Sunday, 21 July 2013

Can You Draft Strionic Resonator?

It's the question on every Magic player's mind.  Can you use this card in a draft, or is that just a pipe dream?

In order to use Strionic Resonator, obviously you need triggered abilities to copy.  In order to acquire these abilities you have to look primarily to common spells because those are the only cards you are going to get enough copies of to pull this off.  You need these triggered abilities to be good enough that not only do you get value for the two mana you pay to the resonator, but you also get a full card of value out of the resonator the vast majority of the time you draw it.

In order to analyse this, I've broken up the cards that have triggered abilities into a few categories.  I won't bother explaining them up front, I'll just talk about them as I go.  Most of them are self-explanatory, though.

Sure, You Could Do That
There are some cards that you would use your resonator on if you happened to have it and have the mana up, but that don't really make an impression.  These are cards you wouldn't hestitate to play without the two extra mana even if you have the resonator in play already.  While it is nice to resonate these triggers, essentially no number of these will make resonator worth playing.  Of course some of these cards aren't exactly allstars to begin with, and just as they don't make the resonator worth playing, the resonator doesn't do much to put a weak card on this list into your deck.

In commons you have Verdant Haven and Divine Favour which both give you a small amount of life.  At rare Into the Wilds can be copied but if the top card is a non-land then the second activation just shows you the same card again.  Scourge of Valkas has a triggered ability, but you aren't going to wait to play it until you have seven, and even if you do it's not terribly impressive for what you are paying - the Scourge itself is what you are going to be excited about.

Get Your Two Mana Worth
There are a number of cards you can get your two mana worth out of with the resonator.  If you have a lot of cards like this then resonator might do some work for you, but perhaps not more work than a serviceable creature.

Academy Raider lets you loot for two mana, which is fine.  Advocate of the Beast and the rare Oath of the Ancient Wood get you +1/+1 counters though the former is limited by the fact that there are only four beasts in the set and the latter might just be a lousy card.  Sporemound and Young Pyromancer get you 1/1's.  Charging Griffin, Master of Diversion, Trained Condor and Goblin Shortcutter all get you your mana's worth in terms of making an attack better.  Briarpack Alpha is quite powerful but you are just as likely to play it at four rather than wait for six.  A few rares - Thorncaster Sliver, Ogre Battledriver and Witchstalker - do similarly, getting you 1 damage, +2 power to a creature or a +1/+1 counter respectively.

It's Good But...
There are some triggers that are obviously great to copy with the resonator but that are death triggers, so you'd have to sit there with your two mana open at all times to make sure you make use of them.

In common you are Messenger Drake and Pitchburn Devils which are going to give your opponent at least one chance to deal with them without the resonator unless you draw them very late.  You aren't going to leave two mana up all the time for Festering Newt, so the real star in terms of leaving two mana up is Dragon Egg.  While that is good, leaving two mana up to stop your opponent from attacking on the ground varies from insane to not really mattering.

In rare there are some death triggers too.  Dark Prophecy is going to get you some extra cards.  Xathrid Necromancer should be able to hand you a zombie.  Vastwood Hydra, the turn after you play it, should put your opponent in a terrible position if you keep the resonator up.

Sometimes you need to concoct a moderately unlikely scenario or have a particular deck to make the resonator do work:  Scroll Thief is wonderful but the idea that you can repeatedly get resonator triggers off of one doesn't seem terribly plausible.  Blightcaster and Auramancer are only getting you triggers if you genuinely have a lot of enchantments.  Archaeomancer requires quite a number of instants and sorceries in your deck to have two in the graveyard reliably.  The rares Door of Destinites, Sanguine Blood and Ajani's Chosen all have triggers that aren't going to come up unless you have the right deck.

Finally there are a few cards that are powerful against certain colours.  Mindsparker, Tidebinder Mage and Lifebane Zombie would all love to have their triggers copied if that were to come up, but given the colour restriction and that all are rare, this isn't something you should count on when you put them in your deck.

It Gives You One Life
Staff triggers, and Path of Bravery give you one life, so resonating them is only worth it if you actually can't do something else with the mana.  You really can't consider resonating these when evaluating resonator, especially since I probably wouldn't put these in any deck anyway.

Not Really Going to Happen
It's not literally impossible, but it is pointless to plan around resonating your Fleshpulper Giant with your nine mana.  The idea that you'll wait until you have eight to play your Jace's Mindseeker seems unlikely.  I've almost never seen a Sengir Vampire actually grow, and your opponent is going to be extra mindful of this problem if you have a resonator out.  Finally, I don't really see the Angelic Accord - Resonator deck coming together.  If it's possible to even build an accord deck then you'll need too many cards supporting that to have enough cards to support resonator.

Finally, there are those cards that are ludicrous when combined with the resonator, but even then I feel that these come in two types.  First, there are those that are legitimately insane:

Okay, so that's just one card

Second, there are those that are insane, but really, who are you fooling:

You actually can't use resonator in your Garruk Emblem - your opponent will not be playing anymore.
Next, let's think about what density of useful resonator cards you need before you can realistically play it.  Since Resonator does nothing on it's own you don't want to draw it and have nothing to use it with.  So given that you draw Resonator, what are the odds you can put it to use.  Since resonator isn't much good before turn five, we'll look at the cards you've drawn up to that point.  In the very simple analysis, we can compare the number of good resonator targets we have to the chance we draw a blank resonator.

That doesn't look that great, especially not when you consider how weak that analysis is.  If you get your Scroll Thief through on turn four with an unsummon and then your opponent drops two blockers then drawing a resonator the next turn doesn't help much.  Similarly, if you play your Goblin Shortcutter to get a blocker out of the way then a later resonator does nothing for that card.

So generally you should be looking to have seven or more useful resonator targets, at least some of which really get you your money's worth.  In addition to making sure the resonator is useful, you need the cards in your deck to be useful without it.  Fortunately Magic 2014 helps you a lot with this one.  The cards that Resonator makes good are generally cards I'd be happy to play anyway.

The way I see it, Resonator is probably draftable and playable, but it's the sort of thing you pick up pick four out of the third pack because you got the Auramancer, Blightcaster, Festering Newt, Quag Sickness deck with a Banisher Priest and a Master of Diversion, or you loaded up on Academy Raiders, Archaeomancers, Pitchburn Devils, Messenger Drakes and Dragon's Eggs along with lots of instants to justify keeping your mana up.

I would love to see this card get played in a draft some day and be awesome, but realistically most of the time it won't be awesome, and it isn't the sort of thing you can first pick and then hope to build around.  On the other hand, you could possibly pass it first, see if you can head towards a good resonator deck, and then pick it up on the wheel.  Here's hoping that you get to live the dream of Resonator plus Banisher Priest.


  1. Path of Bravery looks like it gets you one life per attacking creature all in one trigger, so copying it would get you X life, not 1 life. That doesn't sound like a big boost, but considering the first part of the card it could be the difference between being able to attack profitably at all.

  2. You are completely right, Nick. I honestly remembered the text of that card reading completely differently. I still don't like that card very much at all, but it certainly works better with resonator than I imply here.

  3. I am very intrigued by it. I am sure I will draft a deck around it a few times and see what happens!