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The Wheel of Changes: Beyond the Invisible
By K.Salam "DÛke" AL.H
Well, as we know it the T2 environment has slowed down to the point of…playing “bigger cards” than usual. When Mercadian Masques was first released, many people assumed “the end”. The cards were so “unfit” to the environment. The Urza block had changed the game to the point where a Rappelling Scouts is called “unplayable”. Little that some know it’s not the Mercadian Masques (or the Mercadian Masques block for the big picture) that is “erratic”, but it is in fact the Urza Block itself. It is the reason why some thought the newly MM cards were “weak”, because we’ve been plagued by the power (it’s not really power, but utter insanity actually) of Urza.

Well, Urza’s influence upon players is finally done. His little mind tick games are finally over with. For this reason, I decide to take the time to “re-look” into the ignored power of Mercadian Masques, Nemesis, and Prophecy.

I will start out with Mercadian Masques. It came out, and I, myself was disappointed for just a short while (about 1 or 2 seconds… all right! I’ll admit, 3.5 seconds; but that’s the truth!) I looked into Mercadian Masques and I was surprised by the power. I t had unbelievingly strong power. Sure, it will take time (and a lot of mana) to unleash, but now is the time (and with all these duel lands and artifacts, we have all the mana too).

We all know how the environment is slow now. We all know how multi-colored decks are popular with the coming of Invasion. Well, Mercadian Masques offer some great stuff for this newfound “popularity”. First off (and this is been bugging me for a while now): Rappelling Scouts. This ¼ Flier is nothing to laugh about. Not even a Blastoderm could laugh at it! With the casting cost of (only!) four mana, I don’t see any reason why Rappelling Scout wouldn’t be played. It survives the Shock-trend (the 2 damage), and with enough mana, it will survive anything: from the popular Snuff-Out and Vendetta, all the way into the annoying Avatar of Woe, Blastoderm, Thrashing Wumpus, and the countless “other” creatures. When Rappelling Scouts was first seen, it was nicknamed “the White Tradewind Raider”. Well, that name really didn’t apply to the Scouts way back then with Morphling, Phyrexian Negator, Thorn Elemental, Masticore, Palinchron, and the sheer “broken” critters. Well, all that has changed now. I don’t find it hard to imagine Rappelling Scouts is, in fact, the Tradewind Raider of this new, slow environment. Rappelling Scouts even Flies for god’s sake! It also “automatically” survives the overly popular (and powerful) Massacre. All this, and still, there’s the “cherry” on top: Rappelling Scouts is a Rebel (I don’t think I need to explain why this is a “cherry” on the top). What exactly does one expect to get for 4 mana in this new environment? Isn’t Rappelling Scouts “powerful” enough to at least be considered now? In my opinion: it should be played, not just considered.

Now, since I gave the Scouts their praise, it is time to move on:

Cho-Arrim Bruiser: this “unblock-able” being is even splash able and is able to survive a full Massacre or even the Shock-trend! He’s also a Rebel. For 6 mere mana, you get a creature that is an average blocker, and an excellent attacker. This could also be played in Gold decks due to the very flexi casting cost. This is not the best, but it should be at least reconsidered now.

Cho-Manno, Revolutionary: this man came out and he started the hype. All kind of Rebel decks were built around him, unfortunately, he wasn’t “fast” enough for the over-hasty environment. Now, however, with most threats costing 4 or more, an “immortal” 2/2 for 4 mana isn’t that bad at all, considering all the ground invaders we have; an honorable mention of these “things” would be the very, very popular Blastoderm.

Jhovall Queen: this is really sad now. Jhovall Queen is very, very underrated. Look at it! Only 6 mana for this darling! It hits for 4, or at least, that’s 4 damage the opponent has to worry about every turn. Not only that, but he also has to worry about the 7 toughness, because this thing will be attacking and blocking. A 4/7 for 6 mana that doesn’t even blink when attacking is a steal even back in the Urza-contaminated environment. I never comprehended why it didn’t see play. If it doesn’t see play in this new “style”, then something is pretty wrong out there. What else could you play for 6 mana that is that defensive, and offensive at the same time? It kind of even reminds me of Morphling, which used to attack me every turn while still leaving me worried about it blocking my creatures. Jhovall Queen takes on the same role.

Bribery: let me make it clear now. This was the one of the most “hyped” card when Mercadian Masques first came out. I could see why, I mean, 5 mana for any creature in opponent’s deck? Sure, I’ll take it; though Treachery overshadowed Bribery simply because Treachery was “free”, also known as: “broken”.
Well now, with Avatars, Elder Dragon Legends, Blastoderm, Legendary Spellshapers, and many other countless threats, wouldn’t you think 5 mana isn’t “much” to gain control (permanently) of those bad boys? I see Blastoderms a lot, and Bribing a Blastoderm to work for you is a gift by itself. You don’t have to worry about the “un-free” aspect of Bribery; there is enough “free” counter power to keep you on your feet while you tap out to Bribe you opponent’s creatures.

Cateran Enforcer: this…”thing” wasn’t bad even in the “cheap” environment. Now, we’re all slow and “expensive”; its 5 mana cost is the least of my worries. What worries me is what I should recruit, Rathi Assassin, Highway Robber, or just simply attack for almost an assured 4 damage? Hmmm, a lot of options for a card that costs 5 mana, don’t you think? If I’m predicting this right, I could swear, I saw people playing this card when Urza was “all that”, now, I think this will be very popular, and will be as annoying as Blastoderm (I hope).

Forced March: finally, this thing is coming in handy. Huge casting cost indeed, but who cares? Most real threats (other than Blastoderm) come in mid game anyway, and with enough “strategic” planning, you should be able to hold off the early stuff, and then Force the big stuff to March the way you want them to.
Forced March will be played; I could feel it. It’s Black’s own Wrath of God, for God’s sake. Although Massacre is a more “perfect” resemblance of Wrath, Forced March is more wrathful.

Notorious Assassin: although it is very Shock-able, and very Massacre-able, this is still not a bad deal. You actually have some time to play this effectively before being ran-on by some stupid horde of Green creatures with Rancor or whatever. I don’t think this is the best card still, but it has become so much since we last talked about it. Now, it has the option to destroy the so-called Legendary Spell Shapers. This includes Mageta, which I heard was popular now. It could assassinate any Avatar other than Woe (of course!), and basically, most of those randomly played non-Black creatures. Not the best card for the new environment, but much more than it was. I had to say something (shoot).

Blood Oath: when did we last see a Blood Oath? It seems that it was played for a while, and then vanished into some unknown hiding place. Well, I think it should be reconsidered now. For a card this Red, Blood Oath deals a lot of damage. You’d be getting your fair share of the deal if you mana to deal 6 damage. That’s not that hard, especially when the opponent shouldn’t have developed that much in turn 3 or 4, which is when most likely Blood Oath is used. Creatures are becoming more popular I heard. Naming “creatures” as your choice when you play this Oath will give you a good chance of deal even 9 damage! Now, call me crazy but 4 mana for 6-9 damage (if not more!) is really, um, how would you put it? Oh yeah, “broken”. Can you say Howling Mine? Can you say land destruction? Blood Oath simply outraces any damage card that deals damage directly to the player. I know Urza’s Rage is the “hype” now, but Blood Oath isn’t really bad, not at all.

Tectonic Break: speaking of Blood Oath, here’s a card that combine great with it. Tectonic Break is at least a “Stone Rain” for both players. If you play it by paying 3 mana (equivalent to Stone Rain’s casting cost), you would have something close to a Stone Rain. Which isn’t bad. Though, when you pay 4 mana, that’s when you really have done something. The annoyance grows with mana, and if played correctly, you should be able to lock your opponent, and then Blood Oath him or her to death. Seeing how the environment contains rare amount of Red land destruction, Tectonic Break wasn’t a bad when Urza was around, and now, it just go “that much” stronger (that’s about 3 feet for anyone who can’t see how I pointed it out with my hands).

Vine Dryad: this is a serious card. When it came out, I really loved Green, and went out and bought 4 of these things. I played them, and it wasn’t bad at all. It is Shock-less, and could be played as “instant”, not that this is a big deal. Vine Dryad, once again, not the best card every made. Though with enough small creatures, we could add this in. I’m not very fond of it, but “you gotta say what you gotta say”: Vine Dryad may as well be the next “big thing” due to the alternative casting cost. I’ll never know, you’ll never know, but time will know (will tell actually).

Bargaining Table: now is it just I, or discard is popular now? Ravenous Rats, Addle, Stupor, Unmask (I have to include this one for my person reasons), and all those “other” discard spells. Bargaining Table only costs 5 mana, and from there, it is up to your deck to handle the activation cost. Since the environment has been slowing down so much, the discard power itself is more handy and easy to manage now. Most good card will “stay” a bit long in opponent’s hand before they see day light; that means a third turn Stupor, or a second turn Addle could get the critical stuff out and leave the rest in, for the Ravenous Rats to feed on. From there on, after ruing your opponent’s day (or night), the Bargaining Table comes in handy; refilling your hand with more back up discard spells, more creatures, and hopefully, the kill mechanic of your deck should activate soon now. Bargaining Table really is great. Even if you have to pay 1 or 2 mana to activate it’s ability, it is still better than those other 5 and 6 costing artifacts that have some obscure drawback of some sort. This is a winner for sure.

Ramos Artifacts: those things are not just mana Artifacts anymore. They enable you to play non-splash-able spells too! The 6th diamonds does not allow you to play a Plague Wind if you have no other means of adding B to your mana pool, considering you’re playing almost a mono Blue deck. Adding a Ramos Artifact will get you closer to playing those Legendary Spell Shapers, Winds, Avatars, and the enormous options of huge creatures and spells. They’re countless! The 6th Diamonds cost 1 less…so what? If you’re playing an Urza’s Rage or an Avatar of Woe, does that one turn count? No, because you could make up for it by playing the appropriate Ramos Artifact. I always was fond of these Artifacts, and I still think very highly of them. I think people should to.

Power Matrix: a very good card to add into that Green deck of yours, don’t you think? Again, 4 mana isn’t bad at all for playing such powerful artifact. One of your creatures is lucky enough to enter The Matrix and become Neo! That creature flies, tramples, strikes first, and is a bit stronger, all for a single 4 mana, and not even anything to activate this “computer”. Now, even if you use this ability one your 1/1 or 2/2 creature, Power Matrix will dramatically change the way the creature looks (and feels) like. Many creatures could benefit from this Matrix, and it’s not hard to see your opponent “dead” in the next few turns after Mageta inters The Matrix, or something like that, eh?

Blinding Angel: this is the most powerful control creature in T2, in my opinion. Heck, it even stops, the ultimate being: Blastoderm. Not only that, but HOW it stops them is amazing! You get to deal damage to your opponent and prevent him or her from even pointing that spear, sword, gun, or whatever at you. Sure, Blinding Angel is hard to “splash” into a Blue deck, but hey, do you remember what I told you about the Ramos Artifacts and how they enable you to “splash”? Well, in this case, a single Tooth of Ramos, plus a Plain could enable you to play this Blinding force (of evil). Let’s “re-look” at the whole thing: for 5 mana, you get a 2/4 Flier that is able to stop most creatures at their feet. Do to the 4 toughness, an opponent will have fairly hard time to getting rid of this, and with some counter power, you should have yourself the strongest creature lock that ever comes into history (of MM environment that is).

Dominate: seeing how “slow” the creatures are, Dominate isn’t bad. Yeah, I know it’s not Treachery, that’s because it’s not broken. I don’t really think Dominate’s power comes from “stealing” 1 or 2 casting cost creatures, but from stealing those late game creatures that always show up when you least want them to. This includes the annoying Avatars, Ascendant Evincar, the Legendary Spellshaper, and basically any creature that tries to finish you off late game. This is also an Instant, which is “not that bad” in my opinion.

Ascendant Evincar: I heard it was coming into play now. Well, it should. This beefy dude will make sure all your creatures work out and stay in shape, as long as they’re Black though. Ascendant is a bargain now, at the cost of only 6 mana, you get a 3/3, which is handy, and something like a Black Moon combined with Dread of Night. All the weak ones go, when all the your weak ones BECOME the ultimate! What a bad day for you opponent, just when he though he could “chump” you for a little while now, he lost all the food he was planning to “bribe” your creatures; well, ok, he didn’t really “loose” all the food, he just gave it away for free, by giving most your creatures +1/+1. Ascendant Evincar is a complete day-ruining mechanism. He kills, he thrills, and he hits with that axe one strike after another. I can’t take it anymore.

Rathi Assassin: same as it’s friend, Notorious Assassin, this Rathi Assassin isn’t bad at all. It could be worst or better than the Notorious, depending on your own personal perspective and playing style. To me, it is worst, just by a bit though. The bad thing about it is that it can’t be played in Black control decks much, since it suffers from Shock, Seal of Fire, Massacre, and the various burn around now days. Though it has gained some speed since Nemesis. Everything is slow enough for this is just a little bit (more) effective than it used to be. It’s your opinion.

Eye of Yawgmoth: I laugh when they told me Greater Good is leaving. It’s not, its just taken shape of a machine now, that’s all. In my opinion, Eye of Yawgmoth is really an underrated card. It’s great with those Fading creatures, and it’s great even with those 1-power creatures. The least it could do is give you one card. When you think about it, it could be similar to Browse or Impulse in a way. As I’m saying this, I’m working on getting 4 of these. It’s really great, and unlike the other, and PLENTIFUL Artifacts that enable you to draw, this one gives you options; and I heard the more options the better (or merrier or whatever).

Predator, Flagship: I know the environment is now “slow” enough for this yet, but I still would rethink it over and over again. It seems like a nice card to me, enabling your creatures to fly over the blockers. It could (between and then) also be used to destroy one annoying creature that dares to stand against your Flying horde. I played this card once, and it wasn’t all that bad. I played it with a lot of “evasive-less” creatures. The Predator added evasion, and made sure that my creatures always pass through, even if I have to pay some mana to activate the Predator’s predatory ability to destroy an opposing creature. It costs a bit much, I know, but if the environment remains with the slowing down, I think we may have a winner here.

There. I hope this at least inspires your motivation to at least rethink the cards before dismissing them. I know some already figured the power of these things, but some are just blind right now, well, this thing is the knife that (hopefully) will tear part of the blindfold, all right? All right. I said "all right", so it's over now...Stop looking, dang it...

"There's a Mirror, behind, there's a Screen...On both ways, you can get in..."

Read More Articles by K.Salam "DÛke" AL.H!

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