Scourge Overview

Feature Article from Jay Schneider
Jay Schneider
5/22/2003
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Greetings All,

Scourge is a great set. As bad as Legions was, Scourge is equivalently good. It’s not the power level of the cards that makes Scourge a great set, it’s that the cards are interesting.

So what does interesting mean? It means several things. First, it means that the cards require careful consideration in order to use them to maximum effectiveness. Second, it means that the power level of the cards is about right –- they are not overwhelming strong, nor are they overwhelmingly weak. Third, it means there are new ideas in Scourge. These ideas, described in the new mechanics, instantiated in the cards, and developed in derivative decks, will effect the metagame for quite some time.

For a trade value based set review this presents an extra challenge; many of the cards are long-term in their scope. This review will analyze this, but with a focus on the future.

For each new M:tG expansion I write an overview, designed primarily as a trading aid, but also as a starting point to look at the new deck designs that the current set will inspire. I group the rares into 5 categories: Chase, Good, Neutral, Poor, and Abysmal. Chase rares are those which will see play in several Tier 1 decks (usually in qty. 4) and have that special uniqueness that distinguishes them from the pack. Good rares: there are decks that will use 4 of them, but they don’t have the je ne sais quoi of a chase rare, or their use is narrower. Neutral rares are mostly cards that will come out of the Sideboard or require a special deck to make use of them. Poor rares have very occasional uses. Abysmal rares will spend their entire life in a binder or at the bottom of a box.

Of course, it's hard to tell how accurate any reviewer’s comments/valuations are. As for myself the best guide I can give you are my previous results. The last of which (Legions) can be found in the Brainburst Archives.

I’d like to thank all those people who have gone over the set with me and discussed it in painful detail. In magic, as in most things, no one develops in a vacuum. I'm lucky enough to have steady feedback and suggestion from friends across the US:

In Seattle: Gerald Linn, Jeremy "J.V." Virden, Sameer Merchant, along with the Microsoft Cafeteria Magic Players. Thanks to Coyote Games in Redmond and Cardhaus games in Seattle for providing Seattle players places to play.
In Oregon: Dave Meddish, Mons Johnson.
In CA & Elsewhere: Chris Cade, Sean Frackowiak, Rick Saunooke
In Atlanta: Andy Wolf, David Leader, and the ever reclusive Paul Sligh.


ChaseGoodNeutralPoorAbysmal
Eternal DragonDecree of JusticeDawn ElementalAgeless SentinelsExiled Doomsayer
Mischievous QuanarCall to the GraveDay of the DragonsDimensional BreachTrap Digger
StifleDecree of PainParallel ThoughtsForce BubbleMind's Desire
Form of the DragonSoul CollectorConsumptive GooDecree of SilenceCabal Conditioning
Forgotten AncientDecree of AnnihilationDragon MageRaven Guild MasterFinal Punishment
Sliver OverlordDragon TyrantDragonstormNefashuLethal Vapors
Sulfuric VortexSiege-Gang CommanderGrip of ChaosAmbush Commander
Bladewing the RisenUpwellingAncient OozePrimitive Etching
Karona, False GodStabilizerDecree of SavageryRoot Elemental

Chase

Eternal Dragon 5WW
Creature - Dragon Spirit
Flying
3WW: Return Eternal Dragon from your graveyard to your hand. Play this ability only during your upkeep.
Plainscycling: 2
5/5

This card appeals to everyone. It fixes mana screw. It’s unique. It appeals to Timmy. It’s tournament caliber. It’s hard to imagine a deck that plays White that don’t want at least 2 of these main; it probably wants 4. Eternal Dragon even inspires a Reanimator deck using White! (Don’t forget that Breath of Life is in 7th)

Mischievous Quanar 4U
Creature - Beast (rare)
3UU: Turn Mischievous Quanar face down.
Morph 1UU
When Mischievous Quanar is turned face up, copy target instant or sorcery spell. You may choose new targets for that spell.
3/3

Scourge is built for combo decks. This card is a serious combo enabler, not to mention a remarkably efficient blue creature. He’s Mirari+, as he can Fork opposing spells as well as your own. He’s more mana efficient for the first copy than a traditional Mirari, which is key for starting combo engines. Also, as Blue creates go, he’s shockingly well-costed. Expect to see him cropping up in dedicated decks, sideboarded (or even started) in control decks, and as a regular in Merfolk decks. Currently he’s a little undervalued, but expect that to change.

Stifle U
Instant
Counter target activated or triggered ability.

Broken. Stifle is a wrench. Specifically, it has 1001 uses in any deck, and when it’s in a deck it’s designed for it’s truly insane. It’s a combo card, LD, a counterspell, and/or a combat trick. It’s everything. If it says anything, I couldn’t even approach listing all the cool uses for Stifle in this description. Expect Stifle to continue to rise in value over time.

Top 10 Countdown of Uses for Stifle (drum roll please):
  • #10 Single U Land Destruction, countering Krosan Verge, Wasteland, Dustbowl, and fetch lands.
  • #9 Countering the Madness trigger so that spells that are discarded with madness stay in the removed from game Zone – i.e. plow that Arrogant Wurm.
  • #8 Countering the Comes into Play or Leaves Play effects of Nightmares
  • #7 Binding Pernicious Deed. It’s not fair that the Green Mage have all the fun.
  • #6 Reanimating Phage. Just counter the “lose the game” triggered effect and Buried Alive/Stitch Together to your hearts content!
  • #5 Keeping Nefarious Lich from killing you if it’s disenchanted.
  • #4 Handling all those undesirable End of Turn triggered effects... like say that one which brings the Exalted Angel back from a Slide.
  • #3 Countering the Storm Mechanic. Why let them Storm anything? It’s a triggered effect.
  • #2 Owning Extended. There are likely to be any number of broken Extended decks that use and abuse Stifle but in case you’re looking for one, try the Tog deck with 4 Parallax Nexus and/or Parallax Tide. Stifle turns the Nexus into a Mind Twist for 3 and the Tide into a “Geddon you”.
  • #1 Headaches for the Rules team, as when it requires errata before its first day in use (at the Pre-Release), where they made the ruling that it can’t counter the triggered draw that that occurs at the start of every draw phase –- there was no justification for this errata as it doesn’t fit with the rules; they just patched Stifle to prevent abuse on its first day out.

Form of the Dragon 4RRR
Enchantment
At the beginning of your upkeep, Form of the Dragon deals 5 damage to target creature or player.
At the end of each turn, your life total becomes 5.
Creatures without flying can't attack you.

A moat that kills your opponent is a really good thing. This might revitalize U/R as an archetype, and it’ll fit into Burning Bridges as well. Not to mention, this card is unique enough to give it a very high trade value. Do expect the value to decrease over time, though.

Forgotten Ancient 3G
Creature - Elemental
Whenever a player plays a spell, you may put a +1/+1 counter on Forgotten Ancient.
At the beginning of your upkeep, you may move any number of +1/+1 counters
from Forgotten Ancient onto other creatures.
0/3

The meme has stuck that this is the card that “the players designed”, and that gives this card high trade value. It also has a fairly unique ability, and so it has a very good trade value. Expect its value to decrease over time as it doesn’t have any real application in Constructed play.

Xantid Swarm G
Creature - Insect
Flying
Whenever Xantid Swarm attacks, defending player can’t play spells until end of turn.
0/1

A very strong creature: repeated Abeyances is a quality effect well worth G and the vulnerabilities that occur from a 1cc creature. Expect these to be used in the Sideboards of almost any deck with Green mana, aggro or combo.

Sliver Overlord WUBRG
Creature - Sliver Mutant Legend (rare)
3: Search you library for a sliver card, reveal that card, and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library.
3: Gain control of target sliver (this effect doesn't end at end of turn)
7/7

Sliver Overlord isn’t going to see a lot of serious tournament play. Your opponent isn’t going to play Slivers in any format except Extended (making the control Sliver ability more than useless), and spending 3 mana to search out any of the Slivers that were printed in Onslaught block isn’t that exciting either. You can also do better in Reanimator than trying to reanimate a 7/7 creature (with no real ability). So why is this card listed so high?

Timmy value. This card trades higher than any other card at the current time, and if past precedent is any guide (i.e. Sliver Queen), the Sliver Overlord will hold its trade value. So know its value and trade it accordingly. If you enjoy slivers, play with it... just not in a serious Constructed deck.

Good

Decree of Justice XX2WW
Sorcery
Put X 4/4 white Angel creature tokens with flying into play.
Cycling 2W
When you cycle Decree of Justice, you may pay X. If you do, put X 1/1 white Soldier creature tokens into play.

This is the Decree that will see the most use in tournament play, in decks such as Slide and U/W control. I wouldn’t even be surprised to see a pair cropping up in White Weenie builds.

Call to the Grave 4B
Enchantment
At the beginning of each player’s upkeep, that player sacrifices a non-Zombie creature. At end of turn, if there are no creatures in play, sacrifice Call to the Grave.

Not quite The Abyss, but it’ll do in a pinch. It will see some play in Zombie-based decks in several formats, and occasionally in U/B control decks as well.

Decree of Pain 6BB
Sorcery
Destroy all creatures. They can't be regenerated. Draw a card for each creature destroyed this way.
3BB Cycling
When you cycle Decree of Pain, all creatures get -2/-2 until end of turn.

Decree of Pain is a solid removal spell that almost can’t help but gain you card advantage. As such it will see tournament play. However, due to its high casting cost (for either effect), the number which any tournament deck will use is likely to be less than 4.

Soul Collector 3BB
Creature - Vampire
Morph BBB
Flying
Whenever a creature dealt damage by Soul Collector this turn is put into a graveyard, return that card to play under your control.
3/4

Reasonably priced via its unmorph (in mono black he’s a 3cc spell with Echo), this creature isn’t bad to mix with Zombie Cutthroats and Putrid Raptors. He also has some Timmy appeal. In addition, there may be a block deck that uses him in combination with Lavamancer's Skill. Due to his wording, this is an extremely powerful combination with which to grab an opponent’s creatures or defend your own.

Decree of Annihilation 8RR
Sorcery
Remove all artifacts, creatures, lands, graveyards, and hands from the game.
Cycling 5RR
When you cycle Decree of Annihilation, destroy all lands.

Decree of Annihilation fills the role of Obliterate, but in a block that doesn’t really need it. However, expect it to trade at a value similar to Obliterate, based entirely on its Cycle effect.

Dragon Tyrant 8RR
Creature - Dragon
Flying, Trample, Double Strike
At the beginning of your upkeep, pay RRRR or sacrifice Dragon Tyrant. R: Dragon Tyrant gets +1/+0 until end of turn.
6/6

Entirely uncastable, this is the biggest hitter for a Reanimator deck, excepting Sutured Ghoul. Expect to see him in some Reanimator decks, and of course played by little kids everywhere.

Sulfuric Vortex 1RR
Enchantment (rare)
At the beginning of each player's upkeep, Sulfuric Vortex deals two damage to that player.
Whenever a player would gain life, that player gains no life instead.

A great sideboard card, better than Forsaken Wastes as Red is better able to take advantage of this effect than Black could. Expect this to have a place in the board of Sligh/Goblin decks and Burning Bridge.

Bladewing the Risen 3BBRR
Creature - Dragon Legend
Flying
When Bladewing the Risen comes into play, return target dragon card from your graveyard to play.
BR: All Dragons get +1/+1 until end of turn.
4/4

A potential card in Dragon Reanimator, and even possible to cast via normal means, Bladewing will see some tournament play. Combined with his Timmy value, this card will trade solidly.

Karona, False God 1WUBRG
Creature - Legend
Haste
At the beginning of each player's upkeep, that player untaps Karona, False God and gains control of it.
When Karona attacks, creatures of the type of your choice get +3/+3 until end of turn.
5/5

Creatures with 5 different mana symbols seem to attract and hold trade value. Karona is also playable in Reanimator decks (Buried Alive - Bidding – Legends). I suspect Karona’s trade value would be higher if there wasn’t stiff competition from the other Timmy rares.

Neutral

Dawn Elemental WWWW
Creature - Elemental
Flying
Prevent all damage that would be dealt to Dawn Elemental.
3/3

Dawn Elemental will see occasional sideboard use, although I suspect it will be a deck design mistake when it does. Dawn certainly should have had “does not tap to attack” considering the casting cast. However, it has a fairly unique property and that will give it some value.

Day of the Dragons 4UUU
Enchantment
When Day of the Dragons comes into play, remove all creatures you control from the game. Then put that many 5/5 red dragon creature tokens with flying into play.
When Day of the Dragons leaves play, sacrifice all dragons you control. Then put the removed cards into play under your control.

This card will rarely, if ever, see constructed play. However, it’s a fun, unique card with Timmy appeal. That’s enough to provide long term value and entertainment.

Parallel Thoughts 3UU
Enchantment
When Parallel Thoughts comes into play, remove seven cards from your library from the game, put them in a face-down pile, and then shuffle the pile and shuffle your library.
If you would draw a card, you may instead put the top card from the pile into your hand.

The question is, when (if ever) will this be better than Future Sight? There are occasions, specifically in combo decks that are looking for a key card (put copies of the key cards in a pile along with 3 Brainstorms). Don’t look at it as a card engine, but rather an improved Insidious Dreams. There will be a deck that uses it and it will be brutally efficient. If I knew what the deck was I’d move Parallel Thoughts into the Good category.

Consumptive Goo BB
Creature - Ooze
2BB: Target creature gets –1/-1 until end of turn. Put a +1/+1 counter on Consumptive Goo.
1/1

Good name, and Goo is reasonably balanced. It’s probably the best of the Invokers and might see occasional play because of it. However, it’s not earthshaking in any deck.

Dragon Mage 5RR
Creature - Dragon Wizard
Flying
Whenever Dragon Mage deals combat damage to a player, each player discards his or her hand and draws seven cards.
5/5

There are some Reanimator decks that will want to use him to refill their hands after going off. Generally, though, it’s preferable to simply inflict massive trauma on your opponent. Timmy value is high here, as well.

Dragonstorm 8R
Sorcery
Search your library for a Dragon card and put it into play. Then shuffle your library.
Storm

Vastly overpriced and the Storm effect might as well not be there. However, it has some Timmy trade value.

Siege-Gang Commander 3RR
Creature - Goblin (rare)
When Siege-Gang Commander comes into play, put three 1/1 red Goblin creature tokens into play.
1R, Sacrifice a Goblin : Siege-Gang Commander deals 2 damage to target creature or player.
2/2

This card was a valiant attempt and he’s almost in the Good category. The only problem is that Sligh decks just don’t have room for any 5cc creatures. This was pretty much true when Goblin Lackey was in Type II, and will probably hold in Goblin decks playing 4 Warchiefs. There’s a slight chance that some builds will find a way to squeeze in 1 or 2 (perhaps the extended builds that have Goblin Lackeys and Goblin Warchiefs). I hope they do, as he’s really funny with the Warchief and a Piledriver. The bottom line is he’s no Goblin Goon and the Goon tops out the Goblin mana curve.

Upwelling 3G
Enchantment
Mana pools don't empty at the end of phases or turns. (This effect stops mana burn.)

An interesting card which appeals to Timmy as well. I suspect it has almost no Constructed value, thanks to being overshadowed by cards like Mirari’s Wake and being symmetrical (helping both players). ...Not to mention the vulnerability it gives you over the course of several turns if you want to use it effectively. It is, however, interesting and unique enough to trade well, and will do so for quite some time.

Stabilizer 2
Artifact (rare)
Players can't cycle cards.

Right now this trades higher than a Neutral value, however I expect Stabilizer to settle down as a Neutral value card. It’s an answer for a single deck, and that’s a pretty narrow use for a card. Also, there are many ways to answer a Slide deck and most of them are more effective than a non-cantrip artifact which is just asking for a Break Asunder/Naturalize/Disenchant. So if you can get a Good rare for Stabilizer, do so. You’ll have a pretty good trade on your hands in the near future.

Poor

Ageless Sentinels 3W
Creature – Wall
Flying
When Ageless Sentinels blocks, it becomes creature type Giant Bird (this effect doesn’t end at end of turn).
4/4

All that keeps this from being complete binder fodder is the ability of Blue to enable walls to attack (i.e. Imagecrafter) and the fact that the Ageless Sentinels become Birds.

Dimensional Breach 5WW
Sorcery
Remove all permanents from the game. As long as any of those cards remain removed from the game, at the beginning of each player's upkeep, that player returns one of the removed cards he or she owns to play.

I guess I just don’t see the deck that “makes” this card. Without that deck the Breach is just a tease and Wizards R&D is still keeping the cool White spells overcosted by 2.

Force Bubble 2WW
Enchantment
If damage would be dealt to you, put depletion counter on Force Bubble instead for each point of damage that would be dealt. If Force Bubble has four or more depletion counters on it, sacrifice Force Bubble. At end of turn, remove all depletion counters from Force Bubble.

Of marginal use in tournament play and overcosted by at least 2 if not 3.

Decree of Silence 6UU
Enchantment
Whenever an opponent plays a spell, counter that spell and put a depletion counter on Decree of Silence. If there are three or more depletion counters on Decree of Silence, sacrifice it.
Cycling 4UU
When you cycle Decree of Silence, you may counter target spell.

Don’t confuse this with a tournament caliber card. It’s not. For 20% more mana you can take two additional turns. For 3 less mana you can gain considerably more than 3 for 1 card advantage. This card is just not tournament playable and not especially attractive to the casual players.

Raven Guild Master 1UU
Creature - Wizard Mutant
Whenever Raven Guildmaster deals combat damage to a player, that player removes the top 10 cards of his or her library from the game. Morph 2UU
1/1

He walks the line of being completely useless. However, he’s interesting as people do want to make the Mill deck, and so will continue trying to use him. They’re not going to get anywhere, but due to the attempt Raven will hold some trade value.

Nefashu 4BB
Creature - Zombie Mutant
When Nefashu attacks, up to five target creatures get -1/-1 until end of turn.
5/3

There are folks who think the attacking ability of Nefashu is relevant. I don’t seem to be able to find the circumstances where this is so but this belief gives Nefashu some value. Trade him for what you can, while you can.

Grip of Chaos 4RR
Enchantment
Whenever a spell or ability is put on the stack, reselect its target at random if it has a single target.

An amusing and unique card. However, cards that are only usable in fun decks don’t hold a lot of trade value.

Ancient Ooze 5GG
Creature - Ooze
Ancient Ooze's power and toughness are each equal to the total converted mana cost of other creatures you control.
*/*

For reasons that can only be remotely speculated at, this card holds some marginal trade value. Trade him away while that value is still there because he’s terrible. All together now, “Large Green Creatures without trample suck.” They’re not fun, they’re not good, and sadly they’re not unique.

Decree of Savagery 7GG
Instant
Put 4 +1/+1 counters on all creatures you control.
4GG Cycling
When you cycle Decree of Savagery, put four +1/+1 counters on target creature.

People seem to trade a bit for Decrees no matter how poor they are.

Abysmal

Exiled Doomsayer 1W
Creature - Cleric
Morph costs cost 2 more to play.
1/2

Not fun. Not Good. Overcosted. Exiled to the bottom of a box deep in a closet.

Trap Digger 3W
Creature - Soldier
2W, Tap : Put a trap counter on target land you control.
Sacrifice a land with a trap counter on it : Trap Digger deals 3 damage to target attacking creature without flying.
1/3

He’s dug his own hole. Now he’s the one to fill it. Again, not fun, not good, overcosted. Speaking of filling holes, did I mention that he’s not recyclable (nor are any M:tG cards). They really should be (especially the Trap Digger). From a correct perspective this card is a fascinating metaphor on recycling, the environment, and Wizards products.

Mind's Desire 4UU
Sorcery
Shuffle your library. Remove the top card of your library from the game. Until the end of turn, you may play this card without paying its mana cost.
Storm

My Mind’s Desire is that this had 2 less in its casting cost. Erratic card advantage and not very much of it (2 maybe 3 for 1 and all the spells have to be immediately playable) is not worth 6 when Future Sight has a converted cost of 5 mana. There will be some initial interest, in this card, so if you find someone who wants it, trade it.

Cabal Conditioning 6B
Sorcery
Any number of target players each discards cards from his or her hand equal to the highest converted mana cost among permanents you control.

The Cabal should make a rinse too. Need something to get this stuff out of my hair. Overcosted by 2.

Final Punishment 3BB
Sorcery (rare)
Target player loses life equal to the damage dealt to him or her this turn.

How I wish. However, I suspect I’m still going to be tormented by overcosted, erratic damage, non-removal Black burn spells for many expansions to come. I just wish they wouldn’t occur in the rare slot.

Lethal Vapors 2BB
Enchantment (rare)
Whenever a creature comes into play, destroy it.
0: Destroy Lethal Vapors. Skip your next turn. Any player may play this ability.

I think it’s safe to say Wizards R&D lit a left cheek sneak with this card.

Ambush Commander 3GG
Creature - Elf (rare)
Forests you control are 1/1 Green elf creatures that are still land.
1G, Sacrifice an elf : Target creature gets +3/+3 until end of turn.
2/2

So named because he led the Elves into an ambush. In Black alone he’s asking for an Infest, Bane or Decree that will not only kill all the elves but ‘Geddon them as well.

Primitive Etching 2GG
Enchantment
Reveal the first card you draw each turn. If it is a creature card, draw a card.

Definitely a primitive card, reminiscent of numerous other useless 4cc Green enchantments from the caveman days of card design which draw a bonus card when the stars are in perfect alignment.

Root Elemental 4GG
Creature - Elemental
Morph 5GG
When Root Elemental is turned face up, you may put a creature card from you hand into play.
6/5

Ummm, Trample? Wait I know how this works, for 3 mana and exposing this guy as a 2/2 for a turn you can then spend 5GG to put an Ancient ooze in play. That way you’ll have two 6 power non-tramplers in play on turn 7. That’ll scare, well, no one.


Card texts are from The Official Scourge Spoiler.

Thank you for your time,

-Jay Schneider

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Please check the FAQ to contact me.



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