Comic book superheroes are often a great source of “rediculosity” as I call it. While I’d love to lay claim to inventing such a peculiar word I can’t, but I’m also way to busy to source it. Instead, I’ll let it speak for itself: the rate at which heroes (and villians) live, fight, die, and return to life is so astonishing that it’s a staple of the genre. And the source of much of the non-comic culture’s lampooning thereof.
My point is that this cycle of life, fight, death, and return appears in Magic as well. Sometimes it’s an entire mechanic (persist). Other times it’s absurdity compounded (Vengevine). Today, I’d like to touch on that “back from the dead” trope in a slightly different way: a card being reprinted. Let’s look at one reprint appearing in Mirrodin Besieged, Leonin Skyhunter:
Now, isn’t that a thing of beauty? It’s quite a fine Cat Knight of a friend we have here, loaded with both symmetry and history:
- The cost of WW is standard white weenie fare
- We get a 2/2 with an ability for two mana, the “value bear” standard
- The ability is flying, an excellent ability in Limited
What makes this average looking guy so interesting (You do remember Kemba’s Skyguard, right?) is that this reprint is now a common, rather than the uncommon it was previously.
Talk about coming back for second life.
Like the reboots of comic history, our former uncommon Limited beater is our current pauper value: dropping two mana for 2/2 and flying is absolutely a solid idea. I mean, Stormfront Pegasus is a champ in my pauper cube. Why is this any different?
Double Mana? What Does it Mean?
There’s just one small catch about our value bear: that double white mana cost. In almost any white-inclusive deck you’ll have no toruble dropping the Pegasus. One white mana is, after all, pretty easy to come by if you’re building your deck right.
But when we start to talk about two white mana, things get a little more complicated. A guy like this is best on turn two, early. You want to be swinging and swinging hard. For a white-focused deck this is a snap. Any other pairing is going to run into issues.
The differences between Kemba’s Skyguard and Leonin Skyhunter are that little one colorless mana and life gain trigger. The Skyguard is still solid later on as it regrows 10% of your life total. You don’t mind including it in a U/W or B/W deck because that life gain is a well-desired feature, especially with bounce, blink, and graveyard recursion effects. The value isn’t entirely based on aggression.
The Skyhunter is for aggro, pure and simple. This guy was made for bashing. Playing it during the same sequence of turns you could also play the Skyguard is obviously not optimal. Still good but it’s missing that extra gravy you want.
What would the Skyhunter replace? Where does this fit into a pauper cube? As an advocate for smaller cube size I find myself faced with a difficult decision: either find the right spot for this guy to fit in, or rationalize clearly why it doesn’t. Whatever the end result is it won’t be a simple “It’s an auto-include so do it!” or “Too much effort to figure out; skip it.” cop out.
After all, sometimes when a hero comes back it’s better than before – but not always.