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All-Time MVPs: Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero


Tuesday, June 17, 2003
 

Last week's poll showed a huge pull to Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero. Getting more than double the votes of its closest competitor, Crystalline Sliver, it's obvious which card players perceive as the most influential. Many readers cited Lin Sivvi's banning in Masques Block Constructed as a major reason for their vote. Olivier Rouy put it well:

“The choice wasn't clear cut at first, but when you think about it, it is not so hard. Slivers and merfolk thrived in certain metagames, while rebels defined the metagame in Masques Block (where Lin Sivvi had to be banned), Standard and even Extended at some point.”

While all three of these creatures were, basically, the “lords” in their respective decks, Sivvi stands out in power level. Lord of Atlantis gives his team a Crusade and makes sure that blue players can't block (which, in reality, wasn't super-important, as merfolk decks were generally popular in metagames with combo decks or creature-light control decks) but lost out on the fact that it has always been legal, but rarely been played. Crystalline Sliver is a rock-solid creature that makes the slivers a seriously slippery group of creatures. You haven't been in trouble until you've faced down an army of untargetable 4/4 flying creatures that can be sacrificed to do 2 damage to you. But the Crystalline Sliver is only a single part of making those monsters – you still need other cards to make it work. As such, Crystalline Sliver is more of a team player. Perhaps it's this interdependency that weakened the sliver's chances in the poll.

Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero 3678 57%
Crystalline Sliver 1707 26%
Lord of Atlantis 1077 17%

Total 6462

This week's poll deals with three Alpha artifacts that found themselves in powerful decks outside of Type I. Black Vise, one of the most frustrating cards to play against, made its way into red-green decks shortly after the release of Ice Age (because of this, the deck was often called Vise Age), punishing players who couldn't get off to a speedy start. Nevinyrral's Disk, which also found its way into numerous control decks, was considered the lynch pin for the earliest Necro decks (because, it was believed then, you didn't want the Necro hanging around after you drew a few new cards), as well as a reset button in primarily blue control decks. Finally, Winter Orb, a powerful mana regulator used in prison decks, but to greater effect in fast creature decks like five-color green and black ice. Which will it be? Make sure to cast your vote!

Who's Lin Sivvi?

Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero
Aside from being defiant (and also a hero), Lin Sivvi is one of the best legends to date. With a fairly low cost of 1 ManaWhite ManaWhite Mana, she is in an exclusive club of low-cost legends. There are only about 20 legends that cost three or less and, of them, only Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary has had a similar impact on Constructed, fueling Trinity Green and, to a lesser extent, Angry Hermit strategies. Most cheap legends are fairly forgettable, as they are really too cheap to be made very powerful. Lin Sivvi may be a lot of things, but she is not forgettable.

A 1/3 for three mana isn't anything to get excited about. It isn't a threatening attacker, nor is it especially sturdy for blocking. However, when you add Lin Sivvi's better-than-the-average-rebel's searching ability, three mana is definitely worth it. The inclusion of her recursion ability is just icing on a very sweet cake. The total package is one of the best three casting cost creatures ever, giving you a card advantage engine with built-in recursion, making sure that 1. you can get threats and 2. you can repopulate a depleted deck with new threats. Combined, these two abilities ensure the rebel deck a limitless supply of cannon fodder and cheap, quick access to a panoply of varied threats and answers, all at instant speed.

When It Was Legal…

Mercadian Masques came out on the heels of the wildly powerful (and heavily banned) Urza Block, which plunged Standard and Extended into agonizing months of combo decks fighting combo decks. Even after all the bannings, the top tier cards are still considered some of the most powerful designed since the early days of Magic. Morphling and Masticore are just a couple examples of the power level of Urza Block.

Ramosian Sergeant
Many players expected Masques, as a reaction to the problems of the Urza Block, to be significantly tamer. It certainly was, with most of the power cards paling next to Urza's nightmarish creations. Aside from Rishadan Port, one of the most intriguing things about Mercadian Masques was the two new creature subsets: rebels and mercenaries. Both creature types had a built-in search mechanic, allowing specific rebels and mercenaries to tutor for their allies. In the case of rebels, this was a situation that built up; cheap rebels recruited more expensive rebels, from the lowly Ramosian Sergeant (who may actually be the best of the bunch) on up to Ramosian Sky Marshal, who could search out the largest rebel, the Jhovall Queen. Meanwhile, the mercenaries worked from the top down. The little guys could only get even smaller guys, meaning that the mercenaries couldn't ramp up the way the rebels could. Because of this, the mercs were much weaker and saw practically no play outside of Limited. However, the rebels' ability to create an army from a single creature enamored players. With most creature decks, a Wrath of God forced a slow and costly restart. A second Wrath usually sealed the game. However, with the rebels, you could play around Wrath by dropping a single searcher and digging threats out of your deck, as opposed to committing resources from your hand to play.

Nemesis, the first expansion in the block, fleshed out the rebels, notably adding Defiant Falcon, Voice of Truth, Parallax Wave, and Lin Sivvi. Each of these cards gave white new power, with the Falcon complimenting Ramosian Lieutenant in the 1 ManaWhite Mana slot, Lin Sivvi adding power searching and recursion to white's repertoire, Voice of Truth provided white a foil against itself, which would prove important, considering how deeply white would dominate Masques Block Constructed and Parallax Wave, which would also see success in Replenish decks, gave white a massive swing effect in an environment sorely lacking in them. Nemesis also gave black Massacre, a free rebel-hoser. Despite the obvious power of such a card in a white-dominated environment, Massacre saw little play compared to the rebels and did little to neutralize their dominance.

At 2000 Pro Tour-New York, often called the rebel Pro Tour or Pro Tour-Lin Sivvi, 43% of the decks were straight rebel decks. The most successful of these was played by Warren Marsh to a second-place finish, eventually losing to Sigurd Eskeland's blue deck, which was (obviously) designed to beat rebels.

Warren Marsh
View a sample hand of this deck

Main Deck

60 cards

22  Plains
Rishadan Port

26 lands


Jhovall Queen
Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero
Ramosian Lieutenant
Ramosian Sergeant
Ramosian Sky Marshal
Steadfast Guard
Voice of Truth

18 creatures
Disenchant
Parallax Wave
Reverent Mantra
Seal of Cleansing
Story Circle

16 other spells

Notice the complete rebel chain, held together by Lin Sivvi. She is the only searcher that got four spots. Warren also packed Voice of Truth to beat white decks in the air. The pure card advantage is what makes this deck work, allowing Warren to throw just about any card in hand away to Reverent Mantra, as the extra rebels searched out would more than make up for the loss of a card there.

Rebels dominated this tournament, as is evident from the match coverage. Reporters at the event were almost at a loss for what to say, as match after match was decided by who could play Lin Sivvi and then protect her from the “Parallax Wave, play my own Lin Sivvi” tactics and other removal spells.

Shortly after this tournament, Lin Sivvi and Rishadan Port were banned in Masques Block Constructed, opening the format up to multicolor and non-rebel decks. But it wouldn't be the end of Lin Sivvi and her ragtag band of rebels… not by a long shot.

Why Was It Great?

Even before her departure from MBC, Lin Sivvi had been popping up in Standard tournaments as more than just a nuisance. The rebels were viable and people were experimenting with all sorts of builds. It would only be a matter of months before rebels were back in the news, this time at 2000 Pro Tour-Chicago and in the hands of the German Juggernaut, Kai Budde and Dutchman Kamiel Cornelissen, who played two very different rebel decks to first and second place finishes, respectively.

Kai Budde
Rebels
View a sample hand of this deck

Main Deck

60 cards

Brushland
Dust Bowl
16  Plains
Rishadan Port

26 lands


Defiant Falcon
Defiant Vanguard
Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero
Longbow Archer
Ramosian Sergeant
Ramosian Sky Marshal
Rebel Informer
Steadfast Guard
Thermal Glider

22 creatures
Chimeric Idol
Parallax Wave
Wax/Wane

12 other spells

Kamiel Cornelissen
Counter Rebel
View a sample hand of this deck

Main Deck

60 cards

Adarkar Wastes
Coastal Tower
10  Island
Plains

26 lands


Defiant Falcon
Defiant Vanguard
Jhovall Queen
Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero
Ramosian Sergeant
Ramosian Sky Marshal
Rebel Informer

13 creatures
Absorb
Brainstorm
Counterspell
Disenchant
Dismantling Blow
Dominate
Fact or Fiction
Rout
Wrath of God

21 other spells

Kai's deck is the more aggressive of the two. In fact, what we have here is a classic beatdown versus control match, all played out within the realm of rebels, with a total of six Lin Sivvis between the two decks. While Kai's deck plans to get Lin Sivvi out to create an army and attack with it, Kamiel wants to use her to create a recurring defense. Kai's deck is loaded down with rebels, eighteen in total, in addition to some of the best non-rebel creatures available for his deck choice. His rebels are attacking. Kamiel has only 13 rebels, eschewing the more aggressive ones in favor of countermagic and mass creature removal. Here we see two contrasting designs, both of which were extremely successful, aiming to use Lin Sivvi as their key card. That is how influential the Defiant Hero has been.

The Big Picture

Wild Mongrel

Imagine if this was a legend. Bad times.

Even as Lin Sivvi led rebels to dominate Block and Standard, players clamored over her legendary status. Many people felt that having a cheap legend be the key card in decks that often represented half the field caused games to be decided more by luck than by skill. Players who played second often found themselves in a losing proposition, starting turn three, as they desperately searched for removal, so they could play their copy of Lin Sivvi. This may be one reason that we haven't seen any cheap, splashy legends since Lin Sivvi. Imagine if, say, Wild Mongrel was a legend. With four of them appearing in many different archetypes, they are constantly on the board turn two. Not only would Mongrel come into play on your side as one of the best creatures you could have, but it would also lock your opponent's Mongrels out of the game. As several decks based on madness rely, sometimes exclusively, on the Mongrel as a madness outlet, all of a sudden one player is in an amazing board position and the other player's game has completely ended, as all those Arrogant Wurms cost 3 ManaGreen ManaGreen Mana and Deep Analysis costs 3 ManaBlue Mana.

The rebels built on what the slivers taught us: interdependency in a creature type is cool and can be very powerful. Onslaught, with its tribal themes, has considered these two creature types (and brings the slivers back!) and shows that while interdependency is exciting and strong, the ability for multiple creatures in a single type to find each other can easily get out of hand. There are individual cards, like Wirewood Herald, which can tutor for fellow tribesmen, but there's nothing on the level of the rebels.

The power of Lin Sivvi lies in her ability to create something from nothing. Like other card advantage generators, she provides extra cards at a reasonable cost, especially when you consider that you are tutoring a card directly from your deck and playing it for the converted mana cost of the card. This is much more mana efficient that most card drawers. Even Ancestral Recall adds a Blue Mana surcharge to your free cards.

What Do You Think?

Please vote for which card you would like to be the next All-Time MVP. There are many cards that deserve to be included, but only three slots on the poll. Don't worry; we'll get to the rest of them soon!

The poll will close Friday at 8 PM Eastern (5 PM Pacific). After you vote, drop me an email at AllTimeMVPs@Hotmail.com and tell me why the card you voted for deserves to be the next All-Time MVP. Give me a good enough reason and you may just see it featured right here in this column.

 Which card should be the next All-Time MVP?  
Black Vise
Black Vise

Winter Orb
Winter Orb

Nevinyrral's Disk
Nevinyrral's Disk

Results



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