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: Krosan Cloudscraper

Draft Priority: 4

Impact: 5

Stack Status: *6*
Stacker Pentecost.

Discussion:

As we enter the holiday season, everybody’s mind is on gifts. Nobody gives a shit about the other stuff related to Christmas anyway so let’s not pretend. Krosan Cloudscraper comes in nicely here as a sort of surprise gift you can unwrap directly into your opponent’s face, leaving it a disgusting bone-and-blood pool of junk. While it’s unlikely to get the squeals of “it’s just what I wanted!” (after all, everybody wants a Willbender), that’s not the Cloudscraper’s fault; the guy it just gifted has his jaw somewhere around his sternum now, and he probably deserved it for abusing that ability to speak for most of his life.

This card held a special place in my heart and Magic lore for a while because it was the biggest creature ever printed, leaving former champion heavyweight Phyrexian Dreadnaught in a twisted heap and yanking the presumably-awesome heavyweight title belt off it’s mangled carcass. It was never recognize as being a good card, because it isn’t, but at least it was neat and if anybody ever played Legions limited and had this thing flipped on them, that was quite the experience. Unfortunately, as the nWo is wont to do, they can’t even leave an old loser like this his little glory and printed that flying turd Emrakul.

Krosan Cloudscraper gets to pop off again in Type 4 like it’s Onslaught block limited all over again. Live the childhood dream of piledriving a morphed 13/13 into an unsuspecting opponent. This is the one format

Review: Skinthinner

Draft Priority: 3

Impact: 3

Stack Status: 5
Definite banger.

Discussion:

Well, we all know my policy on Morph creatures. Unless their effect is “when Durp King is turned face up, kick yourself in the dick as hard as you can”, it’s probably going to go into the stack. And even Derp King might make it as a ‘skill testing’ card. After all, you need as much Willbender Camouflage as possible. But Skinthinner is actually pretty good.

A useful effect that’s overcosted means this is exactly the type of card that deserves a chance at redemption int he loving infinite embrace of Type 4, and in that environment Skinthinner becomes another faithful utility player. Sure, he’s probably never going to burst out of that disgusting, weird morph-spider thing and single-handedly win you a game. But he’ll be there, time and time again with his disgusting trail of flesh sniping nonblack creatures and showing off his sick chains.

Just when you were 100% confident that it was a Willbender, it turns out to be a Skinthinner… which is a Willbender.

Overall: Three and a half Willbender Camouflages out of five

Review: Riptide Director

Draft Priority: 3

Impact: 2

Stack Status: 4
Staple fo sho. It’s getting a chance to shine.

Discussion:

This card isn’t good, but it draws cards and needs a lot of mana to function so it’s good enough for Type 4 (more or less). I use Archivist, and this is just better, so in it goes. That said, for being pretty mediocre overall, it does enable some surprising mas draws because there are a whole lot of Wizards and many are sort of like this card: they’re not great in other formats because they have expensive activated abilities (Aerie Mystics, Coffin Queen, Lich Lord of Unx, etc.), but they are pretty much musts for Type 4. Well, when you throw them all together, the Riptide Director can produce some surprise 2-4 card draws.

So yeah, it’s not spectacular. But it’s good and sometimes great, so get one for a quarter and throw it in. It’s better than that nerd Archivist anyway.

Overall: Two and a half unemployed Archivists out of five

Review: Phage, the Untouchable

Draft Priority: 4

Impact: *6*

Stack Status: 5
Hoss money millionaire. It should be in every stack.

Discussion:

Maybe it’s just echoing nostalgia from the time my friend cracked this in a pack and as we read it, we started marking out like crazy, but I love Phage and think it’s one of the coolest creatures ever printed. This is deathtouch FOR REAL now, and it’s built-in ‘imma kill u 2’ clause does a great job of not just limiting wild shenanigans from putting it into play, but also provide Phage with a tremendous number of weakening angles that keep it very fair. I don’t know how many games I’ve seen actually end with a Phage deathtouch, but it’s probably outnumbered by the number of times I’ve seen Phage kill the owner.

And you know what? No matter which way Phage kills somebody, it’s usually pretty hype. That’s something you don’t hear a lot of praise for in this era of hyper-efficient value-EtB creatures. They don’t excite the mob. They make for very good playing pieces, but I’d love to see some more stuff that makes the whole game shop crowd around to watch. Phage is like… the blueprint for that.

Overall: Four and a half original Swat arts out of five

Review: Voidmage Apprentice

Draft Priority: 4

Impact: 4

Stack Status: *6*
Stacker Pentecost. One of the best counter-creatures.

Discussion:

I see this card get some play occasionally, usually in decks with an existing Morph element. Unfortunately, that just makes it into one of the sketchiest overcosted counterspells ever. While you can argue the unique mechanism it produces the counter from provides some additional value, it also costs seven mana over time. I understand that’s effectively broken up, but still. At the three and four slots on your curve is where you want to start dropping credible threats like Knight of the Reliquary and Hero of Oxid Ridge in most games, or making the board quake with Wrath of God… not getting a weak creature that will provide you with a potential stopgap protective measure.

But in Type 4, this creature is madness. Plays as an alternative cost, people assume it’s a Willbender, and it’s counterspell can’t be a target in the brief counter wars that tend to pop up. If my stack wasn’t singleton, I would have several of these because they’re a powerful but unique utility.

Also, ranking the Voidmages in Type 4 (you should have all of them):

  • Voidmage Apprentice
  • Voidmage Husher
  • Voidmage Prodigy

fyi

Overall: Four and a half noted absences of a Master out of five

Review: Akroma, Angel of Wrath

Draft Priority: 5

Impact: *6*

Stack Status: *6*
Stacker Pentecost. Duh.

Discussion:

You can pretty much listen to the lyrics of Forgot About Dre, change the lyrics a bit, and get a song about this card. Everybody has been so busy blowing up over fancy cards that sometimes they forget where the OG harbingers of terror went and the fact is, they never went anywhere at all. Verdant Force and Nicol Bolas never fell off. They NEVER stopped doing their thing. Y’all just forgot about them because of the new junk being shoved in your face. Akroma (or AK as she’s affectionately referred to around here) is in the same elite clique. Now your creatures wanna run around talkin’ bout beats like she ain’t got none… what you think she SOLD ’em all?

cmon-sonGranted, this score is probably slightly inflated because of bias and legendary standing, but this is what a pure beatdown machine looks like.

Overall: Five Millenniums of Aftermath out of five, Stacker Pentecost Glare of Approval

 

Review: Planar Guide

Draft Priority: 3

Impact: 3

Stack Status: 3
Staple. It’s a very good card, and maybe one of the best 1 CMC spells in the stack.

Discussion:

I really liked the whole ‘wicker armor’ thing the clerics had going on in Onslaught block. I don’t doubt it was insanely uncomfortable, but it looked pretty dope and Planar Guide is one of the better examples. Posted up with the Magic Stick like “what up son got my posse we rollin to the club all astral like” but then he sees his man from old time roll up with the burner out the window and he’s like “noooo” and phases out into another reality, bringing his homies to protect them from the spray but when they come back the realize he used the last of his baller energies to save them like a true hero.

A great multi-use card, Planar Guide is kind of like Molder or Shattering Pulse; it isn’t spectacular, but it’s the type of utility glue that golds a Stack together. Not every cards is going to earn a Glare of Approval, but they don’t all want it, either. It’s a harsh gaze to live under. Sometimes it’s best to know your position in life as a utility player and then you pull out the big move, the cheering is louder and the champagne is sweeter.

Overall: Three drive-bys out of five

Review: Nantuko Vigilante

Draft Priority: 3

Impact: 2

Stack Status: 3
Utility champ. It’s a lot like Mold Shambler in that it’s a good card and nothing more.

Discussion:

I discussed Mold Shambler like two days ago and this card essentially falls into the same category; you need a lot of Disenchant-type effects in a cube, and sticking them on things that aren’t ETB creatures is always a plus. Morph is particularly good in Type 4, and once flipped this guy isn’t going to overpower any tables. It’s almost like he was balanced as a perfectly average card in Type 4.

So this is a good card. No surprises there.

As a side note I was genuinely surprised to see this hasn’t been reprinted somewhere. It’s a good card a lot of people recognize and while I don’t doubt it’s been power-crept into oblivion by something else, I can’t think of that usurper off the top of my head. A box set like Commander 2013 would have been a great place for the Vigilante to pop up again and remind people “this ain’t ova”.

Overall: Two and a half Death Wishes out of five