Hello everyone and welcome back to another edition of The Cardboard Witch. Before we get started I'd like to thank everyone for the *numerous* get well emails and tweets I have received from readers out there in Internetland. As it turns out I am starting to feel a bit better despite the fact that Toronto's weather recently has resembled the climate of Scotland; cold, wet and very windy. In fact with any luck I'll actually be allowed to head out for FNM this week and play some sanctioned Standard for the first time in over a month. Until then however I'm practicing with some friends after hours at work and desperately waiting on information about New Phyrexia just like everyone else.
By now most of you are aware that the entire New Phyrexia set has been leaked; if you haven't seen it yet click on this link, a full text spoiler can be found in the very first post. If you don't see the cards right away try clicking on the color-marked buttons; it will open up a text box containing *every* card in the set of that color. Naturally of course I have absolutely no idea how this information was originally leaked but reading the cards I have a hard time believing it's a fake; those certainly look like Magic cards to me. As regular readers know during preview time for a new set I like to set aside a couple articles to look at some of the new cards that interest me most and talk a little bit about their potential in the formats I play; namely Standard, Sealed Deck and Booster Draft. Until otherwise noted I'll operate under the assumption that the above spoiler is 100% correct but for the first card I'd like to talk about it doesn't matter anyways because WotC previewed it on Monday as the New Phyrexia Pre-release Promo:
From a limited perspective Sheoldred is obviously a slam first pick; remember the new pack order rules for Draft mean you'll open New Phyrexia first and I'm pretty sure this guy is worth jumping head-first into black for. This card is going to destroy games because not only is a 6/6 body with limited evasion (Swampwalk) an acceptable value in draft but both of it's upkeep triggers are absolutely devastating to your opponent's board position. Think about it for a moment; you cast Sheoldred and go up a creature before shipping the turn and causing your opponent to go down a creature for a net advantage of +2 creatures. Assuming your opponent doesn't snap kill your Praetor your next turn becomes ridiculous; you return a creature to play (+3), attack and likely force a chump block (+4) and then ship the turn back to your opponent who loses yet ANOTHER creature (+5). Simply put, much like Consecrated Sphinx from Mirrodin Besieged if you do not kill Sheoldred very quickly after it hits the table you will probably lose the game to this card almost immediately. What's more at 6/6 and with a colored border it's not exactly going to be easy to kill Sheoldred; format staples like Gavlanic Blast, Grasp of Darkness, Turn to Slag and anything that says "target artifact" will be virtually worthless against it. Even Arrest and Tumble Magnet will offer little respite from Sheoldred's upkeep triggers; in fact I'd go so far as to say your typical R/W Metalcraft deck is just dead on board to this bad-boy unless you're dumb enough to walk it into a Dispense Justice. While obviously the card can be answered by Spread the Sickness or Go for the Throat that's hardly a comforting thought to the 4-6 players at your draft table *not* in black. Potentially the best answer however can be found in blue where either Corrupted Conscience or Volition Reins will not only solve your "Sheoldred" problem but create a whole new series of headaches for your opponent on his very next upkeep.
Magus of the Abyss, Kuon, Ogre Ascendant, Anowon, the Ruin Sage) are described as having "Abyss" effects. As you can see there's a certain historical precedent for *symmetrical* Abyss effects to cost 4 or more mana; as far as I know there has never been a one-sided Abyss effect printed in Magic until now and you can certainly bet if there had been it would cost more than 4 simply to stay in line with established design principles. Forcing your opponent to sacrifice a creature every upkeep is a *very* powerful ability in it's own right but when combined with Sheoldred's "resurrection" effect it becomes almost impossible for your opponent to maintain board parity; even if he's drawing more cards than you are! This is particularly true in a format dominated by "187" creatures and self replicated birds wielding game-wrecking Swords since virtually every deck in the format relies on multiple key creatures in at least some way. It's also pretty hard to protect your Planeswalkers long term if you keep having to sacrifice potential chump blockers at the start of your upkeep while staring down an ever growing hoard of enemy minions. On a basic level we're talking about a creature who beats down for 6, generates massive amounts of pseudo-card advantage (permanent advantage?) and functions as the centerpiece of a control package by killing off enemy creatures turn after turn. Comparable (but worse) abilities would cost you roughly 8-11 mana over at least 2 cards in previous arcs and those arcs weren't nearly as ramp friendly as the current Standard format is. If the truth be told Sheoldred is an absolute bargain at 7 mana so now the question becomes "how do I make that much mana?"
Well folks there you have it; a quick look at one of my favorite cards from New Phyrexia. While some (most?) will call me crazy I truly believe that at some point this card is going to carve it's own way into the Metagame and the results with be both brutal and beautiful at the same time. Agree? Disagree? As always leave your thoughts in the comments and once again thanks for reading. Until next time always remember that "too expensive" is in the mind of the buyer and sometimes it's all about "going big" with a giant freaking Praetor. Keep it weird gang.