Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Kobold Taskmaster

Kobold Taskmaster
Why can't "Taskmaster" be an actual creature type? I think it would be awesome to drop a Standardize and swing with a bunch of 1/1 Taskmasters for the kill. But, that's beside the point, We're here to discuss this card, not the awesome possibilities of alternate creature types. This card is what we like to call a "Lord", a name given based on the old cards that gave blanket buffs that used to have the creature type Lord. Now, most Lords gave two bonuses: a power/toughness buff and a secondary bonus. For example, Elvish Champion gave Elves +1/+1 and forestwalk and Lord of Atlantis gave Merfolk +1/+1 and islandwalk. This card, on the other hand, only gives +1/+0 and no other benefits. Granted, most Kobolds are only 0/1, so this makes them a little more useful than Ted, but not by much. In short, this card isn't very good. It's not because it's a Kobold; it's because its Lord effect is lacking.

Pros: Gives Kobolds a much-needed power boost
Cons: Only gives a power boost, nothing else
Rating: 1/5

Sunday, 28 October 2012

100th Review: Library of Alexandria

Library of Alexandria
In honour of my 100th review (not including Then and Nows, Artists, or other thingies), I've decided to honour my roots and review a really expensive land: Library of Alexandria. However, unlike Rishadan Port, this card is really good. Like, banned in Legacy good. Some people don't see why this card is so good, and I'll admit that it took a few years of playing to realize it too. Originally I thought that the restriction of only being able to draw if you have 7 cards in your hand was really bad, but then I saw the advantages of that draw. Let's say you drop this on your first turn. That means that, only by effectively sacrificing your first land drop, you'll be drawing 2 cards a turn from turn 2 onward (first, you draw your card for the turn which brings you up to 7 cards and then you tap this to get you an eighth card). In a red deck for example, that means you can have an extra Lightning Bolt in hand; a blue deck can have an extra Counterspell (or more fuel for Forbid). Planar Chaos tried to reprint this card in the form of Magus of the LIbrary, but it doesn't work as well. You really need this card dropped on the first couple turns for it to be really effective and I guess that this card's only downfall (also, the Magus can't tap the turn it comes out). Late in the game, you may not want to see this card, but any other time it's a welcome sight.

Pros: Extra draws from turn one,  doesn't enter tapped, uncounterable, land
Cons: Probably won't work late game
Rating: 5/5

I just wanted to thank everyone for continuing to read my little opinions. I wouldn't have kept going this long if people didn't read this. Sorry about the weird timing of my reviews lately too. School's kicked back up and I don't always have time to write these.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Shadowmoor 2-Permanent Lands

Leechridden SwampMadblind MountainMistveil PlainsMoonring IslandSapseep Forest
Shadowmoor had some fun lands didn't they? Here's another set of 5 special lands for review. 

Note: I've already calculated the fact that the do count as their basic land types (not as basic lands though) into their score. All but Madblind Mountain and Moonring Island had their scores increase as a result. I've marked how much these other cards changed the score after each score. I know I don't normally do this, but I know I'll hear about it if I don't mention it. 

Leechridden Swamp
The fact that it does damage to all opponents is what makes this card somewhat usable. If it only hit one opponent, then it would be a lot worse. However, it is only 1 damage to everyone (and it's not actually damage, so goodbye Bloodthrist but it's harder to stop), but as a poor man's Pestilence, I guess it does its job but I'd rather run the real thing.
Pros: Doesn't hit you, hits all opponents
Cons: Effectively 2 mana for 1 damage once
Rating: 3/5 (+1 for Cabal Coffers)

Madblind Mountain
Probably the weakest of the 5, the only real nice thing I can say about it is that it might be useful if you are mana flooded or starved and really need to shuffle your library. Why couldn't they make this a tim card?
Pros: Allows you to shuffle your library
Cons: Isn't really that useful
Rating: 0.5/5

Mistveil Plains
Straight from the weakest to the best. This card is awesome. It may seem like a bad card since it puts the card on the bottom of your library, but the bottom of your library is better than in your graveyard. If you've got tutors or anything that shuffles your library, it allows you to bring that card back when you need it. It can also work as protection against mill since you will always have one card in your library (and in this case, it will always be the card you need).
Pros: Instant-speed unlimited graveyard recursion
Cons: Puts the cards on the bottom of your library
Rating: 4/5 (+0.5 for Gift of Estates & Co)

Moonring Island
Replace this with Halimar Depths. Seriously, unless you really need an Island for some strange reason, this card is really bad. Why is it rated higher than Madblind Mountain? At least this gives you some degree of control over your deck (deciding whether or not you want to clash or not for example).
Pros: Lets you look at the top card of your library
Cons: You can't do anything with the top card of your library
Rating: 1/5

Sapseep Forest
"Eh" is about all I can muster about this card. It doesn't really effect the game state that much. 1 life is never really going to do much for you. But, it's not exactly a negative effect, so at least it gives you something to do when you're bored.
Pros: Gains you 1 life
Cons: Just kind of sits there, wishing it was a real Forest
Rating: 1/5 (+0.5 for Blanchwood Armor & Co)

Monday, 22 October 2012

Shimatsu the Bloodcloaked

Shimatsu the Bloodcloaked
Well then... This card... 
You know, as one of the 2 non-black Demons in Magic (the other being Oni of Wild Places), this card doesn't do a very good job at proving that off-colour demons could work. Let's look at everything this card does. It's got super-Devour 1. That's it. And, that's not necessarily terrible since Devour cards do work in certain decks. Let's try putting him in some some decks. How about Goblin token spam? Goblins love getting eaten! Well, for the same mana cost you could be running Clickslither and can swing that turn or you could put in Voracious Dragon for one more and do a ton of damage that turn. Maybe Saprolings? For an extra green mana you could replace this card with Thromok the Insatiable and have a tank for the same creature cost. Maybe a deck with a lot of death and Morbid triggers? Sorry, but Phyrexian Altar will always do the job better than this guy. In short, this card is really bad. For the low, low price of 3 permanents, you can have a Hill Giant!

Pros: Works with death and Morbid triggers
Cons: No evasion, no haste, many other cards work a lot better, requires sac to live
Replacements: Any of the other 6 mono-red Devour creatures
Rating: 1/5

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Training Drone

Training Drone
I grabbed a playset of these guys in draft and was pretty happy. I didn't win the overall draft, but I did quite well in individual games. Just by looking at it, a lot of people will dismiss this card because it "doesn't do anything". However, whenever I play one of these guys and put a Viridian Claw, a Shuko (if I'm playing causal), or a Sword of Feast and Famine, my opponents usually sing a different tune since I now have a big 'n' beefy creature for fairly cheap. In a green ramp deck, this guy can usually come out on turn 2 and, if equipped right, will be a minimum 5/4 on turn 2 for 4 mana. Turn 2! But, I will admit that this card is wholly dependent on what equipment you have on the field. A Skinwing, for example, will result in this card being a 6/6 flier for 13 which is just too expensive. However, in a properly built deck, this card can be a bomb.

Pros: Can be big 'n' beefy if equipped right, cheap
Cons: Requires good equipment, useless without equipment
Rating: 2.5/5

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Ball Lightning

Ball Lightning
I love this card. In my old red smashy deck, I ran 4 of these, 4 Spark Elementals, and 4 Hellspark Elementals and I usually hit my opponent for 9-12 damage on turn 3 and my opponent couldn't really recover from that. It's really great for burst damage as well as killing at least one creature. Now, it does die to Geistflame as well as first strikers and it costs 3 red mana so it's not very splashable, but it's still a great card.

Pros: Trample, smacks for a bunch
Cons: Dies to direct damage and first strikers, not very splashable
Rating: 4/5

Monday, 15 October 2012

Sisters of Stone Death

Sisters of Stone Death
6 mana to play anything your opponent controls is... pretty damn awesome. Even just 3 mana to exile a creature an opponent controls is really good, especially in black and green. Let's say your opponent just played a Phyrexian Crusader and you're really worried about dying from Infect. With these girls, you don't even have to worry about the -1/-1 counters since they exile before damage is dealt. The bonus with the Phyrexian Crusader scenario is that you can later play the Crusader since you're running black! Basically, there's not much that can threaten these ladies in combat. Outside of combat, they're still pretty beefy and scary. Being black, they're protected from most removal too. However, they are really vulnerable if you don't have the mana to exile since combat tricks can buff their opponent into a lethal being. 

Pros: Exile on a stick, convoluted way to steal creatures
Cons: A smidge expensive, vulnerable without mana
Rating: 4.5/5

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Then and Now: Pithing Needle

Time for another Then and Now! In this edition: Pithing Needle.
Pithing NeedlePithing Needle
Back in ye olden days when Pithing Needle was printed, a few people didn't realize it's potential. Naming one card for each needle didn't seem that powerful. But then someone noticed that this card shut down a huge problem in Standard: Umezawa's Jitte. Then people starting realizing that it also shut down Sensei's Divining Top in Standard and Skullclamp in casual (due to emergency banning, also here are some of R&D's hilarious notes on Skullclamp and Top).

Nowadays, the only real viable targets that people like using this for are planeswalkers and occasionally (very occasionally) creature cards (I can think of Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord off the top of my head). Still, those are perfectly viable targets, but it's somehow different than before for me. Locking down Nissa Revane doesn't feel as good as locking down a Top. Although shutting down a Strip Mine is pretty funny...

Artist: John Avon

This guy must love land, since a lot of his work is land-based. His artwork can easily be described as "majestic" since John employs a lot of rays of sunshine and massive cityscapes and it usually looks pretty spectacular.

Best Art: Gaze of Justice
Gaze of Justice
I love this art because it incorporates both John Avon's big landscapes and lasers. The fiery, blasted landscape really punctuates the fact that that demon is being pierced by a laser. All of the dark and dreary atmosphere just coincides really well with that sky laser. In short, lasers made this art awesome.

Worst Art: Ice Floe
Ice Floe
This is just really minimalist and comes off as a little lazy (not saying it is, but compare it to this and you'll see why I think it comes off a little on the lazy side). That's all I really have to say about it. It's ice and it's a floe. Yup.

Most ???! Art: Lantern Kami
Lantern Kami
WhatisthisIdon'teven! I know that Kamigawa's art was pretty messed up in general, but that doesn't mean I'm going to give it a pass. I highly doubt the Shinto spirits that inhabit lanterns are supposed to be thought of as amorphous blobs of red goo with occasional orbs of light.

So that's my look at John Avon's work. He's one of those artist whose work you may not recognize off the bat, but it's work you've definitely seen. And it's really good work too, which is always great (unlike some other prolific artists of the game), 

Monday, 8 October 2012

Spontaneous Generation

Spontaneous Generation
This card is a really nice combo piece, and on its own it's pretty good too. If we presume that this is in a green ramp deck, then it could be played on turn 3 or even turn 2 depending on the deck. At that point, the caster will probably have at least 4 cards in hand if not 5, meaning that this card makes a decent number of Saprolings for its cost. Now, as a combo piece, it works really well with cards like Biomantic MasteryDistant Melody, and Sigil of the Nayan Gods. For the card draw cards, it effectively doubles your hand and with Sigil of the Nayan Gods it becomes a pseudo-Empyrial Armor. This card isn't meant for every green deck though. Decks that can't keep their hands full or that don't like gribblies won't appreciate this card since it won't do much for them. But, all in all, it's pretty useful in most situations.

Pros: Makes a fair number of creatures for its cost
Cons: Sorcery speed, may not always be useful
Rating: 3.5/5 

Friday, 5 October 2012


 Merfolk of the Pearl TridentEager CadetGrizzly BearsScathe ZombiesHill Giant
I decided to do all vanillas at the same time since I will pretty much say the same thing about all of them. First off, what is a vanilla? A vanilla is a creature with no abilities whatsoever. The 5 creatures posted here are the archetypical examples of vanilla creatures (notable exception: Centaur Courser). Now, why are vanillas even made? If WotC wanted to make terrible creatures, they could just make more Chimney Imps or Wirewood Elves. That is true but are vanillas really that bad? Look at Grizzly Bears; it's a 2/2 for 2 mana and that's not that bad. Sure, it can't do much except for attack and block, but sometimes that's all you need. There are some vanillas which aren't worth it though. The formula that I use (yes, I sometimes use math in Magic) to determine if a vanilla is worth it is:
Power = Converted Mana Cost (P=CMC)
Toughness > Converted Mana Cost
These formulas have never failed me before and I don't think it ever will.

Vanillas are so engrained in Magic's history that they've become part of our vernacular. Dawntreader Elk, for example, is known as a Bear with an ability. By the same token, Bloodline Keeper is a Hill Giant with an ability and Dauntless Escort is a Centaur with an ability (Cadet/Merfolk aren't in the vernacular yet, but I'm going to make it my mission to see it done).

Pros: They don't have any negative abilities
Cons: They don't have any abilities
Rating:  1/5 (if they fail P=CMC and T>CMC), 2/5 (if they follow P=CMC or T>CMC), 3/5 (if they exceed P=CMC), 4/5 (if they exceed P=CMC and T>CMC) 

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Identity Crisis

Identity Crisis
People don't think this card is good as it is and it's really funny when they make that discovery.  This is a card that deals with both a graveyard and a hand at the same time and that makes it very versatile. I've used it both against blue decks that have just tapped out to draw a whole bunch of cards as well as against black reanimator decks that just Entombed their big threat. Now, it is a little expensive at 6 mana with 2 double colour cost and it's at Sorcery speed, so it does have a lot of disadvantages. But, it's still a decent card, given the situation.

Pros: Deals with hands and graveyards
Cons: Sorcery speed, expensive
Rating: 2.5/5