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SMIP: Mirrodin Besieged Vintage Set Review, Pt. 2

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(Continued from Part 1, found here)

Shriekhorn

1

Artifact

Shriekhorn enters the battlefield with three charge counters on it.

{T}, Remove a charge counter from Shriekhorn: Target player puts the top two cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard.

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 dredge. 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

1

Artifact Creature — Pest

0/1

Battle cry (Whenever this creature attacks, each other attacking creature gets +1/+0 until end of turn.)

Signal Pest can't be blocked except by creatures with flying or reach.

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.

In a deck like Noble Fish that features Exalted creatures with Cold-Eyed Selkie, Signal Pest represents another card drawn on each attack. However, it is fairly narrow as a creature pump spell for Noble Fish decks.

Silverskin Armor

2

Artifact — Equipment

Equipped creature gets +1/+1 and is an artifact in addition to its other types.

Equip {2}

Anyone in Vintage would play Umezawa’s Jittle over this. Did you know that Skullclamp is also unrestricted in Vintage?

Skinwing

4

Artifact — Equipment

Living weapon

Equipped creature gets +2/+2 and has flying.

Equip {6}

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 the Suns

2

Artifact

Sphere of the Suns enters the battlefield tapped and with three charge counters on it.

{T}, Remove a charge counter from Sphere of the Suns: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool.

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

3

Artifact Creature — Construct

3/1

{R}: Target creature can't block Spin Engine this turn.

See Bladed Sentinel.

Spine of Ish Sah

7

Artifact

When Spine of Ish Sah enters the battlefield, destroy target permanent.

When Spine of Ish Sah is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, return Spine of Ish Sah to its owner's hand.

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. 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

5

Artifact — Equipment

Living weapon

Equipped creature gets +2/+4 and has reach.

Equip {4}

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

3

Artifact — Equipment

Equipped creature gets +2/+2 and has protection from black and from green.

Whenever equipped creature deals combat damage to a player, that player discards a card and you untap all lands you control.

Equip {2}

This card is just much worse than Sword of Fire and Ice. Won’t see play.

Tangle Hulk

5

Artifact Creature — Beast

5/3

{2}{G}: Regenerate 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

6

Artifact Creature — Thopter

5/5

Flying

At the beginning of your upkeep, if you control no Thopters other than Thopter Assembly, return Thopter Assembly to its owner's hand and put five 1/1 colorless Thopter artifact creature tokens with flying onto the battlefield.

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

3

Artifact

{3}, {T}: Put a charge counter on Titan Forge.

{T}, Remove three charge counters from Titan Forge: Put a 9/9 colorless Golem artifact creature token onto the battlefield.

So, for 12 mana I can get a 9/9 creature? What a deal!

Training Drone

3

Artifact Creature — Drone

4/4

Training Drone can't attack or block unless it's equipped.

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

2

Artifact — Equipment

Equipped creature gets +1/+0 and has first strike.

Equip {1}

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.

B. White

Accorder Paladin

1W

Creature — Human Knight

3/1

Battle cry

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 know from my Gush book, Kiln Fiend and Quirion Dryad are also so 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 Accorder Paladin 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

W

Creature — Human Soldier

1/1

Metalcraft — Ardent Recruit gets +2/+2 as long as you control three or more artifacts.

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 it is, I don’t expect it to see any Vintage play.

Banishment Decree

3WW

Instant

Put target artifact, creature, or enchantment on top of its owner's library.

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

2W

Instant

Put a -1/-1 counter on each attacking creature.

Darkblast is legal in Vintage, as is Lava Dart, Fire/Ice, etc. White gets Swords to Plowshares 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.

Frantic Salvage

3W

Instant

Put any number of target artifact cards from your graveyard on top of your library.

Draw a card.

Argivian Find is a very powerful effect. This is Argivian Find with a potential huge upside. You can, for example, put Scroll Rack or a Sensei’s Divining Top on top, and then use it to draw more cards. Unfortunately, this casting cost is simply prohibitive for any Vintage deck. If this cost 2 mana, it could be playable. At four, it’s simply too expensive.

Gore Vassal

2W

Creature — Hound

2/1

Sacrifice Gore Vassal: Put a -1/-1 counter on target creature. Then if that creature's toughness is 1 or greater, regenerate it.

There aren’t many 3cc non-artifact creatures that see play in Vintage: Trygon Predator, Vendillion 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 the Bladehold

2WW

Creature — Human Knight

3/4

Battle cry

Whenever Hero of Bladehold attacks, put two 1/1 white Soldier creature tokens onto the battlefield tapped and attacking.

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 quite a bit ofplay, 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. In general, though, 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 the Bladehold is not going to be the exception.

Kemba's Legion

5WW

Creature — Cat Soldier

4/6

Vigilance

Kemba's Legion can block an additional creature for each Equipment attached to Kemba's Legion.

Obviously Vintage unplayable. 7 cc creatures with no relevant Vintage ability don't see play.

Leonin Relic-Warder

WW

Creature — Cat Cleric

2/2

When Leonin Relic-Warder enters the battlefield, you may exile target artifact or enchantment.

When Leonin Relic-Warder leaves the battlefield, return the exiled card to the battlefield under its owner's control.

Now, this is what I’m talking about. This guy isn’t just Vintage playable, he’s really good. He’s gonna 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 Qasali Pridemage can’t. Incidentally, this guy can actually remove a Sphinx, whereas Pridemage can’t.

In a metagame such as ours where Mishra’s Workshop decks are dominant, 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. The capacity to take out problematic permanents, 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 the return of Vial Fish in Vintage.

Loxodon Partisan

4W

Creature — Elephant Soldier

3/4

Battle cry

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

2W

Instant

Put two 1/1 colorless Myr artifact creature tokens onto the battlefield.

Raise the Alarm doesn’t see play in Vintage. This card won’t either, despite the ability to aid Metalcraft.

Mirran Crusader

1WW

Creature — Human Knight

2/2

Double strike, protection from black and from green

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

4WW

Sorcery

Destroy all creatures, then put an X/X colorless Horror artifact creature token onto the battlefield, where X is the number of creatures destroyed this way.

No Wrath effects are Vintage playable except Balance.

Priest of Norn

2W

Creature — Cleric

1/4

Vigilance

Infect

Vintage unplayable. See Gore Vessel.

Tine Shrike

3W

Creature — Bird

2/1

Flying

Infect

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

3WWW

Creature — Angel

4/4

Flying

Whenever Victory's Herald attacks, attacking creatures gain flying and lifelink until end of turn.

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

XWWW

Instant

Put X 2/2 white Cat creature tokens onto the battlefield. Shuffle White Sun's Zenith into its owner's library.

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.

C. Blue

Blue Sun’s Zenith

XUUU

Instant

Target player draws X cards. Shuffle Blue Sun's Zenith into its owner's library.

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

4UU

Creature — Sphinx

4/6

Flying

Whenever an opponent draws a card, you may draw two cards.

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. As it is, Tomorrow, Azami's Familiar is probably better in applications where you want this.

Corrupted Conscience

3UU

Enchantment — Aura

Enchant creature

You control enchanted creature.

Enchanted creature has infect. It deals damage to creatures in the form of -1/-1 counters and to players in the form of poison counters.

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

1UU

Creature — Shapeshifter

2/2

At the beginning of your upkeep, you may have Cryptoplasm become a copy of another target creature. If you do, Cryptoplasm gains this ability.

Although there are very few 3cc creatures that see play in Vintage, those that do fit the mold of Vendillion 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

2UU

Sorcery

Search your library for a card, exile it, then shuffle your library. Any opponent may have you put that card into your hand. If no player does, you draw three cards.

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

2UU

Instant

Counter target spell, then proliferate. You choose any number of permanents and/or players with counters on them, then give each another counter of a kind already there.

Counterspells in Vintage are either free or cost one mana, with the exception of Mana Drain. This card is unplayable.

Mirran Spy

2U

Creature — Drone

1/3

Flying

Whenever you cast an artifact spell, you may untap target creature.

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

1UU

Sorcery

Look at the top seven cards of your library. You may put one of those cards onto the battlefield if it has the same name as a permanent. Put the rest on the bottom of your library in any order.

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, 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

1UU

Creature — Human Rogue

2/1

Shroud

Whenever Neurok Commando deals combat damage to a player, you may draw a card.

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

1U

Creature — Homunculus

1/1

When Oculus is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, you may draw a card.

This card does the exact opposite of what blue-based tempo decks want, and should see no play. Calling Silvergil Adept…

Quicksilver Geyser

4U

Instant

Return up to two target nonland permanents to their owners' hands.

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

2UU

Creature — Drake

3/2

Flying

When Serum Raker is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, each player discards a card.

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

4U

Creature — Serpent

3/5

Defender

Metalcraft — As long as you control three or more artifacts, Spire Serpent gets +2/+2 and can attack as though it didn't have defender.

Even with metalcraft, this wouldn’t be playable. It’d be an inferior win condition to both Tezzeret and Meloku for the same casting cost.

Steel Sabotage

U

Instant

Choose one — Counter target artifact spell; or return target artifact to its owner's hand.

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 one 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 (though with two copies available, you can counter the artifact eventually). 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

2U

Creature — Human Wizard

2/2

When Treasure Mage enters the battlefield, you may search your library for an artifact card with converted mana cost 6 or greater, reveal that card, and put it into your hand. If you do, shuffle your library.

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, Sundering Titan, 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

1U

Instant

Creatures your opponents control get -2/-0 until end of turn.

Echoing Truth is almost always going to be better in Vintage.

Vedalken Anatomist

2U

Creature — Vedalken Wizard

1/2

{2}{U}, {T}: Put a -1/-1 counter on target creature. You may tap or untap that creature.

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

3U

Creature — Vedalken Wizard

1/4

At the beginning of your upkeep, you may put a charge counter on target artifact.

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

3U

Sorcery

As an additional cost to cast Vivisection, sacrifice a creature.

Draw three cards.

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 most, 3 mana.

D. Black

Black Sun’s Zenith

XBB

Sorcery

Put X -1/-1 counters on each creature. Shuffle Black Sun's Zenith into its owner's library.

See White Sun’s Zenith.

Caustic Hound

5B

Creature — Hound

4/4

When Caustic Hound is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, each player loses 4 life.

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 Champion could give this guy a run for his money. None of those cards are Vintage playable, and neither is this.

Flensermite

1B

Creature — Gremlin

1/1

Infect

Lifelink

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

3B

Creature — Imp

2/2

Flying

Infect

Sacrifice a creature: Flesh-Eater Imp gets +1/+1 until end of turn.

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

1B

Instant

Destroy target nonartifact creature.

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. 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

2B

Sorcery

Put target creature card from an opponent's graveyard onto the battlefield under your control. It gains haste. Exile it at the beginning of the next end step. If that creature would leave the battlefield, exile it instead of putting it anywhere else.

Is this any better than Reanimate, Animate Dead, Dance of the Dead or Necromancy? I can’t see a meaningful advantage.

Horrifying Revelation

B

Sorcery

Target player discards a card, then puts the top card of his or her library into his or her graveyard.

If only opponents were dumb enough to play topdeck tutors 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

3BBB

Creature — Wurm

6/5

When Massacre Wurm enters the battlefield, creatures your opponents control get -2/-2 until end of turn.

Whenever a creature an opponent controls is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, that player loses 2 life.

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.

Morbid Plunder

1BB

Sorcery

Return up to two target creature cards from your graveyard to your hand.

Regrowth effects are often played in Vintage. Regrowth itself sees plenty of play, and Yawgmoth’s Will is obviously a format staple. Many other Regrowth effects do not see play. Recall, Relearn and Nature’s Spiral see no play.

Grim Discovery sees some Vintage play in Hexmage/Depths, which are modern Suicide Black decks. That’s because it can return either combo component to hand. Morbid Plunder has less flexibility, but offers card advantage. Unfortunately, the type of advantage it offers is not particularly important. Creatures are the least valuable card type in the format. Grim Discovery offers arguably better card advantage at a cheaper price. Morbid Plunder should see no Vintage play.

Nested Ghoul

3BB

Creature — Zombie Warrior

4/2

Whenever a source deals damage to Nested Ghoul, put a 2/2 black Zombie creature token onto the battlefield.

This is not Vintage playable. For five mana you can play Ad Nauseam in Vintage.

Phyresis

1B

Enchantment — Aura

Enchant creature

Enchanted creature has infect. It deals damage to creatures in the form of -1/-1 counters and to players in the form of poison counters.

This is like a bad Berserk.

Phyrexian Crusader

1BB

Creature — Zombie Knight

2/2

First strike, protection from red and from white

Infect

Protection from blue would be much better. Unplayable.

Phyrexian Vatmother

2BB

Creature — Horror

4/5

Infect

At the beginning of your upkeep, you get a poison counter.

A three swing game winner? Interesting, but Flesh-Eater Imp might be better.

Sangromancer

2BB

Creature — Vampire Shaman

3/3

Flying

Whenever a creature an opponent controls is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, you may gain 3 life.

Whenever an opponent discards a card, you may gain 3 life.

Phyrexian Vatmother might be better.

Scourge Servant

4B

Creature — Zombie

3/3

Infect

Phryrexian Vatmother is better.

Septic Rats

1BB

Creature — Rat

2/2

Infect

Whenever Septic Rats attacks, if defending player is poisoned, it gets +1/+1 until end of turn.

A nice ability, but Phyrexian Negator is better.

Spread the Sickness

4B

Sorcery

Destroy target creature, then proliferate.

The maximum casting cost for black removal spells is probably 2 mana, maybe 3.

Virulent Wound

B

Instant

Put a -1/-1 counter on target creature. When that creature is put into a graveyard this turn, its controller gets a poison counter.

You’d have to have a great poison strategy to play this over Darkblast.

E. Red

Blisterstick Shaman

2R

Creature — Goblin Shaman

2/1

When Blisterstick Shaman enters the battlefield, it deals 1 damage to target creature or player.

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

1R

Instant

Burn the Impure deals 3 damage to target creature. If that creature has infect, Burn the Impure deals 3 damage to that creature's controller.

Doesn’t target a player? Can’t kill Jace; isn’t playable.

Concussive Bolt

3RR

Sorcery

Concussive Bolt deals 4 damage to target player.

Metalcraft — If you control three or more artifacts, creatures that player controls can't block this turn.

Far too expensive for just four damage. Pyrokinesis is better.

Crush

R

Instant

Destroy target noncreature artifact.

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

3RR

Creature — Beast

3/3

At the beginning of your upkeep, you may look at the top card of your library. If it's an instant or sorcery card, you may cast it without paying its mana cost.

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 five 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 helluva lot better than Dream Halls. Denying Wind could be annoying.

Gnathosaur

4RR

Creature — Lizard

5/4

Sacrifice an artifact: Gnathosaur gains trample until end of turn.

This card is almost strictly inferior to Fire Elemental. That means it’s not Vintage playable.

Goblin Wardriver

RR

Creature — Goblin Warrior

2/2

Battle cry

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

5RR

Creature — Dragon

5/5

Flying, haste

{1}{R}: Hellkite Igniter gets +X/+0 until end of turn, where X is the number of artifacts you control.

This is probably just worse than Hellkite Overlord as an Oath creature.

Hero of Oxid Ridge

2RR

Creature — Human Knight

4/2

Haste

Battle cry

Whenever Hero of Oxid Ridge attacks, creatures with power 1 or less can't block this turn.

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

2RR

Instant

Exile two target artifacts.

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

1RR

Creature — Human Rogue

2/3

Forestwalk

Forestwalk is about as useful in Vintage as banding. Unplayable.

Kuldotha Flamefiend

4RR

Creature — Elemental

4/4

When Kuldotha Flamefiend enters the battlefield, you may sacrifice an artifact. If you do, Kuldotha Flamefiend deals 4 damage divided as you choose among any number of target creatures and/or players.

I’d rather have Kamahl, Pit Fighter or Rorix.

Kuldotha Ringleader

4R

Creature — Giant Berserker

4/4

Battle cry

Kuldotha Ringleader attacks each turn if able.

Five mana for a 4/4? Again, Fire Elemental would compete with this card.

Metallic Mastery

2R

Sorcery

Gain control of target artifact until end of turn. Untap that artifact. It gains haste until end of turn.

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

2RR

Creature — Ogre

4/3

Just play Flametongue Kavu instead.

Rally the Forces

2R

Instant

Attacking creatures get +1/+0 and gain first strike until end of turn.

Unplayable for many reasons, not the least of which is the casting cost.

Red Sun’s Zenith

XR

Sorcery

Red Sun's Zenith deals X damage to target creature or player. If a creature dealt damage this way would be put into a graveyard this turn, exile it instead. Shuffle Red Sun's Zenith into its owner's library.

Red X spells haven’t been playable in Vintage since Kaervek’s Torch was used as a win condition in the 1990s.

Slagstorm

1RR

Sorcery

Choose one — Slagstorm deals 3 damage to each creature; or Slagstorm deals 3 damage to each player.

Firespout is better.

Spiraling Duelist

2RR

Creature — Human Berserker

3/1

Metalcraft — Spiraling Duelist has double strike as long as you control three or more artifacts.

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.

(this continues in Part 3, here)

Douglas Linn

Doug Linn has been playing Magic since 1996 and has had a keen interest in Legacy and Modern. By keeping up closely with emerging trends in the field, Doug is able to predict what cards to buy and when to sell them for a substantial profit. Since the Eternal market follows a routine boom-bust cycle, the time to buy and sell short-term speculative investments is often a narrow window. Because Eternal cards often spike in value once people know why they are good, it is essential for a trader to be connected to the format to get great buys before anyone else. Outside of Magic, Doug is an attorney in the state of Ohio.  Doug is a founding member of Quiet Speculation, and brings with him a tremendous amount of business savvy.

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