Mirrodin Besieged

Full visual spoiler dropped at midnight. Here are my thoughts:

Cards with potential constructed applications:

White
Accorder Paladin
Ardent Recruit
Choking Fumes
Divine Offering
Frantic Salvage
Hero of Bladehold
Leonin Relic-Warder
Leonin Skyhunter
Master’s Call
Mirran Crusader
Phyrexian Rebirth
White Sun’s Zenith

Blue
Blue Sun’s Zenith
Cryptoplasm
Mitotic Manipulation
Steel Sabotage
Treasure Mage

Black
Black Sun’s Zenith
Go for the Throat
Gruesome Encore
Massacre Wurm
Phyrexian Crusader
Phyrexian Rager
Phyrexian Vatmother
Septic Rats
Virulent Wound

Red
Blisterstick Shaman
Burn the Impure
Crush
Galvanoth
Goblin Wardriver
Hero of Oxid Ridge
Metallic Mastery
Red Sun’s Zenith
Slagstorm

Green
Creeping Corrosion
Green Sun’s Zenith
Lead the Stampede
Phyrexian Hydra
Praetor’s Counsel
Thrun, the Last Troll
Viridian Corrupter
Viridian Emissary

Gold
Glissa, the Traitor
Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas

Artifact
Blightsteel Colossus
Bonehoard
Darksteel Plate
Ichor Wellspring
Myr Sire
Myr Welder
Phyrexian Revoker
Piston Sledge
Plague Myr
Signal Pest
Sphere of the Suns
Spine of Ish Sah
Sword of Feast and Famine
Thopter Assembly

Land
Contested War Zone
Inkmoth Nexus

Encouraging signs: Lots of strong cards at lower rarities. Nothing that looks too terribly gamebreaking. No must-have mythics in the Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Primeval Titan mode. There seems to be an effort to get more card-drawing/selection outside of blue and black (Lead the Stampede, Frantic Salvage, Galvanoth), which is always welcome. Lots of excellent cards for multiplayer and casual formats.

Discouraging signs: Wizards appears to be working at cross-purposes here somewhat. Scars of Mirrodin block’s signature mechanic is infect, a mechanic characterized by lots of small, cheap creatures. However, they keep printing more and more efficient mass removal. The presence of infect is also preventing them from pushing equipment, which is bad because 1) Equipment is an important element of the Mirrodin setting, and 2) they introduced a new equipment-based mechanic, living weapon, which is mostly awful outside of limited because good versions would break infect. There are no real interesting metalcraft cards, and only a few metalcraft enablers. I don’t think I’ve seen a set this cramped for space since Shards of Alara.

In a broader sense, the set doesn’t seem to give any opportunities for “fair” decks (i.e., ones that draw one card per turn, play one land per turn, and cast 2/2s for two) to carve out a broader niche for themselves in the metagame. There are no new ways to interact with planeswalkers, and as long as planewalkers can sit there and grind out advantage without costing their controllers any cards or mana, the format will be dominated by control decks. This is an extremely hostile format for midrange, which runs counter to Wizards’ stated goals. You keep pushing the creature curve as far as you like, but Jace still trumps them.

There’s still no real reason to play white in Standard right now. Knights tribal is just another creature deck with no reach, even with good Knights like Mirran Crusader and Hero of Bladehold in the mix.

Better than people seem to think: Battle cry, the Zeniths, Sword of Feast and Famine

Worse than people seem to think: Infect, metalcraft, myr tribal

Most likely to be a tournament staple: Phyrexian Revoker

Surprise tournament staple: I’m going to say White Sun’s Zenith. People seem to be giving this card short shrift, perhaps because it was initially spoiled as a sorcery. As an instant, though, it’s an extremely flexible card — if the deck to use it is there. If U/B remains dominant, though, people will just stick with Grave Titan.

Most played card: Viridian Emissary. It’s a Sakura-Tribe Elder for a new age. Even if it’s not as flashy as some of the other stuff in the set, it’ll make a lot of decks go.

Sell high: Inkmoth Nexus. I don’t know that infect’s a good enough deck for the infect land to be selling for what it’s selling. Man-lands are usually strong, but unlike Mutavault and the Worldwake man-lands, the Nexus only really goes in a single deck, and that deck’s viability (and even if it can afford colorless lands in the first place) is yet to be seen. I think its price will plummet after a while, even if the infect deck ends up needing it.

My personal favorite card: I don’t know how good it is (costing five really hurts it), but I really like Galvanoth. It’s a very elegant, color-friendly way for red to get some free cards over the course of the game. I could see it in an R/G deck with ramp and burn, an R/B deck with discard, Black Sun’s Zenith, Go for the Throat, and burn, or even a R/U deck with card-drawing and burn.

My least favorite card: Blightsteel Colossus. Yes, I see what they were trying to do (show the Phyrexian corruption of Mirrodin by printing a tainted version one of the Mirran’s most iconic cards, Darksteel Colossus), and in that it’s very effective. But I don’t think the card makes for good gameplay. It will prompt instant concessions more often than it actually gets to swing. It obsoletes not only its predecessor but a whole swath of cards, the “fatties that need to be cheated into play” class, from Inkwell Leviathan to Progenitus to Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. What deck is going to use an Eldrazi Titan when Blightsteel Colossus is indestructible and kills in one hit? At least with the smaller infect creatures you could make the argument that, even if they were above the curve, they didn’t play well with normal creatures, so there was an argument to not use them. Blightsteel Colossus works just fine even if it’s the only infect card in your deck, though. Commander players are going to loathe this guy. Wizards is going to regret this one in time, if they don’t already. They’ve cut off a lot of design space without even seeming to realize it.

Wasted potential: Living weapon. Come on, guys, you couldn’t make a single playable version of your spiffy, flavorful new mechanic? Good cards with this mechanic practically print themselves. Bonehoard’s probably the best — Mortivore’s been a playable card in the past, and this isn’t really any worse — but it’s hardly guaranteed to see play. Every single other instance of the mechanic is Limited filler. Worst of all, the presence of Germ tokens means that the mechanic can’t be easily used in a non-Phyrexian context, which, given that Phyrexian seems to equal infect from now on and infect is problematic with good equipment, seems short-sighted.

Overall: Like most middle sets, this one gives new tools to existing decks, but doesn’t seem to spawn any especially good new ones. No major errors, but not a lot of “wow” factor either.

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