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.
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|
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.
The 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.
As 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.
Ed. 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.