Scars of Mirrodin Set Review: Hey, Artifacts

The next Magic expansion, Scars of Mirrodin, comes out this week, although lots of players have had a taste at prereleases. If you like artifacts and…poison counters?…you’ll love Scars. Plus, I’ve got a Scars draft sleeper pick aggro decks will love.

I guess it had to happen, I’ve been over the moon about the last six or seven Magic sets, and I loved Zendikar block wholeheartedly. I haven’t been especially excited about Scars of Mirrodin, and having played a few prerelease games, I can say this is the first set in a while I have no plans to buy a box of. Part of it is a general dislike of artifact-centric sets, part of it is that the first time Magic returns to a previously visited plane, it’s one I didn’t like the first time. The themes in Scars (nature and life fighting against encroaching “technology”) don’t really interest me within the context of Magic’s mythology. There aren’t many cards in the set that fire my imagination. It also doesn’t help that the prevalence of control decks has obliterated my interest in playing Standard, so I’m not ablaze with new deck ideas for all these new cards.

But all that is just one mediocre Magic player’s opinion. You might love Scars of Mirrodin, and there’s certainly some cool stuff going on with the set. Obviously, it’s got a ton of artifacts and cards that care about artifacts. The Metalcraft ability seems kind of perfunctory — hey, it’s an artifact set, let’s make stuff better if there’s lots of artifacts around. It does lead to interesting deck building and drafting decisions, as you evaluate something in terms of its raw ability and whether or not you’ll be playing enough artifacts to engage in Metalcraft. It makes for some interesting play as well, since artifact destruction, already strong for obvious reasons, becomes even better when you can shut down Metalcraft, often at instant speed. But really, it’s an artifact set. You were going to play a lot of artifacts anyway (whether you want to or not), and your opponent is going to draft as many copies of [card]Shatter[/card] as possible to destroy your best ones.

Infect feels similarly mediocre. It reintroduces the long-dormant alternate win condition of giving your opponent ten poison counters. I put together an Infect deck in a sealed event and won via poison once or twice, but only when I got an Infect creature equipped early in the game. A [card]Contagious Nim[/card] with a [card]Sword of Body and Mind[/card] will usually get there. But in most games, I’d get through some poison damage, say six to eight, and then my opponent would destroy or set up to block my Infecters, and I’d end up winning the game with the old kind of damage. I once combined a [card]Corrupted Harvester[/card] with [card]Flesh Allergy[/card] to deal something like 14 points of damage in one shot (we stopped counting at eight, which was enough to be lethal).

There are certainly some sweet cards, like the aforementioned Sword and [card]Skithiryk, the Blight Dragon[/card]. [card]Infiltration Lens[/card] is an amazing uncommon that I’m considering (despite my Standard malaise) pairing with [card]Phylactery Lich[/card]. The planeswalkers are very powerful and cost ludicrous amounts of money at the moment, oh boy. If you’re doing some Scars drafts, keep an eye out for [card]Painsmith[/card]. You can usually grab one or two late in a pack, and they can really help you steal a game. I might even argue they’re better than [card]Battle-Rattle Shaman[/card] because they come out so early and it’s easy to support them with cheap artifacts. Cool card name too.

I obviously had fun drafting and playing with Scars of Mirrodin, but then, it’s Magic. It’s a good game. I guess I’ll just say it’s not my favorite set and leave it at that.

No, I can’t leave it at that. Because the cycle of dual lands in Scars is terrible. Not flat out terrible — they’re simply allied color dual lands that come out tapped if you control three or more lands, and it has been pointed out to me by multiple people how great they are for fast aggro decks that don’t care about playing lands past number three. Fine, I get it. But they’re rares. Dual lands shouldn’t ever be rare to begin with. They’re basic utilitarian cards necessary to effectively build any multicolor deck. Making dual lands this situational into rares is bad design and a terrible way to reward new players for buying a pack of cards.

Imagine trying to explain to a kid buying his first few packs and thinking of getting into the game, “Well, that land is actually really good if you play those colors and are building a deck that’s really fast and aggressive and plays a bunch of stuff early in the game.”

“But my friend’s rare was a cool dragon…”

5 Responses to Scars of Mirrodin Set Review: Hey, Artifacts

  1. I agree that duals shouldn’t be rares. All I really care about is [card]Everflowing Chalice[/card] + proliferate = AWESOME!

    Also, [card]Energy Chamber[/card] and [card]Everflowing Chalice[/card] means you don’t need lands. Especially without manaburn. I’m planning on picking up the thingy that drops a -1/-1 on something, then proliferates for four. I can’t remember the name, but it won me so many games in the Tezzeret deck. That’s pretty much a win from my modular deck. I love it. That’s the only card in the set I want.

  2. For the record, I want Contagion Clasp for the proliferate on a stick, not so much the -1/-1 counter. It’s a reasonable removal spell for second turn, but it proliferates my good stuff, and that’s all I care.

  3. I always open DnD minis with friends so we can swap right there & then. My campaign world, for instance, doesn’t give me cause to use a medium dragon, for instance, or…or really a lot of things. On the other hand, that horrid Neogi Great Master is exactly the sort of thing I’d build an adventure around…so we swap.

    Though I guess like, drafts don’t allow that. I just feel bad for that kid, it DOES suck to get a weird tech card instead of something cool.

    What are the demographics of M:tG these days? Do kids PLAY it?

  4. All kinds of people play Magic. The good news is that in draft you can either greed draft it for the money value, or take some awesome uncommon and stick the next guy with the dual. Opening DnD minis with friends would be awesome if my friends were interested in buying more than just their PCs for any given campaign.

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