A large number of people to whom I have spoken over the last year have been sorely disappointed by the state of Type II. "Too weak," I hear. "There are no environment-changing cards." (How these people missed Fires of Yavimaya, Chimeric 'Four In Every Deck' Idol, Rising Waters, and other nasties is beyond me, but...whatever.) Well, I'm happy to say that Planeshift follows this same trend: Nothing that jumps out at you and bellows, "HEY! I'M BROKEN!", but a lot of good cards that should make it into decks. Let's see what we can find, shall we?
Aura Blast - 1W
Destroy target enchantment. Draw a card.
- Hey, this card is going to be useless against all those decks that don't run enchantments! Like Fir...no, wait. Like U/W cont...no...hmm. The simple fact is that there are enough nasty enchantments out there (Burst, Fires, Moat, Wave, Circle, etc.) to warrant maindecking Aura Blast. Dismantling Blow is still good, but you can play this instead...you give up the ability to kill Idols and one card, in exchange for a CC drop of FOUR. That's significant. 4 Dismantling Blows? Not anymore. Two DBs, two ABs...
Lashknife Barrier - 2W
When Lashknife Barrier comes into play, draw a card.
If a source would deal damage to a creature you control, it deals that much damage minus 1 instead.
- You know, I hear that paying R for one damage (Shock) is bad. I hear that paying 2R for two damage (Urza's Rage) is bad too. I also hear that pumping up all your creatures is pretty nice. Just something to think about when considering this as opposed to +0/+1...if you have a 3/3 creature and Spidersilk Armor, two Shocks kills it. If you have a 3/3 creature and Lashknife Armor, two Shocks won't do the job. Makes for evil combat tricks...watch for Rebels to play this, especially because of the 'draw a card' part. Without 'draw a card', it's good...with it, it's amazing.
Orim's Chant - W
Target player can't play spells this turn.
If you paid the kicker cost, creatures can't attack this turn.
- Okay. Here's how your turn now looks: Untap, draw, play a land, activate anything already in play, and tell me to go. Okay? Good. This is not...I repeat...NOT a Time Walk. Rebels laugh out loud when you play this on them, and they DO still get to draw and play a land. Still, against Fires, a first-turn Chant during their upkeep is nasty tempo loss, giving you time to set up your defenses. (Birds of Paradise are a spell...) Also a nice must-counter versus U/W control...suck those counters out of your opponent's hand. "If you didn't like that, you're gonna HATE this..."
Sorry, kids. I'm just not impressed by blue this time around. A 3/4 flyer that bounces creatures and grants a TRUE Time Walk...to your opponent. Counters...only for kickered spells. Only for blue spells. Only for spells that target a creature. What ever happened to 'counter target spell'? The only card that jumps out at me is:
Shifting Sky - 2U
When Shifting Sky comes into play, choose a color.
All non-land permanents are the chosen color.
- Kinda nasty when you're playing Story Circle, and Tsabo's Assassin becomes downright brutal with this in play. Still...main-deck material? Probably not. Sideboard vs. Rebels (your Crusades won't help you now), in a pinch.
Bog Down - 2B
Kicker: Sacrifice two lands.
Target player discards two cards. If you paid the kicker cost, that player discards three cards instead.
- (Yes, I'm paraphrasing.) Nothing really matters except the fact that this snatches two cards with one. Discard is coming back in force, mark my words, and Bog Down will be on the high-end of the mana curve for the hand-eaters. Watch for Avatar of Will the turn after you see this. Also nasty disruption, and another must-counter for U/W control.
Diabolic Intent - 1B
As an additional cost to play Diabolic Intent, sacrifice a creature.
Search your library for a card and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library.
- Demonic Tutor with a relatively miniscule drawback. And it's *not* restricted. Watch for this thing to turn up in pretty much any deck that can support it...Machinehead in particular should salivate quite nicely. I can see decks with black running ONE copy of Perish and a few of these, juuuust in case...
Sinister Strength - 1B
Enchanted creature gets +3/+1 and is black.
- Let's review. Unholy Strength gave +2/+1 for B. So for 1, we get +1/+0 and immunity to most black removal. Whoah! This thing turns any creature into a pretty nasty threat. Imagine this on something...*anything*...that tramples. It's not Armadillo Cloak caliber, but it's bloody impressive, and only one color.
Red kinda got the shaft in Planeshift too...lots of nice cards for Sealed and Draft, but as far as Constructed goes, I can only really see one card making any real impact:
Strafe - R
Strafe deals 3 damage to target nonred creature.
- That's three damage for one mana, folks. No, you won't kill your opponent with it. (Not directly, anyway.) And no, it won't kill a red creature. But that still leaves a lot of good targets for this spell. Birds? Thrashing Wumpuses (Wumpi?) Hey, what's Lin-Sivvi's toughness again?
Nemeta, Grove Guardian - 4GG
Creature - Treefolk Legend
2G: Put a 1/1 green Saproling creature token into play.
Sacrifice a Saproling: All Saprolings get +1/+1 until end of turn.
- I'm just waiting for WotC to come out and say it: 'Hello. We would appreciate it very much if someone out there would make a good Saproling deck. Thank you.' Between this, Saproling Symbiosis, and Saproling Burst, I can see a definite theme emerging. Now, if we could just get some decent, low-mana Saproling creatures...
This is where Planeshift really shines. Its gold cards are some of the best I've ever seen.
Cavern Harpy - UB
Creature - Beast
When Cavern Harpy comes into play, return a blue or black creature you control to its owner's hand.
Pay 1 life: Return Cavern Harpy to your hand.
- Here's a card whose true power isn't immediately obvious. Alone, it seems like a nice early flier, but one that slows down your tempo. Combine it with Ravenous Rats, though, and you'll find your opponent's hand emptying at the speed of light! An opponent with an empty hand is gonna have trouble dealing with a flyer that refuses to die...
Doomsday Specter - 2UB
Creature - Specter
When Doomsday Specter comes into play, return a blue or black creature you control to its owner's hand.
Whenever Doomsday Specter deals combat damage to a player, look at that player's hand and choose a card from it. The player discards that card.
- Every once in a while, a card will come along in Type II that's SO good that it ends up being used in Type I decks. Urza's Rage was one of those cards. Doomsday Specter is another. Let it be known that there has NEVER been this quality of discard attached to a creature before. Hypnotic who? Many discard decks splash blue, and this card rewards them for it in spades. If you see one of these hit the board, and you have an answer, use it *immediately*; if you don't, that answer will be the first card to go. Add the fact that it's playable on Turn 2 via Ritual, and it's no wonder that this is the most expensive card in the set. Did I mention that it's safely out of Shock range?
Fleetfoot Panther - 1GW
Creature - Cat
When Fleetfoot Panther comes into play, return a green or white creature you control to its owner's hand.
- Turn 1: Forest, Birds. Turn 2: Plains, Fleetfoot Panther, returning Birds. Turn 3: Land, Armadillo Cloak, serve for 5. That's a 5/6 trampling Spirit-Linked monstrosity on turn 3, folks. Oh, and if the spirit hits you, there's always an Armageddon next turn...
Hull Breach - GR
Choose one - Destroy target artifact; or destroy target enchantment; or destroy target artifact and target enchantment.
- This is a serious no-brainer, people. Fires is going to lap this up and come back for more. It's BETTER than Disenchant, in that it can eat two targets if they exist. Chimeric Idols, Story Circle, Diamonds, Teferi's Moat, Millstones, Parallax Waves, the list of targets just goes on and on and on...this will almost never be a useless spell.
Meddling Mage - UW
Creature - Pikula (er, Wizard)
When Meddling Mage comes into play, name a nonland card. The named card can't be played.
- You know, when I first saw Invasion, I cringed at the sight of Urza's Rage and Obliterate. I'm a big fan of blue (once you say 'no', you'll never go back), and these uncounterable spells made me shudder. Still, I quickly realized that you could Misdirection Urza's Rage, and the laugh would be on your opponent. 'But what,' I mused, 'can you do about Obliterate? Mass-bounce? How?' This card is the answer to my prayers. No longer does U/W have to worry about an errant Obliterate ruining all its fun. Meddling Mage also neuters Fires (I'll name Saproling Burst) and gives Rebels a headache (I'll name Crusade/Lin-Sivvi/Parallax Wave/whatever). Expect to see the price of these skyrocketing.
Sawtooth Loon - 2UW
Creature - Bird
When Sawtooth Loon comes into play, return a white or blue creature you control to its owner's hand.
When Sawtooth Loon comes into play, draw two cards, then put two cards from your hand on the bottom of your library.
- I'll make it nice and easy. This is how you abuse this card:
"I'll play Sawtooth Loon."
"I'll put the bounce ability on the stack."
"I'll put the drawing ability on the stack."
"Okay, I draw two...put two on the bottom...then bounce Sawtooth Loon."
That's right. No longer do you have to tolerate useless land sitting in your hand...the Loon digs two cards deep into your library every time you cast it, so long as you stack it right! Me likey.
Shivan Wurm - 3GR
Creature - Wurm
When Shivan Wurm comes into play, return a red or green creature you control to its owner's hand.
- When was the last time you saw a creature this fat in a price that tournament-quality decks could support? Argothian Wurm, back in Broken Block? Hunted Wumpus, with its potentially deadly drawback? Shivan Wurm leaves them both behind, as its drawback is probably taken care of by the very acceleration you used to get it into play! Expect to see Fires decks running two of these.
Terminate - BR
Destroy target creature. It can't be regenerated.
- I don't think this bears much discussion. If you can't figure out why this card is *insanely* good, sell your cards and take up stamp collecting.
I don't see anything in here that interests me. Stratodon? Too pricey. Mana Cylix? You should never need it. Skyship Weatherlight, meet Hull Breach. Draco is amusing, but not worth the effort. Only Star Compass is halfway decent, and even it ends up being just another mana artifact, not even that good in _____Geddon because it relies on your basic lands. Eh.
Well, the Lairs are fun. It's a lot easier to splash a third color with them around. Forsaken City is utter crap...good with Stasis, except we're missing a component card for Stasis in Type II: STASIS. Terminal Moraine is okay, I guess, if you're going to go nuts with domain cards...and Meteor Crater just makes me picture an opening hand with one land, two Meteor Craters, and four 2-CC spells. Too risky. Nothing much here either.
Some of you are probably screaming, 'Wait! You missed a bunch of them!' If you're thinking Phyrexian Scuta, well, I can just see too many ways to screw with it. Dominate. Wave. Recoil. Random regenerating blocker. Story Circle. Teferi's Moat. Light of Day. I could keep going...but my point is that the cards I listed are the creme-de-la-creme, the top of the heap. There are other good cards, sure, but these are the best.
Still, that's a pretty good number of cards that make me sit up and take notice. They also run the gamut of rarity, from common (Terminate, Hull Breach, Aura Blast) to rare (Orim's Chant, Doomsday Specter). Overall, I think Planeshift is going to change Type II for the better, and even bring an old deck archetype back into the limelight (U/B control/discard).
I could be wrong. But I'm not.