Jeff Zandi is a four time pro tour veteran who has been playing Magic since 1994. Jeff is a level two DCI judge and has been judging everything from small local tournaments to pro tour events.

Jeff is from Coppell, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, where his upstairs game room has been the "Guildhall", the home of the Texas Guildmages, since the team formed in 1996. One of the original founders of the team, Jeff Zandi is the team's administrator, and is proud to continue the team's tradition of having players in every pro tour from the first event in 1996 to the present.


 

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Sunburst Rises in Fifth Dawn

Fifth Dawn Commons in Review


by Jeff Zandi


Two weeks ago, I was ranting about how Relentless Rats represented a kind of
dangerously "easy way out" for the Fifth Dawn development team. I was
prepared to hide under my desk and wait out the nuclear winter that I
expected Fifth Dawn to bring about. Well after seeing all the cards and
playing with the set, I can proudly say that it's safe to play Magic again.
Fifth Dawn is one of the most dynamic sets ever, proudly upholding the honor
of the best third-set-of-a-block sets like Urza's Destiny and Apocalypse.

The first way that I, like many other Magic players, get to know the new set
is to play limited games with it. I've played some sealed deck with the new
cards and I've drafted with them as well. I'm starting to get an idea of how
well the new cards play nice with the cards from Mirrodin and Darksteel.
When I look at the cards from a new set, I may be thinking about their
usefulness in limited formats first, but I certainly am thinking about
constructed strategies to a certain extent as well. When examining a new
set, particularly from a booster draft/sealed deck perspective, I focus
first on the common cards. This approach is important because no matter how
powerful or terrible the rare cards are in a set, it's the common cards that
will make the biggest difference in your draft and sealed deck strategies.

Scry and Sunburst are the two new abilities premiering in Fifth Dawn.
Sunburst feels a little like Affinity to me. I think I feel this way because
when I first saw Affinity I didn't really think decks that concentrated on
Affinity would be very good. I was, uh, VERY WRONG about that. In the same
way, I may be underestimating Sunburst. Cards with Sunburst gain a charge
counter or a +1/+1 counter for each different color (you only get to use the
five legal colors) of mana that you use to cast the card. Scry is an extra
ability added to many cards in Fifth Dawn. Scry acts like kind of a mix of
two great old cards, Impulse and Brainstorm. When a spell with Scry has
resolved (the Scry ability does not trigger if the spell it is a part of is
countered in some way) you get to look at a number of cards from the top of
your library (two cards in most cases). After looking at these cards, you
may replace them on top of your library in any order or you may put one or
more of them on the bottom of your library. It looks to me like Scry has
been added to a large number of basic cards without adding an entire extra
colorless mana. To my way of thinking, the Scry ability is always good.
Sunburst may very well convince everyone to play five different colors of
mana in your deck, but I will need to see this ability be more consistent
before I give Sunburst my blessing.

In this examination of the fifty-five common cards from Fifth Dawn, I will
present the cards from worst to best in each color. When the two of us were
ranking Darksteel commons a few months ago, Neil Reeves said that he likes
to think of the cards as falling into two categories, cards you should play
(in limited formats) almost all the time and cards you should almost never
play. This is a simple and elegant method that I will try to use this time
around, even though I am without the card judging talents of Gary Wise's
favorite Cajun. Neil is busy this week in Las Vegas where it has suddenly
become his job to help Dave Williams carry around all his poker winnings.

In this first half of the common card review, I will review all twenty
artifacts and the seven commons of my least favorite color in Fifth Dawn,
red. I am splitting up this review between today's article and next Friday's
because of the size. I also will present the cards from the color I like
least in Fifth Dawn first, again, in an attempt to save the best for last.

ARTIFACTS

Razorgrass Screen is the worst artifact common in Fifth Dawn. For one mana
you get a 2/1 creature. What's the catch? It's a wall. What's the OTHER
catch? You must block each turn if able. I don't play Steel Wall all THAT
often, and I don't think the fact that this card COULD possibly kill an
attacker makes it any better. This was probably a decent card before they
added the part about forcing it to block. Don't play this card.

Anodet Lurker is just another 3/3 for five mana. When this updated Onulet
goes to a graveyard from play you gain three life. Not good enough. You know
that Titanium Golem and the other five casting cost marginal 3/3s that you
don't always play? Every one of them is better than the Anodet Lurker.

Sawtooth Thresher, at six mana, is one of the more expensive 1/1 creatures
that you are likely to encounter in Magic: the Gathering. Oh, right, I
forgot, the Thresher has Sunburst, so he COULD start out as big as a 6/6 for
six mana. Remove two +1/+1 counters from the Sawtooth Thresher and the
Thresher gains +4/+4 until end of turn. Of course, this is a +4/+4 boost
that really only nets you a +2/+2 effect. Even if Sunburst becomes the new
Affinity, which I doubt, Sawtooth Thresher is still likely to spend most of
his life on the bench.

Conjurer's Bauble costs one mana. You can tap and sacrifice Conjurer's
Bauble to put up to one (so I guess you could put back zero cards) card from
your graveyard to the bottom of your library and then you can draw a card.
This effect, except in combo decks, is largely meaningless, making this just
another one mana artifact that lets you "cycle" it from play to draw a
different card. Every Spellbomb in a color you could activate is much better
than Conjurer's Bauble.

Myr Quadropod is a 1 /4 Myr that switches its power and toughness at the
drop of a hat. Actually, you have to spend three mana. Nobody really cares
what you do with your hat. I WILL eat MY hat if this card becomes a favorite
of the pros. Incidentally, this card features the return of one of Magic's
greatest artists of all time, Christopher Rush. Unfortunately, the art on
this card looks like it was drawn with crayons. Is there a talented young
person in Christopher Rush's home doing the old man's work for him?

Neurok Stealthsuit is an equipment artifact for two mana that makes it
impossible to target the creature the Stealthsuit equips. For two blue mana,
you can move the Stealthsuit at instant speed, basically countering the
spell with which they are targeting your creature. Except that GOOD players
aren't going to let you get that card advantage with this card. Your
opponent will prefer the satisfaction that this narrow piece of equipment is
in your deck and not theirs.

Sparring Collar is an equipment artifact for two mana that gives equipped
creature first strike. For two red mana, you can attach this card to a
creature at instant speed. This card is a slightly better trick than the
Neurok Stealthsuit because nobody has to play like a moron in order for this
card to help you. On the other hand, you have to decide for yourself if the
occasional gift of giving a creature first strike is a good enough reason to
put this card in your deck.

Opaline Bracers is an equipment artifact for four mana. The Bracers have
Sunburst and give equipped creature +X/+X where X is the number of charge
counters on Opaline Bracers. The good news is this card equips for two mana.
If Sunburst is really good, then this card becomes playable, but never
great. I wouldn't trouble myself with this card if I were you. The casting
cost is the worst thing about this card.

Heliophial is a five casting cost artifact with Sunburst that, for two mana,
you can sacrifice to deal damage to a creature or player equal to the number
of charge counters on Heliophial. I found this card too irresistible not to
try. I ran up to three in a draft deck, just to try and learn something. I
did learn something. Even on the couple of occasions that I managed to get
four or five charge counters on the Heliophial, it was never convenient,
between its casting cost of five and its activation cost of two, to really
abuse anybody with this card. Colorless removal is hard to find, however,
and Heliophial can do that to limited extent.

Myr Servitor is a 1/1 Myr for one mana. If, at the beginning of your upkeep,
Myr Servitor is in play, each player returns all cards named Myr Servitor
from his or her graveyard back into play. Obviously this card could be good,
but you'd have to fill up your deck with 1/1 artifact creatures with no
special ability except to come back from the graveyard occasionally. I think
there are lots of 1/1 artifact creatures you would RATHER have in your deck,
like Arcbound Workers and Arcbound Stingers, and, of course, mana producing
Myr.

Thermal Navigator is a 2/2 artifact creature for three mana. You can
sacrifice an artifact to give Thermal Navigator flying until end of turn.
While not very exciting, this is a card that could give you an evasive
option when you need one late in the game to get the last few points of
damage in there. This card is playable, but certainly not a must play card
for limited.

Pentad Prism is a two casting cost artifact with Sunburst. You may remove a
charge counter from the Pentad Prism to put one mana of any color into your
mana pool. This is a helper card that can aid you in your dreams of breaking
the Sunburst ability. On the other hand, it's a mana helper artifact that
can only help you a maximum of two times. How would you go about playing
this card over mana producing Myr, talisman cards or even Darksteel Ingots?
I get why this card is good, but how many of a card like this can you afford
to junk up your deck with? I'm basically not interested in this card, even
though it can be useful as one-time mana acceleration, helping you get out
an important five or six casting cost card one or two turns earlier than
your opponent.

MUST PLAYS

Horned Helm is an equipment card for two mana to you can attach at instant
speed for two green mana. Creatures equipped with Horned Helm gain +1/+1 and
trample. Finally, a way to spread around trample, the green capability that
would be most useful in Mirrodin limited formats.

Battered Golem is a 3/2 Golem for three mana. The catch is that Battered
Golem doesn't untap during your untap step, but it DOES untap whenever
anyone plays an artifact. This card's power to casting cost ratio is so good
that you have to include this guy in your plans even with his untapping
drawback. The untapping effect could even be a big advantage if either you
or your opponent are playing lots of artifacts. Oh, right, I just remembered
that we're in the Mirrodin block.BOTH of you are playing a lot of artifacts.

Baton of Courage is the first of the eight Fifth Dawn commons that come
close to being MUST PLAYS in limited. Baton of Courage costs three mana and
has Sunburst. You can remove a charge counter from the Baton to give a
creature +1/+1 until end of turn. The best part is that you can play Baton
of Courage as an instant. If Sunburst works out for you, you may have a
colorless instant effect (even though Sunburst cards have colorless casting
costs, they aren't REALLY colorless, are they?) that could possibly give you
a three for one card advantage.

Suntouched Myr is a three casting cost Myr with Sunburst that comes into
play with as many +1/+1 counters as you used different colors of mana to
play it. This is a well balanced card for many different kinds of decks,
whether you are representing ways to produce all five colors or just a
tightly constructed two color deck or two color deck with a slight splash of
a third color. The idea of dropping common 3/3 creatures for three mana
makes me feel like cozying up more to Sunburst.

Wayfarer's Bauble is a one casting cost artifact. When you spend two mana
and tap and sacrifice the Wayfarer's Bauble, you get to search your library
for a basic land that comes into play tapped. This card is an improvement on
a card like Rampant Growth. This card is a great tool for your deck and will
replace a basic land to a certain degree. I love this card and I think it
certainly is a must play.

Healer's Headdress is a two casting cost piece of equipment that can be
attached to a creature at instant speed for two white mana. Creatures
equipped with Healer's Headdress get +0/+2 and gain the ability to tap
themselves to prevent one point of damage to a target creature or player.
Obviously this card makes the emerging black/white archetype very good,
making the black player's Nim Lashers and Nim Shriekers more dangerous even
in the presence of larger opponents. Ordinarily, I don't fall for prevent
damage effects. I like this card because I think the primary importance is
the 0/+2 pump up effect.

Skyreach Manta is a five casting cost artifact creature with Sunburst AND
FLYING. Even in the decks of two color decks with only three sources for a
third color, Skyreach Manta has a very good chance to come into play as a
3/3 creature. Obviously, this card is completely broken in the hands of a
wizard that knows how to produce any color of mana.

Cranial Plating is clearly the best common artifact in Fifth Dawn. For two
colorless mana, you get an equipment that can be attached at instant speed
for two black mana and which gives the equipped creature +X/+0 where X is
the number of artifacts that you have in play.

RED COMMONS

Mana Geyser is the worst common in the worst color for commons in Fifth
Dawn. Mana Geyser is a sorcery for 3RR that adds a red mana to your mana
pool for every tapped land your opponents control. Just how is a card like
this going to help you? A note to the design team: if you make a Dark Ritual
cost five, it will probably never be worth playing.

Spark Elemental is a 3/1 Elemental with trample and haste for one red mana.
At the end of the turn, you must sacrifice Spark Elemental. I want this card
to be good more than you could imagine. This card is extremely efficient for
the cost. On the other hand, we're only talking about three damage. Although
not very good for limited, I think Spark Elemental will have a place in
aggressive mono red decks.

Screaming Fury is a sorcery for 2R that gives a target creature +5/+0 and
haste until end of turn. This card is almost good. Making this card a
sorcery sinks this card's usefulness, turning a fat giant growth effect into
an iffy Monstrous Growth effect.

MUST PLAYS

Goblin Brawler is a 2/2 Goblin Warrior for 2R with first strike. The only
drawback of the Brawler is that it cannot be equipped. Even without being
able to be equipped, 2/2 first striker for just three mana is a very good
deal. In a red/green deck or red/white deck, you will find that you have
plenty of non equipment ways to power up the Goblin Brawler. But wait, stop
the presses, the five new equipment cards that can be ATTACHED as an instant
can target the Brawler successfully. Very tricky!

Rain of Rust may cost a lot, 3RR, but it is still an instant and it still
kills an artifact, so it is STILL a must play in any deck that can support a
double red costed spell. The alternate ability of this card to destroy a
land is mostly laughable. Must play.

Krark-Clan Ogre is a 3/3 Ogre for 3RR. For one red mana and the sacrifice of
an artifact, Krark-Clan Ogre causes a target creature to be unable to block
this turn. This capability has late game written all over it. At worst, you
have a 3/3 man, just fine for the cost. Don't look at this card's evasive
ability as something you would need to do to keep any of your opponent's
creatures from blocking. The power of this card's ability is to make one
particularly dangerous blocker from blocking.

Vulshok Sorcerer is the best red common in Fifth Dawn. This is a 1/1 Human
Shaman for 1RR that taps to deal one point of damage to a creature or
player. Vulshok Sorcerer also has haste. The fact that a one toughness
pinger is the best red common in Fifth Dawn should be all the proof you need
to see that red is the weakest color in the new seat.

Next week, I will examine the best commons that Fifth Dawn has to offer in
blue, green and black.

As always, I'd love to hear what YOU think!

Jeff Zandi
Texas Guildmages
Level II DCI Judge
jeffzandi@thoughtcastle.com
Zanman on Magic Online

 

 

 

 

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