A new series is always a time of excitement and wonder for the Magic community. What are going to be the new bombs, the new format-defining cards that will rock the old metagame and give rise to new and original deck archetypes? How will the new limited format be and what are the new drafting strategies that the set will allow? How will the old constructed archetypes be tweaked and updated with the new “tech” available with the expansion? What shift on focus and keywords will the set provide?
Mirrodin Besieged is coming out soon and I need to get as much limited practice with it as possible, as it is the format for the Pro Tour Paris (I have an invite!). The thing is, I was offered to be a gunslinger at the Regional Prerelease in Montreal on the 29th of January and I will have the opportunity to meet the local players. Anybody could take a chance at winning a booster and I will try, as much as my mind allows me, to save my honour of semi-pro player and avoid getting crushed too often. To everyone that is up to the challenge, which admittedly is going to be tremendous, I defy you to oppose me with your sealed deck on that day, under the eyes of the roaring crowd.
Enough of this provocative attitude and let us talk about the real content of the new series. At the time I am writing this article, 107 cards have been spoiled on mtgsalvation.com, which is usually a reliable source of information, despite having been wrong and misleading a few times in the past. I am going to choose a selection of cards and share with you my impressions. I deliberately avoided reading other articles on the topic, so if my conclusions are similar to other writers, it is because of strict deductive reasoning and not just a sneaky borrowing of other’s ideas. I may, as well, be totally off the chart with some ideas, but at least it may provoke a debate.
One last remark on the pleasure of taking part in the Regional Prerelease of a new expansion. I am always particularly fond of these tournaments, as they are the first opportunity you have got to put your hands on the new cards. I cannot wait to open the new packs while the organizer is talking on the microphone; in that sense I feel a bit like a kid at Christmas, waiting for midnight to come at last so I can open my presents. The crowd is usually around 250 people at least, which makes it the biggest tournament you can get in Montreal, which usually gets my adrenaline pumping. If you scrub out of the first tournament, you can always, for only 20 $ (which is dirt-cheap for 6 boosters), get into another one and avenge what has been done to you. Booster drafts are also firing whenever they get 8 people.
An artist is usually invited and you can get him to draw something original and unique on some of your cards, which can bring joy and happiness into the heart of some. The two-headed tournament, where you play with a buddy, is a lot of fun too. You have to build two decks with a huge card pool and then, in a single game per match, you have to beat another team. Your friend can intervene and stop you from doing silly mistakes, which is something I miss when I play on my own. The last thing I quite like about the first massive prerelease is that it is the one event that brings the community together, PTQ players and casual players alike. I often meet old friends there that have pretty much stopped playing, new up-and-coming stars of the Montreal Magic scene, old has-been’s that are missing the tournament thrills, and random “I do not know where they came out from” type of people. The dealers and traders are present as well, allowing me to complete my constructed decks, taking advantage of the discounts there. And, the nicest element of all is, obviously, the presence of the gunslinger. Last prerelease I managed to play against Jay Elarar, our Canadian champion, for the first time since the nationals, and I managed to be the better man this time. I did not win much, a single booster, but that victory had for sure a therapeutic and cathartic effect.
The limited format with Besieged is not going to be radically different from what it was with Scars of Mirrodin. Infect and Metalcraft strategies remain fundamental keywords and strategies. However, a lot of new infect cards are not green and black, which will facilitate the task of building rarer draft archetype like WB, WG, BU and UG.
For instance, Priest of Norm (2W Creature – Cleric ; Vigilance, Infect, 1/4) can be quite annoying, being a Horned Turtle on steroids. It could also be played as a useful wall in a UW flyer deck.
Core Prowler (4 – Artifact Creature – Horror ; Infect, When Core Prowler is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, proliferate, 2/2) is another efficient artifact creature going straight into an infect deck. It can proliferate poison and the -1/-1 counters that it provides itself, allowing it to trade with 3/3 creatures. Sacrifice it with Throne of Geth allows a double proliferating effect which can be devastating at times. The Phyrexian Digester (3 – Artifact Creature – Construct – Infect, 2/1), on the other hand seems weak and not a really high pick for the infect drafter; it can trade with any myr and the 1-toughness is quite vulnerable in that limited format, dying to most removals and -1/-1 counters flying around.
The Phyrexian Juggernaut (6 – Artifact Creature – Juggernaut, Infect, Phyrexian Juggernaut attacks each turn if able, 5/5) is massive and could well be the finisher of choice of slower, less aggro infect strategies. It is immune to quite a few removal spells in the format, and being uncommon, it is not too hard to get your hands on it and could easily ride your deck to victory. Managing to give flying or trample to this guy, and your opponent is on a really short clock. Golem Artisan could well become a good friend of his.
The Plague Myr (2 – Artifact Creature – Myr, Infect, Tap: Add 1 to your mana pool, 1/1) is quite an interesting fellow, and it seems to fit in two strategies that are usually antithetical, infect AND metalcraft. Providing only colorless mana makes it the equivalent of playing off-color myr in your deck, which is often necessary to get the critical number of artifacts needed for a metalcraft strategy. Being infect just makes it a better chump blocker, which is often what happens in the late game anyway with random myrs, but permanently reducing an opponent’s creature size.
What about on-color infect creatures, black and green? Well let us look at the common first, as they are more defining of a limited format than other cards with a higher rarity. The Flensermite (1B, Creature – Gremlin, Infect, Lifelink, 1/1) is nothing to write home about. Let’s face it, gremlins are really cool creatures, vicious and mischievous and all, but if we compare this gremlin to the other 2-drops of the format, like Plague Stinger, Ichorclaw Myr and Necropede, it seems quite underpowered. The lifelink ability will rarely make a difference. The Scourge Servant (4B Creature – Zombie, Infect, 3/3) seems a lot better and beefier, filling the manacurve with higher drops and allowing a slower more controlling type of infect deck.
Spread the Sickness (4B Sorcery, Destroy target creature, then proliferate) fits well in any deck, but specially in an infect strategy. I predict the format to be a lot slower than Scars limited, as before some creatures used to be really hard to get rid of, but there are now a lot of more efficient removals at the common rarity, and even some mass removal at the uncommon and rare level. Spread the Sickness, although a bit pricey to cast, is easily splashable and has the potential to be broken with other cards relying on counters to be effective. So for sure an early pick in draft. At the uncommon and rare level, we have Go for the Throat, an inspiring name for an uncommon card that, for 1B, destroys at instant speed non-artifact creatures. A simple way to destroy cards that were powerhouses in Scars limited, namely Geth, Hoard-Smelter Dragon, or Skithiryx. The Phyrexian Crusader (1BB, Creature – Zombie Knight, First strike, Infect, Protection from red and from white, 2/2) has a lot going on for it. First strike and Infect force the opponent to block with at least a 4/3 to trade with it. One of the most popular archetypes in Scars draft and sealed was RW metalcraft aggro; this guy is quite a pain versus that deck, surviving some of the most efficient removals of the format, namely Arc Trail, Galvanic Blast, Turn to Slag and Arrest. Dispense Justice, while usually quite unreliable as a removal, can however get the job done.
The Septic Rats (1BB Creature – Rat, Infect, whenever Septic Rats attacks, if the defending player is poisoned, it gets +1/+1 until end of turn, 2/2) is uncommon and is exactly the kind of beater you need for a successful infect strategy. A potentially 3/3 for 3 mana, and with Infect as well! Count me in.
At last, in black, we have a maternal presence, the Phyrexian Vatmother (2BB Creature – Horror, Infect. At the beginning of your upkeep, you get a poison counter, 4/5). A rare, gruesome and spiderlike creature which does not inspire much craving for a nurturing cuddle. It has, however, very sexy stats and a drawback that is rarely relevant. It has also the advantage of opening a window for the very popular and rarely sophisticated range of mother jokes. On the serious side, though, this guy is playable in non-infect decks and can well win on its own. Definitely first pick material.
To read the rest of the article, click on the link below. You will get to read more about the other Infect creatures that have been spoiled as well as some reflections on the numerous cards that are mass removal and are likely to change the limited format a lot. You will also be able see the information about the Regional Prerelease in Montreal organised by Mauro Bongiovani and Spellkeeper, where I will have the chance to gunsling and hopefully annihilate all forms of opposition.