This month, like the rest of the magic community, I have been and will be thinking about the effect of Odyssey on Type 2 when it cycles in next month. Certainly the shake-up caused by the loss of such staples as port, rebels and Ďderm will be felt, but what new deck-types will we see arise as a result of the new set of 350 cards coming into the format? Well, the best way of finding out would be to look at the most powerful cards of this new set and see exactly what deck types will use them and which ones will therefore be most likely to make strong appearances.
First up, there is one blue card that somewhat defines Odyssey. If the word Traumatise comes up more than once or twice next month will any of us be surprised? Well, at first, you might think no. And youíd probably be right. The awesome milling power of Traumatise has one big advantage over the more traditional Millstone approach: Rather than sitting around being vulnerable and slowly developing a winning condition, Traumatise is a one-shot card that instantly puts the opponent on the back foot. Regardless of any key cards that may have been dumped, when Traumatise hits, the opponent immediately knows that he is going to lose unless he can do something about it. No disenchanting the thing before it hits you and saving your bacon, if youíre hit with this particular bat you need to find some way of securing a victory and fast. Obviously, a blue or blue/white control deck isnít just going to sit around and let you do this, and coupled with a Static Orb and some other excellent stalling cards like Aboshan, Cephalid Emperor and youíre probably not going find getting that kill too easy.
So, youíve hit with a Traumatise and the opponent is playing catch up? That means heíll be wanting to play spells and you have no qualms about leaving the game as it is, right? Enter Standstill. Iíve heard it called the best card-drawer since Stroke, and even Ďthe next Recallí. Well, it may not be the next Ancestral Recall, but it is undeniably solid. In any deck there will come a time when victory is on the cards. Be it when your weenie deck has out 3 2/2s to the opponentís 3/1 or when you have 45 cards left in your library to the opponentís 30, there will come a point where, should things continue at this rate, you will be the winner. At this point, the onus is on the opponent to recover and get some form of victory condition going to counteract yours. Without playing spells, no deck short of Rebels (oh, wait a minute, didnít they just cycle out?) or some weird rogue deck could achieve this. So, get an advantage, press the Standstill and draw 3 cards for 2 mana. Thatís a good card advantage engine if you ask me. More fuel for the blue deckís pot. The downside? Itís a dead card when playing catch up yourself, and when playing catch up, dead cards make dead players. Certainly, though, it will see use, if not 4 in every blue deck, then probably at least 2 in most.
So, there are at least two excellent cards for control decks in this upcoming season, but sadly, the blue commons and uncommons of Odyssey are nothing special. An okay bounce card in Aether Burst, the alright Syncopate, the good Concentrate and a useful low-end Divert fail to accommodate for an over-expensive flashback counterspell and a similar bounce spell being the replacements for Foil, Daze, Brainstorm and their ilk. This said, seventh is more than willing to grant Counterspell and Force Spike, and Invasion blockís Absorb, Undermine, Mystic Snake and Evasive Action all still countering spells as good as they have done before, and Fact or Fiction is still around.
Coming slightly off of mono-blue, gold cards seem to have some strong representation in Odyssey, if fewer gold cards than multicolour crazy Invasion block. Obviously, there are two gold cards that are going to see the most use, and both of them are blue. The first is Shadowmage Infiltrator. As no doubt all of you have noticed, this is an excellent card. Only having 1 power is totally irrelevant because it only costs 3 (so it gets over a prohibit then), has 3 toughness (so itíll survive a fight with nearly any of Invasionís bears, a shot from a Shock or a Firebolt), it has evasion and it nets you a card every turn. Granted, itís Rage food, but then what isnít these days? Second-to-none card advantage permanent. A good enough reason to run blue/black on its own. Plus, of course, we still have Undermine, Lobotomy, Recoil and a couple of black cards Iíll come to later.
Secondly, there is a certain u/w rare in Odyssey that Iím also sure youíve noticed. It is, of course, Iridescent Angel. At 4/4 itís sizeable enough, and being blue/white, the rest of the deck can stall long enough for its 7-mana casting cost to be ignored. Then it sits in play being a practically untouchable 4-power flyer that will kill very quickly or hold off a ĎMonger indefinitely if you really need it to. A good enough reason for every deck that doesnít have access to Wrath to Ďboard Lotus Guardian? Probably not, but it will make Sandstone Deadfall see use. Another victory condition for blue/white thatís insanely difficult to deal with in most deck is, of course, just what it needs now its favourite creature type is gone for good.
Speaking of Shadowmage Infiltrator, letís talk about the other black cards in Odyssey. Firstly, the most blue-friendly one, and Traumatiseís best buddy, the Ďmost likely to get bannedí card in Odyssey, Haunting Echoes. In my personal opinion, this is the best card in Odyssey, and also one of the most broken cards to get printed in a long time. Simply put, no other card can single-handedly decimate any and all decks for minimal cost and effort. Granted, if youíre on 5 life and are staring down a ĎMonger with no cards in hand, it isnít the Wrath youíre hoping to topdeck, but then who cares? In a blue/black discard/control deck following up from a first turn duress, third turn Last Rites for 2 or 3 and hit on turn six or seven with this thing, and that is practically game over, and the Shadowmages and Doomsday Spectres havenít even turned up yet. Especially with the other spells you can throw in its way with counterspells and milling (ooh, ooh! Traumatise is good?), oh yes, this is going to hurt. Even if all you hit is the Flametongue you countered and the Rage he cooked your Shadowmage with, thatís 2 excellent cards that heís going to have to make do without for the rest of the game. And if their blue deck messes up a counter-war with you over it, they have just shot themselves in the foot by throwing a couple of extra names on the Patriarchís list of spells to cut out. This obviously combos excellently with Traumatise, and with Shadowmage Infiltrator and Undermine, blue/black looks like a strong deck type to look out for.
Another black rare of quality in Odyssey is Braids, Cabal Minion. She is another good card for that blue/black deck I said would be big. Whereas you can replace the lands (or whatever) you are sacrificing to her, the opponent is going to struggle to keep up when he must constantly topdeck land just to be able to afford any spells he topdecks which could help him. Having no cards in hand, spells getting countered and sacrificing a permanent each turn is a position of no return for pretty much every deck.
In addition, black has some more good discard cards in Mind Burst and Last Rites, and Cabal Shrine is good in a blue/black deck where you can counter the spell in response to the Shrineís ability triggering, putting at least one copy of that spell in their graveyard. You should be able to use Words of Wisdom and Shadowmage Infiltrator to negate the downside to you, but it will hurt them lots. It has potential, but Iíll admit itís not an excellent card, becoming somewhat redundant in the presence of Haunting Echoes. Hint of Insanity should also be mentioned, but it probably wonít see that much play.
Mind Slicer is another good black card in Odyssey, although not for a blue/black discard deck. Itís more for the black/green decks about at the moment. Get down a ĎMonger, this and a deed for board advantage and when you wipe their weenies for a 4-point deed and send this away as well, theyíll lose their hand and be pretty much unable to stop your ĎMonger. So will you, but youíll be the one with a rock hard creature in play. As a final word to black, Skeletal Scrying and Diabolic Tutor are both very good hand-shaping tools.
After black, letís move around our colour circle to red. Red hasnít got that much out of Odyssey, like a lot of sets in the past. Mainly it got some half-decent burn spells in Fire Bolt, Flameburst and Blazing Salvo, but nothing excellent. Minotaur Explorer is certainly worthy of note, being a 3/3 with no attacking restrictions for 2 mana with a minimal downside. Aside from this, Kamahl is cool, but red really hasnít got anything awesome. This said, however, Epicentre is good and Demolish is great land destruction. Molten influence could also see play. Also, Obstinate Familiar can give blue decks hell by forcing them to look for an answer or a new win condition. Finally, Volcanic Spray does what Earthquake and Breath of Darigaaz canít Ė it kills weenies once and then kills the ones that replace them, at the cost of being able to kill things slightly bigger. Basically, no new deck types are going to form out of Odysseyís red cards, but land destruction has been boosted and some cheap removal have been added which could well be used. A Phyrexian Tyranny / Obstinate Familiar deck could be made, and an Epicentre / Terravore deck could be the type 2 equivalent of an extended-viable Terravore / íGeddon deck, but nothing really.
Speaking of Terravore, it is something which at the moment wonít really be used in any of the traditional stompy-style decks about. It could get used, as I say, in a format with Armageddon, but thatís sadly not this type 2. In this type 2, it could get used in a green threshold deck running Rites of Spring and other cards for discarding land as a cheap, growing, moderate-sized trampler. Alongside medium-fat sized critters like those from Beast Attack and Roar of the Wurm, Werebear and Krosan Beast with Ground Seal for defence, a green threshold deck is more than viable for green, although the backup it would need to sustain itself against, for one, Pernicious Deed, is decidedly scarce. This said, it does have excellent anti-blue defence in the shape of Spellbane Centaur and kill card in Overrun. Add Compost and Creeping Mold in 7th and a certain Odyssey Artifact Iíll speak of later, and it does seem to be a deck worthy of consideration.
Green hasnít really got anything new and wonderful in Odyssey, but it does have some good more-of-the-same. The token-generating flashback spells are almost without exception good and playable, and the other cards are pretty consistently solid. Mention should also be made of Bearscape, Chlorophant, the excellent Still Life and, to a lesser extent, Squirrel Farm, all of which are good, playable cards.
The gold cards in Odyssey are somewhat limited, the best ones being easily Shadowmage Infiltrator and Iridescent Angel, but there are also the Atogs to mention. As a rule, they are unplayable. However, every rule has exceptions and this is no different. Psychatog is acceptable (yup, itís the blue/black one) and Thaumatog provides the Zuran Orb to our new balanceÖ
Balancing Act. Itís whiteís balance in type 2. It costs 4 mana, alright, but then its effect is that little bit more advanced, if different rather than better. Instead of going down to their number of creatures (sadly, too often 0) and then lands, etc. and cards in hand, you instead balance out the total number of permanents. So, sacrifice all your lands to a Thaumatog and reap the rewards of having good white weenies down when your opponent sacrifices a couple of permanents, discards his or her hand and gets smacked by a huge Atog and friends. Itís a powerful card, if not deck-type making, which it is just short of being, but short nonetheless. White, like red, hasnít received anything game-changing in the new set, but it has got a new load of decent staples. Excellent weenies like Mystic Penitent, Visionary and Crusader, as well as Lieutenant Kirtar, Pianna and Divine Sacrament make for some good white weenie fun. But, as I say, nothing game-changing. Whiteís best partner is still blue, which is a better colour than green in Odysseyís constructed side, and red is still not as good. Black does show some potential with white since Apocalypse, but Odyssey hasnít really helped. So basically, white goes alone or with blue at the moment, but you can still always try one of the other colour combos.
Moving on to our last section, lands and artifacts, we see that there really isnít anything to wow about. The lands are generally poor, the anti-port Deserted Temple being almost usable, but really not worth considering outside of combo with, say, squirrel farm. The Tarnished Citadel (or City of A**e, as it is known) is wholly unplayable and the new-style duals are unimpressive in their inability to help with double mana of a single colour. Threshold lands generally arenít worth the pain, although Barbarian Ring could see some use. Stick with the basics, theyíre the best lands in Odyssey.
Finally, artifacts. There is one clear winner in the artifacts from Odyssey, and that is, of course, Mirari. Best in either land destruction or green token-generating decks, but usable in many different ways, Mirari is a flexible, powerful card advantage monstrosity. Mirari-based decks? Well, probably not, but it will definitely see use in lots of different types of deck. Also worth mentioning in the artifacts are Sandstone Deadfall, one of about three card in type 2 that can handle an Iridescent Angel when itís down, and Steamclaw, an anti-threshold, anti-flashback, excellent in Odyssey sealed, groovy little card. Also hurts Oath decks, Lifeline decks and other types of decks in further-reaching formats.
Finally, I would like to sum up the new deck-types I can see forming around this new set:
I believe that blue/black discard/control is the deck-type that benefits the most from Odyssey. I will certainly be running a variant of this and I expect it to be a very effective style of deck. Secondly, white weenie, either backed up by blue or alone (but probably with blue) will be used, and equally, white/blue control will boom with the angel around. Finally, green stompy has lost ĎDerm and ĎBurst, but has received enough medium-fat and backup cards to make me think that green threshold will be played, although it could disappear quite quickly should it be found too fragile.
If youíve read this all the way through I congratulate you and thank you for taking the time to do so. May your days until November 2003 be successful. Good hunting!