Hello everyone and welcome to another special supplementary edition of The Cardboard Witch. By now most players will have seen the full Mirrodin Besieged spoiler and already be focusing either on their pre-release event this weekend or the post MBS Standard environment that comes into being on February 4th. While personally I'm still a little wary of making mass judgments on brand new cards before I've tested them, seeing the entire set in context makes it much easier to identify the cards that really matter in both Standard and limited formats. Naturally of course having a full spoiler to work with also makes it much easier to identify and discuss environmental trends across these formats. With this in mind I'd like to examine one of the base concepts I noticed running through the entire set while reviewing the MBS spoiler:
Design hates creatures as of Mirrodin Besieged.
Now before you get upset at me for making such a bold blanket statement lets examine the current state of creature removal in Standard. When Shards of Alara rotated out of the format and took with it Path to Exile, Oblivion Ring, Terminate, Malestrom Pulse and Volcanic Fallout we were left with a fairly simple and creature friendly Standard environment. As far as "mass-removal" went Day of Judgment and Pyroclasm were the most popular choices while Doom Blade and Lightning Bolt made up the "gold standard" in terms of spot kill. Naturally of course there remained other options (Journey to Nowhere, Arc Trail, etc) but for reasons of versatility, synergy or simple "deckslot" economy those cards appeared more often in competitive decks. Now while this removal suite hardly left control/mid-range decks helpless in the face of creature swarms and Grave Titans, good aggro players could exploit the gaps in these "kill" packages to create game play advantages. Good examples include running an all black creature base (B/R Vampires), running Leyline of Vitality/Eldrazi Momument to play around Pyroclasm/Day of Judgement (mono G Elves) or even just comboing out for lethal damage faster than your opponent can contain your swarm (RDW and it's 19 variants). While hardly perfect this at least made it possible for creature based aggro decks to compete effectively in the current format; think Elves, Boros, B/R Vampires, RDW/Kuldotha Goblins or G/W Equipment.
Unfortunately after carefully studying the MBS spoiler the past couple days I've come the conclusion that weenie aggro swarm is slowly being "hated" out of Standard as a deck-type. In particular I think there are at least 4 very important cards in Mirrodin Besieged that make winning with creatures considerably harder than it is in the current Standard format. While these cards are primarily useful for stopping aggro swarm decks even current control finishers like Grave Titan/Abyssal Persecutor suddenly have a reason to look over their collective shoulders. Lets take a look at each of these 3 cards and talk a little bit about their overall impact on the post MBS Standard environment:
Go for the Throat:
Pros: While this isn't exactly a functional reprint of Terminate it's considerably better than Doom Blade in the current Standard format. Simply put there are a lot more Black creatures currently being played in Standard than artifact creatures and even with a new "artifact" based set I'm not sure that's going to change anytime soon. In particular this card allows decks to effectively counter Grave Titans, active Creeping Tar Pits, Abyssal Persecutors and of course about 20 different Vampires that see play off and on in Standard. You can probably throw Massacre Wurm and Phyrexian Vatmother onto that list as well; I expect both cards to be fairly popular as the Mirrodin Besieged environment plays out more fully. Naturally of course the fact that this can kill Black creatures does nothing to prevent it from killing all the OTHER annoying creatures in Standard you'd typically want to Doom Blade anyways; I personally find the image of a skanky vampire chick trying to to reach a Primeval Titan's neck amusing.