elcome to the first week of Avacyn Restored previews here on DailyMTG.com. Today, I've got an exciting creature that works well with some of the most powerful cards in the current Standard format.
A very long time ago, Ophidian was considered one of the best creatures in the game. Control players would grind the game to a stalemate, cast Ophidian, protect it, and ride the card advantage to victory. Forbid was especially powerful with this engine. The player with the Ophidian would draw two cards per turn and guarantee to be able to afford the buyback on the counterspell.
A few years later, Jon Finkel was immortalized as Shadowmage Infiltrator in Odyssey. Everyone expected great things from Shadowmage Infiltrator, but it happened to be in the same set as another creature with the same casting cost... Psychatog. Control decks of the era didn't have room for many creatures given the powerful disruption available.
These types of creatures continued being reprinted in future sets. Ohran Viper gave green players a steady source of card advantage. Cold-Eyed Selkie punished blue decks by outcarding them with ease.
So let's take a look at the latest Ophidian.
Tandem Lookout is one of the most interesting Ophidians I've ever seen. It's clear to me that this card will play a very different role than its predecessors.
Traditionally, Ophidians are cast by more controlling decks that plan to fill their hand with removal and counterspells. These decks wouldn't want to waste valuable slots on additional creatures. Tandem Lookout wouldn't work in this type of strategy; it requires you to play a lot of creatures.
Tandem Lookout | Art by Kev Walker
Usually, your Ophidian would eat a removal spell before you ever got a chance to attack with it. Tandem Lookout solves that problem beautifully. You cast Tandem Lookout when you already have a creature in play and a tapped-out opponent. Tandem Lookout bonds with the creature you already have in play and you get to attack with the soulbonded creature, draw a card, and be perfectly happy even if your opponent has a removal spell on the following turn. You already replaced the card you spent and your opponent's removal spell will only be an admission of losing the card-advantage war.
Tandem Lookout is an uncommon! Years ago this effect would only be seen on rare cards. It's nice to have more options among the cards that can be easily acquired.
In Standard, Tandem Lookout synergizes especially well with cards like Moorland Haunt, Doomed Traveler, Invisible Stalker, Delver of Secrets, and Snapcaster Mage. The card might be adopted by some delver lists if Gut Shot's popularity falls again.
I'm sure none of you want to see another Delver deck, so I'm going to try a mono-blue deck that gets the most out of Tandem Lookout. Invisible Stalker is the first card I'll look at when building a deck with Tandem Lookout. Hexproof and unblockable are very powerful mechanics when the creature also draws you a card whenever it deals combat damage. I know I want to be playing Invisible Stalker, so I'm going to need some Equipment.
I need to make the Invisible Stalker a worthwhile inclusion beyond its synergy with Tandem Lookout, and Silver-Inlaid Dagger is an excellent budget Equipment. Your opponent will be forced into a racing situation when you stick this on an Invisible Stalker.
Silver-Inlaid Dagger only costs one mana. This allows me to play Trinket Mage as a less-than-optimal Stoneforge Mystic. Still, a less than optimal Stoneforge Mystic is still a Stoneforge Mystic. Trinket Mage is a Human Wizard, so even if I don't have the Invisible Stalker, I can still suit up Trinket Mage and make a 5-power creature my opponent will be forced to deal with.
Stormbound Geist is another card that synergizes well with Tandem Lookout. It flies, so it will find itself in situations where it can't be blocked pretty often. Undying makes it especially bothersome. Your opponent can use a removal spell to break the soulbond, but he or she is forced to target Tandem Lookout. Targeting Stormbound Geist lets it simply return to play and re-bond itself with the Tandem Lookout.
Porcelain Legionnaire is hard to block in the early stages of the game. A 3-power first striker is almost guaranteed to make its way to your opponent's face, unless your opponent wants to chump block. Tandem Lookout makes that decision a little harder for your opponent. Sure, blocking is throwing away a creature, but the alternative is letting you draw an additional card if your opponent doesn't. It's also worth noting how impressive Porcelain Legionnaire becomes when equipped with Silver-Inlaid Dagger; your opponent will need a spot removal spell because there aren't many creatures that can stand toe-to-toe with a 5-power First Striker.
I was looking for Flying Men, but I found something much better. Vault Skirge is a cheap and evasive creature that goes over the top by providing lifelink. Silver-Inlaid Dagger can be equipped to Vault Skirge for some very nice life-total swings. Vault Skirge is inexpensive enough that it will help ensure you have an evasive creature to create a soulbond with when you're ready to cast Tandem Lookout.
The deck needed another one-mana creature and I found myself stumped. Then I realized that soulbond doesn't target the creature being bonded. I decided to happily include four copies of Phantasmal Bear in the deck. A 2/2 for one mana works well in an aggressive strategy. As an added bonus, soulbonding with the Phantasmal Bear won’t cause me to sacrifice it!
We're going to want some amount of interaction, so I've included three copies of Vapor Snag and one copy of Steel Sabotage. Opposing Sword of War and Peace will make the game difficult for this deck and I'd like to have a main-deck answer, even as a singleton. Vapor Snag lets this deck play a very aggressive/tempo-oriented game. Sure, Vapor Snag is card disadvantage, but it helps keep our opponents off their game plans and lets us crash into the red zone with multiple creatures that draw a card when they hit opponents.
Mana Leak is another card that I'd be crazy to not include. Countering spells and trading cards one for one is always a welcome occurrence when you're drawing more than one card per turn.
The deck needs at least a few ways to deal with large monsters like Titans that can come down and take over the game by themselves. I decided to include a pair of Dungeon Geists to give me outs in these situations. Dungeon Geists is a nice-sized flier that works well with my deck's theme.
Here's how the deck looks when I put it all together.
Jacob's Tandem Lookout
This deck should play well against anything in the current Standard format. It isn't going to "crush" anything, but you should always feel like you have a fighting chance. The deck above is also extremely easy to acquire.
Stormbound Geist | Art by Dan Scott
I'm sure Tandem Lookout will also be a very nice Limited card. It comes with a body and really increases the value of creatures with evasion. I'd be happy to open this gentleman at the prerelease on April 27–29.
Prereleases are some of my favorite events. Many of my first Magic tournaments were Prereleases. They offer an excellent opportunity to trade or meet new friends.
Avacyn Restored Prerelease promo card. Details.
The Avacyn Restored Prerelease adds another exciting twist to the usual Prerelease experience: stores around the world will have Helvaults set up. The players in the Prerelease will open the Helvault as the tournament progresses. I'm not sure what's inside the Helvault, but I'm really excited to find out.
Shoot me an email with feedback and suggestions for future columns. Don't forget to check out all the Avacyn Restored previews here on DailyMTG.com over the coming weeks.