Hey everyone. I’ve not posted an article for a while, but with the full visual spoiler for Mirrodin Besieged released today (which can be found here), I thought I’d have a glance over the set and pick out some gems in each colour and provide my thoughts on how they will specifically impact the game. So, without any further ado, let’s crack on with some White cards.
Accorder Paladin and Hero of Bladehold
So, to begin, I’m going to talk about the two playable creatures in white that have Battle Cry. First of all, I shall point out that whilst I’m highlighting these two now for constructed play, the third one in white is still very playable for Sealed and Draft purposes, it’s just not that exciting so I won’t cover it in this article.
Accorder Paladin, in my opinion, is one of the better cards in this whole set. Being a 3/1 for two mana is already pretty efficient for a straight forward aggro deck but having Battle cry on such a cheap creature can be extremely relevant. Let’s consider a little scenario. Let’s say you’re playing some sort of white weenie deck. On turn 1, you play out a Memnite and an Elite Vanguard. Turn 2, you are able to swing in for 3 damage and then drop in an Accorder Paladin. Then, if you are still swinging unblocked on turn 3, your team gets in for 8 damage. Even though this is just an example, if we fit this into some sort of aggro shell (my current thoughts are lying in Red + White or good old White Weenie), Accorder Paladin seems to be providing a hell of a lot of damage all by himself. Note that in the scenario I just gave, 5 of that 8 damage came from Accorder Paladin. Imagine what we can do by combining this potential with cards such as Goblin Guide, Goblin Bushwhacker, Kuldotha Rebirth, Steppe Lynx or Elspeth Tirel. In Extended format, think of the power behind swinging with this and a bunch tokens that you get from such cards as Bitterblossom and Spectral Procession. When you get this much value out of a 2-mana creature, he has to be good really. I can see this guy making the cut in many variations of aggro decks in the months to come.
Hero of Bladehold is the prerelease promo card for Mirrodin Besieged, should you happen to pick the Mirran side boosters. To start off, a 4-mana Knight with starting stats of 3/4 isn’t that bad at all. Now, a quick ruling for anyone who doesn’t know this yet… Hero of Bladehold has 2 triggered abilities: the Battle cry ability and the token-making ability. They both also happen to trigger at the same timing. Because of this, you are able to put both of these abilities onto the stack in whichever order you choose. What does this mean? It means that you can put your 2 tokens into play first, and then let the Battle cry trigger resolve, meaning that as the tokens are attacking, they will in fact both swing for 2 damage each. Pretty nice isn’t it? So note that Hero of Bladehold will be swinging for 7 damage by herself on the first turn she attacks and then 11, then 15 and so on (provided you keep attacking with tokens of course). The problem with Hero however is that, at 4-mana, she is really a little too expensive to see as much play in aggro decks as Accorder Paladin surely will, and I don’t think she’ll ever be used as a 4-of. Her influence on the board however is invaluable and so she will usually make the cut somewhere. I think that even if she hits the top of the mana curve in your simple aggro deck, she’s good enough to be that card at the 4-mana slot, where typically you’d hold a card like Ajani Goldmane. She also has another huge downside. Notice that although she has two awesome abilities, she is very vulnerable on the board and she doesn’t do a single thing before she attacks. Having 4 toughness is a good start, meaning she won’t die to stray Lightning Bolts or unkicked Burst Lightnings, but she’s still weak to lots of forms of removal. So, on her own, she isn’t that great for constructed aggro, as your 4-mana investment could be considerably less powerful than you’d hoped, however there are always ways around it. Brave the Elements for example, or Knight Exemplar to make her indestructible. Nevertheless, the card has potential, so we’ll just have to wait and see how good she can become.
This guy is one of my favourite cards in this set. Mirran Crusader has the potential to be considered in every white deck’s sideboard until he rotates out from Extended in 4 years’ time. With this guy, 3 mana nets you quite a lot. A 2/2 body isn’t all that uncommon for 3 mana, but when we throw in his 3 extremely powerful abilities, he becomes an insane powerhouse. Protection from black makes him insane against Vampires, MBC and any Infect decks t
hat might show up in the future, whilst also having protection from green to make him better against elves, overrun-style aggro decks and so on. Having both of these combined makes him just insane. In Extended, he is amazing against Jund, with Lightning Bolt being the deck’s only answer to him and he’s also immune to the Conley Woods’ branded Necrotic Ooze combo decks. If that wasn’t enough, he also has double strike! So, aside from being immune to a bunch of removal spells in both Standard and Extended, he also hits the opponent for 4 damage! I don’t need to say any more about this guy. His power speaks mostly for himself. His cons are largely outweighed by his pros and he WILL see play, I guarantee you that.
Priests of Norn
Now then, this is going to be good for slightly different reasons. This card is simply going to be good in Limited formats (Sealed and Draft that is). The cards I am mentioning in this article for Constructed purposes are obviously going to be Limited playable, which is implicit in the fact that they’re good enough for Constructed. This guy however, is unlikely to see constructed play. Now then, first off, he is a 1/4 Infect creature making him a very powerful blocker, much like Tangle Angler from the previous set. However, he has Vigilance, the perfect ability for such a strong blocker. Opponent swings with creatures and you poke in for one poison damage whilst you have a 1/4 blocker left for their counter swing, not to mention that the 1 damage you deal to their creature is permanent and with the large number of 1 toughness creatures in Scars of Mirrodin, that 1 damage will usually kill the creature. The interesting thing about this guy is the fact that he delves the infect deck into white. Now, remember that the drafting order changes from this set onwards, so when we draft Mirrodin Besieged and Scars of Mirrodin, we will be opening the MBS pack first. So, based on the first pack, should you have decided already to play Infect, pick up a couple of these guys. It means that you are basically able to splash your Infect deck into white and gives you access to some removal options like Revoke Existence or Dispense Justice from the Scars packs.
Now, I wouldn’t write this guy off COMPLETELY for constructed. I do in fact have an idea for a Treefolk-based infect deck in which this guy and the Tangle Angler mentioned previously would fit very nicely into, seeing as how Doran, the Siege Tower makes them huge. But hey, this is just a thought and nothing more. No idea how it will end up working but it’s an idea right now, lol…
White Sun’s Zenith
Now, I come to the first of the Zeniths. I quite like the Zenith cycle and I think this is a pretty good one on its own. It very much reminds me of Decree of Justice which is still used in White-based control decks in Legacy (note that it’s the cycling ability that sees play). Now although Decree of Justice is a lot better than this card seeing as how it also draws you a card and that it is uncounterable, that doesn’t mean that this card doesn’t have a hell of a lot of potential in Standard. The key to the success of this card lies in the fact that it is an instant, not a sorcery. U/W Control now has the potential to do near enough everything at instant speed, what with the deck now having useful counter spells, instant speed removal and bounce, instant speed draw power and now, a powerful instant speed win condition. Late game, you can play this for about 8-10 mana and have enough guys down to swing for the kill in just two turns whilst holding back your mana for counters and removal to answer their remaining threats. I think this really ought to see play and I’d be surprised if it didn’t.
Now then, this card has generated quite a large amount of discussion amongst the magic community. Cards that can draw as many cards as this guy will always generate such discussions. Simple idea is, you play this guy, and if your opponent doesn’t kill it before they reach their next main phase, you land yourself 2 new cards. Not to mention that you can use effects such as Temple Bell or Jace Beleren‘s +2 ability to net yourself a shed load more cards and get some real value from this guy. However, the other half of the argument is on the fact that he’s a 6-mana creature, meaning that in a control deck, he has to battle with the likes of Grave Titan and Wurmcoil Engine for his spot in the deck, which means that when we talk about value for your mana, these two titans will always make the cut over our new Sphinx. In my opinion, the Sphinx isn’t good enough to see play. He is obviously an ENORMOUS bomb for limited if anyone pulls him. He’s in fact the best one that Blue has in this block and one of the best in this set. However, in a constructed format where we have the two big guys I’ve mentioned above, I don’t see any reason to pick this guy over them. There is potential there, but I think he’s ill-placed.
Ah, I love that this card was printed. Older Magic players may remember Annul from back in the original Mirrodin block and in Urza’s Saga. Now, seeing as the card had been printed in both of the previous artefact-themed blocks in this game, I figured it would be printed in this one too. However, much to my surprise, they’ve gone and printed this little beauty. Now, admittedly, Annul is a pretty bad card which only really saw play to give control extra answers to decks like Affinity and especially now that we have access to cards like Spell Pierce and Negate that have a scope to do a hell of a lot more than Annul can do. However, Steel Sabotage is a modular spell (that is, a spell that has multiple effects from which you choose) and modular spells are always worth a second glance due to their flexibility within your 75 cards. So, this card is a whole load better than Annul since it isn’t in fact dead after the dangerous artifacts have already hit the table. If something nasty like a Lux Cannon, a Wurmcoil Engine or a Blightsteel Colossus (see my part 2 review for thoughts on this card) has already been cast, then bouncing it with Steel Sabotage could be just the ticket to delaying yourself a turn or two, or preparing it to be countered, now that you’ve drawn an answer to it. I would expect to see this card in blue sideboards in the coming months as artifacts increase in playability.
Aha, Trinket Mage has an older brother! So, we now have another nicely-sized body that can tutor up artifacts to our hand. So, is Treasure Mage going to be worth it? Trinket Mage already has loads of potential targets, enough even to make him very playable in fact in Legacy. Well first off, nowhere near enough 6-mana or higher artifact cards get played in Legacy, so I’ll go ahead and write him off for Legacy right now. In Standard and Extended however, one guy in particular springs straight to mind. WURMCOIL ENGINE!!! How many decks do we see these days parading around a few Wurmcoils as their big fat win conditions? So, this guy may be used to find a nice big Wurmcoil, but maybe also a few creatures like Blightsteel Colossus, Steel Hellkite or Thopter Assembly for decks that might end up using them. I’m not sure if he will see much play, definitely not as much as his little brother, whom we all love already. Only time will tell on this one, seeing as how much more limited his applications are.
In my opinion, Black is by far the best colour being represented in this set. We see 4 cards that will easily find a home somewhere in Mono-Black control and also some cards that look to be a big step towards seeing Infect as a playable deck. I’m only going to mention 3 of these however, seeing as it will take me far too long to mention all of the ones I want to.
So, for a while, Terror was the go-to card for a straight forward Black kill-spell. Then, with the release of M10, Wizards went and replaced it with Doom Blade, which was easily a great improvement. And yet, if it is somehow possible, they’ve given us a card that in some ways is even better than Doom Blade! This card is incredible, especially when played alongside Doom Blade. The difference is pretty simple. By swapping out Doom Blade for this card, you can’t kill Wurmcoil Engines but you can now use it to kill Grave Titans and Vampires instead. So, in the current Standard environment, this is a lot better than Doom Blade due to the lack of any real Artifact-based deck, but in Extended I’d say that Doom Blade will be a little better due to the existence of the Tempered Steel aggro deck, although I should also note that Terminate will of course be played before both of them in any deck that can support it. I can’t stop saying how good this card is. For as long as this card is alongside Doom Blade in the format, expect to see them interchanged in black decks depending on how the format changes. I for one will begin by sporting 3 of each in my Mono-Black Control deck to see just how they stack up, and include side-boarding plans to remove whichever one is the worst against the matchup.
Before this card’s review, I’d like to briefly mention Black Sun’s Zenith. It’s perfect for Mono-Black Control. Against the aggro decks in the format where a Wrath of God is needed, Black Zenith can typically manage to clear the board for just 4, maybe 5 mana and then it recycles itself! Even if it doesn’t clear the board, it will at the very least put a BIG dent in it! It IS good and it will see play. But…
When we’re talking about Wrath of God effects, we do every now and again come to a card that is somewhat one-sided in the matter, much like this card. This guy is insane, providing a one-sided board sweeper against the majority of aggro decks, a big swing in life totals AND a 6/5 body to top it all off! What’s not to love? Dropping this guy against a tapped-out Vampire player or a Boros player will near enough clinch you the win, unless you’re already on very low life by this time and all it will take is a burn spell or two for you to lose. However, this guy along with Go for the Throat for against Vampires and the Black Zenith provides Mono-Black Control with the very answers I feel it needed for the aggro matchups and I expect it to be a very powerful deck in the coming months. I absolutely love this guy and as soon as I’ve picked up my copies of him, I shall be playing him as much as possible!
So then. Mirran Crusader’s twin brother. Once again, just like his twin, Phyrexian Crusader is an absolute BEAST! The card is nice and powerful. He was two very relevant protection colours, being red and white. Unlike his Mirran counterpart, he cannot be hit by burn spells or by cards such as Oust or Condemn In addition, being Black, he can’t get hit by Doom Blade either! So, he’s pretty resistant to a lot of the field’s removal spells already. He has first strike instead of double strike, but to make up for it, he also has Infect! Now, consider that First Strike + Infect is nearly the same as, if not better than having double strike. When hitting a player, that player gets 2 poison counters, which is about the same as taking 4 normal damage. However, when battling with creatures, he puts -1/-1 counters onto them before they can even hit him. So, anything with 3 or less power will bounce off him. In fact, a creature has to be a 4/3 at the very least to kill Phyrexian Crusader in battle and not be taken with him. But even then, the Crusader’s damage sticks around, so the creature will be a hell of a lot easier to kill in the next battle!
The main reason I like this card is because of how much better it makes Infect decks. In the wake of Scars of Mirrodin, Infect appeared to be no more than a gimmicky casual deck without any real aspirations for competitive play. Some players talked about using Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon as the win condition in black-based control decks, but then we realised how good Wurmcoil Engine actually is and we also remembered that Grave Titan was still around, and both of these options are a lot better than Skittles could be. However, now that we’ve seen even more Infect creatures, I don’t think that Infect should be seen as such a weak archetype. With cards like Phyrexian Crusader, Phyrexian Vatmother, Septic Rats and so on being released in this set, I think the set takes a big step in the right direction to us seeing how a competitive version of this archetype might actually look. So far, I think that Infect is looking strong, but not quite complete. I for one would like to see what the third set in the block gives us and I am fairly sure that by the end of that, we will see some sort of Infect deck played in Standard.
So, that’s it for this part of my look into Mirrodin Besieged. I’ve only shown you a handful of cards that I personally think are the best in these first three colours, but of course this doesn’t mean that they’re the ONLY note-worthy cards. As always, if there are any questions you wish to ask me, then feel free to drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Facebook and ask me there! Check out the set on the visual spoiler, a link to which is at the top of this page and I shall hope to see some of you at the Manaleak.com Prereleases on the 29th and the 30th of January, details for which can be found on our website and our Facebook page!
~ Landstar ~