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Chewing the Fat: Scourge

Monday, June 2, 2003

Yesterday, I went to Huge Huey’s Big Brown Steak House. I asked the waiter for the biggest, juiciest steak on the menu. He obliged, and I was brought a fifty ounce steak, dripping, oozing, seething in fat. I stuck my fork into the thing, and it exploded—fat went everywhere, coating the whole restaurant. Fat everywhere!

It’s all about fat.

What does this anecdote have to do with Scourge’s effect on Onslaught block draft? Fat—it’s all about fat. Fat everywhere! Onslaught focused on creature interactions, creature type, and tempo. Legions saturated the format with creatures while adding morph triggers, slivers, and the provoke mechanic. Now Scourge lumbers to the table, sporting the slogan, “Size Matters”. Big cards, big effects. Cards that let you play big cards and cards that reward you for playing big cards. Alternate morph costs that let you get out your fatties quicker. And oh, yeah—huge Dragon fatties.

But again, what does all this fat have to do with anything? Add it to Onslaught-Legions, and what do you get? Scourge will never be drafted on its own outside of fun drafts, so the cards need to be analyzed in context with established Onslaught-Legions archetypes.


1. Zombie Cutthroat
2. Torrent of Fire
3. Scattershot
4. Chartooth Cougar
5. Goblin Brigand

Zombie Cutthroat
No, I haven’t been dipping into the sauce again. The best red card is, in fact, black. In the same way that Lavamancer’s Skill is functionally a blue card, Zombie Cutthroat is functionally a colorless card. Yes, it’s best in black, but most of the time, it comes out face-down and then gets unmorphed for life, not mana. It works fine in any deck and is actually more integral to nonblack strategies, since they are more often starved for big, cheap creatures. The life loss is nothing compared to the tempo gained when the Cutthroat unmorphs to kill a creature and another face-down creature can be played on the same turn. It’s an extremely powerful, unexpected card, at its best when played on the third turn.

In Onslaught, red was the strongest color thanks to Sparksmith, Solar Blast, Shock, and other great commons. It took a large hit in Legions, and Scourge’s red, while not as poor as Legion’s, is sub-par. Scattershot is a good way to kill morph creatures. If it cost one less mana, it would be extremely powerful; as is, it’s about equal to Erratic Explosion in terms of strength. Torrent of Fire, while expensive, can be extremely good. Chartooth Cougar, like any of Scourge’s landcyclers, is a welcome addition to any deck. Much has been said about the importance of two drops in Onslaught Block Limited. Goblin Brigand fills this role admirably for red decks that, aside from the coveted Sparksmith, have traditionally been short of two drops. It would be higher if not for the “must attack every turn”, clause, which is actually worse than it sounds. That’s where the red starts to dry up. There are mediocre offerings in Rock Jockey, Bonethorn Valesk, Spark Spray, and then the chaff. The red in Scourge is decent, but it won’t make your deck great.


1. Aven Farseer
2. Zombie Cutthroat
3. Zealous Inquisitor
4. Frontline Strategist
5. Noble Templar

Aven Farseer
White in Onslaught block is the opposite of red: extremely weak Onslaught cards, followed up by deep selections in Legions and Scourge. Scourge’s white is strong, but not top-heavy. There’s no Sparksmith- or Timberwatch Elf–level common, but there are plenty of highly playable cards. Aven Farseer stands out because it fills a needed spot in the mana curve and has evasion. The next three cards are all strong three drops: Zombie Cutthroat, Zealous Inquisitor, and Frontline Strategist. The Cutthroat is fantastic in a strong white tempo deck, the Inquisitor is difficult to block in the early game, and the Strategist can create some sticky combat scenarios for your opponent for a cheap morph cost. These cards can be taken interchangeably depending on the needs of the deck. Noble Templar is one of the stronger landcyclers, seemingly made for the Dragon’s enchantment cycle. Further down the list we have good playables in the form of Aven Liberator, Dragon’s Scales, and Astral Steel. Scourge’s white has plenty of meat to go on your deck’s bones.


1. Zombie Cutthroat
2. Krosan Drover
3. Fierce Empath
4. Wirewood Guardian
5. Accelerated Mutation

Krosan Drover
The best thing about Scourge’s green is that riding shotgun alongside the fatties are a wealth of fatty-supporters. Krosan Drover is like an Explosive Vegetation with a 2/2 body to go with it. Wirewood Empath tutors for whichever fatty is best in a given situation or fetches a bomb. Wirewood Guardian is a watered-down Krosan Tusker that still gets the job done. Accelerated Mutation, while not as good as Torrent of Fire, is in the right color. Green is deep—Titanic Bulvox, Treetop Scout, Woodcloaker, and Dragon Fangs are all playable. Scourge also increases the viability of five-color green—remember, Wirewood Empath can search for any of the landcyclers!


1. Rush of Knowledge
2. Frozen Solid
3. Zombie Cutthroat
4. Shoreline Ranger
5. Raven Guild Initiate

Rush of Knowledge
Scourge’s blue is high quality, but shallow. Floating to the top is Rush of Knowledge, a card that may put Limited blue back on the map. It’s best in blue-red and good in everything else. Frozen Solid is another welcome addition to blue’s arsenal, providing spot removal for any annoyance. Shoreline Ranger is a solid landcycler that will make the cut in any deck. Raven Guild Initiate can do some tricky combat shenanigans, making it a nice addition to any build with five or six birds. Temporal Fissure is an interesting card that can be as devastating as Essence Fracture in the right situation. After that, it dries up, leaving overpriced counters and flyers. Scourge’s blue provides wimpy creatures while offering up the powerful spells that blue’s been craving since Onslaught.


1. Clutch of Undeath
2. Lingering Death
3. Zombie Cutthroat
4. Twisted Abomination
5. Death’s-Head Buzzard

Clutch of Undeath
By far the strongest color in the set, black serves up non-stop commercial-free platinum hits. Clutch of Undeath takes out most things and can be thrown on a zombie if the coast is clear. Lingering Death is strong, cheap removal—it’ll cost you a few life, but it gets the job done. Twisted Abomination is the best of the landcyclers, and the fact that it only ranks fourth on this list says a lot about black’s strength. Death’s-Head Buzzard is a great flyer, although the ability is not nearly as effective here as it is on Festering Goblin. Dragon Shadow is fantastic against anything that isn’t black, and Unburden and Reaping the Graves are both playable. If you’re taking black cards, you’ll be looking forward to Scourge.

The Archetypes

The red cards, specifically Sparksmith and Lavamancer’s Skill, were the bread and butter of this deck type. With one less pack of Onslaught and Scourge’s so-so additions, this archetype takes a major hit. The best before Scourge, probably the third or fourth after.

Torrent of Fire
This archetype takes a hit in the red department for all the same reasons mentioned above, but gains a lot on the green side. Torrent of Fire paired with green monsters is a lot of heat. Scattershot, with mana acceleration and elves, can two or three for one. Even though red loses out, the damage is minimized here.


The quality of the red cards goes down, but the black goes way up. Chartooth Cougar and Rock Jockey are better in this deck than in other archetypes.

If there’s any deck that doesn’t need good cards to win, it’s red-white, and that’s thanks to white’s solid group of cheap creatures. Grab a Wave of Indifference, pick up tricks in Scourge, and you’re off to the races—there’s no one card that this archetype relies on. Stronger than before.

Huge gains. This deck’s traditionally been dogged by three cards in particular: Lavamancer’s Skill, Wellwisher, and Sparksmith. Now there’s one less pack for those guys and one more pack of solid white cards. With Scourge pushing the format towards large creatures and fewer must-kill creatures around, tempo decks like this one are better than ever. Probably the second-best archetype in Onslaught Block draft.

This deck got much better for the same reasons that white-blue did, but still suffers from lack of evasion creatures. Better, but still not good—if you do end up drafting it, take flyers high.

Perhaps the deck that benefits the most from Scourge, white-black gets plenty in both colors. After Scourge, this deck becomes the best archetype in Onslaught Block draft.

Temporal Fissure
Another vast improvement. It’s a strong, synergistic archetype hindered by Sparksmith and Wellwisher; with those guys nearing extinction, it gets better. This deck is good because all the blue cards work well with all the green cards. Flyers hit in the air while large ground-pounders hold the ground. Blue’s typically trashy flying enchantments fit perfectly on undercosted green beasts. Bounce is best when you have beef to take advantage of the tempo. Should be a strong contender; Temporal Fissure is strong here.

For the past two or three blocks, black-green has remained pretty much the same—solid-but-clunky guys and removal. Some people swear by it, others avoid it completely. The deck likely profits from Scourge, but only marginally; it just gets more of the same. Pick those Crypt Slivers from Legions a little higher—they’re more valuable now because they block the increased number of fatties while giving you time to ramp up to fatties of your own. Your goal is to survive to the late game when you can start pumping them out.

The best example of a tempo deck, blue-black has aggressive evasion creatures, removal, and bounce. This deck gets a strong boost from Scourge. Black especially adds a lot to the archetype (Clutch of Undeath is strongest here). Tempo-oriented decks get better because of Scourge’s focus on large creatures and the late game, and this deck is no different.

A highly respected Pro Tour competitor and popular Internet writer, Jeff Cunningham has been playing Magic for more than 10 years. In 2006, Jeff was voted as a "Fan Favorite" choice into the Magic Invitational, where he finished 2nd. Other Magic accomplishments include Top 8 at Pro Tour–San Diego 2002, and three Grand Prix Top 8s including a win in Philadelphia.

Jeff currently attends the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

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