(For Part 1, please click here!)
Welcome back for Part 2 of my Mirrodin Beseiged Design Review! Rather than reviewing the set as it applies to Constructed or Limited play specifically, I'll be going over how the set appears from a designer's standpoint.
This is a serious Giant Spider upgrade. Most of the time, Giant Spider is a 2nd-pickable creature that holds down the fort against all 3-drops and in some cases provides a much needed attacker. The only time I'm sad about my Giant Spider is when I have to chump block a big flier just to stay alive. Blightwidow generously puts some -1/-1 counters on that mortal threat, giving you more time or making your next block a trade. It's also better on offense, where poison makes it hit like a 4/4.
I'm not exactly surprised to see a green Shatterstorm, and I was expecting an outright reprint of Shatterstorm now or in the 3rd set of the block. Unlike Mana Flare, which I agree is really a Green card, I don't think Shatterstorm is. Green already has Tranquility, and while it could be tied for #1 in artifact destruction, I believe that role belongs to red. It's obvious why this card is here; Green went to Phyrexia 2nd (after Black), and Red looks like it will be the last line of defense (or the hero that saves the plane). So if they want to give this effect to Phyrexia now, they need it to be Green. If Phyrexia is to win, I'd have waited for set 3 and just printed Shatterstorm with a watermark. Maybe this is a clue that Red is never totally overcome? Anyway, I feel this card is unfair to Red. I'd have gone for more of a 4GG Sorcery that destroys all artifacts and then gives each player a poison counter for each artifact put into their graveyard this way.
That's a lot of potential lifegain! This beast might make for some interesting limited situations. There seem to be a lot of "dinosaurs" in BSS draft / sealed, and while you obviously don't want all of them in your deck, it's important to get the right one (or to know which of those you already have that you'll play) so you can enhance their interactions a little bit more.
The mirror to Koth's Courier, and as I said before these two play up the war theme nicely. I like that the CC in their casting costs mean that not every deck can splash them out of the sideboard against you if you happen to be playing Mountains (or Forests). Cliff Threader and Marsh Threader were a little too easy to play and it was too easy to lose to them just because you went into colors that were open.
Possibly the most powerful Zenith in Standard and Extended. Tutoring for creatures has rarely been easier than it will be now, and heck, tutoring in general (with Trinket Mage, Treasure Mage, Stoneforge Mystic, Kuldotha Forgemaster, Hoarding Dragon, Diabolic Tutor, Archmage Ascension, Quest for the Holy Relic, Squadron Hawk, Trapmaker's Snare, Totem-Guide Hartebeest, Eye of Ugin, and Liliana Vess, not to mention all the land searching) is probably at an all-time high in Standard (don't quote me on that). There is far too much tutoring available in Standard and Extended right now. This is a mistake by R&D as it makes games too predictable and decks too efficient. Fauna Shaman, obviously the biggest offender, is a super-exciting card, and a lot of fun to play with, so it's very hard to resist printing it. Everyone loves it! It's not too powerful, but it makes many decks a large amount more consistent and narrower in focus. Combined with all the other searching I think it's too much.
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. I guess Beast Hunt was supposed to be playable so here we have a much more efficient version. This kind of "digging for creatures" effect is great design space for Green. It helps Green decks do what they do best: flood the board with monsters and bash till the Aurochs come home. I hope to see this on a creature sometime in the future.
I guess these guys killed a Tatterkite and made shields out of it?
Giant Growth with the block's mechanic. However basic is might seem, it's critical that cards like this be designed. Note that there is more than one option here. 1G for +3/+3 and +6/+6, for example. I think that they chose these numbers for two reasons. First, all the Metalcraft stat bonuses are +2/+2 so it makes sense for this to match. Second, the Growth effects that cost G are the most effective in limited play.
On this Hydra, when you cut off a head it stays cut off. This guy's a pretty big guy for 5 mana, and it's super effective against much larger monsters, giving seven -1/-1 counters and only taking one.
Another direct poison counter delivery card. Don't be too surprised if someone combos Flight Spellbomb with this against you for the win.
My initial reaction to this card is that it creates some bad tension. You have a 4/3. Don't you want to attack with it instead of tapping it for a very non-combat ability? I thought about it some more though, and perhaps it just offers those two options to you. Either you can attack with it, if that's what you're doing, or if you have a bunch of stuff to Proliferate, you're probably not in a position where you need to attack with it. You can always block and then use the ability... but for that I would like to see it be a 3/5. Nope, it still looks like a sloppy design that doesn't know what it's for. Throne of Geth is the sleek Proliferate sacrificer, and Plaguemaw Beast is the ugly half-brother.
"What if we made a card that let you Regrowth everything?!" This is an exciting card, and I love the use of unlimited handsize here. It really sells it, because you know you won't have to worry about not getting to keep everything you get back - you can live the big dream of playing a ton of stuff in a long game and then drowning your opponent in an avalanche of everything they fought so hard to deal with the first time around.
This is how you design a vanilla creature. Uncommon can support guys you don't see at common... er, well, usually don't see at common. Green can have an 8/8 for less than 8 mana. This card is plenty cool without any text at all.
Interesting. Is this better or worse than Cystbearer? I'm not sure, though I suspect it's better. With any equipment, or a trick, or even if you can double block and make your opponent want to kill this rather than a better creature just so you can't get more cards out of it. This ability is excellent card-draw for Green, and I hope they use it once every other set from now on.
To me, this card says "we screwed up, U/B is too powerful, again, for like the 57th time in Magic's history. I mean, who saw that coming?" Blue and sometimes Black are the only colors that have so many completely hosing creatures printed against them. Is that really part of the color pie?
I feel like this card got bumped out of several sets I worked on, but maybe that's because it's a pretty obvious set of numbers and words. Should be excellent for Infect decks in limited, and maybe constructed too.
Viridian Shaman is a classic in many formats, cool to see the Infect version for almost the same cost. It's looking like Green Infect has a lot of powerful 3-drops, I wonder if the 2-drop slot will be critical to fill while drafting.
I like that this has two power, encouraging you to attack until it dies and mana accelerates you into a fatty.
Oh first strike and deathtouch, BFFs forever! Glissa takes down just about anything (without first strike or protection) in combat. It can clearly kill stuff in order to trigger its ability, and the ability is almost perfectly opposite that of Glissa Sunseeker's. It must have been a genius who designed this card. Oh yeah, it was me. (At least Mark Gottlieb, the set's lead, remembers it as being me, and I think he's right, but I'm wary of claiming credit when I'm not 100% positive.)
As I said in my last article, this planeswalker has the whole package: can defend itself (well, if you control an artifact), gains immediate card advantage (if your deck has artifacts in it) and can kill the opponent (if you control enough artifacts). Do I detect a theme here? This is one of the most well tied-together Planeswalkers ever. All of the abilities work together. I will certainly be trying to build an artifact-Control deck around it.
Most this and that: it's a tie!
Hey look, it's the loser of a cycle. If you've read a lot of Rosewater's articles, or studied magic design for any length of time and still don't understand why weak cards must exist, you probably never will. If this is the first time you've thought about it, I'll give you a hint: If all cards were strong, would any of them actually be strong?
I love this card. I think it hits on all cylinders, and I was really surprised at the negative reaction it's been getting. Is it because a lot of players hate poison, and feel like it's not Magic if they die to poison? I've heard others say it obsoletes Darksteel Colossus. Um, so? New Magic cards are going to obsolete old ones, get used to it. My friend (and excellent game designer, who is currently working on Darkspore) Paul Sottosanti, and I were discussing this card the other day. He said he would have liked it more if it didn't have trample. Trample makes it inevitable that you'd be poisoned to death in ore or two turns, and makes the card too much of a game over, rather than an interesting problem you have to get around. While I can see that, it sounds like taking Annihilator off of Eldrazi. You can still chump block Big Blighty (I coined it first!), you just have to do it with sufficient toughness. You know, like with your Titan or Wurmcoil Engine. I also love the flavor of this card, I feel a great foreboding at learning Phyrexia has claimed Mirrodin's mightiest champion for their own.
Living Weapon is a great mechanic, as your equipment are now creatures, completely solving the card-disadvantage problem of Auras, instead of just mostly solving it, like regular equipment does. I could imagine a deck where every (non-land) card has living weapon. It might work out like Modular, where each time one of your guys dies you put his corpse onto another guy you control, until you have some pretty uber monsters stomping around. Is that intentional? That Living Weapon and Modular have something in common, or is it just serendipity?
This is the sort of on-board trick that's really annoying to play against. Even just 3 creatures and one equipment will probably mean there's no way you can attack.
Most of the time the "can't block" text is used as a reasonable drawback, but here it reads like "some text we threw on to make this not just a pure numbers equipment."
This is quite interesting. Very likely this will come out once your opponent is already poisoned, and it gives them a "damned if they do, damned if they don't" problem. It trades with a 3/3 and still poisons them for one. I think it'll surprise you with how effective it is.
Sexy. There are few equipment that not only protect your creature, but also themselves. I feel like they've been planning this card since Darksteel (the set) and a lot of players will be excited to get their hands on this.
If you opponent has a 60 card deck, and you play this on turn 4, first using it on turn 5, they'll have drawn 11 or 12 cards, and it will take 8 activations to mill them to 0 cards in their library. They'll have 4 life left and be at 8 poison. Not quite a triple-kill, but pretty close. You can't really triple kill anyway, because this card doesn't make them draw, so even if you use the last activation during their upkeep they would die of poison and life loss before their draw step. It would still be a cool story, though. It's a very cute design that is sure to amuse a lot of players.
I like the shade creatures that take more than B to pump because they're a lot less devastating while still being serious threats. Crypt Ripper, for example, was too often game-over in ZZZ draft.
The fact that this is a 1-drop 1/1 as well as a fine piece of equipment might make it one of the draft format's best first-turn plays.
I'm not going to do the search this time, but I feel we've seen this exact guy for 1U. Simple and effective, it's hard to say a lot about it other than it's very good design work.
Wins the fight against Razorfield Thresher every time.
I talked about this in my previous article. It should be a powerhouse in a Time Sieve deck. I like that it seems both useless and very effective at the same time. Compare it to Courier's Capsule and see how you feel about it.
I worked hard to get this effect to work out the way I wanted it to. My goal was to have a little set-aside pile where players would go to get their next spell. The key was having it take a few cards from everyone's library to seed the pool and get you excited about what was in there so you'd want to go get it. I hope this is as hilarious in Commander as I expect it to be.
Seems like just another big dumb artifact guy, doesn't it? Flying makes it a serious threat!
This design is interesting because you have to think about how you're going to get it to work. The downside is that without a card like Enchanted Evening for artifacts, it probably won't work well enough. If only there was some sort of Liquimetal Coating in this block...
Look, if you didn't want a lot of wacky artifact rares you really shouldn't be opening Mirrodin-block packs. Oh, hey, I think if you have 7 mana and cast this you can get 2 of it, and then for 4 mana more each time you can get 3 of everything else you make after that.
This card is ping-tastic, and remember that Infect creatures will ping with -1/-1 counters. It maybe the only Living Weapon that doesn't give even stats - and you can bet there was a fight about it. Looks like development took the "best card for limited play" version, but I would rather it cost more somewhere and gave an even +1/+1.
Two Myr for the price of...? Memnite is a free 1/1 but with Myr Sire I have to pay 2 to get one now and then another later? The good thing about this card is that it helps you get to metalcraft and it's harder to de-metalcraft you when you kill it.
What's the point of this design? A card that taps to make Myr - that part's great. What I don't get is the second ability. The only Myr worth getting is Myr Battlesphere, and you might as well just play four of those and zero Turbines. In Extended you can get Changelings too, but the best of those cost less than 5. I think they should have printed at least one more giant Myr that would be worth getting before making this design. I would have found a more interesting output to tapping 5 Myr.
So you have to get artifacts into a graveyard, probably your own, in Constructed. Then you have to use a turn exiling each one of them, then eventually you could have a Necrotic Ooze variant? I feel like there are too many hoops to jump through to get anything out of this card in Standard or Extended. Maybe in other formats there's some use for it, but as a build-around -me card it's far too fragile and takes far too much work to get anything out of it.
This and its Phyrexian counterpart, Pierce Strider, are a cute pair of value-added creatures for any artifact deck.
This has got to be the worst infect 3-drop by a huge margin.
That is a big infect creature. As with Blightsteel Colossus, I love the transformation of a known card into a Phyrexianized version.
I'm glad to see a branching out of Pithing Needle. Magic needs a variety of anti-one card strategy cards, like this and Memoricide.
A little more effective than the Peace version, This card might be worth blinking out every turn with Venser, the Sojourner.
We get a little bit of equip cost variety here, and as you might expect it supports a theme of the block - sacrifice. I like that they counteract the steep equip cost by giving you the first one free, making this a pretty exciting card for limited.
The latest mana Myr adds only colorless, but infect decks couldn't ask for more. So many cards from Scars that get a Phyrexian version really show the infection spreading across the plane. This is a great way to show change from one set in a block to the next.
Gleemax, is that you? You might think the best "Maro" cards (power and toughness linked to hand size) would give you a way to draw more cards. That's exciting in a level 1 kind of way, but it's too complete. The player doesn't need any other cards to go with it. Sure, getting the player to want more cards sells the game, but it also makes deckbuilding more fun and more interesting. You'll obviously want to had card-drawing to go along with your Maro creature, so on this one you're rewarded further with life loss against all of your opponents. Now where can we get some card drawing? Blue Sun's Zenith perhaps? Or maybe Consecrated Sphinx or Vivisection? It's good to have ways of making a build-around-me work in the same set. Card draw is always going to be around, so it's easy, but if you have another combo-type ability on a build-around rare, be sure to provide cards that make it work.
A bigger Chrome Steed. They would look dumb in the same set, but they're perfectly fine in adjacent sets.
Four power for four mana is a good deal, and you'll want to attack with it, of course. Regeneration and one toughness go well together - you'll obviously need the ability. Four power and regeneration also go together, because it's worth paying to keep around. How do you pay? Sacrifice theme, of course!
At the prerelease I observed one player showing another his plans to flash out a Molten-Tail Masticore when his opponent attacked. This could also be effective for an all-artifact deck against a counter-heavy opponent.
What a cool piece of art. Besieged provides a few "comes with 3 counters" artifacts. While it's awful in limited, this does mill 6 cards for 1 mana, which is a lot more efficient than most other milling effects.
Small Battle cry creatures have the problem that they die on the first attack. This one nicely provides itself a little bit of evasion to help it last through more than one combat step. The Signal Pest, land, 4 Memnites and an Ornithoper hand attacks for 9 on turn 2. Not bad.
The equipment version of Ashnod's Transmogrant? You'll have to be pretty desperate for Metalcraft to play this.
Living weapon with various numbers. If you line them all up side-by-side you can get a good look at how to design a set of cards that share a mechanic and need various numbers and keywords.
This is an interesting version of the 2-mana artifact accelerator. It's limited to 3 uses and enters tapped, but it provides any color. More proof that any fair land is a fair 2-mana artifact... or is it the other way around? (This one is nearly Gemstone Mine)
The ability to prevent everything from blocking it makes this a pretty powerful attacker. It's unlikely to die in combat, so the 1 toughness gives the other player more hope of killing it with any removal they have.
This is a really cool design. It's an expensive Vindicate, but with a sacrifice outlet you can really go to town. Instead of a small effect that you think you can amplify, it's a big effect that you want to find a way to make more efficient.
It's a little weird to me that this set has an infect Giant Spider and a Living weapon Giant Spider.
The fourth sword has arrived. There can be only one more enemy-colors sword, hopefully in the final set of this block. Designing these swords is quite different from a lot of other cards. The name is so closely tied to the functions - it's very similar to split cards, actually. You have to come up with a name and abilities that are balanced and fitting. If it doesn't work out the first time, you can try new abilities for the same name, or change the name and start again.
Except for the White-powered one, this cycle came out quite appealing. Note that of the two regenerating artifacts, one requires Green mana, and the other asks you to sacrifice an artifact. More than just numbers, this pushes these two cards apart, which is important if they're to be in the same set.
This is a pretty interesting ability. You have to cast it twice, but you end up with a 5/5 and five 1/1s. Then, if you lose four of the little guys you might want to kill the last one yourself so you can start all over again. It also protects itself from control magic effects, which might be something you're looking for.
It's interesting that destroying a permanent doesn't require mana input every turn, but making a 9/9 does.
Are three mana artifact 4/4s with a drawback a thing now? This is more useful with Living weapons around, because you can have a lot more equipment in your deck.
I expected to see this exact thing in Scars, but we got Bladed Pinions instead.
Most Standard Worthy: Phyrexian Revoker
Coolest / Most Exciting: Spine of Ish Sah
Most Interesting Design: Thopter Assembly (I didn't want to pick Knowledge Pool because I remembered designing it so clearly.)
Very interesting. The drawback is quite severe, but if you have enough creatures that you can make good use of the ability, maybe your opponent won't be able to hold onto this land, even if they take it for a turn or two. Spike-tastic!
I think I've said all I can about the Phyrexianization of Mirrodin classics. We've had a real flood of creature-lands recently, and I hope we can take a break from them for a while soon.