In my last article I discussed this summer's Banned and Restricted list for PEZ. If you haven't seen it or checked out the rules summary on Card Shark then you should do so ASAP.
There is now one additional point to clarify. Scourge will be legal at Origins for PEZ!!!Yep, while other formats will make you wait, you can bring your PEZ cards to Origins and put a little extra fat in your deck.
The Scourge of Peasants
Well, if you caught that first bit you know how important it is to get a quick review of the Scourge cards. Because Origins is only a month away I will deal with the spoiler information from mtgnews a bit differently than normal. Instead of listing all the cards, I will hit on the cards that have a place in the format and how to build them into your decks. After hitting my best picks I may drop a few other choice cards with potential. BTW, I have already noticed a few mistakes in the mtgnews spoiler but it is the only one I have accessed so check out the cards yourself to make sure I didn't slip up with an ability or rarity. Grab your own copy of the spoiler and let's be about it!
Okay, one stop before we get to the cards. Storm is an okay ability but the real breakout ability for PEZ is landcycling. The landcycling creatures are generally strong in a number of builds but the low cost of thinning your deck and smoothing your land draws is incredible. By themselves, these cards may break the mono-color barrier that has existed in PEZ. Never underestimate any card that contains the words: "search your library for".
Daru Spiritualist is one my short list of most explosive cards for PEZ. By itself it is an okay card but this card pushes two other decks that languished in obscurity up to Tier 2 or better.
The first place Daru Spiritualist will see play is in the Worthy Face or About Face decks. Traditionally these decks have used the en-Kor ability to infinitely target creatures like Angelic Protector and Task Force then attack for the win by casting About Face or Transmutation. They also had a strong backup plan by casting Worthy Cause on the infinitely tough creature. The problem is that, with one possible exception, it takes a 3 card combo and 3 or 4 mana - occasionally too slow and almost always too inconsistent for tournament play. Daru Spiritualist really comes in strong. Including 4 drops the curve of the deck and allows players to dump the 4 cost Angelic Protectors in favor of additional cheap combo cards in the form of Warrior en-Kor. This assists the deck in both consistency and speed pushing it from cool but not tourney worthy up to a contender.
The second deck that stars Daru Spiritualist is, of all things, a theme deck. Since I tested this deck over the weekend my friends have been starting most conversations with the phrase, "Stupid clerics!" While previously underpowered the Spiritualist really revs up the Cleric deck. Dropping an early Spiritualist makes your hosts virtually invincible in a properly designed deck. Not only does this protect the Doubtless One but it also really pumps up beats. Few decks can compete with so many efficient Blockers backed by massive life gain potential.
If White Knight is making your WW builds take a look at Silver Knight! Both Black and Red are powerful forces in PEZ and I am a big proponent of Red hate over Black hate for WW. The reason is simple - MBC and, to a lesser extent, Aggro/Control Black know that Pro. Black creatures will hit the table and the removal in these decks is skewed to untargeted and global effects. Put bluntly, Black can deal with Pro. creatures. On the other hand, Red has only 3 options, 2 of which are uncommon: Serrated Arrows, Anarchy, and Barbarian Ring. If I can choose something that is moderately effective against Black but will rock Red I know what I would choose every time.
Brain Freeze may be a surprise since Storm seems to be a difficult mechanic to break. Seth Burn choose Tendrils of Anguish as his most breakable Storm card, I would have to say Brain Freeze is my pick. Potentially a weak pick for UG Threshold decks, this card can serve well in the elusive 5th Uncommon slot for Pros-Tides. Access to an additional game winning card is huge for this combo deck but it has the additional strength of being playable when the combo fizzles out. Pros-Tides will frequently have played 10 cards by the time the first Prosperity resolves, a second Prosperity virtually guarantees that Brain Freeze will be a kill card. The best part is that you can fetch the Freeze with Merchant Scroll something that Windfall doesn't have going for it.
Coast Watcher is an example of how a solid card can change the fortunes of an entire deck. While Skies and Fish may still be weak in every format, including PEZ, this card gives them some hope. A 1/1 flyer for 2 is par for the course but Protection from Green is insanely powerful especially in PEZ where Stompy and Accelerated Stompy are abundant. UG Tempo will have to look to the Watcher, in the SB at the very least, as well.
Dispersal Shield is the first in a list of cards from Scourge that supercharge Turbo-(reani)Mate, UB decks that use Tolarian Winds and Exhume to push out early fatties. The weakness of all Turbo-Mate builds is the fact that you will regularly have only 1 or 2 creatures which makes them vulnerable to many spells. In addition, even with the fat these decks tend to be about 1-2 turns slow. A well costed, 1 colored, counter is key to solving both of these problems and with most Exhumed creatures cc 7+ it Dispersal Shield will answer almost every spell in the format.
Dragon Wings, is another card custom made for Turbo-Mate. None of the PEZ creatures big enough to Exhume have any evasion and the ones with trample are all short on the backside making them vulnerable to Burn - not a good situation for a deck that puts all its eggs in one basket. With Dragon Wings you get a card you can cycle but more importantly you get instant evasion which really forces the clock to start.
For those who opt out of Brain Freeze or the more traditional 5th Uncommons (Mystical Tutor, Force of Will, and Windfall) in their Pros-Tides builds Long-Term Plans looks to be a strong pick. It costs more than the Tutor but can draw into either Cloud of Faeries or Feldon's Cane. This is a plus for more conservative players who tend not to flex their muscles or cut their teeth on combo decks.
Pemmin's Aura is a great card just waiting for the right creature. Morphling ruled the mainstream formats and it is nice to see that PEZ gets a shot at setting up a similar powerhouse. It has the disadvantages inherent with most enchantments but if the critical creature is found it could be a breakout card. My current pick for Pemmin's Aura is Dream Prowler, attacking for an unblockable 5 and then untapping for a 5 toughness blocker is just good - too bad the flying effect is wasted on this critter.
Rush of Knowledge is way beyond the mana curve of most PEZ decks but it may be playable, in small numbers, for Turbo-Mate. While the cost is prohibitive the chance to draw 6 or more cards is simply abusive.
Shoreline Ranger is, in many ways, one of the weaker landcycling cards. It is underpowered but at the same time it has natural evasion and can take a bolt - that makes it really attractive. What decks could use this? Off of the top of my head I come up with 2: Any UG build and, you guessed it, Turbo-Mate. UG has a lot of potential but PEZ is hard on any 2 color decks, adding a land search ability could be nice. As for Turbo-Mate, the casting cost doesn't matter, this card can put itself in the Graveyard, and it has Evasion that the deck lacks.
Temporal Fissure brings us back to a deck you are probably sick of hearing about. No, this time it is not Turbo-Mate. The deck is Pros-Tides. Since Pros-Tides swept Gen Con last year people have been looking for answers. I examined a number of answers in a previous article but from the yahoo group it seems most players are still looking at Tormod's Crypt. Bring a Fissure from the SB is a great answer, even including one main deck can be strong for Pros-Tides. In this deck, Temporal Fissure basically is Upheaval that targets only your opponent (and your own Cloud of Faeries).
So far that makes 9 cards for Blue that may see play, who would have expected that! Well, let's keep the party going and round out the mix with a 5th pick. Thundercloud Elemental isn't super since it costs 7 but for some Blue builds this could be the beatdown creature the deck is looking for. It meets 2 of the key criteria: it is unboltable and it has evasion. Even better, the Elemental can lock down most non-Green creature decks in the format if your life count hangs in the balance.
Everyone is saying Carrion Feeder is decent but I love this card. First, efficient creatures always get me excited - the cheaper the better. Second, it is a Zombie which is really good with the offerings from recent sets. Third, this creature has a ton of synergy for Suicide Black and, to a lesser extent, Aggro/Control. Aside from getting some use out of dying creatures, Carrion Feeder can remove a stalled Carnophage or a painful Wretched Anurid. It can power an emergency Spinning Darkness in the early game or sac a Festering Goblin and Death's-Head Buzzard for some removal. The best trick may be when this is combined with Faceless Butcher or Mesmeric Fiend. Simply activate the Feeder's ability in response to the comes into play ability and the creature or card is gone forevermore.
Okay, you probably saw this coming but next on the list is Death's-Head Buzzard. 3 cost evasion for Black is decent but nothing spectacular. Stench of Decay is, however, one of the single strongest cards in the format and it looks even better on a stick (assuming you have some way to kill the stick). If you play the Carrion Feeder you almost have to play the Buzzard, even if you don't it can be strong pick and works well with Pestilence after an Obsidian Acolyte has hit the table.
Just as Dragon Wings was good, Dragon Shadow is custom built for Turbo-Mate. Since the creatures already tend toward beef, the +1 power is negligible but, once again, the evasion is critical. Really a strong pick and even decent as a straight enchantment for more mundane Black decks.
Lingering Death has been widely discussed as a removal source in the mirror match. Honestly, I don't think the card is good at all but I have been wrong before and enough people are saying it is playable I should at least mention it. Well, consider my duty done.
As an instant, Reaping the Graves may well be playable, probably in small numbers, for the creature based Black decks. Already, most Black decks have come to rely on Unearth and this is a good back-up allowing you to net at least a few creatures in the mid-game.
Skull Tap looks really exciting to me but the fact that it is a Sorcery instead of an Instant may make it no more than a piece of cardboard. Drawing cards is critical for any deck and especially for Suicide Black and the low curve versions of Aggro/Control. As soon as you start top decking with these cards the pressure lets up and Skull Tap may be available to help out.
As much as I love all the landcycling creatures, Twisted Abomination is my favorite. First, the picture I saw for it was really wicked but mostly it is one of the strongest Common critters in PEZ and it can fetch a Swamp. This card is really great in Turbo-Mate mostly because it Regenerates making it harder to kill.
Unburden is really a strong card, what Hymn to Tourach should have been. I'm not saying it is better than the Hymn, because it isn't, but slower building decks or decks focused on something other than discard may appreciate the ability to Cycle this Sorcery.
Undead Warchief is between Daru Warchief and Goblin Warchief in usefulness. There are a number of good Uncommon Zombies competing for deck space and I'm not sure that this is the one I would pick, mostly because it is boltable, but mass Unholy Strength is really strong, you should be able to drop the Warchief for the win. Surely, a card that deserves scrutiny in the Zombie decks that are waiting in the wings.
The Red list is short, only 4 cards, and these are relatively lackluster. Still, we have to start somewhere so let's look at Goblin Brigade. A 2/2 for 2 with a drawback negligible in Sligh is pretty standard and a solid creature pick. He may show up in Sligh decks this summer but is beat out by the Sparksmith and Flunkies.
Goblin Warchief is the strongest Red card for PEZ in Scourge. Many people are already picking a 2/2 Haste creature to fill the 3 slot and the Warchief is even better since it grants all your creatures Haste. As with all the Warchiefs in Scourge, except the Beast version, the reduced cost is only of marginal benefit.
The only non-creature Red spell is Pyrostatic Pillar. Spellshock has already proven to be one of the top picks for Sligh and the Pillar is a faster more conditional version. As players have discovered with Prohibit, most PEZ spells will be affected by the Pillar but it also allows the Sligh player to play around it. Maybe Sligh will move back toward the slightly higher curve of traditional builds or look for the higher cost finishers when decks are built around Pyrostatic Pillar.
Rock Jockey is red's last hooray in Scourge. A 3 cost 3/3 is decent but it probably can't compete with Phyrexian War Beast or Ember Beast but it is a Goblin which could be useful for some builds.
Green starts off strong with Alpha Strike. Normally, enchantments are weak but this one could be absolutely broken in an Elf deck. In 1 cost elves you have evasion, Treetop Scout, psuedo-evasion, Taunting Elf, and Trample, Defiant Elf and Llanowar Elite. If you can make these beefy, or another creature in the case of Taunting Elf, you have some real quick win potential. This card could make mono-Green Elf decks a decent deck choice.
Elvish Aberration may be strong enough to steal the 5th Uncommon slot from Hurricane or Overrun in Accelerated Stompy decks. These decks tend to be low on lands and forestcycling will help, even better the Aberration is decent beef but can really accelerate the deck even further. Then again, if you hit the 6 mana to cast him you really don't need more acceleration. Wirewood Guardian is probably better since it doesn't eat up an Uncommon slot, even the single copy I added to my PEZ Draino deck has made a difference.
Sprouting Vines has, in my opinion, good potential for multi-color decks. While it may cost 3 mana, it also has the potential of fixing all color issues for the rest of the game which is a true blessing for these decks.
There has been a lot of talk about Wirewood Symbiote and I think it can be a decent addition to many Elf decks but I don't know if it is worth the Uncommon slot. If it didn't have the once per turn provision it could be totally broken but as it stands the tricks are minimal. Despite the hype I don't think this a breakout card in PEZ.
Well, that was much more of a list than I had intended but this set has a lot of strong cards for the PEZ format. Very little stands out as overpowered or broken but there is a lot here that shores up decks where they are weak or that provide just enough push to move mediocre decks up to Tier 1 or Tier 2. Have fun building and don't forget to post your thoughts on the yahoo group. I'll see your Scourge creations at Origins (assuming I am not broke by then).
Jason Chapman - firstname.lastname@example.org
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