Brew hard with a new card: Chromanticore
Spoiler season is one of the best sections of the Magic calendar, a time of renewal and tantalising promise. Will this spell be good? How hard can this mechanic be pushed? Do these cards hint at a new archetype? These questions sum up the reason many of us play Magic.
Of course, sometimes Wizards will go ahead and spoil a card so sweet that it could reasonable create a brewing fever all by itself, regardless of the set being released around it. That’s exactly how I felt when I laid eyes on Chromanticore">Chromanticore.
Do you hear that? It’s the sound of a large number of competitive players recoiling in horror. Really, Dave? Chromanticore?
Can’t see the appeal? Think I’m mad?
Let me break it down for you.
Why Chromanticore makes me Chr-azy
Alone, it has many of the qualities which made Baneslayer Angel so formidable in her heyday: a hefty, first-striking lifelinker with evasion. Like its vigilant cousin Batterskull, it’s exceptionally difficult to race since it can be aggressive and defensive in the same turn cycle. Chromanticore will simply turn off opposing Aggro decks a healthy percentage of the time; if they have the Mizzium Mortars, lucky them, because otherwise…
But the true beauty of the card is that it isn’t doomed to work alone. For just two additional mana, Chromanticore can be bestowed only another creature, in effect providing this monster with the only things it naturally lacks: Haste and resistance to removal.
The fact that Chromanticore is multi-coloured might appear to be a substantial drawback, but I prefer to think of it as a helpful deckbuilding guideline.
The designers are telling us that very few decks will be able to reliably cast this tie-dye abomination, unless they focus on fixing their mana as a matter of urgency; most mana-fixing also carries the benefit of mana-ramping, which suddenly makes the chunky bestow cost on Chromanticore look much more realistic. Plus, I’m a sucker for gold cards.
So, we have incentives to build around Chromanticore – and guidance as to the direction we should take. Shall we brew?
Getting the mana right
Slapping Chromanticore down on the table is going to feel as good as chewing a whole mouthful of Skittles – but if we want to taste the rainbow(TM), we’ll need to have the right colours of mana on hand first. Let’s take a look at the kind of fixers available to us in the upcoming Standard.
It’s striking just how heavily rewarded we will be, in mana-fixing terms, for going down the Defender route. Of course, that will expose us to board sweepers – but it will also give us a decent chunk of devotion to Green, which might come in handy. It’s a shame they can’t be profitably bestowed upon.
Springleaf Drum would give us an early start on five-colour fixing, in a deck that wants to play some creatures anyway so they can be bestowed with the gift of chromawesomeness. Chromatic Lantern will certainly resolve any issues we might have, provided we hit our land drops on time.
Hmmm… I can’t decide on my preferred suite of fixers just yet. Perhaps if I can sketch out some of the other qualities the deck should have, things will become clearer.
Running “Big Corey” (as he will now forever be known) to full effect demands two things from us: we must find ways to maximise his strengths and minimise his weaknesses.
What can we do to make Big Corey’s strengths work harder for us?
Perhaps we can take advantage of his innate ability to catch us up, by biasing our early game toward drawing cards and developing our mana. Next, we can include some nice utility creatures in our deck which will benefit from being boosted by his bestow mode; my mind is naturally drawn toward those with tap abilities, which become much more valuable when they are attached to a creature with vigilance.
Now, about those weaknesses… how best to mitigate them?
Well, we could play spells to help protect the lovable rainbow-monster. Pinpoint discard would be best, since we’d ideally like to cast him early; holding off until we can keep up counterspell mana seems seriously underwhelming, especially in light of the fact that we could simply be bestowing him by that stage.
However we build, it would be nice to take advantage of Big Corey’s bestow ability. By bestowing him, we’re gaining substantial insurance against removal and effectively giving him haste.
Oh, and the mana thing? Don’t sweat it – we’ll get there.
Reviewing my musings so far, I hit upon an idea that appeals to me greatly. What if I could build an engine which would produce a lot of mana, in the right colours, and which had synergy with utility elements of the deck? Well, that would be just dandy, wouldn’t it?
Indulge me, planeswalkers. I give you… Zarekromanticore!
This deck looks seriously fun to play, even if I do say so myself.
The list has some basic draw power early, but also sports an absolute mountain of scry effects to help us hit the pieces we need.
Our plan is to get some of our five colour fixers into play – preferably a curve of Caryatid into Guardian – before dropping Ral Zarek and going bananas. Ral can double the Guardian’s contribution of 2 or 3 mana per turn, ensuring that there’s easily enough mana of all flavours to cast either a Chromanticore, an overloaded Mizzium Mortars or a giant X-Spell.
Of course, the fun doesn’t stop there. Ral can also untap his BFF Izzet Staticaster for extra creature-decimation; ensure that we can use Temples the turn they come down, or our other fixers in the event we need them for specific colours of mana; and remove blockers for Big Corey (or a bestowed Staticaster/Omenspeaker) to get in and cause havoc.
Our X Spells are diversified,so we have access to a suite of effects which will get us out of many situations; we’ll also be getting more out of them when we recycle our deck with Elixir of Immortality.
Perhaps we could use a little extra removal, but I’m hoping that between our 3-toughness critters and our ability to catch back up on life later, we’ll be able to ride out some slow starts.
All brewed out
Well, I suppose I’m finished for the week. Chromanticore may be a silly card, but I’ve enjoyed being inspired by his beauty – here’s hoping you all find something similarly enthralling in the new set.
May your brews be tasty and your dives be deep, Planeswalkers…