Greetings and welcome to a special supplemental edition of The Cardboard Witch. Like pretty much everyone else who plays Magic I'm all over new set previews "like a fat kid on a french fry"(no offense to fat kids or french fries, it's good stuff). There's something special about the very first time you see an exciting new card; your mind starts to race with possibilities and you begin constructing whole decks around this new card in your head. I can honestly say that sometimes a really exciting card preview can directly affect how much product I buy from a given set. I know for example that the very first time I saw Grave Titan I immediately wanted to and eventually did buy an entire case of M11. So with Wizards of the Coast releasing a bunch more official Scars of Mirrodin previews today I figured I'd jot down a few thoughts about the card I most want to build a deck around from what we've seen so far. If this promotes a decent discussion we can continue the series as more cards are spoiled. Please remember this is my "snap judgement" on a new card I just saw this morning and is therefore based on no actual testing whatsoever. Millage may vary.
So lets start our first review off by asking the question; "What would a card look like if you combined Shivan Dragon with a one-sided Pernicious Deed while simultaneously making it easier to cast than both of them?" The answer is coming in Scars of Mirrodin:
For the vision impaired (including me):
(2): Steel Hellkite gets +1/+0 until end of turn
(X): Destroy each nonland permanent with converted mana cost X whose controller was dealt damage by Steel Hellkite this turn. Activate the ability only once each turn.
Wow. Let me start by stating the obvious; this card is very good and I'm not just talking about in draft. 6 Colorless mana for a 5/5 Flyer is a reasonable price and while I'm sure nobody is going to write home about the "pump" ability; nuking your opponents entire non-land board REGARDLESS of card type is incredibly powerful. Think about it this way; if you had 6 mana to cast the Dragon you can probably activate it's ability for 6 on the next turn. We're talking about mass nuking planeswalkers, artifacts, enchantments, random creatures and even Titans in one fell swoop here. Better yet we're talking about doing it turn after turn until your opponent deals with the Hellkite or simply loses the game. The fact that *all* of this can be accomplished with colorless mana is particularly frightening; essentially turning any deck of any color that can cast and stick one of these babies into a recurring control engine. I feel pretty confident in saying right now that an absolutely huge number of post Scars games will involve players scooping with no answer to the Steel Hellkite. Of course like any creature it can be killed/controlled in a number of ways but that hardly changes the fact that if your opponent fails to do so using the activated ability even once on this card is potentially game over.
At this point of course it's really too early to say just how important the Hellkite will be in tournament play. For starters we still haven't seen the rest of Scars which somehow I have a feeling will contain some serious artifact hate when all is said and done. On the other hand there may well be ways to cheat the Hellkite into play sooner than expected; a common theme in artifact heavy sets. With all that having been said I still don't think you can ignore the potential power of this amazing card.