In an unprecedented move, Wizards of the Coast made the full Shattered Alliances spoiler available on the Kaijudo website over a week prior to the set's release. If you haven't checked it out yet, go right now! I'll be here when you get back.
Soaked it all in? I'm sure you're marveling at the 10 new Super Rares, but that's not what I want to talk about today. New toys for control decks are a given in every set. What is in flux, though, is just how much rope those control decks are allowed to have in the metagame. Barring set rotation, you can be sure that the speed of the game will increase with every new set that hits shelves. Shattered Alliances is no exception.
My eyes immediately scanned the card list for any and all aggressive cards. I don't self-identify as a "rush player" (or an "anything" player for that matter), but there's a contingent of Kaijudists that are dead set on playing decks with a high curve. The opportunity to catch these players with their pants down and deliver the beats is too juicy to pass up. So, with that agenda in mind, did 9SHA deliver the goods? Let's take a look:
This card is the simplest embodiment there is of a Blue/Red split card. At 1000 Power, Flamespitter isn't going to be winning any battles against its level 4 peers, but that doesn't matter; you want to be coming in hard at the shields on turn 4 anyway. Flamespitter's Ransack ability mimics [ccProd]Emperor Neuron[/ccProd], but without the need to lean on the less-than-stellar Cyber Lord bait previously available. If you're able to get off two successful attacks with Flamespitter, drawing into more bodies can assure victory.
Visualize the kind of shell required to support this guy. Since we're in Fire, we have access to [ccProd]Comet Missile[/ccProd] and the Drakon suite of Evolution creatures, allowing us to dispatch blockers that might otherwise prove troublesome for Flamespitter. At the top end, tempo all-stars like [ccProd]Rusalka, Aqua Chaser[/ccProd] can help keep your opponent's battle zone barren, providing slightly more expensive blocker removal in a pinch, but also representing a threat that the opponent has to deal with quickly. Drakon Rush decks go balls-to-the-wall by their very nature, which makes them very deadly, but also very predictable. Adding Water may take away some speed, but it has the potential to add consistency. Getting rewarded with new cards in hand for doing what you want to be doing anyway can make all the difference over the course of a long tournament.
Phase Scout is another potential inclusion in the Water/Fire aggro deck. As an Aquan, he can serve as bait for [ccProd]Aqua-Ranger Commando[/ccProd], but I'm not sure that's where you want to position yourself. 3 cost Evo bait needs to be good in its own right, and Phase Scout falls a little short as a standalone weapon. [ccProd]Aqua-Ranger Commando[/ccProd] is outclassed by other comparable Evolution creatures anyway, so Phase Scout's creature type will likely be irrelevant if he manages to see play.
The Scout combos very well with Flamespitter. You're taking a little more time to set up, but you can reliably facilitate two unblockable breaks on turn 4 while netting a free card. The downside, of course, is that you need to attack with Phase Scout first, so if he hits a Shield Blast that can banish Flamespitter, you slowed yourself down with nothing to show for it. If you control smaller creatures, you can target them with the Trailblaze ability to try and direct opposing blasts, but that still means you won't be able to draw a free card if they control a blocker. Another knock against Phase Scout is the prevalence of Skirmishers in current control decks. [ccProd]Aqua Strider[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Fullmetal Lemon[/ccProd] may not be able to block his mighty kicks, but they can sure attack over his skimpy 2000 Power.
Still, the potential is there. You could forget about Flamespitter and try to pair the Scout up with [ccProd]Gilaflame the Assaulter[/ccProd]. A lot of decks have no way to interact with Gilaflame outside of Shield Blasts, and removing blockers from the equation can tip the scales. Of course, you're probably only getting in one sequence of unblockable attacks before the Phase Scout bites the dust, but that might be enough.
Scamp is generating a lot of early hype, and rightfully so. He does absolutely everything you want an aggressive level 2 creature to do. Cyber Scamp encourages bashing at shields with no fear, since any Shield Blast you may trigger will pull a free copy out of your deck. He's the most efficient little guy we've seen printed thus far, in the same design space as [ccProd]Manapod Beetle[/ccProd]. The intent is clear: "I'm going to turn sideways, and even if you have a way to deal with me, I will still provide value to my controller."
Scamp does more than deter Shield Blasts -- he makes low cost spells extremely painful for your opponent to cast. [ccProd]Sprout[/ccProd]? You better ramp into a relevant level 4 or 5 creature on the very next turn. [ccProd]Specter Claw[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Mesmerize[/ccProd]? I'm playing more small creatures than you are, so I'll relish a simplified game state if it means I get an extra attacker in my battle zone. Don't even think about [ccProd]Logos Scan[/ccProd].
The Cyber Lord affiliation is also a huge boon. A free Scamp might be sitting in your battle zone, unable to attack due to a pesky blocker. No worries: slam down [ccProd]Emperor Neuron[/ccProd] and you'll effectively end up with a supercharged [ccProd]Jet-Thrust Darter[/ccProd] for the same cost! Cyber Scamp provides an easy way to mitigate the inherent disadvantage of summoning an Evolution creature, and Neuron is definitely a card that can get out of hand if unanswered.
At some point, you'll inevitably draw two of your Scamps while the third copy hides in your shields. Don't let that deter you. These tiny Cyber Lords are the real deal.
Falkora is the Light/Fire cousin of Flamespitter, and in a deck combining Enforcers and Drakons, he's a deadly cap to your curve. 2500 Power is, again, small for the level, but that extra 500 is critical. In the aggressive mirror, Falkora can attack over a good deal of level 2 or lower creatures, triggering his Thunderstrike ability without fear of hitting a blast. Even if Falkora is forced to attack a shield, he can effectively nullify a single blocker, which may force the opponent to use their Shield Blast removal on one of your smaller dudes.
Enemy blockers with Guard get completely blanked by the Blitzer-Mech, and the always-popular [ccProd]Scaradorable of Gloom Hollow[/ccProd] is hindered since it can't win battles. Even with Skirmishers like [ccProd]Aqua Strider[/ccProd] staring you down, Falkora still serves as a pseudo-[ccProd]Comet Missile[/ccProd]-slash-Fast-Attacker all in one. All this for an affordable 4 mana!
Multicivilization cards need to be carefully portioned out in an aggressive deck that absolutely needs to hit its mana drops. To that end, Falkora occupies the top of your curve, giving you plenty of time to unlock both colors the old-fashioned way. If you're able to curve out and bring the beats, tapped Skirmishers revenge swinging over your Falkora may prove deadly for the opponent, but they'll have no choice but to do so! Falkora is one of my favorite Very Rares from the set, and I can't wait to put him through his paces.
The ARG Circuit Series in Fort Worth, Texas is only a few short weeks away! The Kaijudo event will be especially interesting, since it's the first chance players will have to use Shattered Alliances cards in a competitive setting! Decks that succeed here will surely be seen during the Winter KMC season, so if you can't attend, make sure you stay glued to ARG TV for all the coverage you crave!
Until next time, Play Hard or Go Home!