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Invasion Card Spotlight: Sterling Grove

Zvi Mowshowitz

Sterling Grove



All other enchantments you control can't be the targets of spells or abilities.

1, Sacrifice Sterling Grove: Search your library for an enchantment card and reveal that card. Shuffle your library, then put the card on top of it.

Illus. Jeff Miracola

Sterling Grove is a direct descendant of the Tutor family. Starting with Demonic Tutor, the ability to search for cards has been a powerful and desirable one. Over time, tutors have been too powerful, so later generations have weakened, or been designed to fulfil special purposes. Sterling Grove is the latest example of this, acting like a more specialized Enlightened Tutor.

Sterling Grove has two abilities. First, your other enchantments can't be targeted. That means that only universal effects like Tranquility will remove them unless Sterling Grove is removed first. Unless your opponent is using an effect like Disenchant that also takes out artifacts and has artifacts to kill, the Grove is going to get hit with any enchantment removal your opponent draws sooner or later. You can amplify this effect by having two Groves in play. Each protects the other, and individual enchantment removal becomes useless for the remainder of the game. That requires two cards, so it's not an amazing deal, but it's definitely worth keeping in mind that drawing multiples of Grove has its advantages.

The other ability is to sacrifice Sterling Grove to go get an enchantment, the more commonly used part of Enlightened Tutor. It costs three mana to use the Grove like this instead of one for the Tutor, so if this was all it did the card would be poor. I would consider using it in a format without Tutors if a deck naturally had a lot of things worth getting like Parallax Wave and Saproling Burst, but it would still be a poor substitute. Time has grown more and more important in Magic. When players tried to use Rhystic Tutor, it wasn't the ability to counter it with two mana that made it weaker. It was that it cost three mana, making whatever spell you found inefficient. Grove has the same problem. To be worthwhile, it would have to fetch truly broken enchantments, or an enchantment on which an entire deck depended.

Dave DeLaney says (from the Invasion FAQ):
Using the second ability stops the protection from the first ability on its announcement, because the Grove has left play. Note that the first ability doesn't stop the Grove itself from being targetted (though if you have two, each will protect the other). You can, if you wish, fail to retrieve an enchantment card if you use the second ability. Note that this doesn't say "play this ability only any time you could play a sorcery", so the second ability can be used during opponent's end-of-turn step.

The key to making this card work is to combine the two abilities. You simultaneously cripple your opponent's ability to remove your enchantments and fetch more of them. By saving one mana, you force anyone who kills the Grove to let you use it, more than making up for the lost card economy from sacrificing the Grove without provocation. If you want, you can use a Grove to go get another Grove, forcing your opponent to save up multiple removal spells to kill anything else. In general, once the Grove has to be removed by non-mass removal it has more than done its job. And the worst case is still that you have to use it without drawing a card out, which is fine if you have an enchantment in your deck good enough to make up for it.

So this card is a trade-off. You get the ability to Tutor even more than before. Since it can no longer be countered once it comes down, you can save it to use later. You get the additional effect that this must be killed before any other enchantments. But in exchange, you face a large drain in your mana. There's two mana to cast the spell on top of the one to use it, but more than that you need to save the one mana while it stays on the table if its second ability is good. If you didn't save that mana, you wouldn't be able to use the Grove in response if it was killed. That doesn't mean you lost anything; you still traded one card for one card. But it does negate one of your advantages.

So the Grove faces the classic dilemma: is it a maindeck card or a sideboard card? If you play it maindeck, often it will be an expensive Enlightened Tutor, especially first game, making it difficult to justify right now outside of Invasion block. The pure Tutor seems better. As a sideboard card, it faces a different challenge. Now it has to have a big enough impact a large enough portion of the time. If the card you worry about after sideboarding in a key matchup is a Disenchant-like effect, this card makes sense if you have the colored mana and the time to play it first. You take your opponent's scary card and turn it into card advantage. The key then would then be finding a deck that this fits into. You have to be playing both white and green and have enough enchantments worth getting and protecting.

If I had to pick a model for this, I would start with the W/G builds in MM block, often called 'Rubin decks' after the deck Ben Rubin played at PTNY. The key problem is that the deck used to be based on mana curve, weakening this card, but Parallax Wave is so important that this could find a place in the sideboard or possibly even maindeck. Then there's the issue of this card in Limited. Early in a draft, this card should have low priority because it requires you to play two colors of mana without being a bomb. Later on, this card is only good in a deck playing both white and green. Unless allied color decks become much more popular, this will probably mean at most one deck at an average table; the combination is generally seen as poor given its lack of answers, although in MM block it was fine. There are ten color combinations and eight drafters, making it likely you can get this card coming back around if you want it. Whether or not it would then make the cut comes down to what your other enchantments are. If you can afford an expensive Enlightened Tutor with a nice side effect and have good targets, then go for it. Otherwise, it will probably end up on the sidelines for most game ones, going in against white decks or when an enchantment is key in your matchup.

Overall, this is an interesting attempt to fix Enlightened Tutor and its family of spells, which are just a little too easy to use. As such, it will probably see more limited use as a sideboard card as long as the original sticks around, but later on it may well start to shine.

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

Tomorrow: Mike Flores explores his Opt-ions.

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