What a pile.
Thereís no other way to describe Invasion - itís a total pile from start to finish. A set I had eagerly awaited as being the release that would reinvigorate a game made staid and predictable by the Masques block has done quite the opposite - Masques is actually looking fast compared to Invasion, which I would never have believed I would see. If it werenít for Nemesis the whole thing would be a single large mass of cards which are at the same time overcosted, undereffective, slow, and safe to the point of boredom. After the Academy/Jar debacle of Urza`s Saga the pressure was on R&D to make sure that no broken cards slipped through and theyíve done a grand job, to the point of making sure that no playably undercosted cards were printed at all. And whatís with all the reprints? Iíve been involved in designing a card set here at the CPA so I know for a fact itís not as though all the good cards or mechanics have been used already, in that case why do we need to see a collection of misfits from Ice Age and Rath Cycle reprinted verbatim?
We said goodbye to Living Death, Tradewind, Whispers, Winter Orb and Nev`s Disk last year, and they were replaced largely by cards in Destiny such as Masticore, Treachery, Negator, Hermit, Powder Keg, but now the Destiny bombs are gone and Invasion offers little new to players who want to explore the many facets of Magic deck
design and play. It used to be that Magic was a game that benefited from the fact that you could sit down opposite your opponent and not know if he was planning to win on turn 4 or turn 34 - that was what gave Magic an edge over itís rival card games which are, in my experience, marked by their devotion to a single pace of play. Yes, I like decks that kill on the fourth turn because they really force an innovative deckbuilder to focus and trim all the fat from his deck and without them the art of deckbuilding loses a lot of itís difficulty.
Want to play a mono deck? Tough.
Want to play a fast deck? Tough.
Want to play a slow deck? Tough.
Want to play a multi-coloured midgame deck? Fine, come right on in! Take a seat!
I donít want to play a multi-coloured midgame deck. I like temporal advantage decks and I like overwhelming 7-0 card advantage control decks, I kind of like being able to play mono coloured decks as well, typically they take extra thought and care in the design process to make sure that a single colour can handle most threats. It used to be that I could have done any of those four things; Mono deck? Plenty to choose from. Fast deck? Fireblast Sligh, Suicide Black, Frozen Fish. Slow deck? Ophibounce, Counterphoenix, SGD. Multi-coloured deck? CounterSliver, Living
Death, TradeAwake, CounterOath, Donais5cU.
All those decks were Rath block decks, using cards we wonít be seeing the likes of again. Now R&D are so scared of making a playably undercosted card that the only game-winning spells in Type-II are the few remaining specimens that are in 6th Edition - Armageddon, Wrath Of God, Crusade, Hammer Of Bogardan, Jokulhaups - or Nemesis -
Parallax Wave, Parallax Tide, Rising Waters, Dominate, Tectonic Break.
Look at the poor approximations that we get in Invasion and compare them to their closest Rath predecessors. Living Death got played, right? It wasnít exactly broken because it took a lot of preparation to make it worthwhile. Without SotFittest in the environment itís unlikely to be any sort of dominating force so we should be able to reprint it, right? Wrong, how about a version that doesnít bury creatures in play and costs more to cast? Say hello to
Twilightís Call - itís one of the best Invasion cards, but only because everything else is so bad. Was Goblin Cadets really so powerful that we had to get Scarred Puma instead (I`m not sure if this is better or worse than Orcish Conscripts yet)?
Why? This is what puzzles me. If you ask just about any tournament player they will tell you that the MiViLite/Rath environment was almost the perfect environment, I now very few people who donít have fond memories of it because you could play ANY deck that you wanted to play, at any pace you wanted, in any colours you wanted and be competitive - if you donít believe me look at the deck archives on The Dojo. The complaints about combo-winter came much later, so why has this golden age of Magic been abandoned? I have no answer, but presumably somebody at WotC does. Iím baffled, thatís all - an era with a hundred undercosted spells that made a variety of decks and strategies possible has been replaced by one of a half-dozen undercosted cards and the impact of that can be seen in
the way MBC was dominated by only a couple of decks, even by a couple of individual cards.
So thatís my initial bitch out of the way, and as you can guess Iím not a great fan of Invasion. But regardless of the there are the few picks I would choose to highlight from what I consider to be a very weak and unimaginative set. I applaud the return and emphasis of Gold cards (Absorb and Undermine are particularly elegant environment-shifters), but feel that this has been taken too far by the inclusion of too many cards that require off-colour mana to be playable.
Effectively mono-colour decks have been taken off the menu entirely and so instead of increasing choice by making multi-coloured decks viable once again it has served to limit choice by bringing players to play only a few successful colour combinations. But for me the most unforgivable sin has been the complete absence of playable 1cc cards of any kind - Masques was pretty thin on the ground in this category, but Invasion is simply as bald as a coot. For what itís worth, these are the few cards I think make the grade, obviously more cards will be played with as the overall quality of cards in decks drops, but these are the standout cards:
This one is going to get talked about, but Iím too sure about how good it is. I think itís probably good but not great, if it cost B it would be competitive with Duress but at B1 it might start to get in the way of what else you wanted to do on your second turn. Almost certainly good enough to run four copies of it even in an Invasion-influenced
multicolour environment and let Stupor pull whatís left on the next turn.
My first thoughts were that this was a bad Forbidden Crypt, but in fact itís a real late-game powerhouse of a card. The one-spell per turn restriction is a pain, but less so if you envisage playing this card in a U/B control deck that can LD on itís own turn and counter on itís opponentís - all while drawing a card as well. Properly used this card is actually ďDraw an additional two cards each turnĒ with the benefit of choosing which cards you draw. Also seems
like a really good way of doubling the damage from your burn spells in B/R.
Do Or Die
Is absolutely terrible. Somebody actually said, while reviewing this card: ďYou only need them to have two creatures for it to be great!Ē. Wrong. You only need them to have two creatures for it to become a Sorcery version of Diabolic Edict. Obviously good in draft but something is going seriously wrong if this sees constructed play.
A nice Evacuate-style card which should see play as a one-sided Wrath Of God in some decks. But it will certainly suffer from the fact that Invasion points so hard at multi-coloured decks. If Persecute was an Invasion card it would be crap, and Wash Out suffers a similar fate. I really donít think that multi-coloured decks will be completely rampant however, and this does nasty things to Rebels which are otherwise hard for blue to contain, so I think itís a
worthwhile SB card at the very least.
I think itís virtually certain that one of the dominant decks of early Invasion T-II will be (probably U/W) Rising Waters, and Collective Restraint is as close to a Propaganda as you are going to get. But interestingly I wonder if the deck will need a Propaganda card at all as it seems that Invasion castrates all the aggressive decks anyway. Perhaps splashing the white for Disenchant, Armageddon and Wrath Of God will give Waters the edge it needs against the
Rebels as they emerge from MBC alongside Waters to find themselves the fastest deck going.
Not as good as it should be in T-II as neither Masques nor Invasion is overloaded with spells worth countering for 2cc or less, but I think it safe to say that youíll be seeing LOTS of this card in Extended. I`d go so far as to say this is the best tournament counterspell since Counterspell, I like it that much.
With Albino Troll gone we arenít so desperate to see Incinerate reprinted but as this is an adequate Kindle replacement and can kill River Boas to boot, so you have to give it the nod Shock, Seal Of Fire, Rhystic Lightning and now this - cheap red burn has never been so efficient since you could play Bolt and Incinerate in the same deck!
Shame thereís no deck it obviously gets used in, but I like to see red get efficient removal. Iím actually a little more concerned about Chilling Apparition than I am Boas, so Iím glad to see this guy turn up.
Illicit Auction: The Counterspell. I think this is a very intriguing card for red players as it could lead to some very
interesting bluff games where your opponent is trying to guess just how much burn you are holding. Heíll be damned if he'll let you stop it for just 3 life, but can he afford to pay 4 life himself? Just how much life is an Absolute Law worth, anyway? Iím playing RDW2k at the moment in standard and I would happily find place for two or three of these in my deck, hopefully youíll be able to make use of them in the Invasion environment as well.
Obviously - the best Ball Lightning since Ball Lightning. Might see use in a Viashino Cutthroat role as one of very few creatures in a RDW-style deck alongside Rogue Kavu.
With neither Rancor nor Survival Of The Fittest (which together form the complete list of good green cards ever printed), Green returns to the anonymity from which it briefly emerged. As we enter an age of multi-coloured decks Green really did need to get something that said ďCounter target Perish, that spellís caster loses 20 lifeĒ. As it stands the splashability of Perish is going to be a major headache for anybody basing their decks in Greenís mana diversity.
Restock seems okay if you can get the mana fast enough, but with Rofellos, Priest Of Titania and Gaea`s Cradle all rotating out this could be harder than it sounds. Interesting in Extended as you can cycle a spell by simply cycling two Restocks and extended is more likely to give you the mana to do that abusively.
Death Or Glory
Since when did White get Living Death? This card seems very powerful (unusually so for Invasion) and screams splashability into a deck that can take the fullest advantage. Clear The Land, anyone? Otherwise Rebel decks would quite happily run a couple as protection from Wrath Of God.
Except it shouldnít see much play. Invasion offers no new threats so the Web is basically only there to stop Ports, and IMHO Ports arenít such a threat to your mana base that you need to run Webs to stop them. I was happily playing a 5c Squirrel Prison deck and they never denied me a colour of mana with the Ports so I donít think it is a
threat to the development of multi-coloured decks. I know that the Web has received rave write ups but the simple fact is that Ports are better than Webs and I think most top deckbuilders would choose to play in an environment where both players have Ports than in one with Webs, had Invasion given us a bank of cards like Villages and Conclaves for the Web to shut down then I would expect it to be worth playing, but as it hasnít done so I *hope* people see sense and choose not to play Webs.
Shock! Horror! Itís actually an undercosted Invasion card! I really like this, itís going to rock in draft but should be good enough to see plenty of play in T-2 as well. Itís discard AND itís bounce, and when your opponent has an empty hand itís a Desert Twister! All for 2cc - this seems stupidly undercosted and is the main reason I want to play U/B decks because I think itís worth building a deck just so you can abuse this card. Get 4 foils ASAP is my
Absorb and Undermine
They cost 3cc, and they say ďCounter target spellĒ - there has never been a bad card that says ďCounter target spellĒ
and something that says ďCounter target spell and...Ē has to be even better! But I think itís unfair that they are rare, as no doubt people will be hunting down four of these guys in no time at all. Iím undecided yet as to which is better, the black is the better card but the decision will lie on if U/W decks are better than U/B decks. U/B gets great hosers like Perish, and discard or LD as a supporting theme, whereas U/W has a poor sideboard but brings Disenchant and
Wrath to the party.
Well, sheís just a reprint of Argivian Archeologist but I always felt I could do tricks with an Archeologist so Iím sure
she`ll find her way into some Enlightened Tutor U/W decks. Not overpowered, but I felt like mentioning her.
Really good on the first read but the challenge will be in building a deck that can benefit fully from Overabundance (i.e. has expensive spells and ways to avoid the damage) but which will not suddenly find itself to be too expensive if Overabundance is lost, as was the fate of most Mana Flare decks. I alwyas liked Manabarbs-style cards, though, and had great success with Spellshock (possibly my favourite red spell of all time) so I will be trying to use it, but it might be tricky making a deck that can run without or without Overabundance in play.
And I`ll give a nod to all the 2/2 Protection creatures for 2cc, in particular Vodalian Zombie as Prot:Green looks like being something you will be glad to see.
So there you go, Iím not a fan of Invasion, nor was I a fan of Masques and I think I`ll have to grit my teeth really hard if Iím not going to quit Magic completely over the next few months. I want to play extended (the format where good cards are allowed) but the dual lands that I donít have really limit my options in that format. Oh well, so long
as Blue Beatdown decks are as good in Invasion as I think the will then at least I`ll be able to play with the only truly
undercosted spell still available - Counterspell. A deck of Counterspell, Thwart, Air Elemental and Dominate canít
be all bad, can it?
ďHmm, you wish to cast an overcosted Invasion card for G2? What, you want to pay another G1 as a Kicker? Well, I think I`ll tap UU and stop you. Oh wait, itís still only a 3cc creature, yes? (strokes Dominate in hand) No, I wonít counter it after all...Ē