Whether a planeswalker ends up being a spectacular multiple-format rulebreaker like Jace, the Mind Sculptor or an embarrassing never-ran like Sarkhan Vol, the overarching rule for planeswalkers is that someone thinks that they are awesome. Like, you look at this card and you're like, "Wow, that's really awesome!" Well, maybe not you-you; but someone.
Even little Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded was a huge conversation-starter for its flashy mana cost... And of course there is a list of archetype centerpieces my arm long on the legitimately fireworks-starting planeswalkers: Jace, other Jace, that really good Ajani, the cheap Liliana, both Tezzerets (depending on what format it is). Oh, you know.
Four mana planeswalkers in particular have been important tools for Constructed deck. Khans of Tarkir gave us a repeat planeswalker in Sorin, Solemn Visitor that hit lots of notes. Both previous versions of Sorin were playable and even quite good. This Sorin was one of those four-mana cards that demands a second look
I gotta say...I didn't super love this card the first time I saw it.
"Well, I guess I'm going to be playing Sorin for the next two years." -me
I realized pretty quickly that the ultimate was going to be easy to get online, but aren't all planeswalker ultimates pretty awesome? This one doesn't even auto-win you the game (that's what I thought initially).
Oh how naive I was.
Having played against Sorin a ton in Standard (and of course watching the super exciting Pro Tour coverage from Honolulu, HI a couple of weekends ago) I have grown to appreciate the power of Sorin's ultimate. Originally I thought that Sorin's middle [-2] ability would be my favorite... I mean obviously it is making Mike Flores tokens; but also, the 2/2 Vampire Tokens are a way to win plus built-in Sorin defense. But over the course of many games against (and now with) Sorin, I've come to appreciate the [+1] more.
Yes, the [+1] is a good racing ability, especially when combined with high quality threats (and Sorin is natural buddy buddies with Brimaz, King of Oreskos, which we talked about last week), but I love the [+1] just because it gets us to the ultimate so quickly!
Sorin's Ultimate is really special because it is so quick to get online. I think this card is really spectacular, and really under-appreciated. That might seem odd given that it was played in the Pro Tour winning deck, as well as a very different deck in the Top 8 (Abzan Aggro), as well as some versions of Esper Control. Pretty good and highly played in Mardu decks various, as well.
At present Siege Rhino is the centerpiece four-of four in most of the Sorin decks you will see; failing that, Butcher of the Horde.
But increasingly, I think Sorin is the superstar four. Getting the ultimate online might not seem that great if you haven't played with it very much. "The Abyss" is a two-word combination that gets thrown around, and has been thrown around since I've played competitive Magic; almost twenty years for me at this point. I remember when Mark Herberholz won the first PT Honolulu and he talked about Rumbling Slum being "The Abyss" for some opponents. Sorin's Ultimate is functionally "The Abyss" but contextually so much more.
Imagine a deck that is focused on keeping Sorin safe; perhaps via great (read: Vigilant) blockers and good removal options. You fire off The Abyss.
How do you deal with an emblem?
The Abyss was powerful; and created tons of both card advantage and virtual card advantage in its day. Rumbling Slum? More of the same, taking down blockers every turn while giving the opponent a do-or-die dilemma of cards or life total. But you can out-last The Abyss. Or destroy it somehow. Or Rumbling Slum? Heezy's quasi-The Abyss Juzam Djinn? Dies to Doom Blade.
But an emblem?
Ultimate Sorin is not very difficult to get online if you put a little work into it; and it's awfully hard to overcome.
What put me over the edge was how handily Ultimate Sorin can beat UB Control. No Prognostic Sphinx nor Pearl Lake Ancient is beating Ultimate Sorin; there just isn't enough time.
Okay, here's my implementation for Sorin-centerpiece:
There is a lot of inspiration from my friend Patrick Chapin in this deck; the deck he designed (that put fellow Hall of Famer Pault Rietzl into the Top 8 of Pro Tour Theros last year) ran Soldier of the Pantheon to start; we follow up with Seeker of the Way for aggressive openings.
There is heavy removal, of course... Tons of high quality point removal in the main, plus End Hostilities out of the sideboard. This deck uses Sign in Blood and two copies of Read the Bones to pump one-for-one action into hand. All this is there, along with solid creature defense, to make Sorin safe.
Okay... So the plays for this week!
I want to run two different plays this week; but I'm also going to give out an extra prize!
If you haven't read Make the Play Monday before, here's how it goes:
● I put out a play (or, again, plays) and propose it to the TCGplayer.com community.● You check out the scenarios and submit your potential solutions in the comments below! We believe that competitive Magic is essentially a series of problems and the decisions they give rise to, so making higher quality decisions should ultimately improve our results. The goal is to help players in common situations make plays better in the future.● Along with a Celebrity Guest, I will talk about the answers on Friday. In addition to my opinion on the play, the Celebrity Guest will give a highly respected look at the same spot.● Prizes!
This week, one responder who successfully makes the same play that I chose will earn a $25 TCGplayer.com gift certificate on Friday...
Two responders who agree with our Celebrity Guest will each earn $25 TCGplayer.com gift certificates! Two!
So here go the scenarios:Scenario One:It's game one so we don't know what the opponent is.
We kept:Bile BlightBrimaz, King of OreskosSorin, Solemn VisitorElspeth, Sun's ChampionCaves of KoilosPlainsPlains
On our first draw step we ripped a second Caves of Koilos.
Pretty simple: Play your first land.
Believe it or not, I read through the comments every week. Maybe not all the comments (there are typically three digits of them) but as many as I can. It has been raised that I have been doing a lot of turn one / turn two scenarios and readers want a little variation.
I do think that turn one / turn two land-play scenarios are super important and under-represented, but I also hear the readers who want to play a bit deeper into games, so I added:Scenario Two:
This is from the same game, about five turns later.
We opened on Brimaz, King of Oreskos against the opponent's open table; he responded with Crackling Doom (ouch), then untapped and played Sorin, Solemn Visitor; making a 2/2 Vampire. What a turn!
We untapped and played our own Sorin, Solemn Visitor and went [+1].
The opponent ran out Goblin Rabblemaster and swung into our Sorin with his Goblin and Vampire, knocking him from five to two.
On our turn five, we played another copy of Brimaz, King of Oreskos and left up BB for Bile Blight; ourselves remembering to give Brimaz +1 and lifelink.
He answered with Stormbreath Dragon and sent the squad.
These guys came after us:
Stormbreath DragonGoblin Rabblemaster2/1 Goblin1/1 Goblin
Only the Vampire Token (3/2) went after our Sorin, three power being perfect for killing our now-three loyalty Sorin.
Of course our Bile Blight and his Vampire Token go together like peanut butter and chocolate. So we blocked his 2/1 Goblin with our lifelinking King of Oreskos and saved our planeswalker. We're not safe by any means, but we have a lot of play in our spot.
We untap and draw, and find ourselves in this spot:
Him: 30 lifeUs: 11 life
Him: two cardsUs: Four cards -- Bile Blight, Caves of Koilos, Seeker of the Way (freshly drawn), and Elspeth, Sun's Champion
We have [at least] two distinct lines of play here. Choose one of them! Lay out turn six.
So, two scenarios this week
1. Play your first land.2. Lay out turn six.
On Friday, we'll be joined by the best B/W player I know as our Celebrity Guest. Remember -- double prizes for agreeing with him! Good luck to you all.