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Mirrodin Card Preview: Arc-Slogger


Friday, September 12, 2003
 

Thrashing Wumpus
Once upon a time, there was a five mana beast that approximated the ability of a powerful, but for Constructed purposes, fairly unspectacular, common enchantment in its color. While Pestilence was a bit cumbersome at four mana, a Hill Giant's 3/3 body attatched for just one more colorless mana made for an efficient card, and Thrashing Wumpus proved a successful marriage that has been utilized by the best players in the game since its debut in Mercadian Masques. Jon Finkel used this card to take the 2000 U.S. National Championships; Kai Budde, Finkel's successor as the best player in the game, used the same beast in his b-u Reanimator deck.

Now it is time for Thrashing Wumpus's successor to step forward.

This new beast represents a similar marriage of unlike cards to the one that yielded Thrashing Wumpus, and Arc-Slogger is one that I think will prove quite successful for competitive Constructed play. For many years, 3 ManaGreen Mana for a 4/5 creature was considered the gold standard for the economical fatty. Erhnam Djinn was so good that it played lynchpin in both g-w Armageddon decks (Erhnam-Geddon) and r-g aggressive decks (Erhnam and Burn 'Em), while weaseling its way into not only successful disruption decks like George Baxter's b-r Good Stuff, but u-w combination-lock decks like the one that Jon Finkel used to make his first PT Top 8 way back at 1997 Chicago. Red has never had a large creature on the order of efficiency of Erhnam Djinn, at least not one without a significant drawback, like Lava Hounds.

Yet in Arc-Slogger, a cost parallel to Erhnam Djinn for a body of the same size is exactly what R&D has duct taped onto Seal of Fire in order to create this new card... but that's not all! Erhnam Djinn had a drawback to justify its size and cost. Arc-Slogger did not inherit this. Nor is this card's ability simply that of Seal of Fire. If all Arc-Slogger had going for it was a single use Shock - an ability like that of Icatian Javelineers - I think that it would be an automatic first pick in draft that also justified the kind of broad use in Mirrodin Block decks that other five mana red fatties (like Avarix, Menacing Ogre, and Tephraderm) have earned in Onslaught Block Constructed.

But the fact of the matter is that Arc-Slogger doesn't only have one two point direct damage spell built-in; it has as many Shocks or Seals as you are willing to pay for. While ten cards off the top of your deck might seem like a painful cost, it really isn't asking that much. How many cards do you typically have in your library at the end of a game win? Twenty? Thirty or more? Unless you are playing a High Tide or Mind's Desire combination deck, you probably have quite a few. Arc-Slogger can take out a couple of opposing creatures or give your opponent a poke in the eye with no loss of card economy; all it asks in return is that you win the game with fewer cards left in your deck.

That is not to say that you should use Arc-Slogger's Shock effect without any heed for the cost... you certainly don't want to accidentally deck yourself. What I am trying to communicate is that many beginning players may look at the activation cost for Arc-Slogger's ability and see only its potentially steep limitations, rather than the fact that this creature will be extremely difficult to block with multiple small creatures, or that it has a built-in finishing mechanism, should the opponent stall the ground.

Despite the comparisons to some pretty iconic creatures of Magic's past, the tournament-winning Thrashing Wumpuses and Erhnam Djinns of the past ten years, I think that we may see Arc-Slogger exploit some even more powerful synergies than its impressive predecessors. Thrashing Wumpus was in many ways a black Masticore. It was generally used in decks for its ability to shoot down rebels and other creatures while doubling up as a reasonably large victory condition. Arc-Slogger is not quite as good in the shooting department, but it is a more robust victory condition. Erhnam Djinn wasn't the biggest body on the block, but it came to green mages at the right price to find its way into a good many decks. Arc-Slogger is a little more pricey for a creature of the same size, but being red, and having a special ability rather than a drawback, should more than justify its taking up a similar role to Judgment's most underused reprint. But over filling the same kinds of roles as these cards, Arc-Slogger is appearing in the Standard environment at the right time. Though Mirrodin itself is reminiscent of Urza's Block, with Onslaught Block representing the most recent previous Constructed sets, Arc-Slogger gets to exploit the tribal mechanic of its neighbor.

This card fits perfectly into the beast deck.

Arc-Slogger is an expensive beast. That is, it costs more than four mana. That means that it will invariably stick around in hand just long enough to power-up Canopy Crawler before hitting the ground itself. It is a 4/5. It has toughness greater than its quite respectable power. While this is not usually the hallmark of a great aggressive creature, Arc-Slogger is the right size to put the hurt on peers like Ravenous Baloth in a Contested Cliffs fight. Other players will be thinking tribally as well. I can think of few beasts I'd rather have in play than this one when going toe-to-toe with goblins in post-Mirrodin Standard. Arc-Slogger may not have quite Thrashing Wumpus's way with a horde of small toughness weenies, but nor does it damage its controller when defending the ground with its more robust body.

Arc-Slogger isn't pretty. It doesn't set off the fireworks of possibility in your mind the way Time Spiral did. But it should prove to be a great card, as well as a solid role-player with an aggressive cost that will get the job done for whatever decks ask for its help. This guy should see play in a variety of creature decks as they battle the rising tide of board control for the next two years.



Mike has been a leading voice in the game's strategy for as long as there has been a Magic Internet. He is the former editor of The Magic Dojo and a sometime Pro player. Michael J. Flores: Deckade, is a compilation of Mike's first ten years of strategy and theory (i.e. before he joined magicthegathering.com), and is available at http://www.top8magic.com.



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