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Limited observations on Scars of Mirrodin

November 1, 2010

So, with the first leg of the fall semester now behind me I can sink my teeth into Magic again for real as well as spending more time on the blog compared to what I have done so far this month. While my writing as certainly been lacking, I have gotten down and played around with the Standard format along with Scars of Mirrodin limited quite a bit during the last 3-4 weeks. So what I have learned so far and my opinion on the state of these formats (including Extended) is certainly topics that will get highlighted by me during the time left leading up to Worlds, starting right now!

The current state of the Standard format is an interesting subject but that you will have to wait for. First some observation I have made about Scars of Mirrodin limited.

Perplexing Sealed portion. One unique thing with Scars of Mirrodin compared to an “average” set is the on average amount of playable floating around. Not only are there a lot of playable in general, a lot of them are artifacts which means anyone can play them. This leads to the fact that it’s hard not to get a 40 card deck together in a 6x Scars of Mirrodin Sealed. From the fact one could make the assumption that it’s easy to build decks in this format.

To that statement I say both yes and no. Yes, it’s easy to build a reasonable deck together and play with. It’s hard to severely miss build your deck out of the given cardpool. No, it’s really difficult to harvest your pools fullest potential. Out of the 10ish Sealed pools I have opened so far, I think only 1 or 2 of those pools I felt I built correctly from the start. It’s just a ton of options in each and every pool and it’s really hard to measure up all your options in 30 minutes. And that being said, there is also the option that lots of people neglect to sideboard in/out colors depending on the match up.

The most frequent situation I end up in where the “transformational” sideboarding comes up for me is when I’m facing a matchup (often Infect) where the game stalls out and it’s really hard to get through for damage. In those cases I like to bring in the blue if I’m not playing blue in the main so I can get those Neurok Invisimancer, Sky-Eel School and Scrapdriver Serpent in there. It’s a Hail Mary-pass, sure but at least you are trying to do something in order to get an edge in those tight games.

These factor makes Scars of Mirrodin a really diverse and complex Sealed format. It’s like the slogan they have for Othello. Easy to learn, hard to master.

Infect is very real. Initially I thought that Infect wasn’t that good and it was suicide to try to force this school. I was clearly wrong about that. Infect is indeed very real. The Infect decks can be really quick thanks to equipments or Untamed Might for the win and having “wither” in creature combat is really annoying to play against. Blight Mamba, I’m looking at you…

That being said, some words of caution. There aren’t enough infect cards to fuel endless number of players in one draft. And that leads to if too many people has settled on the infect route several if not all of the players aiming for the infect deck is going to end up without enough playable infect cards. And those half-and-half decks with ~50% of the creatures in the deck has infect and the other ~50% are normal creature are really terrible. You don’t ever want end up in that situation…

Another benefit of going the infect route is that you don’t have to play with that many artifacts and the artifacts aren’t the key cards in your deck, which leads to my next observation…

The value of just plain good cards and the danger of the “we are in artifact land”-mindset. This is a lesson I have learned the hard way and I certain that I’m not the only one. While artifacts is the standout theme in Scars of Mirrodin it’s not the whole world. There is room for just straight up good cards and stuff like Infect. Therefore you should be careful evaluating Shatter-effects.

I was at FNM last week and I drafted a pretty strong deck. It was red-white with a good curve with a Kuldotha Phoenix as the highlight finisher. I had also a Oxiddia Scrapmelter along with 3 Shatters and a Revoke Existence. But I only had a Turn to Slag as “real” removal. That left me fairly cold against the Infect deck I played in first round. I wasn’t fast enough to race, my guys was too small to hold the ground and I didn’t have any removal really to stabilize. I was saved by Liquidmetal Coating in one game but I was hopeless in the other games.

The lesson here is not to over evaluate artifact removal otherwise you might fall into the trap I did in the example above. You should pick Shatter-effects very high at first, but after you have 1 or two you need to be careful. In Sealed it’s more forgiving as players in general are forced to play with more artifacts due how pools normally shape up so you don’t have to be as afraid there.

This also leads me to the lesson of thinking again about cards that might not be super synergistic with your deck but are overall solid. Stuff like Sky-Eel School (3/3 flier that is not an artifact is harder to handle than you might think) and fatties like Alpha Tyrranax goes late in draft and gets left out a lot in deck building these cards are good. Huge stats or evasion (or both!) on a non-artifact creature is surprisingly good.

Blue? Blue kinda sucks in Scars of Mirrodin. This feel really strange to say compared how good and dominant blue was in M11 and how good blue is as a color in general, but it’s true. In my book blue as a color has two problems in Scars of Mirrodin. First, the color is quite shallow. The playables are few and there are a lot of niche cards which only suits a certain number of decks. Then there is the fact that blue doesn’t interacts with artifacts that well. It’s sounds weird but that is the feeling I have. Lumengrid Drake is fine but that’s about it at the common slot. Vedalken Certarch is passable but I never want to play that card if I don’t have to.

But blue isn’t a complete mess thought. There are certainly some highlights when you look at the uncommons. Volition Reins is one of the best uncommons in the set and Riddlesmith, Trinket Mage and even Darkslick Drake are powerful. I have seen lot of late Sky-Eel School late in drafts I have done and just recently I saw a Volition Reins going as late as 6th. At first I was like “what the fudge is going on here?” but know I understand what’s going on.

You shouldn’t fight about being blue in this format but you definitely shouldn’t be afraid of scooping up the goodies when they come. And I promise you, they will come.

Know when to play niche cards and when to leave ’em on the sideline. Scars of Mirrodin has a lot of narrow, situational cards… “niche” cards if you will. Metalcraft forces/reward people of playing otherwise slightly awkward cards such as random equipments, spellbombs and random artifact guys. But that most people realize quite quickly what value a random artifact has for the deck you are currently playing.

However there are two cards in particular I want to highlight. The first is Furnace Celebration. This is a card Conley Woods has vouches for a lot in his articles over at channelfireball.com and rightly so. In any given deck Furnace Celebration is most often not going to make the cut but if you can pick one up relatively early in a draft and can build your deck around it, Furnace Celebration can be really powerful. And the beauty with this plan is that you don’t actually have to play with cards that are straight up bad to make Furnace Celebration work either. Spellbombs and Replicas are decent to good on their own, Fume Spitter is very strong on its own already and stuff like Ferrovore is also decent even without a Furnace Celebration in play and there are plenty more stuff to sacrifice stuff in this set. RB Furnace Celebration is one of my favorite archetypes to draft right now. It’s hard to force though since you really need Furnace Celebration to put the deck over the top so to say. But I always have an eye out to draft that deck.

The other card is Liquidmetal Coating. This card is really interesting since like Furnace Celebration it doesn’t do anything on its own which is normally condition you want your cards to have in limited (ideally). And yes, there are rightly so times where you should leave this card on the bench but I think this card is left on the bench more than it should at this point. The coating is 2/3 of Metalcraft on its own and it does set up a lot of cards. Shatter-effects becomes real removal spells (and even land destruction for that matter), it setups more plays with Tel-Jilad Defiance and it can also create near endless food for your Barrage Ogres and Ferrovores. All in all Liquidmetal Coating has a lot of potential. The key is to realize when you can harvest that potential and when you shouldn’t try.

That where some observations I have made from playing Scars of Mirrodin limited up till now and I hope you learned something or realized some thing today. I have done a couple of drafts on MODO so I think I will be doing a walk through of one of them in a near future. Until next time…


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