he year 2012 is over. It's the beginning of a new turn. And someone who has been in the exile zone for a very long time is eager to reappear.
Welcome to 2013
After reading it, your first reaction is most likely, "Wait, what did I miss?" But no, there is no hidden oracle text; no secret errata here. This throwback to the original Ghost Council of Orzhova really just is as completely insane, off-the-rails bonkers, and totally bananas as you think it is.
This year in Magic might just turn out to be the year of the Spirit.
Fun fact about Obzedat: I designed him—but I almost didn't bother suggesting him. In the hole-filling exercise where we submitted ideas for what the new Ghost Council could do, I very nearly deleted this design from my email because I thought it looked so absurdly powerful that it would seem like I had no idea how to balance cards.
Turns out the rest of R&D likes powerful cards too.
Okay, there's been a lot of talk so far about how good this card is. Let's break it down.
For five mana, you get a 5/5. All right, that's already looking interesting. Tell me more!
On top of the pretty large size, you also drain your opponent immediately for 2 life.
Now, if the card simply stopped here, I think you could already talk about maybe playing a couple copies in Constructed, and it would certainly be a Limited powerhouse. However, what really makes it ridiculous is the last ability.
This ability is what really sends Obzedat over the edge of "good" and straight into absurdity.
First of all, you're going to drain your opponent for 2 life every turn. If you play this on turn five, after he attacks on turn six he will have already dealt 9 damage to your opponent—and gained you 4 life in the process. And that's all before Obzedat fades out again. Don't blink! You might miss him.
Obzedat is also nearly impossible to race. He can outrace Thundermaw Hellkite—even if you're on the draw!
Second of all, Obzedat is nearly impossible to remove. Unless you badly need him to block, sorcery-speed removal is useless against him. In fact, Obzedat was made partially as a card to fight back against the many-color Sphinx's Revelation decks that were dominating our FFL at the time.
Seriously, think about it. How are you going to fight him if he resolves?
Ultimate Price? Try again. Mizzium Mortars? Nope. Detention Sphere? Negatory. Searing Spear? Better have two of them. Azorius Charm? If I think you have it, I don't need to attack!
One of the few cards people are playing that can permanently deal with him is Selesnya Charm. (Another fun fact: we bumped Obzedat from 4/4 to 5/5 specifically so Selesnya Charm could remove him.) There are so few good answers that Obzedat demands the opponent plays specific cards to deal with him. And even if your opponent does start to play them, Obzedat also happens to be in the color with plenty of discard to pick apart the opponent's answers.
Of course, while he is very tricky for the Sphinx's Revelation decks to deal with, you might also be surprised how good he is in those decks as well. Stabilizing versus beatdown and having a trump card against control gives him plenty of potential in control decks as well!
All right, so now that we've established Obzedat's power, where do we go from here? Well Gavin, I'm glad I asked!
Building with Power
This week, I'd like to talk about how to build around singular, powerful cards. I already wrote an article on building around individual cards, but this case is a little different. When a card is ridiculously powerful, you can win games solely off of riding that card to victory. Even if the support cards for an archetype with that card might be a little weaker, it can be worth playing those cards just so you can maximize an extremely powerful card.
So, what steps should you take in building a deck around maximizing one specific card?
Well, the first thing I would look at is what the inhibiting factors to playing it are. What drawbacks does the card have? What could potentially cause problems?
In this card's case, its major point of trickiness comes from this:
Obzedat's text is all awesome—you just have to get it onto the battlefield first. Fortunately, the mana in this format is pretty good, making a variety of options possible.
After determining what constraints the card has to play with, I would look at the list of decks it can be played in and try and determine which ones look the most powerful to you.
The obvious place to start with Obzedat is in an Orzhov midrange deck. Unfortunately, not many Orzhov cards have been previewed yet so I can't show you what the decklist might look like with tons of great Gatecrash goodies. But even just working with what you already know will exist, you could try something like this:
Gavin Verhey's Orzhov Midrange
Okay, so it has Orzhov Charm... but that's not really cheating. I assure you, it's awesome in this kind of deck!
Restoration Angel works pretty well in a world with Obzedat, giving you a bonus drain when you want it—and also helping him dodge any pesky removal your opponent might actually have to fight him off. That becomes especially relevant if you leave Obzedat back to block. If your opponent thought he or she could defeat your blocking Obzedat with sorcery-speed removal, Restoration Angel will see to it that isn't a problem.
Straight Orzhov is a pretty safe place to start with an Obzedat deck, simply because you can be fairly sure that the tools will exist after Gatecrash releases to create a reasonable Orzhov deck—and with Obzedat at the helm, it will make the color combination worth playing.
But thinking a little more outside of the box than the obvious Orzhov deck, how about an Esper control deck using Obzedat as the finisher? With plenty of strong removal, control elements, and Sphinx's Revelation—not to mention the addition of Godless Shrine and Watery Grave from Gatecrash—there's a lot of potential here.
The power of Obzedat in a deck like this is to not only stabilize—but to capitalize if your opponent stumbles at all. The card will just give you numerous free wins. If your opponent misses a land drop and you play a turn-five Obzedat, your opponent just might be dead; similarly, if he or she is playing beatdown and you play a Supreme Verdict on turn four and an Obzedat on turn five, the enemy is going to be hard pressed to come back into the game.
You could start with something like this:
Gavin Verhey's Obzedat Control
In the last deck I had Orzhov Charm, and this time around its Dimir Charm you don't know about. What does that one do? Well, good things. I'll say that much. It just fits well into a deck like this...
This deck can play a pretty hearty control game, featuring the full set of Sphinx's Revelations and plenty of sweepers, countermagic, and removal spells to cover the rest of the bases. If you want to have all the trappings of a control deck, this one is right up your alley.
But, additionally, the deck can move quickly from control to beatdown! When it's time to win, Obzedat and Restoration Angel can play tag-team on your opponent's life total. It's almost Faeries-like in this sense, moving from the control game plan to the beatdown game plan in the blink of an eye!
As more and more Orzhov cards are released, Obzedat's role will become clearer. In the meantime, there is still plenty of deck building you can do—as you just saw. Obzedat might even have a Modern role to play! Five mana is a lot to ask to pay for a creature in Modern... but one this powerful just might be enough to buck that trend. Even just as a singleton to Birthing Pod up, the card has Modern potential.
Obzedat is here—what will you do with the most powerful force in the Orzhov Syndicate at your behest?
Now that preview season is in full swing, the secrets of the other five guilds will be laid out before you. Obzedat is certainly one of the most powerful cards in the set, but many other cards will have a tremendous impact on Standard as well. If you've been waiting for a big shakeup to Standard, that time is soon approaching.
After working on Gatecrash so long ago, I'm excited that a set I was a big part of is finally being released to the public! I hope you are all enjoying the set from what you've seen so far. If you have any comments or feedback you want to leave on this article or the set in general, I'd be happy to hear it! Feel free to post in the forums or send me a tweet with any comments you might have
Next week, I'll be back with a Zero to Sixty, as I take a look at Commander and preview another fantastic legendary creature. Don't worry about submitting any decklists this week—but stay tuned next week for information about the first deck-building contest of the year!
Also, if you enjoy my writing and/or preview cards, don't miss Latest Developments this Friday! I wrote the column for this week, where I feature another pretty fantastic Orzhov card. Be sure to check it out!
Well, it's my turn to make like Obzedat and flicker out for a little while. But don't worry—I'll be back soon enough. And fortunately, I can still check Twitter from the exile zone.
Talk with you soon!