Thereâ€™s just something fantastic about your first time opening a pack from a new set.Â Youâ€™ve been seeing preview cards for the past month or so, but thereâ€™s something different about having the cards physically in your hands.Â Maybe itâ€™s the smell of fresh card stock.Â I donâ€™t know.Â All I know is that itâ€™s awesome.
One of my favorite things about it is seeing the new cards for the first time.Â I love seeing how the always-awesome R&D staff at Wizards has changed the landscape of the game with new mechanics.Â I love seeing the cool new art that Wizards has commissioned from the dozens of extremely talented artists that surround the globe.Â Perhaps most of all, I love seeing when an old favorite makes a triumphant return.Â For those of you like me, I have a few treats for you.Â But first a small flashback…
I have been playing Magic both competitively and casually since before they came with white borders.Â Iâ€™m old school.Â One of the very first cards I ever fell in love with was a lovable little snake from Weatherlight with an obtusely worded ability.Â At first, I had no idea how this card could possibly be good.Â I mean, the object of the game is to reduce your opponent to zero, so why would I ever want to have a creature deal no damage?Â All it took was one more set and a fellow named Jon Finkel to show me the things that little â€˜Phiddy was actually capable of.Â Between an always full hand and the recursion of Forbid, â€˜Phiddy had all kinds of things to keep himself busy.Â You know, I guess having him deal no damage wasnâ€™t that bad a drawback after all.
Fast forward a decade or so (jeezâ€¦).Â Soon, we will have the newest in Ophidian variants at our disposal:
While he lacks the evasion of some of his powerful predecessors (Iâ€™m looking at you Thieving Magpie andÂ Shadowmage Infiltrator), he does come complete with something very important: a new creature type.Â Thatâ€™s right, Ophidian is now a Merfolk.Â This seemingly insignificant change actually does wonders for the little guy.Â With Merfolk taking front stage as the new major supported creature type for blue, Scroll Thief is backed by a serious amount of support.Â With cards like Coralhelm Commander and Merfolk Sovereign, he has some buddies in Standard to make him hit like a Mack truck.Â In fact, the Sovereign can even make him unblockable, making sure he gets through for that hit and a card (assuming the Sovereignâ€™s still in M11).
As an old school Five-color player, I have fond memories of another card leaping from my 250-card monstrosity to save me.Â My opponent has a Yawgmoths Bargain out?Â Or a Moat?Â What about Chains of Mephistopheles (Iâ€™m looking at you, Travis)?Â Pardon me while I Worldly Tutor for my two-mana answer: Monk Realist.Â Whenever my opponents threatened to get out of hand with wacky enchantments, this little guy was always there to keep it real.Â I think I may have brought him back with a Recurring Nightmare more than any other creature in Magic.Â Unfortunately, he suffered from a very similar disease to the one that afflicted my poor Ophidian: his one-powered body just didnâ€™t offer much in the way of damage.
Enter the War Priest of Thune.Â Following the trend of previous sets, R&D has set out to push the line of what can be crammed onto a creature for a given cost.Â The War Priest of Thune weighs in at a respectable 2/2, with the ability to destroy an enchantment, all for the splashably low cost of 1W.Â This guy is right at home in the modern incarnation of White Weenie decks, where every creature seems to be a 2/2 that does something in addition to attacking.Â Heâ€™s a clear upgrade over the Realist, even keeping the same creature types as his predecessor.Â He represents the shift in acceptable power level that has taken place over the past decade or so of Magic.
The Bloodcrazed Goblin is the newest in the line of undercosted Red creatures that have a stipulation about their ability to attack.Â One-drops like this go all the way back to Ice Age and Orcish Conscripts.Â Over time, Wizards experimented with that restriction, taking it to new places.Â First came Mogg Conscripts, requiring a creature spell to be cast first.Â Then, Branded Brawlers prevented you from attacking with them unless the opponent was tapped out.Â Scarred Puma (or the scaredy cat as he was known to us) couldnâ€™t get in there unless you also sent a Black or Green creature.Â The most recent incarnation was M10â€™s Jackal Familiar, which required another attacker to join the party.
This incarnation is an interesting variation on the restriction, requiring damage to have been dealt to your opponent before you can turn him sideways.Â While this isnâ€™t usually too difficult for Red decks, itâ€™s certainly a shift in philosophy for them.Â Usually, Red decks have waited until they had managed to deal a significant amount of damage to an opponent before letting the burn fly to finish them off.Â Now, this little guy is asking you to just aim it at their face to clear him a path.Â Just a little blood, thatâ€™s all heâ€™s asking.Â Whether or not using the resources to burn your opponent to get a few damage through rather than building your board up is a worthwhile concession to make remains to be seen, but if the mono Red decks have taught me anything over this last year, itâ€™s always a good time to aim three damage to your opponentâ€™s face.
This brings up an interesting point.Â Looking at the current Standard field, itâ€™s not exactly clear what existing decks will provide a home for the cards listed above.Â Scroll Thief, with only a three toughness, loses the major benefit Wall of Omens held: its ability to block Sprouting Thrinax and Bloodbraid Elf.Â In addition, the three-drop slot in most decks that would run him is currently filled with Sea Gate Oracle, which may fill the role players are looking for right there a little better than the Thief.Â As for the War Priest of Thune, the format just doesnâ€™t really have any targets for him right now.Â Perhaps in Extended or Legacy, where enchantments play a bigger role, heâ€™ll find some loving.Â After all, heâ€™s very cheap, easily splashable, and you donâ€™t have to use his ability if it would hurt you.
After all is said and done, donâ€™t discount the new guys just yet.Â With the format changing up here in the future, these guys will be the building blocks of the new Standard.Â Theyâ€™ve got what it takes.Â They just need someone to give them a chance.Â Once the rest of the cards in M11 are revealed, weâ€™ll have a better idea of what theyâ€™ll be battling against.Â And I, for one, canâ€™t wait!