Another Look at Venser, the Sojourner

Concerning:


Venser, the Soujourner :: Being Wrong :: Minamo, School at Water’s Edge
“Permanents” :: Getting Corrected :: … and Venser, the Soujourner

Prequel:

I don’t know how long you have been reading / listening to / watching my stuff.

But the first time I ever did a Podcast for Top 8 Magic was around the time of New York States 2005, the one Julian Levin won, where we put three copies of Jushi Blue and one Critical Mass into the Top 8. In a complete Flores-coup of the metagame, we only lost to each other.

That said, I can still hear Brian David-Marshall’s whispering voice on the very first Podcast, describing my trials in the semifinals against Eric Marro. Eric was playing Gifts Ungiven, and my Jushi Blue deck dispatched him 2-1 in the Swiss, losing the first. I drew a ton of Threads of Disloyalty in the first game, but was much more efficient with all threats and Counterspells in the sideboarded ones.

But Eric was well and truly grinding me out in the Top 8 match. Again our match took forever, with him winning the first one. I was coming off a win over Mark Schmit, a 74-card mirror match that took over two hours (and I again lost the first). I beat Eric, but it took forever. Turns out that I would have won both matches much more easily if I had just read my damn cards.

Minamo, School at Water's Edge

Minamo, School at Water’s Edge

You see, Minamo, School at Water’s Edge untaps legendary permanents. Mostly because I had only ever untapped legendary creatures in testing (due to my blatant ignorance, obviously) I didn’t realize that I could have blown out both of my opponents by untapping particular lands. Obviously I couldn’t ask for better overall results, but I could have won in less time, with much less grating mental trauma… and of course without reinforcing the old Jon Finkel claim that I make, on average, a mistake per turn.

So it might not surprise you to hear that I made the same mistake when initially looking at new Planeswalker, Venser, the Sojourner:

Venser, the Sojourner

Venser, the Soujourner is a card that — if you are at all interested in card previews — you have probably already seen. Because you are probably brighter than I am, you probably weren’t scratching your head at what all the fuss was about.

You see — just like my Misstep with Minamo, School at Water’s Edge all those years ago — I didn’t realize that Venser is synergistic with any permanents, not just creatures. It is kind of funny to think back on what was going through my head…

What a creature-centric Planeswalker! Sure, the [-1] ability doesn’t do anything without creatures in play, but you can’t even power him up at all without creatures in play!

(That seemed terrifyingly limiting to me, of course… A Planeswalker that couldn’t always power up? What was this, the anti-Elspeth, Knight-Errant?)

But of course that limitation is not the case. While Venser’s [-1] ability is not so anything without creatures in play, at least you can get him up to 5 loyalty without having creatures in play 🙂

So what are some cool non-creatures you can Momentary Blink with Venser?

  • Kabira Crossroads (or Sejiri Refuge if that is how you roll) – Power up Venser, make some life points. They aren’t #FloresRewards or anything, but they are still valuable sometimes.
  • Oblivion Ring – Upgrade your Oblivion Ring by taking out a more pertinent permanent. Or, if your opponent plays a replacement Legend / Planeswalker, you can Momentary Blink the Oblivion Ring and get a 3-for-1 or whatever.
  • Some kind of 187 – Venser + Manic Vandal might be an absolute disaster given the number of artifacts we anticipate given the return to a plane made entirely of metal. For that matter, an extra Contagion Clasp every turn might not be the worst.
  • Your guy, under their Mind Control. Venser’s [+2] lets you target permanents you own. So if someone steals something of yours, you can get it back for free!

A lot of Planeswalkers these days are giving us opportunities to take out other Planeswalkers. The [-1] ability lets you attack other Planeswalkers; additionally, it can help you set up poison counters, proliferate, &c.

And finally, there is the Ultimte:

[-8]: You get an emblem with “Whenever you cast a spell, exile target permanent.”

Hella-wow.

This isn’t some kind of panty waisted  Admonition Angel. If Venser Snags your permanent (there’s that word again), it ain’t coming back.

Aesthetics:

The biggest issue I see is that Venser is a five mana Planeswalker. Everything I have written about Koth of the Hammer emphasizes that part of the shift that new Planeswalker represents is the step from five mana (Chandra Nalaar… not heavily played) to four mana (where all the awesome Planeswalkers are costed). For the rest of what I think about this section, jump up some paragraphs.

Where Can I See This Fitting In?

Now that I no longer think that Venser is stuck in a mono-creatures strategy, I can see it played in a variety of decks. U/W Control (or some multicolored variation), or an update to U/R/W Planeswalkers or thereabouts. The issue is that Venser is a five. Last year’s Planeswalker deck was very fours-heavy (Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Ajani Vengeant, Elspeth, Knight-Errant), and just peppered with two or so copies of Gideon Jura.

Elspeth Tirel is the much stronger Planeswalker at five, and as we saw in the previous preview, she is probably going to demand four slots (also, it’s not like Elspeth “plays well” with other Planeswalkers). So there are potential curve issues around playing both Venser and Elspeth. They aren’t catastrophic (like “this will never happen”), but I am already raising an eyebrow at the idea.

But regardless of where you won’t be playing Venser, it is probably more interesting to talk about what you will be playing next to it. I think I would certainly run lots of Preordain, maybe some other cantrips (though I don’t know if Spreading Seas is still going to be the strongest Blue card in Standard with the impending disappearance of Savage Lands)… Once you are in Ultimate mode, it will be very exciting to play lots and lots of cheap card drawing to take complete control of the battlefield.

Snap Judgment Rating: Role Player – High.

LOVE
MIKE

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10 comments ↓

#1 JedDavies on 09.11.10 at 10:39 pm

I also like that you can run your other ‘walkers loyalty down then blink them back to starting power with Venser.

#2 Alfrebaut on 09.11.10 at 11:17 pm

All I can say is that while I personally don’t like this card, I’m certain I’ll lose to it on MODO a whole lot. Hell, I’m still not buying the hype on the last two planeswalkers, so maybe I’m the problem here. Also, in an Alara-less format like the new Standard is going to be, I’m not sure a planeswalker-heavy deck will be all that great. Sure, those other guys lose such hits as Bloodbraid Elf and Blightning, and my people lose Earthquake, Ball Lightning and Hell’s Thunder, but I still feel a planeswalker deck won’t be at the forefront of the next Standard. After all, Koth needs mountains.

#3 lgong on 09.11.10 at 11:26 pm

the thing you’ll probably see most is blinking wall of omens for free cards, which is going to be super annoying.

#4 Dark Vampire on 09.12.10 at 12:52 am

I agree with Mike that there are potential curve issues with Elspeth Tirel and Venser, the Sojourner since they both fit into the five-mana slot. But I would like to add that Elspeth, while she does not play well with other planeswalkers, does play half-nice with Venser (I’ll explain the half-nice soon). For example, consider a game situation where Elspeth and Venser are both on the board and Elspeth is ready to blow up everything except for lands, tokens, indestructible permanents, and herself (conveniently)…all we have to do is have Venser blink himself out of play, let Elspeth perform her task of planar cleansing, and Venser will return to the battlefield with 3 loyalty counters at the end of the turn, ready for some more action on the following turn. Half-nice interaction between Elspeth and Venser: now, if Venser was at 1 loyalty, we have not lost value (at least not much) as he would have to use the +2 ability to return to 3 loyalty anyways. If Venser was at any other loyalty, we could be losing some value, but at least we are not losing a card. Let’s keep in mind that this does not cover all possible board states because I can see a situation where Venser is at 6 or 7 loyalty and facing down opposing creatures that could take him out next turn without any action on our part – now if this is the case, do we care that Venser comes back with less loyalty then before if we are happy to keep him at all in the first place?

#5 admin on 09.12.10 at 5:58 am

@lgong – I would group that under some kind of 187… As you said it might be the most common play. Particularly synergistic with Day of Judgment.

#6 ibanez on 09.12.10 at 7:39 am

I see runing 2 copies of Venser, since you don’t get much profit playing multiples like Elspeth and his loyalty counters will most likely +1 every turn. Best blinking stuff I can think about (for UW) is Sun titan, Wall of omens, Sea Gate Oracle, Halimar Depths, Trinket Mage, War Priest of Thune, Kor Sanctifiers, Spreading Seas, reseting PW and blinking baneslayer or whatever before a Day of Judgment.

#7 MTGBattlefield on 09.12.10 at 9:19 am

Another Look at Venser, the Sojourner…

Your story has been summoned to the battlefield – Trackback from MTGBattlefield…

#8 neosystems on 09.12.10 at 4:24 pm

How easy would it be to use this guy with Mnemonic Wall to recur Silence again and again?

Might be a little clunky but might work?

#9 canman87 on 09.13.10 at 12:35 am

@neosystems:

Mnemonic Wall with Day of Judgment or Cancel (or the new Stoic Rebuttal) seems better to me.

#10 tongonation on 09.13.10 at 12:06 pm

mike, this is not about comic books!

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