As is tradition, two more spoiled cards were released in the official Gatecrash card image gallery today to little fanfare. Tonight's additions were a blue common that hearkens back to the fabled badness that was Zephyr Spirit (except much more playable) and a one-mana black creature with not one, but two nasty anti-aggro abilities. Let's meet Leyline Phantom and Thrull Parasite, and once you've seen the slideshow let me go over my first impressions.
Leyline Phantom - There is a fine tradition of 5/5-or-thereabouts blue beaters with crippling drawbacks that goes all the way back to Alpha's Sea Serpent (and of which my favorite will always be close cousin Dark Maze). The newest entry into that line of sometimes-unfortunate but always necessary cards is Leyline Phantom, which, as drawbacks go, doesn't seem to have a really terrible one. Sure, you have to replay it after every time you use it, effectively giving it a nasty case of double summoning sickness, but it's a 5/5 for five mana in a color that traditionally doesn't do so well in midrange. Like it or not, you may be playing this in Limited if you play blue. Thankfully, that drawback isn't always pure disadvantage - it keeps the Phantom out of the way of postcombat and sorcery-speed removal, for one thing. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this card is its flavor text. It's a quote from Jace that references a "maze," which the Phantom seems to be guarding, seemingly confirming that the Dragon's Maze of the final set's title is a physical or possibly illusionary place run by Niv-Mizzet.
Thrull Parasite - We've all heard of 2/2-for-two-mana metagame hosers, aka "hatebears." Thrull Parasite seems to be a downsized variation on that idea. This would be playable if it were nothing more than a 1/1 with extort for one black mana, but its counter-removing tap ability hoses three seperate guild mechanics (the Rakdos's unleash, the Golgari's scavenge, and the Simic's evolve) as a way for the control-oriented Orzhov to protect themselves from the aggro depredations of those three guilds. Interestingly, it can also be used alongside unleash, to switch an unleashed creature into blocker mode if things get too rough. In Standard, it can remove the counters from one's own undying creatures to give them as many extra lives as one pleases. But beyond all that, I'm predicting this will definitely see Constructed play for the same reason Vampire Hexmage and Hex Parasite did - as a planeswalker hoser. Like the latter, this one can be used continuously, and like the former, its ability costs no mana, although it does have the disadvantage of needing to pick away counters slowly.
What do you think of the Limited blue groundpounder and the metagame solution for Constructed? Let me know in the comments.