ello and welcome to the first preview week for Scars of Mirrodin. Lords, creatures that give all other creatures of the same type +1/+1, have been an integral part of Magic since the beginning. Lords aren't just a gimmick either. Look at this deck list that Marijn Lybaert took all the way to the Top 8 at Pro Tour–Amsterdam just last weekend.
Marijn Lybaert's Merfolk
Extended - 4th Place - Pro Tour–Amsterdam 2010
That's a lot of lords. Marijn was able to continue progressing the strength of his army long after the third turn when his creature curve stops. He was able to put all that mana that he wasn't tapping on subsequent turns to good use by casting spells like Mana Leak and Cryptic Command.
The lord I'm about to reveal is of a very rare pedigree. The "color lord" has always had a very interesting place. Celestial Crusader is still one of the best cards in a White Weenie cube draft deck. Without further ado, let's take a look at Grand Architect.
Here's a card! There's a lot to be said for a card like this. Let's dig right in!
First, Grand Architect has a fat behind. Other similar creatures are almost always 2/2s. Grand Architect's toughness can be extremely relevant—he can't be hit by Burst Lightning. It's always a disaster when you pay three mana for a lord and your opponent deals with it via a one-mana removal spell. Given, things of that sort can still happen if your opponent has a Bolt, there's a big difference between dying to eight one-mana spells in your opponent's deck and dying to four of them. Pyroclasm oscillates between the world of playability and bulk. Given the density of creature-based decks, I wouldn't be surprised if people started packing Pyroclasm at some point in the near future. Grand Architect does an excellent job dodging the Pyroclasm.
Vampires will almost assuredly be a real deck after the rotation. Grand Architect successfully blocks the majority of Vampires without any assistance.
Grand Architect's second ability is the least exciting of the three. For a single blue mana, its controller may make an artifact blue until the end of the turn. This ability has three uses: First, it can be used to ramp into larger artifacts with the Architects third ability. Second, it can be used to pump the artifact you just did so much work to put into play. Last, the ability can be used on an opponent's creature for profit. Doom Blade doesn't kill Sphinx of the Steel Wind? For an extra blue mana we can solve that problem. Turning an artifact creature blue using the second ability will override any other color(s) the creature previously had. It will still be an artifact and you can target a blue artifact creature with this ability.
"Burst Lightning with kicker your Platinum Angel."
"I'll make him blue."
The third and most exciting part about the Grand Architect is the ability to tap creatures for Workshop mana. This type of thing has a lot of implications. The first thing I thought about when I saw this card was its favorable interaction with equipment. Players packing Grand Architects won't have to decide whether they want to equip their creature with their Sword of Body and Mind or cast another creature spell. You see, Grand Architect's ability has a lot in common with Heritage Druid. The ability can be used the same turn Grand Architect enters the battlefield. Because the last ability doesn't have a tap symbol in its cost, you can even tap a blue creature (including Grand Architect itself) that hasn't been under your control since your most recent turn began to pay the cost.
Aggressive blue decks would do themselves a great service to test this card as an inclusion. Its ability to pump the team is nothing to scoff at, but its synergy with equipment can be absolutely backbreaking if your deck is packing enough cheap critters. We still don't know the full extent of this ability, Scars of Mirrodin is sure to provide us with a lot of powerful equipment and Grand Architect is excellent at planning backbreaking equipment surprises. Think about how big a Sigil of Distinction can be if you have a Grand Architect on the table, it's pretty impressive.
Grand Architect can do a lot more than suit itself and others up with equipment, though. It is, after all, an architect. Grand Architect isn't the type to design houses or parks, no, Grand Architect is designing Platinum Angels, Triskelions, Steel Hellkites, and other gigantic game-breaking morsels of awesomeness.
This is where things can get really out of hand. If you untap on your fourth turn with a Grand Architect in play you already have enough mana to cast something as impressive as a Triskelion or Steel Hellkite. If you happened to have another blue creature in play then you can up the ante and drop a bomb like Platinum Angel.
Again, we still don't know the extent of this ability. Scars of Mirrodin is sure to offer up a lot of imposing artifacts and Grand Architect is the perfect man to put them together.
I like to keep my mind open when I'm looking at a new set. It's important to think about things like slapping an Eldrazi Conscription on a creature with infect. (Handshakes!) I try to imagine what a deck packing the new cards might look like. I've decided to make an aggressive blue deck for the new standard with the cards we know are available. Lets start by talking about the cards I've chosen to play with.
Coralhelm Commander is one of the best two-drops blue has ever seen. It does a lot of work without a lot of downside. It's evasive, big, and cheap. It also allows us to bluff countermagic in key spots and allows us to be explosively offensive when we want to be. Coralhelm Commander is very good at putting our opponent into awkward situations. People will probably wait to use their removal spells in response to key levels, the trick is leveling him to key points only when your opponent is tapped out or you have enough mana to counter their response. Your opponent will often leave their mana untapped in hopes of you putting in those key levels instead of presenting their own board presence. You can get a lot of free turns if you play it correctly.
Cosi's Trickster is an under-appreciated piece of cardboard at this point in time. It gets bigger every time your opponent pops a fetchland, casts a Stoneforge Mystic (this seems like it may be a pretty common occurrence), cast any type of Rampant Growth effect, or has any fun with a Primeval Titan. I wanted a one-drop and this seemed like the best available option in a blue deck.
Thada Adel, Acquisitor is another card that could easily gain a lot of usability given the right circumstances. Islandwalk is a nice bonus in a standard format with Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Scars of Mirrodin is sure to give us enough artifacts to make the ability relevant in most match-ups. One of the most important parts of Thada Adel is her ability to take your opponent's Basilisk Collar. A deck like this is obviously very weak to the Cunning Sparkmage / Basilisk Collar combo. If you're lucky enough to dodge the combo early on you can get Thada Adel, Acquisitor through their blockers via islandwalk, Sword of Body and Mind, or Sword of Vengeance.
Lighthouse Chronologist hasn't seen much play since Rise of the Eldrazi was released last spring. This card seems absolutely insane to me. Unfortunately, there hasn't been a good mono-blue creature-based deck in Standard. That could change quickly, though. I'd keep an eye on this wise old gentleman—he could become a sought after Mythic Rare very quickly.
I've already spoken at length about the applications of Grand Architect, but I'd like to reiterate how well this card works with equipment. It also pumps our whole team, which is nothing to really scoff at.
Mana Leak and Negate are obvious in my mind. Two-mana countermagic helps a deck like this battle spot removal and board sweepers. It becomes very difficult for an opponent to win when you have a fully leveled creature or any creature with equipment backed up by countermagic.
Sword of Vengeance, Darksteel Axe, and Sword of Body and Mind can turn the least threatening blue critter into a very impressive fighter. Grand Architect gives our equipment a lot of mobility and can really give an unexpecting opponent a lot of trouble. I understand that Sword of Body and Mind will likely be difficult to get a hold of, but I decided to include it in an effort to show off the power of Grand Architect. Having a Grand Architect on the battlefield means you can use your lands for things like countermagic and leveling while you use your creatures to cast and equip your metal.
A deck like this would have obvious trouble with cards like Baneslayer Angel, but against most decks it can successfully fight any sort of creature battle strictly on the back of the equipment. Sword of Vengeance even lets our Coralhelm Commander fight with Baneslayer. Cunning Sparkmage / Basilisk Collar is another issue, but Thada Adel can help us win that war. Decks that lack these pieces will have a lot of trouble here. It's hard to fully explain just how impressive these equipment cards are with the Grand Architect. My initial reaction with the Architect was to find the best mix of cheap blue creatures and expensive artifacts. Equipment seems like it has a lot of value here. The evasion provided by Sword of Body and Mind's protection from green is actually pretty impressive. Jace, The Mind Sculptor can give most players equipping expensive toys a fit, but Sword of Body and Mind solves that problem without an issue.
Grand Architect can lead to a lot of absurd things. I'm sure there are a lot of exciting tricks a player can find within Scars of Mirrodin that pertain to this gem.
The Scars of Mirrodin prerelease is fast approaching. If you haven't made plans for Sept 25th or 26th then I strongly suggest you mark your calenders and find a few friends with which to make the trip out to your local Prerelease. Prereleases are a great way to get an introduction to the world of competitive Magic. Playing in a tournament setting is different than playing with your friends at home. There's a time limit and a protocol on shuffling an opponent's deck and other simple matters that come up in a game of Magic. Don't worry, though! Judges and other players at the Prerelease will help you learn how to navigate your way through these things without any judgments. Also, the upcoming Pro Tour Qualifier season is Scars of Mirrodin Limited. The Prerelease will be an excellent place to get a head start on practice building a sealed pool.
Enjoy the rest of the previews. There's an especially exciting one tomorrow! (Wink! Wink! You didn't hear it from me.)