In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war…
What, wrong game? Nah, I got this. There are robots that reassemble themselves, goblins building weird machines, creepy space bugs, and even an orbital laser.
OK, I might have confused one or two things.
Welcome to the Mirrodin Besieged overview, a quick look at all things Mirrodin Besieged. Besieged is the latest addition to the Magic: The Gathering family, the 75th set released, adding another 142 brand new
cards to play with, and 13 reprints with brand new art. Mirrodin Besieged prereleases are this coming weekend, and the set’s street date is next Friday.
First, let’s take a look at the set for sealed play. The first sealed event you’re likely to play in with Besieged is the prerelease. That’s just the start, though, as the PTQ season for Philadelphia is Sealed deck. I’d love to lump both of the prerelease and the PTQs together, but I can’t, because Wizards has chosen to run the prereleases in an interesting faction-based format. When you show up to a prerelease, you’ll make a choice (or, more likely, have a choice made for you) of either Phyrexian or Mirran. You’ll receive three packs of Scars of Mirrodin and three of Mirrodin Besieged that have only cards from your chosen faction. It’s an interesting idea from Wizards, following the special prizes for faction aligned decks at the Scars of Mirrodin Game Day, and people seem to be happy about it.
I expect that to last until the end of the prereleases. You see, the two factions are clearly unbalance for limited play. Which faction gets the short end of the stick? I’ll save you the suspense of several paragraphs and tell you immediately; pick Phyrexia. In fact, call ahead right now and reserve Phyrexia, because I’ll bet that the organizers are going to be running out and shoving Mirran packs down people’s throats.
Why Phyrexia? They’ve got the cards you’ll want to play with to win sealed games. Sealed deck is about attrition, and about gaining card advantage piece by piece, play by play. Actually, sometimes sealed is about opening six absolute bombs and wrecking face. But mostly, sealed is about attrition, about grinding out two for ones wherever you can. Barring a pool with a ridulculous mythic, your commons and uncommons will be the cards that win you the majority of games, and the Mirran faction has just two (and a half) cards in the common or uncommon slots that render any sort of advantage; Trinket Mage and Kuldotha Flamefiend (and Blisterstick Shaman) Instead, the Mirrans get the Battle Cry mechanic, which prompts you to build a weenie deck hoping to curve out each game. If you want to play with the Mirrans, you’ll want to find a prerelease that is running drafts. In a draft, the additional control you get over your card picks should better enable yout to capitalize on the Mirran theme.
The Phyrexians, on the other claw, have common and uncommon sources of card advantage in every color, pretty much ensuring that you’ll crush any Mirran opponent you run into at the prerelease. Choking Fumes is a combat trick that will deal with multiple attacking creatures, Into the Roil is a two for one instant speed removal spell, and if you’re in blue you can play with an upgraded Mind Control. I’ve won a fair amount of money will old and tired Mind Control, so new hotness Corrupted Conscience makes me all kind of excited.
Phyrexia gets the Living Weapon mechanic, which debuted to lackluster reviews on various internet discussion sites. I think people are having problems placing these cards into the correct mental role. When evaluating a new set, if you see a green instant with “+3/+3” on it, you think “Giant Growth, ok” and move on. This is a useful mental process, enabling you to quickly evaluate what certain cards are good and save on mental strain. If you do this with Living Weapons though, thinking “equipment with an upside,” you’ll be making a large misstep. Living Weapons are creatures, not equipment, and should be thought of as such. They get sorted with creatures, they get played like creatures, they pick up other equipment like creatures and punch our opponent just like creatures. Look at Strandwalker, the [card Giant Spider]Giant Spider Living Weapon[/card]; if you evaluate this as traditional equipment, you see a five mana cost pair of pants that costs an additional four mana to equip, for an solid, but uninspiring benefit. But if you think of it as a five mana Giant Spider, you realize that you might be playing it into your deck even if it didn’t have the equip ability. Living Weapon removes not only the Equipment drawback of sometimes not having a creature to suit up, but also the hidden drawback of spending that extra mana for the initial equip. There are five Living Weapons in the set, only one of which is rare, and Mortarpod is the only one of five that I’d even entertain not putting into my deck.
On top of several two for one spells and the Living Weapon mechanic, Phyrexia gets some also run like Blightwidow, a Giant Spider with infect, unconditional creature kill with a Proliferate bonus in Spread the Sickness, and what is effectively a 10/5 guy for six mana in Phyrexian Juggernaut. When cards of this caliber are also run, there’s a lot of power cards to choose from….
But can’t you just rip a busted Mythic from the Mirran faction and go to town? Not really. Of the Mirran mythics, I’d only be happy to see the Sword of Feast and Famine from the Mythic slot, or the [card Blue Suns Zenith]Blue[/card] or [card White Suns Zenith]White Zeniths[/card] from the rare slot. With everyone playing Phyrexia, Sword should be able to seal any game it show up in, and the two Zenith’s should each win a game where’s they’re cast at seven or more mana. The Heroes of [card Hero of Bladehold]Bladehold[/card] and [card Hero of Oxid Ridge]Oxid Ridge[/card] are both strong cards but also both likely to simply trade for a couple of your opponents creatures, making them equivalent to a good Phyrexian common or uncommon, and [card Thrun, the Last Troll]Thrun[/card] just gets poisoned to death pretty quickly. Mirran Crusader might be a house, but it also might as often run into artifact creature to trade in combat. Phyrexian Mythics, though, will straight rip you apart. Draw all the cards you’ve played this game? Deathtouch, First Strike, card advantage engine? Kill your team wurm? And of course, Mr. One-shot himself, [card Blightsteel Colossus]Blighty[/card].
I briefly entertained the thought of playing Mirran to get a spare copy of Hero of Bladehold, but I‘ve since come to realize that with no one playing that side, there’ll be plenty of extras for me to wheedle out of the TO. And though I’d love to open a copy of [card Thrun, the Last Troll]Thrun[/card] and sell it before the price drops, I’d much rather sell the packs that I get for winning the event.
This odd tournament structure also means that a player paying attention at the prerelease can gain profitable knowledge by watching his opponent’s plays. As soon as you see a card from Besieged hit the table, you’ll know which faction your opponent picked, and therefore what tricks to be looking out for. See a living weapon, and feel free to stop playing around Go for the Throat. See a Leonin Skyhunter, and you don’t need to be playing around Choking Fumes any more. In this same mental process, if you see a Phyrexian player in red, there’s a better then even chance that he’s on at least one copy of Into the Core, and a Mirran player in black is probably rocking [card Go for the Throat]Go for the Throats[/card] like nobodies business. Phyrexia only appears on two red cards in Besieged, and Mirrodin on two black cards, so players would need a strong reason to go into those colors.
Sealed decks not at the prerelease should play out more like most players are familiar with. It will be much easier to build a dedicated poison deck, as Besieged adds in several strong poison creatures. As an initial analysis, I’d expect the main archetypes to remain GB poison, WR with or without metalcraft, and Blue with a splash color. With the addition of Blightwidow and more strong equipment, the poison deck can choose now to move to a slower game, capitalizing upon the wither effect of Blightwidows, Cystbearers, and anyone wearing an [card Accorders Shield]Accorders Shield[/card] while incrementally dinging the opponents. Contagion Clasp becomes much better here, which is a shame as you’ll be seeing it half as often. WR may choose to still aim for metalcraft, and several new additions help that strategy, such as Silverskin Armor, Myr Sire, and the Living Weapons (if you can get any). WR may instead choose in the new format to go for a dedicated aggressive build without focusing on artifacts. Leonin Skyhunter complements [card Kembas Skyguard]Kemba’s Skyguard[/card] and Glint Hawks as cheap fliers for an evasion based offense that still benefits from the various Battle Cry effects. In this direction of build, [card Masters Call]Master’s Call[/card] and potentially Kuldotha Rebirth are very. And finally, Blue may still gum up the ground with Plated Seastriders and [card Neurok Replica]Replicas[/card], and win on the back of impressive fliers. This deck is the best one to capitalize on not only Volition Reins, but now also Corrupted Conscience, the deal with the opponent’s bombs. It gets Serum Raker as a three power flier for four mana, and a couple of strong tricks in Turn the Tide and Quicksilver Geyser.
The cutting technology for Sealed formats tends to move fairly quick, so be prepared to reevaluate cards in the format if they’re under (or over) performing.
Onward, upward, to constructed implications, with a dash of financial advice.
First, my pick for best card from the set: [card Green Suns Zenith]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card]. I’m confidant enough in this card that I preordered fifty copies when they first went up for sale in an expectation of flipping them for profit. I did the same thing with Stoneforge Mystic, so I’m confidant in my investment. I also did the same thing with Pyromancer Ascension, so maybe I shouldn’t be…
[card Green Suns Zenith]Green’s Sun Zenith[/card] takes the “fair” part of Fauna Shaman and removes the pesky turn of waiting. No, you don’t get to abuse it with Vengevines or [card Demigod of Revenge]Demigods[/card], In fact, you can’t even use it with [card Demigod of Revenge]Demigod[/card]. But you also don’t get shut down by any removal spell in existence, and you get to plop that lovely choice right into play, ready to beat face. Standard applications? Well, it gets Primeval Titan for Valakut and RUG. It also picks up a Lotus Cobra or Joraga Treespeaker if you’re ramping into those [card Primeval Titan]titans[/card]. It can pull up Acidic Slime to deal with a problem permanent, or Terastadon to deal with three. It gets Elvish Archdruid or [card Ezuri, Renegade Leader]Ezuri[/card] to supercharge elves, Obstinate Baloth to protect against burn to the face, or your miser’s [card Gaeas Revenge]Gaea’s Revenge[/card] against control. It even gets Fauna Shaman herself for a late game grind.
Extended brings more exciting options to the mix. Kitchen Finks is an upgrade to Obstinate Baloth against red. In addition to the Elvish Archdruid and [card Ezuri, Renegade Leader]Ezuri[/card], you can fetch up Nettle Sentinel or Heritage Druid to help Elves get the engine started, and Regal Force to keep it going. Noble Hierarch is still playable at two mana, and Knight of the Reliquary is still fine at four. You can snag that one Dauntless Escort as [card Day of Judgment]Wrath[/card] protection. Gaddock Teeg shuts down your additional copies, but also shuts down Scapeshift. In a [card Doran, the Siege Tower]Doran[/card] build, it grabs the namesake, as well as Putrid Leech. A single Master of the Wild Hunt can handle stalled board states. A single Chameleon Colossus or Oversoul of Dusk can be near impossible for [card Mistbind Clique]Faeries[/card] to deal with. A Bant list could search up a Rhox War Monk to stabilize, or [card Rafiq of the Many]Rafiq[/card] to go on on the offensive. A Naya list could get extra saucy and fetch a singelton Realm Razer, sealing a game instantly.
The card is even a serious consideration in Legacy play. Dryad Arbor makes the [card Green Suns Zenith]Zenith[/card] a one mana Rampant Growth. Is that good enough to see play? Drew Levin thinks it might be, and he knows his way around the format. In legacy, it can fetch the best fatty ever printed, Tarmogoyf himself, and endless other interesting effects from the depths of Magic’s past. It also gives green strong game against a resolved Counterbalance or Chalice of the Void, letting you overpay for your dude to make sure he resolves.
At this point, [card Green Suns Zenith]Green’s Sun Zenith[/card] is up to $7-$8 from the online retailers. I’m not sure it’ll keep heading upwards, but I wouldn’t be overly surprised if it did. Pick up your four now, or more if you can find it cheap.
Moving onwards from my pet choice, what else is interesting in the set?
Blightsteel Colossus has generated a fair amount on buzz. Will he see any serious play? There’s a chance at least. Minds more familiar than mine with Eternal formats have him pegged as a good Tinker target, but not necessarily the best one. This makes sense, as Swords to Plowshares is fairly prevalent still and Inkwell Leviathan still exists. Or, alternatively, Diabolic Edicts is fairly prevalent and Myr Battlesphere still exists. I’m even sure that someone will try to build a Polymorph-ish list in Standard with Shape Anew. If you are considering being that person, allow me to save weeks of your time: it’s a bad idea. Yes, you can cast Shape Anew on your Master’s Call tokens or your Inkmoth Nexus. Yes, you can Trinket Mage up a single Darksteel Axe to prevent [card Natures Claim]Nature’s Claim[/card] blowouts. Yes, you might even be able to cheat [card Blightsteel Colossus]Mr. One-shot[/card] onto the battlefield, where he will promptly get bounced by [card Jace, the Mind Sculptor]Jace[/card], put to sleep, redirected to [card Gideon Jura]Gideon[/card], or, lord forbid, [card Mind Control]Mind Controlled[/card]. If you want to cheat fatties into play, go with the [card Emrakul, the Aeons Torn]flying spaghetti monster[/card]; who comes with a more robust protection plan.
What’s that? Not of This World? That’s … cute. But the deck is still bad.
Mike Flores thinks that Inkmoth Nexus could see some potential play in control decks suck as UW or UB. I’m not so sure about that. Yes, the [card Inkmoth Nexus]Nexus[/card] is a nifty card, providing a ten turn clock with evasion. However, both of these decks already have manlands that provide seven or five turn clocks, with evasion. [card Inkmoth Nexus]Inkmoth[/card] kills you through lifegain, but eventually so do [card Creeping Tar Pit]Tarpit[/card] and [card Celestial Colonnade]Colonnade[/card]. Still, I could get past all that, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with providing redundancy to your effects. What I can’t get past, though, is the lack of colored mana from Inkmoth Nexus. Both Creeping Tar Pit and Celestial Colonnade not only make colored mana, they make colored mana very, very well. Not having the blue you need to land a [card Jace, the Mind Sculptor]Jace[/card] is effectively game over in several cases. Tectonic Edge sees play in these decks because it provides a needed effect and is incredibly powerful. Trading the risk of mana problems for an answer to opposing manlands and the chance to lock your opponent out of a color is a value positive play. I think [card Inkmoth Nexus]Inkmoth[/card] has to compete with the [card Tectonic Edge]Edge[/card], not complement it, and I can’t see [card Inkmoth Nexus]Inkmoth[/card] winning that battle.
Which is not to say that Inkmoth Nexus does not have a home. Poison decks in varying combinations of Black and Green are happy to see an infect creature that doesn’t die to Day of Judgment. In these lists, it’s almost an automatic four-of include. I could also see it showing up as a win condition in a UB deck focused on abusing the new [card Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas]Tezzeret[/card], although I’m not sure that it’s the best win condition there. The [card Inkmoth Nexus]Nexus[/card] certainly isn’t double digits good, but you might want to pick some up if you see them around $6.
Speaking of [card Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas]Tezzeret[/card], is his newest incarnation the real thing? Probably, although I haven’t quite figured out the best way to abuse him yet. For value, he’s a four CMC walker (check), with an initial ability that puts him out of Lightning Bolt range (check) and provides card advantage (check), and he’s blue (check). In the blue based control decks that already exist, he could make a splash with a few copies. He searches for Everflowing Chalice, Wurmcoil Engine, Ratchet Bomb, and Elixir of Immortality, animates your otherwise dead [card Everflowing Chalice]Chalices[/card] late game, pumps halfwurms by a couple power, and randomly gains you enough life to jump out of burn range. He also pairs up well with [card Jace, the Mind Sculptor]Jace[/card], serving the same purpose as a fetchland after [card Jace, the Mind Sculptor]Jace’s[/card] brainstorm effect. Where I’m really interested in seeing him, though, is in a dedicated artifact list. The big question for this type of list is whether to focus on Grand Architect or Day of Judgment. In this kind of list, some number of Everflowing Chalices, Sphere of the Suns, and Mox Opals bring him down early and bash in later, Myr Battlesphere is a ramped into threat and a great play before he ultimates, and saucy additions like maindeck Wall of Tanglecords gain added value by being both fetchable and synergistic with the ultimate….
My playtest list is shaky, but there’s potential there. Really.
[card Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas]Tezzeret[/card] is perhaps the best walker to pair up with Thrummingbird. If you haven’t been playing with this little bird horror (!), you’ve been missing out. In a UB deck like the one I just mentioned, Thrummingbird taps for Grand Architect to make mana, proliferates up counters on [card Everflowing Chalice]Chalice[/card], [card Sphere of the Suns]Sphere[/card], and Walkers, and can do some absolutely bonkers things, like make ten mana available on turn 4. Most importantly to this deck, Thrummingbird allows [card Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas]Tezzeret[/card] to ultimate the turn he comes down without any additional mana investments. That’s really, really good. Most planeswalkers come down in price after the preorder frenzy. I can see [card Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas]Tezzeret[/card] going up. Pick him up if you can.
Thrun, the Last Troll get my vote for the most overrrated card of the set. Sure, he regenerates. Sure, he can’t be targeted. What people seem to be forgetting is that control decks have already adapted to dealing with 4 power attackers that are hard to permanently remove. Patrick Chapin said “If you can’t think of sixty answers to [card Thrun, the Last Troll]Thrun[/card], you’re not trying hard enough.” Squadron Hawks, Elspeth Tirel, even Contagion Engine or Wall of Omens with a +1/+1 counter shut down this guy. [card Thrun, the Last Troll]Thrun[/card] doesn’t even have the same blowout potential as Vengevine, since you can’t run multiple copies out there on turns three, four, and five for aggressive pressure. If you open him (which you shouldn’t. Didn’t I tell you to play Phyrexia?), play with him, then sell him for whatever profit you can. He should hit $3 by the end of March.
What else in interesting from the set? Some quick hits:
Accorder Paladin: Four power for two mana is good enough for constructed, if White Weenie or Knight Weenie become a real option. Which I think they will.
Leonin Relic-Warder: Should have been a knight, to fit into the upcoming tribal deck. Qasali Pridemage is likely better in Extended and Legacy, but this could conceptually see play in a white weenie deck.
Phyrexian Rebirth: This just worse than Day of Judgement. It’s also probably worse than Lightmine Field, Hallowed Burial, Scourglass, and so on. I’m looking to play a [card Wrath of God]Wrath[/card] when it will stop me from dying, and turn six or later is often too late. In other words, and extra two mana is not worth a (usually) 3/3 tacked on. A wrath effect that drew me a card? I’d pay six for that. Hell, I might even pay seven for that.
[card White Suns Zenith]White Sun’s Zenith[/card]: This was initially spoiled as a sorcery, which prompted me to comment that it’d be playable if only it was an instant. Now, of course, I’m tempted to reconsider, but I’m still fairly confidant that this remains playable in Standard. At four or five mana it’s underwhelming, but starting at six mana it’s something that a control deck feels fine tapping out for on the opponent’s end step. Slightly better than half of Decree of Justice, so expect to see single copies showing up in lists.
[card Blue Suns Zenith]Blue Sun’s Zenith[/card]: At four mana, Foresee is better. Even at five or six mana, Foresee and [card Jaces Ingenuity]Jace’s Ingenuity[/card] are better. At seven mana it’s a argument, and at eight mana this starts to pull ahead. I think that by the time I reach 8 mana I’d rather [card White Suns Zenith]make an army of 2/2s[/card] than draw cards, but it’s close. I shouldn’t expect more than one of this in a list, but some lists may run that one.
Consecrated Sphinx: If they have the Doom Blade in hand, you’ve just gotten blown out. At least a [card Frost Titan]Titan[/card] there would have netted some incremental value. But if they’re tapped out, or need to draw into the answer? In that case, this guy may actually be better than a [card Sun Titan]Titan[/card], giving you two cards instead of the average one or one and a half from the other [card Primeval Titan]Titans[/card]. I don’t think I’d play him over Grave Titan, but I can certainly see myself playing him here and there.
Corrupted Conscience: I toyed with a deck that used Kor Spiritdancer and as many Auras as I could fit. It was fun, except for the games where I didn’t draw the [card Kor Spiritdancer]Spiritdancer[/card]. Eventually, that idea got abandoned. This card goes right into that sort of deck. It also replaces Mind Control if you’re running it in Blue control build, and possibly even replaces Volition Reins, since it turns that [card Primeval Titan]Titan[/card] you stole into effectively a 12/6 instead of a 6/6.
Cryptoplasm: Renegade Doppelganger was $0.50 when it came out, $10 briefly, and now it’s $0.50 again. The things you can do with this card are amazing and fun, but none of them feel consistent enough to be tournament quality things, so expect the same fate as the other [card Renegade Doppelganger]Doppelganger[/card].
Fuel for the Cause: I hate Cancel. I mean, really, really hate Cancel. It’s not so much that I liked playing with Counterspell, it’s more that I liked playing with Forbid, Hinder, [card Stoic Rebuttal]and[/card] [card Dissipate]the[/card] [card Faerie Trickery]other[/card] [card Mystic Denial]counterspells[/card] [card Tidal Control]that[/card] [card Logic Knot]cost[/card] [card Lullmage Mentor]1[/card] [card Echo Mage]U[/card] [card Dream Fracture]U[/card] [card Spiketail Drakeling]and[/card] [card Daring Apprentice]had[/card] [card Callow Jushi]an[/card] [card Kira, Great Glass-Spinner]upside[/card]. I was happy to see Stoic Rebuttal. I would have been ecstatic to see this card at 1UU, but I’m also aware of how strong proliferating can be in the right deck, and so I accept that this may even be slightly undercosted at 2UU. Imagine Everflowing Chalice turn 2, and camping this turn 3. Now imagine that you’ve been playing a longer game, leaving Mana Leak up on turn 2, casting Everflowing Chalice to still leave Mana Leak up on turn 3. He gets greedy and goes for [card Jace, the Mind Sculptor]Jace[/card], which you [card Mana Leak]Leak[/card], letting you land a second [card Everflowing Chalice]Chalice[/card] into your own [card Jace, the Mind Sculptor]Jace[/card]. How amazing does Fuel for the Cause look now? I’d bet money that this is going to be in several winning lists from large events this year.
Mitotic Manipulation: The cards that you really want to make a copy of all cost six anyway, so why not wait until you can play Summoning Trap, play it, and not hate yourself when you see three [card Primeval Titan]Titans[/card], but none of them matching the one already out? I think this might actually have a home, but it’s probably dumping something like extra Dreamstone Hedrons onto the field rather than anything in a current top tier list.
Steel Sabotage: Yes, it will see play in Eternal formats. And the foil is pretty, so trade for it.
Treasure Mage: I thought that this would be comparable to Trinket Mage. Boy was I wrong. In the current format, Trinket Mage gets Everflowing Chalice to out land your opponent. It gets Memnite to bring back Vengevines. It gets Brittle Effigy to deal with that threat. It gets Basilisk Collar to suit up your Cunning Sparkmage. It gets Nihil Spellbomb as a random catchall. And it gets Elixir of Immortality to stabilize against red and to handle the super late game in the control mirror.
Treasure Mage gets Wurmcoil Engine, Myr Battlesphere, Steel Hellkite and the like. These are all great creatures, but they are all creatures. They will die. And when they do, you just played a Gray Ogre in constructed. He gets Contagion Engine and Mindslaver too, but you don’t want to be playing four copies of either of those, and so you don’t want to be playing four copies of Treasure Mage, and you still run into games where Treasure Mage has nothing left to search for. On top of this frustration, Treasure Mage isn’t a fun turn three play, leaving you staring at that [card Wurmcoil Engine]Wurmcoil[/card] or whatever in your hand for at least another three turns. Trinket Mage on turn three means I’m playing whatever I got next turn. Trinket Mage after turn three means I’m playing what I got right away. Treasure Mage into [card Wurmcoil Engine]Wurmcoil[/card] on nine lands is just begging to get [card Mana Leak]Mana Leaked[/card]. I’m perfectly happy running two Trinket Mages and four Everflowing Chalices in a deck. I’m ok running three Trinket Mages and adding an [card Elixir of Immortality]Elixir[/card] and an [card Brittle Effigy]Effigy[/card] to those [card Everflowing Chalice]Chalice[/card]s. Running X Mindslavers and X/2 Treasure Mages kinda makes me nauseous.
[card Black Suns Zenith]Black Sun’s Zenith[/card]: Does black control of any flavor really need this? Marsh Casualties exists at two and five mana, making it a better early game play than this. Consume the Meek also exists, which is usually better than this too. Grave Titan is a better play on six mana, since it deals with three creatures and leaves you a toy to play with. Seven mana? Sure, but what has five toughness and matters? So you’ll usually end up casting this at eight mana. If you succeed in killing two titans with this at eight mana, you should have already lost. Go put a better removal spell in your deck. [card Thrun, the Last Troll]Thrun[/card]? Grave Titan still deals with him. So does Consuming Vapors, All is Dust, Gatekeeper of Malakir, and other cards that Black control has no problems playing.
Massacre Wurm: Oh look, a board sweeper that is probably better than [card Black Suns Zenith]Black Sun’s Zenith[/card].
Phyrexian Crusader: I could see this guy going up in price a little bit. Not so much because I expect the poison decks to storm the tournament scene, but because he is an absolutely amazing blocker for a black control deck, soaking and killing one creature from most any aggro deck each turn.
Hero of Oxid Ridge: This guy is the real deal in constructed. He’s at least a 4 power attacker with haste for four mana. That’s a pretty good way to top off a red curve. And if you happen to have another couple creature? Six power for four mana is more than constructed playable. His second ability stops Wall of Omens, Squadron Hawk, Sea Gate Oracle, Elspeth Tirel tokens, Birds of Paradise, and so on from blocking. Basically, control now has to worry about whether you’re dropping this guy or [card Koth of the Hammer]Koth[/card] on turn four, and they have no good way of answering both. I wouldn’t expect this guy to go up in price too much, but Kargan Dragonlord didn’t hit the shelves at $14 either, so look to pick these up if you think you might be playing RDW any time soon.
Slagstorm: Yes, it immediately replaces Firespout in Extended or Legacy. But everyone who insists that it immediately replaces Pyroclasm in Standard might be wrong. Slagstorm does hit for an extra point of damage, but how relevant is that right now? How many three toughness creatures are there running around on the field? Formats have “critical numbers”, numbers around which combat, burn spells, and life totals revolve. Invasion had a critical number of four, primarily because of Flametoungue Kavu, which is why Lightning Angel wasn’t good then. Kamigawa standard had a critical number of two, owing to Shock being the one mana removal of choice, which is partly why Gnarled Mass was a constructed all star then. Current standard’s point removal burn is Lightning Bolt, which deals a whopping three damage. When that’s around, you want your creatures to either have four toughness, or you don’t bother getting all the way up to three. When you decide between this or Pyroclasm, you’re really deciding whether or not the ability to dome [card Jace, the Mind Sculptor]Jace[/card] for three (and take three in the process) is worth taking an extra four or more damage from Vampires, or worth letting Fauna Shaman get an activation off. I’d wager that it’s usually not worth it.
Creeping Corrosion: Mono brown decks aren’t brown anymore; they’re blue. Playing Blue gives them [card Jace, the Mind Sculptor]Jace[/card], Grand Architect, and all sorts of goodies. Before this card, running Stoic Rebuttal was just a good idea. Now, it’s a necessity. In other words, this will help you beat bad artifact decks.
Lead the Stampede: Patrick Chapin already talked about this card at length in his preview article, calling it one of the best in the set. I’m inclined to agree. I’m excited to try it out in a monster truck version of Jund in Extended, with 32 creatures and four of these.
[card Praetors Counsel]Praetor’s Counsel[/card]: Is the Dream Halls and Conflux deck still being played? If so, this might actually see play at a GP or 5K. Otherwise, it will just see tons of play in EDH.
Viridian Emissary: The comparisons to Sakura-Tribe Elder are apt; each costs two mana, each gets you a basic land. This guy has got an extra point of power, which is nice. But this guy falls well short of the [card Sakura-Tribe Elder]Elder[/card] in playability, since he has no built in way to get his ramping effect. Sakura-Tribe Elder functioned equally well in either of two roles; as acceleration or as an early threat that would eventually become troublesome. Playing this guy and chumping on turn two is the only time he’ll be as good as Sakura-Tribe Elder, which means that I don’t see a place for him in Standard.
Glissa the Traitor: Ratchet Bomb. [card Executioners Capsule]Executioner’s Capsule[/card]. Engineered Explosives. Probably going to see some play in all formats, but boy does she just eat Lightning Bolts all day long.
Brass Squire: Might replace Kor Outfitter in Quest decks. Know what’s better that Mono W Quest? GW Quest. Know whats better than GW Quest decks? “Everything” is a bit of a disingenuous answer, but I’m gonna go with it anyway.
Decimator Web: My favorite card from the set. No, it’s not good. I just really dig the flavor.
(Editor’s Note: I think this is the best named Magic card Ever)
Ichor Wellspring: I tried it in Standard, in that [card Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas]Tezzeret[/card] deck. Turns out, even when it became a 5/5 I was underwhelmed. Great in Extended with Time Sieve, but no good in Standard.
Myr Turbine: This might actually make a Myr deck playable. Myr Reservoir already gave the deck some resilience, but this is a way to just pump out a guy a turn, with the second ability just being gravy. I’d imagine it looks something like this as a very rough draft:
Myr Welder: Doesn’t die to Lightning Bolt, but does die to a bunch of other things. You can do cute things with it, but ultimately too fragile. Were I to try to break him, I’d look at imprinting something like Lux Cannon and playing some [card Myr Galvanizer]Galvanizers[/card].
Phyrexian Revoker: I’d have preferred to have Pithing Needle in the format, since it’s fetchable by Trinket Mage and far more resilient. This is a worse Pithing Needle. That makes it merely OK rather than great.
Sphere of the Suns: My opinion on this has gone from outstanding to merely amazing. Still, it’s going to see a whole lot of play, enabling turn three [card Jace, the Mind Sculptor]Jace[/card] and [card Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas]Tezzeret[/card], fixing off color splashes, and generally being awesome. Three is probably the right number in a deck rather than four, but that won’t stop foil copies from reaching above (maybe far above) the $5 mark.
Spine of Ish Sah: Yes, it’s awesome when [card Venser, the Sojourner]Venser[/card] blinks it. You should build the deck and do it once, just to get it out of your system. I am keeping an eye on this though, along with my old focus, Semblance Anvil. There are a couple ways to sacrifice an artifact for no mana cost in the format, and Semblance Anvil might be part of an engine here. With one [card Semblance Anvil]Anvil[/card] down, Ichor Wellspring is free and nets one card positive. With two [card Semblance Anvil]Anvils[/card] down, Corpse Curs have infinite enter the battlefield and enters the graveyard triggers. With two [card Semblance Anvil]Anvils[/card] out, Spine of Ish Sah is three mana for a Vindicate with buyback. Semblance Anvil is just a three for one waiting to happen with Acidic Slime in the format, but if you felt like taking this list to an FNM, I wouldn’t object.
Sword of Feast and Famine: I’m of the strong opinion that this is the worst of the three Swords currently available in Standard (Sword of Body and Mind, Sword of Vengeance). Both of the rider effects will often be useless, and equipment is more useful against the UG decks in the current environment that the black decks. Sure, your pro black guy can block a vampire, but you’re still getting overrun. And Sword of Vengeance? That cards is an absolutely beating in Titan mirrors, leaving your Grave Titan or [card Wurmcoil Engine]Wurmcoil[/card] alive, and turning Acidic Slime into a veritable engine of destruction.
Contested War Zone: You can’t really count this as a land slot, as too often you’ll be losing it to random plays from the opponent. So, is giving Honor of the Pure “T: Add 1” worth also giving it the chance of losing it? Maybe. I’d personally leave this in the board if they’re in a list.
[card Plains]B[/card][card Island]a[/card][card Swamp]s[/card][card Mountain]i[/card][card Forest]c[/card] [card Plains]l[/card][card Island]a[/card][card Swamp]n[/card][card Mountain]d[/card][card Forest]s[/card]: At first, I was bothered by the fact that we were getting new basic lands. After all, set sizes have already shrunk. Do we really need them to shrink more? but then I collected myself and considered things, and realized that Mirrodin Besieged is a standard size set, plus ten basic lands. We’re not losing anything by having them in there. And being aware of how much art costs, I’d say that Wizards choosing to change up the art the way they did with these basics is an absolute smash hit, and approve wholeheartedly.
And finally, the Training Grounds Watch:
No real stars for this update to the watch, although Myr Welder can open up an entire class of cards to us, which include, in Standard, Contagion Clasp, Contagion Engine, Mimic Vat, and Myr Reservoir.
Go have fun at you prereleases, and make sure to weigh in with your TO and online with how you feel about this new take on the prerelease format.