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Shards of Alara Blue October 22, 2008

Posted by Norm in Casual, Shards of Alara.
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Part of my Shards of Alara exploration, here is my review of selected blue cards, found on the full visual spoiler.

Call to Heel
There are a number of Boomerang like spells in Shards of Alara but I’ve got to say that I like Call to Heel the best. I also think Resounding Wave is interesting but for one more mana and an insane cycling cost I just don’t think it is worth it. I do find Excommunicate’s ability more effective but as a sorcery and again for three mana, not so much.

What makes me warm up to Call to Heel is the card drawing advantage. I see this card used best as a combat trick. Where you block with a smaller creature seeming as a chump block but with damage on the stack you play Call to Heel on your guy and get an extra card to boot. OK that play isn’t rocket science, but I think Call to Heel gives you advantages and ways to play defense that your opponent might not expect. Saving your creature from certain death (burn spell, nameless inversion, etc) and drawing a card out of it is card advantage if your opponent is spending a card and tapping mana. 

Courier’s Capsule
I don’t have a whole lot to say about this card other than I feel it is a solid card to give you some drawing outlets and with some of the return to hand abilities of other creatures in shards it has good synergies. I’ve seen this card used well in limited formats so that is where I’m thinking. 

I also love the artwork really looks mystical and rewarding.  

Gather Specimens
I’m sure you are all wondering why I choose to write about Gather Specimens, simply put this ability is awesome. The problem is that the casting cost is way to high to be applicable. I mean for 6 mana you better be grabbing all 5 of Sharkan Vol’s 4/4 dragons and swinging in for the win next turn. Honestly I’m really suprised the cost is this high. I mean if you look at other take control of creature cars, Sower of Temptation, you get a creature with flying and you steal a guy for 4 mana. Not the same relative cost for an ability here. Even unwilling recruit is pretty well balanced. On the flip side you could take control of a whole bunch of guys coming into play but when does that ever really happen. You are going to want to use Gather Specimens on a Chameleon Colossus or Sower of Temptation, ahem. So perhaps there is a trick out there with a card like Memory Plunder that pulls spells out of your graveyard for less… 

Kathari Screecher
This 2/2 flyer for 3 is pretty cool. First of all he’s a bad ass culture with arms like grandpa and beard that would make a lumber jack proud. Seriously a 2/2 flyer for 3 any day is a solid card but unearth is a great ability especially on and evasion creature that can be brought back unexpectedly. I’ve had this guy get unearthed and deal me lethal damage and it sucks because you should have thought of that. Anyway solid card in my book.  

Tezzeret the Seeker
What a general, what hard core controller. Give two of your big guys vigilance, or even bring artifacts right into play, Ornithopter anyone? There is no doubt that this Planeswalker is awesome. (Side question, are artifact lands still banned?) 

Obviously playing with Tezzeret is going to be similar to be playing with Garruk but with a slightly different focus. While his ultimatum ability is by far the strongest. I think that bringing artifacts from the Library to play is going to be the most challenging to work around. This could mean anything from creatures to equipment something deadly. 

I’m glad however that he isn’t as overpowered as Sharkan Vol. I think Wizards did us players a disservice by making all the Planeswalkers mythic rares. We want to play with these cool guys and you suck for making them so hard to come by. I also call bull shit on the fact that all the mythic rares weren’t supposed to be strategy cards. I think all the new Planeswalkers can easily be seriously strategy enhancing. 

Blue Poll
What Shards of Alara Blue card are you most looking forward to using (currently using)? 

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Comments»

1. Michael Rawdon - October 22, 2008

I agree that Gather Specimens is a little overcosted as a “take control of a single creature” card, even if Control Magic was a bit undercosted. But although Sower of Temptation gives you a 2/2 flyer too, creature removal is pretty cheap, so it can be easy to defeat (even in limited). Gather Specimens is not only an instant-speed trick, but it’s not a creature, and it’s not even an enchantment – once it’s played, the creature you get is yours until someone deals with it. That doesn’t suck, as they say.

In Block, you can play it against Broodmate Dragons, or in response to a Mycoloth’s upkeep trigger. Unfortunately I don’t think it will work as well as you’d hope against Devouring creatures, since Devour triggers when the creature comes into play (though you could still devour your own creatures). But it will punish people playing the Herald cards (“Aw gee, you sacrificed three creatures to give me a Hellkite Overlord? How nice of you…”).

In Standard, I could see it being tactically useful against (or in combination with) Turn to Mist. Also against creatures with comes-into-play effects or Evoke creatures (“Hey, thanks for evoking that Reveillark, I’ll just return my two Mulldrifters to play and draw two cards…”).

My regular game is an “anything goes” multiplayer game, and I can see Gather Specimens being fun in that environment, where people play Dark Depths, or Empty The Warrens with high storm counts, or just for stopping That One Creature that will hose your own deck. Or even just for annoying people playing Flash creatures. So I see Gather Specimens as being a situational card for the right deck in the right environment.

I think it would be a slightly more fun card at 5 mana, but any cheaper than that and I think it would be broken. And the guys at Wizards are pretty smart, so I expect someone figured out how to break it in Limited, Block and/or Standard even at 5 mana. 🙂

2. Duncan - October 22, 2008

To answer Norm’s question, artifact lands are banned in Mirrodin Block only. Extended, Legacy, and Vintage are fine with them.


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