Sorin Markov, EDH, and From the Vault: Exiled

So the You Decided™ online card creation feedback system that Wizards has going on, recently produced, in its mechanical-turk-like cyber sweatshop, the new Zendikar planeswalker Sorin Markov, behold:

This handsome devil caused quite a stir amongst some dorks I know, and I thought I’d therefore share my own thoughts on him.  First, let’s evaluate the card in the abstract, as a Spike might, irrespective of any aesthetic or flavor elements.  Quickly going over his relevant traits, this is a heavy-black 6-drop with vicious hunger / vampiric touch ability as his main loyalty-adding ability.  Compared to Ajani Vengeant‘s more-accurate tribute to lightning helix, which loses two loyalty, I’d say this is decently strong for a loyalty-gainer.

The middle ability loses three loyalty and does a magister sphinx-esque job of setting someone’s life total to 10.  This is almost irrelevant in most constructed formats and will seldom be used, but in Elder Dragon Highlander, suddenly this ability is capable of doing 30 damage in a single blow.

Sorin’s ultimate ability is a mindslaver activation, one of the most powerful and disruptive effects in Magic.  Mindslaver has often been thought of as a blue kind of effect, and indeed blue likes to take.  Blue takes lots of things: from the control magic family tree whose most generic and therefore representative member is probably confiscate, to the crazy acquire and bribery clan, to the old-timey old man of the sea tribe.  This blue tinge is especially strong in EDH since the classic mindslaver lock in conjunction with academy ruins is a ubiquitous end-game stratagem for any EDH decks with access to blue mana.

However, mindslaver actually owes its original lineage to word of command and the services of the dark arts (i.e., black).  Word of command is kind of like mindslaver’s coming-of-age… it’s mindslaver back when he lost his virginity and had sex for the first time… a little awkward and unsure, maybe even naughty-seeming or dirty, but definitely a pleasure.  Mindslaver is like the pimp ten years later with hoes in different area codes.  I think I put Sorin Markov at something like a client of the pimp’s hoes… or maybe even just a porn-watching teenage nerd sneaking a little action here and there when the folks aren’t home.  He wants to be mindslaver, but he’s a shadow of the artifact version.

So where does this leave us?  In EDH, doing 30 is pretty nasty.  While Kokusho the Evening Star got banned for similarly high life total changes, he was a threat in multi-player games in a way Sorin never will be.  I doubt, therefore, whether he’ll ever be banned in EDH, as one dork I know suggested.  You can definitely get this fool out early in a good EDH deck though… very early.  You can do it when you’ll really get high 20s worth of life loss out of it.  This is the key that makes him compelling to me in EDH.

The vampiric touch thing is cute, but I don’t think it’s as relevant in EDH as it might be in standard or block, where it might be enough to make him good enough there… I’m not the right one to make that call.  I do think that in non-EDH formats, the strength of a single mindslaver activation is what his playability will hinge on.  It’s a very devastating effect in the world of EDH because decks have such powerful tools at their disposal.  Two nights ago, as I faced a Yosei the Morning Star deck with my wife’s Jenara Asura of War deck, I got mindslavered by the mono-white mage late in the game when I thought I had him on the ropes.  He used my dust bowl, sacrificing the dust bowl itself, to nuke my maze of ith.  Then he cast the nevinyrrals disk I held, countering it with the force of will I drew for the turn (a little late, right?).  Then he pumped Jenara to 5, swung, let his yosei block to trade, tapping me out, then proceeded to replay yosei the next turn, equip it with lightning greaves, and finish the race to 21 general damage over the next two non-untapping turns.  This kind of shit happens all the time.

In standard, sometimes you can’t really screw yourself over as effectively as you can in EDH, so I don’t really know.  “Shock-helix” every turn leading up to mindslaver still sounds pretty good.

But now let’s forget about that debate and focus on the flavor side for a moment. The name is too much like the adorable character from Charlie and Lola, Lola’s make-believe pal Soren Lorensen:

Sorry, but I have kids, and that’s the best kids show ever, and so now Sorin Markov will forever be known to me as Soren Lorensen.  It’s jut that simple.  It’s random and unfair, but this name just strikes me as silly, and it’s an unfair strike against the card.  I understand it might not bug… well, anyone else, I suppose.

I do like that he’s a vampire, and I don’t really mind the artwork per se, but another dork dude I know argued that this was awesome artwork.  Phenomenal.  Superb.  Supreme.  Etc. I don’t know, I’m just not seeing it.  To me, he looks like the lovechild of that Muppet vampire, The Count, and Michael Jackson from Bad.  (Maybe a dash of Drizzt Do’Urden too?)

This guy just screams “Generic Vampire” to me.  I don’t see what’s so awesome about the art.  Maybe the perspective?  You kind of feel like you’re about to donate some blood to the cause.  He definitely gets “vampire” across.  Now, full disclosure, I’m a huge Rebecca Guay fan, which can sort of help you calibrate my own tastes… I’m all about the DiTizzerlis and the Foglios and the Chippys.  Richard Kane Ferguson.  Artists with a distinctive style.  Guay’s my favorite.  Contrast this vampire dude with the new version of channel she’s just done for the From the Vault: Exiled boxed set:

And actually, let’s look at a high-quality large scan of the original:

(Click the image if it’s distorted to get the full version on)

Here you’ve got style… you see this image, you think “Rebecca Guay” in a way I’m not sure I could after familiarizing myself with Michael Komarck’s work… I just feel like there’s a lot more of what Komarck’s doing in Magic already.  Plus, look at the lines, the flow… Channel has nice organic shapes and movement.

Then again, channel should show some pain and life-into-mana suffering, whereas this is a pleasant scene and almost suggests more of a wind spell or a Leaf Burst or something… whereas Soren Lorensen leaves no doubt that he’s a big nasty vampire… not sure planeswalker is implied by his artwork at all, but he’s vampirific.

So anyway, I’m not sure it’s the most convincing argument, but I don’t think the artwork for Soren Lorensen is “awesome” and really I just wanted an excuse to show off the new Guay art, too.  I’m sad she got Channel and not a more relevant card, especially to EDH… channel can be decent, but a new sensei’s divining top, or the flagship card berserk would have been nice.

Speaking of which, the reprinting of Berserk is somewhat-big news to the EDH crowd.  This is a card that has won me a few general-damage races in the past, and which doubles nicely as removal in some situations.  The usually-$70 card is now available half price due to the Fiat-money From the Vault sets.  This Exiled version seems to have EDH written all over it with numerous staples from sets of yore.

Wellsir, what do you think?

4 thoughts on “Sorin Markov, EDH, and From the Vault: Exiled”

  1. I got a pair of FTV: Exileds, and I do love the new Channel art. John Avon Strip Mine is also pretty great, and I played 6 Exiled cards to a 3-0 finish in an EDH tournament today.

    I actually like the Sorin art a lot, but to each his own.

    Although, that graphic of the count is simply priceless.

    Nice article!

  2. Thanks for the feedback Zak. Which 6 did you get to run? Surely the artifacts, berserk, channel? Too bad tinker’s banned. I like the new tezzeret art.

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