Limited Card Pool Update: Yeva’s Forcemage & Giant Scorpion, (no) Hunting Cheetah & Daggerback Basilisk
Just when my limited card pool is finally complete, I already see the need to further improve it. This came about after drafting Magic 2013: I realized that Yeva’s Forcemage actually played better than I had expected – I had experienced that both Kinsbaile Skirmisher and Venerable Monk, which I had compared the Forcemage to, were just boring and their abilities inconsequential. However, it turns out that +2/+2 is a bonus which is completely different in tactical terms from +1/+1, allowing additional attacks and creating additional pressure in a way which the Skirmisher, even though he seems more mana-efficient at first glance, never was able to do. I decided the Forcemage is a nice, generic creature on a low power level strongly encouraging you to put it into an aggressive deck and looked through my card pool to see if there was space for it.
It turned out that there was; and I also stumbled over Hunting Cheetah, which I believed I had already sorted out, since it doesn’t play too well. (Extra forests, while useful, are just not as important as the extra draws which Scroll Thief provides, and as a 2/3, it will often rack up considerable damage if it actually gets through repeatedly before the extra lands matter or after they don’t anymore, so its ability feels tacked on – it is certainly not a bad card to have in a cube, but I realized it would just never make the cut.) Then I remembered that I had kept the Cheetah when I took Elite Cat Warrior out (which I had done, in turn, when Sombald Dryad became available) because of the lack of a simple 2/3 creature costing 2G – there are several options, of course, but none I really liked (Pincer Spider has a clumsy kicker, Elder of Laurels is too powerful, Lurker to quaint…), and the Cheetah still looked the most interesting. Also, I remembered that it hadn’t been too easy to acquire this card at all, which was an additional incentive to keep it.
But in the end, if I do not use it (and I don’t and won’t), it has to go. So, Green does not have that 2/3 creature for 2G with a simple additional ability, but it has Nessian Courser, which somehow also fits that slot, and the Forcemage is a wonderful generic, aggressive option on a slightly lower power level.
When playing with Magic 2013, I also was reminded of the existence of Giant Scorpion – a card I really didn’t like too much back in Zendikar draft (since I really wanted to attack with all my creatures every turn, and the Scorpion was just an inefficient attacker), but somehow still assumed I had put into my pool. I just found out that I didn’t: I guess it has something to do with the return of Moonglove Changeling when I reorganized the changelings – I may have decided those two were too similar. But of course they aren’t; the Scorpion is much better on defense and much worse on offense than a Daggerback Basilisk (what the Changeling becomes when activated) and plays completely differently. Since I had taken out Wall of Bone (because I felt regeneration on a low-power wall was somehow redundant – I would always use a small regenerating black creature instead), Black totally lacked a clearly defensive creature on 3 mana, and of the Scorpion is the best choice here!
Funnily, I even missed it when I constructed Greenhouse Effect, although I DID notice that I had a common black creature with shadow too many, but wanted another deathtouch effect in Black! I will remedy this mistake by taking out Trespasser il-Vec and replacing it with the Scorpion (only in that cube, the Trespasser stays in my limited pool).
I also realized that, even though deathtouch was an explicit theme in that cube for GB, Daggerback Basilisk hadn’t made the cut. This was partly for very cube-specific reasons (Wren’s Run Vanquisher intersected with the tribal elf theme, and the 3-mana slot for green common creatures was already full with important creatures supporting other themes), but partly because I preferred Deadly Recluse and especially Ambush Viper in that funcion. I realized this when I decided to bring Giant Scorpion back (I really think it has been in my pool before), and I accepted that the more generic feeling deathtouch creatures resided in Black, and that the Basilisk, while certainly the most generic implementation of that mechanic (okay, after Typhoid Rats), just didn’t play as well as the Viper did – it is more powerful, but a staple green creature should possess that power level. (The correct mana cost for a green 2/2 with deathtouch is probably 1G, by the way.)
Hunting Cheetah and Daggerback Basilisk are most certainly examples of cards you CAN use in a cube, actually in almost any cube – but there will always be more interesting or better fitting other options, while I am certain that Yeva’s Forcemage and Giant Scorpion will actually get used by me. This is what limited pool trimming is about: Reducing the number of cards you work with to those you actually NEED. If your pool contains over 2000 cards like mine does, you really should do this – it is easier than maintaining a larger pool and not being able to find the cards you really want for a cube in it!