Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Card Spotlight: Scrapheap Scrounger

Scrapheap Scrounger
This spotlight is more of a contrast piece than my usual spotlights. Scrapheap Scrounger is in my cube, it gets some play and it is fine. I wouldn't miss it much if cut but as yet it is doing enough to remain uncut! I rate it about as much as Porcelain Legionnaire. Interesting and versatile filler. A good cube card because it is powerful enough yet incredibly broad. The point of this spotlight is mostly to inquire why the card performed so well in the last Pro Tour yet is only OK interest in the cube. There were 31 copies of Scrapheap Scrounger out of a possible total of 32 in the top eight of the PT. This was spread over three different archetypes. That is an immense showing for a card and suggests a problem. It outshone Smuggler's Copter, a card which has been banned in standard and that has performed monumentally well in cube. The idea that Scrapheap Scrounger is a better card than Smuggler's Copter is frankly laughable. Despite what I know to be the case the statistics would argue otherwise!

A three power two drop is good but nothing new, only really blue decks haven't had a number of cards that are three powered two drops. Scrapheap Scrounger isn't above the curve for power level, I could name a great number of better two drop dorks. Normally when a card shines in a PT yet isn't a feature in cube I have to ask myself if I am evaluating it wrong. Often I am. I missed Wolfir Silverheart and the PT showed me the error of my ways. In this instance however I am pretty confident in sticking to my guns. Scrapheap Scrounger is an OK card but it isn't over powered by any means. It might be a problem card in standard at the moment but it isn't a problem card in general.

Incendiary FlowThe reason it performed so well at the PT was for a number of reasons all to do with the card pool and meta. With top quality vehicles to crew you offset the can't block aspect of the card. With the recursion aspect you cover the drawback of vehicles in that they do (mostly) nothing without crew. The removal in the format was not up the challenge of matching the Scrounger. This is a big one. A couple of cards can tempo remove it like Shock and Fatal Push but these give up value as the card can just come back later when needed. The only real answer to Scrounger that is good is Incendiary Flow however the flow is terrible against vehicles and against the Saheeli combo so it isn't very playable. Given that you are often getting immediate crew value from the Scrounger sorcery speed removal even at the same mana cost still generally leaves you behind. Scrounger was just incredibly well placed with vehicles and the viable removal tools to reliably be either value or tempo.

Now in cube, the meta is much faster, the power level is much higher and the card pool is much deeper. There are lots of good answers for a recursive 3/2. Scrounger most certainly doesn't evade removal that can negate its value and tempo aspects at once. Swords to Plowshares, Pillar of Flame, Terminus etc. A 3/2 in cube doesn't do that well in combat either. Most things have 2 power and plenty have 4 or more toughness, first strike, doublestrike and so on. With the format being quicker and more powerful and the Scrounger not being an issue to deal with efficiently it is just OK in cube. You can play it as filler in any aggro deck. The more access to black mana, discard and artifact synergies you have the better it will get. Even in the best decks for it the card is still just decent. Cube affinity can play it and supports it very well but compared to the actual good cards in the deck like Ravager and Plating the Scrounger still looks a lot like filler!

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