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Inkmoth Nexus

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The letter T!op Decks only has one official preview for Mirrodin Besieged, but it is a doozy. I present to you: Inkmoth Nexus!



Just looking at this card for a moment might not give you the full effect of what makes it so—shall we say—magical. By its name, its inherited aesthetics, and by the bulk of its baseline functionality, Inkmoth Nexus is closely reminiscent of Blinkmoth Nexus, a tournament staple that made its appearance in Darksteel, the second set from the last time we visited the plane of Mirrodin. It has its roots in Mishra's Factory, the first great tournament creature-land; played effectively across everything from White-Blue Control to Mono-Black Necropotence, from the first days of the Pro Tour, whenever they'd let you play it.

So what's cool, new, or different about Inkmoth Nexus?

Inkmoth Nexus seems much the same as Blinkmoth Nexus, but for one not insignificant change: it trades in the ability to give a Blinkmoth creature +1/+1 ... for infect (with Inkmoth Nexus still making Blinkmoth creatures).

Is that better?

Worse?

Simply complicated?

The move to infect seems to me both complicated and "very good" in this case; broken, no—but highly effective, potentially, and in more than one place.

Having infect, fundamentally, gives Inkmoth Nexus a de facto additional point of power ... For purposes of hitting opponents, its Blinkmoth creature mode doesn't need +1/+1. Further, if Inkmoth Nexus does combat with a creature, it will leave a -1/-1 mark. Because a creature this small, and this generally offensive in objective blocks, will most commonly chump block; a -1/-1 counter can make a difference come the next turn ... a slight upgrade, defensively, over Blinkmoth Nexus.

We all know how dangerous a Plague Stinger could prove in Limited. Inkmoth Nexus is like a Plague Stinger that doesn't cost you a card in your deck (it fills a "land slot"), a Plague Stinger that can't be countered, and a Plague Stinger that can't be dealt with by sorcery speed defenses like Day of Judgment. While it seems a card intended for Constructed play, you would of course usually lap up Inkmoth Nexus for a Limited infect deck, and might just play it for value elsewhere, much the same way you can get random victories via Trigon of Infestation.


As for specific implementations, first, let's consider the most obvious place you might slot in Inkmoth Nexus—a dedicated infect deck.

This deck would probably be mono-black or black-green, topping up on Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon; moving through Ichor Rats and possibly Cystbearer. This deck probably won't have any internal conflicts—no "damage"-damage, if you grok; all poison counters, all the time.


Neither a straight black deck nor a black-green deck currently has a creature-land to call its / their own. The poisoners today have no shadowy Creeping Tar Pit to sneak away the other blue-black deck's Jace, the Mind Sculptor; nor relentless and ever-expandng Raging Ravine putting on more and more pressure turn after turn.

Yet with Inkmoth Nexus, the niche gets filled ... one that might help make a deck (or two) that hasn't yet been proven by tournament conflict.

But you know what?

Infect—infect as a dedicated or linear attack strategy—isn't even where Inkmoth Nexus looks the most interesting.

Predecessor Blinkmoth Nexus was played in all different kinds of decks. In Ravager Affinity as an artifact-creature finisher, carrying the lethal modular counters of a fallen Arcbound Ravager; in red decks, a steady stream of plink Plink PLINK, a point at a time until it became fodder for a Shrapnel Blast (and then often chump blocking); ultimately anywhere that there was Equipment to be carried, but no heavy color constraints.

Now what about Inkmoth Nexus?

I think the most interesting, if unexpected, place to consider this card is in a deck like White-Blue Control. Let's dial it all the way back to Pro Tour One:

Shawn "Hammer" Regnier's Millstone
1996 Pro Tour–New York


Hammer's baseline strategy was to try to deck the opponent with Millstone. However he had Mishra's Factory to fall back on as his only damage sources (and if I correctly remember an old issue of The Duelist, Hammer did indeed win games at the Pro Tour when his Millstones had fallen victim to a Jester's Cap).

Why bring this up here?

Not only would Inkmoth Nexus, in a similar spot, fill much the same kind of role as Mishra's Factory in Hammer's deck, but Inkmoth Nexus would basically do a better job. In the new land we have a de facto 2-power attacker (the same as Mishra's Factory), but in this case, one that flies!


The translation to modern day Magic is not as frivolous as it might initially seem.

You might recall that not long ago we talked about a new-ish look at White-Blue Control, that made surprising use of Contagion Clasp and the proliferate mechanic:

Kyle Spiess's White-Blue Proliferate
Standard - Top 8 - StarCityGames.com Open–Boston, MA


In that deck, Contagion Clasp could boost the counters on everything from Everflowing Chalice, to main deck Luminarch Ascension, to Jace Beleren or one of many other planeswalkers. Now, with a number of different damage sources (in particular, the mirror-crushing Luminarch Ascension) already present in the main, one might ask what place even one Inkmoth Nexus might have in the mix. The answer is simple: 1) You can't get rid of poison counters, and 2) You can't block proliferate.

So if you get even one poison counter on an opponent, and a Contagion Clasp active (and remember, the Contagion Clasp will be doing other things, too, like making more mana or snowballing your Jace), all of a sudden he is under a nine-turn clock (at best). This might not seem like a big deal, initially, until you consider how long some of these White-Blue mirror matches go, and how much creature elimination flies between combating mages. There are two Tectonic Edges and Spreading Seas for every Celestial Colonnade; Jaces four, or six, or even eight haymaker-trading planeswalkers erasing each other. Even Luminarch Ascension can be reset and countered, or destroyed via Into the Roil or Ratchet Bomb.


But a swing from an Inkmoth Nexus? First of all, it is annoying to try to counter. You can spend a Condemn, or a Tectonic Edge, or a Spreading Seas on it, sure; but unlike a bulky Celestial Colonnade, Inkmoth Nexus takes very little to activate and attack with. One paltry mana, and it does so much; and if it does so very early in the game, the lone poison counter might just sit there, essentially unnoticed, until it proves a lethal infection, many turns and Contagion Clasp-taps later.

It's the first one that is at once somewhat innocuous while also the gateway to future disaster. Of course you can just test the waters by attacking more (especially if you have a lot of lands and not much else to do), or you can go crazy with Contagion Clasp. It's not that any one of these angles of attack is inexorable, but all together, they put a huge strain on the opponent's defensive resources. The other guy only has so many ways to stop threats. Any countermagic pointed at a Contagion Clasp (I mean can you even imagine this?) is one not properly aimed at a Mind Sculptor. A Spreading Seas mid-game might lock down an Inkmoth Nexus, but if it comes after the first poison counter hits, proliferate will remain a long-term concern.

As we said previously, most of the impact that infect has had on Magic has been limited to Limited play. Players are horrified at the prospect of playing against the best of the mono-infect decks, which kill twice as quickly as regular decks, and with threats like Plague Stinger, in difficult-to-block fashion. Conversely, Inkmoth Nexus is a card intended for the very different landscape of Constructed play.


The problem there is that while infect creatures are twice as good at hitting opponents (relative to power), they are actually half as good at hitting planeswalkers (relative to mana costs). Look at Cystbearer. 2 power is like 4 power when applied to the opponent's face (very good); but 2 power on a three-mana creature? Maybe on a Trinket Mage! ... But 2 power isn't a reasonable number for a green combat creature whose main goal in life is smashing; at least not in Constructed.

That is my main concern around Inkmoth Nexus. Blinkmoth Nexus didn't have to play in a context full of Jace Beleren, let alone Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and while Inkmoth Nexus has all the evasion of a Celestial Colonnade, for purposes of crushing Koth ... Its strength clearly lies in other areas. The creature is near worthless at fighting planeswalkers with +2 loyalty abilities, and underwhelming in terms of managing most of the others. This is not a deal breaker by any means as Inkmoth Nexus has paragraphs and paragraphs of pregnant potential. However, planeswalker interaction is certainly something to keep aware of as you build infect decks in a land of these powerful mythic trares, or move to integrate this particular infect threat into a diversified offensive strategy.

Summary:

Aesthetics: Inkmoth Nexus is designed to remind us of Blinkmoth Nexus; it does a fine job of maintaining the flavor and functionality of the original, and holds to power level with a very appropriate keyword addition, while delivering the flavor of a set that joins metal to poison counters.


Where Can I See This Fitting In? Inkmoth Nexus is a land, which makes including it in deck lists (even as a non-four-of) much easier than many spells that seem strong at first blush. Inkmoth Nexus will be a four-of auto-include in mono-black infect, and a near-auto-include in black-green infect, plus could supplement an as-yet-unknown infect deck of another color, should any of those prove to be real strategies. In addition, I can see it as either a supplemental way to win in a deck focused on some other primary route to victory (say with some kind of Jace decking), or as part of a more complicated and diversified offense that also includes proliferate. In the latter case, even one Inkmoth Nexus can be the catalyst required to "turn on" an eventually successful way to win.

Where Will Inkmoth Nexus Not Fit In? Unlike predecessor Blinkmoth Nexus, it is unlikely we will see Inkmoth Nexus appear in a wide variety of aggressive decks as a supplemental attacker. Blinkmoth Nexus often represented the last few points of damage a deck had to do, surviving a sorcery sweeper; Inkmoth Nexus can't help out the same way with poison counters.

Snap Judgment Rating: Format Staple, but generally restricted by archetype



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