Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Top 10 list: The Big Fat Fatties

Blightsteel ColossusFor this top ten list I will be concentrating on cards that cost 7 or more mana. The five and six drop fatties are also very fat however they are vastly more playable in normal decks without ramp or cheaty ways to get things into play, where as all the ones talked about today are played in decks specifically set up to support them. The gap between six and seven mana in the cube is one of the biggest and seems a very good way to differentiate the kinds of fatty. Things like Abyssal Persecutor are good purely because they are fat and cheap where as all those discussed here cost enough that being cheap relative to other things in that sort of role doesn't cut it any more. In other words cost is not too much of an issue with these cards, they all cost over the threshold where a few mana makes little difference and it is all about how the card performs and what synergy it can offer.

Inkwell LeviathanI made a short list of the cards that I thought would cover all of the top 10 and discovered a few things. Firstly I have culled most of them from my cube due to being niche cards. Combo is still played but only in the constructed style cube formats and so those cards being in the A cube is not so important. Also in the more limited formats like standard draft my cube is way too archetype orientated which leads to very powerful and smooth running decks that simply destroy people trying to play things that cost seven or more mana as their way to victory. Many of these cards are the best card in a specific role and have all seen time in the A cube and their not being in their now is no slight of the card but simply a way to increase the pick quality in drafts.

The second thing I noticed is that the cards are all played and represented here for being the best at certain roles in certain decks which makes it very hard to compare them. Yes they are all fatties that aim to win the game but they are all specifically good at being cheated in by certain things and at beating specific archetypes while being strong against types of removal. Each of these cards is better than the others in some ways and are rarely used in place of each other. As such I have based my ratings on an amalgamation of how often the card is played combined with how often the games in which they make it into play are then won. I have also given consideration to how often they are played but never manage to see the battlefield.

Sphinx of the Steel Wind
Top 10 Fatties

10. Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
9.   Terastodon
8.   Simic Sky Swallower
7.   Chancellor of the Tangle
6.   Inkwell Leviathan
5.   Griselbrand
4.   Blightsteel Colossus
3.   Myr Battlesphere
2.   Emrakul, the Eons Torn
1.   Sphinx of the Steel Wind

It is probably easiest to start at the top and work down in terms of justifying why things are where they are. So the Sphinx of the Steel Wind is my number one choice for loads of reasons. Firstly it makes loads of decks as it is cheatable into play in loads of different ways where as many of the fatties are best with one other card. You can use Goblin Welder, Tinker, Dream Halls or Reanimate Effects to good effect as well as the cover alls like Show and Tell and Oath of Druids. The only card it is not outstanding with is Sneak Attack. This means it can see play in decks dedicated to those effects but will be almost an auto include in decks using multiples of those effects. 

Emrakul, the Aeons TornThe second big reason Sphinx is such a joke is that it utterly wreaks two colours. Protection is awkward for most colours but white has Wrath effects and blue has counter magic and black has sacrifice and discard to aid it. Red and green rely on damage, getting into combat or targetted removal to kill stuff and basically cannot deal with the Sphinx. Once in play it is basically game over for and decks using only red and/or green cards. Many decks trying to get fatties into play quick will sacrifice some defence and tempo to make it happen faster and more consistently. This means it really helps if your dork can regain that tempo which Sphinx does wonderfully with lifegain and vigilance not to mention a bundle of other nice abilities. Typically being an artifact makes a card more vulnerable however in the case of the Sphinx with protection from red and green in only really aids it in being easy to make and makes it harder for black to kill. Not being a legend is also really good for fatties as they cannot be killed via cloning nor bounced with Karakas. Sphinx is just the complete package and sees the most play, hits the battlefield often and takes the game most of times it does!

Emrakul is awkward to get into play and works with only a few effects, of which many won't give you the free time walk gained when cast. It turns out that while the time walk is nice Emrakul is just so damn powerful that you don't need to time walk to win nor do you care that it is a bit harder to play him than other fatties. He is probably the single most powerful magic card and so decks are built for him on that basis alone. He has the highest win rate when getting into play but gets a low score on actually seeing the battlefield. It might be novelty rather than effectiveness that gets him so much play but it is still enough to compensate for the difficulties in resolving him and grants the number two spot. 

Myr BattlesphereMyr Battlesphere is a bit of a sneak in as it crosses the boundary between being playable in normal decks and in cheat decks. As it is colourless and an artifact it is easier to find those kind of mana in slightly more normal decks, I have seen it used in a mono blue Opposition deck which had some ramp but was certainly not dedicated to making fat guys and loads of mana. This greatly ups the amount the card is played but it is still very good as cards go for being cheated into play. Bringing a mini army is great as the appropriate spot removal is the best way to deal with fast fatties. Battlesphere makes up for being relatively easy to kill by leaving behind value most of the time when killed. A two turn clock is also very quick even by the standards of this top 10 and the ability to have a portion of that guaranteed is very useful too. 

Blightsteel Colossus is the only one hit wonder in the top 10 and can even hold his own in a showdown with Emrakul (obviously dependant on the game state but I hope you get my point without need to extrapolate at length!). Easier than Emrakul to make but only just and a less useful anti-reanimate effect than Emrakul too! Blightsteel is the clear number two in terms of beastly monsters and can show up on your door by turn one with relative ease. Fortunately indestructible is not as sexy as it sounds and there are many cheap and effective ways to deal with the Colossus in all colours bar the suffering red and green. The infect can also be as much of a curse as it is a bonus as you gain nothing unless you win off it. Given that it is not unthinkable to deal with him and you only need two toughness to eat a hit from him to buy you a turn he can be a little like putting all the eggs in one storage place of low structural integrity. 

GriselbrandGriselbrand is the new boy of the bunch and offers something different in the powerful card draw effect. I have found him best in Sneak Attack decks where you don't have to pay life to get him into play and you want more fuel for your combo. The 14 point life swing per hit is pleasant as well. This guy has seen play in black control decks with access to some ramp however I am pretty sure he hasn't been cast while in those decks and so I think I can only mark this against him. Still, he is the best in the role of being fat and giving you loads of cards.

Inkwell Leviathan is almost as easy to get into play as the Sphinx of the Steel Wind and is both a faster clock and probably harder to kill over all. In addition to this it is impossible to stall against should you have any islands in play. It is a very reliable and consistent finisher however it offers you no real support, defence or tempo swings and so despite its 3 turn clock you might well get raced. 

Chancellor of the Tangle is an impostor in this list as he is primarily played for the Elvish Spirit Guide effect and not the innocuous body. Typically these are green control decks or Birthing Pod decks although he has graced some other archetypes. He is not that often cheated into play but does just get hard cast quite a bit. In green it is not unreasonable to claim that seven is easier to make than it is for other colours to make six and so even on that basis he should be ranked with the Titans and the Wurmcoils and not these guys however he has always been literally unbelievably good whenever he does hit the deck. His exact size and abilities allow him to hold off almost everything else in the cube while slowly bashing away for the inevitable win. As he costs seven mana and is one of the most playable cards on this list I would be remiss to leave him off despite not being used in at all the same way as the others. 
Simic Sky Swallower

The Sky Swallower is another card that is not often cheated into play but rather played in rampy control decks where 7 mana is equivalent to non-green colours getting 6. For cheating into play the Inkwell Leviathan tends to be the better choice but as a card to flop out turn five or six after having played quite a normal game of magic this is a total beast. The shroud, flying and trample are simple yet highly effective at giving you control of the board and a reliable win. 

Terastodon is one of the most versatile cards of the bunch giving you the option of 18 power spread across 4 bodies or wiping out a number of key permanents the other side of the table. Typically he sees play in the green based cheat decks with Tooth and Nail and Natural Order and not the reanimate or Sneak Attack approaches despite being well suited to those as well. Not having trample is a severe drawback for anything with really high power and is the main reason this guy is used more as a utility part time fatty than a pure, hard to kill while getting them quickly dead style fatty. 

Elesh Norn, Grand CenobiteFinally just making the cut is Elesh Norn who is only mildly fat herself but makes up this by giving you complete control of the board. Generally she will perpetually kill at least two thirds of all your opponents dorks while making all of yours giants compared to those that remain. Terastodon becomes 26 powers worth of stuff, Battlesphere a mere 18! Like Sphinx she can shut down a large number of decks and has usually done enough damage even if immediately killed to make up for a lack of resistance to removal. Elesh has made the cut in a few control decks and is also called upon for combo reasonably often despite not winning the game solo very often. 

The fatties of choice have been one of the fastest changing components of the cube and it saddens me a little that none of the original band of fatties even get a look into the current top 10. Sundering Titan is the only one that still sees play as it performs a unique role however it is very weak against mono decks and not very exciting verses aggressive decks leaving it a very specialist fat man. Even so I feel as if I need to do and old school list of fatties as they have won many games and saw lots of play back in Mirrodin Block when my cube was born. The quality of this list compared with what we have on offer now is quite laughable but then Ernham Djinn was the best creature in the game when I started playing magic which really puts things into perspective. Many of these fatties aren't even that big and rely on their effects to win the game. Most of the five and six drops that are easily castable about the same time these things are cheated into play are just better such as Wolfir Silverheart or Wurmcoil Engine. 

Akroma, Angel of Wrath
The 2004 Old School Fatties Top 10

10. Sutured Ghoul
9.   Symbiotic Wurm
8.   Platinum Angel
7.   Reya Dawnbringer
6.   Bosh, Iron Golem
5.   Verdant Force
4.   Sundering Titan
3.   Phantom Nishoba
2.   Akroma, Angel of Wrath
1.   Darksteel Colossus

Sundering Titan

Finally I have some honourable mentions of cards that have done the rounds in these roles and generally fall between the current flavour of the month and the original gang. These do all also see play unlike the old gang (Sundering Titan exempt) but very infrequently but they are all still the best at some things and solid cards.

Iona, Shield of Emeria
Avenger of Zendikar
Palakka Wurm
Serra Avatar

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