflowing with Sphere-type effects, the ability to resolve permanents can be decisive. Although it may cost 4-5 mana to play a Thorn of Amethyst, you can copy the spell for just two more mana. Ditto a Lodestone Golem or Triskelion. Imagine copying a Tangle Wire! The bonus can be very important.
If this card copied opponent’s spells, then you could match your opponent every time they played a permanent, regardless of how much they spent to cast it. In that respect, it could easily overwhelm the Workshop mirror match. More intriguingly, such a card could answer many of the most potent threats to your strategy: copying Tinker targets or Time Vaults as they come into play. It is these applications, copying the opponent’s permanents, that would generate the most value, although not all of it.
The casting cost and application is efficient enough for Vintage play, but its applicability is probably too narrow given the opportunity cost of the slot. You’d rather just have Precursor Golem for the mirror.
Magnetic Mine – It’s too bad this card is symmetrical. The only possible application I could see is to stop decks built around artifact recursion, such as Bomberman or certain variants of Affinity. Neither of those decks sees more than fringe level play in Vintage, and there are probably better answers in any case.
Mortarpod – There are too many other efficient artifact sources of direct damage for this to see play.
Myr Sire – Reminiscent of Arcbound Worker, and another possible addition to Vintage Affinity.
Myr Turbine – This card is not Vintage playable. Myr Turbine generates a potentially amazing effect: Tinkers up a Myr, but the cost of doing so is exorbitant. Even with a full clip of Myr Servitors, it’s difficult to see what advantage could be generated that couldn’t be generated with the same resource utilization. Yes, there are plenty of combos: Myr Retriever, Myr Servitor, etc, but are any those any good? I am skeptical.
For its base cost, this card is little better than the hive. The second activation is very difficult to execute, and therefore unreliable. This card shouldn’t see any Vintage play.
Myr Welder – This guy is Vintage playable. The name of this card and its ability may appear to suggest that this card serves a recursive function. I’m not convinced. What artifacts in Vintage will you be exiling to take advantage of the recursive possibility? What artifacts with activated abilities will you be recurring? Here is a list of playable artifacts from my previous set review with activated abilities:
1 Aether Spellbomb
4 Aether Vial
4 Arcbound Ravager
1 Black Lotus
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Chromatic Star
4 Chrome Mox
4 Cranial Plating
1 Coalition Relic
3 Engineered Explosives
4 Goblin Charbelcher
4 Grim Monolith
1 Helm of Obedience
4 Jester’s Cap
4 Karn, Silver Golem
1 Lion’s Eye Diamond
1 Lotus Petal
1 Mana Crypt
1 Mana Vault
1 Memory Jar
4 Mindlock Orb
4 Mox Diamond
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
4 Powder Keg
1 Pyrite Spellbomb
3 Razormane Masticore
4 Relic of Progenitus
4 Serum Powder
3 Sensei’s Divining Top
1 Sol Ring
4 Staff of Domination
4 Sword of Fire and Ice
1 Time Vault
4 Tormod’s Crypt
3 Umezawa’s Jitte
4 Voltaic Key
Then, if we add Scars of Mirrodin additions, we get a few more, like Steel Hellkite and Rachet Bomb. We can further filter out cards whose activated abilities depend upon internal characteristics, which Myr Welder would not imprint, such as Triskelion’s counters. Over a third of these artifacts are primarily mana sources, like Sol Ring and Metalworker. Of the remaining cards, many are either highly situational, like Goblin Charbelcher or Aether Spellbomb, or Serum Powder, and would not likely be imprinted for value.
As you can see, the individual possibilities for imprinting aren’t overwhelming or all that impressive. Among the single best applications may be a card like Masticore, where both of the activated abilities can be copied without the drawback. In the end, this card’s utility may be more a function of the range of possible uses than a single particularly broken application. For example, spinning a Top or copying a Mox may provide enough functionality over time to justify its inclusion in a deck, which, by the late game, can become a Karn or something of that power level. In the meantime, a 1/4 body can serve on defense until better applications become available.
If we move away from strict ability copying applications, we see other functions for Myr Welder. Welder is not bad at thwarting opposing Goblin Welders, a long-standing problem for mono-brown Workshop decks or Workshop decks facing blue control players with Welder. It’s also useful at combating threshold applications, like Cabal Pit or Barbarian Ring that some Workshop decks use.
Another criticism of this card is its speed. Artifacts with relevant abilities probably don’t go to the graveyard that quickly without help, and it’s not clear how much this guy can contribute in the most important stages of the game.
Myr Welder is playable, but it will remain to be seen whether he actually sees play. I think he’ll probably show up somewhere at some point in the next 6 months.
Peace Strider – 4 mana for a 3/3 body is well below Vintage standards. This card is not playable. I’d rather play Arcbound Crusher for the same casting cost.
Phyrexian Digester – A ten turn clock with 1 toughness is not likely to get the job done. This card probably wouldn’t be playable even if it cost 1 mana, let alone 2.
Phyrexian Juggernaut – At 6 mana, this card has steep competition with Wurmcoil Engine, Steel Hellkite, Triskelion, and Duplicant. Each of those cards is disruptive and has a quick clock. This creature is less disruptive than any of those, but features a faster clock, at least, if unimpeded. I have a difficult time imagining people selecting Phyrexian Juggernaut over any, or most, of the aforementioned cards. As a point of comparison, I wonder whether a 6 mana 10/10 artifact creature would be playable. We already get 9 power for 5 mana with Precursor Golem, and it only sees marginal amounts of play. As I said in the context of Core Prowler, if this cost 4 mana, it would be playable. But at 6 mana, I’m skeptical. A 10/10 for 6 mana might actually be playable, but 5 toughness means it can’t survive combat with most Tinker targets, whereas a 10 toughness creature might. And, of course, the question of whether a card is playable or not is not the same as whether it will see play. The latter question I think is probably easier to answer: I don’t expect this guy to show up in any Vintage Top 8s in the next 3-5 months. Whether it’s playable or not, I truly can’t tell, but I don’t think so.
Phyrexian Revoker – A virtual Pithing Needle on legs. Pithing Needle is a Vintage staple, and this guy should be too.
First of all, two casting cost is the norm for playable disruptive creatures in the format: Meddling Mage, Kataki, Qasali Pridemage, etc. In that respect, he is efficient enough for Vintage play.
Pithing Needle is heavily played in Vintage because of its broad utility. However, a non-trivial amount of cards named with Needle are lands: Bazaar of Baghdad, Wasteland, Mishra’s Factory, and Library of Alexandria are often Needled. That said, being a creature and being able to deal damage gives a card even more utility that I believe compensates for this limitation vis-à-vis Pithing Needle. And, moreover, unlike PIthing Needle, you can name artifact accelerants with this card! That seems like more than a fair enough trade off.
What cards might be likely Needle targets in Vintage?
• Artifact Accelerants: Sol Ring, Moxen, Black Lotus, Mana Crypt, etc.
• Jace, the Mind Sculptor
• Time Vault
• Steel Hellkite
• Sensei’s Divining Top
• Goblin Welder
• Tezzeret the Seeker
• Memory Jar, Necropotence, Yawgmoth’s Bargain
In short, this card has many applications across a variety of matchups. Stopping Jace and Time Vault is a priority for Fish decks, and now there is another 2 mana answer to both. This guy may also be useful in Workshop decks for a similar reason, although he will compete with other options, and is probably more of a sideboard card for specific Workshop mirror matches.
I expect to see Phyrexian Revoker in Fish and Beats decks, and occasionally in Workshop decks. This is a Vintage playable, and could become a Vintage staple.
Pierce Strider – A better comes into play trigger than Peace Strider, but the same analysis applies.
Piston Sledge – This is the most promising equipment from the set thus far. For three mana, you get an immediate 3 power boost to the creature of your choice. It could play out like this:
Turn 1: Mishra’s Workshop, Mox, Lodestone Golem.
Turn 2: Piston Sledge, equipping Golem, Ancient Tomb, Sphere of Resistance. Attack for 8.
However, for two additional mana, you can get more damage out of a Sword of Fire and Ice, and the benefit of card advantage and protection from blue and red. I don’t expect this to see play in Vintage, but it is efficient enough by Vintage standards. The reason I don’t expect it to see play is that cards that produce only damage are less valuable than cards that produce damage and generate either card advantage or some degree of protection or resiliency. Still, if someone were to design a super fast Workshop Aggro deck, this card would be a serious consideration.
Plague Myr – You’d rather have Grim Monolith, which is now unrestricted in Vintage.
Psychosis Crawler – Again, this card is primarily, although not exclusively, a beater. The ability of making an opponent suffer a damage for each card you draw matters, but it only matters if you have other ways to draw cards or if you expect this to be out for several turns before you win the game.
The place to start in our analysis is to figure out how big he has to be to be playable. The standard is Precursor Golem. This guy isn’t nearly large enough to justify including. Perhaps if it pinged the opponent every time they drew a card it would be playable, since it would do damage faster and punish specific spells like Jace. As is, this guy is just too slow for Vintage.
Razorfield Rhino – In my Scars of Mirrodin set review, I established a clear two step framework for evaluating cards with Metalcraft. First of all, for the purposes of analysis, it is helpful to evaluate a card as if its metalcraft condition were always satisfied. No card is playable unless it can be satisfied. If a card is unplayable even with its metalcraft condition satisfied, then we need not progress any further. Second, we need to evaluate whether the card can be reliably supported to satisfy the metalcraft condition. After running the math, you need about 33 artifacts in your deck to meet that condition reliably enough for Vintage play. In general, this will restrict the use of most metalcraft spells to Workshop decks or affinity decks. Although it is possible, as described in the previous set review, for Fish or other decks to meet that threshold requirement.
Applying that framework, we can see that this card fails at the first step. With the metalcraft condition satisfied, this is a 6/6 creature for 6 mana, which makes it worse than Wurmcoil Engine, which is rarely a four-of. That also makes it probably worse than Phyrexian Juggernaut. Razorfield Rhino is not Vintage playable.
Rusted Slasher – Another 4 power 4cc creature with a non-trivial ability. This is probably just worse than Su-Chi, since the small creature will require a regeneration, and definitely worse than Juggernaut. However, it is probably better than Synod Centurion. Neither sees any play in current Vintage.
Shimmer Myr – A 3 mana 2/2 is not Vintage playable, so its playability hinges on its ability. What is the value of having flash and/or giving other artifacts flash?
At first glance, the ability to give your artifacts Flash may not seem that valuable. After all, Workshop decks operate best with their cards are in play, not in hand. It is only when lock parts are in play that they disrupt the opponent. Playing a Sphere of Resistance in response to a spell will not have the intended effect. Relatedly, the opportunity cost of such a situational effect could be quite high. Workshop decks typically develop their board to prevent the opponent from winning. That is, given a hand with a mix of disruption and beaters, the disruption is usually the priority. The disruption is deployed quickly so that the opponent can’t or won’t be able to combo out with Time Vault, Tinker or some other threat. For example, imagine your opening hand is: Mishra’s Workshop, Mox Pearl, Ancient Tomb, Shimmer Myr, Triskelion, Sphere of Resistance, and Tangle Wire. You’re going to prioritize the Sphere and the Tangle Wire, making Shimmer Myr a largely dead card. Even if it weren’t, it’s not clear how much advantage you derive from being able to play Triskelion at instant speed, but it does appear to be a marginal advantage.
In spite of these general concerns, I see two critical applications for Shimmer Myr, one obvious, one more subtle. The first, and most obvious, is the interaction with spells like Hurkyl’s Recall – mass artifact bounce. Shimmer Myr allows you to replay all of your spells, beginning with this one, after your opponent has resolved Hurkyl’s Recall or a Rebuild effect. Hurkyl’s Recall effects are enormously popular in Vintage because they can singlehandedly wipe out an opponent’s board, allow the controller to untap and then play whatever they might wish to play unmolested. Hurkyl’s Recall costs a mere two mana, and is about the best single silver bullet against Workshop decks you can resolve on the Workshop players end step.
When an opponent resolves Hurkyl’s Recall on your end step, you can simply respond with Shimmer Myr, and then replay most, if not all, of your board! That is a tremendous upside. This application is important above all because of the ubiquity of Hurkyl’s Recall. Storm combo decks, and a range of blue control decks, rely on Hurkyl’s Recall effects as a post-board strategy against many Workshop decks. The potential to invalidate that tactic is enormously valuable.
However, before we laud this card as the end of Hurkyl’s Recall effects, there are a number of other considerations to bear in mind in connection with this application. First, while this an important potential application, the opportunity cost of the slot must always be considered. While Shimmer Myr will help you replay your board after a Hurkyl’s Recall has resolved, it is also possible that Hurkyl’s Recall may not have resolved in the first place had you played something other than Shimmer Myr. Secondly, while this application is important, you must have drawn the Shimmer Myr in the relevant time frame. In this respect, I could see Shimmer Myr being used as an anti-Hurkyl’s Recall sideboard tactic. The third problem, however, is that it may simply shore up matchups that you are already strong against.
The second, and potentially more important application, is the interaction this spell has in combating counterspells like Mana Drain. In the control matchup, there are two time frames: before your opponent is able to play Mana Drain and after they are able to play Mana Drain. Before your opponent can play Mana Drain, Workshop players generally play any spell they can afford to cast. After the opponent has Mana Drain mana available, the entire dynamic changes. If an opponent is able to resolve a Mana Drain, they can often leverage that additional mana to play game winning effects. Thus, Mana Drain mana is a deterrent to playing spells at all, at least until it can be safely overwhelmed.
Shimmer Myr has the potential to change that dynamic entirely. Shimmer Myr allows you to play spells on your time frame, which may mean playing spells on your opponent’s end step or second main phase. This will make it easier both to resolve spells on your turn and force them to counter bait spells. Thus, you can play an end of turn Smokestack, untap and add a counter, for example. You can play a big mana spell without fearing losing. Yes, the control player can still play Mana Drain, but now you have more resources to try and trump them. You can untap and play Tangle Wires, Karns, etc.
Again, the main concern is going to be opportunity cost of the slot. Every slot in a Workshop player’s 75 is precious. That’s because about half of the main deck is going to be mana, and half of the sideboard for the Dredge matchup. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for play or give. Each card has to carry its weight, and that’s where I have the most concerns about Shimmer Myr. Is it Vintage playable? Without question. Will it see play in the near future? I think it will be tried, but I’m just not sure it will be appearing in Top 8s near you. It could very well be, but I won’t be surprised if it isn’t.
Shriekhorn – A derivation of Millstone. There are plenty of playable Millstone effects in Vintage: Jace, the Mind Sculptor’s ultimate ability, Grindstone + Painter’s Servant, Helm of Obedience + Leyline of the Void, Oona, Queen of Fae + Worldgorger Dragon combo, among others. What each of those effects have in common is that they mill the opponent’s library in one fell swoop. This card is not efficient enough to aid a dedicated Millstone strategy, but it may nonetheless have applications.
First of all, it is incredibly efficient. For one mana, you can immediately move cards from a library to the graveyard. What kinds of applications might such a card have? First of all, such an effect can be used to “counter” an opponent’s topdeck tutors, such as Mystical Tutor, Vampiric Tutor, or Imperial Seal.
However, that application doesn’t offer much value. Second, it could be used to mill one’s own library, to put dredge cards in the graveyard, to move artifacts into the graveyard that can be Welded in for this card, to create Reanimation targets, or to dig deeper into one’s library with Sensei’s Divining Top. This card may actually be most useful in Legacy, where Bazaar of Baghdad does not exist, and where it could turn Goblin Welder into a legitimate Reanimator threat, it the Welder could be protected for a turn. This card is efficient enough for Vintage play, but its effect may be too marginal to justify including in one’s 75. If it milled 3 cards, rather than just 2, you would have better odds of hitting a dredger. Still, I wouldn’t be shocked to see it tried. It’s theoretically Vintage playable, although I’m skeptical that it will actually be played.
Signal Pest – A one mana zero power card is not exactly the shining standard of Vintage playability. The only possible Vintage application I could imagine is with Artificer’s Intuition and Myr Servitors. By playing a bunch of Servitors and tutoring up multiple Signal Pests, you could alpha strike pretty well. Add Cranial Plating to the mix…but I’m not sure if such a deck would be disruptive enough to win in Vintage. It theoretically could be, but it probably wouldn’t be. Still, someone enterprising enough could establish otherwise.
Silverskin Armor – Anyone in Vintage would play Umezawa’s Jittle over this. Did you know that Skullclamp is also unrestricted in Vintage?
Skinwing – Another 4 mana 3/3. This is worse than Jitte too. Although it could theoretically be playable if the equip cost were much reduced.
Sphere of Suns – Darksteel Ingot saw a tiny amount of Vintage play because this effect is important. The existence of Mox Opal greatly diminishes the need for this kind of spell. Still, it is an interesting effect that could be used in a 5c Stax deck for greater mana reliability, if only it didn’t come into play tapped. As is, this card is much worse than many other mana fixers that exist. Unplayable.
Spin Engine – See Bladed Sentinel.
Spine of Ish Sah – In addition to having a very cool name, this card has a very useful effect. Workshop decks are in the business of mana denial and board advantage. This card can not only take out a basic land, it can kill difficult permanents like Jace or a Time Vault. The second ability actually makes this card subtly stronger. If you were to using Goblin Welder to Weld out Spine of Ish Sah, you would find the Spine returned to your hand, at no loss of card or permanent advantage. But if you use an effect like Bazaar of Baghdad to put it into your graveyard, you can then Weld it back in without it first going back to your hand. That gives you the best of both worlds. You can Weld it in, but when you Weld it out, it returns back to your hand, which can be incredibly powerful for recursive use of Bazaar of Baghdad, an application I fear this card is destined for. This card is Vintage playable, and will see a good deal of Vintage play.
Strandwalker – This card is far too expensive. See Bladed Sentinel. A 5 mana 2/4 is not Vintage playable. And the equip cost is out of Vintage range. Equip costs in Vintage probably can’t cost more than 3 mana, since you won’t have more than 3 non-Workshop mana reliably available.
Sword of Feast and Famine – This card is just much worse than Sword of Fire and Ice. Won’t see play.
Tangle Hulk – The regeneration ability is probably too expensive for most Workshop decks, and not sufficiently valuable to justify playing this over Juggernaut, which doesn’t currently see much play in Vintage anyway.
Thopter Assembly – Steel Hellkite sets the bar for 6 mana 5/5 flying artifact creatures in Vintage. What advantage does this offer? It is undeniable that this offers a potentially huge upside: gigantic permanent advantage in the Workshop mirror. That said, one of the problems with this card is that it returns to hand in your upkeep, which means that it will be two turns before you can begin attacking with it. While the permanent advantage is undeniable, I find it difficult to imagine playing this over Precursor Golem. Golem provides more power, is a bigger threat, and is more efficient. I don’t expect this to see play.
Titan Forge – So, for 12 mana I can get a 9/9 creature? What a deal!
Training Drone – The cost of reversing this drawback is too steep for Vintage. And not because there aren’t enough playable equipment spells, there are. Sword of Fire and Ice, Umezawa’s Jitte, Cranial Plating, Skullclamp, and, arguably, Lightning Greaves. The problem is that you wouldn’t want to clog your deck with enough equipment to reliably use this guy. Not Vintage playable.
Viridian Claw – This card would compete with Shuko and Bonesplitter in Vintage. Oh yeah, and Skullclamp. None of those cards see play, and this won’t either.
Accorder Paladin – There are plenty of 2cc white creatures that are playable in Vintage: Kataki, War’s Wage, True Believer, Jotun Grunt, Ethersworn Canonist, Leonin Arbiter, Tidehollow Sucller, and, if you count them, Qasali Pridemage, Gaddock Teeg, and Meddling Mage, among others. The unifying feature of each of these cards is the disruptive effect they have on the opponent. 2cc creatures in this format are utility creatures: they either disrupt the opponent or generate an advantage for the controller. This card does neither.
The fact that there are no playable 2cc beaters (i.e. cards whose sole function is combat or to support combat) does not mean that such a cards is unplayable. There happens to be several 2cc creatures who fit that description that are playable in Vintage, most prominently (although not exclusively), Tarmogoyf. As you may know from my Gush book, Kiln Fiend and Quirion Dryad are also playable, and there are a few others. The key feature of these spells is their incredible efficiency. Kiln Fiend is, on average, a 9 power creature. Tarmogoyf is used because it reaches 4 to 5 power regularly. This creature does not rise to that level of efficiency, and is even less efficient – although more reliable – than Jotun Grunt. The key advantage this card has is that it powers up the rest of your team. That is non-trivial. But does that advantage counteract the somewhat below-the-bar power on this creature? Possibly. If this creature had 4 power, I would say that it is Vintage playable, at least in theory. Whether it would see Vintage play, even with those stats, I could not say with certainty. With 3 power, the chances are reduced, but I wouldn’t completely rule this card out. Serra Avenger has, in strange cases, seen play before.
Having the right home is as important as having the proper stats, as measuring up. If there isn’t a playable archetype for a card like this, then the card’s inherent strength is irrelevant. The home for a card like this would be a Fish deck with white splash or a Beats deck. Beats decks generally require maximum disruption, and use Tarmogoyf as the sole beaters, if any. This card could generate more power for a beats deck than a Goyf thanks to Battle Cry, powering up all of the other bears, including Spirit Guides. This card is probably the best pure beater with three or more natural power in the format, which makes it potentially Vintage playable, although unlikely so.
Ardent Recruit – Following the two step analytic framework for evaluating metalcraft spells I described above, I will review Ardent Recruit. Simply put, this is a 1cc 3/3 creature with no disruptive effect or utility. Wild Nacatl is comparable to this card in terms the constraints and requirements imposed by the card. Wild Nacatl sees no Vintage play, which bodes poorly for this card. If this were a natural 2/2 with the same ability, it would be playable. As is, I don’t expect it to see any Vintage play.
Banishment Decree – This card would have to cost at least two mana, and arguably three, to see play in Vintage. Five Mana is a pipe dream. This card is completely unplayable.
Choking Fumes – Darkblast is legal in Vintage, as is Lava Dart, Fire/Ice, etc. And white gets Swords to Plowshares (or Path to Exile) for 33% of the cost. This is not Vintage playable. It might not even see Vintage play if it was just a white Darkblast that couldn’t be recurred.
Gore Vassal – There aren’t many 3cc non-artifact creatures that see play in Vintage: Trygon Predator, Vendilion Clique, Aven Mindcensor, Thada Adel, Cold-Eyed Selkie, Trinket Mage, Faerie Macabre, Elvish Spirit Guide/Simian Spirit Guide, and arguably Psychatog, among others. These cards are almost all very disruptive, utility creatures or strategically important. Gore Vassal probably doesn’t make that very exclusive list. It’s not blue, and its ability is not that great, despite the ability to destroy a Dark Confidant, Lotus Cobra, or even a Goblin Welder. If this card cost 2 mana, it might be playable. As it is, it’s simply not disruptive enough or large enough for Vintage.
Hero of Bladehold – There are currently only a few 4cc non-artifact creature that sees play in modern tournament Vintage (although Auriok Salvagers is arguably the basis of a deck, and Glen Elendra Archmage was popular in 2009 and early 2010, and is playable). And most of those creatures are reanimation targets (Flame-Kin Zealot/Ichorid). Academy Rector used to see play, quite a bit in fact, and Flametongue Kavu saw a marginal amount of play 4-5 years ago. Since then, the only 4cc creature that sees play in Vintage is Sower of Temptation. Meloku is also playable, and costs one more. But in general, 4cc spells in Vintage have to be of the power level of restricted bombs like Gifts Ungiven or Jace, the Mind Sculptor to see play. Hero of Bladehold is not going to be the exception.
Leonin Relic-Warder – Now this is what I’m talking about. This guy isn’t just Vintage playable, he’s really good. He’s going to see plenty of Vintage play. In fact, this guy is arguably the best 2cc white creature of all time.
The obvious comparison of Qasali Pridemage, which I picked as the number one Vintage printing in 2009. Pridemage has seen lots and lots of play, and is one of the best answers to Time Vault. This guy is just as castable as Pridemage, but has many advantages over Pridemage.
First of all, there is no activation cost to get the Disenchant effect. That can matter if your opponent has just resolved an Oath, is constraining you with Sphere effects like Lodestone Golem, or is about to go infinite with Time Vault. Secondly, you get the Disenchant effect without having to sacrifice your creature. You can attack and kill your opponent’s Time Vault. Third, exiling some artifacts is better than destroying them. When you destroy an artifact like Time Vault, or an enchantment like Oath, it can always be replayed later with Regrowth or Yawgmoth’s Will. When you exile such a spell, it can’t be replayed in that way. Not to mention, this card can deal with Blightsteel Colossus, whereas Qasili Pridemage can’t. Incidentally, this guy can actually kill a Sphinx, whereas Pridemage can’t.
In a metagame, such as ours, where Mishra’s Workshop decks are dominant means that this guy is perhaps as good as it gets. From the moment he hits, he takes out the most menacing artifact on the table, which will often be a Lodestone Golem. But the capacity to take out whatever is problematic, whether it be a Steel Hellkite, Crucible of Worlds, a Tangle Wire or a Smokestack makes this guy amazing. He’s a great tempo play: he can take out a threat, and beat down just long enough to survive a Workshop players counter-tactics. This guy may not be able to survive indefinitely in a format where cards like Duplicant and Triskelion see a good deal of play, but Workshop decks often lack the search or card advantage to find one of these answers soon enough.
One of the main feature of modern Fish is mana denial. Cards like Wasteland, Null Rod, and Stifle all help generate tempo, creating a window for the Fish pilot to win the game before the opponent can stop them or achieve their own strategic objectives. Relic-Warder is an excellent tempo card. Even the minor ability to take to exile a Mox is solid value. There should almost always be a target in Vintage, and that’s what makes this guy so spectacular.
This guy is not just playable, it’s great.
I am more than eager to try to build a U/W/x Fish deck with four Qasali Pridemage and four Leonin Relic-Warder. Once you get the mana right, that deck will be downright deadly. One of the best possible options is Aether Vial. Vial not only helps you obviate the mana problems, but it will allow you to maximize the effect, killing key targets at instant speed. This card could usher in the return of Vial Fish in Vintage.
Loxodon Partisan – Is neither disruptive nor generates card, mana or permanent advantage. As a beater, this would have roughly one mana to be playable.
Master’s Call – Raise the Alarm doesn’t see play in Vintage. This card won’t either, despite the ability to aide Metalcraft.
Mirran Crusader – Protection from black and green aren’t particularly important in Vintage. 4 power for 3 mana isn’t a bad deal in general, but it’s not efficient enough for Vintage.
Phyrexian Rebirth – No Wrath effects are Vintage playable except Balance.
Priest of Norn – Vintage unplayable; see Gore Vassal.
Tine Shrike – See Gore Vassal; 3cc creatures that don’t disrupt the opponent or produce card or mana advantage are not Vintage playable. At least, none are currently so. This card would probably have to cost 1 mana to be even seriously considered.
Victory’s Herald – At this casting cost, this card is an Oath or Reanimation target, not a castable play. In that respect, there are far too many superior options to this. Not playable.
White Sun’s Zenith – Decree of Justice sees no play in current Vintage, and it’s much better than White Sun’s Zenith since it draws a card, and isn’t conventionally counterable.
Blue Sun’s Zenith – Neither Stroke of Genius nor Braingeyser see any play in modern Vintage. Skeletal Scrying seems some play, in lieu of these formerly popular blue draw spells. I don’t expect this card to see any play either, even though it’s arguably better than Stroke of Genius, especially if there were a High Tide deck legal in the format.
Consecrated Sphinx – Six mana is the upper limit for the playability for non-artifact spells in Vintage, and it’s a standard set by cards like Yawgmoth’s Bargain and Mind’s Desire. Spells that cost more than six mana are playable, but they are playable only to the extent that they can be cheated into play with cards like Tinker, Oath, Show and Tell, or Reanimation effects. Example of such creatures include Iona, Shield of Emeria, Inkwell Leviathan, Terastodon, Tidespout Tyrant, and, much rarer these days, Worldgorger Dragon.
This card does not generate an effect powerful enough to warrant using cheats. Oath targets shut down the opponent in many ways and win the game. Reanimation targets generate lethal damage with Flame-Kin Zealot or infinite mana with Worldgorger Dragon. Specifically, the effect allows you to draw cards whenever the opponent draws cards, but it doesn’t stop the opponent from drawing cards. It doesn’t shut the opponent down. If this card stopped the opponent from drawing cards at all, it would be a playable card.
Corrupted Conscience – Control Magic no longer sees play in Vintage, but that’s a consequence of the presence and popularity of cards like Sower of Temptation and Domineer. This card doesn’t offer enough advantages over either card to justify playing it over them. Casting cost trumps the benefits of infect. This card is not Vintage playable, and should see no Vintage play.
Cryptoplasm – Although there are very few 3cc creatures that see play in Vintage, those that do fit the mold of Vendilion Clique, Trygon Predator, Trinket Mage, Thada Adel, Old Man of the Sea, Cold-Eyed Selkie, etc. (cards that generate card advantage or disrupt the opponent). This card does not generate card advantage, but it is the most efficient Clone effect I’ve seen, outdoing previous attempts like Dimir Doppleganger and Shapesharer. It can copy your best creature or your opponent’s best creature, which may well be a Blightsteel Colossus or other Tinker target. In that respect, it can be quite disruptive. Any Fish-type card that can copy a Tinker target is potentially playable. The drawback is the fact that you must wait a turn for it to copy something else, but that drawback compensates for the card’s mana efficiency. This card is an option for the Fish player, and is playable, at least in theory. The opportunity cost of the slots in any Fish deck is very high, so whether it will see play or not is another matter altogether.
Distant Memories – Tutoring effects are valuable in Vintage and see heavy play. Conditional tutors only see play if they can be manipulating to guarantee a particular result, such as Gifts Ungiven. In addition, most tutors cost three or less mana, such as Grim Tutor or Merchant Scroll, as cards that see play. This card costs as much as Diabolic Tutor without guaranteeing a particular result. This card is not only too expensive to see play, but it is too conditional.
Fuel For the Cause – Counterspells in Vintage are either free or cost one mana, with the exception of Mana Drain. This card is unplayable.
Mirran Spy – Yes, there are many possible combos with this card that can generate infinite mana or infinite storm and even infinite damage or milling. Three card infinite loops generally don’t see play in Vintage because they are too inconsistent to be relied upon. Less infinite combos seem no more promising. You can untap Master Transmuter, Metalworker, Waterfront Bouncer, Vedalken Certarch, Goblin Welder, or even Magus of the Unseen. That is not to say that untapping these cards has no value, or that 3 mana is even too much to pay to get this ability. The problem is the general opportunity cost of a slot dedicated to this card. It’s just not worth it.
Mitotic Manipulation – Blue spells that cost three mana have great potential in Vintage because it’s a sweet spot for playability. Good 3cc blue spells usually earn restriction: Thirst For Knowledge, Tinker, Windfall, Timetwister, and Frantic Search (now unrestricted), among others. However, usually that means 2U rather than 1UU. UU1 is significantly less playable as a casting cost, and the ability must be marginally better.
Seeing 7 cards is quite deep, and only a few other cards dig as far for 3 or less mana, such as Ancestral Knowledge. Unfortunately, this card doesn’t even guarantee replacing itself. The condition, of requiring that a card share the same name as a permanent, is incredibly stringent. Blue Vintage decks tend to be predominantly singletons. It’s difficult to imagine a permanent other than a dual land that could be revealed and put into play in this manner. There isn’t much value to be gained from that kind of effect. I’d rather have Impulse. Compulsive Research sees a tiny amount of Vintage play, and it is much closer to Thirst For Knowledge than this card.
Neurok Commando – A new, blue Ophidian. Unfortunately, Ophie sees no play these days, thanks to the availability of superior options. Cold-Eyed Selkie is the current standard-bearer of the Ophidian effect, and has the most effective force thanks to having Islandwalk. Scroll Thief is an almost strictly superior M11 improvement on Ophidian. Vedalken Heretic is more efficient. The lack of Scroll Thief in Vintage tournaments suggests that this guy probably won’t see any play either, although it’s the closest point of comparison. Scroll Thief is easier to cast, but Commando has Shroud. In any case, Cold-Eyed Selkie is probably just better than both. This is a potential Vintage playable, but I wouldn’t expect to see it in Vintage tournaments any time soon.
Oculus – This card does the exact opposite of what blue-based tempo decks want, and should see no play. Calling Silvergil Adept…
Quicksilver Geyser – This is a potent effect, but should cost 3 mana to be playable. Rushing River occasionally sees play in Vintage. This could safely cost UU1. I’d rather have Echoing Truth or Turbulent Dreams, or even Hull Breach.
Serum Raker – 4 mana for a 3 power flyer with a very marginal leaves play ability. Argent Sphinx seems like a better deal, and both Sea Drake and Esperzoa seem better than Sphinx. Sphinx sees no Vintage play, and Sea Drake and Esperzoa only rarely appear in Vintage Top 8s. Not Vintage playable.
Spire Serpent – Even with metalcraft, this wouldn’t be playable. It would be an inferior win condition to both Tezzeret and Meloku for the same casting cost.
Steel Sabotage – This card will be in the running for “most appearances in Vintage Top 8s from Mirrodin Besieged” by the time of my next set review. This card meets every Vintage criteria for efficiency by costing 1 blue mana. The ability also meets the Vintage playability threshold, fusing elements of cards that are already Vintage playable. Annul is Vintage playable, and the main problem with Annul is that it is ineffective once the artifact has resolved. This card solves that problem with a mode that allows you to bounce the problematic threat. Thus, it solves Annul’s main drawback. As a consequence, it also happens to be useful against Tinker targets and anyone trying to activate a Time Vault, for buying another turn.
That said, this is not strictly superior to Annul, since it cannot address enchantments, such as Oath of Druids or Fastbond. But the advantage should more than compensate for the loss of this functionality, and I expect this card to not only replace Annul in most sideboards, but to far outpace Annul’s recent Vintage performance.
Countering problematic artifacts is preferred to bouncing them. But if they can’t be countered, then bouncing them will have to suffice. This card could help stem the tide of artifact domination currently extant in Vintage. It’s mana cost and utility is efficient enough to see broad usage. It can be played in control, combo, and tempo decks alike. Almost every major archetype will attempt this card as a sideboard plan, not with the expectation that it will solve every problem, but with aim of dramatically improving one’s maindeck. Workshop decks may have to contend with 4 Forces and 4 Steel Sabotage post-board when facing most blue decks. The current predominance of mono-brown Workshop decks only makes this card more attractive, since there will rarely be Welders around to recur countered artifacts.
Steel Sabotage is Vintage playable, and will see plenty of Vintage play upon its introduction into the format.
Treasure Mage – Trinket Mage sees its fair share of play, and Vintage Top 8s appearances for its ability to find a bevy of utility artifacts and by generating card advantage. This card is clearly reminiscent of Trinket Mage, in that it can find artifacts of a limited casting cost. You might be interested to know that Trinket Mage has 176 unique possible targets in the Vintage card pool, while Treasure Mage has a mere 132 to by comparison. It is also arguable that the 0-1 casting cost artifacts are far superior to the 6+ casting cost artifacts, if the Restricted List is any judge.
Popular targets for Trinket Mage include Black Lotus, Moxen, Chalice of the Void, Pithing Needle, Spellbombs, Sol Ring, Tormod’s Crypts, and Sensei’s Divining Top. Popular targets for Treasure Mage may include Mindslaver, Duplicant, Mirror Universe (unlikely), Myr Battlesphere, Platinum Angel, Memnarch, Steel Hellkite, Wurmcoil Engine, and other Tinker targets.
I can see this card being dismissed on the ground that most of these cards are cards you’d rather have in your graveyard, to Weld in, or in your library, as Tinker targets. However, these critics overlook the fact that being in one’s hand is a small step removed from being in the graveyard. Cards like Riddlesmith and Frantic Search could work very well with Treasure Mage, and power up Goblin Welders or otherwise. Treasure Mage could find a Blightsteel Colossus which could be promptly discarded with Riddlesmith to repeat the process. Frantic Search may see increasing play as a Welder engine, and would work well with Treasure Mage as well.
Treasure Mage is potentially Vintage playable, and is worth developing further.
Turn the Tide – Echoing Truth is almost always going to be better in Vintage.
Vedalken Anatomist – The body is too small, the costs are too expensive, and the ability is not particularly relevant. I’d rather have Prodigal Sorcerer in general, and Magus of the Unseen against artifact creatures.
Vedalken Infuser – Four mana is prohibitively expensive, but is this ability worth it? Potential applications include Umezawa’s Jitte, Chalice of the Void, Aether Vial, Engineered Explosives, and not much more. Nope, it doesn’t seem worth it.
Vivisection – A blue Skulltap (which sees no Vintage play), but costs twice as much. It’s hard to see how this can see play at 4 mana. For two mana you can draw two cards with Night’s Whisper or for free with Gush. I’d rather just play Compulsive Research as a draw spell. If this cost 2 mana it still would only net one card advantage, and be possibly playable. At four mana, it’s unplayable. I don’t understand why they couldn’t have made this cost at least 3 mana.
Black Sun’s Zenith – See White Sun’s Zenith.
Caustic Hound – Whereas the new Mirrodin block seems to be setting new power level marks for most cards, especially in terms of efficiency, this card is a step backwards. Carnifax Demon seems better, as does Kokusho. Laquatus’s Champion could give this guy a run for his money. None of those cards are Vintage playable, and neither is this.
Flensermite – A 10 turn clock for 2 mana is not playable, especially when you could be playing Night’s Whisper, Vampire Hexmage, or Dark Confidant in that slot.
Flesh-Eater Imp – To be playable in Vintage at this casting cost and be a creature, you have to be of the power level of a card like Braids or not be played conventionally. Juzam Djinn sees no play in modern Vintage, and it’s comparable to this card. Not playable.
Go for the Throat – There are plenty of similar black removal spells that have seen play in Vintage: Smother, Doom Blade, Death Mark, Diabolic Edict, Warren Weirding, etc. This is also Vintage playable. Like Smother, it can kill Welder, Dark Confidant, Quirion Dryad, Lotus Cobra, and almost any Fish creature. However, also like Smother, Go For the Throat can’t kill a Sphinx of the Steel Wind, a Lodestone Golem, or a Karn, Silver Golem. In the current environment, killing artifact creatures is the most important priority, and therefore this card will have to take a back seat to Doom Blade for the near future, despite the fact that it can kill Dark Confidants. It is Vintage playable, and will see Vintage play, but not much for the next few months.
Gruesome Encore – Is this any better than Reanimate, Animate Dead, Dance of the Dead or Necromany? I can’t see a meaningful advantage.
Horrifying Revelation – If only opponents were dumb enough to play topdeck tutor’s before your main phase this could have a serious game impact in certain situations. As is, I can’t imagine playing this over Duress or Thoughtseize.
Massacre Wurm – Six mana to wipe out an opponent’s army of Fish creatures sounds about right. This may be mono black control’s best answer to white weenie…in Legacy. This is not vintage playable.
Nested Ghoul – This is not Vintage playable. For 5 mana you can play Ad Nauseam in Vintage.
Phyresis – This is like a bad Berserk.
Phyrexian Crusader – Protection from blue would be much better. Unplayable.
Phyrexian Vatmother – A three swing game winner? Interesting, but Flesh-Eater Imp might be better.
Sangromancer – Phyrexian Vatmother might be better.
Scourge Servant – Phryrexian Vatmother is better.
Septic Rats – A nice ability, but Phyrexian Negator is better.
Spread the Sickness – The maximum casting cost for black removal spells is probably 2 mana, maybe 3.
Virulent Wound – You’d have to have a great poison strategy to play this over Darkblast.
Blisterstick Shaman – The only three casting cost red creatures that are Vintage playable are either Goblins or tap to destroy artifacts. Fire Imp kicks this guy’s butt. And he isn’t played in current Vintage.
Burn the Impure – Doesn’t target a player? Can’t kill Jace; isn’t playable.
Concussive Bolt – Far too expensive for just four damage. Pyrokinesis is better.
Crush – Non-creature artifacts only? I’d rather play Crash than Crush. And Shattering Spree and Ingot Chewer seem better at the same casting cost, despite the fact that Crush is instant speed. Beyond that, you get Overload, Ancient Grudge, Meltdown, Primitive Justice, Shatter, Pulverize, Shattering Pulse, and Rack and Ruin, all cards that would arguably see play before Crush.
Galvanoth – This card meets the initial threshold for creature playability in Vintage: it generates card and mana advantage. This effect is enormously powerful, in theory. It becomes another way to cheat ridiculously expensive spells, ala Mind’s Desire. And the card advantage is recurring.
One problem with this kind of advantage though is the fact that you would be forced to play the spells in your upkeep. There are many such spells, like a Mind’s Desire, that you wouldn’t want to play in your upkeep. All counterspells would be lost forever, as well. Still, the potential upside is enormous if it could be leveraged well enough.
The casting cost is a bit high, though. If this cost 2 or 3 mana it would be presumptively playable. At 5 mana, this card requires a major resource investment and is slow coming to the table. To make it worth the investment, you’d have to leverage otherwise borderline unplayable spells, increasing your reliance on this card. You’d also have to have plenty of ways to manipulator your library to guarantee its usage. Recurring Beacon of Tomorrows is a possibility, particularly if you could Oath this creature up. Time Stretch doesn’t sound bad either.
Although I don’t expect this card to see play because of its casting cost and the limitations and challenges of abusing it effectively enough to justify the resource investment, this card is a hell of a lot better than Dream Halls. Denying Wind could be annoying.
Gnathosaur – This card is almost strictly inferior to Fire Elemental. That means it’s not Vintage playable.
Goblin Wardriver – This is playable, and potentially a useful addition, to the Vintage goblins deck. It’s a quasi-Lord, and should help speed up the kill. It’s cheap, too.
Hellkite Igniter – This is probably just worse than Hellkite Overlord as an Oath creature.
Hero of Oxid Ridge – There are currently no four casting cost red creatures that are Vintage playable that don’t provide some sort of critical advantage, disrupt the opponent, or can be cheated into play. Goblin Ringleader generates card advantage and can be cheated into play (and tutored with Goblin Matron). This card has many nifty abilities, but precedent suggests that this guy isn’t playable, and I’m inclined to agree.
Into the Core – The obvious comparison is Rack and Ruin. Rack and Ruin has appeared in six different Top 8 decklists in the last four months, so it is still making the rounds. The main problem with Rack and Ruin is the casting cost, which is often too much when facing cards like Lodestone Golem. Into the Core’s casting cost is much worse, not only in costing four, but in requiring double red. If this is playable, it would be so in a mono-red Workshop sideboard, and even there, it would be very difficult to cast. I’m not seeing it. Ancient Grudge and Rack and Ruin are probably just better.
Koth’s Courier – Forestwalk is about as useful in Vintage as banding. Unplayable.
Kuldotha Flamefiend – I’d rather have Kamahl Pit Fighter or Rorix Bladewing.
Kuldotha Ringleader – 5 mana for a 4/4? Again, Fire Elemental would compete with this card, which points to its lack of playability in Vintage.
Metallic Mastery – This is better than Act of Treason or Grab the Reins, but to be playable it probably needs to be an instant. That way you could steal a Time Vault and take an additional turn, in addition to all of the other possible applications.
Ogre Resister – Just play Flametongue Kavu instead.
Rally the Forces – Unplayable for many reasons, not the least of which is the casting cost.
Red Sun’s Zenith – Red X spells haven’t been playable in Vintage since Kaervek’s Torch was used as a win condition in the 1990s.
Slagstorm – Firespout has a much more attractive casting cost, although Slagstorm is able to hit Planeswalkers by redirecting damage from the player to a Planeswalker.
Spiraling Duelist – With metalcraft satisfied, this can deal six damage for four power per turn. That’s not bad, but that probably not good enough, especially when you could play with Flametongue Kavu. That said, even if this were playable, getting metalcraft would be an enormous challenge. This card is too expensive to play in a Workshop deck.
Blightwidow – Creatures in Vintage that do not generate card advantage, disrupt the opponent, or otherwise offer utility are generally unplayable unless hyper efficient, ala Tarmogoyf. This card is no exception. To my knowledge, no 4cc green creature has been playable in Vintage in almost 15 years, since Erhnam Djinn saw play, although Hunted Wumpus was once toyed with as an answer to control decks. Vengevine may prove to be Vintage viable someday, however. Giant Spider derivatives likely never will be.
Creeping Corrosion – Shatterstorm in green. Shatterstorm doesn’t see play, and this won’t either. It’s simply too expensive, despite how valuable the effect is. In Vintage we spend half as much mana and bounce one player’s artifacts instead.
Fangren Maurader – This creature is too expensive to cast, and not good enough to cheat into play. It offers no card advantage and doesn’t disrupt the opponent aside from dealing 5 damage a turn. At 6 mana, that’s way below the Vintage standard.
Glissa’s Courier – This creature offers neither utility nor disruption. Is it efficient enough, though? Hardly. The vanilla man at this casting cost is a 3/3, Trained Armodon. This is too inefficient.
Green Sun’s Zenith – Unlike creature tutors like Sylvan Tutor or Wordly Tutor, this puts the creatures directly into play. That’s an improvement that justifies the additional cost. What sort of applications might this spell have? The most obvious would be a Vintage Elves variant. Elves is a fringe Vintage deck that can combo out turn 2-3 using an assortment of elves and powered by either Glimpse of Nature or Skullclamp. This spell could be used to find a critical elf combo part, like Nettle Sentinel, or to find a big finisher or utility Elf.
It could also be used in Beats decks to find critical green creatures like a Gaddock Teeg or a Qasali Pridemage.
This card seems potentially Vintage playable in terms of efficiency and effect, but I doubt the card actually makes the cut in any Vintage playable archetype.
Lead the Stampede – Even if you are playing a Beats deck, you’ll probably reveal no more than 2 creatures on average. Still, in an Elves deck that could be enough. This card is very remotely playable, but only in heavy green creature decks like Elves.
Melira’s Keepers – 5 mana for a 4/4 is not playable. The ability is irrelevant in Vintage.
Mirran Mettle – Giant Growth effects, outside of Berserk, are not Vintage playable. Burn spells are, and makes Galvanic Blast better than this.
Phyrexian Hydra – In pure theory terms, this card is efficient enough for Vintage. It can win the game in two swings. But what deck would play it? It’s prohibitively expensive for beats decks, and with a double green casting cost, no control deck can use such a creature as a finisher. I don’t think this will see play, but it is an interesting test case for Vintage playability.
Pistus Strike – Most Vintage decks don’t have flying creatures. This card is not Vintage playable.
Plaguemaw Beast – There are currently no creatures at 3GG casting cost that see play in Vintage. This won’t be the first.
Praetor’s Counsel – The only way this could be played in Vintage is for free, off of a Mind’s Desire or the like. I doubt even Vintage elves or a Gaea’s Cradle in a Kobold deck could generate the requisite mana reliably. I can see no theoretical or even possible application for this card that seems even remotely plausible.
Quilled Slagwurm – There are better finishers to cheat into play than this (Verdant Force, Plated Slagwurm, etc). This won’t see any play.
Rot Wolf – This card satisfies threshold criteria of Vintage playability by being able to generate card advantage, but it does so under circumstances that are rare or infrequent in Vintage. It’s difficult to imagine when or if this creature would every kill another creature in Vintage. Unplayable.
Tangle Mantis – I’d rather have Portal’s Golden Bear in most matchups. This isn’t Vintage playable.
Thrun, The Last Troll – This card is not a shining example of Vintage playability. It doesn’t disrupt the opponent. It doesn’t generate card, mana or some other advantage for the controller. However, it is counterable. And, it can’t be targeted by the opponent. And it regenerates. What that does is make this a stubborn, persistent card. It’s an anti-Jace effect, in other words. If I were playing a Fish deck, one could imagine that this effect could be situationally useful. This card would compete against spells like Sower of Temptation in the Fish mirror. The issue is really one of opportunity cost. This card isn’t strictly unplayable in Vintage, but I don’t expect it to actually see play. Given that it’s going to be a chase rare from the set, I would not advise Vintage players to pick up this card unless or until it proves its value first.
Unnatural Predation – This is almost always going to be inferior to Berserk, and therefore unplayable.
Viridian Corrupter – Viridian Shaman/Uktabi Orangutan with infect. The difference is that this costs 1GG instead of 2G, which of course makes it more difficult to play. It’s probably pretty close in playability, if not marginally better, than Uktabi Orangutan in certain decks. The problem is that Uktabi doesn’t see play in modern Vintage, or at least, hasn’t in some time. This probably won’t either.
Viridian Emissary – This card does generate card advantage, but not at the right time. Not playable.
Glissa, the Traitor – Glissa suffers from the same problem as Rot Wolf. In Vintage the ability won’t trigger very often. Not only will this card have to be in combat, but there will have to be an opponent creature blocking, and dying, to it. The other problem is that it’s difficult to imagine what kind of applications would arise in a deck that is able to play such a spell. What are you recurring, Null Rod? Not Vintage playable.
Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas – The two playable Vintage planeswalkers, like playable creatures, are disruptive and generate card advantage. Jace generates recurring card advantage through a Brainstorm effect, and Tezzeret the Seeker tutors up Time Vault to win the game. Each of these cards also provides other marginal benefits.
Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas also generates card advantage, but it is not necessarily reliable card advantage. Blue control decks that might abuse this card often will have only 11-12 artifacts in their deck, at most. And if you play this guy, you might include as many as 16 or so. But there is still a chance you might activate Tezzeret and now see an artifact. For example, the Thoughtcast Tezzeret decks from a few years back had an unusual quantity of artifacts, and this card would generate more card advantage I a deck like that. But the certainty of the card advantage in the other two playable Planeswalkers versus the mere probability of it with this card is a tremendous difference. In that respect, it does not measure up to the other two Planeswalkers. The good news is that even if you don’t reveal an artifact, you can cycle through your deck looking for artifacts.
Because of its potential applications in heavy blue decks, I would not write this card off. But in addition to the unreliability of its main ability, the other major concern I have about this card is the relative disutility of the additional abilities. All four of Jace, the Mind Sculptor’s abilities are relevant. The fateseal, the ultimate, and the creature bounce activations will each see use during the course of a Vintage tournament. Similarly, once Tezzeret the Seeker has tutored up Time Vault, the untap ability becomes the predominant ability until the ultimate can be used to win the game.
This card is theoretically playable in Vintage, and may in fact prove to be better than Tezzeret the Seeker, over time. Tezzeret’s play, however, has greatly diminished over the last year. Tezzeret had only 7 Top 8 appearances in December, less than half that of Jace, The Mind Sculptor. Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas may well produce comparable numbers in time, even though Tezzeret has a clearer game winning effect.
The most obvious application of this card is either in a Thoughtcast control deck, or perhaps even more promisingly, in a Painter’s Servant control deck. It may and probably will appear in one of those decks.
Contested War Zone – In Vintage there are many unique lands, but none of those lands revert to your opponent’s control under any circumstances. That’s why Rainbow Vale sees no Vintage play, and that’s one reason this card will see no play. The other is that the value this card offers is practically nil. It taps for colorless, and it’s a non-basic, which makes it worse than any of the basic lands. The upside? For a mana you can give your creatures +1/+0. In Vintage that’s about as relevant as flanking, banding, and reach. This card is not Vintage playable.
Inkmoth Nexus – Mishra’s Factory sees a lot of Vintage play. Mutavault sees a tiny amount of Vintage play. Blinkmoth Nexus sees no play in current Vintage. Inkmoth Nexus is probably better than Blinkmoth Nexus in some decks, although not all, but clearly inferior to Mishra’s Factory in most Workshop decks. In Affinity style decks, that can use Arcbound Ravager or Cranial Plating, it’s possible to win the game in one swing with this card, and that makes it potentially playable.
IV. Mirrodin Besieged Vintage Checklist
Once again, I have two checklists for you. Here are the cards that I believe will see play in Vintage over the next 6 months, and are the cards you should pick up to complete your collection.
Cards That Will Likely See Vintage Play:
1 Blightsteel Colossus
4 Ichor Wellspring
4 Myr Welder
4 Phyrexian Revoker
2-3 Spine of Ish Sah
4 Leonin Relic Warder
4 Steel Sabotage
1-2 Go For the Throat
4 Goblin Wardriver (only if you ever might play Goblins)
2 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
The following are cards that I have evaluated have the measurements or qualities that make them potentially Vintage playable. In each case, they may not see play, either because of a lack of relevant application or because they are so marginal that they just don’t end up seeing any play. Keep in mind that changes in the current Vintage metagame, such as the restriction of a major card, would change that conclusion. These are the cards I would recommend the completist acquire or consider acquiring if they are truly concerned about being able to play any potential Vintage deck.
1-2 Knowledge Pool
4 Myr Sire
4 Piston Sledge
4 Shimmer Myr
4 Accorder Paladin
4 Neurok Commander
2-3 Treasure Mage
1-2 Green Sun’s Zenith
4 Lead the Stampede
All in all, for a small expansion, Mirrodin Besieged has more than a few playables. It more than contributes to the playable Vintage card pool for its proportion of the overall Magic card pool.
The card I am personally most excited about is Leonin Relic-Warder. Given what Qasali Pridemage did to the format, I can’t wait to see the impact of this card. If there was one archetype that has needed a boost in the last year, it’s Fish and Beats decks, which have seen every other archetype receive new printings but it. Leonin Relic-Warder is a shot in the arm. Its potential is sky high.
Steel Hellkite, Nihil Spellbomb, and Ratchet Bomb have seen the most play from Scars of Mirrodin. Which cards from Mirridon Besieged will see the most play by the next set review? If I had to hazard a guess, right now I would say that the answer will be Steel Sabotage, Myr Revoker, and Blightsteel Colossus. If I were counting out to the next 12 months, my answers would likely be different.
Until Next Time,