Spotlighting Six Lists with Wrenn and Six
October of 2007 was nearly 12 years ago, but I remember it vividly as a monumental turning point for Magic: The Gathering. The new fall set, Lorwyn, brought us to a traditional world of folklore featuring tribes such as: goblins, faeries, elves, merfolk, kithkin, and many more. The Tolkien inspired themes of the set created the usual buzz associated with a new release, but spoiler season provided us with a much larger surprise only predicted by the reminder text of Tarmogoyf in Future Sight a few months prior.
Ajani, Jace, Liliana, Chandra, and Garruk not only became the first cards featuring the planeswalker type, but also imbedded themselves as faces of Magic: The Gathering. The card type has a unique design that caused many players to question its viability and power level. Some thought that having “an enchantment that can be attacked” was nearly unplayable and would prove to be a strictly casual interest. Others loudly screamed “Broken!” and declared the beginning of the end for Magic. As is usually the case in scenarios such as this, the truth lies somewhere within these dissenting opinions.
The planeswalkers became staples within the Standard (Type Two) format with all five seeing some kind of play within different archetypes. They were incredibly powerful inclusions and lived up to much of the hype, but were ultimately not the “God Cards” some individuals redicted. Not yet at least.
Shards of Alara is when we began to see the initial push of the planeswalker card type. Elspeth, Knight-Errant became a hyper-dominant card within Standard seeing play within multiple archetypes such as Bant Mythic and Naya. It made the jump into Legacy as a win condition to accompany Thopter/Sword within the UW Counter-Top decks of the time. Elspeth was what many people believed the roof could be for a planeswalker, and to be honest, I believe it would have been better if they were correct.
Jace, the Mind Sculptor is widely considered the most powerful Planeswalker, and prior to War of the Spark and Narset, the only one I would have considered broken. Four abilities ranging from keeping your opponent drawing dead, to accumulating card advantage, to removal, to a game winning ultimate, Jace was not within the realm of a reasonable card for the Standard format. Wotc agreed as 16 months after his release in Worldwake, Jace was banned in standard. Modern was also free of this card for the entirety of its existence prior to February of last year. Planeswalkers were becoming a slippery slope in terms of format health and longevity.
Experimentation over the next few years following the “Jace incident” was fairly tame. Liliana of the Veil, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Dack Fayden, and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria all provided strong results in multiple formats, but did not reach the threshold of ban considerations. Narset, Parter of Veils has the potential to push the limits within certain formats such as Jace did long ago, but that has yet to be confirmed.
When Tom Ross spoiled the second two mana planeswalker of Magic history, I was in awe. I read and re-read the card for nearly ten minutes trying to find what I was missing. Wizard’s first attempt at a planeswalker of this mana cost was a gigantic flop with Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded being the punch line of many jokes within the community. Wrenn is not the same. This is a planeswalker that was pushed as far as a two mana permanent can be and possibly beyond. Let’s break down exactly what Wrenn is doing.
3 Starting Loyalty: This is a key piece of information that seemed to go unnoticed by many. By starting at three, Wrenn gets to immediately plus itself out of Lightning Bolt range prior to the opponent getting priority. The list of eternal playable two drops that live through Lightning Bolt usually starts and ends with Tarmogoyf, so keep that in mind going forward.
+1: “Return up to one target land card from your graveyard to your hand”
Wrenn is creating selective card advantage while increasing its loyalty. For reference, the three mana planeswalker Jace Beleren was once considered Legacy playable and had a -1 arguably worse than this. The implications of never missing a land drop through a fetchland, locking the opponent out of the game with Wasteland, drawing two every turn with a cycling or canopy land, recurring a utility land, and fixing your mana, all seem extremely abusable within the right shell.
-1: Wrenn and Six deals 1 damage to any target.
Not only is this removal, but in a lockout style deck, it’s a win condition. The initial targets that come to mind are: Delver of Secrets, Young Pyromancer, Dark Confidant, Glistener Elf, Dryad Arbor, Noble Hierarch, Mother of Runes, Thalia, one toughness tribal creatures, one toughness tokens, a planeswalker on one loyalty, and many more. Wrenn will quite often come down and be a two mana two for one, and that’s a undercosted rate in any format.
-7: You get an emblem with “instant and sorcery cards in your graveyard have retrace”
As far as three mana planeswalkers have gone in the past, this is right up there in terms of winning the game. Retracing Gamble or Life from the Loam in land based strategies will usually close out a game within a turn. Doing the same with removal, card draw, counterspells, or different options will accomplish much of the same in other decks.
I feel like the list that won the first Magic Online Modern MCQ is a good place to start for examining the applications of Wrenn and Six. I was incredibly surprised to see a 50/50 style midrange deck such as Jund take home the trophy within the dredgevine filled landscape of Modern. But Bladede’s list seems to have found the correct balance with a main deck Nihil Spellbomb and the full playset of Leyline of the Void in the sideboard. Jund is a deck based upon incremental advantage and grinding the opponent out of resources. Wrenn seems to fit well into this strategy by ensuring we continue to hit the land drops we may have forfeited earlier due to Liliana of the Veil. It’s also great at keeping small creatures off the board so our opponent is unable to go under us, and presenting a threat that will ultimately win the game. While this seems to be a modest use of Wrenn and Six, I would argue it was an important inclusion to the jund archetype.
This one is what I would describe as “Incredibly Spicy”. Znapcaster takes elements of the blue moon archetype within planeswalkers and efficiency answers, but opts for more of a prison style finish with Karn/Lattice and Chalice of the Void for support. Wrenn appears to play a much larger role in this modern deck through recurring Ghost Quarter and Lonely Sandbar to both deny the opponent of resources and create additional draws. While i’m unsure of exactly how good this deck is due to its lack of other results and unique nature, the archetype would almost certainly not be possible without Wrenn and Six.
Outside of Modern, this is where Wrenn and Six was expected to find a home. Tom Ross posted a list very similar to this within his initial spoiling of the card, and to no one’s surprise it’s putting up results. We discussed earlier how Wrenn can rebuy Wasteland and the other tools lands needs to execute its combo, as well as the application of the -1 and the ultimate. I fail to see how delver is ever winning a game that Wrenn resolves on turn one via a Mox Diamond.
Speaking of Delver, not only does it get to be locked out by Wrenn, but some versions are even including it! Piao’s RUG delver list is using Wrenn and Six in combination with the Wasteland/Stifle mana denial plan to ensure Insectile Aberration can be smoothly ridden to victory. I imagine in any type of grindy matchup such as control decks, lands, or the mirror, this is a devastating plan to be on the opposite end of. Seems like exactly what canandian threshold has always been looking to accomplish.
Even with Deathrite Shaman in the format, I still thought the Czech pile deck with Wasteland was a bit greedy, but Edgar seems to have found the balance with this one. A known Legacy expert fresh off his top 8 in Niagara falls with the same archetype, Edgar has seen the potential in Wrenn and Six as an upgrade to Dack Fayden. We see much of the same plan of recurring Wasteland, but also incorporate the value centric aspect of Modern Jund. Additionally, a very similar list 6-1’ed the Legacy challenge in the hands of Svaca, and there is no reason why it shouldn’t be a tier one option moving forward.
When a card makes its way into vintage, it’s safe to say it “made it”. While only a 1-of, I see Wrenn being quite powerful when getting recur Strip Mine and go nearly infinite with Ancestral Recall if given the chance to ultimate. I love seeing new cards make an impact on Magic’s most powerful format, and be played right alongside the power nine.
Even within such a short time period, we see Wrenn and Six has countless applications within Modern, Legacy, and even Vintage. While some will claim this to be sub-optimal initial testing, a swath of 5-0’s and a PTQ victory is nothing to scoff at. I would not wait to pick up a few of these if you have any plans of using them in the near future. Wrenn and Six won’t be losing its slot within archetypes any time soon.
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