Review: Haunted Fengraf

Draft Priority: 1

Impact: 1

Stack Status: 3
Confusing. It’s a superb card for Type 4 conceptually, but look at that impact score.

Discussion:

This card conflicts me deeply, on multiple levels.

In one way I like that it’s using the design space of lands inoffensively. It’s pretty well-balanced and certainly not overpowered, and it’s not an ETB creature. It also sort fo reminds me of cycling in that when you draw this land but don’t need a land, well… you get something else. This is all good stuff.

Conversely, I hate that it’s taken a clearly black ability and made it colourless on a land. I also hate that Wizards tried to make Fengraf happen. It’s not happening.

From a Type 4 perspective, this type of land is superb because it presents a weak spell effect without taking your spell per turn, but it does cost a draw to use. Is it worth it in that sense? Maybe if you can manipulate your graveyard and ensure you Raise Dead game-busting Stormtide Leviathan or something, but otherwise it’s kind of dicey and I don’t really like drafting it. So while conceptually for Type 4 this type of card is amazing and powerful, the execution here is lacking. It’s just not very strong. But if it was stronger, it would mangle other formats.

So I guess this is an interesting experiment that doesn’t please me as much as the potential did, but that’s life. You can’t crack a few eggs to run over a dead pet or something.

Overall: Cut, one and a half fengrafs out of five

Review: Galvanoth

Draft Priority: 4

Impact: 4

Stack Status: 5
Hoss money player. While not quite as uniquely good as in purposeful 60-card decks with multiples, the craziness that follows in the wake of a Galvanoth that survives a few turns is awesome.

Discussion:

Hmm… free things. Well, we better turn our noses up quick-fast because he’s only a 3/3 or something.

The reality is Galvanoth is awesome. He’s all like “bzzt bzzt” and you’re all “yuh meng”. The order he operates in on your upkeep means there’s no real lost opportunities but he does spoil the element of surprise when you draw a Seht’s Tiger or something. However, I don’t know I’ve ever been really screwed by a Galvanoth flip. It’s more of a minor inconvenience, and given the multiplayer nature of Type 4 combined with the constant bombardment of OP goodness raining down onto the table, people will forget your exposed draws pretty quickly.

I would love to see a cheaper, or maybe bigger-bodied Galvanoth that gave every player a trigger, but my fantasies are immaterial to this review. As head editor and all that I at least get to leave them in though.

Overall: Four bzzt out of five

Review: Meddle

Draft Priority: 3

Impact: 2

Stack Status: 2
Borderline. It’s not terrible, but… well… meh.

Discussion:

Remember Rebound? Well, this is it’s similarly underachieving cousin. While new, harder-working stack manipulation like Wild Ricochet and Deflection are out there going ham, grinding and doing what everyone wants, Meddle is one of those guys who gets hired off fake credentials and then spends most of his career bitching to the HR department for being ‘persecuted’, mostly because he doesn’t work nearly as hard as his peers. Highly conditional but still worth using because the condition comes up a lot, it’s true that Meddle is totally outclassed and will get replaced someday when I decide to look for new cards to put into my Stack. But until that day comes, it’s safe in it’s cocoon  mediocrity.

Overall: Two ‘workplace rights’ crusaders out of five

Review: Volrath the Fallen

Draft Priority: 4

Impact: 5

Stack Status: *6*
Stacker Pentecost. This is a really cool card that just costs a lot of mana for what it does, so it’s a perfect fit here.

Discussion:

There’s a lot of things on this card that indicate it should be a standout in Type 4.

  • 6 CMC, three coloured
  • Legendary creature
  • Power and toughness add up to ten
  • Has Xs in the rules text

Great stuff. But then you realize it benefits from discarding fat, overcosted creatures and you’ve got a definite winner on your hands. Volrath is one of the hardest-hitting red zone creatures in Type 4 under the right conditions. Normally, I like to shy away from dudes that will one-shot a player fairly easily, but Volrath is great because he’s counterbalanced by significant setbacks.

  • His pump requires losing big, valuable cards, which is a huge risk
  • Has no built-in evasion
  • Vulnerable to removal after being pumped, resulting in two-for-ones or three-for-ones

Overall, it’s a superb beater that’s extremely powerful while staying fun. It doesn’t hurt that he nicely sets up some graveyard tricks if you can swing the draft properly. Whether you get the supporting pieces or not, it can be worthwhile to hate-draft Volrath because every time you don’t, you know your opponent is going to kill you with it. It’s not expensive, it’s fun, and it’s powerful. You have nothing to lose!

Overall: Five Scornful Egotists out of five

Review: Rebuke

Draft Priority: 2

Impact: 2

Stack Status: 2
Borderline. It’s never going to get used anywhere else, and it’s an instant, so it barely avoids the scathing treatment of the chopping block.

Discussion:

Deep in the underground WotC development complex the nWo has a sprawling network of rooms where ‘designers’ lured on by online contests slave away chained to their desks in dimly-lit dungeon-like chambers. Cinderblock walls and bare lightbulbs provide a decidedly Soviet decorum to the proceedings, interrupted only by the occasional scrawling on the wall etched in by a designer gone mad… things like “replace Shroud with Hexproof!” and “change the Legend Rule forever to accommodate the Limited play of our new set!”

It’s kind of like this only make it like it was designed by Todd McFarlane

In this grim and existentially-challenging labyrinth, there is a special room for the worst of the worst designers; where they sent the guy who designed Arcbound Ravager until he eventually impaled himself on a safety pencil with much effort and screaming, and for the last few years the designer of Jace, the Mind Sculptor was been confined within (despite his echoing screams of “but I just did exactly what they wanted!”). This room’s heavy steel door is clearly labelled “half-assed white removal spell design”.

In 2011, this card slid out from under that door. In exchange, a meal of uncooked beets and a Fuze Iced Tea was slipped through the meal window.

Overall: Two manacles out of five

Review: Venser, Shaper Savant

Draft Priority: 3

Impact: 3

Stack Status: 3
Staple. He’s good and all, but not worth the million dollars you have to spend on it now.

Discussion:

Well, on stating this card cost a “million” dollars above, I went and checked the prices to find he was about $15, which is more reasonable than when I last checked it like two years ago but still pretty expensive for a fancy bounce spell.

Yes, I know Venser is more than that. It’s super versatile and cool, yadda yadda yadda. This isn’t cube, I’m not a tryhard, and his efficiency counts for almost nothing here. Fortunately, his “do errything” nature definitely counts in his favour. Venser can provide a short-term solution to just about any problem–think of a one-man A-Team–but when that problem boomerangs back around you can fully expect to see Venser sittin’ there bein’ all 2/2 like “idgaf mate i did my thing”

So this is a very good card and nothing more in Type 4.

Overall: Three rage-induced asthma attacks out of five

Review: Angelic Arbiter

Draft Priority: 5

Impact: 5

Stack Status: 5
Mega-hoss. It’s a super-expensive, mega-splashy impact player that can’t compete with the money reanimation creatures.

Discussion:

An nWo Fairy Tale

The heavens opened and descending through a beam of heavenly light, an ominous angel approached the card game. “Y’all can’t cast spells and attack, get that straight.” It’s voice rung through the game store with heavenly authority. “I’m an angel and I get to establish the rules around here. That’s what white does in the colour pie.”

Then, some nerd rolled up acting all hard. “Uh excuse me but isn’t white supposed to establish universal sub-rules to maintain it’s theme of balance and order over chaos?”

The angel thought about it for a moment before stabbing the nerd in the kidney with it’s sweet rapier. “No,” It replied, “Because it’s 2013 and Hexproof has replaced Shroud because it makes people ‘feel’ better.”

“Arrgh” The nerd was on dialysis for like eight years and ultimately died.

– the end –

Some meta-quibbles aside (which were summed up excellently in the above fairy tale and yes I will write a book of them if you give me an advance), this is an outstanding Type 4 card. Actually, I think it’s a good fun card all-around but it’s just so much easier to enjoy in Type 4. It can be a bit frustrating but in that good “Fact or Fiction” kind of way instead of that bad “Stasis” way. It can be a pretty agonizing choice on whether to attack or cast spells, and even when it isn’t players have skin in the game of the Arbiter’s survival. This is what I like most about the card. You may not be the only player who wants it around, and occasionally you’ll develop frenemies because the players with few creatures will actively fight to keep the angel in play. It’s a great dynamic few cards produce.

One of the best white cards in the Stack in terms of both playability and fun, but it’s not as purely powerful as other choices and so falls just short of the Glare.

Overall: Five superbly-written short stories out of five

Review: Ophidian Eye

Draft Priority: 2

Impact: 2

Stack Status: 2
Borderline. It’s not bad or anything, but it’s so unexceptional and almost always get picked last.

Discussion:

This is another instance of “it has Flash so it goes in”. While this philsophy isn’t necessarily a bad one, as you can see not all flash cards are exactly blowing up Type 4 tableaus across the continent. The question is: What would you take this over? I can grab a big pinch of cards out of my Stack and run through an awful lot before I find something that’s more appealing in abstract. This is a bad sign for Ophidian Eye’s longevity.

The truth is in play it’s almost always an ok cantrip spell. You cast it on an opponent’s creature in combat, draw a card and call it a day; anything after that is a bonus. That’s horrible. You don’t cast spells to cast spells, just like you don’t grind your boots into somebody’s couch just for the sake of doing it. There’s times when the Eye can do a LOT more work than you’d expect (having one on a Hydra Omnivore is obviously tits), but there’s not commonplace. A few cool combinations and circumstances, along with a healthy spoonful of bias, keep this off the chopping block for the time being.

That said, outside of play there’s a lot I like about this card. It’s a throwback to an old-school treat with pretty cool flavour implications. I really like the reference and just imparting an element of a previous card to another without being too obtuse about it. Time Spiral was hit and miss in this regard but Ophidian Eye nails it.

Overall: Two lazy workers kept on because of supervisor friends out of five

Review: Sudden Death

Draft Priority: 4

Impact: 3

Stack Status: 3
Solid. It’s not crazy-good, but it’s good enough.

Discussion:

Errything about this crad rocks.

  • Dude transforming into a Carnophage
  • Has Split Second
  • -X/-X removal, erasing the very existence of the target
  • Awesome flavour text conceptualization
  • From Time Spiral

This is a favourite spell of mine and I was actually pretty surprised to learn it hadn’t been reprinted in a boxed product yet. C’mon Wizards, don’t dick around. Get some more of these out in circulation.

Not the best spot removal in Stack and essentially an improved Grasp of Darkness, Sudden Death gets a special nod because of the Sudden-ness of the whole affair. I play with a lot of pump spells, counters, and creatures with reactive abilities and this tends to put them on blast. Crowd Favourites, Pentavus, Dawn Elemental and other traditionally harder-to-kill guys all eat garbage on demand to Sudden Spoiling and there’ nothing your opponents can do about it. Well, I guess in theory they could key your car or something, but then you need to be assessing more than how good a card is in Type 4.

Lifestyle changes: you need em

New friends: lets find em

Shady Neighbourhoods: we leave em

Overall: Three mages in strait jackets out of five

Review: Ancestral Tribute

Draft Priority: 5

Impact: 5

Stack Status: *6*
Baller as they come. This is, again, the only environment I’ve seen this card is good in, and it’s totally awesome.

Discussion:

A bit like Heroes Remembered, this card breaks the lifegain barrier of purpose-built lifegain cards usually being a waste of time by just being an epic quantity of life… TWICE. In games that drag on past the sixth turn, the Tribute is almost certain to pay off in a major way and bring your life above the starting total. The longer the game runs the better this is, which actually makes it not only effective but a pretty interesting and fun choice. There’s also the Flashback element; do you pop it back-to-back, or do you want and hope to draw out some counterspells and maybe have your opponents forget you can use the Flashback?

Surely, when drafting with unfamiliar tryhards, one of them will likely take a moment out of ensuring their ass crack is visible at all times to talk smack about your draft pick. Remember, some people only understand cards in terms of the blue colour pie, so if you explain this card essentially time walks many turns of the opponent’s efforts to kill you, they might decide to leave you alone and go back to choking on some disgusting off-brand deep fried snack they’re eating.

A superb card for Type 4, but I feel it’s just shy of truly elite company and thus, I’ve denied it a Glare of Approval because I’m a cruel jerkass.

Overall: Five arbitrarily denied awards out of five