Thursday, March 4, 2010

Rise…of the Monsters!

I remember back to the first day I tried to play Magic. In my friend Mike's basement, with the cards all spread out, trying to figure out what exactly it meant to "tap" a card. Did you get to untap it at some point? All these mysteries. The rulebook didn't help.

I don't remember a single card I opened in my first Starter Deck, but I do remember a very awesome-seeming card Mike opened.

It was this

It remained the most powerful creature in my mental Magic encyclopedia for some time. It was HUGE, and it had a couple of very important drawbacks to offset that hugeness. You basically needed to play green, and you had to use a lot of pure green mana sources on top of that. No Sol Rings or Dark Rituals to help you power him out!

In Magic parlance, this was one of the first "fatties". Big giant creatures you used to quickly finish off your opponent. For the inmates at the Wizards of the Coast insane asylum, coming up with a good approach for these "fatties" was a long and treacherous road.

Lead of Development Aaron Forsythe went deep into the rabbit hole on the subject when he wrote Fat: A Retrospective.

Back then, there were two camps: those who saw big creatures as a huge advantage onto themselves and added massive drawbacks, and those who tried to make the beasts relatively drawback free.

For a long time, the drawbacks were winning.  Large, powerful creatures were mostly absent from competitive decks because they just weren't competitive.

They also weren't too popular in casual kitchen table decks, either…because they weren't fun.

Witness the staying power of two non-drawback "fatties"

Reprinted many, many times. And shuffled into people's decks until the cardboard literally disintegrates.

To anyone who has played magic for a long time, it is obvious that the current design team's been creeping up the power of creatures. Some of the traditional favorites found in decks looking to put large creatures into play are

Akroma, Angel of Wrath
Angel of Despair
Bogardan Hellkite
Darksteel Colossus
Inkwell Leviathan

Back in the Conflux set, Wizards dropped a huge creature bomb in the form of

Basically they asked "how powerful should a creature be if it has an almost un-castable cost?" Progenitus is the answer. Of course that didn't stop people from "cheating" this lovable hydra into play using spells like Natural Order, Hypergenesis, Polymorph and the most recent Summoning Trap.

My friend Greg likes to use Jhoira of the Ghitu. It is a very powerful feeling, a Progenitus with four suspend tokens. You can feel the clock ticking.

Now the Magic world is all a-buzz again as they do any time a new set is coming around. One March 1st, Wizards choose a rather unique way to spoil one of the new cards for the set "Rise of the Eldrazi". You can take a look here…just click on the jewel and watch.

Despite the amateurish nature of the animation, this card itself is pretty impressive.

I see this card as the exact opposite in most ways of Progenitus. They are both huge creatures. The casting cost for the Butcher might be a little easier, but 10 is still nothing to sneeze at. But while Progenitus is cool because of his almost complete invulnerability, this Kozilek fellow is cool because of his unbelievable offensive powers.

Any type of removal wipes this guy off the map. But if you weren't saving your Path for him and he gets to attack…well it's about time to call it a day.

Everyone else in the world has already commented on Koziek, so I might as well give my current thoughts.

1. The biggest of his powers by far is the line "When you cast Koziek, Butcher of Truth, draw four cards." According to current card templating, this means you get the four cards even if someone counters Koziek. So worst case scenario…Koziek is essentially a Tidings that costs 10 and also uses up one of your opponent's counters.

2. "Defending player sacrifices 4 permanents" sounds completely broken. But don't forget the defending player gets to choose the permanents. Unlike Progenitus, Koziek can be stopped by a large enough wall of creatures. Don't think someone can make 4 more creatures a turn? There are decks that do it. And you will probably get at least one turn of horrible chump-blocking before the end, regardless. Then you notice he doesn't have trample, or flying, or fear or any other type of evasion. Maybe you'll topdeck some removal.

3. Graveyard recursion is right out. Not only does he get shuffled back into your library, but so does the rest of your graveyard. You are immune to milling, but your graveyard is no longer a resource you can depend on. Forget about Knight of the Reliquary, or even Tarmogoyf. Not for use in Dredge Decks.

4. The card I hope I have in my hand when my opponent casts Koziek…Phthisis. There will also almost certainly be more Eldrazi-specific hate coming in this set, perhaps based off colorlessness.

5. His colorlessness is an important consideration. There are many effects that ask you to "pick a color" or work off matching colors. Koziek lacks a color. You can't get him out of someone's hand with a Persecute, no matter how hard you try. You can't cast him with Dream Halls, or tutor for him with Conflux. He's neither monocolor nor multicolor.

You can, however, suspend him with good ol' Jhoira. So I can honestly say I know of at least one deck that will be getting the Koziek upgrade. Unless Greg likes protection better, but I'm willing to bet he'll go for the extra card draw.

I'm a sucker. I can't wait for April 17th.

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