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Mirrodin Card Preview: Lightning Greaves

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

It doesn't look like much, does it?

Certainly, for this set, Lightning Greaves doesn't quite match up to Platinum Angel or Isochron Scepter in the new artifacts department. So why did your friendly neighborhood Sideboard staff set aside this card for a special preview prior to the release of Mirrodin? I think there are a couple of reasons.

First of all, Lightning Greaves is here to teach us about costs, and how they apply to the new mechanic of equipment. It took me a moment, but when I realized that equipment is the artifact analogue to creature enchantments, I figured out that this card has a lot more in common with some of the best local enchantments of the past than with some more obvious comparisons, like Power Matrix.

Now you can make the argument that Rancor would have been a popular card as a +2/+0 enhancement for Green Mana, but I can't believe that it would have made the same kind of Constructed impact across Urza’s Block and Standard Stompy decks, and even Grand Prix titlist Three-Deuce decks in Extended if it didn't have the ability to return from the graveyard. Certainly, I don't think that Gary Wise would have declared it "as big a mistake in Limited as Time Spiral is in Constructed" without that second line of rules text.

By the same token, many players have said that they would take Dragon Scales just as highly in Scourge draft even if it didn't have the ability to return from the graveyard, but the impact that this card has had on Onslaught Block Constructed has a lot to do with its interactions with Eternal Dragon, Exalted Angel, and Astral Slide. That Dragon Scales allows a Silver Knight to attack through a team of goblins while still remaining untapped to defend makes it good, but the fact that a late game Eternal Dragon can come into play big enough to hold back Akroma, Angel of Wrath while still itself closing the life race is what makes this card one of the defining spells of the monowhite control archetype.

Rancor and Dragon Scales provide fairly unspectacular effects for very low mana costs. What pushes both of these cards, and other playable creature enchantments (such as Elephant Guide), over the edge is that they defy the basic disadvantage of the local enchantment. Enchant creature cards in general create a loss of card advantage when the creature that they are enchanting gets hit by a removal spell; most of the creature enchantments that we see in Constructed decks manage to shrug off that limitation in some way… equipment has its own way of achieving that same goal.

Lightning Greaves may not provide the most jaw-dropping effects in the realm of Magic, but its cost is also very low.

Moreover, Lightning Greaves was probably intended primarily for Limited, rather than Constructed play. In case you were wondering, equipment, unlike a creature enchantment, can be moved from one creature to another as long as you have the requisite mana to pay its equipment cost. If you play a turn two Lightning Greaves, you can essentially give haste to every creature you follow up with in a Limited game, turn after turn after turn. You can also equip an attacker with First Strike, and then move Lightning Greaves onto an untapped creature, so as to make it a better defender, post-combat. This should make Lightning Greaves an effective early pick in draft.

Rayne, Academy Chancellor
When you look at Mirrodin and its focus on powerful artifacts, you will probably be reminded of the previous artifact effort, Urza's Block. In addition to cards like Powder Keg, Treachery, and Masticore, Urza's Destiny gave us a memorable legendary permanent or two. Yes, I speak of Rayne, Academy Chancellor.

Rayne had an interesting ability. If she were enchanted, she would get the benefits (or the detriment) of that enchantment, but just by virtue of being enchanted, Rayne's natural card drawing ability was also enhanced.

Mirrodin carries a mechanic similar to Rayne's to a new breed of creatures, but instead of a benefit from being enchanted, these creatures get a bonus for being equipped. Churning out an early Skyhunter Cub with Lightning Greaves in play does dramatic things to the tempo of the game. Not only will you have a low cost 3/3 creature for just three mana, you can send it flying into the red zone without any fear of creature elimination or loss in combat as early as turn three. In a very real way, your opponent will have to deal with your Lightning Greaves before he has the opportunity to even think about racing your shiny new Cat Knight.

Lightning Greaves is the kind of Limited card that makes your entire deck better. Having no color requirements, it can fit into any archetype. It gives you a Fires of Yavimaya-like advantage with every creature you cast, and has the potential to ensure that your opponent can never, ever, deal with your bombs. Platinum Angel is generating a lot of buzz, and will probably be an automatic first pick in draft. That being said, it is still just an artifact, and there are plenty of ways to deal with artifacts, no matter how powerful they are. When you apply Lightning Greaves to Platinum Angel, you not only give your best card haste in addition to flying, you make it extremely difficult for your opponent to weasel his way out of an already disheartening position.

Not bad for a little two mana artifact, is it?

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, and is available at

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