Monday, September 6, 2010

Snap Judgements #2 - Scars of Mirrodin: Thrumming Bird & Steady Progress (Proliferate)

Hello everyone and welcome back to The Cardboard Witch.  Today I'm up early checking out more Scars of Mirrodin spoilers online.  I think we all knew things were going to be different when the overpowered multi-color cards from Shards of Alara rotated out but I myself didn't expect them to be THIS different.  So far the set looks fast and highly synergistic; simple early turn plays become way more effective as you combine them.  In particular I think the "Proliferate" mechanic has the ability to turn the whole environment upside down when you consider just how many cards in this format use counters (Planeswalkers, Levelers, Allies, etc).  I'm still not sure the strategy will be cost effective but when you see cards like Thrummingbird it doesn't seem so far-fetched:

Now obviously nobody is going to write home about a 1/1 Flyer for U1 in modern day magic. Afterall it's not like Augury Owl is seeing a lot of play in Standard (though don't think I haven't thought about it).  What really makes Thrummingbird so interesting that it provides a cheap reusable way to abuse the proliferate mechanic.  You aren't really worried about how MUCH damage you're doing; hitting your opponent for a single point triggers the ability just fine.  Please note that proliferate lets you choose what does and doesn't get a counter so even if your opponent is ALSO running a proliferate based counter deck you can gleefully trigger the ability with impunity.  At a paltry 2 mana you should be able to snap down a Thrummingbird quickly and start abusing the proliferate ability right away.  For example Thrummingbird into a turn 3 Jace Beleren seems like it might be a strong play; generating very real card advantage without ever losing counters on Jace.  Of course as a creature (with 1 toughness at that) it's possible for your opponent to kill off your Thrummingbird(s) before things get too far out of hand.  I suppose the consolation is that if your opponent DOESN'T do exactly that he's probably going to get crushed under a wave of Plainswalkers, +1+1 counters, Allies and or Levelers.  Playing a number of creatures your opponent "has" to kill to stay in the game is one of the few ways to mitigate the weakness of the creature card type overall and Thrummingbird definately fits the bill.

Of course one solution to your opponent killing all your Thrummingbirds would be to play a spell that simply lets you trigger the proliferate ability with no strings attached.  Throw in a cantrip (single card draw) effect and you've got the perfect counterpart to our beloved Bird Horror; Steady Progress.

Now again, I can't be sure because I've done absolutely no testing with Scars of Mirrodin cards (the set isn't out yet).  With that having been said however I have a funny feeling that Steady Progress is going to be a VERY popular card.  Moreso than Thrummingbird this card fits incredibly well into an absolutely huge number of counter based strategies.  It works equally well in U/W Levelers as it does in a U based Plainswalker control deck and even opens up some potential for Allies.  Don't forget that it's instant; allowing you to play it during your opponent's endstep and therebye significantly minimize it's real cost.  Even better assuming you're playing a deck that features a bunch of creatures who have counters you can even play it as a combat trick; instantly increasing the size of your monsters after your opponent declares blockers but before damage is dealt.  The fact that I also get to draw a card from the whole arrangement just pushes this card into the rediculous zone and I honestly think it would have seen play WITHOUT it.

So what's the best Proliferate combo I've come up with so far?  How about 3-4 Creatures (maybe a Thrummingbird or 2?), Ajani Goldmane and anything that says "proliferate".  First remove a Loyalty counter from Ajani to give all of your creatures a +1+1 counter and vigilance.  Then trigger your proliferate card to not only return Ajani's spent Loyalty counter but also give all of your creatures ANOTHER +1+1 counter at the same time.  I can pretty much guarentee your opponent will not be able to withstand that kind of onslaught for very long. 

Well folks it's 11 PM on a cold/wet night and I've been tinkering with this preview off and on all day.  Hopefully Wizards will spoil some more cards soon so I can talk about something else but if all else fails I can write about Venser (very good) and the new Elspeth (downright broken I think).  Thanks for joining me and as always remember to keep it wierd.

PS, thanks to the 4-5 readers to emailed to tell me I was on crack and the Steel Hellkite only destroys non-land permenants that cost EXACTLY X; not X and under.  This makes the Steel Hellkite's ability more like Engineered Explosives than Pernicious Deed and while still powerful the Steel Hellkite is probably not the super awesome control engine I thought it was.  Everyone goofs and I totally read what I wanted to see instead of what the card actually read.  I'm deeply sorry that my inner Johnny got the better of me there.  On the other hand what do you expect from a series called "Snap Judgements"? :)  Either way I'll try to actually read the card in the future and I'm open to any mocking in the comments section or by email you guys feel is necissary.


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