Magic 2011 is perhaps the least exciting Magic set I’ve seen in a while. It fails to present much that Magic players haven’t seen before. Perhaps we’ve been spoiled in recent sets, but M11 presents no new mechanics, no new types and no new planeswalkers.
In fact, it doesn’t even present that many new cards.
M11 is 57% reprints, as opposed to Magic 2010, which was less than half reprints. This stat doesn’t include M11 cards that are “new” in name only: the cheaper Megrim, the enchantment Dark Confidant, Sensei’s Divining Top’s crappy cousin, the Ivory Mask Leyline, a series of Leylines (one of which is a straight-up reprint), Polymorph Plus, color-prohibitive Man-o’-War, bad Ball Lightning, Rampant Growth and Harrow’s dumb baby,Borderland Ranger’s little brother … the list goes on and on.
Frankly, the set is uninspired. But, you ask, what about the true new cards? Well, we can start by looking at the Titan series, a group of mythic rare creatures Wizards calls “huge in terms of the set’s identity.” Each of these 6/6 creatures costs four colorless mana and two of its color.
Most of these are potentially game-breaking.
First up, we have Grave Titan. Grave Titan is a solid card, putting 10 power on the field right off the bat (and, on the defensive side, three blockers with a total of 10 toughness).
Some Jund players have begun subbing in Grave Titan in place of Broodmate Dragons, because Titan can’t be Flashfrozen and it puts more power on the board. Better yet, this guy keeps making tokens, not stopping at coming into play. If you run black, I’d run this guy.
Primeval Titan is also impressive, with a souped-up, recurring Rampant Growth effect. Without a restriction to basic lands, the jolly green giant is synergistic with Zendikar fetch lands and other goodies. We’ll probably see it in some land-drop decks with things likeScute Mob or Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. It could see play in man land decks, too. Don’t expect this to be the solution for your mana ramp deck, though. Chances are if you can spend six on a Titan, you should probably be spending it on your actual bomb instead. Standard has cheaper deck thinning measures.
Sun Titan could see some use in mill or control, but I’m not willing to put him ahead of either Grave or Primeval. He can bring back things like Howling Mine, Oblivion Ring, Jace Beleren and Tectonic Edge. This big guy can also ruin your day by abusing come-into-play abilities like Sea Gate Oracle’s and Lone Missionary’s. Your opponent has to swing to knock you down, but you have these guys to block then come back next turn. And the best part? Sun Titan can be right there blocking, too, if you’d like. Sweet, sweet vigilance. However, you have to ask: how are all of these things getting in your graveyard? You don’t want to waste your resources dumping cards just to fuel Sun Titan theatrics.
I’m a lot more skeptical about Inferno Titan’s playability. I can take or leave its pump-up ability, but the chance to put out three damage, divided as you choose, on declaring your attack can be a good way of cleaning up or going around chump blockers. Red has better,cheaper ways to do damage, though.
Frost Titan is probably the least outstanding on its own, but I can see it working to limit your opponent’s mana production while you bide your time for a big bomb. If titans get big enough, I could see Frost Titan catching on in blue boards to lock its brethren down, preventing them from attacking and, therefore, from reusing their abilities.
Too bad Wizards apparently burned up all of its creativity on the titans.
There are some other cards worth talking about in M11. Unfortunately, two of the best come from that giant chunk of back-of-the-fridge meatloaf I spoke of earlier: reprints and pseudo-reprints. Perhaps the best card in the set is Mana Leak – which came out 12 years ago in Stronghold. Only a little way behind that is Dark Tutelage – which was a creature in 2005 (just like that meatloaf).
The reintroduction of Mana Leak may change the face of standard. Mana Leak can be played a full turn earlier than Cancel, putting a kink in aggro’s early game. In fact, most aggro won’t keep too many lands out in the first place, so Mana Leak is generally reliable the whole game. Against control, Leak’s great against late-game bombs or any time against counters or whatever else. If you’re holding a bomb of your own, you can even throw down a Mana Leak that would force your opponent to choose between their spell and sufficient counter mana. In short, Mana Leak is a great card.
Personally, I’m a big fan of Dark Tutelage. I may still be under the effects of my torrid love affair with a casual black/red Death’s Shadow deck, but this card really stands out for me. Last I checked, Jace, the Mind Sculptor is still around, so the format holds its fair share of control. In an aggro deck, your curve tends to stay pretty low, meaning with Dark Tutelage you’re beating their clock at minimal cost to your life total.
The best all-new card goes to Primeval Titan. If you ask me, the titans don’t have too much competition for most awe-inspiring in this set. Destructive Force is potentially intriguing, but you know what would make it really good? Primeval Titan. After the titans and Destructive Force, I think the new cards in the set drop off significantly.
I’ll award most Timmy-able all-new card to Fauna Shaman, which could give rise to some tool-box decks. I see Ranger of Eos and other creature-based search taking off to make Shaman a two-for-one, perhaps with a Vengevine discard to make it three. Demon of Death’s Gate could also stoke some Timmy fires, especially with Reassembling Skeletonout there. Of the two decks, I’d take the Shaman any day of the week.
Biggest trap goes to Reverberate. Double your burn? Counter a counter? Super Blightnings? Sounds great, right? The problem is this card is most effective in a red-heavy deck due to its RR cost and double-burn abilities. However, red tends to burn through cards pretty fast with low casting costs and quick-hitting effects, and Reverberate is almost always a useless top deck.
M11’s big winner? Green mages. Primeval Titan, Fauna Shaman, Garruk’s Companion … that’s a lot of power coming their way.
And with that, I leave you until next week. Stay smart, stay safe and don’t play Goldenglow Moth.