Review: Rockshard Elemental

Draft Priority: 3

Impact: 4

Stack Status: 4
Willbender fo sho.

Discussion:

One of the most dangerous Willbenders out there, Rockshard Elemental is a very good Type 4 card because it produces memorable moments. Because of a combination of stealth, double-strike, and the available of absurdly powerful instant-speed pump cards flying around the table at basically all times, the Rockshard Elemental is a treacherous glass cannon, especially in a draft where lots of Willbenders have been drafted and you never know which one is actually a double-striking face devourer.

It takes very little to tip a Rockshard Elemental into one-hit-kill territory, and the funny thing is once one slips past blockers, it often becomes a pretty fun political mini-game to see if it can hit a player, get boosted, or get killed before contact (and then you have to worry about Fogs). Every interaction with Rockshard Elemental can mean death because of the other actors at the table. The morph-ability means you can cast it at low opportunity cost and have an improved chance to make contact with an opponent’s life total. It’s also a card that’s basically worthless otherwise, so really, this is one of the better creatures for Type 4 that won’t likely dominate games.

Overall: Four Morph apologists out of five

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Review: Child of Gaea

Draft Priority: 3

Impact: 3

Stack Status: 4
Staple fo sho

Discussion:

Sometimes you want a fancy, elegant creature who can do ‘tricks’ and ‘outsmart’ somebody and sometimes you want to punch somebody in the neck so hard their neck becomes a second asshole. While that’s not possible, if it were, Child of Gaea would be one of your go-to sources for making it happen. It’s a rat… thing… with trees growing on it’s back. But it’s also huge, and obviously spends TONS of time in some kind of giant-sized gym for monsters doing sick routines and laughing at people who do Crossfit injuring themselves. A very prescient thing for a card printed in 1998.

Regardless, I like this type of card in my stack because it just propels a game towards victory for one player and nothing else. It’s ok on defense but obviously that’s less-than-ideal. You use it to end games by stomping people into spaghetti sauce. It’s also a useful historical touchstone as for a good while this really was one of the biggest and best beaters, overtaking old-school classics like Force of Nature. In ’98, this looked like some of the new stuff coming out does now when you put it neck to Child of Gaea.

Overall: Three and a half throwback beatdowns out of five

Review: Reaper of the Wilds

Draft Priority: 4

Impact: 4

Stack Status: 4
Staple fo sho.

Discussion:

A champion brawler who also does… something else. Activated abilities that provide a meaningful mana sink. Pretty dope art, I guess. What else can you ask for? Well, a reasonable power and toughness that makes it reasonably dangerous without making it capable of dominating a game. You get that and you sort of have the total package for a Type 4 card, and this card is still badass without infinite mana.

Creatures die. With Reaper of the Wilds up in this piece, it’s actually almost guaranteed some creatures are going to be hitting the pooper in short order. Scry is good, and repeatable scry is even better. On offense or defense, the Reaper is practically unbeatable in a straight-up fight. There’s no complex strategies or subtle tricks to playing this card; just do what it’s obviously telling you to do. You know, that faint whispering in your ears you hear at night when you’re lying awake? It’s like, “Start a fire in your neighbour’s basement… nobody will know. You’ll be fine… the lighter is right there…” and then before you know it you’re prowling across the lawn half-naked with a lighter and your neighbour’s dog is barking like wild. You kind of realize what’s going on and go back to bed feeling terribly unsatisfied.

…wait…

Overall: Four ARSON CARDS out of five

Review: Crookclaw Transmuter

Draft Priority: 1

Impact: 1

Stack Status: 2
It’s just not good.

Discussion:

We live in a time submerged in mysteries. One of those would be “why the fuck is this card in my Type 4 stack?”

Well, there’s actually a simple answer; it has Flash, which immediately provides it with some kind of value in a format with limitless mana. And in the interest of fairness, the effect can occasionally make a minor difference. But at the end of the day, this card doesn’t do much. It sucks.

Overall: One and a half overly-honest reviews out of five

Review: Stormtide Leviathan

Draft Priority: *6*

Impact: *6*

Stack Status: *6*
Stacker Pentecost.

Discussion:

I know I’ve mentioned this creature in passing a few times when referencing generally-awesome Type 4 creatures. There’s a reason it’s one of my go-to mental bookmarks in Type 4–it’s just one of the best creatures for the format, period. And it does it all without having some crazy activated ability that exploits infinite mana or a stupid ETB ability. No, instead, just just puts everyone on an island.

The way a Stormtide changes the game is pretty much immeasurable. The game starts to revolve around the mammoth creature, but not in the shitty way. It’s enjoyable. The guy with his stupid horde of tokens is suddenly rethinking his whole game, desperately looking for a way to kill the Leviathan. The guys who have been getting beat down are looking for ways to protect it and keep it around. It might just look like a stupid brute-force beater on the surface, but in multiplayer it’s much more interesting and fun than that.

It’s simple, powerful, and costs more than six mana. What else could you ask for?

…well, maybe a retroprint from The Dark with Quinton Hoover art…

Overall: Five Tidal Krakens in the unemployment line out of five

Review: Dragonlair Spider

Draft Priority: 4

Impact: 4

Stack Status: 5
Stacker Pentecost.

Discussion:

This card reminds me of something you might have never experienced if you are:

a) Cleaner than me (virtually a given)

b) Less lazy than I (pretty likely)

Have you ever been posted up at your place just doin’ YOU when you spot a spiderweb? Maybe even a spider in it. And you see it doin’ it’s thing, and you’re doin’ yours, and you just figure “aah fuck it it’s just a spider”. So you leave it be out a combination of laziness and apathy, with that middling thought in the back of your head you’re not entirely sure about that a spider in the house might keep the lesser bugs at bay. So in a way, it’s an asset.

Time passes. You’re not exactly getting familiar with this arachnid visitor…you’ve probably forgotten about it. But then one day you look at the same web and it’s FULL OF SMALLER SPIDERS.

What now?

Dragonlair Spider can nicely replicate that whole scenario in a game of Type 4. Granted, if your opponent is one of those idiots or pendants who’s constantly reminding people of triggers (and probably flicking cards around in their hand), then it’s unlikely you’re going to be playing and suddenly realize that there’s a dozen spiders sitting around the Dragonlair Spider in a lethal formation of too many legs. But if you’re playing with regular peopel you need to keep an eye on this token-producing beast. It’s not a great creature unto itself but a quick counterspell slapfight later it’s bringing considerable backup. The fact that the tokens have Reach also gives tremendous bonus points for being really good chump blockers.

Another great entry from Planechase 2012!

Overall: Four “Why”s out of five

Review: Armored Guardian

Draft Priority: *6*

Impact: 5

Stack Status: *6*
Stacker Penetecost.

Discussion:

I remember cracking open the very pack that holds the Armored Guardian inside my stack to this day. It was during an Invasion limited event of some kind. I remember looking at it somewhat confused and wondering exactly what the hell it was supposed to be–both from a fluff and gameplay perspective. It’s a”Guardian”, sure… what is it a cat, an ape, or what? And what’s with the supremely stupid hat with the little banner coming off of it?

In game I was equally confused initially as well, because I was wondering who the hell has enough mana to use those abilities after casting a 2/5 for five? It turned out it was actually an ok ability for stalemates but not a whole lot else. Armored Guardian was just kind of a confused mess.

But infinite mana has a way of sorting out things that are even grossly unclear. For Armored Guardian, the guiding hand of copious resources makes his job pretty obvious; he’s support staff for your whole team, handing out invincible auras and remaining largely untouchable by himself. In a way, Armored Guardian might be considered too powerful for Stack because he’s pretty tough to kill once he’s on the table, and extends these immunities to the other creatures you control. It’s truly devastating. But I haven’t seen him single-handedly escape with a game yet, and on his own, with only 2 power he can’t really hose a table down all that quickly.

Overcosted pile of crap in other formats. Perfect Type 4 card.

Overall: Five rugby-cap banners out of five, Stacker Pentecost Glare of Approval

Review: Arc-Slogger

Draft Priority: 1

Impact: 1

Stack Status: 1
Cut.

Discussion:

Arc-Slogger puts me in a tight spot. Because he’s my man, and while he has haters, you’re busy posting sniping comments about him on message boards while he’s out partying with B-list (le’s be honest) celebrities, zapping motherfuckers dumb enough to try to slide up on his girl, and just going around beasting like you’d exactly some kind of non-socially-conscious Russel Brand type character to be up to. While I’ve always had a soft spot for the Slogger because of Mirrodin draft, I can’t really give him a great score here because I’m reviewing cards from the standpoint of the Academy Standard game mode in Type 4.

There, he’s liable to get in two zaps–AT BEST–before he causes you to lose the game. A 4/5 with ‘do four damage, then lose’ is pretty unimpressive. So in Academy Standard, he sucks. Full stop.

I have kept him around for a while because he’s a lot better in some other game modes like Single Stack and Blind Decks. But we don’t play those as often, and the reality is poor Arc-Slogger is a card people resent getting pushed. Half of it is their messageboard-gater jealousy, and half is that he really does suck during the game. But it adds up to Arc-Slogger getting cut.

Overall: One and a half ostrich turtlenecks out of five

Review: Trolls of Tel-Jilad

Draft Priority: 2

Impact:

Stack Status: 3
Baseline roleplayer.

Discussion:

These guys are some straight-up PC Thugs. They don’t do a whole lot other than beat people up and get beaten up–and sometimes, that’s enough.

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Granted, when you have lots of superb professional fighters and knee-snappers like in Type 4, you might question the need to keep these greasy thugs around. And that’s fair. In smaller stacks, you can probably leave them sitting on the sidelines greasing themselves up real good. But in the bigger ones I think you can use them as a sort of guideline for the minimum level of goodness a creature has to meet to make it into the stack as a thug and a thug alone. The trolls do heavy lifting–they suplex your opponents through various props, and they also move said props into position. If a creature can’t handle business as well as the Trolls and have nothing else to offer, they have no place in the stack.

Of course, note the Trolls can regenerate all kinds of green creatures, including tokens. If you want your most durable swarm possible, their value goes up substantially when you take something like One Dozen Eyes. Having the Trolls on board with a green team of mean… dammit I can’t think of another rhyme anyway let them be alpha thugs and they’re at their best. By themselves they get by ok anyway. You can’t as much more of them.

Overall: Two and a half tricorner hats out of five

Review: Karador, Ghost Chieftan

Draft Priority: 4

Impact: 4

Stack Status: 4
Solid staple fo sho.

Discussion:

This card ended up swapping places in my mind with The Mimeoplasm after they had been released and got some pretty serious play at my local groups. I was intially worried that Karador would eb the big enabler for extremely boring, slow, repetitive graveyard recursion decks but the truth was the Mimeoplasm ended up being worse. Part of this is because Karador is relatively fair with lots of innate balancing, and part of it was there’s no blue in his colour identity. Either way, I’m pleased to report Karador should go into just about any stack, but can go into them safely without much fear of producing too many groans.

The fact is that by himself, he sucks. He needs the game to develop, and can only draw on tricks your opponents have presumably already dealt with. It just means he’s very good without threatening to overpower the game. While he can be a bit crazy with some of the Flash creatures if you can combine it with a means to sacrifice them (Bogardan Hellkite jumps to mind), those are rare Rube Goldberg machine scenarios that are still disruptable at many points.

Factor in the fact that he has an awesome ghost bear partying up with him on the side and there’s no substantial reason to protest using Karador in any stack.

Overall: Four reversed expectations out of five