Tonight is the final night of Gatecrash previews on the mothership, and it brings some real goodies to two guilds. First up, Brian David-Marshall's The Week That Was gives us the evolve version of Cytoplast Manipulator, which looks to be even more dangerous. Then, Dave Humpherys's Latest Developments grants confirmation on Master Biomancer, which was unofficially spoiled earlier in the day. Finally, the Card Image Gallery previews the Boros answer to the Order of the White Shield of old. Meet Simic Manipulator and Truefire Paladin, then let me run you through my first impressions.
Simic Manipulator - At first blush, this may seem way too slow to ever be effective. It starts at 0 power for three mana, and its activated ability requires you to remove those precious +1/+1 counters. But like everything in the Simic, it's meant to be used as a concerted part of a larger ecosystem. There are plenty of ways to get sufficient +1/+1 counters on Simic Manipulator to steal your opponents' bombs, Master Biomancer itself being one very good such way. But let's not forget that the scavenge mechanic, Death's Presence, Strength of the Tajuru, and, if you're willing to splash white, Swell of Courage alongside the Manipulator can turn into multiple control gains. And since Simic Manipulator looks to power rather than converted mana cost as its variable, there are a vast number of blue power-shrinking effects that can definitely be put to good use alongside it. All in all, Johnny is bound to find a ton of ways to make this tentacle-armed fiend the centerpiece of a simply deadly combo.
Truefire Paladin - The last time an homage like this one was attempted was with Eventide's vengeful dullahan, Stillmoon Cavalier, which is still about a $5 rare. That card does have a lot going for it - two protection abilities that proof it against about 50% of creature removal (and just about all of the permanent destroy or exile kind), flexible hybrid costs, a veritable candy shop of combat-relevant activated abilities - but the fact of the matter is that Truefire Paladin is simply more efficient if you've got a solid enough mana base. It comes down at two rather than three mana, is a 2/2 as opposed to a 2/1 (that extra toughness matters more often in the early game than you might think when you can't necessarily afford the first strike activated ability), and is literally twice as efficient at pumping itself. Plus, it has vigilance, so whereas Stillmoon Cavalier was either an offensive or defensive hero, Truefire Paladin can be both at once. The Boros version unfortunately lacks protection and any kind of evasion, but it makes up for it with sheer hard-hittingness. Red and white have never lacked for excellent ways to fill up two-mana slots in their curve, and this is yet another fine bear for the Boros.
What do you think of these two creatures, one for combo and one for aggro? Let me know in the comments.