ey all, and welcome back to From the Lab. Here on magicthegathering.com, we've been examining the latest and perhaps greatest core set, Magic 2011. Usually, I'd have a second preview card for you all (following up on my reveal of Leyline of Anticipation last week) but just yesterday, the whole set was loaded into the Visual Spoiler, so you can preview the rest of the set for yourself. There are certainly some great Johnny cards in the set that I'm anxious to use, such as the slow-burning but insane Wild Evocation. I'm also excited to have my favorite piece of silverware back in Reverberate. Fauna Shaman instantly jumps to the top of the list in terms of casual creature tutors, in my opinion.
I also love the spells that reference the five planeswalkers by name. Cards like Jace's Ingenuity and Chandra's Outrage mix flavor and game play in a way that I've been hoping to see in a core set for a while. If you haven't noticed, each of the planeswalker's spells combos with the other. For example, having both Ajani's Mantra and Ajani's Pridemate on the battlefield allows the Pridemate to gain a counter. Even a vanilla 3/2 such as Garruk's Companion finds a best friend in Garruk's Packleader—which, by the way—is another card I can't wait to play with. Casting a Packleader with a Kavu Lair on the battlefield will result in lots of cards in the near future. Liliana's Caress, meanwhile, is a new spin on Megrim that only costs ! Fun times are ahead, that's for sure.
In fact, the fun times are now. Amidst the ramping towards Magic 2011, we've been treated to the release of Archenemy, the fun multiplayer format. It's all part of the Summer of Multiplayer.
If you'll indulge me, though, there happens to be another ongoing event this summer that delicately perfects the art of multiplayer, albeit in a different game. No, I'm not talking about where Lebron James signs. The only free agent that I cared about this summer was Giant Growth, and I'm glad he signed again with Magic 2011. We also signed Day of Judgment away from Zendikar, completing Magic 2011's great off-season ... er, on-season.
Seriously, I'm talking about the 2010 FIFA World Cup. It's the biggest sporting event in the world, containing teams from every corner of the globe (if globes had corners.) I'm going to let you all in on a little secret: I'm a soccer fanatic. I've watched almost every game with unflinching attention. As I write, there are four teams left in the world's biggest bracket: Uruguay, the Netherlands, Germany, and Spain. At the end of today's article, I'll pick who I think will win it all.
Soccer, like Magic, is truly a beautiful game. The multiple layers of both games, while not directly comparable, equally appeal to my sense of wonder. Still, it's fun (if you're a crazy person like I am) to imagine parallels. What is a perfectly placed through ball but a Pestermite cast at the end of your opponent's turn and tapping his or her last creature? What is a spectacular save but a Swift Maneuver to survive an attack?
Today, I'm going to try a fun experiment and blend soccer and Magic in what I'll call the Magic World Cup. Teams hailing from each block will have a shot to compete for glory! Which team will hoist the Brittle Effigy?
Taking the Field
Instead of my regular deck lists, I'm going to set up the deck like I would a soccer team—a goalkeeper in the back, and a combination of defenders, midfielders, and strikers. For example, here's the official Mirrodin squad:
Keeper: Loxodon Peacekeeper
Right Back: Loxodon Anchorite
Left Back: Loxodon Anchorite
Right Center Back: Loxodon Mystic
Left Center Back: Skyhunter Patrol
Right Mid: Spikeshot Goblin
Left Mid: Skyhunter Skirmisher
Right Center Mid: Leonin Battlemage
Left Center Mid: Vulshok War Boar
Right Striker: Goblin Striker
Left Striker: Slith Firewalker
This team plays defensively, but looks for the quick counterattack. The four backs expertly shut down attacks, and feed the ball to the midfield. Leonin Battlemage makes teammates better with every pass. Spikeshot Goblin is lethal from long range, and Skyhunter Skirmisher is deadly on the wing. Vulshok War Boar is a powerhouse, bullying past other players to create opportunities. The two strikers are both too quick to handle: Goblin Striker always gets a shot off first, and Slith Firewalker gets better as the game progresses. However, they're both quite small, and likely to get pushed around up front.
Here's Zendikar's team:
Keeper: Gatekeeper of Malakir
Right Back: Zulaport Enforcer
Left Back: Zulaport Enforcer
Right Center Back: Giant Scorpion
Left Center Back: Null Champion
Right Mid: Crypt Ripper
Left Mid: Arrogant Bloodlord
Right Center Mid: Vampire Nighthawk
Left Center Mid: Bloodhusk Ritualist
Right Striker: Bloodghast
Left Striker: Quag Vampires
Being the block with kicker, it should be no surprise that this team has great passing and shooting. This team is very offensive minded, trying to feed (yeah, feed) the two Vampire strikers. Bloodghast, in particular, never quits on the ball and knows how to wear on a team. Vampire Nighthawk is the star midfielder, making plays happen all the time. However, the team's defense is quite weak. If the defenders don't have time to level up, they'll get burned. Giant Scorpion is the only sure thing in the back. The weakest of cards can even school the middie Arrogant Bloodlord.
Here's Kamigawa's team:
Keeper: Minamo Scrollkeeper
Right Back: Kaijin of the Vanishing Touch
Left Back: Kaijin of the Vanishing Touch
Right Center Back: River Kaijin
Left Center Back: Gnat Miser
Right Mid: Erayo, Soratami Ascendant
Left Mid: Hired Muscle
Right Center Mid: Locust Miser
Left Center Mid: Graceful Adept
Right Striker: Shimmering Glasskite
Left Striker: Ninja of the Deep Hours
This team is defined not by offense or defense but by possession. Graceful Adept allows for more than maximum time of possession, and Erayo loves to string four or more passes together. Once Erayo flips, she combines with Locust Miser to drastically cut down on an opponent's possession time. The back four are solid defenders. Up front, Shimmering Glasskite is a tough card to take the ball from. Meanwhile, Ninja of the Deep Hours strikes when you least expect it.
Here's Shards of Alara block's team:
Keeper: Keeper of Progenitus
Right Back: Druid of the Anima
Left Back: Druid of the Anima
Right Center Back: Noble Hierarch
Left Center Back: Toxic Iguanar
Right Mid: Giant Ambush Beetle
Left Mid: Thunder-Thrash Elder
Right Center Mid: Marisi's Twinclaws
Left Center Mid: Topan Ascetic
Center Mid: Thornling
Striker: Rhox Charger
This team is all about trickery and ball-handling. As you can see, unlike the other teams, Alara plays five midfielders and only one striker. Thornling is the Cristiano Ronaldo of Magic, having many tricky moves in its arsenal. Other skillful middies include Marisi's Twinclaws. The lone striker is Rhox Charger, who prefers attacking alone anyway. This team appears to be extremely overpowered, but what isn't obvious right away is the complete lack of teamwork. Topan Ascetic is a ball-hog, tapping teammates down for some extra power. Thunder-Thrash Elder is worse—devouring its own teammates for a chance to score. Giant Ambush Beetle is just a diver. Worse yet, the back four sacrifice actual defense for mana to play all these expensive midfielders.
For Lorwyn and Shadowmoor, I'm going to do two teams, one for each side of the schizophrenic plane.
Here's the Lorwyn team:
Keeper: Indomitable Ancients
Right Back: Burrenton Bombardier
Left Back: Burrenton Bombardier
Right Center Back: Harpoon Sniper
Left Center Back: Stinkdrinker Bandit
Right Mid: Kinsbaile Cavalier
Left Mid: Mad Auntie
Right Center Mid: Ghostly Changeling
Left Center Mid: Changeling Sentinel
Right Striker: Avian Changeling
Left Striker: Skeletal Changeling
The opposite of the Alara team, the Lorwyn team is all about teamwork. The equivalent of a ragtag bunch of players that have the potential to pull out some games, this team relies on its Changelings to score goals. If a tribal lord card happens to be on the attack with them, they'll easily score. If not, they easily won't. This is the Any-Given-Sunday team, the underdog that, if they believe in themselves, can win.
And finally, the Shadowmoor team:
Keeper: Isleback Spawn
Right Back: Oona's Gatewarden
Left Back: Oona's Gatewarden
Right Center Back: Silkbind Faerie
Left Center Back: Merrow Grimeblotter
Right Mid: Knacksaw Clique
Left Mid: Leech Bonder
Right Center Mid: Gravelgill Axeshark
Left Center Mid: River Kelpie
Right Striker: Deepchannel Mentor
Left Striker: Inkfathom Infiltrator
From the first minute, this team is aiming for penalty kicks. Persisting and withering along the way, they wear out the other team. The two center backs, Silkbind Faerie and Merrow Grimeblotter, can overlap into the attack and fall back on defense just as easily. Knacksaw Clique shreds away the opponent's sanity one bit at a time. Once penalties are around, Inkfathom Infiltrator and Deepchannel Mentor guarantee a victory. However, if they fall behind in regular time, it could be hard to come back.
So there are the six teams. You may be asking, "Where's the Dominaria team?" I didn't make one for Dominaria because, as the plane with the most cards, it would be highly difficult to create an optimal team for them. You're free to make one yourselves, however!
This experiment is fun to put together and read, but as far as playing, how can we inject soccer into game play? I suggest playing these decks against each other using Frontier Magic rules. You can read about Frontier Magic here, but basically it creates an actual battlefield of play. From there, assemble your team in the proper formation if you can!
That's all for this week! I hope you all enjoyed this little interlude, and I'll be back to building decks around Magic 2011 cards next week!