erhaps the most productive outcome of the “You Make this Card” contest was not, as one might think, the card itself. Forgotten Ancient is amazing, but it is already a thing of the past. Instead, some of the “alternate” ideas suggested for abilities have worked their way into Wizards R&D. We will likely see one or more of them, on different cards, for some time to come.
Prime among these is double strike. Until Mirrodin, only three creatures had this ability: Ridgetop Raptor, Rockshard Elemental, and Dragon Tyrant.
But now, the exclusive club has swung open its doors, once and for all.
There have already been a few previews of equipment, so I’m going to assume you all know how the mechanic works. If you don’t, go here.
My analysis of this card will make more sense if I explain what goes on in my head when I preview a card.
ANTHONY CHOOSES AN ADVENTURE
I don’t want to give up too much of the magic here; but I thought you might all enjoy a little insight on how I go about writing these articles. I mean, everyone tags along for the wild ride when Rosewater goes Mr. Toad on everyone, right? So sit back, grab onto the safety bar, stop wriggling around, and stay quiet.
Step One: Anthony gets the set spoiler. I get this far enough in advance of a set’s release where I can drive a couple of guys in our play group nuts. “You should see the new set,” I’ll tell them. “It’s reeeeally good. There’s this creature that can… ooops, almost violated my non-disclosure agreement! Whew, that was close.”
After debating (yet again) whether or not to throw me out on my ear, the group will eventually settle down, ignore my voice, and blow me out of the current game. Then I have lots of time to actually read the spoiler, while I wait for them to finish.
Step Two: Anthony reads the set spoiler. It’s normally a text printout with no card images, which is good for focusing on mechanics. But you’d be surprised how hard it is to internalize each card without the artwork. As I skim, I mark down those cards that are obviously good in multiplayer formats. (I take mental note of the tournament-quality cards as well, since I also play in those fields.) In a set of 300+ like this one, I’ll try to give out no more than 15 stars – a couple for each color.
Step Three: Anthony ranks the set’s multiplayer cards. I try to pinpoint those ten cards that people would slap their foreheads if I missed. (This list becomes a regular feature in Scrye magazine with Bennie Smith, who also writes for MagicTheGathering.com. We’re an incestuous lot, we Magic writers.) Confusion in the Ranks, last week’s preview, will certainly make that list.
Step Four: Anthony makes marks next to other cool cards. This is where One Dozen Eyes comes in. There’s little about it that makes it exceptional in multiplayer (though the multiple creatures is always nice) – but it’s flavorful and shows originality. So it gets a little checkmark.
Step Five: Anthony checks Aaron’s email to see if there are any mission parameters. If he wants us to make sure we cover (in this case) equipment or entwine, I’ll need to supplement my list with whatever I think is best in those categories.
This is where Fireshrieker came in. I actually had another card sitting at the top of my “equipment” list; but I can’t tell you what it is.
Step Six: Anthony deletes all the cards that won’t make for strong, idea-driven articles. I started doing this after writing a preview of Spelljack. Spelljack is an amazing multiplayer card – but it’s a horrible card to write about, because everything it steals is in someone else’s deck. How do you sound knowledgeable on something like that? With all the casual play groups all over the world, each with a different play style, collection depth, and skill level, it’s impossible. That article took ages to figure out. Never again.
Step Six: Anthony sends the list to Aaron.
Step Seven: Aaron picks three cards NOT on Anthony’s list and tells him to shut up and write, and who asked him for his suggestions, anyway? I can’t tell you what a complete ass this guy is. [ :/ --Aaron]
Seriously, all three cards were on my list. Fireshrieker was a ways down there, but I still put it on there. I’m just slobberingly grateful to see the spoiler so far ahead of time, so what do I care? And it’s going to make for a great article. I think.
Step Eight: Anthony takes one of the cards and finds a key phrase. Fireshrieker, for example, is all about combat damage. Whatever ability triggers upon combat damage will trigger twice with Fireshrieker, right? So “deals combat damage” or “deals damage” works fine.
Step Nine: Anthony wracks his brain thinking about cards that have that phrase. I come up with stuff like Silent Specter, and Coastal Piracy, and Sleeper's Robe. Not bad, but I feel like I’m missing about 1,000 ideas.
Step Ten: Anthony gets sensible and goes to a search engine. I’ve talked about this before. If you don’t know where to go for an online search engine, go to the archives and read all of my past articles. It’ll be good for you.
When you type in the phrase “deals damage” or “deals combat damage”, you get a list of creatures (or enchantments, or whatever you want) that immediately open up a universe of possibilities.
Step Eleven: Anthony randomly throws 36 such ideas together into a deck, and desperately hopes he gets the mana mix right. We’ll get there in a moment.
Now that you know the process, let’s look more closely at what sorts of creatures would work well with Fireshrieker.
WHO CAN BEST WIELD THE FIRESHRIEKER?
For casual players as much as tournament players, Magic is about timing. Normally, Fireshrieker cannot attach before turn four. So you have a few options.
Option A. You could play the equipment on turn three, leave it out for a turn, and then play a two-mana creature on turn four and equip it that same turn. It swings on turn five. Unfortunately, there aren’t many creatures out there that have a triggered ability and only cost two mana!
Option B. You play the equipment on turn four, and play and equip a one mana creature immediately. Again, it swings on turn five. Again, this doesn’t feel good – and the lack of triggered abilities at this point in the mana curve rears its head again.
Option C. You play the equipment on turn four and wait. (Keep a mana open to regenerate something you played on turn three; or for Lightning Bolt; or whatever.) Then, on turn five, you could play a three-mana creature and pay two to attach. You swing on turn six, a turn later than options A and B, but with something more solid. This sounds good – every morph creature just became a solid candidate; and many of these do something upon dealing combat damage. Here are some candidates, all of which can morph on turn six as you swing:
Non-morphs at three mana would include (among others) Diseased Vermin, Hypnotic Specter, Reef Pirates, Soltari Visionary, and Cephalid Constable. Three-mana creatures with haste are legion: Ball Lightning looks pretty good with double strike; if you don’t have that, Suq’ata Lancer is a common that does just fine.
Option D. Sometimes, you wouldn’t want to advertise Fireshrieker’s arrival a turn beforehand – so that means play a creature on turn four, play and attach Fireshrieker on turn five, and swing that turn:
Option E. Of course, there are the flat-out spectacular ones. These might cost more mana, but many of us will gravitate toward them anyway because they’re just too darn cool:
In addition to these, there are two more creatures that have some interesting effects. First, Tahngarth, Talruum Hero doesn’t deal twice the damage with his tap ability; but I still like him with Fireshrieker – which after all, feels pretty darn red for an artifact. With this equipment, Tahngarth can attack, blow a smaller creature out of the way before any blockers declare, and still take down a chump-blocker with first strike damage before finally connecting with the opponent’s head. It’s Tahngarth the way I think he ultimately ought to look. And he can do it by turn six (Fireshrieker on four, Tahngarth on five, equip and swing on six).
Another “turn six” option is probably my favorite: Blinding Angel. Once a player loses a phase or a turn, that phase or turn doesn’t exist anymore – so “next” will refer to, well, the next one. So a double-striking Blinding Angel will keep your opponent’s army silent for two combat phases.
Anyway, this got me thinking.
The deck is mana-hungry and must drop lands each turn, so I’m recommending 26 lands plus the four Diamonds. If these become too much, you might swap up to two lands for more creatures. (Make them small, like Goblin Legionnaire.)
The basic plan is to strike with an equipped Tahngarth or a Blinding Angel on turn six. Equipping should take only two of your six mana – what do you do with the other four? Well, you could play Relentless Assault, which would give you another strike (so you can nix another opponent’s next two combat phases, or let Tahngarth roll again). Or you could morph the Exalted Angel you put down on turn three.
Or let’s say you’ve got one of those Exalted Angels in, face-down, but don’t want to reveal or attack with it just yet. Turn four, put the Fireshrieker down. Turn five, play Ball Lightning, attach Fireshrieker, and swing. Ball Lightning dies at the end of turn, dropping the Fireshrieker. Turn six, if you still have that Angel, “equip and flip” it.
Devoted Caretakers will help both your creatures and your equipment. As you can tell from the options I’ve given, Fireshrieker doesn’t come out very smoothly in a mana curve. You’ll often have the extra you need to activate Devoted Caretaker.
You can “de-rare” this build by putting more focus on the clerics – increase Visionary, add Beloved Chaplain, Doubtless One, and Noble Templar, and go to town.
WHILE WE’RE MAKING CREATURES MORE SPECTACULAR…
There’s no reason why you have to use a creature that already enjoys a damage-trigger effect. You can either bestow favors upon a simple Craw Giant (think Sigil of Sleep or Sleeper's Robe… or in this artifact-heavy age, why not Latulla's Orders?), or endow your entire army with cool effects using the Masques trio of enchantments: Coastal Piracy, Larceny, and Noble Purpose.
Or you can ignore such triggered abilities altogether! After all, who will argue with Akroma, Angel of Wrath if she picks up a Fireshrieker and “only” does twelve damage?
When building a deck and choosing creatures for double-strike status, consider the following:
Trample is a natural with double strike. Both abilities are about maximizing your chances to deal damage to your opponents.
Vampiric qualities are also nice. If you can kill a creature with the first strike damage of an equipped Sengir Vampire, you get the +1/+1 token before dealing regular damage. This should make gang-blocking difficult.
Phyrexian Splicer is still good. While you can’t remove and splice the double strike (nor the “first strike portion” of it), you can give your double-striking creature all sorts of useful abilities, such as flying or shadow.
Early, fragile creatures are just fine to fill out the curve. Think of equipment as a bit like Rancor - what do you have to lose? Usually, not much. While someone might confound your timing here and there, the benefits to equipping an early, fragile creature outweigh the disadvantages. In the later game, you can always move the equipment from the punk to a new stud.
It’s good to see Wizards give this kind of longer-term support for double strike. It’s a worthwhile ability that deserves plenty of exploration. And now, it will certainly get it from the casual community!
You may email Anthony at email@example.com. Regrettably, Anthony cannot help readers with their decks. But he can tell you this: don’t try to equip an Angelic Curator!