Not All That Glitters Is Gold
In a recent article Marshal Sutcliffe talked about the speed of the current limited format. One of the main facets of his article is how slow the set is, and with the fall of a consistent format defining aggro deck (along the lines of Zendikar or triple Gatecrash), larger late game creatures are more important. In his own words: “My hypothesis is that Magic 2014 is not a particularly fast format. This is based on a few tournaments’ worth of anecdotal data procured by yours truly. I currently have no hard data to back up my hypothesis, nor do I have a reasonable sample size of matches from which to work. But I just feel that it’s slow.” He goes on to talk about the cost of certain cards, citing that those cards like five, six, and even seven drop spells might be worth considering in this new format. In addition to this is the simple fact that many players are looking for bombs in all the wrong places. While we can hope and pray to crack a Jace, Memory Adept or other planeswalker in pack one pick one, what few people seem to realize is that the uncommon slot of this set contains some of its most powerful game ending creatures and spells are marked by that beautiful silver symbol. While there are certainly many powerful rares in this set (one underrated rare will be covered in this article) these cards prove all that glitters isn’t gold.
Sengir Vampire and Serra Angel
Both of these cards were easy first picks in their time and still carry on that role in this set. Few players have forgotten the sheer power of Serra Angel. Being able to dominate offensively and defensively makes her one of the most powerful forces in the core set. Sengir Vampire deserves special mention here because it adds potency to any black deck you draft. In previous sets you had access to creatures such as Nekrataal or Deathgazer to rely on. This format black’s creatures, while still potent, have lost a little of their luster. This means that grabbing the vampire is incredibly important to helping your b/x deck go the distance and should be picked over just about anything.
There are several creatures in this set that encourage you to spend an early pick on them. The creature that best exemplifies this point is the mighty five drop Battle Sliver. While many drafters (myself included) avoid the Sliver archetype this card is the one of the few creatures that can force you into the archetype. What separates this creature from the other slivers is the powerful body that has regardless of the other creatures on the board. A 5/3 creature is nothing to slouch at. Adding to these already potent factors is the fact that the Battle Sliver only costs five mana. By the time your opponent’s finishers will hit the ground on turn six or seven you already have a 5/3 creature that is giving every sliver on the board a free Bonesplitter.
Water Servant is one creature that begs you to play blue. At only four mana, Water Servant is absolutely dirt cheap for such a creature that plays well on offense and defense. Its base stats at 3/4 are perfectly reasonable and the ability to have seven toughness for a block, swing for six damage, and still be able to alter the creature to fit your needs is incredibly useful during draft, even bomb-like. Much like the Battle Sliver, Water Servant benefits from an incredibly reasonable casting cost and combines that with an excellent use for your mana if you start to flood.
Air Servant lacks the fancy tricks of its sea dwelling brother but makes up for that with raw power. With four power attached and the ever important “flying” clause means that this creature can put your opponent on a deadly five turn clock without any other help. Furthermore, if your deck’s main strategy consists of playing flyers and owning the skies, the Air Servant’s ability to tap down opposing blockers means that any race in the air is sure to be a very one sided one. This is what separates the Air Servant from “good” cards and catapults it into the bomb category. Even if it eats a removal spell like Claustrophobia or Pacifism it can still use its ability turn after turn. Not only does it contribute to the board by its mere presence but its ability helps your entire team of creatures.
Enlarge has been hailed by some players, such as Vito Gesualdi of DraftMagic.com, as Magic’s new Overrun, and it’s not hard to see why as this sorcery speed bomb is useful during every stage of the game. In a situation where the board has stalled and the table has become littered with creatures, Enlarge forces your opponent to either take a decent amount of damage and lose one monster, or mitigate the damage by losing multiple creatures. This one play alone can often end a stalemate by itself, eliminating many of the potential resources in creatures and life that your opponent needs to stay afloat. Playing this spell while your ahead can often win the game by itself. Even the lowliest of creatures can eat almost half your opponent’s life in one swing and take out an opposing creature or more, allowing you to apply additional pressure to your foe while they are forced to deal with dwindling resources. This is a spell that can help you devastate your opponent at any stage in the game and should be taken highly.
In contrast to its green friend, Shiv’s Embrace is a little more subtle then the creature pumping Enlarge. While you certainly can simply put Shiv’s Embrace on any one of your creatures and swing into the fray with devastating efficiency, this deceptively powerful enchantment works incredibly well when paired with certain creatures. One of the simplest and yet most powerful combinations is to place a copy of Shiv’s Embrace on Dawnstrike Paladin, allowing you to gain life, do massive amounts of damage, and keep your defenses up in the process. This enchantment, due in large part to the evasion it grants and the ability to add additional power when mana flooded can be paired with any number of creatures in any one of the colors with devastating results. Creatures such as Child of Night, Witchstalker, and Scroll Thief not only enjoy the simple power boost from this enchantment but have their own self-contained synergy with the spell.
One of the coolest things about the new format is that Wizards seems to be returning to it’s roots, printing interesting, powerful (but not broken) rares for high mana cost. Several of these creatures are exceptionally powerful but because the format is relatively new players are unsure about their worth is in a draft deck. Among these cards is the amazing blue fatty: Colossal Whale. At seven mana the whale resembles the Primordials from the Return to Ravnica block. However, one of the major differences between the Primordials and this large seafaring mammal is that Colossal Whale is that it is a source of recurring removal in the form of exiling creatures for blue; a color that typically has few ways to directly remove enemy monsters from the board. This ability is especially relevant in a set with creatures like the slivers that rely on board presence. That army of enemy slivers is going to look particularly less scary if the Megantic Sliver or Battle Sliver making them stronger is removed prior to combat damage.
Hopefully, you will find this article helpful and the next time that you crack open a pack of M14 core set you’ll pay special attention to these, and any other bombs just waiting to be unleashed. As always, draft with an open mind and have fun!
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