Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"SPOON!" Or, if you prefer, "NOT IN THE FACE!"

Well, last week was Battle Cry Week over at the mothership, so perhaps I’m a bit late to the party, but as this IS the Command Zone, EDH takes priority. Now that my current EDH deckbuilding experiment is more or less wrapped up (the decklist is posted, at least), I’m already thinking about my next EDH deck. But before I jump on to that, I wanted to take this window of opportunity to talk about Battle Cry…

This is really going to be more of an idea dump, as I haven’t actually built any 60-card decks with the mechanic (or anything from MBS, for that matter). But in between EDH decks, I plan on building up a few casual 60-card decks as there are plenty of cool cards in Besieged that I really want to play with, but aren’t really all that impressive in EDH.

Most of the Battle Cry creatures fit squarely in that category. EDH is the land of multiple Wrath effects, so it usually is a better idea to have one or two really big threats over a whole swarm of little guys… some decks can pull it off, and some playgroups will let it happen, but in my metagame it’s just not a viable strategy. Sure, Hero of the Bladehold comes pre-packaged with her own army starter-kit, but you’ll need a lot more than a couple of 1/1 soldiers to really put a dent in your opponent's 40 life.

Simply put, for Battle Cry to really work the way it’s supposed to, you have to over-extend and pray you don’t see a Wrath of God come down. In EDH that is likely to be a futile prayer, so for me Battle Cry needs to be applied outside the EDH format. The basic premise of Battle Cry is almost Neanderthal in its simplicity: play creatures, attack. It is definitely an aggressive, creature-oriented strategy. In fact, Battle Cry only appears on creatures because, unlike Exalted, the permanant that actually HAS Battle Cry has to attack to trigger it... so it won't work on Enchantments as written. (Which really sucks, because I was hoping for a Battle Cry version of Finest Hour.)
An interesting bit of trivia: Battle Cry appears at every rarity except Rare. There are commons, and uncommons, and then two Mythics, but no rare Battle Cry dudes… weird. The commons are crap – playable in Limited but overcosted anywhere else. Fortunately the 3 uncommon guys and both Mythics are all highly playable. Signal Pest, Accorder Paladin and Goblin Wardriver comprise the uncommon trio, and all three are quite good. Hero of Oxid Ridge is fantastic, but I am still of the opinion he could easily have been a Rare. And of course Hero of Bladehold is an absolute bomb.

The cool thing about Goblin Wardriver and Accorder Paladin is that their creature types are as relevant as their Battle Cry ability. Goblin Wardriver would be fantastic in a Goblin deck, and the Paladin will fit right in with Knight Exemplar and Co., even as the only Battle Criers in their respective decks. There are plenty of creatures that play well with Battle Cry, like Boros Swiftblade or Mirran Crusader for example. Creatures with Doublestrike effectively get twice as much benefit from Battle Cry, so that seems like a natural pairing to me.

So Battle Cry likes lots of creatures attacking all at once, huh? Well, Goblin decks also love to attack with hoards of little guys. Cards like Mogg War Marshal, Dragon Fodder and Siege-gang Commander all provide multiple Goblins off a single card. Goblin Cheiftan and Goblin Guide bring Haste to the party, which is perhaps the second best keyword to pair with Battle Cry. Now if only we had a Goblin with Doublestrike… oh wait, we do! Goblin Bushwhacker and Quest for the Goblin Lord compliment the power-boosting effects of Battle Cry nicely.

Round out the rest of the deck with whatever good mono-red cards you think might help…

4 Goblin Guide
4 Goblin Bushwhacker
4 Mogg War Marshal
4 Goblin Wardriver
4 Warren Instigator
4 Goblin Cheiftan
3 Seige-gang Commander

4 Quest for the Goblin Lord
1 Red Sun’s Zenith
1 Koth of the Hammer
4 Lightning Bolt

4 Teetering Peaks
1 Valakut, Molten Pinnacle
18 Mountain

There are basically an infinite number of playable Red Goblins in the wide world outside of standard, so there’s a LOT of room for customization here. You can also add black for some fantastic Lorwyn-block Boggarts. I just wanted to make it as simple as possible to highlight the implications of Battle Cry in an already aggressive deck like this.

A mono-White Knight deck could look much the same, but let’s take a look anyway.

4 Student of Warfare
4 Accorder Paladin
4 Leonin Skyhunter
4 Mirran Crusader
4 Knight Exemplar
4 Hero of the Bladehold

4 Honor the Pure
4 Journey to Nowhere
3 Brave the Elements
1 Ajani Goldmane

1 Emeria, the Sky Ruin
2 Sejiri Steppe
20 Plains

Same basic idea applies – a critical mass of cheap, aggressive creatures, some buffs and other relative finishers. I decided to restrict my pool to Standard for this one, but like Goblins, Knights are a deep tribe (not nearly as deep as Goblins, but still…) so you can very greatly from my list and wind up with the same basic effect.

Now, obviously, Battle Cry itself doesn’t care about creature type. It’s not a racist ability, so there’s no reason at all to limit yourself to tribal decks. In fact you can easily pair it up with other colors. I’m sure there are creatures in Black and Green and maybe even Blue that would love to get some Battle Cry action. Again, I’m going to go the most obvious route and pair up the two actual Battle Cry colors – White and Red – so that I can maximize my Battle Cry potential. In addition to letting me run all of the good Battle Criers, it also gives me access to some good Doublestrikers. Another advantage to abandoning the tribal theme is access to Signal Pest, the official 1-drop of the Battle Cry mechanic. He’s better than he looks at first glance…

4 Signal Pest
3 Boros Swiftblade
4 Accorder Paladin
3 Goblin Wardriver
4 Hearthfire Hobgoblin
3 Hero of Oxid Ridge
3 Hero of the Bladehold

3 Strider Harness
1 Basilisk Collar
4 Lightning Helix
1 Elspeth, Knight Errant
3 Glory of Warfare

24 Lands

Battle Cry is a Mirran mechanic by design, but WotC made Signal Pest an artifact creature to allow Phyrexia to cheat and run a Battle Cry creature to compliment their Infect guys. The fact that he’s a 1-drop and comes down before any other Infect creatures is kinda lame (for the Mirran side, at least). I won’t post a deck list, but suffice it to say, Signal Pest can be a potent ally along side an army of Infect creatures.

Perhaps the most awesome use for Battle Cry is to supplement an already-awesome strategy: Goat Tokens!

As 0/1’s, Goat tokens need help doing damage, but that’s part of what makes them so awesome. Remember when it was embarrassing to be killed by a swarm of 1/1 Squirrel Tokens? Well, Squirrels are somehow way more dangerous than Goats in the Magic universe. It’s especially emasculating to realize you just died to creatures with ZERO Attack Power!

4 Soul Warden
4 Accorder Paladin
2 Boros Guildmage
2 Mirran Crusader
4 Hearthfire Hobgobin
4 Springjack Shepherd
3 Hero of the Bladehold
1 Cloudgoat Ranger

4 Glory of Warfare
4 Journey to Nowhere
2 Rise of the Hobgoblins
2 Ajani Goldmane

4 Springjack Pasture
20 Other Land

Hero of the Bladehold is almost strictly better than Cloudgoat Ranger here, but I want to keep at least one copy of the Giant, partly for flavor reasons, and partly because he can fly if needed. Glory of Warfare provides some redundancy with Battle Cry to help make Goats lethally offensive. Journey to Nowhere is removal that helps power up Springjack Shepherd, which is partially the reason for many card choices such as Ajani and Boros Guildmage. We need as many white-mana symbols on the battlefield as possible, in order to get as many goats as possible. Hobgoblin is a perfect fit here, because his mana cost is worth three goats off the Shepherd and because Doublestrike plays so well with Battle Cry and Glory of Warfare.

One final aspect of Battle Cry that I have yet to touch on is that the ability is stackable. The implications of this are probably quite obvious when you have multiple Battle Cry dudes on the table. But what might go unnoticed is that you can trigger the same guy multiple times, via additional attack phases. This is what made Finest Hour so damn good, because like Exalted, Battle Cry triggers every time you attack with the creature.

Card like World at War or Waves of Aggression can push Battle Cry over the top. If you attack with two Accorder Paladins once, they’re both 4/1’s but if you untap and attack again that same turn, they’ll be 5/1 each. 18 damage in one turn, from two 2-mana creatures is pretty enticing, no? The best part is that basically every card that does this is Red, with the exceptions of Finest Hour (which is slightly anti-synergistic with Battle Cry) and Waves of Aggression which is the sole option for a mono-White deck. Try Dolmen Gate or Safe Passage to keep your guys from dying in combat, ensuring your army will actually survive to see the second assault.

Just remember: The single most important part of playing any Battle Cry deck is to have an effective battle cry that you yell at your opponents as you declare attackers. Otherwise, you don't get the +1/+0 bonus! At least that's how it works in my mind...


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