Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Snap Judgments #3 - Mirrodin Besieged: Phyrexian Crusader

Hello ladies and gentlemen; welcome back to a special supplementary edition of The Cardboard Witch.  Unless you've been living under a rock you're probably aware that Mirrodin Besieged preview season is fully upon us now.  Hopefully everyone out there is enjoying the previews as much as I am; there's something almost magical about the first time you lay eyes on a new card that makes preview season very special.  In a few weeks the cards will actually be out and people will start actively play-testing with them but for right now it's all fresh and each new card represents a world of possibilities.  With that in mind I'd like to take an opportunity now to look at one of the recently previewed Mirrodin Besieged cards and offer up a quick "snap judgment" on it.  Please keep in mind that these observations are only my opinion after having done zero play-testing because the cards aren't even out yet.  I can and will be wrong; one of my favorite cards in M11 was Cyclops Gladiator and that card has never even come close to seeing play in constructed.  Let's start with a card that was previewed a couple weeks ago, Phyrexian Crusader:

Pros:  As anyone who's ever played the Limited Shadowmoor format can attest; the combination of "wither" damage and first strike is pretty ridiculous in creature combat.  This is because the -1/-1 counters go on as soon as damage is dealt; meaning that by the time your non first striking opponent can deal damage back he's already -2/-2 smaller!  While winning creature combat is hardly the focus of Standard play having a creature that mucks up the early game like this IS very valuable to your typical control deck.  Additionally of course it's almost impossible to actually kill the Crusader outside of creature combat; protection from red, protection from white and protection from Doom Blade is a pretty sweet resistance combination.  These two advantages are of course augmented by the fact that the Crusader is pretty cheap; the double black isn't really a huge disadvantage so long as you're playing friendly colors in this format.  Finally I suppose on some level the fact that he's both a Zombie and a Knight could be relevant.  While I tend to play mostly tournament decks myself I know a number of people who play casual Magic where the "Knights" deck has been pretty popular since they released a Lord for it in M11.  Sorry, I guess I should have added that he'll obviously be a rock solid beater in Limited Formats.  The toughness ratings on creatures in SoM tend to be pretty small and this guy is going to be very very hard to kill in a G/B Infect deck.  I sorta just assumed people knew first strike is busted in Limited but being fair I still should have said something.  My bad :)

Cons:  Well for starters, Phyrexian Crusader has Infect.  While this is excellent when dealing damage to other creatures at this exact moment dealing damage to a Player in the form of poison counters is a pretty good way to lose games.  While it's certainly impossible to predict what else Mirrodin Besieged will offer us the fact that the Crusader can't "join in the beatdowns" with your other regular creatures is going to be a problem as of this moment.  Additionally while First Strike and double protection are impressive abilities this guy is still just a Gray Ogre at heart; the game has almost moved by the 2/2 for 3 slot at this point and it's hard to say if the Crusader has enough extra juice to overcome that.  He's certainly no Knight of the Reliquary.  Finally while it's true that the Crusader has protection from White that's still not going to stop him from going down to a Day of Judgement; a card which is becoming more and more popular as the environment shifts from Valakut vs Control to Speed Aggro vs Control.

Final Destination?:  While some people have been quick to assume this Zombie Knight is headed for the junk rares binder I myself have slightly higher hopes.  While I haven't actually tried to build the deck I can envision a U/B based control deck that wins by Poison.  Skythiryx the Blight Dragon has all kinds of potential as a finishing creature for example; it's just that he doesn't have any quality Poison friends to help him finish the job.  I can see the Crusader serving a similar function to Sea Gate Oracle/Vampire Nighthawk in this version of the deck; locking up the early game as a "wall" with teeth and then joining in on the attack once I have board control/Skittles in play.  This also goes a long way towards covering up his vulnerability to Day of Judgement too since it's highly unlikely this type of deck is going to run a swarm of creatures.  Not entirely sure this works of course it's all pretty theoretical but as I said this is a "snap judgement".

PS: Feel free to tell me how wrong I am in the comments; last time I tried to say that Steel Hellkite was a Pernicious Deed on legs and despite getting 5-6 emails about how dumb I was nobody posted them in the comments.  That woulda been way more fun guys :)


  1. And then of course they go and reveal Inkmoth Nexus the very same day I finally post my Crusader review:

    Land Rare

    {T}: Add 1 to your mana pool.

    1: Inkmoth Nexus becomes a 1/1 Blinkmoth artifact creature with flying and infect until end of turn. It's still a land. (It deals damage to creatures in the form of -1/-1 counters and to players in the form of poison counters.)

    So yeah, pretty sure B/x Poison Control is viable as of MBS release.

  2. Yeah generally manlands seem to bend and or break archytpes, also having a 11/11 Tample, infect beasty for Summoning Trap decks isn't half bad either.

  3. Hrmm interesting, I wonder if some sort of "Bug" design might work. Trap + Jace + Skitherix + Collossus. Not sure, something to consider though since you're right vs an empty board Blightsteel is gg

  4. I was thinking playing GWub, and running a board removal and then shape anewing into the monstrosity with counter mana up, so even if they could do something you've either durressed it, inquisitioned it, or judgement/ rebirthed it, then you can turn your little inkmoth into the infect beasty.