he pounding on the door grew insatiable. From a few staccato knocks it began; now, a resounding crescendo of demanding hands, each one hungry for the same thing: knowledge of the future.
And it was time.
Mirrodin Besieged is almost upon us—it's already that fantastic time of year: the season of previews and excitement, and we've all been chomping at the bit to get to it. And while some of you are just here looking for the latest card I have a story to share in showing you the card this time around.
It starts pretty gloomy:
You see, I'm not the biggest fan of blue. We all have favorites and mine happens to be an "everything-else-but" cluster of nonblue Magic. I'm usually happiest when I have some combination of red and green or black and white splayed across my battlefield. I'll even pile artifacts into the mix.
About the only time I think about blue is when I'm piecing together a deck for Limited (like at the upcoming Mirrodin Besieged Prerelease Events). And of course for showing you right here in Serious Fun.
It doesn't surprise me at all that for the previous two sets, Magic 2011 and Scars of Mirrodin, that I'd had a blue card passed to me to show off. While I'm sure there was more voodoo put into "Which cards show awesome things?" than "Which blue card can we pass down to the guy who 'hates' blue?" I can't help but wonder when I see things like this roll into my inbox:
I can vividly recall my completely fabricated reaction to seeing the cards I would be previewing: "Well sink my Stormtides and copy my Gargantuans, if it isn't another blue critter? And a Sphinx at that too!" followed by a low whistle.
"I bet it has flying and isn't too shabby for size either."
Indeed. A cursory glance told me what I already knew: it's another flying body in a color with a growing collection of them. It even has a nice size for blocking, something that I end up being prone to doing a lot in Commander.
The question then became: "What does this do that the other Sphinx cards don't? What makes this one so special?"
Just like in a melodramatic movie, the instantaneous flashes of drawing cards, casting spells, Angels singing out, the light of eternity casting down a halo around me, and a genuine grin on my face all poured into my mind.
"This is ... just ... trolling. This is a joke. This is a fanciful fake for flabbergasting me. It has to be."
Nope. Consecrated Sphinx is completely legit, as in real ... as in really freaking awesome.
Two Four, Thanks
Part of what makes blue unique among colors is its ability to draw more cards. Every set comes with at least a handful of effects that either draw cards or let you filter through a few of them and pick some better ones to keep or draw shortly thereafter.
It's also one of those subtle yet powerful effects many of us love.
Consecrated Sphinx is a riff off this idea, one where instead of picking up a few more for the hand through a spell you get to do it repeatedly thanks to your opponent. Here are a few rules nuances to be aware of with our new flying toy:
- You may either draw two cards or not draw at all. You can't choose to draw only one card.
- The ability triggers once for each card an opponent draws. You choose whether to draw two cards as each of those abilities resolves.
- If each player controls a Consecrated Sphinx, their abilities will cause each other to trigger until one player chooses not to draw cards.
While Howling Mine, Font of Mythos, and Temple Bell are all fine ways to draw extra cards, there's one little catch about them: your opponent(s) get to draw too. That's the first thing that hit me right out of the gate: Consecrated Sphinx provides me with more cards when there are more opponents and everyone is getting in on the action.
There are two things Consecrated Sphinx likes to see: multiple opponents and opponents who draw more cards. While you'll get an automatic when each opponent draws for their turn, finding ways to make opponents draw even more cards is the name of the game.
Temple Bell and Runed Servitor are two ways to get everyone in on the action, and Oona's Grace works both ways: giving you a card draw if you want it, or giving an opponent a draw once the Sphinx is up to its tricks. For style points you can chuck a land through Oona's Grace to retrace it, ensuring even more card draw as the game goes on.
To give us some set up time for this, especially in the world of multiple opponents, cards like Fog Bank and Propaganda deter attacks for a little while. And for icing on the cake, Arcane Denial for the hard stop to a spell while netting an even bigger payday of cards for us.
And it just wouldn't be the kind of deck I put together without a little suite of cards to go grab: Trinket Mage lets us select something useful anytime we cast it:
While Reliquary Tower, Halimar Depths, and Academy Ruins are probably pretty obvious inclusions, Shelldock Isle is a bit stranger: with our ability to end up drawing so many cards we might end up a little low in our library, and the Isle provides a powerful option should we dip precariously low.
There's No Business Like Snow-Business
Remember: Consecrated Sphinx has a "may" clause so we can stop anytime we want (which is why a Donate / Bazaar Trader type deck isn't being proposed here, unless we want to invoke Mindslaver shenanigans too). However, what if we didn't want to stop drawing so many cards? Could there be a deck that wants an excess of cards?
Back in the day I was an avid fan of off-beat decks that I could potentially take to Friday Night Magic; in other words, I've been reading Building on a Budget for quite some time. One of the decks that I recently discovered written down to construct was Ben Bleiweiss's Blue Snow Aggro. This deck isn't something you can take to FNM but is something to knock around for casual duels.
Vexing Sphinx is a pretty gnarly creature, being a solid 4/4 with flying for just three mana. It's feeding its demand for more and more cards to discard that can be daunting. Partnered with our new Consecrated Sphinx and an opponent, drawing cards should be no problem.
Howling Mine, Vision Skeins, Jace Beleren, and Mikokoro, Center of the Sea all let everyone draw cards, with a suite of creatures (Dimir Guildmage, Reckless Scholar, and Cephalid Looter) and Cephalid Coliseum providing more finessed drawing. The early plan is to drop some creatures and fiddle with card drawing to get to Consecrated Sphinx, then let the madness commence by pointing card drawing at your opponent.
Mnemonic Nexus is the reset button to ensure that both you and your opponent still have something to draw turn after turn.
With a two-for-one ratio of drawing, even something small like a single Cephalid Looter is a strong shot to the arm for your hand size. Of course, your opponent may not want to participate and decide to knock your Consecrated games off. In this case, Grand Architect serves as Honor of the Pure for all your blue creatures—sometimes being sneaky means being more direct.
Browbeating Your Fellows
I have two groups of friends: lovers of Browbeat, and haters of Browbeat. I'm pretty impartial but I admit to slinging it in the occasional mono-red Commander deck I happen to cobble together. What Browbeat has is affectionately referred to as the "punisher" mechanic: you give your opponent the choice between bad and probably worse, leaving it up to him or her to figure out which is which.
Consecrated Sphinx will probably help make this choice easier.
While blue and red might be a little shaky for a madness-fueled deck, I sure do love slinging burn spells and drawing a few cards along the way. Noggle Ransacker and Burning Inquiry wreck long-term plans through drawing and discarding, with Careful Consideration playing the role of helper for you or hurting for your opponent, depending upon the targeting and timing.
Seething Song helps power out our namesake card quicker, as well as supercharges Prosperity for a reload if required. Gamble is a finicky tutor that's perfectly on-theme, but it's Browbeat that can steal the show. Now, 5 damage is a nice chunk, and with Consecrated Sphinx out you can almost guarantee that will happen, as the alternative is quite clear: if no player chooses to take 5, instead someone will get to draw three while you draw six.
Pretty sweet deal now, eh?
The war is just beginning. While I've stayed pretty close to heart for how I'd like to use a few extra cards, I'm curious to see what plan of attack you have for our new Sphinx friend. And while I might not always reach for Islands to put into my deck, I certainly want to be on the side of the Sphinx when war breaks loose.
Join us next week when we get all consumptive.