michaelj’s Card of the Day: Portent (guest-starring Temporal Mastery!)

Please don’t assume that there will be more “cards of the day” entries every day, even if there are going to be (sometimes).
-The Management

Portent, from Ice Age

Something special?

Crappy Ponder?

Out of print for circa 15 years?

Why oh why are we talking about Portent today?

Let me dial you back those fifteen years to a tournament; a Standard tournament. A hard-fought tournament contested by some of the best players, ever; victoriously taken down by Our Hero, michaelj.

Yes, this was a side Standard tournament back at Pro Tour New York 1997. Yes, I scrubbed out of the main event PT; no, you probably weren’t qualified (unless you are Patrick, who was in fact qualified and also made Top 8). Don’t you dare raise an eyebrow! If you had taken down PT Finalist Tomi Walamies and Hall of Famer Alan Comer — even in a lowly side event — such a Standard triumph would be etched forever in your Magic memory, too.

This tournament was the first time — and one of the only times — I encountered / would encounter Portent being played as a Constructed card. Alan was coming off his historic, archetype-making Regionals with Turbo Xerox, the exemplification of his theory whereby you can Remove two lands for every two one- or two-mana cantrips you play. He ran only 17 lands and used his Portents, Foreshadows (combo!), and Impulses to get land early… but get spells later. Cha-ching!

He beat up my Frenetic Efreet in Game One with Suq’Ata Firewalker (I had rarely felt so out-classed). I got the second in a nail-biter where he didn’t have Force of Will, and kept 17-land deck manascrewed in the last one with Time Elemental and a tremendous amount of patience.

Ah, those were the days.

Okay, Portent: What’s up with Portent? It was a fringe card in 1997… Why care at all in 2012?

Most of you probably look at Portent and see a bad Ponder. Some of you probably recognize that you can Portent your opponent, and that keeping him in lockdown is probably nice. And of course there was the 1997 super combo twin set of Portent + Foreshadow and Memory Lapse + Foreshadow (and anyway, Foreshadow was just a highly playable cantrip in a format with Mystical Tutor, Enlightened Tutor, Vampiric Tutor, and so on); Magicians from Jon Finkel to Andrew Cuneo were enamored of that interaction as well.

So again, bad Ponder in 2012… What gives?

This is a SLOW-trip, right?

There is a lot of speculation today about miracle cards in Legacy. Brainstorm; Jace, the Mind Sculptor; the return of Sensei’s Divining Top… All these cards, especially played all together and interlaced with miracle spells like Temporal Mastery can make for an absolute symphony of under-costed fireworks. The [potential] down-side of miracles is that they are expensive when they are non-miraculous (but that is why we might play cards like Desolate Lighthouse or Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded to get rid of them), or in Legacy, cards like Brainstorm or Jace, the Mind Sculptor to put them back on top, where they can grow up to be miraculous in a turn or so.

Chase miracle Temporal Mastery is generating more conversations than the rumored pregnancy, fat-ness, or skinny-ness of Snooki from Jersey Shore. Which I don’t watch. Ever.
Focus, michaelj, focus. Portent.

Oh yeah, Portent. Slow-trip Portent. Crappy Ponder, we decided, right?

Only kind-of.

I am just spitballing here (but what is any of this stuff at this stage of the new set but spitballing?)… Can we make the slow-trip-ness of Portent an advantage rather than a disadvantage? A feature rather than a bug? Ponder is generally favored over Preordain in Legacy, even though Preordain was massively favored over Ponder in Standard. Digging for three for U is considered better than what Preordain offers for the same mana… At least when you can combo in a Scalding Tarn or Polluted Delta.

Portent does essentially what Ponder does (digs for three), plus gives you a whole different modality! Now in most decks that want to draw a card now Now NOW (as with when you are digging for land on turns 1-2, or playing a combo deck that wants to win immediately), the slow-trip Liability on Portent may be prohibitive… But what about if you are super concerned with top-decking miracles? Playing a progressive advantage deck? Setting up a draw on your opponent’s turn, and making that a miracle (as often as possible, if not every time)?


Praise be!

Portent can Ponder for you, but give you a shot at going off (small-g / small-o) on the other guy’s turn. Here here for information!

No, I don’t know if this is actually going to be good enough for Legacy, which can be a notoriously extreme and superlative format; but I do know that I can’t stop thinking about Portent, and triggering miracles on the opponent’s turn without 1) wasting an extra mana, or 2) misplacing my beloved Sensei’s Divining Top (which actually intersects with the first point).

Presumably… just some weirdo thoughts that you didn’t have yourself [yet].


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#1 MTGBattlefield on 04.18.12 at 5:43 am

michaelj’s Card of the Day: Portent (guest-starring Temporal Mastery!)…

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