Magic Memories: Rootwater Matriarch

Discussion in 'Single Card Strategies' started by Oversoul, Nov 6, 2017.

  1. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    When the CPA had more activity, some of the cards I've written about in these threads would be criticized as "tournament cards." And like I said in the Wheel of Fortune thread, I have mixed feelings on the concept. I also noted this in one of my Comboist Manifesto articles (I forget which one and it's not important), but I've been influenced by an argument here between Ransac and Al0ysiusHWWW over the "casual" credentials of the card Mutavault. The gist of it was that Al0ysiusHWWW cited Mutavault as a casual card for the "Casual Card Hall of Fame" because he loved man-lands and the combination of an efficient man-land and the Changeling mechanic had some interesting applications that were right up his alley, while Ransac had seen the ubiquity of the card in tournaments and didn't like the notion that such a card was ideal as an example of a casual card.

    On that issue, I sympathized with both sides, although ultimately my own reaction came down to trepidation at the circumstances. Al0ysiusHWWW played in more tournaments than I ever did, but he wasn't much of a tournament player and, at the time when Morningtide was a current set, he had dropped out of tournament play entirely and was strictly building his own casual brews. He didn't follow tournament play at that time at all and his biggest exposure to it would have been from me chatting about particular Legacy decks. Ransac actually did play Standard. So the idea that a "tournament player" could dictate to a "casual player" which cards were and were not casual struck me as bizarre. Of course, the issue was really more nuanced than that. The argument wasn't over whether Mutavault was acceptable for casual gameplay to begin with, but whether it was "Hall of Fame" material. And that's a different thing.

    I'm thinking it's kind of a spectrum. Just looking at cards I've started threads on here, I see stuff like...

    Survival of the Fittest: multi-format superstar. Sure, you can use it in casual decks and people do, but lots of people are bound to associate the card with Rec-Sur, or ATS, or Vengevival, or Madness, or Full English Breakfast, or whatever.

    ...and also stuff like...

    Pursuit of Knowledge: either completely unknown in tournament gameplay or close enough to it that it might as well be, but remember fondly by the minority of casual players who found a niche for it in some deck.

    ...but most card are in between, like, uh...

    Soldevi Digger: spotted in tournament decks, mostly CounterPost, but not that prolific as a tournament card. Also valued for its utility in casual decks.

    This seems fine. It is good to showcase a diverse range of cards. Being "memories" I'm stuck with what I can actually remember, and there's a definite bias there, both in terms of what I chose to use historically and in terms of what was available historically. That's why I started a thread about Abyssal Hunter and not Harbinger of Night (I owned both cards, but never actually put Harbinger in my decks). It's also why I started a thread about Wheel of Fortune and not Timetwister (I really liked both cards, but never got my hands on a copy of Timetwister until 2015).

    Pondering this, I do want to dedicate more space to some of the cards in my memories that might be a bit more weighted toward the "Pursuit of Knowledge" side of the spectrum. Not that I'm actually quantifying these things. But here's one, anyway...

    Anyone ever use this card? I may be ever so slightly guilty of being one of those players called a "blue mage" and I know we're suckers for taking control of other people's stuff. In my early years, I only owned one copy of Rootwater Matriarch, but I tried her out with various shenanigans. I think it's fair to call Rootwater Matriarch "obscure" because I don't remember ever seeing anyone else use the card, although some people must have at some point.
  2. Psarketos Metacompositional Theoretician

    I started playing when Mirage was new, and I have literally never seen this card.
  3. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I wanted to lead with the Matriarch herself in all her glory, mostly because it seems like there's a reasonable chance that someone might read this thread and say, "I used the card." On its own it is a bit awkward, but certainly not a bad card.

    However, I don't think that anyone would guess my super secret Rootwater Matriarch tech. If the Matriarch isn't obscure enough, well, how about this?


    If you read Kjeldoran Pride and protested, "But Oversoul, when you move the aura to a different creature you lose control of the first one, so this is a nonbo" then congratulations for paying attention. It's true. You're perfectly free to enchant an opponent's creature with Kjeldoran Pride, then take control of the creature with Rootwater Matriarch. You can then activate Kjeldoran Pride's ability, at which point you lose control of the creature because it is no longer enchanted. Way to go, loser. Well, this does have very minor utility in that you can put the aura on one creature to steal it and later upgrade by swapping the aura to something else, losing control of the first creature but allowing the Matriarch to steal your new target. And that's about it...

    But, but, but that's now. When I was using this "nonbo" in the early 00's, Magic had Sixth Edition Rules. So it was before the 2009 rules upheaval that took combat damage off the stack. Remember that? Anyway, this had some nuanced implications for Kjeldoran Pride. If I used Rootwater Matriarch to steal your creature and then attacked with it, under the old rules, I'd have the threat of letting combat damage go on the stack (perhaps trading your stolen creature for a blocker) and then moving Kjeldoran Pride onto something else.
  4. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    The classic problem with auras is the inherent risk of card disadvantage. I play a creature, you play spell that kills the creature, and we're each down one card. But if I play a creature and put an aura on it, then you kill the creature, you're down one card and I'm down two cards. Kjeldoran Pride was kind of an early prototype of mechanics that would later be used to mitigate this weakness. A popular and successful take on this, in Urza's Block, was to simply have the auras return to your hand instead of dying, like Rancor and Launch. Other concepts that attacked the problem included the Licids from Rath Block and the Bestow mechanic from Theros Block. While Rootwater Matriarch isn't compatible with every mechanic to do something like this (Totem Armor is out), it does have some synergy with most of them. In a way, it's not just that Rootwater Matriarch is boosted by reusable or sticky auras, but Rootwater Matriarch substantially boosts some of them because it forces opponents to deal with their own enchanted creatures, even if Rootwater Matriarch dies. That last part is important. If I enchant and steal three creatures from you, killing Rootwater Matriarch only prevents me from stealing more of your stuff in the future, but does not return control of your creatures to you.
  5. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Like Scalpalexis, Rootwater Matriarch was reprinted in Tenth Edition, which in both cases I either didn't know or had forgotten until I started a thread about the card. Weird. What was going on with Tenth Edition anyway? I was a bit busy and poor at the time, but I always just thought of it as the last of the "traditional" core sets. But looking through the set list, it reprinted a lot of cards that I actually liked! Well, I had stopped using Rootwater Matriarch long before Tenth Edition reprinted it, and I never saw or heard of anyone using it at the time that Tenth Edition was current.
  6. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Probably the best use of Rootwater Matriarch is to spam auras and steal multiple creatures. With just one aura, you're doing a tenuous impression of Seasinger. But if you steal three things with three auras, Rootwater Matriarch has generated real value and the only response an opponent might have to ruin that would be something like Tranquility. This approach is perfectly valid and quite fun. It is (or was) strictly casual just because the sort of control decks that would be poised to utilize such effects in tournament play could not afford to devote valuable deck space to auras. They tended to run few creatures, so if the Matriarch was shut down early, the player would be left with a hand containing auras and no good targets for them. The synergy is strong, but situational. Like a lot of other cards, this is something that can and does work in casual Magic, but the stars would have had to align for it to be a tournament thing, and that never happened.

    I think I used Rootwater Matriarch in all versions of my old Seattle Highlander deck (this was in an extinct 150-card format that later spawned other Highlander variations). When I built my first EDH deck (Zur the Enchanter), I had singled out Rootwater Matriarch as a tentative inclusion, but if I remember correctly I trimmed the card before I finalized a list. And really, that was where we parted ways. Other than seeing it while sorting and reviewing my Tempest cards, I've not touched it or really though much about it. I left it alone entirely and then, while pondering cards for Magic Memories, I was swept back into my vague recollections of intricate shenanigans with Rootwater Matriarch and Kjeldoran Pride. Moving the enchantment and stealing a new creature with combat damage on the stack, or after attackers have been declared, or at the end of an opponent's turn. It was especially disruptive in multiplayer games.
  7. Terentius The Instigator

    Hard to believe it couldn't find a place in a Zur the Enchanter Commander deck?
  8. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    The competition for slots was fierce! I had a list of card written down, including a lot of cards that were ultimately cut, but sadly it did not survive. However, I might actually be misremembering and it's possible that Rootwater Matriarch did make it into early versions of Zur deck. It does have a very strong synergy with the enchantment theme. I didn't play the deck much and lost interest shortly after the game here at the CPA (which I was totally going to win) was officially abandoned. But before it was abandoned it did generate what might be my favorite line in the Games Run board...

    Anyway, no Rootwater Matriarch showed up in that game and I'm 80% sure that there wasn't one in that incarnation of my Zur deck at all, but it is possible that the card was in another version of the deck before or after we played that game. My recollection is spotty, but it seems like something I would have done.

    Incidentally, while I do call Rootwater Matriarch obscure, online searching indicates that, for the power level of the card and its age, it does seem to have a fair amount of representation in Commander decks. Speculating on this, I'd attribute it in part to the fact that Rootwater Matriarch is a merfolk and that tribal merfolk are very popular. Rootwater Matriarch also shows up in Hakim Loreweaver decks, which makes sense.
  9. Psarketos Metacompositional Theoretician

    Could have been an interesting midgame control option for my old Binding Agony + Fire Covenant deck, if I had thought it possible then to run a three color deck and also thought to make the third color blue for control and helping find the combo. A Grixis combo-control deck a decade before Grixis.
  10. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I did not have a dedicated deck for it, but I used that exact combo. Fire Covenant is a very alluring card for casual players (despite never being nominated for the Casual Card Hall of Fame).

    Of course, Rootwater Matriarch and Binding Agony do not work very well together. But if the goal is set up Binding Agony + Fire Covenant anyway, Rootwater Matriarch might offer some utility in controlling the game for a while in preparation for the kill. It could work...
  11. Shabbaman insert avatar here

    Oversoul and Psarketos like this.
  12. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Ramses Overdark, huh? Got to show people that you're an OG Commander player! I can see why Rootwater Matriarch would be iffy there, though. Your commander is killing enchanted creatures already, so why bother stealing them? Could fall back on which of the two is more practical at the time, of course.

    I'm impressed that even with so few people on this site, when I post some old card that was never really that popular, someone manages to chime in and turns out to have used it at some point.
  13. Shabbaman insert avatar here

    The thing with Ramses is that he has a high CMC and is very situational. You need a good number of aura's to make him work to begin with, so a card that can benefit from those aura's is likely better than Ramses. I'm using the aura's to trigger Willbreaker or Agent of the Fates nowadays.

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