ast weekend I was reminiscing with Osyp Lebedowicz about the age of the Signet.
Do you remember Signets? The main ones that people played were Azorius Signet, Izzet Signet, Dimir Signet, and to a lesser extent Simic Signet (green decks would typically rather play Farseek or Sakura-Tribe Elder, unless they were trying to 'Tron out a Simic Sky Swallower). You would sometimes see an Orzhov Signet setting up a Desolation Angel, but for the most part people played Signets in blue decks.
Signets were great!
You might see a Dimir Signet come down on the second turn, allowing its master three mana the next turn to transmute a Dimir House Guard for a Damnation, but in a way that provided a breather to play a Blood Crypt tapped, or maybe a Dimir Aqueduct; or you might catch an Azorius Signet powering out a crashing third-turn Lightning Angel. Control during the age of the Signet—Standard especially—was so much different than it is today. We last saw Mind Stone prior to Magic 2010, but the present Standard offers us no two-mana skill-testing accelerator (at least, for the most part, outside of green).
I said it.
I remember watching Osyp pass his second turn with an Izzet Signet in his hand on the way to an undefeated Day One at the first Pro Tour–Honolulu. His opponent did something for two or three and Osyp played a Remand with his two open mana. On his third turn, Osyp played a land and the Izzet Signet, and still had for his Mana Leak.
"Wow," I told him. "I have literally never not played my Izzet Signet on the second turn ... but that was really good."
"Wow," the PT Venice champ responded. "That explains so much."
Osyp Lebedowicz's Izzetron
Pro Tour-Honolulu 2006
News flash: It isn't always right to run out your turn-two Signet.
Two-mana artifact accelerators just give blue decks so much more richness, more layers and possibility in their execution. Many less experienced blue mages undervalue the lift, especially when they want to sit back on their counterspells. However, especially in the age of the Signet, we saw really elegant and highly synergistic opening plays across the various blue options.
How far ahead are you at this point? I can't even count that high!
Paul Cheon's Solar Flare
2006 U.S. Nationals Top 8
Solar Flare is a quintessential Signet deck from the Signet era.
Even after Signets left Standard, similar cards, like Prismatic Lens, would contribute to the mana development of blue decks. A Prismatic Lens on the second turn could position a blue mage's third turn for a Mystical Teachings, Cryptic Command, or Damnation on the third turn, setting him up for his future game plan, or planting a stop sign in the face of certain beatdown.
Don't you think that a modern Standard control deck might like to have a Signet, Lens, or Stone of some sort? Spreading Seas is a superb two-mana play in this present tense of Savage Lands, but don't you think that Ajani Vengeant might like to spring onto the battlefield on turn three? Rawr. How about a turn-three Divination or Jace Beleren and a Sejiri Refuge occupying the same third main phase? What about turn-four Baneslayer Angel for that matter, or a Mind Spring one card bigger? (That last one, by the way, is a particularly good use of a Signet ... You make room for one more card in hand by playing a card, and have the extra mana to draw that card.) Each and every one of those seems like a fine reason to include this type of card.
Luis Scott-Vargas's Red-White-Blue Control
Standard - StarCityGames Standard Open in Los Angeles
This is more or less what a Standard control deck looks like.
I'm sure that you know where I am going with all of this. Standard control decks used to be built a certain way, and we build the way we do today largely for lack of a Fellwar Stone; if we had a card like a Signet at two mana, with its basic functionality, we would find a way to play it.
What if they got a little bit (and by "a little bit" I mean sometimes a lot bit) more?
What do you think about Everflowing Chalice?
Go ahead and absorb that one for a moment.
First and foremost, Everflowing Chalice can occupy the space of a Signet in modern Standard. Everflowing Chalice may have the base mana cost of a Mox Emerald, but it doesn't actually produce any mana unless you paid at least into it. You can certainly tap a naked Chalice if you like, and you will still be activating a mana ability. The Everflowing Chalice just won't give you anything back.
So how reasonable is this card at its various mana costs?
You will rarely—though not "never"—cast a Chalice at its base () cost. Because it can't produce any mana at this cost, the implementations will be pretty specific. The most common might be in Extended. You can cast a Chalice to add to the storm count for purposes of a later Grapeshot, or you can sub it in as a combo catalyst. Sometimes you just don't have Sword of the Meek on the battlefield, but a zero-cost artifact can tag in as a sacrifice to get the Sword back up from the 'bin. Cast it, staple it to Thopter Foundry for a moment, watch your Sword hop back where it belongs, and keep going.
As this article has probably guided you to think, two mana will be the most likely amount of mana you pay for this card; kicker, but not really multikicker just yet. At two mana, we have a basic Signet. A Mind Stone, really, but without the flexibility of drawing an extra card. So how's about it?
Mind Stone was an important card when it was first printed, a cornerstone of one of the most important decks of all time.
While everyone else was figuring out how to attack with Jackal Pups, Andrew was figuring out how to block them.
The original Draw-Go deck is a fine illustration of how a control deck might be happy to play a Signet-type card without relying on it to filter colored mana. Andrew used Mind Stone to get out faster copies of Dancing Scimitar (or, more importantly, Nevinyrral's Disk). While Everflowing Chalice doesn't give you the same potential to desperately Craig Jones up a Power Sink with your back against the wall, its multikicker does give you a different kind of flexibility.
What happens when we start actually putting the multi- into Multikicker? At four mana, Everflowing Chalice gives us a tool kind of halfway between Worn Powerstone and Thran Dynamo (two cards you have probably never heard of ... or at least not considered much over the past ten years).
An Everflowing Chalice with two charge counters on it functions about as a Worn Powerstone does. The problem with a superficial comparison? Our Chalice costs four total mana, whereas Worn Powerstone only costs three; on the other hand, Worn Powerstone enters the battlefield tapped. Because of that, we lose out on an initial opportunity to use that mana. You can think of a two-charge multikicker as a down payment of one additional mana with an immediate return of two. While it isn't clear that a four-mana Chalice is straight up better than a Worn Powerstone (you can cast the Powerstone a turn earlier), it is at least worth a "Broodmate Dragon versus Baneslayer Angel" intellectual exercise.
The comparison with Thran Dynamo is a bit more problematic. They cost exactly the same amount of mana; Everflowing Chalice in this case is just worse.
On balance, Everflowing Chalice can be played at two mana to act like some kind of Diamond or Talisman, whereas Thran Dynamo does a whole lot of nothing before you hit four.
You might be—at least initially—a little skeptical about the efficacy of cards like Thran Dynamo or Worn Powerstone ... or for that matter how exciting a card like "Mind Stone minus the extra card" can and will prove in the format-to-be. But before you go down that road, perhaps we should point you in the direction of the first deck Kai Budde ever used to win a Pro Tour (and, as you know, there were many):
Kai Budde's Covetous Wildfire
1999 World Championships
As you can see, Kai played Fire Diamond, which was in a monochromatic deck arguably just a worse card than a mono-kicked Everflowing Chalice; but in addition, he played both Worn Powerstone and Thran Dynamo ... in a deck that already had access to Grim Monolith!
What can we take away from this?
I mean this wasn't some regular, garden-variety Pro Tour champion. This was Kai in his PT-winning debut. Can we reasonably estimate that—if we were allowed to go all Relentless Rats on Everflowing Chalice's ass that is—the correct number per deck would be between 10 and 16 copies?
I mean only if you want to win the World Championships or something.
Six mana is a little much for a realistic planned mana expenditure (unless you are looking ahead to some sort of Seething Songs). However, it (and its cousin eight mana) will probably come up at least sometimes, maybe a couple of times a tournament ... so you don't want to forget what you might have the option to greater and greater expenditure.
No, this card isn't flashy in an obvious and dramatic way like Novablast Wurm. You don't scratch your head and wonder the same way you do looking at a Kor Firewalker. While its potential is long and deep, Everflowing Chalice doesn't demand the kind of wowed concern that Abyssal Persecutor will ... but none of that means that this latest addition to the Signet family won't be a fine, upstanding—and, in the long run—pretty commonly played puzzle piece that will give us some different looks for blue mana ... and just might give rise to a "brand new" (old) style of—increasingly layered and challenging—deck design.
(And if you haven't yet pondered Novablast Wurm, Kor Firewalker, Abyssal Persecutor, and the rest of the new crew, click the banner below to head to the product page.)