Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Epic Uncommons

One of the best parts of drafting M13 was that you weren't relying on rare cards to carry your deck. Obviously pulling Krenko, Mob Boss or Talrand, Sky Summoner was a nice moment, but there were just as many uncommon cards that got your blood flowing. So, this two-part article is going to list the top uncommon in each color from M13, and then estimate which uncommon might fill the same role in M14. And what the hell, we'll rank them against each other as well.

5. Red - Flames of the Firebrand


In a truly red deck, you'd take Arms Dealer over Flames of the Firebrand. But Flames fits in just about every deck, and Flames would be your first pick over Arms Dealer. In M13, there were a ton of useful creatures with 1 toughness that just get eaten by Flames of the Firebrand (the aforementioned Arms Dealer, Intrepid Hero, Knight of Glory, Knight of Infamy, etc). The flexibility of being able to kill multiple creatures with one spell, or even to kill one creature and burn your opponent for 1-2 damage, is what makes Flames such a good card. And at its worst, it still kills Centaur Courser or Faerie Invaders at sorcery speed. Epic.

4. Blue - Talrand's Invocation


Talrand's Invocation seems like one of those cards that just shouldn't exist. A 2/2 flyer normally costs three mana in blue (see Wind Drake). So you add another blue mana, and you get another 2/2 flyer? They're tokens, granted, but even still, the value is insane. This card also helped me understand the value of cards. That is, a single card that generates a single creature is "normal" value. A single card that generates two creatures has considerably greater value, because it means you don't have to draw another card to get that second creature. And when the creatures aren't little 1/1 soldier tokens but 2/2 flyers...get out of here.

3. Black - Vampire Nighthawk


Vampire Nighthawk is too good. To prove this, Magic came out with Deathgaze Cockatrice in M14. Deathgaze Cockatrice costs 1 more colorless mana, has 2 toughness instead of 3, and doesn't have lifelink. Anything with deathtouch and either reach or flying is tantamount to a pacifism. Anything with flying and lifelink is a potential win condition. Vampire Nighthawk has all of that. Ridiculous.

2. White - Oblivion Ring


I know James will call me insane for not putting Oblivion Ring first, which speaks to how strong it can be. He refers to O-Ring as "the mythic uncommon" because it's never available after the first pick. It's perfectly splashable, which means it fits into most decks. And it's removal for, well, everything. It can't kill Primal Huntbeast, and Knight of Infamy's protection prevents you from being able to target it, but that's it; everything else yields to Oblivion Ring. That makes it almost as effective as Murder at creature removal (because it's sorcery speed), and it can also be used to remove enchantments and artifacts. It's a broad, strong piece of removal. It's worth first-picking in just about every pack.

1. Green - Rancor


It's a razor thin margin between Oblivion Ring and Rancor. Interestingly, that exact situation has happened to me, choosing between Oblivion Ring and Rancor, and I hemmed and hawed for the full clock before finally taking Rancor. My thinking was this: while Oblivion Ring eliminates just about any problem you're facing, Rancor creates problems anew for your opponent, over and over again. Oblivion Ring can eliminate Rancor, it's true, but I take bombs over removal, and to me, Rancor is a bomb. It would be a playable card even if you didn't get it back; +2/+0 and trample for one mana is still good value. With the graveyard bounce-back action, it's unconscious. It's my pick for the best uncommon from M13.

But as exciting as these cards are, they're all in the past now. These days, it's all about drafting M14, and we've got a whole new list of potentially epic uncommons to choose from. On Thursday, I'll post my initial impressions of what's the best uncommon in each color, and compare them to how strong M13's were. See you then.

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