Standard Brannigan: Utility Creatures

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July 24, 2014 by Turkis

Creatures with 4 Attack at Level 1 are now healthily established as the utility card design slot. Set 1 has many familiar staples in this slot such as Weirwood Patriarch, the Shaper cycle, Ghox, Metamind Paragon, and Brightsteel Sentinel. This trend has continued in more recent releases with cards like Emberwind Evoker, Flamebreak Invoker, Alloyin Strategist, Korok, Khan of Kadras, and Delpha, Chronosculptor.

While these cards all boast reasonable Level 1 (L1) bodies that can prevent you from losing board position, their real potential typically comes online in their L2 and L3 forms. In the majority of cases the leveled forms offer utility (often very powerful utility), but are not game ending bombs on their own. This impacts how heavily you can invest in these utility creatures, as 4 Attack creatures provide a mediocre underdrop in terms of trade up value and demand leveling priority in most games to obtain value from their abilities.

 

Recent Results

 

Looking back at recent tournament results from the Golden Gauntlet and the June FWIQ, a sample of 24 top performing decks from the tournaments provides an interesting picture of how heavily you can invest in the utility slot without compromising your deck.

# Utility Creatures # Recent Top Tournament Decks
0 5 (21%)
1-3 7 (29%)
4-6 5 (21%)
7-9 6 (25%)
12 1 (4%)

Reference: Golden Gauntlet, June 7 | FWIQ, June 21

 

The extreme cases above highlight the cost of leveling utility cards. The five decks without any 4 Attack L1 bodies were all NT variants with a high number of must level threats. This leaves little room for utility cards that also require priority to be effective.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have a mono Alloyin deck that boasts an extremely high number of 4 Attack creatures at twelve. However, six of these creatures receive buffs from Drix, the Mindwelder, and Metamind Operator is often used as an underdrop. These two features help alleviate the leveling pressure that is often created by having such a high concentration of 4 Attack creatures in a deck.

What is much more common is for decks to utilize a handful of these creatures that best supplement their primary strategy. In the last two tournaments, 75% of the top decks contained between one and nine standard utility creatures. Of the decks with 4-9, all but one included Weirwood Patriarch, which is an important card when considering whether your deck can function with a given number 4 drops. At later player levels Patriarch 2 can help turn the utility creatures into worthwhile blockers if behind or sustain the pressure if you’re ahead.

 

Deck Construction

 

emberwindevoker-1-stdThe above review implies that most decks can handle up to nine utility cards while maintaining a competitive edge. And, while this is far from a solid rule, it can be used as a guideline when tweaking and building your own decks.

Perhaps where this will be most obvious is in Tempys decks. Tempys boasts the most 4 Attack creatures of all factions, a whopping twenty-three.

With the addition of Emberwind Evoker in Set 2, Tempys gained a powerful card to obtain extra value from mobility creatures. However, Emberwind Evoker shares the utility slot with other impactful cards including Borean Mystic, Agamemnon, Razortooth Stalker, Zyx, Storm Herald, and Storm Bringer among others. While mobility decks can certainly use mixed factions, mobility is often tied into 4 Attack L1 creatures in the other factions.

The surplus of utility movement creatures forces hard decisions on which cards provide the most impact. This often leaves interesting cards such as Zyx, Storm Herald, Borean Mystic, and Agamemnon on the sidelines. Ultimately, due to the high volume of mobility creatures with 4 Attack, it remains difficult to build a competitive deck.

 

Looking Ahead

 

zimustheundying-2-stdAs regular set releases continue, SBE will continue to provide us with interesting tools to build our decks. When evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of your deck, or deciding how to best highlight an interesting new card you’ve managed to collect, it’s important to keep in mind how heavily you’re leaning on utility cards that demand your attention when deciding which cards to level. Staring down a Zimus, the Undying 2 with a hand full of 4 Attack creatures isn’t where you want to be.

Deck building has always been a balancing act of providing enough underdrops while still having legitimate threats to play. But, with the general power increase in L1 cards we’ve seen in recent sets, the negative impact of too many 4 Attack creatures in maintaining this balance has never been higher.

 

goatnoteEd. note: Turkis refused to name these 4 attack utility creatures… best name suggestion (as chosen by me) in the comments will receive a giveaway code!

Update: I like “turkeys” the best because it sounds like Turkis, it uses a memorable creature, and because turkeys fit within a niche market and outside of that role are basically ignored, congrats Far2Far2Return! Code has been sent to the email address associated with your comment.


32 comments »

  1. Gabo says:

    Great article. Very interesting and insightful.

    Also: Quadrupeds

  2. Kestralb says:

    We should call a 4 attack creature that you play for the text it gets at lvl2/3 a “Function-4” creature, or “F4” for short.
    Best I could do on short notice.
    It could catch on though, you never know. 🙂 It’s already starting to grow on me.

    • bonethug9000 says:

      F4’s, has a great ring to it and play implies the idea of a 4 attack utility creature.

      • Kestralb says:

        Leveling these creatures would end up being called “hitting F4″(like the key on the keyboard).

        “You can only hit F4 so many times in PL1. The ones you don’t level just end up being a liability later on.”

        “This UT deck really wants to rush out big creatures, grow them, and overwhelm the opponent in mid PL2. It just doesn’t have time to be hitting F4 creatures to set up late game plays. Korok, maybe, but Flameshaper there’s no way.”

  3. Ronim says:

    Tetris Pieces

  4. Ronim says:

    ohohoh!

    The Fantastic Four!
    Not that great by themselves! But part of a team? Oh yeah!

  5. snouty says:

    Fourplay cards!

  6. OmenRaven says:

    “LOL Quatres” (it, sadly, only works if you say it in a horrible French accent)

  7. Supraluminal says:

    Don’t get too hung up on the 4 attack stat. There are utility creatures at 3 and below, and even some at 5+ (e.g. Deathweaver, somehow).

    It’s not snappy, but I always just call these guys “utility” or “support.” If you really want a pun… how about “Fours to be Reckoned With?”

    • evilweevil666 says:

      I disagree, I think 4 is the spot they’ve clearly shown they are comfortable putting powerful effects. Players have a tendency to see a million cards with powerful effects like wwp, strategist, and ghox and try to jam them all in a deck. This considerably hurts consistency.

      • Supraluminal says:

        Well, of course it hurts. I wasn’t arguing that. Just pointing out that 4 isn’t a magic number: Crypt Conjurer is a pretty good example, or Synapsis Oracle, or Heart Tree, etc. etc.

        4 does seem to be the most common L1 attack stat for utility creatures – certainly the ones that get the most play tend to have it – but it’s an arbitrary way to classify creatures when the point is more to identify which creatures are trading combat strength for utility.

        Heck, Aetherforge Oracle has 6 attack and I would consider it a utility creature. It’s certainly a better underdrop blocker than, say, an Emberwind Evoker, but it still makes your deck more fragile than using an Ebonskull Knight for that slot.

        • evilweevil666 says:

          Sure, but think of it like a reverse rule of 6. Obviously the number 6 isn’t particularly magical, especially as the game evolves. We are seeing many more 7s like grave geist or 8s like eidolon and ebonskull. But nonetheless, 4 is a great baseline to work from.

          • Supraluminal says:

            Agreed, if you sort your deck by attack and see a huge chunk of “4” in there, you either need a damn good reason for it or you should reevaluate your list.

            I just like to emphasize the fundamental concept the guideline is aimed at over the guideline itself. Blindly following a “rule” of deckbuilding without understanding why you’re doing it can be counterproductive.

  8. Dean says:

    “Plumb4r” cards

  9. Seth says:

    Quadxillary (Quadxillaries)

  10. Mong0 says:

    I’d call them Quarter creatures, derived from the latin quattuor for 4.

  11. Lotus says:

    I wouldn’t try to pin a name on them because they are primarily utility creatures, not 4 power creatures. They aren’t played because they have 4 power; they’re played because of the utility they provide. Uranti Icemage is a very powerful utility creature that has only 2 attack.

  12. okeyj74 says:

    How about calling them Fourtility creatures?

  13. Hydroclasm says:

    You could call them quarterbacks… they usually decide what kind of play or strategy you’re going to use and have 4 attack (quarter).

  14. Alex says:

    Seems to me Turkis already named them “Utility Creatures”. 🙂

  15. idsuke says:

    I would call them “benefours” since them having four attack and you benefitting from them :-).

  16. Aior says:

    This is the kind of article i like. A bit of theory supported by some numbers.
    for the name: Underfourp (= underdrop + four).

  17. Far2Far2Return says:

    Turkis’ Turkeys.

    Just sayin’

    • Hectares says:

      You win! Some reasoning was added to the bottom of the post. Code has been sent to the address you left with this comment.

  18. magician12 says:

    Workfources? Anybody? Idk.

  19. Ronim says:

    The Fours…
    Wait for it…
    Then the title of your article can be “May the Fours be with you!”

  20. Debilor says:

    Cull Cards- reference to Cull the weak (4 or below) and to card tricks…

  21. Jared says:

    I like the term gofer. It’s an appropriate description of the purpose, it’s short, and it serves as a pun.

  22. Zwaxor says:

    “Task Fource”
    Forces of Four that perform specific tasks.
    Alternatively, just “Task Four”

  23. Astyanaax says:

    Transfourmers, or just transformers, because they augment/transform the deck.

  24. Laguna says:

    You want something quick and easy to say for reference. I think PL4’s is good. Short for Priority level 4 or Power level 4. It works both ways

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