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Invasion Card Spotlight: Blazing Specter

David Price

Blazing Specter

Creature - Specter


Flying, haste (This creature may attack and tap the turn it comes under your control.)
Whenever Blazing Specter deals combat damage to a player, that player discards a card from his or her hand.


Illus. Marc Fishman

If you take a poll among Magic players and ask them what the best creatures in Magic are, a few creatures consistently top the list. One of these creatures, Hypnotic Specter, is a quick black flier that causes the opponent to discard a card at random from his or her hand when it deals combat damage. It has many strengths. With a 2 power, the damage that it deals is a threat. Because of its low casting cost, it is possible to get it on the table quickly to threaten the opponent and force him or her to find an answer. In addition, the discard effect allows the Hypnotic Specter to not only threaten the opponent's life total but also one of the opponent's other resources, his or her hand. Another creature that often tops the list is Ball Lightning, one of red's most famous creatures. Its primary strength, of course, lies in the fact that it has haste, allowing you to catch the opponent off guard. Like Ball Lightning, many other tournament worthy red creatures have used haste to great effect, including Avalanche Riders and Keldon Champion.

So what happens when you combine the hand destruction and evasion of black creatures with the lightning fast speed of red? You get the new Blazing Specter from Invasion. For only four mana, one of which is red and one of which is black, Blazing Specter is a 2/2 creature with flying and haste that causes the opponent to discard a card when it deals combat damage to him or her. While Blazing Specter does require two different colors of mana, its tough mana requirements are more than made up for by its efficiency. Compared to Abyssal Specter, a tournament worthy creature that premiered in Ice Age and was reprinted in the basic set, Blazing Specter is a superstar. Blazing Specter gains the ability of haste, which is especially powerful when combined with its discard effect, and all it gives up over its mono-black counterpart is one point of toughness. Similarly, it compares very well to its mono-red counterparts. For one extra black mana, Blazing Specter gains flying and the ability to force the opponent to discard a card over Wild Colos, a 2/2 creature with haste for one red and two generic mana.

So how does Blazing Specter stack up in Constructed? In both Block Constructed and Standard, I expect the Specter to be a force to be reckoned with. With Sulfurous Springs, the red and black painland, in the basic set, and Urborg Volcano, one of the new taplands from Invasion, it doesn't seem hard at all to find the right mana to cast Blazing Specter or any other red or black spell, for that matter. Also, in combination with Dark Ritual, Blazing Specter can come out even faster than before, hitting the opponent and forcing a discard as early as the second turn. Once Blazing Specter hits the board, your opponent must find an answer to it, either a blocker or a creature elimination spell. If he or she doesn't have an answer, then the Specter will continue to both damage the opponent and strip the opponent's hand of cards over the course of the game, providing a tremendous advantage to Blazing Specter's controller. Whether you are playing a red and black beatdown deck or a more controlling deck of that color combination, Blazing Specter will make a strong addition.

In Limited environments, evasive creatures that are difficult to block, whether they have Shadow, Flying, or a more unique ability, are much sought after. Oftentimes, players get in situations where their ground creatures are in a standoff, with neither side being able to attack without giving the opponent an advantage. If a player then draws a creature with flying, that forces the opponent to find a way to break the stalemate or risk dying to the lone evasion creature. That's exactly what Blazing Specter does, except it not only forces the opponent to find that answer but it might knock it out of their hand if they have an expensive answer that they don't quite have the mana to cast yet, like Plague Wind or Obliterate. If a person's red and black are good enough in their Sealed Deck, they'll be excited to see a Blazing Specter among their cards and the same goes for any red and black drafter. Its true, Blazing Specter is a rare and won't show up that often, but when it does, it will be a welcome sight.

As more of Wizards of the Coast R&D's grand scheme unfolds, I can see an aggressive black and red deck in the works, featuring Blazing Specter, Skizzik, and Urborg Volcano from Invasion, with the possible addition of Hammer of Bogardan, Shock, and Sulfurous Springs from the basic set for the Standard environment. There are many gaps in our knowledge and we won't know anything for certain until Invasion is finally released, but the core of a strong deck type is there. Will it rival other famous beatdown decks, like Red Beatdown and Stompy decks in their former glory? We'll have to wait and see how exactly the deck shapes up and how it compares to the other new deck types emerging with Invasion.

To find out more about Invasion cards and Prerelease events, click here.

Tomorrow: Gary Wise tells you why Harrow is the most important reprint in the set.

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