Looking at a Random Card: Thelonite Druid
(What am I doing here? Read here!)
Thelonite Druid: Time to revive this feature, and of course with a creature – well, before this becomes a beat poem, let’s just get to it:
Fallen Empires really was a terribly designed set, lacking lots of stuff you should be able to expect from a Magic expansion: Big creatures without disadvantages; burn (which doesn’t require you to sacrifice something), counterspells, artifact creatures… There were several powerful cards hidden in it which players didn’t appreciate at first, so in retrospective Fallen Empires has gotten a much better rep than Homelands, but actually FE was worse designed – just try to play it in a limited environment and you will realize that. It was all about small creatures, counters and tokens of all kinds, unnecessarily complicated mechanics in general and cards with disadvantages which could be overcome or ignored in a constructed setting, but didn’t work too well in limited – oh, and most of the cards, especially at common level, were simply really weak, and many of the mediocre ones were incredibly annoying (just imagine a couple of Homarids in play).
In this set, Thelonite Druid was almost straightforward with sacrificing being a strong theme in this set. I am ashamed to say that, at that time, with me just having begun my Magic career, I thought it was a powerful card: All my forests could attack! I somehow overlooked the fact that I had to invest 3 mana in a 1/1 creature (instead of one which could have attacked by itself), had to sacrifice it or another creature, had to spend two mana on top of everything (effectively reducing the number of attacking lands), had to have a lot of forests in play (effectively forcing me to play mono-Green, unless I got my hands on really many dual lands)… oh, and had to spend all of my turn for this, because I would tap my lands to attack. In other words, this would never work, wasn’t even impressive if it worked, and was anyway a horrible waste of resources which I could have put to much better use in a number of ways. I even might have noticed that once I got to play with that card, but somehow, although I traded for four of them (you obviously need four of them, right?), I never got around to use it. That was because I had lots of other ideas for decks which seemed more interesting: Actually an indication that the Druid wasn’t that interesting after all…
If you put it in your limited deck, you will find that its main function (providing that it makes sense at all, requiring a rather slow and low-powered environment) will be to discourage potential attacks during the midgame via the threat of exchanging your worst creature for a number of 2/3 blockers. So, even in the unlikely enough case that the Druid has a place in a limited environment, all it does ist facilitating stalls…
I also cannot envision building a cube where the Druid would serve a purpose (I certainly would never WANT it) – it would have to be very slow, would require synergies with the sacrificing of creatures and encourage largely mono-colored decks.
I’m not sure how much I’d like this card even if its stats were adjusted so that it became playable in a reasonable environment. Mass animation of lands is essentially, depending on how aggressively it’s costed, one of two things: Either a somehow complicated game-ending effect like Overrun, or a way to put excess mana in the lategame to use. I do not think it is the best execution for either. As the card stands, it is too weak and unnecessarily restrictive, while being moderately complex.
Since it does nothing to actually damage gameplay other than being a disappointment for players trying it out, there is no reason to hand out a grade worse than E, but there is also no reason to give it anything better: This is a flat-out E, like so many early creature designs.