Magic Memories: Masticore

Discussion in 'Single Card Strategies' started by Oversoul, Dec 1, 2017.

  1. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    By the time I was playing Magic against my fellow students in high school at lunch and in an after-school game club, I'd been at it for some years and, by focusing my meager funds on certain deck that I really wanted to build (Slivers, Necro, Academy, Forbidian, Jar) I reached a point where I was generally playing older cards than my peers (who actually purchased booster packs and played with the latest sets) and had more experience piloting my decks than they did. I was also winning a lot, which I liked.

    Some of the decks I ran up against had some fascinating off-the-wall stuff that I'll always remember fondly, but a lot of the time I was facing down, well, fads. Even today, looking back, I'm not sure whether much of what I saw was really "Standard" as in what was called "Type 2" at the time, but it was, at the very least, Standard-like. I don't think very many players at my high school were avid tournament grinders, but they did seem to know enough to find cards that were good in Standard and Extended and play those cards. When a new set came out, they acquired and played the popular new tech. This was not every game against every player, but it did mean that I found myself seated across a lot of Threshold and Madness decks. I didn't follow new set releases back then, so I didn't know what I was going up against until it was too late. But despite all that, like I said, I was winning a lot.

    For reasons that, to some extent, escape me 15 years after the fact, I had a habit of holding back my combo decks and using them in big multiplayer games. Maybe I subconsciously wanted to lose and figured that more opponents meant more chances for someone to stop me. Or maybe I felt like it would be more of a triumph to take down a full table than it would be to combo out against one person. Or maybe I was just a huge jerk and wanted to ruin big multiplayer games by killing everyone at once. Whatever the case, I refrained from playing my combo decks except against the strongest known opponents or in big multiplayer games. For most duels, I played control decks.

    My control decks were not built specifically to have an advantage against the new cards. In fact, I had a kind of reckless lack of respect for what new cards were capable of, trusting the power of my old favorites like Force of Will, Arcane Denial, Hymn to Tourach, etc. And against the Invasion and Odyssey Block stuff, my control decks stood their ground. But then the new kid on the block showed up. Er, the new block showed up. Onslaught Block brought in a new fad: tribal decks. Goblins, elves, clerics, wizards, zombies, birds, soldiers, beasts, and even, to my dismay, new slivers.

    With so many creature swarms going around, a Counterspell wasn't going to cut it. I'd be overwhelmed. If this were a good story, here'd come the part where I had some sort of revelation. I'd start losing more and have to come to grips with it. I'd adapt and grow as a player. Cool stuff like that. But reality doesn't always play out like a good story. Instead of my control decks faltering and me adapting to changes, it was generally the case that the creature swarms coming for my head ran up against some sort of wall. I kept winning! Some card that was already in my decks anyway would, by my own dumb luck, expose a weakness of the latest fad and reinforce my mistaken belief that the old cards were the best cards and that new cards sucked. And most prevalent of all was Masticore.
    Dropping this thing and using it to singlehandedly dominate the board against an opponent with a bunch of 1/1 elves might have been the first time I finally felt sorry for an opponent.
  2. Psarketos Metacompositional Theoretician

    This is a card that was very popular in news and player talk when I was playing, and yet I never actuallly played against one or even saw one played in person. That may have something to do with me running main deck copies of Serenity, because it was one of the most beautiful cards mechanically and visually to me at the time.
  3. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I've always had a soft spot for Urza's Destiny. The set did some really cool things and had a lot of very good cards, but the association with the most broken cards in Urza's Saga and Urza's Legacy taints the set as a product of a "broken" era. I think that history has largely vindicated the set in both card design and power level. Historically, the cards that were considered "broken" in the set were, mostly...
    • Masticore
    • Yawgmoth's Bargain
    • Metalworker
    • Replenish
    • Pattern of Rebirth
    • Opposition
    And that's pretty much it. And most of those are fine now. Replenish used to be infamous, but if I played it now, no one would bat an eye. Opposition is oppressive in the right environment, but not really played anymore these days. Pattern of Rebirth (and Academy Rector alongside it) is a strong card, but not considered a problem. Metalworker is still very strong, but not banned anymore. Bargain is currently banned in Legacy, but was recently unrestricted in Vintage. I did one of these threads about it. It's a very powerful card. Maybe the one truly broken card in the set. And Masticore? Well, if anything, it's probably underplayed these days. Or perhaps not. It is still a good card. I don't think the upkeep is what's holding it back, as there are now even more ways to exploit the upkeep cost and turn it into an advantage. The abilities are still fine too. It's just that a 4/4 for 4 isn't as impressive as it used to be.

    Conventional wisdom was once that Morphling was the best creature in the game and Masticore was second. I don't know how true that ever was, but they both certainly saw a lot of play. Morphling took on the mantle once worn by Serra Angel. Control decks back then endeavored to make one big, evasive threat stick and to have it double as a blocker to keep opposing creatures in check, while using instants and sorceries to deal with anything big enough to trade with the versatile threat. Morphling could blank removal spells, swing for 5 in the air, and block most attackers for a bit of investment in blue mana to activate its abilities. Masticore wasn't quite that much of a Swiss Army Knife, but it did have a few advantages for control decks...
    • It was colorless, so any control deck could potentially use it.
    • It could ping utility creatures like Birds of Paradise.
    • It could shoot down multiple creatures in a single turn.
    • It could survive most board wipe (albeit not Wrath of God).
    • With enough mana, it could wear away at opposing attempts to build a creature army and even keep opponents from casting their creature spells at all (because dropping that 3/3 feels bad when your opponent pings it to death at the end of your turn.
    • It could block a really big attacker and live.
    • Its upkeep "cost" could be exploited, especially when used with Odyssey Block cards.
  4. Psarketos Metacompositional Theoretician

    I have been meaning to ask you - would you allow Debt to the Deathless as a Leyline of Sanctity dodging alternative to Tendrils of Agony? ;)
  5. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I guess I should do one of these threads for Tendrils of Agony, huh? I should note that I do like the card (and will eventually make a Memories thread about it, I'm sure), but using it in my forum avatar and signature was the product of a bit of deliberation. Some pro wrestling fans, usually Ransac, would do these silly battle threads in the "Battle Arena" forum section, with lots of silly fighting stuff that was a kind of mishmash of pro wrestling and Magic. At some point, I wanted to have a gimmick for those threads, and, for reasons I've now completely forgotten, my gimmick was that I'd have a bunch of tentacles. Maybe Spiderman's gimmick of, uh, being Spiderman reminded me of Doctor Octavius from the Spiderman comics? I honestly can't remember. Anyway, I went with tentacles and it stuck, so "The Tentacled One" became what I went with on my forum title thingy. Not exactly inspired, but Turgy has "Nothing Special" as his, so I don't think I'm doing that badly with it. :p

    At some point, I made my forum avatar the art from Tendrils of Agony, which fit with my "The Tentacled One" title. I forget if the signature was before or after that, but I think it does a good job of conveying my passion for combo decks. Tendrils of Agony really is my favorite kill card, and has some nice advantages, but before I was using it, I used Drain Life and such, which is similar to Debt to the Deathless in principle (although not in scale). I like Tendrils because it doesn't necessarily require much mana buildup. In building an engine that finds cards and provides mana to cast them, you naturally cast enough spells that it becomes realistic to kill an opponent with Tendrils. Also, it dodges most countermagic because Storm is a triggered ability.

    I absolutely despise Leyline of Sanctity, but not for the sake of Storm combo decks. Most Storm combo decks are built to be able to handle hate cards. Many a tournament combo player has used Chain of Vapor or something similar to get rid of a pesky Leyline of Sanctity. No, my hatred for Leyline of Sanctity is because of what it does to Burn decks. From the very start of Magic, it has been a tradition that red gets instants and sorceries that can deal direct damage to creatures or players. They also decided not to give red any way to deal with enchantments (red did eventually get Chaos Warp, but that's not really practical for a Burn deck). So to make an enchantment that completely blanks an entire archetype on turn 0, fighting decks in the color least able to deal with enchantments? I think that's a huge mistake. But yeah, Tendrils decks almost universally run blue and can bounce a Leyline.

    Debt to the Deathless doesn't really strike me as a replacement for Tendrils of Agony because when I cast Tendrils, I don't usually have another 10 mana floating around. And an opponent can also simply hit it with Force of Will or whatever, which Tendrils gets some natural protection against. Debt to the Deathless strikes me as having more in common with Exsanguinate, which I have used in some combo decks. And the doubling effect on Debt to the Deathless is a very nice bonus. So far, I've always gone with Exsanguinate over it because most of these combos are going for big mana anyway (like with Songs of the Damned) and the WW in the cost is prohibitive. White is one of the worst colors for fast combo decks to try and work with, and most of the white spells that are good for them only have a single W requirement. There are occasional exceptions, like decks based around Second Sunrise, but all four of the other colors get way more. Not saying that a Debt to the Deathless combo deck isn't feasible. But it'd take something special to make me run it over Exsanguinate.
    Psarketos likes this.
  6. Psarketos Metacompositional Theoretician

    As a Nayan mage at heart (those early experiences with a UB artifact control mage), I have always been a big fan both of creatureless burn and the player hexproof plus life gain that completely shuts it down.
  7. Spiderman CPA Man in Tights, Dopey Administrative Assistant

  8. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Back when Survival of the Fittest decks were true toolbox decks, long before they were swarming people with salad elementals, Masticore was one of their most reliable choices. I never saw a Survival deck that was based entirely around Masticore, but a lot of them used the card and it was a solid threat. Survival decks used Squee anyway, so Masticore's upkeep wasn't a problem. And a 4/4 regenerating creature that threatened to shoot small creatures was a threat that had to be dealt with.
  9. Terentius The Instigator

    There was a similar card called Razormane Masticore originally from the Mirrodin block I think; I got it in the Elspeth vs Tezzeret Duel Deck, and I've had it bookmarked waiting to put it in a deck. Can only ping a creature for 3 once per turn, but doesn't need mana to do it. Madness Commander??
  10. Psarketos Metacompositional Theoretician

    Spiderman - I couldnt figure out what your one word question was referencing, so I made you the card I would make if I won the World Championship in the past when that got you the opportunity to design and appear in a card:

    Gimmick Mage

    RWG - 2/3 Human Druid Wizard

    When Gimmick Mage enters the battlefield, search your library for a permanent with converted mana cost 3 or less and put it onto the battlefield. It gains haste and your opponents gain 3 life.
  11. Mooseman Isengar Tussle

    Wouldn't Gimicky be more like
    Search your library for a permanent with converted mana cost of 1, 2 or 3 and put it onto the battlefield. It gains haste and your opponents gain q,2 or 3 life, respectively.
  12. Psarketos Metacompositional Theoretician

    I have no idea what Spiderman means or is asking with that term, so you definitely could be right! :)
  13. Spiderman CPA Man in Tights, Dopey Administrative Assistant

    Sorry, I was referring to

    It was the only place where it was used in the post so I though it was easily referable. I just have no idea what Oversoul meant by that :)
  14. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Well, now that this has come up...

    There are three cards with "Masticore" printed as the creature type. The original from Urza's Destiny is the most famous. There was also Razormane Masticore in Fifth Dawn (reprinted in the Tezzeret deck of Duel Decks: Elspeth vs. Tezzeret and also reprinted in Tenth Edition) and Molten-Tail Masticore in Scars of Mirrodin.
    The original is most famous, but both later versions are strong cards in their own right. The common theme is that all three of them have power/toughness equal to their mana cost, have the same upkeep cost of discarding a card, have some ability that helps them in combat, and also have a targeted direct damage ability. Broadly speaking, they're worth it, and each card was something of a powerhouse in its respective set.

    Razormane Masticore is a bit bigger and a bit more expensive. Its abilities do not cost mana. They're more limited in scope, but I think the tradeoff is that you get less of a utility creature and more of a heavy-hitter. A 5/5 first strike creature is a potent threat, and getting to smack one opposing creature per turn for 3 damage is an impressive bonus.

    Molten-Tail Masticore is the most recent and least famous member of the family. Its stats and regeneration are the same as the original, but instead of its damage ability being 2 mana for 1 damage to a creature, it gets 4 mana and exiling a creature card from your graveyard for 4 damage to a creature or player. With a steady supply of a dead creatures for fuel, this is a powerful ability.

    Which Masticore is the best? Well, that's up to you. All three are respectable and have their own advantages. The original has seen the most tournament play, which is probably a combination of a few factors...
    • When it came out, a 4/4 for 4 was unusually efficient. The only precedent was Su-Chi, a card with an ability that was usually a drawback because of mana burn.
    • For the first few years of Masticore's existence, matchups between grindy control decks and creature swarms were important. A creature that could block, ping X/1 and X/2 threats with direct damage, and regenerate all without any color requirements was amazing in that context.
    • It could survive Nevinyrral's Disk, Pernicious Deed, Wildfire, etc. A big deal when Masticore was new, still a big deal when Razormane Masticore showed up, but less relevant by the time Molten-Tail Masticore arrived.
    • It didn't need dead creatures as fuel. Not having anything to exile when you need that direct damage is annoying.
    • 2 mana for 1 damage is more costly per damage, but having a smaller activation makes it more convenient to pick off a single utility creature or to split damage between multiple targets. Like wise, the damage ability on Razormane Masticore is a draw-step trigger and can only hit one target, which is more restrictive.
    Personally, I think that Molten-Tail Masticore is a bit underrrated. It came out in a set with a very high power level and had no really good niche for Constructed decks in that environment. The original and Razormane have both seen more use, with the preferred choice being situational. Do you want an activated machine gun ability or do you want a once-per-turn 3 damage blast? Do you want a 5-drop that won't tie up your mana or a 4-drop that requires mana open to use its abilities? Do you value first strike or regeneration? Ultimately, I think that all three are strong cards and the choice of which to include depends on deck construction and on the metagame. Their upkeep cost makes it unlikely that you'd want to use them together in the same deck.
  15. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    It was a while ago and I don't know how much you followed those threads. Usually it was Battle Arena stuff and the very silly threads there. Different posters, as characters, would have different things they'd "fight" with. One of Ransac's gimmicks was hitting people over the head with a lead rabbit. He also summoned weasels. Orgg's gimmick was that the was an orgg, a big, strong creature. I didn't really have anything at first, but when I joined in I started developing things in response to what others would do. Ransac liked using attacks that would render people unconscious, so one gimmick I used was that when I wasn't awake, I'd randomly cast red spells. I forget what else. Mooseman was in some of them and was mostly just a regular guy doing regular things, like an innocent bystander or something. You were in some of those threads and the assumption seemed to be that your "abilities" matched the comic book Spiderman. So that'd be your "gimmick." You used your web-shooters to incapacitate Ransac on a couple of occasions, I think. And there might even have been some of these threads in which you weren't posting at all, but someone would mention that some big attack, an explosion or whatever, threw some trouble your way, but it would be noted that your spider senses allowed you to avoid harm.
    Psarketos likes this.
  16. Psarketos Metacompositional Theoretician

    I will just point out that Balefire could bounce Riftsweeper and Genesis Hydra with Couldstone Curio and Verdant Eidolon to feed Molten-Tail an unbounded amount of colorless targeted damage to creatures, planeswalkers, and players...(ergo it is almost certainly the objective best...) ;)
    Oversoul likes this.
  17. Spiderman CPA Man in Tights, Dopey Administrative Assistant

    I followed/follow *everything* :)

    Ah, okay, the Battle Arena. Now I understand :)
  18. Ransac CPA Trash Man

    *Ransac runs in and hits Spiderman over the head with a lead rabbit.*

    That'll teach you to remember obscure Battle Arena posts from over a decade ago...

    Ransac, cpa trash man
    Oversoul likes this.
  19. Spiderman CPA Man in Tights, Dopey Administrative Assistant

    Me? What about Oversoul?!?! He brought them up...
  20. Mooseman Isengar Tussle

    Ransac always is about the chaos.
    Spiderman likes this.

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