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Mirrodin Card Preview: Promise of Power

Friday, September 19, 2003

As a preview selection for Mirrodin, Promise of Power is an interesting choice. On the one hand, it makes for a reasonable comparison to several cards from the past; on the other, it showcases a powerful new mechanic.

The most basic application that we might make is between Promise of Power and the Constructed staple from Odyssey Block that it is ostensibly replacing: Skeletal Scrying.

To draw five cards, Skeletal Scrying will cost you six mana, whereas Promise of Power requires only five. Promise of Power is a better deal from the converted mana standpoint (holding their dual payments of five life as equal), but much of the incentive to playing Skeletal Scrying came from its being an instant. A monoblack control player could play a reasonably large Skeletal Scrying at the end of a control player's turn, forcing him to use a Counterspell. Forcing the tap of a couple of mana as well as pulling a Counterspell out of the opponent's hand would allow the black mage to force through hand destruction and a game-winning bomb on his own turn; if the control player let the Skeletal Scrying resolve, he might be in even worse shape. Promise of Power doesn't give players this kind of versatility, but on the other hand, these days, permission is a less relevant concern in Standard, and unlike a Skeletal Scrying for five, Promise of Power doesn't require a black mage to have several cards set up in his graveyard.

All of that being said, as a pure card drawer, Promise of Power is probably weaker overall than Skeletal Scrying. If all it did was draw cards, though, I don't know that this spell would be played in Constructed deck... but this card can do a lot more.

The next most obvious comparison to spells past is one contrasting this card's option of effects to the split cards of Invasion Block. Would anyone have run just Spite or just Malice when they had the opportunity to play any number of more mana efficient pure creature elimination spells or hard counters? Would anyone have chosen to Wax when they could have played Explosive Growth or Giant Growth? Perhaps Wane's mana cost would have made it a reasonable deal outside of being a split card... but probably not when compared to Erase. Yet decks from the Red Zone to PT Junk ran Wax/Wane as a necessary evil of enchantment destruction in a format with Saproling Burst... that could be used as a Giant Growth against non-Fires of Yavimaya decks. The versatility of split cards like Fire/Ice helped to define archetypes like u-r Trix in Extended, and helped Kai Budde win not one, but two Constructed Pro Tours. While the individual effects of these cards might not have been on the same level as some of the other options available, the fact that, as single cards, they were able to do so much at such reasonable costs, the split cards found homes in every sort of archetype from rebel beatdown to true control to "catch" combination kills.

With entwine, Promise of Power takes the split card mechanic to the next level.

Is this card on par with Skeletal Scrying head-to-head? It has some things going for it, but maybe not. Can Skeletal Scrying give you a 6/6 flyer for five mana? What about a 12/12?

The other side of Promise of Power is going to make this a Limited bomb. Black creatures – flyers especially – are notoriously difficult to deal with, and playing Promise of Power as a 3/3 for five is going to be fine... anything bigger is going to make it a nightmare for the opponent. This effect costs just one more mana than Maro (a fine Limited and Constructed spell himself), and attaches evasion to boot.

But what is really great is that you can do both.

I know that right now you are following along that a medium-to-large flyer for five mana is a decent deal, and are cozying up to the idea that you might be willing to spend five mana and five life for five cards, but to do both costs nine! Isn't that a little steep?

For the past couple of years, we have gotten used to paying two mana for a Wild Mongrel on turn two, and then sitting back to watch that guy rule the board. As recently as Onslaught Block, goblins have made themselves a powerful force, showcasing their speed in the face of the raw power and mana acceleration of competing strategies. Mirrodin as a whole takes us further from the fast beatdown model. Yes, aggressive creatures will still be viable (especially the red ones), but this block is going to allow players to accelerate their mana in ways reminiscent of Urza's Block. A few weeks from now, you might not be shying so far away from that nine mana in Constructed decks. Cabal Coffers,Temple of the False God, and Explosive Vegetation were but a prequel to the power mana block that is Mirrodin.

And to answer your question, the answer is yes. When paying the entwine on Promise of Power, you draw the cards first, and then you count the cards in your hand to determine the size of your flying demon creature.

I told you this promised to be a powerful spell.

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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